Barbed Wire City premiere review: Dot Net reader reports on the premiere party held for the unauthorized ECW documentary

Apr 21, 2013 - 10:40 AM

Dot Net reader "The Dean" attended the premiere of Barbed Wire City in Philadelphia, Pa. on Saturday and sent the following report. The film is available for purchase on DVD at

After 13 years, Barbed Wire City made its long-awaited premiere at a packed house at the former ECW Arena at the corner of Swanson and Ritner Streets in Philadelphia, PA. I think those in attendance would agree that it was certainly worth the wait.

The doors opened a few hours early, letting fans of the storied promotion catch up with one another. The arena itself is about to undergo a renovation and a short video trailer teased its reopening for the fall of 2013. On hand were Shane Douglas, The Blue Meanie, members of the Atlas security staff (you'd recognize them if you were at any of the ECW shows), as well as the filmmakers John Philapavge and Kevin Kiernan. The old ECW Arena/Bingo Hall sign even made an appearance. Although the crowd was now older and there wasn't a live wrestling show to engage the fans, there was one ECW-chant as well as a "turn the lights off" chant before the movie played.

The movie itself is a must see for anyone who experienced ECW in its heyday. The filmmakers did an impressive job of assembling anyone and everyone who took part in ECW's run, from wrestlers to cameramen and even's own Jason Powell. There was some great rare footage from various house shows as well as from the fan fests (with some great stuff from the always candid Paul Heyman).

As with any good documentary, the filmmakers let the story be told (there was no narration) by the people who experienced it first-hand, and let the viewer draw their own conclusions. As a fan who spent my high school and college years following the promotion, it was certainly a fun trip down memory lane, being able to see ECW stars like New Jack, the Sandman, and Stevie Richards reflect on the ups and downs of the promotion. The film also tackles the controversial "Mass Transit incident"  from 1996 as well as Sabu's no-show (due to a hospitalization) at a 2012 Extreme Reunion show.

The emotional connection fans have with the product makes it all the more heartbreaking when you hear the stories of Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten (who now has bells palsy) and you see all the performers who are no longer with us (both members of the Public Enemy are interviewed for the film). At one point the film does a quick montage of at least 10 former ECW wrestlers who have passed away. In talking with Ronnie Hill (one of the security guards from Atlas who was interview for the documentary) before the screening, he compared seeing the footage again to watching home movies. Everyone is older now and you remember the good times when everyone was young and vibrant, which makes for a somewhat bittersweet experience.

A Q&A session panel with Meanie, Shane Douglas, Bob Artese, the filmmakers, and super fan Tony Lewis followed the screening. The most poignant moment was probably from a fan who thanked the filmmakers and said that it brought him "closure" to this era. The crowd was then invited to a local sports bar/restaurant to hang out, which seemed fitting given the communal nature of the ECW faithful. The event was well planned as the organizers did a great job creating a very authentic experience for the ECW fans.

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