In case you’ve forgotten (or are new to the site), I’ve always been a pretty big ECW fan. Being from Philadelphia, there is a reverence for the product that will never go away. This was quite apparent this past Sunday at the Money in the Bank PPV, where RVD and ECW chants reverberated throughout the entire evening. It was no surprise to me that I enjoyed ECW Unreleased Vol. 1 last year, and all I was looking for from Vol. 2 was more of the same. That is, give me some great matches that show the diversity of ECW and give a sense of why it was so popular. While this volume probably doesn’t have the match quality of the first volume, it is more diverse, and gives a better sense of the many different forms of wrestling ECW had to offer.
Disc 1 runs 2 hours, 25 minutes, Disc 2 runs 2 hours, and Disc 3 runs 2 hours 50 minutes. The DVD is rated TV-14. The usual edits for language and music are present here.
“Anarchy Rulz”: The Format
Joey Styles was great as the host last time, but adding Tommy Dreamer to the mix made him even better. Dreamer added a level of spontaneity that was missing from the first volume. You don’t get as much of a history lesson of the company overall here, but you still get to learn about some superstars that aren’t discussed often, and Dreamer is able to discuss what it was like working in the ring with a lot of them. It’s clear that the two men are friends, and they have great chemistry. The comedy even works here, unlike the horrendous Foley “comedy” from Falls Count Anywhere last year. I appreciated that, for the most part, we get host segments after every 2 matches. This allows every match to be discussed, either before or after it is featured on the set. Styles does a great job giving a brief background for each match, and Dreamer is able to fill in some additional anecdotes. If a third volume does happen, I’m hoping that these two are brought back again.
“Oh My God!”: The Matches
Tommy Dreamer Vs. Tazmaniac (Hardcore TV, 10/19/93) – **
These matches from early in ECW’s history (pre-Shane throwing down the belt) are always interesting to see. This is nothing more than your average TV match that you would see on an episode of Raw today.
Terry Funk & Arn Anderson Vs. Sabu & Bobby Eaton (When Worlds Collide, 5/14/94) – ** 3/4
For historical value, you can’t complain about the inclusion of this match. A rare collaboration between ECW and WCW allowed this match to take place, and fortunately it’s been unearthed for us here. The match itself is kind of all over the place, but is still very enjoyable. The video quality isn’t great, and the audio cuts in and out a bit, but for such a rare match, I can’t complain.
Cactus Jack Vs. Terry Funk (Hardcore Heaven, 8/13/94) – N/A
I enjoyed this, but the actual match part doesn’t last too long. It is still a fun segment.
“I Quit” Match: Tommy Dreamer Vs. The Sandman (Hardcore TV, 10/4/09) – **
Even if the in-ring quality isn’t of the highest level here, this was a very enjoyable match/segment. Pre-match interviews from Dreamer and Sandman are both included, and some of the post-match moments following this match’s famous finish are included as well. I’m surprised it took this long for this match to be released.
Eddie Guerrero & The Steiner Brothers Vs. 2 Cold Scorpio, Dean Malenko, & Cactus Jack (Wrestlepalooza, 8/5/95) – ***
A solid match. Feels a lot like something you would see at your average ROH (or any other indy) show nowadays. The crowd was really into the Steiners and Eddie, which helps this match a lot.
Raven Vs. Tommy Dreamer (Holiday Hell Tour, 12/29/95) – *** 1/4
Pretty much what you would expect from the Raven/Dreamer feud here. These two have great chemistry, and make each of their matches feel different even when, in reality, they are all pretty similar. The hardcore spots are balanced with the overall storytelling really nicely.
The Public Enemy Vs. The Gangstas (House Party, 1/5/96) – * 3/4
I would consider myself a fan of hardcore wrestling when used well, but I am not at all a fan of violence for the sake of violence. That’s really what this match is. There is very little attempt to tell a story that means more than “these two teams really hate each other and are going to hit each other with weapons”. The weapon spots aren’t particularly unique either. This was the Public Enemy’s last match before going to WCW, so it’s nice to hear their pre- and post-match speeches. That’s the highlight of this segment for sure.
Extreme Hardcore Shoot Fight: Chris Jericho Vs. Taz (Lost Battalion Hall, 4/13/96) – *
Before this match, Joey Styles describes it as a “debacle”. That’s a pretty appropriate word to describe what’s going on here. While I give them credit for trying something different, it didn’t work at all, and the “fight” lasts all of 3 minutes. Most of the focus is on the antics of Bill Alfonso and Tod Gordon at ringside the whole time anyway. At least we get that Sensai Tom Dalvano heel turn we’ve all been waiting for, though!
ECW Television Championship Match: 2 Cold Scorpio Vs. Shane Douglas (A Matter of Respect, 5/11/96) – **** 1/4
This was a very well put together match. It goes quite long, but it never gets dull. There is some great technical wrestling, some great storytelling, and some great brawling. This serves as a nice representation of ECW at its best. A post-match segment is included as well, which is somewhat reminiscent of Shane’s infamous “throw down the belt” promo.
Sabu Vs. Chris Jericho (Plymouth Meeting, PA, 8/2/96) – *** 1/4
About what you would expect from a match between the two here. This match suffers from a few of the problems you see in a lot of Sabu matches: a bit of sloppiness, and some of the moves seem to come out of nowhere without much meaning. But, like most Sabu matches (and Jericho matches for that matter) it is still a lot of fun to watch.
Dick Togo, Terry Boy, & Taka Michinoku Vs. Gran Hamada, Gran Naniwa, & Great Sasuke (Hardcore TV, 3/27/97) – ****
This is an awesome spotlight of the Michinoku Pro promotion and puroresu style. If you are familiar with the famous six man tag team matches Dragon Gate has brought to the US in recent years, then you should expect something very similar here. A highly entertaining, athletic match-up with non-stop action throughout.
ECW Tag Team Championship Three Way Dance: The Eliminators Vs. The Gangstas Vs. The Dudleys (Buffalo, NY, 5/17/97) – ** 1/4
This match started out as a standard tag team match between the Eliminators and the Dudleys, which was fairly dull. When the Gangstas come out, the match picks up, and this becomes the hardcore bloodbath you would expect. While this match does fall into the “mindless violence” category, this one worked a little bit better for me. Some of the spots were creative, and there is an awesome finish.
The Sandman, Taz, Tommy Dreamer, & Al Snow Vs. Sabu, Rob Van Dam, Doug Furnas, & Phil LaFon (Hardcore TV, 1/5/98) – ** 1/2
This is a non-stop spotfest. It is kept short, which works for the style of match they doing here. You certainly won’t get bored.
ECW Championship Match: Shane Douglas Vs. Al Snow (Wrestlepalooza, 5/3/98) – **
I should note that I loved the pre-match promos that were included in here, and there is a nice post-match moment as well. The actual match, though, leaves a bit to be desired. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but it doesn’t really hook your attention. It’s kind of just there.
ECW Tag Team Championship Match: Chris Candido & Lance Storm Vs. Sabu & Rob Van Dam (Hardcore TV, 6/29/98) – ** 1/4
Another short, high adrenaline match here. I would have preferred a longer match here, with a bit more storytelling, but it works well enough as a TV style match. There are a few nice spots throughout, and each man is given his time to shine.
FTW Championship Three Way Dance: Sabu Vs. Taz Vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (ECW Arena, 8/8/98) – **** 1/2
The “indy wrestling” side of ECW was brought out nicely in this match. The action is pretty crazy the entire time, and there are a good number of false finishes towards the end of the match. The match actually starts as a singles match between Sabu and Taz, but Bam Bam gets involved pretty early on.
ECW Tag Team Championship Match: The Dudleys Vs. Spike Dudley & Balls Mahoney (Hardcore TV, 8/23/99) – ** 1/2
You get a lot of your classic Dudley Boys moments here: vicious chair shots, lots of heel heat, and even the appearance of some flaming tables. Like some of the other tag matches on this set, this match isn’t too subtle, but it’s entertaining enough.
ECW Championship Match: Mike Awesome Vs. Rhino (ECW on TNN, 10/1/99) – * 1/2
A nice showcase for Mike Awesome, but this isn’t anything more than that. A strange choice for a DVD release.
Extreme Three Way Dance: Yoshihiro Tajiri Vs. Jerry Lynn Vs. Super Crazy (November to Remember, 11/7/99) – *** 1/4
Very fun match; these guys all had really amazing chemistry. I went into this expecting a total spotfest, but you got some nice storytelling throughout as well. Don’t worry, there are still some very fun spots too!
ECW Television Championship Match: Rob Van Dam Vs. Mikey Whipwreck (ECW on TNN, 1/28/00) – ** 1/4
A solid TV match. About what you would expect from these two guys. RVD does some cool moves, and Mikey mostly gets his ass kicked.
ECW Championship Three Way Dance: Justin Credible Vs. Jerry Lynn Vs. Steve Corino (ECW on TNN, 9/29/00) – ***
This is how you do a great TV match. The action is solid and you get a worthwhile match, but the finish still helps build to a PPV. There is a lot going on here, but I felt it paid off pretty well, and made me want to see the next step in the feud.
“This is Extreme”: Closing Thoughts
It’s tough to review this DVD without just echoing the sentiments of my review of Volume 1. Yet again, we are given a great DVD with nice variety to the matches. As I alluded to earlier, the biggest differences come in terms of match quality and overall match variety. There is a clear step down in match quality on this DVD. The matches aren’t bad, per se, but there are less classics than you got on the first set. There still were very few matches that I didn’t enjoy, though, and the ones that weren’t great still had interesting things going on. This could be an interesting promo, a great storyline, or the insane violence that became a calling card of ECW. At the same time, you still get at least one boda fide classic in the Taz/Sabu/Bam Bam three way dance and a very underrated hidden gem between Shane Douglas and Scorpio. It isn’t until the end of the DVD and some of the TNN matches that you see some matches that are simply mediocre: nothing horrible, but nothing interesting to note either.
The match variety is much more balanced across this DVD, though. On the previous Unreleased set, there was only one “senseless violence” match (and I mean that in the best way) on the entire set, and these matches were a staple of ECW. We get much more of them here. We also get some matches that are driven by over the top storylines and some interesting experiments in addition to great wrestling matches. Since the last set was filled mostly with great wrestling matches, it may seem like the better set if you’re looking only at snowflakes and match ratings. However, I think there is a benefit to giving more variety to the DVD. It’s tough to decide which direction I prefer more overall; I enjoyed both sets quite a bit.
Much like the previous edition, I think this set is a must buy for any old school ECW fans. You are going to get a number of different matches, a lot of which are hidden gem that have not been seen in a long time. Styles and Dreamer do a great job as hosts, and add a lot to the matches. It was rare that I didn’t get a good explanation as to the importance of a match on the set. You’ll no doubt have fun watching through this set. A very easy recommendation as we continue through a great 2013 for home video releases.