AS I SEE IT 5/19: Your memories about the ECW Arena...15 years later
AS I SEE IT
Last week's column featured my memories of the ECW Arena as we reached the Arena's 15th anniversary.
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
First, some more memories of particular moments and matches...then your thoughts.
Texas Chain Match Massacre, Terry Funk vs. Eddie Gilbert, June 19, 1993 - This show was the first ECW show sold on tape commercially, with what was then the largest crowd in the young promotion’s history. These two gave the fans at the Arena an old school all-Arena bloody brawl of a kind not seen anywhere in Philadelphia, save Gilbert’s own program in 1991 with Cactus Jack in the ECW’s predecessor, the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance.
The Night The Line Was Crossed, Shane Douglas vs. Terry Funk vs. Sabu, February 5, 1994- The original “Three Way Dance” (although it wasn’t referred to as such at the time) was a one hour long match that put the cartoon shows that masqueraded as professional wrestling of the time to shame. Between the blow-away effort of the three wrest!
lers, Heyman’s booking had fans going with a match that told a story in creating the storylines that moved along the three pivotal characters of the golden era of ECW.
I also have to mention the match with The Sheik/Pat Tanaka - Kevin Sullivan/Tasmaniac; primarily for being one of the few times I got to see the Sheik wrestle live. It kind of made things come full circle as a TV image of The Sheik on CKLW Channel 9 in Windsor, ON (from the Sheik's Detroit promotion) is what first attracted me to wrestling back in the 1960s.
Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton crash the ECW Arena, April 13, 1994 - What was the single loudest, wildest, out-of-control crowd reaction in my memory of the six and a half years at the ECW Arena occurred when Bobby Eaton, then Arn Anderson ran in to conclude a two match multi-part angle involving Shane Douglas, Curtis Hughes, The Public Enemy, Tommy Dreamer, The Bruise Brothers, and Sabu. Seeing Anderson sent the crowd into some other lev!
el of sound.Anderson and Eaton were always favorites in Philadelphia,
because they were hardnosed and actually seemed to wrestle, a perfect counter to the cartoon show going on in the WWF and WCW during that era. So, when they hit the ring that night to set up the main event for When Worlds Collide the next month…it’s another one of those “you gotta see it for yourself” moments.
The Public Enemy vs. Funk Brothers (Barbed Wire Match), Heatwave, July 17, 1994- In an building that was estimated by some to be as much as 120 degrees, PE and the Funks tore down the house, with an incredibly violent match, remarkable given the temperature, let alone any temperature, at Dory and Terry Funk’s ages.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko, 2/3 falls farewell match, August 22, 1995 - This may well have been the best match I’ve ever seen for the overall emotional experience combined with the actual match itself anywhere in wrestling. While Dean and Eddie worked better matches in ECW and in Japan, the sheer emotion of the toughest crowd i!
n North America, with the “Please Don’t Go” chants; not to mention the fans, locker room, and Dean and Eddie themselves in tears, accompanied by Joey Styles doing the match call of his life as Guerrero and Malenko worked their last ECW match.
If you ever get the chance to get a tape of the ECW TV show that featured this match, it is a classic keeper. But I wish any of you reading this could have been there in person; because, as good a job as Styles’s call and Heyman’s editing did in communicating the feeling one had being there at the Arena that night, it could never do it justice entirely. It showed what Joey Styles could have done to get over even WWECW or WWE if Vince McMahon would have let Joey Styles be Joey Styles after hiring him.
The Raven-Tommy Dreamer feud, March 1995 to June 1997 - In an era where storylines are non-existent, where feuds are dropped at the drop of a hat, and where fans are too “smart” to get emotionally involved, this two and!
a half year feud with ECW’s ultimate babyface against the character t
hat was the masterpiece of Paul Heyman and Scott Levy’s careers was the most memorable feud in recent memory anywhere in wrestling…to this very day.The feud has twists and turns; starting off with their “mutual girlfriend from summer camp” (now the real-life wife of Dreamer) Beulah McGillicutty; concluding with an actual payoff at the end at Wrestlepalooza in June, 1997 with Raven’s departure to WCW.
Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Psicosis, Mexican Death Match, November To Remember, November 18, 1995 - This match gave fans another once in a lifetime experience to see Rey Misterio Jr. before injuries and being unmasked by Eric Bischoff took away some of his ability and mystique. Seeing these two go full blast (without being told not to show up oversized, overpaid mastodons on top as happened in WCW), was a thrill that I’ll never get again. The match made what they later did in WCW look like a shot and a beer indy opening match.
Shane Douglas vs. Chris Jericho !
vs. Pit Bull 2 vs. Too Cold Scorpio, Heatwave, July 13, 1996 - Jericho’s mid-air rana out of a PitBull top rope powerbomb all in one motion still amazes me when I watch it on TV eight years later.
Great Sasuke/Gran Hamada/Masato Yakushiji-TAKA Michinoku/Dick Togo/ Terry Boy, Barely Legal, April 13, 1997 - For many, it was the first time they’d seen Japanese wrestling live. The incredible match combined with an unbelievable atmosphere among the fans so supercharged to even have that PPV at the ECW Arena, along with the added touch from many of the fans throwing streamers ala traditional All Japan created a helluva memory.
Sabu vs. Terry Funk, Born to Be Wired, August 9, 1997 - The almost psychotic violence of this match probably goes beyond even the Taipei Death Match at Hardcore Heaven 1995 with the Rottens. Even the bloodthirsty violent ECW Arena crowd of the time was shaking its heads at this one.
Jerry Lynn-Rob Van Dam, August 8, 19!
98 and August 28, 1999 - For two straight years these two created Matc
h of the Year candidates. For whatever reason, Lynn and Van Dam seemed so perfectly matched with one another that they could turn the Arena crowd on, and made them remember the way they used to before the Arena crowd changed, and before the pure bloodmarks discovered ECW.
Along with the moments of great action, there were the moments of humor; including the night that the bWo imitated KISS at the ECW Arena. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life at a wrestling show as to watch Stevie, Meanie and Nova doing “Rock and Roll All Night” in full KISS makeup. That’s another moment for readers to catch on tape if they can.
Now, your thoughts...
"I remember staying up late to watch ECW in Philly. The greatest moments from the PPV's and begging my mom (I was young at the time) to drive me to the shows. We even convinced my friend's dad to drive us and leave the four of us at the Arena just to see the shows. Thanks for helping me!
remember these great times."
"Just a brief note concerning your column on the history of The ECW Arena. You really brought back some incredible memories. My son and I (he was in his late teens, early 20's at the time) drove from Westchester County, NY (a .5 mile drive from Paul's parents house, and 5 minutes from Tommy's house) and really enjoyed the shows tremendously.
Thanks to Gabe we had front row seats (Section A, opposite your crew)...and met lots of great fans there (bought too many of those cheesesteaks along the way...lol).
The pre-show chants between my section (mostly all Philly fans) and the upper far corner of NY fans who took the bus down were usually priceless. So many great memories, including at the Travelodge and later at the Holiday Inn as we almost always stayed over and drove home the next morning.
If you liked those chants, you'd have loved the fun outside the building, when the New York fans who ca!
me in through organized bus tours got in before Philadelphia (and othe
r) fans standing in line outside, sometimes in boiling or freezing weather. More than a few um....typical Philadelphia fan chants got thrown at those buses, along with beer cans and other things.
Honorable mention goes to the chants that were frequently directed by the Bleacher Bums at Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan, all at once obscene, profane, creative and hilarious.
From a member of the staff of a local wrestling production company:
"I was reading one of the news sites today and I came across your 'AS I SEE IT' column about the 15 Year Anniversary of the first ECW Arena show.
I just wanted to take a brief moment to send you this message and tell you that I thought the column was a great read. I grew up only 15 minutes way from the arena but being 16 now was too young to attend their shows. It is the old ECW tapes as well as your column that help me become informed on what it was really like back in the old days in that building. For the past few m!
onths I've been getting up early before school with enough time to read at least one column archive from your website each day to learn about some of the old stories and events that occured a long time ago, things that I missed out on years ago. Your column as well as the others on there that have helped me through each day thinking about the events of the past in wrestling and how everything went down.
One of my favorite things to do is find old website archives and columns; and just read them and see what the past was like and the experiences of so many other fans at the time, especially the ECW stuff. I just find it really cool to 'recapture the past' in a way and experience now what I didn't get to be there for at the time. Without going on for too long though, thank you for the great columns that have been put up on your website over the years who really give people like me another, experienced and knowledgeable point of view to see an event from."
WBTS and the AS I SEE IT columns back in the day tried to give fans a
real view of what was going on with ECW...both the good and the bad, the exciting and the sleazy... both in public and private. We didn't "drink the Kool Aid" in the sense that we thought Paul Heyman was infallible.
Talented, yes. Visionary, you bet. But a good businessman, never.
Nor was Heyman always the best of people to some of his staff. Along with the exciting, never-to-be duplicated ECW in-ring action ahead of its time, we told those stories, too.
From Elias Castillo:
What are the section C super fans up to these days, like Lennie?
Enjoyed the article.... good flashback.
I'm (obviously) running PWBTS.com and working in proprietary post-secondary education. My brother John (aka "Sarge") is a computer programmer. We both still attend CZW, CHIKARA, Ring of Honor, and many other independent shows whenever we can, and the occasional WWE show in Philadelphia.
John Bailey (aka "Hat Guy") is doing some independent man!
aging with World Professional Wrestling and Atomic Pro Wrestling, which run shows in southeastern Pennsylvania. I actually had someone at the Combat Zone Wrestling show (as the carnage with going with lighttubes, fishhooks, barbed wire and glass was going on) ask me about Bailey; and remembering seeing us both at the show where Shane Douglas trashed the NWA Belt.
His brother, George, is still with him as well. Two of his running buddies have since passed away, though, which is the reason we don't see him so much around Philadelphia shows anymore.
Mike Johnson is, of course, a longtime writer for PWinsider.com (with Dave Scherer, another former Bleacher Bum, running the site). Ray Sager and Frank Iadevia run Jersey All Pro Wrestling. Gary Walter is working with independent wrestling tape distributor Smart Mark Video.
Two folks we haven't heard from in some time are Paul "Sign Guy" Mellows and "Lennie" (the Rob Zombie lookalike). Paul or Lennie, if you're!
out there..give us a yell.
Until next time...
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