Classic Wrestling Review: The Night the Line Was Crossed

ECW

(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)

The Night the Line Was Crossed

February 5, 1994

ECW Arena

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It is time to take our first look at the third major promotion in the 90s, ECW. They’re not quite Extreme Championship Wrestling yet. (That change would happen in the summer of ‘94.) They’re still Eastern Championship Wrestling, which was a successor to the original promotion in that area, TWA (Tri-state Wrestling Alliance). Paul Heyman (Paul E. Dangerously) joined ECW in late ‘93 after WCW fired him. He would partner with ECW owner, Tod Gordon to help the fledgling promotion get some traction. The company was using a mixture of young talent, legends (such as Jimmy Snuka, Terry Funk, and The Sheik), and castoffs from WCW and the WWF. Heyman had a vision to make ECW into a grittier and more realistic product than WCW or the WWF. They would incorporate blood, violence, harsh language, and modern rock and hip-hop music. (Sadly, all of the licensed music had to be edited out of the network versions.) They aimed to be everything that the other two promotions were not. It was still a work in progress in 1994, but they were gaining momentum. This event is the one that many believe got people’s attention. It’s not a PPV. (ECW wouldn’t start doing PPVs until 1997.) It is a supershow, but I thought it would be nice to take a look at early ECW. (This is the home video version, so it’s clipped down to mostly just the matches. There isn’t a lot of filler in between.)

The main feud for this show was a three-way battle for the ECW Title. Terry Funk was the champion and he would defend against Sabu and Shane Douglas. Shane had held the title, but he lost it to Sabu. Shane would get his revenge by causing Sabu to lose the title to Terry Funk, so the three-way dance was booked to settle the score. I’m sure you’re all familiar with Douglas and Funk from my earlier reviews, so let me introduce Sabu for those who don’t know him. He is the nephew of the original Sheik (not to be confused with the Iron Sheik). We will see the Sheik on this show in a tag match, but Sabu is in the main event. He’s known for his wild and reckless style at the cost of his own body. (He famously continued matches after breaking his jaw and slicing open his bicep. Both times, he taped up the injuries and continued.) These antics earned him the moniker of being homicidal, suicidal, and genocidal. At this time, he was managed by Paul E. and a bodyguard known as 911. (He got the nickname of 911 because he was sending people to the hospital by chokeslamming them through tables. 911 was in a match with Chad Austin on this show, but it didn’t make the home video release. It’s not on the network version.)

The show opens with ECW President, Tod Gordon. He says that ECW has been accused of being the most hard hitting, hardcore, and bloody promotion in America. He also claims that they crossed the line on February 5, 1994. He warns the viewer about what they’re going to see on this home video because ECW is not for everyone.

Mr. Hughes (w/ Jason) vs. Sal Bellomo

We’ve seen Mr. Hughes on this blog before, so I’ll take a moment to introduce Bellomo. He was mostly an enhancement talent in the WWF during the early 80s. His biggest moment was a random appearance on Piper’s Pit where Roddy mistook him for a pizza delivery man. Here, he’s playing a stereotypical Italian wrestler. He even comes to the ring in a Roman centurion outfit and throws toys to the kids in the crowd. (Should there be children at an ECW show? Also, I have to point out that Sal’s costume makes him look kind of like Marvin the Martian.) His opponent, Mr. Hughes, is managed tonight by Jason Knight, who is simply going by Jason at this point. Joey Styles calls him the sexiest man alive. (I’m pretty sure it was just his nickname. I doubt Joey actually found him sexy.) The ring announcer, Bob Artese, tries to introduce Sal, but Hughes intimidates him and Joey Styles is disgusted.

Hughes shoves Sal around and pulls him down by the hair. He also keeps blocking Bellomo’s attempts at holds before they trade punches and headbutts. Hughes hits a splash in the corner, but he misses a second one and Sal hits multiple shoulder blocks. However, Jason trips him and Hughes knees Sal in the back. Hughes then hits a sidewalk slam for the win.

This was nothing more than a squash to put over Hughes. I’m not sure why. I guess they saw some potential in him, but I’ve never been impressed. Unfortunately, they wrestled Hughes’ pace and this was not good. The moves all looked like they were in slow motion. The only good thing I can say is they kept it short.

Winner: Mr. Hughes (3:17)

Double Dog Collar Match: The Sandman & Tommy Cairo vs. Rockin’ Rebel & Pit Bull #1 (w/ Jason)

For those who are familiar with the Sandman, you might be shocked to hear that he was playing a surfer gimmick at this time. (Do you get it? He’s the Sandman because he likes that beach sand—man! He even wrestles in a wet suit.) The gimmick isn’t fitting and he would soon change from surfer to drunken beach bum. He’s teaming with his best friend, Tommy Cairo to get revenge on Jason and his crew. They used a chain to hang him over the ropes; hence the reason this is a Dog Collar Match. (I would introduce the other team, but the less said about Rockin’ Rebel, the better. He’s in that Chris Benoit camp of people wrestling would rather forget.) Jason made a quick wardrobe change before this match. (Joey jokes that Jason has more outfits than Imelda Marcos has shoes.) Artese tries to do his introductions, but Sandman starts swinging the chain. (Poor Bob, he can’t catch a break.) The ref then connects everyone by the neck, and the action begins.

Sandman and Rebel fight to the floor while Cairo hangs Pitbull over the ropes. Pitbull breaks free and uses a chair and Sandman throws Rebel into the stands. However, Rebel returns the favor and hits Sandman with a chair. (Cairo and Rebel are both bleeding within a minute of the match starting.) Everyone returns to the ring and Rebel hits a chained fist drop to Sandman’s balls before they brawl to the floor again. They end up fighting over to a scaffold and Sandman sets up a table, but Rebel back drops him onto it. Meanwhile, Pitbull gets some near falls and Rebel sends Sandman over the rail again. Then, Rebel piledrives Sandman on a table while Cairo hits a butterfly suplex on Pitbull. All four men end up in the ring once more and Rebel & Pitbull whip Sandman & Cairo into each other. However, Cairo recovers and hits a belly-to-belly suplex. Sandman then wraps the chain around Pitbull’s legs and holds him down for a three-count.

This was violent chaos. If ECW had better camerawork it might have been easier to follow and more enjoyable. Unfortunately, a lot of the action was lost due to the static hard cam. There was also a lot of no-selling in this match. A piledriver on a table should have laid out Sandman for longer, but he was up fairly quickly. The crowd enjoyed this match. It did its job, but it wasn’t great. However, it is a good example of what was so different about ECW at this time.

Winners: Sandman & Cairo (4:49)

After the match, Rebel hangs Sandman over the ropes again and then he and Pitbull double suplex Cairo. However, Sandman recovers and clears the ring with the chain.

No Rules Match: Public Enemy vs. The Bruise Brothers

Public Enemy is the team of Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge. Their gimmick was a couple of heavyset white guys who love hip-hop music and putting people through tables. They were one of Heyman’s first examples of using modern music to try and enhance an act. They weren’t great wrestlers, but the table gimmick helped hide some of those flaws. (Playing to strengths and hiding weaknesses was something Heyman was known to do well.) Their opponents are the Bruise Brothers (Ron & Don Harris, who you might know better as the Blu Twins and Skull & 8-Ball of the D.O.A. They already have their Blu Twins look here and their Nazi tattoos are very visible. I guess the WWF made them cover those up because I never noticed them when I was younger.) Joey says that the Bruise Brothers were too violent for Smoky Mountain Wrestling. (I kind of doubt that since the Gangstas got their start there.) He then explains this match by saying the Bruise Brothers wanted a fight and nobody but the Public Enemy wanted to fight them. The two teams immediately start brawling when the brothers reach the ring.

Everyone pairs off and brawls into the crowd. Grunge and one of the brothers end up under Styles’ announce booth and the camera loses the action. (They really need hand-held cameras.) Meanwhile, Rocco tries to escape over a wall, but the other brother stops him. He sends Rocco into the wall and brings him back to the ring to hit a powerslam. Then, they fight to the floor again and he slams Rocco while Grunge and the other Harris brother continue brawling. They throw a chair at Grunge’s head and take Rocco up to the announce booth. Joey’s table is broken, which upsets him. The Harris brother then tosses Rocco into some chairs and brings him back to the ring. However, Grunge blinds him with powder and Rocco uses a 2×4 to get the win.

This was just mindless brawling. It’s also another match that suffered from the lack of cameras. I would imagine it was fun for the fans in attendance, but it wasn’t interesting to watch. I’ll give Styles credit for putting over the chaos on commentary, but it didn’t help. Also, I’ve never cared for the Harris Brothers in any of their incarnations. The Public Enemy can be okay at times, but even they couldn’t save this.

Winners: Public Enemy (7:59)

Jimmy Superfly Snuka (w/ Hunter Q. Robbins III) vs. Tommy Dreamer

This is before Tommy Dreamer became the Innovator of Violence. He was playing a pretty-boy gimmick here complete with bright colored pants and suspenders. However, they were already starting to push the never-say-die attitude part of his character. He’s facing one of the legends ECW used at the time, Jimmy Snuka. He had been with the company since it started and was even the first ECW champion. (There’s a baffling bit of trivia for you. It’s odd given what ECW becomes.) Snuka is managed by Hunter Q. Robbins III. (He was a manager in the early days of ECW, but he’s more known for managing the Super Destroyers.) Also, Tommy is announced as being from Dreamland, USA, which is one of the more ridiculous hometowns I’ve heard. (At least Artese finally got to finish an introduction.) Snuka takes his time getting ready, so the fans start chanting, “K-Mart suit,” at Hunter Robbins. (Joey jokes that it’s an insult to K-Mart.)

They lock up, but Snuka begins arguing with some fans. Tommy comes to the defense of one of the fans and even wears his hat. The stalling continues for way too long before they finally lock up again and trade headlocks and slams. Snuka regroups, so the fans chant, “Piper,” to get under his skin. Then, Snuka and Dreamer trade slaps and shoves until Dreamer misses a cross body and tumbles to the floor. Snuka then hits him with a chair and rolls him inside for some chops and a backbreaker. He also hits the Superfly Splash, but Dreamer kicks out of the pin attempt! Snuka is in shock, so he hits some more chops and two more Superfly Splashes before pinning Tommy with a knee on his chest.

This match was 90% stalling. I get that they were trying to build Dreamer as a sympathetic babyface, but this wasn’t fun to watch. Even the fans in attendance were chanting, “Boring.” There was some good fan interaction, but they hated the stalling.

Winner: Jimmy Snuka (10:15)

Snuka continues his attack and even takes out the ref before hitting another Superfly Splash. Tod Gordon comes out to stop him, but Snuka hits him with a flying axehandle. Then, other wrestlers arrive and finally convince Snuka to leave while Styles talks about how Dreamer has to be bleeding internally.

Pat Tanaka & The Sheik vs. Kevin Sullivan & The Tazmaniac (w/ Woman)

The Tazmaniac, as you might have guessed, is Taz. He’s not quite the Human Suplex Machine yet. He was playing a wild man gimmick that was closer to the cartoon Taz than his later persona. (He even has hair!) He is teaming with Kevin Sullivan, who is on a brief break from WCW. He also brought his wife, Woman, with him. They are facing a couple more of the legends that ECW hired, Pat Tanaka & The Sheik. Taz and Sullivan head to the ring and Taz paces around like he’s ready to explode. Meanwhile, The Sheik knocks over the entrance curtain on his way to the ring while Tanaka sneaks in and attacks Taz. (He’s dressed in street clothes, so Joey says Pat was in no mood to wrestle. He wanted a fight.)

Sullivan and The Sheik brawl into the crowd to start the match. (This again? Is every match going to begin this way?) In the ring, Taz puts Tanaka in an ankle lock, but the camera focuses on Sullivan and the Sheik. They ram each other into the guardrail while Taz switches to a Half Crab, but Tanaka reaches the ropes. However, Taz puts him in the hold again. Then, the Sheik wraps a chair around Sullivan’s head, but Kevin is having none of that. He shrugs it off and continues brawling with Sheik until the Sheik starts throwing fireballs. One of them hits Taz, so Tanaka rolls him up for the win. (Sheik and Sullivan continue brawling through the crowd because I’m not sure Sheik even knew the match ended.)

This was a mess. I get that ECW wanted to use legends to help build their name, but The Sheik was too old to be wrestling. He missed his cue for the fireball, so Taz had to awkwardly hold onto the Half Crab for longer than he should. I’ll give Sullivan credit for adding some blood to the match, but it didn’t save it. Also, Tanaka did almost nothing. It’s a shame as he’s a good wrestler. This match existed merely for the shocking visual of the fireballs and that was poorly executed.

Winners: Tanaka & Sheik (3:15)

J.T. Smith vs. Mike Awesome

J.T. Smith was around in the TWA days and had some relative success on the indies. He impressed people with his skills, but what really endeared him to the crowd was his penchant for taking nasty bumps. (It was due to a botched move, which led to him adopting a gimmick of being clumsy and even eventually thinking he’s Italian. I’ll explain when I get to that gimmick.) He became quite known for putting himself through Hell and reportedly suffered upwards of 16 concussions during his career. He’s facing a young Mike Awesome, who hasn’t quite gained the notoriety he would eventually get. However, he is still known as an ass-kicker even during this time. Awesome comes to the ring while J.T. is still making his entrance. (I guess he got impatient.) Artese then introduces Mike as, “Awesome Mike Awesome.” (That’s a bit redundant.) Awesome poses, so Smith attacks him immediately.

Smith hits a spin kick, but Awesome shakes it off and hits him with some clotheslines and a splash. He keeps turning Smith inside-out with lariats before hitting an overhead belly-to-belly. Then, he clotheslines Smith to the floor and dives onto him. (He nearly bends Smith in half over the guardrail. It was nasty!) He follows that up by rolling Smith inside and going for an Awesomebomb, but Smith surprises him with a small package for the win.

It was short, explosive, and made Awesome look like a killer, but it also made Smith look good. I’m okay with the finish because Awesome still looked great. The fans reacted well to the ending and to Awesome. This accomplished what it needed to do. I kind of wish it had gone longer, but poor Smith might have been dead if it did. He was already taking nasty bumps even for a short match.

Winner: J.T. Smith (2:00)

Mike takes exception to the finish and attacks the ref while Smith retreats from the ring. Awesome hits the ref with two powerbombs and spits on him before attempting a flying splash. However, the ring ropes break and Awesome face plants into the ring. (Oops! Well, that kind of put a damper on the beating.) Mike does his best to recover and throws the turnbuckle at the ref before heading backstage.

Three-Way Dance for the ECW Title: Terry Funk (c) vs. Sabu (w/ Paul E. Dangerously & 911) vs. Shane Douglas (w/ Sherri)

This match is rather odd. Shane and Sabu have 15-minutes to try and eliminate each other before ECW Champion, Terry Funk, joins the fray. He will join no matter what when the 15-minutes are over, but they have a chance to narrow the field first. Shane is managed by Sensational Sherri, who joined ECW after being fired by the WWF. (Sadly, she said in interviews that she has no recollection of this run due to her substance abuse problems.) Before the match starts, Paul E. clocks Sherri with his cell phone, which opens the door for Sabu to attack Shane. (He hit her hard! I don’t know if he meant to give it that much gusto. Also, on a side note, they fixed the ropes between matches, but they put them in the wrong order. Now, they’re blue, white, & red. Also, Joey Styles’ mic doesn’t work for the first five minutes of this match.)

Sabu and Shane fight back and forth in and out of the ring. Shane keeps trying to slow the pace, but Sabu hits a baseball slide. He also narrowly turns a botch into a springboard somersault leg drop before focusing on Shane’s injured arm. He locks Douglas in various arm holds, which makes some of the fans chant, “Boring.” Shane fights back, but he has trouble with his arm and they end up brawling on the floor. 911 helps Sabu set up a table, but Shane moves when Sabu attempts an Asai Moonsault. Sabu hurts his knee and Shane attacks, but the 15-minutes end and Funk joins the bout. (Sabu is helped to the back because of his knee injury.)

Shane and Funk brawl in and out of the ring and Terry piledrives him on the floor. He also hits multiple DDTs, but Sherri puts Shane’s foot on the ropes. Terry chases her and the fans keep trying to hand him chairs. He takes one and puts it in the ring before calling for more and the fans throw some. (That won’t be the last time, but I’ll wait until I cover that incident to say more.) Funk piles up the chairs and hits another DDT, but he hurts himself. Douglas attacks the back and they brawl around the arena. Shane even uses Sherri’s boot as a weapon and then hits his own DDT. However, Funk kicks out and goes for the Spinning Toe Hold. Shane breaks free and busts open Funk, who takes out the ref in a daze. Douglas uses the opening to ram Terry into an exposed turnbuckle multiple times. The fight then spills into the crowd once more, but Sabu returns to the match.

Funk uses Sabu’s reappearance to catch a breather and he heads to Joey Style’s table. He steals the headset and mocks his opponents, but he doesn’t realize it’s not a house mic. They can’t hear him so he yells, “Well, I’ll come and get you, ya idiot!” (You gotta love Terry Funk!) Everyone goes after Sabu’s leg, but Sherri, 911, and Paul E. all interfere on behalf of their wrestlers. Sabu recovers and botches a springboard moonsault. (To be fair, the ropes have been loose since they fixed them.) He does manage to hit a second attempt. Douglas eventually hits Funk with a chair, which draws Ian & Axl Rotten to the ring to help Funk. They attack both men and everyone pairs off into brawls around the arena. 911 and Paul E. eventually stop the Rottens while the three competitors fight outside the building. They return shortly and Shane crotches Sabu on the railing. Meanwhile, a delirious Funk takes out the ref for some reason.

Sabu hits some moonsaults on both men. Funk recovers and gives Douglas a piledriver. Then, Sabu hits a couple of splashes, but the ref is out cold and no one can get a pin. All three men then end up in a triple-Camel Clutch spot, but Funk breaks free and uses a Spinning Toe Hold. He has to fend off Sherri, so he gives her a suplex and puts her in the Spinning Toe Hold! However, Shane stops him and fights with Sabu until Terry uses Sherri’s boot to give Shane a low-blow. (There’s technical difficulties here, so the match jumps ahead a little bit.) They brawl on the floor and return to the ring where a dazed Funk tries to cover Sherri. (Joey jokes that he’s now seen it all and that includes someone levitating to the ceiling. He’s referring to the Undertaker nonsense from the Rumble.) The match then becomes a mad scramble to make a cover, but the time limit expires and the fans applaud the effort.

I wanted to like this match. There was some good content and some decent storytelling at times. Funk was his usual entertaining self and Sabu was as botchy as ever. (I’ll give him credit. The ropes were loose and he was selling the knee.) However, I don’t think this needed to go an hour. They had to use a lot of shenanigans and run-ins to pad out the time. It dragged in places. Also, they had Sabu disappear for chunks of the match. It was the best match on the card, but that’s not saying much.

Winner: Time Limit Draw (60:00)

After the match, Joey Styles is backstage with a bloody Terry Funk. Joey praises the match and Terry. Funk starts crying and says he loves wrestling, but he’s not proud of how it’s evolved in some places. He says WCW isn’t worth a damn and says the WWF is run by people who don’t respect the profession. He says he doesn’t like his opponents, but they wrestled with heart and gave the fans their money’s worth. He praises ECW and says he’s proud to make his stand there. He also thanks the hardcore fans and tells them he loves them.

Tod Gordon then thanks everyone who came to the show and says there are refreshments at the back of the room. (He talks like reporters are attending this press conference, but I didn’t see or hear any.)

Then, Paul E. and 911 drag an angry Sabu into the room and Tod tells them to control him. Dangerously says that Sabu has nothing to say about the match and he calls Douglas a disgraceful human being. He also calls Terry Funk a crybaby and claims there was a conspiracy between Funk and Douglas. Paul E. then tells 911 to control Sabu and keep him from seeing the table. (I like that they’re selling the idea that Sabu has to jump through a table if he sees one. It’s hilarious.) Paul then says that Funk should have been eliminated and claims the referee was biased. Then, Paul says they want their money and tells Styles he’s not a very good announcer. Finally, he tells all the media to go to Hell.

Next, Shane Douglas and Sherri arrive. Shane says he beat Terry Funk and Sabu’s asses in the middle of the ring. He wants Styles to declare him the ECW Champion. He calls it pro-wrestling as it was meant to be and claims he smashed Funk’s knee to oblivion. He calls it the end of an era and starts cursing, so Tod Gordon reprimands him. Shane tells him to shut up and dares him to fire him. Then, he says he’s had enough of the people of Philadelphia saying things about his family and Sherri. However, Funk interrupts and asks what’s wrong with him. Douglas says Funk is just a shell of himself and mocks him. He calls Funk a beaten man. Funk says he might have had better days, but he came in there and paid compliments to him. He then tells Douglas that he knows he didn’t win the title and warns him not to call him an old man. Shane responds that paying compliments doesn’t pay the bills. He also says that Tod should declare him champion because Funk and Sabu were carried out of the arena. Funk replies that he shouldn’t call him an old man because it will look bad when an old man whoops him. However, Funk decides to give Douglas the belt because he says it will be nice to take it back from him. Douglas rejects it and calls Funk a piece of shit. He says Funk doesn’t have to give it to him because he will take it from him soon. He then throws it in Funk’s face, so the two men brawl and the officials break up the fight. (This was great stuff. There was a good intensity in the promo and the pull-apart brawl was a great way to end the show.)

The Good:

– Terry Funk was entertaining.

– The Smith/Awesome match was fun for a short bout.

– The press conference promos were good.

– There was some good fan interaction.

The Bad:

– Most of the matches were disappointing or bad.

– The camerawork was awful and missed a lot of the action.

– There were people on this card who probably shouldn’t be wrestling anymore.

Performer of the Night:

I’m giving it to Terry Funk. He was very entertaining and his selling was amazing as usual. Plus, he went almost a full hour at his age. He showed he still had it.

Final Thoughts:

This show hasn’t aged well, but I can see why fans at the time were drawn to it. It was drastically different from WCW and the WWF and ECW did a great job of engaging the fans in the arena. You could tell this was more for the live crowd than the home viewer. I would imagine it was a blast for those in attendance. That was something ECW did well. They knew how to connect with the live crowd. ECW would evolve over the next few years and get better, but this show is an interesting peek into the early days of the company. It’s not great, but it is a curiosity.

Thank you for reading. You can like and follow the Facebook page for this blog by clicking here and the Twitter page by clicking here. You can also buy t-shirts by going here.

My next review will be WCW’s SuperBrawl IV. Look for my review next Saturday!

 

Written by Paul Matthews

I am chronologically reviewing all the pre-network era WWF/WCW/ECW PPVs from Starrcade '83 to WrestleMania 30. Join me on this journey every Saturday!
Like and Follow the Facebook page for this blog here: https://www.facebook.com/ClassicWrestlingReview.
Also, follow me on twitter @PaulDMatthews78

Leave a Reply