This week Throwback Thursday goes a little “hardcore” on the WWE Network as we revisit the Anarchy Rulz ’99 go-home edition of ECW on TNN (“ECW Wrestling” on the WWE Network) that aired 21 years ago this month.
Like much of Extreme Championship Wrestling’s (ECW) history, the early autumn of 1999 was both the best of times and the worst of times. Finally making it to national television on TNN made ECW the default “number three” and increased their visibility, but not much else was going ECW’s way. The ratings that Paul Heyman had assured TNN his hardcore promotion could generate (2.0) were not materializing. The ratings woes were bad enough, but TNN’s refusal to help finance the enhanced production the network demanded as part of the initial deal added insult to injury. To make matters worse, just as ECW was reaching its highest heights to date, the Dudley Boyz and Taz, two of the hottest acts in ECW history, had each decided to leave ECW for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The return of Raven from World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was a welcome shot in the arm, but the loss of the Duldeys and Taz was a wound ECW would never fully recover from. Then there was the seemingly never-ending saga of finances and ECW’s inability, even now, to pay everyone what they were promised and to do it on time. Another key “ECW Original”, Sabu, was nearing his breaking point as well. Sabu, frustrated with Paul Heyman over issues relating to back pay, would finally walk out of ECW for good in January of 2000.
The final drive was on for the inaugural Anarchy Rulz pay-per-view. The main story going in to the event was Taz defending the ECW World title against Masato Tanaka, whose sizzle reels involving Mike Awesome would lead to one of the most shocking twists in ECW history. By the time this edition of ECW on TNN aired, however, the news of Taz leaving ECW for the WWF had leaked, making Taz public enemy number one to a significant portion of the ECW faithful, as we would see, and hear, at the PPV. The secondary story was the soap opera saga between ECW World Tag Team Champions (and mortal enemies) Raven & Tommy Dreamer and whether or not the duo would leave Anarchy Rulz as a unit or in all out war, while the third key story involved the return of Sabu, who was looking to end his feud with Justin Credible after Credible had Sabu “banned” in the U.S. when in reality it was a pay dispute that kept Sabu out of ECW.
With that out of the way, let’s head on over to the WWE Network, hit ‘play’, and see how ell this go-home edition of ECW on TNN holds up in 2020!
As usual, music is the chief offender in respect to edits. Much if not all of the original music, save the ECW opening theme music, has been overdubbed. Also missing are any and all Hardcore Hotline, home video, merchandise, and live event promos. Context is complete as all prior editions of ECW on TNN and ECW Hardcore TV (including the “lost” pilot that can be found in the “Hidden Gems” vault), as well as all previous ECW pay-per-views and a growing number of ECW supercards, are available for you to enjoy on the WWE Network right now!
ECW on TNN #4 (WATCH)
Date: September 17, 1999 (TAPED: August 28, 1999) – Location: ECW Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Attendance: <1,500 – TV Rating: 0.65
Commentators: Joey Styles & Joel Gertner – Interviews: Cyrus
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME:
ECW World Heavyweight Champion: Taz
ECW World Television Champion: Rob Van Dam
ECW World Tag Team Champions: Tommy Dreamer & Raven
This week’s edition of ECW on TNN opens with footage of the closing moments of the main event of last week’s edition of ECW Hardcore TV, where Raven fianlly helps Tommy Dreamer retain the Tag Team titles. Next we head backstage where, after explaining the story of Sabu being suspended from wrestling anywhere in North America by Justin Credible, together with a great sizzle reel from Sabu’s entire run in ECW, Cyrus interviews Bill Alfonso, with Sabu. As Sabu looks on menacingly, Alfonso loses his mind, shouting about the only person in trouble being Credible for doing what Credible did to Sabu. Payback for Justin Credible, Alfonso says, is “your ass gettin’ kicked in front of thousands and thousands of people who bought this pay-per-view!” Alfonso then promises “an ass kickin’ from hell” dished out by “the most suicidal, homicidal, genocidal, death-defying athlete in the business, and his name is Sabu!”
Next up is the usual, still phenomenal ECW on TNN opening. After the opening we head to the broadcast position where Joey Styles and Joel Gertner welcome us to the show. Joey hypes this Sunday’s Anarchy Rulz PPV and the announcement that Sabu’s ban has been lifted and that he will face Justin Credible this Sunday, gives a rapid rundown of what we can expect to see this week, and tosses to the ring for the opening bout.
In the ring we find P.N. News. Wearing a Philadelphia Phillies jersey with the word “SUX” scrawled all over it, P.N. News does a “rap” about how much Philadelphia sucks which brings out Spike Dudley.
—Singles Match (WATCH – 5:42)
P.N. News vs. Spike Dudley
Typical Spike Dudley “giant killer” match here. Spike charges the ring, walks into an all out assault from News. Soon enough Spike avoids a massive News splash before going low and hitting the Acid Drop for the “upset” win at just :24-seconds.
WINNER is Spike Dudley (Pin, 0:24)
After the match we see Spike Dudley celebrating at ringside before power-walking to the locker room. We then jump outside the ECW Arena where an ambulance is parked. A graphic in the lower third tells us that an ECW wrestler has been injured in a “locker room incident”, which causes Joey Styles to freak out. “Now what did they do?! NO!” Following a break we return to the ambulance in the parking lot. Joey Styles says that despite rumors swirling in the locker room as to who was injured and what happened he’s not going to speculate. We then cut to the ring where our next match is already under way.
—“International Grudge Match” JIP (WATCH – 7:58)
Tajiri vs. Super Crazy
These two were supposed to have settled their “international feud” at Living Dangerously ’99 (Throwback here) but it turned out to be just the beginning. We don’t get a chance to see this match in its entirety so it’s impossible to judge this as a whole. What we get to see is good, as it almost always was with these two. At this point in the match Tajiri tries but fails to put Super Crazy away before Super Crazy, out of nowhere, blocks a brainbuster and hits a modified Crazy Bomb for the 1-2-3.
WINNER is Super Crazy (Pin, 2:41, JIP time)
Next up is a long Raven promo and history package detailing the history between the current ECW World Tag Team Champions Tommy Dreamer and Raven. Raven talks about love, hate, and friendship, about Dreamer scarring and battering Raven, and about Dreamer taking Raven’s “girl”, Beulah McGillicutty. All the major angles, matches, swerves, and moments are covered in one way, shape, or form, including Beulah McGillicutty’s classic pregnancy announcement and Dreamer finally beating Raven on June 17, 1997. Raven says that in the two and a half years Raven was gone from ECW, Tommy Dreamer’s career “lost its focus” and Dreamer even lost “his girl”, which leads to footage of Beulah being taken out by the Dudley Boyz. Raven then repeats the famous line from The Usual Suspects, a line originally written by French poet Charles Baudelaire, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Raven says tells Tommy that he, Raven, does exist, and that Raven will be Dreamer’s “own personal demon”. Raven closes by saying that “this savor has already been crucified for your sins. Quote the Raven, ‘nevermore’.”
After a break Lance Storm & Dawn Marie come to the ring. Following a chat with ring announcer Bob Artese it is announced that Lance Storm is now challenging Rob Van Dam for the World Television title. Joey Styles freaks out, yelling about Jerry Lynn being the one in the ambulance at the very same time the news is being “confirmed”. Styles then jumps to the conclusion that it must have been the Impact Players who attacked and injured Jerry Lynn while Joel Gertner tries to remind us that it’s all just allegations. Styles doesn’t care about allegations, he firmly believes that Storm & Justin Credible took out Jerry Lynn to get to RVD. Styles calls it a rip-off, that fans were promised a match “to the finish” between RVD & Jerry Lynn, who has been rushed to the hospital.
—ECW World Television Championship (WATCH – 15:42)
Lance Storm (sub. for Jerry Lynn) w/Dawn Marie vs. Rob Van Dam(c) w/Bill Alfonso
This is more of an angle than a match. As RVD takes his time getting in the ring Lance Storm comes over the top with a plancha to kick-start the match. Lance Storm dominates until Storm gets a chair from Dawn Marie. After posing with the chair Storm walks right into a Van Daminator. Suddenly Justin Credible hits the ring, blasting the referee with a Singapore cane at :59-seconds to end this one in a no contest.
NO WINNER declared (No contest, 0:59)
Rob Van Dam tries to fight off Justin Credible & Lance Storm to no avail. As Credible & Storm pound on RVD, none other than the injured Jerry Lynn (back from the hospital?) makes the save and helps take the fight to the Impact Players. Out of nowhere Johnny Smith, debuting at this ECW Arena show, joins the fight and helps neutralize both RVD & Jerry Lynn. At this time, Rob Van Dam and Johnny Smith were scheduled to face one another for RVD’s World Television title at the Anarchy Rulz PPV. After RVD & Lynn have been taken out Justin Credible grabs the microphone and does his “Justin Credible” shtick as the fans chant for Sabu.
After the break RVD tells Jerry Lynn, who is receiving medical attention at ringside, he feels as screwed as the rest of the fans feel in not getting his match with Jerry Lynn. When fans pay to watch Rob Van Dam, RVD says, they “know they get their money’s worth” and RVD didn’t “kick enough ass in three minutes”. RVD then challenges Lynn to give the fans their money’s worth by letting RVD kick Jerry Lynn’s ass too. “This is not WCW Monday NITRO,” Joey Styles says, “we come through on matches we advertise!” Jerry Lynn says he can barely stand up after the attack they just endured but says he also can’t stand not having the ECW World Television title around his waist. “Let’s get it on!”
—ECW World Television Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 21:12)
Jerry Lynn vs. Rob Van Dam(c) w/Bill Alfonso
This is yet another classic match between these two. It may not be as great as their two PPV classics but it’s a classic all the same. This match starts out fast with both guys trading a rapid series blocks and reversals. Soon enough the match goes to the floor and the front row where, after crushing RVD with a modified bulldog on a steel chair, RVD takes over. Despite the lack of rules there is a decent amount of psychology, much of it subtle, and these two end up telling a very good story centered on Jerry Lynn’s injured ribs. At one point, after going ribs first through a table, the match is nearly stopped as referee’s attend to Lynn and help him to the back. At the last moment, though, Lynn pushes the officials away and returns to the fight. The final few minutes are a stunning blur of counters and reversals, with one great near-fall after another, including Lynn nearly winning the title after rolling up RVD following a missed Five-Star Frog Splash. The crowd is at a fever pitch when RVD hits a Van Daminator out of nowhere to score the pinfall win at 13:38 and retain the ECW World Television Championship.
WINNER and STILL ECW World Television Champion, Rob Van Dam w/Bill Alfonso (Pin, 13:38)
After the match, and plenty of celebration from RVD, Van Dam & Jerry Lynn shake hands to a standing ovation from ECW Arena crowd as Joey Styles tells us that someday Lynn will be the man to dethrone RVD. Meanwhile, the RVD celebration goes on.
After a break we return to the broadcast position where Joey Styles & Joel Gertner give their final rundown of the big matches set to go down at Anarchy Rulz this Sunday in pay-per-view, including RVD versus Johnny Smith for RVD’s TV title (which ended up being changed to RVD/Balls Mahoney, one of RVD’s greatest TV title matches not involving Jerry Lynn or Sabu); Jerry Lynn versus Lance Storm; an “extreme” three-way dance between Super Crazy, Tajiri, and Little Guido; Justin Credible’s showdown with the returning Sabu; Taz putting the ECW World title on the line against Masato Tanaka (and Mike Awesome as we would see during the PPV); and Steve Corino’s promise of a “mystery” tag team (which turns out to be himself & Rhino) to challenge World Tag Team Champions Tommy Dreamer & Raven. Joey Styles does his last hard sell before signing off and fading to black!
This isn’t a bad edition of ECW on TNN by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s far from perfect. While much of the action is good to great, especially the main event RVD/Jerry Lynn TV title match, and the promos are decent enough, the show lacks a certain spark that many of the ECW go-home shows have. Add to that the ridiculous ambulance story that runs throughout this show and you have a bit of a whiplash inducing hot mess. It may be a decent edition of ECW on TNN but I’m not certain how many fans will be enticed to seek out the underrated Anarchy Rulz ’99 show as a result of watching this one. Either way, if you haven’t seen this edition of ECW on TNN, or it’s been a while, this show is worth your time. Who knows, you might actually like it!
Already subscribed to the WWE Network? Then you can relive this classic go-home edition of ECW on TNN right now or experience it for the very first time! As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below!
For pre-WNN editions of TBT, click here!
Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!