As you might have heard, the venue formally known as the ECW Arena has been closed to future pro wrestling shows. It is always sad when a bit of our history lost to the march of time. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) changed the entire landscape of the industry, and it did so without WWF's reach or WCW's money. It was able to do it with heart, with passion, and with blood, sweat, and more blood. The "Bingo Hall," as it was referred to lovingly and otherwise, was every bit as part of the mystique of ECW as the wrestlers were. It's closing to pro wrestling brings about a time for reflection.
The funny thing about reflection, though, is that it's all in the eye of the beholder.
EVOLVE was given the honors of closing the doors on their way out on Jan. 14, 2012, though it almost didn't matter who was closing the doors for good. It was going to be a time of remembrance and nostalgia. EVOLVE was already booked to appear before the news broke, but they altered their card in order to give proper sendoff to the arena.
Depending on who you ask, the final event was either a fitting farewell or an "inappropriate finale."
The Classical (via Deadspin) has a great article on the history of the ECW Arena. It was written by Tom Breihan, who confesses his love for ECW during the ‘90s. His fandom clearly shows through in the piece, and it reads like a man remembering an old lover. Cageside Seat's own Tom Holzerman actually attended the event and has a post on his own website. His take on the proceeding differs greatly. He saw the potential of a great EVOLVE card, and was disappointed that the promotion decided to play mostly to the ECW fans.
The great thing about professional wrestling, though, is that they are both right.
Holzerman speaks as a connoisseur of indie wrestling. He has just as much fun, if not more so, at a Ring of Honor, CHIKARA, or EVOLVE show then at a WWE event. "CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, Davey Richards and Colt Cabana among others" have just as much claim to the arena, and all have passed through it after ECW folded. Holzerman speaks critically of the "delusional fanboys...[who] celebrate an era that has long since passed."
Breihan, on the other hand, is one of those fanboys. He waxes poetically about how "wrestlers would cuss and bleed and dive off balconies onto each other and throw each other into the audience and stab each other with forks." He recognizes the brilliance of bringing in wrestlers native to Japan and Mexico and Americans who had been working abroad. Briehan writes that "the building went out the only way it really could: With two mutant relics slicing each other's foreheads open with screwdrivers."
If you are a fan of today's product, I honestly don't think you can thank ECW enough for what they did. They had to push the boundaries as far as they could go in order for the Attitude Era to exist. There would be no Austin 3:16 without his time in ECW. The intensity of that type of wrestling is unable to sustain itself due to the toll it takes on its performers body. But it left a legacy that runs deep within the blood of professional wrestling.
On the other side, if you are a fan of the future stars of pro wrestling, it is completely understandable to want to see them have a chance to shine. It is reasonable to ask why fans would come to a show just to measure it against a dead promotion. And it is perfectly fair to question why a "forward thinking" promoter, one who is in charge of a promotion called EVOLVE of all things, would look towards the past.
These two men are both fans. Tom Breihan has written a bunch of wrestling pieces that can be found online, including an interview with CM Punk for GQ. Tom Holzerman has his own wrestling website and writes for Cageside Seats, among others. They both choose to express their fandoms in completely different ways, and neither of them are bad fans.
We too often get into debates and arguments about what a "good" fan is or how a fan "should" behave. All one truly has to do, though, is to allow oneself to enjoy the product. Will there be people who complain about every little thing? Yes. Will there be fans that needlessly cling to the past? Of course. That is irrelevant, though. We are all going to see pro wrestling through our own eyes. Where one fan will think that two men carving each other's faces with a screwdriver as barbaric, another will think that same thing is what makes wrestling awesome.
The beauty is that they are both correct.