The SmarK Retro Repost – The Night The Line Was Crossed (02/94)

Well, I recently did a retrospective on WCW’s Slamboree 94, and it was heavily influenced by what ECW was doing at the time. So I felt it only fair to go back and actually review what ECW was doing at the time, so I picked this show, from February of that year, which is a lot different from what we see today in Philly.

– Tod Gordon starts out the tape by warning that Eastern Championship Wrestling is not for everyone.

– Opening match: Sal Bellomo v. Mr. Hughes (w/ Jason).

Just to establish a few things, Joey Styles is not quite into his groove yet. At this point, he’s playing a face announcer with an attitude, and hasn’t yet perfected the “Oh My God” which would become his trademark and come to annoy the hell out of many of us.

The match itself is pretty much a squash, which I’m sure you could have guessed. Hughes wins with the Bossman slam, a nothing match to start out with. 1/2*

– The Sandman & Tommy Cairo v. The Pitbull & Rockin’ Rebel.

The Pitbull in question here is Gary Wolfe, before the other Pitbull joined him. Rockin’ Rebel and Tommy Cairo are both basically holdovers from the old Tri-State Wrestling who left in short order, although Cairo did reappear during the Sandman “retirement” angle a few months down the road. Sandman in wrestling tights is the funniest sight imaginable. In case I don’t mention it again, Jason is most obnoxious piece of shit ever created, and I’m surprised that he didn’t stick around a lot longer than he did, or at least end up in the Big Two. His grasp of the English language did always seem a bit weak in the interviews, however, so that may have been a factor. This match is an “everyone lashed to everyone else” type of deal, and it’s total garbage wrestling, which is necessary because everyone except Rebel totally sucks at this point in their careers. Paul E. is at least smart enough to recognize his guys’ weaknesses and find a way to hide them, which I can respect, although I can’t take more than 2 hours of this stuff at a time. Sandman and Cairo get the pin. *, because everyone at least seemed to try.

– The Bruise Brothers v. The Public Enemy.

And here’s another area in which ECW has vastly improved — by switching styles every other match to keep the garbage from getting repetitive. Following one mindless brawl with another is a pretty bad idea, IMO, but that’s all he had to work with back then. Rocco Rock was really quite thin here, which is odd to see. The Public Enemy isn’t even close to being over, which is odd to see as well. TPE gets the pin after hitting one of the Bruise Brothers with a 2×4. Not a bad match, but I would have prefered a bit of variety before watching another brawl. **

– Tommy Dreamer v. Jimmy Snuka.

My, how the times have changed.

Just three years ago, Tommy Dreamer was an absolutely despised pretty boy rookie, ala Marcus Bagwell, and Jimmy Snuka was the only star power that ECW had. The fans are on Dreamer like Preparation H on a hemheroid here. No truly witty chants, though. I do thank Dave Scherer’s little group for starting that tradition…it’s become part of ECW’s charm. Snuka…just… stalls…forever….here. It takes something like 9 or 10 minutes for them to even lock up. Then…Snuka…stalls…again. God, if there’s one cheap heat method I hate more than any other, it’s stalling. I haven’t been impressed with Tommy for a while, but he has improved by leaps and bounds ever since the caning incident. Really, really, terrible match. I can’t emphasize that enough. Dreamer gets hit with the Superfly splash and kicks out, and Joey just totally oversells it. Snuka goes on to hit two more, after which Dreamer is bleeding from the mouth (nice touch, btw) and ready to be stretchered out. Snuka gets the pin, of course. Tod Gordon tries to stop the carnage, but gets popped for his trouble. Ugh. Bad match, good way to get Snuka over as a heel. *

– Kevin Sullivan & The Tazmaniac (!) v. The Original Sheik & Pat Tanaka.

Remember when Taz used to have dreads and bounce around the ring like a moron? Well, here it is. Tooooooo funny to watch this match, and then something with the current Taz. Woman is still with Sullivan here, and is pretty hot, I must say. The Sheik is older than dirt, in case it wasn’t evident already. Kevin Sullivan and the Sheik are involved, so it’s another parade of garbage wrestling as the two geezers fight all over the arena with no pacing or psychology. That much *has* improved recently, too. At least the brawls seem to have some flow and pace nowadays. Taz puts submission holds on Tanaka in the ring while the brawl is going on, before Sullivan and the Sheik suddenly stop, stare at each other, and Sheik tosses a fireball into the ring and burns Taz, allowing Tanaka to get the pin. Ugh, again. Bad match, sloppy ending. If there was a backstory here, Joey didn’t bother relating it. DUD.

– JT Smith v. Mike Awesome.

Amazing what a good gimmick can do. JT was another non-descript Tri-State holdover before the FBI thing came along.

And why the f*ck isn’t Mike Awesome WWF World champion today? This guy ROCKS! Easily the best match of the tape as he whips Smith like a dog, including an AMAZING plancha that nearly splatters JT into the floor. After two minutes of unmitigated slaughter, JT hits a small package out of absolutely nowhere. Huh??? Awesome is pissed, so he powerbombs the ref, twice, and they’re good ones, too. He goes to the top rope to really kill the poor guy, and it breaks! Awesome was just WAY over by the end of this, and I was practically chanting his name watching on tape. Great moves by Awesome and great selling by Smith, despite the squash-ish nature of the match. ***1/2, but waaaaaay too quick. Where did this guy get to?

– ECW World title match: Shane Douglas v. Sabu, winner faces Terry Funk.

Joey points out that if there’s no winner of the first match, Funk will face both guys. Well, I think that about gives it away right there. Okay, this match goes an hour so I had a lot of time to let my mind wander, so this will be a longish match summary.

Paul E. punks Sherri Martel to start, and she takes a lot of abuse throughout the match. Okay, I have to ask…does Paul have misogynist tendancies or what? He fights Missy Hyatt and Madusa in WCW, and Sherri here, and has about 4 or 5 women who take major league beatings on a regular basis. This, to me, suggests some sort of issue with women. I’m sorry, but Sabu is just not made for this stuff — most of his participation is resting. He just can’t work a straight wrestling match at this point in his career. He does put a wicked vicious armlock on Shane, though. Major yawnfest as Sabu and Shane drag it out until Funk gets into it.

Sidenote: This is the first time 911 is named as such, and I actually miss the big lug. Sometimes you just need a big guy to come out and kill everyone, ya know?

Sabu blows a table spot (real or worked, who knows with this guy) and that allows him enough rolling around in pain time for Funk to come out. Of course, with Funk into it, it becomes a total brawl. Except Sabu is injured now, so it’s Funk against Shane in a brawl and Shane doesn’t brawl really well. Oy. Sabu is helped back to the dressing room at this point. If you don’t blink, you can see ring setup guy Mikey Whipwreck at ringside, too. Terry does the “Gimme a chair!” spot and only gets 6 or 7. Oh, well, maybe next time. Things pick up for a bit about 22 minutes in, then get realllly slow again. Maybe Sabu was injured legit and these two had to improvise a one-on-one match? Either way, Shane can’t brawl and Funk can’t wrestle (anymore) so the results are pretty ugly.

Sabu finally comes back out, and starts brawling with Shane. Funk steals Joey’s mike, mistaking for the house mike, and makes off-color remarks which only the home audience can hear. Another cute spot as the three guys put sleepers on each other at the same time. Sabu looks wasted 40 minutes in, blowing simple moonsaults.

The pattern seems to be three guys in, one guy gets knocked out, remaining two guys brawl until third guy is revived, repeat. Geez, no wonder Paul E. wears that hat — he’s bald even back then.

And then, for no reason, the Rotten Brothers storm the ring 45 minutes in, and brutalize Shane and Sabu. Why? Joey asks that very question, so at least I know I’m not alone. Sabu and the Rottens brawl back to the dressing room, and only Sabu returns.

This is just waaaaay too long for Sabu. Funk beats up the ref 50 minutes in, for no reason I can tell. Sabu blows two more spots as it winds down. Finally, he pins both guys, but the ref is out. Jim Molino spends the last five minutes on the floor as the three guys brawl, ineffectively, until the time limit expires. The crowd stands and cheers like they’ve done something special. Feh. You’d think they’d know a screwjob when they saw one. Don’t believe the hype — this was *not* a classic by any stretch of the imagination. **

Post match interviews:

– Joey interviews Funk, who trashes WCW and praises his opponents, in an oddly reserved interview. He gives a “State of the ECW” address which is pretty phophetic, actually.

– Next, Paul E. and Sabu come out, as Sabu plays the lunatic role. Paul E. just insults the first 150 people who come to mind as Sabu is practically drooling in the corner while being restrained. Finally he thanks the media and tells everyone to go to hell. Heh.

– Finally, Shane comes out and flaps his gums. Shane demands to be named champion, because he’s the only one *not* to be stretchered out at some point during the match. So Funk gives him the ECW title to shut him up. But Shane refuses, of course, setting a pattern he would later repeat on a more epic scale. Excellent segment to finish as Funk and Shane brawl to end it.

Overall: Icky. I suppose the live experience makes the difference, but even on videotape today’s ECW is lightyears better than this. This was amateurish and ugly to watch at times, with hints of the stuff to come later. There was really no characterization to speak of, and no good backstory to lead up to the matches. I really, really was impressed by Mike Awesome, however.