Born to be Wired
August 9, 1997

Little Guido w/The FBI vs Pablo Marquez
Itís always a delight to see the former El Puerto Ricano around. This reminds me of a late 1996 Guido match where heís working the undercard in a singles bout rather than facing the difficult task of putting together a good tag match in ECW. Pablo managed to get in some early offense, including hitting a Suicide Dive to surprise the bigger star. Despite this, Guido still dominated the match, helped out by both Smothers and Rich interfering whenever they could. It built up to Marquez taking out Smothers, but that just opened him up to be knocked off the top rope with the Italian flag pole by Rich to allow Guido to steal the victory. Probably too much interference especially since Pablo is just a JTTS, but itís just an opening bout and the short match was fun enough to make me forget that issue. Perhaps Guido would have been better off jumping to WCW with the others in 1997 because these little glimpses of him working with another good worker makes you wish you could see more and more. Yet, we wonít get to see that on a nightly basis until Tajiri and Super Crazy would come into town in 1999. A fine opener though. ** Ĺ

Louie Spicolli vs Mikey Whipwreck
Speaking of men jumping to WCW, we have Spicolliís final match with ECW. Spicolli debuted in the summer of 1996 and was a part of that new group of talent that boosted the undercard up in the build-up to Barely Legal along with Chris Candido and Little Spike Dudley. Initially built as a babyface that was shockingly popular, despite coming straight off of an underwhelming run with the WWE as Rad Radford, Spicolli randomly turned heel and started a program with Tommy Dreamer in the spring. The feud just fizzled out though as Dreamer was quickly moved into a program with Team WWF shortly after kicking off the program with Louie. This was another fun, albeit short match. Mikey was all about getting in little flurries of offense while Spicolli controlled the majority of the bout. There was a fun spot where Spicolli accidentally baseball slid into the ring post, crotching himself. Mikey followed that up by pulling at Spicolliís legs from outside of the ring with Louie selling it big. The finish came off a little abruptly thanks to Mikey legitimately knocking himself loopy as he attempted a dive to the outside, crashing his head hard against the steel railing. Spicolli was forced to toss Whipwreck back into the ring and kill time by climbing to the ropes to allow Mikey to deliver a weak kick to crotch him and then finish him off with a FrankenMikey for the pinfall. I was really hoping that this would have been better, but between Mikeyís scary bump and the fact that itís Spicolliís final match, itís understandable why this didnít become the expected hidden gem. Sadly, Spicolliís run with WCW would not go well as he would die from an overdose six months later. ** ĺ

Bam Bam Bigelow vs Little Spike Dudley
During the entrances, Joey Styles hypes ECWís second venture onto pay per view - Hardcore Heaven. That PPV is just one week away, but Bigelow currently doesnít have an opponent. Styles announces that we will learn The Beast From the Eastís opponent within the hour. Hear me out...I think that this was one of the very best wrestling matches in all of 1997. Itís simple, yet brilliant. Seemingly routine, but so different from everything else. After the opening bell, but before thereís even any physical contact, the over Bigelow gestures the tease of press slamming Spike over the top rope and into the fans. Despite Bam Bam being the heel, the fans are so behind the idea of such a crazy stunt that they openly cheer for it. The majority of the match was a squash with Bigelow easily tossing LSD around. Itís all about showing how easily Bammer could actually deliver on his threat. Since Bigelow is the heel, he canít take Spike seriously and even resorts to getting the fansí hopes up by pressing Spike into the air before dropping him down, denying the rabid crowd the sight of LSD being hurled into their laps. Poor Dudley is bleeding before he even landed a single offensive move. Yet, Spike did manage to launch a comeback, but it goes nowhere when a cover barely even gets LSD a 1 count. From there, the referee is trying to just call for the bell to try and save LSDís life, but Spike has so much heart that he refuses to let the referee stop the match. Dudley is trying to fire off punches with the last of his energy, but none of it is having any strength. Finally, the super cocky Bigelow makes the mistake of attempting a moonsault, but Spike uses the refereeís leg to drag his limp body out of the way. LSD launches one last tiny bit of offense starting with a headbutt to the groin before he attempts a Frankensteiner, but when Bigelow blocked it, LSD countered it into a victory roll to shock the world to pin The Beast from the East! The same fans that at the start of the match wanted to see Bigelow kill Spike were so sucked into the story, witnessing LSDís heroic underdog performance that they cheered for his victory. This then sets up the rematch at Hardcore Heaven where Bigelow fulfills his threat of tossing LSD into the crowd to continue this great story. Itís really telling that when it comes to Bigelowís time in ECW, despite being a former ECW World Champion, the two angles fans remember the most fondly are Bigelow/Tazís smashing through the ring/entrance ramp and his tossing LSD into the crowd. The latter was a great addition to the undercard where it made Bigelow look like a monster, LSD as if he was the ultimate underdog, and told a much different story than you were seeing in either WWE or WCW. This short program is what established Dudley as The Giant Killer, a character that WWE and WCW would both steal to use with their own undersized workers battling big men in X-Pac and Rey Mysterio Jr. *** ľ

Chris Candido vs ďThe RookieĒ Chris Chetti
According to Joey Styles, wrestling journalists have been labeling ďThe RookieĒ Chetti as a future champion. This Chetti push sucks. Anyways, this is the continuation of the Chetti vs Triple Threat program with Chetti already having received TV Title shots against Shane Douglas back at The Buffalo Invasion and Wrestlepalooza while also losing a tag match with Balls Mahoney to The Triple Threat at Heat Wave. Although ECW doesnít acknowledge Chris Chetti and Tazís family connections, the timing of this match is appropriate as Candido is gearing up for a TV Title shot against Taz at Hardcore Heaven. The early going had Candido selling his ass off, trying to make THE ROOKIE look decent. This mostly just resulted in THE ROOKIE slapping on rest holds and causing the fans to turn on him all while Styles wonít shut up about THE ROOKIEís strengths. It seemed once Candido realized he wasnít going to be able to carry THE ROOKIE to a good match, he stopped trying as well, also applying rest holds and posing like Taz. Stylesí commentary was really grating as whenever he referenced Chetti, he just had to refer to him as THE ROOKIE. If this was your first Chetti match, youíd think that his name was literally ĎThe Rookie Chris Chettií. Awful Chetti would botch an attempt at a super plex and fail to go for the cover after a power slam to set up Candido avoiding a stupid senton leg drop attempt. Candido would finish THE ROOKIE off with a top rope double underhook suplex for the victory. I donít know how Candido struggling to beat THE ROOKIE is supposed to make him look strong heading into Hardcore Heaven. Luckily, Chettiís over push is nearly done and heíll be settling into an opening match tag guy, where he belongs. * Ĺ

Before the next match, Shane Douglas and Francine came out for a typical overly long Franchise promo. He shills the fact that heíll be challenging Terry Funk for the ECW World Title at Hardcore Heaven, but seeing as how Funk is defending the belt later tonight against Sabu, plans may need to be changed. First, Douglas threatens to wrestle Sabu at Hardcore Heaven if he wins the title tonight, but then Douglas reminds everyone about The Night the Line was Crossed and the three-way dance that the three of them had on that night. So regardless of who wins tonight, Douglas wants to have Funk vs Douglas vs Sabu II at Hardcore Heaven! As historic as that The Night the Line was Crossed match was, and believe me, it helped usher in an era where multi-men matches became popular, and have remained so to this day, but it was utter garbage.

Shane Douglas w/Francine vs Lance Storm
This is just prior to Storm beginning his program with Chris Candido and The Triple Threat. At this point, heís still just an upstart babyface that seems to have a promising future in the land of the extreme. Despite being a pretty short match, only going five minutes, I found it to be mostly entertaining. Douglas actually went out of his way to make Storm look good with the bout being very evenly matched as both men nearly won the match multiple times with constant covers and reverses. The majority of Stormís offense was built around various kicks while Douglas had to rely on Francineís interference to keep regaining the advantage. Itís one such moment that was the weakest of the match, despite initially being the highlight of the bout. Thanks to Francine tossing in a couple of chairs, The Franchise opened them up and sat them across from each other before delivering a spinning suplex onto the chairs. Although Douglas would miss the one chair, the other chair was completely destroyed as Storm was dropped on top of it. Itís a sick spot. The only problem is that moments later, Storm mounted another comeback as if he wasnít just hit with one of the biggest spots of the entire night. Itís ECW, so chairs were the norm, but thereís absolutely no reason why that chair spot should have been treated akin to a nothing move armdrag or a Russian Leg Sweep. Despite that annoyance, the match was fun from that point on as we got a lot of fast paced action with both men countering each other with a lot of nearfalls. Storm even managed to counter Douglasí first attempt of the belly-to-belly suplex into a DDT for a nearfall. Douglas may have won after Storm ran into a second attempt of the belly-to-belly suplex, which was successful, but he made it seem as if he was lucky that Storm wasnít the one who connected with the big move first. Otherwise, Douglas may have suffered a devastating loss one week before his PPV World Title shot. Good despite some flaws. ***

Taz © vs Al Snow - ECW TV Title
This would mark Snowís first ECW match since Doubles Tables way back in early 1995. Although heís still wearing his New Rockers gear, he seems mentally unbalanced, even getting on the mic before the match to threaten the fans if they dare to call him ĎLeif Cassidyí. Despite Cassidyís time in the WWE being a disappointing run, his best match was against an ECW guy of sorts in the form of Flash Funk back at In Your House 12: Itís Time. So the prospect of Snow being back in ECW, especially pre-Head gimmick, actually has me hopeful that this could be a gem. Iíll admit that I was a little disappointed. Itís not a bad match, but it wasnít the hidden gem that I was hoping it would be. Although Snow did play to this new psychotic gimmick heís got going on a bit, itís still in its infancy stages that it didnít hurt the match as it was just Snow holding his hands over his ears, trying to block out the fans. Looking back, itís a clear sign that weíre heading down the road to developing the gimmick more until Snow becomes batshit crazy and begins conversing with a mannequin head. The match was mostly a lot of mat wrestling with both men locking in a lot of various holds. Itís solid stuff, but the match is ultimately lacking an overall story. They may be competent workers, but Taz and Al fín Snow are certainly not going to be able to create a mat wrestling classic on just exchanging holds. What I didnít expect though was how much was given to Snow. He may have ultimately tapped out to the Tazmission, but he hung in there with ECWís resident bad ass and even easily countered the first attempt of the Tazmission by flipping Taz over his shoulder, only to make the mistake of trash talking the fans, allowing Taz to surprise him from behind with the second, and successful, attempt of applying the Tazmission. Had Snow won, I guess in theory, Hardcore Heaven Ď97 would have instead featured Leif Cassidy defending the ECW TV Title against Bodydonna Skip and Taz battling Rob Van Dam in a rehash from their late Ď96 feud. Maybe this wasnít the standout that I had hoped it was, particularly in comparison to Snowís 1995 ECW matches, but this was still a swell way to re-debut the wrestler after a dud of a run up in Stamford. ** Ĺ

Before the next match, The Dudleyz (Bubba Ray, D-Von, Big Dick, Sign Guy, and Joel Gertner) head out to the ring for their typical pre-match promo from Gertner. The only notable aspect of this promo is that The Dudley Boyz are carrying the ECW Tag Team Titles, but they arenít technically the ECW Tag Team Champions. Theyíre in possession of the titles thanks to when they stole the titles after sending the actual ECW Tag Team Champions, The Gangstas, to the hospital. At this point, Joey Styles is still acting as if a Gangstas/Dudleyz match will occur at Hardcore Heaven, but Mustafa is gone from the company already, so ECW is just coming up with an angle to explain it

The Dudley Boyz w/The Dudleys vs The Hardcore Chair Swinginí Freaks
Although Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten had teamed up a few times previously in 1997, I believe that this is their first time teaming on a taped show. Of course, part of the interest here is that D-Von and Axl had been partners back when D-Von and Bubba Ray had been feuding with Axl even sticking around for a bit after Bubba Ray turned heel and joined up with D-Von. This match is all angle. It starts with Bubba Ray and Axl, but Axl wants nothing to do with Bubba Ray, he wants his former tag partner instead. This allows Bubba Ray to heel it up, refusing to tag in D-Von to stall before ultimately tagging in D-Von just as Rotten decides to settle for Bubba Ray. With D-Von in the ring, we quickly learn that the match is unofficially a three-on-two match with Big Dick Dudley interfering far too often until Rotten and Balls talk amongst themselves and apparently have an idea. They had to the back while The Dudley Boyz think theyíre victorious as the fans chant for New Jack until the faces re-emerge with some back-up in the form of...THE SHAH~! Hack Meyers is back in ECW! The ring announcer quickly changes this match from a tag match to a six man tagÖ

The Dudleys w/Joel Gertner and Sign Guy Dudley vs The Hardcore Chair Swinginí Freaks and Hack Meyers
Despite the fact that the fans were clearly expecting New Jack to be revealed as the babyfacesí tag partner, theyíre ecstatic at seeing Meyers back in the ECW Arena to continue The Shahís indescribable popularity with the ECW fans. This is Meyersí first ECW match since losing a Loser Leaves Town (for sixty days) against 2 Cold Scorpio back at November to Remember Ď96. That was actually the same night that Meyers and Rotten fought as the B-match in the Bubba Ray vs D-Von feud since Hack was Bubba Rayís old tag team partner just as Rotten had been D-Vonís. Even though this was a total garbage match with the three sets of pairs battling away from each other and the camera crew struggling (and failing) at capturing all the action, it does feel as if Heyman lucked into a special moment when the ECW tag team division is supposed to be a mess thanks to Mustafaís abrupt departure. Even though The Dudley Boyz vs PG-13 was the superior match and Hack wouldnít stick around, watching this, I donít see any reason why this shouldnít have been the match presented on Hardcore Heaven once Heyman realized that The Gangstas were truly done. Meyers is even the one pinned, after a 3D from Bubba Ray and D-Von, but this still feels far more memorable than an incredibly random match between Dudley Boyz and PG-13. This would prove to be Hackís only 1997 ECW match, although heíd pop back up for another random six man tag in 1998 to team with Balls Mahoney (And Masato Tanaka) against The Dudleys. The match was pure nothingness, but Iím okay with it since it involved an one night return of sorta of ECW legend. **

Tommy Dreamer w/Beulah vs Rob Van Dam w/Fonzie
These two worked a shockingly great match later in the year at November to Remember. This is another fun match between the two even if itís a total spotfest. Itís a RVD match though, itís okay to be a spotfest since it plays into his character. The opening minutes is all RVD as heís just destroying Dreamer in and out of the ring, even hitting the Van Daminator on the outside while Dreamer was crotched on the steel railing. We get RVDís always awesome looking Tope Con Hilo. Itís totally just RVD putting on a greatest clips showcase and Iím all for it. Eventually, Dreamer mounts a comeback, but again, itís still all about RVD standing out thanks to Van Damís sell of Dreamerís DDT. RVDís huge selling of DDTs, Piledrivers, or any move where heís dropped on his head and able to launch himself back into the air is basically the best selling you can find for any specific moves. The finish is built around Dreamer having to deal with Fonzie and now Sabu at ringside, all while trying to deal with RVD still. Thanks to a garbage can, RVD is able to get the best of ECWís leader, first with a leg drop and then delivering a straight punch into the can into Dreamerís face to keep Dreamer down for a three count. Fun stuff. ***

After the match, RVD and Sabu continued the attack on Dreamer until The Triple Threat ran out. Douglas and company attack Sabu, RVD, and Dreamer. The locker room begins to spill out with the story becoming The Dudley Boyz and Big Dick Dudley going after Dreamer while the Triple Threat and RVD/Sabu disappear. Lowcard wrestlers fail to save Dreamer leading to Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney trying to make the save, but they fail. Finally, after a lot of chanting for New Jack, New Jack runs out with his new tag team partner - Kronus. The Gangstanators~! The new team even gets a little help from Perry Saturn, using his crutch to help out his old partner and his former rival. The alliance of Dreamer, The Gangstanators, The Hardcore Chair Swinginí Freaks, and Saturn team up to destroy The Dudley clan. Itís a great feel good moment with the crowd eating up every second.

Terry Funk © vs Sabu w/Fonzie - Barbed Wire Match - ECW World Title
Is it safe to call this the most memorable barbed wire match in US wrestling history? Thereís been a handful in ECW history, TNA had their own Barbed Wire Massacre matches, and I imagine the hardcore indie companies have had a ton, but this is the match I always think of when it comes to barbed wire matches. From a workrate perspective, itíd be silly to call this a good match. Thereís not really a story other than the very initial avoidance of the barbed wire before Sabuís sudden collision into the barbed wire after Funk kicked out of a cover. Yet, this match was hyped as being a bloody massacre and it lives up those expectations. Itís a spectacle. It was the reason to buy the VHS back in the day and remains one more talked about bouts in ECW history. These days, itís so common to witness gimmick matches fail to live up to expectations, but this match served its purpose. Once the barbed wire came into play, I found myself often making ugly faces at the TV screen, witnessing painful looking stunts. Like in the previous match, Fonzie attempted to get involved in the action, but he paid for it as Funk dragged him across the barbed wire, into the ring, and then began assaulting him with a strand of barbed wire. Itís sickening. Eventually, RVD tried to assist Sabu as well, but after helping Sabu deliver a table bump on the outside, heís knocked unconscious by a garbage can lid wielding Tommy Dreamer. By this point, Sabu and Funk are a mess. Both are covered in blood and wrapped up in the barbed wire to the point that they were connected, unable to break free from each other. Fonzie and some referees help them return to the ring, but itís a bit awkward as Sabu eventually just covers Funk and The Funkster willingly loses the belt because they literally couldnít do anything else as long as they were trapped together. Sabu is your NEW ECW World Champion. The strongest aspect of this entire...fight, is how different it felt from WWE and WCW. Think back to August 1997. What were you getting in the World Title matches? If Hollywood Hogan could even be bothered to wrestle, he was having snoozefests. The Undertaker had a solid title reign, but itís not as if anyone talks about his reign. This was a crazy match that showcased two men willing to kill themselves in order to come out victorious as ECW Champion. For better or for worse, this is probably the second most legendary World Title match, in the US, of 1997 behind just Sting/Hogan. ***

After the match, officials spill out to try and free Sabu and Funk with Joey Styles crying out that at this stage in his career, Funk shouldnít be killing himself like this.

A critique Iíve heard of early ECW PPVs before is that they often fail to be as good as the ECW Arena shows around the same time period. The following weekís Hardcore Heaven proved to be a pretty solid PPV, especially compared to the sharp downturn in PPV quality over the next year, but Born to be Wired proved to be even more enjoyable. This show worked on a variety of levels. You have that one spectacle match in Sabu vs Funk that exists to be the selling point of the VHS. You had to see the barbed wire match, something that the entirety of Hardcore Heaven was missing out on. Although it exists to set-up the rematch at Hardcore Heaven, which featured the bigger spot, Bam Bam Bigelow/Little Spike Dudley put on an awesome short match on this show. Considering the fact that this wasnít the event where Bigelow tossed Spike into the crowd, yet is still memorable, was a big achievement. Lance Storm got his first run-in with The Triple Threat, something that would make up a major part of his ECW career over the next year. While ECW loses Louie Spicolli on this show, it gains Al Snow. I believe that this may be Perry Saturnís final appearance in ECW, while it also marks the debut of The Gangstanators. Thatís also a negative on Hardcore Heaven where The Dudley Boyz had to defend the tag titles against the random challengers of PG-13 when the match that would have mattered would have been New Jack and Kronus. Even the worst aspects of this show - Candido/Chetti and The Dudley Boyzí match, features some good in that this is Chettiís last hurrah in his ĎThe Rookieí push while The Dudley Boyz were heavily featured in that fantastic post-match event following Dreamer vs RVD. ECW has felt a little hit or miss in 1997, but Born to be Wired proved to be one of the stronger efforts.