AS I SEE IT - 5/11/2000
by: Bob Magee
As many of you have undoubtedly read by now... ECW, Mick Foley, and Terry Funk were vindicated in the ECW civil suit, as the jury found in favor of the defendants ECW, Terry Funk, and Mick Foley against plaintiff Raymond Schwimmer.
Schwimmer had claimed that he was burned in October of 1995 when a flaming chair that Mick Foley brought into the ring to strike Terry Funk actually sent fire flying into the crowd. He then claimed that he suffered burns over many parts of his body due to the fire going into the crowd. The fan claimed that because of that, he suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome in 1996 which caused an accident on his motorcycle resulting in the loss of a leg.
This incident was read about by many in Mick Foley's recent biography. If you haven't, you can read the incident being described at length by Foley there.
As PWBTS previously indicated it will do, we will bringing out certain elements of the trial, now that the trial is over, and it can be done legally.
But first, I want to bring you a quote from Dave Scherer from his 5/8/2000 entry on the 1wrestling.com Newsline:
"...Even with the "help" of members of a wrestling website, the truth came out in this one."
Now who do you suppose he could be referring to here?
You've no doubt guessed the answer to that question already.
For those on the 60 plus websites that receive this column, and whose readers may not be familiar with the nature of the PWBTS-1wrestling.com relationship, I'll provide a brief and possibly helpful explanation here.
Dave Scherer has been at odds with PWBTS for the better part of the last four years, starting with an incident in 1996 where PWBTS owner Fritz Capp and I felt (and still do) that Scherer chose his relationship with ECW over that of a friend and recently-fired ECW employee, owing to the fact that there would be heat if he allowed the employee to print a farewell letter in the Lariat.
Over time, PWBTS also pointed out situations where we believed that there were conflicts of interest (such as the common ownership of ecwwrestling.com and 1wrestling.com) and what we viewed as inappropriate judgement in a number of issues. Dave Scherer apparently hasn't ever forgiven us for that.
So now we fast forward to the Schwimmer lawsuit and Scherer's comment.
The fact of the matter is that Fritz Capp received a subpoena to testify in the trial, a fact that he made public. After he returns from a business trip to California, he'll be scanning that subpoena and posting it online so that anyone who chooses to do so can see it for themselves.
The reason behind the subpoena was that at the time of the "fire incident" in 1995, Capp shot ringside at ECW shows and was brought in as a witness for Schwimmer, showing pictures of the match in question, primarily to provide a frame of reference for the jury to determine the structure of the building, as well as other issues.
Before we talk about "helping" one side or the other, Scherer also engaged in reporting information that was NOT public on the 1wrestling.com website AFTER a gag order had been put forth by the judge; information that could be seen as detrimental to the plaintiff. While I philosophically have a problem with gag orders as a rule (and do in this trial as well), what Scherer posted might reasonably have been considered to have violated such an order. Whether or it would have been ascertained to have legally done so would have been a matter for the trial's judge to decide, not I.
As both Fritz Capp and I both separately expressed concern over, it is a fact that any reports that the ECW civil trial was taking place didn't occur on 1wrestling.com, Wrestling Observer.com, or several other major news websites until Fritz Capp challenged these websites to do so. Strangely, the same websites had no problem reporting on the fact that Jason Knight was arrested for a DUI recently.
But as for the above comments, any non-involved person would agree that reporting on the fact that a trial is taking place is not "helping". Instead, it is simply reporting on the news. Testifying in a trial when served a subpoena is not "helping", but instead fulfilling a legal requirement.
Perhaps Scherer can explain why STRICTLY ECW reported the same information that we did. Is he actually suggesting that STRICTLY ECW, a group of fans that some have suggested has more effective on behalf of the company than much of its paid staff has been, is somehow attempting to hurt ECW?
Scherer also suggested that he felt Schwimmer's lawsuit was "frivolous" in his Newsline piece.
Here's a thought: If Paul Heyman legitimately felt that Raymond Schwimmer's lawsuit had no merit, one ought to ask two legitimate questions, the first regarding a fact coming from the trial that will be elaborated upon by Fritz Capp upon his return from his business trip.
Why did Paul Heyman dissolve HHG, Inc. (the corporate arm of ECW as of 1995, and therefore one of the defendants in the lawsuit) as of December 29, 1999?
The other defendant (and presumably current ownership entity) was reported at the trial to be a corporate entity called S&S Family Partnerships. Even though, for reasons known only to Paul Heyman, HHG Inc. is listed STILL as part of the copyright tag appearing on the end of ECW TV, the fact of the matter is that HHG no longer legally exists.
Could Heyman have been attempting to protect his company in the event that the jury in the Schwimmer trial found for the plaintiff? It's been reported that the lawyer for Schwimmer had been seeking Paul Heyman's corporate insurance, instead of the $50,000 each for Schwimmer and his wife that was initially sought over 4 years ago...a fact that was also reported first on PWBTS.
Paul Heyman would be far from the first corporate executive or owner in any form of business to engage in such strategy. But it suggests that Heyman was far from being sure that the suit was as "frivolous" as Dave Scherer seems to feel that it was.
Second, if the Schwimmer lawsuit was "frivolous", why was it delayed for FIVE YEARS? Even given the normal slowness of the legal system, surely a "frivolous" lawsuit could have easily be proven as such and readily dismissed within any court within a year or two. It certainly would have been in Paul Heyman and HHG's interest to do so back in 1996, given the national TV deal with TNN then being worked on... the fight to get on PPV... the merchandising deals with Acclaim for the Hardcore Revolution video game... certainly such a lawsuit, one that even preceded the Eric Kulas trial, should have been dealt with swiftly.
If the lawsuit was "frivolous", why was it claimed that the lawyer representing the plantiffs claim that he had pneumonia and that he was "rushed to the hospital", to produce another delay in the trial...when it was discovered that in fact the lawyer merely had a cold, and was out of the hospital before the judge granted a delay in the trial?
Readers can speculate on these questions as they choose, and make their own judgements.
But I can tell you something about that night in 1995 at the ECW Arena from a first person perspective. I was there.
What makes it even more disturbing to me is that the seat that Raymond Schwimmer (and one next to it) sat in were the seats that my younger brother John and I had held for two plus years, and only gave up when ECW instituted "Club ECW", a four-pack plan that for all practical purposes required fans to buy tickets for four shows, in order to get the best seats. We refused to buy into "Club ECW"...but not because of any animosity with anyone in ECW.
We did so because of a bad experience only 3 years before with Philadelphia's Tri-State Wrestling Alliance promoter Joel Goodhart, who did a similar four-pack plan, then closed his doors in 1992, leaving many fans without tickets and without their money; we refused to buy into the plan. Otherwise, my brother and I might well have been in Raymond Schwimmer's shoes.
Given the chaos of what happened that night, am I going to tell you that I can absolutely without a shadow of a doubt, tell you what happened in terms of Schwimmer's burns and those moments of the incident?
But neither can most people, including many who claim that they can.
I can tell you however, that it was morally, if not criminally, irresponsible to use fire in a building in the manner that it was used that night. The ring rail protecting the front row (and the seats behind them) was less than six feet from the ring that night, as it often has been for ECW Arena shows. The Arena, as it always seemed to be, was packed beyond fire law limits.
When the flaming material landed in the crowd, three ECW employees hit it with fire extinguishers. They apparently used a fire extinguishers designed for what is called a "Class B" fire.
According to the Microsoft Encarta:
"...Such [Class B] fires are put out by excluding air, by slowing down the release of flammable vapors, or by interrupting the chain reaction of the combustion. Three types of extinguishing agentscarbon dioxide gas, dry chemical, and foamare used for fires involving flammable liquids, greases, and oils.
Carbon dioxide is a compressed gas agent that prevents combustion by displacing the oxygen in the air surrounding the fire. The two types of dry chemical extinguishers include one that contains ordinary sodium or potassium bicarbonate, urea potassium bicarbonate, and potassium chloride base agents; the second, multipurpose, type contains an ammonium phosphate base..."1
When those three fire extinguishers, (brought out by ECW staff) hit the fire full blast, and the agent used within them created a horrible smell, a panic ensued on the "bleacher" side of the ECW Arena. People ran out of the building into the street. But there was an eerie reaction from the other side of the building. They continued with the well-known "ECW" chant...as if the fire...the almost asphyxiating cloud... was all part of the show. It's been rumored, but not proven, that other people were injured within the stampede to get out of that side of the building.
The incident seemed to be forgotten by most ECW fans as years passed. But it was certainly not forgotten by anyone who attended the show that night in 1995.
To conclude, it amazes me that what has happened to Raymond Schwimmer was used as a political football by a corporation and by those working for its online arm in anything outside of the necessarily adversarial process of the legal system.
Under any circumstances, whoever was right or whoever was wrong...what happened to Raymond Schwimmer is a tragedy. If you saw the picture of him in a news report of the trial on Philadelphia's WPVI Channel 6, you wouldn't question that.
But in the interests of their employer, it seems there are some who have.
I'll be on vacation next week, out in San Fransisco. I will, however, have an AS I SEE IT column for you.
Until next time...
1Information presented is from "Fire Extinguisher," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000 - http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)