Today marks 23 years since the ECW November to Remember pay-per-view that was held at the Golden Dome in Monica, PA in 1997. I was only in elementary school when the show originally aired so I wasn’t at the show live, but did get to attend ECW-inspired shows years later. In 2005, fresh off of the success of Hardcore Homecoming and the original One Night Stand event, Shane Douglas’ Hardcore Homecoming promotion that I covered in a previous edition of “VHS Memoirs” took place at the Golden Dome that September. For a myriad of reasons that I already discussed in the prior article, Hardcore Homecoming didn’t get off the ground as a full-fledged concept, and while the show didn’t necessarily feature top-notch wrestling, it was still a very fun show. As a reminder, hanging out with the other fans before the doors opened was a highlight in itself, as despite being only 16 at the time, a fellow fan offered me a beer that I politely declined. An extremely intoxicated fan was denied entry into the building after Sandman refused his repeated request for a high five. New Jack greeted the fans and picked up a young child, running toward the front doors before he safely returned the youngster to his family. The other Golden Dome attendance was much less fun and much less memorable. Extreme Rising…enough said.
Back to 1997, young Jim would struggle to stay awake to watch ECW on Saturdays at 11 PM on snowy UPN on channel 19. Despite being a WWF fan first and very tired, I would impersonate the extreme stars by pointing to the sky like Sabu, posing with a plastic bat like Sandman, or chanting ECW like Tommy Dreamer.
November to Remember was often cited in ECW history as one of the premiere events of the promotion’s calendar, but this was on pay-per-view, which was considered a critical piece of the puzzle for the organization, as it was still looking to establish itself as a third national promotion. Generally speaking, since 1997 was the year that the group made its debut on pay-per-view, this event ranks behind Barely Legal, as the original PPV offering had the emotional Terry Funk victory in the main event, but was considerably better than Hardcore Heaven a few months earlier, which had a combination of horrendous production and a card that lacked depth.
The first half of the under card was somewhat of a mixed bag. The show opened with notable veteran, Tommy Rogers against the talented Chris Candido. Rogers, sporting a mullet and an All Japan jacket, made his way to the ring and looked very stoic, barely acknowledging the crowd in attendance. Perhaps, this was because he expected the crowd to rally behind Candido since there was an association with hometown headliner Shane Douglas. The actual match was very solid as the two exchanged technical moves and it helped set the pace for the show. In some ways, it’s puzzling that since Rogers could still go in the ring that he didn’t stick around ECW for more than a cup of coffee. The organization had given older stars a fresh run for much of its existence. Tommy Rich, Tracy Smothers, and Bam Bam Bigelow were all able to add a new chapter to their careers through ECW. If I had to guess, Rogers probably just didn’t bring enough sizzle to the table for the climate of 90s pro wrestling. Both Jerry Lynn and Lance Storm ran in to set up a brief tag team match, which saw Candido and Storm get the win. I’m all for Lynn and Storm on pay-per-view, especially because they had some stellar matches a few years later, but this particular scenario seemed like nothing more than an excuse to shoehorn them onto the card. The Candido/Rogers match was really good, but was hindered by the extra additions to the conclusion of the contest.
Mikey Whipwreck and Justin Credible had a decent match, but for some reason, things didn’t seem to gel and the crowd reaction to most of it was lukewarm. Whipwreck got the win. That being said, Mikey is probably a performer that doesn’t get the credit he deserves, including a six month detour to WCW in 1999 where he worked roughly a dozen matches during his entire run. Justin Credible’s main event status was probably more of a smoke and mirrors creation of Paul Heyman than anything else, particularly when the company needed talent to replenish an often depleted roster. However, Credible was still a solid wrestler that could deliver a good performance in most scenarios so he’s another athlete that got typecast from ECW. Taz vs. Pitbull 2 was a squash match that went less than two minutes. Granted, Taz was in the midst of a lengthy push that would eventual take him to the world championship just over a year later, but putting a squash match on pay-per-view, especially in this era, when there was more competition for the PPV dollar, was a question decision.
The four-way tag title match was more or less the same wild brawl that was often seen in ECW, complete with a New Jack run in while “Natural Born Killaz” blared in the background. In retrospect it’s repetitive, but still entertaining and a fun part of the show. Keep in mind, even at a time when both Nitro and Raw were attempting to push the envelope, there wasn’t anything like these brawls on either show so it was one of the violent aspects that helped the smaller organization promote a unique product.
Tommy Dreamer vs. Rob Van Dam was a good match that showcased both wrestlers. You can really see why these two went on to become such staples of the company within the next few years. Van Dam hadn’t yet decided what aerial maneuvers would become his trademark offense, but you can see the some of the variations of moves that would become his signature. The only criticism here was the ref spots were some sloppy and the finish was a little underwhelming because there wasn’t an actual winner, as both officials at ringside were attacked by the WWF group, including Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon, and Sabu. Stevie Richards, who had a short stint in WCW alongside Raven earlier in the year, also interfered in the match. Instead of an official winner, Dreamer was beat down until The Sandman’s music played to set up the next match.
The Sandman/Sabu feud yielded some violent spectacles, as Sabu was willing to take the risks and Sandman was more than willing to take the punishment. Their individual “car crash” styles made for memorable matches. As Good As it Gets 1997 and House Party 1998 are a pair of bouts that fans can reflect upon for their high-risk nature. Unfortunately, November to Remember 1997 is memorable for all the wrong reasons. As the myth goes, Sandman had taken a significant amount of drugs before he went to the ring and was hallucinating while he performed live on pay-per-view. Outside of a few highlights from the spectacular offense of Sabu, this bout was nearly 20 minutes of sloppy spots that became a total train wreck. Somehow, the tables that were set up for it started to collapse before they were used, and the entire segment was an underwhelming cluster.
The main event was classic hometown booking, as “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, one of the most hated heels in the history of the promotion, was a total baby face in Pittsburgh. Clad in black and gold, Douglas challenged former triple threat member Bam Bam Bigelow for the championship. There are a few things to take note of here, mostly how Bigelow’s arrival in the promotion gave them a huge boost in star power when the organization was trying to build the momentum to make the jump to pay-per-view, the avenue that ensured the biggest revenue in that era. Bam Bam was the guy that helped LT have a solid match in the main event of Wrestlemania a few years prior and had been a notable star for almost a decade before he arrived in ECW. Plus, his incredible agility for his size and of course, the trademark flames tattooed on his head fit very well in the extreme group. The actual match was fine, but went too long and dragged at certain points. That said, the bout was more about the narrative than the actual in-ring action, as the fans went crazy when Douglas landed punches later in the match and there was a tremendous reaction when Douglas won the match to claim the championship.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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