For a pro-wrestling fan of my particular vintage the output of the original Extreme Championship Wrestling holds a certain special place in my heart and memory.
The promotion’s run, from 1994 to 2001, is the sort of thing people like me always remember the first time they saw it – for me it was flicking through Sky TV late one night and see a guy coming to the ring holding a ‘Singapore cane’, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer, that was The Sandman and his appearance was followed by a recap of the feud between Tommy Dreamer and Raven (both of whom have since been firm favourites of mine in the ‘squared circle’).
So all that said I was very much looking forward to this DVD collection.
Hosted by Joey Styles (who it’s always nice to hear/see) the disc spans the promotions six-and-a-bit years of extreme with a few genuinely rarely seen matches.
Things start out though with the often seen birth of ECW with Shane Douglas throwing down the NWA World Championship, but we also here get to see his whole match with 2 Cold Scorpio which really shows ‘The Franchise’ and the man who would be Flash Funk in their prime.
Moving on from there we are treated to a break neck ride through ECW’s rough and ready early years spanning the mayhem that made the company famous with Tommy Dreamer’s first televised match with Raven to Shane Douglas taking on Cactus Jack. Alongside this we get the a couple of more technical style classics featuring future legends like Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero.
It’s disc two where things really hit their stride as ECW’s own big names come to the fore with Sabu, RVD, Taz and Jerry Lynn all making appearances and showing quite how much the Attitude era of WWE lifted straight from ECW, right down to some very familiar spots in the Sabu/RVD vs The Eliminators match that Hardy Boyz fans would no doubt recognise.
It’s in these matches that we get to see ECW in its prime as the technical and hardcore styles combine to create some truly exceptional and original bouts particularly RVD vs Jerry Lynn and then Taz vs Shane Douglas which kicks off disc three.
Disc three takes us through the promotions final years with some classic insane spot fests from Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka and Rhino vs The Sandman, which demonstrate another style of match WWE would adopt in the early 2000s.
The highlight of disc three, and possibly the whole set though, is the full story of how the ECW world title ended up being defended on Smackdown and then returned to ECW to be worn by Tommy Dreamer.
These matches may be short and not the best they sum up something that seems unique as WWE helps out ECW in the face of WCW buying out wrestlers as the Monday Night Wars came to an end (though I’m sure this is history as written by the victors as WWE is equally as guilty of poaching some big names at bad times).
While there are some glaring omissions here, namely no Dudley Boyz and not nearly enough Raven and Sandman for my liking, and the whole set features some poorly overlaid entrance music (RVD not entering to Walk by Pantera just feels strange and The Sandman really does need Enter Sandman playing for his entrance to make sense), it is in general a great set that stands up to previous sets The Rise and Fall of ECW and The Most Extreme Matches.
The ‘Vol. 1’ in the title also hints that this is only the first of several similar releases which I hope we do get to see as this set is at once both brilliantly nostalgic and contains some genuinely great wrestling matches.