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

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

Final week, the WWE Community’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 have a look:

 

Best of ECW 1992 Quantity 1

Identify: The Better of ECW 1992 Quantity 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 Tremendous Destroyers vs. Nightbreed (Glen Osbourne and Max Thrasher) (06/23/1992)

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

 

Ideas: Based on what little info I can find (and there’s very little out there on 1992 ECW), this pair of VHS releases are pretty high up there on the rarity scale and have been among the many first house video products that the fledgling Japanese Championship Wrestling ever produced. In fact, the truth that this tape has almost certainly been locked away in a vault (or warehouse) for the last 27 years signifies that the audio is just a little wobbly. The visual aspect of issues holds up properly enough (although it’s removed from ‘good’) for something that wouldn’t have the faintest hope of being legitimately upscaled for better high quality.

The Cairo/Stone match was a strong start to proceedings that stored up a fairly quick tempo throughout. The highlight for me would have been Cairo slamming Stone on the ground outdoors (virtually like the faintest hint of issues to return) however because of there being only one digital camera, we only hear the influence and don’t see any of it. Still, Tommy completed with an fascinating powerbomb variation in an announced 5:20, so it wasn’t all dangerous. Things sort of crumble during a post-match brawl although because the cameraman does a terrible job of following the action and movies more of the gang as an alternative. C- grade as a result of setting some strong groundwork for what we’ll see going forward and not majorly screwing anything up

The Bellomo/Neidhart bout is completely on here simply to crow about star power and never much else. “The Anvil” was recent off being fired from the WWF in February, with sources suggesting that this was his second of just three matches for the territory, happening on June 23rd. It befell on the same night time that the first ECW Tag Group Champions have been crowned. More on that in a moment… Bellomo plays 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 manager (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 promote an enormous identify on the box. Talking of massive names, post-match shenanigans see Don Muraco initially help Neidhart corner Fantastic, only for “The Anvil” to get attacked by his supposed ally and former WWF Intercontinental Champion. In case you’re wondering, I can’t find evidence of this angle leading to a match. D+ grade resulting from a scarcity of substance and a post-match angle that seemingly went nowhere.

And as I promised, we now have the event last to determine the first-ever ECW Tag Staff Champions up next. A critical piece of historical past proper right here. Does that make it a basic? God, no. This “event ultimate” is the very definition of an extended squash (11:47, in response to the announcer) for the Tremendous Destroyers as they effectively toy with Nightbreed for all the match, Even a scorching tag is shrugged off like it’s nothing. Nonetheless, the dominant efficiency was becoming considering the workforce held the brand new championships till April (or Might in case you rely the TV airing because the official date) of 1993. By a bizarre quirk of history, this makes The Super Destroyers both the primary and longest-reigning ECW Tag Group Champions. Despite being a relatively pedestrian match designed to place over the monster heel champions like one million bucks, it’s great to see a serious ECW milestone lastly made out there 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’ve got our essential occasion for this volume: Jimmy Snuka challenging Johnny Hotbody for the ECW Heavyweight Championship. Snuka is touted as the first-ever ECW Heavyweight Champion, profitable it in a event on April 25th. Whereas this is true, that first reign lasted just a single day, with Hotbody stealing it from the legend instantly. Hotbody would proceed to defend the belt for a number of months, till Snuka finally received his rematch featured right here on July 14th. As regards to “The Superfly”, Jimmy was less than 6 months faraway from the top of his most up-to-date WWF run by this point and in his late 40’s. Maybe a bit late to be a headliner for any firm, but there’s no denying that Snuka still had a bankable identify right here.

As for the match? Stalling, stalling and more stalling. Significantly. Counting from after the ring introductions. it takes at the very least 7 or Eight minutes for Hotbody and Snuka to the touch. Then Jimmy simply no-sells every little thing and Hotbody goes back to stalling. It’s fairly dangerous and the gang makes positive to chant “boring” very loudly on multiple occasions. No marvel a lot of the tape was left. I’m avoiding play-by-play because of the quantity of content to evaluate 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 lastly gets control, every little thing just slows right down to a crawl. With out breaking this down moment by moment, 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 just feels needlessly drawn out. Thankfully, things do improve in the homestretch when momentum swings forwards and backwards with a number of close to falls sprinkled in. Ultimately, Jimmy hits a back suplex and his legendary prime rope splash for the win. Jimmy celebrates, posing for the gang and we wrap up for this volume. C grade that was pulled down by a particularly sluggish start.

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

 

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

Identify: The Best 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 Should Touch All four 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 volume higher provide some chaos, even when it pales in comparison to the promotion’s extreme prime. Once again, the audio and video high quality is ropey however 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 long after dropping the ECW Heavyweight Championship and returned as a reluctant cornerman for his opponent right here. Their points spiraled from there. In fact, Johnny begins a set of bloodiest matches by stalling again as a result of why wouldn’t he? A shoving match then breaks out earlier than both men lock up. Things break down shortly as Stetson gets sent to the surface and hit with a chair by Hotbody’s manager Don E. Allen. As Stetson is already bleeding, Johnny capitalizes with a operating, diving ring bell shot from the ring to the surface. Truthfully fairly impressive for a way vicious it appeared. It gave me a slight vibe of Cactus Jack. The brawl continues into the gang however sadly, a scarcity of digital camera protection signifies that we will see next to nothing and neither can the commentary group. It seems to be like Hotbody jumped off of the bar (sure, the type you order drinks from) at one level but poor video 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 battle”, although 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 offer Tony any respiration room. A suplex finally brings things back inside. Ultimately, Stetson manages to mount a comeback however this has quite obviously stopped being about wins and losses as the motion heads ringside as soon as more. It’s Johnny’s flip to take a beating now (together with multiple unprotected chair photographs to the top) and that is getting chaotic. If solely I might see extra of it. At the very least the environment is helping. Again within the ring (briefly) and the spotlight of the match takes place with a prime rope superplex from Hotbody to Stetson. That still isn’t the finish although because the brawl spills outdoors yet again. And THEN the referee decides he’s had enough and calls for the double count-out whereas both males ignore the bell and hold preventing. Nicely, that was a humid squib of an ending contemplating the superplex just moments prior. B- grade for an intense, fun brawl hampered by poor visibility and an anticlimactic ending.

In a fun little bit of continuity, the Kodiak Bear/ Wolfman vs. Hellriders match barely will get 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 simply 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 maintain. Though there’s an attempt to restore order, the tag match is just being ignored once again and the previous match technically continues on the surface (although we once once more can’t see much). We do at the very least get to see Stetson throw soda in Hotbody’s face.

It’s lastly time to give attention to the action in the ring and we get a primary change. Sadly, this never really progresses past primary brawling and clotheslines, with all 4 males sometimes clashing in the ring to mix it up somewhat. There’s no actual construct to a end 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 bit of lower if I’m purely evaluating the tag match itself. This was solely included as an epilogue to the previous match. The Hell Riders attempt to get some babyface revenge by cornering Kodiak and Wolfman’s supervisor “The Cosmic Commander” nevertheless it doesn’t come to anything.

Shifting on to the Russian Chain Match, Ivan Koloff is one other example of ECW bringing in fading older stars for his or her remaining identify worth. If I’ve my math proper, Ivan was 50 years previous when this match happened and in far worse shape than the jacked-up Snuka (who challenged for the ECW Heavyweight Championship on this similar present towards Don Muraco). So I’ll be interested to see what he has left within the tank.

Sadly, it’s exhausting to tell as the match is quite 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 an excellent wanting belly-to-belly earlier than making an attempt to touch the turnbuckles for the primary time. The actual drawback with this match though is that it already consists of an aged athlete after which the principles themselves stall any momentum continuously too. It simply bogs every thing down.

It’s not all dangerous although as Cairo does at the least present some hearth as soon as busted open (even biting Ivan on the forehead) and it doesn’t take long for both guys to be a bloody mess. After which in a sentence I never thought I’d write, 50-year-old Ivan Koloff dives off the highest rope for a senton(with the help of a sequence yank from his opponent)! Nicely, that was value watching this video for. He lands on Cairo’s knees though 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 sufficient for Tommy Cairo to only barely contact that elusive 4th turnbuckle and get the win. C- grade. Even when Cairo technically pressured Koloff into the move, I’ve to bump this match up barely simply because a 50-year-old successfully carried out a prime rope senton.

Okay, this lumberjack match “primary event” is bizarre. 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 an ordinary transition and the bout simply carries on. When you’ll keep in mind that I feel Stetson is meant to be the babyface here (in fact, the commentary workforce has completed a horrible job of creating things like this clear all through both volumes) and you’ll simply what an incoherent mess this is.

Worse yet, the match slows down after the roll of quarters and simply meanders on till The Sandman (with the prefix of “Mr.” at this level) interferes and causes the double DQ. So apparently the babyface can punch with a roll of quarters no drawback. But when he gets attacked by someone from the surface, we’re finished? Okay, whatever you say. Cairo involves assistance from Stetson and then the lumberjacks pile in for the clusterduck. Bellomo goes for TLC 8 years early by throwing a table, a ladder, and a few chairs into the ring. Then Stetson simply clocks manager Stevie Fantastic within the head with a chair. That seemed unnecessary. This simply degenerates into an unintelligible brawl in the crowd. One final chair shot to Sandman and we’re finished. D grade. I was going to go lower however 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 rough principal 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 Workforce Championship: The Super Destroyers (c) vs. Jimmy Jannetty and Larry Winters

ECW Tv 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 never 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 ready 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 high quality. As far as this opening match goes, I discovered it to be effective. Primary but high quality. Kaluha assaults before the bell, just for Cairo to struggle back. Like all babyfaces although, he makes a mistake and gets floor down for a protracted period. There are the standard swings in momentum to keep the gang invested in fact however Tommy getting to hit his flying physique block, an enormous back bodydrop and a huge Kaluha proper hand are about the only moments that stand out. Properly, there’s additionally Kaluha randomly mugging for the digital camera:

Cairo ultimately manages to reverse a sitdown pin into his personal and gets the win in one thing like 8 minutes or so. D+ grade. As I stated, a small handful of moments woke me up but this match principally felt so devoid of power. Not great for an opener. Publish-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 right into a Tag Group Championship bout. After seeing The Super Destroyers achieve the belts earlier, they’re now nicely established as unstoppable monsters here. Unfortunately, that is another match with stalling as Jimmy Jannetty (no relation) does all he can to keep away from the grip of The Super Destroyers. Not exactly riveting although. Jannetty ultimately tries to construct some momentum off the ropes and hit a physique block but he simply will get caught. His associate helps by hitting a dropkick and getting them a quick pinfall. Jannetty and Winters hold their very own for some time but once The Destroyers get in management it doesn’t take them long to start out enjoying with their opponents once again.

It doesn’t work quite so nicely here, because the challengers shortly regain the momentum and maintain it. I’m positive that goes towards tag staff wrestling 101 of getting the babyfaces construct to a comeback but what do I do know? Critically though, Winters and Jannetty principally keep in management till a quick double clothesline spot within the residence stretch. Even then, the challengers appear to be they’ve gotten the pin when a 1o-minute draw is said. D- grade. I just didn’t get this one. It was virtually as if recognized tag staff psychology was reversed and thus nothing was built to. Then the challengers handle to strike out with a time restrict draw after being in control for about Eight of the 10 minutes. Baffling.

Before 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 however in reality, Hunter Q. Robbins III does all the talking whereas Snuka repeatedly chews up and spits out an apple, It’s distinctive, I’ll give him that.

Oddly, the pre-match interview specifically referred to as this Osbourne’s first Tv Championship defense but then the commentary group instantly contradict this by saying that he has defended the belt earlier than simply not towards somebody on the extent of Snuka. So which is it?

Either method, after some stalling, Osbourne tries to take advantage with a fast rollup. It doesn’t work and we finally begin the sensation out course of. Unfortunately, the motion that follows is extremely lethargic. “The Superfly” is even slower now that he’s heeling it up and Osbourne is lowered to primary holds and desperation pinfall attempts. As you may anticipate, just as 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 appears to rely the three. It seems to be like we’ve a new champion, just for the original referee to reverse the decision and disqualify the challenger for placing him in harm’s approach originally. Good god, that was boring. D grade. Perhaps it’s just me (and be happy to say in the feedback for those who assume it’s) however giving a slowed, getting old Snuka license to be even slower was a recipe for catastrophe here. So little happened in an Eight-minute match. And what did occur was deemed irrelevant anyway.

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

Because it turned out though, this wasn’t horrible. Positive, you possibly can tell Sandman isn’t precisely reduce out to be a goody-two-shoes, paintless by-product of Sting but he doesn’t notably stink up the joint both. Admittedly, Kodiak Bear keeps issues very simple so far as the “huge man” recreation goes, never venturing beyond 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’ Insurgent 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 construct as much as Sandman’s subsequent “major” defense, as he faced Insurgent on December 19th. For all of the obstacles put within the Champion’s approach here although, he ultimately starts preventing again and ultimately triumphs with a clothesline, extraordinarily 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 Tremendous Junior territory. Publish-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 bit if it was an opener but as your principal event of the night that’s imagined to entice a TV station to take a chance, it was extremely subpar. ECW was barely ready for TV in April 1993. It wasn’t in November 1992.

General Video Grade: D. This can be a territory that looks like one thing stuck within the 80s when the world (and especially professional wrestling tv) was on the brink of move on. I can’t exactly blame ECW for making an attempt to emulate what labored as a TV product however the roster isn’t even close to having the expertise needed to tug it off with out the “hardcore” crutches.

 

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

 

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