AS I SEE IT - 2/22/2001
Believe it or not, I can write about "just wrestling" sometimes...
So this week will be one of those columns where I do just that.
Any of us who've watched wrestling for a long time have gotten to watch quite a few artists perform on their own kind of canvas. Sometimes the ringwork looked like the finger paintings of three year olds, and sometimes the ringwork looked like a Matisse. But whatever their talent level and their fame become, all of them had to start learning somewhere.
I can remember sitting on a Saturday afternoon, watching Stevie Richards work in front of fifty people or less at a neighborhood street fair in the Kensington section of Philadelphia for Joel Goodhart's Tri-State Wrestling Alliance....
I can remember sitting in a rundown flea market made out of the remains of a K-Mart in a blue-collar New Jersey town.... watching A.C. Connor, then again saw him years later in Smoky Mountain Wrestling as the sidekick of the Gangstas.... now become a star in the World Wrestling Federation... D-Lo Brown.
In that same rundown flea market, I saw two guys working under masks as the "Spiders". Their gimmick was to squirt silly string at the crowd before the match. They later took on a heavy metal gimmick in Smoky Mountain Wrestling...and became stars in the World Wrestling Federation...Glen Ruth and Chaz Warrington, the Headbangers.
In that same rundown flea market, I saw this guy I'd read about from Minnesota...Sean Waltman, the Lightning Kid, who then became the underdog 1-2-3 Kid, then eventually X-Pac.
Down there in the flea market, I also saw a talented crewcut young worker, whose only claim to fame back then was that he was the grandson of Chuck Richards, enhancement talent for the WWWF years back. Oh yeah, there was his girlfriend who didn't stand out much from the assorted wives, girlfriends, and the "ladies supportive of the business" that were around.
How times changed... Both of them eventually went south to Smoky Mountain Wrestling...and created unforgettable characters that have gone on to ECW, the WWF, and WCW, Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch.
Then I remember seeing this blond-haired guy, doing geeky babyface promos, with his equally young tag team partner... at a kiddie park just outside of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee's Dollywood.
Though they've gone their separate ways, you know them all too well, one as the Intercontinental Champion...then his former partner, one of the best technical heels from Calgary (dramatic pause), Alberta, Canada...Chris Jericho and Lance Storm.
One last example....I saw Cactus Jack work matches in bars and junior high schools, before entering into the series of matches in Dennis Coraluzzo's NWA and Joel Goodhart's Tri-State Wrestling Alliance that may well have established the reputation of Philadelphia as the hardcore wrestling capital of the United States....the 1990-1991 series of matches with the late "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert.
Well, add another name to the list of those that we'll "be remembering where we first saw him" soon enough...
Blade is a phenomenon who works for New Jersey's Combat Zone Wrestling, Jersey All Pro Wrestling, NWA-Jersey, and Pennsylvania's Eastern Wrestling Federation; among other eastern independent promotions.
This young man, in wrestling just over a year has become an incredible talent for anyone who has seen him.
Watch him do a swanton bomb from heights that border on the irrational, and nail it each time. Or watch him show his tremendous leg strength with his crane leg drop, where he goes into the crane position...off of the turnbuckle onto the opponent. Or watch his other leg drop where he uses a ladder off of the top turnbuckle, and vaults the ladder to nail the other worker. Or his leaping springboard into a 450 splash. Or his shooting star press. Or taking a ladder in the corner, running up it and hitting someone with a somersault plancha on the outside.
He mixes these moves with a legit-looking martial arts style.
Blade's popularity seems to be showing itself over a wider area in a year-end poll taken by WHOOWrestling.com, where he's head-to-head for the award for top independent rising star of 2000 with Low-Ki over recent WCW signee Air Paris, WCW developmental talent Chad Collyer, and Scoot Andrews.
At this early stage, Blade has already worked such well-known northeast independent talent as Reckless Youth, Mike Quackenbush, Hardcore Nick Gage, Zandig, Mercury, Low Ki, Justice Pain, Nicky Benz, Johnny Kashmere, "Sick" Nick Mondo, as well as ECW's Super Crazy.
Even more unique then any of the above, Blade seems free of the egotistical behavior that all too often plague wrestling from the independents to the Big Two. I've been around CZW before shows enough to see that Blade as a "good guy" isn't just a babyface character he's playing.
I still recall his concern about going over to work Big Japan about upsetting his Japanese hosts after shows, because he doesn't drink. Rather unique in wrestling to have someone concerned about NOT consuming mild-altering substances, isn't it?
As with anyone who works a high-flying style, many of us (and his fellow workers) worry about the risks he takes with many of his spectacular moves; with the workers highly protective of him...to the point where one well-known indy star was shown the door from one of the promotions he works with because there was a problem with one of their matches, with Blade getting hurt.
It's rather unusual for a worker that young to have earned that much personal loyality from the locker room all the way to the promoter, where Blade is often referred to as "the third Hardy".
If there was any justice, he'd be on this weekend's East Coast Wrestling Association Super Eight show as one of the most exciting young cruiserweights in the eastern US; along with names like American Dragon from Tennessee, ECCW/Pacific Northwest's Tony Kozina, Low Ki, Reckless Youth, and Florida's Mike Sullivan.
But sad to say....well, let's just be polite and say that the politics of wrestling gets in the way of things sometimes...
But if you live in the Northeast and get a chance to see Ric Blade, take the time to find shows of Combat Zone Wrestling, Jersey All Pro Wrestling, NWA-Jersey, or Pennsylvania's Eastern Wrestling Federation that he's working on.
Then, years from now... you'll be able to say that "you remember when", too.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)