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Masato Tanaka, crappy pizza and a near riot: My ECW Buffalo experience


By "HARDCORE" CHRIS GRAMLICH -- For SLAM! Wrestling

Thanks to the advent of the internet, it's incredibly easy to find out when Extreme Championship Wrestling will be coming to a town near you, of course it's also incredibly easy to discuss the banal trivialities of the Spice Girls in a chatroom but you take the good with the bad. Unfortunately the nearest ECW stop from Toronto is Buffalo, so in a massive convoy involving two cars and five people, off we went to hop the border, not get mugged and hopefully experience some of the best "hardcore" wrestling this side of Mick Foley.

Since the journey there was uneventful (i.e.- no one died!) and there is nothing about standing in line for a half-hour that can be considered entertaining, (besides the amazing intellect displayed all around us by insane Buffalo ECW fans and a drunk New Jack greeting his people). I'll describe the venue, atmosphere and general insanity.

The Burt Flickinger Center is a comfy College gymnasium, decorated with the new ECW banners (the ones that look like a tagging crew designed them), raised basketball nets and massive lighting-rigs for ECW's television tapings, (an added bonus). The place is literally jam-packed with the fascinating demographic of wrestling fans in the nineties, (jocks, yuppies, skids, parents, kids, hardcore/metal types and did I mention skids?). And everyone is busy consuming mass quantities of crappy overcooked pizza, cola, popcorn and generally standing around like the bovines that they are with no clue what to do until the event starts.

Eventually after an absurd amount of time (as time does seem to lag when surrounded by psychotic drunks who think yelling-out obscenities qualifies as conversation), the event started with a couple of dark matches. First match was Mike Lozansky taking on the ferocious, the formidable, Tommy Rogers (?). It has been said that Mike Lozansky looks excellent when facing Rob Van Dam and this may actually be the case but Tommy Rogers is no Rob Van Dam, he isn't even a Tommy Rogers any more (does anyone even remember the Fantastics?). Sadly, this match wasn't a squash and lasted for far too long and the usually disparaging crowd chants were voiced for this sub-par effort. Thankfully, Rogers beat Lozansky with some sort of inverted face buster as this horrid match drew to its end.

Although not off to the best of starts, we all still remained steadfast in our belief that ECW would live-up to our expectations even after that first match. However, when some guy named Spanish Angel came out a brief flutter of trepidation chilled our souls. But salvation presented itself when, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" started blaring and the crowd erupted as Little Spike Dudley emerged to banish the evil Spaniard and jump-start this event. If anyone thought that a guy named Spanish Angel had a chance in hell of beating "The Giant Killer" LSD, than you definitely require some more seasoning in your wrestling knowledge. Spanish Angel did however dominate most of the match and appeared to injure Spike, when Spike landed on his lower back escaping a suplex. But, Spike recovered and hit the Acid Drop after escaping a slam and it was back to Spain for the Angel.

Speaking of stereotypes the Full Blooded Italians (F.B.I. led by Tommy Rich) were up next signaling the start of the television taping and were pitted against the new combination of Super Nova and Blue Meanie's replacement, Chris Chetti. The F.B.I., who have one of the dumbest and subsequently over gimmicks in wrestling today, did their usually shtick and even introduced a new member, the One Man Gino - I mean Gang - who looked exactly the same as he always has, minus the hideous FBI shirt. The match progressed with some good tag-team wrestling from both sides and some bizarre antics from Tracy Smothers until the One Man Gang interfered and after several 747 splashes sent Nova to the back.

Luckily for Chetti, Tommy Dreamer just happened to have nothing to do so he came out, kicked ass and took Nova's place in the match. The match continued and Dreamer and Chetti seemed unstoppable but then Jason caused a distraction followed by not just the best, not just the coolest, and not just "The Man!" but Justin Credible, who clocked dreamer with a Singapore cane, in turn giving the W to the FBI. Chants of "Where's my Pizza" followed FBI who looked as distraught as they could after getting killed by Dreamer and Chetti and realizing that the One Man Gino probably ate all the pizza.

Since it was TV time in Buffalo the "Franchise" Shane (no longer Dean) Douglas came down and gave a rather long-winded, expletive filled interview. The gist of it was that he is Hardcore, he hates Sabu, Taz is his boy and they'll take on the winners of the Dudleys/RVD/Sabu match later on tonight. Just after the crowd popped for this announcement, Taz came out to the eloquent line of "What the F--K" are you talking about?".

The "Path of Rage", basically said that he doesn't work for Douglas and that Taz has his own agenda. Douglas started freaking-out and challenged Taz to attack him, to break his arm (again) and to put him in the Tazmission. Just as Taz signaled for it, Douglas said if Taz did kick his ass tonight than there would be no title shot (ever!) for Taz. So Taz basically agreed to fight Douglas' battles for him and to kill Sabu tonight, only it would be a triple-threat match. The crowd popped. Taz' s music played and we all patiently waited for the next match. Which just happened to feature ex-Eliminator Kronus taking on Big Dick Dudley.

Kronus walked very slowly to the ring and was sporting a snazzy new neck brace, courtesy of Taz. Big Dick came out and basically destroyed Kronus in a matter of minutes. It was a total squash, as Kronus didn't mount one offensive move, however he did go through a table really well. At least he's not putting-over Sunny Ono and Ernest Miller like his ex-partner Saturn. I'm not sure but I think Kronus had a smile after doing the job. I mean Big Dick is kind of respectable? Isn't he?

With the night picking-up in intensity and in quality, ECW decided to give us the goods right now. The next match would be a TV main event and featured my man Justin Credible against my other man Masato Tanaka. Now this match was hardcore. Masato and Justin literally destroyed each other to deliver the goods. There were a number of near falls and chair-shots and I swore Tanaka had it won on like three different occasions but after Jason and Chastity interfered Justin was ready to finish off Tanaka with the Singapore cane until Tommy Dreamer ran in. He clocked Justin with a cookie sheet. Tanaka then hit the most insane finisher I'm ever seen him do, basically a somersault stunner off of the second rope for the victory. Masato left victorious and Justin glared at his entourage while holding and shaking his head.

To keep the pace "extreme" the Dudleys arrived for their match against RVD/Sabu and Taz/Douglas. This is where it gets interesting; the Dudleys did their insult/belittle the audience thing, attacked some ring-workers/attendants and gave the crowd added impetus to hate them.

When for reasons unknown, something happened between Buh Buh Ray and some guy in the third row, apparently the man was wearing a pro-Nazi shirt and looked like a stereotypical skinhead (not the good Ska kind).

Buh Buh Ray went nuts and challenged the guy to get in the ring. This really isn't anything new but Bubba wasn't playing, he actually demanded security move and let the guy in and when they didn't, Bubba went to him. While I'm not sure what happened next, the guy was thrown-out and the crowd went nuts on the Dudleys (most of the crowd didn't realize they had ejected an ignorant moron who deserved it). I was hoping for a riot but someone had the sense to send out RVD/Sabu and Douglas/Taz so the match could start before the clueless skids decided to charge the ring.

The match was excellent and there was an air of menace throughout the rest of the show. Somehow during the melee Douglas got hurt, possibly legit, as the other wrestlers steered clear of him while he just lay there on the floor for most of the match. The action was too much to absorb. Sabu and RVD hit "Rolling Thunder" on just about everybody and Taz hit an awesome Tazplex on RVD, with RVD's leg over Taz' head when he hooked him. Eventually Paul Heymen came down and a number of security guys carried-off the "Franchise". With the Dudleys beating RVD, Taz crushed Sabu and left him in the ring. The Dudleys proceeded to put a couple of different variations of 3D (the Dudley Death Drop) on Sabu and eventually pinned him. Sabu also had a neck brace and appeared to re-injure the neck.

The next two matches couldn't possibly live-up to the previous two, but we would watch them anyway. Mikey Whipwreck came to the ring and then Lance Storm sauntered on down with Tammy Lynn Bytch. Storm said that he had just been watching the Bret Hart movie and that being a Canadian, he wasn't going to let Paul Heyman screw him over. So, he wasn't going to wrestle tonight. Storm proceeded to leave the ring and Mikey called Storm the "biggest piece of chickensh-t" he had ever seen. Mikey then challenged anyone in the locker room to a match and low and behold...Rod Price emerged from the back.

Mikey immediately said that he wanted a match not a fight and that Price wasn't a wrestler but a psycho. Mikey ran back stage leaving Price in the ring. Price took the mike and made another open challenge when all of a sudden "Natural Born Killaz" started blaring and everyone's favorite Gangsta New Jack, hit the ring with a garbage can in tow. The match was an excuse for New Jack to obliterate Rod Price with every weapon available. Price didn't get a single move in, however he did get busted open; not to mention humiliated by New Jack.

I missed most of the next match Balls Mahoney vs. Danny Doring because Masato Tanaka was sitting at the RF Video Merchandise table, so my friends and I went and got our picture taken with him. He was very intimidating and I had the stupidest grin on my face (because Masato rules!) but he let us get a couple of pictures with him and shook my friend's hand afterwards. Anyway, after meeting Masato the match meant nothing to me because Masato Rules! But Balls beat Doring in a match, which kind of sucked. Don't get me wrong I like Mahoney but this wasn't that spectacular, Axl made the save after the Amish guy interfered.

As if getting treated to Rob Van Dam once wasn't enough; the main event was announced as Rob Van Dam taking on Lance Storm. Storm came out along with Bytch and said that he had finished watching the Bret Hart documentary and that he was wrong earlier. He said as long as you're the challenger you can't get screwed and that he would fight. RVD came out with Bill Alfonso and said that he was the whole "FN'" show. Storm said since RVD was the show that he didn't need him to wrestle and teased leaving again, but he came back and said "Wait, you need me to put you over" and the match was on.

Storm dominated the majority of this match and it was excellent. Great scientific wrestling, continuous counters, reversals, death-defying, high-risk maneuvers and Alfonso trying to strangle Bytch. RVD eventually won the match with the Van Daminator after getting the crap beat out of him by Storm, who if had better hair would probably be huge. It was definitely worthy of main event status even though the Justin Credible/Masato Tanaka match was the best one of the night.

As the five of us made our way back to the border and elegant, Canadian civilization, we all agreed that this was the best live card any of us had ever seen in our lives. America is a strange land and the American Wrestling Fan....well, lets just say they are different. To experience the Extreme side of wrestling, it's a cross we would gladly bear a thousand times.