AS I SEE IT - 5/13/2003:
Then and now... sort of...

by: Bob Magee

Combat Zone Wrestling returned to the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, PA on May 10th for "Then and Now: A Decade of Defiance", designed as a celebration of 10 years of wrestling at the ECW Arena. For those of you who haven't read recent AS I SEE IT columns.... May 14, 2003 will make ten years since professional wrestling began at the world's most famous Bingo hall, the ECW Arena.

As the column's title suggests, the theme of "Then and Now" was celebrated.... sort of.

Given the unusual level of competition with different events in the area, it would have made sense to use the ECW Arena tenth anniversary theme to draw in old ECW fans to get them to take a look at CZW's product. CZW had to compete with a weekend of WWE shows in the area, including a show in Newark, DE head-to-head on Saturday (and the RAW from Philadelphia last night), two Philadelphia 76ers-Detroit Pistons NBA playoff games, a major concert and a Philadelphia Phillies game.

It would have made sense to do so. But that didn't happen...

First, the 10th anniversary theme was announced at CZW's Best of the Best. Then, no mention was made of it on the promotion's website for at least 10 days. No mention of the 10th anniversary theme was made of it on the promotion's Philadelphia TV show at all... not even on the TV two days before the show...

As a wrestling show, Sunday's show would have been a good to excellent show to do just that. It featured excellent wrestling that should disabuse those who seem stuck in the notion that CZW features nothing more than "garbage wrestling".

But given the failure to bring in any personalities from ECW's past, it may be just as well that CZW didn't promote it as much as they could have. If some of those oldtime ECW fans had attended, they'd have been at least somewhat disappointed, whereas the live crowd that was at the ECW Arena seemed not to be.

The show opened with CZW owner Zandig coming out to welcome fans to the show.

A video which will only be seen by those who were at the show (not available on the CZW commercial tape, due to copyright reasons) was played to commemorate the history of the building, opening with a shot of the corner of Swanson and Ritner Streets to U2's "The Streets Have No Name".

(A late note....In what may be an attempt by CZW to make up for the above... the video IS available for viewing at the CZW website).

The extended video aired, beginning with a shot of the sign at the corner of Swanson and Ritner, then historical footage of the first ECW show at the ECW Arena. The video went through the eras of ECW with the ECW TV graphics of the day to White Zombie's "Thunderkiss 65" and other trademark ECW music featuring the stars and great moments in the building.

The biggest pops from the crowd were for Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Ted Petty, and Sabu. Shane Douglas's footage got a mixed reaction at best, owing presumably to his current role with XPW.

The video then segued into CZW footage to show the "Now" of the night's theme.

For those who missed this show and this video, I can't communicate enough how great this video was. For those of you who weren't there, you missed a editing and composing job at or beyond the level of WWE videos. This video was truly incredible and brought back a lot of moments to those of us who there over the years.

The evening's ceremonies ended with Zandig holding a 10 bell count in memory of those who performed in the ECW Arena, but had passed away; names like Louie Spicolli, Rick Rude, Brian Pillman and Ted Petty.

Then, there were the matches...

As a wrestling show, this was a good to excellent show. As a commemoration, it was OK, but it could have been far better.

As for the lack of ECW personalities at the show, Zandig did a promo at the beginning of the show saying that he had invited Tod Gordon, Tommy Dreamer, and Paul Heyman to appear.

Zandig indicated that Tod Gordon "didn't want to show". He also indicated that Heyman didn't return his calls, apparently expecting Heyman to change a lifelong policy of not returning telephone calls. He also called Tommy Dreamer to make an appearance but Dreamer was unable to due to WWE commitments, and put over Dreamer, who sent his regards and stated he was honored to be asked.

There's one likely reason for all of the above. Most, if not all, of these people had not been called until a week ago, which I was told by 2 CZW staffers at the May 3 3PW show, and told by one other staffer during this past week.

Mike Johnson even attempted to make a last minute personal contact on behalf of the promotion to bring in some former ECW personalities by contacting Steve Corino and Masato Tanaka, a call made too late, due to Corino having had custody of the Japanese performers on the May 11th PWF show (and having his son at home), and was scheduled to take them to the Phillies game May 10th.

While CZW should be credited for commemorating the date at all, and while the retrospective video was incredible; the element of the commemoration concerning past personalities could have been handled better.

No one (in their right mind, anyway) expected CZW to fly in talent on the level of Sabu or Terry Funk and have their presence take over the show, since ultimately the aim of the show should have been to put over CZW. But it was reasonable to expect CZW to have contacted individuals like Dreamer, Gordon and Heyman long before 6 days prior to such an event, and it would have made the moment more special.

Until next time...


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