Friday, December 18, 2015

ECW Unreleased: Volume 1

After several years of not releasing any ECW DVDs, WWE started off a new trilogy of ECW home video releases with 2012’s ECW Unreleased: Volume 1 (trailer). As the name of this BluRay implies, it features 22 matches never released on a WWE home video disc before. However, some of the matches on this very collection were released on home video before through ECW’s old video partner through 2002, Pioneer Video. I have most of those Pioneer releases and if you can track those down at a reasonable price I suggest you do so as they feature matches uncut, uncensored and do not suffer from WWE’s watchful editing eye as I saw some of that original content like signs blurred out when it appeared again on WWE Network or this very home video release.

The Pioneer DVDs also do not edit out the unlicensed entrance themes that WWE does not have the rights to. Some of the entrances helped really establish the characters and it goes a long way getting psyched up for a match when you see the crowd singing along to Rob Van Dam coming out to Pantera’s “Walk” and the crowd jamming out with Sandman to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as he drinks a six-pack through his meticulous walk through the crowd. On this release, the licensed music is dubbed over with their WWE themes, and other non-WWE wrestlers get painfully generic tunes dubbed over instead. I am anticipating an already lengthy blog so I will not try and give a detailed match-by-match breakdown but try to make sure to highlight the ones that really popped me instead.

Joey Styles kicks off ECW Unlreased: Volume 1 with a quick history of ECW’s origins as Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992. ECW rebranded itself as Extreme Championship Wrestling in 1994 when Shane Douglas threw down the NWA title he just won in a match against 2 Cold Scorpio in favor of the ECW title instead. That match kicks off this collection, along with Shane’s infamous post match promo where he rechristens the ECW acronym and title, and we got our very first ‘ECW’ chant from the Philly faithful. That promo was indeed legendary for its time and it still feels special experiencing again today.

If you watched recent episodes of RAW you’ll notice their new ‘Extreme’ faction with Rhino, The Dudley Boyz and Tommy Dreamer going at it against the Wyatt Family. On RAW, Michael Cole keeps referring to Dreamer as ‘The Heart and Soul of ECW’ and you can see the match here where he won over the ECW crowd with that moniker with his bout against Raven at Hostile City Takedown ’95. Constantly on ECW montages on modern day WWE television you will see a classic ECW clip of Dreamer in the crowd chanting along with the fans, and that is what happened here directly after this match.

There is a pair of technical-savvy bouts featuring a pre-WCW/WWE Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero. One is a Heatwave ’95 tag match with Eddy & Taz teaming up against Scorpio & Malenko in a rare ECW tag match that features actual tag rules. On top of that, pay attention to the crowd in this match as it is apparently scorching hot inside the building as quite a few fans are shirtless and dripping with sweat. Fans who read Mick Foley’s book and remember his hall of fame speech will recall that he is good friends with Shane Douglas as the two were in the same training class, here you can see the only time to the best of my memory that they squared off during Cyberslam ’96. This bout features a lot of heat as it transpired during Foley’s “Take Me Back Uncle Eric” phase that was drawing massive heat in his final weeks in ECW. This match is really entertaining, and the ending is still intense to watch to this day as it draws heavily on Foley’s history in ECW and his old tag team partner, Mikey Whipwreck.

In a predecessor to the TLC matches we see today, there is a match featuring those weapons pitting the Eliminators against RVD & Sabu from Cyberslam ’97. Match is a big ‘ol spotfest with no real build, but was something special at the time. Another big spotfest is the grudge match that had a ton of buildup culminating to ECW’s first PPV, Barely Legal that had Taz and Sabu square off. It is entertaining witnessing Taz deliver many variants of suplexes, but he cannot pull them off like Brock Lesnar can today. Make sure to skip over the November 2 Remember ’97 bout with Shane Douglas and Bam Bam Bigelow. It is technically sound, but very slow and dragging, with Douglas wrestling in a modern day SuperCena underdog match where he is lying dead for 80% of the match before making the predictable heroic comeback and ‘overcoming insurmountable odds.’

There are a few of RVD matches on here worth seeing when he was in full-on “Mr. Monday Night” mode. At Heatwave ’98, RVD & Sabu team up against two Japanese sensations in an all out awesome tag battle with nonstop action that actually had a story and made sense! In a Hardcore TV match a few months later you see one of his classic bouts against Jerry Lynn for the TV Title. At Heatwave ’99 RVD and Lynn put their differences aside to team up against Justin Credible and Lance Storm in another excellent tag bout that is noteworthy for a literally out-of-nowhere Sabu spot.

As I alluded to before, Taz was a big deal in ECW, and for those who know him now from his podcasting and announcing days make sure to check out his glory days in the ring here. That counts doubly so for his big ECW moment when captures the ECW Title from Shane Douglas at Guilty as Charged ’99. Taz had a second big ECW moment, while under contract as a WWE talent. You probably heard the story a billion times, but Joey Styles does a great job in the studio recapping how Taz won the ECW title a second time. Then you get to see Tommy Dreamer’s big moment when he beats Taz for the ECW Title at Cyberslam 2000, and Taz gave a very memorable post-match speech to Tommy to be a fighting champion, only to see Tommy get jumped by Justin Credible in his victory speech and grant him a immediate title match and, well, poor Tommy is all I got to say on how it goes down.

There is a pair of Rhino matches on here defending the TV Title against Sandman and Spike Dudley on Heatwave 2000 and Massacre on 34th St, respectively. He destroys both guys, but both Sandman and Spike do put up a believable fight. Sandman is fun to watch here as he is fresh off his short beer money stint in WCW and you can tell he is happy to be back with all types of dumb fun hardcore spots that only he can pull off. The final match on the main feature takes place on ECW’s final PPV, Guilty as Charged 2001 and is a triple threat tag featuring the FBI, Tajiri & Whipwreck and Kid Kash & Super Crazy. The bout features lots of nonstop action and surprisingly no use of weapons.

There are two matches as BluRay exclusives, both come from the 1994 TV special titled ‘The Night the Line Was Crossed.’ The first match is Jimmy Snuka against Tommy Dreamer. Snuka had a smidge left in the tank in 1994, and I got a kick of him getting into it with a few fans at ringside and raging on a then suspenders-wearing Dreamer by delivering three superfly splashes off the top turnbuckle. The other match is a 60 minute time limit draw that features what I believe is the first ever triple threat match in wrestling history. Yes, ECW is responsible for that innovation that seems almost commonplace in modern day wrestling. It features Terry Funk defending his ECW Title against Shane Douglas and Sabu. It is a fun match, but I can see why it is only included as a BluRay exclusive because there are a few expected lulls and ECW camerawork in 1994 left a bit to be desired as the camera could not keep up with the combatants as they brawled outside the ring and all over the arena. There is also a pretty good post match press conference tacked on afterwards where in glorious stereotypical wrestling fashion, it concludes in a big ‘ol pull-apart brawl.

Thanks for sticking with me if you made it this far. I try not to focus this in depth on the matches in my wrestling blogs, but since ECW Unreleased: Volume 1 is primarily a match collection it felt like the right thing to do. The only new content on here is when Joey Styles pops up every several matches to set the stage for the next bout, much like Diamond Dallas Page does on the Best of Nitro volumes put out by WWE.

If you are a newer fan of wrestling and want to see the prime years of many former big WWE and WCW names, than this is definitely worth checking out as it features a lot of big moments and a good chunk of the matches on here range from pretty solid to great. Some of the edgier hardcore spots like chair shots to the head are a little hard to watch knowing what we do now of concussions and the unfortunate aftermaths of some of the wrestlers involved like Mike Awesome and Bam Bam Bigelow. Also, since WWE has really stepped back the amount of weaponry and hardcore spots with their TVPG rating from the last several years, a lot of ECW’s content really pops with intensity in comparison. So yes, ECW Unreleased: Volume 1 is perfect for newer fans to see a gateway to a whole different era of wrestling, and even ECW fans to experience a bunch of matches that were either hard to track down and/or never-before-released on video.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
RoH Supercard of Honor VIII
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestlemania 30
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
WWE Network Original Specials Summer 2015

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