Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Revisiting ECW November 2 Remember 1999!

It's ECW's marquee PPV, at what was arguably the company's apex. So was it truly a November to Remember, or one the 'rasslin history books are better off forgetting?

By: Jimbo X

Extreme Championship Wrestling will probably always be my favorite wrestling promotion ever. A lot of people have tried to retroactively write it off as nothing but overrated garbage wrestling, but those people clearly haven't watched ECW in a long time (or if it all, for that matter.) The same way people who have never seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre think it's 90 minutes of blood and guts - despite the film itself being virtually devoid of any kind of red splatter - ECW critics tend to reflect on the promotion as just bloody, stupid brawls with no psychology, mat-work or action-enhancing story-lines. And this, my friends, is just one great big lie that should've been expelled from the IWC collective consciousness a long time ago

Sorry, haters, but ECW isn't "garbage wrestling." Nothing in ECW ever got anywhere close to being CZW or Big Japan body mutilation festivals, and honestly, the amount of outside the ring scufflin' and furniture abuse in the promotion wasn't really anything beyond the same sort of stuff that was going on in FMW or had already become commonplace in Mid-South Wrestling and the CWA in the fucking early 1980s. The ECW product had always been more old-school NWA than IWA, and the truth of the matter is that Paul Heyman and company may have actually put on some of the best pure wrestling matches of the 1990s. 

You scoff? Just take a look at matches like this. Or this. Or even this. Sure, the company also had its fair share of pointless bloodbaths and gloriously overrated spotfests, but for the most part, the lion's share of ECW bouts were fairly respectable (and often immensely entertaining) matches every bit as effective and professional looking as anything you were seeing in the WWF or WCW at the time - if not considerably more enjoyable.

And nowhere is that more evident than ECW, circa late 1999. At this point, the company was at its make or break point with the TNN cable deal, and of course, we all know how that turned out. Still, there was more hope in the product that despair, and you can't help but feel that naively optimistic energy when revisiting that year's November 2 Remember spectacle. The company was fresh off arguably its greatest PPV yet, Anarchy Rulz in Sept., and while the company did experience two huge losses in the departures of the Dudley Boys and Taz, they also managed to gain two huge stars in the form of the returning Raven and Sandman. With Mike Awesome the company's heavyweight title holder and Rob Van Dam its most popular and most bankable star - not to mention a surfeit of talented young up-and-comers on its roster like Super Crazy, Tajiri and Kid Kash - it seemed like ECW was setting itself up very, very well for its biggest year ever in 2000. And this last PPV hurrah for 1999 - the year ECW gambled it all on a one-shot opportunity to break into the mainstream - at once marked the end of the brand we once knew and the beginning of an all new product that - perhaps a little bit too audaciously - laid it all on the line in an effort to go toe-to-toe with WCW and the WWF.

But let's let the PPV speak for itself, why don't we? 

Alright, we are calling this shit LIVE from the Flickinger Center in Buffalo, New York. Joey Styles and Cyrus are in the ring. Held Nov. 7, 1999, it's ECW's seventh annual N2R event, which is pretty much analogous to its WrestleMania. Cyrus is wearing rubber gloves because he says Buffalo is the bacteria capital of the United States and if had to work here, he would live in Toronto. This draws a hearty "well, well, well" from Joel Gertner, who then cuts a bawdy limerick about himself being "the one you want to pork when they are in New York." Gertner says he should be calling the show, not Cyrus. Cue the "War Machine" ripoff riff as Taz comes out in blue jeans and a trench coat to a chorus of "you sold out" chants" (since he was headed to the WWF in about a month's time, you see.)

If you told me 17 years ago that one of these men would be the official voice of New Japan Wrestling - we'll, I'm sure we'd all pick incorrectly.

Taz (who is actually shorter than Styles by several inches) is angry because he says Joey won't return his phone calls. Taz then calls him a lying bastard who implied he choked out RVD from behind on TNN two weeks earlier (and for the life of me, I just don't recall seeing that episode.) Taz then calls him, and I quote, "Mr. Genius Goddamn Microphone," and says "if you don't like it, I won't give a shit." He challenges Joey to a fight and the crowd chants "fuck him up, Joey, fuck him up" - which, considering Styles allegedly knocked out JBL for real, isn't exactly beyond the realm of possibility. Taz asks Joey is he amuses him. Style apologizes, but Taz keeps egging him, calling him "a disrespectful sonofabitch." Joey leaves the ring then Taz calls Joel "a fat shit." He locks him in the Tazmission, and it looks really, really shitty. Taz grabs the mic and tells RVD he is going to kick his ass later tonight, and then he shakes Cyrus' hand.

The video intro shows RVD jumping into the crowd, Mike Awesome power bombing Mikey Whipwreck to death and even Lita herself (back when she was known as Miss Congeniality) whipping up on some bitch. 

Simon Diamond is in the ring with his bodyguard, Dick Hertz, who immediately receives chants of "you suck dick." Hertz slaps Diamond on the ass and tells him "good luck, tiger." Diamond than refers to Dick as "huge and vascular" and lets the audience know he's going to "let Dick slide this time." Out comes Jazz, the "female fighting phenom," to virtually no fanfare. She slaps Simon and hits him with the Jazz Stinger (an X-Factor variation named after a Neil Diamond vehicle, for some reason.) Dick grabs her and hits her with an awesome spinning shoulder breaker thing he calls "the penile implant." Cue "Highway to Hell" as Spike Dudley makes his way to the ring. He hits Dick with the Acid Drop, then Diamond Pearl Harbors him. Spike goes for another Acid Drop, but flips over Diamond's back and gets dropped faced fist on the turnbuckle. Spike does a running flip off the mat to hit Diamond on the floor. Spike grabs a wooden chair, climbs the top rope and clobbers Diamond with it. Diamond back flips Spike. Now Simon is bleeding. Spike takes a back-first bump into the guardrail. Back in the ring, Diamond hits him with a few snap suplexes. Spike headbutts him in the balls and hits him with the Acid Drop, and yep, that's good enough for the three count. the Full Blooded Italians come out immediately and Little Guido power bombs the fuck outta' Spike off the top rope and then Big Sal E. Graziano belly flops on him while the crowd chants "you fat fuck." Cue "Intergalactic by the Beasties as Nova comes out to make the save. He hits Sal with a double axe handle and stomps the fuck out of Guido. Then he lands a spinebuster and a crossbody, then an X-Factor variation Guido sells like a retard. Nova flies off the top rope to the outside and wipes out Guido. Back in the ring and Sal E. free shots Nova. Guido starts stomping him and Joey says Guido probably didn't see too many planchas when he was in UWFi (and yes, believe it or not Guido actually does have a professional MMA bout on his resume.) Guido catches Nova with a clothesline and he stomps the hell out of him. Then there is a chop exchange and Guido hits a facebuster off the top rope for only a two count. Guido with more stomps. The two keep reversing a neckbreaker and Guido finally lands it. And all I can say is, man, do I miss that idiosyncratic, hyperactive, pulsating ECW camerawork, complete with the inane up-close shots. Guido goes up top and Nova pursues him and hits him with a reverse Samoan drop. Guido reverses the pin and only gets a two-count. We get a punching exchange and then Nova hits him with an awesome powerbomb-into-a-stunner combo Styles dubs "the Smash Mouth." Sal E. pulls Nova off before the ref can make the three count. Nova hits Sal with a tornado DDT, then Guido hits a distracted Nova with the Tomikaze for the win. Sal E. splashes Guido after the bell. Here comes Chris Chetti - wearing these supremely fruity, white fluffy frills on his jacket - to make the save. NOW here comes Danny Doring and Roadkill to beat up on Chetti. Roadkill splashes him and kills his ass dead, then pulls out threads of his fluffy fabric as a souvenir as the soothing sounds of Soul Coughing echo throughout the arena. Well, if you linked those first two matches and the tomfoolery in between as one, uh, spectacle, I'd feel pretty confident giving it a [***] rating.

Tajiri and Steve Corino roll Jack Victory out in a wheelchair. Corino calls Tajiri the "god of the three way dance" and talks shit about Jerry Lynn and Super Crazy. Crazy comes out wearing a t-shirt reading "Insano Luchador" and Jerry Lynn comes out to what I think is Fear Factory instead his kinda' awesome Coal Chamber walkout song that was on that one ECW CD. His ribs are still taped up from a Justin Credible and Lance Storm beatdown from like, two months ago.

No, it's not a bad screengrab. The late 1990s actually were that blurry in real life.

Styles says Lynn has historically been underutilized, not just in the WCW but even when he first came to ECW. The three competitors square off. Tajiri buzzsaw kicks Lynn, then Crazy leaps off the turnbuckle and hits Lynn with a dropkick. Lynn hits Crazy with tilt-a-whirl headscissors and Crazy responds with a huge-assed arm drag that gets the crowd roaring with approval. Tajiri locks Lynn in the Tarantula (basically, this really hurty-looking submission using the ring ropes for leverage) before Crazy makes the save. Then Tajiri counters a sunset flip into a Tarantula on Crazy and then Lynn has to save him. 

Tajiri with a hard superkick on Lynn. Then Lynn gets major airtime crashing into Crazy off the top rope. Here comes Tajiri with an Asai moonsault. Crazy thrown into the steel guardrail. Tajiri and Crazy brawl in the audience (look at those snazzy wooden chairs!) Here comes Lynn diving over the guardrail to wipe 'em both out. Now all three men are brawling through the audience. Crazy does a moonsault off the building entrance gate and takes out both Lynn and Tajiri. The crowd chants "holy shit" the whole time they battle back to the ring. Crazy with an inverted surfboard on Tajiri. Lynn hits him with a bulldog. Lynn and Crazy tussle. Lynn with the Gory Guerrero special, then a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Cyrus says something about how much it would suck for Crazy to get beat by some white dude using a luchador finisher. Tajiri with an awesome hurancanrana on Crazy. Crazy counters another hurancanrana with a powerbomb then he hits a moonsault. Crazy powerbombs Tajiri again, but Lynn breaks up the cover. Wait - why would he want to break up a pinfall in an elimination triple threat match?

Lynn hits the cradle piledriver on Crazy, but - again - Tajiri breaks up the pin. Then he hits Crazy with a brainbuster and claims the three count for himself. Lynn stomps Tajiri. Tajiri with a springboard elbow a'la the Great Muta. Loud kicks to the midsection, with a tree of woe facilitating a sliding baseball kick to Lynn's face. Lynn hits a German suplex, but Tajiri lands on his feet. Lynn grabs him again and lands a German for real this time. Lynn goes for a tombstone piledriver, but Tajiri counters it into a backbreaker and a thwarted moonsault. Lynn with forearm shots in the corner, then a tornado DDT off the top rope. Lynn with an hurancanrana (Spellcheck, RIP), but Tajiri breaks out and kicks him. But Lynn no sells it and says "hit me again you homo" and THEN he hits the cradle piledriver for the win. After the bell, there's this great moment where Joey says he thinks Lynn is still the only guy who can beat RVD and Cyrus admonishes him for discounting/burying Taz. Of course, Corino tries to attack Lynn after the match and Lynn piledrives that motherfucker and the crowd chants "Jerry! Jerry!" over and over again like they were on that one daytime TV talk show - you know, The View. A good showing all around, in my eyes. [*** 1/4]

We get a replay of highlights from the last match and Styles starts talking about the Baldies stapling New Jack in the eyeball on the last episode of ECW on TNN. And hey, here's that footage from last Friday in case you missed it!

Loud music blares in the background, so you can't even hear Styles and Cyrus speaking in the announcer's box. Cyrus shows Styles a big old name tag and Styles asks "what's with all the office talk, I work from home?" and this makes me laugh.

All four Baldies are in the ring. If you can name all of 'em, congratulations on being the biggest loser that's ever lost at anything, ever. And here comes Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten, with chairs en two. Yep, both of these guys are dead now, in case you were wondering. 

Balls in first (that's what she said) and he gets ganged up on. Axl hits the ring and cleans house with a few chair shots. So it's a four on two shindig. "Skull is behind balls," Joey states. Angel is wearing that stapler he used on New Jack as a necklace. And on cue, here comes New Jack with his bucket o' plunder.

Jack hits two dudes with crutches and keyboards another dude. It's down to Jack - armed with a golf club - and Angel. Devito gets a trashcan smashed over his skull. Then New Jack LITERALLY cleans house by hitting Angel in the balls with a vacuum cleaner And there's a cookie sheet shot to the groin, for good measure.

One of the Baldies gets stapled in the thigh. Balls makes another guy eat a trashcan. The camera can't capture any of the madness now. Balls with a double suplex. New Jack and the other two dudes are brawling in the audience. Axl gets a ladder. That really fat guy in the Baldies - it may or may not be P.N. News, if memory serves correct - actually lands a top rope senton on Balls, which I suppose is kinda' impressive. 

Axl and Jack set up the ladder. Now Jack has a table. ECW is so ghetto they have to put a PPV sign over the basketball goal the arena wouldn't let them remove. Jack climbs up and he makes his patented pay-per-view suicide dive. Much deserved "ECW" chants follow, with Styles say it is "the damndest thing" he's ever seen in ECW. Uh, forgetting something, Mr. Styles?

Can you imagine how many drugs and STDs that vacuum cleaner could suck up in the locker room?

Axl and Jack make their way back to the ring. There's a hilarious moment where New Jack cracks one of the Baldies over the head with an NES and Styles just calls it "a video game." Cyrus says New Jack prolly trained for this match by committing crimes. Jack gets the stapler and sure enough, he staples one of the Baldies. Then Angel hits him over the head with a baby powder filled guitar and that's enough to give him the three count. An "extreme replay" shows New Jack jumping off the basketball goal/sign. "If I wasn't here live I would've thought it was a special effect," Styles comments. "You're in the wrong company if you're looking for special effects," Cyrus responds. Unfortunately, he doesn't mutter "or paychecks that don't bounce" under his breath, though. A solid little garbage match right here - like one of those old CKY videos, it's dumb as shit and unrefined as fuck, but heaven help you, you just can't convince yourself you're NOT being entertained. 
 [** 3/4]

Time for an interview with Sabu and Bill Alfonso. Sabu's armbad reads "TICHO" for some reason. Alfonso tells Candido he needs to be ready for the fight of his life. Oh, "TICHO" is the name of Sabu's friend who apparently just died. Alfonso says he's dedicating the match and the show to honoring his memory. 

"Back in Black" lets us know Candido is making his way to the ring. Sunny (Tammy Lynn Sytch) is with him. Styles lets us know you can look at skanky pictures of her online cause that ain't gross or nothing. Sunny takes off her jacket to reveal a very hoe-ish outfit.

Here comes a somber Sabu, accompanied by his awesome in-house music. Considering how good these "ECW original" tracks were, you kinda' wonder why the company never produced more proprietary tunes. And I know I'm pissing up a proverbial rope, but can someone please explain to me how Sabu is genocidal? Considering his in-ring technique, "homicidal" and "suicidal" make sense, but which ethnic group did Sabu canonically want cleansed from the face of the Earth? Next to the source of The Million Dollar Man's immense wealth, I can't think of a more bamboozling pro rasslin' mystery

We get some loud "Sabu" chants, which quickly transforms into a chorus of "show your beaver." Sabu shoots for a low takedown. Bodydonna Skip darts out of the way. Sabu lands a quick reaper but misses on the follow-up elbow drop. Time for a collar and elbow tie-up. Styles says Sabu is very underrated as a mat wrestler. Outside brawling ensues. Chris slams Sabu into a guardrail and makes him eat some chops. A backdrop sends Candido flying over the top rope. Sabu hits a diving plancha. Then Chris hits a stalling suplex and a top rope leg drop (the New Jersey Jam.) The crowd chants for "tables." Chris with a floating suplex, but he misses on the diving headbutt. Sabu with a DDT, then a chair-assisted triple jump leg drop for a two-count. Sabu sets a table up outside. Chris flies to the outside with a diving hammer blow. He rolls Sabu on top of the table. Sabu gets back up and hits a top rope hurrancanranna in the ring. Camel Clutch on Chris. Bill Alfonso throws in a table. Candido hits Sabu with the electric chair drop. Chris sets up the table. He lays Sabu on it. He goes up top for a leg drop, but Sabu rolls out of the way and Chris goes through it ass first. Sabu goes for a pin, but he can only muster a two count.

Who says the late 1990s weren't enlightened? Here we were, not only cheering some Arabian guy to pull a white dude's fucking face off, but actually PAYING to see it live.

Sabu with the Camel Clutch again. The crowd chants "show your tits" (I imagine that's directed towards Sunny.) Sabu smacks Chris with a chair. He hits Chris with a running ass to the face and Candido double sells it by falling on the chair again. Sabu with a huge jump out of the ring into Candido in the front row. Man, those wooden chairs the audience has to sit on are hilarious. We get some wild brawling in the crowd now. ECW was so ghetto, they had to use yellow caution tape to block off fans near the opening entrance. Chris gets back in the ring. Sabu throws another chair at him. Sabu with a springboard splash for a two count. ANOTHER Camel Clutch. Well, there's a lot more psychology in this one than I thought. We've got ANOTHER table in the ring. Candido is laid out across it even though it's only halfway up (two of the legs are still slanted downwards.) Regardless, Sabu hits a top rope leg drop anyway but it's only good for back-to-back two counts. Sabu whiffs on a triple jump moonsault. Chris responds with a phat fallaway powerbomb, then a piledriver. Just a two-count on each. Chris lands a superplex - just a two. Chris sets the chair up in the middle of the ring. Sabu runs up it uses it for another moonsault. Just another two-count. Sabu goes up top but Tammy crotches him. Chris with a hurrancanranna off the top rope and he lands on his feet on the follow-through. He goes up top for a diving headbutt. Just a two count, and Chris screams "bullshit" at the referee. "It's almost like giving yourself a concussion," Cyrus says - boy, how the times have changed when it comes to pro 'rasslin commentary. Chris with a piledriver. He puts yet another table in the ring. Sabu with a dropkick to the ankle. Sabu sets up the table and lays Chris on it. Sabu goes up top and Tammy tries to shake him off but Bill enters the fray. He tries to put Tammy on it, but Chris sacrifices himself to roll her off. Naturally, Sabu uses the opportunity to leg drop that motherfucker through the furniture ... and it's STILL only enough for a two count. Sabu gets a chair and goes up top for an Arabian facebuster. Then he locks in the Camel Clutch and Candido finally submits. Well, shit, that match was WAY better than I recollected. [*** 3/4]

Let's cut to Masato Tanaka running on a treadmill. He says tonight "I BECOME NEW WORLD CHAMPION." Then we cut to Mike Awesome and Judge Jeff Jones. "I'm going to break your damn neck," the mulleted world champ declares while doing those little arm band bicep curls. 

Styles says Tanaka has more wins over Awesome than anybody else and that Awesome has never beaten Tanaka
 in a one on one match in the states. November is known for its controversial title changes, Cyrus says - boy, I wonder what he's referencing there?

We throw it to the back where Louie E Dangerously is doing an impersonation of Paul Heyman, telling Jazz and Francine they are fired before getting escorted out of building himself. Tanaka comes out to awesome '80s sounding shit metal. God, that makes me want to play Sega CD so bad right night. Awesome comes out to Bruce Dickinson's cover of "The Zoo" by The Scorpions. Joey brings up Awesome's stint in FMW as the Gladiator, but says nothing about his role in that one amazing-beyond-words exploding barbed wire swimming pool death match. We begin with some MONSTROUS Awesome chops in the corner. Awesome with a springboard elbow. Tanaka retaliates with a springboard clothesline. He goes up top and splashes Mike on the outside, then throws him into the guardrail. Then he clobbers his ass with a flying chair shot. Awesome with a belly to belly suplex, than a clothesline that sends Tanaka flying over the top rope. Awesome with a suicide dive (uh oh, talk about foreshadowing!) over the top to the outside. "Most six and a half feet tall wrestler don't even leave their feet anymore, brother," Styles says. The crowd chants "Awesome mullet." Awesome takes another suicide dive over the guardrail to wipe out Masato with a springboard clothesline.Mike goes up top with a chair and fucking El Kabongs Masato twice but he still gets up like it's nothing. Masato gets the chair, hits Mike twice and uses it to spice up his Roaring Elbow, but it's only good for a two count.

Probably the highlight of his career, next to being a Fat Chick Thriller.

He puts the chair over Mike's face. He goes up top with yet another chair and leg drops that white nigga. Just a two count. Masato goes up again and hits a tornado DDT. Again, only a two-count. "One more time!" the crowd chants, so Masato goes up for another DDT but Awesome counters with a fucking brutal sitout powerbomb on the chairs below. Aweome clotheslines Tanaka out of his boots and hits him with an Alabama Slam that looks ten times stiffer than Sycho Sid's powerbombs. Awesome sets up Chekov's table on the outside. Tanaka counters the powerbomb attempt and hits a belly to back suplex. Then Awesome hits a sitout powerbomb off the apron through the table"My mother's going to hate me for this, but holy shit!" announces Styles. 

Both men roll back into the ring and another table enters the fray. Awesome goes up top. Tanaka gets up and pushes the table back and tries to go for a  superplex, which Awesome tries to reverse into a powerbomb. Eventually, Tanaka hooks the superplex through the table, but it's only enough for a two. Tanka goes up top again for the Diamond Dust (not to be confused with the Dustin Diamond, of course.) He lands it, then points to his elbow. He gears up for the Roaring Elbow, but Awesome counters with a release German suplex and a running clothesline. Awesome goes up top and lands a huge frog splash. Just a two count. So he goes up top again and sets Tanaka up for a powerbomb. He lands it and that's what nets him the three count. 

God what a fucking awesome match.  I know these two have had a million great bouts (and there are prolly some better ones from the same year) but SHIT this was just so manly and satisfying. I'm giving it [**** 1\4] and if you don't like it feel free to gurgle a turd real quick. 

Time to hard sell the RVD vs Taz match. The TV title on the line. "RVD is the most popular wrestler in ECW history and if you don't believe it just listen to the pop he gets when he comes out," Styles says. To which Cyrus replies, "you know where the belt could end up if Taz wins." Get it, because Taz just signed with the WWF and is leaving ECW right after this match and stuff? 

LOL at the guy holding a "Taz fears Steve Corino" sign. Taz, serenaded by the ECW in-house version of Kiss' "War Machine," comes out first. RVD comes out to Pantera's "Walk," although I've always preferred the cover by Kilgore, personally. Taz does some last second calisthenics in the corner. "If you look up the word 'over' in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of RVD" Styles says. Funny, I don't see his face anywhere in the online entry, you Sacajawea dollar hocking lie-teller

RVD comes out with billowing "special effects smoke and not doobie smoke, for real, ya'll" while Styles creams his jeans talking about his two-year title reign. Taz, naturally, is booed heavily while the Buffalo faithful keep screaming "the whole fucking show" in unison. 

We learn that RVD's wife is recovering from a jet ski injury, which is pretty much the whitest way possible to be hospitalized. "Imagine the political repercussions of him beating Rob Van Dam," Cyrus comments. An aside, but holy shit, have you seen what this guy looks like nowadays? Motherfucker looks like he's a fat version of Balki from Perfect Strangers

Taz starts with a side headlock, then RVD does a spinning headscissors and both guys throw whiffed kicks and get a standing ovation on the stalemate. RVD showboats in the corner while Taz takes a breather. Taz with a judo takedown, then RVD gets the ropes and Taz mocks him with the RVD thumb-pointing gesture and we get a vociferous "fuck you Taz" chant. Taz stomps on RVD and we have dueling Irish whip reversals. Taz bullies RVD into the corner and RVD gets a two count on a flipping sunset pin attempt. And another stalemate. For some reason, the commentators start talking about pro football, leading to quite possibly Cyrus' line of the night: "You could be a fullback for the Bills, Joey." 

Paul Heyman turned THIS GUY into a PPV draw - don't ever try to tell me he ain't a marketing wizard.

RVD goes flying after a Taz back body drop. He takes out a cameraman too. Taz follows RVD outside and throws him into guardrail. They battle down the ramp access path and RVD crotches him on a steel guardrail. RVD makes it back to the ring first and takes a bow. Taz re-enters the fray and clips RVD's knee while he's showboating. Taz with stomps in the corner, and RVD is actually doing a really good job selling it. Taz with a NASTY Alabama Slam off the top rope, followed with some vicious punches while he has RVD in a crossface. He follows that up with a knee to the midsection and an evil-looking Tiger Suplex. Taz looks under the ring and pulls out a table. He sets it up in the corner. RVD hits him with a spinning drop kick. Van Dam follows suit with a sliding baseball kick and a cartwheel-into-a-moonsault, but it's only good for a two-count. The follow-up Rolling Thunder senton can't get the three, neither. 

RVD lands a corkscrew leg drop and grabs a chair. That's when Taz KILLS RVD with a clothesline on the rebound and it's fucking tremendous. This leads to a great spot where Taz tries to suplex RVD through the table, but then RVD gets a chair, attempts a Van Daminator and gets caught in a T-Bone Taz-Plex through the wooden furniture. Now that shit was just masterful. Naturally, it's only worth a two-count, though. Bill Alfonso gets inside the ring with a chair and slaps Taz. RVD goes up top and kicks the chair into Taz's face. It's only worth a two. RVD goes up again but Taz crotches him. RVD reverses another T-Bone Taz-Plex attempt into a jaw-jacker. RVD botches a split leg moonsault, which only gets him a two, anyway. "You fucked up" chants echo throughout the arena. RVD counters a German (uh, but not this German) and hits Taz with a spinning kick, then the Five Star Frog Splash for the three. 

Eh, the finish felt rushed (if not wholly improvised on the fly), but all in all that was still entertaining as fuck. Had they properly booked the thing and given both men more time, though, it could've been one of the greatest matches in ECW history. I give it a solid [*** 1/4] for effort. Both men high five after the match and RVD shows off the title while Taz, ironically enough, walks on home, boy

Now Rhino is coming to the ring (his theme, in case you are wondering, is "Debonaire" by Dope.) And here comes Justin Credible (with Jason, "The One Man Entourage") out to the Grinspoon version of "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck," which I've always thought was vastly superior to the original version by Prong. Styles, on Jason: "he once won the three-legged race by himself." Get it, because he apparently has a HUGE dong!

Cyrus pimps something called the No Holds Barred radio show, which what do you know, Justin is wearing a tee shirt for. Lance Storm is out third, accompanied by Dawn Marie Bytch and that fuckin' boss techno remix of "El Phantasmo and the Chicken Run Blast-a-Rama" by White Zombie. Styles says Marie's ensemble isn't a dress, it's a cocktail napkin. "Well, pass the drinks," Cyrus comments. "Where Dawn Marie is concerned, I wouldn't wear any latex whatsoever."

"Man in the Box" means Tommy Dreamer is on his way to the ring. And my goodness, does his valet Francine looks like a crack ho. Sorry, but she does. Raven comes out to "Gotta' Keep 'Em Separated" by The Offspring and Styles reminds us about his glorious return against the Dudley Boys on that one episode of ECW on TNN. And man, is it weird seeing Raven NOT being a tremendous fatass for a change. And lastly, "Enter Sandman" blares over the P.A., heralding the arrival of ... well, take a guess. The reaction isn't as ape shit as his big company return a few weeks earlier, but it nonetheless does the heart good to see everybody singing along to Metallica while Sandy (wearing, of all things, a Bruce Lee tee-shirt) smashes beer cans into his own skull. Sigh ... it almost makes me want to weep with nostalgia. Styles talks about the triangle rivalry between the three men and we all LOL at the dude in the crowd holding a sign reading "Hak who?"

The intros are longer than most matches, but maybe that's for the best here. Huge "welcome back" chant for Sandy to being. He and Storm get the ball rolling. Sandman gives the ref his stick. Rhino gets tagged in. "Fuck him up, Sandman" chants begin before they even lock up. The ref breaks it up, for some reason. Another tie-up. Rhino pushes him down and Tommy gets tagged in. Storm tagged back in. He uppercuts Tommy. Dreamer with a side Russian leg sweep. Raven walks away from tag. Credible in. Elbow from Justin, then he gets crotched by Dreamer. Dreamer with a hangman neckbreaker and Sandman gets tagged in. He chases Credible around outside. Rhino blindsides Sandman and Credible whacks him with his Singapore cane. Credible punches the shit out of Sandman while Storm holds him in the corner. Storm hits a handspring clothesline and Rhino powerbombs Sandman off the top rope, but it's only worth a two.

Credible tries to keep Sandman cut off in enemy territory. Credible gets his balls slammed into the ring corner. Then Storm misses on a frog splash. Raven coldcocks Dreamer so he can get the tag. Raven fucks up everybody but gets gored by Rhino before he can DDT Credible. Then Storm superkicks Raven. Sandman is placed in the tree of woe. Dreamer clotheslines Rhino then Storm planchas Dreamer. Raven hits the Evenflow (don't you DARE think of calling it the Raven Effect) but Storm breaks up the pin. Rhino beats up Dreamer outside. Raven and saves him and they set up a table. Raven does a drop toe hold on Dreamer on to a chair and then he misses the table plancha on Rhino, who accidentally gores Storm. Sandman capitalizes on the fuck up and whacks Rhino with the cane three times before he finally goes down. Francine and Dawn Marie have their obligatory catfight, then Sandman kisses Dawn Marie then Raven and Sandman accidentally cane each other, allowing Justin to hit That's Incredible on Sandy for the three count. Styles wonders aloud if Raven may have whacked Sandman on purpose as he walks back to the locker room before everybody else. We get a quick and dirty recap of the PPV and that's that, Mattress Man.

This image is so 1999, it might as well have the Sega Dreamcast logo on it.

While the [** 1/2] main event was a relatively low note to go out on, the show as a whole was very solid. The Masato/Tanaka title bout was absolutely fucking ace, while the Sabu/Candido match was WAY better than I remember. Throw in the above average RVD/Taz matchup and the three-way - plus the clusterfuck-tastic Diamond vs. Spike/Nova vs. Guido medley - and that's one pay-per-view with at least five [***]-plus matches, which for a wrestling PPV in 1999, is astonishingly solid.

In some ways, you could call N2R '99 the zenith of post-TNN deal ECW - if not its first obvious death rattle. In six months' time, Mike Awesome would be in WCW, Rob Van Dam would be sidelined with a leg injury (thus derailing a huge champion versus champion bout against Awesome that possibly could have kept ECW alive a little bit longer), and Sabu, Chris Candido, Raven and Lance Storm would all be out of the promotion. By the time N2R 2000 rolled around, the roster was so depleted they had to put the Heavyweight belt on Steve fuckin' Corino, with the co-main event slot reserved for Rhino steamrolling whatever homegrown "star" was left on the payroll. In hindsight, this was the proverbial "last good day" for ECW - from hereon out, it was just one long, drawn-out, year-long spiral into financial oblivion.

Still, even hurtling headlong towards its inevitable destruction, ECW's product remained as entertaining as ever. There's no doubt in my mind that Extreme Championship Wrestling was a far more entertaining promotion than WCW and the WWF from 1998 to 2000, and ECW's PPVs from that era were consistently more enjoyable from top to bottom than its competitors. It's really a shame that so many people have forgotten how solid ECW was, even this close to its demise - and needless to say, this PPV just whups the tar out of the '99 editions of Survivor Series and Starrcade, and it ain't even close.

I'm pretty sure this show is available on the WWE Network, and it hasn't too hard to find using, ahem, "alternative viewing platforms," if you catch my drift. If you've never seen it you definitely need to check it out and if it's been a decade or so plus since you last saw it, I strongly believe it's worth a re-watching. 

This is the kind of wrestling product that just don't exist any more. So thank goodness we've still got the tapes a' circulating, no?


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