Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Revisiting ECW November To Remember 1995!

Forget family, turkey and cranberry sauce — who needs all of that crap when we’ve got good old EC-Dub around to fill our Thanksgiving plates with all kinds of delightfully un-P.C. mayhem?

By: Jimbo X

You know, sometimes, when I’m stuck in traffic, I wonder if things have truly gotten any better socioculturally since the mid 1990s. I mean, sure, our technology beats the shit out of everything we had in 1995, without question, and I guess our options as consumers has been greatly expanded by the rise of the Internet. But while our access to pop cultural artifacts has been immensely widened — indeed, you can consume just about any form of media every invented, past or present, with just a couple of mouse clicks and keyboard pushes — it just seems like the pop cultural ecosphere of the times is oh so painfully dull compared to what we had 25 years ago.

Just compare the TV landscape in 1995 to what we have in 2019, or the musical environs, or the video game industry, or even the catalog of mainstream movies. Despite the massive gulf in the time-space continuum, it seems as if the media of 25 years ago was, well, more varied than what we have today. For all the self-congratulatory claptrap we here about progress and diversity, the blunt reality is that — when it comes to contemporary entertainment options — our choices are about as homogenized as they’ve ever been, with very little divergence from product to product across the pop cultural spectrum.

And nowhere is that truer than the wacky world of professional wrestling, which — despite going through something of a mini-Renaissance over the last few years — isn’t really giving viewers anything beyond a hyper-globalized, paint-by-numbers sideshow, virtually indistinguishable across cultural borders.

Today, wrestling promotions, no matter their country of origin, have never looked and felt so similar. The pacing and structure and flow of a New Japan match is hardly any different than an AEW one, which itself is hardly any different from the NXT product. We’ve got WWE main events that could double as All Japan and Pro Wrestling NOAH midcard bouts now, and CMLL and AAA contests that could easily be confused for ROH or Impact Wrestling attractions. Hell, it’s hard to tell whether or not one is watching a DDT or Big Japan match or a PWG or GCW match these days, and don’t even get me started on all of those European promotions — holy shit, talk about a lack of personality.

Compare that to rasslin’ in 1995, where you had the WWF and WCW at the absolute apex of their cartoonery, New Japan shitting out all time classic junior heavyweight bouts like a diarrhetic goose, SMW and USWA providing ‘80s style Southern ‘rasslin hate-fests concomitant to Hootie and the Blowfish, CMLL and AAA giving us fantastic, gore-soaked, idiosyncratic lucha brawls on a nigh weekly basis and, of course, All Japan bringing the fucking lumber with Kings Road strong style at arguably the height of the Four Heavenly Pillars’ atheltic ability. Each promotion felt different, like it was giving you a different kind of product, a different form of entertainment and a different form of wrestling, complete with a totally different attitude than its competition.

Which, naturally, brings us to EC fuckin’ Dubya. 

While 1990s All-Japan is my consensus pick for greatest promotion ever, my personal favorite wrestling promotion will always by ECW. Pretty much everybody agrees that ECW hit its highwater mark in 1995, as the House Paul Heyman Built (or, The House Paul Heyman Stole From Tod Gordon, depending on your perspective) arrived at both its creative and technical crest. Really, ECW November to Remember 1995 might be the company at its absolute brightest, purest and most promising moment; from here, it was all a gradual, five-year march to the sepulcher.

I’ve written so much about ECW over the years that I’m pretty sure I’ve already written exactly what I need to say about its overall developmental importance to me somewhere on the Web, so I ain’t going to trudge territory that’s already been trudged to death at this point. Just let it be known to all of you Johnny-Come-Latelies that ECW is a cultural construct that we here at TIIIA don’t just celebrate, but practically REVERE as a sacrosanct relic of yesteryear — for reasons, I believe, that should become glaringly apparent in just a few moments.

Of course, November To Remember was always marketed as ECW’s WrestleMania equivalent, although later shows like NTR 1999 and NTR 2000, honestly, felt like just another ‘rasslin show in a Moose Lodge somewhere. But right from the get-go, you feel something special about NTR 1995. There’s this certain energy passing through it, this undeniable current of positivity. If the later NTR shows felt like the death throes of a once-proud company, NTR ‘95 is the exact opposite — the ridiculously loud orgasmic shouting of a hot, new commodity, just beginning to find its footing in the marketplace and make some fuckin’ moolah off of it.

Of course, that ill-advised Retrovision(™) often leads us to disappointment. I mean, just how many times have we popped in some old pro wrestling VHS tape from decades prior, only to be utterly underwhelmed by its outdated presentation and performance? Naturally, we run the risk of experiencing precisely that by revisiting NTR ‘95, but for me at least, not only was I NOT disheartened by what greeted me on the trip down memory lane, I was actually amazed at how well — and refreshing, and entertaining and countercultural — the whole package felt. But we’ll swing back around to that little notion at the ass-end of this article; for the time being, how about we get this ancient house show cranking and prepare ourselves for a November that, remarkably, is indeed one that you’d like to Remember?

What's more mid-1990s than dudes with mullets and Konnan actually being over with an audience?

The event opens with Joey Styles describing tonight's event as the greatest night of action in ECW history. That ... sounds like hyperbole. LOL at Styles saying the main event includes one of Terry Funk's final matches before retirement. Yeah — a retirement that wouldn't happen for another 15 friggin' years.

Alright, so jerkin' the curtain open for tonight's festivities is Don E. Allen vs. The Broad Street Bully, whose gimmick is that he's just some fat dude wearing a Philadelphia Flyers jersey. The Dudley Boys come out for the ring introduction, complete with Buh-Buh Ray wearing a top hat and white tuxedo. The fans chant "what's your name?" and Buh-Buh responds by telling them that he's no longer an "insecure" motherfucker, but he still can't pronounce the word "rumble" without stuttering like Bill in It. So naturally, he takes out his frustration on Don E. Allen, whom he powerbombs. The Bully attacks Buh Buh with a straight right, then Buh-Buh clocks him back and powerbombs his ass to for a three-count in a totally unscheduled match. Yep — classic EC-Dub clusterfuck booking right there. [SQUASH!]

We cut to Paul Heyman standing in the middle of the ring, asking the backstage crew to dim the lights. When they come back on, fuckin' SABU is standing in the middle of the ring, who just returned from a VERY unremarkable run in WCW. The fans chant "SABU" even though he totally sold out and then they start chanting "thank you" to Paul E. "If you missed this year's November to Remember, it's a regret you'll never forget," Styles comments. Hey, that rhymes and stuff.

Up next, we've got some buff, oily dude with a pompadour mullet strutting down to the ring. His opponent is some buff luchador dude in bright orange rocking the Ultimate Warrior tassels and a Creamsicle-colored jacket. The mulleted guy is Jason — yep, the same guy who would later hang out with Justin Credible and pals, for no discernibke reason — while the other guy is FUCKING KONNAN. Holy shit, he looked way more impressive when he was wearing a mask. At this juncture, Joey tells Taz to come out, 'cause he's the special guest referee and all. Taz says his attire is "irrelevant" and then Jason calls him a sonofabitch. Taz slugs Jason and orders the opening bell to ring. Konnan immediately hits Jason with a HUGE powerbomb, and yep, that's good enough for the the three-count. Well shit, that didn't take long. [SQUASH!]

Alright, match three: we've got El Puertorriqueno(*) — who is so skinny, he could almost be mistaken for a member of the AEW roster — taking on Stevie Richards. And when Richards looks COMPARATIVELY buff next to you, you KNOW it's time to start hitting the protein shakes. The Blue Meanie is sitting at ringside and gives Stevie an airbrushed "Flock of Seagulls" belly-shirt. "Let's assume they're all friends," Styles remarks without technically making a quasi-homophobic remark. Joey follows that up with what HAS to be the line of the night. "And I thought his Motley Crue tattoo on his arm was goofy — and it IS." El Puertoriqqueno (just for the sake of simplicity, we're just going to call him ELP from here on out) hits a twisting corkscrew plancha to the outside. Then he hits a springboard moonsault and delivers a top rope dropkick. ELP hits The Blue Meanie with a tope to the outside, only for Stevie to crotch ELP on the top rope while the fans refer to Meanie as "you fat fuck." Richards lands the "Stevie Bomb," then he drops him gut-first on the top rope. Richards hits a second Stevie Bomb, then the Blue Meanie climbs the top rope for the coup de grace — an ultra fat moonsault that ELP narrowly avoids. ELP goes for an opportunistic roll-up, only for Stevie to catch him with a superkick on the rebound. And yep, that'll give him the pinfall. [**]

(*) Yes, I know the Wikipedia refers to the wrestler as “El Puerto Rican,” but that’s technically how you’re supposed to spell it en Espanol. By the way, in case you were wondering, the guy’s real name is Pablo Marquez, and — of all things — he later went on to become Tiger Ali Singh’s manservant Abu in the WWF. No, really.

Hey, Jason is coming out again, this time accompanying the Eliminators — looking like some REALLY ghetto Road Warrior cosplayers — to the ring. They'll be taking on the Pitbulls, led to the ring by Francine in this straight up BONDAGE gear leather outfit. It's a damn shame about that butter-face, though. An aside, but this one guy in the audience has a rad-looking Miami Dolphins starter jacket. Hey, it's Joel Gertner doing the intros. He used to be, well, kinda' skinny, and that's weird as fuck. It's Perry Saturn and Pitbull #1 to begin. We get your standard collar-and-elbow tie-up, with this one guy in the ground screaming "kick his ass!" #1 hits a scoop slam and Saturn rakes the eyes. Perry with a barrage of over hand shots in the corner. #1 hip tosses Saturn in the corner and beats up on him before landing back-to-back slams. #1 connects on a reverse thrust kick and a shoulder block, then #2 gets tagged in and hits Saturn with a flying elbow drop. John Kronus is tagged in and #2 power slams his ass. Kronus lands a NASTY dragon suplex and Saturn is tagged back in. Saturn hits a flying clothesline to send Pitbull #2 to the outside, then Kronus manually moonsaults Saturn over the top rope to their foes on the arena floor, much to the delight of the Philadelphia faithful. Kronus is tagged back in and even Styles acknowledges that he missed on an elbow shot. Kronus follows suit with the flipping "Kronus Krunch" leg drop, then he goes for a belly to back suplex for a two-count. Jason rings Pitbull #2's neck on the rope while the ref is distracted. Pitbull #2 gets nothing but metal post on an ill-fated body splash in the corner. Saturn hits a high elbow drop and Styles does a great "Macho Man" impersonation. Apparently, Pitbull #2 did a blade job on his elbow, of all things. Saturn hits a top rope Frankensteiner, but #2 kicks out of that, too. #2 eats a double flapjack and Saturn goes for another Frankensteiner only for #2 to reverse it into a superbomb for a two-count. Now all four men are beating the shit out of each other, and Jason runs in and hits a leg drop on Pitbull #2. Pitbull #1 gets the hot tag and cleans house, hitting both of the Eliminators with a clothesline. Saturn hits #2 with a Tiger Bomb, but #1 breaks up the pin attempt. Then Pitbull #2 hits a fucking standing DOOMSDAY DEVICE off his partner's shoulders to send Saturn to the outside, then #2 hits Saturn with a goddamn LETHAL looking like spike powerbomb, but Jason breaks up the three count there, too. Kronus does a cartwheel elbow smash in the corner, then Pitbull #2 hits him with a spinning kick in the corner. #1 hits a clothesline and they're signaling for the Superbomb. And they stick it, and yep, that gets 'em the three-count. That was actually really, really entertaining. In the post-match antics, Jason sexually assaults Francine and Pitbull #1 clobbers him with a chair. Then Kronus comes in a kicks the chair in Pitbull #1's face, then EVERYBODY eats a Total Elimination while Francine literally walks around with her ass cheeks hanging out in public. In other words? More good, clean fun from EC-Dub. [*** 1/4]

Up next it's Psicosis vs. Rey Mysterio, Jr. in a "Mexican Death Match." The fans are chanting "rudo," but it sounds more like "Naruto," and that makes me chortle. Rey Rey comes out wearing a co-branded AAA and ECW poncho, and I kinda' want one. So the rules are that after every pinfall or submission, the guy who got pinned or tapped has 10 seconds to get back up or else they lose the match. So, basically, it's like a 13-count match, but that sounds really, really stupid. Psicosis crashes and burns on a dropkick right at the bell, and Rey Rey hits a Frankensteiner. Psicosis whiffs on another dropkick, with Rey hitting a flipping hurricanrana roll-up off the top-rope for the first pinfall. Psicosis, obviously, is back up in less than 10 seconds. Psicosis flies into the ropes again and Rey Rey Frankensteiners his foe over the top rope. Mysterio starts playing with the guardrail and he TOTALLY fucks up a moonsault spot, allowing Psicosis to clobber him over the noggin with a chair. Back in the ring, Psicosis hits a top rope dropkick, following suit with a moonsault. Mysterio eats the three-count, but he's back up before the ten-count. Psicosis with another dropkick in the corner, then he press slams him ribs-first on the top turnbuckle. Rey Mysterio gets flapjacked and creamed with a powerbomb for another three-count. Rey Rey beats the 10-count, only to get rammed into the corner sternum first on a reverse Oklahoma Slam. Sorta. Psicosis goes up top for a twisting moonsault-into-a-senton and that's another pinfall. Rey is back to his feet, and he automatically eats back-to-back dropkicks from Psicosis. Now Psicosis has a chair. Rey Rey gets DDT-ed on the metal sitting aide, then Psicosis drapes it over Rey's head and hits another moonsault. Yep, that's another three-count, but what do you know, Rey is back up at uno. Psicosis gores him in the corner and dropkicks him in the patella. Psicosis clobbers Rey with a chair, only this time Rey gets his knees up, with the chair over them, on the moonsault attempt. Looks like Rey Rey is getting his second wind here. Rey with a diving springboard clothesline, then he crossbodies Psicosis over the guardrail. Rey hits a slingshot moonsault plancha in the audience, and the fans LOVE it. Now it's time for some crowd-brawling, and the shitty camera set-up misses pretty much everything. Now Rey Rey is slinging Psicosis over the OTHER side of the guardrail, and that's our cue for more crowd brawling — which, thankfully, the camera catches this time. Rey Rey clobbers Psicosis with a chair like six or seven times and then Rey Rey hits a two-level Frankensteiner for the three-count. And when I say two-level, I mean he literally broke the laws of physics by hitting that fucker off an enclosed platform into a lower platform that was jutting out like ten feet forward. Psicosis tries to get to his feet, but he slips off the platform and yep, that earns Rey Rey the Dub. In the post-fight, Jason grabs the mic and asks Rey if he'll let him be his manager. Mysterio, of course, arm drags the shit out of him and botches a flipping hurrincanrana, which brings out the Eliminators to ROYALLY fuck him up with powerbombs and leg drops. And that brings out 911, who makes the save for Mysterio. 911 hits both Eliminators with a chokeslam, then Rey Rey climbs 911's shoulders and celebrate the ass-kicking, while the fans chant "EC-Dub" while dudes in the audience fling chairs and shit at them. You know, for quite some time that was held in pretty high esteem, with some websites back in the day calling it one of the best ECW matches of all-time. Well, needless to say, this is one lucha libre showcase that don’t exactly shine as brightly as it did in 1995, although it’s by no means a bad match in any regard. I’d feel comfortable giving it a solid [*** ½] rating, but anything above that is just plain nutty, ya’ll.

Yeah ... this move seemed a lot more impressive 25 years ago, to be honest with you, fam.

Now we’ve got The Sandman and Too Cold Scorpio coming down to the ring, with Woman being all skanky and aloof for the camera. Believe it or not, these two fellas are actually the REIGNING ECW tag team champions, and we all chuckle a plenty at the guy holding a sign reading “Too Fat Scorpio.” Man, it’s pretty amazing just how much of Velveteen Dream’s gimmick is a ripoff of Scorpio, when you really think about it. So far, this entrance has been longer than any of the matches on the card. So the challengers are The Public Enemy, who get a pretty big pop from the ECW Arena crowd. I guess we all kinda’ forget how over they were back in the day — although I’m not entirely sure why, in hindsight. But the way, the gimmick for this match is that whoever wins this one gets to challenge Mikey Whipwreck for the ECW Heavyweight Championship immediately after this match. Oh, and if Scorpio gets pinned, he loses the ECW TV title, too, because really, is it ever possible to have TOO many stipulations tied to a match? Also: Joey Styles made a funny about Bobby Heenan being one of the last people on the planet who uses the term “va-va-voom,” which yeah, is probably true.

This one guy in the crowd is holding a sign that reads “there’s no hood in Vince’s circus,” and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to mean. Scorpio grabs the mic and makes fun of The Public Enemy’s white people dancing and he challenges Flyboy Rocco Rock to get jiggy with it right then and there, and Styles proves how awesome he is by saying he knows Alex Wright can’t dance, for sure. So Scorpio cuts a rug, as black people are often wont to do, then Rock breaks out the robot. Then the Sandman starts shaking his Zubaz-pants-clad balls in front of everybody and I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say all of this retardedness is putting a humongous smile on my face right now. Of course, the champs Pearl Harbor The Public Enemy while their waving their hands in the air like they don’t really care, and Joey Styles makes a great joke about the Soul Train pulling out of the ECW Arena.

Rock with a double clothesline off the top rope and the champs get dumped over the top rope. Then The Public Enemy start dancing again, and Johnny Grunge grabs the mic and starts talking mad shit about The Sandman. Of course, this really activates his almonds, so the two start brawling like the unabashed ruffians they are. A brief “Na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” chant breaks out and Sandy puts Grunge in a headlock. Grunge with a shoulder block, Sandy leapfrogs and Grunge hip tosses The Sandman out of the ring. Grunge with a plancha to the outside, then EVERYBODY starts doing shitty elbow drops and flying topes. The champs grab two steel chairs, and so do The Public Enemy. Yep, time for a good, old-fashioned furniture fight! Scorpio low blows Grunge in the corner while Rock works The Sandman over in the adjacent turnbuckle. On the outside Scorpio conks Grunge over the back and now he’s HITTING Scorpio with a freakin’ prosthetic hand. Meanwhile, Rock conks Sandy with a frying pan and what appears to be a bundt cake. The Sandman throws a beer in Rock’s face and Grunge hits a fat-person splash off the top rope. Scorpio kicks out. Holy shit, I am enjoying this way too much. Rock hits The Sandman with ANOTHER pumpkin pie and dumps his ass over the guardrail. Grunge has a pretty gruesome crimson mask going on now, and Scorpio is just unloading on him with punches in bunches. Back in the ring and Sandman hits a weird looking single-leg dropkick on Grunge. Rock is tagged in and Sandy boots him in the midsection, only for Rock to hit Sandy with a Frankensteiner and tilt-a-whirl arm drag. Sandman hits a backbreaker and goes up top for a slingshot leg drop. Scorpio gets tagged back in and Scorpio hits a slingshot splash for just uno. Scorpio hits a sidewalk slam on Rock and follows suit with a leg sweep. Scorpio with a cartwheel, but he whiffs on the standing dropkick. Rock goes for a springboard moonsault, but Scorpio rolls out of the way and connects on a crescent kick. OK, this match is turning LEGITIMATELY awesome instead of just ironically awesome now. Scorpio hits a Tiger Driver, but Johnny Grunge breaks up the pin attempt. Scorpio goes for a “backflip splash” but Rock gets his knees up on the landing. The Sandman is tagged in and he elbows DAFUQ out of Rock super-hard. Grunge runs in and starts pounding the dookie out of The Sandman, then Scorpio stun guns Rock on the top rope. Woman conks Rock over the head with a Singapore cane and Sandman hits a plancha to the outside on Grunge. OK, Chekov’s table has entered the fray. Grunge back body drops Sandy on the furniture, but it doesn’t break. Meanwhile, Rock suplexes Scorpio out of the ring, and Sandman decides to reverse suplex Grunge through the table after all.  Grunge hits a somersault plancha to the outside on The Sandman and Scorpio whacks Grunge with another Singapore cane. Rock hits a Frankensteiner on The Sandman, and Scorpio breaks up the pin with what appears to be a broom handle shot. Scorpio with a body splash in the corner, a scoop slam and a BEAUTIFUL moonsault. Grunge, however, breaks up the pin attempt at 2.5. Scorpio with a spinning wheel kick, and both men are flat on their backs. Now it’s Grunge versus The Sandman after the double hot tag. Rock accidentally hits Grunge with the Drive-By (a cannonball off the top rope), and Sandman just collapses on top of Grunge for the totally unintentional pinfall. Holy shit, I loved ALL OF THAT. And just when you think this can’t get any better, Scorpio proceeds to revive his fallen tag team partner a’la Popeye, only instead of using a can of spinach, he feeds him a can of Busch instead.

FIGHTING SPIRIT — brought to you by Old Milwaukee (Flash Funk sold separately.)

Man, everything about that was just PHENOMENAL. The comedic nonsense at the beginning actually set the stage nicely for all of the exquisite garbage wrestling ahead, and you could just tell that all four men were having a blast during every second of this. This was profane, and idiotically violent, and goofy, and irreverent and probably anathemic to everything that makes professional wrestling as a pseudo-sport laudable, but holy hell, was a I entertained from start to finish on this one. If you want to see one match that consists of all of the weirdly cohesive ingredients that made ECW awesome, this might be the epitome of Extreme right here. Yes, I may have my nostalgia blinders on, but I STILL think this one is a legitimate [**** ¼] match, and if you haven’t seen all of it yet, you definitely need to.

Alright, so up next, we’ve got Bill Alfonso taking on Tod Gordon, with Beulah McGillicutty serving as the special guest referee. We get a great video package highlighting how the rivalry came to be, complete with that AWESOME moment where 911 choke slammed Fonsie after that all-time classic Pitbulls/Raven and Richards bout at Gangsta’s Paradise. So Beulah comes out wearing a belly shirt that just says “1” on it, and she keeps playing with her belly-button ring all sexual-like. Yeah, I always thought she was way hotter than Francine. Naturally, this leads to the fans chanting “show your tits,” and my god, does that make me miss the way ‘rasslin used to be. Sign Guy holds up a poster that reads “Fonzie take a valium.” Jeez, just how many signs did that dude bring to these shows? Anyhoo, Gordon comes out wearing a BAD-ASS black and white ECW tracksuit, and yeah, I really want one to wear around town. So Bill attacks Tod before the bell, and they’re already fisticuffin’ in the crowd. Bill enters the ring and starts harassing Beulah, and then he CLOTHESLINES her. Commissioner Gordon (no, really) jumps back in the ring and starts potatoing the hell out of Bill and a series of shots finally sends Alfonso crashing to the canvas. Now the fans are doing that “Shit/Shah” chant that predates the whole “yay/boo” fans chants by at least 10 years. “We want blood,” the fans chant. Gordon hits a double stomp on Bill in the corner and Alfonso retaliates with a shameless nut shot. This fight is literally what would happen if two Tony Kornheisers had to battle to the death in an FMW match. Gordon conks Bill over the head with THE COOKIE SHEET OF DOOM , then he starts slamming his head into a steel chair. Alfonso’s juicing, and these two black dudes in the front row are just MARKING OUT like Ron Simmons won the world championship again. Now Gordon is palm striking Bill’s head so he bleeds even more. Oh, Gordon has a frying pan. Bill steals it and skulls Tod good with the kitchenware — only for Gordon to hit him in the balls, conk him with the pan and go for the pin. But, uh there’s no ref, so Taz comes out in his striped shirt and drops Gordon with one punch. He then tosses Alfonso on top of Gordon’s carcass, and yep, that gets him the three-count. In the post-match shenanigans, Taz grabs the mic and starts talking mad shit about Terry Funk and Paul Heyman. Then I spot these two thots in the crowd with hoop earrings, a ton of red lipstick, flannel shirts and 1987 hairdos and I weep on the inside because I’ll never know what it’s like to have a mid-1990s ECW girlfriend. But, uh, I digress. Then Taz says that Bill actually cares about his mortgage and savings account and then the fans start chanting “suck his dick” in riposte. Oh god, I miss ECW so much. Then Taz taunts this one black guy in the crowd and threatens to beat him within an inch of his life. Sigh … life used to be so great, a mere 25 years ago. Yes, it was more “entertainment” than “sports,” but still — I’d reckon all of that tomfoolery is easily worth a respectable [***] score from me. 

Alright, now it’s time for The Sandman to take on Mikey Whipwreck for the ECW title. Except wait a minute, out of nowhere comes STEVE AUSTIN WITH HAIR to sneak attack Sandy from behind! He stun guns Sandman on the guardrail, and now the medical staff is out to tend to Sandman, who’s pretending that his larynx just got turned into saw dust. Austin grabs the mic and tells Mikey to “get your ass out here, son,” and it looks like we’ve got a new title bout on the docket. Man, “Heyman booking” is so fuckin’ great, and I mean that genuinely and unironically. Austin says Mikey doesn’t belong in the same arena with him, let alone the same ring, and tonight, he’s going to pretend Whipwreck is Eric Bischoff and take out ALL of his frustrations on him. So Steve jumps Mikey and stun guns him on the guardrail, too. Back in the ring and Austin continues to mercilessly pummel Mikey with elbow shots and gut kicks galore. Whipwreck gets launched back-first into the guardrail again, and Austin snapmares the shit out of Mikey back in the ring. The fans start chanting “Hogan,” so naturally, Austin breaks out the Big Boot and Atomic Leg Drop, but Whipwreck kicks out at two. Austin finally decides to yank off his bright orange shirt and Mikey gets dropped sternum-first on the guardrail again. Austin gets Irish-whipped into the barrier and Mikey is FINALLY starting to get some offense in. He even drops Steve with a haymaker that has Austin begging for mercy. Austin hits Mikey with the stun gun in the ring, but Whipwreck kicks out at two. Austin starts throwing a bajillion chops in the corner, and then Mikey lands a fuckin’ roll-up pin — exposing Austin’s brown-eye to the viewing audience in the process — for the totally out of nowhere pitfall. So Austin, irked over the loss, beats up on Mikey some more and gingerly walks back to the locker room. Well, the ending was pretty dumb, but it was definitely fun while it lasted. [***]

Oh yeah, that's WAY better than making six figures a year working for Ted Turner. For sure.

Now we’ve got Hack Myers in action. Basically, his gimmick is that he dresses like Rob Halford from Judas Priest, except he’s fat and has a beard, and he bills his hometown as “The Last House On The Left.” Then Paul Heyman introduces his opponent — SABU. Sabu goes for an ankle pick early and gets it. Now he’s working a toehold on his much larger opponent. Sabu with stomps and a snapmare. Sabu hits a slingshot leg drop for a two-count, then he applies a modified face lock. Sabu lands a DDT and then he grabs a steel chair. He hits a slingshot chair-ass to his foe’s face, but Hack kicks out at two. Sabu goes back to working a wrist lock (of sorts) and then he starts bending Hack’s fingers back like it was a grade school playground scuffle. Sabu hits a springboard back elbow for two. And Sabu goes right back to the face lock. There’s a Sabu Splash in the corner, then Hack punches Sabu a whole bunch’ times and power slams his ass. Also, there’s this great moment where Sabu does a backflip for no reason whatsoever and almost breaks his own neck, so there’s that, too. Then Hack hits his finisher — basically, a less churched up top rope pedigree, kinda-sorta-but-not-really — but Sabu gets his foot on the ropes. They brawl on the outside for a bit and then Sabu hits a guillotine leg drop while Hack is dangling off the ropes. Say converts a Frankensteiner into an AWESOME tornado DDT (sorta), but Hack kicks out at two. Sabu with a ton of punches from side control. Sabu with another spinning kick off the ropes and Hack rolls to the outside. Sabu hits a slingshot Frankensteiner on the concrete arena floor below, and for a Sabu-canranna, that actually looked pretty decent. Sabu sets up a chair and hits Hack with a flying booty to the face while Myers is wedged up against the guard rail. Back in the ring, Sabu goes for a hurricanrana, but Hack turns it into a power bomb for a two count. Hack hits a standing suplex and then Sabu hits a victory roll off the top rope for, you guessed it, another two-count. Hack grabs a chair, with a fan’s jacket still on it, and conks Sabu HARD. Then Hack lands a leg drop on the edge of the apron and climbs the top rope. Sabu, of course, swings him off face first on that steel chair everybody kinda’ forgot about even though it was splayed out in the middle of the ring and all. Sabu hurincanranas Hack out of the ring and NOW it’s time to break out the tables.”This is what they told him NOT to do in WCW,” Styles comments. “Sabu was just too extreme for the Cartoon Network.” And right on cue, Sabu lands the chair-catapult rolling cannonball ass splash to the outside, sending Hack through the furniture, indeed. Sabu goes for a pin attempt, but Hack kicks out at two. Sabu with a scoop and a slam, then he climbs the top turnbuckle with a chair en two. ATOMIC ARABIAN FACEBUSTER, MOTHERFUCKERS! And you better believe that’ll be enough to get him the three-count. Wow, that was actually a VERY well structured match that gave Sabu the opportunity to show that he actually has a modicum of mat skills to complement all of the chair jumping and table breaking shit. This was EXACTLY the kind of match Sabu should’ve been booked in for his return match; a competitive, back-and-forth slugfest that made him earn back the respect of the fans. Call me crazy, but storywise and in terms of in-ring product, I thought this was plum terrific — when you talk about hidden ECW gems, this is DEFINITELY one match that ought to pop up in discussion more often. [****]

Alright, time for our main event — Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk vs. Raven and Cactus Jack. Yep, Joey Styles is still going on and on about this being one of Funk’s last matches —well, 2015 is pretty close to 1995, I guess. Then Funk starts screaming “forever!” over and over again, which is so awesome it actually got sampled in an Elvis Depressedly song. Cactus Jack comes out wearing an airbrushed Dungeon of Doom t-shirt, and we all have a hearty chuckle. LOL at the guy holding up the sign that reads “Cactus Jack loves Hanoi Jane.” I just want to say EVERY single shirt these wrestlers are wearing I want to own, especially Raven’s Suicidal Tendencies tee. Funk starts pounding on Cactus and Dreamer pounds on Raven in the adjacent corner. Funk slaps away at Cactus, then he starts stiffing the shit out of Raven. Funk waffles Cactus with back to back chair shots, then he launches at Raven like a SCUD missile. Oh, Funk has a trash can full of plunder. Raven gets hits with a 25 mile per hour speed limit sign, and then Stevie Richards tries to intervene, only to get stuffed into a shopping cart and ramrodded testicles first into the metal turnbuckle. Funk El Kabongs Cactus with a snow shovel while Dreamer conks Dreamer with a VCR … and its remote. Holy shit, I can’t tell you how much I needed this in my life right now. Now Funk is beating the shit out of everybody with a dust pan, then he hits Raven in the balls with a golf club. Time for Dreamer to make Raven juice buckets with the cheese grater. Raven tries to choke Terry Funk with a toilet seat, which draws a much-deserved “E-C-fuckin’-Dub” chant out of the Philadelphia faithful. Dreamer gets double-clotheslined with a metal chain, then Cactus starts jabbing Funk with some sort of sharp foreign object. Raven launches Dreamer into the guardrail and we get a nice long look at the back of this dude’s Pittsburgh Penguins jersey. Cactus keeps slicing and dicing Funk’s arm, and Dreamer makes Raven and Cactus bump into each other. Tommy hits Raven with a DDT, but Cactus waffles him with that aforementioned speed limit sign before he can even think about going for a pin attempt. Cactus takes off his shirt to reveal ANOTHER shirt with Eric Bischoff’s airbrushed face on it, then he and Dreamer get into a slugfest. There’s this great spot where Tommy pulls Eric’s face over Cactus’ and fuckin’ CRANKS him with a chair shot to the skull at full force. Then Funk shoot drops a shopping cart on Raven’s head, then Cactus hits Funk with a double-armed DDT. Of course, there’s nary a referee to be seen, giving Raven ample time to plancha Dreamer on the outside. The fans start chanting “Vader,” and I almost cream my khakis thinking about how AWESOME it would’ve been to have PRIME Big Van in ECW circa 1996. Hey, Bill Alfonso has made it ringside. Cactus tries to pin Funk, but he kicks out at two. Now Taz is beating up on Terry and Raven jumps him from behind. Raven is springing about a 7.8 on the Muta Scale at this point. Dreamer hits a leaping DDT on Raven and the regular ref is back in the mix, then Terry hits Raven with a piledriver on the chair. The Funker quickly hops on Raven’s carcass, and yep, that gets him the three-count. Cactus, being the poor sport he is, double arm DDTs Dreamer after the fact, but Tommy basically no sells it and starts choking Stevie Richards with a string of barbed wire. Then Raven hits Tommy in the cojones, does his Jesus Christ pose, and Cactus keeps pummeling Funk all the way to the locker room. 

And, as the say in France, la fin.

If there's anything more nostalgia-arousing than watching Tommy Dreamer conk Raven over the skull with a VCR ... I don't know if my heart can take it.

Well shit, what more do I have to say about that? That [**** ¼] garbage match closer par excellence was the hyper violent clusterfuck cherry atop a sundae of unpretentious bingo hall bedlam, and I, for one, was downright flabbergasted by how enjoyable and amusing the whole show was from start to finish.

I kind of went into this show expecting it to feel outmoded and uncool, one of those once-awesome things from the 1990s like Orbitz soda and the Sega Nomad that, frankly, should’ve just stayed there. But considering how much the demographics of pro wrestling fandom have shifted over the last 25 years, this ECW product feels EVERY bit the countercultural powerhouse it did in ‘95, if not even more refreshing considering today’s namby-pamby, hyper-progressive IWC fan community. This whole show was a three-hour, roiling cesspool of unabashed toxic masculinity and absurd, career-shortening violence, and I adored virtually every second of it

ECW may have never put on the best in-ring product back in the 1990s, but there’s NO denying that Paul H. didn’t know how to give people an entertaining card from the curtain jerkin’ to the curtain closin’. He knew how to craft a product that played into the audience without becoming a product beholden to their fanboy whims, and he knew how to keep the ebb and flow of a card more flowing than ebbing — which is something virtually EVERY promotion these days is struggling with. Each match here felt independent yet semi-codependent on everything that preceded it and followed it; the end result being a three-hour show that seems to blaze past you in just half an hour, leaving you desperately wanting more Dub to slake your indie sleaze thirst upon.

So we’ve got at least three [****] or higher-rated matches on this bitch, at least four that easily meet the [***] to [****] threshold and a couple of entertaining anti-matches serving as an appetizer for the buffet of garbage wrestling greatness filling up the final two and a half hours of the show. Really, this is an expertly booked card and one that I enjoyed WAY more than I thought I would; indeed, after this show, I couldn’t WAIT to hit up the archives and start churning through more ECW product from 1995 and 1996.

And if that’s not enough to get you to hunt this card down to complement your Turkey Day helpings of mashed potatoes, stuffing and secretly pretending to like your in-laws, I don’t know what to tell you … about ANYTHING in life, really.


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