Sunday, 23 March 2008

NECW Gateway To Greatness - DVD Review

In this edition of The Two Sheds Review I’ll be taking a look at a promotion that began life back in 2000, New England Championship Wrestling. I’ll be making a few return visits over the next few weeks as we take a look at some of the recent DVD releases, their sister company World Women’s Wrestling, and their online television show. But to start off with we’ll be looking at their compilation DVD, Gateway to Greatness, featuring a whole host of stars who went on to gain national exposure in TNA and WWE, competing in matches held between 2001 and 2003. NECW President Sheldon Goldberg is on hand for commentary, so let’s get this review started.

We begin with British star “The Anarchist” Doug Williams taking on “The Alpha Male” Justin Powers. As always, Williams puts in a top notch performance, but when I come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad Doug Williams match. Powers does his bit here as well, putting on a quick and fast-paced match, which saw Williams come out on top with a rolling German suplex. A good way to start the collection off.

Next it’s onto a man whose career was sadly cut short by injury, Chris Nowinski, competing here as Chris Harvard, against Aaron Morrison. While watching this I couldn’t help but wonder how far his career would have gone had he not suffered from post-concussion syndrome. Harvard showed a lot of potential here, putting on a good match with Morrison before taking him down with his version of the backbreaker. For some reason some of Harvard’s mannerisms reminded me of Randy Orton. I don’t know why.

Then it’s on to a battle of the sexes, as Mercedes Martinez takes on “Heartthrob” Kurt Adonis. It takes a while before this match actually begins, as Adonis fancies himself as a bit of a singer, but instead of warming up the crowd he leaves them feeling a touch chilly. Thankfully Martinez’s manager Joel Gertner makes the save and gives us one of his usual festive promos. As for the match, that wasn’t too bad. Adonis dominated for the most part, even though Martinez got a few good shots in, but in the end Adonis’s arrogance proved to be his undoing. After scoring with a frog splash, Adonis interrupted the count and then pushed the official to the mat. He then went to the top again, only to be pushed off by Gertner. Stunned, Adonis got to his feet, only for Martinez to take him down with a flying cross body to get the winning pin. That’s three good matches in a row now folks.

The next match sees Antonio “The Promise” Thomas, who later became one half of the Heartthrobs tag-team, taking on Zaqary Springate III. It’s a solid if unspectacular match here, with each wrestler putting in a good performance and telling a good story here, although the ending was a little messy, with Springate following Thomas into the corner, and Thomas making a bit of a mess with his sunset flip attempt to get the pin.

The only tag-team match of the collection features then NECW champions “The Egomaniac” Johnny Idol and J-Busta face their ECWA counterparts Ace Darling and Matt Stryker, with their manager E.S. Easton along for company, in a double title encounter. With two heel teams against each other, it was interesting to see the underhanded tricks they used against each other, which started at the beginning of the match when Stryker and Idol both offered their hands in friendship. I think you can guess how that turned out. Stryker looked tremendous in this one, and it’s a shame that he’s mainly used as a manager these days, because he can really go. Oh, and the other guys in this match didn’t look too bad either. With the referee taking a snooze after getting accidentally hit by Busta’s legs, the second referee awarded the match to the ECWA champs after Darling countered Busta’s sunset flip attempt to get the pin - failing to notice that Darling was actually holding the ropes. The first referee then came back to life, and the match was re-started. It was a short time later when Busta, with the help of Idol, countered Darling’s monkey flip, and pinned him with his feet on the ropes. The second referee then returned, to tell the first what had happened. Then, annoyed at the decisions, both teams attacked the referees, with the match then being ruled a no contest. Another good match here, with the storyline surrounding the pins and the referees played out extremely well.

Women’s action next, with “The Fabulous Firebird” Beth Phoenix taking on Trinity in what was actually Trinity’s first ever match. Although there were a couple of dodgy moments from both women, it’s not a bad match here, with Trinity looking good in her debut outing. Phoenix came out on top here, taking Trinity down with her version of the Michinoku driver. Not the best women’s match I’ve seen, but certainly not the worst.

Then came the match I was looking forward to, with my fellow Brits “The Wonderkid” Jonny Storm against perennial foe “The Phoenix” Jody Fleisch. No matter how many times I see these two against each other, I never tire of it. I don’t think I really need to go into detail here about what happened. Suffice it to say it was a tremendous match, with Fleisch getting the win after his revolution DDT. By the way, did I say that this was a tremendous match? Oh yeah, I did.

The final match on the collection sees “The Prototype” John Cena taking on “The Future” Frankie Kazarian. Cena is a hell of a lot muscular here, and a lot more tanned. Before the match there’s actually footage of what happened earlier in the same show, which was the set up for the match later on. It’s an interesting look at Cena’s early career, with this match taking place just before he began his developmental stint in OVW, and you can see here why the WWE signed him to that deal. Kazarian really had the fans riled up for this one, playing off Cena’s hometown favourite image extremely well. In fact this is a very good match, with both Cena and Kazarian looking great, and with the referee taking a snooze, Kazarian clobbered Cena with a chain. Bt that wasn’t enough to get the three count from the groggy referee, and with Kazarian getting increasingly frustrated at his inability to get the win, Cena finally got the win after taking him down with his sit-down the slam, the move he now uses as the set up for either the FU or STFU.

DVD extras come in the form of a bonus match between Alex Arion and Bob Evans, a segment from 2002 where Dusty Rhodes talks about NECW, and a trailer for World Women’s Wrestling.

In conclusion - if you’re a fan of “before they were famous” programmes, then you’ll like this DVD. It’s an interesting look at the early careers of men and women who now ply their trade on the international stage, and although some of the wrestlers featured here do look a little rough around the edges at times, that really shouldn’t put you off. Production wise, the picture quality is a little below par, but that’s mainly because most of the footage is taken from old video tape, and again, that shouldn’t put you off at all. Special mention must go to commentator Sheldon Goldberg, who did a good job here, especially when it came to giving out info on some of the wrestlers I didn’t know much about. So the ultimate conclusion is - highly recommended.

With thanks to Sheldon Goldberg and NECW for supplying a copy of this release. To order your copy, and to find out more information on New England Championship Wrestling, as well as their online TV show (which you can download and store on your computer!), visit www.NECWwrestling.com.