This show had a stacked lineup and the opening segment showed why and how the brand was so successful and that is they knew their audience and played each guy to his strengths. JT Smith cuts an Italian promo, BWO comes out like KISS, Sandman canes the hell out of all of them, Raven comes out with the Fullington family and suckers Sandman into a beating. As far as ring work, between all 7 of those guys, not a lot to crow about, but the crowd was rocking and rolling through each new moment as it come about. Usually I would cringe at any of these elements, but I found myself enjoying the "extreme" soap opera play out. Okay, the matches now:
1) Devon Storm v. Mikey Whipwreck- 4
First off, Storm was decked out in the most hideous neon green indy trunks you've ever seen, even if you lived through the early 90's. He was accompanied by two people I'd never seen in my life: Lady Angelena, who was basically only wearing a see through leotard that covered 4 of her 5 points of entry and Damian Kane, a motorcycle freak who looked like Killer Brooks. Mikey was announced as the European Junior champion, although what citizen of France would look at the pimple faced sawoff wearing a faded Venom t-shirt with pride? This match was fun in a way, Storm was providing offense that was pretty different and made him stand out even more than his 40th bleach job. Mikey was clearly lost in there though, as you could see Storm quietly guiding the match where he wanted it and using most of the time to perform his unique offense. I hated Mikey's hurricanranas which he used several because on every one he landed on his own neck before completing the move. The match got some time too, nearly 15 mins so it was a nice opening contest.
2) Louie Spicoli v. Johnny Smith- 4
Spicoli was being pushed as the next up and comer so they were putting him in against tough journeymen to gain experience; for some reason i will always remember him stumbling down a hotel hall in his underwear, stoned beyond all recognition in a clip from Maxx Payne's self-filmed documentary about life in the WWF in late 90's. Anyways, Smith, I believe, is a relative of Davey Boy but their styles are nothing alike. Smith doesn't work near as fast as Bulldog, but is probably more technically sound without the power. Spicoli impressed me with hitting a few beautiful suplexes, including a folding German that was very Benoit circa '93. Smith thought fast on his feet too, he pulled a couple neat reversals out of nowhere including a powerslam. He also did the suicide Owen Hart dropkick but not near as pretty. In the end, can't score this too high, it was wrestled as an enhancement match but a competitive one.
3) Axl Rotten v. D-Von Dudley- 1
This was garbage, only thing these two physically did to each other was have a chair war which ended in Axl doleing out a couple lame backshots. Axl looked meager in appearance too, before he put on the weight, then every Dudley you could think of came in to hit or be hit with a chair by D-Von as Axl sat in the corner like a scared doe. Only point i can give here is just the immeasurably brutal chair shot Bubba gives D-von directly to the head, good thing they're in TNA where they can still give concussions.
4) Stevie Richards v. The Sandman - 2
Stevie came in, Paul Stanley makeup and all to defend Raven's title belt for him and was really strong at being the nasty aggressive heel, breaking open Sandman's cut over his eye and just working it with rabbit punches and just ripping at his flesh. The match was more of an angle overall though, something the whole card suffered from, as the whole BWO hit their fins on Stevie, only for him to survive in a neat little sequence, but Raven ended up getting the pin when he wasn't even legal? Nasty Stevie Kick that Sandman sold actually quite brilliantly but there just wasn't enough material here to warrant a grade of anything higher.
5) 2 Cold Scorpio v. Chris Jericho- 5
This was probably the best match of the night. I've seen a handful of their matches together in ECW and I've always liked the styles they brought. Both men can fly, but both can also work really stiff and this match was more of the latter. One key thing I didn't like in Jericho's selling was not going down to certain move, like a dropkick early on and later getting dropkicked when on the top turnbuckle, instead of the force of the move knocking you off, which would be normal, Jericho just grabbed the top of the post and leaned forward, mouth agape, acting in pain. Another example of a spot gone wrong was Jericho taking a really hard spill outside then as 2 Cold jumped out at him, Jericho's only counter was a kick to the gut, which looked terrible. Scorpio was on and was leading the match, Jericho was missing cues several times during the match. Both men threw hard clotheslines though and Scorp busted out a true Kawada powerbomb, as Styles even made reference to Scorpio wearing his trunks that are usually reserved for Japanese tours. Really cool finish, one i didn't think i had seen before out of the toking acrobat. Their matches always have a battle of attrition feel; not all of it's pretty but they take a beating by the time it's all said and done.
6) Pitbull #2 v. Shane Douglas- 3
No crowd brawls yet so I guess Franchise fits nicely into that category. Pitbull #2 (can't the guy get a name?) was just not a top level worker as any move he takes to the back he practically ignores. Douglas was stalling at a level not seen since Zybyzsko worked a double shot in PA in '76 then had to go to Marsh's with his wife to buy "female products." In a funny moment, Pitbull drops Douglas on the guardrail groin first, but Douglas screams out in agony before he even makes contact with the steel barricade. Douglas tries to put him over bigger than any star in history by going through a litany of foreign objects and finishes trying to win the match in a completely insulting sequence that the crowd was half and half for. Guy was bleeding worse than Jesus on the cross though.
7) Brian Lee/ Taz v. Tommy Dreamer/ Steve Williams- 3
This was the biggest disappointment of the night, basically to see Dr. Death was the only reason i bought this show, this was a "dream partners" tag match where Dreamer and Lee could pick whoever they wanted to team with them. First off Lee is a tool, really Jardine like brawling with terrible swinging punches and goofy sells, the guy is just awful. Dreamer wasn't even his martyr self until he takes the Tazplex off the stage through a table in a gnarly dangerous bump which looked just ghastly. Taz hits one of the best bridges for a Northern Lights of all time, floating in Hase territory. Doc and Lee's stuff in the ring looks like two grizzly bears trying to play Twister. They kept building up what would happen if Taz fought Doc, which we get exactly 60 seconds of before the match breaks down again into a big schmoze, really disappointing. At least we got a Doctor bomb.
8) The Eliminators v. Bruise Brothers v. Samoan Gangsta Party v. The Gangstas (4 way Elimination)- 2
This was a mess of epic proportions. The Samoans were actually shortlived 3 Minutes team from WWE, one of which was recently departed Umaga, in a bit of logic that completely defines stupid, they showed a clip of them being arrested earlier in the night and taken out in cuffs by police, well they show up for their scheduled match, but they're still wearing the cuffs? Did they escape jail and come back to wrestle? They're eliminated in a fashion Heyman would use for nearly a decade with the Gangstas beating ass to the same rap song with weapons. Bruises were just as sloppy as the rest of the guys in this match and fit in well, Eliminators were kind of built to win this, both were quicker and hitting more people but once it came down to the two fan favorite teams, it boiled down to just plain weapons so we get a title change in a glorified mess I stopped caring about almost as soon as it started. Styles played it up as if this was a huge moment but the ring was a mess of blood and broken musical instruments which would have made as much a sense at a violent Depeche Mode show as it did in a wrestling ring.
9) Rob Van Dam v. Sabu (Stretcher Match)- 5
This match I wanted to like and I think it was good overall but I just can't recommend it in the end. The match had plenty of time, and they built it up much better than either guy would on a normal occasion. They showed off their matwork together seeing as how they trained together at least it looked polished. Van Dam's kicks were every bit as lethal as remembered when workers would complain he would stiff too much, Sabu seemed at home taking them; a note on Sabu's bumping, it has that car crash feel and looks great, but his vocalization of taking pain is not there, not in this time, I think he's gotten better in recent years but if it's not a close up, you don't know what he's doing when on defense. One of my favorite parts of stretcher matches is the bumps on the stretcher because it's such a unusual object to use and is guaranteed to hurt guys when they get slammed on jumped on with it and this match was no exception, my favorite being Sabu's front somersault onto RVD resting on the stretcher that smashed bothmen into the guard rail hard. You also had your usual move set from both men that's getting frankly tired by now, especially with seeing Van Dam doing it in TNA again, doubly watered down from using it in WWE. Sabu's rush to get to the next spot has always irked me, as it did here but there was a lot of passion displayed from both men; the ending wasn't my cup of tea but you be the judge and watch for yourself.