Nov 12, 2009

A November To Remember

ECW: November To Remember - The Aftermath

Kingston Armory - Wilkes-Barre, PA
Ten years ago, a friend won tickets from a local radio station to an ECW house show at the Kingston Armory in Wilkes-Barre.  The show took place five days after the November To Remember pay-per-view, and about a year and a half before the the company went under and was ultimately sold to Vince McMahon and the WWE.

We showed up to the venue about an hour before the show and noticed that the wrestlers were entering the building through the same doors that we were lined up at to get into the show.  Some of them stopped to talk with fans and sign autographs.  I'm not really much of a wrestling autograph collector, but since they were there and seemed happy to meet the fans, I figured what the hell and asked Axl Rotten to sign the back of my ticket stub.  He was a very nice dude, and he hung out for a few minutes signing autographs for other people and chatting with the folks in line before he went inside.  It was about that time that I remembered the stop sign in my trunk.

A little over five months before the show, a pickup truck ran a red light and smashed into my car.  The impact sent me into a chain link fence where I came to a stop.  The fence was wrecked, as was a stop sign that was bolted to the side of the fence.  My head and neck were pretty banged up, and I spent a good portion of the summer of 1999 watching tv while laying back in my recliner in a neck brace.  I was out and about (for the most part) by the Fall, and I was surprised to see that the stop sign that was knocked down in the accident was still laying face down on the side of the road.

After seeing it at least a dozen times and thinking about taking it, I finally pulled over one day and put it in my trunk.  I was 19 years old at the time, so I probably thought it would look punk rock to have a stop sign that I crashed into hanging in my garage.  Anyway, it was still sitting in my trunk on the night of the show. and there have been a few occasions in the history of ECW where a wrestler used a stop sign as a weapon to smack their opponent in the head, so I figured it'd be great for autographs in case any other wrestlers passed by us... and they did.

The stop sign is long gone; one of the casualties that was left behind in Barnesville when Megan and I broke up in 2002, so I'm sure that she put it out for the trash pickup years ago.  I took a few photos of it the night after the show, but the digital camera I had back in 1999 was pretty terrible so they're not the greatest quality.

The biggest star at the time who autographed the stop sign was the current ECW World Heavyweight Champion Mike Awesome.  He was one of my favorite wrestlers in those days, so I was very happy to have met him.  He was a good dude and much bigger in person than he looked on tv.  I remember that he chucked when he saw the stop sign and seemed to get a kick out of signing it.  Five months after this show, he jumped ship to WCW while he was still the reigning ECW Champion.  He got a lot of unfair heat for that from ECW fans, but I didn't blame him one bit.  Paul Heyman liked to try to weasel out of paying his talent, so I had zero sympathy for him or his company when the performers who busted their ass for his company decided that they deserved to get paid for their work.  Awesome worked for WCW until it was purchased Vince McMahon in 2001, and he continued to appear for WWF/E off and on for a few years after that.  He retired from the ring in February 2006 and sadly passed away just a year later at only 42 years old.

Two other wrestlers autographed the sign, including future ECW World Heavyweight Champion Justin Credible, who would go on to win the belt shortly after Mike Awesome departed for WCW.  Like Awesome, Credible spent a number of years working for WWE since the closure of ECW.  He also spent time working for Ring Of Honor in the same group as the other wrestler whose autograph was on this sign, Tony DeVitoDeVito was part of a faction called Da Baldies in ECW at the time of this show, but he would go on to greater notoriety in ROH where he won the tag team championship in 2005 as a member of The Carnage Crew.  There were also two other members of the roster who I met and who autographed the sign - manager Bill Alfonso and referee John Finegan.

The show was a lot of fun, with a main event that was a rematch of the six man tag team main event from the November To Remember pay-per-view that took place five days earlier.  That match included Raven, who had just returned to the promotion about ten weeks earlier after his run in WCW had ended.  Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman teamed up with him in the main event and celebrated with the fans at ringside after the show.

The rest card was a nice mix of young talent and established ECW wrestlers.  Chris Candido wrestled in the midcard on this show.  He would go on to join his Triple Threat partners in WCW a few months later.  After its closure, he continued to wrestle on the indy scene until he passed away due to a blood clot in 2005 at just 33 years old.

Nova would go on to become Simon Dean in the WWE.  Lance StormTajiriSuper CrazyJazz, and Spike Dudley would also go on to spend a number of years wrestling in WWE.  Rhino spent time in WWE as well, and is currently wrestling in TNA where, earlier this year, he feuded with Danny Bonaduce of all people.

There was no way I could have known at the time, but the end was drawing near for Extreme Championship Wrestling.  I remember that there was an announcement during this show that our ticket stubs would be honored for the upcoming tv taping in Binghamton if we would like to attend that show too.  In hindsight, I really wish that I would have gone.  It wasn't far out of the way - just about a 90 minute drive on 81 North from the Kingston Armory - but I must have had work that day or something because I didn't go, and this show on November 12th, 1999 would be the only time that I ever got to attend an ECW show in person.

The company would continue for another year and four months before going under on April 4th, 2001.  It was purchased by Vince McMahon, and they brought the ECW brand back for a few pay per view events and for a third weekly show to join Raw and Smackdown, but the only thing that the current product has in common with the original ECW is those three letters in the name.