This week Throwback Thursday, with a little help from the WWE Network, goes extreme as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Extreme Championship Wrestling’s pivotal Living Dangerously ’98!
By this point in 1998 ECW was on the verge of breaking through in a big way. Thanks to entering the PPV fray in April of 1997 and their successful stint “invading” the World Wrestling Federation in the spring of ’97 ECW was as popular as ever. So it goes without saying that this PPV, ECW’s first of 1998, had a lot riding on it. As it turned out the Asbury Park Convention Hall crowd was the second largest to that point, behind only the N2R ’97 (Throwback here) crowd in Monoco, Pennsylvania, while the buyrate for this event was the highest for an ECW PPV yet. By almost every measurable statistic more people were aware of and watching ECW than ever before.
But how well does Living Dangerously ’98 hold up twenty years later? Let’s hit ‘play’ and find out!
Edits, as usual for an ECW event on the Network, are the biggest issue, and this event is particularly mangled. Almost all of the entrance music has been overdubbed and the commentary during those entrances re-recorded, including the entirety of New Jack’s match. “WWF” muting is also prevalent throughout. The edits to the promo packages are the most annoying and one begins to wonder if these PPVs wouldn’t be better served with the vignettes clipped entirely seeing as the voice-overs are now missing.
The biggest issue with this event on the Network, however, is the milestones. Only four of the eight matches have complete milestones while the first match has none at all.
As for context, it’s nearly complete. While many of the house show supercards are missing all previous editions of Hardcore TV and all prior PPVs are currently available for you to enjoy right now!
ECW Living Dangerously ’98 (WATCH)
Date: March 1, 1998 – Location: Asbury Park Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Attendance: 3,700 – PPV Buyrate: 0.23 (>83,000 homes)
Commentator: Joey Styles – Interviews: Jenna Jameson
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
ECW World Heavyweight Champion: “The Franchise” Shane Douglas
ECW World Television Champion: Taz
ECW World Tag Team Champions: The Triple Threat (Chris Candido & Lance Storm)
The show opens with Taz arriving to an empty Asbury Park Convention Hall the night before the PPV. In an iconic moment Taz walks from the street straight into the empty arena where the TV Champion looks around before finally saying, “I’m ready…”
Live in the ring Joey Styles does his usual PPV intro before tossing to the classic ECW opening vignette.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH – 3:55)
The Full Blooded Italians (Tracey Smothers & Little Guido) w/Big Don Tommy Rich vs. Chris Chetti & Jerry Lynn
Though much of this one is the F.B.I. getting heat on Chetti (first ECW PPV match since Heat Wave ’97) it’s far from boring with the hot crowd responding to even the littlest of things. In the end the Big Don waylays Smothers with the Italian flag by mistake before Lynn takes out Rich and jackknifes Smothers for the pin at 8:20. After the match Smothers shoves the Big Don to the mat as Guido tries to make nice. A very good opener.
WINNERS are Chris Chetti & Jerry Lynn (Pin, 8:20)
Joey mentions not being able to locate W*ING Kanemura before tossing to a vignette hyping the scheduled Kanemura/Tanaka match. With Heyman’s voice-over overdubbed the vignette is worthless when, originally, Heyman puts over both men–Kanemura as the legend and Tanaka as the young, rising star–and says the Kanemura/Tanaka grudge match will be seen “worldwide”.
Back in the arena Doug Furnas and Lance Wright come to the ring and Mr. Wright tells the fans that his associates in the WWF (“Vinnie Mac”) bought-out Kanemura’s ECW contract and have found someone else who’s going to “put Mr. Tanaka on the first plane back to Japan”, introducing Doug Furnas to a chorus boos.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 16:56)
Doug Furnas (sub. for W*ING Kanemura) w/Lance Wright vs. Masato Tanaka
This was supposed to be the big debut of Masato Tanaka in ECW but the match is so cluttered with flubs and botches and that it very nearly takes the shine off Tanaka before the three-count. In the end Furnuas, listening to Wright, refuses to pin Tanaka which leads to Tanaka hitting the Rolling Elbow for the win at 5:47. After the match Wright berates Furnas for losing and Furnas clotheslines Wright. Furnas grabs an “ECW” T-shirt from ringside and tells an unconscious Wright to tell Vince McMahon to “kiss my ass!” before putting on the shirt and walking out.
WINNER is Masato Tanaka (Pin, 5:47)
An ECW Hardcore Hotline, merchandise catalog, and Wrestlepalooza ’98 promo have all been edited out, for those curious.
Next up Joey Styles tells us that the Sandman/Sabu “dueling canes” match was taped prior to the event going live and has been banned by the PPV providers and thus will not be shown. It’s a dead giveaway that something’s up and they needed tape to run later.
Jason and Nicole Bass crash the set and yell at Styles to play “the tape”, which is footage of Tommy Dreamer showing up to the Convention Center without Beulah McGillicutty who, Jason says, has left Dreamer to join Justin Credible, Jason and Bass.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 33:09)
“Mr. Monday Night” Rob Van Dam w/Bill Alfonso vs. 2 Cold Scorpio
RVD was, at this point, being groomed for the ECW TV title, currently held by Taz. Scorpio, meanwhile, was in the midst of a career resurgence that would lead Scorpio back to the WWF the next month. This is a pretty good match that sees both wrestlers shine as they break out nearly every offensive maneuver in their repertoire, and create a few along the way. After a ref bump Sabu runs in and hits Scorpio with an Arabian Facebuster before Sandman, Scorpio’s former Tag Team Championship partner, runs Sabu off. Moments later, with the referee coming to, RVD rolls Scorpio up for the pinfall at 22:10.
WINNER is “Mr. Monday Night” Rob Van Dam w/Bill Alfonso (Pin, 22:10)
After the match RVD gives Scorpio a hard time until Scorpio levels RVD with a clothesline. This brings out Sabu who, with RVD, lay out Scorpio on a table before Sandman makes the save and puts Sabu through the table instead. Afterwards Scorpio thanks the ECW fans for their support, puts over the Sandman for always watching his back, and drinks a beer before “dancing” with Sandman.
After replays we see a now-worthless vignette highlighting the Candido/Storm story since, as before, Heyman’s narration has been overdubbed. For those wondering, Sunny caused a jealous Candido to snap and attack his Tag Team Championship partner and reluctant Triple Threat member Lance Storm. Now both men can pick a “dream partner” as they look to settle the grudge tonight.
Back in the arena the Dudley Boyz (with Joel Gertner, Big Dick, and Sign Guy Dudley) are on their way to the ring. After Joel does his usual thing Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney enter the ring to get the next match started.
— “Tag Team Three-Way Dance” (WATCH – 1:07:08)
The Dudley Boyz (D-Von & Buh Buh Ray) w/Joel Gertner, Big Dick Dudley, & Sign Guy Dudley vs. The Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freaks (Balls Mahoney & Axl Rotten) vs. Spike Dudley & New Jack
This match goes from a fight to a war when New Jack and Spike Dudley show up. The highlight of the match is an iconic ECW moment, #49 on WWE’s Top 50 Incidents in ECW History (4:20), that sees New Jack and Spike Dudley perform stereo dives off of a 20-something foot balcony onto the Dudley Boyz, driving the brothers through tables in the process. The fight returns to the ring where the Dudley’s pin Balls following a 3-D at 12:19, eliminating the Chair Swingin’ Freaks. Moments later the Dudleys, busy mocking New Jack, are wiped out with a pair of guitars before New Jack finishes D-Von with the 1-8-7 at 13:12 to win the match.
WINNER are Spike Dudley & New Jack (Pin, 13:12)
Next Joey Styles make an on-air apology on behalf of ECW for the recent behavior of Justin Credible which leads us to yet another now-worthless vignette. The vignette details Justin Credible beating Great Sasuke, injuring Mikey Whipwreck (who twice defeated Credible), stealing Sasuke’s mask, and defeating the great Gran Hamada (while wearing Sasuke’s mask). Now Tommy Dreamer steps up to stop the seemingly unstoppable Justin Credible.
In the arena Jenna Jameson is introduced as ECW’s newest commentator/reporter preparing for her first interview with Justin Credible who tells Jenna that he’s got Beulah McGillicutty now and doesn’t need Jenna. Jenna tells Credible that she only tried to interview him because she was asked to. Now, Jenna says, she’s going to talk to who she wants to: Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer comes out, kisses Jenna, and walks to the ring to a massive pop.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:30:11)
Justin Credible w/Jason & Nicole Bass vs. Tommy Dreamer
As soon as Dreamer hits the ring these two brawl all over the Convention Hall with neither man able to take full control of the match until Justin lands a drop toehold on a steel chair. This is a fast-paced street fight that is easily one of the best matches between these two. Late in the match Beulah arrives and feigns allegiance to Justin Credible before hitting both Justin and Jason in the pills and dropping the cocky Credible with a DDT. Nicole Bass grabs Beulah and rag-dolls her before an injured Mikey Whipwreck makes the save, dropping Bass with a Whippersnapper. Justin Credible breaks a crutch over Whipwreck’s injured knee and attempts to stab Dream with a portion of the crutch before Tommy makes the comeback and wins with a DDT at 14:00.
WINNER is Tommy Dreamer (Pin, 14:00)
The same ECW Hardcore Hotline, merchandise catalog, and Wrestlepalooza ’98 promo from earlier are snipped once again. Joey originally tossed to the ads as the Bam Bam/Taz vignette by mistake before the actual vignette played afterwards. For whatever reason Joey’s flub in tossing to the wrong footage is patched in after the Bam Bam/Taz vignette on the Network. In other words, it’s all messed up!
— ECW World Television Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:42:38)
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Taz(c)
Taz was being groomed as the heir apparent to Shane Douglas as ECW World Heavyweight Champion. The only problem was how to get the TV title off of Taz without making Taz look weak. There are few ECW matches as famous or well-known to the casuals as this one. A brawl early on sees these two wage war all over the Convention Hall. In the end Bigelow tries to end it with Greetings from Asbury Park when Taz slips behind Bam Bam and locks in the Katahajime. Out of nowhere Bam Bam falls back and the two men disappear into a hole in the ring! This Heyman-inspired spot would become an instant-classic and was ranked #13 in WWE’s Top 50 Incidents in ECW History (1:36:13). Eventually Bam Bam emerges from the hole first, drags a lifeless Taz from the deep, and pins him to win the sole ECW World TV title of his career at 13:38. This ended Taz’s second and final reign as TV Champion at 267-days.
WINNER and NEW ECW World Television Champion, Bam Bam Bigelow (Pin, 13:38)
After the match medical staff come to check on Taz as the rest of the Triple Threat comes to celebrate with Bigelow. In the announce position Paul Heyman is shouting for Joey Styles to “buy me some time!” Styles stammers and stutters until Heyman orders Styles to “pitch” to the “banned” Sandman/Sabu match. After a screaming match between the two Styles relents and we go to the conveniently pre-taped footage as they try to repair the ring.
— “Dueling Canes Match” (WATCH – 2:03:22)
The Sandman vs. Sabu w/Bill Alfonso
Though this is mostly a one-sided brawl, with RVD dressed as Sabu to trick Sandman at the start, it’s leap years better than their N2R ’97 match with few botches, a faster pace, and more action. It’s not the ultra-violent bloodbath it was sold as earlier in the night but it’s a fun fight nonetheless. In the end RVD cuts off a Sandman comeback and RVD & Sabu put Sandman through a table on the ramp with stereo leaps from the top. Sabu drags Sandman to the ring and scores the 1-2-3 at 9:36.
WINNER is Sabu w/Bill Alfonso (Pin, 9:36)
Back in the arena the crowd is now a sea of Styrofoam heads. In the announce position Joey Styles apologizes for his “tiff” with Heyman before “shooting” about Heyman dealing with the cable companies. Styles says the scheduled Kronus/Al Snow match has been canceled due to the broken ring but we’ll still get our main event.
Chris Candido comes out with his Triple Threat partner, ECW World Champion Shane Douglas, and Francine, and tells Lance Storm that only three people “have ever beaten me up”, his grandfather, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Sunny before telling Storm to bring out whoever he’s got.
Lance Storm comes out with Sunny as his mystery partner before jumping in the ring to start the fight.
— “Non-Title Dream Partner Tag Team Match” (WATCH – 2:15:13)
The Triple Threat (ECW World Tag Team Champion Chris Candido & ECW World Heavyweight Champion “The Franchise” Shane Douglas) w/Francine vs. ECW World Tag Team Champion Lance Storm & Al Snow
Lance Storm takes it to both Candido and Douglas before tagging in Sunny who promptly turns on Storm (and then falls in the hole in the ring) which allows the Triple Threat to beat on Storm. With Storm in Douglas’ camel clutch Chris Candido mocks Storm and asks him what he’s going to give Candido for a surprise. “I’m gonna give you head!” Storm yells, bringing out Storm’s true mystery partner: Al Snow! Snow hits the ring and he and Storm take the fight to the Triple Threat. After sending Douglas into the hole in the ring Snow hits the Snow Plow on Douglas for the pin at 4:49.
WINNERS are ECW World Tag Team Champion Lance Storm & Al Snow (Pin, 4:49)
After the match Storm and Snow celebrate as heads fill the ring and a rave breaks out in the Convention Hall. Snow celebrates with the fans as the Triple Threat try to rid the ring of the heads. Joey hypes the next PPV and screams about getting head as the show fades to black.
This was ECW’s best PPV since Barely Legal, but Living Dangerously ’98 hasn’t aged all that well. Though the RVD/Scorpio and Taz/Bigelow matches have managed to hold up reasonably well the rest of the event simply doesn’t.
Fans of a certain age will no doubt revel in the nostalgia but new fans will find it hard to connect to this event. As always, it’s worth checking out at least once, especially for the two matches mentioned earlier, and to catch a glimpse of the wild west of pro wrestling we geezer fans love so much.
Already subscribed to the WWE Network? Then you too can relive this classic ECW PPV now or experience it for the very first time! Don’t forget to tell us what you think in the comments below.
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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All I have to say is god I miss ECW.
With SOME of these ECW guys, it almost felt like these were random guys off the streets who were just paid to do crazy moves. Examples would be Sandman and New Jack. Occasionally, ECW would then hire performers who were basically superior to the entire company as far as wrestling quality was concerned: Lance Storm, Jerry Lynn, and RVD. Guys like Tazz and Sabu were exactly what the company needed though: a hard attitude coupled with entertaining matches. However, when Bam Bam came into the picture, he really impressed me.
I know exactly how you feel, SRB! It took me a LONG time to get used to the Sandman. It was around this time, especially the Stairway to Hell match, that it clicked and I finally understood what his “character” was. New Jack, though, I was a fan of New Jack the first time I saw the Gangstas. Taz WAS ECW in that early time period for me. He was as close to a legit Mike Tyson-like fighter the era had. It wasn’t hard to believe what Taz was doing was real, is what I mean. Bam Bam in ECW was the best Bam Bam of his career, if you ask me. Loved the big man in ECW.
I liked the varied quality of the ECW roster. Every now and then they took two guys from different sides of the tracks, as it were, and put them in the ring together and we’d see magic. Then again, the train wrecks were fun too!
Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave your thoughts! I hope you enjoyed the article! Have a good one!
Why do they have to mute on WWF on WCW & ECW shows, but not WWF shows?
RCS1988, I think some of the muting was done during the era when muting was mandatory and it’s never been restored. Other muting, done during the re-recorded commentary over the overdubbed music, seems to be recorded that way. Either Styles stopped short of saying the “F” or the “F” was muted later. What’s puzzling is that it’s not throughout the entire show, only on matches released on WWE Home Video or featured on TV. Either way, it’s pain in the old arse.
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