AS I SEE IT 5/15: Once upon a time there was a Bingo Hall….the ECW Arena turns 25
AS I SEE IT
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
Once upon a time, there was a Bingo Hall.
25 years ago yesterday, I was ready to go to that first ECW show to be held at this new arena in Philadelphia back on May 14, 1993. It was the date that Eddie Gilbert and Tod Gordon scheduled their first show of Eastern Championship Wrestling to be held in a nondescript looking bingo hall, back then located in a section of Philadelphia that former Strictly ECW head Tony Lewis once described as “West Hell” (much, much improved today).
ECW itself had pre-history. What was then called Eastern Championship Wrestling started after Tod Gordon picked up the remains of Joel Goodhart’s Tri-State Wrestling Alliance in February 1992. The Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, best known for its classic series of Cactus Jack-Eddie Gilbert matches that permanently put hardcore wrestling on the map in Philadelphia, blew apart on the eve of Winter Challenge III, a show that would have been the promotion’s largest.
The show was scheduled on January 25, 1992; and would have featured matches including “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers vs. “Nature Boy” Buddy Landel, Steve Williams/Terry Gordy vs. Dan Kroffat/Doug Furnas, Chris Benoit vs. Shiro Koshinaka, and Eddie Gilbert vs. Kevin Sullivan. Goodhart cancelled the show and ended his involvement in wrestling as a whole live on his WIP 610 radio show only days before the Winter Challenge III show would have taken place.
Gordon ran shows as Eastern Championship Wrestling promoter with the local talent from the former Tri-State roster, including The Sandman (who was then doing a surfer gimmick), JT Smith, Tony Stetson, Sal Bellomo, Larry Winters, Glenn Osbourne, and The Super Destroyers, along with names Jimmy Snuka and Don Muraco.
The fledgling ECW ran its earliest shows at the Philadelphia’s Original Sports Bar (now the basement of a Ross Dress for Less), the Chestnut Cabaret (now a hip-hop, roots, reggae and soul club called Pegasus), the Tabor Rams Youth Association, and finally Cabrini College. A handful of Chestnut Cabaret shows were taped for airing on a local low-power TV station, but ECW was at that point just another independent. Most notable was the fact that the TV announcer for WWF Philadelphia Spectrum house shows (aired on local cable sports/movie station PRISM) Dick Graham did commentary.
Cabrini College, a Catholic school in suburban Philadelphia, was the site of the promotion’s first TV taping on March 1993 for a small part-time sports station called SportsChannel Philadelphia. 60 people gathered there at Cabrini College on the eve of a massive super-snowstorm that left as much as three and a half feet of snow all over the East Coast. Then Cabrini College kicked out ECW after two shows because the college decided they didn’t want wrestling. Mind you, not “extreme” wrestling…ECW was nothing remotely near that yet. But at that point, Cabrini College decided that they just plain didn’t want wrestling.
Back to May 14th, 1993…
I was told by friend and ECW employee Kathy Fitzpatrick that this new building was at Swanson and Ritner Streets. In those largely pre-digital days, I looked up the intersection on a SEPTA map in my office. According to that and another map I looked at, the intersection didn’t exist. But she insisted that was the place.
I found out years later that the members of the Viking Club Mummers group had paved over freight train tracks and created an unofficial extension of a street. Thus, the intersection did exist…sort of.
So on the afternoon of the show, after asking around the neighborhood, and finally checking at the local Forman Mills discount store, I asked where the Mummers practiced. The sales clerk pointed down the street. Finding the building, I went inside, and saw the Bingo equipment up on the walls. I went into a place that looked nothing like any wrestling venue I’d ever been to, and thought “What in the hell is this?” Even those of us used to shows in flea markets, bars, schools, and even parking lots thought…”a Bingo Hall?”
How little we knew.
We found out that this building was Viking Hall, the home of the South Philadelphia Viking Club, the neighborhood Mummers group that practiced there for the yearly Philadelphia New Years Mummers parade. We also found out that they did “Midnight Bingo” there to fund the group. This meant that in the promotion’s early years, they were supposed to be out of there in enough time to allow set-up for Midnight Bingo.
From May 14, 1993, until the promotion’s last Philadelphia show on December 23, 2000… ECW created unparalleled magic in one of the most improbable locations ever to hold wrestling on a regular basis… the building that became the world’s most famous Bingo Hall… the building that truly became the ECW Arena.
On May 14, 1993, we couldn’t ever have known what was to come.
If someone had told us that this fledging wrestling promotion owned by a center city pawnbroker would make a longtime home in this building… would eventually be seen nationwide on cable television… would go on PPV from this building in 1997… and would have wrestling fans around the world chanting “ECW… ECW… ECW”….to this very day…
If someone had told us that it would feature talent ranging from New Japan stars Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and Chris Benoit to lucha stars Rey Misterio, Jr., Juventud Guerrera, La Parka, and Psicosis… to Four Horsemen and Midnight Express members Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton… to All Japan stars Steve Williams, Terry Gordy, Dan Kroffat and Doug Furnas, and Gary Albright… to Japanese lucha style stars Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada, and TAKA Michinoku… to wrestling legends like Stan Hansen, Abdullah The Butcher, Jerry Lawler, Terry and Dory Funk, and Kevin Sullivan…
If someone had told us that it 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…
We would have looked at you, and told you that you were in need of serious psychiatric help.
All we Philly regulars knew was that ECW had a new home after Cabrini College decided they didn’t want wrestling in its gymnasium any longer, and that this was ECW’s new home. We knew it was at least near the widely known Tony Luke’s cheesesteak stand, so we’d at least have a good meal before the show.
We went in that May evening to see a promotion which would start its TV incarnation featuring Eddie Gilbert and a Memphis flavored product, eventually with an accent of Japanese hardcore.
What became regular faces in the front row and those Section C (TV side) bleachers were seen by fans first on SportsChannel Philadelphia, then on MSG Network, then slowly across the country via commercial tapes, and tapes traded by fans all over North America and beyond.
There were people like John Bailey (seemingly known everywhere as “Hat Guy”), his brother George, Mike Johnson (of PWinsider.com), “Sign Guy” Paul Mellows (from whom Paul Heyman took the Sign Guy Dudley gimmick), Lennie (the Rob Zombie lookalike), along with yours truly, my younger brother John and many others whose faces would unintentionally become familiar. What we all became a part of was history.
Here are some of those ECW Arena moments from my memory:
Eddie Gilbert and Terry Funk go at it in the “Texas Chain Match Massacre” to give ECW its largest crowd to date, with the match seen across the country via the first of many ECW commercial tapes.
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 (aka Hugh Morris), and Mitsuhiro Matsunaga.
September 1993’s Ultra Clash brought Stan Hansen, Abdullah The Butcher, Kevin Sullivan, and The Dark Patriot (Doug Gilbert) against JT Smith in a Scaffold Match.
September also brought an end to the Eddie Gilbert era and the beginning of the Paul Heyman era in ECW; as Gilbert left the promotion due to disagreements over a prospective involvement with Jim Crockett’ s World Wrestling Network (a promotion that, ironically enough, never took off). During the show, Eddie Gilbert walked into the Arena unannounced, acknowledged he was leaving ECW, but told fans to keep supporting the promotion.
Some of the other names in ECW during that year included Kevin Christopher, Herve Rinesto, Don E. Allen, Jimmy Snuka, JT Smith, Tony Stetson, Larry Winters, Tommy Cairo, Rockin’ Rebel, Sandman, Don Muraco, Sal Bellomo, Stevie Wonderful, Super Destroyer, Johnny Hotbody, Chris Michaels, and Hunter Q. Robbins III.
There was a January weekend of ice storms that cut off power to 350,000 people in the Philadelphia area. Yet ECW drew a crowd of 200 just on word of mouth and from calling the company’s telephone hotline in the basement of announcer Bob Artese’s house to see Terry Funk and Shane Douglas work a 45 minute broadway that set up the original “three-way dance” on February 5, 1994 with “The Night The Line Was Cross ed” featuring Sabu vs. Shane Douglas vs. Terry Funk.
The April night when Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton invaded the ECW Arena unannounced in one of the best kept secrets in wrestling history. The TV of that night shows one of the wilder crowd pops in ECW history.
The Public Enemy-Dory/Terry Funk barbed wire match that took place at Heat Wave 1994 in a full house despite indoor temperatures within the Arena estimated at as much as 130 degrees.
Cactus Jack’s ECW debut in July 1994..in what became one more chapter in his love affair with the Philadelphia fans…that made his “anti-hardcore” program, that included shoot comments directed at the Philadelphia fans all the more memorable.
The NWA Title Tournament in August 1994 featuring Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Osamu Nishimura, Shane Douglas, and Two Cold Scorpio, a show that would be better remembered for Shane Douglas trashing the NWA Title, then declaring that the promotion was no longer NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling, but EXTREME Championship Wrestling.
The October-November 1994 Sandman “blinding angle” that was voted Angle of the Year: so well done, it had the late Brian Hildebrand calling me to ask if it was a work.
Some of the other names seen in the ECW Arena during 1994 were 911, Chad Austin, Mr. Hughes, Sal Bellomo, Tommy Cairo, Sandman, Gary Wolf, Public Enemy (Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge), The Sheik, Pat Tanaka, Road Warrior Hawk, The Bruise Brothers, and Mike Awesome.
February 1995 gave fans both the “Double Tables” show featuring the main event of Sabu and Tazmaniac against The Public Enemy, Chris Benoit vs. Al Snow, and “Return of The Funker”; featuring Terry Funk’s return after a six month absence.
April 1995 had the debut of the two and a half year storyline of Raven and Tommy Dreamer, and the first match actually billed as a “Three Way Dance” with The Public Enemy vs. Chris Benoit/Dean Malenko vs. Tazmaniac and Rick Steiner. Another Arena show one week later brought the first of the classic Eddie Guerrero-Dean Malenko matches we saw for the next five months.
The spring also brought the psychotic bloodletting of the Axl Rotten-Ian Rotten matches, with matches involving barbed wire baseball bats all the way to the Taipei Death Match in July, with each man having glass glued to his hands.
On August 29, 1995, the Dean Malenko-Eddie Guerrero farewell match happened…with the smartest wrestling audience in North America in tears (not to mention Guerrero and Malenko themselves)… chanting “Please don’t go…please don’t go” with a heartfelt passion from the crowd worthy of two departing world class talents and people.
September 1995 featured one of the top matches in Arena history in a best 2 out of three falls Double Dog Collar Match for the ECW Tag Team Championships with The Pitbulls vs. Raven & Stevie Richards.
November to Remember 1995 was one of the best top to bottom shows ever held in the Arena with such matches as Rey Mi sterio, Jr.-Psicosis, and Terry Funk/Tommy Dreamer vs. Cactus Jack/Raven.
Fall 1995 also brought lucha libre to Philadelphia for the first time with Rey Mysterio, Jr. Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis, Konnan, and La Parka appearing.
Some of the other names seen in the ECW Arena during 1995 were Hack Myers, Al Snow, Osamu Nishimura, Tully Blanchard, Paul Lauria, Mikey Whipwreck, Stevie Richards, Hector Guerrero, Marty Jannetty, DC Drake, Jason Knight, Ron Simmons, Vampire Warrior (aka Gangrel), Dudley Dudley, and Dances With Dudley.
January 1996 featured the first of many Rob Van Dam-Sabu matches, Raven and Sandman battling for the ECW Heavyweight title, and the Gangstas-Eliminators feud.
March 1996 featured Rey Misterio, Jr. and Juventud Guerrera giving a lucha clinic in a 2 out of 3 fall match. It also featured the emotional farewell of Cactus Jack, who defeated Mikey Whipwreck.
Chris Jericho debuted in ECW at the “Matter of Respect” show in May 1996 against Mikey Whipwreck. The summer of 1996 also featured the wars of The Eliminators against The Gangstas in a “steel cage weapons” match.
Heatwave 96 gave us a tremendous four way ECW TV Title Match Scorpio-Chris Jericho-Pitbull #2-Shane Douglas.
Autumn 1996 featured such world class tag team action as Terry Gordy and Steve Williams against The Eliminators and Sabu and Rob Van Dam against Dan Kroffat and Doug Furnas. It also featured one of the sickest scaffold matches in history in October at “High Incident” with Tommy Dreamer throwing Brian Lee off a “scaffold” attached to the roof of the ECW Arena, into a ring full of tables.
Some of the other names seen in the ECW Arena during 1996 included Mr. Hughes, The Blue Meanie, Too Cold Scorpio, El Puerto Ricano, Bad Crew, The Headhunters, Big Titan, Damien Kane, Little Guido, Brian Lee, Beef Wellington, Devon Storm, and the Samoan Gangsta Party.
Barely Legal- The moment that ECW fans had waited for since the last year’s worth of rumors had started finally arrived on April 13, 1997. Even with the usual pre-show atmosphere at the ECW Arena… this was something special. Fans waited outside the ECW Arena from early on that morning.
The Arena was filled as full as physical space would allow (and then some), well beyond anything permitted by city or state fire laws. The atmosphere was electric.
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.
The show itself included The Eliminators defeating ECW Tag champs D-Von & Buh Buh Ray Dudl ey for the ECW Tag team Titles, Rob Van Dam-Lance Storm, Taz over Sabu, Great Sasuke/Gran Hamada/Masato Yakushiji wrestling TAKA Michinoku/Dick Togo/Terry Boy (aka Men’s Teioh), and Terry Funk defeating Raven for the ECW Heavyweight Title.
2 1/2 years of the most creative character in recent wrestling history ended within ECW, as Raven lost a loser leave match to Tommy Dreamer at Wrestlepalooza 1997.
In what was likely the single most violent match in ECW history, Sabu pinned Terry Funk in a barbed wire match at August 1997’s “Born to be Wired”, to a point that even Paul Heyman was reported to be sickened in the promo for the show’s commercial video tape. Having seen the match in person, I can safely say he wasn’t the only one.
Some of the other names seen in the ECW Arena during 1997 included Tommy Rich, Tracy Smothers, Chris Chetti, Bam Bam Bigelow, Louie Spicolli, Big Dick Dudley, Spike Dudley, Balls Mahoney, Tom Pritchard, JC Ice and Wolfie D, Paul Diamond, and Tommy Rogers.
January 1998 gave us the first Stairway To Hell Match with Sandman taking on Sabu.
Japanese talent returned to the ECW Arena throughout the year with names like Gran Hamada, Gran Naniwa, Atsushi Onita, Masato Tanaka.
The pairing that gave a ECW Match of The Year nominee two years running gave Arena fans a match to behold on August 8, 1998 as Jerry Lynn took on Rob Van Dam.
The first of many Masato Tanaka-Mike Awesome matches happened in August, matches that took the phrase “stiff” to a whole new level.
Some of the other names seen in the ECW Arena during 1998 included Danny Doring, Roadkill, Bobby Duncum, Jr., Doug Furnas, Super Nova, Mike Lozansky, Jack Victory, Ulf Hermann, Big Sal Graziano, Rod Price, and One Man Gang.
1999 saw the ECW Arena featured around the United States and Canada as TV tapings were done for TNN at the Arena, allowing fans to see what the Arena experience was all about.
Lucha and Japanese talent again made their way into the ECW Arena as Antifaz Del Norte, TAKA Michinoku, Super Crazy, El Mosco De La Merced, Yoshihiro Tajiri, and Mr. Aguila (aka Papi Chulo). This gave us matches over 1999 such as Jerry Lynn-Yoshihiro Tajiri, Super Crazy-Antifaz Del Norte, TAKA Michinoku-Mr. Aguila and a series of Super Crazy-Yoshihiro Tajiri matches.
We got a Match of the Year nominee for the second time with Rob Van Dam-Jerry Lynn on August 28, 1999.
Some of the other names seen in the ECW Arena during 1999 included Skull Von Krush (later known as “Big Vito”), Bill Wiles, David Cash, Uganda, Tom Marquez, Kid Cash, Bo and Jack Dupp, and Ikuto Hidaka.
Even with all the obvious financial problems and the fact that attention was often elsewhere most of the time, there were still a few classic moments left in 2000 for ECW fans at the ECW Arena.
March 2000 featured a great Raven/Mike Awesome-Masato Tan aka/Tommy Dreamer Tag Team Match.
April 2000 gave the ECW Arena the one and only appearance of Dusty Rhodes at the Arena as he took on Steve Corino.
August 19, 2000 gave us the 2000 ECW match of the year as the returning Psicosis took on Yoshihiro Tajiri.
The last ECW show at the ECW Arena took place on December 23, 2000. With all that had been happening and all that had been reported online, many fans going inside the building that night suspected that this might be the last show at the ECW Arena, although nothing was ever announced or even acknowledged to that effect.
The final ECW match at the ECW Arena was Steve Corino defending his ECW World Heavyweight Title over The Sandman and Justin Credible.
Some of the other names seen in the ECW Arena during 2000 included Rhino, Christian York and Joey Matthews, Scotty Anton, Prodigy, CW Anderson, Simon Diamond, Johnny Swinger, Da Baldies (DeVito and Angel), Carl Oulette, Vic Grimes, Jado and Gedo, and Erik Watts.
Some other ECW memories from the Arena come to mind:
Those Sunday morning TV tapings from 1993-1995, when we stumbled into the Arena half-awake after too little sleep following the preceding evening’s show and the post-show “festivities” until well into the wee hours of the morning…and Mark Shapiro (aka “McGruff”) telling us to “please fill up the bleachers”… in order to make the crowd look respectable for SportsChannel and MSG, the two stations carrying ECW at the time.
A small discount store next to the Arena which sold cheap breakaway frying pans, with the slogan, “Give them to your favorite wrestler to hit someone” (an area which is part of the new sports bar area).
The “bleacher bums” over in section C with some of the most creative (and sometimes unprintable… especially when directed at Eric Bischoff) chants imaginable, along with their summer pre-show afternoon cookouts and beer bashes.
The “Mutants From Boston”, who regularly traveled down to ECW Arena shows…
The people who made the dream happen in the earliest days… a group of hardworking people behind the scenes, who would do nearly anything for the company, people that we all got to know like Bob and Lex Artese, Jay “Six-Pack” Sulli, Larry Gallone, Kathy Fitzpatrick, Kathy Donahue, Steve Truitt, and Matt Radico…
But the ECW Arena had more than one life….the independent days.
Combat Zone Wrestling had been operating in New Jersey since 1999.
Due to their annual Cage Of Death 3 show at the end of 2001, the company needed a bigger venue and made their debut in the ECW Arena. The venue was the first sellout in the Arena since the era of ECW. Hundreds were turned away from the biggest show in the promotion’s history, far surpassing promotion expectations. The main event in the Cage of Death saw Justice Pain defeating Wifebeater.
The show ended with the Arena lights going out. When they came back on, fans saw former ECW owner Tod Gordon, Blue Meanie, Pitbull #1, Rockin’ Rebel, Rocco Rock were in the ring, heeling on CZW and the fans, followed by jumping Justice Pain and Wifebeater. The CZW locker room came out for the save, the lights went out yet again to The Sandman was standing in the ring. Sandman then turned on the ECW contingent, and ended the evening drinking a beer with Zandig.
Best of The Best 2 started a series of several years of incredible lineups for the springtime tournaments, with 2002 including Trent Acid, M-Dogg 20, Super Dragon, B-Boy, Ruckus, Tony Mamaluke, Jodie Fleisch, Jonny Storm, and Johnny Kashmere.
September 2002 saw Justice Pain defending C.M. Punk to retain his CZW Title, and a demented match with “Sick” Nick Mondo/Wifebeater defeated Mr. Insanity/Necro Butcher. October 2002 saw Wifebeater announce his retirement.
Late in 2002, XPW, which had been based in California and funded by pornography magnate and owner of Extreme Associates Rob Black offered around $60,000 for an exclusive lease to the ECW Arena. On December 12, 2002, Ring of Honor, CZW, and 3PW ran what were to be the last events before the exclusive lease began. During CZW’s event, CZW owner Zandig stated that they had offered $32,000 to stay in the Arena, but had been turned down. Zandig stated that with the $10,000 a month XPW would need to pay for the building “the lease would not last long”, which proved to be true. Various deceptive practices by the promotion including numerous examples of false advertising, as well as a suggestion of Rob Black saying he’d feed a live puppy to a snake, and the fact that they would not permit other promotions to run the Arena, caused a swift end to XPW’s time there.
Cage of Death 4 featured Zandig vs. Lobo “Cage of Death” match for ownership and control of CZW, Justice Pain vs. Messiah “Iron Man rules” for the heavyweight title, Ruckus vs. M-Dogg 20 vs. Sonjay Dutt to determine number one contender to the CZW Junior Heavyweight title, Backseat Boys vs. Nick Mondo/Ric Blade TLC match, and Nick Berk vs. Josh Prohibition submission match.
A sample of the talent in CZW during 2002 included Wifebeater, Justice Brian XL, Devine Storm, Softcore Connection, Sick Nick Mondo, Johnny Kashmere, Ian Knoxx, GQ, Chris Ca$h, Zandig, Glen Osbourne, VD, Nick Gage, Nate Hatred, MDogg 20, and Josh Prohibition.
Accompanied by the aforementioned incidents, XPW folded in 2003. CZW then returned to the ECW Arena on May 10, 2003, promoting a show that served as a tribute to the Arena’s history: “Then & Now: A Decade of Defiance.” In June, Ian Rotten, Corporal Robinson, and J.C. Bailey of IWA Mid-South did an interpromotional invasion angle of CZW. The feud led into CZW’s Tournament of Death 2 with 5 IWA and 3 CZW wrestlers in TOD, remembered most Zandig “Mother F’N bombing Nick Mondo” off a 40 foot rooftop. Matches included Homicide submitting Trent Acid, Sick Nick Mondo defeated Johnny Kashmere, Ruckus defeating Chris Ca$h, B-Boy defeats Tony Mamaluke, Ric Blade defeating Sonjay Dutt, and Messiah defeating Nate Hatred.
April saw Best of The Best 3, the first of several years of tournaments featuring some of the greatest independent talent of the time, with 2003’s including AJ Styles, Ruckus, Sonjay Dutt, Chri$ Ca$h, Ric Blade, Trent Acid, Tony Mamaluke, B-Boy, Lil Cholo, Deranged, Jimmy Rave, Jay Briscoe, and Mark Briscoe.
In a controversial incident in September 2003, Zandig’s feud with heel stable Hi-5 featured an angle where Zandig was suspended in the middle of the ring by meat hooks from the roof of the Arena. This led to the main event for Cage of Death 5. Cage of Death 5 featured what many believe to be the most unbelievable structure the promotion ever constructed which involved two rings one of which saw scaffolding across the top of the cage and tables surrounding the ring. Add to that a suspended cage/scaffold, a super scaffold from the stage to the Cage of Death, and the second ring… filled with “1,000,000 thumb tacks”. The Cage of Death match featured Team Ultraviolence (John Zandig, Lobo, Wifebeater, Ian Knoxx, Nick Gage, and a surprise addition of New Jack) vs. Team HI-V (The Messiah, Nate Hatred, Trent Acid, Adam Flash, Johnny Kashmere, and B-Boy), with Team Ultraviolence (CZW) going over.
If that wasn’t enough for COD 5, Jimmy Rave defeated Trent Acid, Alex Shelley defeating B-Boy and Chris Hero in a #1 contender for the CZW Iron Man Title; and a match still talked about years later…a ladder match in which Joker defeated Chris Cash.
March saw a scary Taipei Boards with Nails Death Match with The Messiah defeating Zandig to win the CZW title after Teddy Hart did a run-in and hit Zandig with a moonsault to give The Messiah the pinfall and the CZW World title. Following the match, Zandig gave Teddy Hart a Mother F’N Bomb onto the board of nails which turned Hart into a bloody mess.
April featured Trent Acid brawling with Teddy Hart through the Arena and into the streets of South Philadelphia.
June’s Trifecta Challenge saw Messiah defeat Wifebeater to retain in an Ultraviolent Unlucky 13/Panes of Glass Match.
July saw Best of The Best 2004 with Homicide, Jack Evans, Chri$ Ca$h, B-Boy, Roderick Strong, Jimmy Rave, Alex Shelley, Bobby Quance, Ruckus, Petey Williams, Sonjay Dutt, and Nate Webb
In December, Cage of Death 6 had two Cage of Death matches, with the first as a two ring/War Games Style, with a scaffold going accross the middle featuring Team Cash (Chri$ Ca$h/JC Bailey/Nate Webb/Sexxy Eddy) defeated Team Blackout (Ruckus, Sabian, Kingston, and Jack Evans). The second match saw Wifebeater and Justice Pain defeating Nate Hatred/Nick Gage in a Fans Bring Weapons match with an array of twisted weapons coming into play during the match.
During 2005, CZW established a connection with CHIKARA Pro Wrestling, which established into a joint training school known as ‘The Wrestle Factory’ at The Arena, with Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush as trainers. This relationship lasted until 2007, when there was a major falling out between the promotions, and CZW again formed its own school.
February saw a protest against the illegal actions of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, which allowed a barbed wire match on WWE’s “No Way Out” PPV , but refused to allow it on independent shows; a ruling later reversed after wrestling started contacting the Commission, and the Pennsylvania Governor’s office. The match was “backstage” with a barbed wire cage light tubes scaffold match “after the show was 0over” with J.C. Bailey defeated Necro Butcher.
Tragedy struck the promotion in 2005 as wrestler Christopher “Chri$ Ca$h” Bauman Jr. was killed as the result of a motorcycle accident near his home.
Best of the Best led off with a tribute to Chris Candido, then saw a tournament with Mike Quackenbush, winning Best of The Best, that also included Super Dragon, Chris Bosh, El Generico, Excalibur, Chris Hero, Brandon Thomaselli, Kevin Steen, Kenny the Bastard, Arik Cannon, Claudio Castagnoli, Derek Frazier, B-Boy, Sabian
Cage of Death saw The H8 Club/Zandig defeating Necro Butcher/Toby Klein/Joker in a octagon-like Cage of Death was a big octagon constructed around the ring with a barbed wire spiderneta spidernet of barbed wire, thumbtack turnbuckles, barbed wire bats., scaffolds and four tables.
A major change in the promotion came when Mike Burns left as booker, when Zandig was upset at Burns setting up a deal with Ring of Honor.
Upset as he might have been with what he thought Burns did, Zandig embraced the ROH-CZW program, and in one of the rare cases in indy wrestling (let alone Philadelphia’s indy wars of the day) did the right thing for business during shows at the ECW Arena, namely put over ROH talent in key matches (Gabe Sapolsky returned the favor at ROH shows).
The program started at the January 2006 show with American Dragon and Nigel McGuinness showing up at the ECW Arena, with ROH heeling it up at the Arena. Bryan Danielson heeled it up and said “CZW fans didn’t deserve to see an ROH-caliber match”. Hero joined in on the fun, followed by Nigel McGuiness and Roderick Strong, then the CZW locker room then emptying.
This led to a CZW-ROH match at the March 2006 Arena show: Austin Aries/Roderick Strong/Matt Sydal defeating Ruckus/Eddie Kingston/Necro Butcher
BOTB featured Ring of Honor talent including Christopher Daniels, Matt Sydal, Austin Aries, plus B-Boy, Jigsaw, Roderick Strong, Claudio Castagnoli, Jay Lethal, Sabian, Sonjay Dutt, Ruckus, Derek Frazier
The program led to the only Cage of Death not to take place at a CZW show in July 2006 at Ring of Honor’s Death before Dishonor IV at the Northeast Armory in Philadelphia, PA with CZW’s team consisting of Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Necro Butcher, Nate Webb and Eddie Kingston putting over Ring of Honor’s team of Samoa Joe, BJ Whitmer, Adam Pearce, Ace Steel and Homicide.
Cage of Death 8 saw Nick Gage defeating John Zandig and Lobo and LuFisto.
April 7, 2007 saw one of the more controversial moment among CZW fans as Eddie Kingston defeated Chris Hero in a tremendous Loser Leaves CZW match, only for Zandig to fire Kingston after a personal blowup, creating a bigtime backlash among many of the more hardcore fans of the promotion.
Best of the Best 7 saw Joker winning Best of The Best in a tournament with Human Tornado, Ruckus, Ricochet, Chuck Taylor, B-Boy, Cheech, Ricky Reyes, Sal Thomaselli, Jigsaw, Grim Reefer, Scotty Vortek, Cloudy, Brandon Thomaselli, Vito Thomaselli, Joker, and Drake Younger.
August saw Drake Younger vs. Brain Damage end in a double pin draw in an UltraViolent “Barbed-Wire Board, Panes of Glass, Carpet Strips, Falls Count Anywhere” match.
Danny Havoc was the “sole survivor” of Cage of Death in a match that saw his team of Necro Butcher/Toby Klein/Drake Younger/Danny Havoc defeat Brain Damage/DJ Hyde/Dustin Lee/Scotty Vortekz in the Cage of Death.
In December, Cage of Death saw Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky and Mickey Rourke visiting CZW’s Cage of Death IX in December, liking what they saw, and committed to the venue for taping of “The Wrestler”
January saw CZW World Heavyweight Title Nick Gage defeated Danny Havoc, Ruckus, Drake Younger, Devon Moore and the returning Eddie Kingston in a 6-way Ultraviolent Rules Match to retain the CZW World Heavyweight Title
The Wrestler, featuring Mickey Rourke got the most positive attention of any wrestling-themed film in US history, with the fictional story of wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson (portrayed by Mickey Rourke) set as famous in the 1980s, now working diferent indies for small payoffs. Filming took place at the February 2008 Arena house show, including a scene featuring The Necro Butcher, who wrestled “The Ram” in a “hardcore match”. The fans didn’t react very well to being a cast of a movie, but the footage that later appeared in the movie worked out well.
Sabian won best of The Best 8 over LuFisto, Josh Prohibition, Scotty Vortekz, Drew Gulak, Pinkie Sanchez, Spyral BKNY, Sabian, Drake Younger, Bruce Maxwell, T.J. Cannon, Chuck Taylor, Ricochet, and Stupefied.
Cage of Death 10 saw Devon Moore vs. Sami Callihan vs. Drake Younger vs. Danny Havoc vs. Zandig vs. Brain Damage in a Cage of Death. 2008’s edition saw a double cage structure with a cage inside a cage. Cage one a roof made up of a barbed wire spider net and a scaffold on top of the Cage of Death. Surrounding the Cage that surrounded the ring was a platform surrounding that with tables, chairs, lemon juice, salt, sheets of auto glass enclosed by the second cage.
February 2009 saw Drake Younger defeat Eddie Kingston in a No Rope Barbed Wire Death match to retain the CZW World Heavyweight title.
Best of the Best 9 featured B-Boy, Ryan McBride, Carter Gray, Scotty Vortekz, Sami Callihan, Greg Excellent, Devon Moore, Pinkie Sanchez, Shiima Xion, Sabian, Ego Fantastico, Drew Blood, with Robert “Ego Fantastico” Anthony defeating Sami Callihan in the Finals to win the Best of the Best 9 Tournament..
Cage of Death 11 with Sami Callihan defeating Danny Havoc, was demented as ever with two traditional Cage Of Deathcage walls, and two Caribbean spiderweb barbed wire walls that are hangin off at a 45 degree angle with panes of glass on both sides, a scaffold with a hole in the middle with two panes of glass underneath, then four panes of glass on the front of the scaffold and barbed wire at the back and another pane of glass in three corners.
March 2010 saw J.C. Bailey defeat Thumbtack Jack in a Barefoot Thumbtacks Death match.
June 2010 saw another tragedy as Trent Acid died. July saw a Trent Acid Memorial show that raised $7500 for the family and funeral expenses.
August saw D.J. Hyde and Greg Excellent defeat Sami Callihan and Joe Gacy in a Tangled Web Deathmatch
Cage of Death 12 saw Philly’s Most Wanted (Joker and Sabian) defeating The Osirian Portal to win the vacant CZW Tag Team Championships. The Portal goes back up and hit a double team splash/legdrop onto Joker, but even after the hypnotizing and the top rope trauma, they only get 2. Joker finally “comes out of it”, ballshots Amasis, then in a classic lucha finish, Sabian pulled off Ophidian’s mask off and cradles him for the pinfall. The CZW Heavyweight Championship Match saw Jon Moxley retained his CZW Heavyweight Championship over Homicide.
CZW Ultraviolent Underground Championship Match saw Yuko Miyamoto defeat Hardcore Nick Gage (with Dewey Donovan) to win the CZW Ultraviolent Underground title after an unbelievable Miyamoto moonsault off of a HIGH ladder, that saw him hanging onto the Arena’s rafters to steady himself. This included a barbed wire fence set up as a bridge between the ring and the guardrail. Eventually, Miyamoto goes up to the top and elbowdrops onto Gage and the barbed wire fence, with the structure collapsing. Later, Miyamoto and Gage brawl into the crowd, the men’s room, the merchandise tables, and finally brawling into the VIP section (the old ECW Arena stage area) . Gage tossed Miyamoto off the balcony through a table conveniently below. More toys including a wffleball bat covered with thumbtacks, then a barbed wire bat get used by Gage on Miyamoto ead, Crippler Crossface style, then hangs Miyamoto over the second rope and does it again. The finish sees Miyamoto nail Gage with a ladder via a baseball, hit Gage with a plancha followed by a nearfall. Miyamoto rolls Gage back into the ring for another nearfall, then plows Gage again runs him over with a clothesline followed by a sitout Tombstone in the middle of the ring for one final nearfall. Miyamoto then picks up a giant ladder, sets it up in the corner and climbs the ladder that reaches nearly to the top of the arena and moonsaults off of it, landing with his knees on Gage’s head and chest and takes the pinfall.
The Cage of Death match saw the Suicide Kings (Danny Havoc/Devon Moore/ Dysfunction/Scotty Vortekz) defeating Cult Fiction (Brain Damage/Drake Younger/ MASADA/tHURTeen, with Halfbreed Billy Gram) in a four-on-four Cage of Death with Wargames rules, with eliminations when a wrestler hit the floor.
On what may well be the final Cage of Death in the ECW Arena, the day started with a Japanese independent show in the afternoon featuring CZW, Big Japan Pro Wrestling DDT, K-Dojo, and FREEDOMS presented the International Indie Summit at the historic ECW Arena.
The afternoon show saw DDT’s Danshuku Dino defeated DJ Hyde with the Danshuku Driver; Sabian and Joker defeated Devon Moore and FREEDOM’s KAMUI after Sabian and Joker pinned KAMUI with the Kings Swing; Sami Callihan retained his CZW Junior Heavyweight title over Yoshihito Sasaki by submitting him after Stretch Muffler was turned ito a modified ankle lock; FREEDOMs’ Takashi Sasaki and K-Dojo’s Kengo Mashimo defeated Drake Younger and MASADA after Mashimo submitted Younger tap out to an armbar; Dick Togo takes on DDT’s KUDO and Takanashi, with KUDO pinning Takanashi with a double knees on Takanashi who hung off the top rope ala the”the tree of woe”.
The crowd gave Togo a great ovation, given that tonight would be his last show in the historic ECW Arena; with many remembering his Michinoku Pro six-man match at the 1997 ECW Barely Legal PPV with Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada, and Masato Yakushiji defeating Taka Michinoku, Terry Boy, and Togo. The main event was a Shattered Dreams match (panes of glass in every corner) with Big Japan’s Jaki Numazawa and FREEDOMs’ “Crazy Monkey” Jun Kasai defeating Big Japan’s Ryuji Ito and CZW’s Danny Havoc by pinfall when Ito frogsplashed Numazawa for the pin. This was the expected sick, twisted and bloody match with glass all over the place, and bloodied chests and backs galore.
Then came Cage of Death 13. Pre-show, Eddie Kingston and Vin Gerard got in a fight (presumably worked) outside The Arena. Gerard then got in line for Cage of Death, with what looks like the beginning of a Brian Pillman-type “not part of the show” campaign to work Eddie Kingston, including stopping me during COD and asking me to post that he “would wrestle Kingston in any promotion, even outside of CHIKARA”.
Matches included Jake Crist successfully defendingthe CZW Wired TV title against brother Dave in the Cage of Death opener by pinfall after a super flipping piledriver. In the two out of three falls tables match: BLK OUT (Ruckus, Alex Colon and Chrissy Rivera) defeated The Runaways and Kimber Lee vs First fall, saw The Runaways put Chrissy through a table with a blockbuster/powerbomb combo. Second fall saw Colon enzuigiri Joe Gacy off rhe apronl through a table on the floor. BLK OUT won when Ruckus puts Kimberlee through a table with a Falcon Arrow off the apron and to the floor. Kimberlee took some hellacious bumps and actually looked fairly good in the ring.
In the siz-man scramble match, Drew Gulak defeated Derek Frazier, Ryan McBride, tHURTeen, Alex Payne and Dustin Rayz with the winner to gets a CZW title shot “in the future”. Dustin Rayz was reported to have broken his femur after landing bad on a twisting moonsault to the floor. Drew Blood beats up Frazier and suicide dives onto him! Gulak pins McBride earning a CZW title shot. Post-match, DJ Hyde “fired Drew Blood”, then scheduled Ryan McBride vs Derek Frazier for January. Drake Younger, again returning to a loud pop, beat the living crap out of Rory Mondo finishing with a top rope copkiller through a chair.
In the eight-man Japanese tag match, Everyone from Indie Summit except Togo is involved. Big Japan’s Jaki Numazawa, Yoshihito Sasak, DDT’s Masahiro Takanashi, and FREEDOM’s KAMUI vs. RYUJI ITO, Takashi Sasaki, K-Dojo’s Kengo Mashimo and DDT’s Danshoku Dino after FREEDOM’s Takashi Sasakii pinned KAMUI. Lots more Dino exotico comedy throughout the match. Philly’s Most Wanted (Sabian/Joker) went to a non contest against Homicide and Eddie Kingston. Late in the match Philly’s Most Wanted is about to go over when Maven Bentley stops the referee from counting a pinfall by Sabian.
Not exactly appreciative, Eddie Kingston backfists Maven Bentley out of the ring, followed by a Homicide lariat on referee Bret Lauderdale, which got one of the night’s better pops. Lauderdale then calls for bell, which the crowd crapped all over. Meanwhile, post-match, Eddie Kingston sees Vin Girard jumps the rail and chases him oiut of the building. Sami Callihan successfully defended the CZW Junior Heavyweight Title against AR Fox with a Stretch Muffler. Post- match, DJ Hyde came out post-match, and says he’s booked Sami Callihan vs Tommy Dreamer for the CZW Indianapolis show in February on Super Bowl Sunday.
In an ultraviolet pits match (board of spikes and a pit of thumbtacks) , Matt Tremont defeated Danny Havoc by pinfall after interference by Gulak and Mr. Tofiga. In a scary moment, Tremont’s boot got stuck in the nail board. Tremont challenges Gulak for the January show. Greg Excellent defeated DJ Hyde in a no DQ match, with the stips being if Excellent wins, Hyde has to “give him three wishes”, and if Hyde wins, Excellent leaves CZW. After a while, the run-in parade begins, as Kylie Pierce takes down DJ, then breaks up Excellent’s pin, as if to say “Can’t you two just stop?”. DJ Hyde thanked Pierce for her interest by spearing her.
Then comes Mia Yim, who suplexes Excellent on his head. Kick out. Excellent proceeds to do his Hulk Hogan impression as Hogan’s “Real American”. Excellent makes with the big boot and legdrop, but unlike WWF, Hyde DID kick out of the legdrop of doom. Then, comes Greg Excellent’s mother (who IS actually his mother who works with him in running the Ground Breaking Wrestling promotion in central Pennsylvania), who was last seen being nailed with a Tiger Driver by Excellent several months ago. Mom makes as if she’s on DJ Hyde’ side, then nails Hyde with a charishot and a stunner.. Hyde kicks out.
Then “Youth Gone Wild” cranks up, and the fans go crazy as Zandig runs in, nails Hyde with the spinning lariat, and Excellent finally pins him.
Then, Cage of Death 13 saw a combination of suspended cage sides, glass panels, and barbed wire…and ladders reaching to a platform at the top of the Arena, with the CZW World Heavyweight Title belt hanging off of the top of the Arena. The Cage of Death main event (with ladder match rules) saw Devon Moore retaining his CZW Heavyweight Title (in a major surprise to everyone in the crowd) over MASADA, Scotty Vortekz and Robert Anthony. Highlights include Scotty Vortekz being peeled out of the barbed wire on the side of the ring, while stomped on by fellow Nation of Intoxication member Devon Moore…Robert Anthony back first into a pane of glass… ..sickening headbutts by Scotty Vortekz and Devon Moore …Stereo power bombs through glass panes by MASADA on Devon Moore and Anthony on Vortekz, onto a leaning supported side of the cage…Devon Moore spearing Anthony off of the upper frame of the Cage….Vortekz fighting for position on the platform on the top of the side of the cage, throwing MASADA off the side…. Anthony powerbombing Vortek though a pane of glass on the side of the Cage, falling to the Arena floor.
The finish saw MASADA and Devon Moore going up opposite ladders to the platform just below the Title Belt hanging off of the top of the Arena. Both reach the belt. but the belt drops, just so Robert Anthony comes back into the ring, reaches through the cage, but Moore falls through the ceiling and just barely reaches the belt first to retain the title.
There were other promotions that ran here both regularly, and in one shots:
First, the notable ones:
CHIKARA ran monthly and bi-monthly in the ECW Arena from 2005-2011, most notably including the incredible King of Trios tournaments held in whole at the ECW Arena from 2008-2011.
2008 saw BLKOUT (Eddie Kingston, Joker and Ruckus), The Colony (Fire Ant, Soldier Ant and Worker Ant), The F1rst Family (Arik Cannon, Darin Corbin and Ryan Cruz), The Fabulous Three (Larry Sweeney, Mitch Ryder and Shayne Hawke), Las Chivas Rayadas (Chiva II, Chiva III and Chiva IV), Los Luchadores de Mexico (Incognito, Lince Dorado and El Pantera), The Naptown Dragons (Dustin Lee, Drake Younger and Scotty Vortekz), The Order of the Neo–Solar Temple (Crossbones, Hydra and UltraMantis Black), Da Soul Touchaz (Acid Jaz, Marshe Rockett and Willie Richardson), Team BSE (Kobra Kai, La Sombra Canadiense and Super Xtremo), Team DDT (KUDO, MIYAWAKI and SUSUMU), Team El Dorado (Go, Michael Nakazawa and Mototsugu Shimizu), Team IPW:UK (Martin Stone, Sha Samuels and Terry Frazier), Team IWS (El Generico, Player Uno and Stupefied), Team ROH (Alex Payne, Rhett Titus and Shane Hagadorn), and Team Stranglehold (Andy Sumner, Drew Gulak and Tim Donst); with Los Luchadores de Mexico (Incognito, Lince Dorado and El Pantera) defeating BLKOUT by submission in the final.
2009 saw trios such as The Cold Front 2.0 (Al Snow, D’Lo Brown and Glacier), The Death Match Kings (Brain Damage, Necro Butcher and Toby Klein), The F1rst Family (Arik Cannon, Darin Corbin and Ryan Cruz), F.I.S.T. (Chuck Taylor, Gran Akuma and Icarus), The Masters of a Thousand Holds (Jorge “Skayde” Rivera, Johnny Saint and Mike Quackenbush), The Osirian Portal (Amasis, Escorpion Egipcio and Ophidian), The Roughnecks (Brodie Lee, Eddie Kingston and Grizzly Redwood), Da Soul Touchaz (Marshe Rockett, Trauma and Willie Richardson), Team CZW (Beef Wellington, Greg Excellent and Pinkie Sanchez), Team DDT (Kota Ibushi, KUDO and Michael Nakazawa), Team EPIC WAR (Austin Aries, Ryan Drago and Tony Kozina), Team PWG (El Generico, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson), Team Uppercut (Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli and Dave Taylor), and The UnStable (Colin Delaney, STIGMA and Vin Gerard) with Team Uppercut (Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli and Dave Taylor) defeating Team F.I.S.T in the final
2010 saw trios such as Team Perros Del Mal (Alebrije/Cuije/El Oriental), Team Osaka Pro (Atsushi Kotoge/Daisuke Harada/Tadasuke), Team Big Japan (Daisuke Sekimoto/Kankuro Hoshino/Yuji Okabayashi; with the King of Trios winner being Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (Claudio Castagnoli, Ares, and Tursas) who defeated The Colony (Fire Ant, Soldier Ant, and Green Ant) in the final.
2011 saw the weekend began with an emotional video tribute to Larry Sweeney. The tournament saw trios such as The Osirian Portal (Ophidian/Hieracon/ Amasis), Team 3OLE (El Generico, Scott “Jagged” Parker/Shane Matthews) , F.I.S.T. (Icarus/Chuck Taylor/Johnny Gargano) , Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (Tim Donst/Delirious/Jakob Hammermeier), Da Soul Touchaz (Willie Richardson/Acid Jaz/Marshe Rockett) , Team Dragon Gate (Super Shisa/Akira Tozawa/ Kagetora), Team Osaka Pro (Atsushi Kotoge/Daisuke Harada/Ultimate Spider, Jr.), Team Michinoku Pro (Great Sasuke/Dick Togo/Jinsei Shinzaki), Team Minnesota (1-2-3 Kid/Arik Cannon/Darin Corbin) The Colony become the 2011 King of Trios Champions defeated. F. I. S. T. after a Splashapalooza (top rope Ant Hill) at 21 minutes on Icarus.
The promotion also brought joshi legends into the ECW Arena including Manami Toyota, Mima Shimoda, Aja Kong at their JOSHIMania show in December 2011.
Jersey All Pro Wrestling ran several shows between 2000-2006, with sample of JAPW talent that worked here including: Elax, Little Dixie, The Christopher Street Connection, NC-17, Ron Zombie, Rick Silver, Crazy Ivan, Dr Hurtz, Laithon, Nick Berk, Trent Acid Ric Blade,The Hit Squad, O Dogg, Flash Wheeler, The Ghetto Blaster in a South Philadelphia Street Fight, Homicide, Jay Lover, Sabu, Axl Rotten, Ian Rotten, Pitbull Gary Wolf, Laithon, Rockin Rebel, Chino Martinez, Judas Young, The Christopher Street Connection, Little Dixie, Don Montoya, Billy Reil, Louie Ramos, The Sandman, Ric Blade, Reckless Youth, Nick Berk, The Rockin Rebel, Don Bon Jovi, Justice Pain, The Moondogs 2000, Johnny Hot Body, Ric Blade, Reckless Youth, Xavier, J Train, Supreme Lee Great, The Moondogs 2000, Don Montoya, J Train, Tommy Suede, Supreme Lee Great, Chino Martinez, Dave Grecco, The S.A.T. Red , The Insane Dragon, Dixie, Backseat Boyz, Minoru Fujita, Reckless Youth, Laithon, Prince Nana, Mike Quackenbush, Kid Kruel, Don Montoya, Dixie, Hit Squad, Hate Squad, Insane Dragon, Mikey Whipwreck, B-Boy, Low Ki, Danny Demanto, Rockin Rebel , Greg Matthews, Greg Spitz, Kevin James, Jay Lethal, The Carnage Crew, Christopher Street Connection, Azrieal Grim Reefer, Chris Candido, E.C. Negro, Samoa Joe, Trent Acid, Frankie Kazarian, Nino Capone, Envy, Matt Donovan, Pinkie Sanchez, Arcadia, Teddy Hart, Jack Evans,The Dead Presidents, Dan Barry, Plazma, Mercedes Martinez, Talia, Grim Reefer, Archadia, Azrieal, M-Dogg 20, The Outkast Killaz, Monte Brown, Danny Demanto, Balls Mahoney, Sabu, ,Sonjay Dutt, The Briscoe Brothers, Charlie Haas, Rhino, Jay Lethal and Teddy Hart.
Jersey All Pro Wrestling returned to the ECW Arena in 2010, with a show as part of a doubleheader with Cage of Death 12, and the last show in May 2011, a show featuring New Japan Pro Wrestling with Jado and Gedo, Giant Bernard , Hideo Saito , Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jado , Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson , Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega, MVP, Prince Devitt , Ryusuke Taguchi ,Satoshi Kojima , Shinsuke Nakamura, Tama Tonga, Tetsuya Naito, Tiger Mask IV, Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Yujiro Takahashi, and the legendary Jushin LigerDragon Gate USA ran the Arena from 2009-2011 Dragon Gate USA filmed their first pay-per-view event, Enter The Dragon at the ECW Arena in July 2009 which saw YAMATO defeat BxB Hulk, The Colony (Fire Ant & Soldier Ant), Jigsaw and Mike Quackenbush defeated F.I.S.T. (Icarus/Gran Akuma), Amasis and Hallowicked, Dragon Kid defeated Masato Yoshino, The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson) defeated Warriors-5 (CIMA and Susumu Yokosuka), Naruki Doi defeated Shingo.
3PW ran from 2002-2005. Pro Wrestling Unplugged ran from 2006-2008.
CZW also ran in cooperation with other promotions, Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South (as part of a doubleheader with CZW) International Wrestling Syndicate (as part of a doubleheader with CZW), westside Xtreme wrestling (two shows as part of doubleheaders with CZW). Ring of Honor held several individual shows, and as part of doubleheaders with CZW, from 2006-2010 .
Two ECW legends shows took place: Hardcore Homecoming (2005) and Legends of the Arena (2009). Single shows and short runs of shows were run by Main Event Championship Wrestling (2001), Major League Wrestling (2002) Heritage Wrestling Alliance(2003), Pro Wrestling WORLD-1 (2004), Pro Wrestling Xplosion (2006), WWE (2006) producing a show using the ECW name, Wicked Hanuman (2007), Velocity Pro Wrestling (2008-2009), and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2010).
The final show in the original incarnation of the ECW Arena took place on January 2012, with EVOLVE. In the final match at the EVOLVE show, Johnny Gargano defeated Ricochet to retain the Open the Freedom Gate Championship.
A tribute segment to the ECW Arena was done with Bob Artese ring announcing and Joey Styles hosting the segment with Pitbull 1, Tod Gordon, followed by a segment featuring Justin Credible, Balls Mahoney, Sabu, and New Jack.
In an “impromptu” match, Sabu took on Justin Credible with the traditional ECW style plunder, with tables, chairs, spikes, canes, and trash cans. An angle was run with Sabu asked for a mike, Sami Callihan jumping Sabu, carving him up, followed by Callihan “declared extreme dead”, and turned out the lights.
The final actual event of the ECW Arena under that incarnation, was a Peltz Boxing Promotions card on January 21, 2012 that aired live on NBCSN as the debut of a Fight Night series.
But like the last time we thought it was done for, the old Bingo Hall still had at least one more life in it.
An entity called Arena Operating, LLC, which was operated by Joanna Pang of the Trocadero Theatre planned to gut the ECW Arena and convert it to a concert hall. As you can guess, wrestling fans basically hated her guts, to put it mildly.
More importantly, she and her partnership took on far more than they were capable of. Along with neighborhood pressure against Pang’s take-over, building’s ownership evicted her in April 2013 after she had done essentially nothing.
To indicate that they would be open for business again, the ECW Arena hosted the premiere of the ECW documentary Barbed Wire City in April 2013.
Roger Artigiani put a ton of work into the Arena to realize what he always had seen as the venue’s potential. More on that in a second.
Yet another ECW reunion promotion, Extreme Rising, held the first wrestling show at what is now the renamed 2300 Arena in December 2013 (named because the venue’s official address ist 2300 South Swanson Street. The entrance that wrestling fans remember at the corner of the building (technically 7 West Ritner Street) no longer exists.
Highlights include: a War of the Worlds 2015, a joint show of Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling in May 2015, Final Battle 2015 live and on PPV (needless to say, the electrical system has been radically improved) on live PPV in December 2015, with a main event of Jay Lethal retaining his Ring of Honor World Championship against AJ Styles.
As for the remodeling into the 2300 Arena…for anyone who hasn’t been back since 2012, to say you wouldn’t recognize it…would be an understatement. The legendary bathrooms no longer exist. In their place in a different section of the building are clean (yes, clean) professionally built bathrooms that actually can serve a venue of this size.
The new entrance is professional, handicap accessible, with a professional security set-up.
There is also Bar 2300…which started as a side (but well-functioning) bar…and no, nothing like you remember the semi-legendary concession stand at the old Arena. Well, Bar 2300 is now the bar Roger Artigiani envisioned when he and I talked about it years ago. It is now takes up the space of the old Forman Mills store that stood next door to the ECW Arena for decades. Yes, the Forman Mills where hundreds, if not thousands, of wrestling fans dd quick shopping before countless wrestling shows.
The old Bingo Hall has actually held Philly Fashion Week, which began hosting the runway portion of its twice yearly event there in September 2016. Numerous charity events have been held here as well including those benefiting domestic violence survivors.
In events fans might recognize a little bit more, metal shows have been held in the venue, as well as a wide variety of musical acts. A Philly Cheesesteak and Food Fest takes place there this fall.
Boxing is back bigtime at the 2300 Arena, with Showtime Boxing holding a card last week (a first for Showtime). The PA Golden Gloves Regionals wereheld there this year as well. MMA cards are held on a regular basis, as are kickboxing cards.
As for wrestling these days, the venue right now is exclusive to Ring of Honor, Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore, and periodic shows from Cody Hawx’s Louisiana-based Wildkat Wrestling promotion since January 2017.
As I said…once upon a time there was a Bingo Hall. Thanks for letting me share this special AS I SEE IT blog with you.
Until next time.