This week Throwback Thursday dips into the “extreme” archives of the WWE Network to celebrate the 20th anniversary of what very well may be the worst Pay-Per-View of the original Extreme Championship Wrestling: WrestlePalooza ’98!
The spring of 1998 was a time of expansion for ECW. Between syndication and house shows, both moving further west and south, more fans were seeing ECW than ever before and, thanks to hotlines, magazines, and the internet names like Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman were becoming household names. But the spring of ’98 was also a bit of creative valley for Paul E. and the Extreme crew, a valley that would, by and large, continue through the rest of the year.
WrestlePalooza ’98, ECW’s fifth PPV and the only PPV Palooza event, was ECW’s debut event in the state of Georgia. Sadly, it also marked the final TV appearance for Junkyard Dog, who would tragically pass away in a single-vehicle accident on June 2, 1998 at the age of 45. The event is best remembered, at the time and in hindsight, for its questionable booking. A solid card on paper, many fans then and now believed the event simply didn’t deliver and are most vocal about the main event, which we will get to in a bit.
But how does WrestlePalooza ’98 hold up 20 years later? Let’s hit ‘play’ and find out!
As usual with ECW events on the Network, edits are the big story. Nearly all of the original music has been overdubbed and the commentary over the overdubbed music re-recorded as well. While much of this isn’t a problem it’s at its worst during New Jack’s matches (seeing as New Jack’s music plays for the entire bout) and during the vignettes, many of which are now pointless with Paul Heyman’s voice-overs removed with the music. “WWF” edits are also hit and miss.
Context, however, isn’t an issue. All prior ECW PPVs and all previous editions of Hardcore TV are presently available for you to enjoy on the Network right now!
ECW WrestlePalooza ’98 (WATCH)
Date: May 3, 1998 – Location: Cobb County Civic Center, Marietta, Georgia
Attendance: 3,401 – PPV Buyrate: 0.24 (>87,000 homes)
Commentators: Joey Styles – Interviews: Joey Styles
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
ECW World Heavyweight Champion: “The Franchise” Shane Douglas
ECW World Tag Team Champions: Chris Candido & Lance Storm
ECW World Television Champion: Rob Van Dam
The show opens with Joey Styles in the ring welcoming us to the PPV. Next up is the usual (still awesome) ECW opening montage proclaiming the event is “on enemy turf” being so close to Atlanta, WCW’s homebase.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH – 2:25)
The Full Blooded Italians (Tracy Smothers & Little Guido) w/”Big Don” Tommy Rich vs. The Blue Meanie & Super Nova
This is a great way to open the show. A fun, fast-paced match that includes a spontaneous dance competition and a classic referee spot, this is a decent opener featuring some very good action. In the end Guido cracks Meanie with the “Big Don’s” Italian flag after Meanie misses the huge Meaniesault. Guido then turns and walks right into Novacaine, giving Nova and Meanie the win at 9:28.
WINNERS are The Blue Meanie & Super Nova (Pin, 9:28)
Next up we get a vignette detailing the Justin Credible/Mikey Whipwreck feud and Credible’s mission to break Whipwreck’s leg.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 16:24)
Justin Credible w/Jason & Chastity vs. Mikey Whipwreck
Mikey looks better than ever coming off his knee surgery. Whipwreck’s character was evolving past the lovable loser who overcame the odds to a confident fighter who was as tough as any on the ECW roster. This is a pretty decent fight featuring some decent heat and a few memorable spots, including a superplex from the guardrail through a table, that turns out to be, for my money, the match of the night. In the end, after Whipwreck wipes out Justin and Jason with the Whipper-Snapper and then Chastity with Snapper from the top rope, Justin reverses a Whipwreck tombstone into That’s Incredible for the pin at 9:54.
WINNER is Justin Credible w/Jason & Chastity (Pin, 9:54)
After replays Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten crash the announce position where Balls calls out Candido and Storm for “ducking” Balls and Axl. Balls challenges the Tag Team Champions to a fight. The Champions arrive as we watch the challengers make their way through the crowd to the ring.
— ECW World Tag Team Championship (WATCH – 31:44)
The Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freaks (Balls Mahoney & Axl Rotten) vs. Chris Candido & Lance Storm(c)
By this time, with Bam Bam Bigelow back in The Triple Threat, Lance Storm was the odd man out. Neither Candido or Storm could stand one another but, as Tag Team Champions, were forced to defend the gold as a unit. As for the match, it’s a wrestling match! Whuda thunk it?! It’s refreshing to see Balls and Axl in something not resembling a genocide and it takes some time for the fans, chanting about Ric Flair and steroids early, to get on board. In the end Tammy “Sunny” Sytch shows up and attacks Balls before Lance saves her, something Candido can’t stand. As the match breaks down Balls hits Chris with the Nutcracker Suite and goes for the steel chair when Storm spingboard dropkicks the chair into Balls’ face. Storm goes for the pin but Candido gloms Storm with the chair in order to pick up the pin for himself at 12:06 to retain the World Tag Team titles. After the match Candido and Storm come to blows as Storm leaves with the Tag Team titles.
WINNERS and STILL ECW World Tag Team Champions, Chris Candido & Lance Storm (Pin, 12:06)
Next we go back to the ring where Joey Styles hosts a celebration to professional wrestling legends in the state of Georgia. First up is Junkyard Dog, followed by “Dirty” Dick Slater, The Mask Superstar (Bill Eadie), and “Bullet” Bob Armstrong.
This is followed by Styles introducing ECW World Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas and listing all of “The Franchise’s” current injuries. Douglas says he started when it was still a “sport” and calls out the boys who don’t work through injuries, calling out Shawn Michaels by name for handing the Intercontinental title to Douglas rather than lose it in the ring. Douglas then rips Flair, calling him “D*ck Flair”, for not facing him. Douglas talks about his injuries and says he’s going to wrestle in the main event.
Suddenly Taz’s music hits and Taz, looking every bit the ECW monster he was, comes to the ring. Taz says he’s the “uncrowned World Heavyweight Champion” and that there will be no main event because Douglas needs to hand the strap to Taz. Taz attacks Shane and is subdued by security when Bam Bam shows up and begins to brawl with Taz. After security drags Taz out of the building Bigelow and the rest of The Triple Threat tend to Douglas, who’s spitting up blood, as we see Taz kick the window out of a “police car” as Taz is driven away. In the ring Bigelow paces, waiting for New Jack.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 1:05:18)
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. New Jack
This match is a mess. New Jack admits to snorting a bit too much cocaine in the locker room which caused New Jack’s blood pressure and heart rate to spike to dangerous levels. The result was a blown up New Jack being unable to do much of anything but bleed and be carried after the first few minutes. Still, even though he can’t walk and can hardly breathe, New Jack dives off the balcony with a guitar onto Bigelow. In the end Bam Bam carries New Jack to the ring, hits the Greets From Asbury Park and scores the 1-2-3 at 8:53. After the match Bam Bam pelts New Jack with trash as security and ECW officials help a coked out New Jack to the back. In a word, garbage.
WINNER is Bam Bam Bigelow (Pin, 8:53)
Next up is a useless vignette highlighting the Dudley Boyz forthcoming match with Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman seeing as the original Heyman voice-over, as I stated earlier, has been edited along with the music.
Back in the ring Joel “The Ladies Call Me Fred Flintstone Because I Made Their Bed-Rock” Gertner tries to introduce the Dudley Boyz when The Sandman’s music hits and Sandman (who looks completely trashed) and Tommy Dreamer, with Beulah McGillicutty, make their way out.
— “Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:16:45)
The Dudley Boyz (Buh Buh Ray & D-Von) w/Joel Gertner, Big Dick Dudley, & Sign Guy Dudley vs. The Sandman & Tommy Dreamer w/Beulah McGillicutty
This is a street fight from the opening bell with Dreamer and Sandman controlling the action until Sandman is stretchered out of the arena, complete with neck collar, after being Beelled onto a guardrail. Spike Dudley ends up replacing Sandman until Sandman, still in the neck collar, makes the save and takes out Buh Buh and D-Von before caning the bejabbers out of Big Dick. In the end Dreamer and Sandman land stereo DDTs to the Dudleys for the duel pins at 11:20.
WINNERS are The Sandman & Tommy Dreamer w/Beulah McGillicutty (Pin, 11:20)
Next we get a Joey Styles-voiced vignette chronicling the RVD/Sabu saga followed by Bill Alfonso, joined alternately by RVD and Sabu, saying he’ll manage both men for the match.
— ECW World Television Championship – “Grudge Match” – Bill Alfonso to Manage Both Men (WATCH – 1:37:36)
Sabu w/Bill Alfonso vs. “Mr. Monday Night” Rob Van Dam(c)
Before becoming a tag team in the fall of 1996 these two had some amazing hardcore matches through the spring and summer of ’96, hardcore matches that put RVD on the map in ECW. This marked their first televised one-on-one encounter in a year and a half, and it’s not good. Remembered more for its botches, around which a drinking game could be created, and for Sabu barfing on camera from smoking a joint and drinking too much Mountain Dew, this “showcase” match quickly devolved into a sluggish, disappointing clusterflub. It has its moments, but they are few and far between. In the end it goes to a time-limit draw at 30:03 which the live crowd isn’t all that thrilled with.
NO WINNER declared (Time-Limit Draw, 30:03)
In the back Shane Douglas again lists his injuries and talks about the dream of being a World Champion, a dream Douglas shares with Al Snow. Douglas says he is the “Franchise” and that Snow will have to kill Douglas to get the title.
Next we get another Joey Styles-voiced vignette chronicling Shane Douglas’ historic ECW World Heavyweight title tenure, the impact of The Triple Threat on Douglas’ reign, and Al Snow’s path to an ECW World title match against “The Franchise”.
This is followed by a backstage Al Snow promo where Snow talks about it taking 18-years to get to this ECW World title shot. Snow juxtaposes the frustrations of his own career against the ease at which Douglas, in Snow’s estimation, excelled in the sport, something Snow openly resents. Snow doesn’t care what injuries Douglas has, Snow only wants to win, something the Head told Snow will happen.
— ECW World Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 2:17:20)
Al Snow w/Head vs. “The Franchise” Shane Douglas(c) w/Francine
Al Snow was arguably the most popular star in ECW at this moment in time and ECW fans everywhere were expecting Snow to take the World tile. Heads are everywhere and the fans know how to make noise with them! Prior to the match Douglas takes the brace off his right arm, adding yet another layer to the story. The match itself is actually pretty good and is, in my opinion, Douglas’ best ECW PPV match to this point. The Triple Threat come out late but Snow makes short work of them. At the same time the ECW locker room stands in the aisle (and then around ringside) and the fans begin to sense an historic title change coming. After Snow lands the Snow Plow for a long two-count Francine gets in the ring and is promptly dropped with a Snow Plow to a big pop. As the locker room keeps the Triple Threat at bay Snow goes for a top rope sunset flip but misses, allowing Douglas to block it, a la Davey Boy Smith at SummerSlam ’92, to score the controversial pin at 11:06.
WINNER and STILL ECW World Heavyweight Champion, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas w/Francine (Pin, 11:06)
After the match angry fans fill the ring with Heads as the ECW locker room lift Shane Douglas and Al Snow on their shoulders where the two shake hands in a show of respect. The show goes dark with everyone celebrating both Champions and challenger.
Following this match Douglas would work only one more ECW event, June 6, 1998 at the ECW Arena, before undergoing surgery, not returning until September. The June 6, 1998 ECW Arena event also marked Al Snow’s final match ever in ECW before returning to the World Wrestling Federation, something the fans were largely in the dark about going into Snow’s title match with Douglas at WrestlePalooza ’98.
If you only watched the first three matches and the main event you might assume this was a great card. But the garbage in the middle not only drags this show down, it kills it!
The show isn’t as bad as history would lead one to believe, but it’s no picnic either. From a coked-out New Jack to a visibly trashed Sandman to Sabu being “one toke over the line” WrestlePalooza ’98 continues to stand as one of the very worst PPVs of all-time and very nearly (sorry N2R ’98) the worst ECW PPV ever. It is worth seeing once if you’ve never seen it, and then avoided at all cost!
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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