Tuesday, February 16, 2016

ECW Unreleased: Vol. 3

Welcome to my third entry covering WWE Home Video’s ECW Unreleased line, if you did not read my previous entries here are a couple links for my entries covering volumes one and two . WWE took a year off in 2014, but came back in 2015 with another collection of matches from the Philadelphia-based promotion that laid the groundwork for the Attitude Era of the WWE. Without further ado, let us dive into ECW Unreleased: Vol. 3 (trailer).

Vol. 2 saw Joey Styles return to hosting duties every few matches, but he was accompanied by special guest and ECW legend, Tommy Dreamer. For Vol. 3 the WWE Home Video studios gets invaded by the bWo (the Blue World Order, which was ECW’s satirical take on WCW’s nWo), or at least two of them anyways with Stevie Richards and Blue Meanie serving as our special guest hosts with Joey. No idea where the other primary bWo member, Nova was and why he could not be here, but we do get a reference to Nova’s WWE personality, Simon Dean, and even the bWo cameraman, 7-11, makes a very brief cameo. The bWo are a fun addition to the hosting team, and it was fun watching them do little bits with Joey such as a failed bWo spray paint job, and also provide legit insight on ECW’s past.

Vol. 3 has a whopping 28 matches (five of which are exclusive to BluRay). I went in under the pretense that WWE would be scraping the bottom of the barrel since this is their sixth ECW branded release. I thought that among the previously unreleased matches being featured here there would only be a couple of gems surrounded by a lot skip-worthy content. I could not have been more wrong.

This volume does not feature a ton of pre-extreme ECW content, with only one match being from the Eastern-era of ECW which was a so-so tag title match with Tommy Dreamer and Shane Douglas against Taz and Kevin Sullivan. This bout was only worth watching to see Douglas immediately turn on Dreamer upon tagging in and costing him the tag titles. Speaking of the Dean, if you recall from my previous ECW Unreleased entries, Vol 3 keeps up the tradition of featuring at least two singles title matches featuring Mr. Douglas, and guess what we get three of them for Vol 3! The first is a brief 1995 encounter with….Ron Simmons!? DAMN, I had no idea Simmons wrestled in ECW, and I presumed he must have had a brief pit stop there before he landed in the then-WWF in 1996. There are two far better matches on here with Shane going to war over the TV title against Chris Jericho and another against Bam Bam Bigelow. I was surprised to see Douglas keep up move-for-move with Jericho in a bout filled with many near falls, and his TV Title match against Bigelow on here is far better than their slow, plodding match for the World Title that was featured in Vol. 1.

I was surprised to see WWE dig up another Jericho match from his brief run in ECW, and they were able to unearth two additional Dean Malenko matches from his short ECW run. Here he squares off against Scorpio for the TV title in a really good match featuring a lot of great mat wrestling and high-flying. Later on in this collection, these opponents would team up and tag against Eddie Guerrero and Taz in a very good traditional tag rules match that went against the ECW norm of weapons getting involved. As a matter of fact, there are a ton of awesome tag team match ups on here. A polar opposite of the traditional rules tag match featuring Eddie & Dean was a very hardcore affair with the Public Enemy squaring off against Sabu & Taz that had tons of blood, weapons and hardcore brawling all over the arena.

I want to run down the rest of the awesome tag matches on here! A rare 911 match got dug up as he teams up with Mr. 619, Rey Mysterio, against the Eliminators (back when Saturn rocked a mean mullet!). The finale of this match up features a bizarre, must-see tag team-jousting affair of sorts that I was surprised they pulled off, and not surprised to see another match attempt again since. The Dudleyz love to talk up the number of tag team titles they won over the year, and here you can see them win their first tag team championship in a great match against the Eliminators that features a hybrid of good traditional tag wrestling, combined with ECW’s signature hardcore style. Later on you also see the Dudleyz win and lose their final ECW Tag Titles in their last night in the company in 1999.

Did you know Dusty Rhodes had a short run in ECW? Relive it here when he tags with Dreamer against Steve Corino & Rhino in an entertaining hardcore brawl. In the BluRay extras you can skip the Eliminators match against Terry Gordy and Steve Williams. As excited as I was to see some old school NWA representation in ECW, Gordy was just too over the hill by this point and felt several steps behind everyone else in the match. However, the BluRay exclusive featuring Tanaka & Jerry Lynn against Mike Awesome & Justin Credible makes up for it with a ton of high impact, high energy moves from Awesome and Tanaka as they steal the show in this match.

Mick Foley fans get some love in this installment with three Cactus Jack matchups. The first is a ‘Olympic Rules’ match against Sabu, which was a riot to watch as Foley hilariously fails at attempting an amateur-rules match against Sabu. The second match is a rather short, forgettable match against Bam Bam Bigelow that only seemed included to show off the stellar Fargo strut Jack participated in with the bWo before the match. To make up for it, there is an awesome Raven/Cactus Jack promo immediately following it, and one more match I will touch on later. Taz gets some love in Vol. 3 with him emerging victorious in a couple solid matches against Rob Van Dam and a debuting Tajiri.

Other random matches worth mentioning is a really good bout featuring tag partners face off against each other with Chris Candido and Lance Storm keeping up with each other in another entertaining high-gear matchup. You can relive Stevie Richards’ brief run in the ECW Main Event when he won a three way dance against Sandman and Raven to face Terry Funk for the World Title. I was sad to see Kid Kash never make it too big wherever he went, but was glad to finally see a Kid Kash match on one of these collections as he went up against EZ Money in a very good up-tempo match that featured an awesome finish off the top rope. The main regular feature wraps with Steve Corino winning the World Title in ECW’s first ever Double Jeopardy match, a bout that features rules almost as complex as TNA’s reverse battle royal.

There are two matches left in the BluRay exclusives I want to touch on before wrapping up. First is an eight-man tag featuring The Pitbulls, Tommy Dreamer and Cactus Jack against Raven, Stevie Richards and The Dudleys (though not the two you are probably thinking of). Besides being a pretty darn good match, I could not help but get a kick out of Joey Styles attempt to explain the ongoing saga of the Tommy Dreamer/Raven/Beulah storyline. I forgot about how crazy it got, and hearing Styles recap it made me forget how their feud almost measured up to how bonkers the Kane/Undertaker saga eventually got in comparison.

The final match in the BluRay exclusives is a near five-star encounter between Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn. I will never forget the first ECW match I ever saw was a Lynn/RVD match off the Extreme Evolution DVD back when Pioneer Video was releasing ECW matches back in 2000. Even back when the Attitude era reigned supreme, I was still blown away by the infectious charisma of RVD, the rabid fans filled with chants I never heard of before and the explosive action and near-falls that RVD and Lynn proceeded to unleash on me combined for a wrestling thrill like no other when I got my first taste of ECW action back in 2000. The match featured in Vol. 3 is not that match, but it is another classic between the two as the duo always stole the show whenever they competed.

So that wraps up what I am presuming to be the final collection of ECW matches put out by WWE Home Video. Of the 28 matches on here, the good outweighs the bad as about 20 of them are worth seeing. Even among the duds on this release, they are kind of worth seeing just to see how other former WCW/WWE stars like Gordy/Williams/Pillman/Simmons/Sullivan fared in a different environment. In all three collections it was also impressive to see how fast ECW evolved from a production standpoint over the promotion’s nine-year run. The first couple years, ECW had DIY video standards comparable to almost any other indy-fed in the early 90s, but by its last couple years they were putting on PPVs with professional lighting and graphics that were just a notch or two under what WWE and WCW were outputting at the time. If you have already invested in the other two, you have to pick up ECW Unreleased: Vol. 3. Of the three collections, I will give it the slight nod to having the best collection of matches of the three volumes, and the best hosts with the bWo theme providing for some fun antics and insight between matches.

I will end on one little aside, none of the three ECW Unreleased volumes feature any matches from WWE’s relaunched ECW that lasted from 2006-2010. It is probably for the best, but there is a small part of me that would like what the predecessor to NXT is today to get their own best of collection. That version of ECW would usually get their world title defended on the monthly WWE PPV, but they almost always had to tone down their matches to make sure they did not steal the show, and instead would usually have a far better rematch on the ECW SyFy show that aired a couple days later. They had a lot of good TV matches this way, including the infamous ‘Gulf of Mexico’ match that I would love to relive! It was also fascinating watching the promotion evolve from a re-launched ECW hardcore promotion and gradually morph into a developmental brand by its final years, and operated almost exactly like how NXT is today. If WWE can put out home video collections celebrating the best of In Your House, then please WWE release a best of ECW on SyFy collection!!!

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
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
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 First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015

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