How ECW Created Its Slavishly Loyal Fanbase

Today I’m watching ECW on the WWE Network and I’m writing about it. The viewing is Hardcore Heaven 1995. This particular bit of internet literature is my shout out to both the ECW for creating a fanbase that was an active participant in every event and to the fans themselves for understanding they were part of a bigger whole.

I’m watching Shane Douglas do the whole “will he, won’t he” thing about heading to WWE and the audience is giving him the business. Shane is baiting them and they respond with “Get Ric Flair!” It’s kind of effective. Flair has been a foil for Douglas since he returned from the WCW. Standard fare for a wrestling show.

Then, as Shane starts to talk again, we hear, “Shut The Fuck Up!” And it wasn’t done in the sing-songy way of “Shut the fuck up!” (Clap-clap, clap-clap-clap), it was just the crowd yelling at him in unison. It’s not the vulgarity, it’s not the fact the crowd is all ganging up on him, and it’s not his response.

It’s their timing.

The audience had impeccable timing, almost always. Now, let me restate, I’m no insider by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not even an active wrestling fan anymore. Every couple years, I dig my ECW DVDs out of storage & binge watch them for a couple weeks. YouTube’s OK, but there aren’t many full shows out there because WWE, strangely, doesn’t want all their content floating out there for free. 

My point being, I’m a pretty green mark. I don’t read any of the gossip sites, haven’t in a very long time, and don’t keep up with the wrestlers, other than Twitter. I don’t know who the audience where. I know some of them did documentaries and have been interviewed and whatnot and I know they could be pains in the ass because they thought (knew) they were a huge part of the show. I also know this because I’ve done event public relations before and as a rule, the audience tends to suck. I know, you pay the bills and that’s an absolute fact and in general, huge crowds actually tend to be awesome, but it’s the nine or ten shitheads that ruin it because they feel entitled to get free shit.

“Hey, man, you give me a hat, I’ll wear that hat around town, and, I mean, that’s free advertising for you!”

You’d be stunned how often I’ve heard that as a legit excuse to get free shit.

(Hey, guys, you can’t just rush in and–you know what? Fuck it. #NotMyTable)

Anyway, got off track there. I’m sure there was a ring general of some kind, giving instructions on what to chant. There had to be. Because the chants never started slow & ragged; they always started loud. There are times, obviously, when you get the spontaneous “ECW” chants (Or “What?!” with Stone Cold, one that I love to this day & it’s a promised divorce if I do it to the wife again), but the others were pretty specific and I find it hard to believe that many people were thinking the same thing at the same time. So if you have any insight on that, head over to my Twitter account @MyECWMemories. I’d love to hear about the real stories.

By the way, the Taipei Death Match is on. Holy shit, I love this. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the blood, but I respect the hell out of the wrestlers who do it. 

Like I said before, the ECW audience was a real entity that interacted with the wrestlers. If Paul E. was ECW’s brain, Joey was the voice, Tommy was the heart, and Sandman was the spirit, the audience was its conscience. That was a damned savvy crowd and it’s because Paul & Joey & the wrestlers treated them like intelligent consumers instead of a bunch of 80s-era Hogan-worshiping marks (I love calling people “marks,” I do it all the time even/especially if they’re not wrestling fans). Paul knew the fans were on the internet. He knew they read the gossip sites and knew what was going on, so he talked to them like equals. As a result, he had a guaranteed audience of people who were going to make his shows pop like Wrestlemania every time.

(ECW! ECW! ECW!)

Man, good stuff.

Oh. I’ve never been to an ECW show. Ever. I’ve had a couple chances & either sometime came up or I just didn’t feel like leaving the house. I’m weird like that. Just a huge fan. I’m literally that 45-year-old stoner mark blogging about wrestling that doesn’t exist anymore. Holy God. Strangely, I think the 15-year-old me would be cool with it.

Tommy Dreamer just literally threw Raven and Stevie through a wall. They’re beating the shit out of Luna.

“You can’t super bomb a woman!”

Oh, yes you can, Joey Styles.

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