AS I SEE IT - 3/15/2001
More this week on the imminent passing of ECW...and some memories.
From May 1993 to 1995, I sat in the front row of section C (the on-camera section with John "Hat Guy/Hawaiian Shirt" Bailey and company) the first two years at the ECW Arena, before the Club ECW plan was devised. Since I'd been burned by former promoter Joel Goodhart for a similar plan, I refused to put out the money for the "4-packs".
Ironically, it turns out that wasn't such a bad idea, as the seats I'd regularly sat in with my brother, were the very seats that were involved in the 1995 Terry Funk-Cactus Jack "fire incident".
So I moved up with the "bleacher bums" in Section C. As I sat there, I was fortunate enough to see ECW at its best during its golden era. I also was able to gather many other memories until December 23, 2000, which was apparently the last ECW show at the ECW Arena.
Here are a few of my top matches and memories from that building...
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 wrestlers, 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 def. Kevin Sullivan & Tasmaniac; primarily for being one of the few times I got to see the Sheik wrestle live.
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 level 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.
Eddy 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 in 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, it could never do it justice entirely.
The Raven-Dreamer feud, March 1995-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 that may well been Paul Heyman and Scott Levy's career masterpiece was the most memorable feud in recent memory anywhere in wrestling.
The feud has twists and turns; starting off with their "mutual girlfriend from summer camp" 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 was a thrill that I'll never get again, unless I get to see them in Tijuana. Even then, it may not be the same.
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 five 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, 1998 and August 28, 1999.
For two straight years these two created Match 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.
Then there were similar moments with Public Enemy. When they weren't kicking ass in the ring, they were making viewers laugh their asses off from week to week in the unique mix of hardcore violence and off the wall humor that their characters portrayed on weekly ECW TV. If it wasn't their escapades at Terry Funk's Double Cross Ranch, it was the times that they tortured Tod Gordon playing ECW's bad boys, or taking Paul Heyman and 911 "to the Hood".
But of course, with anything associated with PWBTS and ECW, it can't just end with talking about those happy memories...
This week, I received letters regarding last week's column that repeated the usual "PWBTS and Bob Magee hate ECW" litany that more than one of us at PWBTS has had to listen to over the last five years. They referred to my comments about the happenings in ECW in 1996 and beyond.
For those who aren't familiar with the history, here it is in short: Fritz Capp, Carrie Messantonio-Zohn and I from PWBTS reported and commented on the fact that ECW had problems years long before anyone else did. We were accused of being too closely or personally involved with certain situations; and thus not being credible. We were attacked both publicly and privately by people who should have known better, and did know better.
But the fact of the matter was that those problems within ECW that we talked about were allowed to happen. Those few who are still denying it can't and won't change the facts, no matter how hard they try.
It's a fact that over time, ECW management's mindset that allowed those things I referred to in last week's column to happen, brought on other problems. They were, figuratively speaking, the worm within the apple that made things rotten to the hardcore. In turn, those internal problems eventually ended the opportunities for memories like those that made up this week and this past week's AS I SEE IT column, not to mention filling so many other websites and message boards.
If I hated ECW, I wouldn't have bothered to write about it these last two weeks. I'd simply have said good riddance to bad rubbish and let it go at that. Indeed, as wrestling fans who experienced the classic matches and memories of ECW, all of us at PWBTS would have been happier than hell to have been proven wrong about what we said. Sadly, we weren't.
But no matter how much some people wish it to be so, one can't tell the story of ECW without telling about the full story of ECW; talking about the bad with the good. Over the last few years, I've tried to do just that, no matter what anyone else thinks.
And no matter what these same people think, I view what's happening as sad because we got to see men and women putting their bodies on the line night after night, year after year; creating magic for all of us who regularly attended shows at the Arena, in New York, or elsewhere. Now, these memories of ECW that were so special will soon be just that... when they could have been so much more for so many.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)