Happy Extreme Saturday Everyone!
It’s time for our monthly Stinker Review, where I look back at a show that has a reputation for being bad and decide whether that reputation is deserved or not. This month I’ve picked the show but every other month is a reader request, so get your suggestions in the comments section below if you’d like to take part.
ECW was on a real hot streak back in 1995 with the Raven and Tommy Dreamer feud being engrossing viewing whilst the likes of Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko were tearing it up in great matches for the TV Title. The shows generally had a fun mix of good wrestling, strong storytelling and interesting characters.
This show from June has a Main Event of Cactus Jack taking on The Sandman in a Barbed Wire match (hence the title of the show).
The event is emanating from The Arena in Philly on the 17th of June 1995
Calling the action is Joey Styles
The Jersey Devil Vs The Broad Street Bully
This is a hockey feud brought into the wrestling domain, as the Devils had defeated the Flyers in the play offs, so Bully is here to give the Devil a quick pummelling so that the angry Philly sports fans can let off some steam. Amazingly the Devil worked a match as recently as February 2020 according to CageMatch.net, whilst Bully is portrayed by Tri-State regular Tony Stetson.
WINNER: BROAD STREET BULLY
The Devil makes the mistake of attacking Bully following the match, which leads to 911 and Paul E. Dangerously joining us so that 911 can give the Devil some Choke Slams. Luckily for 911 he was fighting some goof from the indies and not Kazuya Mishima on a bad day. The crowd loves watching 911 destroy the Devil and he takes some good bumps for him as well in all fairness. This was an entertaining enough way to start the show, but it did kind of feel like filler.
Val Puccio Vs Mikey Whipwreck
Puccio is a large stocky fellow whose career highlight was probably doing some jobs for the WWF whilst part of the tag team known as Double Trouble. His lack of height only extenuates his girth. He’s actually shorter than the ref. Mikey was an underdog babyface whose original gimmick had been that he could never hit an offensive move, but by this stage he’d been both a TV and Tag Champ so he had a bit more credibility and would be allowed to get offence in. In an ever funny touch, Mikey’s entrance music is “Loser” by Beck, which suits his hapless persona.
The ECW Arena crowd quickly reminds Val of his size in the most polite manner possible. Oh they are a right bunch of cheeky so and so’s aren’t they? Mikey sells and bumps well, but Val is pretty rubbish so he doesn’t really have much to work with and the crowd quickly gets restless after being into Mikey quite a lot to start. Mikey gets shoved down a couple of times and seems to hurt his shoulder. He then delivers a series of low blows to Val before following with a DDT for three.
WINNER: MIKEY WHIPWRECK
Amazingly the crowd went absolutely nuts for that three count even though the match itself was absolutely atrocious
Val quickly bails out of the ring and walks away following that, even though he got hit in the Italian sausage five times.
The Vampire Warrior Vs Hack Myers
Vampire Warrior would go on to greater fame in the WWF as Gangrel. Myers’ thing is that fans shout “Shah” when he hits people. The fans also chant “s—“ when Vampire hits him back. This match is mostly a showcase for Warrior to get him over, as he takes the lion’s share of the offence. Myers does make a nice little comeback at one stage, but he quickly gets cut off again and Vampire wins it with a DDT straight after.
WINNER: VAMPIRE WARRIOR
This was pretty short but what we got was fine for the most part
Our next segment sees Stevie Richards sicking Vampire Warrior on Tommy Dreamer. Warrior is angry that Tommy Dreamer has been chumming around with Luna Vachon, who is Warrior’s wife, leading to the two of them fighting into an impromptu match. Yup, this is sure an ECW show alright!
The Vampire Warrior Vs Tommy Dreamer w/ Luna Vachon
This is your typical wild ECW brawl, as they quickly head out to the floor and Warrior busts Dreamer open with some chair shots. Warrior protected Dreamer on those at least, hitting him in a doorway and mostly getting the side of the door so that Dreamer didn’t have to take the brunt of the chair shots. Luna keeps getting involved and actually helps out Dreamer despite the fact he’s wrestling her husband out there.
Warrior is soon bleeding as well, as they head over to the Eagles Nest area of the building. It’s not like this is a great match or anything, but watching it you can see why ECW started to get an underground following as WCW tended to play brawls like this for comedy and the WWF would never allow the guys to bleed to this extent this back in mid-1995. Outside of importing FMW or W*ING tapes from Japan, you weren’t going to get matches like this in the “Big Two” and it helped ECW seem fresh and different by comparison. Eventually we head back inside, where Dreamer gets an awesome finishing move by leaping off a chair and delivering a DDT onto Warrior for three.
WINNER: TOMMY DREAMER
This wasn’t a great wrestling match from a technical perspective but it had good energy and the crowd enjoyed it
The ECW Arena crowd thinks Dreamer is now hardcore following that.
We get an in-ring segment where corrupt official Bill Alfonso squabbles with ECW authority figure Todd Gordon. Fonzie’s gimmick was pretty ingenious, as he was a referee who actually dared to enforce the rules, making him an instant enemy of the hardcore wrestling loving Philly crowd. Fonzie and Gordon get into a shoving contest, which leads to the locker room emptying to hold Gordon back so that he doesn’t attack Fonzie and get the show shut down.
Extreme Encyclopaedia (Oh great, now I’m going to be thinking of HIMYM all evening)
“Jun’gle J’im Steele”-n.
A Warrior of Ultimate proportions. This former star of the Ted Turner owned WCW Organisation has terrorised wrestling fans by his mere existence. That’s the problem. Solution? Call 911”
“Pa’ul E” Danger’ously-n.
An oral loose cannon. A Cell Phone junkie whose business mergers usually involve AT&T Portable and Blue Chip Human Skull.
See Yuppious Psychosis;
*Scourge of Scarsdale
*NYC’s Night Mayor”
Uh, excuse us; but we the ECW Production Team, being health conscious, refuse to write anything that has the chance of offending this Choke Slamming GIANT! In other words, write your own encyclopaedia!!!!!!”
We hope that’s okay with you Mr. 911
Jim Steele Vs 911 w/ Paul E. Dangerously
This match is another example of the “wrestling culture war” that ECW and specifically Paul Heyman were fighting at the time. Jim Steele is a guy from WCW with a nice physique and a generic wrestling style, whilst 911 is a pretty lousy wrestler who can only really do one move (only just) but he embodies the rebellious nature of the ECW product and fan base by being completely counter to what the two main companies in North America were presenting at the time.
In fact, in some ways 911 is there as a metaphorical blunt instrument so that the jaded and cynical ECW fan base can bludgeon the two mainstream promotions they so despise, as they can live vicariously through 911 as he dismantles the living embodiment of what a wrestler is “supposed” to be. Thus the gimmick works on two levels, because seeing a big dude Choke Slam geeks is an entertaining thing to watch at a base level, but it also works on a wider meta level as well.
Or maybe I’m just giving Paul Heyman and his booking a little too much credit by overthinking all this? In some ways this match is almost kind of mean; as Joey spends the whole thing bagging on Steele, going on to imply that he’s trying to use ECW as a way to get a booking in the WWF. The match is pretty straightforward, as 911 just walks in and crushes Steele with a Choke Slam after Steele misses a blind charge in the corner.
This was more a bizarre social experiment than a wrestling match, but it was entertaining to watch at least, even if I did start feeling sorry for Steele after a certain point
The crowd wants four more Choke Slams so that 911 can hit five in total to break a record, so 911 indulges them whilst Paul E cuts a promo on Steele’s broken carcass, dedicating the Choke Slams to people he doesn’t like. Does anyone think this entire segment was just some kind of twisted therapy for Paul Heyman in order to help him work through some things? The crowd absolutely loved this segment, and if you were starting to get bored with the WWF and WCW products I can totally understand why something anarchic and off the wall like this in front of a sadistic invested crowd would peak your interest.
Beulah McGillicutty w/ Raven and Stevie Richards Vs Luna Vachon
Beulah’s character at the time was that she had been rejected at summer camp by Tommy Dreamer due to her being unattractive, but now she’s come back as a smoking hot model in order to assist Raven in destroying Dreamer’s life. Luna has come in to back Dreamer up due to how outnumbered he is in this feud, but for some reason Dreamer hasn’t deigned to back her up here, which means Richards can hit her with a chair and Beulah can get a quick win.
More and angle than a match
The Heels beat Luna down following the match, as well as a bloody Dreamer when he tries to help her, leading to Raven breaking Dreamer’s fingers in a truly brutal attack that he would re-use for his 1998 feud with Perry Saturn in WCW. Dreamer sells it fantastically, with the idea being that Raven just keeps getting heat on him until Dreamer is able to get a measure of revenge at Heat Wave by braining him with the Chair Shot Heard Around The World.
This show has basically been all story advancement and angles thus far, with very little in the way of good wrestling. It’s not like the angles and storyline stuff has been bad or uninteresting, but this show is in desperate need of a good match right now.
Raven and The Pitbulls (Pitbull #1 and Pitbull #2) Vs Too Cold Scorpio and Taz w/ Paul E. Dangerously
Tommy Dreamer was supposed to be in this match but he of course can’t do that now that he’s been pummelled, so Hack Myers tries to replace him. Bill Alfonso won’t allow that though as Myers wasn’t scheduled in the match and you can’t just change a match on the fly like that, so Myers is forced to head backstage. This character was supremely effective because he threatened everything about the show that the fans liked and thus he drew real honest Heel heat from a crowd that usually felt they were above that sort of thing.
This match is decent, with Scorp and Taz getting a babyface shine before the Heels cut Taz off with some triple teaming outside the ring. Taz as the Face-In-Peril is certainly an interesting choice, but he does well with it for the most part. It’s not a great match or anything, but it tells a story and the work is mostly solid. Scorp eventually gets the hot tag and runs wild on The Pitbulls, coming off the top with a Moonsault onto #2 for a near fall.
We get either the debut of Francine or one of her earliest appearances at least, as she’s at ringside with a pro-Stevie Richards sign. This would lead to her eventually managing The Pitbull’s after a brief relationship with Stevie in storyline. Raven eventually decides to walk out on the match, leaving The Pitbulls distracted, which allows Taz and Scorp to rally and pick up the win. They took forever to get to the finish though and it ended up looking silly that The Pitbulls were standing around doing nothing.
WINNERS: SCORPIO & TAZ
This started out okay but fell off a bit at the end. There was a bit of dissension between Scorpio and Taz at one stage near the end, which led to them feuding and Scorpio inadvertently breaking Taz’s neck on a spiked piledriver in a tag match later in the year
Next up we’re supposed to get a match between The Public Enemy (“Flyboy” Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge) and The Bad Breed (Axl and Ian Rotten). However, Fonzie once again makes an appearance to say that The Bad Breed lost a match with a stipulation that they couldn’t team together in ECW anymore, so he’s going to enforce the stipulation and not let the match go ahead, thus robbing the fans of a Dream Match and making himself an even bigger Heel in the process. Paul Heyman knew just how to push the ECW fan’s buttons when it came to stuff like this.
With the match now not happening, Axl and Ian decide they’ll just beat up one another instead, leading to them brawling to the back. With their opponents no longer there, Public Enemy decide to just have a House Party and call it a night, but that gets interrupted by the debuting Gangstas (New Jack and Mustafa) who lay a big beating on Public Enemy to get themselves over as a dangerous threatening tag team right out of the gate.
This was one of those trademark elongated angles that Paul Heyman liked to do, with one angle bleeding into another, which was another thing you weren’t seeing the other two main companies in North America doing that much. I think both parts of the segment reached the point where they went on for a bit too long, but you can’t accuse ECW of doing a TNA styled “To The Back” job on the big Gangstas debut, as they put them over strong and really let the beat down sink in.
Barbed Wire Match
ECW World Title
Champ: The Sandman w/ Woman Vs Cactus Jack
Sandman was actually a bit of cowardly Heel at this period in his career, as he doesn’t want to get in the ring at the start and actively tries to run away at points, whilst Cactus is the clear babyface who wants to fight. Cactus is the first to end up tasting the wire though, as Sandman gives him a gourd buster onto it before following with a stomp off the apron when Cactus tumbles to the floor.
This is one of those matches that will definitely turn some people off, especially if you think raking barbed wire over someone’s arm is a garbage wrestling spot that doesn’t belong in the business. However, it is a good intense brawl for the most part, with Cactus selling very well and the crowd getting into the big spots. Cactus is the star of the match really, as he takes plenty of sick bumps and really does his utmost to get the match over.
The most disturbing part of the match is probably when Sandman has his shirt pulled up, as it exposes us to his beer gut! The wire on one side of the ring is almost completely cleared out at one stage, which allows both men to fight around ringside and hit one another with things like chairs and cheese graters.
Cactus ends up bringing in even MORE barbed wire at one stage, with an entire roll of it getting brought into the ring, only for Cactus to end up landing on it. Sandman follows that up with a leg drop before elbow dropping the wire when Cactus moves. Not to be outdone, Cactus wraps his arm in the wire and thrashes Sandman with it in a brutal looking assault.
They have not really held back with the violence here, but this was a long running feud so the rivalry kind of called for them to pull out all of the stops. We eventually end up with a double down and Cactus makes it up before 10 whilst The Sandman stays down and can’t move, so the ref decides he’s going to award the match to Cactus.
However, Fonzie comes down and says that the 10 count rule wasn’t in effect, so the belt cannot change hands that way. Like all good bureaucrats he is technically correct, the best kind of correct. Sandman quickly chokes out Cactus with some wire and then flings him to the floor, leading to Fonzie awarding the match to Sandman because Cactus can’t continue. This may also be a bogus finish but Fonzie is the one calling the shots so it counts.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: THE SANDMAN
It got a little gimmicky with the restart hijinks, but it was a good intense brawl for the most part and it was a suitable addition to the bloody feud these two had with one another
Fonzie clotheslines a protesting Todd Gordon following that, which was all building to Fonzie and Gordon wrestling one another at November to Remember 1995. The crowd is of course furious at what Fonzie has been doing and he effectively has become the 2nd or 3rd biggest Heel in the company depending on where you rank Raven and Sandman at this time.
Is It Really A Stinker?
You know what; I’d have to say no. There is certainly a lack of good wrestling here, with the show being more story and angle focused, but the stories they were telling were good ones and the crowd was mostly in to everything.
At around a 1 hour and 45 minute run length, this show felt more like 3 episodes of Hardcore TV welded together than anything else, and the TV show was good at the time, so that isn’t really too much of a bad thing.
ECW’s product was so fresh and different in 1995, and it took WCW starting off the Monday Night War later in the year for the Big Two to finally start catching up with them when it came to quality of product. WCW would end up poaching their best workers whilst the WWF would steal most of their successful concepts for the much vaunted Attitude Era, leaving ECW with nothing especially unique to hang it’s hat on once 97/98 came along outside of being a fan friendly company that could go a bit further when it came to violent match types than the other two would or could.
There are definitely better shows from this period that you could watch, but in general I didn’t think this one was too bad. ECW is very much an acquired taste and you’re best off watching the version of the show with the real music because it really adds to things, but if you can get into the storytelling and characters then this era of the company can be really engrossing viewing.
So not a Stinker, but better shows from 1995 are available
Final Rating: Odourless