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DVD Review: Burgan reviews The Rise and Fall of ECW - bWo, Tazz, Paul Heyman (updated)

Nov 20, 2004 - 11:13:00 AM
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By Derek Burgan, Torch Media Guy

Torch DVD Review
The Rise and Fall of ECW


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As bad as the current television shows are, and lets be honest theyre real bad - the WWE is kicking all kinds of ass on the DVD front. Early this year they put out discs for Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Ric Flair along with excellent DVDs spotlighting Steel Cage Matches, The Monday Night War and WrestleMania XX. All of those discs should be in the collection of not just hardcore WWE fans, but everyone who calls themselves a wrestling fan. As much as I loved those DVDs, I was looking forward to
The Rise and Fall of ECW more than any of them.

Why? Because I loved ECW. Longtime readers of the Torch might not realize this because they probably saw my guest reviews over the years where I would drop every Torch Glossary term I knew in order to appear smart to the business while completely burying ECW at the same time. What can I say? I was a complete goof. (Editors Note: The more things change) However, I was completely obsessed with the company at the time buying as many tapes as I could get a hold of while also buying PPVs, t-shirts and even those stupid Apter mags like Pro Wrestling Illustrated if they had an ECW article in them. This was before I got my first computer and this was as close as a kid in New Hampshire was going to get to a small wrestling company based in Philadelphia. How big a fan was I? Last October when I made my first trip to Philadelphia I had the PPHs own Keith Lipinski take me over to see the ECW Arena, years after the company closed and let me tell you something, that meant more to me than recently seeing the Grand Canyon on my trip to Las Vegas.

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Shane Douglas, moments before throwing down the NWA title



The Rise and Fall of ECW tracks the entire history of the company, from its beginnings as Eastern Championship Wrestling (while being booked by the late Eddie Gilbert) to its last show in 2001 and just about everything in between. The shocking moment when The Franchise Shane Douglas won an NWA tournament only to throw the belt down and christen himself the first ECW champion is here in full glory. The DVD does a great job of getting the reactions of all the people involved at the time although sadly there are no comments from Shane Douglas (currently a TNA employee) or former ECW owner Tod Gordon (currently with 3PW and still pissed that Torch Head Honcho Wade Keller wont return his phone calls). Believe it or not, and I know this will be a tough one considering the shadow of himself he is today, but Shane Douglas was a big reason I fell in love with ECW. In fact his promo at The Night The Line Was Crossed ranks right up there with the Mankind Undertaker Hell in the Cell as wrestling moments I will never forget. We do however get opinions from Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer, Spike Dudley, Chris Jericho, Dawn Marie and a host of others (including Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff!)

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Paul Heyman



Paul Heyman gets a lion share of the face time and does a great job explaining everything the DVD covers. I was laughing out loud when they showed Paul Heyman from his WCW days and then Paul would go into a rant about how much he hated the company. Heymans disgust with WCW was a running theme throughout the DVD which stuck with me after I finished watching as I wondered how hurt Paul must have felt when so many of his stars were raided by Eric Bischoff. Now Paul says that he couldnt compete with the WWE and WCW monetarily wise and always wanted the best for his workers, but you know it must have felt like a knife in his back when the Public Enemy, Stevie Richards, Raven and Sandman (among others) showed up on Monday Nitro. There is a truly surreal moment where Eric Bischoff denies any raiding of ECW and actually uses McMahons own cherry picking of the territories years ago to justify what he did. In fact, if you hate Eric Bischoff you might just want to get this DVD for the fool it makes him out to be. Seriously, this was great as the DVD guys put clips as Bischoff was talking of all the stuff WCW stole from ECW.

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Eric Bischoff, giving one of his many condescending answers



The Whos-Who list of names that made their way through ECWs doors was a great opportunity to look back at the careers of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko, Steve Austin and Lance Storm before they came to the WWE. Al Snow, who I believe was sent to ECW from the WWE after he couldnt get over, has a strong segment on how over his head gimmick was. Heyman still remembers that it cost the company a mint to buy Styrofoam heads for the crowd but admitted it made such a striking visual on screen that it justified the cost. Theres even an area covering the famous ECW fans. Yes, somehow more time was spent on how much the guy in the straw hat meant to ECW than New Jack and that my friends is SCANDALOUS.

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Sign Guy, Straw Hat Guy, Guy Who Looks Like a Girl Guy



While watching the main feature you get a real feeling at what a tight community ECW was as there was story after story of how every person in the company wore several hats. Tommy Dreamer said that anytime a person ordered ECW merchandise it was invariably shipped out by him, D-Von Dudley or Nunzio. Stevie Richards told a fantastic story of how people would call up the ECW Hotline and tell him that he sounded like Stevie Richards but he made up a worked name of Lloyd Van Buren so the fans wouldnt catch on. Stevie said that he worked the phones along with current Ring of Honor Booker Gabe Sapolsky.

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Stevie Richards



Most of the big events during ECWs run were covered including Tazz, at this point a WWE contracted employee, coming back to ECW so he could get the ECW Title off of Mike Awesome, who had left the company for WCW. Only in wrestling. An all-too-brief segment is spent on the Mass Transit Incident, and in fact Heyman never even mentions Mass Transit at all. At the time this was a HUGE story and I can only compare to a history of the WWE DVD glossing over the Vince McMahon steroid trial. The feature then went straight to the first ECW PPV, Barely Legal. This of course was a tremendous moment for the company although unfortunately the end was coming.

Just to remind you this is a WWE DVD, not only do you get to see Tazz beating Mike Awesome for the ECW title, but also the following WWE show in which Tazz showed up with the belt and immediately jobbed to Triple H.

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Some Guy, who was interviewed more than anyone outside of Paul Heyman



Even with the DVD it is hard to piece together exactly what happened to the company. Wrestlers talked about not getting paid (mentioning that some guys like Bam Bam Bigalow left the company wile others stayed) while a good amount of time is spent on the love-hate (mostly hate) relationship between ECW and TNN, the channel which became Spike TV. Heyman and the wrestlers complain over and over again that the network gave them no promotion whatsoever which ended up killing them in other deals. To show that no one in wrestling EVER learns from the past, its interesting to note that ECW was doing much better numbers on TV (with less promotion) than TNA, on a better channel, drawing better crowds, was much more established, and even they couldnt survive. Apparently TNA feels that Jeff Jarrett as champion will overcome all of this. I think ECW also had a decent magazine, action figures and horrible video games as well.

There is so much to talk about that I could spend five reviews filling you in on the details. I wanted more details on ECWs mole when Tommy Dreamer talked of listening to messages on Todd Gordons phone. I remember this story and at the time I couldnt wait for the newest issue of the Torch to come out so I could keep up with all the goings on. I was surprised to here Tommy Dreamer talk about how the Dudleys only wanted one more dollar to stay in ECW and Heymans subsequent flipping out by yelling that he couldnt compete with the WWE or WCW which led to the Dudleys leaving. You want to see flaming tables? Its here. You want to see Kurt Angle in ECW? Its here. You want to see Sabu get publicly fired? Its here. Paul Heyman's fantastic Steve Austin Impersonation? Sandman caning the HELL out of Tommy Dreamer? The angle with Raven and Sandman's son Tyler? Here, Here and Here. The b.W.o.? ITS ALL HERE!!!!

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Your Olympic Hero, Kurt Angle


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The Sandman getting crucified (off camera - Kurt Angle flipping out)


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Raven apologizing for The Sandman crucifixion



Bonus Features: Even though I could give this DVD a recommendation on the main feature alone, this 2 disc edition comes LOADED with extras.

The Pitbulls vs. Raven & Stevie Richards (w/Beulah) - This was a double dog collar match from Gangstas Paradise in September, 1995. An absolutely insane brawl with a 10 star finish including Tommy Dreamer, heel ref Bill Alfonzo, Todd Gordon and 911. To show what kind of company this is, ECW took an untalented bum in 911 and gave him a great gimmick while only putting him in situations where he looks good so that when he chokeslammed Alphonzo the crowd blew the roof off the ECW Arena. Compare this to how the WWE brought in Matt Morgan.

Rey Mysterio vs. Psicosis. OH MY. Rey Rey is about half as jacked as he currently is in the WWE and about twice as fast. It was also odd seeing a skinny Joel Gertner (who would go on to be the personal ring announcers for the Dudley Boyz) introducing the match in Spanish. Since we already had a Rey Mysterio DVD, I have no idea why this is here when a match with the Eliminators or the Dudley Boyz with one of their 10 minute intros that had the crowd in full RIOT MODE.

The Sandman (w/Woman) vs. Mikey Whipwreck This was a ladder match which features a great cameo by Steve Austin before the match running down both guys. I still cant get over how much the ECW faithful took to Whipwreck.

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Steve Austin channeling Hulkamania



Sabu vs. 2 Cold Scorpio. This was from CyberSlam 96 and features two guys who never really got their moment in the sun. At this time in their careers both Sabu and Scorpio were having jaw droppingly good matches and its a shame neither one of them cashed in during the boom.

Tommy Dreamer (w/Beulah) vs. Raven (w/Chastity & Snot) This was a blowoff to the biggest feud in ECW history. It includes quite possibly the greatest after match angle in wrestling history with the WWEs own Jerry Lawler invading the ECW Arena. I marked out as much watching this moment again as I did the first time. How can you not like Lawler saying, This bingo hall should be made out of toilet paper because everything in it is shit! The only disappointment is the one I brought up earlier about the WWE changing the music. I understand why they had to do it, but the impact of The Gangstas hitting the ring, along with Tazz later, is lessened a little bit with the generic garbage the WWE substitutes.

Tazz vs. Bam Bam Bigalow. Before there was the ring imploding on Big Show and Brock Lesnar, there was Tazz and Bigalow going through the mat at Living Dangerously 98. What a moment.

Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn. Eh, Im not a Lynn fan by any means, but this match will probably blow the minds of 98% of the audience watching it.

Stevie Richards Apologizes: I didnt expect this at all, but Stevie Richards my all time favorite ECW wrestler how a short piece where he explained why he left ECW and how he still regrets how he did it. The DVD had clips of the match in which Stevie broke his neck and said in recovery he was listening to too many people and decided to go to WCW without giving ECW much notice. Stevie said in WCW he had a huge blowup with Raven though the two have since reconciled. Richards went back to ECW, and found major heat with the wrestlers, but felt they were justified in how they felt. This was one huge apology and Richards came across as totally sincere.

Tazz asks for Heymans blessing: Holy shit, we almost get to see Tazz break down on camera as he tells the story of the day he made his debut for the WWE. Tazz and Heyman hadnt talked for a while and on his way to the arena Tazz called Heyman and asked for his blessing, but once Heyman gave it Tazz felt even more guilty for leaving ECW. Another very strong segment that really makes you respect Tazz as he details why he left and basically says the people who shout you sold out are a bunch of f---ing idiots.

Paul Heyman, Travel Agent: This might be the funniest part of the DVD and it centers around Chris Jericho talking about his experiences in ECW. Jericho brought up that he would one minute be leaving Heyman messages that he would never work for ECW again, only to be sweet talked into rushing out the door onto a plane so he could make the next show. Jericho also gives the story of the year talking about his flight to Philly once with Johnny Smith in which he was informed by the airline he was flying on a bereavement fair since his brother-in-law Chris Benoit died. This was classic. He tops it by doing a drop dead funny Ron Simmons impersonation. So good I cant do it justice here. BUY THE F---ING DVD~!!!

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Paul Heyman firing Sabu before a show



Easter Eggs (thanks to www.highspots.com)

ECW Pulp Fiction Promo Montage - On Disc One, Go to Chapters. Highlight "Promos" and click left several times. A classic ECW "Pulp Fiction" promo montage featuring Stevie Richards, Mick Foley, The Public Enemy, Taz, Bill Alfonso, and many more will play.

The Public Enemy Train Mikey Whipwreck - On Disc Two, Go to Extras. Highlight the Mikey Whipwreck vs. Sandman listing, and click right. The vignette will then play.

Taz vs. Bam Bam Bigelow feud history - On Disc Two, Go to Extras. Highlight the Taz vs. Bam Bam Bigelow listing, and click left twice. The video feature will then play.

Rob Van Dam shows Michael Cole his scar - On Disc Two, Go to Extras. Highlight the Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn listing and click right. The clip will then play.

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Tod Gordon, former ECW owner



Overall: This is a no-brainer and a MUST BUY for any wrestling fan. CLICK HERE or go to wherever it is you pick up DVDs. Its a little hard to get used all the licensed music being taken out (I mean cmon, New Jack was synonymous with Natural Born Killaz and Tommy Dreamer was Alice in Chains Man in the Box) and replaced with generic WWE crap, but other than that you honestly couldnt ask for more. This is the promotion that brought us the WWE Attitude, which in turn led to the hottest run in the wrestling businessever.

Derek Burgan is currently the ROH Media Guy. His latest review of ROH Magazine is now available. He is counting the days to ROHs Final Battle 2004. You can write Derek by clicking here!


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