Sapolsky Guest Booker DVD worth a look
JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
Ring of Honor booker Gabe Sapolsky is one of the most respected minds in the business. Sapolsky makes a very rare appearance in front of the camera for Kayfabe Commentaries to answer the question "How would you book the new ECW?" The result is fascinating.
One of five DVDs in the Guest Booker series, Sapolsky sits down with Sean Oliver, and is "given" the chance to take over ECW for Vince McMahon in June 2006 and book the remainder of the year, up to and including the December to Dismember pay-per-view.
And seeing how Sapolsky was employed by the "old" ECW for a time under Paul Heyman, his ideas aren't out of left field.
He starts by building a roster of 29 wrestlers. He drops Kurt Angle and Big Show, which were part of the actual version, and instead chooses Randy Orton and Ric Flair as his "top names" from Raw and Smackdown. ECW originals Rob Van Dam, Sabu, The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer remain with the company as well as Elijah Burke, and C.M. Punk. However he also pulls people like Paul London & Brian Kendrick, Harry Smith, Matt Hardy, Jamie Noble, and others.
The actual ECW December to Dismember was universally panned as one of the worst pay-per-views ever. Headlined by Bobby Lashley winning the ECW title in an Elimination Chamber match, the show also featured Shawn Davari beating Tommy Dreamer and Sylvester Terkay and Elijah Burke squashing The FBI. Compare that to Sapolsky's vision: ECW Champion Randy Orton defending against Ric Flair; An ECW Tag Team titles two-out-of-three falls match between champions MNM and challengers London & Kendrick; ECW TV champion Matt Hardy facing Shelton Benjamin; Sabu vs. Brent Albright in an Extreme Rules match; C.M. Punk vs. Rob Van Dam in an ECW staple, the Stairway to Hell. Sapolsky rounds out the undercard with William Regal vs. Harry Smith, Tommy Dreamer & Sandman vs. Val Venis & Stevie Richards, and another ECW original match, the three way dance between Jamie Noble, Little Guido, and Elijah Burke.
It sounds good on paper, and even if the casual fan doesn't see people like Noble, Venis and Guido as stars, the way Gabe builds up the storylines over six months makes me believe that the fans would actually care about these characters. He takes a look at each match and explains how he gets there, including all of the angles and feuds, how he builds up each wrestler, and gives us the results of the PPV as well. It's actually quite frustrating to be a wrestling fan and see someone else's vision of WWE's third brand being booked better than WWE creative have done with RAW and Smackdown. Underused talents like Harry Smith, Jamie Noble and Little Guido would probably watch this DVD and wish Sapolsky had the book, simply because they would have a role.
It is easy for fans to put out their own ideas of how they would book certain shows and angles, but Gabe Sapolsky has been successful at it with Ring of Honor and Full Impact Pro. If you have any interest in taking a look at booking, grab yourself a copy of this DVD. It's worth a viewing.
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Guest Booker... Gabe Sapolsky DVD
Jason Clevett is an armchair booker and long-time ROH fan. He has twice interviewed Gabe Sapolsky, which you can read here and here.