Thanksgiving weekend has always been a time to get together with family, see old friends, watch some football and eat like it’s your last meal before an execution. But, for many years, Thanksgiving weekend was also a time for pile drivers, body slams and figure-four leg locks, as some of the most popular professional wrestling events were held annually this time of year. That tradition continues 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, when East Coast Wrestling Association (ECWA) brings its “High $take$” event to Showboat Atlantic City.
It’s always tough saying goodbye. Especially when that goodbye means not getting to eat bite…
“Back in the day, WWE (Word Wrestling Entertainment) had the ‘Survivor Series’ and the WCW (World Championship Wrestling) had ‘Stargate,’ and they always took place on or around Thanksgiving,” says ECWA owner Mike Tartaglia. “That was the big wrestling thing, and they’d kind of gotten away from it.”
Saturday’s event has all the makings of a classic night for wrestling fans, with three title bouts and a special six-man tag team matchup featuring WWE Hall of Famers. The two stars from the glory days of pro wrestling in the 1980s will team up with Jay D. Luscious to take on ECWA Tag Team Champions “One Mean Team” of Brain Johnson and Justin Pusser along with Adam Chandler.
“Tony Atlas is up there in age, but his arms are bigger than mine and yours put together. He’s huge and still in shape and still a personal trainer,” explains Tartaglia. “Same with Tito. He still gets in there and wrestles. He’s not going to phone it in. They’re going to get in there and put on a great match. Both guys are in their 60s, but you’d never know it by looking at them.”
With a 50-year history, the ECWA is the oldest independent wrestling organization and puts on events primarily in southern New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. The organization prides itself on shows that the whole family can enjoy without the risk of having to cover kids’ eyes and ears or having seniors running to the exit in horror.
Parents have been making it for years as a way to clear out overstuffed refrigerators post-T…
“Our promotion is family friendly. We don’t do any of the hard core stuff,” says Tartaglia. “There’s no blood, there’s no cursing. Kids come to the shows, parents, even grandmothers and grandfathers. You’d be surprised at all of the older people who like wrestling.”
One of the aspects that keeps families entertained are the interesting storylines, which have been a hallmark of the WWE for years, but as Tartaglia explains, aren’t always highlighted on the independent circuit.
“Some of the promotions don’t run storylines, they just do shows. But we’re like the WWE in that we actually do storylines. We’ve done some things where wrestlers will get into a feud and it ends up in a cage match or the loser leaves the ECWA. Even though we go to different markets, we will continue the stories.”
Big names and storylines are key ingredients for putting on a great event, but without skilled wrestlers and intriguing matchups, things could fall flat pretty quickly. Luckily this “High “$take$” event has both. The ECWA Heavyweight Championship is up for grabs, as defending champion Azrieal faces off against “Pro Wrestling Maniac” Joe Gacy. The Mid-Atlantic Title is also on the line, with champion Breaker Morant facing challenger Chris Wydle. Rounding out the championship bouts is a women’s matchup between champion Karen Q and Deonna Purrazzo.
In addition to a great night of pro wrestling, Tartaglia is also looking forward to enjoying a potentially fruitful relationship with Showboat, which he hopes will help Atlantic City’s fortunes moving forward.
“Back in the 1980s the AWA (American Wrestling Association) ran shows in the Showboat Hotel and ESPN used to film them. What’s pretty cool about the whole thing is that there actually was wrestling there. Professional wrestling is part of the history of the Showboat, so I’d really like to see it do well. We’d like to establish a new fan base and help bring in new business and people to Atlantic City.”