Monday, September 20, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
ECW has made me a fan
The date is September 19, 1999. ECW World Champion Taz is defeated for the belt in his home country of the United States, specifically Chicago. Rumours on the internet persist that he is WWF bound. The title change seems to confirm this.
The show goes on.
Only the usual ECW fan rioting ensues.
Yet, what happens after the match itself is truly shocking.
Instead of badmouthing his former promoter for making him lose the title and destroying company equipment in his apoplectic rage, the defeated Taz presents the title to the victorious Mike Awesome. The humbled Taz raises his opponent's hand in victory and offers a hearty handshake.
Most of the roster appears to see him off and wish him well in his new endeavours.
Despite being pinned by both Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka, Taz does not complain about being screwed.
Taz leaves ECW with his head up high and the respect of the fans he has earned for his sportsmanship.
Isn't it such a pity that it can't always happen like that?
Later in the card, in an unexpected showing of mutual respect, ECW Television Champion Rob Van Dam and Balls Mahoney embrace after their hard fought matchup for the coveted title.
Are these the things that one would generally associate with the vulgar and gratuitously violent world of modern day sports entertainment? Are these the things that one would associate with ECW, long reputed to be among the worst of all North American wrestling promotions for such controversial content?
They were not to me, and I believe that they were not to a great many first time ECW pay per view audience members as they sat back and witnessed a night where Anarchy Rulz.
Many times the violence, language, sexism and other moral issues raised by professional wrestling have been brought to the public eye.
It is so rampant in the business that one of Calgary, Alberta based Stampede Wrestling's major selling points is its family friendly programming and 'old-school' take on the mat game.
And indeed the violence, language, sexism was most apparent in ECW's Anarchy Rulz. But as a long time fan of wrestling, it is almost refreshing to see long, high quality matches in a pay per view setting.
There is no doubt that ECW's programming is not family oriented. But by the same token, it is not prone to featuring hugely overblown interview segments. There are matches, often ranging from twenty to thirty minutes. Something that has most certainly been missing in this particular fan's life for some time.
But I had always leaned towards the World Wrestling Federation because of their compelling storylines and my hope that I might occasionally see a match worth watching. That is until tonight. My world was turned upside down.
With all the talk of low morale, backstage maneuvering, egos run amok and other issues in the wrestling world, it is very easy for the modern fan to say that the point of watching wrestling programs is diminishing.
However, my recent experience with ECW has revitalized my fandom. I have come to realize why I fell in love with the business in the first place.
And it is largely this; when you clear all the egos, backstage politics, flashy costumes, ludicrous voices and perpendicular eyebrows, you see the real people. And the people are invariably what make any wrestling show worth watching.
I want to thank you, ECW, for showing that your wrestlers are still human underneath all the streamers, table pieces and barbed wire.
And I want to thank you for renewing my love for this business.
Nathaniel Blake Arnold is from Calgary. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.