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WWE Network Hidden Gems Review: Super Early ECW VHS Releases Plus a 1992 TV Pilot

Final week, the WWE Network’s Hidden Gems class provided up a pair of darkish matches featuring ECW legends. Frankly, they have been strong yet wholely unremarkable additions for the week, leaving many lukewarm at greatest. But with the WWE Network uploading a dozen ECW supershows final Monday, WWE had a chance at a second chew of the acute cherry. For sure, they hit it out of the park this time! Let’s take a look:

Better of ECW 1992 Volume 1

Identify: The Better of ECW 1992 Volume 1

Date: Numerous (07/14/1992 given by WWE)

Location: Unique Sports Bar, Philadelphia, PA

Matches Included

“Ironman” Tommy Cairo vs. Damien Stone (07/14/1992)

“Wildman” Sal Bellomo vs. “The Anvil” Jim Neidhart (06/23/1992)

ECW Tag Workforce Championship Event Finals: The Super Destroyers vs. Nightbreed (Glen Osbourne and Max Thrasher) (06/23/1992)

ECW Heavyweight Championship: “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka vs. Johnny Hotbody (c) (07/14/1992)

Thoughts: In response to what little info I can discover (and there’s little or no on the market on 1992 ECW), this pair of VHS releases are pretty high up there on the rarity scale and have been among the many first residence video merchandise that the fledgling Japanese Championship Wrestling ever produced. In fact, the truth that this tape has almost definitely been locked away in a vault (or warehouse) for the last 27 years signifies that the audio is just a little wobbly. The visible aspect of things holds up nicely enough (though it’s far from ‘good’) for one thing that wouldn’t have the faintest hope of being legitimately upscaled for higher quality.

The Cairo/Stone match was a strong start to proceedings that stored up a pretty quick pace all through. The spotlight for me would have been Cairo slamming Stone on the floor outdoors (virtually like the faintest hint of things to return) however as a consequence of there being only one digital camera, we only hear the influence and don’t see any of it. Nonetheless, Tommy finished with an fascinating powerbomb variation in an announced 5:20, so it wasn’t all dangerous. Issues type of crumble throughout a post-match brawl though because the cameraman does a terrible job of following the action and movies more of the gang as an alternative. C- grade on account of setting some strong groundwork for what we’ll see going forward and never majorly screwing anything up

The Bellomo/Neidhart bout is completely on right here simply to crow about star power and never a lot else. “The Anvil” was recent off being fired from the WWF in February, with sources suggesting that this was his second of simply 3 matches for the territory, happening on June 23rd. It occurred on the identical night time that the primary ECW Tag Staff Champions have been crowned. More on that in a second… Bellomo performs the heel, principally stalling and sneak attacking to pad out the run time. When the “Wildman” does lastly get the advantage with a full nelson, his supervisor (Stevie Fantastic, if I heard the commentator appropriately) screws up and hits his shopper with a punch. Neidhart goes straight into the pinfall for the win. Like I stated, pretty much a nothing match that was virtually definitely included simply to be able to advertise a huge identify on the field. Speaking of massive names, post-match shenanigans see Don Muraco initially assist Neidhart corner Fantastic, just for “The Anvil” to get attacked by his supposed ally and former WWF Intercontinental Champion. In case you’re questioning, I can’t find proof of this angle leading to a match. D+ grade resulting from a lack of substance and a post-match angle that seemingly went nowhere.

And as I promised, we’ve got the event remaining to determine the first-ever ECW Tag Workforce Champions up subsequent. A critical piece of history proper right here. Does that make it a basic? God, no. This “tournament final” is the very definition of an extended squash (11:47, in line with the announcer) for the Super Destroyers as they successfully toy with Nightbreed for all the match, Even a scorching tag is shrugged off prefer it’s nothing. Nonetheless, the dominant performance was fitting contemplating the workforce held the brand new championships till April (or Might in the event you rely the TV airing because the official date) of 1993. By a weird quirk of historical past, this makes The Super Destroyers both the primary and longest-reigning ECW Tag Group Champions. Regardless of being a quite pedestrian match designed to place over the monster heel champions like a million bucks, it’s great to see a main ECW milestone finally made obtainable by way of the WWE Network. C+ grade for telling a competent story that leads into a sustained push. Too generous? Perhaps, however my opinions on professional wrestling fluctuate every day anyway. I’m sticking by this for now.

And with virtually half of this “tape” still left, we now have our most important event for this volume: Jimmy Snuka challenging Johnny Hotbody for the ECW Heavyweight Championship. Snuka is touted because the first-ever ECW Heavyweight Champion, profitable it in a event on April 25th. Whereas this is true, that first reign lasted simply a single day, with Hotbody stealing it from the legend instantly. Hotbody would proceed to defend the belt for several months, till Snuka lastly received his rematch featured right here on July 14th. As regards to “The Superfly”, Jimmy was lower than 6 months faraway from the top of his most up-to-date WWF run by this level and in his late 40’s. Maybe a bit late to be a headliner for any company, but there’s no denying that Snuka nonetheless had a bankable identify right here.

As for the match? Stalling, stalling and extra stalling. Significantly. Counting from after the ring introductions. it takes at the very least 7 or 8 minutes for Hotbody and Snuka to the touch. Then Jimmy just no-sells every part and Hotbody goes again to stalling. It’s pretty dangerous and the gang makes positive to chant “boring” very loudly on multiple occasions. No marvel so much of the tape was left. I’m avoiding play-by-play because of the quantity of content to evaluation this week but even if I wasn’t, there’s so little substance to the match: Hotbody headlock, Snuka overcomes with a very quick flurry, Hotbody stalls once more. When Hotbody finally will get management, every part simply slows right down to a crawl. With out breaking this down moment by second, I feel one of the simplest ways to summarise my issues with this match is that it feels pressured into half-speed to accommodate a declining “Superfly”. It simply feels needlessly drawn out. Fortunately, things do enhance within the homestretch when momentum swings forwards and backwards with a few near falls sprinkled in. Ultimately, Jimmy hits a again suplex and his legendary prime rope splash for the win. Jimmy celebrates, posing for the gang and we wrap up for this quantity. C grade that was pulled down by a particularly sluggish begin.

General Video Grade: C+ (After taking the historical significance of a few of the footage under consideration)

Better of ECW 1992 Quantity 2 (Subtitled as “ECW’s Bloodiest Matches”)

Identify: The Better of ECW 1992 Quantity 2

Date: Numerous (10/24/1992 given by WWE)

Location: Chestnut Cabaret, Philadelphia, PA

Matches Included

Tony “Hitman” Stetson vs. Johnny Hotbody (10/24/1992)

Kodiak Bear and Canadian Wolfman vs. Hellriders (EZ Rider and HD Rider) (10/24/1992)

Russian Chain Match (The Winner Must Touch All 4 Corners in Succession): Tommy Cairo vs. Ivan Koloff (10/24/1992)

Lumberjack Match: Tony “Hitman” Stetson vs. “Wildman” Sal Bellomo (08/12/1992)

With a “bloodiest matches” subtitle, this second quantity better provide some chaos, even if it pales compared to the promotion’s excessive prime. Once once more, the audio and video high quality is ropey but comprehensible considering the rarity.

As we concluded the primary volume with a Johnny Hotbody match, so we begin the second tape with one. Hotbody was injured not lengthy after dropping the ECW Heavyweight Championship and returned as a reluctant cornerman for his opponent right here. Their issues spiraled from there. In fact, Johnny begins a assortment of bloodiest matches by stalling once more as a result of why wouldn’t he? A shoving match then breaks out earlier than both males lock up. Things break down shortly as Stetson gets sent to the surface and hit with a chair by Hotbody’s supervisor Don E. Allen. As Stetson is already bleeding, Johnny capitalizes with a operating, diving ring bell shot from the ring to the surface. Truthfully quite impressive for a way vicious it seemed. It gave me a slight vibe of Cactus Jack. The brawl continues into the gang but sadly, a lack of digital camera protection signifies that we will see next to nothing and neither can the commentary staff. It seems to be like Hotbody jumped off of the bar (yes, the type you order drinks from) at one point however poor video high quality and viewpoint make the spot far much less impactful than it might have been. Thankfully, we do get to see some glimpses of the literal “bar fight”, though nothing notably superb.

And this brawl simply refuses to return to the ring as Hotbody hits a pair of operating elbow drops (which elicit an overt Cactus Jack mention from the commentary workforce) and refuses to provide Tony any respiration room. A suplex finally brings things back inside. Ultimately, Stetson manages to mount a comeback but this has quite clearly stopped being about wins and losses because the action heads ringside as soon as extra. It’s Johnny’s turn to take a beating now (including a number of unprotected chair photographs to the top) and this is getting chaotic. If only I might see more of it. At the very least the environment is helping. Again within the ring (briefly) and the highlight of the match takes place with a prime rope superplex from Hotbody to Stetson. That still isn’t the finish although as the brawl spills outdoors yet once more. And THEN the referee decides he’s had enough and calls for the double count-out whereas both males ignore the bell and maintain preventing. Properly, that was a damp squib of an ending contemplating the superplex simply moments prior. B- grade for an intense, enjoyable brawl hampered by poor visibility and an anticlimactic ending.

In a enjoyable little bit of continuity, the Kodiak Bear/ Wolfman vs. Hellriders match barely gets underway when Hotbody and Stetson reappear to continue their formally thrown out brawl. As you could have already realized by the dates given above, these bouts did happen on the same card. For a minute or two, the digital camera just ignores the tag match and focuses on the chaos at ringside, involving plastic milk crates and steel chairs. October 1992 and those hardcore roots are already taking hold. Though there’s an attempt to restore order, the tag match is simply being ignored once once more and the earlier match technically continues on the surface (although we as soon as once more can’t see much). We do at the least get to see Stetson throw soda in Hotbody’s face.

It’s finally time to give attention to the motion within the ring and we get a primary trade. Unfortunately, this never actually progresses past primary brawling and clotheslines, with all four males sometimes clashing in the ring to mix it up a little. There’s no actual build to a finish both as Kodiak Bear just hits one of the Riders with a overseas object that we will’t even see and will get the pin. C- grade because of the continuation of Stetson vs. Hotbody, a little decrease if I’m purely evaluating the tag match itself. This was solely included as an epilogue to the previous match. The Hell Riders try to get some babyface revenge by cornering Kodiak and Wolfman’s manager “The Cosmic Commander” however it doesn’t come to something.

Shifting on to the Russian Chain Match, Ivan Koloff is one other example of ECW bringing in fading older stars for their remaining identify worth. If I’ve my math right, Ivan was 50 years previous when this match occurred and in far worse form than the jacked-up Snuka (who challenged for the ECW Heavyweight Championship on this similar show towards Don Muraco). So I’ll have an interest to see what he has left in the tank.

Sadly, it’s arduous to inform as the match is slightly clumsily clipped. We skip from just after the opening bell to Cairo on the floor being whipped by the namesake chain. As you may anticipate, the overwhelming majority of this bout is restricted to sluggish brawling and choking with stated chain. Cairo does no less than hit a good wanting belly-to-belly before making an attempt to the touch the turnbuckles for the first time. The actual drawback with this match though is that it already consists of an aged athlete and then the principles themselves stall any momentum continuously too. It just bogs all the things down.

It’s not all dangerous although as Cairo does at the very least present some hearth as soon as busted open (even biting Ivan on the forehead) and it doesn’t take long for each guys to be a bloody mess. After which in a sentence I by no means thought I’d write, 50-year-old Ivan Koloff dives off the top rope for a senton(with the assistance of a chain yank from his opponent)! Nicely, that was value watching this video for. He lands on Cairo’s knees although so it doesn’t do much good. We head into the closing stretch as Tommy will get ever-closer to touching all 4 corners and Ivan does all he can to stop that from occurring (including a chew of his personal). The Russian is ultimately worn down enough for Tommy Cairo to only barely touch that elusive 4th turnbuckle and get the win. C- grade. Even if Cairo technically pressured Koloff into the move, I’ve to bump this match up barely just because a 50-year-old successfully performed a prime rope senton.

Okay, this lumberjack match “main event” is weird. First. the title card doesn’t even check with the stipulation. Then we join-in-progress with Tony Stetson already busted open. And talking of Stetson. he casually punches Bellomo with a roll of quarters prefer it’s a normal transition and the bout just carries on. In case you’ll keep in mind that I feel Stetson is supposed to be the babyface here (in fact, the commentary group has finished a terrible job of creating things like this clear throughout each volumes) and you’ll simply what an incoherent mess this is.

Worse but, the match slows down after the roll of quarters and simply meanders on until The Sandman (with the prefix of “Mr.” at this point) interferes and causes the double DQ. So apparently the babyface can punch with a roll of quarters no drawback. But when he will get attacked by someone from the surface, we’re accomplished? Okay, no matter you say. Cairo comes to assistance from Stetson after which the lumberjacks pile in for the clusterduck. Bellomo goes for TLC Eight years early by throwing a table, a ladder, and a few chairs into the ring. Then Stetson just clocks manager Stevie Fantastic in the head with a chair. That appeared unnecessary. This just degenerates into an unintelligible brawl in the crowd. One last chair shot to Sandman and we’re carried out. D grade. I used to be going to go decrease but the post-match actions just about raised this to barely satisfactory.

General Video Grade: C- (A comparatively robust opener and semi-decent chain match get pulled down by a tough major event and there are not any historic moments to assist this time)

Unaired SportsChannel ECW TV Pilot

Identify: ECW TV Pilot

Date: 11/28/1992

Location: Kensington Sports Area, Kensington, PA

Matches Included

Tommy Cairo vs. King Kaluha

ECW Tag Group Championship: The Super Destroyers (c) vs. Jimmy Jannetty and Larry Winters

ECW Television Championship: Glenn Osbourne (c) vs. “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka

ECW Heavyweight Championship: Sandman (c) vs. Kodiak Bear

Oh boy, I’ve heard of this one and not in a great way. Jay Sulli and Stevie Fantastic introduce themselves as our commentary workforce for the subsequent hour. They run down the card and we’re able to go.

As we head into our first match, I’m relieved to see a multi-camera setup finally in play and marginally improved video quality. So far as this opening match goes, I discovered it to be high quality. Primary however superb. Kaluha assaults earlier than the bell, only for Cairo to battle back. Like all babyfaces though, he makes a mistake and will get ground down for a extended period. There are the standard swings in momentum to keep the gang invested in fact however Tommy attending to hit his flying body block, a large again bodydrop and a big Kaluha right hand are about the only moments that stand out. Nicely, there’s also Kaluha randomly mugging for the digital camera:

Cairo ultimately manages to reverse a sitdown pin into his own and will get the win in one thing like Eight minutes or so. D+ grade. As I stated, a small handful of moments woke me up however this match principally felt so devoid of power. Not nice for an opener. Submit-match, Tommy cuts a promo ringside with Jay Sulli and challenges the winner of the ECW Heavyweight Championship match between Sandman and Kodiak Bear later tonight. Or no less than I feel he does. Sulli is making an attempt to push the narrative in that path however “The Ironman” insists on rambling generically.

There’s no slowing down, as we head straight into a Tag Staff Championship bout. After seeing The Super Destroyers achieve the belts earlier, they’re now properly established as unstoppable monsters right here. Unfortunately, this is one other match with stalling as Jimmy Jannetty (no relation) does all he can to keep away from the grip of The Super Destroyers. Not precisely riveting although. Jannetty ultimately tries to build some momentum off the ropes and hit a physique block but he simply will get caught. His companion helps by hitting a dropkick and getting them a temporary pinfall. Jannetty and Winters maintain their very own for a while but once The Destroyers get in control it doesn’t take them long to start out enjoying with their opponents once once more.

It doesn’t work quite so nicely here, because the challengers shortly regain the momentum and hold it. I’m positive that goes towards tag workforce wrestling 101 of getting the babyfaces build to a comeback but what do I do know? Significantly though, Winters and Jannetty principally stay in management until a temporary double clothesline spot in the house stretch. Even then, the challengers seem like they’ve gotten the pin when a 1o-minute draw is said. D- grade. I simply didn’t get this one. It was virtually as if recognized tag workforce psychology was reversed and thus nothing was constructed to. Then the challengers manage to strike out with a time limit draw after being in management for about Eight of the 10 minutes. Baffling.

Earlier than we get to our Television Championship match, Stevie Fantastic seems in pre-taped interviews with each Champion Glenn Osbourne and a recently-turned-heel Jimmy Snuka. I say with Snuka but in reality, Hunter Q. Robbins III does all the talking whereas Snuka repeatedly chews up and spits out an apple, It’s unique, I’ll give him that.

Oddly, the pre-match interview particularly referred to as this Osbourne’s first Tv Championship protection however then the commentary workforce immediately contradict this by saying that he has defended the belt earlier than just not towards someone on the level of Snuka. So which is it?

Both means, after some stalling, Osbourne tries to take advantage with a fast rollup. It doesn’t work and we lastly start the feeling out process. Unfortunately, the action that follows is extraordinarily lethargic. “The Superfly” is even slower now that he’s heeling it up and Osbourne is decreased to primary holds and desperation pinfall makes an attempt. As you may anticipate, just because the Champion is on a roll, the ref takes a bump, rendering any pinfall attempt moot. Osbourne tries to wake the ref, letting Snuka sneak in and roll him up. A wild second referee seems to rely the 3. It seems like we’ve a new champion, only for the original referee to reverse the decision and disqualify the challenger for putting him in hurt’s method initially. Good god, that was boring. D grade. Perhaps it’s simply me (and be happy to say in the feedback in case you assume it is) however giving a slowed, growing older Snuka license to be even slower was a recipe for disaster right here. So little happened in an Eight-minute match. And what did happen was deemed irrelevant anyway.

In what’s now officially the earliest Sandman match on WWE Network, we’re set for our most important event as Sandman defends the ECW Heavyweight Championship towards Kodiak Bear. Sandman continues to be at full tilt with the “surfer” gimmick right here and has not one of the edginess that may later outline him. Considering that even the man’s largest defenders admit to the guy being carried by a well-fitting persona and excellent theme music, I’m not wanting forward to this.

Because it turned out although, this wasn’t horrible. Positive, you’ll be able to inform Sandman isn’t precisely minimize out to be a goody-two-shoes, paintless by-product of Sting however he doesn’t notably stink up the joint either. Admittedly, Kodiak Bear retains things very simple as far as the “big man” recreation goes, by no means venturing past hanging, choking and splashing. In fact, we get a “Kodiak Bear hug” too. My point is that Kodiak is so unremarkable together with his offense that it makes Sandman stand out when he does some actual moves. Talking of standing out, Rockin’ Rebel blindsides Sandman (then shortly runs away again) whereas he’s on the floor making an attempt to cope with Grand Wizard ripoff “The Cosmic Commander”. This was an try and build as much as Sandman’s next “major” defense, as he confronted Rebel on December 19th. For all of the obstacles put within the Champion’s method right here although, he ultimately begins preventing again and ultimately triumphs with a clothesline, extremely sloppy “martial arts kick” from the apron into the ring and a prime rope “missile” (I exploit that term very loosely) dropkick for the win. For Sandman, that was bordering on Super Junior territory. Submit-match, we get a particularly temporary backstage interview with the Champion which degenerates into a locker room brawl with Rockin’ Rebel. Jay and Stevie bookend the show to signal us off. D+ grade. It was an inoffensive match that I’ll price a little if it was an opener however as your fundamental event of the night that’s purported to entice a TV station to take a probability, it was extraordinarily subpar. ECW was barely prepared for TV in April 1993. It wasn’t in November 1992.

General Video Grade: D. That is a territory that looks like one thing caught in the 80s when the world (and especially professional wrestling television) was on the brink of transfer on. I can’t precisely blame ECW for making an attempt to emulate what labored as a TV product however the roster isn’t even near having the expertise needed to tug it off without the “hardcore” crutches.

Over 3800 phrases and more than 2 and a half hours of rough wrestling footage later and our journey into the embryonic days of Japanese Championship Wrestling is over!. Thank you for reading, don’t overlook to offer your opinion in the comments part and I’ll see you subsequent week!

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