“This business, like any business, has its highs and lows, but in the overall spectrum, the highs outweigh the lows. To really be successful and “get” this business, it helps to be a fan first. I’ve been a fan since I was 7 and this is all I’ve wanted.”
That would mean 39-year-old Brian Heffron has been a fan of professional wrestling for 32 years. That extensive time-frame covers Hulkamania, Rock n Wrestling, the Monday Night Wars, the Attitude Era, and today’s social-media-driven product.
The Meanie has indeed submarined through the dioramic scenery of wrestling over the years, from serving as comic relief in ECW during its revolutionary period, to his cup of coffee in WWE as a sidekick to the likes of Goldust and Al Snow.
Today, he’s still blue, and he still entertains fans, young and old, through the northeastern independent scene.
“What makes the Meanie character unique is that it’s a combination of all my influences,” said Heffron. “Being an agile big man that likes to fight, but also likes to make the fans laugh.”
From 1995 through 1998, The Blue Meanie achieved his most career notoriety, teaming with best friend Stevie Richards in ECW. In a promotion noted for its table-breaking, blood-spilling, high-impact action, Richards and Meanie brought absurdist humor into the bingo halls-turned-fight clubs.
It seems weird to juxtapose the images of homicidal madman Sabu landing a bone-breaking dive alongside that of Meanie parodying the likes of Scott Hall (“Da Blue Guy”) or Goldust (“Bluedust), but Heffron is as much a part of ECW’s legacy as the resident daredevils and sadists.
He even shared the stage with a certified legend during a landmark moment, on March 9, 1996.
Mick Foley had just wrestled his final match in Extreme Championship Wrestling before embarking on his transcendent WWE career. After his match with former partner Mikey Whipwreck, the man soon-to-be-known as Mankind brought Meanie and Richards into the ring, just so they could strut out of the ECW Arena with him.
“Having Mick ask Stevie and I to be in his farewell deal, that meant the world to me as a fan of his, a fan of wrestling, and just being a guy breaking into the business. It was one of several dreams come true for me.”
ECW’s ability to innovate, influence, and represent the wrestling zeitgeist came an end in early 2001. When World Championship Wrestling was bought out by Vince McMahon around the same time, it left a virtual monopoly for WWE, and signaled a downturn of creativity and inspiration from a unique hub of entertainment.
While upstarts have sprouted since then, most successfully Total Nonstop Action/Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor, the chaotic muse that ECW once represented has seen many imitators, but no true duplicators.
“No matter how someone tries to reinvent the wrestling wheel the most important thing is trying to make the fans feeling they got theirs money’s worth,” says Heffron. “You’ve got WWE, TNA and then a vast selection of independents. Some indies are quality, and some can make fans wary as to whether or not they want to spend another dollar on wrestling.”
Heffron would know about trying to reach fans; for over three years, he ran a Philadelphia independent labeled Pro-Pain Pro Wrestling (3PW), featuring many old ECW mainstays, as well as rising stars like TNA’s AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels.
But 3PW is no more, as is the case with Rob Black’s XPW, among other would-be hardcore niche-fillers. Even WWE’s bastardized version of ECW, which lost its appeal quickly after its 2006 inception, was scrapped within four years.
Early in 2012, ECW cornerstone Shane Douglas announced the formation of yet another attempt to resurrect that old blood-soaked magic.
Then known as “Extreme Reunion”, Douglas pulled together stars like Raven, Jerry Lynn, Sabu, Justin Credible, Balls Mahoney, and Meanie himself for their maiden event on April 28, from Philadelphia.
But the problems were numerous. Sabu and Credible were scratches due to medical issues, much of the wrestling was plodding, and the booking was largely confusing. Douglas went as far as to apologize for the fiasco via viral video, promising to make the changes necessary to give fans the product they want.
“The organization has the right idea in that it’s offering an entertaining brand of wrestling,” explains the Meanie. “Sure, the first show had its hiccups, but the following shows went on to provide some very entertaining action. That first show had its glitches, but like any company that cares, they have tried to fix those and move forward.”
Among those upgrades are roster additions like Matt Hardy, Rhino, and Homicide, as well as infusion of young independent talent, like the caustic Luke Hawx, and the streetwise duo known as BLK OUT. There’s also, just like in the ECW of old, the importation of death-defying lucha libre from Mexico, including the forthcoming debut of Hijo de Rey Misterio.
Add to those additions the flavors of ECW’s past, like Sabu, Richards, The Gangstas, and Raven, and you can see Douglas slowly putting together an ambitious attempt at giving diehard fans the hardcore fix they’ve been asking for.
No longer is it merely an extreme “reunion”, hence its rechristening to “Extreme Rising”
And Meanie is proud to be a part of it.
“What makes Extreme Rising unique is that it’s a blend of ECW originals, as well as guys you could have easily seen working for the original company, if it were still around today. It’s not trying to be ECW but it certainly gives you a flavor of what it was like to take in an ECW live event. I love the comraderie in the locker room. The reaction of the crowd, and the feedback you get back after the show, in person and online. The feeling afterwards that you want to do it all over again. It all makes it feel worth it.”
Though his role at Extreme Rising’s December 29 event in Philadelphia is currently ‘to be determined’, Meanie will be part of an event in which the organization will crown its first champion (a tournament that’s down to Richards, Rhino, Hawx, and Devon “Crowbar” Storm), as well as present Jerry Lynn’s final match in Philadelphia, as he takes on Homicide.
And that blue-tinted dancing fool wants everyone to be a part of the festivities
“Extreme Rising is looking to deliver some action-packed, post-Christmas feast punch. They’re looking to crown their first champion. They are going to deliver some insane Lucha action. Rhino returns to Philly, and you get to see Jerry Lynn’s final match in Philadelphia EVER! What’s not to want to see?”
“I look to keep entertaining as long as the fans and my body allow me to do so. I’ve been doing this for 18 going on 19 years and have been fortunate to have been allowed to entertain a vast array of people. I’m grateful that a company like Extreme Rising cares as much as I do and that they give me a place to perform what I love to do. So come out and say hello to Da’ Blue Guy! Wontcha?”
Tickets are still available for Extreme Rising’s 12/29 event at the National Guard Armory in Philadelphia. Click here for more details (http://extremereunion.net/store/catalog/index.php)
Justin Henry is a freelance writer who covers the NFL for FootballNation and professional wrestling on a freelance basis. He can be found at Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh)