Saturday, 15 September 2007

ECW Barely Legal '97 - Retro Review

It was just over nine years ago when a certain company took a major step by holding their first ever pay-per-view, as Extreme Championship Wrestling presented Barely Legal ‘97 from the famed ECW Arena in Philadelphia. Our host for this show is the voice of ECW himself, the incomparable Joey Styles.

We begin with Styles in the ring welcoming the crowd, and trying to run-down the matches on the show, until he’s rudely interrupted by the Dudley Boys and their manager, Joel Gertner, as D’Von immediately endears himself to the crowd, before Gertner takes over and introduces his team.

We then move on to the first match of the show, as the Dudleys defend their tag titles against the Eliminators, Saturn and Kronus. The Eliminators showed some great double-team and aerial moves to dominate the Dudleys, finally finishing off Bubba with the total elimination. Then, as Gertner tries to tell everyone that the Dudleys are still champs because of an obscure scoring system, they take him out as well.

Backstage, the Sandman, ciggy and beer in hand, tells of his intentions for the upcoming three-way dance.

Next, the injured Chris Candido cuts a promo in the ring, obviously annoyed that he can’t compete.

Time for singles action next, as Lance Storm goes up against Rob Van Dam. This is RVD at the extreme height of his powers, completely uninhibited by any restrictions as he puts on a great bout against one of the best wrestlers to have come out of Canada in the past twenty years. Tons of high spots and the usual inventive use of a few chairs sees RVD get the pin after a Van Daminator. Afterwards, Van Dam grabbed the mic, angry at having to substitute for Candido, saying that he only wrestled for the money.

We then see a video package on Terry Funk, asking if this could be his last chance to win a title.

Back in the arena to six man action, as the Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada and Masato Takashiki take on Terry Boy, Dick Togo and Taka Michinoku. Fought under lucha libre rules, it’s a fast-paced and hard-hitting affair, in fact it’s so fast that it’s difficult to follow the action at times. Both teams came across very well, showing some great double and triple team moves, the likes of which I haven’t seen since TWC dumped CMLL from their schedules. After what seemed like an eternity of great action, Sasuke got the victory for his team with a bridging underhook suplex. Great stuff that left you breathless just watching it!

Backstage, the leader of the Blue World Order, Stevie Richards, talks about his intentions in the upcoming three-way dance match.

Then it’s on to our second title match, as Shane Douglas, accompanied by Francine, defends the TV title against Pitbull#2. Before the match begins, the Franchise cuts a long promo, gloating about the pain he’s caused to Pitbull#1, before Pitbull#2 comes racing down to the ring. It’s a match of great intensity here, and although it’s a little messy at times, it makes for great drama, especially when Pitbull#1 jumps the guard rail and attacks Douglas, before being dragged away by security. Douglas literally throws the kitchen sink at Pitbull#2, but the powerhouse doesn’t say die, and after an age, Douglas gets the win after a belly-to-belly suplex. Afterwards, the mystery surrounding the masked man who had been stalking Douglas is solved, as Brian Lee and Rick Rude attack Douglas from behind. A little overlong, but a good bout nonetheless.

Backstage promo from Taz next, hyping his bout with Sabu, promising to take him out of wrestling.

On to the next bout, the grudge match featuring Taz, with his manager Bill Alfonso, going up against Sabu. A distinct clash of styles here, with Sabu’s risk-taking against Taz’s technical ability. Slow to start off with, things soon picked up during the arena wide brawl, with tons of table and chair spots back in the ring, with Taz unloading with the full range of suplexes before synching in the Tazmission for the win. Afterwards, a show of sportsmanship as Taz shakes Sabu’s hand, and then as Sabu raised Taz’s hand, Rob Van Dam jumped him from behind, and with Sabu’s help, they destroy the human suplex machine, putting Taz through a table. Alfonso then revealed his true colours, turning on Taz and joining forces with Sabu and RVD.

Styles then takes off his headset so he can introduce his colour commentators for the next match, none other than Tommy Dreamer, who of course has Beulah with him.

Then it’s on to the three-way dance, with the winner getting a title shot at Raven, between Stevie Richards, who has the rest of the Blue World Order along for company, the Sandman, who sadly doesn’t come through the fans, but does indulge in a pre-match ciggy and beer, and the legend himself, Terry Funk. It’s wild and crazy, and highly entertaining action here with tons of weapons shots, and the Funker impressing the hell out of me with his performance here, as did Richards. No matter what the Sandman and Funk did, they couldn’t take Richards out until a double-team power bomb. Then it really got crazy, especially after the Sandman wrapped himself in barbwire. Then after a little help from Richards, Funk got the pin on the Sandman after a moonsault.

Then it was immediately on to the ECW title match, as Funk faced the champion Raven. The champ busted Funk open early with a chair shot, and Funk was bleeding so badly that the ringside doctor came into the ring twice to check on him. Then, after Raven taunted Dreamer at the announcer’s table, Big Dick Dudley attacked Dreamer from behind, only to find himself choke-slammed through three tables. Dreamer then stormed the ring, and nailed Raven with a DDT. After Raven kicked out of the first cover, Funk scored with a roll-up to win the match and the ECW title.

In conclusion - ECW’s first ever pay-per-view is a classic exampled of what the promotion was about. Some great action mixed with high intensity and great dream throughout, especially in the Raven/Funk match, made this a hell of a show. If Barely Legal ‘97 isn’t already part of your collection, then make it so as soon as possible.