WWE – ECW Unreleased Vol.2
2 Disc Blu-ray / 3 Disc DVD (Distributor: Freemantle Media) Running Time: 435 minutes approx.
“EC-DUB! EC-DUB! EC-DUB! EC-DUB!”
To a lot of people that may sound like complete gibberish but to wrestling fans around the world, even to this day, some twelve years after the original promotion closed its doors for good in March 2001, this truncated chant meant just one thing – something pretty damn extreme just happened in front of the loyal, rabid, sweaty, and very vocal fans at the ECW Arena, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
This latest WWE DVD/Blu-ray release takes another delve into the extensive archive of Extreme Championship Wrestling to bring us a second generous helping of overlooked and long forgotten matches from arguably the most influential US wrestling promotion of the 1990’s – both WCW and WWE liberally borrowed from the ECW template as well as their roster of hitherto unknown but exciting wrestlers – which was fated to remain an underground phenomenon that refused to be ignored.
Presented by the voice of ECW, Joey Styles and ECW mainstay, the Innovator of Violence Tommy Dreamer, this presentation has matches which run the gamut from the early days when the promotion was known as Eastern Championship Wrestling, working under the then recently revived National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) banner up until the final days in 2001, allowing old and new fans alike to get a comprehensive taste of the best of what ECW had to offer.
While many of the truly classic ECW matches have been featured on other releases, this set still manages to offer some unreleased gems of typically high octane or bloody ECW action, or matches with great historical significance, such as the opening bout featuring a clean shaven, physically ripped, spandex wearing Dreamer in his 1993 ECW debut against The Tazmaniac – a face painted Taz dressed as a caveman!
Our hosts offer a unique and informative insight into life in ECW as well as the backgrounds of many of the matches featured, pulling the curtains of kayfabe back as you knew they would. This leads to an unfortunate moment when one particular story behind a match involved the aid of Paul Heyman’s lawyer father Richard. You will hear Tommy Dreamer say that “Tricky Dicky” Heyman is still practising law to this day. Sadly, Richard Heyman, a holocaust survivor, passed away on June 25th, just prior to this release, aged 87.
Similarly untimely is the inclusion of a match in the Blu-ray Extras featuring Doink The Clown being destroyed by 911. Doink was portrayed here by Matt Borne (aka Big Josh in WCW), also playing heel Doink in WWF from his 1992 debut to his face turn in late ’93 (when Phil Apollo took over the role). Borne also passed away a few days after Richard Heyman on June 28th aged just 55. R.I.P to both.
So, what else does this collection have in store for us? All of the most recognisable names from ECW history – especially from their celebrated golden era of 1995-1997 are represented in at least one match each, including Raven, Sabu, Sandman, Rob Van Dam, Shane Douglas, the various incarnations of The Dudleys, Public Enemy, The Gangstas, The Eliminators, 2 Cold Scorpio, Mikey Whipwreck and of course Cactus Jack.
The latter half of the company’s existence saw a new breed of ECW wrestler fill the spots of the aforementioned names who had departed for the greener grass of WWF and WCW, who are also given a chance to shine here: Lance Storm, Jerry Lynn, Mike Awesome, Masato Tanaka, Balls Mahoney, Al Snow, Spike Dudley, Yoshihiro Tajiri, Super Crazy, Justin Credible and the final ECW Champion Rhino.
While a number of wrestlers who first made their mark in the US via a short stint in ECW went on to greater things, such as Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, some top names went the other way and brought their star power to ECW for a few shows. Included here are two such instances – a tag bout featuring former WCW tag champs Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton teaming with Terry Funk and Sabu respectively, and an explosive six man which saw the Steiner Brothers side with Guerrero against Malenko, Scorpio and Cactus Jack.
It’s interesting to note that as ECW’s stature began to grow by late 1997 after finally getting their product on PPV and later a national TV deal with TNN (now Spike TV) in 1999 – which is a story that could probably fill a whole disc in itself – ECW lost a bit of its magic as the shows were able to be taken out of the bingo hall in Philly to small arenas across the Northeast of America, finding new “homes from home” in the “House of Hardcore” in Elks Lodge, Queens, NY and the Manhattan Centre.
The wrestlers still worked their backsides off and had great matches, and the fans were still enthusiastic but there is just something missing, an aura, a feeling, a buzz, I don’t know what. It might be down to the more familiar faces being absent and their successors not quite able to fill their huge shoes but there is a very palpable difference in vibe as this presentation rolls on, although the matches are still very much worthwhile viewing.
ECW may not have reached the giddy heights of WWE and WCW in terms of global success and recognition and quite obviously never enjoyed the same financial rewards, but the fact this small indy promotion from Philly formed twenty-one years ago is still talked about twelve years after it’s demise in enthusiastic terms of reverence and fondness, and that it’s archive of classic matches continues to be explored to swell Vince McMahon’s coffers – is probably a much greater reward.
Both WWE and TNA, as well as various independent promoters, have tried to recapture the magic of ECW with their ersatz revival shows with varying degrees of success but the original is still the best, and this latest trawl through the ECW archives is a testament to that.
Altogether now: “EC-DUB! EC-DUB! EC-DUB! EC-DUB!”
911 vs. Doink the Clown (Hardcore TV – 27th August, 1994)
Steel Cage Match: The Sandman, 2 Cold Scorpio & New Jack vs. The Public Enemy & Mikey Whipwreck (Gangsta’s Paradise – 16th September, 1995)
ECW World Title Four Way Dance – Terry Funk (c) vs. Raven vs. Stevie Richards vs. The Sandman (Buffalo, New York – 17th May, 1997)
The Dudleys vs. The Public Enemy (Detroit, Michigan – 23rd January, 1999)
Tommy Dreamer vs. Lance Storm (Hardcore Heaven PPV – 16th May, 1999)
Japanese Death Match Super Crazy vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri (Hardcore TV – 11th February, 2000)
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black