ECW Extreme Rules
If WWE's tape library were a wrestling ring, ECW footage would be the cache of plunder hidden underneath. And whenever DVD sales need a financial pop, WWE rarely hesitates to bring out a shopping cart full of classic ECW matches to try and coax more money out of those still willing to take the bait. And like a cookie sheet to the skull (something else that implies a threat, but often has less-than-convincing results) comes the two-disc collection ECW Extreme Rules.
To be fair, the idea of a compilation of a disc of vintage ECW and another disc of highlights from the, shall we say, "re-envisioned" present day version isn't a bad one in theory, and one that by and large works well.
However, as many regular WWE Home Video customers know, there are always at least one or two flies in the ointment, so to speak, and this time is no different. We'll save this topic for later however and instead get down to brass tacks (ECW... tacks...Is this thing on?) and discuss each disc individually.
Disc one, which is supposed to be the classic ECW disc, for some reason opens with Ariel of all people presenting one of her patented tarot card readings before going to Tazz and Joey Styles' intro of our first match - Cactus Jack vs. Sandman from Hardcore Heaven '95. If that wasn't chaotic enough for you, hopefully the frenetic free-for-all that is The Eliminators against The Gangstas inside a steel cage will satisfy you. But if you thought having Sandman's new WWE music grafted onto his matches was irritating, wait until you hear the pathetic substitute chosen to replace New Jack's traditional battle cry of "Natural Born Killaz" by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. For pity's sake Vince, pay for the freakin' music clearances already. Hasn't it occurred to anyone that if you did, you could get away with charging even more for these DVD sets? Anyway...other standouts include the Tommy Dreamer/Brian Lee "High Incident" scaffold match, a brutal Dudleyville Street Fight featuring Bubba, D-Von, and Big Dick taking on Little Spike, Dreamer and Sandman from Heatwave '98, and Sabu vs. Taz from Living Dangerously '99. Also, there's a truly epic contest between then-ECW Champion Masato Tanaka and Mike Awesome from ECW on TNN in late '99.
But if disc one is the carrot, then disc two is the (kendo) stick. It goes without saying that the producers weren't exactly spoiled for choice when asked to separate the wheat from the chaff of WWECW, and by the same token, I'd wager that the majority of fans would be practically unanimous in their picks as well. In most respects, many of disc two's matches are on a par with, or at least only a step or two behind "authentic" ECW, but therein lays the collection's most unmistakable flaw - the fact that one is compelled by the very nature of this anthology to play the "old vs. new"
game. The Dudleys vs. Sandman and Dreamer from the first One Night Stand along with Dreamer and Funk vs. Edge and Foley from ONS 2006 easily make the grade, and likewise for Rey Mysterio's match with RVD from the "Head to Head" special and the heart-stopping (but way too short) encounter he had with Sabu at the second ONS. The only conspicuous omission is Dreamer/Sandman vs. Test/Knox from the infamous Hammerstein Ballroom TV taping (as Tazz might say "not fer nuthin' dis one was an off-da-charts rocketbuster fer sure").
Where this set falls short is in the matter of additional features or any sort of extras. The interstitials between matches are merely the same "ECW Memories" video packages shown at the first ONS along with an assortment of promos and vignettes that have been aired repeatedly on ECW TV. All they give you are a couple of alternate commentaries on disc one (Dreamer and Coach talk about the scaffold match and Styles and Tazz step in for Sabu vs.
Taz). As usual, these commentaries are interesting, if not very enlightening, but there's no shame in feeling shortchanged by the fact that these are the only real extras included. Dreamer does reveal one little nugget of trivia, however. He points out that the scaffold match was a part of the same event at which Kurt Angle made his one and only ECW appearance, which (as many of you already know) was also the night of the notorious Raven/Sandman "crucifixion" angle. But here's where it gets interesting.
Tommy mentions that it was in fact the Sandman himself who built the scaffold for the High Incident match and all I could think was, if the Sandman was a carpenter in real life, doesn't that help Raven's case for putting him on the "cross" while also taking some steam out of Angle's well-known righteous indignation about the whole incident? I'm just saying... (Actually I'm more concerned with the fact that applying messianic qualities to The Sandman probably put me on the short list to be struck by lightning so I think I should move on).
Ultimately, ECW Extreme Rules represents a variety of extremes, for instance, the extreme disparity between the ECW of the past and its WWE-directed present. Then there's the extreme contrivance and disingenuous nature of WWE's attempts to placate the original ECW audience with classic matches, while mocking them with the inevitably lesser-by-comparison efforts of their modern-day counterparts. As for recommending whether or not to shell out for this one, I'd offer a conditional no. There's bound to be something on either disc for every type of ECW fan - old or new, casual or diehard - but it's unlikely to be essential for anyone but completists. So unless you simply must hand more money over to Uncle Vince, rent, borrow, or download it instead and use that money for a Ring of Honor DVD or a TNA pay-per-view and support an organization that might just appreciate it.
Reviewed by Aaron Hurt on February 19, 2007.
ECW Extreme Rules DVD Review
I just finished watching the ECW Extreme Rules DVD and I have to admit, it was fun watching a few of the older, original ECW matches. However, they really left out a ton of what COULD have been. Dreamer vs. Sandman, Raven vs. Sandman (though I could understand why this was omitted, due to Raven being in TNA... but then why were the Dudleys included, hm?)
The real downfall of the DVD was the lack of the "Best" matches ECW had. Notably those that included RVD, Taz vs Sabu at Barely Legal, Rey Rey's Mexican Death Match with Psicosis, and so many others have been omitted seemingly to make today's WWECW look better in comparison. The best part is that they do give true ECW matches on the dvd, even for the WWECW days (as in "matches would would have been appreciated in ECW").
Not the greatest they could come up with, but definitely worth getting if you're a huge fan of ECW.
Rating: 3 / 5
Reviewed by Jesse Lee on March 29, 2007.
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