AS I SEE IT - 12/17/2001
From my AS I SEE IT on February 11, 2000:
"February 5, 1994 was the date.
Eastern Championship Wrestling presented a show at the ECW Arena. No one had any idea of what the importance of this show would be to the future of this company, which then only was carried on one TV station, SportsChannel Philadelphia; and ran shows only at the ECW Arena and the surrounding Philadelphia area, to crowds measured in the hundreds.
ECW also had something the Big Two didn't have: 'Team ECW'.
'Team ECW' (so named by the Wrestling Observer's Dave Meltzer) was a group of hardworking people behind the scenes and a fan base who BELIEVED, and would do nearly anything for the company. 'Team ECW' was made up of names like Kathy Fitzpatrick, Kathy Donahue, Bob and Lex Artese, Larry Gallone, Jay 'Six-Pack' Sulli, Steve Truitt, and Matt Radico....
February 5, 1994 was the show that became 'The Night the Line Was Crossed'. Terry Funk, Shane Douglas and Sabu put on a one-hour match that ended with a draw...and a standing ovation from the then-record ECW Arena crowd. In the words of ECW commentator Joey Styles: 'this was that night that wrestling... wrestling... returned to the United States of America'....
Six years later, there is another company in much the same place that ECW was in those days: the South Jersey-based hardcore promotion Combat Zone Wrestling..."
On December 15, 2001, despite the best efforts of members of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, and a number of local independent promoters...CZW had its moment.
Before a turnaway crowd of 1,500, in part causing the show to start an hour late, Combat Zone Wrestling debuted at the ECW Arena on December 15th in a show that lasted until 1:40 the next morning.
The show opened with CZW remembering one of its own. In a sad irony, Russ Haas, former CZW Tag Team Champion with brother Charlie, died only hours before CZW's biggest moment in his sleep. A ten bell count was done for Haas, with some wrestlers wearing black armbands, and others taping "RH" on their wrestling boots.
Match results from the show:
Ty Street wrestled Mongoose to a no-contest. Jeff Rocker ran in and then Nate Hatred and Nick Gage came out and destroyed everyone.
Nick Gage and Nate Hatred defeated a masked team suspiciously looking like Jay and Mark Briscoe (who wrestled under masks presumably to get around the selectively enforced Pennsylvania age restrictions).
NWA-Southwest workers Joey Corman defeated Samir and Brad Michaels in a 3-Way Dance. Corman pinned Michaels after hitting the spin doctor.
In what had been billed as a match with Zandig and Glen Osbourne; Osbourne, Lobo, and Danny Rose all got involved in a big brawl with Zandig until Greg from Tough Enough made the save.
In an elimination match, The S.A.T. defeated Chris Divine, Quiet Storm and Brian XL. The order of elimination: Joel Maximo (by Divine), Divine (by Jose Maximo), Jose Maximo (by XL), Brian XL (by Red), Quiet Storm (by Red, after the Spanish Fly by the Maximos and the Infared Splash).
Jon Dahmer and Fast Eddie Valentine defeated Chris Cash & GQ
Trent Acid defeated Ruckus to win the CZW/BJW Junior Heavyweight Titles
Initially, both men were counted out, but the match was restarted by Zandig with a ladder involved. Acid won the match with the Yakuza Kick, but was put through a table by Big Japan's Winger, who then walked off with both belts.
Johnny Kashmere defeated Menace with the Cradlebreaker.
Mad Man Pondo defeated Z-Barr - The returning Pondo got the pin after hitting Barr with a splash on top of a chair and his patented Stop Sign.
Adam Flash defeated Nick Berk and Nick Mondo in a Falls Count Anywhere match to win the CZW Iron Man Title
Then there was the main event...The Cage of Death.
I talked before about the Team CZW atmosphere. This "Cage of Death" was put together by Mark Pantalone, better known among CZW fans as "Whacks". Pantalone started out as a fan, and became one of the many people who played a part in helping to put this show together. The Cage of Death was impressive and solid (which fans could tell when Wifebeater or Justice Pain were thrown into it) and appeared TV friendly to boot.
Inside the Cage of Death, were a jackhammer, a cactus, garbage cans, a truck hood, and tables; and was topped by a scaffold... Justice Pain defeated Wifebeater to retain the CZW World Heavyweight Title as both men crashed through tables in the ring off of the scaffold that topped of the cage of death.
As the match finished, the Arena lights went out, and former ECW owner Tod Gordon, along with Blue Meanie, Pitbull #1, Rockin' Rebel, Rocco Rock were in the ring, trashed CZW, with Gordon calling the fans "ingrates" for chanting CZW. After they abused Justice Pain and Wifebeater, the CZW locker room crashed the cage, and the lights went out again. When they came back on, The Sandman was standing in the middle of the ring.
Sandman then turned on his former ECW compatriots. At the end Sandman stripped off his ECW t-shirt for a CZW shirt and had a beer with Zandig.
As with any first time, there were areas that need to be improved for the next time at the ECW Arena, scheduled for January 12th.
There were many criticisms of the performance of Atlas Security, not surprising given their past problems handling crowds at the ECW Arena. Lines outside were moved from entrance to entrance, and people were kept outside for an unnecessarily long period of time; producing many complaints. If an alternative can be found, another security company needs to be used for subsequent events.
CZW needs to create ticket outlets. There were some initial problems in people getting through to the standard ticket numbers in New Jersey. The structure currently in place for ticket sales and reservations works adequately for CZW venues in Smyrna and Sewell, but it won't work for a venue the size of the ECW Arena.
Ticket outlets where tickets are actually pre-sold must be established in Philadelphia and New Jersey. There are businesses in Philadelphia and New Jersey that ECW used for ticket sales (some of which are being used by Philadelphia area independent Liberty All-Star Wrestling). Such a system needs to be established by CZW as soon as possible.
One obvious example: if CZW is using Tod Gordon in an angle, wouldn't it make sense to try to arrange his downtown Philadelphia pawnshop Carver W. Reed as one of these locations? Old-school ECW fans (many of whom are CZW fans) know where Carver W. Reed is located and could find it easily.
Such a system would greatly speed up the process for getting fans into the building and is essential for a smoother and more pleasurable experience for fans getting into the building.
As noted above, the show ran nearly five hours. On the next show, tag matches or six-man matches should be used if the intent is to get in as many workers as possible on a show (which is admirable on CZW's part). While I love my wrestling, 11 matches was too much for one evening...not to mention 1:40 in the morning.
From reports on 1wrestling.com, the length of the show caused the bus company bringing people from New York to lose money (owing to overtime costs associated with the driver). Another company will have to be found if there are to be future trips from New York to CZW shows.
Despite some reports, the show was overall a very positive experience for most viewing it. I look forward to seeing CZW use this venue to grow and develop as an alternative for those of us fans who followed ECW on the East Coast.
Congratulations to Team CZW: John and Debbie, Eric and John, Rob and Brian, Mrs. Hartog, Jay and Mark, Red, Jose and Joel, Trent and Johnny, the Nicks, Glen, Danny and Adam, Jon, Eddie, Ruckus, Pondo, Mr. and Mrs. Pugh, and the many, many others behind the scenes...as well as the fans who helped spread the word about this show.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)