WWE – ECW Unreleased Vol.3 (Cert 18)
2 Disc Blu-ray / 3 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 422 minutes approx.
For a wrestling promotion that lasted a little more than eight years and was seen on the periphery of the big leagues it seems that the legacy of ECW is one that people just won’t let lie. Hardly a year goes by when someone isn’t trying to somehow capitalise or exploit the cult of this small Philadelphia promotion; if it isn’t the WWE trying to resurrect then homogenise the product into a farce, or TNA trying get a piece of the action when they should be focusing on their own product, then it is ex-stars from the company’s heyday dining out past glories in a vain attempt to keep the memories alive.
Yet a hungry audience appears to still be out there for these trips down memory lane so should we really be cynical whenever someone decides to take advantage of this? I’m sure by the virtue of how well ECW releases sell, WWE will continue to pump them out and as they have the pretty much the entire ECW video library at their disposal they stand to benefit the most as do the fans.
Presented by the voice of ECW, Joey Styles and ECW alumnus the Blue World Order (bWo), Blue Meanie and Stevie Richards (sans Nova), this third selection of rare matches digs deep into the vault for long forgotten gems as well as promos and angles which typify the maverick approach of the company’s presentation and Paul Heyman’s esoteric but hugely creative booking which later became the blueprint for WWE’s Attitude Era and just about every “hardcore” promotion in existence.
The tone of the links between matches is very much light hearted and often cheeky with insider jokes and less than flattering references to certain people within the wrestling business and ECW itself. We open with a couple of very interesting facts from the guest hosts – Stevie Richards actually wrestled the very first ever match in ECW history in February 1992, while Meanie’s debut had to be done twice as the first night was on the night of the infamous fire towel incident that got the company into a lot of trouble!
Throughout the presentation the bWo duo recreate their characters while making fun of others such as the late team of Public Enemy (Richards can’t do Rocco Rock’s voice due to recent throat surgery) and of course poke fun at themselves. Joey Styles – who never seems to age – reluctantly joins in while maintaining his straight man role – making for some entertaining interludes.
But the focus is on the matches and we get an array of great wrestling matches with the odd insane brawl ECW was known for thrown in for good measure courtesy of the likes of Public Enemy, Dudley Boys, Sabu and of course the legendary Raven vs. Tommy Dreamer feud, including a rare ECW Title defence from Japan! These are rather limited in this release but fear not as the straight wrestling bouts are solid affairs – often found in some of the great TV Title bouts. The first is Too Cold Scorpio defending against Dean Malenko then later on, Chris Jericho being challenged by Shane Douglas and finally matches from Rob Van Dam’s epic title reign, against Rhino and a rare TV match against arch rival Jerry Lynn.
One significant match but possibly for the wrong reasons is a great tag match pitting former rivals Malenko and Scorpio against Eddie Guerrero and Taz. This is the match where a Spiked Piledriver broke Taz’s neck and put him out of action for a year. Prior to this it kicked off with Paul Heyman and Scorpio trading barbs on the house mic, mostly about Buff Bagwell (Scorpio’s one time tag partner in WCW)!
We also take a look into the storied run of the Dudley Boys, Buh-Buh Ray and D-Von, from their first tag title win over The Eliminators to their last which occurred on the eve of the duo leaving for the WWF! How did this play out? We are shown here which features one of the most explosive comebacks in ECW history.
To show how unpredictable the company was, only in ECW could Joey Styles doing a show opening and being interrupted by Taz and Bill Alfonso somehow turns into a tag match between The Eliminators vs. Rey Mysterio Jr and 911! Elsewhere more unexpected match ups you probably never expected to see include Shane Douglas vs. Ron Simmons, Cactus Jack vs. Bam Bam Bigelow and a tag match pitting Rhino & Steve Corino vs. Dreamer and Dusty Rhodes!
As we know ECW also had a tongue in cheek side to its renegade attitude which was not just limited to things like the bWo spoof. A collection of bloopers featuring Styles, Meanie and Richards leads us to some equally funny outtakes from the vaults of ECW, with a corker involving Sabu of all people. One ironic hindsight moment comes from a Joey Styles call of a match from 1997 saying that WCW would never have anyone like The Sandman in their locker room. Two years later exactly that happened when Sandman arrived in WCW as Hardcore Hak (he didn’t last long however).
Cynical exploitation of a loyal fanbase or an easy way to make money, this third collection of footage from the ECW archives once again rekindles all those fond memories long time fans of the promotion have. The fact a lot of this footage is twenty years old is irrelevant, it still feels fresh and innovative today and while fans back then couldn’t believe what they were seeing, newcomers to ECW watching this release will feel the same thing
If this is the reaction ECW continues to engender among wrestling fans, is it any wonder that the reunion/tribute/cash-in shows continue? One can argue all night about this but the fact remains that nostalgia is best experienced with the real deal – aged re-runs or ersatz replicas just won’t do. And THIS is the real deal!
WrestlePalooza -August 5th 1995 – Cactus Jack, Tommy Dreamer & Pit Bulls vs. Raven, Stevie Richards, Big Dick Dudley & Dudley Dudley
Hardcore TV June 1996 – Rob Van Dam vs. Mikey Whipwreck
Unreleased Deleted Scene – Sorry, Sal Philly
Paul Heyman Directs Danny Doring
Philadelphia PA, October 26th 1996 – The Eliminators vs. “Dr Death” Steve Williams & Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy
Unreleased Deleted Scene – I Have A Tommy Dreamer Story
Dudley Driving School
Hardcore TV July 1998 – Masato Tanaka & Jerry Lynn vs. Mike Awesome & Justin Credible
Unreleased Deleted Scene – Maven Disappeared!
Raven Throws Sandman’s Son A Birthday Party
Crossing The Line Again February 12th 1999 – ECW TV Title Match – Rob Van Dam (c) vs. Jerry Lynn
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black