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Wrestling / Mass Transit Incident

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"Ring the fucking bell! He's seventeen!"
Stephen Kulas, Eric Kulas' father, ECW, November 23, 1996

The Mass Transit Incident is one of the most infamous moments in ECW history. Unlike other moments, it started out rather mundane. The Gangstas (New Jack and Mustafa) were supposed to face D-Von Dudley and Axl Rotten, but Axl no-showed. Eric Kulas, a seventeen-year-old kid with zero experience, showed up, lying about his age and about having been "trained" by Killer Kowalski, and offered to take Axl's place. He was billed as Mass Transit, a wrestling bus driver based on Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners.

According to New Jack's episode of Dark Side of the Ring, Kulas (who obviously lacked the knowledge of locker room etiquette) tried to lay out some of the match's progress (an action viewed as vastly overstepping his bounds), including suggesting that New Jack blade him. New Jack took offense to the jobber's impudence and took liberties that included slicing open his forehead with a scalpel and generally beating the hell out of him, prompting the quote above. This was, along with Raven's Nest crucifying The Sandman, one of the two debacles that nearly killed ECW's chances of getting on PPV.


New Jack was arrested at the time, but was ultimately let off when the court found out that Kulas had lied to Paul Heyman about his age and experience level.

There are conflicting stories about the incident, leading to a lot of contradictory facts coming from different sources (most notably, what age Kulas had lied about actually being, as well as what kind of blade New Jack used to cut him).

Kulas would later pass away on May 12, 2002 at just 22 years old due to complications from gastric bypass surgery.


"Mass Tropes":

  • Ax-Crazy: New Jack, of course. It's worth mentioning that as stupid as Eric Kulas' actions were, New Jack went very much overboard in "punishing" him.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Eric Kulas wanted to serve as a Jobber for ECW, and got in despite not having enough training or even being a legal adult. Before the match, he had asked an irritated New Jack to blade him, without specifying how or how much. It's easy to see how much of the blame for the incident is targeted directly at him.
  • Bullying a Dragon: While Kulas wasn't "bullying" anyone, he didn't do anything to make any friends backstage in the leadup to the match, copping an arrogant attitude, talking a big game about how he was going to take charge of the match (despite being a jobber), and generally getting on everyone's nerves. This is not a smart thing to do when you're dealing with New Jack.
  • Captain Ersatz/No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Mass Transit gimmick being based on Ralph Kramden.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Kulas was accepted into the ring because the ECW needed a replacement for no-show Axl Rotten, and he came in at the "perfect" time. Needless to say, ECW learned not to repeat this mistake again.
  • Exact Words: Prior to the fight, Kulas asked New Jack to put "color" on him. He never said how or how much.
  • Fat Bastard: Mass Transit was 300 lbs, and an asshole heel who flipped off the crowd.
  • History Repeats: A similar incident happened in the WWE earlier in The '90s, when a match between Marty Jannetty and a barely trained Chuck Austin ended with the latter paralyzed from the shoulders down. It was a hard lesson for the WWE about properly screening applicants and having emergency staff on stand-by, just as the Mass Transit Incident was for ECW.
  • Hufflepuff House: D-Von Dudley and Mustafa were there in the match along with Mass Transit and New Jack, but weren't central to the scandal as the latter two were.
  • I Regret Nothing: New Jack maintained this attitude towards the incident (and Kulas' later death due to complications from a gastric bypass surgery) in character, stating that Kulas was essentially acting too big for his britches and he did ask Jack to blade him, so he bladed him. His final tweet before his death in May 2021 only drives this point home, even going so far as to say Kulas died because he "ate himself to death" and showing no remorse. Of course, how much of this was genuine and how much was purely New Jack maintaining Kayfabe to in turn maintain his fearsome reputation will be a question for the ages, and it should be noted that Jack was caught on camera asking Kulas if he was alright after the infamous blading, and only continued the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown once it appeared Kulas was willing to continue.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Before he cut Kulas open, New Jack smashed a crutch over his back and bashed his head with a toaster. Some reports claim New Jack also used a guitar, but there is no footage to back this up. After New Jack cut Kulas, he then hit him with a steel chair.
  • Jobber: Eric Kulas intended to serve as one, although what he's gone through was excessive even by the standards of this trope.
  • Joke Character: Deconstructed; while Jobbers are normally expected to be curb-stomped by the big names, they should at least be trained so that they don't (actually) get themselves hurt as they're being pummeled. Eric Kulas as Mass Transit didn't even have this as he entered the ring, and in his lack of experience nearly got himself killed.
  • Kayfabe: It was both subverted and played straight that night; camcorder footage of the match caught New Jack quietly asking Kulas "You alright?" after blading him, to which Kulas apparently replied in the affirmative, causing New Jack and Mustafa to continue the beatdown until Kulas' father freaked out. As medics rushed to the ring, New Jack grabbed a microphone and shouted "I hope this fat piece of shit bleeds to fucking death, because I don’t give a fuck! I don't care if the motherfucker dies! He's white. I don't like white people. I don't like people from Boston. I'm the wrong nigga to fuck with." Even Kulas himself, as the Mass Transit character was a Heel, was seen flipping off the crowd as he was taken out of the ring in a stretcher, in an attempt to retain his heel heat.
  • Minor with Fake I.D.: According to Heyman, Kulas falsified his ID.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Deconstructed; entering the ring despite having no wrestling experience can only end badly.
  • Permissive Parents: The incident would have never happened if Kulas's father had put his foot down about his son getting into the ring without proper training.
  • Punny Name: The name "Mass Transit" itself; the obese Kulas's gimmick was an overweight bus driver.
  • Really 17 Years Old: Eric Kulas is a textbook example of how this could go horribly wrong.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Despite being less than a Jobber due to having no wrestling training at all, Eric Kulas acted incredibly arrogant in the lead-up to the match, (which included lighting a cigarette in front of the famously nicotine-adverse Tazz) which came back to bite him when it came time for New Jack to blade him.
  • Squash Match: How the match would have played out with Mass Transit, regardless of the outcome.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Eric Kulas, for lying about his age, lying about being a trained wrestler, and asking New Jack to blade him. Which he did, with either an X-acto Knife or a surgical scalpel (depending on which version you hear). Also Kulas' father, for backing up his son's lies, which makes him much less sympathetic later on when he's hysterically screaming about how his son is only 17 after having lied about it earlier.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Axl Rotten likely had no clue what harm would come from his no-showing that night.