ECW has been laid to rest. It truly is a sad day. ECW was the most revolutionary product to ever grace the wrestling world. I am sure some people may argue, but ECW changed the whole wrestling industry, as we know it. This is the hardest column I have ever written. It is like writing about the death of a good friend. But, I will not dwell on the sadness of ECW’s demise, but rather I will look at all the good ECW has provided me and all its fans. Without further ado, here is my story of ECW.
It was a rainy, dreary night, October 1st, 1993 to be exact, as I pulled up to the ECW Arena for the first of many times. Just like all first timers that would journey to the “Mecca of Pro Wrestling”, I was shocked and amazed at the building. I walked into that mostly empty building hardly a teenager. What I experienced in the next eight years with this company was way beyond my wildest dreams. That night was the beginning of a roller coaster ride I will never, ever forget.
That ride got off to a fast start, as the 200 fans that were there can attest to, when Abdullah the Butcher graced the ECW Arena and performed like a true professional. I must admit, at the age of 13, the site of Abdullah the Butcher coming at me with a fork in his hand made me high tail it to the other side of the Arena. Can you blame me? Another thing I remember from that night that made me say, “Wow, this is different from the other two organizations!” is when ref Jim Molineux got busted open during the melee. I was amazed at what had happened. How could I forget seeing Terry Funk for the first time live, as he battled Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in a steel cage. Terry was still pretty healthy at the time and put on a stellar performance, especially considering he was working with Snuka. Later that night, I saw Tommy Dreamer make his ECW debut. To be honest I can’t remember if it was October 1st or October 2nd. But either way, the man who held ECW’s seams together throughout the years entered the company on that historical evening. Just as important as that, ECW’s greatest feud was born that night. Taz and Sabu had their first encounter. It saw more brawling than their later matches, but it was still a great match. Little did I know, that this night of wrestling was to be the start of the little company that could.
At their start, ECW had clearance on SportsChannel Philadelphia. It aired Tuesday nights at 6 PM. I never missed a show. Was it the always the best? No, of course not. But it was completely different than any other organizations offering. Those early days had some terrible announcers. “Six Pack” Jay Sulli did the announcing duties and he was sub par to say the least. They also had this guy named Matty in the House. He screamed “I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry, I’m not Sorry” every time he was on camera. It was special, to say the least. Luckily, Paul Heyman quickly replaced them with a young, brash announcer named Joey Styles. It was definite improvement and one that would pay off in the long run.
After “October Bloodfest”, as those two shows in October were named, ECW built towards the first November to Remember. I remember the night before the November to Remember, November 12th, 1993, ECW ran the Tabor Community Center. Once again, Taz and Sabu were paired off. This time, though, they put on an excellent wrestling match, with limited amounts of brawling. Did I mention that Paul Heyman was Sabu’s manager at this time? Well, he was. In a side note, ECW ran the Tabor Community Center sometime in 1997, when they had a much bigger following. The night can be best remembered for “Sunny”, Tammy Lynn Sytch, being at the show during her big run with the WWF. Or maybe the boys will better remember it because the show was during the middle of the winter and it had little to no heat, and I’m not talking about the fans.
Back to the first November to Remember. The main promised to be exciting as Hawk and Sabu took on Terry Funk and a mystery partner. Before we got to that, we had Tommy Dreamer and Johnny Gunn winning the tag team titles that night from Tony Stetson and Johnny Hot Body. Then finally we had the main event. Terry Funk’s partner was King Kong Bundy. How ECW has changed! Could you imagine King Kong Bundy being a mystery surprise? But, believe it or not, it worked out. The match went well and the fans ate it up. Only in ECW!
After the first November to Remember, ECW geared up for their biggest show to date, Holiday Hell ’93. They promised an explosion where Paul Diamond and Rocco Rock, I believe, were put in a cage. As the explosion was to occur, the gun powder was knocked out. Thus, the explosion was very weak and the crowd crapped on it. But, the next show the fans came back. It was a true sign that the fans were loyal to ECW.
Then came the night that changed ECW forever. The Night the Line Was Crossed featured Sabu taking on Terry Funk and Shane Douglas in an ECW original, a three-way dance. They went an hour and kept the fans on their seat. I’ve never been to Japan, but the atmosphere is what I envision an intense Japanese audience to be.
As if the three way wasn’t enough, the next month ECW returned with a Terry Funk and Sabu main event. I believe before the match, Terry Funk came out. He took the mic and told the fans he’d be back in a minute, since he had forgotten his knee pads. He said something to the effect that his old body needs them. What was to follow was a magical moment in ECW history. Bobby Eaton ended up joining Sabu. The fans popped huge for Bobby. That pop, though, paled in comparison to the one Arn Anderson received when he ran out minutes later to save Terry Funk. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in the arena stood up and popped like a zit!
The summer of 1994 was like no other. This is when things for ECW began to shape up. In June of 1994, Cactus Jack made his ECW debut. Imagine this, he still was employed by WCW at the time. What’s even harder to believe, his first ECW interview was done from Center Stage. What’s even harder to believe than that is Cactus spit on the WCW Tag Team title. He got in major trouble for that! But, it put ECW on the map, along with the first hardcore meeting with Sabu at Hostile City Showdown.
Leading up to Heatwave 1994, ECW ran the Montgomeryville Farmer’s Market on June 8th. Hey, they had to start small! I remember this show because it was 2 Cold Scorpio’s first time in ECW. Not only was it his first show, he was paired off with Sabu. The two put on an awesome 20 plus minute match. Both men were at their peak and they pulled out all their awesome spots. When we got to Heatwave, we had the first no rope barbed wire match when The Funk Brothers took on Public Enemy. This was not as brutal as future no rope barbed wire matches, but it paved the road for where ECW was heading.
On August 13th, 1994 the infamous Terry Funk chair throwing incident occurred. It was such an important moment in ECW; the Sandman relived it during ECW’s last Arena show December 26th, 2000. That would be the last time we would see Terry Funk for months, since rumor has it he got wind of what ECW was going to do next and walked out on them, for a good reason. The next show was August 27th, 1994 and it was the NWA World Heavyweight Tournament. That night, Shane Douglas denounced the NWA title and made the ECW title a World Heavyweight title. Later, ECW changed its name from Eastern Championship Wrestling to Extreme Championship Wrestling. When Shane took the mic, many thought he’d just do a speech talking about how great it is to win the tournament. What he did, instead, was shoot on the NWA. It was revolutionary. No one was doing shoot angles. It was just another example of Paul Heyman being a genius and thinking outside the box when it came to booking. The funniest part was how ECW got Dennis Coraluzzo to shoot an interview not once, not twice, but three times. Coraluzzo claims it not to be true, but even if he did it once, what was he thinking? You just got screwed. Why are you cutting an interview for those who just screwed you? Only Dennis!
Things only got better during October. Tommy Dreamer, Woman, and Sandman had a great angle. Dreamer clocked Sandman in the face/eye area with the Singapore Cane, which knocked Sandman’s cigarette into his eye. Sandman went down and everyone froze, as Sandman lay on the mat holding his eye. The Sandman had been blinded! The emotions during the angle, with Woman screaming and Dreamer acted like he had screwed up, were priceless. Heck, they took intermission after the angle and then asked for a doctor over the PA system. The angle pay off came a month later when Dreamer brought the Sandman back, since he was dedicating his career to him. To make a long story short, Woman and Sandman got back together and attacked Dreamer. It was an amazing angle that made Dreamer and Sandman top draws for ECW until its death.
As 1994 came to end, ECW was like a snowball going downhill, gaining momentum at an enormous pace. On January 7th, 1995, ECW ran its first show of the year. It was memorable. The first half of the show was real good. Raven debuted at this show. It began the infamous Dreamer/Raven angle that lasted over two years. Bad Breed, Ian and Axl Rotten, lost a losing team must split up match to the Pitbulls. It was the start to their gruesome feud that still leaves vivid images of barbed wire, glass, thumbtacks, and blood dancing in my head. Then, there was the second half of the show. Shane Douglas defended the ECW World Heavyweight Title against Tully Blanchard. The match was a one- hour draw. It was also a terrible match. It was an old school match that had no place in the current climate of pro- wrestling. The Bleacher Bums and many other fans showed their appreciation, or lack there of, by turning around and chanting BINGO at the bingo board. To understand, ECW had to be out of the Arena by midnight because Midnight Bingo took place every Saturday. Thus, that’s the reason for the chant. Even worse than that, you should have seen wrestling fans and older ladies interacting after the shows and before bingo. It was truly insane. It was uniquely ECW.
I guess now is better than any other time to talk about the Bleacher Bums. While not an original member, I like to think I made my contributions to the Bleacher Bum madness. We were a group of misfits looking to see good wrestling and to have a good time. I know getting to the building at 3 PM for a 7:30 PM show sounds ludicrous, but the time flew by. We were a bunch of friends that had an appreciation for wrestling and having a good time. We ate, we ribbed each other, and we did tons of stupid and fun stuff. Standing in line was an adventure in and of itself, also. We would chant stuff at other fans, at the police, and at almost anything. But, we were respectful. We were not there to cause trouble, but rather to enjoy a night of ECW action. When we got into the building, the fun really picked up. Dave, Rat, Jess, Eric Tennant, Arizona John, my brother Jim, who kindly drove me to the shows all over the damn east coast, and many more I am probably forgetting, would chant all night. I have fond memories of harassing Stanley, the fat, dirty slob who sold pretzels and flowers on the street corner, and his mother, who wore her night gown to the shows. I wish I was lying, but it was a hilarious site! There also was Dreads, who was a guy who sat front row and marked out for all the action. While, we never made fun of him, he was another special fan. I’ll never forget the time he ended up in the ring with 911. 911 chokeslamed him and Dreads no sold it and went back to his seat. 911 drug him back into the ring and told him he better sell this chokeslam or he’d make sure the next one he’d have to sell. Needless to say, Dreads didn’t get back up. I would be remiss not to mention Hat Guy and “The Howard Stern look alike”. Also, there was Sign Guy, who added life to ECW’s TV show with all his infamous signs. Besides the fans, the chants the Bleacher Bums came up with were as memorable as the ECW action. “Bischoff takes it up the a** Do Dah Do Dah, Bischoff takes it up the a** Do Dah Do Dah”, to “NWWhat?” and “Tod is God” are just a few chants that stand out from the million classic chants that the Bleacher Bums serenaded the crowd with every month. The special bond that I have maintained with Dave, Rat, Jess, and my brother Jim, DUH! he is my brother!, would never have happened without those special few years that the Bleacher Bums sat in the bleachers and enjoyed ECW Arena shows. I’m thankful for Dave even allowing an annoying 15-year-old kid the chance to be part of such a special part of ECW’s history. The memories of the Bleacher Bums will never fade. The Bums were as big a part in ECW’s early days as anything else.
The following month was the first ECW “Con” or convention. It was an awesome weekend of wrestling. I still fondly remember Al Snow and Chris Benoit putting on one of the greatest technical matches to ever grace the ECW Arena. Of course, I still can’t forget Dave telling the story of how their bus for the “Con” got stuck going up the hill to Jim Thorpe, PA.
Let’s talk about Jim Thorpe, PA. It was quite possibly the worst building ECW ran. It was like running in a garage. But, you know what, there was not a bad seat in the house. I have seen so many great matches in that run down, no longer standing building. It is actually a very historic building for ECW. It is the building where Tommy Dreamer first beat Raven. It was before they started the Dreamer never beat Raven storyline. Of course, since the match never aired on TV, Dreamer never beat Raven. But true fans knew that Dreamer had beaten Raven.
Then came a two week period that stands out in my mind for two consecutive shows that we amazing. ECW ran the Arena on April 8th and 15th. Why do these nights stick out in my head? Well, on the 8th Sabu decided to no show the biggest ECW event to date. He was a major part of the Three Way Dance, along with Taz, Public Enemy, and Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko. That night, Paul walked into the ring and basically fired Sabu. No matter what people thought of the way Sabu was fired, it showed from early on that no one man was greater than the ECW whole. Later that night, Eddy Guerrero made his ECW debut and wore a “Love Machine” Art Barr ring jacket. Art Barr had died earlier that year. The ECW Arena fans started a “Love Machine” chant that Eddy obviously appreciated. Then, on the 15th Terry Funk and Cactus Jack had one of the most gruesome matches ever to grace the Arena. I can close my eyes and still see Terry Funk carving up Cactus Jack’s arm with a jagged piece of broken glass. Years later, Cactus would involved this incident in many of his interviews. Why? Because Sign Guy, the fan, held up a sign reading “Cane Dewey”, who is Cactus’ son. I believe it was during his anti- hardcore gimmick that he brought up how sick the fans would be to want to see his three year old caned. The match, though, is still one of my favorite matches ever.
During the summer months of 1995, Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko were tearing it up in ECW rings. Then came the unthinkable, WCW had signed Malenko, Guerrero, and Benoit. It was the first in the many departures to either the WWF or WCW. Their last night in was August 26th, 1995. The night before, though, in the aforementioned Jim Thorpe, PA, there were so memorable matches. 2 Cold Scorpio defeated Eddy Guerrero for the TV title in an excellent match. To top the night off the Steiner Brothers beat Dean Malenko and 2 Cold Scorpio in an awesome match. This was when the Steiner Brothers were at their best. It was supposed to be Dean and Chris Benoit, but Benoit didn’t make it. The next night, Benoit did make it for his send off from ECW. But, what really made the night was the emotional farewell for Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko. The two put on an incredible two out of three falls match that ended, aptly, in a draw. What occurred afterwards was, once again, uniquely ECW. Both Eddy and Dean had words of thanks and praise for ECW and its fans. The fans were just as appreciative giving Eddy and Dean a send off the likes never seen anywhere before and probably never again. The emotion was so high in the Arena that night, that some fans even cried as Eddy and Dean made their last appearance at the Arena. For those there live, it is something that they will never forget being apart off. If you have never seen this match, get the tape!