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ECW Barely Legal: OH MY GOD~!
November 4, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


[NOTE FROM THE PRESENT DAY: seven and a half years ago, wrestling fans already had a choice...  WWF or WCW. But that wasn't enough for us! The culmination of about 2 years worth of grassroots work saw ECW emerge from an underground, obscure, indie promotion into a PPV-ready entity. The ravenous ECW fans were a large enough group that for 4 years, ECW was a viable PPV company. Now, in the year of our lord 2004, wrestling fans really don't have a choice: the WWE product is the only one on the market. 

Kind of.  Although noticeably lacking the kind of rabid fanbase that made ECW's rise to prominence possible, TNA has been plugging away for 2 and a half years, and on Sunday, will make their first foray into the realm of Full Priced Sunday Night PPVs. It might not be fair to make comparisons to ECW's sensational PPV debut given the changes in the market since 1997, but if Victory Road can duplicate even SOME of the sizzle of Barely Legal, they'll be well on their way to carving out a niche as something other than a glorified indie fed. As fans get ready for Victory Road, let's take a moment to relive a PPV Debut Done Right....]


Originally Published on www.udayton.edu/~scaiarij/ on April 14, 1997

I vaguely remember the days when I used to lament that our back-water town of Dayton, OH, didn't even have PPV capability yet. So four or five times a year, I'd get really upset that the incredible shows that it seemed like everybody else in the country would get to see weren't even available to me. In those days, I remember thinking I would have done ANYTHING to get pay-per-view. And this was for events like SummerSlam '89 and crap like that! So imagine how bad YOU must feel if YOUR backwater cable company was one of the ones that didn't offer up last night's ECW Barely Legal!!!

But seriously, all kidding aside, if you got shut out of last night's show, you missed an incredible event. Easily the best PPV of 1997 to date and ranking among the best shows of all time, Barely Legal should have served to show the world that ECW *is* ready for PPV, and is ready for the big time. If you don't want to be shut out next time, then let me toss this carrot out for you: ECW's next PPV is officially scheduled for August 17, 1997... so start calling and bugging your local cable company and PPV distributors like Viewer's Choice NOW!

Here's a rundown of what you missed on PPV:

  • The Eliminators crushed the Dudley Boys to regain the ECW Tag Team Titles in less than 10 minutes. This was practically a squash, which in a way, actually enhanced the impression that the Eliminators just might be the best tag team in the world. This was just about a non-stop highlight film for the Elims and included a ton of absolutely amazing spots. A great way to kick off the show.
  • Chris Candido was scheduled to wrestle next, but he's hurt... so he did an interview instead. After that, Lance Storm took on Candido's replacement, Rob Van Dam. This was another super match, with tons of neat spots, but it was far more competitive. Only downside: Storm throws the most god-awful chairshots I have ever seen. The crowd actually booed him whenever he went for a chair. Eventually, Van Dam won, and then did a scathing monologue over the house mic.
  • The Michinoku Pro six man was next, and was absolutely fantastic. I won't even try to name all the spots... if you can think of it, they probably did it in this match. Everything was fast-paced and hard-hitting, and the crowd really appreciated it. Eventually, the Great Sasuke was able to get a pinfall victory for his team. Even if you don't know who these six are, this just might have been a Match of the Year candidate for sheer action.
  • The only boring stretch of the night was next, as Shane Douglas and Pitbull 2 struggled to make an overly long match interesting... it was a loosing effort, but it was saved by the fact that after Douglas got a win, the post-match angle kicked in, with the Masked Man having to reveal himself. It turned out that the guy who came out in the mask was actually Douglas' partner in crime, Brian Lee, but Rick Rude was ringside in riot gear, and he unmasked as Douglas stared in shock at his one-time partner. Rude got a huge reaction as he threatened to knock Douglas silly with a nightstick.
  • Taz and Sabu, hyped as the main event, actually took place third from the top... while Sabu didn't do as much crazy and suicidal table dives as you might have expected, this was a very good match (especially after the slow-motion Douglas/Pit2 affair that preceeded it). In a surprising clean finish, Taz choked Sabu out with the Tazmission. After winning cleanly, Taz got on the mic and offered to shake Sabu's hand, and Sabu seemed to accept. At this point, Rob Van Dam (Sabu's former partner) came into the ring and started attacking Taz... and shockingly, Sabu joined in. The double team continued as Taz's manager, Bill Alfonso, revealed he was wearing a Sabu t-shirt. The heel turn for Sabu was complete, as he left with Fonzie and Van Dam while the crowd chanted "Taz Taz Taz".
  • The Three Way Dance to name a #1 Contender for Raven's belt was intense. From Sandman's way cool entrance to the closing barbed wire moonsault, this match was wild. Sandman left ringside to go grab a ladder (and a beer) from the back, and introduced it as a weapon. At one point, Terry Funk did a moonsault off the second-from-the-top rung of the ladder onto Stevie Richards. The ladder was put into continued use, and eventually, after taking a massive ladder shot, Stevie Richards was pinned. Sandman and Funk took the next step towards the extreme, as barbed wire was introduced into the match. Funk whipped Sandman with the wire first, then Sandman wrapped himself in the barbed wire and turned himself into "human barbed wire battering ram." The finish came when Funk did a moonsault onto Sandman and the barbed wire.
  • Raven immediately appeared, and began ramming Funk's head into various objects. After a nasty shot to a steel chair, Funk was hemmoraging blood profusely from his right temple. A doctor came to ringside, and tried to stop the fight several times, but the ref didn't listen to him at first, and then Raven knocked the doc out so he could finish Funk himself. With Funk on the ropes, Raven took the house mic and said he was going to drag Funk up to where Tommy Dreamer (Funk's protege and friend) was sitting and put Funk through three tables. Tommy begged to differ, but Big Dick Dudley (fresh out of jail) appeared near the commentary position to prevent Dreamer from interfering. Dreamer managed to reverse things, however, and put Big Dick through the three tables. Dreamer also went into the ring at this point and DDT'ed Raven. Funk was able to recover, and after some near falls, he finally scored a pinfall over Raven to win the ECW World Title. The PPV faded out as Funk celebrated with the fans at the ECW Arena.
Things you didn't see on the PPV included two dark matches. In the first, Louie Spicolli pinned Balls Mahoney (who is being groomed as a tag team partner for the Sandman). In the second, JT Smith returned to the ECW Arena (Smith was one of the first young stars of ECW dating back 3 or more years) to team with Chris Chetti and take on his former partners, the FBI (Full Blooded Italians). Smith got the pinfall win over Little Guido. After the PPV went off the air, Paul E. Dangerously got in the ring and, without using a mic, thanked all the fans for standing behind ECW, and all the wrestlers for working so hard to make the PPV happen. It was said to be a touching scene.

Notable performances also included Joey Styles, who was stellar on commentary. Without a color man, Styles does a great job of both calling the action AND keeping interest up for matches. We all knew he was good when he had the chance to perform on ECW taped programs, but this time Joey did it, and he did it live.

In some ways, the content of the show did seem a bit toned down from what many expect form ECW. While barbed wire was used and Terry Funk bled like a stuck pig in the main event, the rest of the show was tame by ECW standards. Only a few tables were broken (and none broken in the first half of the show), and besides Funk's blade job, the only blood we saw was hardway juice from Sabu after a wicked cross-face from Taz and the usual trickle of blood the Sandman draws after pasting himself with a beer can before his match starts. ECW did a great show, and did it within socially imposed parameters for how extreme they could get.

Lost in all the incredible action and wild booking was the fact that ECW really stepped up production values here... they had high-quality cameras that made the ECW Arena almost look like a respectable venue, and had new graphics that looked as good as anything the WWF puts on TV, all of which made the show seem that much more special. And special it was, as we went though a ton of trouble to move a bunch of furniture and equiptment upstairs into a bigger room to facilitate the large crowd of fans who were incredibly anxious to see the PPV. The last time we had this big a crowd for a wrestling PPV at our house was probably over a year ago. In fact, the crowd for Barely Legal actually included famed Dayton Daily News sportswriter Alex Marvez, who joined us because his cable system south of town did not offer Barely Legal! And with all that hype, the ECW PPV *still* managed to blow away expectations. That, ladies and gentlemen, is saying something.

Already, based solely on this experience, I am looking forward to Friday night viewings of ECW weekly TV and the next PPV scheduled for August 17.

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Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.




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