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By Mike Johnson on 2015-11-02 21:26:34

Former ECW World TV and Tag Team champion Dean Malenko will return to the 2300 (fka ECW) Arena on Friday 11/13 as part of House of Hardcore 10 to be inducted into the venue's Hardcore Hall of Fame.

Malenko, while working for the original ECW, was a regular at the venue, debuting in August 1994 as part of the NWA championship tournament before going on to become a regular member of the roster with feuds against Taz (then the Tazmaniac), 2 Cold Scorpio, The Public Enemy and most famously, Eddy Guerrero.

While well regarded among his peers as a top worker and having made a nice name for himself in Japan, Malenko had spent most of his career working on a smaller level and unable to break into the national level where size was such a premium. While he had done some referee work for WWF, it appeared his style and size would prevent him from making it to a major promotion.

That changed in 1994 when Malenko was brought into ECW and dubbed "The Shooter" playing a silent but deadly wrestling assassin who never spoke. It was a smart and effective way to hide the lone weakness in his arsenal as a performer, that the quick wit he displayed in real life and in the locker room just didn't translate to his performances in the ring.

Initially, Malenko was managed by Jason Knight and later became a member of the original Triple Threat with Shane Douglas and the late Chris Benoit, who Malenko captured the ECW Tag team championships with. He initially feuded with Taz as an off-shoot if Taz's previous issues with Knight. When Sabu and Chris Benoit began feuding, the two feuds intertwined (Malenko's brother Joe even appeared for a show where the brothers, regulars at one point with All Japan Pro Wrestling, teamed together).

When Benoit attacked Sabu after a bout with The Public Enemy, taking out PE's Rocco Rock along the way, the die was cast for ECW's biggest match of all time, The Three-Way Dance, with The Public Enemy winning the feud.

That same night, Eddy Guerrero debuted for ECW and won the World TV championship. Guerrero, hot off his run in Mexico's AAA, was slated to defend against Sabu in his second appearance as part of the 1995 Hostile City Showdown card. ECW had publicly fired Sabu for not appearing at the Three-Way Dance, so Malenko was placed into the bout.

The 30 minute match tore down the house and pushed the limits, at the time, for mat wrestling and great wrestling sequences, sort of a 1990s version of Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat or Dory Funk Jr. vs. Jack Brisco. Guerrero and Malenko feuded for the remainder of their time in ECW, using sequences that were so fresh and fun at the time that they've been copied ad nauseum over the last two decades. They traded wins and the TV championship back and forth for five minutes until each, who were regulars with New Japan Pro Wrestling, opted to sign with WCW, who were officially partners with NJPW at the time. WCW was about to launch Monday Nitro and Kevin Sullivan, having seen firsthand the athleticism and work ethic of the pair (as well as Benoit), wanted them to give WCW a different flavor as they were about to become opposition for the Monday Night War battleship. The very thing that had prevented Malenko from getting to the national scene before, once spotlighted by ECW, was now getting him a big money contract.

The final ECW Guerrero vs. Malenko bout was something of a reversal of what at the time was wrestling tradition. Instead of booking them to lose and make the promotion stronger, ECW instead booked them to face each other in an emotional Best of Three Falls match that saw then do a double pin (so there was no winner to the feud) and celebrated their run in the company to the point that months later, it would be referred to on ECW TV as a talking point by Steve Austin when he complained about how he was kicked out of WCW while Malenko and Guerrero got the big celebratory sendoff. Since they had become a cornerstone of ECW, that sendoff was so emotional, it led to a number of fans in the testosterone drenched building openly crying. Malenko for the "first time" spoke on the mic, paying tribute to Guerrero, ECW and the fans, remarking, "I am a ECW wrestling fan." ECW dedicated an entire TV episode to the feud and the farewell.

Unlike others who ended up returning to the venue regularly when their careers needed a lift, Malenko had found a nice spot for himself in WCW and later jumped to the WWF in 2000. ECW closed in 2001 and with the exception of one appearance, the lone ECW Arena debut of WWE's version of ECW where Malenko was the surprise guest referee for Rob Van Dam vs. Kurt Angle, he's never returned to the American venue where he finally broke through as a star.

The 11/13 return to the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia features:

*Yoshihiro Tajiri & Tommy Dreamer vs. Ethan Carter III & Eric Young
*Rhino vs. Abyss
*Bobby Roode vs. Austin Aries
*Chris Hero vs. Lance Hoyt
*Eddie Kingston vs. Tommaso Ciampa
*Tony Nese vs. Alex Reynolds vs. JT Dunn
*Also appearing are Colt Cabana, Guido Maritato & Tony Mamaluke, Thea Trinidad, Jade, Justin Roberts and more.

For more details, visit

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