AS I SEE IT
by: Bob Magee
This week, some followup on my thoughts last week on the beginnings of ECW, and where the company is going...
Friday, August 13 was certainly a historic night for ECW, as the seven year old promotion taped its first TV show for The Nashville Network (TNN) in Toledo, Ohio, to air on August 27th at 8:00 pm EDT. The program will be viewed by cable and satellite viewers all over North America.
The first TNN taping was held in Toledo, Ohio. OK. Toledo's a nice town. I lived there for three and a half years. But it is hardly noted as an ECW hotbed.
The second is to be held at the Elks Lodge in Queens on August 26. OK, so New York City is definitely a hotbed for ECW. The Elks Lodge has been called the "Madhouse of Extreme". The fans support your company fanatically there. No doubt about it. But it isn't where ECW started.
Now we hear the next announced TNN tapings are in Spartansburg, South Carolina's Memorial Auditorium on Thursday night, September 30. Greg Price is doing well for ECW, after having sold his NWA promotion due to what he has stated publicly is the hyper-political environment of the NWA. Paul Heyman and Steve Karel are lucky to have him. OK, a TV taping is a nice reward for a talented local promoter...
But the fans of Philadelphia wonder, however, when it'll be their turn to be a part of this experience. They, after all, started it.
I can remember well the days of Friday evening or Sunday afternoon TV tapings back in 1993-1995 at the ECW Arena....the only TV ECW had at the time. These tapings were done the night before or afternoon after an ECW Arena house show, until Paul Heyman figured out that doing TV from the Arena would make absolutely no difference in the live house whatsoever.
We'd shuffle in half-awake on those Sunday afternoons, after having been to a house show the night before and the after-show, which would extend well into the morning (or all night for some). Since most people weren't conscious at that hour, the numbers were far smaller than for the house show. Security head Mark "McGruff" Shapiro would holler over the house mike "Please fill up the bleachers..." in order to make the crowd look respectable for SportsChannel and MSG, the two stations carrying ECW at the time.
The regular faces in the front row and in those Section C (TV side) bleachers were seen by ECW fans via merchandised and bootlegged tapes around the country. There were people like John Bailey (the Hawaiian shirt guy), his brother George, Mike Johnson, "Sign Guy" Paul Mellows (from whom Paul Heyman took the Sign Guy Dudley gimmick), Lennie (the Rob Zombie lookalike), and some guy with a beard who's writing this article.
But where is the TNN taping for them, Paul Heyman? Hell, there hasn't been a PPV in Philadelphia since 1997's Barely Legal. Some of these are fans who came on the night of your first TV taping, even before the Arena...at little Cabrini College, hours before a 33 inch blizzard was to hit...who've supported you through a weekend of ice storms that cut off power to 350,000 in the Philadelphia area... who've sat through those 130 degree summer nights at the Bingo Hall... who've supported you through the glory days of 1994-1996 watched unsurpassed talent and booking....who've spread the word about your company around the world as far away as Japan...who've continued to support you through the recent months of slim talent rosters, bounced paychecks to your workers, and rumors galore of the company shutting its doors...
Where's their thanks, Paul? Hell, you couldn't even be bothered to get in the ring and thank the crowd in Philadelphia at an ECW Arena house show after you closed the TNN deal. Don't tell me it's kayfabe. C'mon, you took the crowd's salute after Barely Legal and a number of other PPVs...kayfabe didn't bother you then. You owe the fans of Philadelphia at least that much now, Paul Heyman.
Don't tell me that Asbury Park, NJ is "close enough" for a PPV for Philadelphia fans. Asbury Park is a two hour bus ride away. It's closer to New York than Philadelphia. There are far too many people in Philadelphia who come to your shows who don't drive...they walk, catch rides, take three buses just to get to Swanson and Ritner Streets and support your company.
If it's the matter of the ECW Arena not being suitable for a national TV show or PPV, I have news for you. The fans aren't going to rise up in revolt if you find a new building. People have been asking when ECW will move out of Arena for years now. There ARE other buildings in Philadelphia that can be used. There's the Drexel University Armory... the Apollo at Temple...any number of Philadelphia buildings suitable for a professional TV production. They can be configured for any medium size crowd.
There is certainly no question that ECW has become a national company, and therefore can't get the attention that it did when ECW was pretty much a glorified local independent promotion. Reasonable people don't expect that. But ECW can't forget where it came from. It can't turn ECW Arena shows into just one more house show...and Philadelphia into just one more market.
And now that it has hit the national scene...it can't forget the city where it all began when it comes time for national broadcasts and PPV.
The fans of Philadelphia are waiting, Mr. Heyman.
The next word is yours.
Until next time.....
If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org