by : Fritz Capp
September 4, 1999
I normally do not write two columns in the same 24 hour period, usually because I just do not have the time. But this is one of those rare occasions where I feel it is warranted.
Now I am also going to go back to the old format for this one as I feel it is needed.
You see, I see a wrong being perpetrated on a lot of wrestling fans and it is time that I have my say on it.
You see, there is a little arena sitting on the corner of Swanson and Ritner in South Philadelphia. Now this isn't just any arena. It is known throughout the wrestling world. In fact it is probably known best for housing one of the most creative, ingenious, innovative and rebellious wrestling promotion that this country has ever seen. You see, this arena houses Extreme Championship Wrestling and if you live in the vicinity of this sacred building then you know what I am talking about. The problem seems to be though is that some people may have forgotten the history of this building and what it actually means to the promotion that calls itself hardcore.
It was in this building that the legendary Guerrero/Malenko matches took place. It was in this building that one of the greatest wrestling works of all time happened, the blinding of The Sandman. This building has had the names of Terry Funk, Cactus Jack, Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit, Rey Misterio Jr., Chris Jericho, Terry Gordy, Gary Albright, Ron Simmons, One Man Gang, Bam Bam Bigelow, Perry Saturn, Konnan, Eddie Gilbert, Public Enemy, Dr. Death Steve Williams, Steve Austin, Brian Pillman, Louie Spicolli, Rick Rude, Tammy Sytch, Chris Candido and so many others pass through its doors to entertain the loyal fans of ECW. And the fans never let them down. The fans were always there. Many traveled through snow storms, ice storms, torrential rain and blistering heat to be there for the shows. The Philly chapter of ECW fans are without a doubt the most loyal fans ECW has, bar none. I know, I used to be one. I remember the loyalty and camaraderie the fans hold for their promotion.
What is bothering me is that it appears that Paul Heyman has forgotten the same fans that were instrumental in putting ECW on the map, because if it wasn't for the fans in Philadelphia there may not be an ECW. Long before New York, Florida, Ohio and all the other states ECW now goes to there were the Philly fans, laying down there money and spreading the word of a small independent promotion that had more to offer the true wrestling fan than all the other promotions put together. That word of mouth put a fear into the two big wrestling promotions, the WWF and WCW respectfully, to the point that one raided the talent of ECW and the other changed the way they looked at wrestling and changed their product accordingly.
Now I have to say that the ECW Arena is not a state of the art building. In fact I said way back at the "Barely Legal" PPV that ECW might have been better off renting another building for their first pay-per-view. You see, ECW was having financial problems and my thinking was that they could have sold more tickets to what could be called the most anticipated PPV of the 90's. But I understood why they held it there, history. The history of ECW was built in this small building and it was only fitting that they held their first pay-per-view there. But what has happened since?
Pay-per-views in every other city. Even the Philly main stay show called "November To Remember" was held somewhere else. Even though I was no longer a die hard ECW fan I felt a little betrayed when that happened as it just did not seem right."November To Remember" was the show, the one everyone in Philly waited for every year. To hold it somewhere else seemed almost sacrilegious, but yet that is what happened.
Now ECW has garnered a deal with TNN and is being broadcast to a national audience each week on Friday nights. For the promotion that is fabulous news. But where was the first taping held? Toledo, Ohio? Now correct me if I'm wrong but isn't Toledo a city that garners the brunt of many jokes by numerous comedians? Hell, wasn't Klinger on M.A.S.H. from Toledo, Ohio? To point out something Paul wouldn't even use the tape from Toledo although that is what was planned., I mean the first TNN taping was held there right for just that purpose right? I highly doubt Paul would have had a problem with anything taped from the ECW Arena. But considering the first taping was done in Toledo that surely meant he would bring the second taping to the fans who were there for him when he and his fledgling promotion was nothing more than a blip on the wrestling scene correct? Nope, Paul took the second taping to New York, the House of Hardcore? While I am not doubting the loyalty of the fans in New York when did Philadelphia and the ECW Arena give up the moniker House of Hardcore? Sure there were fans who drove from New York to Philly to see the shows but read what I just wrote. They drove to Philly which means that Philly was there first. But I digress, ok...so ECW went to New York for the second taping, that only means that there had to be a guarantee that Philly would be next on the list for a TNN taping right? Wrong again.
Is this the way that Paul Heyman thanks the fans of Philadelphia for their undying support of his product? I am sure that Paul Heyman appreciates the loyalty of the Philadelphia fans because without them there may be no ECW, but when do you say, "Hey, I owe the Philly fans and they deserve to be a part of the new deal we have, let's take TNN to Philly?
It appears that Philly is not worth anything but house show status anymore. Is it the building itself? Could be, it only seats around 1100 but usually has 1400-1600 in it which makes it kind of uncomfortable. The sound system sucks to be honest for the most part because the sound bounces off of the concrete walls. It has no real air conditioning and when filled to capacity it can take up to 15 minutes just to maneuver around to get to the bathroom but hey...IT'S THE ECW ARENA!
ECW should have looked for a new building after the first pay-per-view but they get the arena for pennies so they stayed, which may have been a mistake. I believe that it is now time to look for another venue in Philly so that ECW can have more of its fans be able to get in to see a show. Now is a better time then later to start to look for a new venue but I have to ask Paul Heyman one question.....
"If ECW has outgrown Viking Hall, what are the possibilities of ECW having one TNN taping at the arena before you move on to a better venue, not only to give the fans something back for all their years of support but also as a way of saying goodbye to the arena?" I know that the power there is suspect as far as being able to handle a major broadcast. The equipment that is used must be a great strain on the old buildings electrical system, but dammit Paul these are the Philadelphia fans we are talking about. These are the people who came to the shows when you had to give away tickets and have everyone sit on the bleacher side just to look as if there were people there. These are the people that started the ECW chant. These are the people who stuck with you through thick and thin. These are the people who made ECW what it is today, by supporting you for all of these years, by telling their friends and buying your merchandise the Philadelphia fans deserve, yes deserve, a TNN taping at the ECW Arena. You need to do whatever it takes to make this happen if not for any other reason then just because it is the right thing to do. Damn man, this is where "The Revolution" started!
I am making a challenge to Paul Heyman, ECW and to everyone affiliated with the promotion to open your eyes and see how you are dissing the fans by not having a TNN taping at the ECW Arena. I am also asking every ECW fan to get behind this idea, because if you all take a moment to think about this it was the ECW Arena and the fans of Philadelphia that showed the promotion that ECW had the right idea. It gave them the hope and confidence to go on, to take ECW to where it is today. Do you really think that ECW would be here today if no one went to the shows in Philly? Do you really think that there would be an ECW if the fans of Philadelphia didn't support them the way they did? In a small way every ECW fan today owes a debt of thanks to the diehard hardcore fans in Philly for being there when ECW was in their beginning. Every ECW fan knows of the ECW Arena, help this piece of hardcore history get the taping it rightfully deserves, even if it is only for one time.
Fritz Capp is the editor of Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets - for comments or opposing viewpoints please e-mail to Fritz Capp