REVIEW OF ECW BARELY LEGAL 1997

  
Barely Legal was ECW’s first ever Pay Per View and the most important, it took place at the iconic ECW Arena in Philadelphia on 13th April 1997. The show was important as it was the first time Extreme Championship Wrestling would be available on PPV and gave Paul Heyman the platform to push ECW to the next level. Without this PPV we may never have been treated to talent such as Tommy Dreamer, Taz, Raven, Sabu or Rob Van Dam.The opening match was for the Tag Team Titles with The Eliminators, John Kronus and Perry Saturn defeating the Dudley Boyz accompanied by their entourage of Sign Guy Dudley and Joel Gertner. The Eliminators got the win hitting the Total Elimination, a leg sweep and spinning heel kick combination. This match seemed to be set to make The Eliminators look good on PPV as they had been pushed heavily but a shame it had to be at the expense of The Dudley Boyz, funny to see what happened in the future with The Dudley’s becoming 23 time Tag Champions in multiple promotions all over the globe and The Eliminators only 4 times champions in ECW and USWA.

Rob Van Dam best Lance Storm in a great battle, that had some great action on the outside with Storm diving over the top rope but with RVD moving out of the way at the last minute and Storm being whipped into the guard rail. Joey Styles getting in a dig at his future employers WWE by saying “Aren’t any pretty blue mats here on the floor in the ECW… It’s not Disney World”. Storm kicked out of the 5 star frog splash and after getting a steel chair thrown at his head. Storm draped Van Dam’s head over a chair and smashed through RVD with a leg drop. Rob Van Dam got the win after a Van Daminator followed by a backflip splash for the 3 count.

A six man tag match involving all Japanese wrestlers was up next with Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada and Masato Yakushiji against Taka Michinoku, Terry Boy and Dick Togo. A good match in all and introduced the American fans to the Japanese wrestlers putting on a showcase and a very solid match in all, with the trio of Taka, Terry and Togo under the BWO Japan moniker a spoof of the NWO Japan group. The BWO ended up with the loss with Great Sasuke hitting Taka Michinoku with a Tiger Suplex for the win.

Shane Douglas defended the ECW Television Title against Pitbull #2, this feud had been brought to a climax after Douglas broke the neck of Pitbull #2’s tag team partner Gary Wolfe’s (Pitbull #1) neck with a piledriver. During the match Douglas was working on the Pitbull’s neck trying to do the same as he had done to his partner previously. The Franchise got the win and retained the Television Title hitting a belly to belly suplex. After the bell Rick Rude’s voice was heard over the PA system, a man in a robe and a mask entered the ring and Douglas hit him in the back and removed the mask but it was not Rude but was Brian Lee. Douglas then turned round shocked and a member of Douglas’s riot squad, who had surrounded the ring to protect the Franchise, removed his helmet and it was Rick Rude, Lee and Rude then beat down Douglas together with the crowd in a frenzy.

Next up was a brawl between Sabu and Taz who was accompanied by the whistle blowing Bill Alfonso. Sabu was busted open early but took control using the ropes and chairs to his advantage, he set up a table across the ring to the guardrail and attempted to DDT Taz through the table but Taz reversed and threw Sabu through the table. Taz came away with the win after choking Sabu out with the Tazmission. After the bell Alfonso turned on Taz removing his Taz shirt to reveal a Sabu shirt after RVD came to the ring and helped Sabu beat down Taz, which ended with Sabu hitting an Arabian Facebuster.

An extreme Three Way Dance between Terry Funk, The Sandman and Stevie Richards with the winner going on to meet ECW World Heavyweight Champion Raven in the main event, Tommy Dreamer joined Joey Styles on commentary after giving up his place in the match so that Terry Funk could earn one last shot at the ECW title. Sandman and Richards teamed up on Funk dropping elbows on Funk. Sandman left ringside and came back with a ladder, throwing straight in Funks face and Sandman then suplexed the ladder onto Funk. Terry Funk then moonsaulted from the top of the ladder on to Richards, missing by some distance but the crowd still lost it! Funk then put the ladder over his head and performed the helicopter taking out both Sandman and Richards. Stevie hit his super kick on Sandman but only got a near fall, all three men then brawled out in the crowd. Sandman got some barbed wire and wrapped himself in it running into the other two but got caught with a super kick from Richards while he had a trash can on his head, Funk then went up to the top rope and hit a moonsault on Sandman for the win and advanced to the main event against Raven.

Raven immediately hit the ring to start the match with Funk for the ECW Title. Raven had the upper hand for the early goings drop toe holds Funk face first on to a chair busting the Funker open, blood was flowing from his head after this. Raven grabbed a mic and began to tell Tommy Dreamer he would end Terry Funks career in front of Dreamer by putting him through some tables. Tommy stood up and Big Dick Dudley tried to throw Dreamer off the stage but Tommy reversed into a choke slam off the stage through two tables. Dreamer then hit the ring and hit Raven with a DDT, Funk then rolled up Raven for the three count and for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship at the age of 53!! The crowd bellowing with chants of “Terry Terry Terry Terry”

The show was great and is still as good to watch 18 years later as it would have been in 1997. It did exactly what it set out to do and established ECW and put them in the spotlight as something very different from WWF and WCW that were the other to mainstream promotions on offer at the time with the extreme and raw nature of the product on show. It also introduced the world of wrestling fans to some of the wrestlers that never been seen by most of the world until this PPV. The chant of “ECW ECW ECW ECW” was heard throughout the show and would be heard for years to come and still heard at many shows to this day. 

I tweeted a few wrestlers and people from the wrestling industry to get their views on Barely Legal, there was a mixed bag of views but here they are…

Insane Championship Wrestling original and NAK member Chris Renfrew kept it simple with word “Accomplishment” as did WWE super fan Tye Dye Guy “Unreal” and Stevie Richards who wrestled that night said “One of the the greatest nights of my life”. But on the other hand ICW announcer Billy Kirkwood saw it as “Important…but not their best” and Vince Russo surprised me with “Never saw one ECW PPV, honestly” 

Tommy Dreamer was there that night and shared his views with me “It was so hard to get there & when we did we all had the greatest sense of pride that we all accomplished something together. You can see it in the emotion of everyone in that building fans and wrestlers were all united”. Awesome words from an ECW legend, felt privileged to be able to get the views of Tommy.
SOMEONE STOP THE DAMN MATCH!!

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