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ECWA SUPER 8 Look-Back: 1997 & 1998

by on April 26, 2011

Hey pals, Tom here.

The ECWA Super 8 is going on THIS Saturday night, being broadcast worldwide on GoFightLive (click on the words “ECWA Super 8” to order it).  Great wrestlers like Adam Cole, Rich Swann, Sami Callihan, Shiima Xion and more will be wrestling in this thing, but we realize, “Hey, the excitement level’s good, but it could be GREAT!”. So, we’re going to start posting some retrospectives I wrote on the first five years of the Super 8 last year, leading up to the big night.

We start with 1997 and 1998. Mullets, sequins, guys named Ronnie…these years HAD IT ALL. So sit back, relax and kiss your sister. Enjoy these under the cut.

1997:


Starting in 1997, it seems to be kind of this weird hybrid of ninety percent of all independent shows around that time (complete with a really awesome crowd) and little touches taken from the Super J Cup. But, for sure, more defined heels and faces (and LOTS of sparkly robes and mullets) than any Super 8 ever. Simon Diamond in sparkly chaps and sporting a huge mullet is a man I want to know and fear.

Also, during the traditional photo-op with all the wrestlers, they play the national anthem over the PA system, and Ace Darling leans on the top rope and pretty much no-sells it as the rest of the building is hands-on-hearts at-attention. Great dude.

Reckless Youth’s out first and he’s on the microphone. It’s weird to see a dude that looks like a Raven ripoff and cuts a promo like beta-test Rock, especially when he’s known for wrestling like neither. He’s working against Billy Kidman and I’m EXCITED. Kidman pre-1999 is someone who time has not looked kindly to, but I thought was awesome. It’s a shame that getting bloated and lazy has made people forget he was really flippin’ good.

They’re doing over-the-PA commentary for the show and it’s already on my nerves, as the commentator called the referee on a bad call and the ref stopped and postured to the commentator.

This Reckless/Kidman match is the stuff, though. This crowd is phenomenal, a ton of kids and families eating up what these guys are doing. The match is weird, as to the core, it’s a REALLY basic match that follows the simple formula that 90% of all wrestling matches do. But, I’d hate to label it basic since, in modern times, “basic” and “lazy” have become synonymous. These two absolutely were not lazy, especially Reckless (who took multiple bumps on the concrete floor and flew around everywhere whenever Kidman was on offense. They didn’t go a million miles an hour, but they sped it up and did some really awesome, crisp high-flying when they turned up the volume. A LOT of old indy wrestling doesn’t age well because the style 10-12 years ago seemed so much looser and Nova-esque, but this match, while not as flashy as some things that happen these days, would absolutely fit on a show today. I loved the finish as well. Reckless kept going back to La Magistral throughout the match (he busted it out 3-4 times). The finish was Reckless kicking out of a sunset powerbomb off of the top (which is a move that can look AWFUL, but they hit it perfect), going for La Magistral again, but Kidman stopped it halfway with a cradle of his own to win. AWESOME shit, the perfect blend between what the moves-heavy fan and a traditionalist (ala a Bryan Alvarez) could both sit down and appreciate.

Now, we have Ace Darling in the ring with a very flamboyant-looking 400-pound manager. He might be Ace’s pimp, I don’t know. Darling’s billed as being from the Jersey Shore and certainly has the hair to be a mid-90’s NJ prostitute. He’s facing Inferno Kid, who looks WAY taller than I ever remember him being. This match is like they teleported a mid-level FCW match from last week to 1997 in front of a crowd that actually cares about these guys. The match is as simple as it gets, the execution is so-so at times (but the guys aren’t slouches athletically, so nothing looks epically terrible), and they do the basic story of heel Darling working over face Kid’s leg. Darling stops Kid’s comeback with a superkick and wins the match. Nothing terribly exciting, but again, way better execution than what I was expecting.

Next up is Ravishing Ronnie, who I only know from the PWI coverage of this show when it happened, with some dude in green medical scrubs. There’s two guys at ringside with really nice cameras filming the show (I assume for the short-lived TV show that ECWA was crowning their TV champion for in this tournament), but of course, the DVD is the Wal-Mart-bought hardcam. The dude in the scrubs is the third heel on this show in three matches to cut a promo. Lance/Simon Diamond is the opponent, coming out to “Jesus Christ Superstar”, which made the four-year-old in me who rented Wrestlemania 4 over twenty times and loved babyface Don Muraco mark out. If the clock on the camera is to be assumed correct, the third match is in the ring by 7:45 PM, which is mind-blowing by today’s standards of shows going past midnight. We also have dueling heel managers, as the fat pimp from the last match is out with Lance.

Turns out there’s honor amongst thieves, as Lance cut a babyface promo, asking the managers to leave ringside. So far, the least match on the show, as you have two heels out there exchanging holds and being sportsmen. It was total 2002 ROH, being all about honor and respect. I think the prototype for all mid-card heel/heel matches is BJ Whitmer/Matt Murphy from the 2002 TPI, where they had a duel of thievery and scoundrel-like tactics to see who could be the bigger douchebag. Instead, they busted out a third-rate Lanny Poffo/Jim Brunzell house show match. Ravishing Ronnie is also the worst guy on this show so far, physically unimpressive, no charisma, and moved SO slow for being as small as he was. At one point, he went up top and did a moonsault that might have defied gravity with how slow it was. I was actually semi-impressed with the feat. The finish was a Northern Lights suplex. Not a Northern Lights chained with another suplex or a head-drop version. Diamond hit a run-of-the-mill suplex and got the win. Favorite part of the match, for me.

Devon Storm being from Pacific Palisades, California is incredibly amusing. Homeboy could beat both Axl Rotten circa 1999 and Ricky Morton in a blonde mullet contest. He’s against the Cheetah Master, who’s the most popular guy in company history. I’m fairly certain the man could have run for Governor of Delaware on the Leopard-Print Spandex ticket and been voted into office. Lou Albano has just come to ringside like the senile old man that he is, and I’m very confused. He’s pacing the ring, not really paying attention, as Cheetah’s got the crowd going wild with his fire.

A ten-year-old is trying to reassemble the broadcast table after Cheetah did a nutty Undertaker tope over the top rope into it. Storm gets the heat with basic, un-Devon Storm-like offense, as this crowd is reacting like the souls of Hulk Hogan and Ricky Steamboat have come together to create the sympathetic, popular being known as CHEETAH MASTER. Of course, Cheetah isn’t quite good enough to take advantage of it, as he’s back on offense a minute into the heat. Storm jumps back on offense, but Cheetah got too much on Devon and they lost the crowd. Of course, right as I typed that, the loudest “CHEETAH!” chant of the night, with a bit of goading from the announcer, takes place during a surfboard. I think they’ve lost me; Devon Storm’s doing too much of his b.s. offense just to do it. The finish comes after Cheetah blocks a tope suicida with a chairshot to the head (somehow not DQ’d) and hits a big ol’ splash off the top. The match was awesome for Cheetah Master in all of his cheesy, 80’s bleach blonde glory with the crowd going BONKERS, but not much else.

WHAT THE FLIP? Cheetah Master, King Babyface of Men, is facing Billy Kidman, the squeaky-clean, 150-pound kid whose offense is designed to make people cheer. Really young Billy Kidman resembles a prettier Tony Mamaluke and bless the guy, he’s trying to work subtle heel…but wait, now Cheetah’s getting the heat. It’s awkward, with the crowd chanting for Cheetah as Kidman gets a hope spot here and there. HORRIBLE finish, as Kidman did a rolling prawn hold with a back-bridge, but his shoulders were down. The ref counted to three and instantly raised Cheetah’s hand, despite him being on bottom and not getting a shoulder up.

Lance Diamond against Ace Darling is now up, in a battle of dudes managed by the fat, white pimp. They’re telegraphing the manager turning on Diamond in the opening promo, by Diamond once again asking him to go to ringside and Darling denying the request. This is more like it. Diamond’s technically the babyface of the two, but they’re both throwing closed fists, jumping each other from behind, kicking each other in the dong, and so on. It lead to the moment of truth, where the fat pimp dude turned on Diamond after the double-down, helping Darling win. The match was alright, just a backdrop for the angle, but the angle to turn Diamond was good stuff.

Devon Storm is out with Ace Darling for the finals, because much like ducks, Extremists fly together. By this point, with Reckless, Diamond, and Kidman (my three favorite guys in the tournament) out, I wasn’t too into things. Darling went over, but the crowd went NUTS for Cheetah at the end. Seriously, I always heard the dude was like Delaware’s Kerry Von Erich, but geez. HUGE revelation.

******************

1998: 

The ’98 tape opens with a video package of the Q&A session before the show. Not a package with action clips spliced in or anything, but random clips from the hardcam in the back of the room, set to a Skinemax-sounding guitar track with some squaky-sounding dude doing a voiceover about heart and passion. If there was sex in it, it’d be a perfect porn spoof.

Also, Mike Quackenbush just did a promo where he called internet fans, “my netheads”. NETHEADS. That might be more offensive than anything in The Room.

Mike Quackenbush is the guy so far that moves most like a wrestler from 2010. He’s not half of what he is now, but he has the boom-boom-boom chain movement style going on. I find it really interesting that he has improved a CRAP-TON, but the way he maneuvers himself around the ring seems consistent with how he does so today. He doesn’t seem at all like a guy who completely changed his stuff up when he met Jorge Rivera and trained under him; he seems like a guy that just changed the tapes he was watching (which I’m definitely sure he has).

Quack and Ace Darling (who looked like Disco Inferno probably looks now) had an alright match, but it came off like two guys at an IWA Mid-South tryout shows who’d never talked before in their lives, trying to do all their spots in five minutes so that Ryan Phoenix and John Calvin Rotten will give them an 8 out of 10. This match seemed to show how drastic of a change the tournament had made in one year, as the PWI coverage of ’97 made it out to be this mythical American Super J-Cup that all these East Coast Japanese tape mark wrestlers should want to be in, when, while you had guys like Reckless Youth and Billy Kidman who could work that style, the tournament seemed far more based for that family-type audience who wanted the good guys and the bad guys. This was completely unlike any match on the first year’s edition.

Devon Storm, I have a feeling, was born five years too late. If he would’ve been coming around in 1991ish with the indy buzz he had in ’97-’98, I would bet money WCW would’ve seen him and put him with someone like Brad Armstrong or Tracy Smothers to be an underneath babyface tag team, where he would have learned how to be a really great athletic good guy in the vein of a Shawn Michaels. Sure, his career would’ve been screwed with early on and he would probably have some lame gimmick that would linger over him for a bit, but he was athletically gifted enough (he wasn’t doing a ton of flips and twists, but he could dive REALLY far, he moved quick, and had great coordination) and looked the part (small enough to be a believable underdog heartthrob babyface, big enough to be able to work with bigger guys and hurt them without it looking fake…plus he had PERFECT late-80’s/early-90’s babyface hair!) that he probably would’ve gone further in a major promotion than being the one-dimensional hardcore guy in a dying promotion.

As is, he ended up being a guy with wasted athletic potential who tried WAY too hard to be RVD and Sabu, and failed to be both of them and anything resembling himself. His match with Inferno Kid was bad, though you can credit it partially to Kid not working for a full year before the show. However, Devon not trying wacky legsweeps that he was too lanky to be trying and dives that would get an American soccer player cheered in Brazil would’ve really helped things. It’s equally annoying and unfun to watch Storm wrestle because he really wasn’t good, but he could’ve been awesome if he focused his energies differently.

Mark Schrader, in his pre-match promo, looks EXACTLY like if Paul Orndorff never took a steroid and had his stupid-looking old man flattop when he was 20.

Mark Schrader is the KING of being unable to put himself in an electric chair position. In this match with Lance Diamond, he’s tried it twice by stepping up on Lance’s thigh. The first time, it took him seemingly an hour to get up there and the second, he just fell down. Diamond looks like a Vladimir Koslov action figure in this match. I guess they tried to play up the story of Diamond being the Super 8 veteran and Schrader being a young underdog who had to win quick in order to win, but it was SO overly choreographed and fake-looking at times that it took you out of the match. The one positive is that, between the ’97 show and Diamond’s promo before the match, at least for me, Lance’s Northern Lights suplex was over as a legitimate finisher and I knew when he hit it, it was over. So, whenever someone finally kicks out of it, that’ll be a really nice false finish.

It’s a great thing Scott Taylor found charisma through a dance move and spikey hair, because his mushmouthed promo before his match with Reckless Youth showed that the WWF was REALLY lenient on signing good promo guys when WCW was winning. The Reckless/Taylor match seemed like a match of two guys on completely different pages; a lot of those awkward moments where they’d both get up and just stand around in each other’s arms, trying to figure out the next spot. Reckless was also really punch-kicky, possibly because him and Taylor weren’t communicating well. Of course, as I type that, he puts Taylor in a really complicated mouse trap octopus hold that looked perfect. Reckless has also busted out his gorgeous spinning headscissors and one of the better-executed spinning neckbreakers I’ve ever seen. They teased the Kidman finish from last year, where Taylor stuffed La Magistral, for a false finish that no one in the crowd seemed to get, before Taylor reversed a DVD with a crucifix for the win. It really sucks that Reckless has been out early both tournaments, because he’s been the best guy on both shows so far. Even his little stuff’s done on a level way above the rest of either crew; I can see why he was THE guy for a long time.

Ace Darling vs Inferno Kid is next up…how the flip did Darling get Jim Kettner to clear “I Touch Myself” by The Divinyls as his entrance music? That’d be like Quack letting an Ant come out to one of these darned Katy Perry songs about kissing girls and stuff. The story is that Kid legit blew out his knee against Darling last year in the semifinals and he’s back for revenge. The commentators (who sound like slow cousins of David Crockett) described Darling’s pre-match promo bashing Inferno for having bad knees as “provocative”.

I will say this: for a guy that looks like hot garbage in pink tights, Ace Darling sure takes really great bumps to the floor. He took one in this match where he grabbed the middle rope at the VERY last second so he wouldn’t completely kill himself, but he sure flew outside like a rocket. Darling works the leg, as logic would tell. It’s really hard watching a match like this in 2010, when guys are regularly using legitimate holds and you have MMA RIGHT THERE, to see Ace Darling be able to lay down on a guy’s leg and pretend to bend it but not really bending it, for minutes at a time. I think the only hold he’s used on the leg that looks like it actually hurts is a spinning toe hold that looked REALLY hurty, as he kneeled down and bent the foot around his shin. Kid won when Darling kept pulling Inferno up at 2 and doing progressively more and more useless moves until Inferno rolled from a top rope legdrop. A VERY 1998 match.

Also, as much as people crap on ECW for Superkickmania, this tournament’s had five of them already.

In the pre-match promos for the Diamond/Taylor semifinal match, Scott Taylor flat-out said he wants to send a tape to the WWF of this tournament to show them he’s worth keeping around. I’ve noticed that, for a guy who had hype going for him around this time for being someone with lots of charisma, Lance Diamond really was an introverted-looking wrestler. He looked down at the floor a LOT when he walked to the ring and, when he’d pose, he move his arms very slightly and pose for a flash before going back to what he was doing, almost like he was ashamed.

The referee in this match is freakin’ terrible. The guy seems clueless, uncoordinated, and wants to let people know he’s there. The most blatant offense was, during a chinlock by Diamond, each time Taylor would either reach out to get the fans to cheer him back up or to try and reverse, the referee would smack his hand like he was a child. It was pitiful. As for the match, it was insanely disjointed. Taylor’s shine was him working over Diamond’s knee in a slow, heat-seeking way. Diamond got the heat for a couple of minutes, then they seemingly did five minutes of fish-out-of-water cradles before going into the big false finishes. And of course, since time-traveller Jim Kettner hates me, they did the EXACT same finish from Kidman/Cheetah last year that I hated (the double-cradle where the dude on defense won), but at least Diamond was on top and got his shoulder up.

Diamond/Inferno is the finals, and despite him working heel the entire tournament, the commentators are shocked by Diamond’s comments about being a “new man” in the finals and swerving Inferno when he fell to the floor, helped Inferno back in, then swerved and kicked the leg out from under the leg. I guess he HAS been a heel, because now they’re saying this is “no new Lance Diamond”. I’m confused. This match is weird, as the loose-style late-90’s indy offense that Diamond’s using to get the heat normally would set my mind into being completely out of it, but Inferno’s selling is shockingly good and the crowd’s REALLY into this. There was a nice cover here, as Diamond tries to pull Inferno’s knee brace off but has a LOT of trouble, so Inferno uses it to get in a hope spot and cover up the awkwardness. For the second year in a row, they make up the rules as they go, as a chair gets involved and Inferno starts his comeback by taking the chair off of his ankle to avoid being Pillmanized, then hits Diamond with it twice and DDT’s him on it. They covered it by saying the referee wants a winner and a loser with a clear finish, but 1998 was a bad time for DQ’s. The finish was impressive, as they had some really hot false finishes, lost them by doing too many, but the suddenness of Diamond pinning Inferno after his knee gave out on a side suplex brought the crowd back up for it. I’ll say that it took some balls for them to run so hard with the Inferno Kid story, only to have Diamond take advantage of the knee and win as cleanly as you can in a match involving a chair.

It wasn’t an awe-inspiring show, but it was really interesting to see this group of guys all together on the same show at this point in their careers. With the exception of Schrader and Quack, this was the crew of guys on WWE’s radar and most were unofficial WWF developmental guys, and they’re a LOT different than the guys in developmental now, whereas the guys know are way more athletically inclined, I don’t think more than 4-6 guys in Florida could have a match like Diamond/Inferno and get the heat they got.

**************

That does it! We should be back tomorrow afternoon with a look at the ’99 and 2000 tournaments! Don’t forget to come back to the site this evening, as a guy who could be in this tournament in the next couple of years, Indiana indie standout Tripp Cassidy, joins us on the newest edition of the Mike & Tom Present… podcast! Thanks for reading!

TOM. 

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