Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
Rise & Fall of ECW
December 2, 2004
On Tuesday I returned home from work to find a nice surprise waiting for me in the mail: The Rise & Fall of ECW, a 2 disc DVD set released by World Wrestling Entertainment. WWE, which owns the rights to all of the old WCW and ECW material, put together an absolutely phenomenal package.
Thanks to a great deal I found via deepdiscountdvds.com, the 2-disc release only cost me $15 and change, shipping included. And for me it was worth every penny.
When I first saw ECW in 1994, it was in an era when pro wrestling was really struggling. The WWF was insulting the intelligence of its audience with over-the-top, stupid cartoonish characters, while WCW was languishing under poor booking with weak storylines and wasted talent not being utilized properly.
In that era the internet hadn't taken over like it has today, but online services were in their infancy, having taken the torch from the old bulletin board days (which for those of you too young to remember, was when someone would set up a "bulletin board" on their computer and connect it to their modem and people would call their board with their computer... usually only one person on at a time). There were some local boards (like Sounds of Silence in Nashville) that had multiple users, but it was not uncommon in the old days for me to have the 831 line on redial for upwords on an hour just to log-on to the Blue Moon BBS. But those were being replaced with America Online and Prodigy and other national companies. And it was through those online boards that I read about ECW (as well as through the WrestlingObserver.com newsletter) and where I first set up "tape trades" to acquire some tapes of this renegade new promotion.
I put the tape in, and right away I was blown away. While both WCW and the WWF had put into place anti-blood, anti-swearing, anti-dangerous move types of rules, ECW embraced all of that... and took it to the next level. But it wasn't just mindless violence. Under the guidance of Paul Heyman, the company had amazing storylines, great interviews, and the overall feel of excitement that made you want to see what was going to happen next. There was some real magic in that.
I'll spare you the condensed ECW story, but if you at all like pro wrestling, you really owe it to yourself to hunt this DVD down. The WWE production team did an outstanding job with it, editing a masterpiece of a nearly three hour documentary about what happened. Having Vince McMahon (WWF's owner), Eric Bischoff (who ran WCW during most of the ECW/WCW war) and Paul Heyman (ECW's creative power) all talking and telling their stories... well it was fascinating to me as a fan. I followed the business pretty closely in those days (whereas nowadays my interest is almost nil), and I was surprised with how many things that even I hadn't heard about that were brought up on the DVD.
The only thing not covered on the DVD that I thought would be was the night the ECW Arena nearly burned down due to a fire getting out of control. And it wasn't like there was an attempt to hide controversy: they covered the "Mass Transit" blading incident/assault (depending on your POV) by New Jack in Revere, MA, though they didn't show the incident. Also, Chris Jericho accused Paul Heyman of airline fraud for abuse of the bereavement fare system (and admitted to complicity in that).
One annoyance on the DVD: they kept referring to the WWF as "WWE", which is the name the company took after May 2002 -- after ECW had already gone belly-up. There are legal ramifications involving the name in a court fight in England (with the World Wildlife Fund), but I just found it annoying to hear them say "WWE" instead of "WWF" every time (though I'm sure they were told they had to do it that way). But if that's the worst thing I can say about the DVD... then that should give you an idea of just how good it was.