Wednesday, July 25, 2018

ECW Anarchy Rulz 1999

So I thought we'd have a change of pace and watch an ECW PPV instead. I've decided to go with Anarchy Rulz 1999 for a couple reasons. The first and perhaps most significant reason is that this was the first ECW PPV to air in Canada and as such, the first time I had been exposed to that particular product. Up until that point, ECW was a thing that I read about in wrestling magazines (or as some would prefer to call them, the "Apter Mags") and only knew the basic bits through third hand accounts. So this was a good starting point to jump on.

The other reason I went with this and one that is more relevant to today's mentality is that I was curious to see how well a ECW show had aged between my initial (and possibly only) viewing and today. While I could go back and pick any of the so-called "better" ECW shows from the promotion's prime years, those wouldn't provide much of a context since, outside of maybe one or two shows, that would be new territory. Going back to ECW, I opted for the first ECW show I've watched and I'm genuinely curious to see if I could enjoy this now as much as I did back then... at least, I assume I enjoyed it back then since I do recall watching the subsequent PPVs before ECW's eventual closure in 2001.

So let's cause some ruling anarchy or something... I don't know.

Professional fence builder Lance Storm (accompanied by Dawn Marie) defeated professional journeyman Jerry Lynn in a fun little match that got me in the mood of enjoying a somewhat good show of sorts. It's the kind of match that seems like it wouldn't fit the perceived reputation of ECW since it was a fairly clean match with little to no weapons or brawling being used (there is a bit of Dawn Marie interference, but that's about it) and actually was a nice little transition to the eventual "garbage wrestling" that the promotion was known for. All in all, I enjoyed this match quite a bit; Storm is always solid stuff and Jerry Lynn is a far better wrestler than I had given credit in the past.

Next up, we have Simon Diamond, who has a problem. He wants a match, which brings out Jazz, a well-built woman of sorts who beats up one of the ringside people for some reason. Then a bunch of other guys come in. And then New Jack shows up and beats the shit out of everybody... well, that didn't take long. While I'm sure 1999 Dave would've been thrilled with all this stuff back in the day - he did enjoy the hardcore stuff quite a bit - 2018 Dave is a little less so. In fact, it'd be safe to say that by the time New Jack showed up with his box of toys, I had stopped caring ages ago.

Yoshihiro Tajiri (he of the green mist who would be William Regal's lackey in WWE) defeated Little Guido (with Big Sal, who would collectively be called the Full Blooded Italians or F.B.I... clever, I guess) and Super Crazy in a three-way dance that I've often heard gets beaten to death by how many times they've been wrestling on the regular shows, but since it's been a long time since I've seen any semblance of ECW with any semblance of regularity, this match feels entirely fresh. The best comparison I can give it is the numerous John Cena vs. Randy Orton matches we've had to sit through over the years, but even those are spread over several months.

Justin Credible defeated Sabu in one of those trademark ECW matches that sees a whole bunch of tables getting wrecked, a couple chairs being used, and Justin getting some color. I like the way Sabu makes his entrance with the whole "lights out, lights in, there he is" approach; at the time, that seemed somewhat refreshing to me. The match itself was your typical hardcore stuff where there's lots of brawling, lots of international objects being used, lots of Sabu doing crazy shit, and very little in terms of pure wrestling. It's something of a trainwreck, but it wasn't boring.

The advertised match was reigning ECW World Heavyweight Champion Taz (yes, that fellow who you used to saw on Smackdown trading quips with Michael Cole used to be a wrestler and a pretty good one, too) defending the title against Japanese fellow Masato Tanaka... but then Mike Awesome joins the fray and we have a three-way.

This match was my first exposure to this Taz fellow, who is due to make the move to WWF and is getting all sorts of crazy heat. Lots of "Fuck You, Taz" and "You Sold Out" chants that is heard loudly and pronounced. Therefore, it makes sense that the two guys team up on the champion and pin him in short order to eliminate him from the match. So yeah, we didn't get much of Taz in this match and his elimination prompts the locker room to clear out and take notice. And stick around for the remaining two guys going at it because they want to see who would be champion... and then Mike Awesome wins it and we give Taz the fond farewell... and then he sticks around for a couple months before eventually debuting at MSG in 2000.

Let me place focus on the match because the thing with Taz is a thing that happened and what's done is done there. I like the elimination-style three-way. I don't care for the WWF-style Triple Threat one fall style. I like the fact that Awesome and Tanaka disposed of Taz in quick fashion, because it was a sound strategy. Kill the champion quickly and let's go at it. It eliminates the false drama of whether Taz would retain or not (because everyone knew he was leaving) and makes way for the real drama of who would come out on top and become the next ECW champion.

And the stuff between Awesome and Tanaka was just tremendous. I cringed whenever there's a stiff chairshot used and some of the non-selling took me out of it, but other than that, this was a good, rough fight and seeing them wrestle each other at that One Night Show years later, those two seemed tailor made for each other. Just great fucking shit right here.

So, some context for this next segment; a couple weeks prior, Tommy Dreamer took on the departing Dudley Boyz and with the help of a returning Raven (from his stint in WCW), won the tag titles. But apparently, Tommy is hurt and isn't allowed to compete. So he comes out to the crowd, promises not to cut a babyface promo, and then cuts a babyface promo. Rhino shows up, he piledrives Francine, he and Dreamer go at it, then Raven shows up and stuff happens. If the description of what transpired feels a bit disjointed, it's because when shit happens and people just show up, I'm lost and this sort of reflects that.

And then Axl Rotten shows up and challenges Mike Awesome because sure why not? Then more people show up... and then RVD shows up... and then we have a match between Rob Van Dam and Balls Mahoney for the ECW TV Title and that's our main event... 1999 Dave questioned why a TV title match is closing the show rather than the World title match with the very satisfying ending. 2018 Dave is wondering why Balls Mahoney is main eventing an ECW PPV.

And in your main event for the evening, ECW World Television Champion Rob Van Dam defeated Balls Mahoney to retain the title. Way too long, didn't hold my interest, so let's just say "this was a thing that happened" and move on with our lives.

ECW is a very acquired taste. You either like its roughshod hardcore style or you don't. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground in this regard and if that's the case, then I'll plant myself firmly in that seemingly non-existent middle ground. While it's fairly easy to dismiss this stuff as garbage wrestling, back in the day, I found it rather fascinating and while I wouldn't go so far as to call Anarchy Rulz a great show, it did accomplish the task of getting me interested in ECW, even if the most I could do was buy the PPVs that would come up every other month.

There's some stuff that I didn't care for, but not enough of that to say that it was completely miserable. The World title 3-way and the opening match between Storm and Lynn were two big highlights and the Justin/Sabu match was a fun trainwreck if nothing else, but everything else just seems to blend in with each other and becomes forgettable.

Anarchy Rulz may not be one of ECW's finer moments, but it's not a bad show by any means.

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