Throwback Thursday: ECW WrestlePalooza 1998 (20 Years Ago Today!), As Seen on WWE Network

May 3, 2018 by Brock Allen

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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.

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Throwback Thursday: ECW WrestlePalooza 1998, 20 Years Ago Today!

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

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

ECW WrestlePalooza '98 on WWE Network - A Mid Match Dance Competition!

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

ECW WrestlePalooza '98 on WWE Network - Mikey Whipwreck vs. Justin Credible
WWE - Justin Credible Gives a Piledriver on a Steel Chair in ECW!

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)

WWE - Lance Storm & Chris Candido Face to Face in ECW, Tag Team Champions Don't Like Each Other
ECW WrestlePalooza '98 on WWE Network - Chris Candido & Lance Storm vs. Balls Mahoney & Axl Rotten

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.

WWE - Legend Junkyard Dog Is Honored in ECW by Joey Styles

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.

ECW WrestlePalooza '98 on WWE Network - Taz Interrupts Shane Douglas, Attacks Him!

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

ECW WrestlePalooza '98 on WWE Network - 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

WWE - The Dudley Boyz vs. The Sandman & Tommy Dreamer in Extreme Championship Wrestling

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)

ECW WrestlePalooza '98 on WWE Network - Rob Van Dam vs. Sabu

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”.

WWE - Al Snow With 'Help Me' Written On His Head, Early Career in ECW

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

WWE - Al Snow Crazy Entrance in ECW, Surrounded by Fans with Heads!
ECW WrestlePalooza '98 on WWE Network - Shane Douglas vs. Al Snow

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.

WWE - Shane Douglas & Al Snow Shaking Hands, ECW WrestlePalooza 1998

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

WWE - The Sandman Drinks A Beer With The Fans In His ECW Entrance

Already subscribed to the WWE Network? Then you can relive this “classic” ECW PPV event now or see it for the very first time! As always, let us know 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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5 Comments left on this article...

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  1. Jake says:

    Little known fact: New Jack and Junkyard Dog got into a fight backstage before the GA legends came to the ring. That’s why JYD had a bandage on his face because Jack punched him (while wearing a pinky ring).

    Apparently Jack had sold JYD some weed but JYD never paid him back for it.

  2. David says:

    Great review! For me personally i liked ECW from 1997-1998 but some reason their PPVs weren’t that great, way too much garbage especially from car crashes with Sabu and Sandman.

    I thought Anarchy Rulz 1999 was their best overall PPV – top to bottom with such an underrated main event with RVD vs. Balls Mahoney, surprisingly for a guy that is only known for hardcore Balls could certainly wrestle. Also watching Taz dethroned and Mike Awesome crowned as the new top guy was great to see.

    When watching 2000 you can see there was some transition from the garbage hardcore wrestling to more focus on in-ring action and I thought they had some of their best ppvs in that year. Whats interesting is that couple years ago on Austin’s podcast (not the WWE Network one) Paul Heyman did mention that if ECW survived after 2000 he was actually going to make more wrestling based and the irony is his protege Gabe Sapolsky co-founded ROH which Paul Heyman said he was looking into making ECW like that. Heyman, maybe not a good business man that I would want to handle the finances and preparing the books but he definitely is an asset to creative and knows when to change with the times when needed.

    • Brock Allen says:

      Hello David! I totally agree about ECW’s PPVs not being the best in that era. I know part of it was the providers and not wanting to stir up a hornets nest but that doesn’t explain all of it.

      In my eyes Anarchy Rulz ’99 was ECW’s second-best PPV behind Living Dangerously ’99. LD99 had one of the company’s greatest openers (Tajiri/Crazy) and one of their best PPV main events in Taz/Sabu. That match delivered in spades. Even the New Jack/Mustafa match was good. Anarchy Rulz ’99, though, used to be a go-to show. If I wanted to watch an ECW show and couldn’t pick, I’d just toss that one in the old VCR and enjoy the ride. I loved the 3-way for the ECW title and I still think the RVD/Balls match is one of the best in company history.

      In respect to Heyman, he was a mad genius for a reason! Great wrestling mind, lousy businessman. I’ve heard Heyman talk about what direction ECW was going to head in and I don’t think it would have worked. Too many hardcore masters. Eventually they would have gone under. I think it’s best that ECW went out when they did the way they did rather than waiting, like WCCW or AWA for instance, until no one wanted to see the shows. ECW left us wanting more not wondering why they were still in business. Then again, maybe if they got the funding and had a shot it would have worked and they’d still be running today. It’s hard to tell.

      Thanks for reading David and taking the time to leave your thoughts. It’s greatly appreciated. Take care!

  3. SRB says:

    I personally loved ECW around the 97 – 99 period. I will admit I don’t care for it much prior or after this time period. Guys like Bam Bam and Mike Awesome were breathing new life into the company and were putting on some terrific matches even on the mid-cards. Add the international flare to the mix with Mexican and Japanese wrestlers, and there was huge potential here. You even had guys like Funk and Rude joining the scene.

    Over the years, ECW put on some really terrific wrestling matches, but I often feel their wrestling status was often overridden with hardcore guys like Balls Mahoney and New Jack. It seemed like everyone threw ECW into this category of fire and barbed wire matches when it seemed like to me, they only did that sort of thing on occasion.

    • Brock Allen says:

      I couldn’t have said it better myself, SRB! I, too, loved ECW the most in the 1997 – 1999 era. And while I agree about the new guys breathing life into the promotion, 1998 was a terrible year for ECW in my eyes. They had some great, even epic moments, yes, and more than a few truly great matches, but the product as a whole was stuck between satiating the Philly faithful and branching out into the national scene. As a result, for me anyways, I’ve always felt that 1998 was more miss than hit.

      From February of 1999 to the middle of 2000 I think ECW was almost perfect. It had some truly hardcore action, though no longer confined to blood, barbed wire, fire, and tables, and presented some of the best pure wrestling the era had seen. But, as you so rightly point out, the hardcore action became all the world saw of ECW despite what the ECW hardcores knew. While I disagree that hardcore was simply “on occasion” (it became their calling card; new fans in new cities wanted the blood and guts before they’d accept the wrestling) it morphed from being the sole selling point of the promotion to the vehicle that introduced curious casuals to the deeper water of ECW that included the mat wrestling and high-flying action. The influx of Japanese and Mexican talent, in my view, separated ECW from the Big Two in that the foreign talent were pushed as legitimate stars and, more importantly, got over.

      Thanks for reading SRB and taking the time to leave your thoughts and opinions! I greatly appreciate it! Take care!