AS I SEE IT - 2/11/2000
by: Bob Magee
Welcome to the Whole FN Show, Bomb Wrestling, and NWA Jersey websites, which carry the AS I SEE IT column beginning this week.
February 5, 1994 was the date.
Eastern Championship Wrestling presented a show at the ECW Arena. No one had any idea of what the importance of this show would be to the future of this company, which then only was carried on one TV station, SportsChannel Philadelphia; and ran shows only at the ECW Arena and the surrounding Philadelphia area, to crowds measured in the hundreds.
ECW also had something the Big Two didn't have: "Team ECW".
"Team ECW" (so named by the Wrestling Observer's Dave Meltzer) was a group of hardworking people behind the scenes and a fan base who BELIEVED, and would do nearly anything for the company. "Team ECW" was made up of names like Kathy Fitzpatrick, Kathy Donahue, Bob and Lex Artese, Larry Gallone, Jay "Six-Pack" Sulli, Steve Truitt, and Matt Radico.
February 5, 1994 was the show that became "The Night the Line Was Crossed". Terry Funk, Shane Douglas and Sabu put on a one-hour match that ended with a draw...and a standing ovation from the then-record ECW Arena crowd. In the words of ECW commentator Joey Styles: "this was that night that wrestling... wrestling... returned to the United States of America".
That night began a two year period where ECW became THE promotion in the United States if you wanted creative, unpredictable angles; an exciting in ring product, with talent not seen by American audiences. It was a time when a fan could come to an ECW show, and realize that (unlike the overly predictable WCW and WWF of the time) they didnt know what was going to happen at a show that night.
Fans attending shows were prepared to be excited by the magic Paul Heyman would create in his head, and be entertained beyond their wildest hopes out of a crew of workers with guts beyond imagination, along with the world-class talent imported like Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Rey Misterio, Jr., Psicosis, and Juventud Guerrera. Months later, ECW went on to achieve its impossible dream of PPV on April 14, 1997 with "Barely Legal" from the ECW Arena.
Six years later, there is another company in much the same place that ECW was in those days: the South Jersey-based hardcore promotion Combat Zone Wrestling.
CZW has been around less than a year, with its first show at its CZW Arena in Mantua, NJ on February 13, 1999.
CZW also has its hardworking people behind the scenes and a fan base who BELIEVE, and would do nearly anything for the company. People such as "EdOMac", the Hartogs (referee Rob and his wife who sells tickets and a hundred other things), "The Bloodhound", Brian Picard, who keeps things running out on the floor (everything from Security to clean up and spent hours sweeping and vacumning the floor at the soccer arena after all the fans left), and the late Jim Goad.
Ironically enough, February 5, 2000, the sixth anniversary of ECW's pivotal show was in many ways, the night CZW "crossed the line" to take the promotion to a different level. Here's some samples of what I mean:
CZW's Junior Heavyweight champion Rick Blade retained the promotion's title with moves like Jeff Hardy's "swanton" (senton bomb) and a guillotine "crane" (perched on one foot) legdrop from an extremely high balcony through a table. If that wasn't enough, after the match, Blade set up a ladder in the corner, ran up it and hit Mercury with a somersault plancha on the outside.
CZW Heavyweight Champion (and promoter) Zandig defeated The Wifebeater and T.C.K. in a Three-Way Taipei Death Match (ala Ian and Axl Rotten's legendary ECW match) after Zandig press-slammed Wifebeater through a sheet of glass for the pin.
Justice Pain pinned Hardcore Nick Gage in a VERY bloody match, which saw Gage superplex Pain from the inside to the arena floor through the ringside table. Gage then called for every CZW fan to throw in their chairs (much like the night that Terry Funk called on the fans at the ECW Arena to do the same, in a scene shown for years on the ECW TV opening) which saw over 60 chairs get thrown into the ring. Gage took Pain to the top rope and superplexed him into the sea of chairs.
In the night's main event, John Kronus defeated Lobo and Madman Pondo in a Three-Way, No Ropes, Barbed-Wire Cactus Match. Yes, I said a cactus.
But even with that over-the-top action, there was more. Much more.
On February 5th, the widely reported announcement took place concerning CZW, ADV Films, SCOOPSWrestling.com, and Onita Promotions bringing the first ever North American "exploding ring match" to the United States (tentative date of June 25th, 2000) to PPV and Japanese television with Atsushi Onita taking on hardcore legend Terry Funk.
Some of the other types of matches announced for this show, which will have CZW workers facing Onita Promotions workers, include a CZW "Cage of Death" match (done once before at the CZW Arena with the most unique cage I've ever seen anywhere), and a "Freaks of Nature Match", with snakes, alligators, and pirahna in the corners of the ring.
Further, in April, Combat Zone Wrestling has agreed to go to Japan for an April tour to take on Big Japan. CZW's new sponsor, ADV Films (a company that sells and promotes Japanese anime) will also be distributing CZW's videos all over the world, including a tape of this historic June show.
While there seems to be many doubters about the promotion's ability to succeed with this venture, CZW reminds me of ECW just before it took off for those magic two years. The company is, like ECW was, a dedicated group of people working like hell to make a dream come true, despite the opposition of rival promoters and local government interference in its home of Mantua, NJ.
Since it may be following in ECW's path, CZW would do well to learn from the lessons of what happened to ECW after it reached its peak in 1996. It would do well to avoid the personality cult-like atmosphere that mushroomed in ECW after 1996. It became bad enough behind the scenes that Jim Cornette even remarked on a Shotgun Saturday Night broadcast in 1997 that ECW reminded him of the Heaven's Gate cult: "...you know, Heyman's Gate, where 1,039 people think they're dying and going to Heaven from the top of a Bingo Hall."
As I mentioned about what happened to ECW in the August 10, 1997 AS I SEE IT column:
"...What is the moral of this story for readers? It isn't just about one person. It's about things like trust and the long-known nature of the wrestling business behind-the-scenes and its personal intrigues that so often betrays trusts, and destroys relationships. Fortunately, it's also about the ability of people to survive when they have friends that DO treasure them. It's also about the fact there are those who understand that friends and loved ones are far more important than mere wrestling companies."
ECW thrived creatively when it stayed true to its initial vision of a group. When those behind the scenes within ECW began to succumb to greed, sex, drugs, and personal agendas, the promotion began a downward spiral that was only stopped by the TNN deal and the infusion of other ownership.
Whatever happens to CZW in the next year or so...and I know many within the company read this column...I sincerely hope they stay true to their vision of a company that entertains fans through their "ultraviolent" product style and their apparent regard for one another.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)