The Rise & Fall of ECW

Description: It will soon become the biggest selling DVD in the history of the WWE, and it tells a story that is compelling and tinged with a great deal of sadness.

The Rise & Fall of ECW documents the entire history of Extreme Championship Wrestling, from it's early days as an NWA affiliate, through it's pay-per-view debut, right up to it's untimely end.

Those of you who have been reading my column since it's debut in 2000 will know that I got into ECW very late. Even though I had watched some of the promotion's shows, I didn't really get what ECW was about until 2000, and by the end of that year, it was too late. The writing was on the wall, and ECW was grinding to a slow halt.
Which is why I was looking forward to watching this DVD so much. With the documentary segment lasting nearly three hours, it seems as if time is standing still as we hear the stories of just what made ECW so great. From it's days as Eastern Championship Wrestling, to the time when Paul Heyman became head booker, to the screwing of the NWA during the World title tournament, we hear how ECW slowly made a name for itself, under the guidance of one of the greatest minds in the history of professional wrestling, and with the help of a band of wrestlers who would go on to become some of the biggest names in sports entertainment.

No stone is left unturned as we find out what made ECW click. We find out about everything here, from their pay-per-view debut, the infamous Mass Transit incident, Mick Foley's anti-hardcore promos, the invasion of Monday Night Raw, and much, much, more. We also hear how a great number of those under contract served in other roles as well, which I'm sure is a story that many British wrestlers can relate to.

So why did a promotion that was apparently so successful go under? Perhaps things started to go wrong when they found their holy grail, the national television contract. Perhaps they got a little too big.

What is obvious from watching this is that the wrestlers and Paul Heyman both have different views as to why ECW went under. Many of those who wrestled for ECW are of the opinion that while Paul Heyman is a genius as a creative talent, as a businessman he is somewhat lacking, and this is why the company went under. Heyman himself, however, has a different viewing, saying that had ECW gained another national television contract after leaving TNN, then the company would be alive and well today.

The reasons why ECW closed down in 2001 will be debated for years to come. Nobody can deny the impact that the company had on professional wrestling. All you have to do is look at the stars who still compete today that once called the ECW Arena home, and the fact that two ECW reunion shows are being held within a couple of days of each other in a few months. Unlike a certain other promotion that closed down a few months later, ECW will always have it's legion of hard-core fans. We will always hear calls for ECW to reopen, but frankly, that will never happen. ECW was a product of it's time, and there will never be another company like it again. We fans will have to be content to relive the great moments with the help of this great DVD, and given the response this release has had so far, I have no doubt that the WWE will see fit to release future ECW DVDs in the months and years to come.

Of course, this DVD also features some matches from the ECW archive.....

From Gangsta's Paradise in September '96, we see Raven & Stevie Richards defend the tag titles against the Pitbulls in a double dog collar matc. At first it seems that Richards is crying off sick, as Raven's manager Blue turns the bout into a three fall contest. What we see is a wild and bloody brawl between the two teams, and not even interference from two of the many Dudley brothers can stop the Pitbulls from beating the crap out of Raven & Richards. There are some sick bumps as two table spots involving Raven and Pitbull#2 are messed up. We also see a cat fight, and Tommy Dreamer replaces Pitbull#2 after he is stretchered away. Dreamer pins Raven after a DDT to win the match, apparently the titles, but afterwards there is a ton of controversy when Bill Alfonso and Todd Gordon argue over the decision. After Big Dick Dudley choke slams Dreamer, 911 storms the ring and choke slams Alfonso. Then a groggy Pitbull#2 returns, power bombs Raven from the top rope, and gets the pin to win the tag titles. Great drama here.

From Hardcore TV in October '95, Psicosis takes on Rey Mysterio Junior in a best of three falls bout. What we have in this match is three falls of perfection, a perfect blend of lucha libre and ECW street fighting. It's a great advertisement for the Mexican style of wrestling. Mysterio and Psicosis go at it full throttle, and after what seems like an eternity of great action, Psicosis gets the third and winning pin fall after a senton onto a chair. Both men get a standing ovation afterwards, and rightfully so.

From Hardcore TV in October 95, the Sandman defends the World title against Mikey Whipwreck in a ladder match, the beer swilling anti-hero against the ultimate underdog. Before the action begins, Steve Austin comes to the ring and cuts a hell of a promo, more or less challenging the winner of the bout, before leaving the arena, taking Sandman's manager Woman out of the building over his shoulder. Not as long as I thought it would be, but still an entertaining match with some inventive use of the ladder, with Whipwreck become the unlikeliest World champion after pinning the Sandman after a splash onto the ladder off the top rope.

From Cyberslam '96, 2 Cold Scorpio defends the TV title against Sabu. What we have hers is a great combination of suicidal moves and mat wrestling, with two wrestlers well suited to each other, and thirty minutes of great action as Sabu and Scorpio throw everything they have at each other, and in a way it seemed fitting that the match ended in a draw. An ECW classic here.

From Wrestlepalooza in June '97, possibly ECW's hottest ever feud as Raven takes on Tommy Dreamer. It's a wild and bloody brawl that takes in the entire ECW Arena, and doesn't actually make it to the ring until almost ten minutes into the bout. It's compelling to watch as, despite the interference from Raven's cronies, Dreamer finally gets the win over his hated rival. But the surprise doesn't last long as first Rob Van Dam, then Sabu, and then none other than Jerry "The King" Lawler spoil the celebration. Lawler, Sabu and Van Dam seem to take out most of the roster until Taz clears the ring by simply walking in, his presence is that powerful.

From Living Dangerously in March '98, Taz takes on Bam Bam Bigelow in a TV title match in Bigelow's back yard. Despite the difference in size, Taz is able to more than match blows with Bigelow. Some heavy falls here, and a very interesting end to the bout. As Taz locks in the Tazmission, Bigelow falls back, and both men go crashing through the ring. Bigelow then drags Taz out of the hole and pins him to become the TV champ. Not the best bout on the DVD, but good nonetheless.

From Hardcore Heaven in May '99, two guys who were for each other as Rob Van Dam takes on Jerry Lynn in a TV title match. Despite the fact that Lynn was knocked out cold during the bout, after a nasty bump on the concrete floor, these two put on a hell of a match, with neither man holding back. It's a shame that Lynn and RVD never showed this kind of stuff in the WWE. Awesome stuff here as RVD retains the belt following a Van Daminator/Frog Splash combo. Kudos to Lynn also for a great performance.

Other segments included some interesting stories from Stevie Richards and Chris Jericho, but it's Taz's story about his phone call with Paul Heyman prior to his Royal Rumble debut that was the best of the lot.

Match of the DVD - this is a hard one to choose, but the match between Psicosis and Rey Mysterio Junior just edges it.

Rating: Overall conclusion - if you're one of the few people who hasn't made this DVD part of your collection, then do so as soon as possible. It's hard to describe just how good this is, and it makes you realize just how big an impact Extreme Championship Wrestling made on the professional wrestling industry, and how it continues to make an impact four years after it closed. Get up off your backsides and go and buy this DVD now!

Reviewed by Julian Radbourne on April 18, 2005. []

Eric Anderson wrote in with his review:
Very honest, and mature content to boot. It was a little long, but all in all quite informative. It was a little rushed at the end, and did not significantly describe the final days of ECW as well as it could have. A few key interviews were missing like Terry Funk, Raven, and The Sandman. In total, it was a good DVD, and the bonus features, especially Tazz vs Bam Bam Bigelow, were very good. - 8/10.

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