Welcome to this month’s installment of BRM’s Monthly “This Day In Wrestling History” Review Series. I promised you both an historic moment in the wrestling business and a thought experiment, so here’s what we’re going to do. As you’ve no doubt figured out by the title, the historic moment in history is ECW’s final show. The thought experiment is going to be that I am going to try to look at this show with the idea that I don’t know the promotion will never hold another show, and see if it felt like the promotion had an actual future. Here we go…
NOVA vs. TOM MARQUEZ (w/Stan Lee)- 4/10
No, not that Stan Lee. This was a nice a nice little wrestling match that kept getting interrupted with gaga. Yes, the manager interfering is a perfectly fine story to tell, but the other stuff these two were made me with that they had just gone out there and wrestled without spending so much time with the manager interfering or with Marquez taking a powder or doing a bunch of gaga before the lock-up.
CHRISTIAN YORK & JOEY MATTHEWS vs. HOT COMMODITY (EZ Money & Julio Dinero)- 6.5/10
This was good stuff once they got past the early gaga, and the crowd was into everything. It’s pretty clear why Paul thought these guys would be the future of his company.
YOSHIHIRO TAIJIRI vs. SUPER CRAZY- 5.75/10
This started out good, but really petered out towards the end, with the pin on a series of roll-up reversals feeling relatively anticlimactic.
ECW WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Danny Doring & Tommy Dreamer(c) (substituting for Roadkill) vs. The FBI (Tony Mamaluke & Little Guido) - 6/10
Roadkill had transportation problems, so Doring is teaming with Dreamer tonight. Dreamer was a mystery partner and got a huge pop when he came out.
This ECW World Tag Team Championship match was interrupted by a dance-off. To be fair, Guido was the one who called for the dance-off, and did so when his team was at a disadvantage, so him doing this to buy them time to recover made sense. Dreamer and Doring accepted it made them look like idiots, though, and they’re the f*cking babyfaces. Mamaluke would eventually take a bump while trying a heel-click, which was funny. So funny that Dreamer laughed his ass off at it, and as a result got attacked from behind by Guido, so Dreamer’s an idiot twice, first for accepting a dance-off when his team was in control, and now for taking his eye off of his opponent.
The heels took over and started to work over Doring’s arm… and then we threw that away for a spot where Guido tried to punch the referee, who ducked and gave him a bodyslam. Was that minor pop that got really worth it? Really? That was the only blemish on an otherwise very good heat on Doring.
LOU E. DANGEROUSLY & C.W. ANDERSON PROMO - Dull. Lots of cheap heat. They are eventually interrupted by Jack Victory, who is apparently a babyface at this point. He plays up his connection to Mid-South Wrestling to try to make himself the local babyface. He wants to have a street fight. Anderson doesn’t want to at first, but we eventually wind up getting one anyway.
Jack Victory vs. C.W. Anderson (w/Lou E. Dangerously) - 2/10
There was a lot of walk-and-brawl and a lot of hitting each other with stuff. They did the ring the bell spot right by doing it someone’s ear where it will actually matter and I was getting all happy because someone finally did it right… and then they went and did it the ridiculous and nonsensical way where you “ring the bell” on someone’s crotch, which somehow hurts your testicles, apparently. We got a heel ref run-in, counteracted by a Spike Dudley run in to give Jack the victory.
MICHAEL SHANE vs. STAN LEE - 0.75/10
This was short and not very good.
ECW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Rhino(c) vs. Spike Dudley - 7/10
This only went ten minutes, but they did a good job creating a sense of urgency, as you knew that once things started going downhill for Spike, the climb back up would be more and more unlikely.
THE SANDMAN vs. JUSTIN CREDIBLE (w/Francine) - 3.5/10
Sandman’s entrance took a good five minutes. Then we wasted even more time with Justin riling up the crowd and convincing Sandman that they should have a wrestling match and not an extreme brawl. Sandman is down with this because he wants to prove to everyone that he can wrestle, but also said that Justin would owe him a favor. When they finally locked up, it had been almost fifteen minutes since the end of the previous match.
They had a very uninteresting wrestling match. Justin won when Francine tripped up Sandman when he went for a suplex, allowing Justin to with via lateral press (and they didn’t even do the Roode/Warrior finish with Francine holding Sandman’s leg down).
Sandman decided to invoke the earlier favor Justin had promised him, resulting in…
THE SANDMAN vs. JUSTIN CREDIBLE (w/Francine) - 6.25/10
In any other promotion I would have been able to designate that this was some sort of weapons match, but this is ECW where weapons are always legal, so it’s just a rematch but this time without anyone promising to not use weapons. Sandman went to the back and came out with a cart full of weapons. Then, like an idiot, he turned to cheer with the fans, allowing Justin to attack him from behind.
They did a lot of weapons stuff, but they laid things out well. Going back to Franny grabbing Sandman’s leg to set up a false finish worked well. Sandman won this time, via piledriver on some sort of object.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - They hugged after the match, which is not the sort of thing I like to see. Then the rest of the locker room came out and had a beer bash while Tommy Dreamer gave a speech. The story has always been that they didn’t know that this would be the last show, but seeing this makes it clear that a lot of people at least had a suspicion.
Yeah, it was kind of hard to pretend I don’t know that this is the final show for that last segment.
So, does this seem like a promotion that could have had a future? To evaluate that question, two things first need to be stated:
1. This is a house show, and while I don’t buy that as an excuse to do a bunch of gaga instead of wrestling, I’m also not going to fault the wrestlers for not taking particularly big risks, or for wanting to save some things for a big PPV spot. It also means that expecting anything that happens here to be particularly important to a storyline is futile.
2. A LOT of the bigger stars the company had left at this point were not on the show. Just looking at the card from the previous weekend’s PPV, main eventers RVD, Jerry Lynn, Steve Corino, ECW stalwarts with name value Balls Mahoney and Mikey Whipwreck, and Kid Kash, an up and coming work-rate guy who the company is trying to push, are all not on this show. Also Simon Diamond, who was a good worker, but never really got to show much of that in ECW due to being stuck with a terrible gimmick.
The crowd here was very hot, and- as has been noted by many others- Pine Bluff, Missouri is not what we usually think of as an ECW market. This shows that the promotion did have some legs, and expansion was something that really could have worked. It’s also important to note that the crowd wasn’t just hot for Dreamer, Justin, Rhino and Sandman, but also for acts like Hot Commodity, York & Matthews, Danny Doring, and the FBI. They’re not just into the big stars, but they’re into the guys who are on their way up as well.
While I didn’t care for some of the matches, there was a clear attempt to change the style (especially on the undercard) to something that at least resembled the more fast-paced style that would be come popular on the indies soon after (the 2001 Super 8 is just over a month away). Not necessary as technical as Dragon vs. Low Ki or as spotty as the S.A.T.s or Ric Blade, but somewhere in between. Seeing as how Heyman has said (granted, this was in about 2015 or so, so who knows if he was telling the truth or not) that he was interested in bringing in Low Ki and Samoa Joe, that, too, shows that Paul knew the style needed to change, and he was taking steps to bring in guys who would help change it (along with Hot Commodity, York & Matthews, Michael Shane, Kid Kash, etc.to go along with the already-established RVD, Jerry Lynn, Super Crazy, Tajiri, etc.). This show had a nice mix of ECW weapons brawling with the other stuff, and I think that would have definitely helped the product.
There was definitely some stuff that didn’t work, and a lot of that stuff (both on this show and in my painful explorations of the last seven or so months of the company as a whole) seems to be centered on managers with comedic gimmicks. Stuff that feels like card-filling undercard acts that feel like they’re designed to get heat by being either lame or annoying rather than actually being good heel acts that are despised for the actions and attitudes of the characters themselves. Lou. E. Dangerously and his pals, and Simon Diamond and his troupe both fit into this category. They feel very out of place with everything else.
As you’ve probably surmised, I think that ECW really would have had a chance to rebound if the money was there (assuming that Bischoff’s planned WCW relaunch also doesn’t happen and he doesn’t gobble everyone up), but I think it would have taken a while. And I don’t mean six months, I mean eighteen months, at least, for the new generation to be built up enough to really become difference makers. The landscape certainly becomes more interesting when WCW folds and certain names that didn’t wind up in WWE become available (Rey, Juvi, Bam Bam Bigelow, the Steiners… and that’s not even taking into account the possibility of someone without Heyman was on the outs at the time over money like Shane Douglas or Chris Candido wouldn’t be willing to come back if Paul was the best-paying gig in town that he could get a job with), but then again, with ECW still existing as a competitor, it’s possible that WWE ponies up the money to keep a lot more people off the market.
But, alas, none of that happened, and this was the end of ECW. The promotion that changed the landscape of pro wrestling went out not with a bang, but with a moderately-sized whimper. A watchable show rather than a wretched disaster that leaves you think “this company deserved to die!” We started the year off with an ending, but fear not, dear reader, for next month on BRM’s Monthly “This Day In Wrestling History” Review Series, there will be a New Beginning.