Throwback Thursday is back to jaunt through the archives of the award-winning WWE Network. TBT goes “Extreme” this week as we revisit the Extreme Championship Wrestling Pay-Per-View Hardcore Heaven ’97, which went down (unbelievably) 20 years ago today!
By the summer of 1997 ECW was blowing up in a big way. Guest spots on World Wrestling Federation TV—namely Monday Night RAW—as well as tape trading, the Apter mags, dirt sheets, and wrestling “hotlines” led to a perfect storm of sorts. There wasn’t a diehard fan in North America, whether they liked it or not, who didn’t know at least the bare minimum about ECW. So, as with any cult favorite that suddenly goes mainstream, ECW was caught between loyalty to the fanbase that got them to the summit while simultaneously appealing to the new fans tuning in for the very first time.
No event in ECW history encapsulates that moment better than Hardcore Heaven ’97. New fans could see the end of the Jerry Lawler/Tommy Dreamer feud (though not the end of the WWF/ECW war) while diehard fans had the Funk/Sabu/Douglas main event throwback of the match that put ECW on the map on February 5, 1994.
Coming a mere 8-days after one of the most talked about matches of the era, the “Born to Be Wired” war that saw Sabu defeat Terry Funk for the ECW World title, ECW was at the top of their game when they headed to Ft. Lauderdale for Hardcore Heaven ’97. So let’s see just how good this show was and how well it’s held up after all these years.
With their first PPV and all prior editions of Hardcore TV available for you to enjoy today on the Network, context isn’t an issue. An obvious note must be made of the numerous edits to music throughout the show as well as overdubbed commentary and hit and miss censoring. If music edits bug you then this event, at least on the Network, isn’t for you.
ECW Hardcore Heaven ’97 (WATCH)
Date: August 17, 1997 – Location: War Memorial Auditorium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Attendance: 1,950 – PPV Buys: 0.21 (>74,000 homes)
Commentator: Joey Styles – Interviews: Joey Styles
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
ECW World Heavyweight Champion: Sabu
ECW World Tag Team Champions: The Dudley Boyz (Buh Buh Ray & D-Von)
ECW World Tag Team Champions: Taz
The show opens with Joey Styles in the ring welcoming us to the show and attempting to talk about the main event when “Ravishing” Rick Rude, who had just re-signed with WWF days before this event, comes to the ring. Fans chant “you sold out” to Rude as Styles begins running Rude down for turning his back on ECW and joining Shawn Michaels on WWF TV before handing Rude the mic and walking out of the ring. Rude runs down Joey Styles and the fans before introducing Chris Candido.
As Candido enters the ring Tod Gordon comes out with a few referees and tells Rude he threw away “a lucrative two-year contract as a commentator just so you could be a gun for hire.” Gordon tells Rude that what he does away from ECW is Rude’s business but what Rude does in ECW is Gordon’s business. Gordon gives Rude to the count of ten to get out of the ring or risk forfeiting Candido’s World TV title match. Rude argues until Gordon starts the count. Rude then leaves the ring, and ECW, cussing Tod Gordon on his way out.
Next we get the usual ECW TV opening before going right to the ring for the opening title match.
— ECW World Television Championship (WATCH – 8:33)
“No Gimmicks Needed” Chris Candido vs. Taz(c)
The psychology in this one takes some time to develop and isn’t all that great when it does show up. I like both of these guys, but this match is just not one of their best. In the end Candido sets Taz on the top rope and turns his back to mock the champion. Taz takes advantage, slips in the Tazmission, and scores the tapout win at 11:52 to retain the ECW TV title. A good opener for the show but not a career highlight for either guy.
WINNER and STILL ECW World Television Champion, Taz (Submission, 11:52)
After replays Styles thanks the fans and puts themselves over for thanking the fans before plugging the next ECW PPV, November 2 Remember ’97.
Next we see footage of Rob Van Dam and Sabu taking out the Insane Clown Posse before the PPV went live.
— “ECW Revenge Match” (WATCH – 26:29)
Spike Dudley vs. Bab Bam Bigelow
Despite a quick start by Spike and some hope spots, this match is all Bam Bam. Though it’s a squash the match features a number of memorable moments including Spike being tossed into the crowd from the ring and a crushing powerbomb. Eventually Bam Bam gets Spike in the ring, destroys Spike with a piledriver and ends the match with a beautiful moonsault for the pin at 5:05. After the match paramedics come to Spike’s aid and a guy with a mop tries to sponge up Spike’s blood from the canvas!
WINNER is Bam Bam Bigelow (Pin, 5:05)
Next we see footage of Sandman saving ICP during their pre-PPV beat down. Sabu and RVD clean Sandman’s clock with a chair before finishing Sandman with their stereo top rope attack. We see paramedics loading Sandman into an ambulance and being driven off.
— “Monday Night Wrestling Match” (WATCH – 38:55)
“Mr. Monday Night” Rob Van Dam w/Bill Alfonso vs. Al Snow
Al Snow, who had been floundering for some time in the WWF, had just returned to ECW as part of the WWF/ECW talent trades at the “Born to Be Wired” event. RVD, meanwhile, hadn’t been seen on WWF TV since June, though he successfully rode the “heat wave” through summer. In respect to the match, it’s a back-and-forth affair that I think is one of the best matches of the night. These kind of new lion/old lion matches were staples of ECW and key components to getting younger talent over. In the end Al Snow looks to have RVD where he wants him when RVD connects with the Van Daminator for the pin at 13:44.
WINNER is “Mr. Monday Night” Rob Van Dam w/Bill Alfonso (Pin, 13:44)
Up next Joey Styles interviews Lance Wright “live” from the “EXTREME CHOPPER” which is supposedly following Sandman’s ambulance to the hospital. Or is it?! Turns out Sandman stole the ambulance and is trying to find his way back to the War Memorial Auditorium, which apparently he can’t find after having driven to the James L. Knight Center in Miami by mistake. Wright blathers seemingly forever until tossing it back to Styles.
Next Jerry Lawler cuts a promo about Vince McMahon telling him he had guts to show up for the ECW PPV alone. “King” says he won’t be alone, that all the WWF superstars are with him in spirit.
— ECW World Tag Team Championship – “USWA vs. ECW Champions vs. Champions Match” (WATCH – 1:01:47)
USWA World Tag Team Champions PG-13 (J.C. Ice & Wolfie D) vs. The Dudley Boyz (Buh Buh Ray & D-Von)(c) w/Joel Gertner, Sign Guy Dudley, Big Dick Dudley, & Jenna Jameson
USWA was at death’s door at this point. Though PG-13 is said to be USWA Tag Team Champions they had actually just lost the straps to Flash Flanagan and Steven Dunn 9 days before this event in Memphis. PG-13 would regain the titles on August 31, 1997 and become the final USWA World Tag Team Champions. Truth be told, I can’t stand PG-13 and never could. The match itself is, in my opinion, just short of terrible, featuring a number of “Memphis spots” that are about as trendy as sock garters. After a brief PG-13 comeback the Dudley Boyz end it with the 3-D on Wolfie D to retain the ECW World Tag Team title at 10:59.
WINNER and STILL ECW World Tag Team Champions, The Dudley Boyz (Buh Buh Ray & D-Von)(c) w/Joel Gertner, Sign Guy Dudley, Big Dick Dudley, & Jenna Jameson (Pin, 10:59)
Next we get more coverage from the “EXTREME CHOPPER” and Sandman’s inability to find the arena. Lance Wright says that Sandman stopped to buy a carton of cigarettes and an “ice cold beverage”.
In the arena the lights are out. When they come back up Jerry Lawler is in the ring cutting a promo on those buying the PPV at home. Lawler plugs the next WWF PPV Ground Zero, saying the fans would at least get their money’s worth with the WWF show. Lawler then repeats the same promo from earlier virtually verbatim.
— “WWF vs. ECW Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:23:43)
Jerry “The King” Lawler vs. Tommy Dreamer w/Beulah McGillicutty
This one is just a brawl from the start. Lawler blades about 6-seconds into the match and spends the first half of the fight getting beat from pillar to post all over the War Memorial Auditorium.
In the ring Lawler takes command and beats the bejabbers out of Lawler, eventually tying Dreamer to the bottom rope by his neck and beating on him. The referee goes down late and the lights go out. Rick Rude suddenly appears to assist Jerry Lawler, but the crowd is all but dead for the swerve. The lights go out a second time and Jake Roberts shows up to a big reaction for the ECW crowd. Roberts takes Dreamer out with a DDT before hitting the short-arm clothesline on Lawler. After some more fighting the lights go out a third time. When they come back up Sunny is in the ring and sprays hairspray in Dreamer’s eyes. Beulah comes in, takes down Sunny, and we get a cat fight. Lawler goes after Beulah when she mule kicks “King” in the pills. Dreamer grabs Lawler by the royal grapes before ending it with the DDT at 19:02.
I was never a fan of this angle and I’m even less a fan of this overbooked nonsense. With literally nothing on the line, not ownership nor careers, this was a pointlessly overblown blow-off. At least the live crowd liked it.
WINNER is Tommy Dreamer w/Beulah McGillicutty (Pin, 19:02)
Next up Joey Styles talks about having the rematch of the big “three-way dance” that “put ECW on the map” (told ya) from February 5, 1994 before airing a short vignette.
We get yet another update from Lance Wright in the “EXTREME CHOPPER”. It takes forever for the “live” shot to start and for Wright to start talking. Apparently Sandman has finally found his way back to the War Memorial Auditorium. And not a moment too soon. Sandman bursts out of the ambulance and starts swinging his cane against police and ECW officials, which he somehow had with him the entire time.
We abruptly leave the scene in the back to jump to the ring for the main event. Douglas comes to the ring and tells the others to get to the ring.
Now, while most of the overdubbed music is reasonable and honestly not too bad, Terry Funk’s music in this one is the corniest thing I’ve ever heard and is a complete joke. Anyways, when Terry gets to the ring Francine tries to bribe Funk with cash to leave the match. Funk knocks the money away and tosses some of it to the fans.
— ECW World Heavyweight Championship – “Three-Way Dance” (WATCH – 1:47:56)
“The Franchise” Shane Douglas w/Francine vs. Terry Funk vs. Sabu(c)
The main story in this one surrounds Terry Funk wanting to retire as ECW World Heavyweight Champion though he isn’t set to “retire” until the end of 1997.
The match is a fun brawl for the most part. Midway through, Tod Gordon comes out to prevent Sabu from putting Funk through a table and ends up going through the table with Alfonso instead. Sabu is in the midst of taking out Douglas and Funk with a ladder when Sandman finally finds his way to the ring and commences a mammoth beat down on Sabu. As security and the police wrestle Sandman away from the ring both Douglas and Funk roll Sabu up for the pin at 19:32, eliminating the ECW World Heavyweight Champion from the match. Sabu manages a miraculous recovery and hits Sandman (and the police) with a triple jump splash, sending them sprawling like bowling pins.
What looks like half the locker room comes out to drag both Sabu and Sandman to the back as Douglas and Funk continue to fight for the title. Once Sandman and Sabu are gone the wrestlers return to stand at ringside to watch a new ECW World Champion be crowned. Douglas and Funk continue to fight until “Franchise” and Francine begin humiliating Funk. Dory Funk, Jr makes the save, wipes out Douglas, and runs off Francine. Funk looks to be on the verge of winning when both men go through a table at ringside! Douglas hits two more belly-to-belly suplexes before Funk tries a surprise small package. Douglas kicks out and hits a fourth and final belly-to-belly to win the match at 26:36 and “The Franchise’s” third ECW World Heavyweight title win.
This marked the end of Sabu’s second and final ECW World title reign at a mere 9-days.
WINNER and NEW ECW World Heavyweight Champion, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas w/Francine (Pin, 26:36)
After the match Douglas whips Terry Funk with the ECW World title as the fans chant “bullsh*t”. Joel Gertner enters the ring with the Dudley Boyz in tow. As Joel tries to recruit Shane Douglas the Dudley Boyz beat on Funk.
Candido and Bigelow come to the ring and it’s a Triple Threat/Dudley Boyz war. The locker room comes down to break it up but an even larger brawl breaks out. Soon enough the Dudleys clear the ring of all but Terry Funk. Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten make the save on Terry Funk but are quickly overrun. As the Dudley’s continue to beat on Funk New Jack’s music hits and New Jack and Kronus hit the Dudleys with everything but your neighbor’s kitchen sink. Perry Saturn, still recovering from a nasty knee injury, is at ringside on a crutch. But not for long. Eventually Saturn gloms Big Dick Dudley with the crutch before dropping Big Dick and D-Von with Buh Buh Cutters. Saturn even goes to the top and drops an elbow on Buh Buh before slithering out of the ring in obvious pain.
The last few minutes of the PPV are just an ECW street war with all of the babyfaces hitting their big moves on the Dudleys. We even get some “FanCam” gimmicks for good measure. Joel Gertner is the last to be wiped out with a brutal chair shot to the head and Kronus 450 Splash. The babyfaces powder into the crowd to celebrate as Joey Styles plugs the next PPV and signs off.
While it’s certainly not the best ECW PPV it’s far from the worst (sorry N2R ’98).
Though it has its flaws there are several things to really like about this show. Even if pointless, the Lawler/Dreamer match is classic ECW, as are the Taz/Candido, RVD/Snow, and of course the main event. Hardcore Heaven ’97, like many of ECW’s PPVs, has not aged all that well. Some of the gaga and overbooking will drive some fans away for sure but it’s still worth checking out.
Already subscribed to the WWE Network? Then you can relive this classic ECW PPV or see for the very first time right now! As always, let us know what you think below.
Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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