It's funny, the new WWE DVD "The Rise and Fall of ECW" reminds me of ECW itself. Overall, the two-disc set is great, but it just doesn't reach its full potential. Don't get me wrong, this is one of the best DVDs WWE has put out this year, but it could have been far and away the best DVD of the year.
The first disc contains the nearly three-hour documentary that chronicles the history of Extreme
Championship Wrestling, starting with it's humble beginnings as NWA: Eastern Championship Wrestling.
With ECW growing, the "Big Two" promotions started to take notice, and then raided the ECW roster. Then the spotlight shifts to Paul Heyman's fight to get the first ECW Pay-Per-View on air. The focus then shifts to ECW's rise to even larger levels with the help of Vince McMahon, concentrating on the cross promotion with Monday Night Raw to promote the PPV and Jerry
Lawler's appearance on ECW TV. The signing of a TV deal with TNN was the next big step for the promotion; unfortunately, that led to the downfall of the company. It all wraps up with Paul Heyman showing up on Monday Night Raw.
The second disc features seven full matches. Tazz versus Bam Bam Bigelow for the ECW World Television Title in Bigelow's hometown of Asbury Park, NJ and Rey Misterio versus Psicosis are the two highlight matches on this disc. All seven matches show what ECW was all about, adding to an already great DVD set. There is also some bonus commentary with Steven Richards, Tazz and Chris Jericho. ECW director Ron Buffone talks about shooting great promos with Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and others during the documentary. It would have been nice to include more of these on the extras, instead of having them buried as an Easter egg.
I grew up 90 miles outside of Philadelphia, the birthplace of ECW. I remember first stumbling across ECW late one night on Sports Channel Philly, so this DVD is a walk down memory lane for me. To paraphrase Foley, this gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, and made me remember what I loved about ECW. If you don't know what ECW was all about or don't understand why it had such a rabid following, this DVD will answer all those questions.
A great job is done is showing that Extreme Championship Wrestling's draw may have been the "Extreme" angle, but they didn't forget about the wrestling. Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Jericho and Chris Benoit all had matches in South Philly, and to his credit, Heyman let them wrestle. This definitely comes across in the footage and talks with the wrestlers.
"History is written by the winners." I'm not sure who said this, but I couldn't shake this feeling watching the video. To his credit though, Vince McMahon plays it straight in his interviews. We see Vince the businessman, not the "Mr. McMahon" we see on TV. Although WCW isn't painted in the best light, Eric Bischoff comes off looking like a villain. And in his interviews, he doesn't show any remorse in the raiding he did of the ECW roster. Heyman is upset with that; his major beef is that Bischoff never gave ECW credit. In the end though, the blame for the downfall of ECW rests on the shoulders of Heyman. Bubba Ray Dudley puts it best near the end of the video, saying Paul was a genius when it came to wrestling but far less when it came to business.
Early in the DVD we are introduced to the major players in ECW: Tazz, Shane Douglas, Cactus Jack, Public Enemy, Tommy Dreamer and Raven. Unfortunately, we don't have interviews with everyone involved with the promotion. All of the interviews are with people currently involved with WWE. How you could produce a piece like this without talking to play-by-play commentator Joey Styles amazes me. Also, how could you not talk to Douglas, the man in the middle of the storm during the creation of ECW? How about more from Foley, or anything from Sabu or Terry Funk? These guys were the heart and soul of ECW. Or Francine?
In short this is a great DVD for those of you that want to relive the ECW days, or for those of you that only know ECW from TNN broadcasts and want to find out the history of the promotion. I only wish there were more wrestlers interviewed, especially those people who were major players in the company.
DVD rating: 9/10
Extras rating: 7.5/10
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Dale Plummer has been writing for SLAM! Wrestling since 2003. You can email Dale @ Dplummer627@yahoo.com to find out what hidden Easter Eggs are on the DVD. (Or take a trip to our SLAM! Wrestling store.)