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February 2017: How ECW Cyberslam '97 Changed My Life Forever


Most of our days on this planet are of little significance, it would seem. Sometimes it’s as if we’re just mindlessly sleepwalking for days or weeks on end, just going through the motions. But every once in a while we have one of those days that completely alters our lives forever, a day when you finally put your foot down and make a life-changing decision. For me, February 22nd 1997 was one of those days. It also happened to be the day of ECW’s CyberSlam ’97.

The mid to late 90’s were an incredible time to be a wrestling fan. And even though wrestling’s popularity was at an all time high with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Goldberg, the nWo and The Rock, there were always those people who weren’t fans whose main criticism of it was “Why do you watch that fake stuff”? And hey, I’ll give it to them, that was a fair criticism. A fair criticism until ECW came along, that is. There’s no possible way to fake a steel chair to the head, a powerbomb though a flaming table or a piledriver into a bed of thumbtacks. Maybe WWF was fake, maybe WCW was a little bit corny at times, but ECW? Now THAT was real. In hindsight, maybe that wasn’t the best way to captivate an audience, especially for the overall health and wellbeing of the wrestlers, but you live and you learn, I guess.

So, one fateful afternoon I found myself westbound on the Pennsylvania turnpike, at the age of 15, in the back seat of an old beat-up SUV with two of my best friends and a middle-aged wrestling nerd who still lived with his mother, heading towards Philadelphia and the legendary ECW Arena, a place I knew every square inch of from watching television and VHS cassette tapes, but had never actually stepped foot in. I say “legendary”, but the fact is it was quite literally a rundown, ramshackle bingo hall in a bad part of town. For wrestling fans, though, it was Mecca. It had an atmosphere that was absolutely electric and turned seemingly normal people into rabid, bloodthirsty animals.


The "Bing Hall" sign on the front of the ECW Arena

From the moment I first walked through the doors, it felt like I was walking straight into the pages of a book. I immediately recognized some of the fans that frequented the ECW shows such as “Straw Hat Guy”, “Sign Guy” and that dude with the long hair and the Los Angeles Rams football jersey. To my surprise, it appeared that these super fans were actually a part of the show. Rams Jersey Guy seemed to be keeping an eye on the other fans, making sure no one was starting any trouble and Straw Hat Guy and his buddies also seemed to be involved with tickets or helping people find their seats.


"Rams Jersey Guy" hanging out before the show


There certainly was a buzz in that arena, and for three hours or so, I felt like I had become a part of wrestling history. I even appeared briefly on camera as Axl Rotten, D-Von Dudley and the Gangstas were brawling through the crowd and was a part of an “E-C-W” chant. I also got to see my childhood hero, Terry Funk, wrestle live and bought a t-shirt of his, which I still have today. The whole experience of being in that arena is still etched vividly into my memory, even now as I write this. A night of blood, gore and violence leaves one desperately hungry, though.


New Jack


Sabu and Rob Van Dam vs. The Eliminators


It’s an absolute must for any visitor to Philadelphia to indulge themselves in a Philly cheese steak sub. This sloppy, messy, artery-hardening, fat-drenched, cheese-laden sandwich is definitely not something you want to dine on nightly, but if you’re visiting, it’s certainly worth having just that once, if only to say that you did it. Or is it? That’s exactly what I had been contemplating that very night after the show.

I was full of indecision as I approached the counter to order my sandwich. They had the option of the traditional beef steak or ostrich meat. Just for the hell of it, I ordered the ostrich and when they asked for my name, I told them it was ‘Amphibian Boy’. I only made it halfway though that sub before my conscious finally got the better of me. I simply couldn’t allow myself to eat any more. It was right then and there, as we were back on the Pennsylvania turnpike returning to Erie, Pennsylvania that I decided I would never eat meat again.

Okay, okay, don’t worry. This is not a PSA for vegetarianism, nor am I even attempting to persuade anyone to stop eating meat. So, if you’ve made it this far into the blog, you might as well keep reading anyway, right? Besides, I learned a long time ago that trying to persuade a meat-eater to become a vegetarian is like trying to persuade someone with a fear of the dentist to undergo a root canal without anesthesia.


My friend Mark eating a tater tot on the way home

The point worth considering here is that there are some things in life that we know deep down inside are immoral, unjust, corrupt or just plain wrong. For the most part, these things tend to play on our conscious, but we try to forget about them, believing that one person is too small to make a difference. What could my abstinence from eating animals possibly do to stop the multi-billion dollar meat industry?

To me, it doesn’t matter. I cannot control others’ actions, nor can I control the state of the world which I was born into. I can, however, control my own actions. I can be the master of my own behavior. Maybe I cannot take down the meat industry with my choices, but I certainly don’t have to give them my money, which will support the very cause that I am against. I believe that actions speak louder than words and if everyone did what they thought was right instead of doing what is easier, more popular or more socially acceptable, the world would probably be a better place.

Do you think that a certain corporation is treating their employees unfairly? Stop buying products from that corporation. Do you think that a company which produces a certain product is damaging the environment and causing unnecessary pollution? Stop buying that product. Be in control of your own actions. Try to find others who share your opinions and get involved in making a change. Do research into the topic and some soul-searching within yourself to make sure you have your facts straight and that this is something that you’ve thought about from all angles.

If this is an unpopular idea, don’t get frustrated when people disagree with you. You’ll feel much better about yourself, having made the right decision and stuck with it. When people see that you’re serious about this and it’s not just a “phase”, they’ll respect you more and maybe even start to consider your idea.

Twenty years ago today I put down that Philly cheese steak sub and never ate meat again. And even if no one else has been influenced to join my cause, it still makes me sleep better at night knowing that I did, in my mind, make the right decision and stick to it. Whoever you are and whatever your cause is, I hope you can find the strength to one day stand up for what you believe in and do what you think is right. Keep fighting the good fight.

- Daniel Austin (Don Roid) (blog) (podcast)



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