The date was September 30, 1994, which was seven days after my 22nd birthday. I found myself on a plane heading from the heart of Texas to the home of the hottest independent wrestling organization in the United States.
That organization was Extreme Championship Wrestling, which had just gone through a name change and had left the National Wrestling Alliance dumbfounded at their own World title tournament. The buzz on the wrestling newsgroups was growing by the second, and I finally decided that the balance on my Discover card would be a small price to pay to see what I felt was history in the making.
And so, on that September day, I landed in Philadelphia, hopped in my rental car, met up with a few online buddies (hey, Brian and Mary!), and drove 3 hours into the backwoods of Pennsylvania.
As I pulled up in front of the Hamburg Field House, I had no idea what to expect. Dave Scherer had mentioned that I should introduce myself to Tod Gordon, who owned ECW at the time. When I saw him inside of the building, I walked up, mentioned my connection to Dave, and told him that I had flown from Texas to see the show. The look on Tod's face was one of pure amazement, as if I were the first one to travel that far for one of his shows.
What I saw that night was nothing short of amazing. That night, Sabu and Cactus Jack put on a classic brawl, with Sabu missing an Asai moonsault and hitting chest-first on the guardrail only a few minutes into the match. Undaunted, Sabu got up and finished the match, which ended with Cactus taking 7 shots to the head from a beer bottle.
Even though I had seen the tapes of the TV shows and the ECW commercial videos, I was still amazed at what I had seen.
I was hooked.
The next night, I made my first of 3 visits to the ECW Arena. Dave introduced me to the rest of the ECW Bleacher Bums that night, and for 3 hours, I chanted and popped with them as if I had found a new home. That night, the Sandman took a cane shot from Tommy Dreamer, which started the infamous "Sandman retirement" angle.
Also that night, I became a loyal ECW fan.
The second trip to the Arena was for the first ever rec.sport.pro-wrestling convention, and for some reason, I decided to rent a video camera to tape the weekend's events. In retrospect, it was one of the smartest things I had ever done, as Paul Heyman, Tod Gordon, and all of the ECW workers went out of their way to show their appreciation to the fans that had flown in from all over the world to be part of this special event. There was the surprise Shane Douglas World title defense against Mikey Whipwreck at the Flagstaff. There was Al Snow ripping on the "internet geeks" that were stuck on a bus trying to get to the top of the mountain where the Flagstaff was located.
Then, there was "The Spot". Chris Benoit powerbombed Sabu from the top rope through Rocco Rock, who was lying on a table. It was ECW's first signature spot, and you can literally see me on the "Double Tables" video jumping up and down in the bleachers after the spot. For me, that piece of film alone would have made me an ECW fan for life.
Yet, in all honesty, I became an ECW fan for life earlier that same day.
My sister Gina, who was 11 years old at the time, was a huge fan of Mikey Whipwreck. Gina and I had spent many an hour watching ECW TV shows, and she fell in love with Mikey, the kid that managed to retain the TV title despite taking tremendous beatings in every match. Before I left for the convention, I told Gina I would try to get Mikey's autograph for her, which put a smile on her face.
On the day of "Double Tables", ECW had arranged a question-and-answer session inside of the ECW Arena with the Sandman, Public Enemy, and Tod Gordon. After the Q&A was over, we stayed inside the arena, and many of the workers would come out to the bleachers to meet the group of Internet freaks. One of those workers was Mikey Whipwreck.
I walked up to Mikey with my video camera in hand and asked if he would say something on tape to my little sister at home. He certainly did not have to do it, but he did.
"Hey Gina, this is Mikey...how are you doing out there?"
It was a simple 15 second message, and yet it represented so much more than that.
It wasn't just Mikey bending over backwards for a fan...it was Tod Gordon bending over backwards to entertain the wrestling fans of Philadelphia. It was Paul Heyman burning the midnight oil and going through plates of Chinese food to piece together some of the best angles of the past decade.
And, most importantly, it was Tommy Dreamer, Gary Wolfe, the Public Enemy, the Sandman, Sabu, Rob Van Dam, Taz, and the countless other wrestlers that gave of their bodies and their hearts to the ECW fan base.
Thus, with the heartbeat of ECW fading away into wrestling history, it will continue to ring eternally in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to be a part of it.
Don't believe me? Close your eyes and listen closely, and you may just hear the chant ringing in the back of your mind...
So long, old friend, until we meet again.