I have friends. A little while ago at a small training session I broke a table. One of my training partners started to chant, “E-C-Dub! E-C-Dub!” at me. I groaned and said it was dead and gone and didn’t mean anything. He made some comment about one of the book reviews on Pulse I did, and didn’t I learn anything?
I laughed. Learn what from a bunch of talentless hacks exactly? I asked. I didn’t really mean it; I was really just shit-stirring him. I proceeded to ask how his heroes would have gone against some of my wrestling heroes and he got flustered and just said ECW was the greatest.
I thought nothing else of it. Last week he turned up at my place and delivered to me three DVDs. “Watch them,” he said. One was the WWE release ‘The Rise And Fall Of ECW’, one was a bare-bones copy of ‘Forever Hardcore’, and one was a brand new one he’d got in the mail just a week earlier called ‘Barbed Wire City’. “Watch them and then tell me what you think of ECW.”
I agreed. And here I am. This is just the documentaries, not the bonus matches or the special features, or anything else. Just the info. This, then, is what each doco covered. If you just want to read what I thought, skip to the italics.
‘The Rise And Fall Of ECW’ (2004)
This is the official WWE history release.
Heaps of wrestlers are interviewed, along with production guys and Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon and, most prominently, Paul Heyman.
As per usual for a WWE release, we start with an opening montage of talking heads, then we hit the story proper. We start with Paul Heyman’s entry into ECW. Heyman compares wrestling needing to change as music had changed from hair bands to grunge. So Paul’s first show in charge, he opens with a Public Enemy match.
We talk about the Tazmaniac and his first match with Sabu. Tazz said he just wanted to get booked and ended up working for ECW for 7 years. Talk turns to Sabu and how he was a key to Paul’s vision. Terry Funk is then put over hugely, Paul especially putting down other nameless stars who wanted to hold into their ‘spot’. This leads to the 3-way dance between Terry Funk, Sabu and Shane Douglas, the first apparently done ever. We see a clip of Douglas with Sherri Martel demanding to be champ after the 3-way, even after smashing Funk’s knee to “obligatory.”
Shane Douglas is our next subject. Dreamer talks about him coming into ECW with a chip on his shoulder about WCW and Ric Flair. He thinks Paul felt the same way and that’s why they did what they did. Paul agrees he didn’t like WCW and especially Bill Watts.
We look at Tommy Dreamer and then the Sandman, whose matches became secondary to the character. Dreamer talks about the Singapore cane match with Sandman that changed everything for him. Paul then talks about the changes in presentation this led to, including Sandman playing kayfabe even at home. ECW rebelled against the gimmicks in wrestling at the time.
Mick Foley talks about Cactus Jack going to ECW. Dreamer says it was part of a court settlement. Foley says he got heat for spitting on the WCW tag team belt (which is shown), but that the people who gave him heat didn’t even see the promo. This leads to Mikey Whipwreck, who apparently took the best beatings of anybody.
Now we talk about the NWA. Douglas’ speech where he throws down the NWA title is shown. The birth of Extreme Championship Wrestling and the end of the NWA association is also shown.
They talk about the crowds briefly. Malenko, Guerrero and Benoit are discussed as bringing something different to ECW that helped expand the audience. Paul says that the philosophy when it came to wrestlers was: “Accentuate the positive, hide the negative.” They said they showed fans respect, even when things went wrong, like injuries. Jericho calls it a cult atmosphere. They talked about the crowd again and how the audience was a part of the show. Paul uses the term “cult-like fans”.
They talk Raven and especially the feud with Tommy Dreamer.
Tazz talks his dislike of Sabu, and how Sabu took a Japanese booking over an important TV taping. Tazz then talks how Malenko and 2 Cold Scorpio broke his neck and put him out for a year. Tazz said Paul paid him for the year, despite having no contract.
“ECW was the first victim of the Monday night war,” says Paul. Bischoff says he never raided ECW, despite taking their 3 best wrestlers in one fell swoop, and then others. He actually makes some good points. Paul said it was smart by Bischoff. Vince McMahon says that he put Heyman on the payroll to compensate for stealing the talent, so he gave something back, unlike Bischoff.
So Paul brings in the Lucha Libre stars from Mexico through Konnan. Rey says it was great, Paul says fans got caught up in it and if his father wasn’t a lawyer ECW would have died.
Steve Austin is brought up and Paul gave him a microphone to vent against WCW. Some of the promos are shown. This segues into the Cactus Jack anti-hardcore promos.
Taz returns as Taz the fighter. We then look at Sandman v Raven and the Sandman’s son. And then the bWo. They looked at Stevie and Blue Meanie and their parodies, some of which were actually funny. They talk about the Beulah being pregnant to Tommy angle. So this led to the first ever lesbian angle in wrestling.
We acknowledge the ECW chants at the King of the Ring where Mabel won. And then the Mind Games IYH PPV where ECW “invaded.” Stevie Richards talks about the time Sandman was crucified. They show Raven’s apology afterwards. Kurt Angle says that was what drove him away from ECW despite Heyman assuring him he knew nothing about it.
Heyman says that getting a PPV was tough because some companies thought they were “real”. But they eventually got one. They talk a bit about the Mass Transit incident, but mostly that it led to the PPV being cancelled. However, by April 1997 they were back.
We then go to the ECW invasion of Raw where they plugged the PPV. Everyone says it was great and Bischoff says he was not surprised. Lawler talks about how they should have had more respect. And Lawler says they were literally small. Dreamer says that was the start of the Attitude Era. This leads to that first PPV and how everyone was scared and intense. They talk about issues leading up to it. Van Dam was not happy about being left off until the last minute and Lance Storm, his opponent, says he wasn’t overly happy, either. We talk about Sabu and Taz’s match as well. And we finish talking about Terry Funk winning the title.
Now we go to Raven leaving to go to WCW. Dreamer finally got the win over Raven, and then Jerry Lawler invaded ECW. Lawler almost burst Dreamer’s testicles. Ow.
We talk Tod Gordon’s resignation/firing very, very briefly, and then we look at the Beulah McGillicutty v Alfonso match saving Fonzie’s career. Then we go to Bubba Ray taking over running part of the company, and what other people did behind the scenes. They talk how they did merch. Taz ran the training school, House of Hardcore. “ECW was more than just a wrestling company, it was a family,” says Devon Dudley.
We go back into the cult led by Paul Heyman concept, told by the wrestlers themselves. Paul gave the wrestlers freedom. Taz calls the locker room the land of the Misfit Toys. Snow says he would hide a person’s negatives and accentuate their positives. This leads to Snow talking about Head. Paul talks about the marketing of the styrofoam heads.
The ECW guys said that they were number two in the late 1990s, but Bischoff disagrees completely. McMahon admits taking some of their ideas, but they weren’t a threat; Heyman says Attitude grew from ECW, and Foley agrees. Highlights of WWF/E going extreme are shown. McMahon denies it influenced him, others disagree with him. Interesting back and forth.
Taz talks about Bam Bam Bigelow, and the time they went through the ring. They talk Taz’s FTW title and him chasing Shane Douglas. They talk the invention of flaming tables. This leads to the Dudleys talking about being heels.
We go to the money issues ECW was having. Guys were getting paid very little, Storm saying that he made sure his cheques were fed-exed to his door. Money was why Bam Bam left. “Our greatest asset was our greatest detriment – Paul,” says Tommy Dreamer. The wrestlers talk Paul doing things to everyone.
They then go to the national TV deal. Vince says he congratulated Paul, but warned him he would have to change. Paul said it saved the company in 1999. But then they lost their world champion and tag champs to WWF within 2 weeks. Taz talks about his leaving ECW. He said wrestling had become all too easy, so he had to be challenged. But he got a nice send-off on PPV. The Dudleys, on the other hand, left before the financials got too bad. They tried to talk to Paul, but he couldn’t do anything, and Bubba ray says he realised them that ECW was minor league. The Dudleys won the tag titles on their last night in ECW, they then went after Dreamer, and then Raven ran in, having left WCW, and Dreamer and Raven were the new champs.
Paul talks about how many constraints TNN placed on him and the product, and how he created a character called Cyrus, the network guy, to get back at them. TNN ended up being, in Paul’s words, “the albatross that dragged” them down. The TNN deal is painted as a pretty bad one by everyone. They show a Heyman shoot interview about the network. Heyman says that it killed them.
Angle says that RVD was all ECW had left. They talk a little about RVD, and he puts himself over as the best wrestler in the company and how he made the TV title as important as the World title.
Then they go over Mike Awesome, going to Nitro with the ECW world title. Taz is surprisingly diplomatic about it. And so we have Taz, a WWF wrestler, facing Mike Awesome, a WCW wrestler, at an ECW event for the ECW title. They show some bad footage of the match. Was it not supposed to be televised or something? They show HHH taking out Taz and Dreamer while Taz was ECW champion. McMahon sort of says it wasn’t the right thing. Then Dreamer beats Taz for the title. But Dreamer wasn’t happy because he says he never wanted to win a title.
Bischoff talks about making advertisers and the audience happy, and how ECW did not necessarily do that. Good points were made here. The talk goes to the TNN deal falling through, which leads to more trouble. McMahon reiterates what Bischoff says. Dreamer tells how bad money got. RVD says that he was owed more than could ever be paid back. Nunzio says that ECW closed, then WCW closed, and suddenly there were 90 wrestlers looking for a job. Rhyno says he was in denial about it; Dawn Marie says Paul called her to tell her.
Bubba says the downfall came down to two things – the violence not catering to the masses (McMahon agrees), and Paul was not the best businessman outside the ring (Jericho agrees). Paul Heyman then turns up on Raw and that was it, ECW was over.
They finish with a stream of talking heads talking about the legacy of ECW, and Paul Heyman saying that failure is just a part of life.
As far as WWE documentaries go, this was an amazingly frank and honest look at ECW. It jumps around a bit and it’s hard to follow what happened when and where at times. Some things were glossed over, some things were given more relevance than maybe they warranted, but it was still one of the better docos put out by the ‘E. This was a Paul-centric look at ECW. It missed Douglas, Styles and Raven and probably Sandman.
‘Forever Hardcore’ (2005)
A film by Jeremy Borash. He doesn’t appear once, does the narration when necessary. And what he offers feels like a fair and balanced view of some of the big events in the history of ECW. Good art of documentary-making stuff there. I am also guessing this was done in response to the WWE doco of the previous year. It is set up with distinct chapters and with a decent chronology.
There were more wrestlers interviewed for this than the WWE one, as well as backstage guys and wrestling reporters, so it’s pretty damn comprehensive.
We start with the idea of what ECW was before we go into the history lesson, starting with Eastern Championship Wrestling growing out of the Tri-State Alliance. Everyone loves love Tod Gordon is something that comes across strong here.
They go over Eddie Gilbert running the TV show. Not good apparently, but he brought in Shane Douglas. Then Paul Heyman took over and things improved in presentation. Joey Styles was brought in, and Raven and Sandman rate him as one of the very best on the mic.
We then get some Heyman stories from everyone. Good and bad tales, but he was generally thought highly of at first.
Sabu breaks his silence, apparently. He talks about his start at ECW, and everyone else talks about him being a great innovator in the ring. The Night the line was crossed is next, and they talk about the 3-way dance, and how well it was received by everyone. They talk about Shane Douglas next. Including Shane Douglas. A lot of Shane talking about Shane.
Next up the NWA gets Franchised, and they talk about the dumping of the NWA title. The attitude towards it is very mixed. Funk and Styles hated it; Gordon and Douglas thought it was great; many others seem still shocked by it or had mixed feelings, like Raven. This honesty is good. Funk especially is harsh.
Extreme is born, so that to keep the new letters, ECW was now Extreme Championship Wrestling, latching onto the new ‘extreme’ subculture. Backstage attitude towards this seems positive.
Enter Sandman and he talks about the evolution of his character. Others chime in. Sinister Minister says he’s one of the smartest guys he’s met. Truth be told, his interviews here paint him in a good light in that regard. “Sandman is the prototypical functional drunk,” says Blue Meanie. This Leads into a talk about Tommy Dreamer, who seems universally loved. They then talk about Cactus Jack, who is also loved by everyone.
We segue into a talk about the Philadelphia crowd and how they changed crowds in wrestling. They were too smart and would never let anything go unnoticed. New Jack talks about the ring rats. A lot. Raven hated the crowd at first, but worked out they were the easiest ones to con; Styles said they hated him. Terry tells a funny bit about chairs. New Jack still talks about rats.
Now they talk about Tazz. Sabu’s a fan; New Jack most certainly is not. Sandman was incredibly diplomatic about him. Others were a mixed bag.
The Summer of Violence comes up next, saying that the Ian and Axl Rotten matches were the start of the ultra-violence in ECW. Axl Rotten talks about his feud with Ian. His scars are abundant and gross. This leads to a discussion of the summer of 1995 and the violence that permeated everything. This leads into talking about Raven, a smart and complex guy. He admits he rubs people the wrong way. He also says working with Heyman was great for him. People tended to talk well of him and his attitude towards the business, even if he wasn’t always the nicest professionally.
Lucha invades America comes next, and Konnan talks about bringing the Mexicans in. This was the first time mainstream lucha libre hit America.
The Fire incident is next. Cactus Jack set fire to Terry Funk and the fire went into the front row. Then Tommy Dreamer is crucified by Raven, and then the place was evacuated because of the smoke. Joey Styles was embarrassed by it. Some thought it could have killed the company.
They talk a bit about the ECW arena in Philadelphia.
Shane Breaks Gary’s neck comes up next. Gary Wolfe blames Shane Douglas for messing up a DDT; Shane blames Gary for taking the wrong move. Paul got Douglas and Francine to make jokes about it. Pitbull jumped into the ring and Shane threw him down by the neck halo, and it caused a riot. It made Douglas the number one heel. Pitbull thinks Douglas did it deliberately. Douglas sells it well as a wrestling angle.
Talk turns to the Dudleys, apparently created by Raven. They were great heels in their day. New Jack not a fan, though. Girls Got Extreme talks about the girls starting to do their thing. Francine says their demographic was 18-35 year old males, so of course they were going to do the sexy thing. Simon Diamond is very realistic about the girls. Shane and Francine were not together, but everyone thought they were. Francine and Tommy Dreamer were seen together in public and accused of breaking kayfabe and this broke down the relationship between Francine and Douglas. They disagree about an argument in the ring – two completely different stories. She hasn’t spoken to him since 1999.
Discussion goes to crucifixion of the Sandman. They talk about the whole angle, and how it drove Kurt Angle away from ECW. People were genuinely upset about it. Douglas and Styles hated it. Even Kash, in his diplomatic way, didn’t like it. Sandman was angriest about Raven having to apologise for it. “Just leave God out of our business,” says Terry Funk.
Discussion of New Jack comes next. Apter, in his own way, is not a fan, neither is Kash. So we come to the Mass Transit incident. Axl Rotten no-showed, Devon Dudley needed a partner, so this kid called Mass Transit comes up. New Jack says Mass Transit asked him to cut him, and New Jack did… horrifically. Kash describes it as he screamed like a little girl when he realised how badly he’d been cut. New Jack said he could see the kid’s skull. New Jack went to trial, but was acquitted.
The birth of the Blue World Order stated. Brief discussion of the Blue Meanie. The ECW invasion at the Manhattan Centre, with the WWF is brought up. Terry Taylor admits he stole or borrowed ideas from ECW when he was a WWF writer. Funk says ECW eliminated WCW because McMahon took a lot of ECW ideas that ended up saving him.
Paul fires Sabu is next, briefly discussed. Then we get to New Jack’s dives, and the Vic Grimes incident where Grimes was reluctant to do a huge dive (25 feet, according to Terry Taylor), but New Jack pulled him down and ended up half-blind with fluid on the brain because of it. Taylor was not complimentary of it, and gives good reasons. New Jack is still feeling the effects. He doesn’t blame Grimes, he says, but still took it out on him, and this brings up the scaffold match where New Jack tasered him and threw him down. He missed the tables and bounced off the ropes. New Jack says he was aiming for the corner to kill him, but the scaffolding had been moved.
Then comes the first PPV; Gabe Sapolsky says the locker room fell apart right before it, and Raven says the poster was Tazz and Sabu and no-one else. Apparently WWF helped with the first PPV, and Joey was the first person to call a PPV on his own. The feeling was that they made it. This leads to a discussion of Funk and how he is respected and loved by everyone. Even New Jack. Sabu shows the bicep scar Funk gave him. Funk thinks he should have stopped the match, but Sabu just taped himself up and went on, resulting in them both wrapped in barbed wire. Public Enemy went to WWF and were set upon by Bradshaw and Farooq in a nasty fashion, and Taylor was not happy with it. Interesting story.
Then The Mole is discussed, which was nothing really, and this leads to the talent raids on ECW. Taylor, who was with WCW now, said he never took anyone who did not call him first. This leads to a talk about Rob Van Dam. Simon Diamond was a fan. Raven not so much. New Jack was as well. Jerry Lynn loved working with him. This leads to a brief talk about Jerry Lynn.
Now we go to TNN. The look was awful. People were jumping ship. Styles even said that the show was a bunch of matches cut together, and the business wasn’t doing that anymore. They talk the Mike Awesome jump to WCW. Mike did one more appearance and dropped the ECW belt to Tazz, a WWF wrestler. Kash said Bischoff tried to talk Awesome into dumping the belt on TV. Sinister Minister tells a long story about a stunt that went wrong that almost cost him his hand, and led to a confrontation with a hospital chaplain.
We then go into a talk about there being no money and people not getting paid. Again Simon Diamond has a realistic take on it and why people stayed. Francine said she believed Paul’s stories, but had her doubts. Then when people found out he got paid for the film Rollerball, they were annoyed. Francine said she eventually got her money from all 10 cheques that bounced. But then cheques didn’t come at all. Sandman says the locker room was still unified, but now it was against Paul.
Then Paul appeared on Raw, and all hopes for the continuation of ECW died.
We have a graphic that says in June 2005 WWE would be holding an ECW show and Shane Douglas would hold Hardcore Homecoming. Funk talks about a WWE contract he was offered, and why he went to Douglas’ show instead.
Under the credits we have some extra stories (including Francine saying her facials were caused by Shane Douglas farting on her).
Borash has put together an entertaining, warts and all documentary that shows a love for ECW, but not a sugar-coating. It lacked Paul Heyman, the Dudleys and Tommy Dreamer, but that was about all that felt missing. Sandman came across as intelligent, New Jack as insane. Simon Diamond as someone who understands a hell of a lot, Terry Taylor as someone with interesting insight, and Kid Kash as someone actually entertaining and who loves the business. Everyone else were as I thought they’d be. This was a Shane Douglas-centric look at ECW, but it was really well done and put together.
‘Barbed Wire City’ (2013)
This is a completely unauthorised film, made possible by a Kickstarter campaign, and took more than a decade to complete.
We open with the sort of talking head and footage montage that opens WWE docos, only much longer. And then we open with an ECW reunion show being established. Shane Douglas is there and he talks about it being a nostalgia trip.
Tod Gordon now starts the history lesson, and they talk Eastern Championship Wrestling starting in a sports bar. Eddie Gilbert was brought in as a booker who knew what he was doing. But Eddie had drug issues, however he did bring in Terry Funk as a commentator. They moved into Viking Hall, which became ECW arena, and crowds grew. They also became a part of the show, with regulars. Hat guy is even interviewed. The wrestlers hated the fans at first, though. Rocco Rock says they were the best fans anywhere. Wade Keller says that ECW rewarded the fans better than any entertainment group before or since.
We move to Paul Heyman, and people say he was a great guy, but also untrustworthy. It was Gilbert who brought Paul into ECW. Gordon says that he was talking to NWA in order to join and also Jim Crockett, and this made Gilbert quit. Gilbert apparently blamed Paul and said he backstabbed him, but this is denied by Gordon who said he was going to dump Gilbert anyway. Keller talks about Gilbert’s “demons”. Gilbert made a passionate farewell speech, but it pissed some people off.
Wrestling had become a cartoon and boring and non-violent, according to a lot of the interviewees. They then said that where Gilbert made himself the focus, Heyman stepped back, which was a different way of doing things. Apparently his stories of not having a life outside of ECW were true. He had a vision of violence. Billy Corgan describes it really well. Everyone interviewed say here that ECW revolutionised the wrestling world. Paul’s motivation and passion was contagious.
Things break into an honest discussion of blading. We even have Frank Talent of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission saying he turned a blind eye to ECW because they had strict rules about blood.
Blood leads into talking about Tommy Dreamer and the stupidly dangerous bumps he took. Axl Rotten is asked how the fans could have stopped wanting more violence and he responds with, “Never started.” He comes across really well here.
Back to the ECW reunion show. Blue Meanie calls ECW the Land of Misfit Toys and the Little Company that Could.
Back to 1995 and they were on syndicated TV, and sold tapes. Gordon said the tape sales kept them alive in the early years. They were one of the first wrestling companies to see the value of the internet. Dave Meltzer gives them props for making new stars.
We start talking about the Travelodge party that was apparently never-ending. New Jack talks about the ring rats.
Now we talk about the injuries the guys wrestled with. Gordon says it was real. Keller says they went overboard, and that some of the guys had no talent and used violence to make up for it. Sandman rationalises it amazingly well. Meltzer agrees with Keller. Axl Rotten rationalises it well. Rotten talks about the barbed wire baseball bat match with Ian Rotten and the scars it left on him, and says it was the biggest mistake he ever made because he wasn’t appreciated for it. This leads to discussion of unprotected chair shots and hyper-violence. Rocco Rock claims that he was doing high dives and moves before the Mexicans ever did.
Now the discussion turns to Bischoff and how much he hated ECW and especially Heyman. They talk about WCW taking talent and not doing anything with them, even talent that had been around for years with no interest shown before.
Back to the reunion show and Axl Rotten looks and sounds totally different. He says he has been clean for a year, and he admits he has Bells palsy, like Jim Ross. But he still wrestles.
We talk the first ECW PPV. Talk of a PPV kept wrestlers with ECW. Now we start talking about Paul’s liberties with the truth. But a PPV was getting closer, and this time it was real. However, that was when the Mass Transit/Eric Kulas incident happened. Axl Rotten no-showed (he says here he never got a plane ticket from Paul so he didn’t go) and Kulas was there, told Heyman he was 19, had been wrestling for 2 1/2 years and was trained by Kowalski, according to Shane Douglas. So they put him in there with the Gangstas, and he asks New Jack to help him look good. New Jack says he thought it was a rib, then realised it was for real. Scherer says that this kid had to bleed, so he asks New Jack to cut him. New Jack tries to refuse, but the kid insists. And so it happens and it was like a faucet. Gabe Sapolsky was filming it and was shaking. Meltzer says it made him hate professional wrestling; Jason Powell says it was disgusting. Douglas says he will not defend Paul, but he heard the kid tell Paul those things and the kid was at fault. New Jack went to trial and was acquitted. Meltzer says it was the low point of ECW. Rob Feinstein put the footage for sale on his website, and then the PPV deal fell through.
Back to the reunion show, and the news that Sabu was found unconscious in his hotel room. Douglas is not a happy camper. Raven says it’s drugs. Sabu is taken away to hospital.
A fan campaign – led by a fan named Tony Lewis – rallied and hassled the PPV companies until they agreed to give ECW a PPV. They had to bring in extra power generators and they cleaned and painted the ECW arena. Everyone was scared. The fans and wrestlers did not want it to fail, and they made sure it succeeded. They almost ran out of time. The PPV went off the air, and then the generators finally blew 15 seconds later. Even without a mic, Heyman gave a speech to the audience and they fell quiet to hear it.
They start to talk about the Elks Lodge in Queens, and Paul says when you find a home, even if something nicer comes along, you don’t abandon it. Tony Lewis comes up again as the über-fan. Paul acknowledges him as well.
We catch up with Tony Lewis at the reunion show. He gets emotional about it all.
Ronnie Atlas, security guy, talks about how hairy it was, especially when the Dudleys were there. Riots and near-riots everywhere. Bubba on the mic was apparently dangerous. Keller thought the incitement of the fans was ridiculous. Sign Guy Dudley thought he brought it to the right level with the fans. Scherer says the fans knew the act and knew what they were going to see and hear. But Keller thinks the fans took it too far. Axl Rotten put some good perspective on it. Balls Mahoney tells of the time he was beaten up by the fans, and it leads to a riot. The first one he started, apparently. Keller says that they made a bad choice in not compromising when they went in front of a national audience.
We start to look at the ultra-violence they brought. New Jack then tells about how Paul was annoyed with him (“one of the many times”) so he had the Gangstas on job duty. To make people not remember the winner, New Jack decided to dive off the balconies. But the violence and stunt shows really held them back.
Then there was the look of the PPVs, and Paul was spending the money from future earnings to keep things afloat. Stevie Richards regrets going to WCW the way he did. Mikey Whipwreck and Sandman both left because of money. Things were taking a physical toll on Paul as well. Money was so tight that they needed to get on national television. August 1999, they were on TNN, and they got a video game deal and action figure deal.
We’re back in the now and Balls Mahoney (man, his forehead looks like Abdullah’s) and Axl Rotten claim to be the last outlaws left in professional wrestling. Jerry Lynn talks finally retiring.
Back to the TNN deal, and Paul had to actually have contracts. Keller says it was “doomed to not be the same” when things went national and that Heyman couldn’t actually work that out. And then Dudleys and Taz left when they got TV. Meltzer said ECW didn’t grow with national TV. And then TNN’s owner Viacom started to negotiate with WWF, so ECW was a test run for getting the WWF on air. Things fell apart and money fell behind seriously. Paul gave them promise after promise. Paul tried to get money from Billy Corgan, but he valued the company at $10 million and it fell through. New Jack says Paul lost it mentally. Axl Rotten says he’s not a genius or God’s gift to wrestling – it was the wrestlers. Angel said everyone wanted to believe. Steve Corino said that the money that came was irregular but that made everyone hopeful. Wrestlers felt trapped. Everyone says they got no money but they believed in the product. New Jack is not complimentary of Heyman at all.
Paul tried and tried, but every deal fell through. The last show was January 13, 2001 in Arkansas. Paul wasn’t even there. But for months the wrestlers held out hope. New Jack puts a good analogy here. Then Paul turned up on Raw and everyone knew it was over, even though no-one said anything. Meltzer says that the company didn’t die because of Paul’s financial mismanagement, but because of circumstances.
WWE bought ECW, put out their DVD, did the PPVs, and even had a new ‘ECW’. Meltzer says ECW broke even, but Vince McMahon made all the money. Balls Mahoney said ECW going under made him attempt suicide.
Meltzer says the reunion shows were pure nostalgia. Mike Johnson says that the first Extreme Rising show was not a good one from a booking standpoint. New Jack agrees. Then they talk about the Raven non-match, and mention the people who turned up on drugs (“enabled by chemicals”) for the show. Stevie Richards says that’s a big no-no; even New Jack says that it sucks to do that. Then, even though everyone knows Sabu isn’t coming, out comes Shane Douglas and cuts an ill-advised promo. The Extreme Reunion concept looks just as ill-advised.
A look back with the tyranny of distance follows.
Extreme Rising continued to hold shows, but cancelled their April 2013 events.
A complete warts-and-all look back, that was much more balanced, and actually a little more depressing. Billy Corgan was an interesting choice of interviewee, and he was actually good in the role. Balls Mahony and Axl Rotten were fascinating, but this really lacked Paul, Dreamer, Funk, Taz and the Dudleys. Another fine documentary. And, truth be told, the pick of the bunch.
Okay, so what did I learn? Quite a bit, actually. Each of the documentaries brings something different to the table, and I think I needed to watch all 3 in order to get a feel for what ECW actually was. None of these was completely comprehensive. All had certain biases or lacked the input of certain people. None is the actual, definitive, be-all and end-all of ECW documentaries. But watching them all, especially now, gives as close to definitive as it’s ever likely to get.
Still, my new-found knowledge includes:
Axl Rotten and Sandman surprised me with their intelligence and insight, as well as Simon Diamond to a lesser degree. Kid Kash seems like a pretty decent guy. Eric Bischoff really knew what was what in wrestling. ECW was very cult-like; everyone says so. New Jack is obsessed with ring rats. The Mass Transit incident (I’ve now seen it as well – my friend showed me) was the single sickest thing I have seen in wrestling and I think everyone involved from the kid to Paul were to blame, and I am surprised ECW survived it. The crucifixion angle was blown out of all proportion. ECW was a breeding ground for fine wrestlers, but also for not so fine wrestlers. They like their slogans – e.g. Land of Misfit Toys. The ECW crowds were as insane as the wrestlers. ECW was a niche joy, looked back upon more fondly than it was looked on at the time. It did actually change the way we view wrestling, adding a sense of realism that had been missing for quite a while. It also took things too far. Paul Heyman was a smart wrestling man, but his charisma was his fallback position, instead of honesty or anything else.
And I still don’t know why Tod Gordon left.
I have a greater appreciation for just what ECW was and what it did and what it stood for. In Australia we got it second hand through video tapes, but now, with the value of hindsight, they actually did change the wrestling landscape. A little indy promotion from Philadelphia managed to change things in ways that we are still feeling today. Without ECW, someone who is built like and looks like me would never have been given a chance – even indy wrestling in Australia demanded Adonises or wrestling athletes with a fighting background. ECW allowed me to have the opportunity to pursue my dreams. Now, I was never a hardcore wrestler – I’ve bladed 3 whole times in my life – but it was the look. The little guys. The overweight guys. The non-athletes. And we were booked to hide our deficiencies, because Paul Heyman showed us all that that was possible.
ECW was a remarkable thing, and I have to say, 7 1/2 hours of watching ECW documentaries may not be healthy for any human being, but it has made me see things differently. Very differently.
Tags: ECW, Eric Bischoff, Jeremy Borash, kid kash, Mick Foley, new jack, Paul Heyman, raven, sandman, Shane Douglas, Taz, tommy dreamer, vince mcmahon, WCW, WWE, WWF