Throwback Thursday: ECW November to Remember (1999)
It’s about that time again, your weekly dose of wrestling’s past: Throwback Thursday. November 13 isn’t exactly a day that’s chockablock with wrestling history, but it is one of highs and lows. CHIKARA held their first ever iPPV, The Rock N’ Roll Express won their first of 10 SMW Tag Team Championships, and Kensuke Sasaki defeated Sting to win the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship in the first of two times that championship changed hands outside of the United States.
We would also be remiss to ignore the fact that this is the day Eddie Guerrero and Tony Rumble passed away. However, we will focus today on the fact that this is the very same day ECW began an annual November tradition back in 1993. For the first time, we look back to the world of extreme as we reflect on 1999’s November to Remember.
The quick results are as follows: Spike Dudley defeated Simon Diamond (with Dick Hertz); Little Guido (with Sal E Graziano) defeated Nova; Jerry Lynn defeated Yoshihiro Tajiri (with Steve Corino and Jack Victory) and Super Crazy in a Three-Way Dance; Da Baldies defeated New Jack and The Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freaks in a four-on-three handicap match; Sabu (with Bill Alfonso) defeated Chris Candido (with Tammy Lynn Sytch); Mike Awesome (with Judge Jeff Jones) defeated Masato Tanaka to retain the ECW World Heavyweight Championship; Rob Van Dam (with Bill Alfonso) defeated Taz to retain the ECW World Television Championship; and Rhino and The Impact Players (with Jason Knight and Dawn Marie) defeated Raven, Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman (with Francine).
Not only is this the first time we look at ECW on Throwback Thursday, but this was my own maiden voyage into the original land of extreme. I had seen WWE’s One Night Stand events, which certainly gave me a taster, but ECW was so much more than those WWE authorised events. ECW did not care about inter-gender fighting, ECW did not care about crude language, ECW did not care about terrible puns, but ECW cared so very much about wrestling and about putting on the best show possible.
I won’t lie; I really struggled with the first few matches. Joey Styles admitted that the first, at least, was unscheduled. The transition into the second match was nothing more than a series of run-ins with, at some point, a referee turning up. I don’t know if this was the usual format for ECW, but it made me question if I even really wanted to watch it.
However, the third match of the card was a match type ECW made famous: The Three-Way Dance. For those who are more subscribed to the WWE product, a Three-Way Dance is simply a Triple Threat elimination match. It might not sound like much of a difference, but this is where the ECW product got very interesting. Firstly, there were really no rules other than a three count pinfall and submissions. What this meant is that these three wrestlers could go at it all over the arena and perform a slew of crazy moves. Secondly, ECW was built on pride. That meant that each wrestler wanted to get both pinfalls, regardless of elimination tactics. When someone was pinning somebody else, there was every chance that pinfall would be broken up for the sake of pride.
While the next two matches were thoroughly entertaining (surprisingly, even Sabu’s), the ECW World Heavyweight Championship match was touted as possibly the best ECW World Heavyweight Championship match in history. And it shouldn’t really be a surprise; the two competitors were natural athletes and natural rivals. Although the fans obviously wanted Tanaka to win, nobody was upset with the result by the end of the performance. This is a match I would happily watch again and again and again. The next two main events weren’t quite at that same calibre as the World Heavyweight Championship match, but ECW didn’t need them to be. The stories and rivalries and personal animosity surrounding these matches made them great before the bell had even rung. The final two matches exemplified what ECW was all about: it didn’t always matter if the wrestlers could wrestle, it didn’t always matter if the matches looked like matches, what mattered was fighting.
Going into the event, I felt a little bit elitist. I will always be biased towards WWE because that is what I was brought up on. However, it would be impossible to ignore how great ECW could be. Hell, there were even some matches where they played the entrance music the entire way through. It was kind of wacky and it completely worked. ECW was a strange place who didn’t care for rules, in or out of the ring. But if this is a taste of the ECW scene, then my appetite has definitely been whetted.