Pick of the Week: ECW Heatwave 1998
Event Date: August 2, 1998
Location: Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio
“E-C-W! E-C-W! E-C-W!” – Three letters synonymous with the act of violence, danger & anarchy.
A powerful war cry, forever linked to the extreme moments in professional wrestling. When I hear that chant at today’s wrestling shows, it takes me straight back to a time when that mantra was as “over” as the wrestlers themselves, and the explosive entity known as “Extreme Championship Wrestling” looked to revolutionize wrestling as we knew it.
ECW’s Heatwave ‘98 pay-per-view represents a brand that was arguably at the peak of its glory, due its impressive roster depth and compelling content, during a period where wrestling in a global sense was at its hottest. This pay-per-view gets “the rub” this week for being able to offer a little bit of something for everyone, whilst remaining true to its hardcore roots. Each match on the bill aims to serve up a different style of contest, utilizing each wrestler’s strengths to add variety to the card.
Whether it’s the acrobatic finesse of Rob Van Dam, the brawling, smash mouth style of the Dudley Boyz, or the more technically savvy displays of wrestlers like Lance Storm and Jerry Lynn, this pay-per-view ticks a lot of boxes.
The show is stacked to the gills with top talent, hungry to prove something, and regardless of the sloppy in-ring work amidst some of the more chaotic moments of the show, there’s no denying how immersive an experience an ECW event can be.
I will not be giving a blow-by-blow breakdown of each match on the card (I would rather you watch it for yourself and tell me what you think!), and instead will share a few points and observations to give you an overall flavour of the pay-per-view.
For those expecting “blood and guts” action from start to finish, this ECW show may surprise you. Heatwave ’98, is a more sensibly paced affair, where the action at the start of the show, showcases the more athletic artistry of wrestling, and gradually morphs into a more hardcore, classic ECW style. Paul Heyman, the mastermind behind ECW, has made sure to build the anticipation for the inevitable “all out carnage” throughout the show, leading to a crescendo of total destruction.
This method of booking helps to keep the crowd hot, and not wear them out too quickly on high spots and blood early on. It also allows for potential new fans who took a punt, and ordered the live pay-per-view, to be eased into the ECW product and witness an array of different talent on stage.
There is no shortage of ECW stars on this pay-per-view; The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Taz, The Dudley Boyz, Justin Credible, Sabu, and Rob Van Dam all get to duke it out throughout the course of the night, with a few surprise appearances sprinkled in for good measure. Even “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, though injured, makes an appearance to do commentary for most of the show alongside the voice of ECW – Joey Styles. The Franchise does a great job of adding some additional colour to the matches whilst bragging about his own skill and toughness, much the same way Jesse Ventura would do during his commentary days in WWE.
It’s also worth noting the amount of Japanese talent included on the card including Jinsei Shinzaki (known as Hakushi during his WWE run) that adds some legitimate wrestling pedigree to help offset the “bar room brawl” stigma of ECW matches.
When it comes time for the main event, the crowd are as raucous as they were since the beginning of the show, and when the Dudley family come out, they take it in turns to insult their opponents and the crowd for around 10minutes straight. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand, and it was only topped by the arrival of their challengers; Tommy Dreamer, Spike Dudley, and The Sandman who appeared armed with ladders, beers and cigarettes. The fans lapped up every second of it, as they took the time to parade around the ring, and make the audience in attendance feel like they were part of the match. On a side note, it does make me wonder if there was another wrestler that bled as profusely as The Sandman BEFORE a match had even begun? Hopefully the 5 or 6 beers he drank during his iconic entrance, helps to numb the pain of smashing beer cans repeatedly on his forehead for the entertainment of the fans!
Heatwave ‘98 captures the spirit of ECW and its place in time as the ‘punk rock’ of wrestling, infusing their anarchic, hardcore style of wrestling, with a slightly more sophisticated method of in-ring storytelling and presentation. The product in a broader sense, aims to generate “E-C-W!” moments for the live crowds to fuel their fandom, and give them an “I was there…” story. This passion and energy that the audience give off is infectious, and it also resonates strongly with wrestling fans watching at home. It makes you wish you were there live to see the action for yourself, to be part of that crowd, to be in that moment, and to create wrestling history together.
Let us know in the comments section below (if you’re on our desktop site) what your favorite moment was from Heatwave ’98 or any other ECW show! Or on Twitter @pwtorch.
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