Cheap Heat 3.13.01: So Long, Good Buddy

I’m on a business trip at the moment, so I thought I’d resurrect an older column as I don’t really have time to write a new one this week. It was written the week after I found out ECW was finished. It seemed somewhat relevant… the closest in relevance of anything in my archive, at the very least. I originally ran this article on some other site back on 03.13.2001.

I’ll be back next Thursday with a new column, but as for now, see where our heads were collectively at in March of 2001. Also, be sure to check out my Sports column where I manage to hate on the Knicks, the World Cup, and Tierny all in one fell swoop, East Coast Bias, only on IP Sports

The countdown to next Monday is on. Look for the guy with the Afro-wig and giant curtain pants holding up a 411wrestling sign. That will be me, assuming I can find huge curtain pants. I will be attempting to speak Tongan, too. I’ll also be waving my hands around and putting Tongan DeathGrips on anyone venturing too close. I need to figure out how to stick the ‘fro on my head so I can wave it around.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw ECW. It was Saturday of Memorial Day 1996, the day after my senior prom. I was in Lake George (a little resort town in Upstate New York. I can safely plug them now because I already have my campsite for THIS Memorial Day). It was me, two other guys, and one of their dates. My date had decided to ditch out after the prom and go to a pep rally.

Yes, I was that much a loser in high school, but that’s beside the point. And screw her, she wasn’t all that to begin with… bitch.

Since I had the only credit card, I checked in with the girl (I may have been a loser, but I wasn’t going to let the guy at the counter know that) and we went upstairs. I put my stuff away and she went to get the other guys. As I was putting my stuff away, I turned on the television. It was on Madison Square Garden. There was wrestling on. There was no WWF or WCW on Madison Square Garden. I started watching, and had my first experience with the Dudley Family, in their full prime, in a match with two other someones, whom I don’t remember. What I do remember is seeing the Eliminators make a run-in, and me seeing Total Elimination for the first time. For those of you who never saw The Eliminators in action, you missed out. Back before Saturn was the gay soldier in WCW or Radical Jobber #1 in the WWF, he was in one of the top three tag teams ever, The Eliminators. The Dudleys brought in a couple garbage cans, and they proceeded to beat everyone in sight with everything from chairs to cottage cheese. Right about this time, everyone got back upstairs.

“Dude,” I said to the kid I currently watch wrestling with every Monday. The one who gives me occasional ideas for this column and the only person I know who knows more senseless wrestling trivia than me. “Check this out.”

“What?” he asked. He sat down on the other bed and watched for a second. Keep in mind, this was the kid whose girlfriend was with us.

“I’ve never seen this before,” I said. Total Elimination was replayed. It looked as vicious the second time. “ECW, I wonder if this is on at home.”

Then, in a moment he has yet to live down with, he looked at the girl, looked at the television, and said: “Turn this crap off, I don’t want to watch it.” He has recently tried to explain this away as: “I didn’t want her to think I was more into wrestling than her… and I knew you wouldn’t turn it off.” Likely story.

I just looked at him, and told him I wasn’t turning wrestling off. So, like any good high schooler on prom weekend, I cracked a beer and started watching television. Some of the others who experienced that weekend may recall wine coolers being involved, but I deny any and all knowledge of ever drinking wine coolers.

After that weekend, I managed to find ECW at home, but it was on at 3 am on Sunday Mornings. Since I usually had to work at 6, and my only VCR was in my parent’s bedroom, I could only watch the occasional Sunday. Another guy I knew, as soon as we pointed it out to him, started taping it every week. By the time I started college, he had four or five, six hour tapes of ECW’s weekly program. I watched every one, which picked up midway through the Sandman/Raven feud, just after Sandman’s wife and son had joined Raven’s Nest. Taz was the Television champion, telling everyone it was the only title he cared about, since it meant he was the best on television. Taz would make matches where, if he didn’t choke out his opponent in less than two minutes, he’d forfeit the title. And he made good on his promises.

I watched ECW in a time where the WWF was practically dead. When the federation thought Sid was a hot commodity. Before Attitude was even a sparkle in WWF Magazine editor Vic Venom’s eye. A WWF where the dominating tag team were The Smoking Gunns, the Body Donnas, and the Godwins. And Hunter Hearst Helmsly and the “Blue Chipper” Rocky Maivia were just making a name for themselves in the IC title hunt. WCW was just getting rolling with the New World Order. Wrestling was boring in the big two, and ECW was a fantastic alternative. There were no marks in ECW, just a bunch of fans who appreciated a damn good match, and some of the best storylines ever.

But something happened. The WWF got “Attitude” and took ECW’s formula, almost variable for variable. They started using chairs, having streetfights, and throwing up parades of sexy valets. ECW lost it’s magic. Paul E. bought the promotion and realized running the business end of a wrestling promotion isn’t the same as coming up with interesting ideas. The WWF and WCW raided ECW for talent. ECW learned, the hard way, what it’s like to get F-ed by the Evil Empire.

But…there’s a list of things you should all thank ECW for.

Thank you, ECW… for giving us something to watch when the big two couldn’t put on an interesting story to save their lives.

Thank you, ECW… for the BEST play-by-play guy in the business today. Joey Styles knows his moves, knows the game, and makes boring matches interesting.

Thank you, ECW… for the mouthpiece of the Dudleys. The slim, trim, buff, cut, ripped, and JAAAAAACCCKED Joel Gertner.

Thank you, ECW… for showing that you can have good storylines and good wrestling in the same show.

Thank you, ECW… for providing the next generation of wrestling superstars, even though most of them were shamelessly pulled from under your nose, because you couldn’t offer the money the others were.

Thank you, ECW… for putting on a helluva show, regardless of what they left you.

Thank you, ECW… for showing us we can still care about a belt, even if one guy holds it for two years straight.

Thank you, ECW… for Jerry Lynn vs Rob Van Dam I.

Thank you, ECW… for Total Elimination.

Thank you, ECW… for the concept of putting people through tables.

Thank you, ECW… for the Dudleys, and the 3D.

Thank you, ECW… for letting there always be a real winner in a match. For there ALWAYS being a pinfall in high profile matches.

Thank you, ECW… for Lance Storm.

Thank you, ECW… for Cactus Jack, as we know him now.

Thank you, ECW… for giving wrestling fans something to do when the marks make us sick to our stomach.

Thank you, ECW… for showing us that the little guy can make it sometimes… almost.

Thank you, ECW… for running three-way dances and four-corners matches like they should be run. Elimination style.

Thank you, ECW… for the Raven/Dreamer feud.

Thank you, ECW… for Lita.

Thank you, ECW… for Baron Von Stevie, and the Blue World Order.

Thank you, ECW… for having the talent mingle with the fans, and drink with them in the parking lot before events.

Thank you, ECW… for the Rob Van Dam vs Sabu respect feud.

Thank you, ECW… for the Kid Krusher, the Franchiser, the Stone Cold Stunner, and a HOST of other moves.

Thank you, ECW… for giving Bam Bam Bigelow somewhere to go when the Clique ousted him.

Thank you, ECW… for showing us that it’s fun to cheer the little guy… Spike Dudley.

Thank you, ECW… for the “Impromptu Match.”

Thank you, ECW… for showing us finishes don’t ALWAYS have to be on finishers.

Thank you, ECW… for having shows where anything really could happen.

Thank you, ECW… for putting on shows where anyone really could beat anyone else… Regardless of what we “smart” Internet writers said.

I could go on. I’m sure there’s things I’ll think about after I submit this, and I’m sure there’s things some of you will tell me. Maybe I’ll do an addendum for this sometime later in the week. My only regret is I’ve never seen a live ECW event. I had my chances. They came to the Mid-South Coliseum in Poughkeepsie, the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan, and 30 minutes from my house in the IUE Hall in Schenectady. In fact, Scott Hall made his ECW debut in Schenectady, and I wasn’t there to see it. It’s one of those things that goes on the lines of “do when you have the chance.”

I’m going to miss ECW, and I’m very sorry they didn’t hit it off better on TNN, or didn’t find themselves another cable station. It’s also unfortunate they never got any mainstream exposure when they were the only ones doing what they do. If they did, things might have turned out a little better for them. Regardless, it was a fun something to watch for the 5 years I managed to see it. “The Little Promotion that Could.”

I’ll miss them.