Got some good feedback on the WCW list, both positive (thanks for giving a shout-out to that particular event!) and critical (how could you leave this particular event off the list?). Hey, it’s subjective, and I did what I set out to do: provide a primer for WCW ‘newbies’ to get their feet wet in the land of Crockett and Turner.
The events, as many would presume, are riddled with song edits and F-bomb bleepings, but it’s as reasonably ‘extreme’ as WWE is capable of going (though Booker T’s legendary tirade on Hulk Hogan at Spring Stampede 1997 is unedited; weird).
Without further ado, here are ten ECW offerings I would recommend to the virgin viewer. As a footnote, I would only recommend ECW December to Dismember 2006 if you’re a counter-terrorism officer, and you need an interrogation device that isn’t waterboarding.
Extreme Championship Wrestling’s very first PPV was hailed as a Picasso-esque masterpiece by the Paul Heyman acolytes at the time, and in ensuing years. I’m an ECW diehard, and I’ll be the first to tell you that the event isn’t as great as the claims make it out to be. Nonetheless, it’s still a very enjoyable gala with many highlights, wrapped within the ECW touch.
The undisputed jewel: a six-man tag featuring stars of Michinoku Pro that rivals the best of the WCW Cruiserweight Division. Sabu and Taz’s epic showdown was a bit of a letdown, but was still a suitably good match. Terry Funk’s quest to win one final World Title perfectly wrapped up the evening, as he survived a triple threat match to get to champion Raven.
HARDCORE HEAVEN 1997
Four months following the relative success of Barely Legal, ECW followed up with a worthy sequel that paid off a summer’s worth of stories. The event was originally to have had Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven in one final encounter, but Raven’s jump to WCW in June meant the blow-off need take place earlier. With Raven gone, Dreamer moved on to another major challenge.
You see, ECW had been invaded by WWF belligerents, led by Jerry Lawler, and flanked by turncoats in Rob Van Dam and Sabu. Dreamer and Lawler settled their score, while Sabu defended the ECW Title against Shane Douglas and Terry Funk in a rematch of their 1994 heralded battle. Sleeper match: Van Dam vs. a lost-in-the-shuffle Al Snow.
HEAT WAVE 1998
After a string of uninspired, largely mediocre ECW events (and that’s putting it mildly in the case of the dreadful WrestlePalooza ’98), the company bounced back with an event that lived up to its scorching moniker, demonstrating the intensity that ECW was known for. Importing Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka for a match spruces up any PPV event.
In addition to that chaos, the undercard showcased Jerry Lynn vs. Justin Credible, and Lance Storm vs. Chris Candido, which would fit in on pretty much any undercard. The show ended with two bits of traditional anarchy, with Taz vs. Bam Bam Bigelow, and a whirlwinded Dudleyville Street Fight, making it an event that hit on every possible fan want.
GUILTY AS CHARGED 1999
Consider this one a bit of ‘good riddance’ to bloated rubbish. Shane Douglas reigned as ECW Champion for thirteen months, barely defending the title due to an elbow injury. Thing is, Douglas had to be champion in order to put over Taz, and pay off his eternal title chase, but the whole thing dragged like a truck with two flats. Thankfully, this show was the remedy.
Taz choked out Douglas in a mostly satisfying main event, while the undercard held things up to a great degree. Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm for the Television title, Tommy Dreamer and Justin Credible in a Stairway to Hell match, and the mainstream debut of Yoshihiro Tajiri and Super Crazy, plus the surprise debut of Sid Vicious, rounded out a solid viewing.
LIVING DANGEROUSLY 1999
With Taz as ECW Champion, it was a chance to renew the rivalry with Sabu, who was in possession of Taz’s custom made FTW Title belt (which didn’t stand for, “For the Win”). Thus, the titles would be unified as a means of bringing the ECW cornerstones together to settle the score once and for all. Like Guilty as Charged, the undercard pitched in just as well.
The Television Title match between Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn is near an all-time classic, and is perhaps better than their more cherished rematch at Hardcore Heaven two months later. Super Crazy and Yoshihiro Tajiri put on another eye-popping clinic, and Tommy Dreamer and Shane Douglas came together to tackle The Impact Players in the semi-main.
ANARCHY RULZ 1999
What is it about Chicago that brings out the best in wrestling events? The first PPV of the TNN era (that’s Spike, the current home of TNA, for you youngins) came with a conundrum: ECW Champion Taz announced he was leaving for WWE in the near future, and the fans booed him mercilessly before his defense against Masato Tanaka. Then things got interesting.
Mike Awesome made a surprise return after a year-long knee injury, entered into the match, and shockingly won the title after Taz was eliminated in three minutes. The insanity extended to a great Jerry Lynn vs. Lance Storm encounter, Sabu putting over Justin Credible in a mild upset, and a Botchamania moment in which Raven jobbed to the bottom rope.
NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER 2000
Hey, Chicago again. Now off of national television, and with the syndicates not getting new episodes of ECW in timely fashion (Philadelphia once aired the same October episode for three or four straight weeks), the stench of death was overwhelming the cult favorite company. Makes sense that ECW would demonstrate some of its old tricks in response.
ECW rarely held ‘gimmick matches’, but threw a few in for the November spectacular: a flaming tables match in the undercard, a ‘loser leaves’ match between former partners Nova and Chris Chetti, and a ‘Double Jeopardy’ four way match for the ECW Championship, which was won by a rapidly-improving Steve Corino. A good backs-to-the-wall event.
GUILTY AS CHARGED 2001
The final PPV of the company’s existence was in the backdrop of a typically rowdy New York crowd, without television to promote the card, and Paul Heyman promising a “holy s–t” surprise to compensate. The surprise ended up being Rob Van Dam’s return (few knew he was kinda gone) after a disagreement over money owed to him, but the fans were overjoyed.
Van Dam and Jerry Lynn essentially concluded their feud in the impromptu main event, while the undercard pleased with an underrated I Quit match between Tommy Dreamer and CW Anderson, and a three-way tag match with the Full Blooded Italians, Mikey Whipwreck and Yoshihiro Tajiri, and Super Crazy and Kid Kash. Disorganized, but still lots of fun.
ONE NIGHT STAND 2005
It’s in the ECW section in the vault, and Heyman and Dreamer were the architects of the show, so it counts. Besides, many of the aforementioned shows were under the cloud of Vince McMahon making payments to keep ECW going, so any argument is invalid. This is what it is: the most fun PPV ever that didn’t have storyline implications. Nothing comes close.
ONE NIGHT STAND 2006
The first One Night Stand is more fondly remembered as the reunion show to end all reunion shows, but this one was a better event from a quality standpoint. None of the major matches were abbreviated, and the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that WWE cultivated to galvanize ECW as its soon-to-be third brand made the show a must-see slice of something bold.
Rob Van Dam’s cash-in of Money in the Bank on WWE Champion John Cena (who was skewered alive by the Big Apple fans) was the ideal ending. A six person tag with Tommy Dreamer, Terry Funk, and Beulah against Edge, Lita, and Mick Foley (whose forgotten heel turn deserves to be remembered) was one of the best brawls either company produced.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.