Canvas Critiques #3 – ECW Guilty as Charged 2000
While WCW were wondering how on earth they were going to turn their fortunes around, ECW were wondering how they’d manage to stay alive altogether.
Attendances were up and down for the company during this period. On the plus side they were debuting the promotion in states like Tennessee and Texas and initially drew some good crowd numbers in their new surroundings. But a lack of advertising meant that the follow up shows didn’t bring in the same amount of punters, and it was becoming increasingly obvious that no matter how rabid and passionate the fan-base were, their cash alone wasn’t enough to help keep the company afloat for much longer.
The TNN deal was initially seen as a big coup for them, and on paper it was the next logical step to take. Regular TV exposure would surely increase their popularity and give the roster a bigger platform to showcase their talents. But ultimately the relationship with the network proved to be quite unsavory, and with top stars being lured away by the advances of the “Big two” promotions, Paul Heyman’s operation had one too many obstacles to overcome and the rest, as they say, is history.
The latest in the line of high profile departures was Taz, who would debut for the WWF at the Royal Rumble in the same month. Mike Awesome picked up the ECW title from him, but he too would be jumping ship soon after, albeit not as graciously as the man he took the belt from.
WWF’s Attitude movement was heavily criticized for copying ECW’s concepts, while in WCW many of the former extremists were made to look like fools after getting saddled with some awful storylines and some harsh treatment. But even with all of this going on, they were still living up to their name as a true alternative. You still had home-grown stars like Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer, and Raven had returned to the company after an ill-fated spell in Atlanta. New talents were emerging like Justin Credible, who had formed an exciting partnership with Lance Storm. Other notable arrivals around this period included Steve Corino, Tajiri and Rhino to name a few.
This show took place during a time where the company was going through something of a transition. How does it hold up, and could they have done more to stem the tide and save the company in the long term?
CW Anderson pinned Mikey Whipwreck
Simon Diamond, Danny Doring & Roadkill beat Nova, Kid Kash and Jazz.
Yoshihiro Tajiri & Super Crazy beat Jerry Lynn and Little Guido.
Angel defeated New Jack.
Rob Van Dam retained the ECW Television title against Sabu.
The Impact Players (Lance Storm/Justin Credible) beat Tommy Dreamer and Raven to capture the ECW Tag Team titles.
Mike Awesome retained the ECW World title against Spike Dudley.
Little Spike and Big Mike- Spike Dudley challenges Mike Awesome.
The main event saw a David and Goliath clash with a hardcore twist. Mike Awesome won the ECW World title in a triple threat match with Taz and Masato Tanaka at Anarchy Rulez ’99. Taz’s departure was the main reason for the switch, but Awesome’s unique offense for a man of his stature was something to behold, and went some way to helping the company’s fan-base get over one of their biggest names leaving for pastures new. He then briefly lost the belt to Tanaka, before winning it back a week later on the TNN show. In the opposite corner, Spike was the ultimate underdog who became renowned for taking lots of punishment from workers twice his size but constantly kept coming back for more.
The tone is set immediately in a spot I’d forgotten about while re-watching the show for this review, as Awesome presses Spike over his head and proceeds to throw him outside of the ring through a table, where Spike flips 180 degrees and could just as easily have landed on the concrete if they weren’t so careful. I’m writing this review 13 years after the spot took place and I’m still fearing for Spike’s safety! The rest of the match is basically Spike getting put through tables but mounting a comeback or two.
This certainly isn’t one for the purists. After the initial table spot, followed by another, Spike kicks out of a pinning attempt. In most other cases, such spots are reserved for the end of a match (or even the end of a feud) and would almost certainly get a 3-count. But that was ECW for you: It was sticking two fingers up to what was perceived to be the status quo, and that was certainly the case here.
You also get the feeling it was more of a showcase for Awesome to further cement his title reign. It’s a shame he left the promotion in the circumstances that he did, and perhaps even more of a shame that WCW saddled him with stupid gimmicks because he was quite the athlete, who I genuinely think had some potential to do great things on a bigger stage. As for Spike, I’m not sure what their plans were for him but it was refreshing to see a worker of his stature be given opportunities of this kind. Where else would you see a scrawny 160 pound guy challenge for a World title? Rey Mysterio is the closest example and even then there’s a big difference in terms of style and overall ability.
Still, this is as good as any big man/little man match under the ECW banner that you’ll find. Maybe not quite worthy of being a PPV main event, especially when the Tag title and TV title matches had more star power involved, but still a good watch.
Charged TV- RVD vs Sabu
Rob Van Dam’s Television title run remains one of the most talked about in his entire career to date. In an era where Championship belts across the top three North American promotions would change hands within a few months (sometimes days or weeks), Van Dam’s 23-month reign harked back to the days of lengthy runs from the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. I appreciate you can’t compare those reigns or personalities in terms of importance, but it was a welcome change from seeing a belt being constantly switched around in the modern era. For a secondary title, it would often wind up headlining the show during RVD’s tenure instead of the World title matches, again something which you don’t see very often.
They seemed to be going with a balls to the wall approach to this match, which is both its biggest blessing and its biggest curse: On the one hand there’s the top drawer athleticism from both, but down the stretch they tried to pack in too much too soon and as a result, the delivery of their moves started getting sloppy. It’s like they’d completely worn themselves out, especially Sabu who was diving all over the place with his typical lack of concern for his own well-being.
Despite the pace catching up with them, this is still a cracking contest. With Bill Alfonso managing both of them, you couldn’t help but keep an eye on him and try to figure out which man he’d side with. In the end, they did a great job at playing up to his impartiality as he tried to help both of them, before playing a key part in the finish where Van Dam wisely took him out of commission.
RVD continued to live up to his “Mr.PPV” billing while Sabu lived up to his own homicidal, suicidal, genocidal reputation. It’s no wonder the TV title belt was considered to be such a hot property when you look at its holder and the matches being contested over it. This could -and probably should- have closed the show as the main event.
A stormy Impact- Justin Credible and Lance Storm win the gold.
The Dreamer/Raven alliance was an interesting one, especially because of how they’d been bitter enemies for years prior to Raven’s WCW departure. His return to the promotion actually coincided with Bubba and D’Von Dudley leaving for the WWF, which is why the titles were switched to them in the first place. But while Dreamer and Raven were old favorites, Storm and Credible had been steadily climbing the ranks in the promotion over the past couple of years.
This match encapsulated much of what the original incarnation of Extreme Championship Wrestling was all about. We had brawling all around ringside, violence in the form of tables and chairs and even Dreamer donning the crimson mask. You had some neat flashes of creativity, either with weapons or in terms of the technical action (There’s a great sequence where Tommy counters a Storm charge, then blocks a Justin Credible Superkick, then ducks a Justin clothesline only to then take a Superkick from Storm) and there’s even time for Joey Styles to yell out his infamous “CATFIIIIGHT!” call when Dawn Marie mixes it up with Francine.
The pace is frenetic, the action is over the top, the crowd are red hot and the bout itself is quite enjoyable. It’s kind of a forgotten PPV when you look back over the course of the company’s history, but anyone looking for a snapshot of just why they were so different from the norm need look no further than this match from it.
Extremely Guilty- Other matches on the card.
I’ve already mentioned aspects of this show capturing what the promotion was largely about, and the same theory can be applied to New Jack’s work against Angel, where he went through his usual routine and even went for another one of his crazy balcony dives. The problem I have is that with spots like the dives, it takes away from the impact of any other big spots following his match. There’s hardcore and there’s stupidity, and I never could properly figure out which side of the spectrum New Jack ended up in that respect.
I was a little confused with the booking of the Tajiri/Crazy vs Lynn/Guido tag match, but the action was perfectly watchable all the same even with all of the overbooking going on. There were several notable ECW personalities involved here though, including Paul Heyman, Steve Corino, Rhyno and even Dusty Rhodes getting involved, someone who I’d never have associated with ECW.
Mikey Whipwreck opened the show putting over CW Anderson in a forgettable contest, before we had the 6-man tag. I liked the Danny Doring/Roadkill partnership and also Nova’s work. I actually liked his Simon Dean stint in WWE just because his delivery ensured that he always, always annoyed the crowds, but we never really got to see what he could do in the ring. Here, you had more of a basic tag formula which you’ll have seen on any other ECW card during its original run.
The 411: The last three matches are all good examples of ECW's brand of wrestling, which in turn features some of the most notable workers of its existence. The world title match probably shouldn't have headlined the show, but Awesome's athleticism and Spike's stint as a crash test dummy were fun to watch. The TV title clash is balls to the wall action with some great gymnastry and the tag title bout had its fair share of good action. The rest is totally irrelevant and not worth tracking down. Even with that said, a PPV is only really as good as its headline matches, all of which delivered. Thumbs leaning up for the fun factor alone.
|Final Score: 6.5 [ Average ] legend|