As I've mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of the original ECW. This originally was supposed to be a house show but was changed to a live TV special on the USA Network to help launch the "new" ECW brand under WWE's auspices. Before the show went on the air, there were a few dark matches just for those in the arena. The only one I remember of those matches was Jimmy Yang against Tatanka in what had to be the debut of Yang's "asian redneck" character. Dusty Rhodes also did an appearance for the live crowd shilling his DVD. The televised portion had Rob Van Dam vs. Rey Mysterio, a 20-man battle royal, and a John Cena vs. Sabu main event.
On a late summer day, my friends Brian, Jessie, and I hopped in the car and headed 90 minutes west to Indianapolis to catch this show and what a show this was. There was Undertaker vs. Edge in a Hell in a Cell Match, John Cena vs. Batista, and HHH vs. Great Khali for the WWE Title. Even though our seats weren't the best, we still had a blast. Driving back from the show, we stopped at a Denny's in the middle of Indiana at 1:00 in the morning, ate, laughed, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
What a night this was. My wife had just moved to town the fall prior and while we hadn't officially started dating yet, it was this show that eventually spurned a relationship between us. On the way to pick her up, my friend Brian puked in the front seat of the car just and we were pulling into the parking lot of her workplace to pick her up. I did a quick clean up and while she chatted with my friend Geo and Brian went to the restroom to clean himself up. After a bit, we all piled into the car drove a hour in the snow to get to the arena. When we got off the freeway to the arena, the line to get a parking spot was literally five miles long! Eventually, we got a parking spot, took a shuttle into the building and got our seats literally as Raw was coming on the air.
This was a pretty big night in wrestling as well as not only was Bret Hart returning to WWE for the first time since 1997, there was also a live edition of TNA Impact going head to head again Raw that featured the debut of Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Eric Bischoff among others that night. I think I got home about 2:00 in the morning that night and it's a night I still remember fondly.
CZW is an independent promotion based out of Philadephia know for their violent matches and this was their first show ever in Indiana. Geo and I decided to make the three-hour trip to West Lafayette for a show called "Dragon Night". I purchased tickets ahead of time and managed to score front-row ringside. The building was a local rec center/bar that we drove by twice trying to find. When we parked, we hoped we were at the right venue and our suspicions proved correct after seeing a few people lined up with wrestling shirts on. Outside, the place looked like a dump, inside, it was one of the best venues for an independent wrestling show I've ever seen. While the majority of the card was straight wrestling, there were a few "ultraviolent" matches at the end of the show, best one being Masada against Drake Younger who absolutely tore the place up.
For everything that CZW is with the violence, blood, and weapons, CHIKARA is not. They are a family friendly "fun filled lucha supershow" according to their website and I couldn't agree more. At the time they had wacky characters like The Colony (Fire Ant, Green Ant, and Worker Ant), Tursas (a 6'8", 300-pound viking) and they still have wacky characters today. The main reason Katie, Geo, and I went is because the recently released from WWE Bryan Danielson (aka Daniel Bryan) was doing a big tour of the independent circuit and he stopped here to wrestle CHIKARA mainstay Tim Donst. The four-hour road trip was blast, we stopped a restaruant and bar in some sort of office building near downtown Cleveland for some grub and had blast overall.
I'm not even sure where to start with this event. It was held down the street from the house I grew up at and at the time my mom still lived there. Instead of trying to squeeze into the lot at the venue, Geo and I dropped my car at my mom's house and walked over. The venue was a run down skating rink that looked like it hadn't been updated in 20 years. We met up with Tim and his college buddies Brandon and Robert in line and once the doors opened everyone just sort of wandered in and found a place to stand. Brian and Jessie joined us right before the show started. The event was a fan-fest to meet wrestling legends Greg Valentine, Brutus Beefcake, Demolition, Dan Severn, and Sunny. The matches themselves on the show were downright horrible but the atmosphere was raucous and we all made it fun. I can't really do this show justice so I'll let our live report that we wrote on our old wrestling blog Never Hand Over speak for itself. Click here to read it (if you dare).
This was the second CHIKARA show that Geo, Katie, and I went to. While it wasn't as good as the first show and the venue was completely different, we still had a good time. I just recently found the photos I took from this event and one day I'll write an article talking about the show. As usual on a CHIKARA show, the cast of characters was wacky such as Los Ice Creams, Tursas, Ultramantis Black, and The Colony. During intermission, Tursas was taking pictures with fans at his merchandise table and The Colony was taking pictures in the ring with fans. Geo and I decided to jump in the ring and get a picture ...
|My friend Geo (L) and I with the Colony|
The final show I'll talk about today is this CZW show that was run literally 20 minutes from my current house. CZW came out and did a show in Hamilton at a since closed venue and everyone in our wrestling group (myself, Brian, Geo, Katie, Tim, and a few others) met up there and really had a wild time! Since this was in conjunction with local promotion HWA, some of their guys were on the card as well but everyone was really there to see CZW. There was a wild fans bring the weapons match that saw the competitors fight nearly into the street, a show-stealer of a match between AR Fox and Alex Colon, and Jake Crist, a local wrestler, in the main event against CZW owner DJ Hyde. After the show, we went over to the Steak N Shake down the street, and had a great night out reminiscing about old times and chatting about everything we could think of.
I hope you enjoyed reading about these old event and the nostalgia it brought back for me. Come back tomorrow for more WrestleMania week goodies!