We take a random trip down memory lane to the In Your House series and today we are in “The Heart of the New West” Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede was the fourth pay-per-view the WWE had hosted at the time and was well received, drawing an attendance at the Canadian Airlines SaddleDome of 12,151 making 228K at the gate and an additional 60K in merchandise. This would break all revenue records at the time. The fans were pumped up on July 6, 1997 to hear Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon call this short card. The feature match had the feuding self proclaimed, “Canadian Hero” Brett Hart, leading a team of Owen Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Brian Pillman and The British Bulldog, facing off against Stone Cold Steve Austin and his group of outcasts. (Goldust, Ken Shamrock and the Legion of Doom). It was an interesting PPV as the rest of the world viewed The Hart Foundation as a Heel faction but in their home of Canada they were viewed as Baby Faces.
The opening vignette, done in black and white, is well put together and does a good job recapping the events that led to Canadian Stampede. The Narrator starts by telling us “We no longer live in a world of black and white, but gray rather”. He goes on to have some cool lines like “renegades receive a heroes embrace”, as the video shows Stone Cold pounding Steve-weisers. The video shows us Brett’s heel turn, including the iconic shot of Austin bleeding profusely as The Hitman applies the Sharpshooter at WM13, the creation of The Hart Foundation and the events leading to today. The segment ends with the Canadian Stampede logo flying through the dessert and pyro on the entrance stage. The crowd is popping as Vince introduces the event. Check these outfits out.
The first match on the card we see a future WWE Hall Of Famer and a already inducted WWE Hall Of Famer square off. The 2013 inductee, Mick Foley, as his Mankind persona, will meet the founder and producer of NXT and current executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative at WWE, Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Hunter would be joined, by his real life girlfriend at the time, “The Ninth Wonder of the World”, Chyna. Who would of thought that these two men would combine for a total of 17 Heavyweight Titles. Foley with four, if you count the TNA Title, and Triple H with 13, which is third all time, behind Flair and Cena. Oh, hindsight.
The 1997 King of the Ring winner, Hunter Hearst Helmsley enters the arena first, accompanied by Chyna, to a negative response. We see a vignette that compares Triple H’s “Blue Blood” upbringing to Mankind’s, which includes a clip from the early Dude Love promos Foley made as a teen. They are worth a look for any fan of the business. The video goes on to show highlights from there King of the ring match, that was full of outside interference from Chyna, in which Mankind took blows from both the Scepter and the Crown and a Pedigree through an announce table. Most likely the Spanish one. Mankind is on his way down next and I can’t forget how deranged and creepy I thought this was a kid. I Mean the dude would yank his own hair out for fun.
Triple H waste no time going for Mankind as soon as he hits the ring but he doesn’t take long to get back in the fight. Mankind hits the double armhook DDT and taunts Hunter with his own curtsy. The bumps are hard early and don’t slow down one step throughout. Mankind sends Helmsley over the top rope and hits his famous elbow drop from the apron. They continue up the ramp where Hunter takes a solid suplex and JR calls Mankind “The Prime Minister of Parts Unknown,” something I noticed and enjoyed. The crowd is really popping at this point and they are really into it early, understandably so. Mankind goes for an early finisher, The Mandible Claw, but this is where we get our first interference from Chyna. This leads to his really first offensive move of the match, Irish whipping Mankind to Chyna for the scoop slam into the steel stairs. Vince is quick to point out that Mankind hit his lower, left leg on the stairs. A statement that would prove to be Triple H’s work for the match. He waste no time going to work on the leg of mankind, a chair shot amongst other ways.
After some wear down, Hunter applies a figure four and uses the ring ropes for leverage behind the refs back, in perfect heel fashion. The ref breaks the hold after he catches Hunter in the act. This leads to Mankind countering a Pedigree with what Jim Ross calls an “inadvertent low blow. The King Continues with “now Chyna wont be happy about that”. Now there is a rib I am surprised Stephanie didn’t edit out. Mankind hits a brutal looking pull piledriver that shows exactly why the move isn’t in use much today. A double clothesline from Mankind sends both men over the top rope for yet another hard looking bump. Mankind soon goes for a chair shot of his own but Chyna interrupts giving way for Helmsley to counter with a chair shot to Mankind’s injured leg. He goes for a second attempt that the referee foils but leaves a moment for Chyna to land a jarring clothesline on Mankind. Back in the ring Mankind counters Triple H’s attempt at a highspot and locks in the Mandible Claw. Only to have it spoiled by Chyna grabbing the leg and hitting a spread eagle low blow into the ring post. The match continues outside and into the crowd and before long, and obviously not ten seconds, we hear the bell sound. As the fight continue through the crowd we hear Howard Finkel announce a double count out. Soon thereafter Mankind slams Hunter in to the home team’s, The Calgary Flames, penalty box. Helmsley comes out of the box spotting some crimson on his face and the brawl continues with referees and Chyna in the mix until they can be separated.
Going into this match and watching Foley perform, I was expecting the hard bumps to fall on Mick. After watching it back i can say that Hunter took the hardest ones here but Foley didn’t disappoint. This match was amazing and watching it back I can see why these two Superstars went on to have the careers they did. It’s a shame things turned out the way they did with Chyna because she was also great here. I wish I could I have started this segment with TWO current Hall of Fame inductees and one future inductee.
There is a quick promo next for the Calgary Stampede that is taking place the same weekend as the Canadian Stampede. “The Greatest Outdoors Show On Earth”, The Calgary Stampede is a ten day, annual rodeo festival that the WWE modeled this event around. The promo shows the annual parade, which featured Miss Calgary 1997 Diana Smith, The wife of The British Bulldog, and The Hart Foundation. Doc Hendrix, in his best FM radio DJ voice, would tell us that Brett Hart spent the whole day signing every last autograph. Bruce Pritchard would confirm this, on his podcast Something to Wrestle, saying that it was in fact true because someone never cut the line off and Brett didn’t want to disappoint someone who had waited. We also get to see a few bits of the Tug ‘O’ War match versus the local Calgary fire department. The only thing about this that I liked is they didn’t put the firefighters over on this charity event and beat them. This promo ends with The Hitman making an appearance at the Calgary Stampede to a great pop, of course. This leads us to Doc Hendricks, AKA Michael P. Hayes, interviewing The Hart Foundation.
Stone Cold would interrupt the interview at the start and be held back by Pat Patterson. Brett Would say “what’s it gonna prove if we beat up Steve Austin back here. It’s gonna prove he got beat up 5 on 1. That’s not what we want, we want 5 on 5.” This was different, as Brett has been a Heel in recent months in the WWE but would try to be made out as a Face in this promo.
The next match would start by Vince saying “some of the greatest athletes you’ll ever feast your eyes on, the light heavyweight division”. The match would feature The Great Sasuke squaring off against Taka Michinoku. This was an interesting match as it was different than what the WWE was accustomed to. This was a way to promote what would be a new title, The Light Heavyweight Championship. They really wanted Taka here but Michinoku felt like he owed one to Sasuke, as he was the owner and founder of Michinoku Pro Wrestling where Taka had gotten his start, so he came along for this match but would be gone soon after. The WWE would send Undertaker, Sunny and Chris Candino to Japan as part of the deal with Sasuke for a short tour. Enough of the setup and back to the mat.
Taka Michinoku would enter the arena first and The Great Sasuke would follow. When Sasuke enters Howard Finkels say “and also from Japan”. I found that entertaining as most of the commentary in this match is, as it is something different than what they normally call. The biggest take away from the commentary is that it seemed as only Jim Ross would know the names of the different moves used in this match.
The debut of these two Superstars is interrupted before it can begin as it is revealed that Hunter Hearst Helmsey, with Chyna still in hand, and Mankind still continue to brawl from the back and through the crowd. Hunter still wearing a “Crimson Mask”. This is another spot, like the lightweight guys, that is not familiar territory for the WWE at the time and is something, in my opinion, they acquired from watching ECW’s gaining steam.
After the interruption ends, the bell sounds and we are off to a slow start, but soon picks up and doesn’t miss a beat from there. After a few early 2 counts, off from some roll maneuvers, we get our first pop from the crowd with a nice roundhouse kick to Taka’s chest. The crowd is starting to really feel the match after some dropkicks, on Sasuke from Taka, that leads to a counter that sends Michinoku to the outside. The first big highspot comes when, off the top turnbuckle, Sasuke hits the face of Taka with, as JR would say, “a Martial Arts kick”. I expected a “what a maneuver” from Vince here to no avail. We get some more quality back and fourth that leads, to what I think is the biggest pop of the match, a springboard pancha from Taka off the top rope to the outside. Then we see our first false finish after Michinoku hits a hurricanrana on Sasuke. The next highspot would be a springboard moonsault from Sasuke off the second rope on the outside. More Pop. His momentum wouldn’t last long after a missle dropkick from the top turnbuckle is landed by Taka. He would follow up with a devastating Michinoku Driver, his finish, but would only get another two count. Michinoku would soon find himself in trouble when his highspot is countered with a dropkick to the midsection. The Great Sasuke would follow up with a “Razor’s Edge” type powerbomb and would get the three with a double armhook suplex/pin combination.
This match would show the level of the product that came from Japan at the time and that they still continue to produce until this day. I was entertained throughout the entire match and the high spots were amazing. The brutal kicks these two men took to the face were either amazing works or extremely dangerous. The crowd loved the match, as did I. This bout between The great Sasuke and Taka Michinoku is must see “Sports Entertainment”.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Mankind are at it again and this time outside in the back lot. Mankind bangs Hunter’s head off a bus before Chyna could grab hold of his arms. Helmsley soon unleashes a few punches on Foley that don’t appear to be pulled. Hunter would throw Mankind into some beer kegs before breaking a shovel over his back. They would find them self on top of some solid wood boxes and Triple H’s Pedigree would be countered. Mankind would ring Hunter’s head off a bus one more time before he is taken away by Gerald Brisco. The segment would end with a nice shot at Helmsley’s bloodied face. The way they continued this fight through the show was well done and would set them up for a steel cage match at SummerSlam 1997.
Vince and the boys would explain to use how Ahmed Johnson was originally supposed to get a Title shot here but succumbed to a knee injury in a tussle between the Nation of Domination and the biker gang themed, D.O.A. Vince was really pushing the gang angles here as they would be ever present in the coming months. I always liked Ahmed as a kid and it seemed like the company did too. Its a shame he was so injury prone.
Next we get a Vader promo where Doc asks, a strawberry blonde, Paul Bearer about the allegations of Undertaker killing his parents. Some strange shit I know. Bearer would go on about Taker murdering his whole family and some other nonsense about a mirror. This promo is the and goofy storyline is the only downside I found to this whole event thus far. We are introduced to the events leading to this match starting at The Royal Rumble. This is where we see Bearer betray The Undertaker with an urn shot to Taker’s head. Vader would land the Vader Bomb next and get the three count.
The challenger, Vader, makes his way down the aisle, accompanied by Paul Bearer first. This is the first real heat we are hearing here as Vader enter the arena and ring. The crowd goes nuts though when the bell sounds and The Heavyweight Champion, The Undertaker’s theme begins to play. This is a classic Taker entrance with the smoke, slow walk to the ring and purple lights. I found myself enjoying the whole mystique it presented, just as much as I did as an eleven year old watching this. When The Phenom hits the stairs and raises his arms “making” the lights come on, Vader has a truly spooked look on his face. Bearer is shown cowering in fear as Taker hands the title over and the bell sounds.
The Undertaker is first out of the gate with his lariat punches, a big clothesline and a leg drop, of the Hulk Hogan variety, for our first two count. The Deadman hit a big splash soon after that draws a positive reaction from the fans. Take goes to the top rope for his famous tight rope chop that if I don’t see in a Taker match, I am definitely disappointed. Another two count. Vader starts to gain some momentum after a splash, that Undertaker does his trademark sit-up from, but Vader is all over him with punches that are certainly making hard contact. It is been said by many Superstars that Vader didn’t pull his punches and when he hit you, he hit you. We see a sidehead lock applied by Vader next that is the only dull spot in the match and was probably used to regain their breath. The crowd rally behind Taker and he wiggles free and misses a big boot, that Vader still sells. I think he realized he had missed because he lands the next one and it sends Vader crashing over the ropes to the outside.
Vader reverses Undertaker’s Irish whip to the stair and Paul Bearer is done being scared and is now talking trash. We get some good back and forth but the crowd is electric and committed to the fight anfter Taker comes off the top rope for a clothesline. Another two count. For a 400 plus pound man, Vader takes another hard hump off an uppercut that sends him over the top rope and crashing to the outside. We get another trademark Undertaker move next, His backflip ring exit. He goes after Paul Bearer with his patented slow walk but Vader uses it to his advantage to blindside Undertaker. As the ref is telling Vader to re-enter the ring, Bearer goes to work on Taker with his shoe. Jim Ross would say “if the heel don’t get him the smell would”. Good ole JR. Vader and Bearer are getting great heat at this point when Vader hits a Vader Bomb for his first false finish. As Undertaker starts his rally back the camera is visibly shaking and the noise is at an insane level. Vader goes to work with some more of those big punches but Taker counters and is unloading some of his own punches. Watching these punches one thing is for sure, Undertaker didn’t sell a punch like Vader did, most likely because there was nothing to sell with Vaders, as they were real. The Phenom goes for a chokeslam but Vader counters with a low blow kick. Vader comes off the rope but is scooped into the Tombstone position. The spot next is a botched reversal from Vader on the Tombstone that ended up looking better than what the original called spot would have. The place is again shaking as Vader is on the ropes for another Vader Bomb but Taker lands a low blow of his own and that sets up for a chokeslam off the second rope. 1,2… kick out. Another chokeslam and another false finish that has the crowd on their toes. We see the “Throat Slit'” from The Undertaker with his thumb next and we get a successful Tombstone Piledriver on Vader this time and the classic Undertaker cover for the pinfall. This was another great match on the card and it didn’t disappoint at all. Vince tells as Taker is celebrating that we may see Undertaker’s brother at SummerSlam. I usually enjoy the bad matches, as its always fun to point out flaws, but this match, along with the PPV so far, have had few if any. Maybe the main event will have some…
There is a quick clip of more praise, from the Canadian fans, for the Hart Foundation along with more talk of a mile long line to meet Brett. Next is a quick promo vignette show the gang-style warfare, that has been present at the time. It starts, “The events surrounding the squared circle of late have made chaos and mayhem” an continues to show the feud between Crush’s DOA, Farooq’s Nation and the Savio Vega led, Los Baricuas. It would end with “nothing pales in comparison to the feud between Steve Austin and The Hart Foundation”. They hype the Canadian versus USA angle here, rightfully so as it created great crowd heat, and show the event leading to this match. Another great promo.
Doc has a quick spot with Austin’s stable were every gets some microphone work in. But when the mic comes to Stone Cold he just walks out and Finke introduces us to The Farmer’s Daughters, who will be singing the Canadian National Anthem. The Farmer’s Daughters best charting song was titled “Cornfields and Cadillacs”. By the title alone I’m sure it’s terrible. This was well done as it created heat with the people tuning in in the States. We are introduced to The Premier of the Providence of Alberta, Ralph Kline. No idea here. Next are The Hart Family matriarch and patriarch, Stu and Helen. The place pops for the Founder of Stampede Wresting, a promotion that was a Canadian staple until Vince bought it in 1985.
Goldust makes his way to the ring first and receives mostly boos from the crowd. Ken Shamrock, who’s next, receives some decent pop but the Legion of Doom get an even better response from the fans. But when we hear that glass break and Stone Cold Steve Austin enters the arena for the first time, the place is on fire with heat from the crowd. As he hits each turnbuckle the temperature surely rises. As Brian Pillman enters, waving his arms to pump the crowd, the buzz starts to gain. As Vince would say, “The Big Nasty Rhyno”, Jim Neidhart enters next and as each member enters the arena the rumble grows and grows in anticipation of their hero, “The Hitman”. European Champion The British Bulldog, With Miss Calgary in hand, follows and Owen Hart is next, with his Slammys in hand and his IC belt around his waist. When the high pitch squeal of Brett Hart’s music comes on the place is electric.. This kind of response you will be hard pressed to find and is something you should watch as a wrestling fan. They make their way to the ring led by Brett, as they waited on the ramp for each other. Brett would put his glasses on his mother, a nice gesture from the heel.
Austin and Brett are on the ring first and are having a nice stare off. Here we hear JR mention that there are camera crews filming ringside for an upcoming Hitman documentary. This would go on to become Wrestling With Shadows. I would recommend this to any fan of from wrestling at the time as it offers some inside going-ons of the time. Brett would have to pick his spots in this fight as he was recovering from knee injury and his first one would set the pace for the fight. Austin lands some blows and is soon stomping a mudhole in the Hitman. If you listen carefully, you can hear Austin say “Fuck Off” to the Canadian fans. The crowd is giving the heat right back.
Everyone gets a chance to make an in ring appearance next, as the tags are spread around to give all the guys some spotlight. They go back and forth here shifting momentum and the crowd is reacting to every move, be it a suplex or a knee to the midsection. When Pillman comes into the ring we hear Jim Ross mention his run with the CFL team, The Calgary Stampeders. Every move Pillman does in the match is some kind of cheat tactic. Be it an eye rake, spiiting in someones face or breaking up a pinfall. He does an amazing job selling the fact that he is “The Loose Cannon”. We get some more hot tags and momentum shifts. The crowd delivers their first dose of “Austin Sucks” chants that rumble the place. The first gang fight breaks out after the Hitman hangs Goldust in his corner and the boys go to work with their boots. When the fight breaks out the crowd is on their toes and the place is electric. The crowd is in this match 100 percent and erupts once again when Owen nails the missle dropkick from the top and does a kip up. His hype is cut short when the Legion of Doom about take his head off with the vicious Doomsday Device. Anvil stops the count ans our second gang fight breaks out. Austin is going to work on the knee of Owen, as he is pelted by ten dollar beers from the fans, when Bruce Hart grabs him from the crowd and exchange blows. The crowd heat is at an all time high and the “Austin Sucks” chants are in full effect.
Owen is led to the back as the match continues. Austin hits his first Stunner on Pillman soon after but Brett grabs his foot and leads him to the ring post were he goes to work with a fire extinguisher before applying a hanging figure four. The referees soon force Austin to the back and the back and fourth continues with some pop and nothing really worth noting, except a Powerslam from Davey Boy of the top turnbuckle that looked jarring. He gets the 2 as we see Austin limp back. We get a double hot tag next from Brett and Austin. The pair go back and fourth before Hart has the Sharpshooter applied and Animal breaks it up. This has the place shaking again. I cannot emphasis enough how much the crowd was into it. Must see stuff here. Austin applies a Sharpshooter of his own when we see Owen Hart limp back out to save his brother. Owen makes the hot tag but Austin sends him tumbling outside with a clothesline over the top rope and landing in front of his family. The top comes off the place when Stone Cold grabs Stu Hart but Bruce interrupts and is soon over the barrier brawling with Steve. Another battle breaks out as Austin gets back in the ring. But Owen makes the roll up, using Austin tights and keeping them Heels by doing so, ang gets the three. At this point the place just explodes. There is another tussel with all member in the ring, Hart family included, before the police break it up. Austin goes ballistic before he is cuffed and escorted out. The show goes off air with a nice moment of all the Hart family in the ring. This would be a highlight of the family as they are all here at this time.
This way an amazing PPV and was record breaking in all revenue. Dave Meltzer would rate the event high with the matches receiving 3,4,3.25 and 4.25 star ratings. I actually agree with Dave here, but think the last match could of gotten a 5 based of crowd heat alone. I would highly suggest watching this event.
Next week we will be taking a look at Badd Blood: In Your House that took place on October 5, 1997 with Shawn Michaels taking on the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match!
Chairshot Classics: What I Watched #16 – ECW Guilty As Charged 1999
Breaking up the 2018 time travel with a much deeper dive! Harry goes back to some prime ECW with Guilty As Charged 1999!
Greetings, salutations and welcome back. Harry here once again with another edition of ‘What I Watched’. As the calendar year turns to 1999 on my watch-through of all things ‘big three’ wrestling, I covered Starrcade 1998 in an earlier edition of WIW. I figured since this is probably the last year where all three major companies are relevant (at least at the start), it could be fun to compare and contrast how I feel about the respective PPVs when compared to some of the independent wrestling I’ve been covering recently. Or even going back to the PROGRESS or Impact Wrestling shows that I’ve covered before. I am fully aware there are going to be some bad shows in 1999. But there is also a lot to talk about in a drastically changing industry. Let’s do this, shall we?
ECW is in flux as talent losses haven’t yet gotten to what they would become but names like Sandman, Mikey Whipwreck, Bam Bam Bigelow and others are no longer with the company. To make matters worse, the ECW-FMW relationship is falling apart now as well as a Chris Candido and Sunny (sorry, Tammy Lynn Sytch) no-show of a scheduled FMW appearance. Paul Heyman himself is the first person we see telling us the card is going to change…how much does it change? The WayBack Machine takes us to January 10th, 1999 in Kissimmee, FL as it’s time for ECW to be Guilty as Charged!
What I Watched #16
ECW Guilty as Charged 1999
Millenium Theatre in Kissimmee, FL
Runtime: 2:40:30 (Peacock)
Commentary By: Joey Styles (PBP)
- Match 1: Axl Rotten/Ballz Mahoney win 3 team tag elimination match, eliminating Little Guido/Tracy Smothers @ 10:44 (Danny Doring/Roadkill eliminated @ 8:15)
- Match 2: Yoshihiro Tajiri pins Super Crazy, dragon suplex @ 11:37
- Match 3: Psycho Sid Vicious pins John Kronus, powerbomb @ 1:31
- Match 4: Bubba Ray and D’Von Dudley def. New Jack/Spike Dudley, both Dudleyz pin Spike @ 10:05
- Match 5: ECW TV Title- Rob Van Dam pins Lance Storm, bridged German suplex @ 17:46
- Match 6: Justin Credible pins Tommy Dreamer, That’s Incredible on ladder @ 18:44
- Match 7: ECW Heavyweight Title- Taz defeats Shane Douglas © by KO, Tazmission @ 22:15
Three Team Tag Elimination Match
Started as a straight up 2 vs. 2, but within the first two minutes, Ballz and Axl (Axl making his return to the company after the passing of his grandmother) join the frey and it becomes your traditional ECW three team brawl. Nothing really stands out here but the overall work is good enough for what the match is supposed to be. The elimination of Doring and Roadkill is well done, as a FBI double-team fishermanbuster looks really cool and gets a decisive win for what was to be the original match. They do give the win to Axl and Ballz here, which I get given the fact they are a popular act, but I personally think that Guido and Tracy were a better team during the time frame. (**½)
Super Crazy vs. Tajiri
Yes, it’s the feud that never ends. But this is where it begins. Both men were relative newcomers to the American wrestling scene with both having had limited exposure on WWF TV (both were in the Light Heavyweight title tournament). This is a good match but not a great match and honestly, I think timing is the issue here. Eleven minutes may seem like a lot but knowing what these two would be capable of down the road once there is more of a fan and time investment into their matches, it ends up being a good starting point but probably not the blow away match that ECW was expecting to deliver here. (***)
John Kronus vs. Mystery Opponent
So, ECW fans are notorious for their belief that the “big oaf” style of the WWF and WCW wouldn’t work in ECW. Obviously, they are wrong. Guys like Big Dick Dudley and 911 became massive fan favorites due to their look, not anything they could do in a wrestling ring. You can add another name to that list, as Psycho Sid makes his ECW debut here (following an introduction by the ‘Judge’ Jeff Jones) and absolutely kicks Kronus’ ass in less than two minutes. Sid was never anything special in the ring but he is one of the more charismatic big men in wrestling history so the cult-like following is easy to understand. Too short to rate, but fun for what it was. (X)
Dudleyz vs. New Jack/Spike Dudley
Sixteen year old Harry getting into ECW was a huge Joel Gertner fan. Thirty seven year old Harry going back and watching these shows is an even bigger fan of Joel Gertner. Granted, his shtick is incredibly juvenile but sometimes, you just want to laugh…
The match is your standard ECW garbage brawl. Most New Jack matches definitely have a similarity to them that does not hold up well for re-watching. I will openly admit to being a Spike Dudley mark and he does well taking an ass whooping from Bubba Ray. The Dudleyz definitely have their moments in ECW (the best is still to come in my opinion) but this isn’t one of their best performances. I will give props to New Jack for taking 3D on the ramp, even if it doesn’t come across the cleanest. About what you’d expect, but nothing more. (**)
TV Title- Rob Van Dam © vs. Lance Storm
Rob Van Dam vs. Masato Tanaka was the originally scheduled match and I think it could have been fun. However, Tanaka apparently has visa issues which prevent him from being able to get into the US for the show and thus ECW has to pivot quickly. I do have to give credit to Lance Storm for his pre-match promo here. For someone who is not known as one of the better talkers in wrestling history, he does a really good job explaining the situation with the 3 way that was supposed to happen (Storm vs. Spike vs. Jerry Lynn (cracked pelvis)) and then calling out Rob Van Dam since his opponent wasn’t there either. Storm has a really good closing line for the promo too: “I’m not the ‘Whole F’n Show’, but I am the best damn part of it’. That is one of the lines that sticks with you and you remember it.
The match itself is very good but not great. It is better than anything else on the show, so perhaps I’m rating it on a slight curve for that. Van Dam’s selling is sporadic but to be fair, Van Dam’s selling is always sporadic. The biggest thing for me is that despite that, they still keep an impressive pace and the match is by and large clean. There is a super weak chair shot by Storm (which the crowd gives him a good ration of shit over), but they do manage to turn that crowd around for the finishing sequence. A little surprised by the choice of finish, but I imagine that has something to do with telling the idea that Storm got caught and wasn’t soundly defeated like most of Van Dam’s prior opponents had been. (***½)
Stairway to Hell- Justin Credible vs. Tommy Dreamer
The problem for Credible in ECW is that Paul wanted you to believe that Justin was this huge deal but truthfully, the booking never actually treated him as such. Yeah, he won…A LOT…but more often than not, it was almost treated as an afterthought. He very rarely won the big matches on his own and while I get that as a heel, you want to give him that sense of dickishness, as a wrestling fan eventually you have to make it look like the dude could stand up on his own. Dreamer has long been a favorite of mine, even if he has overstayed his welcome in the ring on occasion. You know going in that win or lose, Tommy will bust his ass to give you as good a match as he is capable of.
As for this match, it never reaches that next level that you expect a gimmicked semi main event of a PPV to reach. It’s not actively bad or anything (in fact, probably up there for Credible’s best match in ECW to date) but with the stipulation and the gaga around it, it feels like there was so much more it could have been. The finish comes off really flat as well as it renders the whole point of the stipulation useless and only serves to put more heat on Credible by way of Funk. (**½)
Heavyweight Title- Shane Douglas © vs. Taz
So, I’ll be a little nicer to this match then some other reviewers I’ve seen for a couple reasons. It completely accomplishes the goal that Heyman set out for it. Taz comes out of the match looking like a world beater. Douglas comes out of the match as the face of the company who “went out on his shield” as the old phrase goes. Sabu looks like a lunatic and a viable threat to take the title at any time he damn well pleases. Candido comes off as a huge dick and sticks the final knife in Douglas’ back for the end scene. So the story telling is magnificent.
The match itself? At least a good five to seven minutes too long for that story. I get wanting that epic storytelling to fold out but when you guys are down and low on ideas, it might not be the worst idea to take it home. The other issue is that by trying to serve so many masters, Heyman causes the main event to end up being epically overbooked. Granted, that is an ECW trademark but for what was to be the crowning moment for Taz, I don’t think the 73rd Airborne needed to be a part of it. Sabu could have just as easily returned post match to set up a run with Taz. Or Candido could have turned on Douglas post match to give him a direction going forward since Taz would be occupied with Sabu. I’m not saying it completely takes away the moment but it does make it mean less than it could or should have in the overall scheme of things. (**)
THE FINAL REACTION
- Best Match/Moment: Rob Van Dam vs. Lance Storm, although I do think their match at the first ECW PPV ‘Barely Legal’ (which I imagine I’ll eventually do) is better
- Worst Match/Moment: The main event. What could have been an awesome moment for the ‘Human Suplex Machine’ and the biggest ass kicker in the company is ruined with a boring crowd brawl (to the home viewer) and a couple of run-ins that either end up actively taking away from it.
- Overall Show Score: 5.5/10
- MVP: Joey Styles is the best thing about this show with his one man performance. There is a reason he was such a major influence on what I did as an announcer.
It’s not a bad show. It’s just not a particulary good one either. And while ECW would put out worse, it only barely outdoes Starrcade 98 to avoid the worst show of the return thus far.
So, where do we go from here? January of 1999 had no chill. The very next Sunday would see the first WCW outing of 1999, called Souled Out. The Sunday after that would be the 1999 edition of the Royal Rumble. I’m going to hit both of those but as a fair warning, I’ll probably try to mix an Independent show from 2018 in the middle of them. Hope to see you guys at Souled Out. And feel free to check out my archives by clicking on my name at the top of this review. Thanks for reading, everyone.
What I Watched #10b: All IN 2018
Harry decided to abridge his All In write up and bring us the blast from the past while he’s on vacation! With only a few weeks until All Out, reminiscing could be fun!
Greetings, salutations and what nots. At the time you are reading this, I will be away from home on vacation with my amazing girlfriend. In the interest of not want to lose everyone’s attention in the downtime, I decided to go back to one of my earlier reviews and reformat it to match the current style while giving people who may have not been interested due to the length of the previous review a chance to see what they may have missed as well as share my thoughts on a show that had quite the buzz when it happened.
I mention in my review of AAW’s Destination Chicago 2018 (full review available in my archive by clicking my name at the top of this review) that everyone was in Chicago for this particular show. Obviously, though it was presented as part of a deal with ROH (and to some extent New Japan), this ends up being what many consider the launching point for AEW. So join me once again as the WayBack Machine takes us to suburban Chicago on September 1st 2018 and we revisit ‘All In’ here on ‘What I Watched’.
What I Watched #10-B
ROH/NJPW/Friends ‘All In’ 2018
Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, IL
Runtime: 4:45:24 (45:27 on YouTube for the preshow, 3:57:57 on Fite.TV/HonorClub/NJPW World/traditional PPV for the main show)
Commentary By: Excalibur (PBP), Don Callis (Color), Ian Riccaboni (PBP/Color)
- Match #1: Zero Hour- Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky def. Jay/Mark Briscoe, Kazarian pins Mark with a powerslam counter to the Doomsday Device @ 12:35
- Match #2: Zero Hour- Flip Gordon wins the ‘Over the Budget Battle Royal’ @ 17:11, last eliminating Bully Ray
- Match #3: Matt Cross pins Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Shooting Star Press @ 10:07
- Match #4: Christopher Daniels pins Stephen Amell, Best Moonsault Ever @ 11:45
- Match #5: Tessa Blanchard wins four way, pinning Chelsea Green with the Buzzsaw DDT @ 12:43 of a match that also involved Britt Baker and Madison Rayne
- Match #6: NWA World Heavyweight Title- Cody Rhodes pins Nick Aldis ©, sitdown on sunset flip attempt @ 22:03
- Match #7: Adam Page pins Joey Janela, Rite of Passage off a ladder through a table @ 20:09
- Match #8: ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © pins Flip Gordon, Lethal Injection @ 14:25
- Match #9: Kenny Omega pins Pentagon Jr., One Winged Angel @ 17:48
- Match #10: Kazuchika Okada pins Marty Scurll, Rainmaker #2 @ 26:06
- Match #11: Kota Ibushi/Matt Jackson/Nick Jackson def. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio Jr., Matt pins Bandido after the Meltzer Driver @ 11:44
Zero Hour- SCU (Frankie Kazarian/Scorpio Sky) vs. The Briscoes (Jay/Mark)
*Hell of a way to kick things off and the exact kind of match that you want to put out to people in order to get those on the fence to order the show. I don’t know about the $50 price tag that the PPV had, but this would have been enough for me to sign up for Honor Club for $10 to watch the show at least. I’m curious if ROH ever followed up on SCU pinning the ROH tag champions here. I’d imagine so even though the end is near for Kazarian, Scorpio and Daniels in ROH with AEW looming on the horizon. (***½)
Over the Budget Battle Royal
*It was fun for what it was. Maybe a little overcrowded, but there are several people who have got to make a name for themselves off this match. Marko Stunt is all over Game Changer Wrestling (and got a run in AEW as part of Jurassic Express) and Jordynne Grace, who got herself a deal with Impact, being two to spring immediately. I don’t rate battle royals but it was entertaining, which is all you can ask for sometimes. (X)
Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) vs. Matt Cross
*Good little opener here for the main show. My misgivings on the rope hanging piledriver aside (MJF calls it the Heatseeker), they worked together well without throwing too much against the wall and burning out the crowd for later. I had hoped Cross would get a chance with AEW but we know that doesn’t happen, unfortunately. MJF does become one of the biggest creations AEW has up until this point, but no-one is really sure where his status lies with the company at present. Strong start to open the show and really happy for a genuinely good dude in Matt Cross to have gotten this opportunity. (***)
Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell (special guest referee: Jerry Lynn)
*When this show first happened, I heard a myriad of opinions on this match. Some thought it was really good, others thought it stunk. I fall somewhere in the middle here. Amell, for an actor, put in a pretty good performance here. I’m not saying he should do this full time or anything, but it’s not like he embarrassed himself either. Daniels had his own hiccups here as well though. So the blame doesn’t fall solely on Stephen. Overall, I’d call it above average given who Daniels’ opponent was. But I know first hand that Daniels is capable of much, much more. (**½)
Britt Baker (bay bay) vs. Madison Rayne vs. Chelsea Green vs. Tessa Blanchard
*Not sure if it was just me but the finish looks a little suspect. Tessa getting the win did make sense though at the time (I’d imagine this result changes with benefit of hindsight). As for the match, they worked hard and it by and large came together well. It definitely lost its way a bit towards the end, so I have to dock it a bit for that. All in all, I’d say good effort from the ladies involved and I’d even put it just slightly above the Daniels and Amell match it just followed. (***)
NWA World Heavyweight Title- Nick Aldis © vs. Cody (Don’t Call Him Rhodes)
*A very good match but a couple of little things keep it from the next level for me. First, the blatantly missed superkick. I’m not really as upset about that one as some people may be because I get it, shit happens in the moment. The blade job however, I can’t forgive. It was terribly obvious. I get the intent behind it to help Cody fight from underneath. I have no issues with blood in general (hell, I watch death matches). But if you can’t do the blade job more realistically there, it shouldn’t have been done. It doesn’t really factor into the match in the grand scheme of things. Also while I personally don’t mind the methodical pace, I do know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I dug the match as a whole though. And props to Brandi for eating it on that flying elbow drop. (****)
‘Chicago Street Fight’- Adam Page vs. Joey Janela
*This match won’t be for everyone. Some people like the old school ECW brawl and some people don’t. I do when it’s well executed but there seemed to be quite a bit of downtime in this one. Honestly, to me…Penelope Ford came out of this match looking like the biggest star of the three. All in all, I’d say good for what it was but nothing I’d probably want to go back and re-watch either. The finish was dope though. Janela is a crazy person for taking it. (***)
ROH Heavyweight Title- Jay Lethal © vs. Flip Gordon
*Let’s not kid ourselves. There was no way that they were going to change the ROH title on a non-ROH show. As much as they enjoyed having the belt defended, this defense was a lock for Lethal regardless of the opponent. Flip getting the match itself is the story here and his performance justifies it. I’d call it good but again, it’s nothing that you’ll want to re-watch again, despite the impressive agility of Gordon and the sheer nostalgia of Lethal busting out the ‘Black Machismo’ shtick again. (***½)
Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr.
*Your mileage may vary for sure on this one. Everyone heaped a ton of praise on it and while it is very good, it does not raise to the level of excellence for me. The ridiculously spotty selling and the absolute disrespect to some of the most protected moves in wrestling cause me to take an issue. I do think they worked really well together and the styles meshed a lot better than I thought they might. But there was nowhere near the emotion here that came through clear as day on the Cody and Aldis match earlier. From a pure work rate aspect, it’s the best on the show so far. But personally, I prefer Cody and Aldis to Omega and Pentagon Jr. (****)
Kazuchika Okada vs. Marty Scurll
*A little long. But they told a pretty strong story throughout.At the time of this writing, I had made it no secret that I was not sold on Kazuchika Okada as a draw in the US. Clearly, I was wrong. He had the entire crowd in the palm of his and Scurll’s hands for basically the entirety of this contest and it was one that I think both raised Scurll’s standing in the world of wrestling and confirmed what many people already feel about Okada. That being said, it’s a better match if you chop off five to eight minutes from it. (***½)
Young Bucks/Kota Ibushi vs. Bandido/Fenix/Rey Mysterio
*Clearly much shorter than it was probably supposed to be, they packed a ton of action into these almost twelve minutes. I’d have been curious to see what was possible with a full run time but with Rey already gone (he had just resigned with the WWE), there would be no chance to run this back. I think it was a good way to send everyone home happy and get all the marquee moments in, but overall it just ends up being a spotfest fluff match rather than anything that’ll be strongly remembered as standing out down the road. (***½)
THE FINAL REACTION
There is a lot to get through here. As you guys saw above, the totality of both Zero Hour and All In run almost five hours. While not all of that is well spent, there is more than enough to sink your teeth into here, even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a traditional ‘Independent Wrestling’ fan. There are a couple of real good spotfests if you liked the ECW/WCW luchador/cruiserweight style. There’s a tremendous call-back to the old NWA days with how Nick Aldis vs. Cody plays out. There is a interesting take on the old ‘hardcore’ styles that both ECW and the WWF used to enjoy presenting in Janela vs the ‘Hangman’. You even get the chance to see the celebrities that get trotted out for the big shows in places like the WWE and Impact Wrestling. Does it all work? No. But a good majority of it does. As I said, it’s almost five hours. But by and large, it’s five hours well spent. Call it an 8.5 and while there is room for improvement (as with everything), a very strong start for Cody and the Bucks as promoters.
Best Match/Moment: I’ll go moment here and go with the obvious of Cody getting to hold the same NWA title his father did in what was an NWA stronghold town. It’s cool to see the torch passed like this.
Worst Match/Moment: The fact that the main event with arguably six of the best wrestlers in the world at the time ends up getting the second shortest amount of time.
Overall Show Score: 8.5/10
MVP: I’m going to give this one to Cody, both for the role he played as a producer/agent for the show as well as the performance in the match with Aldis as well. A good night for young Mr. Runnels.
And that wraps up the first of the ‘retro’ look backs at previous ‘What I Watched’ reviews. When I return, I will be coming back with ECW’s Guilty as Charged 1999, the first pay-per-view of the last year of the 1900s. Following that, I know the WWF’s Royal Rumble 1999 is on the list. I’d imagine I’ll get to WCW’s Souled Out 1999 and when I do return to the Indies, promotions like IWA-MS, CHIKARA, Freelance, BEYOND, WWR and so many others are within my potentially planned scope. Hope to see you down the road and may you all enjoy quality time with those you care. See you next time and thanks for reading, everyone.
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