Friday 17 April 2015

ECW Unreleased Vol. 3 DVD Review By Richard Edmund

In the third instalment of WWE's continuing series of 'ECW Unreleased' DVDs, ECW alumi Joey Styles and the bWo (Stevie Richards & the Blue Meanie) present another batch of classic ECW matches yet to be released on WWE Home Video. The format remains unchanged, with either backstage promos or introductions from the hosts providing context for the matches, of which there are twenty three (with a further five matches exclusive to the Blu-Ray version) that span the course of ECW's history. As with previous sets, copyright issues prevent much of the original entrance music being used, while edits are made for swearing.

Disc 1 -

ECW Tag Team Championship: Shane Douglas & Tommy Dreamer (c) vs The Tazmaniac & Kevin Sullivan, w/ Woman
  - Hardcore TV, December 14th, 1993

The first match on the set sees one-half of the ECW Tag Team Champions, Tommy Dreamer, attempting to take on The Tazmaniac & Kevin Sullivan on his own (his partner, Johnny Gunn, unable to be there due to bad weather). However, Shane Douglas comes down to the ring to offer his aid, which Tommy accepts. Unwisely, as it turns out. This is a fairly standard tag match, more notable for the post-match angle. Dreamer & Taz take on the bulk of the work, with some solid exchanges on the mat before Taz gains the upper hand, making quick tags with Sullivan to keep Tommy isolated. The crowd are lively as Dreamer struggles to make the hot tag, Douglas urging him on from the ring apron. He and Taz collide in the centre of the ring and then race to tag in their respective partners. Taz tags in Sullivan, then a second later Dreamer tags in Douglas to a big roar from the crowd. Sullivan backs off into his corner and Woman jumps up on the apron, distracting the ref. Douglas then pulls a chain from his boot and nails Dreamer with it! Inexplicably, Taz covers Dreamer (who isn't the legal man) and the ref counts the pinfall to make The Tazmaniac & Kevin Sullivan new ECW Tag Team Champions.

ECW Television Championship: Too Cold Scorpio (c) vs Dean Malenko
  - Hardcore TV, November 29th, 1994

Promo from Scorpio pre-match, mostly targeted at Taz who he was feuding with at the time. This match holds up very well, both men at the top of their game and putting on a great wrestling display, even if the audience wasn't entirely appreciative of the more methodical pace in the first two thirds. After a tentative start Malenko, surprisingly, finds himself well grounded by the high-flyer Too Cold Scorpio, who does a great job of controlling Malenko on the mat. Eventually, Scorpio introduces his aerial offence into the game and it almost costs him, as Malenko sidesteps a tope suicida and Too Cold crashes into the barricade, but a few minutes later he surprises Malenko with a big springboard back elbow and the tide turns again in his favour. A huge victory roll off the top-rope almost scores Scorpio the three count, but as he tries to follow up with a moonsault Dean rolls out of the way, grabs Scorpio's prone body and hits a vicious spinning neckbreaker to become the new ECW Television Champion. 

ECW Championship: Shane Douglas (c) vs Ron Simmons
  - Hardcore TV, January 24th, 1995

The always self-important Shane Douglas calls out Ron Simmons and says he's going to wipe the floor with the 'All-American' and give the Floridian fans a lesson in wrestling. Simmons accepts, only to get sucker punched by the champion. It isn't long before Simmons makes him pay, however, beating him from pillar to post and hitting a beautiful powerbomb for a near-fall. The match spills to the floor and Douglas takes full advantage, grabbing a chair and beating Simmons with it, before hitting a flatliner on the concrete. Douglas goes to work, mercilessly punishing Simmons' now injured left shoulder. The All-American almost turns the tide with a gorilla press, but his arm won't take the weight and Douglas returns to tearing at the limb. He goes up top, but Simmons manages to cut him off and tries to slam him back down to the mat, but Douglas grabs hold of the injured arm and leaps to the floor, hanging Ron's arm over the ropes! Simmons wants to continue, but Scorpio runs down to the ring and calls a stop to the match. Douglas crows about his victory, before running down Florida and laying out an open challenge as trash flies into the ring. Shane's about to leave, when his challenge is answered by Tully Blanchard! Big punches from Tully, followed by a slingshot suplex as the TV broadcast comes to a close. This was fun, a solid match and a big reaction for Tully. 

ECW Tag Team Championship No-DQ Match: The Public Enemy (c) vs Sabu & Tazmaniac
  - Hardcore TV, January 31st, 1995

I was never much of a Public Enemy fan and their promos have aged even worse than their matches. The match starts with a brawl before the challengers take control. Sabu hits a legdrop on the apron and a twisting Arabian press senton, in spite of a fractured ankle. A moonsault from Sabu almost ends it, but Rocco Rock makes the save for his tag partner. Taz dumps him on his head with a Tazplex, but Rocco gets his foot on the ropes to break the pin. The match spills to the floor and all four guys brawl around the arena. It isn't long before Johnny Grunge is bleeding all over the place as the match completely breaks down. Eventually Public Enemy get Sabu back in the ring and try to isolate him, but he hits a big lionsault press to floor both men. Taz gets back in and hits a nasty double suplex that knocks Grunge loopy. Taz places him up top and sets up a table. He climbs up and tries for a superplex, but Grunge pushes him off through the table and makes the 3-count. At the same time, Sabu springboards to the outside and puts Rocco through a table, but is far too late to make the save for Taz. Paul E & 911 hit the ring, 911 chokeslams Rocco and then the referee, which the crowd just loved. This was a bit of a mess, but the brawl around the arena was fun and just about all Public Enemy were good for.

Taz & Eddie Guerrero vs 2 Cold Scorpio & Dean Malenko
  - Hardcore TV, July 25th, 1995

Announced as a 'Dream Tag Team Match', this one certainly lives up to the billing. Big reactions for all four men, especially Eddie Guerrero who was the ECW Television Champion at that point. Malenko starts out with Eddie in the ring, some nice exchanges on the mat, but one fan decides to chant "BORING!" and Paul E gets on the mic and puts him in his place. Taz & Scorpio tag in and immediately start trading blows. Taz eventually catches him with a huge overhead belly-to-belly suplex and Scorpion scrambles to tag in Malenko. More solid exchanges on the mat, which continues to irritate some members of the crowd, who respond with more "boring" chants. Eddie gets in and catches Malenko with a big senton atomico before knocking him silly with a brainbuster. Quick tags as Guerrero & Taz keep Malenko from his corner, but a nice backdrop driver on Taz allows dean to make the tag to Scorpio. 

There's a great moment where 2 Cold goes for a hurricanrana, but Taz just swats him away and drops down into a kneebar to force Scorpio to the ropes. Eddie wraps Scorpio up in the Gory Special, only for Malenko to break the hold. Eddie then tries for a powerbomb, but Scorpio flips out of it, hits a dropkick and just nails Eddie to the mat with a powerbomb. Scorpio and Dean do a great job of controlling Eddie, but he eventually gets the big hot tag and the match breaks down, the action fast and furious. The finish comes when Malenko goes for a hip-toss, but Eddie smartly floats over and rolls up Dean for the win. This was an exciting tag, lots of action and it was interesting to see how negatively the crowd responded to the mat work. 

Olympic Rules: Cactus Jack vs Sabu
  - Holiday Hell, December 29th, 1995

Cactus cuts an impassioned promo about a disabled fan with a dream and says he wants to make someone else's dream come true tonight, claiming that it's Sabu's dream to wrestle an Olympic Rules match and prove to everyone he can wrestle without putting people through tables and hitting them with chairs. The referee comes to the ring and details the NCAA rules the match will be officiated under, the crowd hating every minute of it. Sabu comes to the ring, but doesn't seem to understand what's going on. Thankfully, 911 enters and quickly disposes of the referee with a huge chokeslam, before telling Cactus that the match will be under Hardcore Rules and that 911's the new ref. Sabu quickly seizes the initiative and nails Cactus with a chair, before hitting a beautiful step-up tope suicida. Sabu continues to punish Jack with some frantic offence, trying to keep his momentum going, but when he leaps off a chair into the corner, Cactus catches him with a big back elbow to the jaw. Cactus slams the chair over Sabu's back, before hitting a double-arm DDT for a near-fall. Another double-arm DDT, this time over the chair, but again Sabu kicks out. 

Cactus takes the fight to the floor, scoring with his elbow drop off the apron, but Sabu turns things around when a fan hands him a chair and he throws it in Jack's face. The match completely breaks down from this point on, Cactus & Sabu brawling about ringside and then trying to bring a table into play. Cactus eventually gets kicked off the apron and crashes down hard through the table. Sabu takes full advantage, getting Jack in the ring and hitting some devastating looking offence, including a springboard Arabian facebuster with a chair and an Arabian press moonsault that sees Sabu's knee crash down hard into the frame of the chair. Jack fights back with some nasty headbutts before just gouging and tearing at Sabu's face. He tries to haul Sabu up for a bodyslam, but Sabu shifts his weight and comes crashing down on Jack, 911 counting to three to give Sabu the win. This was an action packed match that the crowd certainly enjoyed. I wasn't a fan of Jack hitting all his big offence early on, only for Sabu to kick out and some of Sabu's offence was so reckless.

Rey Mysterio & 911 vs The Eliminators
  - House Party, January 5th, 1996

The final match on disc one starts with Taz trying to beat up Joey Styles, at the behest of Bill Alfonso, before 911 hits the ring. Taz and 911 have a staredown, but 911 gets jumped by The Eliminators, Perry Saturn & John Kronus. The Eliminators hit Total Elimination and continue to put the boots to 911, before Rey Mysterio Jr. launches himself in the ring to make the save. Rey hits some big armdrags and a beautiful moonsault off the ring post, keeping both Eliminators off balance with his speed and agility. However, the numbers game puts pay to Mysterio's momentum and The Eliminators regain control of the match, punishing Rey with some big suplexes and a standing moonsault from Kronus for a near-fall. 911 eventually revives and tries to help out Rey, but gets caught with another Total Elimination. 

Saturn hits a vicious powerbomb on Mysterio for a close two count, but when the Eliminators shoot Rey off the ropes he catches them with a double DDT! Rey gets on 911's shoulders and The Eliminators think he's calling for a chicken fight, only for Rey to leap off 911 and hurricanrana Saturn from Kronus' shoulders! Rey makes the cover and pins Saturn to win the contest, but The Eliminators are enraged and floor Rey with a third Total Elimination. The Pitbulls hit the ring and start brawling with The Eliminators to bring disc one to a close. This was a fun match, albeit rather sloppy. 911 didn't have a lot to do and wasn't moving well, so the bulk of the work was on The Eliminators and Rey Mysterio, who the crowd just loved. 

Disc 2 - 

Cactus Jack vs Bam Bam Bigelow
  - Just Another Night, February 23rd, 1996

Disc two begins with one of Cactus Jack's last matches in ECW before he left for the WWF to become Mankind. Having revealed this a few weeks earlier, he plays up to the fan's discontent with a "WW f'n F" t-shirt and has the bWo (Big Stevie Cool and Meanie) out to celebrate his impending success. Bigelow loses patience and clotheslines both members of the bWo out of the ring, prompting Cactus to get on the mic and ask Bam Bam to go easy on him as he doesn't want to get injured before his big chance working for the McMahons. Unsurprisingly, Bigelow doesn't agree and sets to beating Cactus from pillar to post, only to get a thumb to the eye that gives Jack the advantage. Cactus works over Bam Bam, raking at his eyes and putting the boots in, before hitting a double-arm DDT, only for Bigelow to kick out at two and a half. Jack chokes Bigelow in the ropes and the bWo get some cheap shots in, but when Cactus goes for an Irish whip, Bam Bam reverses it and hits a big clothesline to pin Cactus out of nowhere! The bWo jump Bam Bam, but he shrugs them off only for Taz to surprise him from behind, hitting a big t-bone suplex before choking him out with the Tazmission. The match was rather on the short side and Bam Bam didn't really get to show off much of his exciting offence, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

ECW Television Championship: Chris Jericho (c) vs Shane Douglas
  - Allentown, PA, July 12th, 1996

Chris Jericho made his ECW debut in February 1996 and, just four months later, had captured the ECW Television Title from Pitbull #2. Already a big fan favourite, Jericho faced tough opposition here in the form of The Franchise, Shane Douglas. The Lionheart did a great job of controlling his larger opponent in the outset of the match, but a missed plancha to the floor caused the momentum to shift in The Franchise's favour. Only momentarily, however, as Jericho caught him with a superkick before hitting an inside-out springboard crossbody. Jericho's in complete control as he hits Shane with a chair, before suplexing him in the ring. He goes for the Lionsault, but Douglas leaps to his feet and takes Jericho out of mid-air with a dropkick! The Franchise goes to work, slowing down the pace of the match and doing a lot of damage to Jericho's mid-section. Douglas hits a big piledriver on top of a baking tray and almost manages to put the champion away, while a folding powerbomb earns him the nearest of near-falls possible. Jericho is in a bad way, until he manages to catch Douglas with a hurricanrana for a near-fall of his own. Jericho finally hits the Lionsault and rolls up The Franchise, but the time-limit expires before the count of three and the match is declared a draw. Douglas cheap shots Jericho as he's arguing with the ref, hitting a belly-to-belly suplex on the television title belt. A solid match here, Douglas always knew how to infuriate the crowd with his promos and his wrestling and he did both here, while allowing Jericho to show off the skills that made him such a popular performer.

ECW Championship: Raven (c) vs Tommy Dreamer
  - Hardcore TV, August 13th, 1996

From the legendary Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, this ECW Championship match took place on an event co-hosted by ECW & IWA Japan, an infamous promotion known for it's blood & guts style and where Cactus Jack cemented his legacy a year prior in the Kawasaki King of the Deathmatch tournament. An intense Tommy Dreamer forces Raven into the corner after the opening bell and, in spite of giving him a clean break, Tommy then spits in Raven's face, which garners a big reaction from the hardcore Japanese fans in attendance. Raven charges at Dreamer and the two roll to the floor, the Champion gaining the advantage after he slams Tommy's head into a ringside table. He gets back in the ring, but misses a dropkick and Dreamer hits the ropes before crashing down with a headbutt to Raven's nether regions. Big "He's Hardcore!" chants from the audience, as Tommy stacks a chair in the ropes before baseball sliding it into Raven's face. Fans hold up chairs for Tommy to throw Raven into and go wild at the sight of Raven's blood, before scampering out of the way as the wrestlers brawl through the seats. Dreamer tries for a suplex, but Raven reverses it and dumps Tommy hard onto the concrete floor. Raven busts Tommy open with some chair shots to the face, before getting Dreamer back in the ring, placing a chair over his head and hitting a big legdrop.

Raven DDT's Tommy into a set-up chair but, somehow, dreamer kicks out at two. He throws Dreamer to the outside and sets him up on the timekeeper's table, but meets the curse of the Japanese Table as it doesn't break when he tries to drive Tommy through it. Tommy sends Raven crashing head first into the ring post and then suplexes the table onto Raven! Now it's Tommy's turn to take Raven on a trip through the crowd, painting the walls of Korakuen Hall red with the Champion's blood. He throws Raven down the stairs and poses with the fans, only to be superkicked from behind by Stevie Richards! Big Stevie Cool rolls both men back into the ring and Raven makes the cover, but again Dreamer kicks out. Raven holds Dreamer in place for a Stevie Kick, but Tommy ducks and Stevie hits the Champ! Stevie goes up top, but Dreamer crotches him on the ropes and sidesteps as Raven charges with a dropkick that sends Stevie crashing to the floor. DDT from Dreamer, but the Champ kicks out at two. Miss Patricia tries to get involved on behalf of the Champion, but Beullah grabs a hold of her and throws her to Tommy, who hits a sick piledriver. Raven, however, catches him in the face with a chair, before hitting him right in the temple with the chair's metal frame and pinning him for the three count. This was great! The fans were wild throughout and, although there were maybe one too many shenanigans in the final third, for the most part this was a fun, hardcore brawl.

ECW Tag Team Championship: The Eliminators (c) vs The Dudleys
  - Hostile City Showdown, March 15th, 1997

Lots of stalling from The Dudleys before we get things started, Saturn locking up with Devon. Although not known for his technical wrestling ability, Devon surprisingly finds himself in control as he works a hammerlock on Saturn. He hits the ropes and Saturn cuts him off, hitting a pair of deep arm drags before tagging into Kronus. Devon backs off and confers with his half-brother, before tagging in Bubba Ray. Bubba hits the ropes, only to meet a mule kick from Kronus, followed by a huge powerslam for a near-fall. Handspring back elbow from Kronus before tagging in Saturn, who floors Bubba with a reverse springboard spin kick! Saturn absolutely spikes Bubba with a Frankensteiner, but the match breaks down as Devon makes the save for his half-brother. All four men start brawling on the floor and we lose sight of Bubba & Saturn as they fight behind the bleachers, the cameras instead following Devon & Kronus through the crowd as they trade chair shots to the head. They all end up in front of the commentary desk and The Eliminators tease tandem suplexes, but The Dudleys cut them off and fight back to the ring.

Saturn catches Devon with a side Russian legsweep and tries for a Lionsault, slipping off the middle-rope on the first attempt, but landing it on the second. Bubba gets up on the apron, but Saturn dropkicks back to the floor and over the guardrail, before letting fly with a big springboard plancha! Again the match breaks down into a brawl and The Dudleys gain the upper hand, Devon hitting a nice frog splash for a two count on Saturn. Boss Man Slam on a steel chair, Saturn's taking a hell of a beating as a very bloody Kronus urges him on from the ring apron. Bubba gets in and tries to wear Saturn down with strikes, but Saturn tells him to bring it before hitting a dropkick and making the hot-tag. Kronus comes in like a house on fire, beating both Dudleys around the ring, but when he gets caught with an ace crusher Saturn has to make the save and return to the match before he's had a chance to rest. He holds his own against the bigger Bubba Ray, but when he shoots him into the ropes he doesn't notice Devon approaching from behind and gets caught with the 3D for the three count! This was fine, a bit overly long perhaps and I could have done without the lengthy and largely meaningless brawl.

Grudge Match: Taz vs Rob Van Dam
  - Hostile City Showdown, March 15th, 1997

Taz offers Van Dam a chair to start with, but as Rob dives for the chair Taz dives on top of him and grabs a front facelock. Rob bridges out smartly and grabs an armlock, but Taz counters into a northern lights suplex. Taz tries to follow up, but Mr.Monday Night's speed comes into play and he floors Taz with a spinning heel kick. Big tope suicida from RVD, both men crashing hard into the guardrail. Taz struggles to get back in the ring and, once he does so, Van Dam meets him with a double-underhook facebuster and hits Rolling Thunder for a two-count. RVD tries for the heel kick again, but Taz ducks under and just throws Rob overhead with a huge German suplex. He goes to work on Rob, punishing him with strikes and locking in a weird-looking STF variation that forces RVD into the ropes. RVD almost scores the win when Taz charges him in the corner, but he leaps above him and hits a sunset flip for a near-fall, only for Taz to demolish him with a t-bone suplex. Taz whips RVD into the corner, but Rob leaps up onto the middle rope and hits a reverse heel kick before bailing to the outside and grabbing a chair. He throws the chair to Taz and hits the Van Daminator for a huge near-fall! Rob follows up with a split-legged moonsault, a chair laying across Taz's chest, but the move does as much damage to him as it does Taz and RVD can't make the cover. Rob whips Taz into the ropes and ducks under, but Taz leaps on his back and locks in the Tazmission! RVD struggles desperately to make it to the ropes, but Taz drops down and locks in the choke, forcing the referee to stop the match! Good match here, there was no wasted movement, no real downtime, just a great back-and-forth contest from bell to bell.

#1 Contender 3-Way Dance: Sandman vs Big Stevie Cool vs Raven
  - Ashbury Park, NJ, May 2nd, 1997

As per usual, Sandman takes an age to get to the ring, busting himself open on spent beer cans in the process. It lacks something without 'Enter Sandman' playing over the speakers. Raven's flunky, Lupus, mocks the Sandman but ends up spitting beer into his own eyes. What a goof. Lupus cuts a promo on Sandman that's entirely lost as the crowd boo over him, then Sandman spits beer in his face and tells him to get out of the ring, before launching himself over the ropes with surprising grace and whacking Lupus about the side of the head with a Singapore cane! Raven jumps Sandman as he gets back into the ring and the match is under way. Some nice three-way exchanges early on, Sandman coming out on top with some big punches before he's blindsided by Lupus with the Singapore cane. Raven tries to convince Stevie to rejoin The Nest, but Stevie throws a superkick his way, only to connect with the Sandman. The bWo's music hits and the other members of the bWo come down to ringside to confront Stevie and find out where his loyalties lie. They don't get very far, however, as Sandman crashes into them before diving over the ropes and wiping out most of the bWo. Raven takes a chair to Sandman's head and absolutely wallops him. That had to be a concussion, so nasty. The bWo retreat to the back. What a pointless interlude in the middle of the match. 

Sandman catches Richards with a big DDT, but Raven breaks up the pinfall. Raven throws Sandman hard into the guardrail and hits more disgusting chair shots to the head, leaving Sandman a bloody mess. Raven turns his attentions to Stevie, but Sandman surprises him from behind and rolls him up to eliminate Raven from the match! Stevie then hits a picture-perfect Stevie Kick, flooring Sandman and earning himself the #1 contendership for the ECW Championship! The Champion, wrestling legend Terry Funk, makes his way to ringside and gives Stevie his title opportunity right away. No time to rest for the leader of the bWo, as Funk clotheslines him out of the ring and throws him through a table. Terry is giving the challenger next to nothing here as he mercilessly works over his leg. Raven hits the ring and, for some reason, attacks the referee before attacking Funk. Stevie tries to take advantage, but the ref's still out of it and a well placed Stevie Kick goes to waste. Eventually the referee revives, just in time to see Funk hit a DDT and pin Richards to retain his title. The 3-way portion of the match was real enjoyable, but the momentum was somewhat broken by the bWo's interjection. Terry Funk put some great work in as he dismantled Stevie, but the finish was ultimately overbooked and unsatisfying.

Disc 3 - 

ECW Championship Match: Shane Douglas (c) vs Bam Bam Bigelow
  - Hardcore TV, October 25th, 1997

'The Franchise' Shane Douglas gets on the mic and runs down the fans, only to be interrupted by 'Ravishing' Rick Rude who tells Shane he's lined him up a tough competitor in the form of Bam Bam Bigelow. Douglas does not take the news well and Bam Bam wastes little time in taking the fight to the ECW Champion. Huge splash in the corner from Bigelow, who just manhandles Douglas about the ring, throwing him about like it's nothing. Nasty bump as Bam Bam press slams Shane onto the top rope and he goes crashing to the floor, his head hitting the timekeeper's table on the way down. Bigelow continues his assault but hasn't even gone for a pin, which costs him as Douglas catches him on the jaw with a superkick before hitting a nice springboard crossbody for a two count. Douglas puts the boots to Bam Bam and shows great strength as he lifts the near-400 pound Bigelow into a vertical suplex. Shane peppers Bigelow with chops, but it just makes the big man angry. Shane hits the ropes and gets caught in a huge hangman's neckbreaker. Shane tries to go for a side-suplex, but Bigelow turns it into a DDT in mid-air! He effortlessly hoists Douglas up and slams him back down to the mat with a devastating powerbomb press to earn the three count and become new ECW Champion! The match took forever to start, but the heat for Rude and Francine was immense. Once it got going this was a lot of fun, the match just flew by and the crowd were loving every minute of it. Great reaction for Bam Bam's win, as well.

Lance Storm vs Chris Candido
  - Cyber Slam, February 21st, 1998

The ECW Tag Team Champions face off here and neither waste any time with pleasantries, going right at it from the start. Storm takes the early lead, hitting a big superkick and baseball sliding Candido into the crowd, before hitting a ridiculous reverse springboard crossbody that wipes out not only Candido, but at least two fans as well! Storm gets Chris back in the ring and makes the pin for a two count. Storm charges into the corner, but Candido elevates him and he comes down hard, face-first on the second turnbuckle. Big lariat from Chris, leaving him firmly in control. Candido continues to punish his tag partner, although the crowd distract him on a number of occasions with accusations that his wife, Sunny, slept with Lance. To his credit, Storm tries his best to take advantage, but the experience of Candido puts pay to his comebacks at every turn, including a particularly vicious powerslam that leaves Storm writhing in pain. Storm eventually gets his break, ducking under a clothesline from Candido, before knocking him to the mat with a perfectly placed spinning heel kick. 

A picture perfect dropkick from Storm earns him a big near-fall, but Candido has a fair bit of fight left in him, as he proves when Storm goes to leap up to the middle-rope, but Candido shoves him over and into the ringpost. A big superplex gets Candido a near-fall and he follows up with a powerbomb, but Storm flips out of it and kicks Candido in the face. Lance heads up top, but Candido cuts him off and hits a hurricanrana. He takes far too long to go for the cover, showing some disrespect to his younger tag partner, and Storm kicks out. Candido places him up top and goes for another superplex, but Storm fights his way out and powerbombs Candido off the top-rope for the three count! Vicious finish to a highly entertaining match. Candido was so good here, keeping Storm grounded and expertly dictating the pace of the match, while the young Lance Storm came across as a future star.

ECW Championship: Taz (c) vs Yoshihiro Tajiri
  - Hostile City Showdown, June 26th, 1998

Taz grabs the mic and says that he respects Tajiri, in spite of the fact that he's aligned himself with Steve Corino and has dubbed himself 'The Taz Killer'. He says Tajiri's a real wrestler that he doesn't need barbedwire and chairs to get the job done and ECW was built on real wrestlers, so Taz decides he's going to put the title on the line! This match has a very shoot-style feel to it in the early going, as Tajiri and Taz struggle for an advantage on the mat. It eventually comes for Taz, who reverses a hammerlock smartly into a northern lights suplex for a two-count. Tajiri opens up with some jabs to the neck and backs Taz up into the ropes, only to suffer a belly-to-belly suplex that sends him all the way over the ropes and crashing to the floor! Taz gets him back in the ring and shoots him into the ropes, but Tajiri hits a beautiful handspring back-elbow that floors the champion, following up with a nice spinning heel kick. The action spills out to the floor and Tajiri throws Taz over the guardrail, before hitting a picture perfect Asai moonsault! Great distance on the dive there. 

Tajiri returns to the ring and tries to lock in the Tarantula, but Taz counters with an Alabama Slammer. Taz tries for a German suplex, but Tajiri lands on his feet and kicks out Taz's leg, before rolling him up witha La Magistral for a one-count. Tajiri locks in a sleeper, but Taz just destroys him with a Saito suplex. More vicious suplexes from Taz, who just dumps Tajiri on his head with an Exploder. Taz waits for Tajiri to get back to his feet and calls for a strike battle, but as Tajii goes for a high kick, Taz ducks under and grabs him into a beautiful Akira Maeda-esque capture suplex. Taz grabs a waist lock, but Tajiri kicks him low and takes his head off with a Buzzsaw kick for a near, near-fall. Taz reverses a whip into the corner, Tajiri leaps up to the top and moonsaults, but Taz takes a step back and as Tajiri lands on his feet he grabs him into the Tazmission! Tajiri immediately taps. This was a fun match, but I didn't ever buy that Taz was in any peril. He sung Tajiri's praises before the match, then made relatively light work of him.

ECW Tag Team Championship: Spike Dudley & Balls Mahoney (c) vs The Dudleys
  - ECW on TNN, September 3rd, 1999

In what was supposed to be their last ECW match before heading to the WWF, The Dudleys faced off against the ECW Tag Team Champions, Balls Mahoney & Spike Dudley. Big brawl to start things off, Spike goes for the Acid Drop, but Bubba throws him off only to be caught by a bulldog. Spike shoots him into the ropes and throws an elbow, but Bubba hooks it and slams poor Spike hard to the mat with a Bubba Bomb. Bubba goes up top, but Spike cuts him off and tries for a hurricanrana, only for Bubba to absolutely destroy him with a vicious powerbomb. The match is unfortunately the TV broadcast, so they take a break for adverts and, when they return, Spike's hitting the Acid Drop for a two-count on Bubba. Spike goes for it again, but Bubba just dumps him over the top-rope and through a table. Absolutely disgusting chair shots from Balls Mahoney. Balls retrieves a table from under the ring and covers it in thumbtacks, but Devon cuts him off and the Dudleys powerbomb Balls through the table. Spike makes the save, but can't do much as The Dudleys set him up for the 3D to earn the three-count and become new ECW Tag Team Champions mere days before they leave for the WWF. This was enjoyable enough for what it was, but some of the chairshots and reckless bumps made me cringe. 

ECW Tag Team Championship: The Dudleys (c) vs Tommy Dreamer & Raven
  - ECW on TNN, September 3rd, 1999

The Dudleys come out and put over ECW, but the promo turns towards their new place of employment, the WWF, and the fans are none too happy. Bubba says that The Dudleys have one last thing to do before they go to Stamford to become wrestling "gods" and calls out Tommy Dreamer to "defend this piece of shit company your broke your back for". Francine tries to stop Tommy, but is unable to hold him back and he hits the ring to take on both Dudleys on his own. The Champions mercilessly beat on Dreamer's injured back. Dreamer rallies and low blows both Dudleys, before being handed a ladder by Francine and using it to floor the Dudleys. Tommy sets the ladder up horizontally in the corner and whips Bubba into it hard. He tries it again, but Bubba counters and then dumps Dreamer on his head with a backdrop driver. The Dudleys whip Tommy with the belts and set him up for the 3D, but he manages to turn his weight in mid-air and DDT Devon! Then out of nowhere Raven hits the ring, grabs Bubba and hits an Evenflow DDT for the three-count! Huge reaction from the crowd, this was a really fun little match. Great promo from Raven post-match, as he wanders Bourbon St. in New Orleans at 5AM

ECW TV Championship: Rob Van Dam (c) vs Rhyno
  - Poughkeepsie, NY, October 22nd, 1999

A hero's welcome for Rob Van Dam from the ECW faithful, as he looks to defend his title against Rhino. The size of Rhino comes into play early on, as Van Dam grabs a side headlock and Rhino just dumps him on his head with a backdrop driver. Rob's back to his feet in no time, however, and after a quick exchange manages to sucker Rhino in and floors him with a spinning heel kick. Beautiful standing dropkick from RVD earns him a two-count, but he spends too much time showboating and Rhino catches him with his own dropkick that sends Rob to the floor. Rhino whips RVD into the guardrails and tries to suplex him into the crowd, but Rob counters and hoists the big man up before dropping him belly-first across the railing! Rob climbs on the guardrail and hits a flipping senton, much to the crowd's delight. He takes the fight back in the ring and tries for a Van Daminator, but Rhino ducks and powers him to the mat. Big vertical suplex from Rhino earns a two-count. Rhino stacks up the near-falls with a running powerslam and big folding powerbomb, but he can't put the Champion away. Fonzie throws Rob a chair and he goes for the Van Daminator again, but Rhino swats the chair away. He tries for a DDT, but RVD counters with a beautiful northern lights suplex on the chair! RVD crotches Rhino on the top-rope before climbing to the top. Fonzie holds a chair in place over Rhino's face and Van Dam soars, dropkicking the chair into Rhino hard. Jack Victory & Steve Corino try to interfere, but their plan backfires and RVD hits the Five Star Frog Splash to retain his title. Enjoyable back-and-forth sort of match. Rob was so athletically impressive at this point.

Tommy Dreamer & Dusty Rhodes vs Steve Corino & Rhino
  - ECW on TNN, February 4th, 2000

Huge ovation for 'The American Dream' Dusty Rhodes, a veritable legend in Florida. Dreamer looks to start the match with Cornino, but Steve insists on fighting Dusty, only to tag out to Rhino. Dusty isn't phased, however, and catches Rhino in a figure four leglock. Jack Victory tries to break it up, but Dreamer locks the figure four on Victory. Corino gets in, but Francine trips him up and also locks in a figure four! The match spills to the outside, Dreamer & Dusty taking their opponents on a tour of a the building. Dusty gets Corino back in the ring and starts to get fired up, hitting elbow after elbow. Dreamer tags in and hits an elbow drop that sends Corino rolling to the floor. Tommy follows, but Rhino attacks from behind and crotches him on the guardrail. Rhino takes control of the match, flattening Tommy with a big clothesline and then going up top to hit a splash for the two count. 

Rhino goes up top again, but Dreamer hits the ropes and Rhino's crotches on the turnbuckle. Tommy climbs up and hits a huge superplex, before making the hot tag to The American Dream! Dusty and Dreamer go to work with tandem punches in the corner, but Rhino reverses a whip and catches Tommy with a Gore. He turns to Dusty, only to get picked up and slammed down to the mat. Dusty goes for the Bionic Elbow, but Rhino rolls out of the way and floors The Dream with a huge clothesline. Dreamer gets back in and hits Rhino over the head with a chair before DDT'ing him on it. Meanwhile, Corino's ascended to the top, but Dusty catches him and throws him down before hitting the Bionic Elbow for the three count. Fun little match, this was all about The American Dream and the crowd went wild for Dusty and Dreamer working in tandem.

Kid Kash vs E.Z. Money
  - Anarchy Rulz, October 1st, 2000

E.Z. Money attacks Kash as he enters the ring, but Kash fires back with some big chops and a nice headscissors takedown. Money goes for a powerbomb, but Kash armdrags out of it and throws him to the outside. Kash spends too long showing off and E.Z. cheap shots him before hitting an insane release vertical suplex for a near, near fall. E.Z. goes for a spear, but Kash rolls out of the way and Money flies through the ropes, hitting a tope suicida on his own entourage. Kash signals for a dive and hits a huge double springboard tope! That was so perfect. Beautiful springboard clothesline from Kash earns a two count. He elevates E.Z. to the apron and hits the ropes, but gets caught after Money flips into the ring and hits a clothesline of his own. Money ties Kash up in a surfboard before dropping an elbow for a near-fall. Money flexes for the crowd, but Kash catches him with a springboard sunset flip for another two count. Absolutely perfect double step-up hurricanrana from Kash, followed by a tornado DDT for a close near-fall. The match descends into chaos as E.Z. Money's goons get involved, but after some illegal double-teams Kash won't stay down and, as Money goes for a top-rope powerbomb, Kash hurricanrana's him in mid-air for the victory out of nowhere! There was some sublime execution in this match, but I felt it could have been a good five minutes shorter. They packed a hell of a lot in. 

ECW Championship Double Jeopardy Match: Jerry Lynn (c) vs Justin Credible vs Steve Corino
  - November to Remember, November 5th, 2000

Steve Corino's content to let Jerry Lynn & Justin Credible fight it out, so he sits on the top-rope as the match begins. Nice pin exchange by Lynn & Credible, before Corino interjects himself and hits a Bionic Elbow to Lynn. All three made trade punches for a good long while, no one really gaining any advantage. Suddenly the (dubbed) music of The Sandman hits and he (slowly) makes his way to the ring! Corino & Credible gang up on the champ in the meantime, Sandman still drinking beers in the crowd. Jerry's busted open and becomes enraged, flooring both Credible & Corino with some big punches, only for the Sandman to finally make it to the apron and hit him in the neck with a Singapore cane! Sandman takes the cane to Credible and pops open a can of beer, but Corino unwisely slaps it out of his hand. Corino ducks the first cane shot, but Sandman gets him on the second swing and hits him once more for good measure. Jerry Lynn tackles Sandman and kicks him to the floor, before hitting a bit tornado DDT on Corino. Sandman gets a ladder from under the ring and sets it up in the corner, whipping Corino into it before doing the same to Credible & Lynn. Some brutal punishment to Corino, as Sandman suplexes him on the ladder before placing it over him and hitting a flipping senton. Lynn drags Sandman to the floor and flips him into the guardrail, while inside the ring Corino sets up some chairs and places a guardrail over them. Of course, whatever plans he had backire as Sandman suplexes him onto his own creation.

This one's already a complete mess of a match and the double jeopardy stipulation only confuses things. Eventually, Credible hits the That's Incredible on Lynn as Corino hits a neckbreaker on Sandman. They make the cover and both Sandman & Lynn are eliminated, meaning either Credible or Corino will walk out of the match as champion. They trade punches in the centre of the ring and, surprisingly, it's Corino who comes out on top, flooring Justin with a Bionic Elbow. He spills to the floor where an angered Sandman White Russian Legsweeps him into the guardrails. Corino sets up a table in the corner and they fight to see who's going through it. Credible tries for a powerbomb, but gets back bodydropped through he table. Steve sets up for a superkick, but Francine gets in the ring for some reason and Credible drags her in the way. Corino hits a neckbreaker but can only get a two-count. Credible fires back with a huge superkick before taking the Singapore cane to Corino. He winds up for a big shot, but Corino catches him square on the jaw with a superkick of his own and makes the pinfall to become new ECW Champion! I didn't really like this match, there wasn't any rhyme or reason to it, just a series of spots wrapped in a confusing match stipulation that did nothing to help matters. Good action nonetheless, but not something I personally enjoyed.

Overall this set is a mixed bag. There's some classic matches on here, but for me they were mostly within the first two discs. The presentation is good, Joey, Stevie & Meanie do a fine job of hosting the show and providing context where needed, while the footage has been restored as well as could be expected, although a few of the earlier matches suffer colour balance problems. The dubbed music is an understandable concession to copyright, but a disappointing one all the same. While this set includes matches both big and small in importance, it's a good portmanteau of what made ECW ECW. With a match from almost every year of Paul Heyman's tenure as booker and opperator of the promotion, you get a good sense of the changing fortunes of the company as it grew, as well as the problems it faced in later years as talent jumped ship. Even though not all the matches were to my tastes, if you're in the mood for some ECW nostalgia or are a new fan looking to venture into the world of Extreme Championship Wrestling, you couldn't do much better than with a set like this.

ECW Unreleased, Vol.3 is released on DVD & Blu Ray on April 27th and can be purchased  HERE

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