Posted January 12th, 2015 by 1Wrestling News Team

TIMELINE – The History of ECW: 1999
As told by former ECW World Heavyweight, World Television & World Tag Team Champion
By Joseph Feeney

The history of ECW was full of “next steps” for everyone involved. At one point, ECW top dog Paul Heyman considered Pay Per View “the next step,” and that was accomplished in April 1997 when ECW put on “Barely Legal.” They settled into four pay per views a year after that, and the next “next steps” included national television, magazines, video games, and action figures. Each one of these landmarks was on the horizon for ECW in the coming year.

As 1999 began, Rob Van Dam was the reigning and defending ECW World Television Champion, a championship he had been in possession of since defeating Bam Bam Bigelow in April of 1998. His lengthy reign, spectacular defenses, and variety of opponents had significantly raised the value of that championship, and as 1999 dawned, RVD would run into an opponent whose name was synonymous with his for the rest of their careers.

Van Dam was also a co holder of the ECW World Tag Team Championship with his good friend and sometimes rival, Sabu. They had regained the championship from The Dudley Boys on December 13, 1998, on an FMW/ECW card in Japan, thus making the titles truly “World” championships. However while RVD’s star was on the rise in ECW, his partner Sabu would begin to have issues with Paul Heyman that would also affect their tag team.

It’s a year that truly encapsulated the rise and fall of ECW. Their pay per views remain successful, their magazine is set to launch, and they will announce the biggest deal of the promotion’s run over the summer. But problems existed as well; WWF signed both their World Heavyweight and World Tag Team Champions, and pay issues come and go.

In this Kayfabe Commentaries specialty, the “Timeline” series, “The Whole F’n Show” Rob Van Dam goes back in time to 1999 with the viewers. RVD covers all of the ground and answers all of the questions that still linger from a year in ECW history that had so many highs, and so many lows. Public Enemy returns, Raven returns, Shane Douglas leaves, Rhino arrives, ECW Magazine launches, ECW on TNN is announced and Paul immediately sticks his thumb in TNN’s eye, Taz’s run as World Champion, Taz signs with the WWF, the Dudleys sign with the WWF: The always honest and straight forward RVD reveals his feelings on all of these issues and events, plus more!

The interview starts in January 1999, at ECW’s Guilty As Charged pay per view. RVD is asked about the debut of former WWF Champion, Sid Vicious. He tells a story about how he was in the “parking lot crew” that hung out before the shows and basically made their area smell like Woodstock. RVD’s crew included Sabu, Fonzie, John Kronus, referee John Moore, and Mustafa. Van Dam remembers that Sid came in to much respect from the boys, and that he wanted to work with him. When quizzed as to how a muscle bound big guy like Sid got over with the notoriously smarky ECW crowd, RVD responds that Sid’s intensity is what got him over.

While speaking about Taz’s ECW World Championship win over Shane Douglas, RVD says he believes that was the end of the Shane Douglas era in ECW. He says though he knew Douglas was one of the top guys when he came in, he doesn’t really remember much of his run.

Van Dam defended his World Television Championship vs. Lance Storm that evening, who was a late replacement for Masato Tanaka. He calls Storm, very good, advanced, even. He also recalls being somewhat surprised when Storm was brought in to ECW, as his “square” and straight laced ways weren’t really a great fit with the ECW locker room at that time. Eventually though, due to Storm’s work, he “got it.”

RVD would defend the TV title all throughout 1999. He says he wasn’t sure if his reign was designed to be so long, as he was always the last to know anything. He would just guess at plans based on who he was scheduled to wrestle at TV. He also talks about guys getting victories all the time who would eventually become marks for themselves, and believe their own hype.

In discussing the competition in ECW between the World Championship and the Television Championship, he feels his run put the TV belt on equal footing with the World title, which was held by Taz at that time. Mike Awesome would become World Champion in September, and RVD wishes that eventual match would’ve taken place, as he believe it would’ve been huge.

The DVD moves onto House Party ’99 at the ECW Arena, where The Public Enemy returned and ran off the Dudley Boys. Van Dam notes how over Public Enemy was during their previous ECW run, but how your overness with the ECW audience didn’t necessarily determine your position with other companies.

In the early months of 1999, Van Dam was the subject of an interview and profile by High Times magazine. Back then, marijuana use was even less accepted than it is today, and outing himself as a regular smoker may have burned his bridges, which he believe Heyman liked. RVD laughs about how people always tell him they own the High Times issue where he was on the cover, when in fact, he was never on the cover, Ozzy Osbourne was. He mentions that he got the RVD 4:20 idea for his t shirts from a fan’s sign at a show in Queens.

When he is queried as to whether or not he had a policy as far as smoking pot before wrestling, he answers that “being Extreme” may have foiled that. He references a time when he was out with his “parking lot crew” and was indulging in some herbal refreshments with Kid Rock’s one time sidekick, rapper Joe C. Apparently he was out there partying as his music was playing, and this went on until Tommy Dreamer walked up and calmly said “Hey…your music’s playing bro.”

Does RVD consider marijuana a performance enhancer? He speaks about the various articles he has written on the subject of marijuana enhancement and athletes. UFC fighter Nick Diaz was accused of having an unfair advantage if he was under the influence. For RVD, marijuana has always blocked anxiety, and helped him focus and set aside negativity. He talks about marijuana and the miseducation people have on the subject. If anyone has ever heard Rob speak about this, he is very knowledgeable, and it’s always an educational listen.

From there, they cover ECW’s debut in the Carolinas in February 1999. RVD discusses how although the fans may not have been the same at the Northeast and Tri State fans he was used to with ECW, they still knew how to represent the ECW fan base, and how to play their roles. He also notes how there are different rules in different states, and in some of the different states he couldn’t go into the crowd and things like that.

While in the Carolinas, Taz fractured Sabu’s jaw during a match. Van Dam doesn’t believe Taz was ever a careless worker. When quizzed as to why so many guys seem to have problems with Taz, RVD says Taz may have fostered that environment by making himself stand out in the dressing room. Taz would get prepared early, and would surround himself with his “Team Taz” students, and be difficult to speak to. Van Dam does say however, that he knew Taz cared very much about ECW, but especially about his own vision of ECW. He covers how guys like Taz, Bubba Dudley, and Dreamer were all closer to Paul due both to proximity, and due to duties they had other than being talents.

His thoughts on Sabu and his career are covered in more detail, as RVD states that no one loves the business quite like Sabu, who would wrestle twice a day every day if he could. Everything else in Sabu’s life comes second to wrestling. Van Dam reveals that on the road, Sabu was overly generous with other wrestlers, sometimes even going so far as paying them himself, and buying everyone dinner.

ECW’s “extreme” and physical style is discussed. While maybe other guys should’ve been more careful and taken more time to heal, Van Dam doesn’t believe that applied to him. In his whole career, he only had one surgery, and he took the maximum time to recover, rather than rushing back. RVD says he was always very durable, and that’s not just an aspect of his character. He jokes that he’s been hurt more in his career by the writers than actual injuries. Guys would call him when he was away or injured and tell him not to worry, he’d be back soon. In the meantime, he would think they were crazy, and he was loving his time off the road.

Mustafa returned in early 1999 to assist the Dudleys and feud with New Jack. RVD says Mustafa was a good guy, quieter than New Jack, and was a stand up individual. The Gangstas music and weapons was a huge part of the show, but New Jack proved he could be successful on his own and eventually outshone Mustafa.

As Mustafa returned, Big Dick Dudley left ECW due to the way he was being used. He commented in an interview that he could’ve been ECW’s top guy. RVD responded by saying he was there while the company grew and changed, and while Big Dick maybe could’ve been at the top in 1995, he didn’t think that was the case in 1999. Though he tried to avoid the gossip and politics when guys were upset about their spots, he tells a story about how he and Sabu would go hide in the corner, and still wind up in the next room from Paul and New Jack arguing.

A new arrival during that time period was the debuting Rhino. Rhino already had Sabu’s respect, and that was good enough for Rob at that time. RVD mentions that early on he usually followed Sabu’s advice and perspective to a tee, but how around this time he was becoming more of his own person. He liked Rhino though, because he was a fellow Michigan boy.

Living Dangerously ’99 came and went, and Taz unified the ECW World Heavyweight Championship with the FTW Championship, which Taz invented, but which was held by Sabu at that time. RVD hated the FTW belt, and felt that was all done to placate Taz’s ego, which Paul did often. Rob thought that early on in his run, when he beat Sabu that Taz may have thought he stole his spot, and there was a lot of animosity. RVD tells an amusing story of Taz trying to pass off a TV title to him that was silver rather than gold, and how he avoided using it.

RVD defended his championship against Jerry Lynn on that PPV, and Lynn was “awarded” the title after a twenty minute draw. Lynn refused it, and the match continued. Rob feels they were trying to get Jerry over, and that couldn’t be done if he won over and over again. He rates Jerry very highly, and felt that way from their very first match.

ECW’s yearly internet fan convention, Cyberslam ’99 took place, and Van Dam defended the TV title against a surprise opponent, Too Cold Scorpio. He was looking forward to wrestling him, as any of the boys would be. He isn’t sure if Scorp was initially planned to stick around, but mentions that at that time, a lot of outside challengers were brought in to help establish RVD and his TV championship.

In the spring, ECW Magazine was released. While it only lasted six issues, Van Dam says he was an “optimistic skeptic” about it. He considered it an exciting move for the company, and another step towards growth. Around this time, RVD defended the ECW World Tag Team titles in a single match vs. D-Von Dudley, and lost. He initially liked the angle. Thought he always preferred singles matches to tag team matches, he admits that later in his career, in compromising art for business, he didn’t mind tag team wrestling as much. He states that his favorite all time tag team partner is still Sabu.

On April 20, 1999, former World Champion and ECW commentator, “Ravishing” Rick Rude died. Van Dam describes a somber feeling in the locker room, though he also references hearing a lot of the boys talking about Nubain in those days. Thought other wrestlers told him about it, he thought actually injecting a painkiller was crazy.

As far as how the other wrestlers were affected, Van Dam personally had backed off from pain pills back when Louie Spicolli died in 1998. RVD recalls hyper extending his knee, and how Pit Bull #2 gave him pills to combat the pain. It all started there, but Louie was the closest person to him in the business who died. He totally stopped Somas after that, which he considers the main cause for the bulk of the wrestler deaths. He references conversations he has had with close friends over the years, who still act like they are indestructible.

And that’s just the beginning of this great DVD. Through the rest of the year, RVD will talk about so many big stories and events that year that took place in ECW: TNN, video games, Taz leaves, Dudleys leave, Raven comes back, money issues begin, beating Taz in his last ECW match, and so much more. It is truly another home run from Kayfabe Commentaries, who has found a real gold mine with these Timeline releases. Once you add Rob Van Dam to the mix, who was such an important player in ECW, and who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, you have one of the best releases KC has put out so far.

Head on over to www.kayfabecommentaries.com and go to their timeline section to find this DVD as well as more Timeline selection with the likes of Bret Hart, Jim Cornette, Val Venis, Roddy Piper, Rikishi, The Honky Tonk Man, Kevin Nash, Sean Waltman, Fit Finlay and many more! There are also Timeline sections for WCW and ECW, as well as the famous YouShoot DVDs where the fans send in the questions! So check their site out for their wonderful selections. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

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