ECW Documentary Barbed Wire City

Updated: March 21, 2013

I initially talked to John Philapavage last fall about his upcoming documentary surrounding the full story of Extreme Championship Wrestling.  At the time he and Kevin Kiernan were deep into the editing process and eager to announce the title, release date, and venue location of their film.    

Fast forward to today and John and Kevin not only have a title (appropriately named Barbed Wire City) but also a premiere date  set at the original ECW Arena in Philadelphia on April 20th and a fully-launched official website (  I caught up with John last week to discuss what he has been up to since we last talked, some of his favorite moments from the documentary, and even this year’s WrestleMania. 

PAC:  So how is everything been going with the film?

John Philapavage:  Things are going great.  I think because of social media I am very aware of the reach of this.  When I have people like Dave Meltzer or Mike Johnson checking in on the documentary you really feel some pressure because I came out that newsletter/internet wrestling culture.  So it’s a little weird having these well-respected medial people being interested in what I am doing.  I am very self-aware of the scope and pressures but at the same time I feel we have something that people will really enjoy. 

PAC:  Any new content or interviews since we last spoke?

John Philapavage:  I actually flew out to Chicago to interview Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.  It was a neat experience since I grew up in the 90’s and they were such a huge act.  Billy is a huge wrestling fan – he was in ECW for a bit in 2000 and did an angle with Lou D’Angeli (Lou E. Dangerously) that became national news.  He currently has a wrestling promotion in Chicago called Resistance Pro which Lou is also involved in.  I got to talk with Rhino (Terry Gerin); such a nice guy, calm and low key.  We got some great stories from him that will be in the extended cut.   And Butch D’Amato, who was the owner of the ECW Arena, gave some interesting information on the history of the venue.      

Right now the film festival cut (commercial cut) is little under two hours long, and we also plan on releasing an extended cut to the DVD market in a few months with all the extra stories that is closer to two and a half hours long.  There is lots of Eddie Gilbert stuff in the extended cut, along with more from our time spent with Tod Gordan.  A few more interview subjects (people) in it as well. We also did an alternate beginning that for like five or six minutes that covers TWA and Larry Winters involvement in ECW that will be an extra on the initial DVD that is coming out on April 20th. 

PAC:  How long have you had the title in mind?

John Philapavage:  It is actually something I came up with sometime in the year 2000.  Unfortunately we couldn’t announce it sooner, but it is something we have been sitting on and that we are excited about. 

The venue (ECW Arena) we selected we thought was the right venue.  It has the right feel to it and in my heart it is the place I wanted to have it and think its fitting.  We are going to invite the people that are in the film, and after the viewing will have a Q & A session.    

PAC:  What are your thoughts on how everything turned out?

John Philapavage:  I think we made a good film that is accessible to everybody and one that wrestling fans will still enjoy.  We tried to make it a little more mainstream and hope that people will review and comment on it as a film and not just ignore it and think it’s only for wrestling fans.  If you have an interest in the fringe entertainment industry or if you have any interest sub cultures or just like documentaries, this is something you’d like to watch.

PAC:  Are there any stories in the film that are especially unique that you are excited for people to see?

John Philapavage:  Those moments usually occur when I step away for a few days and come back and see what we’ve put together.  The scenes where New Jack is diving off a balcony four or five times and then proceeds to talk about what made him do that.  Why would a human being do that for next to no money?    

Then you have Axl Rotten talking about doing barb wire matches and why he did it.  I think everyday people will find the escalation of violence segment to be very interesting.  A lot of things that I find interesting are more on a human level and sociological level.

There is a section in the movie about all the after-show parties at the Travel Lodge.  The Lodge was called the “cylinder of sin” because it was a cylinder hotel that they all went and partied at.  I thought it was good to share that some of it is fun and not all sad and tragic.  Wherever we could we tried to illustrate anything that showed how mom and pop they were, because they really were.  Even when they were “famous” and kind of this underground buzz they were still so mom and pop – and that’s nothing they should be embarrassed about.  I think it’s actually pretty cool. 

PAC:  What were your personal favorites of the ECW era?

John Philapavage:  The feud between Raven and Tommy Dreamer was my favorite.  I loved the Raven character, thought it was brilliant. That Raven character allowed characters like CM Punk to exist.  CM Punk is a far better character and far more interesting, but in my opinion Raven had to exist in order for some of these other characters to exist. 

I really enjoyed Public Enemy and their interviews.  I was also lucky enough to catch Mick Foley’s heel turn and the anti-hardcore run.  Those promos he did during that period still hold up today. 

PAC:  Do you watch the current WWE product?

John Philapavage:  I usually watch the WWE during WrestleMania season.  Besides that I just try and catch whatever Punk does.  For a while I would try and catch anything Daniel Bryan did because I was a fan of ROH.  I still watch a lot of wrestling, just not current wrestling.

I am actually going to WrestleMania this year.  I have a table to promote the documentary at WrestleCon on April 6th and 7th and then going to show afterwards. 


We’d like to once again thank John for his time and look forward to catching up with him at WrestleMania and the premiere in Philly.  For more on his documentary please check out the following website. 

Follow us on Twitter:@PACsSports

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