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The 5 best ECW pay-per-views you’ll see on WWE Network

With sports-entertainment history a mouse-click away, ECW’s legendary play-by-play announcer, Joey Styles, presents you with five ECW pay-per-views available on WWE Network that are more than worth the price of admission.

Barely Legal 1997

As  The Monday Night War between WWE and WCW picked up steam in 1997, Paul Heyman’s revolutionary  ECW made its pay-per-view debut — a huge milestone that legitimized the promotion.  Barely Legal almost didn’t happen because pay-per-view distributors thought “extreme” meant that we were like the UFC, which was not regulated and pretty brutal in 1997. After sending tapes of our TV show to the distributors, one of the two agreed to carry the event, but it had a 9 p.m. start time as opposed to WWE’s and WCW’s 8 p.m. start time. Nevertheless, the world was introduced to the cult-like ECW Arena crowd in South Philadelphia and the unique style of ECW.

There were so many memorable moments that it’s no surprise ECW became a company nobody could ignore following this event. After a year-long rivalry with no physicality,  Tazz and  Sabu finally faced off in a grudge match that highlighted exactly what ECW brought to the (soon-to-be-broken) table. The ECW World Heavyweight Championship was also elevated in terms of legitimacy, as future WWE Hall of Famer and former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk captured the title by defeating Raven. He earned the title opportunity by winning a brutal and bloody and barbed wire-wrought Three-Way Dance against The Sandman and Stevie Richards that same night.

The evening also saw a young competitor named  Rob Van Dam take the place of an injured Chris Candido in a bout against Lance Storm. No one knew much about RVD before the bout, but in the immediate aftermath, “Mr. Monday Night” became one of the featured faces of the promotion.

For me personally, this was my first time doing play-by-play on live television and the first time in pay-per-view history that an announcer worked solo, without a color commentator. The historical significance of Barely Legal 1997 and the ability to relive the emotion of that night is worth subscribing to WWE Network alone.

Living Dangerously 1998

One of the most star-studded and insane ECW events available on WWE Network, Living Dangerously 1998 inside the sold-out Asbury Park Convention Center is a who’s who of ECW stalwarts. Many of the ECW faithful packed the arena to see their hometown hero, Bam Bam Bigelow, battle Tazz for the coveted ECW World Television Championship. That match lived up to the hype, as nearly 15 minutes in, Tazz applied the Tazzmission, Bam Bam threw himself backward to break the hold and — OH MY GOD! — they both crashed through the ring! If that’s not enough of a reason to watch Living Dangerously 1998 on WWE Network, there was also a brutal encounter between Sandman and Sabu in a Dueling Canes Match. That match featured RVD (who defeated 2 Cold Scorpio to retain the ECW TV Title earlier in the evening) dressed up as Sabu, fooling everyone — including yours truly!

Heatwave 1998

There were many critics that mistakenly believed ECW was nothing more than a barbaric promotion satiating the appetites of bloodthirsty fans. Heatwave 1998 silenced every last one of them with one of the most competitive pure wrestling events in ECW’s history. A particular highlight of the evening featured Rob Van Dam & Sabu successfully defending  the ECW World Tag Team Championships against Japanese main-eventers  Hayabusha & Jinsei Shinzaki (who was also known as Hakushi in WWE). Another reason to catch this event on WWE Network is another battle between Bam Bam Bigelow and Tazz. This time, the two beasts crashed through the entrance ramp!  Still not convinced? What about a classic technical bout between Chris Candido and Lance Storm? Or maybe Justin Credible and Jerry Lynn taking to the skies and trading holds in an effort to achieve victory is up your alley.

It is ECW after all, so you want something a little more extreme? Well, Heatwave 1998 featured a brutal Street Fight pitting The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer & Spike Dudley against the Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray, D-Von and Big Dick, accompanied by Joel Gertner, Sign Guy Dudley and Jeff Jones). There’s also the small occurrence of Bubba Ray nearly starting a riot before the match. I bet you can’t wait to watch this on WWE Network.

Living Dangerously 1999

ECW’s Living Dangerously returned to a sold-out Asbury Park Convention Center in 1999 and featured a number of matches that are must-see when it comes to understanding what ECW was all about. Kicking off the event were two international ECW mainstays — Super Crazy and Tajiri — proving why they were considered two of the hardest-working competitors in the company. The evening also solidified Little Guido as a serious wrestler — he was previously just considered nothing more than a comedy act — as he defeated luchador Antifaz del Norte with a Sicilian Crab.

The true highlight of the event — also signifying the level of competiveness in ECW — was Jerry Lynn defeating Rob Van Dam by referee’s decision after their 20-minute time limit expired. Left unsatisfied without a pinfall victory over his against his greatest rival, Lynn insisted the match be restarted for five more minutes. That decision would ultimately backfire, and RVD managed to win the match, retaining the ECW World TV Title.

The main event of Living Dangerously 1999 pitted ECW World Heavyweight Champion Tazz against FTW Champion Sabu. The FTW Championship was Tazz’s own unrecognized creation, and by defeating Sabu, he unified the titles and solidified his place in history as the greatest ECW World Heavyweight Champion.

ECW One Night Stand 2005

Though actually a WWE-produced pay-per-view event, ECW One Night Stand 2005 was not only a picture-perfect ECW event inside an insanely energized  Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, but it was a fitting end to the original ECW. WWE took a step back in the production of this event and let Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer and the ECW originals seamlessly recreate the atmosphere of the promotion that ceased operations in 2001, right down to the smaller ring and steel cables as ropes.

It was the first event I had called in nearly four-and-a-half years away from wrestling, but I felt right at home as the ECW originals — many of whom had then become WWE Superstars — competed. Easily the most star-studded ECW event ever, old rivalries were rekindled, and a contingent of anti-ECW WWE Superstars led by Eric Bischoff bit off more than they could chew when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin instigated a fight between the two groups.

The significance of One Night Stand is difficult to put into words. Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Lance Storm, The Dudley Boyz, Tazz and others, honored the company where their careers began and gave their hearts and souls for the thousands of fans chanting “E-C-W! E-C-W!”

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