The crowd heard “Enter Sandman” and immediately knew what was coming. It didn’t matter that it was 2017 instead of 1997. The Sandman was going to enter the ECW Arena and save the day.
Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore promotion came to the 2300 Arena on Saturday night. The building, formerly known as the ECW Arena and about six other names, is a lot nicer than it was back in the Extreme Championship Wrestling days. It even has a liquor license! But a lot of the activity on Saturday felt like old times.
Dreamer didn’t announce any matches beforehand. The House of Hardcore show last weekend was pretty similar to the one I attended in Philly last year: A mix of young indie guys, ex-WWE (and TNA) wrestlers and old ECW originals. This time the Rock ’n’ Roll Express—59-year-old Robert Gibson and 60-year-old Ricky Morton—would wrestle.
Yes, the matches featuring old guys take a lot of shortcuts. Gibson, Morton and Bully Ray ended up beating The Spirit Squad in a six-man tag. Shane Douglas came out, gave a tearful speech about his memories in the building, then was attacked by Nick Aldis (the former Magnus in TNA). Then they ran essentially the same segment again, only it was Joey Mercury cutting a tearful promo then turning on Dreamer to set up an impromptu match. That match was stopped when a “state representative” came out and said Dreamer was too bloodied to continue.
But no one’s expecting to see the Rock ’n’ Roll Express do a 60-minute iron man match. (Morton did do a hurricanrana at one point!) The shortcuts are fine, even welcome. Dreamer knows how to put on a wrestling card. The mix of indie guys and old stars works for a brisk three-hour show. And not long after being bloodied in a match, Dreamer was working a t-shirt table signing autographs. (Road Warrior Animal, the Killer Bees, The Blue Meanie and others were also working merch tables.)
It’s a good balance of nostalgia and young guys. A four-way with Petey Williams, Bobby Fish, Zachary Wentz and Alex Reynolds was solid, and the main event was excellent. Jeff Cobb beat Sami Callihan in a sloppy, hardcore brawl that would’ve worked as a main event in the original ECW.
But the highlight, for me, was Sandman entering through the crowd, pouring beer into his mouth (and the mouths of fans) while walking to the ring to rescue The Beautiful People (Angelina Love and Velvet Sky). It wasn’t clear why Love and Sky had even come to the ring, let alone why Sandman was going to rescue them from a beatdown. But somehow it worked.