This week Throwback Thursday on WrestlingDVDNetwork.com celebrates the PPV legacy of Extreme Championship Wrestling which, on this date in 2001, officially came to an end.
With the help of the WWE Network, we’re going to take a look back at ten forgotten classics from the Pay-Per-View vault of Extreme Championship Wreslting, that best exemplify the unique and innovative brand of PPV that separated ECW from the rest of its national competition.
By January 2001 ECW was in serious trouble, cutting corners wherever they could. Hardcore TV was canceled, many of the boys went without pay (or continued to do so), and shows were being called off. After Guilty as Charged 2001 aired (what would become the promotion’s final PPV) ECW ran only two events, in Poplar Bluff, Missouri and Pine Bluff, Arkansas on January 12th and 13th respectively, before going dormant. Efforts immediately turned to signing a new national TV deal to ensure that March’s Living Dangerously 2001 PPV would go on as planned.
Though a TV deal was closer than many realize, the revenue from PPV (as well as other streams) was not, as In Demand executives wagered ECW would go out of business before being able to successfully sue for the money owed. With no money (or TV) to promote the show, run the show, or pay the talent, Paul Heyman, four days after debuting as Jerry Lawler’s replacement on Monday Night RAW, officially canceled Living Dangerously 2001 on March 9, 2001, two days before the event was to air, signaling the end of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
As for that Sunday, certain providers offered refunds while others reportedly showed a replay of Guilty as Charged 2001. Several weeks later, on April 4, 2001, the end was made official when Paul Heyman filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, legally dissolving Extreme Championship Wrestling, and bringing a definitive end to pro wrestling’s wild west.
— “International 6-Man Tag Team Match” (WATCH – 35:36)
bWo Japan (Taka Michinoku. Men’s “Terry Boy” Teioh, & Dick Togo) vs. Masato Yakushiji (sub. for Gran Naniwa), Great Sasuke, & Gran Hamada
ECW Barely Legal • April 13, 1997
This 6-man Michinoku Pro Wrestling match was a quintessential ECW PPV match. Unlike the Big Two (WWF & WCW) at the time, ECW regularly featured foreign talent on their PPVs. Names like Masato Tanaka, Yoshihiro Tajiri, Mike Awesome, Super Crazy, Wing Kanemura, Jinsei “Hakushi” Shinzaki, Antifaz del Norte, and Hayabusa worked ECW PPVs at one time or another, producing the kinds of matches fans just couldn’t find in either WCW or the WWF. This match, an often overlooked ECW PPV classic, holds up extremely well, especially in the face of WWE’s more “methodical” cruiserweight division.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 38:54)
Rob Van Dam w/Bill Alfonso vs. Al Snow
ECW Hardcore Heaven ’97 • August 17, 1997
These kinds of singles matches, a returning/debuting talent (Al Snow) versus an established ECW star (RVD), were staples of ECW PPV till the very end. With no real story going in, this match was more about each man getting the other over and producing a solid wrestling match for the ECW fans. Win, lose or draw these matches helped establish talent and add depth, even if by simple implication, to the ECW roster.
— “Three-Way Dance” (WATCH – 1:07:08)
The Dudley Boyz (Buh Buh Ray & D-Von Dudley) w/Joel Gertner, Big Dick Dudley, & Sign Guy Dudley vs. The Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freaks (Axl Rotten & Balls Mahoney) vs. New Jack & Spike Dudley
ECW Living Dangerously ’98 • March 1, 1998
One of ECW’s lasting legacies (for better or worse) was their innovation of the three-way dance. Before the “triangle” matches of WCW or the “triple threat” matches of WWF, ECW made a name for itself with their version of the three-way dance. Where the concept shined in ECW was in tag team three-way dances. While a four-way dance had been done at November 2 Remember ’97, this war from Living Dangerously ’98 marked the very first tag team three-way dance on ECW PPV. Where WWF and WCW struggled with the three-way tag team format, ECW excelled. With rapid action and finishes it’s not hard to see why the three-way dance was an ECW favorite to the end.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 38:52)
Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka
ECW Heatwave ’98 • August 2, 1998
Like the Al Snow/RVD match listed earlier, this was another two-birds/one-stone affair. These two knew each other well from their time in Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) “in Japan”, as Joey Styles would say, where the two battled in epic wars for Championships and pride. This hard-hitting, hardcore duel is an often overlooked classic in the ECW canon. Tanaka’s powerbomb on Awesome to the outside of the ring is still one of the most shocking spots in ECW history.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 5:24)
Super Crazy vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri
ECW Living Dangerously ’99 • March 21, 1999
Billed as the final match of their feud, one of the greatest PPV openers ever was, in actuality, only the beginning of one of ECW’s most storied rivalries. Debuting one week apart at separate TV tapings in 1998 (December 19th & 26th, respectively), Tajiri and Super Crazy were just the beginning of the rebirth of “extreme lucha libre” in ECW.
— “Street Fight” (WATCH – 59:01)
Lance Storm w/Dawn Marie vs. Tommy Dreamer w/Francine
ECW Hardcore Heaven ’99 • May 16, 1999
One of the rare “street fights” (by name) in ECW history, this was another war that served as the beginning of a much larger angle that would come to mark the remainder of 1999, the battle between The Impact Players (Lance Storm & Justin Credible) and Tommy Dreamer (with or without Raven, who wouldn’t return to ECW until August 26, 1999). While it may seem redundant to call an ECW match a “street fight”, Dreamer and Storm proved that given the right story and timing ECW could pull off an old-school “street fight” as good as anyone else, helping to drag the tired gimmick into the present day in the process.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:06:33)
Justin Credible w/Jason vs. Sabu
ECW Anarchy Rulz ’99 • September 19, 1999
There are those who love this match and there are those who loathe this match with very few in between. This would mark one of Sabu’s final PPV appearances for ECW, competing at only two more PPVs after this (a win over Chris Candido at N2R ’99 and a loss to RVD at Guilty as Charged 2000) before leaving the promotion for good in February of 2000. A wild, bloody brawl, this match did more to elevate the rising Justin Credible than nearly any match before or after. This feud with Sabu, culminating in this PPV war, put Justin Credible in the driver’s seat in ECW and ensured that Credible was indeed an “impact player” in the promotion.
— “Dream Partner Tag Team Match” (WATCH – 40:43)
Yoshihiro Tajiri & Super Crazy w/Steve Corino vs. Jerry Lynn & Little Guido w/Big Sal E. Graziano
ECW Guilty as Charged 2000 • January 9, 2000
More than anything else the “impromptu” nature of their events was what separated ECW from their PPV competition. Fans never knew what they were going to get when they tuned in to an ECW PPV. This match, one of the best, often overlooked tag team matches in ECW PPV history, features multiple swerves, a Paul Heyman promo, and an appearance by Dusty Rhodes to cap it all off. No match may better illustrate what made ECW PPV so special, so unique like this classic encounter.
— ECW World Television Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:29:55)
The Sandman vs. “The Rookie Monster” Rhino(c)
ECW Heatwave 2000 • August 16, 2000
At a time when kayfabe was on life support, ECW, unlike the Big Two, still managed to create angles and moments that easily and believably destroyed the line between what was “real” and what was not, as the angle between Sandman and Rhino did after Rhino’s brutal attacks on Sandman’s wife. Billed as a battle between the network (TNN) and ECW, this match was all about establishing Rhino as the new monster heel and future kingpin of the promotion.
— “Number One Contender’s Match for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship” (WATCH – 55:56)
“The King of Old School” Steve Corino w/Jack Victory vs. C. W. Anderson
ECW Anarchy Rulz 2000 • October 1, 2000
The final match on our list was a clear indication of the direction ECW would have gone in had Heyman been able to secure another national TV home. Mixing traditional wrestling and psychology with believable, realistic brawling this match was more “no-holds-barred” than ECW death match. Steve Corino had been groomed for a top position in ECW for a long time before this match and would have had a lengthy run at the top of the card had ECW survived, while C. W. Anderson, after having been told he had no chance to make it in wrestling at WCW’s Power Plant, was just the kind of misfit wrestler Paul Heyman enjoyed nurturing. This match was, for all intents and purposes, just the beginning for both wrestlers as main event talent in ECW.
Often imitated though never duplicated, ECW’s style of PPV can still be seen today in everything from indy iPPVs to WWE and beyond. While other promotions could put on more polished, “professional” looking shows, ECW ran each of their PPVs as if it may be their last, creating an enthusiastic, realistic, authentic atmosphere sorely lacking in today’s wrestling scene.
Like a great action film ECW PPVs were full of thrills and spills, pulse-pounding action and drama, and enough “wow” moments to keep fans talking for a very, very long time.
Subscribed to the WWE Network? Then check out these ten ECW classics, or in fact the entire ECW televised vault. And don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments below.
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Until next week, see ya at ringside!
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