Last weekend I made my first trip to the city of Brotherly Love, and more importantly, the wrestling capital of North America, Philapeldhia. I was going to see the first anniversary show of fast rising promotion, Dragongate USA (which was being taped for PPV), which was being held at the Arena (the former ECW Arena). Needless to say, I was practically flooding my pants with excitement for weeks before I made the trip and was like a child at Christmas hoping on the bus.
For those of you who mightn’t know, Philly was the birth place of ECW and is known for its die hard (and sometimes almost impossible to please) fans. It is also home to other companies such as CZW and the now extinct ECW wannabee XPW. Oh, and did I mention that it is also where the infamous ECW arena, the mecca of wrestling for thousands of die hard fans, is located?
Besides all this wrestling nerd stuff, Philly also has the famous “Rocky Steps” and a statue of the Italian Stallion himself. If you aren’t familiar with the Rocky steps, please leave this site now. Walking up these steps (I had no intention of running up them in 100 degrees and wearing jeans!)) I could see why the man was fit as a fiddle!
Philly also is famous for another love of mine; mouth watering Cheese Steaks. Now, I love steak. I also love cheese. So, a place were they combine the two and are famous for it is definitely gonna be high on my all time favorites list.
The cheese steak I got certainly lived up to my expectations. In fact, it shat all over them. Not only was it the best cheese steak I had ever had, but I couldn’t finish the damn thing! And I am not a man that lets food beat me. The cherry on top of this greasy delight? It was served by a stripper.
Actually, I’d like to take this moment to thank all the lovely ladies of Cheerleaders for being so friendly and compliment their cheese steak…good job ladies! Anyway, back to the wrestling. I had always dreamed about what the ECW arena was like. I had a romanticized idea in my head based off of countless videos, dvd’s, photos and stories. I had a vision of a magical place, with mountains of boner inducing wrestling memorabial and blood & sweat stains from classic,bloody battles. I had also expected to see groups of fans, huddling around wrestlers, listening to their road stories like kids around a camp fire.
Boy was I wrong!
The arena was a shithole. A dirty white building from the outside, it looked like an abandoned uHaul storage facility. The only thing that let me know I was at the right place was a single sign that said the arena. the place was a ghost town too, with the only sign of life being a homeless person hanging out in the parking lot. It probably didn’t help that I had arrived at the Arena, 4 hours before bell time but hey, I was determined to spend as much time at the arena as possible!
My heart sank. This dive was the place I had dreamed of for all those years? Slightly dejected, I stood outside the entrance and waited. Things can only get better I said to myself. So I waited.And waited. And no-one came. Shit.
After an hour of self imposed solitary confinement. The crowd arrived and the whole adventure began to pick up again. These were REAL wrestling fans! They were experts on grapplers I had barely heard of and spoke about the matches in such depth! I had always fancied myself as a wrestling buff but compared to these guys, I knew nothing! It was amazing speaking to them and hearing their stories. One English couple in particular deserve a mention because they were so friendly and chatty.
Then the doors opened and my heart skipped a beat. It was time to enter the arena.
Oh. My. God. I was standing in the ECW arena. The EC F”N W ARENA!
I couldn’t contain myself and my wrestling nerd side was out for all to see. I walked around the entire arena floor, taking in every corner of it. With my t-shirt dripping with sweat, I examined every inch of the building. there were banners hanging from the rafters with the names of those inducted into the Arenas Hall of Fame: Dreamer, Tod Gordon, Sabu, Jerry Lynn for those interested(I may be missing one other) and the names of those who had passed away but had made history there (Trent Acid, Public Enemy).Unfortunately, that was the only ECW memorabilia I spotted in there.
Next, I walked over to take a look at the merch table, which had the usual stuff. I picked up a poster for like $3 but is now worth alot more because I got it signed by ALOT of the Dragongate stars who were doing a meet and great.
Some of the autographs I got were BxB Hulk, Cheech, Moxley, Naruki Doi and others I can’t remember. They were all cool guys but the Japenese stars had very little English. However, there was only one guy I was really determined to meet: Bryan Danielson.
He was to fight Shingo in the main event (which turned out to be a brutal, hard hitting classic by the way!). he was also scheduled to do a signing at some stage. I waited and waited but there was no sign of him just yet.
Next I made my way to my AWESOME seat. I was in row 4 and could see the ring perfectly. The guys I was sitting with were hilarious to listen and really cool guys. I knew Dragongate was known for its incredible wrestling but MY GOD! The moves and spots they were doing were INCREDIBLE. I had never seen anything like it! And not only could these guys do mind blowing spots but they also sold really well and made the matches believable.
I’m not gonna go in depth on the card but the guys who really caught my attention were BxB Hulk, Yoshino (who really is the fastest man I have ever seen in a wrestling ring),CIMA, Jimmy Jacobs, Matches worth going out of your way to see are Danielson vs Shingo (which will be hard to find as it was a drak main event), Arik Cannon vs Richoet vs Adam Cole vs. Chuck taylor (which is the best fatal 4 way I have seen in a LONG time and the six man tag between Kamikaze USA members Yamato, Akira Tozawa, Gran Akuma and John Moxley (who really grabbed my attention; would love to see him join NXT at some stage) vs Yoshino, Mike Quackenbush, Jigshaw and Hallowicked.
After 3 hours of mind blowing wrestling, I had nearly forgotten that Danielson was to do a signing. Then I saw him. I ran over and joined the crowd that had formed around him. I waited and got more excited as I moved further up the line. Then it was my turn. I was going to meet the American Dragon, Bryan Danielson!
Bryan had just come over from his match and was still covered in sweat and wearing his wrestling trunks-sexy i know! He looked absolutely shagged tired but was still friendly to everyone and signed whatever people wanted. I only talked to him for a minute but he came across as really cool and a happy dude. Being fired mightn’t be the worst thing in the world after all! I grabbed a pic and an autograph and made my way out of the arena.
My trip to the arena had been everything I had wanted. It was an incredible experience and the best wrestling trip I have ever made and is up there with some of the best thing I’ve done all year. Beside it shitty appearance and almost suffocating lack of air, the Arena was exactly what I had hoped for.
Finally,I hoped in a taxi and made my way to my mansion for the night; the Philadelphia Greyhound Bus Station!