Friday, January 13, 2012

My ECW Arena Memory

Tomorrow one of the most newsworthy, buzzworthy and (quite possibly) meaningful wrestling arenas/venues in the United States will hold the final wrestling events within the historic walls as they stand now. The building (seen above) will continue to reside at the corner of Swanson & Ritner in South Philadelphia, but the blood, sweat and tears that are embedded within the walls will be removed as part of a re-model and re-direction project as the venue changes into a 3,000 or so seat concert hall of sorts. Now, if you are a wrestling fan, then this news is not news to you. This building will always be the "ECW Arena" to so many people, even with the myriad of name changes and pro wrestling promotions that ran there after the original ECW ended over 10 years ago.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend one of the "famed" ECW Arena shows, seeing ECW live in the confines of this building. For me, as a 19 year old kid at the time, who traveled with my future wife and mother-in-law to celebrate Thanksgiving with my future family, in all honesty my heart and my passion was knowing that on Saturday, November 27, 1999 I was going to get be part of an experience that I had always hoped for. One that I read Pro Wrestling Torch newsletters cover to cover seeking out "Arena Reports." One that I had seen so many times before, thanks to trading tapes and expanding my pro wrestling horizons. One that I made damn sure I would not miss when ECW broke the pay-per-view barrier and held "Barely Legal" in 1997. Those are just a few examples of many I could offer.

Here is the card I was able to see and take in from my 2nd row seat:

November 27, 1999 in Philadelphia , PA ECW Arena drawing 1,700
1. Nova & Kid Kash beat Bo & Jack Dupp when Nova pinned Jack
2. Jerry Lynn pinned Little Guido
3. Super Crazy pinned Ikuto Hidaka
4. Simon Diamond pinned Jazz
5. Chris Candido & Rhino beat Danny Doring & Amish Roadkill when Rhino pinned Roadkill
6. Spike Dudley pinned Mikey Whipwreck
7. Axl Rotten & Balls Mahoney beat CW Anderson & Bill Wiles when Rotten pinned Wiles
8. ECW TV Champ Rob Van Dam pinned Uganda
9. Sandman pinned Raven; Tommy Dreamer was the guest referee.
10. ECW Champ Mike Awesome pinned Justin Credible

Now, for the way I positioned my feelings about this venue, you'd likely think that there is a sole, singular memory, especially about the wrestling that I would carry with me, right? Not so. The card, the crowd, driving into South Philly by myself for the first time ever, the lining up outside, the atmosphere, the fear of not wanting to leave my seat and explore the Arena and more all unfolded in the experience I had.

But for me, wrestling shows and wrestling trips have always been about more than just what I go to and will see in the ring. When I ventured to Ring of Honor's debut show in February 2002, I made sure that the day of that event, before the ROH show that I took my Dad (who passed away last year) to the venue, even if only to see the outside (which we did) as it looks above, so he would know where ECW grew and became what it was to me and so many other fans. So many other groups have run this venue over the last 10 years, again, some to great success and some not so much. While I would have liked to go to some those shows (ROH, Dragon Gate USA), there was always something that prevented it and deep inside, I didn't want to change the way I experienced it back in 1999.

As the doors open to let fans in tomorrow for a wrestling doubleheader (CZW in the afternoon and EVOLVE 10 at night, which you can attend live or can be purchased on iPPV (right here:, many will be seeking that one final great moment that the Arena will give them. There have many before, but the final moments and memories will occur for many tomorrow. I will be watching EVOLVE 10 live and think they are set to deliver a great show. I will be excited to have one final memory that they help create, but also remain thankful for that venue, my opportunity to be there at least once live and the memories that I will hold onto forever.

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