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Thread: ECW Hardcore Heaven 1996 Review

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    ECW ECW Hardcore Heaven 1996 Review

    Hardcore Heaven
    June 22, 1996

    The show kicks off with Joel Gertner trying to pump up the crowd, but heís attacked by The Sandman from behind. Sandman whips Gertner with his Singapore cane. Sandman calls for Missy Hyatt and she brings out ring announcer Bob Artese to replace Gertner. Artese is ECWís old ring announcer who at some point left (Iím thinking mid 1995?) with this being his big return.

    Shane Douglas vs Mikey Whipwreck
    Whoa. An ECW opener that looks as if it could be really good?! Since A Matter of Respect, Douglas dropped the ECW Title to Pitbull #2 back on June 1st at Fight the Power. The idea is that Douglas kept challenging wrestlers to TV Title defenses. It started with Douglas quickly squashing El Puerto Ricano before moving on to Devon Storm. Douglas finally faced a decent challenger in Mikey Whipwreck, but despite the good effort, Mikey was forced to submit to the Texas Cloverleaf. From there, Douglasí big mouth got the best of him when he challenged Pitbull #2, thinking that he would be easy to beat simply because Pitbull #2 had already wrestled. As for this Mikey/Douglas rematch, itís a quality sprint. It goes eleven minutes and it flies by. The Franchise is just a supreme dick in this match. Early on, he gave Whipwreck a low blow for the hell of it. This rough treatment is all Mikey needed to channel his inner aggression, making Douglas pay with a mean looking Figure Four with Whipwreck chopping Douglas for good measure. Throw in the fact that Mikey injured Shaneís knee and Douglas is suddenly looking pretty foolish for being an asshole for asshole sake. Yet, since Douglas is the bigger star, he was able to get lucky and catch Whipwreck off guard with a Belly-to-Belly suplex for the victory. Mikey is amazing and Douglas played his role to perfection. A hell of an opener, especially by ECW standards. *** ľ

    Joey Styles opens what I presume is an edition of Hardcore TV with an interview. That brings out Stevie Richards, The Blue Meanie, and The Meanie Babe. Stevie is decked out as Baron Von Stevie, Meanie is Bluedust, and Meanie Babe is playing a Marlena-type character. Admittedly, the objective of this interview is pretty vague and gets lost in all of the comedy. It has something to do with Raven and some awful woman. I donít know. Whatís important is Stevie is incredibly entertaining as Baron Von Stevie, failing at wearing a bald cap. At one point, Stevie locked in the Iron Claw on Styles, but Styles slapped him away. Meanwhile, Bluedust makes Styles uncomfortable. A totally fun segment. Hardcore Heaven 1996 has started off so good.

    Before the next match, The FBI comes out with JT Smith announcing the newest member of The FBI - Sal Bellomo. Bellomo was a WWE jobber in the mid 80s before completely changing up his character to find success in Eastern Championship Wrestling.

    The FBI w/Sal Bellomo vs Bubba Ray and Big Dick Dudley w/The Dudleys
    The Dudleys are represented by Sign Guy, Chubby, and Dances with Dudley. This would be a rematch of Massacre on Queens Boulevard, but without D-Von being in the building, perhaps The FBI will fair a bit better. Before the match properly began, Bubba Ray did his usual entrance, this time managing to say his name without stuttering. He then confirmed that no one liked D-Von Dudley, but that D-Von had one thing right - Thou shall not fuck with the Dudleys. That was the cue for Bubba Ray and Big Dick to absolutely murder The FBI. Itís an utter beatdown that goes on for awhile. Every once in awhile, The FBI would get in a hope spot, but the hope spot would be something like a double closeline on Big Dick, but Big Dick no selling it. Bellomo ends up attacking the non-participating Dudleys, causing Big Dick to carry Sal to the back. With it becoming two-on-one, The FBI are able to briefly get the best of Bubba Ray before D-Von runs in, killing The FBI once again. He then got on the mic to chastise Bubba Ray for not waiting for him while also criticizing Big Dick, despite waiting until Big Dick was not at ringside before making his appearance. D-Von shows some tough love by blasting Bubba Ray, Chubby, and DW with chair strikes. Making the statement that he rules the Dudleys and not Big Dick, D-Von quickly leaves the ECW Arena with the camera man picking up on Big Dick just missing him. This was more of an angle than a proper match, but I had a lot of fun with it. Even though I canít imagine a D-Von vs Big Dick match being good, theyíve made this such a heated program that Iíd love to see the match. Yet another good ECW segment tonight! ANGLE.

    Taz w/Fonzie and Team Taz vs Paul Varelans - Shoot Fight Rules
    Varelans is an early UFC fighter, having been quickly beaten by both Dan Severan and Tank Abbott on UFC PPV back in 1995. Varelans is a pretty big dude especially compared to Taz, but his UFC career is just about finished. The backstage story for this fight is far more interesting than the actual match. Legends says that in this worked shoot, Varelans was only willing to job if he received a blowjob from Missy Hyatt. When she refuses, he was a tad bit upset. Iím actually wondering if that is why The Eliminators, Shane Douglas, and Rob Van Dam are at ringside for this match. Anyways, itís really short with some grabbling before the referee was checking on Taz, allowing Perry Saturn to dive off the top rope in a supposedly missile drop kick, but really just sorta lands on Varelans. That allows Taz to fire off a T-Bone Tazplex and then choke Varelans out for the quick victory. The entire thing lasted a minute or two. It hardly looked like a stiff fight, but I kind of like that it was something different. Not Rated.

    After the match, Taz got on the mic to mock the fans that chanted ďBullshitĒ.

    Before the next match, Raven, Stevie Richards, and Nova came out to the ring. This is the first time Iíve seen Richards and Nova together, taking this one step closer to the creation of Blue World Order. Richards again brings up his objective given by Raven. Raven wants an absolutely disgusting woman, perhaps someone to hurt The Sandman. That causes Richards to bring out The Sandmanís ex wife, Peaches aka Lori. Lori immediately shows her loyalty to Raven by being all over him. The Sandman and Missy Hyatt come out to address this shock. Sandman downplays it, acting as if he doesnít care.

    Raven © w/Stevie Richards and Nova vs Terry Gordy - ECW World Title
    This would be the ECW debut of Terry Bam Bam Gordy. Heís billed as Ravenís surprise opponent for tonight. The last few years havenít been the best for Gordy. His life altering overdose happened in 1993. While he survived, his workrate was never the same and it was the beginning of the end for his time in All Japan. As a result, Gordy had been popping up occasionally in smaller companies, but heís clearly passed his peak. Watching this match, I struggle to see how Raven doesnít respect the hell out of Gordy. Just about the entire match is just Gordy destroying Raven. In the opening minutes, Gordy has attacked Raven, beat him up around the building, and has bloodied Raven. Ravenís entire role is to bump for Gordy. Things finally change after Stevie Richards jumps into the ring to provide a distraction, allowing for a low blow by Raven. Despite this, Raven soon finds himself locked in the Asiatic Spike. That brings in Richards and Nova, trying to break it up, but Gordy refuses. Tommy Dreamer runs out to help Gordy out (Even though he totally doesnít need any help) by clearing the ring of Richards and Nova. That brings out Brian Lee to choke slam Dreamer, but Lee suffers a power bomb from Gordy for his trouble. Richards provides one more distraction in the form of a successful Stevie Kick, Raven follows it up with a DDT for the victory. It may be an one sided beatdown for the majority of the match, but this is the most Iíve enjoyed an ECW World Title match thus far in 1996. ***

    After the match, we get a repeat of what we saw already with Dreamer suffering another chokeslam from Lee, but The Sandman runs out for the save. While Sandman prepares to kill a bloody Raven on the outside, Lori, now dressed similarly to Raven shows up with Tyler, The Sandmanís young son, who is also dressed like Raven. With Raven using Sandmanís family to shield himself, Tyler utters a heartbreaking iconic line of, ďDaddy, youíre a drunk. Now I worship Raven!Ē With that, Sandman breaks down. Raven hooking up with Sandmanís ex wife may have not had any effect, but bringing his son into it certainly did. A legendary reveal.

    While the heels and Sandman leaves, Dreamer, Beulah, Kimona, and Gordy remain in the ring when Bluedust comes out. Bluedust gets attacked with Beulah laying him out with a DDT.

    PLEASE let this show remain good. So far, Iím still loving Hardcore Heaven.

    Before the next match, The Gangstas are attacked during their entrance by The Samoan Gangsta Party. The Samoan Gangsta Party are comprised of Sammy the Silk (Aka Samu of the Headshrinkers) and Mack Daddy Kane (AKA Rosey of 3 Minute Warning). The attack only has so much success before Gangstas gain control, but thatís the cue for The Bruise Brothers to attack The Gangstas as well. New Jack is busted open badly. Since The Gangstas are so badly hurt, theyíre helped to the back while The Eliminators, the original opponents for The Gangstas, get on the mic to badmouth The Bruise Brothers and challenging them to take The Gangstas place.

    The Eliminators © vs The Bruise Brothers - ECW Tag Titles
    Boy does this not seem interesting to me. Itís just a wild brawl which is eventually interrupted by The Gangstas. Gangstas clear house and the match just sorta ends without an official result. Garbage tag brawls are lame, but at least this didnít go on for too long. Once The Gangstas returned, it even briefly got more interesting. Itís very clear that Heyman is building up to The Gangstas tag titles win. Even though Iím sure the match will suck, Iím hoping it will be a big moment. * Ĺ

    The Samoan Gangsta Party vs Axl Rotten and Hack Meyers
    Ring announcer, Bob Artese, completely confuses me as he refers to Sammy the Silk as Samu and Samoan Gangsta Party as The Gangstas of Paradise. I know when I first found out that Rosey was around back then, it blew my mind that Rosey was around in the mid 90s. I first properly heard about Rosey as a member of The Island Boyz with Umaga around 2000-2001, so I figured they had just trained at the end of the 90s. Prior to Samoan Gangsta Partyís ECW debut, they were very briefly in the WWE as heels trying to sway Make a Difference Fatu back to the dark side. As a kid, I have zero memory of this, but thatís probably because it lasted so briefly before the angle was dropped. Anyways, this was a really short match with The Samoans dominating and the crowd giving them a hard time until The Gangstas ran out to attack them. The Eliminators were soon to follow with The Bruise Brothers eventually joining the fight. The locker room empties as everyone tries to pull apart this four two brawl and itís another tag match that just sorta ended. Considering itís a tag match that I had little interest in seeing, Iím okay with that. Just to remain positive, these brawls tonight have added heat to a potential four-way match between Gangstas, Eliminators, Samoans, and Bruise Brothers. It also accomplishes the goal of slightly delaying the payoff of The Gangstas winning the ECW Tag Titles. ANGLE.

    Pitbull #2 © w/Francine vs Chris Jericho - ECW TV Title
    On paper, I wasnít sure what to make of this match. Jericho has been good thus far in ECW, but Pitbull #2 as a singles wrestler is a mostly unknown entity. Yet I quickly discovered that the pairing is pretty great especially to further push Jericho. At the start of the match, Pitbull overpowered Jericho and made it look as if it could develop into a squash. Instead of allowing that to happen, Jericho did his best to be just as rough as Pitbull was being with him. Iíd compare it as a lesser version of HBK/Mankind where this establishes that Jericho can be more than just a pretty boy and he can become a big brawler. The second half features some distractions and interference as Shane Douglas makes his way down to the ring to forcefully kiss Francine. Francine ends up slapping The Franchise, causing Douglas to grab her. Pitbull #2 attempted to come to the save of his handler, but Douglas ducks, causing Francine to be hit with a Pitbull closeline instead. The miscommunication of sorts continues as Jericho attempts a slingshot to the outside to Pitbull, but Pitbull moves out of the way, causing Jericho to land on Douglas. Pitbull #1, with his dislocated shoulder, comes out to carry Francine to the back with one arm while Douglas is stopped at the entrance way by referees, attempting to steal the TV Title. The action continues in the ring with both men looking as if they could win at any moment. Thatís when Jericho seemingly makes a critical mistake as he climbs to the top rope while Pitbull #2 is sitting on the turnbuckle for what I presume is a top rope Frankensteiner attempt. Instead, Pitbull grabbed him for a Super Bomb, but just as Pitbull jumps, Jericho turns it into the Frankensteiner in midair. They crash down on the mat with Jericho quickly covering to become the NEW ECW TV Champion. Although there was a little sloppiness, itís another match that did a lot to remind fans of the importance of the TV Title after the title being mostly ignored for months. I wonder if Heyman knew that there was no way he was going to be able to keep Jericho for long before one of the big two took him away, thus explaining his quick ascension to gold. ***

    After the match, Douglas is besides himself, trying to steal back the TV Title, but being kept out of the ring while Pitbull #2 shows respect to Chris Jericho.

    Tommy Dreamer vs Brian Lee - Weapons Match
    To my shock, I found myself digging this match well enough despite it being a garbage match. So it seems as if Iím far more tolerant of garbage matches if theyíre just singles bouts. At least with the singles matches, you always remain on the action instead of switching back and forth between the two-three brawls that are always happening. The result is that you get the full spectrum of action rather than random clips. Most of the action in this one took place outside of the building with Dreamer getting busted open. Dreamer would be slammed head first into a steel pull up door multiple times. The action would eventually go back to the ring to wrap it up. Lee pulls out another concrete block and a baseball bat (Maybe steel pipe?) to tease smashing it over Dreamerís crotch again, but Beulah ran out to prevent it. Lee would tease hitting the Prime Time Slam (Choke slam), Kimona saves her by jumping into the ring and flashing Lee. That allows Dreamer to smash a stop sign over Leeís head and deliver a DDT to win the match.. I continue to feel really upbeat about this show. Itís hardly some great match, but I was invested during all of it. ** Ĺ

    After the match, The Bruise Brothers ran out to attack Dreamer. With Lee joining in on the attack with his cousins, Dreamerís celebration is short lived. We cut to Dreamer and Lee on top of the balcony above the entrance for the building (Not the Eagleís Nest) with The Bruise Brothers stacking tables below. Lee delivers a pretty incredible looking spot as he gives Dreamer a Prime Time Slam off of the balcony through the four tables below. Killer spot.

    Itís at this point that the ring breaks. Backstage, RVD and Sabu, the two scheduled for the main event, are given the option to wait until the ring is fixed or they can postpone their match. They decided to wait, causing Heyman to figure out some way to keep the fans entertained while the ring crew tries to save the show. Heyman managed to convince Kimona to dance on the balcony, stripping. While this segment isnít included in the ECW release of Hardcore Heaven, it was used in the ECW comp, Extreme Warfare #2, that ECW put out back in 1999. If youíre like me and you watched ECW on TNN every Friday night, you saw countless ads promoting this video tape with Kimona being the main buying point. Watching the Kimona segment on Extreme Warfare #2, she never properly shows and nudity, especially with the pasties on her tits, but this is a far cry from Kelly Kellyís embarrassing Extreme Exposes. Even though the WWE has shown nudity on their shows before, nothing has ever felt as raunchy as Kimonaís dance. Even more so than the lesbian reveal with Bealuh, this was Kimonaís most memorable moment. Hopefully she talked Heyman into giving her extra money to be the smartest person booked on this show.

    Sabu vs Rob Van Dam
    Since this match is also featured on RVDís WWE DVD, I decided to switch to it for the better video quality. Something I noticed before the switch is that the ECW release eliminated any mention of the ring break. The match on the WWE DVD features Styles talking about it and even mentioning how RVD had inside info on how to target Sabuís neck in their last match, which was missing on the ECW release. Apparently, in order for me to love a Sabu/RVD match, something needs to go wrong. At Hostile City Showdown, it was both men going in with injuries. Their A Matter of Respect match didnít have anything go wrong and I ended up not being impressed with it. Here, the ring gets broken again in the opening minutes after Sabu bounces off of the ropes, with the ropes immediately going slack. While the ropes are all still attached, all three sets of ropes are extremely loose. Considering the fact that this is RVD/Sabu, they rely on tight ropes quite a bit. Yet, these two crazy fuckers do not allow the loose ropes to slow them down. Even Sabu, the master of botches, manages to not botch a single time because of the loose ropes. During one triple jump moonsault spot, he does end up botching and crotching himself on the top rope, but it just looked like he completely mistimed how far away he was from the ropes, not touching them at all before crotching himself. The match had this strong sense of aggression, getting over the hatred of the feud. Sabu went after RVDís knees early on before the match broke down into one brutal looking spot after another. Speaking of breaks, Sabu may have broken his fingers during a brawl in the crowd. He ends up receiving some help in taping up his fingers because obviously Sabu isnít going to allow a few broken fingers stop a match. Yet, unlike when the WWE stops a match to attend to a wrestler, such as when theyíre broken open, RVD throws a chair at Sabuís head when heís trying to tape up his fingers. Then when some guy outside of the ring tried to take over the duty of taping up Sabuís fingers, RVD is kicking at the guyís head. RVD isnít interested in pausing the match, allowing the match to never break the illusion of a real issue. RVD once again busted out the middle rope Fishermanís Buster, the same move he used to beat Sabu at A Matter of Respect. This time though, Sabu manages to kick out, but heís clearly in a lot of pain. RVD attempted a standing Fishermanís Buster, but Sabu countered into one of his own. Sabu followed that up with an Atomic Arabian Facebuster to get the victory. I loved this match. Itís even better than their first one. Itís a brutal match that furthered the feud between the two. RVD may have lost here, but he looked like Sabuís equal. Furthermore, despite winning, I wouldnít say Sabu was the better man in this. Had the match went on for another five minutes, I donít think he could have kept going. Between the counter to the standing Fishermanís Buster and finding the strength to hit the Atomic Arabain Facebuster, Sabu got lucky. Sabu in 1996 is comparable to The Undertaker in 2002. Itís a flip of a coin for whether youíll get shit or a great match. Maybe my ECW MOTY currently? ****

    After the match, damage control comes out to check on both men. RVD gets stretchered out first while Heyman comes out to be there for Sabu. Sabu remain lying on the mat for awhile before heís stretchered out.

    Without question, Hardcore Heaven is my favorite ECW show of 1996 currently. Thereís numerous reasons for this and it began with the opener. The opening match with Douglas vs Whipwreck was not only Mikeyís usual quality match, but it does something that no other ECW opener did in 1996 - it was great. Looking back at the other openers, the matches are either bad, squashes, or just highlights. With the exception of the Eliminators vs Mysterio/911 match at Big Apple Blizzard Blast, which was a solid ** ĺ match, you can skip every other opener. So right away, Mikey/Douglas started the show off on such a great note. My biggest annoyance with ECW 1996 has been the garbage tag matches. Here, thereís potentially two garbage tag matches, but both Eliminators Tag Titles defense and Samoan Gangsta Party squash came off as more angles than actual matches. The ECW World Title matches have been disappointing in nearly every title defense thus far in 1996. Raven vs Gordy was pretty entertaining. It may just be Raven getting his ass kicked by Gordy for 90% of the match, but itís good stuff. The TV Title gets another event where itís spotlighted and the match delivers, crowning a new TV Champion in Chris Jericho. Starting in May, the ECW TV Title was so unpredictable, constantly changing hands. Way more entertaining than Scorpio being TV Champion and being wasted in tag matches. Sadly, Scorpio was on tour with the obscure Tokyo Pro Wrestling company, causing him to miss this event. Speaking of missing events, Bam Bam Bigelow is officially my biggest disappointment of 1996. He made this big debut, made me interested to see his matches like the big tease that he is, and then spent the vast majority of 1996 working Japanís War company and various small indies in America rather than compete in ECW. Luckily, post-Barely Lethal 1997, Bigelow would become a regular for ECW until leaving in late 1998 to return to WCW. Back to focusing on the actual show instead of realizations, this event has a few of really memorable segments. The Prime Time Slam off of the balcony was a pretty crazy spot and I think it was the first time Dreamer did it. Heíd later repeat the spot with Big Dick Dudley I believe a few times. The Kimona dancing didnít technically get shown on the home video release, seeing it on Extreme Warfare Vol 2 is certainly memorable. Like I said, if you were a viewer of ECW on TNN, you saw that damn ad so many times so finally seeing that segment is rewarding just to see how far they went with it. Finally, thereís the biggest takeaway of Hardcore Heaven - the return of Peaches/Lori and reveal of Sandmanís son, Tyler, as a follower of Raven. Itís an amazing reveal especially with how The Sandman, a guy who is fearless and doesnít seem to be bothered by anything, is now emotionally broken by the reveal. Raven, that piece of shit, found Sandmanís one weakness. Fantastic stuff. Throw in the really fun Baron Von Stevie segment and Hardcore Heaven is a great ECW event.

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    Re: ECW Hardcore Heaven 1996 Review

    Wow this show sounds like a great card, I want to go back and watch this just for the Jericho match, and the Shane Douglas match. I've seen the Van Dam/Sabu match before, and at this point I'm kinda worn out on watching these two, but with your rating I should go back and rewatch that.

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