Derek Burgan reviews
During my review of the Extremely Crazy Wrestling Fans DVD, I plugged Forever Hardcore as another documentary on ECW that fans would enjoy watching. Well, let's hook up with Sherman and Mr. Peabody so we can hop into their way back machine and revisit that disc.
Like Rise and Fall, Forever Hardcore is a documentary, but it unfortunately can’t use video clips or say “ECW.” The latter point is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard of (thanks Vince!), but the lack of video clips is offset by a ton of pictures that I have never seen before. There are also some video clips of ECW stars doing ECW-like stuff in other promotions like XPW, so that offsets the lack of any “real” ECW a little. You gotta give credit where credit is due, as Jeremy Borash outdid himself, considering that he was given a bad hand with all the WWE legal restrictions. At no point did I ever feel that the DVD dragged and to be honest, I hardly noticed that there were no clips being used. That’s a good job. The short introduction had some really good quotes, including Shane Douglas saying that, when they were wrestling at Jim Thorpe (in the very early days of ECW, drawing few fans,) the wrestlers’ checks cleared, but years later, at shows in front of 5,000 fans, checks started to bounce. Joey Styles mentioned that, when ECW finally got their long awaited television deal, they had already been stripped so clean by WWE and WCW that they came across as WWE-lite.
The DVD then moved into the history of ECW and how it started with Tod Gordon funding the company and Eddie Gilbert booking it. Gordon said that the first show was at the Mike Schimdt sports bar and drew 80 people. Terry Funk told Gordon that the company would financially “break his ass,” but Gordon was bound and determined to succeed. Eddie Gilbert was put over as a great guy, who had a good mind for the business, but Gabe Sapolsky (ECW front office back then, Ring of Honor booker now) summed up a lot of people’s thoughts by saying, “the product was not good with Eddie Gilbert as booker.” Eventually, Gordon and Gilbert split which led to Paul Heyman being brought in as booker. Heyman immediately turned heads because he would spit out ideas as fast as he could think of them. Bill Apter had a great Heyman story about Heyman’s days as a ringside photographer. Apter said that Heyman would do anything to get his shots, including pushing other photographers out of the way! Heyman recommended Joey Styles to Gordon, and it wasn’t long before the company that would soon change wrestling completely began to make its first major steps.
Terry Funk called Heyman a great motivator, and slowly but surely, everyone began to see the company turning around due to Heyman’s ideas. All the conventional rules of wrestling were being broken on a weekly basis, and this type of attitude was displayed right off the bat when Heyman’s first show started off with a match between Bad Breed (Axl & Ian Rotten) and the Public Enemy. No one was ready for such a brutal match, and it was the beginning of a new direction.
Sabu got acknowledged for how much he helped out the company, by giving it a wrestler who was nothing like what viewers were seeing in the WWE and
WCW at the time. Sabu talked about his original phone calls with Paul Heyman and how he agreed to do the Hannibal Lechter-like gimmick because he thought Heyman was just f---ing with him. After doing the gimmick for a bit, he realized he had to stop because it was just too much work going crazy before the match and not getting a rest. If you have never seen Sabu’s old gimmick, it’s worth searching out to see. After getting “released,” Sabu would immediately charge in the crowd and start throwing chairs around as the fans run for cover. It’s insane and exhilarating at the same time. Sabu talked about how his moonsaulting onto a table got started and how much damage it has done to his body over the years. Can you believe this guy wasn’t even wearing kneedpads back then? Actually, I'm not even sure if he's even wearing them now.
The Night the Line Was Crossed - I was really looking forward to this part of the DVD because it was this particular show, and more specifically its after match promo with Douglas and Funk, that made me an ECW fan for life. Terry Funk said that, in his entire 30 year career, there were only a handful of truly memorable matches, and that this was one of them. It’s hard to believe now, but at the time there was no such thing as Three Way Dances. Heyman honestly didn’t know whether the fans would love it or crap on it. Gabe Sapolsky had an excellent story about seeing Heyman before the show, basically praying, because this match was going to make him or break him. Heyman praying? Now I’ve heard it all. For those fans who enjoyed The Night The Line Was Crossed as much as I did, I recommend getting the Crossing the Line 2005 DVD, which has Funk and Douglas talking about that night along with their rematch years later.
One of the only things that I wasn’t a big fan of during the course of this documentary was that it didn’t go through events in chronological order. For instance, after discussing The Night the Line Was Crossed, the DVD goes back to the night where Shane Douglas double crossed the NWA by throwing their title to the ground and proclaiming himself ECW champion. This was the birth of Extreme Championship Wrestling, and was a great segment, but it should have preceded several of the previous segments instead of following them. I’ll concede that it is a minor complaint though and it doesn’t distract too much from the overall enjoyment. Anyhoo, Douglas said he only went through with the swerve because, several weeks before the show, NWA president Dennis Coraluzzo buried Douglas on Mike Tenay’s radio show. Heyman brought up the idea of the double cross and Shane said that Heyman was insistent on making sure Douglas knew the ramifications of what could possibly happen to his career. I thought that this was a great touch. Douglas made Heyman out to be a very thoughtful person rather than, say, Vince McMahon during the Montreal Incident, especially considering you know there is no love lost between Douglas and Heyman today. Shane said that only Heyman and himself knew there would possibly even be a swerve, and that Shane didn’t decide whether or not to go through with it until the moment he shot his promo and threw down the NWA title. Gordon hilariously described trying to convince Coraluzzo, who was sitting at ringside during Shane’s promo, that it was all “part of the show.”
Another strength of Forever Hardcore is that it often showed two sides to every story. In this case, Raven said that he didn’t agree with the
double cross and he that would have thought of something else to do. Raven did agree that it while it wasn't the ethical thing to do, the swerve was the right thing to do for business. It is refreshing to see a wrestling DVD that presents issues not strictly in black and white, showing that there were different personalities in the company that had their own viewpoints. It’s almost sickening sometimes to watch WWE DVDs, where you know the guys speaking don’t believe a word of what they are saying, but are going along to tow the company line. There is none of that in Forever Hardcore, and it is a better documentary because of it. This style shined when Terry Funk said that he felt Shane Douglas was spitting in the face of all the former NWA champions, like himself, and Joey Styles felt it was lying and not a good thing to do.
Enter Sandman - Jim Fullington steals this DVD. He comes across so great that it made me want to see a couple hours of just him shooting on the business. Sandman said that, when he started his career in ECW as a babyface, he was getting heat, “not the heat ‘cause you did something they hated, heat because you suck.” It was Tod Gordon’s idea to let Sandman start doing things that he was doing in real life, such as drinking beers and smoking. Heyman resisted, but because Gordon paid the bills, Gordon eventually got his way. All of the wrestlers had nothing but good things to say about Sandman, saying that he was a great family guy. Again, because the DVD makes it a point to show when viewpoints disagree, it hits home when everyone agrees on something. On a normal wrestling documentary I would think that the wrestlers were just bullshitting and giving us the company line, but I fully believe that, if someone had legit heat with Sandman, they would have said so.
The DVD covered Tommy Dreamer and how his feud with Raven finally got Dreamer over with the hardcore fans. Most everyone believes that Dreamer never got credit for helping ECW last as long as it did. Cactus Jack? Everyone loved his anti-hardcore promos and considered them as some of the best in wrestling history. Sabu said that he wished Foly had never retired, and from Sabu that is about the highest praise he’ll give anyone. Later the DVD covered Taz, saying that he wasn’t that big but carried himself as the baddest man on the planet. Sandman wondered if Taz began to believe he was his character and Kid Kash told a good story about Taz flipping out one show after Kash did a particular move (the Moneymaker) to Taz’s cousin Chris Chetti.
There is an excellent chapter on the ruthless fans of Philly. Tod Gordon said that the “fans were as much a part of the show as anything.” I’ll take that a step farther in that some of the fans were much more memorable than some of the wrestlers. Do people remember Sign Guy or do they remember Hunter Q.
Robbins? How about Lenny (a/k/a “Faith No More” Guy) compared to Sal E. Belomo? Please. New Jack added a hilarious promo putting over all the ECW ring rats and said that the “rats would come from far and near. I love the rats in Philly. How can you not love New Jack ? Apparently these rats gave New Jack credit cards and rented cars for him while he was in town. I need to get me one of those type of rats. Gabe Sapolsky made what I thought was a very good comment when he said that the fans have been romanticized over time. Gabe said they were very demanding and added that some were assholes. Joey Styles agreed with this and said that at the time he started the ECW fans hated him, much like hardcore WWE fans hate Todd Grisham and Marc Lloyd. Raven said that many of the wrestlers hated the fans, but he loved them because “they think they know so much that they are easy to fool.”
Summer of Violence - Axl and Ian Rotten got their fifteen minutes of fame on the DVD as they were credited with creating the extreme image of the company. This led to the Arrival of Raven, and Raven said that Paul Heyman saw himself through Raven’s eyes and that is why they worked so well together. Terry Funk had an incredible back handed compliment towards Raven when he said that there were many guys like himself who would kill themselves over the years while guys like Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes and Raven would seem to compete over who would do the least. I enjoyed the Raven section a lot because he has always been a favorite of mine, and it was interesting seeing the difference between people who thought he was a genius and the ones who thought he was an asshole.
The Fire Incident - This is one of the many events which Forever Hardcore covers that I remembered reading about in the wrestling newsletters at the time and always wanted more information on. This DVD is a boon to ECW fans like myself who didn’t get to live near Philadelphia in the ‘90s. Anyhoo, they told the story of Cactus Jack putting a kerosene soaked towel on a chair and lighting it on fire. Unfortunately, Jack taped the towel to the chair and the tape burned off right away causing the towel to fly onto to Terry Funk. The towel was then knocked off Funk into the crowd. Joey Styles had a great story about bringing people from his day job to the show and was completely embarrassed to go back to work the next Monday because not only was the building evacuated because of the fire, they also had a crucifixion angle with Sandman up by the Crow’s Nest. This was a different crucifixion than the one in which Kurt Angle flipped out upon seeng, but we’ll get to that soon.
The Shane Douglas/Pitbull #1 storyline was covered in depth and you can tell that Gary Wolfe is, to this day, still tremendously pissed off at Shane Douglas for breaking his neck. Douglas on the other hand, in one of the most amazing statements on the DVD, blames Wolfe himself for the accident. Wolfe’s response to that was, “Shane can say whatever he wants.” Wolfe had to wear a halo for six weeks, but still wanted to work. Douglas said he got “nuclear heat” for the angle of him shaking Wolfe by the halo while Francine added that she hated just about everything she was asked to do by Heyman at the time, including talking trash about Wolfe and his kids. Wolfe came across pretty bitter when he stated that the whole thing “definitely propelled Shane’s career.” I’d probably be bitter too if a guy who almost crippled me went on to do an angle based on it and also blamed me for it happening in the first place.
The Dudley Boys were talked about, with Raven saying the entire gimmick was his idea based on the Hanson Brothers from Slap Shot. New Jack said, as only New Jack could, that “Brother D-Von ain’t shit. Never has been and never will be.” The DVD also covered the night the ECW ring broke and Heyman sent out Kimona Wanalaya to strip. This segued straight to a segment on the Queen of Extreme, Francine. This might have been one of my favorite sections of all because it went over what led to the heat between Francine and The Franchise Shane Douglas. It got so bad that Douglas claimed at one show she went to kiss him (as part of their gimmick) and instead told him “I hate you mother f---er.” Francine denies this whole event. Awesome stuff with a solid job of editing the two talking about each other, and you can figure out why they haven’t spoken to each other in over five years pretty fast.
The Crucifixion of Sandman - Here was another event that I couldn’t read enough about back when it actually happened, and it was almost impossible for me to find out anything back then. I wasn’t on the Internet and wrestling magazines barely gave ECW any coverage. The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD covered this and showed the young Kurt Angle at ECW Arena that night and how he nuts after seeing the crucifixion. Shane Douglas said that he managed to get Angle there through Mark Madden. Gabe said after the crucifixion angle the entire locker room was screaming in the back. Everyone interviewed basically says how they hated the angle and so did the fans. Well, everyone except Raven, who was convinced he got great “quiet Japanese heat.” I guess that’s carny for “flop sweat.” Raven thought that going out to apologize to the fans was the stupidest thing he ever heard and made sure his apology was as insincere as possible. This is one of those sections that make the DVD that really needs to be seen by every ECW fan. I shouldn’t say that just Raven agreed with the angle, as Sandman had no problem with it either and capped off the whole segment with a very memorable rant on the incident and said that not long afterwards, Kurt Angle had no problem with the Undertaker crucifying Steve Austin on WWE TV. Yeah, but that wasn’t a cross Sandman, that was a SYMBOL!
The Mass Transit Incident was brought up and Kid Kash said “that was mean shit actually.” Kash said the boys in the back were laughing at stuff like Transit screaming like a little girl, but at the same time knew something completely f---ed up was going on. New Jack was just INSANE during this segment when he talked about Transit coming up to him before the show going over what spots he wanted to do and said that he wanted to “get color” but didn’t want to do it himself. After all was done, New Jack said, “No regrets. Welcome to the business.”
“No regrets. Welcome to the business.”
"No regrets. Welcome to the business."
The Blue Meanie, who has always been a personal favorite of mine, got a chance to talk about how he was brought into ECW and that a proposed one night gimmick turned into a nine month run. Bill Banks, a former WWE writer at the time ECW invaded Monday Night Raw at the Manhattan Center, talked about how he and Vine Russo watched the show from the crowd and were really impressed with the passion the ECW guys had. Banks comes across really well on the DVD and also said that the top talent in the WWE at the time thought that ECW was a joke. I bet after One Night Stand there are still some people in the WWE who think that ECW is a joke. They didn’t get it then and they won’t get it now.
We got to see the situation that caused Sabu to get publicly fired by Heyman, and Sabu’s thoughts on what went down. There is a section covering New Jack’s suicidal dives off balconies, and how he wanted to stop it but promoters kept offering more and more money. New Jack talked about one of his most infamous dives, The Danbury Fall at Living Dangerously 2000 with Vic Grimes, that ended up causing Jack to permanently lose sight out of his right eye and other nasty stuff. The first ECW pay per view, Barely Legal, was discussed and unlike the usual love fest that show gets, several wrestlers were upset that only Sabu and Tazz were on the poster of the show. For instance, Raven felt that his angle was hotter than Sabu and Tazz’s by that point. Everyone was nervous that night and there were a lot of great stories on the DVD about that defining pay per view.
Terry Taylor had a really strong segment when he talked about bringing the Public Enemy to the WWE. Taylor had heard through the grapevine that Ron Simmons and Bradshaw were being sent out to beat up the Public Enemy in the ring. The Public Enemy took the beating and were fired two weeks later. Taylor is still ashamed of himself for letting that happen. Taylor was also featured prominently on the section covering The Mole in ECW. Taylor said that he never got anyone in ECW who didn’t call him first, which would dispel all the “roster raiding” rumors. Tod Gordon also gave his case for why he feels the whole Mole thing was a complete myth.
Forever Hardcore covers the TNN deal, and wrestlers explained how the company was desperate and took a bad deal. Sandman said that it was good exposure to get on TV, but “the ship was sinking anyway.” We got a chance to see how the locker room took to Mike Awesome jumping to WCW while still being ECW champ. Kid Kash was heartbroken as not only was Awesome a friend he wouldn’t get to see much anymore, but his friend did something the worst way possible. I’m so used to Kash’s outspoken promos that it was interesting to see him act reserved and his comments on the DVD always made a lot of sense. By this time, the end of ECW was on the wall and the wrestlers said that Heyman claimed to be in Los Angeles making deals for the company but was actually filming his role in that God awful Rollerball movie. Francine said that Tommy Dreamer called her up one night and said that Paul E would be on Raw the following Monday and at that point everyone realized it was over.
***Screenshots then came up explaining that the WWE announced its One Night Stand pay per view and Shane Douglas created Hardcore Homecoming for the same weekend.
In a video dated March 15, 2005, Terry Funk talked about being offered a slot on the One Night Stand show. Funk had his WWE contract in hand and said it was for “quite a bit of money.” Funk said he had to debate with himself whether he should do what’s right for himself and take the money while working for a guy who “did a to destroy the company” or to do Hardcore Homecoming. This was an AWESOME segment because it wasn’t your typical Terry Funk ranting and raving promo. It seemed to come from the heart and Funk almost broke down on camera trying to describe that he had to explain to his wife why he wasn’t going to take the big money offer. Powerful. Simply powerful. Add it to the list of things worth going out of your way to see.
The DVD closed with Jeremy Borash saying that ECW lost a key man during the making of Forever Hardcore. Borash talked about Chris Candido and all the plans the two of them made for this DVD that unfortunately didn’t come to pass. Borash instead said he would show an unaired segment from TNA Explosion, a segment that Candido’s friends said typified the type of guy he was. What followed was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in wrestling. Chris Candido came out, bandaged up like the Mummy, wearing a neckbrace and moving around in a wheel chair. Borash was interviewing Chris and Candido was gut-bustingly hilarious when he would scream in pain during the promo. We got to see different segments of Explosion, and in one Borash pointed out that Candido’s bandage had switched sides of his head. “Pain travels” said Candido. Classic. A brilliant way to end the DVD.
Bonus Features: There were two extras on the DVD. The first is a tour of the famous ECW Arena, now called the New Alhambra. Just saying the word "Alhambra" may violate the Patriot Act, so be careful. The guy doing the walk thru was the new owner of the building. This was great for a guy like me who never got to see an ECW show there. When I went to Philadelphia the first time in 2004 to see a Ring of Honor show, one of the things that I made sure to see was the ECW Arena. Yes, it was at 4a.m. at night and the building was closed, but I was there. The other extra was Joey Styles doing a Word Association gimmick that should have been much better than it was. The most notable part of it to me was Styles commenting on Jerry Lynn and how he couldn’t believe a guy like Lynn listened to such horrible music. Styles was shocked to find out one of Lynn’s favorite bands was Gwar. I'm having a horrible flashback to one of the worst ROH skits ever filmed, and those of you who followed Jerry Lynn in ROH know exactly what I'm talking about.
Overall Thoughts: If you own the Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, you MUST have this fantastic companion piece. Forever Hardcore is a natural bookend to the story of ECW.
Is it the definite story of ECW? Not exactly, but it’s another set of viewpoints by people who lived through the era and have nothing to lose now when talking about it. In some ways, it’s superior to the Rise and Fall for the different viewpoints presented and the passion of some of the people (Sandman and Funk especially) talking about ECW. Given the parameters, Jeremy Borash’s film goes above and beyond the call when it comes to wrestling documentaries. You forget after a while about the lack of clips because everyone’s viewpoint helps to illustrate the picture. A picture that, while romanticized, still should be talked about because of the effects it had on the business today
I think for new fans, the Rise And Fall of ECW is a good
starting point as you can see the matches and angles in question, but for people wanting the rest of the story, Forever
Hardcore is the place to start. The DVD should go right on the shelf next to Rise and Fall, One Night Stand and Hardcore Homecoming. The documentary doesn’t pull any punches and presents
an unflinching look at both the good and bad of ECW, from the people who were there. To remember ECW…to chant EC-Dub
at shows…to know what ECW was all about, you need this DVD. You can purchase Forever Hardcore by
Clicking HERE or checking out www.ForeverHardcore.net
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).