February 22, 1997

Before the opening match, Perry Saturn got on the mic to confirm that The Eliminators are Team ECW and to give a bit of hype for the next episode of Monday Night Raw, which will be the legendary episode with some ECW matches. You can find a review of that show here. Basically, the ECW stars were the best part of the show, but McMahon made it clear that they were not stars on the WWEís level. Saturn then addresses tonightís match, making it unofficial that the loser of the match must shake the winnerís hand in respect.

The Eliminators © vs Sabu and Rob Van Dam - ECW Tag Titles
Back at Crossing the Line Again, these two teams worked a great tag match filled with ladders and despite a lot of teases, not a single table being broken. Now we have the rematch where tables and ladders are LEGAL. Granted, itís ECW, when are they ever illegal? I previously covered this match on the ECW Unreleased Vol 1 DVD and my thoughts are mostly the same. I did find myself disappointed some with this match, but a large portion of that disappointment is my own fault. Going into this match, I thought it was the match where RVD nearly lost his eye with a table bump, which seems like a memorable way to finally break a table in this series of matches in 1997. Instead, that spot never happened and itís not until itís over that Iím able to check RVDís DVD to confirm that the spot happened with Bam Bam Bigelow and Chris Candido and not The Eliminators. Whoops. I am justified for still being disappointed with the usage of table bumps though. The previous match did such an amazing job at teasing table bumps without delivering. With this match having tables be legal, you had to expect one of two things. Either thereís going to be balls to the wall table bumps or theyíre just going to build up to one massive table bump at the end. In reality, Sabu merely flung himself over the top rope, crashing through a table that Kronus was lying on. After all of that waiting, thatís the table bump. That one super standard bump. In my previous review of this match, I stressed the fact that there wasnít much of a story at all and thatís still true. The story at Crossing the Line Again was a lot better and clearer. However, just like their previous match, these two teams really got over how important the ECW Tag Titles were. The bout was brutal and very physical with a ton of hard ladder shots. Sometimes the spots werenít connected with 100%, but whatís most important is that these four men were killing each other all because of how much they wanted to walk out of the building as champions. Thatís an element of the tag team titles importance that the big two didnít have in 1997. The finish came off a little flat as The Eliminators hit the poorest excuse for a Total Elimination on RVD and then followed it up with a better one with Joey Styles claiming that Saturn and Kronus promised to win the match with two Total Eliminations to RVD. I would have preferred they be two good Total Eliminations, but they still fulfilled their promise to win the match. Itís a fun match, donít get me wrong, but it falls into the usual Sabu trap of struggling to remain consistent. Their November to Remember match was a struggle to be good due to booking, their Crossing the Line Again match was a great spotfest that gave an early preview to tag team ladder matches in the future, and their Cyberslam match is somewhere in between. So far though, these tag titles have been involved in better matches in 1997 than they were in 1996. A hot way to kick off this event. ***

After the match, The Eliminators shook hands with Sabu, but RVD is back to being a dickbag in refusing to show respect. That causes some tension between he and Sabu. A nice callback to RVDís first story in ECW. Once RVD and Sabu leave, Saturn and Kronus poses on the ladder with their titles. The Eliminators feel like clear babyfaces now thanks partly due to RVD coming across as the biggest heel of the segment. Now, if The Eliminators are now babyfaces, they need a heel team to contend withÖ

Joey Styles is in the ring for the opening of Hardcore TV. He brings out The Pitbulls with Pitbull #1 calling out Shane Douglas for his refusal to wrestle him. In a great insult, Pitbull #1 compares Douglas to Shawn Michaels. Normally, I wouldnít be in favor of insulting WWE for the sake of insulting them, but what better way is there to get under Shaneís skin than to compare him to HBK? That brings Douglas and Francine out on the Eagleís Nest where Douglas appears to be injured due to having a crutch. The Franchise is aghast at being called HBK, so he challenges The Pitbulls to come fight him up on the Eagleís Nest. To the surprise of absolutely no one except for The Pitbulls, it was a trap with Chris Candido and Brian Lee waiting to ambush the former ECW Tag Team Champions. Pitbull #2 is given a Prime Time Slam through a table while Candido wraps The Pitbullsí chain around Pitbull #1ís neck. Come on, Pitbulls, act like youíve seen a single wrestling segment before!

Before the next match, Tommy Rich came out with Little Guido. Getting on the mic, Rich reveals that his family is originally from Philly and a part of the mafia. After a little bit of trouble, his family fled to Nashville, where he was born. However, what this means is that Rich is actually Italian! Heís been summoned by the family to help out Guido. With that, Rich is now a member of The FBI. I do love how Guido is fully embracing this BS Italian heritage after being around JT Smith long enough. Itís probably been a few months that Guido had been on his own after Smith lost the loser leaves town match at November to Remember and the other members, Sal Bellomo and Big Guido, quietly left as well. While I wasnít expecting Sal to last long, I was surprised at how brief of a stint Big Guido had in ECW. We still need to wait on a couple of other people to be added to the group to get the most well known incarnation of The FBI, but Guidoís FBI is now here. Yay.

Little Guido w/Tommy Rich vs Chris Chetti
This would mark Chettiís ECW Arena debut. Being that I started watching ECW in 1999, Chetti is a guy who Iíve been familiar with for ages. Chetti was the first graduate of ECWís dojo, House of Hardcore, a training school that also produced Danny Doring, Amish Roadkill, and thatís pretty much it. Although itís Chettiís in ring debut at the ECW Arena, heís been on numerous ECW Arena shows as a member of Team Taz. This match was virtually a squash for Guido. They smartly limited the amount of times that Chetti hit an offensive move to prevent from exposing him for being green. Both his Frankensteiner and spinning heel kick looked solid. After attempting a second Frankensteiner, Chetti was countered with a kneeling power bomb. The downfall for Guido though was listening to Rich who insisted on Guido going to the top rope for a diving knee drop instead of the middle rope. That gave Chetti time to move out of the way and then roll Guido up for the upset. While the story of the match made sense for a Chetti win and the crowd was completely into him, I do think Heyman needs to be careful in how he books Chetti to prevent the crowd from turning on him. At this point, the WWE was at the peak of the Rocky Maivia backlash, going too hard on some green rookie mostly because heís good looking is an easy way to create resentment, especially in a company like ECW. A fine match, but a little sad that Guido is losing to rookies. **

After the match, thereís tension between Guido and Rich with the crowd chanting, ďFuck him up, Guido, fuck him up!Ē Rich manages to talk his way out of trouble though and The FBI hug it out.

Stevie Richards w/The bWo vs Balls Mahoney
Unlike in his Crossing the Line Again match, Balls was being more playful here, showing off a clearer representation of his gay biker character. The crowd is surprisingly into Balls though. Both acts feel similar in that theyíre supposed to be heels, but the crowd is treating them as faces. While this match was far more serious than I would have expected with Richards often working over the arm, it didnít work for me. It was too evenly match and long for Richardsí overness and placement on the card. Richards is legitimately becoming one of the most over acts in the company and heíll be in the main event of the first ever ECW PPV. Why is he having such a difficult time against this lowcarder? Weíre quickly approaching Barely Legal, even if Heyman hasnít decided on Richards being in the main event yet, he has to know that Richards and The bWo is going to be on the show. Thereís zero chance of Balls scoring a match on Barely Legal. Yet, instead of allowing this match be a showcase for Richards, it felt like they were trying to establish Mahoney. Balls is a better worker than he looks and is starting to connect with the crowd. Despite being a serious match, there are some antics with some low blows and Richards rubbing his ass in Ballsí face. Ballsí spinning heel kick over the top rope seemed to knock Richards loopy. The finish saw Balls missing The New Jersey Jam and a super kick, but Richards found success with his super kick for the victory. Technically fine, but I was bored and didnít think it was all that productive to put Richards on level ground with Balls fín Mahoney. ** ľ

After the match, Stevie celebrated by stripping ala Shawn Michaels. A female fan jumped into the ring and tried pulling down Stevie's shorts before she's removed by security. If I'm not mistaken, I do believe that's the future Chasity.

Axl Rotten vs Little Spike Dudley
Technically speaking, I suppose this is a continuation of the Bubba Ray Dudley/Dudleys vs D-Von program, but now everything is all screwy with Bubba/D-Von now together, Rotten thrown to the side, and LSD left on his own. Similarly to Guido/Chetti, this was another short one, but this was fun. Rotten attacked LSD during his entrance to kick off a bout that was mostly Rotten in charge, but Spike would get in a bit of offense. Even at this stage of his ECW career, Spike has something about him that just makes him interesting, which so many of the other Dudleys that ended up not lasting lacked. Anyways, LSD would hit a Tornado bulldog, which I presume is the precursor to the Acid Drop, to seemingly have the match nearly won. Instead of being able to go for the cover, Spike spots The Dudley Boyz attempting a run in. While Spike is able to keep Bubba Ray and D-Von from entering the ring, he ends up walking into Rottenís Dominator for the pinfall. Poor Spike, already having his life made a living hell by his brothers. ** ľ

After the match, Rotten and The Dudley Boyz further attack Spike with Rotten sorta helping out in a three man version of the 3D. Rotten stands out like a sore thumb as someone who no longer has a place hanging with D-Von. I donít know what ends up happening exactly in causing Rotten to stop being buddies with D-Von, whether they quietly go their separate ways or not, but I really hope that after The Dudley Boyz and Axl destroys someone, The Dudleyz end up turning on Rotten. The Gangstas end up running out to make the save, leading directly intoÖ

The Gangstas vs The Dudley Boyz w/Sign Guy Dudley and Axl Rotten
Even though I obviously knew that Sign Guy would turn heel and go with Bubba to the dark side, this clearly confirms that he was after it was a little ambiguous as to where Sign Guy stood following Crossing the Line Again. I canít believe Iím saying this about a Gangstas match, but I kinda liked this? Itís a total bloodbath with all four men battling all over the place. Unlike the vast majority of Gangstas matches, the repetitiveness of all of the weapon shots never became dull to me. Thereís even an insane spot with New Jack laying D-Von on a table in front of the entrance, climbing up to the ledge above the entrance that often gets mistaken for the Eagleís Nest and then running and leaping off for an attempted dive through the table. The only problem is New Jack falls short and barely even touches D-Von. Instead, New Jack crashes hard on the cement while Joey Styles has to cover the spot by claiming it was a flying headbutt. Thatís not the only table bump with New Jack that was botched in a fun way. In the ring, Bubba Ray attempted to deliver a Bubba Splash through a table in the corner, but the table ended up not breaking when he nailed New Jack, but did when Bubba put his weight on the table. Initially, the crowd gave Bubba Ray shit for it, but Bubba then tossed New Jack into half of the table for a loud bump that further broke the table into pieces. Bubba Ray than beautifully mocked the crowd for previously giving him a hard time. The finish is crazy as well after New Jack went to the top rope for the 187, but after Rotten tried to get involved, New Jack threw the chair at him and dove off of the top rope. I guess New Jack was attempting a top rope splash, but instead gets countered in mid air with a sick Bubba Cutter for the victory. Styles sold The Dudleyz beating The Gangstas in a big way, further helping cement the fact that The Dudley Boyz are a big deal. These damn Dudley Boyz might just have a future in this business. ** Ĺ

Taz w/Fonzie and Team Taz vs Tracy Smothers
This is the ECW debut of Smothers. At this point in time, Smothers was still wrestling occasionally as Freddie Joe Floyd on WWE TV. That leads me to presume that heís similar to Leif Cassidy/Al Snow and Aldo Montoya/Justin Credible as someone who was technically signed by the WWE, but loaned out to ECW since they werenít needed by the WWE. Although in Credibleís case, since he was in ECW for so long, I wonder if his WWE contract eventually ran up and he just remained in ECW. This pairing showcases a problem that Taz would have once he entered the WWE. Smothers has never been a giant in wrestling, heís simply a normal size guy. The problem is that heís a normal size guy by WWE and WCW standards. He ends up towering over Taz. Itís one thing when a guy like 911 was shown to be taller, but someone normal like Smothers takes away some of the intimidation that Taz is able to exude. Luckily, ECWís booking of Taz allowed him to remain looking like a dominant fighter, but it makes sense why he didnít work in the WWE. This was yet another short, but fun match. Taz dominated, but Smothers got in a little offense with some of his karate. Smothers would get in a nearfall with the Jaw Jacker (Diving back elbow), but Taz would quickly finish Smothers off with a Tazplex and then locking in the Tazmission to force the submission. Much like Tommy Richís match against Terry Funk at Crossing the Line Again, this performance showed that Smothers still had some gas in the tank and more importantly, seemed to be a good fit for ECW. All Smothers needs is a role and perhaps a couple of buddies. ** Ĺ

Raven and Brian Lee vs Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer w/Beulah
A bit interesting seeing Lee back with Raven after joining up with Shane Douglas and Chris Candido as the new Triple Threat. The commercial tape didnít do a great job of explaining the stipulations to this match. What I do know is that if Funk pins Raven, heíll get a title shot at Barely Legal. However, itís also referred to as Funkís title shot, implying that heís already the #1 contender and itís not entirely clear if Dreamer gets a title shot if he pins Raven. Despite this confusion, the story of the match is great. Raven is a wonderful smarmy heel at times and it showed at the start of the match when he got on the mic, reminded Dreamer that heís never beaten him in his life, but heís willing to lie down for Dreamer tonight...but in pinning Raven, Dreamer would be costing his mentor his title shot. Dreamer, being the pussy that he is, has an internal conflict of going for pinfalls on Raven even though beating Raven has been Dreamerís goal for two years now. Meanwhile, Raven wants nothing to do with Funk, knowing that at any point, if he gets beat by Funk, Funkís challenging him at the PPV. Leeís Bulldozer for Hire character is showcased well as his role in the match is to run interference to ensure that Funk can never pin Raven. So on the surface, itís just another ECW garbage tag match, but thereís so much going on with the various stories that Iím invested even when it breaks down into a brawl and thereís fighting in the crowd. Thereís a nice moment where Funk is working over Ravenís knee in the ring, but with the referee dealing with Lee/Dreamer fighting on the outside, heís not there to witness Raven submitting to Funkís Spinning Toe Hold. Like a good hired gun, Lee is there to break up the hold with a garbage can to Funkís head before the referee can notice whatís going on. That kicked off the finish with Lee just smashing the garbage can over and over against Funkís head. Funk starts bleeding from the ear while Dreamer tries to shield his mentorís body with his own, but that just causes Dreamer to be hurt and unable to defend his team. Despite the fact that all of the garbage can shots have messed up Funk to the point that he canít find the balance to remain on his feet, he refuses to stay down, even arguing with Dreamer when Tommy just wants Terry to stop trying. Damage Control came out to check on Funk, but the mad man is still trying to fight. Finally, Damage Control and Dreamer gets Funk onto a stretcher and wheel him off. Thereís some debate over when the match actually stopped, but Iím going to say this is where I feel it ended. Itís a great story based fight that really emphasized how badly Funk wants an ECW World Title shot. Everyone played their role well with the typical garbage style brawl having a greater purpose. ***

After the match, The bWoís music played with Stevie Richards coming out with Lori and Tyler. Richards got into the ring to argue with Raven over his treatment of Funk. Raven dares Stevie to give him a Stevie Kick, but when Richards tries, Lee blocks it and delivers a Prime Time Slam. That caused Lori to come into the ring, fully denouncing Raven by slapping him, but receiving a DDT from Raven to completely sever that relationship. Seeing his mom being attacked prompted Tyler to go to the back and bring Dreamer out for help. Proving that Dreamer is far smarter than some kid, Dreamer realizes that he canít save anyone, so he tells Tyler to go get someone while Dreamer attempts to make the save, but suffers a predictable Prime Time Slam for his trouble. Finally, out came The Sandman with Tyler on his shoulders. Reaching the ring, Tyler climbed off of his dadís shoulders and gave Sandman his Singapore cane. Sandman blasted both Lee and Raven before covering Raven for an apparent pinfall. Seriously, that canít be the actual finish of the Raven/Lee vs Dreamer/Funk match, right? Iím saying no, BUT Sandman pinning Raven unofficially makes him the #1 contender.

Back on the outside, Sandman and Tyler hug and itís a legitimately sweet moment. Throughout this entire angle, Sandmanís emotions and facial expressions when dealing with his son has been on point and he succeeds again. The happiness on Sandmanís face when reuniting with his son was one of the incredible rare heartwarming images in ECW history. Who knew ECW was capable of such things? Then it gets a bit weird as Sandman strips Tyler of his bWo shirt and carries the kid to the back. Couldnít Tyler have had a Sandman shirt under the bWo shirt? Itís just a little odd to basically strip a little boy in front of a large crowd of people.

Finally, back in the ring, the unthinkable happens. Dreamer offers his hand in a sign of respect to Stevie Richards.

Sabu vs Chris Candido
I guess...this is the main event? Eh, it was the best match of the show, so who am I to complain? This one reminded me some of Sabu vs Stevie Richards from House Party 1996. Sabu going up against a heel that to some extent comes across as a bit of a goofball, but over the course of the match, the goof heel proves that can actually deliver a strong performance that really tests the great Sabu. For whatever reason, Candido came into this match extra pissed off and although he did cut a pre-match promo expressing himself, the audio wasnít clear enough to understand what he was saying. It did seem like he had a big problem with Sabu being involved in the table and ladder match earlier in the night. Most of Candidoís success in the match came from blocking or counting a lot of Sabuís big spots. When Sabu attempted a leg drop dive to the outside through a table, Candido sat up just in time to cause Sabu to take a hard bump ass first through the table. Later, Candido got his knees up during a triple jump moonsault attempt. Meanwhile, most of Candidoís offense was built around variations of the power bomb, but he failed to be able to hit the top rope power bomb. What brought Sabu success and ultimately victory was altering up his moveset to subvert expectations. For example, he switched out his chair assisted Poetry in Motion for a chair assisted Frankensteiner. The final spot of the match saw what looked to be another attempt of the triple jump moonsault, but Sabu switched it in favor of a triple jump leg drop. Itís hardly a MOTYC, but itís a really solid match-up that exceeded my expectations. *** ľ

After the match, Candido got on the mic to put Sabu over, even acknowledging that Shane Douglas and Brian Lee wonít be pleased when they hear about this. A bit odd since the last person who needs to be put over as someone with talent in ECW is Sabu. Heís the god of ECW!

Any time thereís an ECW show without any bad matches, even if thereís not much for high star ratings, Iím left really happy. Cyberslam 1997 was a breeze to get through with every match at least being solid. The World Title scene is really heating up and most importantly, the title is what feels important. In 1996, you had a huge grudge feud over the ECW Title with Sandman vs Raven, but take away the title and the feud could have been the same. Now though, Raven is against the wall with all of his enemies, both old and new, gunning for his title. However, all of his challengers each have their own different motivation. For Terry Funk, itís his last chance to be able to be on top of the world of wrestling, it matters so much to him that heís willing to sacrifice his body. Stevie Richards, has found his self respect and has finally realized that he can be more than just a lackey while recognizing what Raven truly was - an abuser. The ECW Title practically belongs to The Sandman, so he just wants his property back with his life starting to come back together since his son is back in his life, he has a new BFF in Tommy Dreamer, and he doesnít have to worry about Raven and all of his goons anymore. Thatís a fun thing about Raven. Last year, he stripped everything that Sandman had in his life away, but now on the eve of ECWís first PPV, what does Raven have? The closest to a friend he has is a guy who he pays to help out and the title he possesses seems so clearly about to become someone elseís possession, itís just a matter of who it will be. Elsewhere on the card, The FBI has taken a step in starting a new version of that fun group. Not only did Guido add a new member of The FBI tonight, but another soon to be member debuted on the show as well. The Dudley Boyz are connecting so well thus far with Heyman booking them as a big deal. If there is an angle that I feel has dropped in quality some, itís the Shane Douglas/Pitbulls program. Pitbull #1 just being back and wrestling again takes away a lot of the reasoning for Pitbull #2ís need for revenge. The Franchise ultimately didnít end the career of Pitbull #2ís partner. Sure, thereís other issues that are causing hatred between Douglas and The Pitbulls, but a lot of the spotlight on Douglas is starting to drift over to the masked man that is totally not Rick Rude. Douglas/Pitbulls is old news, what fans want to see now is Douglas/Rude. I feel like Iíve said this about ECW a lot since the start of 1996, but the company is feeling pretty hot right now.

Bonus Match

The Eliminators © vs The Dudley Boyz w/Sign Guy Dudley - ECW Tag Titles
From the unreleased March ECW Arena show, Hostile City Showdown 1997. This was originally shown on the March 15th edition of Hardcore TV, but the vast majority of the match was edited out. Luckily, WWEís DVD released of ECW Unreleased Vol 3 had this match shown in full. I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this. Itís a long match, going twenty minutes, so at times itís slow, but the story is also great. A large portion of the match was kept in the ring, but in the middle of the match, brawling broke out with all four battling all over the building in the crowd. What was so interesting about the match is that The Dudley Boyz just went out there and kicked some serious ass. It was nearly a dominant performance with things getting progressively worse for the champions the longer the match went on. That brawling portion in the middle of the match caused both Eliminators to be busted open. Saturnís bleeding was the lesser of the two, but he was the legal man in the match and clearly needing to get a tag out. Kronus, however, was useless since he had a gnarly crimson mask with The Dudleyz taking turns knocking him off of the apron so that even if he wanted to, he couldnít give Saturn the hot tag. Finally, Kronus got the hot tag after Saturn countered a Bubba Ray back body drop attempt into a drop kick. The bloody mess, Kronus, initially found some success with Saturn joining in, finally looking like the alpha team that theyíre supposed to be, but it all went downhill so quickly. Kronus is casually whipped into the ropes with Bubba Ray surprising him with a pop up Bubba Cutter. Saturn was able to jump into the ring to break up the cover, but after Saturn attempted to whip Bubba into the ropes, itís reversed with D-Von jumping into the ring Saturn is surprised with a 3D. Bubba Ray covered and we have NEW ECW Tag Team Champions. Ever since Bubba Ray turned heel with that steel chair attack on The Sandman, the booking of The Dudleyz has been so good in terms of immediately establishing them as a top team. Not only did they come out ahead in a brawl with The Gangstas before beating them in an actual match at Crossing the Line Again, they cleanly and dominantly bested ECWís top tag team of 1996. While it obviously had some wild tendencies where the rules werenít followed, this was a mostly traditional tag match that had a clear story and excitement before one teamís major victory. With that, The Dudley Boyz have scored their first ever tag team titles. Much better than the rematch at Barely Legal. *** ľ