AS I SEE IT - 4/15/2003:
A night of quality wrestling, and
thoughts on some of its fans
by: Bob Magee
Philadelphia saw a wrestling marathon of a length and quality beyond anything outside of Japan this past Saturday that lasted until 1:40 am Sunday morning.
This week's column will give you my thoughts on it.
Ironically and sadly enough, the weekend was preceded by sad news for Philadelphia wrestling fans with the passing of a Philadelphia wrestling regular, George Huddleston.
George was part of a group that regularly attended independent wrestling events in the Philadelphia area, including the well-known ECW/Philly fan "Hat Guy" John Bailey, in style via his own limo (Huddleston was a professional limo driver) for as long as I can remember. George would have undoubtedly been at this weekend's events and marking out with the rest of us.
George would have been surprised that he received ten-bell salutes at the weekend's wrestling events in Philadelphia; because away from wrestling shows, he was a fairly quiet and generous man who didn't think that much about himself, and thought more about others and having fun together with his friends.
My condolences and those of the sites carrying this column go out to George's family and many, many friends.
On to more pleasant matters... namely, this marathon weekend of indy wrestling in Philadelphia.
First Ring of Honor returned to south Philadelphia in a matinee show as part of the ROH/CZW Best of the Best doubleheader to a turn-away crowd of over 550 at the Murphy Recreation Center.
In terms of cosmetics, the addition of a black backdrop used near the entrance and professional lighting helped the presentation greatly. Those purchasing tapes/DVDs of the show (available now through ROHwrestling.com) will notice the difference.
In the opener, The Backstreet Boyz defeated Da Hit Squad. It was obvious how many CZW fans were doubleshotting as Acid and Kashmere got a tremendous pop.
Following this was an angle where the Backseat Boyz put themselves over claiming they were looking for a challenge, only to be greeted by Special K (ROH's club kid heel faction), Carnage Crew (Tony DeVito of ECW Baldies fame and HC Loc) and the team of Dunn and Marcos. Each team did their thing on the mike, finally to be offered a match at the May 31st return to the winner of a three-way match.
Eventually, Carnage Crew Dixie/Jay Lethal (Special K) beat Carnage Crew and Dunn and Marcos.
In a match that showed the quality of Ring of Honor, AJ Styles and Red defeated Jay and Mark Briscoe to retain the Ring of Honor Tag Team titles in an excellent match.
CM Punk and BJ Whitmer went to a no contest after doing a spot similar to the Kobashi/Misawa apron German suplex to the floor... through a table. Punk indicated to fans the next day that he'd been knocked silly by the spot.
In a Top 5 rankings match, Homicide beat Christopher Daniels with a roll-up. There was a tease of a Daniels face turn as Jack Victory and CW Anderson ran in, in what seems to be a possible development of a ROH-PWF storyline to be linked to the Zero-One show for Valley Forge, PA now delayed until September 2003.
As events would turn out, Homicide would have a busy night, indeed.
After intermission, the one and only forgettable match of the night took place as Alexis Laree beat Ariel with a reverse DDT. Alexis Laree wasn't the problem.
Samoa Joe beat Hotstuff Hernandez via submission chokeout to retain his ROH Title. He then challenged the wrestlers scheduled for the number one contender's match to a ROH Title match, which led to... Samoa Joe defeating Matt Stryker, Reckless Youth and Colt Cabana. Joe beat Colt Cabana with submission with a frogsplash assist by Reckless off Matt Stryker's back.
In an off-the-charts "ROH main event" match, the match of the night anywhere, Paul London beat American Dragon 2 falls to 1 in about 42 minutes. The fans were into this match bigtime, with loud alternating chants for London and Dragon at certain points that blew your mind if you were therre live.
In the "non-sanctioned" match (introed with a nice old-school touch of turning the lights out ala 1960s Southern wrestling) Dusty Rhodes, Homicide, J-Train, Lowlife Louie Ramos, and Iceberg beat Jack Victory, CW Anderson, David Young, Tank in the "non-sanctioned" Bunkhouse Stampede I quit match. Jack Victory finally submitted after getting a fork to the mouth.
Then people walked, drove, or ran down the street to the ECW Arena for a show that we knew would be long, as Best of the Best shows tend to be.
Whoo boy, was it long.
Finally... at 9:15 pm the show got started, and before a packed house of over 1100, CZW held its third annual Best of the Best tournament at the ECW Arena in a marathon show not finishing until 1:30 am.
Zandig first announced that CZW is locked in for the next year at the ECW Arena, with shows scheduled for each second Saturday of the month through April 2004.He then introduced the Best Of The Best participants.
In the first round matches...
Bracket 1 featured Trent Acid vs. Ric Blade vs. Tony Mamaluke... Tony Mamaluke was eliminated in a surprise to many. Trent Acid and Ric Blade advanced.
Bracket 2 featured Sonjay Dutt vs. Ruckus vs. Chris Ca$h... Chris Ca$h was eliminated with Sonjay Dutt and. Ruckus advanced... sort of. Ca$h jumped Ruckus and "injured his leg" after putting it in a chair. More on that later.
Bracket 3 featured B-Boy vs. Lil' Cholo vs. Deranged. B-Boy and Lil Cholo advanced, as Deranged was eliminated. Deranged, from Jersey All-Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor made a great showing before the Arena crowd.
Bracket 4 featured Jimmy Rave vs. Jason Cross vs. AJ Styles vs...
AJ Styles came out to the biggest pop of any wrestler on the show. He then proceeded to heel on Jay Briscoe, who had been rumored by some online to be the "12th wrestler with international experience". He went on with his promo, until Jay Briscoe ran in and jumped Styles to a helluva pop. Eventually, Zandig made the match a 4 way match with double elimination (4 men down to 2).
After what was voted BOTB Match of the Night, in the night's major controversy, AJ Styles and Jason Cross were eliminated by Rave and Jay Briscoe. A sizable majority of the crowd was more than a little vocal about Styles not going over at least another round.
In the second round...
In the bracket 1 final, Trent Acid went over Ric Blade.
In the Bracket 2 final, it was scheduled to be Sonjay Dutt vs. Ruckus. In an angle, newly appointed State Athletic Commissioner Frank Talent jumped in with a Commission Doctor and determined that Ruckus couldn't wrestle with his "injured leg". This seemed to give Dutt a bye to the next round until Mark Briscoe jumped to give him a challenger. In the end, Dutt defeated Mark Briscoe.
In the Bracket 3 final, B-Boy defeated Lil' Cholo.
In the Bracket 4 final, Jay Briscoe defeated Jimmy Rave... in a surprise to most of the crowd
In the yearly Battle Royal (which went on WAY too long, given the hour, and which seemed to sap some of the crowd's energy), Nate Hatred won in the "Winner Choice" (winner gets a title shot at title of choosing) Battle Royal. Rather than select another tag team title shot, Hatred picks a Heavyweight Title shot.
In the Best of the Best semi-final matches, Sonjay Dutt defeated Trent Acid... with a surprise finish as Trent Acid nailed a Yakuza kick to the back of Sonjay's head...suddenly followed by Homicide running in and nailed Acid with a vicious Cop Killer. Sonjay Dutt then won the match with the stardust press. Homicide got one of the bigger pops of the night.
In the other semi-final, B-Boy defeated Jay Briscoe.
Then, in a non-tournament match for the CZW World Heavyweight Title, Messiah defended against Nick Gage. This match unfortunately didn't get the crowd it should have; that is, until Gage and Messiah started pulling out the sick spots. The crowd got what they wanted when Gage set up a table on the ECW Arena stage, teasing table bump, then nailed Messiah a piledriver off of the TV commentary position down through table on stage.
Messiah and Gage traded painthrillers. Nate Hatred went in the ring with a chair, and took out Dewey Donovan. Hatred then (accidentally?!?) gave Nick Gage a spinebuster, further teasing the H*8 Club breakup, As Gage and Hatred argued, Messiah nailed Gage over with a chair shot and pinned Nick Gage to retain.
In the Best of the Best Finals, B-Boy defeated Sonjay Dutt after a shining wizard, a cross special brainbuster, and then another shining wizard off of referee Brian Logan's back.
Quite a marathon day indeed.
Let me add a couple of thoughts on the one negative of the evening.
Some wrestling fans in the New York-Philadelphia area need to remember one old truth about wrestling, and one new truth about living in or near Philadelphia.
First, the wrestlers are the show, not the fans. I say this because there were moments Saturday night where a minority (but enough to be loud and annoying) of fans at the CZW show went beyond the usual trademark creative Philadelphia-New York craziness over into uber-smarkiness with their smart-ass chants that detracted from parts of the show.
Folks, people don't pay to see you. They pay to see the people on the other side of the rail. Try remembering that next time you feel the need to be cute.
Second, its cool to be critical of a product that you support. But too many fans in the Philadelphia/New York area have no damned idea how lucky they are. There is nowhere else in North America where fans have the opportunity to see so many varieties of quality wrestling on a weekly basis.
I get e-mails weekly from people who read reports on PWBTS regarding a Philadelphia area show from Ring of Honor, CZW, 3PW, PWF, ECWA, or one of the many other promotions...who live in isolated areas and remind me that they're happy to get a show to go to once a month... any show. Even one that makes the average Smackdown episode look like All Japan Champion Carnival 1991.
Seconding me on this was fan Simon Charette, who came all the way down from Toronto to see the show. He was also annoyed by that loud minority, and shared the following thoughts:
"...Thousands of dollars were spent because I dreamt of seeing a CZW show live and I did and I came home very impressed. The way I see it with some of you guys, you guys don't remember what you have. You have a company with a locker room full of guys who put on an awesome show with little let downs and will do it again every month...
You guys live down the street or on the other side of the city or you've driven like 3 hours to see these shows and you guys [complain]! I came from Canada and I loved it. I didn't chant "overbooked" or "what the f%$k". It's a fan's right to do those things, but I'm using those as examples of how maybe you regular CZW fans are forgetting that you guys can do something people like me and thousands of others in North America want to do.
Every fan has the right to complain but it set me off when people who walked to the arena and paid 15 bucks to see a show like that are complaining, when those fans are living a dream other fans like me wish they had the opportunity to."
PLEASE realize how lucky you have it if you're able to attend these shows, or comparable shows in your own area. Don't take the privilege for granted.
Say your piece if you don't like something... you've paid for the right to do so. But don't forget why we're called marks and they're called workers, not the other way around.
Finally... many readers may remember my columns suggesting a remembrance of the upcoming tenth anniversary of wrestling at the ECW Arena. Well, it appears that this remembrance may well happen after all.
On Saturday night, the theme for CZW's next show at the ECW Arena (on Saturday, May 10th), was advertised as being "A Celebration of 10 Years of Wrestling at Viking Hall". It'd be nice if the suggestions from this column (and your e-mails to the promotions) had anything to do with encouraging this celebration. In any event, both the column and your e-mails at least served as a reminder of the occasion to Philadelphia independents.
I've heard a few things that are rumored to be planned. Suffice it to say that you'd do well to get down to the ECW Arena that night. More details as they're made public.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)