Professional wrestling saw the trend coming, and in the late 90s dropped the ironclad conceit that the fights in front of the crowd and on camera were real. Instead, a winking ethos was put in place: We'll allude to the fact this is fake, as long as you still accept the product. This is how you started seeing "wars" between the promotions, one company giving away results from another company's tapings on live television and wrestlers' personal lives dragged out for the audience to see.
World Wrestling Entertainment, through its home video division, is pulling back the curtain on Extreme Championship Wrestling in The Rise and Fall of ECW, and the WWE has taken the organization apart and examined every single piece.
Originally Eastern Championship Wrestling before the involvement of Paul Heyman (known on screen as Paul E. Dangerously), ECW dragged professional wrestling away from the kid-friendly, Saturday-morning era of Hulk Hogan and paved the way for characters such as the beer-swilling Stone Cold Steve Austin and the off-color antics of The Rock. ECW was violent, lewd and controversial. ECW featured a lesbian love triangle, a young son "turning" on his father and, most shocking of all, a mock crucifixion. Wrestlers jumped from balconies on to each other, threw each other onto thumbtacks and jumped through flaming tables. This was not wrestling for the faint of heart.
At the center of it all was Heyman, in many ways a wrestling savant. It became clear over time that as a businessman he was a good wrestling manager: Paychecks would bounce, wrestlers would jump ship, and he wouldn't even make some of his talent sign contracts. Yet despite this, all of the wrestlers interviewed would follow him straight to Dante's E-Z-Bake.
The feature is nearly three hours of clips and interviews, spanning almost a decade of ECW. Most of the major players sit down in front of the camera, including Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff, who ran two competing companies. Some of the comments seem to be very political in nature; Heyman now works for the WWE, as do many of the wrestlers, so some of the thoughts about the ECW/WWE competition seem sugar coated.
But the disc is certainly the most thorough document of ECW's history likely to be produced, especially with WWE purchasing the rights to the company's film library after it declared bankruptcy.