Taz (c) vs Bam Bam Bigelow
ECW World Television Championship
Asbury Park Convention Center, Asbury Park, New Jersey, United States
(reviewed 08/28/2018) This is a famous—though not quite great—match that shows just how great these two guys could have been. As with the RVD matches from around this time, Bigelow’s great in ECW as this super athletic monster who can hang with the faster, spottier guys in the company but is also more than big enough to maul them since most of them are real small. I struggle to say that the big guy’s actually motivated here but then again he wasn’t taking suplex bumps to the floor off the entrance ramp in WWF, you know. More than being motivated, I like Taz here because he’s playing against type. Similar to how I really liked him back at Wrestlepalooza, Taz is a weirdly good underdog babyface when his size or an injury is working against him. I’m not saying it’s the return of Ricky Steamboat or anything but he’s fairly great here as this capable smaller guy who has to pull out huge spots to have any chance of survival. This gives us a couple real cool suplexes, including the aforementioned one off the ramp and another through a table back in the ring. It’s so cool to see this insufferably phony tough guy actually have to toss a huge dude around or throw his entire weight behind a clothesline to avoid getting his shit wrecked. Even if hometown favorite Bigelow is a monster getting cheered, Taz’s struggles against him as one of ECW’s finest is a valiant, compelling thing. It’s a real shame we didn’t get to see more of that side of Taz, or more of Bigelow when he didn’t feel like he could just coast on his athleticism.
Aside from its big spots, however, this match is sort of lethargic. The time and space between these highlights is longer and larger than you might like and while they give some lip service to selling the effects of these big spots, it’s also conveniently tossed aside for uninteresting transitions and filler. They mostly right the ship by the end, though, leading to one of the most memorable spots of the decade. Capping off a match-long build of momentum, Taz leaps on Bigelow’s back and locks in the Tazmission. As he’s fumbling in the ropes Bigelow taps, which the referee either doesn’t see or doesn’t heed due to the man also holding the ropes. Since Taz hasn’t let go yet, Bigelow then takes his only remaining recourse and just flings himself backward, hoping to squash Taz underneath him against the mat, and instead both men crash through a hole in the ring and disappear in the depths. Even now it’s a shocking spot and it’s worth noting the crowd’s reaction here, as they all collectively gasp instead of bursting into immediate cheers or chants. Even a few months later with the famous Hell in a Cell match there’s a completely different vibe, with people literally calling for Foley’s blood. Likewise the later rehashing of this spot doesn’t work nearly so well as this first incarnation. Maybe it’s just an indictment of the culture of escalation in wrestling but this first instance of this sort of spot is tremendous. In any case Bigelow stumbles up from the pit and pulls the limp Taz up with him, covering him for the title change that gets a big pop.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: This is actually sort of a similar match, I think, in that so much of it rides on its big spots and buying into this monster vs underdog story. The monster vs underdog story here makes more sense and draws me in more even without a strong heel character, but Shawn/Taker makes much better use of its big spots and the spaces in between them. It’s also worth noting that Shawn/Taker made me audibly gasp at something as simple as a chokeslam in a way that this match didn’t manage to even with its big car crash climax. Come to think of it, not a lot of the “crazy” matches in the 11 years between these two matches were able to do that either. If that’s not the sign of greatness I don’t know what is.
VERDICT: Worse than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25