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A Guide to ECW on DVD 

February 9, 2006

by the Canadian Bulldog    
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


During ECW's heyday, I wasn't a really huge fan of the legendary outlaw promotion.

It had nothing to do with a dislike for the product, though. In Canada, my exposure was limited to reading about the group in wrestling magazines, the Internet, and when I was feeling particularly adventurous, downloading shaky video clips over my ultra-low-speed Internet connection. By the time their programs were available on pay-per-view here (and their television show found its way north via TNN), the magic was clearly over.

That said, I've had the opportunity to catch up over the past several years and find out what all the fuss was really about. This is how I figure it -- ECW was special because (a) it provided us with storylines, characters and matches that had never been tried before (b) it actually LISTENED to its audience and (c) it never really lost its cult-like following. I'm sure others have 

different reasons (and I'm sure they're just as valid), but those are my main takeaways.

Considering WWE still sees fit to hawk its ECW license (including a new DVD set that should be out by the time you read this), obviously the brand meant something to a lot of people. With that in mind, I'd going to review five DVD's that either include or embody what ECW means to me.

Oh, and a very special thank you to loyal ITR reader Jay Kingsley for sending me one of these (and if any of you have DVD's for me to review in the future, by all means please drop me a line.)


Hardcore Homecoming (Platinum Edition)


When WWE announced its plans last year to run the "ECW One Night Stand" PPV, Shane Douglas came up with, really, an ingenious idea: he booked a similar-themed "reunion" show including people WWE wouldn't use (generally because of their TNA commitments), some folks WWE was already using, and one person, in particular who refused to work the Vince McMahon-owned event. Douglas ran it from the former ECW Arena in Philadelphia (now known as the New Alhambra), and conveniently held it the same weekend as One Night Stand so area fans could check both out.

Was this show better or worse than One Night Stand? I guess people have differing opinions on that; I enjoyed both. But surprisingly, if I had to pick a winner, it would be this one (check out my year-end awards under "Best Major Event" for proof of this). I'm not entirely sure why; part of it was because they pulled this off without a multimillion-dollar company backing them, and part of it was because they didn't feel the need to use WWE stars to sell the show.

Production Values: Very, very good for something that doesn't bear the WWE or TNA logo. The camera work catches virtually all of the action, with very little of the dark, murky shots that you'd associate with independent wrestling promotions. True, it's not the broadcast-type quality that, say, network television demands, but remember that this is supposed to be an ECW show. And on that front, it's perfect.

As well, it's worth mentioning that they splice in interviews from many of the wrestlers between matches, and often during the ring introductions. It's a very nice touch that shows that the people behind this were interested in putting together a top-notch DVD. Worth noting: the DVD uses a generic version of The Sandman's theme song, so it wasn't just WWE who had to provide an alternate version on their disc.

Commentary: Much like in his ECW heyday, Joey Styles is the lone commentator here (although they do tease Cyrus and Joel Gertner at the starting; thank goodness they chose to leave them out of the announce booth). The good news is, Styles has greatly improved since his ECW days (and it's evident every week on Raw), cutting down on the screeching and taking less digs at the competition. But really, who was he going to knock? WWE, who he was set to work for 24 hours later? I don't think so.

Styles has some great one-liners ("Is it possible Francine's breasts have gotten ever bigger since we've last seen her?") and admits up front that he's openly going to be shilling for Hardcore Homecoming merchandise (I hate cheap plugs like that). Yet when it comes to playing it straight and describing the action, he's as solid as they come.

The Action: After an overly-long introduction, the program opens with a decent tag team match featuring Simon Diamond and C.W. Anderson vs. Chris Chetti and Mikey Whipwreck… Next up is a comedy match featuring Blue Meanie and Tracey Smothers… A segment honoring deceased ECW stars (as One Night Stand also did) is next, followed by an in-ring presentation by Pitbull Gary Wolfe, Johnny Grunge and Tammy Sytch (all of whom had partners pass on), which was interrupted by Danny Doring and Roadkill for some inexplicable reason. This leads to the unadvertised return of 911, notable only because after he makes the save, he attempts to hoist a heavyset Tammy on his shoulders and falls right over. Even Joey can't help but pack up laughing… Enough comedy, we've got Kid Kash and 2 Cold Scorpio in a match that honestly steals the show. Although he lives overseas these days, Scorp is in TREMENDOUS shape and wouldn't be out of place in the least in either major U.S. wrestling company today… What was supposed to be a tag team match between The Eliminators (John Kronus and Perry Saturn) against Bad Breed (Ian and Axl Rotten) turns into Kronus and New Jack against Bad Breed because of an injury to Saturn. This one is garbage match personified, but in a good way, with tons of weapons, gore and violence. At one point, New Jack calls for a portable scaffold to be carted out to ringside so he can do one of his patented death leaps. I'm not normally the squeamish type, but this one still made we wince a little; this match is not for the weak of heart… Jerry Lynn and Justin Credible renewed their feud next, and while the match wasn't as good as the originals, it's still definitely a nice effort… This is followed a nostalgic grudge match between Sandman and Raven, with a lengthy Sandman interview superimposed over his entrance. This one was probably as good as their ECW stuff, with quite a surprising finish, at least to me… Then we have the main event, a three-way dance rematch between Terry Funk, Sabu and Shane Douglas. Funk first comes to ringside and asks for the match to be turned into a barbed-wire bout. While the ring is being set up, we're treated to emotional interviews from all three competitors about "The Night The Line Was Crossed". They had a great backstory to this, and I'm thrilled they played up the history, as opposed to just doing the match straight up. Was it a great match? Brutal, yes, but I wouldn't put it in the "great" category. However, between the emotional reunion of Douglas and Francine, a handful of gory moments and a surprise appearance by a VERY special guest referee, it's definitely worth seeing.

Extras: Here's where the DVD blew me away. Frankly, they didn't HAVE to add much in the way of extras, considering this was a one-time event and thus they had no previous footage to work from. Yet they managed to give us about three hours of goodies. First, you have clips of the arena doors opening, fan cams from the main event and a post-match Q & A session for fans. There's also a video "tour" inside the backstage areas of the former ECW Arena. In an exclusive "shoot" interview, The Blue Meanie recalls all the problems he had during Hardcore Homecoming weekend, which included the infamous JBL incident… They also advertise "bonus snippets" from the Forever Hardcore DVD. But  I'd hardly call these snippets - there's nearly thirty minutes of documentary footage here! What a tremendous extra to have, while also serving as a great promotional tool to sell the documentary. And as if that wasn't enough, there are a handful of matches from what I believe is XPW, including Shane Douglas, Terry Funk, Jerry Lynn, Chris Candido and Juventud Guerrera in action.

Overall: There's not much to dislike here if you're an ECW fan. A solid and unique wrestling event, tons of innovative features and a solid helping of extras. This has quickly become one of my favorite wrestling DVD's in a my rapidly-expanding collection. Overall Rating: 4.5/5.

(A quick note: You may notice that I don't cover the ECW One Night Stand DVD. It's not because of any anti-WWE bias or anything -- I just don't own the disc. I saw the pay-per-view and was very much impressed; I just have a rule against buying DVD's of events I've already seen, with the exception of the WrestleManias.)


ECW Deep Impact

During the dying days of ECW, Pioneer Home Video manufactured about a half-dozen ECW videos and DVD's. Some of them were absolute gems (see my review on "The Best of Cactus Jack - The ECW Years"), and some of them, not so much. This one, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. It's not that it's a horrible video; there just doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why these bouts were chosen. As well, if you're marketing "best of"-type collections, they really should include the best your promotion has to offer.

Production Values: Slightly above the minimum amount of effort required to say "this was just a random collection of matches". Joey Styles hosts and discusses backstory, while video packages are shown to set up some of the bouts. A decent music video opens the program. Other than that, there really isn't anything fancy to this.

Commentary: It's weird; if you compare Joey's performance here to that of Hardcore Homecoming, I much, much prefer the 2005 version to the way he called matches in the mid-to-late 1990's. It probably has something to do with the fact that he wasn't taking himself nearly as seriously at Hardcore Homecoming. Still, I know a lot of people really enjoyed his ECW work, so perhaps I'm not the best judge of that.

The Action: After a lengthy video package, Mikey Whipwreck defends the ECW title against both Steve Austin and The Sandman. Not as inventive as you might think at would be… Terry Funk then battles Sabu in a brutally bloody barbed-wire match (Sabu discussed on the "Forever Hardcore" documentary how he literally used tape to tape up a massive gash in his arm at one point)… Next is Taz vs. Bam Bam Bigelow in a match best remembered for its shocking finish… A hardcore-style tag match follows with Cactus Jack and Shane Douglas against Terry Funk and The Sandman with a very "hot" ending… Closing out you have Masato Tanaka and Jerry Lynn against Mike Awesome and Justin Credible, which is fast-paced and fun.

Extras: You've got a Yoshihiro Tajiri vs. Psychosis match, which is definitely worth watching, as well as a comical catfight between Francine and Beulah… Then there are clips from the Beulah vs. Bill Alfonso bout in which Fonzie almost bleeds to death… Rounding things out you've got a pair of classic promos from Steve Austin and Mick Foley, and a handful of bios for ECW stars.

Overall: I imagine that Pioneer figured it would have the ECW license for a long time, otherwise they would probably have come up with some more creative ways to mine the video library. But they didn't, and this is what their legacy will be, unfortunately. Again, not a terrible collection, but they could have done much better. Overall Rating: 3/5.


The Rise & Fall of ECW


I'm going to be biased here. This one is the gold standard that I measure any other wrestling DVD to. I think the fact that it's still one of WWE's best-selling DVD's ever probably reinforces what I liked about it.

For the uninitiated: this was WWE's crack at creating the ultimate ECW documentary. Sure, you have to understand that this has some McMahon propaganda to it, but not a lot. Plus, they allow Paul Heyman and others to openly knock WWE and its practices around the time they co-existed with ECW. That's definitely appealing.

In addition, you've got everyone from Heyman to Tommy Dreamer to Bubba Ray Dudley to Mick Foley telling the ECW's story. Yes, there are about a half-dozen non-WWE guys that should have told their stories here, but given that those ones are/were affiliated with TNA, you can understand why they weren't invited to speak.

Clocking in at three hours, virtually everything about ECW is covered off here quite nicely, including its humble beginnings, what made the product different, how it unwillingly became a "victim" of the Monday Night Wars, and its preventable demise. Of course, this means that you have the appropriate level of Vince McMahon groveling and some serious knocking of Eric Bischoff, but I have yet to see a WWE documentary that doesn't do that. And the documentary is captured with a great mix of humor, candor and coarse language.

Production Values: As if you have to ask - see earlier "gold standard" comments. WWE mixes old and new footage in seamlessly, even explaining in one scene how Heyman would hide ECW's weaknesses and promote its strengths. You also have WWF, WCW, ECW and NWA footage interspersed within the documentary, which must be some type of DVD first.

Extras: You've got six matches here, all of them fantastic in their own right: The Pitbulls vs. Raven and Stevie Richards (a 2 out of 3 falls dog collar tag team title match!); Rey Mysterio vs. Psychosis; Mikey Whipwreck vs. The Sandman (a ladder match); 2 Cold Scorpio vs. Sabu; Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven (with surprisingly-good commentary by Dreamer and The Coach); Taz vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (the same match as on Deep Impact, but featuring commentary by Tazz and Michael Cole); and Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn (with The Coach and RVD on commentary). Plus, there are three other mini-interviews that were left on the cutting room floor from the documentary.

Overall: I would be hard-pressed to come up with a more complete look at the ups and downs of ANY wrestling promotion out there. It's just one of these shows I can watch numerous times without getting tired of it, and the matches are a great collection to boot. Overall Rating: 5/5.


ECW Path of Destruction

"Path of Destruction" has the distinction of being the first DVD, or anything, really, that I ever ordered online. It's very similar to "Deep Impact" in the sense that Pioneer put together a random collection of ECW matches, only this one worked a little better.

Production Values: Again, almost identical to "Deep Impact". One small quirk, though. If you click on a match from the main menu, a blurry transition screen freezes for three or four seconds. I feel silly for bringing up such a minor thing, but it also looks minor league by the same token.

Commentary: You know, this is the fourth straight video I've heard Joey Styles as the sole announcer on, and his screeching can REALLY get on one's nerves after a while.

The Action: Things open up with a fast-paced four-way match featuring Chris Jericho, 2 Cold Scorpio, Pitbull 2 and Shane Douglas… Then you have Rob Van Dam against Bam Bam Bigelow, and it's definitely a good effort by both… The next match, a bout between Sabu and The Sandman, is interesting mostly because of the incredible amount of punishment Sandman takes… A "Taipei Death Match" (think taped fists covered with shards of broken glass) between Ian and Axl Rotten gets insanely vicious at times… There's a three-way dance between Jerry Lynn, Tajiri and Super Crazy (surprised they had Lynn instead of Little Guido, as that three-way feud was such an ECW stape) that is a great cruiserweight-style match… The legendary final ECW match for both Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero is next, which I covered off here, and loved because it was a very different style of match to what many ECW fans were used to… Finally, Psychosis and Rey Mysterio hook up, although I believe it's a different bout than the one featured on "Rise and Fall of ECW".

Extras: A few interviews, including Brian Pillman's controversial debut, but really, there's not a ton here.

Overall: This is a better offering than "Deep Impact", although I still wouldn't say too many of these are bonafide classics. Still, not a bad little collection to have, especially because I can't see WWE releasing too many of these matches on DVD anytime soon. Overall Rating: 3.5/5.

Forever Hardcore

Around the same time that Shane Douglas & Co. were putting together "Hardcore Homecoming", they figured why not round up the troops and deliver their side of the story, being as WWE never saw fit to include them in "Rise and Fall"? It makes perfect sense to me, because, really, you need guys like Shane Douglas, Raven, Sabu, Terry Funk, The Sandman and Joey Styles to tell ECW's true story. 

There are also tons of other voices, from the relevant (Francine, Gary Wolfe, Kid Kash, Blue Meanie, New Jack, Simon Diamond, Tod Gordon, Sinister Minister) to the decidedly-less relevant (Terry Taylor, Konnan, Bill Apter and a whole smorgasbord of Internet writers that unfairly perpetuate the stereotype of all IWC columnists being out-of-shape slobs).

Many of the interview subjects really deliver on the charisma (including Styles, who has me in stitches with some of his comments, The Sandman, and a surprisingly-upbeat Raven), which makes for a very watchable documentary.

World Wrestling Insanity's Derek Burgan once called this DVD "the perfect companion piece" to Rise and Fall of ECW, and honestly, I can't come up with a better description (Derek's comment was also reprinted on the back of the DVD box, which makes me insanely jealous). For example, you have Heyman in the WWE version calling Douglas's trashing of the NWA title a great angle. Then you have Raven, Styles and others rebut in Forever Hardcore that "Yes, it was a great angle, but you also double-crossed another wrestling promotion doing it." There are similar checks and balances throughout the DVD on various aspects on the company.

There's a bit more negativity in this one, which one may expect given that many of these guys aren't even working right now. Taz comes across as being particularly hated by many of the workers, while there's not nearly as much love for Vince McMahon as in Rise and Fall (It's being produced by TNA's Jeremy Borash, so I suppose that's not a surprise, either). Also, you have heat between Douglas and Funk, Douglas and Wolfe, Douglas and Francine, etc., captured here for everyone to see.

Production Values: A TON of credit to Borash here. They obviously couldn't show ECW footage and I don't believe they could even say the company's NAME throughout most of this, yet Borash finds way to work around it. For example, they show footage of XPW -- an ECW ripoff league that used many of the same stars, matches and angles -- whenever they need to show a non-interview visual. They also make liberal use of old ECW pictures that I suppose, legally, are fair game.

The video and sound quality is just about perfect, with the documentary format being the only area I really had any minor quibbles with. Instead of the narrative-type approach that "Rise and Fall" had, Forever Hardcore opts to open each segment with a title, such as "Enter Sandman" superimposed across the screen. It's not a huge deal, but I'm just pointing out that I just enjoyed WWE's approach a little bit more.

Extras: Much like "Hardcore Homecoming", these guys deliver the extras in spades. There's a generous helping of "deleted scenes" from the documentary here, probably another 45 minutes worth, in fact. You also have a bunch of XPW matches including Terry Funk vs. Sabu, Shane Douglas vs. Chris Candido, New Jack vs. Vic Grimes, Jerry Lynn vs. Chris Hamrick and Sandman vs. Konnan. None of these bouts I'll probably ever watch more than once, but considering most indy promotion DVD's only give you five or six matches of this quality WITHOUT any documentary, it's a nice bonus.

Overall: When I'd first found this DVD in Toronto (after I had already purchased the Platinum Edition of Hardcore Homecoming), I was wondering if I REALLY needed this one, given that (a) I already own an ECW documentary and (b) Hardcore Homecoming had supplied me with 30 minutes or so of footage from this.

But make no mistake, this is a must-have for any ECW completist (let's see if THAT makes the cover of their next DVD box!). Borash started this project from scratch, without any guaranteed big names or footage to work with, and came up with a really compelling movie. Overall Rating: 4.5/5.

Some other ECW-related DVD's that I think are worth checking out include The Best of Cactus Jack - The ECW Years, Rob Van Dam: One Of A Kind, Barely Legal and, although I don't own a copy of it, ECW One Night Stand. 

Of course, I'm anxiously awaiting the newest release, ECW Bloodsport, which, knowing my luck, probably won't hit Canadian shores until sometime next year.

Thanks for reading, everyone!


CANADIAN BULLDOG  is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

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