AS I SEE IT
by: Bob Magee
After taking the subway into work yesterday morning, I saw an old friend named Donna Cooper, who I used to sit at political meetings with in church halls and whatnot. She has now become Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia.
Later that same day, I read Dan Moreland's post on PWBTS about Alex "Yuel" Lovett and the people Dan's seen while before they became big in the business. It got me to thinking. Who and what have I seen before they hit the bigtime?
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 is, all of them had to start somewhere.
I can remember sitting on a Saturday afternoon, watching Stevie Richards in front of maybe fifty people 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....who has 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 um..."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 and the World Wrestling Federation, Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch.
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. You might know them better as the focus of the most anticipated debut in recent memory this Monday night with his partner, one of the best heels from Calgary, 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.
The series of matches climaxed in a match that was best out of three matches (technically, falls) match throughout a wrestling show on a hot summer night at Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia. This match, even with a promotion that never got TV, was probably the most-seen independent match in history (at least of that time), with originals and bootlegs of the tape traveling all over the world.
Now, you ask...Where are all these memories leading to?
I also remember being at a tiny sports bar in center city Philadelphia on February 25, 1992...a sports bar that's now part of the basement of a Ross discount store. I remember seeing a small man come out with a championship belt and proclaim himself the "new sheriff in town". He had picked up the ashes of the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance that had folded only weeks before, thinking that there was a market for independent hardcore wrestling in Philadelphia if done right.
The man was Tod Gordon and this was the first show of Eastern Championship Wrestling...ECW.
As people throughout North America look forward to the opportunity to view ECW for the first time on TNN on August 27, it's important to remember what came before it.
It's important to remember that there were people in and out of the ring who helped Tod Gordon's dream progress far beyond even his wildest hallucinations. Some names you know, many you don't. But they deserve credit for what they did to bring ECW into being, and to your television sets Friday night, August 27th, 1999.
There were Kathy Fitzpatrick, and Kathy Donahue at the front door in the early years, as well as Kathy organizing transportation and handling the box office in later years... Bob and Lex Artese running the ECW hotline out of their house, then Bob doing ring announcing... Larry Gallone as assistant director in the early years... Jay "Six-Pack" Sulli commentating first with Steve "Stevie Wonderful" Truitt, then Eddie Gilbert and Tod Gordon... Matt Radico the producer... and even Dick Graham in the pre-SportsChannel Philadelphia when ECW aired on low-power Channel 7 in Philadelphia...
Then there was some of the early in-ring talent...Stevie Richards, Jimmy Jannetty, the Rockin' Rebel, Tony Stetson, Johnny Hot Body, Tommy Cairo, Don E. Allen, The Blackharts (one of whom, David Heath, many know better as Gangrel), Crybaby Waldo, Don Muraco, Jimmy Snuka, Larry Winters, JT Smith, Max Thrasher, Salvatore Bellomo, the Super Destroyers, Ernesto Benefico...and the Sandman starting out in a surfer gimmick.
Yes, all these people helped bring into being the ECW you'll see beginning on August 27th. So thank them when you sit down and watch something that many of you have wanted to see for years...they helped make that dream come true, back in the days when they were just one more indy with shows in local bars...
Remember, too, to support your local independents. You never know what "artist" you might see doing their first work on a different type of canvas...and where they might wind up some day.
One last semi-related comment to two people in ECW. Only those who it's meant for will need to understand it. It's been three years, folks. We haven't forgotten and we haven't forgiven. Your time, as has others...no doubt will come.
Until next time.....
If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org