Introduction - I love the idea of supercards. Even if the point of the show isn't exactly a "(Promotion)" vs "(Promotion)" show, just the idea of being able to see a ton of random wrestlers in one night is fascinating. Terry Funk's Wrestlefest goes the extra step and we do get some pretty weird crossover. But the issue with supercards is that the novelty is "these wrestlers are working together" instead of any storyline. Is a supercard as random as this doomed to this trap, or will it exceed all expectations?
10-bell salute to Fritz Von Erich - Von Erich had passed away the day before this show. It's nice to see fans taking a 10-bell seriously and not whooping like fans do at modern shows.
Roadkill vs WING Kanemura - 4/10
And we're just cannonballing into the "random ass matches" pool right away. Roadkill is clearly still a trainee, his all black shirt and pants combo makes him look like either a slimer One Man Gang or a fat Baron Corbin, nowhere near the Amish gimmick he would have later. WING is most well known for being in FMW. At this point the WING Alliance has just disbanded and he's a few weeks away from forming Team ZEN
The guys do some very basic spots that do a good job of indicating where the two men stand alignment wise. We get a suicide dive from WING right out of the gate which might be a bit too high level for 80 percent of the crowd, but Roadkill fights back with some big burly brawler offense. WING has a few hope spots but Roadkill gets some generic big man offense in, which WING does a great job selling for. Roadklll misses a top rope splash, they go for a minute more, and WING hits a top rope senton and wins.
This was about as tolerable an opening on a supercard as you can ask for, that went the tiniest bit too long.
ECW TV Title
Taz (c) vs. Chris Candido - 7.5/10
We're told that this isn't an ECW show but both Taz and ECW World Champion Shane Douglas insisted on putting their titles up. I guess Terry's okay with it, so it's okay with me.
Taz immediately locks in a submission, and Chris immediately goes into his cowardly/Southern heel, a great way to show what both guys are all about. Candido also gets to show off that he's technically competent, but not as good as badass MMA fighter Taz. Candido finally gets the heat with a powerbomb. Taz gets his hope spots when Candido is being too showy. But Candido always fires back. Taz gets the Tazmission in 7:19
This is one of those matches that shows you how important time limits are in wrestling. Because even though the match went 7 of the 10 minutes, it still shows Candido as someone who took Taz almost to limit. This and the fact that nearly everything done in the match dripped character for both guys leads to this being a great match.
Shark Tsuchiya vs Cooga - 2/10
Shark jumps Cooga at the bell, but when Shark has her down for a submission, Cooga reverses, and we reset. Shark dominates Cooga again with more nasty heel offense and submissions. Cooga gets a top rope tornado DDT and the crowd is here for it, but Shark immediately shuts that shit down, blocking a running crossbody into a slam. Shark does more nasty heel offense. We get more hope spots, but a running rolling kick into the turnbuckle is randomly the thing that gives Cooga some momentum to work with. A top rope knee to the back of the head isn't enough to put away Shark. We get a horribly mistimed "Hold the ropes so the other guy will whiff the dropkick" spot which just makes Cooga look like an idiot. Kooga whiffs a ROLL UP, and they do the "Missed punch into a back suplex" spot twice within minutes of each other. Cooga bridges out of a pinfall, which is immediately followed by the finish.
This match already grinded my gears when it became clear that this match was a showcase for both women. Normally, I wouldn't mind that, but on a one-off supercard, that's already too complex a plot for a match, especially if you don't have any further exposure lined up that this crowd will see. Beyond that, this match was a complete mess psychology wise, but the girls really tried earnestly.
The Youngbloods (Chris Youngblood & Mark Youngblood) (w/ Ricky Romero) vs. The Bushwhackers (Butch & Luke) - 1/10
The Bushwackers are still under WWF contract, yet they're also moonlighting in Puerto Rico against The Youngbloods. So they've got the whole Bushwackers entrance, yet they wrestle like Sheepherders which is a very strange duality.
The babyfaces clear the ring after a brief brawl, and then everyone stalls forever. What follows next is an almost 70s style exchange with the heels getting control with punches, and the babyfaces wobble and timber over and powder out. Ricky Romero threatens Butch with a chair. The heels take control somehow and do very basic heel stuff. The faces take control and the heels powder out again. now the heels are at it again. They fuck up the bump for a a Youngblood crossbody onto the Bushwackers. Hot tag by the babyfaces, which leads to a double team by the heels and a "slip on a banana peel" bump for the babyfaces to win.
This was also a mess, the only thing saving it from anything lower is that they told a story, and the things they did semi competently (punches and chops) but anything beyond that seemed beyond them. Harrowing to think The Bushwackers would still be taking bookings into the new millennium
The Sandman makes his entrance, but is attacked by Buh Buh Ray Dudley - A mess. We're told that this match is meant to be Sandman vs Balls Mahoney. It shows you also how this is a tale of two crowds. You've got the younger ECW contingent who are into Sandman's entrance, and the old people who are here for Terry and Dory Jr, who are absolutely confused. Anyway, Buh Buh attacks Sandman. The ring announcer calls Buh Buh Balls, and the bell rings. Balls eventually shows up, and we get...
No DQ match
Balls Mahoney (w/The Sandman) vs Buh Buh Ray Dudley - 5.5/10
Or at least we think we do, as Bubba powders out and heels out to the crowd while Balls cuts a babyface promo They tease an immediate count out loss. Joey sells it like the ref can get the ECW Tag Titles stripped from Buh Buh because he can call Todd Gordon.
Balls does Balls stuff, and then Buh Buh gets the heat. One Balls takes a tumble out of the ring we get some chair shots from Buh-Buh. We get multiple cups of beer to Balls, which causes him to hulk up. They try a midair dropkick spot while Balls jumps off the top with a chair and it looks like a car wreck. Disgusting chair shot by Balls and Balls kicks out at 2. Balls eventually fires back with a cane shot after Sandman hands it to him and wins.
This was a weirdly great match. It kind of encapsulates what's amazing about ECW, two trash bag wrestlers operating within their comfort zone, but stepping out of it occasionally for a wacky spot or two.
Post-match - Buh Buh tries to get his heat back but the faces cream him wth weapons. This was fantastic.
Tommy Dreamer (w/ Beullah) vs. Shane Douglas (w/Francine) (c) - 8.25/10
Shane tries to get out of the match while shitting on the crowd in a promo. Tommy invokes the power of being Terry Funk's friend for a face pop. Beullah says something that pisses off Shane, allowing Tommy to get the momentum
Tommy does goofy house show stuff (brawling around the ring, shots with cups of beer, and beating Shane's head on the apron a bunch) Shane gets the heat by dropkicking a chair into Tommy's face causing him to fall off the apron. The heels do heel things, until Francine works Tommy's leg which allows Tommy to hulk up and get cut off by Shane. Shane uses a chair tot work over Tommy's leg. More working the leg but Tommy kicks out at 2. Beulah interferes when Shane and Francine decide to be dicks setting up for a turnbuckle spo, which gives Tommy the opening he needs. Tommy hits some of his signature shit. Francine breaks up a DDT, so we get a CATFIGHT. Tommy gets his hands on Francine which gives Douglas the opening he needs. DOUGLAS SLAMS BEULLAH AND GIVES HER A BELLY TO BELLY. Tommy gets several 2 1/2 counts after this, including off of Shane's own finisher, and his own, but Francine is all over Tommy. TOMMY PILEDRIVES FRANCINE, but then Douglas hits his finisher and wins. Douglas is an expert at ending matches when heat is at its maximum.
I loved this match. This was as effective of a sales pitch for ECW as I can imagine. Props to these guys for going out to this one off and wrestling like it's the main event!
Dory Funk Jr vs Rob Van Dam (w/ Bill Alphonso) - 7.25/10
This wasn't on the tape, but the people who handle Dory's Youtube were nice enough to post it. The contrast is crazy, with Dory coming out in his Letterman jacket, cowboy hat, to a college fight song and with a little boy on his shoulders, vs cocky, arrogant heel RVD who comes out to metal.
They stall forever, successfully selling Rob/Alphonso as obnoxious and Dory as the stoic badass. Dory gets the momentum with some very simple wrestling holds, which RVD sells by screaming in pain. RVD gets the better of Dory with kicks. Dory casually side steps a lot of RVD's signature offense and hit forearms, which the crowd are electric for. Dory mocks Rob's "R-V-D" taunt which sends Bill into a conniption fit. RVD pulls Dory out of the ring and now he has the heat. Rob goes for a suicide plancha and, as expected, Dory doesn't come within an asses roar of catching him. Rob waits for Dory to roll in the ring and struts around after doing moves because he is a heel. Dory kicks out of Rob's big top rope moves. Dory gets one elbow and the people are electric. RVD gets the offense again as Bill mouths off at ringside, but Dory fires back. The crowd is electric for a Double Arm Underhook. They tease the toehold, but RVD gets the ropes, and when he's busy with the ref, gets a Van Terminator which he sells expertly. Dory kicks out of some more big moves, including the Five Star Frog Splash, because Rob barely covers him. Dory wins with a backdrop in the ropes as Bill is giving him shit, which is hilarious.
This match, while not the best, is absolutely a must watch for several reasons. Firstly, this match has no commentary, so Bill really gets over as a loud obnoxious heel. Beyond that, this a styles clash that absolutely has no business working, but it does!
The announcer pimps and MMA show happening here in October while hometown boy Steve Nelson parades around with his Welterweight Belt - I envy these people, getting to see Dan Severn fight at the fairgrounds.
Mankind vs Sabu (w/Bill Alphonso) - 8/10
Given the two guys involved (especially Sabu) they tell a half way decent story. Sabu works Mankind's leg in a uniquely Sabu way while peppering in his signature offense, including sweeping the leg when Mankind goes for a stomp which popped me. Meanwhile, Mankind has all of Sabu's signature stuff scouted and can counteract it. Mankind sells the leg by moving slowly when he goes to hit Sabu with a running chair shot in the corner. We get a table bump hooray! They're both hobbled, so we get a VERY close Triple Jump pinfall, and a Triple Jump Moonsault that land's right on Mick's legs, ouch. Mankind becomes Cactus Jack to fire up and it popped me seeing a Mankind/Cactus Jack hybrid. Both the ref and Bill get Mandible Claw'd for the DQ
Lousy finish aside, this is a must watch for any Mick Foley fan, especially if you've ever wondered about the interplay between his three head mates. Plus Sabu put on a surprisingly coherent performance as well.
Post-match - Mankind and Sabu brawl down the ramp, which absolutely works for these guys.
Hakushi, Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka vsJake Roberts & The Headhunters (Headhunter A & Headhunter B) (w/ Victor Quinones) - 7/10
Man, if King of Trios had been around in 1997, I imagine this would've been a first round match. Jake looks like garbage, another guy that makes you wonder how anyone thought Heroes of Wrestling would be a good idea two years later.
Tanaka and one of the Headhunters start out and tell a fun "big man vs firey little man" story, but then Hakushi and Roberts get tagged in and the whole thing just grinds to a halt. We get some simple spots and then a "I stomp you after a handshake because I'm a heel" spot. Hakushi manages to avoid damage by the other Headhunter when he's tagged in, and tags to Hayabusa. Busa does a ump off the top turnbuckle to enter because he fucking rules. They do the "can't knock me down" spot with the headhunters but because Hayabusa looks like a ninja warrior from an anime this looks cool as shit. 'Busa does some cool spots on his own but we get some cool double and triple teams from the babyfaces, but the Headhunters sell how powerful they are by effortlessly taking the offense. basic hardcore moves and tag team maneuvers look brutal by these two. Jake gets in and Southern heels out on Tanaka. The heels prevent the faces from making a tag, hooray. In the process Tanaka takes a 400 lb top rope splash, and then a top rope missile dropkick. The DDT gets broken up by top rope strikes by opposite corners from Busa and Hakushi. We get a brawl on the outside which allows Hayabusa to hit a 450 on one of the Headhunters for the win
This was better than it had any right to be, mostly because Jake wasn't in there for long.
Post-Match - Pointless. Jake teases something but the babyfaces stare him down.
We get the entrances for the main event and then we get
Terry Funk is presented with a lifetime achievement award - Paul Heyman puts over how instrumental Terry was in starting ECW. The award is a championship belt, which is cute. Bret puts over Terry and cuts a babyface promo
Bret Hart vs Terry Funk (w/ Dory Funk Jr) (Dennis Stamp is the referee) - 9.5/10
Hooray! Dennis got booked tonight. Jokes aside, this is a fucking amazing match. Two old school masters of the craft who never lost sight of what body parts they worked over and how it played into the match even when the match shifted from technical to brawling (which, in the ultimate small gripe, probably took too long). Beyond that. The only thing I can really count against it was the finish (in which both men's shoulders were down but Bret got his up at the last second) . That aside though, everyone should watch this.
At the top of the review I asked if Terry Funk's Wrestlefest would fall into the supercard pitfall of forgetting where its novelty lie. Some matches at the top did, but most of the guys understood that their purpose there was novelty on a tribute show, and so they just worked a repertoire of their greatest hits, which made this a great show. All of the ECW stuff, the six man tag, and all the stuff with WWF guys is enough for you to go and find this show.