In the mid-1990s, a regional professional wrestling promotion in Pennsylvania was capturing the attention of an increasing bloc of wrestling fans for its rivalries and its workers who would do insane stunts mid-match. Helped in large part by a former employee of the larger multimillion dollar national promotions, the employee (Paul Heyman) was garnering the attention of said promotions, to the point where some of the talent went to Pennsylvania. The promotion, named Extreme Championship Wrestling (or ECW) became the cooler, younger brother for a period of time until its financial demise. The World Wrestling Federation (since named the WWE) bought the properties surrounding ECW, including their video library, and have picked the meat off the bones for subsequent video releases, with Unreleased being the latest incarnation.
The title is the second such volume to be released under the Unreleased flag after the first one garnered enough justification to go back to the well. The Not having seen the first edition, I can say that former ECW star Tommy Dreamer and commentator Joey Styles come together and talk about the times the organization enjoyed during the time period of the matches, and provide any possible perspective on things they may not have been familiar with. It is jovial and nostalgic, while seeming to have an underlying bit of reverence to their financial overlords.
As far as the matches go, spread over three discs (the Blu-ray set has some additional ones that are not covered here), the matches are as follows:
Tommy Dreamer vs. Tazmaniac (Hardcore TV - October 19, 1993)
Terry Funk & Arn Anderson vs. Sabu & Bobby Eaton (When Worlds Collide - May 14, 1994)
Cactus Jack vs. Terry Funk (Hardcore Heaven - August 13, 1994)
Tommy Dreamer vs. The Sandman (Hardcore TV - October 4, 1994)
Eddie Guerrero & The Steiner Brothers vs. 2 Cold Scorpio, Dean Malenko & Cactus Jack (Wrestlepalooza - August 5, 1995)
Raven vs. Tommy Dreamer (Holiday Hell Tour - December 29, 1995)
The Public Enemy vs. The Gangstas (House Party - January 5, 1996)
Chris Jericho vs. Taz (Extreme Hardcore Shoot Fight- April 13, 1996)
2 Cold Scorpio vs. Shane Douglas (A Matter Of Respect - May 11, 1996)
Sabu vs. Chris Jericho (August 2, 1996)
Dick Togo, Terry Boy & Taka Micinoku vs. Gran Hamada, Gran Naniwa & Great Sasuke (Hardcore TV - March 27, 1997)
The Sandman, Taz, Tommy Dreamer & Al Snow vs. Sabu, Rob Van Dam, Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon (Hardcore TV - January 5, 1998)
Shane Douglas vs. Al Snow (Wrestlepalooza - May 3, 1998)
Chris Candido & Lance Storm vs. Sabu & Rob Van Dam (Hardcore TV - June 29, 1998)
Sabu & Taz vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (FTW Heavyweight Championship - August 8, 1998)
The Dudleys vs. Spike Dudley & Balls Mahoney (ECW Tag Team Championship - August 23, 1999)
Mike Awesome vs. Rhino (ECW on TNN - October 1, 1999)
Yoshihiro Tajiri vs. Jerry Lynn vs. Super Crazy (November to Remember - November 7, 1999)
Rob Van Dam vs. Mikey Whipwreck (ECW on TNN - January 28, 2000)
Justin Credible vs. Jerry Lynn vs. Steve Corino (ECW on TNN - September 29, 2000)
The match selection is about as varied as one could hope for, right down to the inclusion of WCW's Anderson in an ECW match, the result of a legal settlement surrounding the use of the term "When Worlds Collide." And a couple of bouts that serve as noteworthy for various reasons are here; the Foley-Funk match for the time when dozens of chairs were tossed into the ring on top of a wrestler, and served as part of the opening reel for ECW for years afterwards. And with the wrestlers included in this set, you get a mix of high-flying tactics, grappling and submissions, mat work and flat out brawling, depending on the match you choose. From that perspective it is good.
On the flipside, ECW can be polarizing to a few people. If one is looking for 20-25 minutes of bouts, you are in luck for the set, but the quality of the match itself is left wonting, and might be an acquired taste. In a way, guys like Spike Dudley and Mikey Whipwreck, smaller guys with a lot of heart and took beatings every so often, serve as metaphors for ECW on the whole. They were charming to watch, but when things got down to business, ultimately were junk food for the fan. A little of it was great, too much and your teeth would rot.
While other sets would leave not a lot of choice left for subsequent (and similar) releases, the ECW sets are not too bad and play off one another nicely. The WWE video library folks continue to quietly put out nice releases over the summer months, and this one is no exception.
The Styles and Dreamer segments are in 1.78:1 widescreen, with the matches being in 1.33:1 full frame. The tapes look about as good as they are going to look, there are some flaws that are inherent in the source material, with "Worlds" having the most noticeable ones. But they all good as accurately as they did when they first aired, presenting a low-fi, even raw (pardon the pun) look to them and their promos. The Styles and Dreamer segments look good despite being lit a little dark, but have no complaints.
Two-channel stereo for the matches, with a 5.1 surround track on the taped Styles and Dreamer segments. The latter did not really do anything worthwhile, and the former was what I was expecting from the audio. If you could find the show in the ‘90s, the audio was stereo and takes up the soundstage about as well as an independent wrestling promotion would do, with little to no subwoofer engagement, and if the rear channels did get involved, was to discretely mirror the action up front.
Three discs full of matches, but no other extras to speak of.
Volume 2 of Unreleased proves to be a nice stroll through the ECW annals whether one has seen the first or not. That said, the jewels of the Bingo Hall crown lie within the first set, so new fans to the E-C-DUB! should check that one out as well. For older school folks, the match selection here is a decent complement to the first and if you grabbed that, by all means grab this.