Tales from ECW
August 24, 2009
I wrote the following for my “Storm Front” article for “Fighting Spirit” Magazine, back in May, and it is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
I’ve been watching a lot of my old career footage recently. I’ve been dubbing my old VHS videotapes to DVD for the Wrestling Library at my school. No one has VCRs anymore so the collection was pretty useless in its VHS form so I’ve had to get it all transferred. Not being one to ever spend or waste money I’ve been doing all the dubbing and DVD burning myself. For the vast majority of my career I only kept copies of my matches but with ECW I kept the whole PPV events so I’ve been dubbing those to DVD and watching a lot of them in the process. Watching bits and piece of these events has brought back a ton of great memories, so I thought it would be fun to share a couple of ECW stories with you this month.
My first story actually has a tie in with the movie “The Wrestler”. I don’t know if it’s been showing in the UK or not but I know a ton of people who have down loaded it online so I would imagine some of you have seen it, whether it’s in theater’s over there or not. If you haven’t seen it yet don’t worry, I won’t spoil any of the movie with this story. In the movie there is a scene where Randy “The Ram” tries to reconnect with his daughter and takes her for a walk on the boardwalk in Asbury Park New Jersey. They break into this old abandoned looking building and dance together. It’s one of the more touching scenes in the film and I’m almost positive that the building they use in the film is the old Asbury Park Convention Center, the venue we did the Living Dangerously PPVs from in ECW. The building wasn’t any less abandoned looking when we ran it in ECW but it does hold the distinction as being the first building I ever main event a PPV event in.
On March 1st 1998 I headlined the ECW Living Dangerously PPV in a tag team match featuring me and a mystery partner vs. Chris Candito and Shane Douglas. The mystery partner was a combination swerve/double cross (No Vince Russo wasn’t booking back then; this one actually made sense and pleased the crowd). When I first came out Tammy Sytch came to the ring with me as my mystery partner but she soon turned on me in the match and I then revealed my true mystery partner, which was Al Snow and Head. Okay that may not have made all that much sense, but Al Snow and the Head were so over back then that the crowd loved it and the Asbury Park Convention Center became a frantic sea of Styrofoam heads, which made for an amazing close to the PPV. If that wasn’t crazy enough that was also the night Bam Bam Bigelow and Taz crashed through the ring for the finish to their TV Title match leaving a huge hole in the ring for us to work around in the main event.
We wrestled the entire match with ¼ of the ring roped off with crime scene tape and had to do our best not to fall into the hole while running spots. We managed to avoid falling into the hole and still had an exciting match. It was a great night and my first PPV Main Event, and it was cool to see that building featured in the movie “The Wrestler”.
My next great ECW story takes place in another PPV Main Event. This time it was The November to Remember PPV from 1999. The show was from Buffalo, NY and the main event match was The Impact Players and Rhino against Tommy Dreamer, Raven, and The Sandman. We were really low budget back then and unlike WCW and WWE our refs didn’t have earpieces connecting them to someone in the back. Because of this we never got time cues in ECW during our matches. This was never a problem for TV because the show was post produced so there was never a concern for time, but on PPV we were live and ending the show on time really mattered.
Paul Heyman knew the product really well and knew how much time everyone needed so generally time cues weren’t that important. Most shows were paced out well enough and the main event would go to the ring with approximately 45 minutes of PPV time left, so the guys could go anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes and the show would end up just fine. Unless you are completely incompetent that’s a pretty easy window to hit. On this particular night however the show went quite long and I think we had less than 30 minutes left for our match before the broadcast would go off the air.
We had to keep this match really tight but 6-Man matches are a lot harder to pin down for time, so I was real worried we might go long. If the match wasn’t hard enough to pin down already, we also had Sandman’s ring entrance to deal with, which often went ridiculously long. As the match got underway I started getting really worried about time, and was scared to death we might go long. With no way to get a time cue from the back I actually had to hop off the ring apron and I grabbed a kid at ringside by the wrist and checked his watch, to see what time it was. I knew the PPV broadcast went off at 10:50 PM so I paced the matched based on the time I got from the kids watch. I don’t know if that kid had any idea what I was doing or realizes how big of a role he played in the show but he was a lifesaver. Two or three times during that match I jumped down to check his watch and then hopped back into the match to give time cues.
I loved ECW but what a Mickey Mouse way to run a PPV event. I laugh just thinking about it now; we were doing a live event on PPV and had no means by which to pace the event to end on time and I ended up getting time cues from a fan’s watch at ringside. Thank God the kids watch wasn’t running slow or we would have been screwed.
ECW was such a fun time in my career; on some levels we were cutting edge yet on others we were still in the stone ages. We were flying by the seat of our pants with out a net and I think that’s what made it so much fun. We had next to no budget, we weren’t playing with half the equipment or half the talent (to be quite honest) that the big leagues had, but we were out there on the same field, playing the same game, and somehow succeeding. It was a magical time in the business; an atmosphere that will likely never be duplicated. I’m so glad I was a part of it.
Next month I will tell some Japan stories. So be looking to those in 30 days time.