The Rise and Fall of ECW
July 14, 2005
Starring: Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, Scott 'Bam Bam' Bigelow, Eric Bischoff, Terry Brunk, Eddie Guerrero, Oscar Guttierrez, Paul Heyman, Devon Hughes, Tom Laughlin, Mark LoMonaco, Michael Manna, Vince McMahon, ,
Four years after the demise of ECW and still wrestling fans chant its name through arenas worldwide. ECW! ECW! ECW! Why would they do this? Respect. This six-hour, two-disc presentation shows you how a small wrestling company based in Philadelphia gained the appreciation and respect of a worldwide audience and its business peers.
In 1993, Eastern Championship Wrestling was plodding along far behind the giant corporations of World Championship Wresting (WCW) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). And then, creative control was given to a true visionary. This is where the three-hour documentary style story starts – when Paul Heyman took over. The days of gimmicks were over; no longer did wrestlers have to be policeman, Mounties or millionaires anymore. Wrestlers could be wrestlers. In its true adolescent nature ECW rebelled and introduced a new gimmick, one that would appeal to a certain niche audience. Knowing that they could not compete with the over produced flashing lights, pyros, multi-angle camera shots of the big guys’ weekly shows, or indeed their paychecks, the ECW matches began to pride themselves on offering something the others didn’t. They had the most reckless, brutal, violent, death-defying, stunt-filled, bloodthirsty wrestling bouts in the world. The superstars called it “hardcore” and were born into the world Extreme Championship Wrestling.
As ECW’s popularity grew, the bigger companies had to take notice and were forced to incorporate the “hardcore” style in their programming. In 2000, both WCW and ECW folded and are now owned by the McMahon families WWE. This documentary is told from the perspective of those who are now presently employed by the WWE but had graced an ECW locker room at some time in their career. Most notably, Paul Heyman himself speaks in great length about the rise of his product. Along side offerings from Vince McMahon and today’s stars who Heyman gave their first exposure to, such as Taz, The Dudley’s, Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Damn, Al Snow and Chris Jericho. All of whom seem to talk frankly and truthfully about ECW whether they be good or bad opinions.
Fans of ECW will be pleased with the amount of “hardcore” footage here as we are shown through ECW’s most daring and controversial story lines and stunts. Including the crucifixion of The Sandman, the first ever lesbian wrestlers, the loser gets caned match, the smashing of an opponent through a fire-blazing table and ECW wrestlers invading a WWE program. The DVD is by no means a chance to back slap the small company for it’s achievements as it is also quick to point out and admit to, its downfalls.
Being a WWE presentation it’s not surprising that this is an extremely well made and edited program, which does its best to hide the single shot under poor lighting in which ECW was presented, but not to any loss in the final product. Even non-wrestling fans should be able to appreciate the business elements here, in competing with media giants, as Heyman talks us through the traumas in marketing, acquiring TV time, setting up the shows and competitive strategies. Regardless of what you think of Heyman, the “hardcore style,” or wrestling, you won’t be able to leave this DVD without at least a small shred of respect for all three.
Disc one holds nothing but the ‘The rise and fall…’ presentation. Disc two has all the extras. Nearly all WWE releases have bonus matches that are usually irrelevant to the actual presentation and but that’s not true here, we get to see some brutal title defenses and Ravens’ last match in ECW and you get a good demonstration of what “hardcore” and “extreme” really means. There is also a nice option to either listen to the original ECW commentary from Joey Styles or a brand new commentary from the wrestlers themselves like, Tommy Dreamer, Taz and RVD, along side WWE’s Michael Cole and Jonathan Coachman.
The more bloodthirsty of viewers will be delighted by the barrage of weapons used in innovative ways to inflict a serious amount of damage on the competitors. Anyone not familiar with wrestling or “hardcore” will probably be amazed and sickened by these men, quite literally, putting their lives on the line for the sake of entertainment. All matches show ECW for their amateurish production value and high risk wrestling that was the crux of what the company stood for.