ECW started as a small, Philadelphia-based local wrestling company, but rapidly became a sensation that built a passionate fan base and influenced both WCW and WWE permanently. Extreme Championship Wrestling was known for its intense matches, fan interaction, and introducing a number of future superstars to the general public, including Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Sandman, Taz, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, the Dudley Boyz, Rob Van Dam, Shane Douglas, and more. Now for the first time in years, ECW returns to home entertainment with The Biggest Matches in ECW History. Hosted by the longtime unmistakable voice of ECW, Joey Styles, this home video release collects some of the most amazing and over-the-top matches in ECW history, some of which have never before been released on DVD.
From 1992 until its ignominious end in 2001, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) offered a full-tilt-gonzo alternative to the "Big Two" (World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation) in raw, bloody, no-holds-barred matches featuring a cadre of future stars like Mick "Mankind" Foley, Rob Van Dam, and Shane Douglas, as well as past veterans like Terry Funk; the promotion's wild history is detailed through some of its best-known matches in volume one of the retrospective DVD series ECW Unleashed
. Ringside announcer Joey Styles, the voice of ECW during its heyday, serves as host for the three-disc set, detailing its rise from a Philadelphia-based offshoot of the National Wrestling Alliance to a genuine contender with its own pay-per-view specials and a talent stable that rivaled the majors. Said talent included the aforementioned grapplers, as well as up-and-comers like Bam Bam Bigelow, Taz, and the absurdly athletic Sabu, each of whom delivered ECW's signature brand of rules-free mayhem, which included violent gimmick matches such as Singapore cane and Flaming Table matches, as well as Mexican lucha libre and Japanese wrestling. By the late '90s, ECW was attracting a sizable viewership, as well as the attention of WWE and WCW, which lured away its biggest names with high-priced salaries; the mass migration, combined with other financial issues, spelled the promotion's doom in 2001, and it was soon absorbed by WWE.
But its best brawls live on in the memories of ECW fans, who will undoubtedly appreciate the trip down memory lane via some of the league's biggest matches (preserved in the less-than-high-fidelity presentation of '90s-era TV), including the 1994 World Heavyweight Championship match between Douglas and 2 Cold Scorpio, which marked the launch of ECW as its own entity, as well as the momentous 1998 championship bout between Van Dam and Jerry Lynn. Styles's commentary also touches briefly on the low points in ECW history, including the suicide death of Mike Awesome and the money issues that led to the league's downfall, though these are given less airtime than the highlight reels. In short, it's nearly as complete a package as ECW fans might want from a retrospective DVD, save for its surprising lack of extras. These can be found on the Blu-ray edition of the set, which includes two grueling matches from 1994, including Tommy Dreamer vs. Jimmy Snuka and a grisly triangle match between Sabu, Douglas, and the seemingly indestructible Terry Funk. --Paul Gaita