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ECW’s Barely Legal: 15 Years Gone

ECW’s Barely Legal: 15 Years Gone

Barely Legal was the realization of a dream for many people that were a part of the ECW locker room on April 13, 1997. Actually, it was the realization of a dream for everyone that was involved in ECW up until that point whether active or not on the roster. In fact, I can confidently say that there was probably nobody that ever set foot in an ECW ring or was part of the group that ran these events from all aspects that didn’t feel something truly extraordinary including me who, at the time, had been working for ECW in some capacity (writer to photo guy to talent) since 1994.

The week’s leading into the PPV were pretty memorable for many reasons…

I was super lucky to have been part of two of the ECW/WWE invasion angles that had taken place in the weeks leading up to Barely Legal on WWE’s flagship show, RAW. It was cool to be around and performing within a live TV wrestling show and ultimately it helped many of us get used to what would be Barely Legal…given it was live and all…that is…as much as a big TWO live TV appearances can give someone…but two is better than zero…So the road to the first ever LIVE ECW PPV was paved with Monday Night Raw. Pretty sweet in hindsight….a true worked hostile takeover to give ECW much needed national exposure on a national level….More so the road to Barely Legal was paved with blistering angles that had true storylines…a now staple of ECW and Paul E and crews booking…that were the equivalent of what “Smells Like Teen Spirit” did for music…I stand behind that comparison any day of the week by the way…

Bubba Ray, Big Dick, and I had all turned heel to unite Bubba Ray and D-Von into the force you have all become to know and love. The heel turn took place the same night Paul E. announced that ECW had in fact secured its first PPV….so….that in and of itself was pretty huge.

After the heel turn, the Dudleys won the ECW tag-titles from the Eliminators at “Hostile City Showdown” in March of 1997 a little less than a month before the PPV to set-up a rematch at Barely Legal. That night was crazy as the smart arena fans were BLOWN AWAY with the title change….but really…all you had to do was figure out that it was a glorified angle for the next month and the PPV. Still, the fans who legitimately hated (and I don’t mean hated as in “heat” I mean hated) the Dudley gimmick couldn’t believe what was happening right before their very eyes….who would have thought what the unification of Bubba and D-Von would bring to pro-wrestling…

If you ever saw the original Barely Legal T-shirt or poster it’s interesting to note that I took that shot of Taz and Sabu at the ECW House of Hardcore in Long Island. I also got heat for it because everyone argued with me that Taz’s eyes were closed but really, I just took the shots, I didn’t pick them…and there were a lot more and no it wasn’t Taz or Sabu that said a word to me. They were two of the best people I ever worked with. In reality, having Taz and Sabu main-event the first PPV was the epitome of what ECW was. This was a program/angle that took A YEAR TO BUILD. Now, I know Cena/Rock just did the same thing, however Taz/Sabu was indicative of old-school booking and really paying something off in a big way with the proper storyline. I am not saying Cena/Rock wasn’t proper…in fact WWE did a great job building it up. However, Taz and Sabu was just different…it was Taz and Sabu…it was ECW…this was old-school wrestling. Taz and Sabu did so much to build to that match…between the awesome promos Taz did to the seemingly elusive but impactful and intense nature of Sabu everything was firing on all cylinders. This wasn’t just a series of promos, this was a fully booked storyline designed not JUST for buy rates, but to catapult the company into the national forefront of pro wrestling in a big way.

ANYWAY….while at the House of Hardcore shooting the soon to be PPV key-art we spent several days going through the match that would take place between The Dudleys and The Eliminators.

The Dudleys/Eliminators were to open the show…this was the first exposure that a good percentage of the people watching Barely Legal would have to ECW…so you can imagine the amount of pressure that was involved but also the desire to make it perfect. The match was to feature the heels dropping the straps to the babyfaces (hence the title change that had taken place a month earlier as referenced above) and be a true sample of “all-things” ECW. It delivered for sure.

The original spot I had in the match was to jump up on the apron, be pulled over the top rope by Saturn and Kronus, whipped into the ropes and hit with a double spin kick. That was it…which was actually a lot for me. I remember Saturn saying he wanted to have me run a spot vs. just take a bump in order to add some credibility to the Sign Guy character as a worker per say….anyway….it all changed the day of the PPV when it was decided The Eliminators would slide into the ring, The Dudleys powder out, I slide in and hit them with my sign, turn my back on them (which is essentially the same as saying “I’ll be right back” in a horror movie,) they blast me and hit me with Total Elimination…and that’s how it went.

I remember very vividly going to the arena the day before the PPV where Mikey was at with the ring crew guys making sure all was set up. The Arena had a serious make-over and looked unreal. The floor was painted, the walls clean, the locker room as clean as it could be, and the ring looked awesome. It was the true calm before the storm and for me it was a crazy realization that, if I stopped working in the business the day after the PPV, I would have lived a dream I had since I was 8.

Paul Heyman’s pre-show speech is pretty well documented through the archives of the internet. I am not going to recreate it but I will tell you that Paul knew how to get a crew of people who were already amped up out of their minds…even more amped up…in that moment he was our leader and we were ready to fight to the end for him and what we believed in…which was each other.

So as we reach the 15 year anniversary of Barely Legal I will say that hard work doesn’t always pay-off on paper, but when it does, and when you can walk out of wherever you walk out of everyday knowing that you not only did what you wanted to do, what others expected you to do, and what created a memory and a piece of history….well…you have to think that pretty awesome…

I mean…right?

There will never be anything like Barely Legal for anyone who was part of the show that day in whatever capacity…and that’s ok…that’s how it should be…

By Lou Dangeli

(Sign Guy Dudley & Lou E. Dangerously)

You can read more from Lou, at his Blog Page

http://kthrud.wordpress.com/


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