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Joey Styles and Tommy Dreamer celebrate the 15th anniversary of ECW Barely Legal

Later this month, WWE will present the fourth annual Extreme Rules pay-per-view event, but pay-per-view has been extreme long before that. 2012 marks the 15th anniversary of ECW’s inaugural pay-per-view event, Barely Legal.

The show introduced the cult-like Philadelphia-based company to the masses, and changed the face of sports-entertainment forever. WWE.com recently had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall while old pals and ECW Originals Joey Styles and Tommy Dreamer reminisced about this extreme milestone.

JOEY: Does it seem like 15 years has gone by to you?

TOMMY: Absolutely not. Where did the time go? As I look back and reflect on my career, it happened so fast. Now I get to sit back and read about stuff that I did. You just wish you took the time to soak it all in because it goes by so quickly.

JOEY: Do you remember what it was like trying to get Barely Legal on pay-per-view? Were you privy to that drama?

TOMMY: Back then, the main revenue stream of a wrestling company was being on pay-per-view. WWE was on, WCW was on, and we were trying to get there. We had a lot of setbacks. At ECW, we lived and died by every show. We always had to have good shows, because we needed that repeat business. Momentum was swinging our way, and the fans were along for the ride with us. Our first setback occurred when the pay-per-view company got word of a controversial incident from one of our shows in Revere, Massachusetts, and they pulled us off. Barely Legal should have happened earlier, but we had a problem. They thought we were too extreme. Barely Legal was pushed back, but we finally had a limited pay-per-view release.

JOEY: I don’t know if the satellites would carry us, but we weren’t available on the entire pay-per-view universe. I think we were just on Request TV, not Viewer's Choice [now iN DEMAND]. And they wouldn’t let us start at seven o’clock! We had to start at nine.

TOMMY: I forgot about that, yeah. We had so many uphill battles to go through. And to his credit, Paul [Heyman] wanted to do the show at the ECW Arena, and the pay-per-view companies said, "You can’t do it at that place, it’s a dump." I remember we were sitting at [ECW director, producer, cameraman and editor] Ron Buffone’s studio, and Paul said, "We have to do it at the ECW Arena, or else I’m not gonna do it. If I do it anywhere else, I’m betraying the fans that have supported us so far." And he stuck to his guns. The building said, "We’ll get it up to code. We’ll do everything possible to make this thing happen." Request wanted us to go to the Civic Center, or even the Spectrum. And Paul said he wouldn’t take it anywhere but the ECW Arena.

JOEY: And how’d that work out from a technological standpoint?

TOMMY: It worked out great until the end, but that’s later in the story, Joey.

JOEY: I got you here now, so what happened as soon as the show was over?

TOMMY: I’m gonna get to the pay-per-view.

JOEY: Okay, all right.

TOMMY: I’m a storyteller. Shut up. Do your own interview with yourself as Joey Styles. [laughing]

TOMMY: Talk about doing a pay-per-view started around ’96. From when the buzz started it was almost a year in the making.

JOEY: What do you remember from the night of Barely Legal? After all you had done you weren’t actually on the card, but you played a role in the show.

TOMMY: Leading up to it, Paul told me I was not going to be on the first pay-per-view, and I was devastated. He said, "I got a better idea for you." And me being the martyr and the heart and soul of ECW, I gave up my shot on the pay-per-view for my mentor Terry Funk, which was going to be his last big chance to win the ECW Title. We had so much emotion going into that pay-per-view. Not only it being our first, but also Terry Funk walking to his father’s gravesite and saying, "I’m not a young man anymore, I’m an old man. But I’m gonna do this for you. I’m gonna do this for the Funk name. I’m gonna do this for ECW." Great stuff. We had done a party to honor Terry Funk the night before, which I was in charge of.

JOEY: We did the first of many retirement dinners.

TOMMY: It was a great weekend. What WWE does now with Axxess, we did way before with ECW. We had a dinner, we had fans coming for autographs, we did all of that stuff.

JOEY: What do you remember about the rest of the card? We opened the show with a great ECW-style match.

TOMMY: The first match I knew was going to be really good, The Eliminators vs. The Dudleys. That set the tone. It was a hard-hitting match, the tag team titles changed hands, and I remember the place going nuts. You talk about importance of that pay-per-view? Bubba Ray Dudley had broken his ankle a week before, and was in a cast. He was told he needed to keep the cast on. So we were going to put somebody else in there with Devon instead, but Bubba said "I’m wrestling on this first pay-per-view." He sawed off his cast to wrestle. And now when Bubba walks he has his foot turned to the left and has a bad ankle, but that’s how much it meant to him. He didn’t miss a beat. And trust me, that’s a lot of weight on that ankle. ( WATCH PLAYLIST)

JOEY: And, of course, if there’s one match people remember from that show it was Tazz vs. Sabu.

TOMMY: Think of this concept – a one year buildup for a match, and the fans finally get it on pay-per-view. I wonder where that just happened, ahem, at WrestleMania 28? But Tazz and Sabu never touched. It was a one-year wait to see these two guys go at it. There was also Shane Douglas vs. Pitbull No. 2 after Shane had broken Pitbull No. 1’s neck. We imported Japanese guys from Michinoku Pro to come in just to show the world a different style. And a great Lance Storm vs. Rob Van Dam match.

JOEY: What else do you remember from the night of the show?

TOMMY: I remember the excitement, the buzz, and helping backstage with everything. The show’s going along, I’m watching it, and when it came time to actually go out there, I commentated on one of the last matches which was Terry Funk vs. Sandman vs. Stevie Richards. Winner faces Raven for the ECW Title. I had never done commentary before. I had to go up to the top of the entranceway of the building to do commentary. There was a wood floor with huge cracks that you could see through to the actual streets of Philadelphia. The building did their best to make it look great on television with extra lighting and staging. Joey, did you even have a monitor?

JOEY: I did have a monitor. I believe they painted the walls black so it would look better on TV. I remember you sitting in with me, it was your first time doing commentary, you had a headset on, and Paul said…

TOMMY: I wanna tell that, hang on.

JOEY: You wanna tell it? It’s very funny. Your first time doing commentary, go ahead. So we’re sitting there.

TOMMY: I had to climb a rickety wooden ladder to get up to where we were commentating. I put the headset on. Our referees worked without earpieces. We put this show together like we always did. The only person who had an earpiece was our ring announcer, and he put it in his ear that he was deaf in, so it didn’t even work. I put the headset on, and Paul E. says, "Hey Tommy, it’s Paul. Can you hear me?" And I said, "Yes." Then he says, "Tommy, you are live on the air. Whatever you say into the headset goes on the air." And I go, "Okay." Paul says, "Tommy, please stop speaking to me. I’m making sure you can hear me." So I just gave a thumbs-up, and my first words on-air were me speaking to Paul in the back on a live headset.

JOEY: I tried asking you questions.

TOMMY: You made history to be the first commentator to do a pay-per-view all by yourself. You were trying to feed me questions, but I was trying to think and getting lost in the emotion to the point where I told you to shut up because I was watching the match. I had to remember what I needed to go out there and do, so I just told you to shut up.

JOEY: I would still argue it was better than Mike Adamle, the man who replaced me on WWECW.

TOMMY: I chokeslammed Big Dick Dudley off the entranceway, and then helped Terry Funk win the ECW Title. The place erupted. Everything went great. Then the lights blew. The building could not handle the amount of power and electricity that was required for a live pay-per-view.

JOEY: Yup, five seconds after we went off the air the generators blew.

TOMMY: If that would have happened on the air we would have been screwed, but it was the luck of the ECW magic.

TOMMY: We pressed the show to the very last second that we could. Paul was freaking out that the match between Funk, Stevie Richards and Sandman was going too long. Paul said to Raven, "You only got two minutes to do this!" We’re all getting psyched up, and Raven just stops us and says, "Don’t worry, I got this."

JOEY: What did the end of the show feel like for you?

TOMMY: I remember fans hugging each other, because they were all part of the experience. Joey, you were hugging people. It was almost like when your favorite team wins the World Series at home. Everyone was embracing each other. It was just like, "We did it." I’m getting goosebumps even talking about it. I remember fans hugging Terry Funk who was covered in blood. There’s a very famous photo of me and Terry Funk in the crowd. My face is covered in blood. It wasn’t my blood, it was all his from hugging.

JOEY: How do you think the pay-per-view was in general?

TOMMY: Was it the best pay-per-view in the world? No. But everything was perfect that night for the fans that were there. It was magic. It was one of those amazing ECW moments that can never be recaptured. ( PHOTOS)

JOEY: Do you remember how many pay-per-views we sold?

TOMMY: No, and I’m sure if you asked Paul he’d lie about it.

JOEY: I have it in my files. 100,000 buys.

TOMMY: I helped make all of these special posters. We had special Barely Legal programs, which were color. That was special for us, because we usually had the old school paper programs. We made it an event, and it was.

JOEY: It absolutely was. We were all in tears after the show. I know people always ask me, "What was the greatest show you ever called? What was the greatest night of your career? What was the greatest moment?" I think they all expect me to say my WrestleMania debut, my Raw debut, my WWE debut, but the answer is always Barely Legal.

TOMMY: I remember Paul E. all sweaty backstage, his hair was all over the place, embracing Terry Funk, embracing Raven. It was the biggest bromance ever. And then Paul looked at me and mouthed, "Thank you." Paul hugged me like we had won the World Series and the Super Bowl. He was the head coach, I was his quarterback. Not to slight anybody who was part of that company, because there were so many guys who did so much. But in ECW, if there was a job to be done, I did it. Production, booking, merchandise, I did it.

JOEY: No one can argue the number of jobs you did, Tommy. What do you think Barely Legal did for ECW as a brand and as a company?

TOMMY: Barely Legal put us on the map. It made us legit. It made us the real deal. It wasn’t like it is today where anyone can put on an Internet pay-per-view.

JOEY: Yeah, and I think one of the reasons we did decent buyrates as we went on is that we weren’t on national TV. We were paying to be on TV in five major markets and then 10 major markets, but the only way for the entire country to see us was on pay-per-view. And I think that was our advantage. We didn’t have Raw or Nitro. If you wanted to see us live, if you wanted to see us nationally and you were in an area that didn’t get our TV show, you had to buy our pay-per-views.

TOMMY: Everyone had heard the buzz of what these crazy guys in Philadelphia were doing. It’s been said before, I’ll say it again – WWE has admitted their Attitude Era was based on us. Our studio was a small little room in Ron Buffone’s parents’ house, who were great people because they let all these freaks come into their house every single week. ECW opened the doors for everybody, and changed the wrestling business forever.

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