Friday, March 26, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
ECW a shell of its former self
As a wrestling fan, I grew up watching the WWF, NWA, and AWA. It always kept me entertained. However, as I grew older and started to work during high school, I drifted away from wrestling. Fast forward a few years to when I entered college, and I returned to watching wrestling. The product had changed from what I remembered, but once again, wrestling captured my interest. In particular, ECW.
It was at home during the summer of 1995 or 1996 that I was first exposed to ECW, Extreme Championship Wrestling. The small promotion based out of South Philly in the tiny, and I mean tiny, ECW Arena, also known as Viking Hall. A friend of mine had an extra ticket to the ECW show that Saturday night, so we hopped on I-95 in Northeast Philly where we live and took the 10 minute drive south. Needless to say, this was an experience I would never forget.
The fans were rabid. "ECW, ECW, ECW" chants rung throughout the tiny bingo hall. Sure the wrestlers weren't household names, but they put on a performance that was just exhilarating. I remember seeing the Dudleys for the first time, way back when D-Von was an outsider, and he got into a huge brawl with the rest of them. I remember seeing the F.B.I. who I thought were ridiculous. Guys like Mikey Whipwreck, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman, TAZ, and all the other classic stars that made ECW what it became.
The show was outstanding. Sure it was hotter than hell in that building, but what could you expect when a few hundred people were crammed into this tiny building, one on top of another, under hot lights, with no air conditioning on a hot night in Philly. The show was long, about 6 hours, due to TV tapings, the ring collapsing, and the famous "Night Kimona Wanalaeia Danced Atop the ECW Arena" you may have heard about.
I have seen other ECW shows as well. Seeing Chris Jericho when he was ECW TV champ. Seeing the Eliminators (Kronus and Saturn) take on the Gangstas (New Jack and Mustafa), seeing the whole bWo with Stevie Richards, the Blue Meanie, and others, and something that stands out in my mind, seeing Tommy Dreamer knock Big Dick Dudley from the top of the entrance way at the ECW Arena through 3 stacked tables after the Harris Brothers, D.O.A. in the WWF, tried to put Tommy through them instead. All of this and what ECW has produced up until as of late, was excellent.
So why am I reminiscing? Easy. ECW has lost and is going to continue to lose it's talent. They have so few wrestlers left who are of top echelon ECW standards. The exodus began when Cactus Jack left for the WWF, the New Japan 3 of Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Dean Malenko all left for WCW. Rey Mysterio, Jr. followed as well. Then the major defections started. First Stevie Richards, Raven, Chris Jericho, and Saturn split for WCW and 2 Cold Scorpio split for the WWF. Now in 1998, Bam Bam Bigelow and Sandman leave for WCW, Blue Meanie is now off to the WWF, and the rumors of more defections persist.
ECW has never recovered from the above losses, and now with the likes of Tommy Dreamer, Chris Candido, Mikey Whipwreck, New Jack, the Dudleys, Rob Van Dam, and TAZ all looking like they'll be heading off to greener pastures, ECW has no one to take their place. Paul Heyman never replaced some of the guys above, but when the first exodus happened, he had talent ready to step up. The second major exodus is happening, and there is no one in the wings who will be able to step up and replace the talent being lost.
Bringing in the One Man Gang, Tommy Rogers, Tommy Rich, Jack Victory, and others whose best days are behind them is not the way to go. ECW gained its reputation, popularity, and legend because of its young stars and willingness to differentiate itself from the WWF and WCW. Now though, ECW is becoming stale, with no fresh talent, and angles that aren't as "cutting edge" as they once were. For those of you who are now getting to see ECW for the first time, enjoy what you can now, because it looks like the product will never live up to the legend.
You are seeing a shell of what ECW once was. The sad fact is, it took so long for ECW to gain more than just a regional recognition. Now it has increased exposure, but the product is not what it was. If you can get your hands on old tapes of what ECW was like, or have seen it prior to 1998, you know what I am talking about. If you can't you are being deprived of what you were expecting from ECW. I said I was reminiscing on the past. I am. I'm longing for the "ECW, ECW, ECW" chants in the arena again. But the chants, like the product itself, are slowly fading away.
Kevin Everitt is from Philadelphia, PA, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.