ECW Return of the Funker Review (February 1995)

ECW Return of the Funker Review - DVD Cover

February 25, 1995
ECW Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I started writing this ECW Return of the Funker review just days after the legendary Terry Funk himself passed away.

Sure, I'd planned to cover this event anyway, but the timing of it now leaves me scrambling to write a decent introduction that does justice to what a revolutionary figure Funk was in the world of professional wrestling. 

An icon, a hardcore trailblazer who put his body and his reputation on the line to help the fledgling ECW make its mark. A one-of-a-kind star the likes of which we'll never see again, whose indelible popularity owed much as much to his unparalleled charisma as a performer as it did to his tenacity, grit, and longevity as a man.

I doubt there's anything I say about Terry Funk that hasn't already been said a million times before in a much more elegant manner than I'm capable of. 

So instead, I'm simply going to dedicate this review to the memory of Terry Funk and Windham "Bray Wyatt" Rotunda (who also tragically passed away the same week as The Funker) and consider this a celebration of the weird, wild, and wonderful world of pro wrestling that both men gave so much to. 

The Pitbulls (Pitbull #1 & #2) vs. Chad Austin and Joel Hartgood)

And so we kicked off Return of the Funker with an enjoyable squash match in which The Pitbulls threw their opponents around like rag dolls to the delight of the ECW faithful.

ECW Return of the Funker Review - The Pittbulls

Dominating from bell to bell without receiving so much as a lick of punishment, The Pitbulls looked impressive here as they busted out suplexes, wicked-stiff clotheslines, and, finally, an awesome top rope powerbomb that sent Chad Austin flying practically all the way across the ring. That was enough to earn #1 and #2 the victory.
Your Winners: The Pitbulls

By the way, if you’re curious as to the whereabouts of The Pitbulls’ usual manager, Jason, commentator Joey Styles revealed that he was busy in contract negotiations for his other team, Dean Malenko & Chris Benoit.

We’d see more of those two later, but for now, this:

Raven and Tommy Dreamer Come to Blows

Up next, Joey Styles brought out Raven and his lackey, Stevie Richards, for an interview.

The whole thing began with Raven chastising Richards for failing to beat Tommy Dreamer back at Double Tables a few weeks earlier.

ECW Return of the Funker (February 95) - Joey Styles interviews Raven

However, when pressed by Styles on why he disliked Dreamer in the first place, the former Johnny Polo simply confirmed that he had known him from his days prior to wrestling before waxing poetical like a cross between Edgar Allen Poe and a moody teenage goth.

Eventually, Richards himself spoke up, talking excitedly about how he’d been playing air guitar in a local rock club when two big dudes beat him up.

Rather than go to the police or anything sensible, Richards had recruited his two attackers to dispose of Tommy Dreamer on Raven’s behalf.

By a strange and totally unexpected coincidence, Stevie’s air guitar assaulters just so happened to be former ECW tag team champions, The Broad Street Bullies (Tony Stetson and Johnny Hotboddy).

The two arrived on the scene to a generous ovation from the fans before pledging their allegiance to Raven. They then promised to take out Dreamer, something which they absolutely failed to do when the man himself hit the ring.

Dreamer (who had already appeared once in this segment, warning Raven not to push things any further) went right after his rival as Richards, Stetson, and Hotbody all tried -and repeatedly failed- to stop him. 

All the while, Raven himself stood stoically in the corner, eventually snapping out of his morbid reverie to attack Tommy. 

All this resulted in a big four-way brawl all the way to the back.

OK, that segment was a lot of fun, even if Dreamer’s superhuman ability to consistently overcome a 4-on-1 attack did stretch credibility a little.

Mikey Whipreck & Hack Meyers vs. Jason & ‘The Giant’ Paul Lauria.

So, if Jason was competing here, why didn’t Joey Styles just say that was the reason he wasn’t out with the Pitbulls earlier?

“Jason’s not here because he’s preparing for his own match” seems more simple and straightforward than “he’s negotiating contracts, something that he could have done at any time but chose to wait until it would conflict with a wrestling show.”
ECW Return of the Funker (February 95) - Hack Meyers & Mikey Whipreck

Anyhow, given the clumsy disaster that had been Paul Lauria vs. Mikey Whipreck at Double Tables, you’d be forgiven for expecting very little from this match.

Surprisingly, however, it turned out to be a pretty good effort.

Whipreck and Hack Meyers dominated the early going, the latter frequently using his smaller partner as a weapon and launching him into Lauria and Jason with aplomb.

The tables eventually turned, leading to a lengthy middle stretch with poor ol' Mikey playing the face-in-peril.

It was fun to watch right up until the moment that Whipreck started playing possum in an attempt to lure Jason into an assault.

The problem here was that Jason took forever hemming and hawing with both his partner and the fans over whether or not he should leap off the top rope onto Whipreck.

The whole thing took so long that Mikey -who, remember, had just taken a beating for most of the match- could have easily tagged out to Hack Meyers.

Instead, he stayed in the ring where his playing possum tactic had very little effect, and soon after resumed getting his ass beaten until Meyers could finally make the tag.

From there, things disintegrated into a brawl, which saw Whipreck send Jason to the outside and clock him over the head with a nasty chair shot.

While all this was going on, a burly, mysterious masked man who had stood perfectly still and silent for the whole match suddenly got in the ring, decked Hack Meyers, and dumped Lauria on top of him for the win.
Your Winners: Paul Lauria & Jason

That match might not have been perfect, but it was much better than anticipated, and I feel bad that I ever doubted it.

Hector Guerrero vs. 2 Cold Scorpio

There was one point during this match in which seasoned veteran Hector Guerrero seemed to have forgotten how wrestling works and got really annoyed when the referee wouldn’t allow him to pin 2 Cold Scorpio outside the ring.

ECW Return of the Funker 95 Review - Hector Guerrero vs. 2 Cold Scorpio

It was a bizarre moment that made Guerrero look more than a little foolish, though thankfully, it wasn’t enough to completely detract from what was otherwise a decent match.

Scorpio and Guerrero didn't quite gel at first, resulting in an awkward opening sequence. Once the two got on the same page, however, they gave us a sound back-and-forth with holds and counterholds aplenty.

After a good effort, Scorpio rolled up Hector for the cover, the count, and the fall.
Your Winner: 2 Cold Scorpio

Afterward, it looked as though Scorpio and Guerrero would shake hands, but Peacock cut immediately to an ad, so I’ll never know.

What I do know is this was next:

Barbed Wire Baseball Bat on a Pole
Ian Rotten vs. Axl Rotten

With Vince Russo nowhere in sight, this ridiculous barbed wire baseball bat on a pole match began with Ian Rotten grabbing the weapon from a pole that was barely taller than the corner post and swinging it around wildly as he awaited his brother’s arrival.

See, although the whole aim of a pole match is that you and your opponent battle to get the item, that was too much work for Ian and brother Axl Rotten, who preferred to give us their usual gory garbage wrestling stunt fest instead.

When they weren’t beating each other over the head and body with the bat, they’d grind it into each other’s flesh, and when they weren’t doing that, they would wobble around the outside, bashing each other with chairs.

To be fair, this was marginally better than their previous outing at Double Tables. This was thanks in no small part to a reasonably enjoyable brawl through the crowd, which Joey Styles used as an opportunity to take cheap shots at the WWF and WCW.

Still, that match at Double Tables was terrible, and being marginally better than terrible is hardly high praise.

After far too long of their bland, bloody violence, Axl Rotten hit a piledriver to Ian onto the baseball bat and won the match.
Your Winner: Axl Rotten

Post-match, the gruesome twosome received the ECW equivalent of a standing o station, a loud “ECW!” chant.

However, they weren’t done yet. Ian rammed the barbed wire bat into his brother’s skull as Joey Styles made this writer very depressed by promising we hadn’t seen the last of the Rotten boys library.

Extreme Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship
ECW World Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas vs. Marty Jannetty

As an eight-year-old, I went through a very brief phase in which Marty Jannetty was my absolute favorite wrestler, so I don’t want to put the guy too much, but what does it say for your world title when it’s being defended against a man whose biggest claim to fame is being the least successful member of a tag team?

ECW Return of the Funker 95 Review - Marty Jannetty vs. Shane Douglas

In an attempt to boost Jannetty’s credibility, the announcer even introduced him as a former Intercontinental champion.

Funny that. ECW took every opportunity they could to slate the World Wrestling Federation, but they had no problem drawing on its esteem to help sell a title fight.

Of course, Jannetty’s status had no bearing on the quality of the contest itself.

Making this writer eat his words, Jannetty proved himself a worthy challenger, battling Shane Douglas inside and outside the ring in what must surely have been one of the best singles matches of his career.

One of The Franchise’s best title defenses during his “Fighting Champion” streak, this one surpassed my expectations and turned out to be a damn fine effort.

Towards the finish, Marty Jannetty looked set to become our new world champion, getting a near fall on a Rocker Dropper and taking his opponent’s head off with a hard super kick.

Alas, it wasn’t to be.

His hurrricanrana attempt was thwarted by the wily champion, who countered it into a powerbomb and held on for the three count.
Your Winner and Still ECW Champion: Shane Douglas

Up next, it was time for The Public Enemy as Johnny Grunge came out, pushing his partner, ‘Flyboy’ Rocco Rock, in a wheelchair for an interview with Joey Styles.

ECW Return of the Funker  - Joey Styles interviews The Public Enemy

Questioned on the origin and extent of his injury, Rocco Rock made a thinly veiled insinuation that he’d been shot out there on the mean streets of Philly before he and Grunge turned their attentions to the tag team titles.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the quality of this recording or if The Public Enemy were just terrible (perhaps both?), but the rest of their promo was practically indecipherable, although I did get the general gist.

Basically, Rock and Grunge were pissed about losing the tag titles to Sabu & Taz and thought that they sucked.

They also thought Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko sucked too, which naturally brought out the two future Radicalz teammates for a fun and brutal beatdown.

Benoit and Malenko swiftly destroyed The Public Enemy, leaving them in a pool of their own misery as Sabu and Taz hit the ring with Paul E. Dangerously closely behind them.

The two immediately tackled their rivals to the ground and unloaded with the proverbial fist and fire as the bell rang, and our next bout was underway.

Extreme Championship Wrestling World Tag Team Championship ECW Tag Team Champions Sabu & Taz (w/ Paul E. Dangerously & 911) vs. The Triple Threat (The Crippler’ Chris Benoit & ‘The Shooter’ Dean Malenko)

With the action already in full flow, this one was less of a match and more a one-sided massacre as the Triple Threat duo laid waste to their opponents at a fast and furious pace.

Of course, the reigning champions spent some time on the offensive, tossing their opponents around the ring with gusto to the delight of the audience, only to once again succumb to the challenger’s attack.

Towards the end, Taz appeared to have hurt his knee and was carried to the back by 911 like a child being dragged away from the playground, leaving Sabu to fend for himself.

And defend he did.

Making one last, valiant effort, the co-defender of the tag titles thwarted a two-on-one assault, sending both Benoit and Malenko to the outside and taking them down with a couple of reckless-looking topes.

Still, that wasn’t enough. The numbers game proved too much for Sabu, and he soon ate the fall after being powerbombed from the corner by Benoit.
Your Winners and NEW ECW Tag Team Champions: Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko

Afterwards, Benoit took to the microphone and challenged The Public Enemy to come get some.

The duo accepted the invitation.

With his shirt covered in blood around the abdomen area, Flyboy Rocco Rock was assisted to the ring by Johnny Grunge, where Dean Malenko immediately stomped a mud hole in him.

Not long after, 911 hauled Taz back to the ring, and before we knew it, we had a wild six-man brawl that perfectly set up the big Three Way Dance event in April ‘95.

Woman Hates Cactus Jack

Up next, Woman made her way out with a chain-smoking Sandman in tow for a ringside interview with Joey Styles.

ECW Return of the Funker  - Joey Styles interviews Woman

Turning her attention immediately to Cactus Jack, Woman lambasted The Man from Truth or Consequences for his problems with both her husband (Kevin Sullivan) and her "meal ticket" (The Sandman), which makes you wonder how badly The Taskmaster's career was going if his wife needed a meal ticket.

Multifamily, this led to her calling out Cactus Jack, who came and stood at the edge of the ring for a lengthy period of awkward silence that was only broken by Joey Styles yelling "Well, do we have a match or not?"

It turns out we did, as former Tri-State Wrestling star DC Drake burst out of the box to very little response from the audience and stepped into the ring for the final bout of the evening.

DC Drake vs. Cactus Jack

Hyped by Joey Styles as a Pennsylvania legend, DC Drake hadn't wrestled in three years, which probably explains why he and Cactus had the most basic match you could possibly imagine.

ECW Return of the Funker  - Cactus Jack

After exchanging kicks, punches, and bites to the forehead in the early going, the two spilled outside for a rudimentary brawl, complete with the obligatory chair shot or two.

Over the course of writing this blog for the last 11 years, I've grown to become a huge fan of Cactus Jack, and I hate to say anything negative about anything he was involved in, but this was a bland, lifeless match which, mercifully, lasted barely five minutes.

The end came when Cactus planted Drake with a double-arm DDT for the win, but things were far from over.
Your Winner: Cactus Jack

No sooner had the referee finished his three count than The Sandman brought his Singapore cane crashing down over Cactus' skull.

The future WWF Champion fought back, taking Sandy to the outside and hurling him into the same ominous box from whence Drake had appeared.

The box was conveniently covered with a black curtain, which The Sandman managed to wrap around himself like a chain-smoking druid as Cactus pulled him back into the ring.

As the fans geared up to see Jack batter The Sandman, he pulled the cloack from atop Sandman's head, only to reveal that it wasn't The Sandman at all but, you guessed it, the returning Terry Funk.

Last seen on an ECW supercard at Hostile City Showdown in June '94, Funk quickly revealed his alliance with The Sandman as the two began to demolish Cactus Jack.

A slew of ECW undercarders all ran in to try and help, but they were immediately disposed of and launched back outside of the ring like lemmings.

Funk's former protege, Tommy Dreamer, fared a little better. 

With Cactus in the midst of receiving 46 Singapore cane sho, Dreamer succumbed to a two-on-one assault by Woman's men and was soon disposed of. 


Finally, Shane Douglas arrived on the scene. As Joey Styles gave us some context and backstory in the form of a reminder that Cactus and Douglas had originally trained together, Woman tried to convince the ECW champion to join forces with them.

Her intention was simple. 

RIP Terry Funk

As the former manager of The Four Horsemen, Woman was eager to create a stable even more powerful and dominant than the Horsemen had ever been.

As much as that should have appealed to a man who spent most of his career talking about how much he hated Ric Flair, Douglas declined the offer by plastering Sandman and Funk with his title belt.

After a lackluster "main event," this was a strong, compelling way to end what had generally been a decent show.

Although many people seem to hate the Jason/Lauria vs. Whipreck/Myers and the Scorpio/Guerrero matches, this fan didn't mind them at all.

Sure, they were far from perfect, but I still remember what a let-down ECW's previous show, Double Tables, had been, and compared to that, almost anything looked good.

Elsewhere, the Douglas/Jannetty world title match was perhaps the best Marty Jannetty singles match you'll ever see, and while Drake/Jack was anti-climatic, it led to a thrilling angle which helped make ECW Return of the Funker one of the company 's better shows in its short history.

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