Philadelphia-based wrestling promotion Extreme Rising will be making a comeback Saturday, Dec. 28.
After a series of cancellations forced the promotion to take a lengthy hiatus, it will be presenting its first event in nearly a year, titled “Unfinished Business.”
Extreme Rising will not be alone in getting itself back on its feet Saturday night. The venue that will host “Unfinished Business” will be as well.
“Unfinished Business” will emanate from what is now known as the 2300 Arena, which is located at 2300 S. Swanson St. Those familiar with that address know the building by a different name — the ECW Arena.
During the mid-1990s, the building not only housed a wrestling promotion, it housed a revolution in the wrestling business that still has lingering effects today.
It’s one of the inspirations behind Extreme Rising and other extreme wrestling promotions.
The building that once housed a revolution, however, is a shell of its former self and has not hosted an event in nearly a year.
Despite that, the venue is in the process of receiving a physical makeover from top to bottom.
The man overseeing this extreme makeover (no pun intended) is Roger Artigiani, who took over the building in October after the building’s owners evicted the previous tenant.
In a little more than two months, Artigiani has laid out the blueprint to transform the venue from an empty warehouse into a working, functioning building that will host a variety of events.
“In the last eight weeks, maybe nine weeks, we’ve come a long way,” Artigiani said during an interview with Philly.com. “The building was a shell when I got it. It was completely gutted and it was a shell.”
Even before Artigiani officially took over the building, he said he was lining up deals to not only fix up the place, but was on the phone with various promotional companies, including Live Nation.
Artigiani hopes to bring not only wrestling back to the venue, but also wants to bring concerts, televised Mixed Martial Arts and boxing events and more family-oriented shows.
In order to accomplish any of that, Artigiani has to see to it that the building is to a promotion’s liking. Everything is being re-done. Everything.
The entire front of the building will be fixed starting in January, a new lighting system will be installed in February, the ceiling and walls are being properly fitted for acoustics and there will be new doors placed on all of the exits. There will be bigger bathrooms, new ramps on the outside of the building and much more. Not to mention making the building more user friendly for various promotions.
Needless to say, there is still a lot of work to be done before the building is all the way back.
The plan is for the venue is to have its grand re-opening in early April. According to Artigiani, everything is currently on schedule for that to occur and the only thing that could get in the way of that is a rough rest of the winter.
The work doesn’t stop there, however. Artigiani and the rest of his office staff will be working around the clock lining up events for the venue.
But there is a wrestling show happening this Saturday, in a building that is not done being rebuilt.
“Unfinished Business” is considered a “soft opening” for the venue by Artigiani, who said he was willing to help out the company’s promoter Steve O’Neill.
O’Neill wanted to have an Extreme Rising show before the end of the year so it could parlay into its television deal, which starts Jan. 1.
Thus, Artigiani was willing to make the building available four months ahead of its opening.
“I’ve always done anything I can to help him,” Artigiani said.
So what kind of shape will the building be in Saturday? Decent. Decent enough to house a wrestling show.
Artigiani said that one-third of the building will be in use. The show itself will take place in the main portion of the arena with a different configuration than people who have frequented the building in the past will be used to.
There will be temporary bathrooms, concessions and lighting. The venue will also provide 1,000 floor seats for the show — all of which are expected to be filled by bell time.
Artigiani said that the venue will install balcony seating in the future, which will add between 600-700 more seats.
“To me, it’s still a warehouse,” he said. “It’s a warehouse space that you’re converting into public assembly. It’s taken many different changes to it.”
Turning an empty space into a makeshift arena will more than likely present a few problems, but Artigiani said that he is a firm believer in Murphy’s Law. He knows that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and is ready for any slip-ups that may occur Saturday.
“You work with that you have. You make it happen. If something comes up, you find a way to fix it,” Artigiani said.
What he does not expect to see is the excessive violence that used to take place in the arena. Although Extreme Rising will present an extreme product, Artigiani made it clear that he will not tolerate any promotions stepping over the line.
“ECW can’t be recreated,” he said. “That was once-in-a-lifetime type of stuff.”
He also made it clear that he’s not trying to change how wrestling promotions go about their business. What he really wants is for the promotions to really think about what they’re doing during their shows.
More importantly, he does not want any fans to get hurt in the process, which means wrestling around the arena is out, as that could bring about a slew of lawsuits.
“This time around I want it so that the fans can come with the entire family,” Artigiani said.
Although Artigiani wants the venue to change its image, he said that he’s not trying to completely shed it either. He said that he still recognizes the building’s history of being hallowed ground in the wrestling industry.
He respects that history and knows that it isn’t going just disappear with more family-oriented events.
“When it comes wrestling, it’s only been one thing and it’ll always be one thing — the ECW Arena,” Artigiani said. “The chant will always be E-C-W.”
“I’m not going to try and change that,” he added. “Why should I? I can’t call it that. If I could, I would have done that from day one. I can’t call it that. The fans can call it anything they want.”
“Those letters ECW, although it means something to the wrestling fans, to anybody else it makes no sense. It’s kind of funny when you bring in someone of the magnitude of Live Nation or any other major company like that, the letters ECW means nothing to them because they’re not in that world. But there’s people that they know that are big wrestling fans that have told them about the place.”
Companies on the level of Live Nation are still months away from bringing their events to the building on Swanson Street. In the meantime, especially on Saturday, it belongs to wrestling fans again.
“Anybody that’s been there before knows that the electricity that’s going to be there Dec. 28 is going to be off the charts,” Artigiani said. “The people are going to be off the charts. The energy that comes through the place is incredible.”