Deep Look at the ECW Barbed Wire City DVD Review
Apr 25, 2013 - by Steve Gerweck
Barbed Wire City & ECW, Enough Already!
If you don’t know who I am, than perhaps this will be a better review for you. I’m just a fan now and this review is just one fans take on the new Barbed Wire City documentary. If you know who I am, you know I will go on a lot of tangents, and hopefully I will not bore you. Enjoy this one-off comeback column for a day.
“Barbed Wire City”, is the newest and most useless documentary that takes a look at Extreme Championship Wrestling. Before reading this review, I think this article at http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/other_sports/After_13_years_Allentown_natives_finally_ready_to_debut_Barbed_Wire_City.html, sent to me from someone who I am proud to say I still keep in touch with, The Blue Meanie, is a must read. That story tells you all about the movie and the trials & tribulations of getting the movie made. It also gives you an inside look at film maker John Philapavage & his back story.
Even though I left the wrestling business a year ago, I still follow it. One of the reasons I left was I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. I thought everything was stale. I felt at 30, I was too old and wanted to do other things with my life. It was just time to move on. However, despite not enjoying the product, I still watch Raw religiously every Monday night. Raw is just my show. It’s what I do on Mondays. Even if it’s just background noise when I do something else, it’s there. It’s my soap.
Just like your grandmother watches Days of Our Lives everyday at 1PM, I watch Raw on Monday.
Raw is a chore. We all know that. But it is the only show that matters in our business today. It is the lifeblood, it is the A show and if it didn’t happen on Raw, it never happened in wrestling. We all know that. I don’t watch anything else. Smackdown is useless. The other C-level WWE shows are worthless and meaningless as well. That’s a problem to cover at another time though. I mean when the shows and results are deemed worthless, what’s the point of watching? At least concepts like Livewire and Shotgun Saturday Night (early episodes) gave you a reason to tune in.
Outside of Raw, I have become a very huge shoot interview fan. But not the RF Video ones, those blow and are mechanical. Where did you grow up? How did you start? Blah blah blah, if you wanted to know all that shit about someone, you’d just Wikipedia them. (I guess Wikipedia is now a verb too.) The other thing that hurts all these
shoot interview DVDs is that all these wrestlers do free radio/podcast interviews, use facebook and tweet their thoughts out. Why pay the money for a DVD interview when you can hear the same things directly from the wrestler at the source?
While the shoot interview business is hurting because of the new technologies/outlets, I have become a huge fan of the Kayfabe Commentaries releases. I am proud to see this company take off, as I was there to help them out when they first started, and where they are today. They are far and above the leaders when it comes to the shoot interview & introducing new concepts. If you have money to blow, the Kayfabe Commentaries GUEST BOOKER & TIMELINE releases are always homeruns. Check them out at Kayfabecommentaries.com
So even though I am done actively promoting/booking/covering wrestling events, I still get my wrestling fix through RAW & Kayfabe Commentary DVDs. I think the independent scene is a joke, and again, thats another article for another time. But the indy scene of today couldn’t hold a candle to the scene of 10 years ago. I mean it’s so pathetic that people will still work for perennial loser Jac Sabboth, despite being stiffed 100 times. People will shake hands with a guy who not only steals from his mothers purse, but hocks her jewelry at a pawn shop so he has money to buy White Castle. This is indy wrestling today.
With Raw & the Kayfabe Commentary DVDs, I also enjoy the WWE produced documentaries. Sure they have a slant, but for the most part they are pretty good. I enjoy the history of this business. I enjoy the story telling. So when I heard about Barbed Wire City, I wanted to see it for several reasons. I was a fan of ECW. I’m a fan of
the wrestling documentaries. But most importantly, what could this movie do that the other two movies, the WWE Rise & Fall of ECW (Still one of my all time favorite wrestling documentaries) & Forever Hardcore didn’t do? The answer in short – jack shit motherfucker!
Before continuing, if you don’t know, well now you do, but I was a huge independent wrestling guy. Ran companies, booked companies, covered companies. The whole 9 yards. I watched everything. I feel bad for independent promoters today. These indy promoters who are trying and busting their balls to try to usher a new golden age
for wrestling will never succeed. First off, whatever WWE does dictates the business. That’s the most important fact. What also is not helping these promoters is that everytime Shane Douglas gets a bonus check at Target and wants to play high school reunion, all these fans bitching for something new, scurry like rats to Shane Douglas in their black t-shirts. My friend, independent wrestler Maximus Sex Power, went on a tirade about this on his twitter page, which you can read at: https://twitter.com/MaximusSexPower
How can wrestling grow when everytime something new is planted, fans stomp across the field to pick at the old products? I hear & read from fans all the time, “Same Old Shit!” “BORING!” Then these same fans will rush out of their mothers basements to give Shane Douglas & Tommy Dreamer their birthday money so they can chant “ECW”
for a night.
Then I hear & read from people that “too bad ECW isn’t still here” or “ECW was the best”. But was it really? Perhaps nostalgia clouds our judgment and the facts. Was ECW the best? Well if 1000 chair shots a show is the best, then ECW was the best. What we know now and what we didn’t know back then is huge. What were the after effects of all these guys from ECW? Sure, there are a handful of sane guys who got their shit together, like Stevie Richards, Blue Meanie, RVD, but then you got alot of fucked up guys like Balls Mahoney, Axl Rotten, Sunny, etc. Then of course, you got the obituary section, enough names to fill a phonebook with.
To say ECW was the best and that’s what wrestling needs right now is ignorant, just from the concussion issue alone. But if you really take a look at things, how good were they? Sure as a fan, we have our great memories. The Raven/Sandman feud. RVD/Lynn. Taz/Sabu. (Which ironically, are not even mentioned in Barbed Wire, but we’ll
get to that.) But was the company successful? ECW lost a lot of money. As Barbed Wire shows you, and they did do a good job of hitting this, but not really explaining this point, GUYS DID NOT GET PAID. They did this for free.
ECW was not a successful business model. Far from it. Paul Heyman is the greatest spinmaster of all. He was a wrestling guy, not a business man. He had a lot of hurdles as well, and the documentary Barbed Wire City does speak about it, but are these hurdles that weren’t already covered ad-naseum in Rise & Fall of ECW & Forever Hardcore? No.
To me, in 2013, I’m just sick of all the ECW shit. Just let it die already. It was fun when it was here, but it was here for a relatively short period. People talk about it like it was their favorite TV show that went off the air. I get it. But for wrestling to progress, people have to be willing to move on, and let whoever it is to come up with next big thing.
When all these Shane Douglas & Tommy Dreamer shows come along, they bastardize wrestling’s growth. It’s a payday for the ex-names. 2000 fans will come out to each of the promotions first show, but as time shows, no one will buy tix and the promotions will be forced to cancel as time goes on. It’s a waste of time. It’s a great one off, but to make a promotion over it, yuck. Like ECW itself, it’s destined to fail. Trust me, if people gave a shit about ECW for the long haul, then 3PW and XPW would still be in business today.
Sometimes people are scared to change and just go with what you know. Well if Paul Heyman had that attitude, there wouldn’t be an ECW. He wouldn’t be the biggest heel on WWE TV today. You have to adapt and get with the times. TNA is always going to be a fucking joke and just a mess because they haven’t realized that not everyone in the world is living in 1997 with them.
Bottom line, ECW was fun and damn, Paul Heyman did a great job spinning people around to make them believe it was anything but a failing wrestling company.
With my attitude being ENOUGH ALREADY about all this ECW revival shit, and trust me, I had fun in 2005, but I was over it then, perhaps I watched Barbed Wire City with a jaded mind. But can you blame me? How many times can you hear the same stories? For the fans clamoring for this DVD release, I’m surprised they didn’t stop chanting “Same Old Shit” at John Cena for a day, and scream it at John Philapavage.
One of my biggest issues with this DVD is that 90% of the DVD are interviews with wrestling journalists. One would’ve been enough. I know I’m sending out this article to some of the wrestling sites, but really, Dave Meltzer is the end all of wrestling journalism. All you needed was him. Scherer & Johnson were fan boys of ECW, and
that’s not a knock against them, but they are emotionally invested in it. Powell, Mitchell & Keller weren’t close to Heyman or the boys like Meltzer was. You could’ve just had Meltzer and that would’ve been fine.
I mean how does Bruce Mitchell have more face time on this DVD than The Blue Meanie? Why are long extensive interviews with Jason Powell & Wade Keller filmed, but nothing was done with Raven, The Dudley Boyz, Sabu, RVD or anyone else who main evented an ECW show besides the Sandman? Why am I paying $24.95 for a DVD to hear Mike Johnson & Dave Scherer tell stories that you can read on their website for free?
This documentary, in that aspect, was like watching a DVD called “The History of the New York Yankees” and instead of hearing from the Steinbrenners, Mattingly, Mickey Mantle’s relatives, Joe Torre, etc, you heard from Mike Lupica and the entire staff of the Newark Star Ledger. People watch these DVDs for the stars, not the guys covering the stars.
The documentary is also misleading. I was told and also read interviews with the film maker that this movie was directed to the non wrestling fan. Well that’s just hogwash and mularkey. No one is going to be watching this poorly produced and grainy movie because they are a lover of the art of film. You gotta be a wrestling fan to stomach two hours of shaky hand-held camera clips.
A large part of this movie is the Public Enemy. If you’re a non fan, you would think they were talking in present day. It’s not until after the movie, you’re told, oh yea, Rocco Rock died in 2002 and Johnny Grunge died in 2006. I just felt that came off very cheap, and I thought the same thing when Highspots.com tried passing off their Dynamite Kid movie as current, when they had clips of Bad News Brown.
The movie is not designed to be a timeline of ECW, but for the most part, it does follow a timeline. It spends way too much time on the stories we’ve heard before. An hour of this movie is dedicated to Barely Legal & the Mass Transit incident, but not a word is mentioned about Rob Van Dam or Taz, two pillars of the company. But at
least we get to hear Ronnie from Atlas tell us that it was tough protecting the Dudleyz. I couldn’t have figured that out myself. THANKS FOR THAT IMPORTANT PIECE OF INFORMATION!
The panel is very weak and by far, the weakest of the three ECW DVDs out there. Obviously the film maker had a smaller budget and less access to guys because of contractual reasons, but if you want me to pay more for this movie than the other 2 movies, then you must be judged on the same scale. And after a while, just like
people still trying to do ECW style shows in 2013, it’s pathetic. You look at Balls Mahoney and you look at Axl Rotten, and you’re just waiting to read that they have died. You feel bad for them and it’s pathetic. But we all make our own choices in life. I know Balls Mahoney too, and he’s a great guy, but without wrestling, what does he have? He’s not like a Crowbar/Devon Storm, who is a therapist and does this for the fun. Can you see Balls Mahoney working at a corporate office? (I think I just gave WWE an idea.) You get the point.
The movie wastes just way too much time on the journalists being interviewed. As I said, Meltzer would’ve been enough. You have 7 journalists all saying the same thing and it gets redundant. A lot of time is wasted saying the same shit over and over. So much information is not mentioned, like the women of ECW and their role, the real
life angles such as Sandman/Raven, the crufix, etc. Just so much information was missed, that I don’t have the time to mention all of it, or I’ll be here all day.
The DVD also jumps way too much. In one clip you’ll have an interview with Balls Mahoney in 2012, the next a clip of him in 1995, the next a clip in 2001 and then a clip from 1998. And it’s not to show you a different period of time. It’s just for the sound byte. For me, I get it, but to the average viewer, this is more shaky than Michael J. Fox. It’s too much and it loses a flow. You don’t watch a history channel documentary and the panelists lose hair, grow hair, have a beard, don’t have a beard, has glasses, has a spaghetti stain on his shirt within 15 minutes. Just came off very campy to me.
Again, not having access to guys just cripples this film. You have Paul Heyman, and the way they talk about him, you’d think he’s dead. They show clips from 1995. Instead of just saying at the outright of the movie that they couldn’t get guys, they pretend the ones they have are enough. It’s insulting.
At the end of the day, this movie comes off like a High School Reunion. Most people I know don’t even want to go to their own high school reunions, do you really want to invest 2 hours of your time at somebody else’s? Most of the stories are the “In high school, when I was the quarterback, and I single handedly won the big game…..” type.
I know the film maker had money problems and had his idea jumped by two other companies. But, that’s the risk and plight you take in any business. If this was the end result of 13 years, then perhaps he should’ve saved his time and energy and get ready for his Death of TNA documentary that a few idiots in Orlando might buy. This DVD
did nothing for me, nor will it do anything for anyone who saw the other 2 documentaries.
Even if this documentary came out before the other 2 movies, it still would’ve been weak, just because of the lack of names, the story presented and grainy RF fan cam footage. It isn’t slick. I guess neither was ECW, but then again, if you’re asking people to spend $24.95 on a movie, when you can get the newest latest blu-ray movie at Best Buy for $17.99, then yea, I’m going to expect a slick product.
At most, this movie is a time killer, but if you’re really looking for something challenging and fresh, spend your money at Kayfabe Commentaries. I’d rather hear Brutus Beefcake talk about being eskimo brothers with the Hulkster over Sherri Martel and how the Barber was the hottest thing since sliced bread than listen to New Jack talk about abusing and taking advantage of some poor mark.
The movie concludes just like Tim Disbrows Independent wrestling movie, with a “where are they now?” If the point of the movie was to depress you, then job well done.
ECW. Just let it die already. Please, I’m begging ya!
Overall: Get your ECW fix from the WWE documentary. If you need more ECW in your life, seek therapy, or go play with pogs, I mean that was cool in the 90s too, right?
Barbed Wire City is available at: http://www.barbedwirecity.com/ and retails for a ridiculous $24.95.
Note: Sean McCaffrey is a former promoter & booker of several northeast independent wrestling companies. He also was the editor of the DOI Independent Wrestling
website from 2003-2011.
Sean “The MiC” McCaffrey