Updated: Dec 28, 2020
August 2nd, 1998 I was a freshly turned 16 year old who was absolutely fascinated by a Philadelphia based promotion I had discovered one night in December of 1996 by accident on the sunshine network: Extreme Championship Wrestling.
ECW was different from anything I had ever witnessed in wrestling, from barbwire bats, steel chairs, going through tables, and my favorite wrestler at the time. It was not Steve Austin, not Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan, but the Human Suplex Machine standing a massive and generously billed 5’9 from the Red Hook Section of Brooklyn New York TAZ!
I’m watching ECW Hardcore TV and it’s being previewed that their 5th PPV Heatwave 1998 will take place from none other than The Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio!
I immediately knew I had to be there, as Taz was looking for redemption against The Beast from the East Bam Bam Bigelow. Bam Bam Bigelow had taken the TV title at Living Dangerously 98 by going through the ring as Taz had the Katajima locked in and Bigelow scored the pinfall in his hometown.
Tickets were purchased (my actual ticket stub above), and I have the bright idea of arriving by 4PM so we can get in first. To my amazement, as we roll into the parking lot, there are over a thousand rabid fans already lined up! I’ll never forget an interview Taz cut, saying you need to experience ECW live to really appreciate it, and that couldn’t have been more true. The energy of that crowd is something I’ll never forget and something I haven’t experienced since. ECW was always known for surprises, and as we are walking up to the lines, New Jack is in the parking lot cutting a promo as the Dudley Boys roll up in a rental and attack New Jack who was scheduled to face Jack Victory that night. There was a bar in front of the Hara and the wrestlers who came out of the bar to “save” New Jack were Axl Rotten, Balls Mahoney and Kronus, all of whom passed away long before they should have.
We enter the building, of course hitting the merch stand before finding our seats. The building was electric, although one side of the bleachers was sectioned off for TV and the broadcast booth. The Dark Match was The FBI vs The Hardcore Chair Swingin Freaks, with Axl and Balls getting the win and getting the crowd warmed up. Next, we get Joey Styles making his way to the ring and getting the crowd pumped for the start of the PPV. Joey does the introduction and brings out the ECW Heavyweight Champion “The Franchise” Shane Douglas and the “Head Cheerleader” Francine who was wearing a beautiful bikini looking amazing and the crowd let her know.
The opening PPV match was Justin Credible taking on Jerry Lynn both men would go on to hold the Heavyweight title. A very good match that kept the crowd in a frenzy. Justin Credible hit a That's Incredible (Tombstone Piledriver) from the 2nd Rope!! Crowd popped huge.
We move on to the battle of former Tag Team Champions as Lance Storm takes on No Gimmicks Needed Chris Candido!! As AC/DC Back in Black blared through the speaker, Candido appeared with his woman, WWF's own Sunny! Tammy Sytch! Really good match between these two as Candido accidentally tore Sunny's top and the security guard caught HUGE heat for giving her his jacket like a gentleman. Candido scores the win with the Blonde Bombshell (a top rope PowerBomb) very dangerous move but with athletes like Storm and Candido it looked smooth.
The next matchup was none other than Mike Awesome taking on Masato Tanaka. In one of the most hard hitting matches I’ve ever witnessed live, Tanaka took several thudding chair shots while Awesome took a Powerbomb over the top rope through the Ringside Table. The crowd was wild for this match as Tanaka hit the Roaring Elbow and a Tornado DDT onto a steel chair for the win.
We are then treated to the ECW tag team Champions RVD/Sabu with Bill Alfonso taking on Jinsei Shinzake (Hakushi) and FMW legend and his only major company appearance in the USA Hayabusa. The crowd was super pumped, and RVD was one of the most over stars in wrestling. ECW crowds absolutely loved RVD, and he showed out every night. Hayabusa hit a 450 as clean as you will ever see one, but RVD and Sabu hit legdrops off the top rope, putting both their opponents through a table and scoring the win!
Next up was the match I had waited a month to see, Taz vs Bam Bam Bigelow! I lost my voice during this match. Taz suplexed Bam Bam into the crowd off the ramp and hit his head on the guardrail knocking himself senseless for a time. Taz counters into a DDT and both guys go through the RAMP. The crowd breaks out into a Holy Shit chant! Bigelow is the first to emerge just like he did at Living Dangerously, only this time as bhe makes his way back to the ring Taz comes out and hooks on the Tazmission. Bam Bam taps out as Shane Douglas goes nuts in the Broadcast booth and throws a TV monitor down into the empty stands below.
The Main Event was a Street Fight as the Dudleys Buh Buh Ray, D-Von and Big Dick take on Tommy Dreamer, Sandman and Little Spike Dudley. The Dudleys come out and insult the crowd along with Joel Gertner, who is one of the smartest and funniest guys ever. I legit felt like a riot could break out at any moment as the Dudleys challenged the crowd to fight. Out comes Dreamer and company, Sandman is over crazy! Dreamer DDTs Buh Buh Ray through a table and gets the 1-2-3! The Dudleys and Jack Victory attack the winners when Natural Born Killaz hits the airwaves and New Jack comes down and Makes the save using everything you can think of in his trash can full of weapons. The winners then ascend the ladders and do their poses as the crowd cheers wildly.
Heatwave '98 is one of the best events I’ve ever been to. The crowd was amazing, the energy was insane, and it was a great time to be a wrestling fan.
It’s great to go back and watch the events, but it’s a memory I’ll always cherish to be there and experience the Heatwave that ECW actually was to the wrestling industry!