“There are three sides to every story – yours, mine, and the truth.” — Robert Evans

“Card subject to change.” — Various wrestling promoters

“I feel like I should be mad, but I’m not.” – Anonymous

The above quotes pretty much sum up the Hardcore Roadtrip event that went down in London, Ontario, on Saturday. The unofficial ECW reunion saw 300-plus fans packed in to enjoy various extreme icons put on one of the best indy shows in Ontario in the past several years.

But as much as fans will remember the crazy goings-on in the ring (detailed results are listed below), the show might even be more remembered for the controversies leading up to the event, with allegations of fraud and sabotage being levied between the promoters and other outside parties. In short, just another fun day in the wrestling business.

The event was originally announced last October, billed as an unofficial ECW reunion show. Over the next few months, more details would be revealed, including a roster that boasted several of the original company’s major stars: Raven, the Sandman, Devon Dudley, Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney, the Blue Meanie, Little Guido, Sabu with his manager Bill “Fonzie” Alphonso, amongst others. In addition, many other stars with little or no involvement with the company would be included, such as Kevin Sullivan, Scott Steiner, Missy Hyatt, Colin Delaney (representing WWE’s new version of ECW), former TNA star Petey Williams, and members from the roster of Ontario’s Deathproof Wrestling promotion.

The event would include two entire wrestling cards, a pre-show fan festival with a Q&A session, an after-party with the roster, and even backstage passes for VIP ticketholders. Further, for those fans who couldn’t attend live, the company announced the event would be available for viewing on iPPV and then on DVD afterwards. Based on the comments made on the company’s Facebook page, this was one that fans were very much looking forward to.

Cut to the February 14th edition of Tha O Show, a Toronto-produced wrestling podcast, the show’s host, occasional SLAM! Wrestling contributor Big Daddy Donnie, expressed his doubts as to whether the show would happen, and if so whether any of the roster would actually get paid. Donnie and his co-host Chris Tidwell suggested that the Hardcore Roadtrip promoter Mark Livingston was actually former Ontario indy promoter Mark Anderson who allegedly had a history of ‘stiffing’ (i.e. not paying) wrestlers who used to work on his shows in the past. Donnie indicated that some of the named roster had contacted them and expressed doubts as to whether the logistics of the show — e.g. the building size, the pricing of tickets — would support the ability to pay a roster of the size announced. They also offered Livingston the chance to address their comments and promote the show.

Over the next couple of weeks, the Hardcore Roadtrip’s website would announce several changes to the show, including news of wrestlers that had dropped out of the show, new wrestlers that had signed, and significant alterations to the card. Stevie Richards and the Blue Meanie were announced as no longer being able to appear. Meanwhile, TNA’s Joey Ryan and Kid Kash were in.

Other speculations were made on Tha O Show‘s Facebook page, including whether Devon and other TNA contracted stars would be participating and if so, whether their contracts would allow them to be showcased on the iPPV. In the few days leading up to the show, this escalated as participants dropped out of the show for various reasons. Axl Rotten posted an announcement on his Facebook site apparently due to “issues with management.” Tod Gordon backed out due to health issues that would prevent him from traveling, and rumours were rampant about other contracted stars expressing concerns about not having flight information and not being able to reach the promoter by phone or e-mail.

Meanwhile, fans and ticket-holders started asking questions on the promotion’s Facebook page, asking the company to address the rumours, and for official comment/confirmation from the company. Some enquired if refunds were going to be offered in light of the cancellations/changes, which also included CW Anderson and Joel Gertner. Fans expressed confusion and frustration about the lack of word from the company, with its Facebook site still listing the names of people who had previously been announced on the company’s official site as having cancelled.

This reporter contacted the company a couple of times in the week leading up to the show and offered them the chance to make a statement to help address the rumours and clarify the situation for attendees, but did not receive any response. Fans and wrestlers that contacted this reporter expressed similar doubts as to what was going on, and it is clear that this lack of communication was not helpful — especially in light of the allegations made against the promoter.

At Saturday morning’s Fan Fest, people were talking amongst themselves, some frustrated by not knowing who would be there, others disappointed to learn that their favourite would not be — one fan, dressed in full Sabu attire, was particularly devastated to hear that Sabu was reportedly denied entry at the border.

The Fan Fest was simply an autograph and photo session with the handful of wrestlers that were there — Steiner, Angel (of Da Baldies), Vito LaGrosso, Little Guido, Kid Kash, Al Snow, Bill Alphonso, Christian York, 2 Cold Scorpio, “Pitbull” Gary Wolfe, and announcer Steven D’Angelis — at a cost per photo/autograph (note — VIP tickets included a free autographed poster, but this reporter was not aware of this until after the fact, so cannot comment as to whether this was indeed delivered). Balls Mahoney had been at the building earlier in the day but did not participate in the session, informing fans that he “need to get some sleep.” The advertised Q&A session never took place.

Many fans that this reporter spoke with seemed a disappointed by the lack of stars at the event, and some expressed their desire for refunds, but none said that they expected this would come to pass — the aforementioned Sabu fan was seen asking this question of one of the event’s staff and seemed very upset with the response that “I don’t think he’s going to show up tonight, no.”

A couple of hours later, at the first of the two wresting shows, the company finally formally acknowledged the situation, but again this was somewhat wanting. They simply acknowledged that some of the wrestlers cancelled, some had border problems, and suggested that some of the problems were directly attributable to interference by outside parties (though not referred to by name, the fans seemed to know to whom this referred as they started an “F*** Tha O Show!” chant). Notably, though, they did not offer refunds or other compensation to the fans.

To their credit, once the bell rang, the fans — all 300-plus of them, filling the building to standing room capacity — didn’t seem to let the backstage dramas bother them. Instead, they simply enjoyed an exciting, action-packed card. The wrestlers that were there — including Raven who arrived to the building shortly before the first show — were consummate professionals, letting the action speak for itself and turning the show up a notch as if they felt they had to win back any lost goodwill. The first of the two shows was simply stellar. The second show, while not up to the level of the first, was still very good. But it may have been hampered by momentum losses, given it came at the end of a long day, and the setting up of the barbed wire ropes necessarily forced an awkward intermission that may have cooled down the crowd too much.

But when the main event was over, as they made their way through the piles of turned over chairs, and ringside blood puddles, the vast majority of the fans seemed thrilled with the event overall, and expressed their hopes that Hardcore Roadtrip would make another stop in London in the future. By that measure, Hardcore Roadtrip, despite all of the issues, real or rumoured, was a great success.”

So, are there any lessons that can be learned from Hardcore Roadtrip?

First, perhaps it’s that things aren’t always black or white.

At the event, the promoter did confirm to SLAM! Wrestling that he was indeed the person that Donnie said that he was and did have some problems in the past. But not to the extent that Donnie suggested.

“My name is Mark Livingston Anderson,” he said. “I got out of the wrestling business a long time ago.” Addressing the comment about him having ‘stiffed’ wrestlers during his HWF days, he said “There may be some truth to that, but it’s been exaggerated to the point that it’s ridiculous.” In terms of this event, he denied that there were any issues other than those caused by other people. “These guys called the wrestlers and told them not to come. So what could I do? (They did that) out of jealousy that they were not part of the event. They’re the ones that are screwing the fans. The money is here.”

To that latter point, SLAM! Wrestling did receive confirmation from one of the former ECW wrestlers that everyone received all of the money that they contracted for. But would that have been the case if all of the contracted parties had shown up as announced? SLAM! Wrestling welcomes any comments that the event organizers may have.

In discussions with SLAM! Wrestling, in response to Anderson’s comments, Big Daddy Donnie asked to correct the record on Anderson’s claims. “At no point did I tell any contracted wrestler to not come to the show,” he said. “I did talk to some of the wrestlers who I know personally – they called me to ask what I knew about this promoter. I told them what I knew about him, and suggested that they consider the risks of working with someone with that history. At no point did I tell any of them to not go. I told them they should consider all of the relevant factors and make up their own minds. To say anything else is simply not true. As I said on the show, my hope was that I was wrong with my predictions. It was always my hope that everyone who worked the show got paid and paid well. The only way I felt that could happen is if half the roster didn’t show up, simply because of the economics of the situation – that is to say, given the capacity of the venue and the ticket prices.”

Further, as Donnie noted in a post-event Facebook point, there are still some questions that fans are owed answers to. Will they get refunds, full or partial, if they bought VIP experience tickets and didn’t get all of the associated premiums? Will there be refunds issued to people who bought the iPPV or DVDs? (SLAM! Wrestling saw no cameras at the event, and the announced commentary team of Joel Gertner and Arda Ocal were not able to attend; the Hardcore Roadtrip website has a photo of a camera that was at the event.)

Donnie commented on the fans’ reactions as well, including their negative chants about his show. “I had to laugh to some extent. First, I’m glad that they listen to the show to have heard my comments. But more importantly, it’s because they seemed to have missed the point. Contrary to what Anderson said, we were not trying to screw the fans or ruin the show. We were trying to help the fans, by demanding that Anderson be accountable for what he promised them. The fact that the show sounds like it went well shouldn’t negate that. The wrestlers are professionals – they would have put on a great show in any case. But for people to forgive him so easily for not delivering everything he said he would, that’s unfortunate.”

Second, perhaps it’s that the biblical adage should be followed that if someone speaks wrongly of you, testify as to what is wrong. In this case, it was conspicuous that in light of all of the allegations made, Anderson never took the opportunity to address the rumours and mollify the fans. He told this reporter that he hadn’t been paying attention to what Donnie had said due to the other stresses of planning the event. But with questions being raised publicly on the company’s Facebook site, it probably would have been in his best interest to make some kind of statement. Now, one could make the argument that the building being full for both events is evidence that people weren’t concerned, and that’s a legitimate statement. But if all of the fans’ concerns could have been alleviated by a single comment as to the rumours, why not take that chance? After all, there is no way to measure how many more people would have gone if those doubts didn’t exist.

But maybe the real lesson is that people — this reporter included — are over-analyzing the whole situation. The bottom line is that the event happened despite a number of hitches and obstacles, most if not all fans went home happy and felt like they got their money’s worth, all of the wrestlers that were there did a great job of entertaining the crowd and thankfully none of them were injured in any major way in doing so, and that the sun rose on Sunday morning and the lives of everyone involved is for the most part unaffected. Or, as first said by Smashing Pumpkins frontman and wrestling promoter Billy Corgan, “I do not think wrestling is going to save the world.”

Hardcore Roadtrip Results:

Show 1 — Banned in the USA

1) Buck Gunderson beat Frankie Villa. This match saw the evening’s first “You F***’d Up” chants, as Villa botched a few moves en route to losing to Toronto indy mainstay Gunderson.

2) In a battle of the behemoths, Joey Kings beat Downtown Steve Brown.

3) Petey Williams finished off Christian York with the Canadian Destroyer piledriver — still a beautiful move to watch.

4) Vito La Grossa and Al Snow had a fun match that saw Snow arguing with his “manager” Head as much as he was fighting the FBI member. After knocking out Lagrossa with Head, Snow put a dress on him in a nod to Vito’s WWE gimmick. This would be Snow’s undoing though, as a fired up Vito hit a Thesz Press and used his dress to smother Snow’s face while getting the pin. After the match, Snow hit Head with a number of moves and teased a break-up, before apologizing.

5) Kid Kash surprised Little Guido with a roll-up pin to advance into the Hardcore Roadtrip championship match later in the evening.

6) 2 Cold Scorpio showed off his amazing aerial arsenal in beating Colin Delaney to advance to the championship match. Scorpio pulled off some amazing moves, including a somersault legdrop, a middle rope moonsault, and a top rope corkscrew somersault legdrop to get the pin.

7) “Da Baldie” Angel and Pitbull Gary Wolfe brawled throughout the building, including right into the fans in their qualifying match. Angel got the win to set up the 3-way dance for the title.

8) The Hardcore RoadTrip commissioner Raven came to the ring to cut a hilarious promo.

9) In the match of the night, Balls Mahoney took on Deathproof Wrestling’s Warhed in a staple gun match. This was a great brawl that spilled to the floor early and went throughout the building. At one point, Warhed stapled what looked like a $5 bill to Balls’ head, and followed that up with stapling other documents on Ball’s arms and chest. When the match finally got back in the ring, Balls nailed Warhed with a chair shot to the head to get the pin. Stellar hardcore match.

Show 2 — Born 2B Wired

1) Robert Ezekiel pinned Mark (Something) after an ugly – to the point of fugly — brain buster.

2) Colin Delaney beat Frankie Villa in a meh botchfest.

3) Putting aside their earlier argument, Head helped Al Snow beat Christian York. This match saw a funny moment where both men set up the other for a DQ by pretending that his opponent had been hit by a chair, Eddy Guerrero style. When the ref would check on one of them, his opponent would sit up and flip the bird angrily at his opponent until the ref turned around. Funny visual amongst the good action.

4) Pitbull Gary Wolfe and Balls Mahoney beat the Full Blooded Italians Vito and Guido, when Balls nailed the Nutcracker Suite.

5) Continuing their TNA storyline from a couple years ago, Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner and Little Poppa Pump Petey Williams faced off. Steiner used his power advantage to punish Williams, ending things with the Steiner Recliner for the submission.

6) Commissioner Raven came out to tell some more jokes — not as funny as the first time, but still pretty funny.

7) Angel beat Kid Kash and 2 Cold Scorpio in a 3-way dance to become the inaugural Hardcore RoadTrip champion. This started off slowly, but soon picked up to full steam ahead. Scorpio kicked a steel chair into Kash’s face for the first elimination. In a painful looking sequence, Scorpio hit Angel with a flying press and the referee who was behind Angel got squashed by both men. With the referee out, he didn’t see Raven come in and DDT Scorpio for reasons unknown. A groggy Scorpio tried to recover and go for the moonsault, but Angel pushed the ropes, leaving Scorpio sitting on the turnbuckles. Angel dropped him with a reverse suplex and got the pin to win the belt.

8) Warhed won a six-way elimination barbed wire ropes match to become the first Deathproof Champion, over Buck Gunderson, P.D. Flex, Jesse F’n Amato, hardcore princess Jewells Malone, and Joey Kings. This match was a bloody brawl that saw numerous weapons used, including barbed wire, thumbtacks, bats, and cheese graters. As falls counted everywhere, and the action spilled all over the building, including the balcony, it was hard to figure out what was going on at times. Or figure out how the eliminations happened for some of the other participants. In the end, it came down to Warhed and Kings, and Warhed won by submission when he locked on a guillotine choke. Great action, but hard to follow at times.