Thanks to http://www.digits.com for their badass righteous free counters
Anarchy Rulz 1999
And so the time comes when you want to give something back.
Hello, readers, and welcome to that something. I've been reading wrestling on the net since 96, and been watching it for at least a decade before that. I always love reading opinions and views on wrestlers and promotions and am always on the lookout for sites that offer show reviews. Of course, I think I've got some views to share too, and have been on the lookout for a website to give me a chance.
And so I came across Buster Time. Nice idea, shame about the content, sez I. No ECW? That's a balance that needs redressing. Having read a few of the reviews and the submission guidelines, I thought I'd give it a go, starting with one of the biggest nights ever in Philadelphia's plucky underdog's life.
For what it's worth, this show, along with the PPV debut 'Barely Legal' and 98's Heat Wave card represent probably the three best PPVs ever offered by Heyman. I may do those reviews soon if this one works out.
Before I start, I want to outline briefly my proposed review style. First off, I never read play-by-play accounts of matches by other net writers. Move by move descriptions consistently lack the impact of simply WATCHING the show, so I refuse to sit and scribble down each move as we go. What I intend to do is comment and analyse the matches, mentioning only the moves that are essential to the understanding of my analysis. If you want PBP descriptions such as "punch, kick, Irish whip, reversal into a clothesline" then there's got to be somewhere else you can go, or indeed something else you can do with your life.
Anarchy Rulz was the name of the new annual September show as Heyman expanded his PPV output (although, ironically enough, there would only ever be one more Anarchy Rulz, in 2000, which actually took place on the first of October.) and came from the Odeum in Villa Park, Illinois, which I am reliably informed by Joey Styles is just outside Chicago. According to the show records, Anarchy Rulz drew an ECW record 6,000 fans for a company gross of over $200, 000. The PPV buyrate was 0.23.
And what were they paying for? The scheduled Main Event was Taz defending his ECW World Title against FMW's Masato Tanaka, and the semi-main was 'Everybody's Favourite Wrestler' Rob Van Dam putting his ECW TV title on the line against AJPW's Johnny Smith. In one of the rare occasions, though, ECW did not deliver either match but still managed to put together a much better card as a result.
In the pre-game show, there was a skit involving Judge Jeff Jones, who had been managing Sid Vicious for a few ECW matches earlier in the year, promising that Masato Tanaka would pay an 'Awesome' price for later tonight. That would be the foreshadowing.
Inside the Odeum Joey Styles and Cyrus are welcoming the fans. Cyrus shakes hands with Joey, before removing a surgical glove from his hand. Hah! The Villa Park fans chant "You Suck Dick!" at Cyrus, who humbly calls himself the greatest colour commentator in wrestling today. That's a point I am not willing to argue.
1. Jerry Lynn v Lance Storm (w/ Dawn Marie) Interesting choice for an opener as Heyman usually kills the first hour of the PPV with undercard curtain jerkers for whom he never had time to write a coherent program. Storm v Lynn was the sort of match where the late, great Gorilla Monsoon would invariably make the comment that the match was "A main event anywhere in the country!"
I assume that Lance was put on first because as Cyrus reminds us, this is the first ECW PPV to be available in Canada. Regardless of the placing of the match, Storm and Lynn put on a scientific semi-classic full of counters and reversals. This is the sort of wrestling that was always greeted with awe and enthusiasm by the knowledgeable ECW crowd… and conversely the sort of action which bored the WWF/WCW fans into oblivion. Storm and Lynn kept the tempo high, which helped the fans to stay involved.
The psychology of the match centred around Lynn's injured ribs, which were taped up DDP style. Interestingly though, once Storm attained the upper hand with a rib-centric hotshot, he didn't follow up with more work on the ribs. He instead went for more innovative offence like a beautiful handspring Stinger Splash. On commentary, Cyrus makes the observation that whereas Gene Kiniski regularly billed himself as "Canada's greatest athlete," Storm is one step better than that… being "Calgary's greatest athlete."
When Lynn made a comeback with an abdominal stretch and a top rope plancha to the outside, he quickly set up Storm for the Cradle Piledriver. This was not only Jerry's finisher of choice, but it was the move that beat Storm in the big tag team main event match at the previous PPV Heat Wave when Lynn and RVD had triumphed over the Impact Players of Storm and Justin Credible. Anyway, the attempted Cradle Piledriver set up one of those super spots where counter after counter on the mat gets repeated two counts, with the crowd counting along. German Suplex by Lynn gets two and a standing ovation. Nice.
I should mention that Storm is accompanied to the ring by his personal "Bytch" Dawn Marie. I should mention that, because the Villa Park crowd remind us of her presence at ringside by alleging, "She's a crack whore!" Cyrus, dry as a bone, makes note that the fans are actually chanting "She's a great girl!"
The obligatory chair section sees Storm get reversed into the chair in the corner, wedged between the top ropes. Remember the chair is there, folks. Another chair attempt by Storm gets reversed as Jerry DDT's Lance out of an attempted Powerbomb onto the chair. Dawn slides Lance's leg onto the rope to break the count at two and a half.
The beginning of the end comes when Jerry gets whipped into the corner with the chair wedged between the upper two ropes. He tries to duck, on account of his weakened ribs, but the momentum carries him out under the bottom rope and slap bang into the steel post. From there, Storm picks at Lynn's ribs with successive knees and a backbreaker held over the knee.
In another brilliant counter-to-counter sequence sees a flying head scissors by Lynn countered by Storm turned into an attempted reverse DDT by Lynn which was reversed out of by Storm straight into a Jerry Lynn Stunner. It all turned out to be too little too late for the new f'n show as Storm once again struck Jerry's ribcage and locked in a Three Quarter Nelson for the three count.
What I liked about this match was the participants refusing to go the expected route. Obviously Lynn's rib injury gave Storm the ability to work on an injured body part right from the start. Instead, even when Storm hit the hotshot which worked on Lynn's ribs, he refused to continue to work on them. This was to me the ultimate statement from Storm that even though he had a part in injuring the ribs the previous week, he didn't need a head start to be able to beat Jerry.
There was also the other underlying storyline as put over by the commentary team about whether Lynn, who had spent the whole summer working with RVD in high flying 30 minute wars could motivate himself to wrestle another man. "I wrestle Van Dam, therefore I am" mused Joey Styles.
Of course, the finish of the match did eventually come from the injured ribs angle, and came across as anticlimactic. It was a great expression of Storm's understated heelishness that even though he didn't need to use the injury to his advantage; he could and would if the opportunity presented itself. His Three Quarter Nelson from nowhere was the perfect antithesis to the electrifying nature of Jerry's offence which had slowly been built up including DDTs on chairs and Stunners.
This match was a perfect example of what made ECW great. Talented wrestlers who can work and do good psychology, informed announcers who can put over intra-match storylines, an appreciative crowd. ***1/2
2. Ubiquitous Undercard Schmozz Next up was the highly underrated Simon Diamond. Simon was the sort of wrestler who could really have broken out of the ECW undercard in a big way if he had been given the time and support. He had a decent look, which was in some ways reminiscent of Shane Douglas' "Franchise" gimmick, and an assured and interesting style of promo. However, he was unfortunately stuck with a freak show entourage for the majority of his ECW career.
Following a quick humiliation of Tom Marquez, and the so-called 'female fighting phenom' Jazz (the latter with a semi shoot comment that if women have proven anything in this business, it is that they're worthless or are simply T&A) Marquez and Jazz have a half hearted wrestling segment where Marquez finds it impossible to sell a freaking Testicular Claw. Thankfully the match quickly morphed into Simon's tag team match where he is teaming up with a pre-Baldies Tony DeVito. If DeVito stood out as painfully mediocre in such a pathetic gimmick as Da Baldies, you know he's in trouble. Here, DeVito and Diamond are taking on the team of Chris Chetti and Nova who do the run in to save Jazz.
The match, and the resulting schmozz featuring Danny Doring, Roadkill, Angelica (later known as Lita in the WWF), CW Anderson, Rod Price, Bill Whiles, Vito Lograsso (later known as Big Vito in WCW) and Spanish Angel only served to remind people that for every Raven or Taz, Heyman created some Godawful gimmicks and/or employed some talentless wrestlers too. Of course, this was simply the match where the rest of the roster could pick up their PPV bonus cheques.
So, with so much crap filling the ring, Ice Cube's "Natural Born Killaz" pumps though the PA and New Jack comes down for the obligatory garbage segment. Of course, New Jack's garbage segments are exactly that… garbage. The only different thing this show is the debut of the staple gun spot. Funnily enough, only Rod Price was in the ring at the time when the staple gun came out. Following his stapling, New Jack realised that no-one else was coming into the ring (unsurprisingly) and poor Rod got another shot.
In this section of the show, we had an aborted Marquez v Jazz match, an aborted Diamond/DeVito v Chetti/Nova match, and a New Jack garbage moment. Overall, it rates DUD
I should mention as well that Chris Chetti performed a much better quebrada than Chris Jericho ever has during the tag team segment. Unfortunately, he injured himself in the process and took no further part in the proceedings. Maybe Jericho intentionally delivers piss-poor Lionsaults so as to save himself from injury. See, it all makes sense…
While it's easy to vilify ECW for always having a segment full of rubbish like the previous one, it does tend to keep the trash confined to one match. Resultantly, everything from here on in rocks the house. As proof, the next match up involves three of the most able wrestlers in the promotion, Tajiri, Super Crazy and Little Guido locking up in a three way dance.
3. Three Way Dance: Super Crazy v Yoshihiro Tajiri v Little Guido (w/ Big Sal E Graziano) This match should've featured Super Crazy's spot fu offence, Tajiri's jap-lucha style and Guido's excellent pacing and matwork meshing beautifully. I say should've, because strangely the three men went for a full-on balls-out lucha libre style spot-fest. Because of this, Guido in particular was slightly out of his depth. The match, under these conditions, became a contest of 'Can You Top This?' between Crazy and Tajiri. For example, when Tajiri hit an Asai Moonsault from the ring apron over the guardrail onto his two opponents, Super Crazy repeats the spot a few minutes later, but this time using the top rope as his springboard.
Of course, this being ECW, all three guys got an opportunity to showcase their signature moves. Guido hit a middle rope FameAsser and the Tomikaze DDT, Crazy showed his ever impressive Moonsault variations and Tajiri showed off his Tarantula and Tree Of Woe Sliding Dropkick. Indeed, it was the Tree of Woe Dropkick, followed by a Crazy Moonsault that eventually saw off Guido.
The final section of the match between Crazy and Tajiri was underwhelming and relatively short considering their previous encounters on PPV in 99, and came to a jarring end when Tajiri put the knees up on a Moonsault from Crazy, punished the Insane Luchador with two head splitting kicks, and finished up with a Brainbuster for the three.
The match was a very good display of spots by very capable performers in that area (especially Crazy and Tajiri) but lacked any flow, or psychology. The following PPV (November To Remember 99) would feature Crazy and Tajiri in another three way dance, this time with Jerry Lynn taking Guido's place, which was markedly better than this effort, featuring as it did, a lot more innovation and complex action. In saying that, this was exactly what it set out to be… a crowd popping spotfest. **3/4
Before the next match, Steve Corino (along with Rhino and Jack Victory) made the announcement that the mystery team which was to face Raven & Tommy Dreamer was scheduled to be the Insane Clown Posse, but that they didn't want to fight Raven & Dreamer because "they knew they would lose." As yet another advertised match fails to happen, Corino says that he and Rhino would take the ICP's place.
Billy Corgan is in the audience!
Speaking of Baldies, here comes Justin Credible, the other half of the Impact Players. Of course, he has with him the single biggest waste of space in pro wrestling, Jason. Can anyone tell me what Jason gets paid for?
Anyway… it seems that although Sabu's suspension has been lifted, Justin has gotten himself a restraining order which stops Sabu entering the building, and that he therefore is the winner of the match by forfeit. Smart. However, referee Jim Molineaux looks over the restraining order, and concludes that although it is legal and binding, tonight 'Anarchy Rulz' and Justin will have to fight Sabu. As a lawyer by trade, that's a loophole I've yet to find the opportunity to exploit when I've been in the courtroom.
4. Sabu (w/ Bill Alphonso) v Justin Credible (w/Jason) Whereas Super Crazy and Yoshihiro Tajiri are talented practitioners of the art of the spot fest, Sabu (although one of the originators of the form in the USA) ranges wildly from awe-inspiring to yawn inducing. His matches are almost always the wrestling equivalent of a car crash though, impossible to FF through, despite the carnage. What we got in this match, however, was the motivated and capable Sabu.
Sabu at his motivated best is often a sight to behold, and he started off the match with rare intensity, and hitting spots like the springboard moonsault. Interestingly though, it was Justin who hit the first table breaking spot, splashing Sabu through a table from the top turnbuckle onto the entrance ramp.
In typical Sabu style, there were several extremely high-risk spots, including an Air Sabu over the top onto Justin who was face down on a table. Yes, face down. The obligatory rest spot comes when Sabu locks on his one technical wrestling manoeuvre, the Camel Clutch. Funnily, Jason breaks up several Sabu Camel Clutches on Justin, and when Justin returns the favour to Sabu, Fonzie runs interference for his man.
One of the most memorable moments of the match was an accidental spot where Fonzie slid a chair into the ring, and it slid across the canvas right into Sabu's cranium. Sabu, pro that he is, sells it anyway. Haw!
The match was hurt by Sabu's inability to go to the mat and work transitions, but it didn't really affect what this match set out to do. This was the match that made Justin credible with a small 'c'. His cane-swinging hardcore icon gimmick was a lift from The Sandman and his reputation as the man who ran Sandman out of ECW was about as believable as Stephanie's boobs. What this did was to put Credible over a true ECW icon, clean as a whistle, and take an upper card spot. He and Lance would soon pick up the Tag belts, and Credible would be Heyman's chosen one following the Mike Awesome defection. The match itself was very good, and therefore ranks **1/2
Looking back, even taking into account Justin's spirited performances here and in 2000 against Lance Storm and Jerry Lynn, it was too much too soon. Paul should've swallowed his pride and given Raven or Sandman a run with the belt as both could still work the ECW style as well as anyone and elicit a genuine response from the fans. Of course, there was always a gentleman called Rob Van Dam who was always quite popular with the ECW faithful…
And so, we get the World Title main event three spots from the top of the show. Interesting. Judge Jeff Jones was luckily in the vicinity of the ring at the start of the match… and even luckier, he had Mike Awesome with him in tow. Joey Styles outlines that ECW had been hyping Masato Tanaka by showing footage on TV shows of Tanaka beating Awesome (from Heat Wave 98) and obviously that had not sat well with Awesome. With Taz, Awesome and Tanaka all ready to go, all it took was for Paul E himself to give the go-ahead and have a three way dance.
5. Taz v Masato Tanaka v Mike Awesome (w/Judge Jeff Jones) (ECW World Heavyweight Title) Well, this match is relatively famous for the first two minutes, during which the unbeatable Taz who had held the belt convincingly for nine months was squashed like a bug. After a token flurry of offence from 'The Human Suplex Machine' consisting of… uhhh… some suplexes obviously, Tanaka's Roaring Elbow and Awesome's top rope splash saw off the champion in rapid fashion.
Styles sells it like it's the single most amazing moment in ECW history, and in a great, classy moment, the locker room empties to offer their condolences to the former champion. All that was left to be determined was the new champion. Awesome or Tanaka?
The rest of the match was a showcase for both men. Awesome in particular got to display his unique highflying but heavy impact offence, with no sign of the supposed 'clumsy' label he was tagged with on entering the WWF. Indeed, the only blown moment came from Tanaka's side when he "Jericho'd" a springboard clothesline.
Tanaka showed the inimitable charisma that has made him as over with USA crowds as with Japanese crowds, including the totally unnecessary yet strangely satisfying run-up which went the length of the runway just to deliver a chair shot. Speaking of chair shots, Tanaka took three unprotected full on chair shots, plus a further one from the top rope from Awesome. Yes, this may be a sort of gimmick, but for his own safety he needs to stop it now. Hell, even the sick Awesome Bomb from the ring to the floor though a table is better for your longevity than too many unprotected chairs to the head.
Tanaka run through his finishers (Tornado DDT, Diamond Dust, and Roaring Elbow) but it was the apocalyptic Awesome Bomb off the top rope, though a table that finished it.
After the match, Taz comes back to the ring to do the 'Hogan-Warrior spot' and present Awesome with the belt. Ironically, Taz already had one foot out the door, but he was never as over as a babyface as he was at that moment. Considering how free and easy titles change hands in the WWF today it's a pretty amazing sight to see a legitimate changing of the guard in such a respectful manner.
I'm still torn though, over two years later, whether the quick Taz job was a good or bad thing. It certainly was unexpected and put over both Awesome and Tanaka as real top guys. However, since Taz was the only one of the three who had wrestled full time in ECW, Taz was the only guy the ECW fans had any vested emotional interest in. It was a huge, huge gamble by Heyman. That much is obvious by the placing of the match three spots off the top of the card… that way, if Awesome and Tanaka tanked, the tried and tested performers of Raven, Dreamer and Van Dam cold pull the show together. In hindsight again, obviously it worked, but I don't think anything would've been lost if Taz had got 10 minutes of good offence in, only for the other two to still be able to overcome him.
At any rate, this match, and the one-on-one rematch at November To Remember were simply made to showcase the two new leaders of ECW. This gets a ****
Raven had returned to ECW from his WCW exile not long before this show, and in ECW fashion, a quick run-in and DDT won the ECW Tag Titles for him and his hated enemy Tommy Dreamer. What were the chances, eh? Anyway, Raven recaps the feud for newbies in his own peerless style in a pre-taped interview spot from a playground.
Well, well, well… Here comes Joel "I'm here in Chicago at Anarchy Rulz, and some pretty young thing watches at home and drools. And I know she's got the skills, and I know she's got the tools to give her oral massage to my family jewels" Gertner.
Gertner's here for an in-ring interview with Tommy Dreamer and (DAMN!) Francine. Tommy comes out and states that he's "Not out here to cut a babyface promo" and then goes on to do just that. Thank goodness "The King Of Old School" Steve Corino is here, with Rhino and the invalided Jack Victory for the save. For all we know, Tommy would have started blubbing like a big girl again, but before he has a chance, he is rushed by Rhino. Corino runs off, to return with a ladder which promptly gets used against him. Smart. They didn't use ladders in the Old School, Steve…
Eventually the inevitable heel beat down starts… and here comes Raven, so I guess we now officially have
6. Raven & Tommy Dreamer v Steve Corino & Rhino (w/ Jack Victory) (ECW Tag Team Titles) Raven can't decide to enter the ring between the top two ropes or the bottom two ropes, and ends up falling into the ring. Smooth. Rhino gets decommissioned with an Evenflow DDT and stereo DDT's from Dreamer and Raven to Corino and Victory followed by a double pin on Corino and Victory (who, yes, wasn't officially in the match) ends the match before it practically started.
Of course the fans pop, since Raven and Dreamer are folk heroes to ECW fans… but can someone tell me how, if Awesome and Tanaka had tanked, this match would've lifted the show?
Raven leaves afterwards with Mancow. Being a UK resident, I have never heard Mancow's show. From what I've read about Mancow, that's one of life's small mercies. At least he didn't wrestle.
Here comes Axl Rotten. Shit. He makes a grandstand challenge to Mike Awesome right there. Unsurprisingly Awesome blows him off, since Axl's had neither a program nor a decent match in about four years prior to this point. Axl does however admit, "I ain't the best worker in the business" which means that whatever crack he has been smoking can't alter his perception that much.
This all deteriorates into a big standoff between Spike Dudley, Balls Mahoney and Axl against the three-man Impact Players team of Storm, Credible and Johnny Smith. Smith ends up taking a single chair shot from Balls, and he's so badly injured that he can't challenge RVD for the TV title. Guess us Brits lack way behind the Japanese and Samoans in the 'hard head' stakes. Axl the booker throws out another challenge, and sets up our new main event of the evening
7. Rob Van Dam (w/Bill Alphonso) v Balls Mahoney (ECW World Television Title) Van Dam takes his usual sweet time coming to the ring, which is understandable. Would you want to try and carry Mahoney to a decent main event match in the single biggest card in the company's history?
There's no feeling out process in this match, as Rob breaks out the flip-flop early. Of course, this being Balls Mahoney, there's nothing in the way of decent offence. Van Dam does however get the chance to sell and brawl ala Stone Cold's match on September 6th's Smackdown. Hey, it's not RVD's forte, but that aspect of his game is certainly there.
Speaking of the lack of decent offence from Mahoney, he utilises the most scientific move he knows on three separate occasions. Yes, I'm talking about the half empty plastic beer cup to the head. Mahoney connects twice, and Rob, bless him, keeps a straight face and sells it. The problem with this match is the sides are so totally uneven. You've got RVD, about 17 months into his TV title reign, over like crazy and the possessor of a unique, crowd popping moveset. And you've got Balls Mahoney, never a singles champion in ECW, not particularly over unless he's using a chair, and possessor of an anaemic moveset which consists of brawling and a Michinoku Driver. If you're Heyman, how do you try and keep the audience's attention? You've got to let Mahoney dominate RVD with his sluggish offence in an attempt to make a Balls Mahoney win seem possible or credible. The result is a disappointing Main event, kept alive only by RVD's flurries of offence, including a 15ft plancha from the ring, over the guardrail and into about the fifth row.
Joey Styles: "Alphonso spraying cold water on the back of the head of Rob Van Dam in an attempt to revive him. It doesn't seem to be working. Now he's unconscious AND wet!" The ending comes when Balls Mahoney hits what can only be fairly described as a One-And-A-Half Star Frog Splash for a two count. Van Dam delivers a top rope Van Daminator and the Five Star Frog Splash for the three.
Van Dam sends the crowd home happy, but the match quality could never reach that of Van Dam's summer series with Jerry Lynn. That said, however, it was certainly one of Mahoney's best ever outings. The match rates **
As I said in the introduction, I consider this to be one of the best PPVs ever produced by ECW. When actually analysing the show for this review to award star ratings it seems to be a decidedly average effort with only one [****] match and only one more breaking the [***] barrier. What the star ratings cannot really convey was the cumulative effect of the show. With only the undercard schmozz being actually offensively bad, Anarchy Rulz was the most consistently good supercard of the year.
ECW's latter PPVs also benefited greatly from the most knowledgeable and insightful commentary team in the business. Styles and Cyrus add flavour to the event with their bickering and spontaneity… and Cyrus announcing that he is the 'Extreme Intellectual' at the top of the show is a damn shoot. Styles and Cyrus call the matches as athletic contests, which is something that has not been done on a big scale since the heyday of Jesse Ventura.
Is Anarchy Rulz 99 worth your while? Of course it is. It gets a high recommendation because it displays the full three-ring circus that is ECW at it's best. There's something for everyone on this card, from Storm and Lynn's technical clinic, through Sabu and Credible's car crash demolition, though Crazy, Tajiri and Guido's lucha spotfest, right up to New Jack's wanton violence.
ECW used to brag 'It's not for everybody', but ECW at it's best DID have something for everybody… this is the show that proved it.
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