AS I SEE IT
DREAMS, NIGHTMARES, AND MEMORIES...
Since it's approaching August, I'm reminded of something that happened 2 years ago. Something that changed my view of many people who worked for a wrestling company that I'd thought were my friends....something that taught me something about the ability of people to survive.
In 1995 and 1996, ECW and its fans were viewed by many in the Philadelphia area as "Team ECW". That phrase was even used by the Observer's Dave Meltzer in describing the unique relationship that the company had with its fans. But something very terrible happened in August 1996. Several individuals acting with the ignorance (if not outright cooperation) of ECW owner Paul Heyman and ECW founder Tod Gordon, including one well-known worker for the company; forced long-time employee Kathy Fitzpatrick out of the company
Ms. Fitzpatrick was the long-time ticket coordinator and transportation coordinator for ECW from 1992 during the days when the company began running once-a-month shows in a now-defunct center city Philadelphia bar, until August 1996. Prior to that, she worked for Joel Goodhart's Tri-State Wrestling Alliance from 1990 to 1992. Kathy was and is well-known and liked by the fans, particularly those fans who'd been around since the beginning.
But the aforementioned individuals within ECW pulled a power play, throwing around unfounded allegations in order to hurry along the process, resulting in Kathy being thrown out of her job. One of the members of this little "clique" included the person who took that job from her. This "clique" member stated publicly that she had more than a professional relationship with a member of the company's management. The entire situation caused Kathy and her friends a great deal of pain. In certain ways, it still does.
Two years later, Kathy is far happier than she was during those months. She is heavily involved with the National Wrestling Alliance as Director of Public Relations, and playing a major role in the 1998 Eddie Gilbert Memorial. Kathy is also co-coordinating the NWA 50th Anniversary events taking place October 23-25 in Cherry Hill, NJ. (NOTE: You can get information about the 50th Anniversary events by clicking on the banner on the PWBTS main page, or go to http://www.ringwarriors.com/50than.htm )
Now readers who are not familiar with the history of those days might logically ask: Why is this so important? Why does it matter than one person lost her job in a wrestling company? Because, coincidentally or otherwise, that day in August 1996 that Ms. Fitzpatrick was forced out was the day ECW began to lose its soul.
There are those online and elsewhere who claim that criticism of ECW by PWBTS staff and others is merely personal, a vendetta against Paul Heyman for the firing of our friend two years ago. For those people, I have just two things to say.
First, look at the record.
ECW was once a company of people who gave a damn...of people who worked together for each other's benefit, for a dream. But in so many ways since August 1996, that dream has become a nightmare. What nightmare? A nightmare that has consisted of:
* Personal and public harassment of former employees and fans by ECW employees and those associated with the company; harassment ranging from anonymous e-mails to telephone calls at home and work, as well as harassment of a more personal nature.
* The infamous incident in Revere, MA where New Jack bladed young, inexperienced Eric Kulas in a manner so horrifying that the event was described by Dave Meltzer as resembling a "form of pornography" and "child abuse". This incident nearly cost ECW its chance at PPV.
* The infamous "crucifixion angle" in October 1996, where Sandman was literally crucified in the ring, put on a cross with a crown of thorns at the ECW Arena outraging fans, wrestlers, and former company employees present that night.
* The use of real-life and worked drug addiction to create "hot TV" for ECW, as well as jokes being made about drug use on ECW TV, over and over again... the jokes that stopped when former ECW worker Louie Spicolli died from the effects of soma use.
* The verbal and physical altercations between ECW workers and fans. These incidents have happened in town after town, venue after venue; most recently including the riot that occurred at the Staten Island show on July 17, 1998, with reports of as many as 30 police and 3 ambulances needing to be summoned to the venue after the Dudleys went berserk in the crowd, not once but twice.
* The continual disorganization by ECW ticket/office personnel, including shows habitually starting 30-45 minutes after the scheduled belltime, and poorly organized lines to enter the ECW Arena and other venues...
This disorganization was best explained by this excerpt from a letter in the Wrestling Lariat (1/12/98); describing a chaotic scene outside a Blackwood (NJ) show : "The people running the ticket line turned it into the biggest clusterf--k I ever saw....Instead of using the two side doors, they used the main entrance only, so I waited a good hour and a half before I got close to the door...When I got close to the door, the idiot f--king blonde just yelled. So many people who had tickets left because it was so f--ked up..."
This is the record..of a nightmare that has been produced by complacency and greed...one that has perverted the dream of those who were involved with ECW in 1992 into what it has become today...a dream turned into a nightmare.
Second, look at the product. The following workers who were working for ECW in 1996 are now working elsewhere: Rey Misterio, Jr., Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera, Chris Jericho, Scott (Raven) Levy, Public Enemy, Stevie Richards, the Pitbulls, Cactus Jack, Perry Saturn. Would those who are ECW apologists (as opposed to fans) care to explain how the product is anywhere near what it was 2 years ago?
The product is also not what it was because Paul Heyman has made the mistake that others before him in this business have made; taking on too much himself, thus running low on the creative angles and storylines that were a hallmark of the promotion. I'm hardly the first one who's made this argument.
As I've said before, those in and around the company can ignore these truths. They can continue to throw around phrases like "personal vendetta", and treat any criticism of ECW as invalid, without even considering the possibility that these criticisms might actually be true. In my real life profession, counseling, it's called being in denial.
But it is a simple fact that ECW began to lose its heart and soul 2 years ago. Perhaps those in and around ECW ought to stop, and consider the fact that a promotion that once was a dream has become a nightmare....leaving many fans with little but memories of what the promotion once symbolized.
If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.