The Mass Transit incident was an infamous event in professional wrestling that occurred at an Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) house show on November 23, 1996 at the Wonderland Ballroom in Revere, Massachusetts.
Aspiring 350-pound (158.7 kg) wrestler Eric Kulas, who performed as a Ralph Kramden-esque bus driver gimmick named "Mass Transit", convinced Extreme Championship Wrestling president and booker Paul Heyman to allow him to fill in for Axl Rotten by lying that he had been trained by Killer Kowalski. Rotten was scheduled to work a tag team match with D-Von Dudley against The Gangstas (New Jack and Mustapha Saed) at a house show in the city, but was unable to compete due to travel issues.
During the match, D-Von and Mustapha brawled outside the ring while New Jack and Kulas fought inside the ring. The match was very one-sided with Mustapha easily isolating D-Von outside before he and New Jack severely beat Kulas with foreign objects such as crutches, garbage cans, chairs and toasters. The end of the match saw New Jack blade Kulas deeply with what appeared to be an X-acto knife, causing Kulas to start bleeding profusely.
The match was not televised as it was a house show. However, Extreme Fan Cam was on hand to record the event on a camcorder and, thanks to the internet, the video soon went viral throughout the wrestling community.
The match sparked a chain of events that would see New Jack get arrested and ECW's impending first pay-per-view show, Barely Legal, threatened with cancellation.
Authorities later determined that Kulas had lied to Heyman about his age and experience. Kulas was actually 17 years of age, not 19 as he had said, and he had absolutely no formal training as a professional wrestler. Kulas' father, Stephen, even vouched for his son.
Three years after the incident, Jerome "New Jack" Young was tried on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and later sued by the Kulas family. After hearing about Eric Kulas' request to New Jack to make him "get colour" (bleed), a jury acquitted Young of all charges in the criminal trial and he was later declared not liable in the civil trial. But, the incident also had more immediate consequences: ECW's planned first pay-per-view, Barely Legal, was cancelled by pay-per-view provider Request TV. Paul Heyman, by his own admission in The Rise and Fall of ECW documentary, begged and pleaded with Request before he was finally able to convince the company that they had been misled and ECW were placed back on the schedule some time later.
Performers who testified at Jerome Young's trial stated that Eric Kulas was extremely arrogant and demanding backstage prior to the match, and, when told he'd have to bleed as part of the match, Kulas had asked Young to do it since he had never done it before. They testified that Stephen Kulas began berating The Gangstas and screamed, "He's only 17!" and "Take it easy on him, he's just a kid!" when they isolated his son from D-Von Dudley and double-teamed him. When the time came to actually blade Kulas, Young claimed that Kulas had flinched during the process, causing the X-acto knife's blade to cut deeper than he planned. Two arteries in Kulas' forehead were severed and the resulting wound would take fifty stitches to close. Young later stated, in Jeremy Borash's unauthorized documentary, Forever Hardcore, that it was actually a surgeon's scalpel.
Video footage showed New Jack asking Kulas: "You alright?" This prompted some to consider his actions moments later as part of the show and not representative of his true feelings. After the blading, the Gangstas proceeded to work Kulas over even more, prompting Stephen Kulas to scream, "Ring the fucking bell, he's 17!"
As medics rushed into the ring to aid Kulas, New Jack grabbed the house microphone and exclaimed, "McMahon, Bischoff, look at this motherfucker! As far as I'm concerned, that fat piece of shit can bleed to fucking death, because I don't give a fuck". New Jack later stated in interviews that after he found out about Kulas' duplicity, he didn't have any remorse for what he had done.
In the WWE book, "The Rise and Fall of ECW", Paul Heyman states that Kulas's dubious credentials as a student of Killer Kowalski were endorsed by a then-known midget wrestler who was with Kulas when he and his father approached the staff about getting Eric in.
The book also states that as the medic crew carried Kulas out, he was escorted by Tommy Dreamer, who held his hand. Passing by the audience, Kulas began giving them the finger in an attempt to continue "playing the bad guy".
Death of Kulas
Eric Kulas died on May 12, 2002 at the age of 22 due to complications from gastric bypass surgery stemming from his weight problems.