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Dawn of a New Era - professional wrestling personality Dawn Marie

Former ECW bombshell Dawn Marie keeps things positive as she starts a new chapter

DAWN MARIE GREW up in ECW.

In her two-plus years as a valet--from managing the championship tag team the Impact Players to escorting her real-life beau, Simon Diamond, to the ring--Dawn Marie learned countless lessons.

"The major things I learned from my time in ECW are personal lessons. I've learned millions of professional lessons, but it's the personal things--I grew up," she says. "Buh Buh Ray Dudley was like a big brother to me. He smartened me up on everything in the locker room and how to act professionally. Not only did he give me the knowledge, but he enforced it. He expected nothing less from me. I learned how to be a part of what's going on, not marching to your own beat."

But the most important lesson she learned may have come upon hearing of ECW's demise in early March 2001.

"It was a confusing time. You just didn't know what was going to happen," she says about the first two months of the year. "It was tough for awhile, and I didn't want to believe it was going to end. I believe Paul E. Heyman really tried to pull it out Who's to ever second guess Paul? Just when you have him figured out, he makes a left turn--which is a good thing. It wasn't like, `It's over.' It was like, `OK, we're going through a rough time, but Paul's going to figure everything out.'"

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However, Heyman, the owner of the Philadelphia-based promotion, wasn't able to figure everything out, which became painfully clear to ECW performers and fans when Heyman replaced Jerry Lawler as color commentator on "RAW" on March 5, 2001. Two other incidents solidified the reality of ECW's end. The federation canceled its March pay-per-view, Living Dangerously, and filed for bankruptcy on April 4, 2001, citing nearly $9 million in unpaid bills.

The finality of ECW's demise prompted the greatest lesson for Dawn Marie: There's life after E-C-Dub. And she's ready to make the most of it.

From Valet to Competitor

Since ECW ceased operations, Dawn Marie (real name: Dawn Marie Psaltis) has kept busy by performing in independent federations alongside Diamond, taking acting classes, and learning how to wrestle. She had her first singles match at an East Coast Wrestling Association show in Delaware on April 7 against Dina Divine. But the desire to learn how to wrestle actually took hold long before ECW's demise.

"When I first started in ECW [in August 1998], I didn't know how to take bumps. But the way ECW uses women, I had to learn," she says. "Buh Buh, Mikey Whipwreck, and Chris Chetti really took a lot of time to help me. I would also get in the ring before shows and learn different things, because that was what was expected of the women. But since we were so busy on the road, I really didn't have anybody who could teach me how to wrestle. In the last six months, we've had access to a ring. I talked with Simon about it, and he said he'd teach me how to wrestle, which is what I really wanted to do. That's where the girls are going nowadays--they have to know how to wrestle."

The motivation behind learning how to wrestle was to better her ECW performances, which often included catfights with the "Queen of Extreme" Francine. But now, Dawn Marie knows that to get noticed by WWF officials, she must be able to take and execute some of the bumps that Lita, Trish Stratus, and even Stephanie McMahon routinely perform.

"My initial reason to start [learning how to wrestle] wasn't so I could go somewhere else," she says. "It was to better myself at what I do. I think every wrestler"s dream is to work for the WWF eventually, even before [Vince McMahon] owned everything. That's just the epitome of wrestling. It's always going to be your dream whether you admit it or not."

Extreme Exodus

For many ECW performers, the dream of performing for the WWF has become a reality. Justin Credible, Rhyno, and Spike Dudley made high-profile debuts in the WWF in early 2001, joining Raven, Tazz, and the Dudley Boyz, who made the jump long before ECW's demise. Other ECW performers who may land in the WWF include Jerry Lynn, Yoshihiro Tajiri, and Nova.

For former ECW performers who are on the outside looking in, it may seem natural to feel left out. But that's not a feeling Dawn Marie has.

"It's really exciting," she says when asked how she feels when watching her former co-workers appear in the WWF. "You just get really happy for these people, because you've been with them three or four days a week for the last two and a half years in ECW. You meet their families and really get to know them. P.J. [Credible] and his wife are just wonderful people. You really start to know these people personally, so when they have success, you're happy for them. I would not wish anything but the best for any of those guys."

As of press time, no former female ECW performers have made the jump to the WWF, besides Lita [known as Angelica and Miss Congeniality in ECW] who debuted in the federation in February 2000. But even if the WWF signed Francine, Elektra, or Jasmin, Dawn Marie said she wouldn't feel discouraged.


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