AS I SEE ITBob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets PWBTS.com
Got a couple of cool letters in response to last week's column on this past week being the 17th anniversary of ECW's first show.
From Lee Schwartz: Bob,
Thanks for the memories. REALLY!
I would work at all the shows but there was so little I would remember. That's why your "As I See It," brought back so many memories
Some that come to mind...
Being yelled at by the 'Bingo Ladies' waiting to get into the 'Bingo Hall' for 'Midnight Double Deuce Bingo', because the ECW shows always ran late.
Walking through the parking lot, such as it was, marveling at the license plates from all over the country.
Running up to Tony Luke's, literally begging people to come to the Sunday TV tapings so the Arena would look good on TV.
The ECW Arena experience was amazing and you really had to be there to appreciate it. I recall, on two occasions in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and Marietta, GA with fans asking me 'What was it like seeing a show at the ECW Arena?' To them, it was 'The MECCA'. ECW was the only promotion where the crew, some were paid and many were not, and the fans all felt they were an integral part of it and all felt like they were contributors.
With regard to the 'Barely Legal' PPV, many have no idea how close it came to not making it on air. We had lost power to the production truck about 30 minutes before airtime, and literally did not get the power back until a few minutes before the show was to begin. Either we got incredibly lucky, or God was a huge ECW fan that evening.
As for your reference to the people who worked behind the scenes...where the hell is Lee Schwartz who, as Hardcam Operator, single handedly made John Bailey famous? LOL! I am happy to have played a very, very small part of it all.
There was also Jimmy Gatto, Larry Gallone's cousin, who did anything and everything asked of him as well as Mike Lawler (sound and lighting) who could climb the ''I' beam from the floor to the ceiling like a monkey, Damian Ferren who ran the merchandise table, and our other camera operators Bob and Greg in the early days; and then Ron Buffone and Charlie Bruzzese who later took over the production from Matt Radico.
A mention should go out to Bob Ryder of 1 Wrestling.com, who ran the live play by play chat on the old Prodigy. There were literally hundreds of people from all over logged in for the shows.
Of the Arena regulars you left out Sarge (shame on you!), 'Kato Kaelin' . With regard to "Hat Guy" John Bailey, he is now in "the business" as a heel manager in Atomic Pro Wrestling and World Pro Wrestling (Reading, PA indy) among others. He's actually quite talented and gets heckled even more than he heckled the guys at the Arena.
Also, gone but not forgotten from ECW were Rick Rude, Brian Pillman and "Road Warrior" Hawk.
All in all, it was a helluva ride!
Thanks for the memories,
Dave Scherer and Bob Ryder did quite well for themselves. You might have heard of 1wrestling.com and PWinsider.com.
But there were also Quigley, Buck Woodward, Tom Misnik, Quigley, and Rat from the old Bleacher Bums, Lennie, Frank Iadevia (Jersey All Pro Wrestling promoter), Ray Sager (former JAPW booker)....and lots of others who made the ECW fan experience what it was.
A few other notes on Lee's letter: In case any ECW fans are wondering what parking lot he's talking about (since the parking lot behind the Arena was then reserved for the workers)...the "parking lot" he means is the small lot in front of the Arena and Forman Mills...not to mention the surrounding neighborhood streets.
Other things you could see while waiting in line to get into the Arena: the bottles. Beer bottles...by the dozens, seemingly of every type... neatly lined up against the outside wall of the Arena. Let's just say the Philadelphia Police had a rather relaxed attitude toward public consumption. Funny thing was, with very rare exceptions, the crowd policed itself. It wasn't just booze. Hell, the fans in Section C nicknamed the "Bleacher Bums" even brought their own barbecue grill and cooked out pre-show, getting to the Arena early afternoon and making a full day of it.
Then, after the Arena shows there was the semi-legendary post-show fun... Let's just say a number of Philadelphia area bars including the Travelodge lobby bar, Essington Holiday Inn hotel bar and others made out VERY well as the result of those post-show evenings and early mornings.
As for the Sunday tapings, I can remember security guard "McGruff" telling us while in the Arena "please fill up the bleachers"...and if that didn't work "...the taping won't start until you fill up the bleachers". After awhile, ECW figured out people would show up for the regular Saturday shows even if they were televised over the next three weeks, and dropped the Sunday tapings.
These days, the South Philly institution that ECW staff and helpers had to go to in order to beg people to come to their shows, Tony Luke's...now advertises at the very ECW Arena it helped promote so many years ago.
Two notes on fans mentioned by Lee: "Kato" was a fan nicknamed that because of his resemblance to the hanger-on in the OJ Simpson saga...who still goes to indy shows in the Philadelphia area and "Sarge" happens to be my brother John, who still does as well.
From Adam Tocksin of the Bronx: "...I found ECW actually on a flyer. My dad and I attended a show in Yonkers, NY at Yonkers Raceway.
We luckily got row 2. So the first match was the Harris twins (Bruise Brothers) vs. Public Enemy. So during the match they went to the outside. Now, mind you, I never heard of ECW. So people around me said get ready to move. My reaction, "FOR WHAT"?
Suddenly all 4 wrestlers were in my section and was in my lap. I was stunned. I was about 17 years old at the time and with my dad and I remember thinking what the hell is going on? We were moving but it seemed the wrestlers were following us. After about 2 minutes of chair shots and brawling the whole section was demolished. Chairs everywhere. I was laughing and smiling so much I knew and my dad knew this was something very special. This is not the face vs. heel and going through the motions weew saw elsewhere. Here they were hardcore and interactef with the fans. We saw great matches that night and my dad and I were hooked. We talked to some of the regular fans ECW had, and they told us come to the ECW Arena and see how it really is.
One side note, Cactus Jack was in attendance. I believe at the time he just left WCW. He was scheduled to wrestle but was injured. He was classy enough just to show up because he knew this was big for ECW to come to New York and wanted to make an impact. He was very interactive and thank the fans for coming. He truly cared and was just a class act.
So make a very long story short. Dad and I traveled from New York to Philly for our first show. I can't tell you how much TV does not do it justice. It was just wild and the wrestlers were having a ball. If you did not perform, the fans would let you know it. If you did perform... lose or win, you got a standing ovation.
So we went once to Phily and then we went to every single show until it shut down. We sat in section A (I think it was section A - camera side seat 5, 6). We made so many friends and seen the usual faces. I can say every night we had a ball. Even the bad cards were good. I love watching Malenko/Guerrero, Juvy/Mysterio matches. Then, you had the hardcore matches, then the rivalry matches. I got the club seats and most of the times came on time. Gabe Sapolsky was great at what he did and was a great guy doing the behind the scenes for Paul.
I also attended the shows in New York but not all of them. I promoted ECW in a odd sort of way. I told people about it as much as possible at those shows and with friends. When I brought my friends to Phily they went nuts. They could not believe how insane and how much fun it was.
I was always on MSG during the show and held up signs for people. They seen it and could not believe I had front rows seats for ECW. They were amazed.
I brought 2 ex-girlfriend to ECW. Mind you they hated wrestling (WWF). But they went to ECW and had a ball and wanted to go over and over again and even let me watch ECW when it came on TV. One ex even got a bunch of chants of 'show your t***s'. She was amazed but laughing. She did not expect it.
I can not say enough great things about ECW. Thank you Paul for so many years of great entertainment. I really looked forward to every three weeks going to Phily. You made it very special for me and my dad and for that I am sincerely greatful.
For all the bumps my dad and I took (dad kicked in the head by Justin Credible, then during the middle of the same match, Dreamer asking us if we are OK) it was so worth it.
Thanks for the memories Bob. Great looking back at what was truly a special time in wrestling.
Also down Memory Lane this week..I received a letter from Terry Kozak about what I've mentioned as the first wrestling I ever saw...the Sheik's Detroit promotion as shown on CKLW Channel 9 in Windsor: As it is a quiet Saturday night, I found myself reminiscing about days gone by. Growing up in Windsor, Ontario, I was delighted to see you story on Ed Farhat, aka the Sheik.
I, much like you, remember the very first time my father and I, at the age of around eight, went to Cobo Hall to see the Sheik defend his United States championship against Bobo Brazil. This was in 1967, just months prior to the riot that was to cripple Detroit soon thereafter. Here we were sitting in this very heavily African-American crowd. When the Sheik used his infamous pencil to his advantage, many of the crowd were literally on their feet wanting to throttle the Sheik themselves.
Two weeks later we saw the Sheik battle Lord Athol Layton at Cobo Hall.
Years later, we had the Sheik come to Windsor Arena.
And finally, in the 1980s, when the NWA came to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for a Starrcade event which featured heavyweight champion Ric Flair, we had the pleasure of watching a main event of the Sheik and Dick Murdoch against Kevin Sullivan and Dusty Rhodes in the main event! The best part was that prior to the fight, there were a group of teenagers laughing and making fun of how old the Sheik was. He must have been listening at the entrance because the second he came into the arena, he ran right after this group of teenagers with a snake in his hand and doing his famous abuza (or was it Kalamoozoo?) dialect. They scrambled laster than eggs.
I have been fortunate enough to at least get a dvd of some of his fights and now, even at the age of 50, I look back and think how lucky we were in this area to have such an incredible showman and talent.
Your story was a fitting tribute and as a fan I just wanted to thank you for the fine words. H Even years later, here I sit on a Saturday night missing Big Time Wrestling at the air-conditioned Cobo Hall.
It is a shame that Mr. Farhat erased his Big Time Wrestling tapes. Today they would be priceless.
Until next time...
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