The Date: 9 December 1995
The Venue: ECW Arena; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Commentary: Joey Styles
The Referee: Jim Molineaux
The Stakes: Three-way dance for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship
Back in the days when the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) would trade shots at each other on television, go head-to-head in a vicious ratings war, and poach talent on a weekly basis, it was hard for other wrestling promotions to stand out against the “Big Boys” but Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) certainly did its best to offer a different brand of sports entertainment. First founded as Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992, the company was re-branded by one of wrestling’s greatest minds, managers, and promoters, Paul Heyman, in 1993. While ECW soon came to be known for its violent and controversial matches and content, the promotion placed just as much focus on delivering pure wrestling and was instrumental in inspiring the WWF’s “Attitude Era” and giving future wrestling stars and Hall of Famers a stage to hone their characters and craft. By 1995, ECW had established a cult following with the rabid Philadelphia crowd at the ECW Arena but they were some years away from negotiating a deal to air their first pay-per-view, Barely Legal; instead, ECW hosted non-televised supercard events such as this one from the ECW Arena. The primary storyline heading into December to Dismember revolved around ECW’s ultimate underdog and unlikely champion, Mikey Whipwreck, defending the belt against the man he beat for it, ECW’s rough-and-ready Sandman, and a man who would go on the achieve phenomenal wrestling success, “Superstar” Steve Austin. Prior to this event, Austin had interjecting himself into the rivalry between the Sandman and Mikey, directly aiding Mikey’s championship victory by distracting the Sandman and then attacking the beer-swilling former champion and taking his place in the previous month’s event, November to Remember, thus necessitating this three-way dance for the championship.
ECW was basically a non-factor for me as a fledgling wrestling fan back in the day. I could barely watch WWF or WCW programming at the time and have absolutely no idea what channel, if any, ECW was broadcast on over here in the United Kingdom so my awareness of the company only really came as more of their guys showed up in the WWF. Tazz, the Dudley Boyz, Raven and the like brought with them some ECW history but I only really became exposed to it after it was absorbed by the WWF in 2001. Even now, my ECW experience is sporadic and limited so it’s quite exciting to be dipping my toe into wrestling’s first real hardcore alternative. Another thing to not here is the difference between a three-way dance (or “triangle” match) and a traditional triple threat match; for one thing, it’s contested under elimination rules and, for another, this particular match started out with Austin and Mikey going at it for a good ten minutes before the Sandman came to the ring. Austin started out by goading Mikey and patronising him with little pats to his chest and head. Mikey responded with an aggressive tie-up and then a disrespectful slap to Austin’s jaw, which Austin answered with a handshake. A headlock takedown saw Mikey being ground down by Austin’s superior strength; when Mikey finally got in some offense, sadly it was nothing more exciting than a series of headlocks and takedowns of his own. Just as the crowd grew noticeably restless, Austin turned things up a notch with a shoulder block and a series of chops to Mikey’s chest in the corner; a gut kick left Mikey helpless as Austin choked him against the ropes but Austin absolutely lost it when Mikey tried to grab a handful of his tights off a sunset flip! As he beat on the champion mercilessly, the Sandman (apparently dressed in his pyjamas?) sauntered out with smoke, a beer, his ECW World Tag Team Championship around his waist, and with his valet, Woman, carrying his trademark Singapore cane.
Austin was so distracted with goading in the Sandman that he got caught with a big spinning heel kick from Mikey off the top rope before being dumped to the outside with a clothesline. Austin responded by whipping Mikey into the steel barricade and driving him head-first into the concrete with a piledriver on the outside and the match effectively stopped for a few minutes as the Sandman took his sweet time getting into the ring. Once he did, the two immediately exchanged clubbing blows; they got so into it that, again, they forgot all about Mikey, who took the Sandman down with a top-rope hurricanrana. Austin was able to counter another into a two count but ended up spilling to the outside off an Irish whip thanks to the Sandman pulling on the top rope. Mikey then took both off his challengers out with a big senton to the outside then tossed them both into the ring and started slugging it out with both of them, dropping them with dual low blows but missing a springboard attack. With Austin and the Sandman staggering off a couple of eye pokes, Mikey scored a near fall off a crossbody pin on the Sandman but Austin was right on him, beating him down in the corner and landing another piledriver on the champion. Reeling, Mikey was easy prey for the Stun Gun and, thanks to knocking the Sandman off the ring apron, the champion was subsequently eliminated from the match, ending his title reign to the delight of the crowd (though they may have been applauding/respecting his effort?) The match continued with the Sandman pulling Austin to the outside to bash him off (and into) the guard rail; however, the Superstar shoved him off and then brained him with a steel chair handed to him from a crowd member, only to be dumped unceremoniously over the guard rail and into the crowd and hit with the timekeeper’s table!
Whatever the Sandman planned to do with that table didn’t come to pass as Austin kinda,,,bumped into him…sending him, and the table, tumbling over the guard rail. Austin then slammed a half-unfolded steel chair over the Sandman’s head and tried to hit the Stun Gun on the guard rail; the Sandman blocked it with his arm, however, legitimately breaking his hand in the process, and floored Austin with a chair shot to the head. Though favouring his hand, the Sandman managed to slam Austin to the concrete and even went smashing head-first through the table before being choked by some wiring. Back in the ring, Austin hit that running knee strike against the ropes he always liked to do and got a close two count; he followed up with a clumsy face-first suplex before stealing the Sandman’s beer from Woman and disparagingly spitting beer in his opponent’s face while stomping at him. As Austin posed on the ropes with his beer, Woman revived the Sandman with some beer, allowing him to briefly “Hulk Up” before being struck with brass knuckles from Austin’s trunks. Somehow, the Sandman got his foot on the ropes; as Austin argued with the referee, the Sandman was able to crack him across the back of the head with the brass knuckles and score the three count, capturing his second ECW World Heavyweight Championship, despite Austin’s foot also being on the ropes. There’s not a lot to say about this match, really; it was weird seeing Austin actually wrestling and not just brawling! Joey Styles even advised against Austin slugging it out with the Sandman since he’s clearly outmatched and suggests out-wrestling him instead, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen Austin do before thanks to his neck injury changing him from a technician into a brawler. It’s also interesting seeing the similarities between Austin’s later “Stone Cold” character and the Sandman but this wasn’t the most exciting match ever; the early going was very slow, with Mikey looking like a bit of a chump, and there was a distinct lack of energy throughout the match even before the Sandman broke his hand, resulting in a pretty anti-climactic end for me.
This would basically be the end of Steve Austin’s brief stint in ECW; he made his WWF debut as the Ringmaster about ten days after December to Dismember and wouldn’t have any dealings with ECW until 2001, when he chose to side with the ECW/WCW alliance against the WWF. Despite his injury, the Sandman would continue to wrestle; however, his second championship reign came to an end when he was defeated by Raven at the end of January. Mikey Whipwreck’s championship success continued, however, with him capturing both the ECW Television Championship and the ECW Tag Team Championship (with assistance from Cactus Jack) at ECW’s next supercard event, Holiday Hell: The New York Invasion. This would be the only December to Dismember event held by the original ECW; the evet wouldn’t be included in their annual pay-per-view calendars going forward and was largely dropped in favour of the aforementioned Holiday Hell. The December to Dismember brand would be revived in 2006, however; following a resurgence in ECW popularity, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) revived ECW as a third brand, one that promised to be a showcase of new and old talent but which quickly became an embarrassing sideshow. To make matters worse, the 2006 December to Dismember pay-per-view is widely regarded as one of the worst events in wrestling history; it was so poorly booked and received that it soured relations between WWE chairman Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman for some time and the WWE’s ECW brand never received another solo pay-per-view before being cancelled on February 16, 2010.
Could Be Better
What did you think to the three-way dance between Mikey Whipwreck, Steve Austin, and the Sandman? Who did you want to see win the match at the time? What did you think to Mikey as a World Champion? Were you impressed by Steve Austin back in the day? Did you use to watch ECW and, if so, who were some of your favourite wrestlers and what were some of your favourite matches and moments? Were you disappointed by the WWE’s revival of the company in 2006? Would you like to see the December to Dismember event make a comeback? Whatever your thoughts, feel free to leave them below or drop a comment on my social media.