I recently did an interview for WWE.com to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of Extreme Championship Wrestling’s inaugural pay-per-view, Barely Legal.
When I was first approached to do the interview, the first thing I said was “Huh?” followed by “Wow.”
Granted, that may not be a great way to start an interview, but you have to understand I was completely dumbfounded to hear it has been that long ago.
I truly thought to myself, “where did the time go?”
I will not go into a history of ECW; that’s reseach you can do on your own. But for those unfamiliar, quite simply, it was my home. It was my life and my wrestling heaven. Many wrestlers and wrestling fans alike will tell you the same thing. There was nothing like it before and there has been nothing like it since.
The main criteria for ECW wrestlers (besides being crazy) was to entertain the fans. If you could do that, and the fans accepted you, you were set. There were no politics and no behind-the-scenes BS — the edict was: just go out there and perform. That was the bottom line. It was such a simple formula, and one that hasn’t been grasped by any organization since.
The ECW style was copied by both World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment. WWE used it to launch its famed Attitude Era, which, in turn, fuelled the Monday Night Wars. If they had only taken the real formula of what we were, the business would be so different today.
Since my interview, I have really been looking forward to writing this column because of the close bond the people who lived the ECW experience had, and continue to have. We were all one big, dysfunctional family, both the wrestlers and our fans. So in a lot of ways, this is our 15th family reunion.
To mark the occasion, I offer you a brief look at “where are they now?”; Barely Legal; and how their lives have changed since.
ECW, itself, was the little engine that could. It changed the face of the wrestling business. Due to many bad business decisions, it ceased operation in 2001. WWE purchased its rights shortly after it went out of business and, in 2005, the DVD The Rise and Fall of ECW became one of the best selling WWE DVDs of all time.
In 2005, ECW’s One Night Stand pay-per-view, which I wrote and produced, was a huge financial success, second only to WrestleMania that year, spawning a sequel the following year, which I co-wrote, and produced. Though the sequel had more of a WWE flavour to it, it still generated incredibly strong pay-per-view buy rates, and in turn, led to the relaunch of ECW through WWE.
The WWE version of ECW had its ups and downs. Fans quickly realized it wasn’t the ECW they loved. Due to a multitude of political reasons, ECW was shut down as a brand by WWE two and a half years after it was re-started. An ECW-themed pay-per-view in Total Nonstop Action, entitled Hardcore Justice, (which I also wrote and produced in 2010) was also a financial success for TNA. Several ECW-themed reunion shows have occurred on the independent levels. Another WWE-produced ECW DVD, entitled ECW’s Greatest Matches, will be released later this year. Basically, ECW will live forever and, sadly, make money for others and not the people who put their blood, sweat and tears into the promotion.
So, without further adieu, here are the ECW originators and what they are doing now:
• Paul Heyman was the mad scientist of ECW.
After its demise, Paul went to WWE as an announcer and on-air talent. He also worked behind the scenes, helping with the creative direction of WWE Smackdown. When he left WWE, he maintained a friendship with Brock Lesnar, and is currently helping co-write Brock’s book. He is on Twitter — @heymanhustle. He has two children.
The Barely Legal pay-per-view had two non-televised matches so I will run down the card and bring you up to date.
• Balls Mahoney vs. Louie Spicolli.
Balls was in the WWE’s incarnation of ECW, has a son and is still competing on the independent scene and, well, is still crazy. Louie passed away and I think about him every day. His finishing manoeuvre (The Spicolli Driver) is one I used as a tribute in ECW, and now WWE superstar John Cena uses it as his finishing move and calls it the Attitude Adjustment.
• Chris Chetti and JT Smith vs. The FBI.
Chris has five children, lives in Long Island has a good job in the construction business. JT Smith lives in Virginia, still makes some apperances, but is more or less retired. Little Guido went to WWE where he had a good career (as Nunzio). He is still very active on the independent level. He has a good city job, is married and has a son, who is a huge wrestling fan. Tommy Rich still wrestles and makes appearances on the independent circuit.
• The Eliminators Perry Saturn and John Kronus vs. The Dudley Boys with Sign Guy Dudley and Joel Gertner.
Perry went on to a career in WCW and WWE. He disapperered for awhile, finding himself homeless and addicted to drugs. I’m happy to report he has totally turned his life around. He is married and wrestling on the independent scene. John Kronus passed away.
The Dudley Boys went to WWE, where they became the most decorated tag team in the history of wrestling. They moved onto TNA, where they are still under contract. Devon is the current TV champ. He is remarried, has two more children, and his twin sons have appeared on TNA TV. He is on Twitter — @testifydevon. Bubba has probably become the best bad guy in the business today. Both are in great shape, having lost a lot of weight. Sign Guy Dudley went on to a career in promotions. He spent some time working in WWE and he was responsible for a lot of the WWE Fan Axxess stuff. He left WWE and now resides in Las Vegas. He has two girls and is also on Twitter — @LDAngeli. Joel Gertner still makes apperances on the independent scene.
• Rob Van Dam (RVD), substituting for Chris Candido, vs. Lance Storm.
RVD went to WWE, where he would become the most succesful ECW recruit in WWE history, winning every title available in the company. He left WWE and now wrestles in TNA. He is on Twitter as @realrvd and is married. Chris Candido passed away. Lance Storm went on to WCW, then WWE. He is still semi-active in wrestling and has his own wrestling school in Calgary, Alta. He too is on Twitter — @Storm_Wrestling — and is a truly great guy in the business, a total gentleman and a class act.
• Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada and Masato Yakushiji (replacing Gran Naniwa) vs. Taka Michinoku, Terry Boy and Dick Togo.
All wrestled in Japan and WWE, with Taka having the most success. Gran Naniwa passed away. I really don’t know much about them.
• Shane Douglas, with Francine, vs. Pitbull #2, with Pitbull #1.
Shane went to WCW and TNA and is currently very active on the independent scene. He is doing an ECW reunion show on April 28 in Philadelphia. He has two sons. Francine is out of the business. She is married and has two children. Pitbull #2 passed away, while Pitbull #1 is living in Philadelphia.
• Taz, with Bill Alfonso, vs. Sabu.
Taz had a career in WWE as a wrestler and broadcaster. He is currently a broadcaster in TNA. He has a son and is on Twitter —@officialTaz. Bill Alfonso lives in Florida. Sabu went to TNA and WWE. He is currently wrestling on the independent scene. If there is one man who should be a multimillionare for what they did for wrestling, it is Sabu.
• Terry Funk vs. The Sandman vs. Stevie Richards with Hollywood Nova and The Blue Meanie.
Terry went to WWE, WCW and had several retirements. He is a WWE Hall of Famer and lives in Amarillo, Texas. The Sandman went to WWE and still makes apperances on the independent scene. He has two more children. Stevie went to WCW, then WWE, then TNA. He still wrestles on the independent scene and is on Twitter — @michaelmanna. He is also probably doing cardio as I write this, being the health freak that he is. Blue Meanie went to WWE, he still wrestles on the independent level and he resides in Philadelphia. He too is on Twitter — @TheBlueMeanie. Nova went to WWE where he worked as an on-air character, Simon Dean, and behind the scenes. He lives in Louisville and has a good bank job and has a daughter. He still makes some apperances on the independent circuit.
• Terry Funk vs. Raven.
Raven went on to WCW, WWE and TNA. He is currently wrestling on the independent scene. He is on Twitter — @theraveneffect — and he finally found love in his tortured soul. He is married and loves dogs — and himself, hahaha.
There were others involved in that inaugural ECW show:
• Joey Styles. He went to WWE as a broadcaster and currently works behind the scenes on WWE.com. He’s on Twitter — @joeystyles. He is married and has a son.
• Beulah McGillicutty. She recently wrote a children’s book — order it at www.getgertrude.com — has twin daughters and I hear she is married to an amazing-looking and talented man.
• Tod Gordon still has his family owned business, Carver W. Reed, in Philadelphia.
• Big Dick Dudley passed away.
And there you have it. The Extreme misfits who did it all for the love of the game. If this has taught me anything it is to cherish what you have and enjoy life as it goes by so fast. Make the most of it.
Thanks for reading.
Oohh, wait! I forgot about Tommy Dreamer. Well, he did OK for himself, but that’s a story for another time.
Thanks for reading again.
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Tommy Dreamer is a legendary and influential pro wrestler and a father and husband who has worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action. His column appears in the Kingston Whig-Standard and on SLAM! Wrestling. Follow him on Twitter @THETOMMYDREAMER and check out his website at thetommydreamer.com. He can be booked for live appearances through his website.