Now In Color!
I can remember seeing my first ECW television show one early Saturday morning. I was up at around five thirty and was flipping through the channels and came across a wrestling show. I love pro wrestling, and while this didn’t look anything like WWF Superstars or WCW Saturday Night, I figured I’m giving this a shot. It was that morning that I was introduced to Paul Heyman’s vision of pro wrestling. I saw Raven in the ECW arena take on the Sandman. These guys were so very much unlike the wrestlers I was watching weekly, and while my favorites were Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, I took a shine to Raven right off the bat, and honestly Sandman was just so different that I wanted to see more of him too. After that I went out of my way to catch ECW Hardcore TV. If it was on Sunday Night at three thirty in the morning, I was up and watching it. And from that day on I caught all their shows whenever I could up until the final PPV(which was not from the ECW Arena). To say that the Arena in Philadelphia is one of the most important buildings in modern pro wrestling is a bit of an understatement. To list the names of guys that came through that building in the nineties would be a proverbial who’s who of the modern era, including Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero, and Mick Foley. Oh and Terry Funk(this is Planet Funk after all).
In more recent times the Arena(as it has come to be known) has been home to such great wrestling promotions like Ring of Honor, Chikara, and Dragon Gate USA. There have been so many shows at the Arena in the past few years that it is hard for me as an independent wrestling fan to believe that there will be no more wrestling shows there, but as it turns out, the Arena has new owners, and they aren’t going to make it possible for independent promoters to run shows there. That brings us to the final night of wrestling at the ECW Arena, oft times berated as a Bingo Hall by the big time promotions, but truthful it became one of the most important venues in professional wrestling history. This Saturday night live on internet pay per view, will be Evolve 10. Evolve is an independent wrestling promotion run in conjunction with Dragon Gate USA headed up by Gabe Sapolsky(a former ECW backstage employee, most famous for his run as booker of Ring of Honor).
Evolve has had believe it or not nine shows up until this point, of which I have seen six; the first five shows from 2010, two of which featured Bryan Danielson in two of his final independent bouts possibly ever, and Evolve 9 the winner of the fan voted best show of Dragon Gate USA/Evolve of 2011. Evolve showcases some hard hitting pro wrestling featuring some of the lesser known younger wrestlers in America. It was the first Evolve show that introduced me to Ricochet, a man who will be the challenger in the main event of Evolve 10. He battled Arik Cannon, a fast favorite of mine who I have been watching since Chikara King of Trios 2009. My first impression of Ricochet was pretty much he can flip around a lot but he’s pretty boring. Fast forward to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s Battle of Los Angeles 2010. Ricochet took on Claudio Castignoli(one of the Kings of Wrestling, and a Very European gentleman who after arguing with a child in the front row of a Ring of Honor show in Hamburg, NY became one of my favorite wrestlers ever). This match was off the chain. Ricochet had cut his hair, got some new trunks, and just looked like a whole new wrestler. Now he was exciting, endearing, and a name that when I see it on a card I think to myself, I want to see this show because Ricochet is on it.
Johnny Gargano is the Open the Freedom Gate Champion(the top champion in Dragon Gate USA) and is someone I’ve always been a fan of. I think my first real view of Gargano was his early work in Dragon Gate USA, where he was one of several guys thrown into a match that they call FRAY! but should really call huge entertaining Cluster f@#!. I love FRAY! matches and multiple man lucha style insane battles so Gargano stood out to me, and when he started showing up on the main shows trying to befriend Cima, I was happy to see him move up. His ascension thereafter, along with his teaming up with Chuck Taylor(another awesome wrestler), was something that I didn’t see coming but was so happy to see materialize. Together with Taylor and Rich Swann, Gargano formed Ronin, a rouge stable of Americans who were out to prove that they were just as good as the Japanese wrestlers of Dragon Gate, and awesomeness ensued. Along with his appearances in Chikara as a member of F.I.S.T., Gargano has become one of wrestling’s best kept secrets the past couple of years.
All that came to an end when Gargano pinned Yamoto to become the champion in Dragon Gate USA to solidify his spot on the top of the independent wrestling scene. And now, the merged Evolve and DG USA have their first show of 2012, and it’s the last wrestling show ever(for now anyways) in the ECW Arena. There are worse ways to go out. Two of the best young wrestlers on the independent scene wrestling in what will surely be a great hard hitting fast paced match. And on top of that, Joey Styles will be on hand to give a closing ceremony to pay tribute to the building.