A prophecy fulfilled: ECW comes to MSG
The arena lights blackened in the historic, venerated Madison Square Garden and nearly 16,000 New York City fans loudly expelled the three letters that had finally arrived in the World's Most Famous Arena: E-C-W.
With a torrent of ECW fans shouting in welcome of their newest guest, the tell-tale sounds of Drowning Pool's "Bodies" echoed throughout MSG's hallowed halls. It was clear that this night would be unlike any other because this would be the first time MSG would be taken to the extreme.
Never before has an ECW event taken place at MSG, thus ECW set a new milestone in its extreme history this week as ECW on Sci Fi emanated from the Garden. On this unforgettable evening, the first two Extremists to experience the vast New York City crowd were ECW commentators, Joey Styles and Tazz. For these New York born and bred ECW Originals, stepping through the curtain into the sold-out Garden arena was an experience unlike any other.
"[Madison Square Garden] is where my parents took me to see the circus, Batman Live, the New York Rangers and the Knicks," Styles said. "The original ECW was never able to be here at the Garden and to be here now makes this is a huge night. [Tonight] was as emotionally rewarding as doing my first WrestleMania last year," he added. "It's unbelievable; ECW just debuted in MSG and one hour was not enough. I didn't get enough; I might just sleep here tonight."
Unlike Joey Styles, Tazz noted that he would, in fact, be sleeping at home, but he did agree that 60 minutes was certainly not enough for ECW at MSG.
"It was an amazing rush," Tazz described. "I've competed [at the Garden] many times…and I've had a lot of great moments for myself at the Garden, but ECW going out there on the fastest hour in television history was amazing. The ECW fans at MSG were electric -- it was like they wanted more…like the one hour wasn't enough. I just can't wait to come back and do it again."
ECW's self-professed "messiah," Paul Heyman, explained to the world on ECW on Sci Fi that it was through his own life's work that ECW was finally able to make history in New York City. After the show, Heyman elaborated on the feeling of watching his "child" grow in an exclusive interview with ECW.com.
"Tonight, the MSG audience demonstrated its worship of their leader, of their messiah, of the savior of the wrestling industry," Heyman claimed. "The New York audience demonstrated the remarkable taste to accept me as the beacon of light that shines a bright future on an industry that was so close to the depths of darkness never seen before." He continued, "I am extremely moved -- as a New York kid -- to come home to Madison Square Garden and be the center of their adulation, and I accept their love with great humility."
One ECW Original who had an experience unique to Styles, Tazz and Heyman is Tommy Dreamer, whose perspective was from within the squared circle alongside other ECW icons in the heat of action.
"To be able to wrestle and to be here in Madison Square Garden was awesome," explained Dreamer. "To hang out in the middle of ring and drink beer with Sandman and Rob Van Dam -- two of my closest friends -- you couldn't ask for anything more."
Dreamer also added that he considers himself a fan of this industry, once on the other side of the guardrail. The Extremist said that he was fortunate to be present for ECW's night at the World's Most Famous Arena.
"I've had a lot of MSG moments," he added, "but tonight may have been the best. As you can see, I have goose bumps talking about what I just went through. I never thought ECW was going to do this."
ECW's premiere in Madison Square Garden wasn't just an extraordinary experience for ECW Originals or Extremists native to New York City. Debuting in the recently reborn ECW, CM Punk competed in the Garden for the very first time in his young career on this most memorable night.
"It felt like for one night I was a kid from New York," admitted the Chicago-born Punk. "It was unreal walking out there and it makes me feel good. With all the hard work I've ever done, it's the biggest pay off in the world when the entire crowd at Madison Square Garden is chanting ‘CM Punk.'" He continued, "I don't know why anyone would need to do drugs because that was the best drug in the world."
Aside from the Extremists themselves, it was a special night for ECW fans, who were unquestionably the single most integral element in making this night so successful. One ECW fan in attendance, Miranda Collier of Bronx, N.Y., described the event as "a rush."
"I've been waiting since the last time ECW was [at the Hammerstein Ballroom]," Collier said. "My favorite part was seeing Sabu whoop Paul Heyman's so-called security's ass. I just wanted to see more blood, that was all," she laughed.
When asked if she was looking forward to ECW coming back to MSG in the future, Collier exclaimed, "Yeah! Hell yeah!"
"I loved the event," stated Tayo Olatoyan of Hempstead, Long Island. "I used to watch ECW when I was younger and to see it disappear for a while, it was great to see it in the mainstream again; it was great to see [ECW] integrated with WWE. Besides ECW World Champion Big Show, I loved to see the old school ECW stars like Sabu and Sandman [tonight]."
Another MSG fan, Alan Trakhtenberg of Staten Island, N.Y. spoke of the pure, unfiltered emotion of the historic evening for ECW.
"Everybody can say that Philadelphia is [ECW's] original home," Trakhtenberg said, "but New York City is the backyard of ECW. [The Extremists] definitely showed what they're made of tonight, and New York being a cornerstone of ECW…was an added bonus."
According to Trakhtenberg, ECW's return to New York was a long time coming and it won't be too soon for the Extremists to once again invade the legendary arena.
"ECW always has that trademark that nobody else can possess, that extreme attitude that nobody else can have," he said. "I think ECW should definitely keep coming back to MSG. When ECW used to come to the little venues outside of New York City was one thing, but nothing comes better than when ECW is at MSG."