ECWA Returns From Hiatus

September 17, 2019  Published By: John Corrigan : http://thewrestlingestate.com

The East Coast Wrestling Association (ECWA), which was the longest-running independent wrestling promotion in the United States until going on hiatus in June, is already coming back.

Citing declining attendance, an oversaturated market and simply having too much on his plate, owner Mike Tartaglia abruptly cancelled a scheduled show and suspended operations in the beginning of summer. The roster, fans and even fellow management voiced their displeasure in Tartaglia’s decision, but remained hopeful that the company would return in healthier shape than ever before. We’ll find out if that’s the case this Saturday at the ECWA 52nd Anniversary Show inside the Asbury United Methodist Church in New Castle, DE.

Despite the brief respite, ECWA has made some definite improvements. Its website has been completely revamped with an updated roster, easy-to-navigate shop and plenty of fresh content that celebrates the promotion’s rich history, especially its signature Super 8 Tournament. Although its Twitter remains dormant, ECWA has refreshed its Instagram and continues to primarily market itself through Facebook. While the company’s talent was never in question, ECWA management continues to bring in new faces like Josh Adams, Rey Calitri, “Unstable” Geddy Cahoon and Michelle.

Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Several wrestlers’ real-life frustration regarding the company’s hiatus has been turned into a storyline, culminating in a vignette in which Tartaglia’s daughter begs him to revive the company. The psychology behind the angles are strange: ECWA management is being positioned as inept villains who closed up shop when things got too tough, and then cried foul when the ECWA Championship was defended outside the company. Even fans have pointed out the hypocrisy on the company’s Facebook group, leaving one to wonder whether a major shift in the company’s direction will take place at the “Rebirth.”

Perhaps the PCA – the company’s top heel group over the past half decade, a collection of workhorses who constantly surround the ECWA Heavyweight Championship, the men that goaded Tartaglia into re-opening – are becoming the company’s heroes.

Agent to the Rising Stars

AJ Pan is the kingpin of the PCA.

An old-school manager in a modern setting, the New York City-native could pass as Paul Heyman’s feisty nephew. With his slicked back hair, cheap suits and fat cigar, Pan would probably be selling used cars if his clients weren’t so successful in the ring. It’s ironic that he’s always wearing sunglasses because he has such a keen eye for talent. Each current member of the PCA – Azrieal, Mike Law and Joey Ace – has won the ECWA Heavyweight Championship.

“PCA basically started because I wanted to give a voice to guys who I felt weren’t being utilized to their full potential,” Pan says. “At the time, the industry was going toward more big, musclebound guys. It wasn’t about the work rate. A lot of the guys that I was friends with I started to manage. It became a theme that we were overlooked and underutilized. Over time, it got to where we are today where high-flyers and strong style is what’s popular.”

A lifelong wrestling fan, Pan has been around the business since 1995, handling every odd job from taking Polaroid pictures of the grapplers to helping sell merchandise. Inspired by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, he started managing in 2001 in various independent promotions throughout the New York area. The PCA formed that same year, but didn’t gain momentum until Pan joined the ECWA four years ago.

“ECWA was always on my bucket list,” he says. “It was one of the first independent shows I went to. I appreciated the history of the company and the way (founder) Jim Kettner ran it. If I never made it to WWE or WCW, at least I could make it to ECWA and show them what I can do and be a part of its legacy.”

Pan has certainly made an impact on the promotion, introducing a rising crop of hungry talent and shining a new light on established names. The original members of the PCA in ECWA were Mike Law, Sam Shields, the now-retired Sam Sanders and the late Spyral (Brandon Kaplan). Independent promotions are often a revolving door, yet Law remains loyal to Pan.

“As soon as we met, we became friends,” Pan says. “We’d arrive to shows early and get to talking. He was always trying to learn, outdo himself and work on his character. Because of his size, companies never wanted to give him the ball. They knew he was a ‘solid hand,’ but they never really wanted to invest in him. I wanted to see him succeed. I told companies to give us a chance. He can showcase his skills and show what a fantastic athlete he is. If we had to use our natural chemistry to get a little bit of a buzz, then so be it.”

Pan also added decorated veteran Azrieal and “The Five Starr Studd” Joey Ace to his group. The PCA has become best friends outside of the ring, filming promos, traveling together and collaborating in a never-ending group chat. They consistently deliver in the ring, on the microphone and on social media. They support one another, pushing each other to new heights.

“We have the passion and desire for this,” Pan says. “We all want to see the business progress. We want our spot, but at the same time, we want the business to be better than where it was a couple of years ago. There are newer guys who have the same heart and desire who deserve a chance as well. Don’t let it be about the same old politics and the same guys who are in every territory.”

The Saltiest Dog

ECWA’s last event was the 23rd annual Super 8 in April.

It was supposed to be one of the biggest events in company history, as all participants in the tournament were second and third-generation wrestlers. Brian Pillman Jr., Wes Brisco, Leland Race, even Ross and Marshall Von Erich were on hand just a couple months before being signed by MLW. Tartaglia expected the bleachers of South Philadelphia High School to be packed as many of these young studs rarely, if ever, came to the Tri-State Area. However, Tartaglia took a bath as only 125 fans showed up to see Lance Anoa’i take home the trophy.

In the midst of the disappointing attendance and thrilling tournament, lost was the biggest moment in Joey Ace’s career. He won the ECWA Heavyweight Championship in a six-way also involving his fellow PCA brethren. Only seven months after making his in-ring debut in the ECWA, he now held the Mid-Atlantic Championship as well as the richest prize in the company. After a decade of scratching and clawing, the saltiest dog in all the land had finally made it to the top.

And then ECWA went away.

“It was literally a dream come true,” Ace says. “Getting into ECWA was a big deal for me. I just wanted to get into ECWA and be in the magazines. Winning the championship was icing on the cake.”

Ever since watching Sting battle Nikita Koloff when he was just 3 years old, the Manhattan native fell in love with pro wrestling. During high school, he did backyard wrestling with his friends, even offering his own yard for setting up a ring. Watching the action was also a bonding experience for him and his dad.

“When I was 16 years old, my dad and I went to Raw at Madison Square Garden,” Ace says. “My dad was really sick during this time and he didn’t get excited about much. At the end of the show, there was a lumberjack match so I went down to the floor to take some pictures on my disposable camera. I looked behind me and saw my dad going crazy. I never saw him do that. Right there, I wanted my dad to get excited like that for me.”

Unfortunately, Ace’s father passed away a couple months after that magical night. But the spark had been ignited – Ace was determined to make other people forget their troubles and get lost in the excitement. In 2009, he trained in Long Island at the now-defunct FCW Wrestling Academy. He honed his craft throughout the state, competing in various independent promotions against a variety of opponents, from recognizable names like Balls Mahoney and Stevie Richards to future stars like Sonny Kiss and Tomasso Ciampa.

While he collected titles everywhere he went, Ace was tired of grinding it out and having limited opportunities present themselves. “I didn’t know if I was going to keep doing it,” he says. “I wasn’t progressing and it was killing me. I always saw myself as the main event, the champ, the guy putting buts in the seats. I felt I had something to offer. I wasn’t the crazy high flyer, but I could do some of that stuff. I wasn’t the crazy technical guy, but I could do some of that, too. I could mix it up with the lucha guys, the brawlers, the hardcore guys. I didn’t create the opportunities and I didn’t get the opportunities.”

The biggest opportunity that Ace wanted was to prove himself in ECWA. He wasn’t looking for a main event spot – he just wanted to get his foot in the door. After trying to get booked in the company for years, he felt hopeless. But his good friend AJ Pan encouraged him to keep trying, and even invited him to an event just to show face.

“I kept banging the door for Joey to come in,” Pan says. “They just look at his size. They think he’s a little bit too brash, but then again, that’s what makes Joey Joey. He always puts himself out there, always creating content, going to training, always improving. He talks a big game, but he’s willing to back it up.”

Ace finally made his own opportunity, attacking Joe Gacy and helping Azrieal retain the ECWA Heavyweight Championship. He became part of PCA, but wouldn’t have his first match in the company until the 51st anniversary show last September. He and Gacy brawled to a double countout, and in their rematch, Ace defeated Gacy to capture the ECWA Mid-Atlantic Championship.

“I’m not angry that they waited so long,” Ace says. “Every time I walk out, I act as if it’s my first and last time I’m going to be there. I’m trying to put the best content that I can out there. When I do that, other people follow suit. I want to make myself better and the people around me better. This is the measuring stick now and the standard of how it should be.”

Size Doesn’t Matter

Before Tartaglia put ECWA on hiatus, “Colossal” Mike Law was concerned about the future of the company.

“ECWA does really good stories and angles and the talent roster has been very good,” Law told The Wrestling Estate. “There definitely is one missing piece of the puzzle that is not allowing the company to be seen on another level by a lot more fans, by a bigger, more robust online following. I get disappointed when I see companies not doing the best business to their potential.”

An almost 20-year veteran of the ring, as well as a former promoter, Law’s intuition is to be trusted. At just 15 years old, he learned the ropes at Arena Puerto Rico, a broken down gym in Brooklyn where local luminaries like Low Ki and Homicide honed their craft. Breaking into the business during the Attitude Era, Law’s small stature (5’6, 156 lbs.) was perceived as a knock against him. As a result, most of his training consisted of getting beat up by larger guys.

He wrestled for a decade on the New York indie scene before stopping in 2011 to become a promoter for Family Wrestling Entertainment (FWE). The Young Bucks, Johnny Gargano, Matt Taven, Jay Lethal, Petey Williams and Tony Nese all came through the doors of the promotion. “The goal was to make FWE a household name,” Law says. “Get TV and great sponsors. We had a good run, holding star-studded events and helping elevate a lot of people’s careers. It probably would have been more beneficial for me to push myself to the forefront. But at the time, I wanted to elevate the company so there was another alternative for guys and girls to make money.”

FWE went out of business in March of 2015. Missing the bright lights and squared circle, Law returned to active competition. During a loop of shows in West Virginia, somebody told him he looked a lot bigger on the poster. Often accused of having a Napoleon complex, that comment festered into his “Colossal” character. He had announcers reverse the numbers for his entrance, so he would now be listed as 6’5 and 651 pounds. He credits his brother with coming up with the idea for carrying a giant barbell to the ring.

“You hook them with the gimmick, but you sell them with the work rate,” Law says.

Since August of 2016, the Long Island resident has been a staple of ECWA, stealing the show regardless of his place on the card. Although Ty Awesome was the breakout star of the 22nd annual Super 8, Law opened a lot of eyes with his impressive performance against Chase Owens.

“I wasn’t the favorite by any means,” Law says. “I know they were pushing for other guys on that roster. I’m not the type of guy that goes online and bitches about it. I let the work speak for itself. At the 2018 Super 8, there was that respect that I know I earned.”

His hard work was to be rewarded the next month in Atlantic City, where he was slated to face The Boogeyman. But the former WWE Superstar didn’t show up. When one door closes, Law kicks down another. He was inserted into the main event: Awesome vs. ECWA Heavyweight Champion (and fellow PCA member) Azrieal. What seemed like a genius ploy to double team Awesome turned out to be the biggest night in Law’s career as he had Azrieal’s frog splash scouted and spiked him with a brainbuster to win the gold.

And that’s when tension began mounting inside the PCA. Azrieal wanted the title back, Law was riding high and Pan was pulled in both directions. After Law lost the title to Awesome last December, there seemed to be unity until the six-way at the Super 8 when it was every man for himself again. Ace emerged with the gold, and you can bet that doesn’t sit well with his PCA comrades.

“I don’t know anybody in our group that wants to be in second place,” Law says. “We all want to be the top guy. Azrieal, deep inside, he wants to be the focal point because he’s been there so long. Once you get that taste of I’m the guy, you don’t want to let it go. I can see why certain people in certain organizations are like that. I’m at a point in my life where I am the star wherever I go. Whether I’m in the main event or the opening match, I’m going to be the guy people remember and talk about.”

Crown Jewel

And then there’s Azrieal – the “Crown Jewel” of the PCA.

The Jersey City resident is the most accomplished member of not only the group, but also the entire promotion. For two decades, he has been winning championships and dazzling audiences around the world, competing in Ring of Honor, Dragon Gate, CZW, Jersey All-Pro, you name it. In ECWA, he has held every title, including the Heavyweight Championship twice.

“He can hang with anybody in the world,” Pan says. “Put him against anybody from any company in the world. He is that damn good.”

Like all the greats, Azrieal makes you believe. Watching him pounce around the ring, targeting an opponent’s body part before soaring off the top rope, you believe that he believes he’s the best. Instead of wrestling in front of 50 people in a church, he should be worshiped by Dave Meltzer inside the Tokyo Dome. Even if more wrestling aficionados don’t recognize him, his peers certainly do.

“Az is one of those guys who doesn’t know how good he really is,” Ace says. “I don’t think he’ll ever know. I will go to him and ask what did I do right, what did I do wrong, what can I improve on. He’s our guiding light. He’s our teacher, our Socrates. In that ring, I don’t think anyone can touch him. This man should have gotten signed a long time ago. It’s a blessing that we are working with him.”

Perhaps his reluctance to put himself out there (Azrieal declined to speak with The Wrestling Estate for this piece) is why he’s considered the best kept secret in independent wrestling. ECWA management must realize his spectacular ability because he has been the centerpiece of the promotion (or right under the main event) for a few years now.

“Nothing against Ty Awesome and other guys who have had short runs, but we live and breathe this,” Pan says. “When Az won the title, you go back and check the tape. Mike Law and I were cheering and bowing down to him because it’s all about the family. We all support each other no matter how many times they try to pit us against each other.”

Looking ahead to this Saturday, Ace will have the deck stacked against him as he defends the ECWA Heavyweight Championship against Awesome and Kekoa in a triple threat that was originally scheduled for June until the event was cancelled.

“They both have to beat me, and it’s not going to happen,” Ace says. “I don’t agree with any of their stories. One guy came out complaining that he tore his ACL and he should get X,Y and Z. He’s one of those guys I despise in the wrestling business. So, tough luck. You tore your knee apart. Ain’t my problem. I had the man beat a few months ago. As for Ty Awesome, losers apparently get put in magazines these days. He’s the one to watch? I should be in the magazine. I should be the one talked about. I should be the one glorified. But it’s cool, cause I glorify myself. I’ll do the most of any champion that has come before me and any champion that comes after me.

And that ‘after me’ part, that will happen if I choose to let it.”

ECWA’s 52nd Anniversary Show takes place Saturday, September 21, at the Asbury United Methodist Church in New Castle, DE.

For tickets and more information, visit ecwaprowrestling.com.

You can also join the ECWA Pro Wrestling Facebook group for the latest news, match announcements, promos and more.

Team of UNSTABLE are bringing their “associate” with them, Dr. Carl Martin!

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

ECWA 52nd Anniversary, Sept 21 in New Castle DE just got more interesting as the Team of UNSTABLE are bringing their “associate” with them, Dr. Carl Martin!

Martin apparently has a very “unusal” relationship with and influence on the challengers to the ECWA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS Marcus Waters and Funky White Boy.

For tickets and info: 609.220.5598 / ecwaprowrestling.com

2 Former Champions, A Brash Double Champ, One Epic Triple Threat Match

Kekoa / Joey Ace (C) / Ty Awesome

Ty Awesome,
The hot, young upstart who’s lived up to everything his name has been *Awesome* is on a road to reclaim his throne…

Kekoa,
The wild veteran, A man who made it the the ECWA Promise land only to be let down by his own body…

Joey Ace,
This brash, cocky son of a gun who shot is shot when he stepped foot in the ECWA and by hook and crock has become the Undisputed ECWA Champion!

52 Anniversary Show is a special one,
When these 3 men rage war,
Who will give their mind, body and soul to keep/regain the coveted Big Red Gold!

See all the action live on 9/21 in New Castle, DE. Visit the ECWA SHOP for more details.

Big Red out for a walk in Chinatown

Joey Ace and Big Red in Chinatown

ECWA Champion Joey Ace was feeling good this weekend and there is no reason for him not to be. First, him and Aj Pan save ECWA from hiatus. Then he finds out he made the PWI Top 500 for the first time! Plus he’s in the main event at the ECWA 52nd Anniversary Show in September. The fans want more and he’s giving them exactly what they want.

Rey Calitri “A medal doesn’t shine brighter than a star”

Rey Calitri makes his ECWA debut on 9/21/19 in New Castle, DE

The Shining Star Rey Calitri is set to make his debut. He’ll be competing in an ECWA Spotlight Match-up against 3rd generation star, Nick Curry at the ECWA 52nd Anniversary Show.

It’s well known that Nick has one of the best drop kicks in the industry but that doesn’t seem to phase Rey as he introduces himself to the ECWA fanbase absolutely full of confidence. This promo is a must see.

The Viral Villain Violence

He is not known on the Independent circuit as a man of words, more like a creature of habit. Wherever he goes…DESTRUCTION and CHAOS follow. An ECWA camera finally caught up with The Viral Villain Violence for his thoughts on the upcoming match at ECWA’s 52nd Anniversary Show: Saturday, September 21st in New Castle, DE where he faces Heartkiller Chris Wylde for the first time ever. See the eerie footage below:

PCA Take-Over?

PCA – Joey Ace, Azrieal, A.J. Pan, Mike Law

Wasting no time posting to Facebook, AJ Pan responds to ECWA upper management about ongoing feud with Owner Mike Tartaglia and Booker Joe Zanolle behind the scenes. AJ Pan isn’t talking about a fight…he wants a War! In his eyes the only certain terms of victory would be a complete PCA Take-Over of all ECWA operations.

“You want to talk about no rights? You want to talk about consequences? I laugh at consequences” – AJ Pan

Only one this is certain, anything can happen come September 21st in New Castle, DE, when they meet face to face in an ECWA Ring for the first time since April 20th.