This week Throwback Thursday dips into the “extreme” archives of the WWE Network as we revisit what many consider to be the greatest Pay-Per-View in Extreme Championship Wrestling history: Heatwave ’98!
By August of 1998 ECW wasn’t simply on a roll, they were on fire! The creative slump from the beginning of summer was gone and the company seemed rejuvenated as the stars of tomorrow (Justin Credible, Jerry Lynn, Mike Awesome, etc.) clashed with the Hardcore Originals (Sandman, Sabu, Dreamer, etc.) to create a perfect blend of new and old that produced arguably the best action and angles in ECW to that point. Having conquered (and survived) PPV the company began focusing on their next target: a national television deal. The good times, however, wouldn’t last forever. By the fall dark clouds of uncertainty would, yet again, engulf the entire promotion.
Heatwave ’98 was an instant classic twenty years ago but how well does this momentous event hold up in 2018? Let’s hit ‘play’ and find out!
Edits are a bit of an issue with this event on the Network. Aside from the usual music and promotional edits there is a vignette missing and seemingly random cuts made to clean up the flow of the show. Beyond that the event remains largely uncensored in respect to language and fan chants. Context, for those keeping score, is complete with all prior editions of ECW Hardcore TV currently available for you to enjoy on the Network today!
ECW Heat Wave ’98 (WATCH)
Date: August 2, 1998 – Location: Hara Arena, Dayton, Ohio
Attendance: 4,376 – PPV Buyrate: 0.2 (>73,000 homes)
Commentators: Joey Styles & ECW World Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas – Interviews: N/A
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME:
ECW World Heavyweight Champion: “The Franchise” Shane Douglas
ECW World Tag Team Champions: Rob Van Dam & Sabu
ECW World Television Champion: Rob Van Dam
FTW World Heavyweight Champion: Taz
The show opens with Joey Styles in the ring introducing the color commentator for the evening, a first for an ECW PPV, as the one and only World Champion “Franchise” Shane Douglas. Douglas, flanked by a stunning Francine, assures the fans that Bam Bam Bigelow, who challenges Taz for the FTW title later in the show, will drive Taz through the concrete floor this time around. After some fun with Francine’s knockers we get the usual, awesome ECW opening.
— “Finals of the ‘Summer Series'” (WATCH – 6:00)
Justin Credible w/Jason, Chastity, & Nicole Bass vs. Jerry Lynn
The Justin Credible mega-push is in full effect here. Pushes aside this is a fantastic match that employs some decent psychology and pacing to tell a unexpectedly great story with everyone playing their parts to a tee. This is easily one of ECW’s best PPV openers. In the end Jerry Lynn takes out both Jason and Nicole Bass before Chastity enters the ring. Credible holds Lynn as Chastity attempts to kick Lynn in the pills but Lynn jumps out of the way of the kick and Chastity nails Credible instead and Lynn drops Chastity with a tombstone piledriver. Lynn sets Credible on the top rope and goes for a hurricanrana when Credible blocks it and hits That’s Incredible from the top rope for the 1-2-3 at 14:37.
WINNER is Justin Credible w/Jason, Chastity, & Nicole Bass (Pin, 14:37)
After the match referees attend to an unconscious Jerry Lynn as a cocky Justin Credible taunts the fans.
A vignette highlighting the Lance Storm/Chris Candido story has been cut out entirely. The vignette suggested that the two were the most technically gifted Tag Team Champions in ECW history until they were dethroned by TV Champion RVD and Sabu on the July 1, 1998 edition of HCTV. The loss caused the even keeled Storm to snap on Candido and leave Candido for dead in the ECW Arena.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 25:51)
Lance Storm vs. “No Gimmicks Needed” Chris Candido w/Tammy Lynn Sytch
This marked Sytch’s first ECW event since WrestlePalooza ’98 (Throwback here) in May and the long awaited one-on-one showdown between these two former teammates. Candido is sporting headgear thanks to his ear being injured in a match against RVD and Sabu in Revere, Massachusetts in July. This is another fantastic match that is all about psychology and storytelling and is, in my opinion, the most complete match of the night. In the end Candido attempts to throw powder in Storm’s eyes but Storm knocks the powder back in Candido’s eyes instead. Blinded, Candido decks the referee as Tammy crotches Storm on the top turnbuckle. The referee tries to get Tammy out of the ring when Candido schoolboys the ref by mistake, pulling Tammy’s top off. In the confusion Candido manages to scale the ropes and hit a devastating Blonde Bombshell on Storm to score the pin at 11:01.
WINNER is “No Gimmicks Needed” Chris Candido w/Tammy Lynn Sytch (Pin, 11:01)
After the match we go to the announce position where Shane Douglas and Joey Styles attempt to talk about the previous match when Joey gets word to toss to footage from earlier in the evening.
This leads to footage of New Jack outside among the fans prior to the event cutting a promo on Jack Victory, who Jack says will get his “ass tore up”, when Jack Victory shows up. The two look to be about to brawl when a car rolls up and The Dudley Boyz (Buh Buh, D-Von, and Big Dick) jump Jack from behind. Victory and the Dudley’s beat down New Jack until Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney make the save. Back at the announce position Joey Styles explains the footage was shown to explain why the “weapons” match between New Jack and Jack Victory has been pulled from the show.
Next we go backstage where Bill Alfonso stands with the ECW World Tag Team Champions Sabu and Rob Van Dam (also the World Television Champion). Fonzie says it doesn’t matter who the Japanese talent is their going to be “losers”. RVD says they’re on top because of RVD, which angers Sabu. RVD continues to chide Sabu and calls himself “the whole f**king show!”
— “International Grudge Match” (WATCH – 46:53)
Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka
These two would go on to redefine “hardcore wrestling” in ECW but on this night they nearly steal the show with a brutal, stiff war that leaves the fans in awe and made two new stars in ECW. If you haven’t seen this war it’s well worth the time to seek it out. Awesome’s high-flying work is still a sight to behold. In the end Tanaka survives just about all that Awesome can dish out before reversing an Awesome Bomb to a ringside table and hitting one of his own, producing one of the most breathtaking bumps in ECW history. Awesome survives the powerbomb and Roaring Elbow but is finished off with a tornado DDT on a pair of chairs to give Tanaka the win at 11:50.
WINNER is Mike Awesome (Pin, 11:50)
After replays of the previous match we get a promo from the “unrecognized” FTW Champion Taz, who says that Bigelow will tap. Taz says the FTW title means more than any other title and that Taz will “take back” Bigelow’s victory from Living Dangerously ’98. After an N2R ’98 promo is snipped we go back to the announce position where Shane Douglas calls Taz out and says the ECW World title is the real title in ECW, not the FTW title.
Next we get a pre-taped Dudley Boyz promo where Joel Gertner says the odds are stacked in the Dudley’s corner while Buh Buh says Dreamer will be crucified for the sins of Beulah McGillicutty. “Dreamer,” Buh Buh yells, “you can give your souls to Jesus, but your ass belongs to the Dudleys!”
— ECW World Tag Team Championship (WATCH – 1:07:09)
Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki vs. Sabu & ECW World Television Champion Rob Van Dam(c) w/Bill Alfonso
These kind of international matches are part of what made ECW so unique to the hardcore wrestling fan, and this one has managed to hold up pretty well. Like (nearly) all tag matches in ECW (and NJPW today) this one starts out following tag rules only to go full-on “tornado” in the end with no real rhyme or reason. This match is no wrestling clinic but it’s pure ECW and helluva lotta fun! Though the spot-pin-save formula gets old the match is nonetheless the barn-burner it was advertised to be. In the end RVD and Sabu land Stereo legdrops to drive Hayabusa and the former “Hakushi” through a table before Sabu pushes RVD out of the way to score the pinfall at 20:52 to retain the Tag Team titles.
WINNERS and STILL ECW World Tag Team Champions, Sabu & ECW World Television Champion Rob Van Dam(c) w/Bill Alfonso (Pin, 20:52)
After replays we get a Paul Heyman narrated vignette detailing the history behind the Taz/Bigelow feud and Taz’s growing feud with ECW World Champion Shane Douglas, including the creation of the FTW World title. Coming out of the vignette Shane Douglas is again ranting about Taz, saying it was Bam Bam, not Taz who injured his arm and that Taz is going through the concrete thanks to Bam Bam. The last few seconds of this segment are, for whatever reason, edited off the Network version.
— FTW World Heavyweight Championship – “Falls Count Anywhere ECW Death Match” (WATCH – 1:37:44)
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Taz(c)
This one is a brawl from the beginning as these two make use as much of Hara Arena as they can. There isn’t much in the way of psychology but the match does tell a decent story. In the end Bigelow attempts to slam Taz on the runway when Taz reverses and drives them both through the runway with a tornado DDT. Moments later Bam Bam emerges and stumbles towards the ring as Taz leaps out of the hole, jumps on Bigelow’s back, and cinches in the Katahajime. Bigelow collapses and reaches out for the ropes when the referee sees a tap out at 13:20 to give Taz the submission win to retain the FTW title. Not as good as their Living Dangerously ’98 showdown but memorable nonetheless.
WINNER and STILL FTW World Heavyweight Champion, Taz (Submission, 13:20)
After the match an irate Shane Douglas screams about Bigelow reaching for the ropes and not tapping out as Taz stands on the second rope and tells Shane, “Beat me if you can, survive if I let you!” Douglas tosses his monitor to the floor below and has to be held back by Francine before storming to the back.
As the ring crew clean up the mess Joey Styles tosses to footage of the Dudley Boyz breaking Beulah McGillicutty’s neck. Afterwards Joey calls the Dudley’s “scumbags” and says he’s not going to be impartial and that the Dudley’s make Styles “sick to my god-damned stomach!”
The Dudleys are out next. This is not the infamous near-riot, that would be the following year. Buh Buh says he hates the fans and says the Dudley Boyz were the toughest men in wrestling today, challenging anyone from WWF, WCW, and the crowd to a fight. Gertner does his usual shtick and introduces the rest of the team, including a blow-up doll dressed as Beulah “McGilli-slutty”
Eventually Spike Dudley, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman (carrying ladders and beer) make their way out and the usual Sandman routine as one. All told the entrances take nearly twenty minutes.
— “6-Man Tag Team Dudleyville Street Fight” (WATCH – 2:00:07)
The Dudley Boyz (Big Dick, D-Von, & Buh Buh Ray) w/Sign Guy Dudley, Jeff Jones, & Joel Gertner vs. Spike Dudley, Tommy Dreamer, & The Sandman
Billed as a “street fight” and a “war” this one starts out following standard six-man tag team rules as if the rules even matter! After everyone gets their one-on-one time to shine, about the first seven minutes or so, the match breaks down into the bloody war fans paid to see! Spike Dudley’s plunge from the top of a giant ladder is simply incredible, as is the devastating chair shot Sandman takes near the end of the match. Though there’s not a shred of real psychology or even a thread of a story to follow it’s not a bad fight for what it is. In the end, with Dreamer laid out on a ladder following Total Penetration from Big Dick, Buh Buh attempts to splash Dreamer but hits the ladder instead. As Buh Buh stumbles to his feet Dreamer hits a big DDT on the ladder for the pin at 14:29.
WINNERS are Spike Dudley, Tommy Dreamer, & The Sandman (Pin, 14:29)
After the match Jack Victory waylays Dreamer with a massive guitar shot which brings out New Jack. It’s bad enough the music is overdubbed (along with the original commentary) but WWE adds sound effects to the action as well, and it’s terrible.
After wiping out the heels Sandman, New Jack, and Dreamer pose atop three ladders while Spike Dudley paces circles around them. Sandman hands out memorabilia to the fans as Dreamer gets on the mic. “I think it’s safe to say,” Dreamer says, “that Dayton, Ohio is ECW country!”
The show lingers another moment or two before fading to black.
With only six matches and none of the usual “extreme” filler Heatwave ’98 is everything that made ECW great—the technical wrestling, hardcore action, high flying car crashes—in one PPV.
This event comes out of the gate fast and never lets up! Some believe this to be the best ECW PPV of all-time while others, myself included, rank it near the very top. Either way it’s an unforgettable show and well worth your time whether you’ve seen it before or not. If you love ECW you’ll love Heatwave ’98!
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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