Bam Bam Bigelow vs Rob Van Dam – ECW Hardcore TV (04/08/1998)

Bam Bam Bigelow (c) vs Rob Van Dam

ECW World Television Championship

taped 04/04/1998, aired 04/08/1998

Flickinger Center, Buffalo, New York, United States

(reviewed 08/28/2018) A near perfect match, which is something of a miracle by ECW standards. It’s probably the peak of Bigelow’s best run (from what I’ve seen), probably not far off from Van Dam’s career peak, a match that builds off their first meeting back in January, and acts as a great, eye-catching TV main event that builds to bigger PPV happenings down the line. Being that Sabu’s already got a shot at the Television title scheduled for Wrestlepalooza, his partner RVD is merely here to “soften Bigelow up”. It doesn’t make a ton of sense as a story since there’s no real reason for Van Dam to purposefully not win and he doesn’t even attempt to give that idea any foothold here, but more than the central conceit of the match it’s just what gets us here so it’s not a huge complaint. He goes right after the big man with the same sorts of strategies as last time, showing that he’s also learned from his prior mistakes when he immediately rolls to the floor as soon as Bigelow gets any early momentum. Bigelow has also learned, however, and is able to bait Van Dam in for risky gambles that go south on top of just clobbering the guy. Both men are at peak form here with these approaches, resulting in a wild match that is nothing but huge spots once it gets going. Bigelow’s as fired up as I’ve ever seen him, putting everything into his bumping and bashing. He’s constantly reeling from the stuff his opponent is pulling out but he remains uber-dangerous, able to hit a reversal at the drop of a hat. Van Dam’s doing the best highflying I’ve seen from him yet, with his daredevil dives being both smarter (as in there are fewer of them) and smoother than last time. On top of that things like the Five Star Frog Splash look devastating here despite the fact that they can’t get the win. The selling from both men rivals anything I’ve seen in ECW yet and includes a bit of blood as a cut over Bigelow’s eye from a previous Sandman match opens up again. The finish is a little lackluster compared to the rest of the match, with Sabu interfering and getting wrecked before he jabs Bigelow in the eye with a spike and allows Van Dam to slip into a cradle, but it keeps Bigelow fairly strong (he was easily able to take on both men before the spike was introduced) and ties into the weird story of Van Dam walking ass-backwards into the most famous title reign of his career.

HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: Both matches feature similar characteristics with a nonsensical story resulting in a bomb-heavy match. This story asks me to believe that the cocky Mr. Monday Night wouldn’t jump at the chance to win a major title in deference to a tag team partner he’s had long-standing issues with whereas Shawn/Taker asks me to believe in this half-baked battle of Biblical proportions and unrepentant scoundrels playing the good guys. The former is weird but at least leads to a heated showdown between those partners while the latter just leads to one last DX reunion and another, lesser self-important passion play. While Shawn/Taker is pretty easily the best example of the dramatic modern WWE epic, it peaks in the middle and slides down into a series of kickouts that mean less and less as time goes on. This match manages to stay hot even after its biggest spots and features very few nearfalls, getting the most out of the ones it does have. Its big spots might not hit quite as hard as the best stuff from Shawn/Taker does, but it manages to retain a higher level of quality throughout and navigates similar problems far better than those two were able to do.

VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25

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