By Bob Magee of Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets of PWBTS.com
First, happy 50th birthday to friend Kathy Fitzpatrick!.
Now, news on this coming weekend’s Legends of the Arena show.
For one night only, this Saturday June 27 at the (ECW) Arena located at the corners of Swanson and Ritner, the Arena which has been the host arena to many legendary wrestling events that revolutionized the wrestling industry in the mid to late 1990s; over 30 ECW legends will participate in a truly nostalgic night at the world famous (ECW) Arena.
Matches scheduled for that evening:
Sandman with Tod Gordon vs. Sabu with Bill Alfonso Special Guest Referee Terry Funk
The Franchise Shane Douglas vs. Al Snow With Head
Chris Hamrick vs. Crowbar
B.W.O. vs. F.B.I
Raven vs. Justin Credible
Rhino vs. Spike Dudley
Philly vs. NYC/South Philadelphia Street Fight
Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten vs Da Baldies
A Matter Of Repect!
CW Anderson vs. 2 Cold Scorpio
3 Way Dance
Jack Victory vs. Jamie Dundee vs. Scott Anton
Bilvis Wesley vs. The Muskateer
For tickets, please go to this link.
The legends of the ECW Arena being honored on June 27 are:
Eddie “Hot Stuff” Gilbert 1961-1995: Eddie Gilbert was one of these few that gave the Arena life. Eddie Gilbert was brought in by ECW founder Tod Gordon in 1993 to take what was then one more small bar promotion to a higher level. Gilbert was perfect for the role because, together with Mick Foley, brought the modern tradition of hardcore wrestling now associated with Philadelphia to the rest of the United States. This started in 1991 with their legendary matches in Joel Goodhart’s Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, including the legendary best of three falls match between the two at Philadelphia’s Convention Hall. Gilbert brought instant credibility to this upstart promotion.
With Eddie also came Terry Funk, who had recently done an interview in the Pro Wrestling Torch about his idea for a “hardcore” style wrestling TV show; and a well-known manager Paul E. Dangerously, better known in years to come as Paul Heyman. Gilbert brought to ECW a career that had seen legendary feuds with Jerry Lawler in Memphis (and the infamous angle at the WSB TV studios where Gilbert ran over Lawler on live Memphis TV), as well as one of the hottest live angles ever when Gilbert turned on Bill Watts on a Mid-South/UWF TV taping along with “The Russians” Ivan and Nikita Koloff along with Kortsia Korchenko and “bury him” under a Russian flag, nearly starting a riot.
Eddie Gilbert booked ECW for its early months at the ECW Arena, bringing a Memphis-flavored product to ECW, including the Texas Chain Match Massacre with Terry Funk vs. Eddie Gilbert on June 19, 1993 was the first ECW show sold on tape commercially, with what was then the largest crowd in the young promotion’s history. These two gave the fans at the Arena an old school all-Arena brawl.
Along with the Memphis-style product, in August 1993, many ECW fans got their first live exposure to Japanese wrestling through W*ING workers The Headhunters, Miguelito Perez, Crash the Terminator (WCW’s Hugh Morris), and Mitsuhiro Matsunaga. Gilbert also held the ECW Tag Team Championship together with brother Doug “Dark Patriot” Gilbert.
What some old-school ECW fans remember best, though, is not just Eddie Gilbert’s Memphis-flavored in-ring product; but the humor Eddie featured on TV, and his sense of humor in person. Some fan favorites include the times he went to Philadelphia’s South Street and Delaware Avenue’s Katmandu club for ECW TV posing as the “King of Philadelphia” in full gimmick. Another classic was Eddie’s weekly on-air torturing of co-host Jay Sulli that left Sulli with the nickname “Six Pack” that has lasted him to this day. One of Gilbert’s last classic moments was his “match” with former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski at Jaworski’s “Eagles Nest” restaurant.
Scott “Bam Bam” Bigelow 1961-2007: While probably most known for his Wrestlemania XI match with New York Giant legend Lawrence Taylor, Bigelow played a key role in the late 1990s with ECW, including his time as part of the Triple Threat faction, with Chris Candido and lead member Shane Douglas. Bigelow’s most notable moments included throwing Spike Dudley out of the ring and into the audience and slamming Taz through the ring itself.
Bigelow’s biggest ECW program saw a turn on fellow Triple Threat member, Shane Douglas, to eventually win the ECW World Heavyweight Title in October 1997, losing the belt a month later at the November to Remember 1997 PPV in a classic match. He then won the ECW World TV Championship from Taz at the Living Dangerously PPV in March 1998.
Chris Candido 1972-2005: Candido first worked ECW during the Eddie Gilbert era, together with Johnny Hotbody as ECW Tag Team Champions in 1993. The two partnered with Chris Michaels as The Suicide Blondes until 1994 when Candido went to Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Candido went to WWF from 1996-1997, where he worked with wife Tammy Sytch as “The Bodydonnas”. Candido joined ECW in 1997, becoming part of the revived Triple Threat stable alongside Shane Douglas with the nickname “No Gimmicks Needed”.
Candido developed a rivalry with fellow Triple Threat member Lance Storm, who was soon replaced in the Triple Threat by Bam Bam Bigelow. Candido teamed with Storm in a partners but not friends tag team to win the ECW Tag Team Championship in December 1997 from Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon. They held the titles until June 1998 to Rob Van Dam and Sabu.
Shane Douglas – Douglas was trained by WWWF’s Dominic DiNucci, and received his ring name from Eddie Gilbert. He worked for Bill Watts’s UWF and won their TV title in 1987. He moved to WCW and was known (infamously in Philadelphia) as one of the Dynamic Dudes with Johnny Ace. After a brief tour of duty with the WWF, he again wrestled tag team this time with Ricky Steamboat and became Tag Team Champions in 1992.
Douglas began his ECW career in 1993, turning on Tommy Dreamer during a Tag Title match in which he defended the title with Dreamer (on behalf of Johnny Gunn, who had been with him in WCW) against Kevin Sullivan and The Tasmaniac. Douglas went heel, the way most people remember Douglas as the cocky heel….The “Franchise”.
In February 1994, Douglas was part of a match that defined the new ECW called “The Night the Line Was Crossed” wrestling Terry Funk and Sabu to a 60 minute draw in the first-ever “three way dance” in the United States.
One of the most infamous moments in ECW Arena history came in August 1994, when Douglas, just after winning the NWA title, trashed the belt and started the era of “extreme”, promoting the ECW belt for the first time as the “Extreme” Championship Wrestling World heavyweight title.
1995 saw Douglas form the first version of the Triple Threat stable with Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko.
After a brief stay in the WWF during 1995, Douglas returned to win the ECW TV title twice in 1996; most notably in a fourway match that included Chris Jericho, 2 Cold Scorpio, and Pitbull #2. Later that year, Douglas feuded with Pitbull #2, then created the second version of the Triple Threat with Chris Candido and “Primetime” Brian Lee (with Bam Bam Bigelow replacing Lee later).
Douglas would go on to hold the TV Title for a year before losing it to Taz at Wrestlepalooza. He then turned his sights on World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk. Hardcore Heaven 1997 saw Douglas beat Sabu and Terry Funk in another three way dance to win the ECW World Title for the second time.
In October, he briefly lost the ECW World Title to Bam Bam Bigelow, but regained it 2 weeks later at November to Remember (held in Pittsburgh); then held the belt until January 1999, finally losing the title to Taz at Guilty as Charged, whom he had feuded with throughout 1998. Douglas then ended his ECW career as a babyface teaming with Tommy Dreamer against The Impact Players (Justin Credible and Lance Storm), beating them at the Living Dangerously PPV before leaving ECW in 1999.
Tod Gordon – If someone had told those of you reading this that a fledging wrestling promotion owned by a center city pawnbroker would be seen nationwide on cable television, would go on PPV from this building in 1997… and would have wrestling fans around the world chanting the promotion’s name to this day…If someone had said that it would feature names like Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and Chris Benoit, Rey Misterio, Jr., Juventud Guerrera, La Parka, and Psicosis… Four Horsemen and Midnight Express members Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton… All Japan stars Steve Williams, Terry Gordy, Dan Kroffat and Doug Furnas, and Gary Albright… Japanese lucha style stars Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada, and TAKA Michinoku… and wrestling legends like Stan Hansen, Abdullah The Butcher, Jerry Lawler, Terry and Dory Funk, and Kevin Sullivan…
If someone had told us that the promotion founded by this center city pawnbroker would see the creation of the most memorable new character of the last decade, a character called Raven… and that the company would change the direction of the professional wrestling industry… if someone had told us ALL these things would happen and more…it would have seemed the most improbable, impossible dream conceived.
Yet that is exactly what happened…and it happened because Tod Gordon founded ECW. Without Tod Gordon’s initial involvement and investment, there would have been no ECW. Tod Gordon was first involved in professional wrestling as a partner with Joel Goodhart and his Tri-State Wrestling Alliance.
When the TWA closed its doors in January 1992, Gordon founded what was then known as Eastern Championship Wrestling, using much of the same local talent as the TWA. The promotion its first show on Tuesday, February 25, 1992 at the Philadelphia’s Original Sports Bar in center city Philadelphia in front of over 100 people. After running small area shows at local bars and schools for about a year, Gordon took ECW to Philadelphia cable TV in March 1993, with TV tapings on SportsChannel Philadelphia, bringing in Paul Heyman, Eddie Gilbert and Terry Funk, with Gilbert as booker.
Then, in September 1993, Gordon brought in Paul Heyman as booker of ECW. That night began a period where ECW became THE promotion in the United States if you wanted creative, unpredictable angles; an exciting in ring product, with talent yet unseen by most American audiences. It was a time when a fan could come to an ECW show, and realize that (unlike the overly predictable WCW and WWF of the time) they didn’t know what was going to happen at a show that night. But they knew the odds were good they’d be talking about it the next day.
Gordon’s product inspired such a word of mouth fan reaction that fans traveled to ECW Arena shows from all over the east coast each three weeks that shows ran at the Arena. The TV spread from SportsChannel Philadelphia beginning in 1993, first available locally (and on satellite) for five years; then followed by New York’s MSG Network, Florida’s Sunshine Network, then many of the PRIME (now Fox Sports Net) affiliates. Along with PRIME’s national feed, ECW’s TV was syndicated nationwide on the America One Network, as well as on numerous other independent stations.
Gordon sold ECW to Paul Heyman in 1996, but remained in a business role with the company, including taking the company to PPV in April 1997 when the Barely Legal PPV hit the air. At 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, in the most improbable of locations: the converted Bingo Hall that staff had painted and fixed up on their own, down the street from a bargain basement store and vacant buildings… the home of a wrestling promotion founded by a downtown storefront pawnbroker, started with little more than hopes and dreams… the impossible dream came true, as “Barely Legal” went hot and started the era of ECW on PPV to the United States.
Gordon has been involved since then with other independent promotions. But he’ll be remembered always as the man whose dream founded ECW.
Sabu – Many see Sabu as the epitome of the “extreme” style featured in ECW from 1993-2001.
Sabu debuted in 1991 with his uncle The Sheik in Japan’s FMW and started the sty;e for which he’d become famous, working hardcore and barbed wire matches for FMW. Sabu had two tours of duty for ECW, in 1993–1995, and from 1996-2001. Tod
Gordon initially brought Sabu into ECW, where he did the gimmick of being an “uncontrollable madman” with a Hannibal Lecter mask brought into the ring on a gurney. Sabu became known for breaking tables.
Sabu was most noted during his first tour of duty for ECW for the The Night the Line Was Crossed against Terry Funk and Shane Douglas in February 1994, a one hour time limit draw. His other major program was (together with Taz) against The Public Enemy for the ECW Tag Team Championship in the first “double tables” match.
After a brief stay in WCW, Sabu returned to ECW in 1996 at the November to Remember supershow. Sabu was most known during that time for his wrestling with and against Rob Van Dam, winning the ECW Tag Team title twice with Van Dam. A slow build also started when Taz challenged Sabu everywhere he could for a year, culminating . This standoff culminated in a grudge match at ECW’s first pay-per-view, Barely Legal. Taz and Sabu worked on and off for the next four years.
Sabu was later included in the WWF invasion angle, in which ECW wrestlers invaded WWF’s Monday Night Raw program and held ECW-style matches and angles on the show. The invasion angle also led to a heel turn, as Sabu was set up to be defending WWF’s style over ECW’s with Rob Van Dam and manager Bill Alfonso. This program saw RVD and Sabu wrestling ECW “loyalists” Tommy Dreamer and Sandman.
Sabu’s most famous ECW match may well have been his no-rope barbed wire match with Terry Funk at Born to be Wired, a match which was indeed “too extreme even for ECW”, even for the bloodthirsty ECW Arena fans of the day. At one point, Sabu did his “Air Sabu” splash onto Terry Funk, only to go into the barbed wire and legitimately tear open his bicep.
We hope to see you there this coming Saturday.
Until next time…
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