Strictly ECW's Tony Lewis Looks Back at ECW
I first met Paul Heyman in Baltimore, Maryland. I was one of 15 winners of a World Championship Wrestling contest, and was flown to Baltimore for the 1989 Great American Bash. Ironically, the lady in charge of WCW's travel department messed up my airline tickets. Go figure. I was scheduled to fly out of New York on the day of the PPV. However, the flight she booked me on was scheduled to take off at 7:30pm...30 minutes AFTER the PPV was scheduled to END. Call it an extreme case of "foreshadowing". Anyway, I met Paul in the lobby of the Omni Hotel after the show, when he signed a large "Post-It" for me. We probably said eleven words between the both of us.
ME: "May I have your autograph sir?"
ME: "Thank you."
PAUL: "You're welcome."
(That's eleven words. I counted.)
Seven years later, after a show at the Lost Battalion Hall...Paul, complete with entourage, "power walked" past me. And as I said, "Great show, Paul"...not stopping once to look at me, he replied "Thank you".
If you would have told me that just two years later, any time that Paul Heyman would see me, he'd smile, offer a firm handshake and a hug, and ask how I was doing...I would have told you to stop hitting the crack pipe so hard.
As I write this, I choose not to talk about the campaigns that Strictly ECW conducted, in the effort to help ECW reach the plateaus that they reached. Rather, I choose to remember what ECW meant to me. I choose to remember what ECW brought me. And I'm not talking about the memories of many great matches that took place in that wonderfully cramped, hot, sticky and dirty bingo hall in South Philadelphia. Or that magnificently small, cramped, hot, sticky and beer-soaked Elk's Lodge. I'd rather remember the sense of community that ECW generated. The friends that we all made. Friends that, if it weren't for ECW, we would never have made. Take a moment to think about the friends that you have now. Chances are, some of them you met at a show. Or online. Or maybe in passing... because you were wearing an ECW T-shirt or hat. I know that if it weren't for ECW, I wouldn't have a great deal of the friends that I have now. There are times when I sit down and think, "Damn...what would my life have been like if ECW never got kicked off the MSG Network in 1996?" Thank God I'll never have to know. I've been afforded some great opportunities, and have met some great people because of ECW. Wrestlers, a Hollywood screenwriter, Porn star Tom Byron. C'mon now...how many folks can say they've met Tom Byron??
Rob Black. Well...with every good thing, there may one or two drawbacks.
But most importantly, new friendships were made, and some older ones solidified.
Some fans wish that ECW would have stayed small and known to only a few, as if ECW should have remained some big secret. What a crime this would have been. The company called EXTREME Championship Wrestling changed the wrestling world forever, and regardless of whether you were in on it from the beginning, or near the end...know that YOU had a part in it... this REVOLUTION, no matter how big or small. I think that's the most important thing that any of us writing on this site today, or reading these tributes today, can take out of this very sad situation.
And so I say to Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer, Joey Styles, and everyone else that I have met involved with ECW, especially Debbie Beaumont (the MVP of the company), I wish all of you good luck, best wishes, and God's speed. Know how much I love each and every one of you. Will my life be poorer without you? Yes. Is my life richer because of you? Undoubtedly!!!
It is extremely hard not to shed a tear or two as I write this, and I won't try to stop them from falling. But I'll shed a tear or two, with a glimmer of hope that EXTREME Championship Wrestling may one day rise from the ashes like a Phoenix, and burn a streak of fire through the sky the way they did that fateful Sunday night in April of 1997.
Submitted with a broken heart full of love.
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