AS I SEE IT 8/16: An evening to remember in Chicago...
AS I SEE IT
We independent wrestling fans in the Philadelphia area are spoiled when it comes to wrestling.
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
From the beginning of the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance in 1989, to Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992, to Extreme Championship Wrestling from 1994-2001, to the various independents that run in the Philadelphia area...we've been spoiled rotten.
We've had moments that blow your wrestling mind...with Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and Chris Benoit, Rey Misterio, Jr., Juventud Guerrera, La Parka, Psicosis, Steve Williams, Terry Gordy, Dan Kroffat, Doug Furnas, Gary Albright, Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada, and TAKA Michinoku, Kenji Muto (and Kenta Kobashi this October), Osamu Nishimura, Too Cold Scorpio, and a hundred more...
We saw the creation of the most memorable new character of the last decade... a character called Raven... and saw for seven years, the evolution of the company that changed the direction of the professional wrestling industry, ECW.
We've had insane moments such as: Eddie Gilbert and Cactus Jack with the insane hardcore matches that put Philadelphia independent wrestling in the spring and summer of 1989...the psychotic bloodletting of the Axl Rotten-Ian Rotten matches...Sabu and Terry Funk in August 1997's "Born to be Wired"...
We've had great technical wrestling with Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Rob van Dam, Jerry Lynn, Chris Benoit..
We've even had moments like that of nearly 10 years ago: on August 29, 1995, when the Dean Malenko-Eddie Guerrero farewell match happened...with the smartest wrestling audience in North America in tears (not to mention Guerrero and Malenko themselves)... chanting "Please don't go...please don't go" with a heartfelt passion from the crowd.
But with all that... I'd have given anything to have moved for one night to Chicago Ridge, IL on August 13, 2005, for the CM Punk farewell.
In an era where so little real emotion is ever felt by fans because so few wrestlers are able to justify it, and where so few bookers are able or willing to create the storylines to allow them to do so...Gabe Sapolsky and CM Punk created one of those rare situations; where fans let loose with real, honest-to-God emotions this past Saturday night as CM Punk concluded his time with Ring of Honor, as he prepared to join Ohio Valley Wrestling.
The storylines involving Punk with his series of matches against Samoa Joe winning numerous 2004 Match of The Year Awards (60 minute draws on June 12 in Dayton, OH, and October 10, and AmElizabeth, NJ on December 4); moved on to his surprise title win against Austin Aries on June 18 in Morristown, NJ into a killer heel turn on the fans cheering him only moments before, telling them he'd take the ROH title to WWE, with whom he had just signed for the Ohio Valley Wrestling developmental promotion. Punk held the belt until August 12 in Dayton, OH, losing it to Jamie Gibson (Knoble).
This set up Saturday's farewell in his home market, Chicago Ridge, IL. The promotion set a record for the Chicago market with a crowd estimated at over 1,000. Punk came out to his Misteria Cantare music, which Ring of Honor turned over the last 2 years into one of the best entrances I've ever seen over my long years of watching wrestling. But no Punk.
Then the music cuts into a song that seemed more appropriate for a goodbye, "Night Train" by the Bouncing Souls:
"Goodbye to me and you.
Goodbye to the life we knew.
One last long embrace.
Let go and walk on through.
I'm leaving everything behind for a peace that I can't find.
The ghosts that roam this house
like winter air right through our souls.
And it feels like dying.
It just feels like time to go.
Goin down south to dream another dream.
Maybe check out Memphis, Tennessee.
Take the night train and an extra pair of jeans.
Can't think of anything else I really need.
And all my experiences ride with me.
This town is dead to me.
And I can't stop chasing my dreams.
I love you more than anything,
but what you want I could never be.
I love you more than anything,
but only alone can we both be free.
Goodbye to me and you.
Goodbye to the life we knew.
Wipe the tears from your eyes.
Let go and walk on through."
Out comes Punk in tears...followed by streamers literally filling the entire ring, surprisingly more than even for Jushin Liger's visit to Elizabeth, NJ. Samoa Joe, CM Punk and Colt Cabana were at ringside in tears before the match.
Finally the match started. Punk took the first fall at 12:37 after hitting Cabana with his own Colt 45 finish. Cabana took the second fall at 15:47 after a lariat. Cabana won after a roll up at 27:28. Much like the final Eddie Guerrero-Dean Malenko match at the ECW Arena the match was good, but in some ways not in the level that the two in the ring have had before. The real-life emotions and the emotions created in the ROH crowd and fanbase both in storyline and out of it were the biggest thing here.
After the match, the locker room came to ringside (except for Homicide and Low Ki, kayfabing to the end, and booker Gabe Sapolsky, who were standing standing on the entrance ramp), including Punk’s parents. Colt Cabana saluted Punk with a two liter bottle of Pepsi, with fans raising champagne glasses of again...Pepsi.
Lord willing, Punk is allowed to be Punk in WWE. Lots of wild rumors have come out suggesting various bizarre gimmicks for him, but so far, he's appeared as a version of himself. If McMahon would just have the sense to let him be...gasp...different...and play the character he's played all along, he's gained some fans that will perhaps again give McMahon a chance. Myabe we'll forget the general stupidity of Jillian Hall "The Mole", or child custody on a pole matches, or emasculating the over-the-top gimmicks of the Heartbreakers into some sort of dime store version of SNL's Roxbury Guys.
But I'm not holding my breath.
But for now, get yourself a copy of this tape when it comes out. It'll be worth seeing just for the memorable moments of Punk's farewell.
Until next time....
If you have comments/questions, or if you'd like to add the AS I SEE IT
column to your website, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)