Not sure how many more times I’m going to head down Philly way seeing as how my general disdain for this period of ECW is fairly obvious. But I’ll give it at least one more shot. It’s the 13th of May 1995 and we’re in the ECW Arena for Enter The Sandman! Your main event tonight: The Public Enemy defend the ECW Tag Titles against the Pitbulls in a dog collar match!
This is Heyman’s relatively early years booking the promotion, and there are ebbs and flows in the popular remembrance. Young up-and-comers like Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko were drawing a lot of eyes, as the title of the show would indicate the Sandman was becoming a huge deal (and draw) and ECW was already establishing itself as the best source of alternative wrestling away from the big two. But there were problems too, like Heyman’s frequently fractious relationships with Shane Douglas, a similar situation with Sabu (whom Heyman publically fired for no-showing an event the month previous to this show) and the constant reality that the promotion’s big names were generally one decent paycheck offer away from heading to New York or Atlanta. Enter The Sandman is a somewhat little remembered part of that year, but has a fairly rocking card on paper.
The Network recording opens by warning us that the show is “Presented in the most complete form possible” so I’m expecting some mess-ups. A basic opening title, to the tune of the eponymous Metallica song, segways into our opening contest about to start. The title, with the addition of “the”, is presumably to ward off a lawsuit, though I note the show is called “Enter Sandman” in places. Anyway.
Hack Myers vs Tony Stetson
Never heard of either of these two guys. It’s the typically raucous crowd in the ECW Arena, and lone announcer Joey Styles can barely be heard. Stetson attacks before the bell, but Myers gets a thunderous ovation when he lays in a few shots, the crowd chanting “Shah”, apparently part of his gimmick. Into the ring with Stetson in control. Hits a seated drop onto Myers with Myers hung up on the rope, and he seems to land mostly on the back of Myers’ head, looked ugly as hell.
Myers trying to rally back but Stetson shutting him down. Stetson hilariously being called “the Hitman” by Styles, and I don’t think that’s going to catch on mate. Stetson grabs Myers’ sideburns, and then takes a low blow after telegraphing the move by opening his legs up. Myers with a snapmare, second-rope flying headbutt, shots. Another snapmare, then a second rope first drop, and I’m guessing this isn’t going to be full of variety. As Stetson lays in shots they are greeted with loud “Shit” chants from a fired-up crowd.
Shah taking back control with more big shots, Scoop Slam, but then leveraged into the corner as suddenly “Boring” chants start. Myers quickly back on top with a forearm to the back of the head, legdrop with Stetson on the rope, then a sort-of second rope facebuster move which is enough for the 1, 2, 3 in around five-and-a-half.
Winner: Hack Myers, who might be the first guy in years I’ve seen bust out two snapmares in one match.
Verdict: Forgettable wrestlers, forgettable contest. The reaction they were getting is the kind of thing crowds in modern promotions don’t give to main events though, so ECW has that going for it.
This is an old ECW tape recording, so it’s a burst of static and straight into the next contest.
911 and the Tazmanic w/Paul E. Dangerously vs Hiroshi Itakura and Tsubo Genjin
I remember little about 911, other than he was known for just chokeslamming opponents and calling it a day. Tazmaniac, still being billed as being from Tasmania, is only a few months from both the name change and a crippling neck injury after a botched piledriver. I have no idea who the two Japanese guys are. Taz out with Heyman, and boy the two of them look young. Taz launches a few ringside chairs at the Japanese duo, that Styles dubs the “Oriental Connection” which only mildly distracts from a fan sign at ringside that has to be blurred, “Kill The” is all I can make out.
Tazmaniac tells 911 to stay out of the ring, then jaws with Genjin. Crowd loudly behind Taz. He hits a big pumphadle slam early, Itakura in and Taz with a brutal looking Exploder. The Connection try a double team, and Taz gives the two a double belly-to-belly, which was both amazing and terrible looking, in terms of people getting dropped on their heads. 911 in for a double chokeslam, then another to Genjin, then another to Itakura, and I was able to confidently write that last part before it happened. 911 with the pin for the win in not even three minutes.
Winners: The pride of Tasmania and the ambulance services.
Verdict: Jesus, those suplexes are scary.
Static, and Styles addresses the crowd from ringside to introduce the next match.
Axl Rotten vs Ian Rotten (Barbed Wire Baseball/Barbed Wire Chair Match)
This has nonsense written all over it. Axl out first, starts running down Florida fans for some reason. ECW fans can handle his barbed wire bat, but Florida couldn’t, making them, and I quote, a “Bunch of F*****s”. Doubt this is making it to the Network Best Of then. “Fuck you Florida”. OK.
Ian out for the sneak attack, thank God, with his barbed wire chair. Lays in some shots, including an unprotected one to the head, and Axl is bleeding early. Ian grabs the bat for a shot, then sets the chair on top of the bat. Going for a piledriver onto the two, but back body-dropped onto them instead. Axl with a few shots with the chair now. To the outside for rakes with the bat. Blood flowing freely for both guys now. Into the crowd for weapon exchanges, back to ringside for brawling. Styles nowhere to be found for this by the way, making it seem extra amateurish.
They go back and forth for a while with the weapon shots. Back into the crowd for a minute, then back to ringside, and it’s just rakes with the weapons and shots with the weapons. Lots of blood now, and sort of hard to tell the two apart. Finally back into the ring, Axl prone, Ian puts the bat on him and goes for a Vadar Bomb, but of course he lands on the bat for a stupid comedy spot. Axl retaliates with a reverse suplex onto the bat and that’s enough for the 1, 2, 3 in just under six-and-a-half.
Winner: No one really, this was brutally stupid.
Verdict: Whenever I watch old footage and a wrestler drops a f-bomb, I always wonder how many closeted gay men are in the crowd and what they feel at that moment. For a guy who dealt with plenty of prejudice in his life, Heyman was never exactly a paragon of inclusivity.
No slowing down this show as it’s static and straight into our next contest.
Mikey Whipwreck and Tommy Dreamer vs Raven and Stevie Richards
Feels like ages since I’ve seen any Whipwreck stuff, so looking forward to this. No context being offered for any of these matches so far by the way. After the Raven/Richards entrance Shane Douglas suddenly comes to the ring and addresses the crowd. He says he left the building in disgust the last time he was here (wearing a Raw t-shirt according to Styles). Audio quality is super bad, but Douglas appears to just be running down the crowd. Tired of his time in ECW, he got his lawyer to call up the commissioner of sports event in Pennsylvania and appoint a special ref to enforce the rules of wrestling in his match later. Styles is outraged at the idea of rules being enforced.
Bill Alfonso is said special ref, and this is apparently his ECW debut, so that’s something. Crowd rabidly unhappy about all of this. Tod Gordon shows up to argue the point, Alfonso says he’ll shut the event down if he doesn’t get to ref, and I’m a bit confused as to why they needed to do this whole bit for a match the Franchise is not involved in? This is crashiest of Crash TV.
Out come Dreamer and Whipwreck. “What a geek” says Styles of Stevie, which has aged pretty bad as an insult. Still in the early stages of the legendary Dreamer/Raven feud here I think, and Dreamer refuses to face Richards, sending in Whipwreck instead. Shoulder block sends Mikey down. Blind tag to Dreamer, Richards sent to the outside, but Alfonso, whom I just realised is reffing this match and not Douglas’ later, refuses to let Dreamer go after him, Crowd very unhappy about this. Richards back in, and walks into a jumping DDT OUTTANOWHERE. Dreamer could go for a pin but wants to take Raven on instead, to the frustration of Whipwreck. Mikey in, splash off the top, and but only two.
Dreamer in, double team wrist-lock spin, then an assisted leg drop. Faces working over Richards for a bit, Whipwreck with two off a flying clothesline, dodges a drop-kick, hits his own for two. Richards now gets the tag and in comes Raven. Awkward victory roll for Mikey gets two, then Whipwreck hits a “Frankenmikey” that looks hella awkward. Raven laying in some vicious shots, Whipwreck responds with a rana that Raven basically no-sells. Richards in, hits a powerbomb for two, Whipwreck counters with a roll-up for two. Whipwreck doing quite well so far.
Heels with a double facebuster but nothing doing on the pin attempts. A nice drop toe-hold/elbow drop combo follows. Whipwreck set-up on the top, and Raven slams him to the outside, but Dreamer with the catch. That looked brutal initially, and the camera angle did it no favours. Raven follows up with a swinging neckbreaker, but Whipwreck avoids another by grabbing the rope. Raven launches himself to the outside on a missed charge, but then dodges a springboard crossbody from Whipwreck, with Mikey hitting the concrete hard. Richards takes the same move from Dreamer, and there is very little contact, a real “didn’t get all of it”.
Dreamer and Raven exchanging shots in the ring, ref not happy for some reason and he calls for the bell in just under nine.
Winners (by DQ): The proto-flock
Verdict: Stupid ending. Mikey Whipwreck is always a delight.
Crowd is pissed. Alfonso on the mike trying to explain himself, apparently Dreamer used a closed fist and that’s why we have a DQ. Douglas back in the ring, taunting Dreamer, trying to get him to fire off a punch so Alfonso will shut the show down. ECW’s constant need to paint themselves as the victim of censors looks so asinine a quarter of a century later. Now Cactus Jack is here, because this wasn’t over-booked enough. Jack says they don’t want Douglas here anymore, and calmly, but firmly, asks him to leave. Hard to make out what Douglas says in response, especially with Styles talking over it, but eventually we get a pull apart brawl. I’ll wager he made some kind of challenge to a wrestling contest.
Styles rails against Bill Alfonso for a bit, static, and oh boy am I looking forward to this one.
Eddie Guerrero (c) vs Dean Malenko (ECW Television Championship)
This is one of a series of matches between these two around this time that have a stellar reputation, and probably led to both of them getting offers from WCW. Guerrero is just establishing himself in ECW at this stage, and Malenko is two years off being named the best wrestler in the world by PWI. This even gets its own title card, which notes that it’s a rematch, and a colour commentator in Peter Senercia. Who? Why, it’s Taz of course, moonlighting, but I can tell that because I recognise the voice.
Lock chains, Guerrero into an armbar attempt, more chains, smooth as velvet. Malenko with a corner clothesline, then walks into a corner rana that sends him to the outside. Much to my disgust we then have a time skip, and when we’re back Malenko has a choke-hold on Guerrero, but broken with a rope-break. To the outside for some brief brawling, back-in, and Malenko hits a Tiger Bomb for two. Malenko working Eddie over with some beat-down moves. Nice reverse suplex for two. Plenty of pauses between moves gives this one a slow feel. Malenko picks Guerrero up, hits a Tombstone, but only two again.
Guerrero set-up on the top, some shots, Eddie with a thumb to the eye and goes for a Tornado DDT, but Malenko catches him and flings him across the ring, absolutely beautiful. Follows up with a pop-up powerbomb, transitions into a Boston Crab, countered into a pin, more counters and both down after a double clothesline. Amazing sequence.
Another time skip, boo. Eddie beats Malenko down on the outside, heads to the top and hits a big crossbody. Another time skip, and Guerrero hits Malenko with a brainbuster in the ring. To the top, but Malenko with the knees up on the splash attempt. Guerrero rolls out, eventually rolled back in, Malenko to the top but intercepted,and Guerrero hits a superplex. Time skip, Guerrero with a tightrope walk into a big rana, but only gets two. Eddie appears to have gotten the worst of the move though, and is busted open. Malenko going for the Cloverleaf, countered into a small package for two, and Taz barely pays any attention because it happened in a moment of his analysis. Eddie sets Malenko up on the top and hits a Frankensteiner.
Time skip, ugh, and Guerrero hits a powerbomb for two. Hard to comment on the rhythm of what is essentially a highlights package. Malenko gets two on a roll-up, time skip, and now it’s Guerrero getting a roll-up for two. Guerrero lands a Bronco Buster in the corner, then locks in a Figure 4. Suddenly the bell rings and…it’s a time limit draw after 30. What.
Winner: Nobody, though Eddie retains.
Verdict: Can’t really give one on a highlight reel. Quite disappointing they couldn’t put the whole match on this show. Time limit draws on these shows are stupid.
Styles introduces Senercia again, but this time as Taz. Shocking twist! There follows a quick package for Taz, showcasing his suplex machine ability, and then it’s onto another title match.
The Sandman (c) w/Woman vs Cactus Jack (ECW World Heavyweight Championship)
We open with Sandman already at ringside with Woman, smoking and carousing as he does. Sandman attacks Jack during his entrance, and we get ringside brawling with Jack’s theme still playing. Styles chooses this moment to announce that whomever wins this match will face Douglas for the title later in the night. OK. Cactus Clothesline over the guard-rail and some crowd brawling. Over to the bleachers, and in the process some little kid falls off the back of them, oh wow. The action awkwardly stops as Foley looks to the ref, and then the two competitors are quickly heading back to the ring. Hope that kid was OK, but typical of ECW.
Ringside brawling, Jack slammed off a table, Sandman slammed off the ring-post. Admittedly neat spot when Sandman gets his head thrown off a chair a fan is holding up, and I’ll try and ignore the unprotected nature of it. Sandman comes off the apron with an awkward take-down, and the brawling continues. Back into the ring after a bit, and Sandman hits a slingshot kick, and despite the terrible camera angle for it probably the move of the match. Suplex, hard Irish Whip to the corner, and another, before Cactus comes rallying back with strikes and a bite to the head. Swinging neckbreaker for the first pin attempt of the contest. Bit slow this one.
Jack going for another patented clothesline over the top, but gets back body-dropped to the outside instead, and you know what that means: ringside brawling! Jack thrown into the crowd, Sandman comes off the apron again, and clips the guardrail on the way down, terrible looking spot. Another slingshot kick, back inside Sandman hits a piledriver. Grabs a table and throws it over the top rope, and it lands on Foley’s ankle, not sure if intentional. Table set-up in the corner, awkward whip on Cactus sends him into it, but no break. Jack nails Sandman from behind, starts throwing him into it. Leveraging the table on the ropes, Sandman placed on it, and Foley flips it over. Looks like Sandman hits the concrete head first, ridiculous spot.
Jack wraps his arm in barbed wire and hits an elbow drop from the apron. A few more inside the ring. Double Arm DDT, 1, 2, and suddenly Shane Douglas appears to put Sandman’s foot on the rope. ECW: rope-breaks are sacrosanct, but weapons are also fine. Jack jawing with Douglas, Sandman able to get a sneaky shot with the Singapore cane and that’s enough in around 11-and-a-half.
Winner (and still ECW World Heavyweight Champion): Mr Sandman
Verdict: 90% boring brawling, with some stupid spots that put both the wrestlers and the crowd at risk.
Static, and on to the next World title match. Cagematch tells me there was apparently a second TV Title defence in-between at this show, with Guerrero retaining against Marty Jannetty of all people, but it isn’t included here for whatever reason.
The Sandman (c) w/Woman vs Shane “the Franchise” Douglas (ECW World Heavyweight Championship)
Sandman already in the ring, so no footage of his typically raucous entrances tonight. Woman gets her own announcement, which is weird. Sandman takes a powder the moment the bell rings for some reason, then only slowly into the ring. Two just staring back at each other for a long time. Douglas with the advantage when they do start, shots in the corner. Turnbuckle pad removed, Sandman driven into it, and the crimson mask is out quick in this one.
Snapmare, neck snap, and Sandman hung up on the ropes. The champ trying to pull Douglas around, to little effect. The Franchise gives Sandman a head scissors out of the ring and follows up with a tope. Back in, Douglas to the top, hits a crossbody. Very slow feel to this one so far, and the crowd not nearly as hot as you would have thought. Drop-kick from Douglas for one. Awkward clothesline, awkward knee strike, awkward springboard splash and Douglas not exactly covering himself in glory here. Sandman just randomly comes back into it and throws Douglas out. Ringside brawling, because we haven’t seen enough of that tonight.
Back in. Nice spot when Douglas does the somersault onto the apron to counter an Irish Whip to a corner, then walks into a clothesline that sends him to the floor. Is this one picking up? DDT to Douglas on the floor, then flings a table on top for good measure. Scoop Slam onto a pile of tables, then back in. Big stall suplex, Scoop Slam, then a springboard senton, that Styles is a bit overly-amazed by. Sandman to the top, but no-one home on a leg-drop. Douglas with stomps, calling for a finish, goes for the belly-to-belly, but Sandman counters into his own for the pin…but Douglas had his foot on the rope. Bill Alfonso out to insist the match continue, though the audio is so bad that we’re dependent on Styles to explain it.
Sandman tempted to give Alfonso the cane, and suddenly Cactus Jack is out for some reason taking some shots himself, and then Douglas has the Sandman rolled up for three. Alfonso raises Douglas’ hand, the other ref disagrees. Crowd sounds confused, and with good reason. And now Malenko is out to attack Jack, come on now. Dreamer joins in, why not, and then of course Raven and Stevie Richards. What a shitshow. Raven gives Dreamer a DDT on the chair, Jack clears house and that’s how this ends.
Winner: According to Cagematch Sandman was declared the winner of this and retained, but there were no winners here.
Verdict: The match was basic enough stuff, but the finish was a total train-wreck. I’ve rarely seen anything so over-booked.
Static, and onto, thankfully, our main event.
The Public Enemy (Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock) (c) vs the Pitbulls (#1 and #2) w/Stevie Richards (Double Dog Collar Match) (ECW World Tag Team Championship)
The crowd has their hands in the air like they just don’t care for the entrance of Public Enemy, and boy are the the perfect tag team for 1995. Pitbulls get a big reception here too. A random stip for this one is that if Public Enemy win they get five minutes alone with Stevie Richards, who is also here. A bell yet to ring and this already feels over-booked. Public Enemy on the mike beforehand to run down Richards, but very hard to make any of it out. Sad to think that only one of the four competitors is still alive today. Tod Gordon on hand to lock on the collars, and remind us all that “You know the rules, there are no rules” before Styles reminds us that the match has to be decided by pinfall or submission.
Grunge chained to #1, Rock to #2. Looks like a tornado tag for obvious reasons. Grunge choking out #1 early, while #2 beats down Rock. Then those on offence in these two mini-matches changes, #2 to the top but gets a shot to the gut off a top-rope nothing, before countering a Frankensteiner into a powerbomb. Grunge and #2 with ringside brawling we’ve seen ad nauseum tonight, and now the other two join them. Blood already flowing freely.
This one is especially slow, and the crowd sounds a bit bored. Chairs, sheets and frying pans being utilised for shots. From nowhere, Grunge suddenly gives #1 a splash through a table off a bottom rope springboard, to no reaction from the crowd. The camera miss #2 giving Rock a powerbomb in the ring, and then the Pitbulls set a table up on the top. Rock put prone on it, #2 up, and hits a really sloppy looking Scoop Slam off the top, where Rock lands on his side. Meanwhile on the outside, Grunge uses the chain to hit a low-blow on #1. Rock now applying crocodile clamps to #2’s nether-region, and that gets the crowd going. The same done to #1, and we have entered the realm of true garbage wrestling. Rock sets #2 prone on a table, hits a moonsault through it, and for the first time in this match the crowd pops big. Only two though.
More brawling, as Rock and #2 go into the crowd, and towards the broadcast position. Chair shots, throat punches, and Rock climbs up onto an elevated position, then somersaults off it onto #2. Again, barely any reaction. Grunge whipping #2 with the chain in the ring, and the camera isn’t sure who to stay on. Rock back to the top again, intercepted, and suplexed through a table. Another stupid spot, and gets stupider when #2 goes for a pin without a ref present (and is this falls count anywhere?).
Grunge with a Scoop Slam in the ring, to the top and hits a leg-drop for two. Rock and #2 heading back to the ring slowly but surely. #1 sets Grunge up on the top, but the cameras cut before we see what happens there. A bit more brawling and suddenly everyone is back in the ring. Pitbulls in control, and Grunge gets “superbombed” through a table off the top, but Rock breaks up the pin. Richards getting involved trying to hold Rock, but the Public Enemy man dodges and Richards eats some chain. Please let that be the signal for the finish. Awkward moment where the Pitbulls have to untangle their chains, then Rock with a very late springboard moonsault to prevent a slam, where the Pitulls waited in place for ages for the move. Shocking stuff at this stage. A double pinfall spot occurs where #1 pins Grunge after a superplex, but Rock pins #2 after a belly-to-belly, and the ref calls it for Public Enemy.
Winners (and still ECW World Tag Team Champions): Public Enemy, like any of this matters.
Verdict: Awful. Slow, boring, garbage.
The Pitbulls and Stevie beat down Public Enemy in the aftermath, but Gordon orders the Pitbulls out of the ring. Richards on the mike being defiant, and this terrible show still has seven minutes to go. Richards beats down Public Enemy for a bit, then gets double-teamed for even longer. Double clothesline, double back body-drop, Drive-By, and now the Pitbulls are back, and Raven is out and I have a feeling Dreamer is next. Richards gives a superkick to both of Public Enemy, here comes Dreamer alright, and he and Raven start brawling. Is Cactus next? More brawling, Beulah is here, and Luna Luchon, Dreamer fights off the heels, gives his future non-kayfabe wife a piledriver for some reason, and how can anyone be engaged with this nonsense? Dreamer and Luchon walk off as the crowd gives the usual chant, and it’s finally over.
Best Match: I mean, the fact that I’m picking a highlights package in Guerrero/Malenko should tell you a lot.
Best Wrestler: I’m reminded, very gratefully, of how good Mikey Whipwreck was at this time.
Worst Match: Take your pick really, but the Sandman/Douglas match had one of the worst finishes I’ve ever seen.
Worst Wrestler: Ugh, I’m not sure. Lets say any one of the Pitbulls.
Overall Verdict: This is it for me. I can’t take it any more. I cannot understand why ECW is still viewed by so many with rose-tinted glasses, when if certain major promotions booked shows like this nowadays they would be laughed at if they weren’t jeered. Boring matches, wrestlers who can’t wrestle properly, dangerous spots and, oh yes, lets not forget the f bombs! This isn’t garbage wrestling, it’s disaster wrestling. Avoid. And with that, I think I am done with ECW, or at least this section of it.
Quick Thoughts On Hell In A Cell 2020
Truth/Gulack – Decent kick-off level encounter, with a nice dash of comedy, but not essential. If you have the time.
Reigns/Jey Uso – Great story-telling, but a bit long. Typical “I Quit” problem where a goofy ending has to be pulled, but I enjoyed this. Recommended.
Hardy/Elias – They will have to do a hell of a lot better than this to make me care about this feud. Stupid ending. Miss.
Otis/Miz – This one feels like a tacit admission that giving Otis the case was a mistake they are now backtracking on, which is a shame. Generic “Break up the tag team” story is going to lead to Otis and Tucker vanishing soon enough. Alright match. Don’t go out of your way.
Lashley/Slapjack – Nice to see Shane Thorne on PPV, but this was a pointless affair that only serves to feed my theory that RETRIBUTION is Vince’s own stupid way of dunking on what he thinks Antifa is. Avoid.
Bayley/Banks: Match of the night, even if the cell was sort of superfluous, it was basically a street fight. Nice intensity throughout, did go a little long. Give it a look.
McIntyre/Orton – Everything I dislike about HIAC matches, with slow, plodding action, a pointless trip to the roof and a general sense that this is a less a blow-off than an unneeded extension to a, by now, flat feud. Wrong winner to boot. Skippable.
Overall: Two match card really. HIAC a concept that works less and less the more they do them, and here the best HIAC matches were better summed up as I Quit and a street fight.