FIRST post in a while and it is a Valentine’s Day themed one…in some respects. It was 19 years ago today that I attended a wrestling show in Walthamstow, London called St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. It wasn’t one of the big boys like WWF or WCW promoting the event, nor was it the old-school British wrestling of the World of Sport days, rather an upstart promotion called EWA – the European Wrestling Alliance, which I only knew about because of my unhealthy consumption of wrestling magazines, such as Powerslam and fledgling days on the internet at the local library, trawling such sites as 1wrestling.com.
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre became the thing of folklore amongst British wrestling fans. If everyone that says they were there that day was actually there then the promotion would have filled out Wembley Stadium. It was a different kind of show to the ones I was used to. It had an indie-feel in a small venue, no bigger than the ones I would watch local wrestling at in Cleethorpes, but it had three main attractions, which can be summed up with the letters E-C-W.
ECW or Extreme Championship Wrestling was the darling of the internet and the ‘smart’ magazines. Based on raunchy, racey TV, old school work ethic, grunge-era characters and bloody, weapon-filled violence – the promotion had carved itself a niche as the clear number three promotion in the United States and its top stars, thanks to their unique work and the promotion of guru Paul Heyman, developed a cult following.
Perhaps the most famous of all was Sabu. Whilst mainstream wrestling was filled with garbage men, clowns and a rabbit named Ralph, Sabu was adorning magazine covers thanks to his bloody matches and penchant for throwing himself through the nearest table. In 1995 he debuted in the UK with the EWA but Walthamstow may as well have been Philadelphia, PA for a 13-year-old wrestling obsessive.
And a WWF tour featuring all the top stars, just as they were on the cusp of becoming edgier themselves, in November 1996, meant a trip to see Sabu and Mikey Whipwreck at Ultra Kaos two weeks later was out of the window.
But by February 1998, I was 16 and the world was changing. Both major promotions had borrowed heavily from the ECW ethos and shows like South Park, Jerry Springer and Howard Stern ruled the airwaves. ECW had cracked through into pay-per-view and there was a loose working relationship with the WWF – ‘Mr. Monday Night’ Rob Van Dam was one of my favourite stars of the time.
His brightly coloured attire, slick ponytail and astonishing offence made him standout from the crowd. He was accompanied to the ring by his annoying, whistle-toting manager Bill Alfonso (a former referee) and strode down the aisle to the strains of ‘Walk’ by Pantera – its riff is one of my favourites of all-time. I had gotten into tape trading at this time and RVD was usually the star of the ECW shows I picked up.
Now RVD was coming to Walthamstow, along with Sabu and Mikey Whipwreck for a one-night tournament for the British Commonwealth Junior Belt. Negotiating London on a Saturday evening was a nightmare and, in an era before mobile phones, I had no idea where the Assembly Hall was. I was 45 minutes late for the show. It didn’t matter a jot – I entered the hall just as RVD and Sabu hit the ring.
What followed was a four-hour experience I will never forget. My seat was fantastic, right on the aisle by the entrance. I lapped up every expletive-laden promo, chair shot, table spot and high-flying move with the glee of someone who thought that this opportunity would only exist in the pages of a magazine.
Aside from Sabu, RVD and Mikey Whipwreck, I also got my first taste of the Dirtbike Kid, who organised the show and was thus a big star in my mind, Ulf Hermann, Michael Kovac and Grimsby’s own Stevie Knight.
There were fans from all over Europe and the event programme was a like a gospel that I clutched onto for months afterwards. It had the latest ECW results in them – long before the magazines would. One should had Justin Credible beating the Great Sasuke. I couldn’t believe my eyes – the Portuguese Man O’War Aldo Montoya had beaten the Great Sasuke (who may as well have been a god that unleashed Space Flying Tiger Drops and Blue Thunder Bombs on all that opposed him, such was his standing in the wrestling mags) – but it was there in black and white.
I’ve got the VHS, programme and signed RVD and Mikey Whipwreck photos lying around somewhere – it truly was a life-changing experience in my 25-year wrestling fandom. What inspired me to write this blog piece was that I recently came across a CD containing pictures from the event and I have just gotten around to converting them to JPG. I haven’t seen many pictures from that night, so hopefully my humble efforts can provide a snapshot of the time.