As Doc and I spoke about on DDT Wrestling this week, there’s not a whole lot I want to say about Superfly Jimmy Snuka. I came into the wrestling world at the tail end of Snuka’s career, so anything I saw of his came later when I was watching old Coliseum videos sitting on the floor of my grandmother’s living room. At that point, the wrestling world had changed, and his high flying was almost commonplace.
I also know next to nothing about the details regarding what happened in that hotel room, so I have no business talking about that either. He was obviously a legend of his time, a trailblazer for the future, and a figure mired in controversy.
What’s important for this week’s ECW Hardcore TV is that the man made some funny faces, and that’s the theme for this week.
With that, let’s get going.
ECW Hardcore TV, Episode 7
We begin, as sadly expected, with Jay Sulli and Stevie Wonderful, previewing the upcoming hour of action. Thankfully, they don’t get to talk much before Paul E. Dangerously saves the day, calling out ECW President Tod Gordon. They jaw back and forth, and we’re treated to some great expressions.
Gordon talks tough until Magnificent Muraco makes his presence known, doing the high school bully trick of “accidentally” bumping into Tod multiple times while Dangerously tosses out a vile insult.
“The wrestling world needs you like a drowning man needs Ted Kennedy.”
Now, far be it from me to throw anything even remotely resembling shade at the great Paul Heyman, but that line was a bit out of place, even for 1993 standards. The incident Paul is referencing took place in Chappaquiddick (a very fun word to both say and type) in 1969, some twenty four years before this promo, which makes it almost 50 years old for us watching today. Needless to say, it doesn’t age well.
Once Gordon runs for cover, the Magnificent Muraco calls out ECW Champion The Sandman, claiming there is only room for one surfer in ECW… I wasn’t aware there was a limit.
With that, Dangerously tells Sulli to earn his money, and Jay does a great job of cutting to our first match.
Well, technically, I’m not going to count this as Match 1, since this is, start to finish, a replay of the tag title change we saw from Episode 6, where Tony Stetson and Larry Winters beat the Super Destroyers. Now, I get it, this is a show obviously trying to attract new viewers, so showing the title change again might prove to be something novel for any neophyte watchers. (Bonus synonym points for me for that last sentence.) However, for us who have seen all of the episodes, this was a little dreadful. Thanks be to Fast Forward.
Following that, we get another “DC in his High School TV Media class” graphic…
I was really a little crestfallen that there were no typos in that graphic, if I’m being honest, but we did get the new stipulation of being crowned “King of Philly”. Who knows what that’s about.
Match 1 - Jimmy Snuka and Eddie Gilbert vs. JT Smith and Max Thrasher
I know what you’re thinking. “DC, this is the same match as last week, too. Why are you counting it?” To be fair, this is at least a rematch, so the action is new, even if the participants are not.
Dangerously introduces his charges as “Two guys not taking a flight to Atlanta” (a dig at Georgia based WCW), and here’s a gratuitous picture of Jimmy Snuka looking resplendent in his jungle best…
While last week’s match was a total squash, the babyface jobbers get a little offense in here, if only so Heyman can do some A+ manager selling at ringside…
This match ended in a very interesting way for me. We are so used to seeing heel tag team partners have miscommunications and crash into each other, but in this instance, it was Smith and Thrasher that did it on two separate occasions, leading to Max turning on JT, leading to the inevitable Gilbert backbreaker to Snuka Splash for the victory.
In case you are curious, and of course you are, here’s a picture of new heel Max Thrasher…
Following the match, we’re back on the Double Cross Ranch with Terry Funk, who unlike previous interviews, is being very serious. That’s one of the things that separates the good wrestlers from the great, in my opinion - Being able to do different types of promos extremely well. Terry Funk, Ric Flair, Chris Jericho, John Cena - All talents who know how to take fans on multiple types of journeys. They can make you laugh with joy or wince with pain, and not the Good Lucha Things type of pain either.
Perhaps this is part of the problem people have with guys like Roman Reigns (note that I said PART of the problem, not the whole thing) - There’s not that depth of emotion there yet. Roman does either the “Small Words - Big Stick” promo or the “I’m trying to be The Rock” promo, and that’s it. He has yet, as far as I’ve seen, to really hook fans and take them on the same type of trip that others are able to, though I imagine he will in time. You hear me, Roman Lovers? I said he WILL - Don't @ me!
Either way, Funk walks us through the chain match, giving us a little history on it and explaining that this will be unlike anything ECW fans have ever seen before, and by the end, you’re ready for this match to happen. Mission accomplished for the Funkster.
Following that bout of seriousness, we get a promo on the other end of the spectrum, as the Suicide Blonds explain that due to their recent UK trip, they have been knighted by the Queen, making them Sir Jonathan Hotbody and Sir Christopher Candido. Also, Hotbody is sticking with this whole “having brown hair despite calling himself a blond” thing. It’s funny.
Match 2 - Suicide Blonds vs. Tony Stetson and Larry Winters
Yes, that’s right, we get ANOTHER match from Stetson and Winters, whom I will now be calling Vanilla and Blandy, against what I can only guess are our future ECW tag champions, Sir Christopher and Sir Jonathan.
DC’s Peccadilloes - How do either of these teams not have matching outfits already? I get Vanilla and Blandy not matching, since this team is obviously not going to last very long, but Candido and Hotbody seem to me to be the presumptive “Team of 1993” for ECW. They’ve got the team name, the sunglasses, the feather boas. . . Would it kill somebody backstage to make sure they have the same color tights???
Anyway, Chris Candido does some excellent overselling here…
It appears as if Sir Christopher is trying to communicate that his opponent pulled his tights to somebody stationed on the moon.
I apologize if I’m not giving you enough of the wrestling play by play that you might be hoping for with these articles. It’s 1993 in what appears to be a high school gymnasium - There isn’t a lot of nonstop action here. Jonathan Hotbody does do something interesting however. He goes for what we now refer to as a spinning heel kick, but he turns his back to his opponent first, so he only needs to do a quarter spin as opposed to a full rotation. It wasn’t a super great move or anything, but it was something I’ve never seen before.
I also apologize because I haven’t made nearly enough fun of Jay Sulli in this column as I should, so here goes. At one point during this match, “Wildman” Salvatore Bellomo comes out wearing a mask and claiming to be Super Destroyer 3.
Despite the outfit, size, and abundance of facial hair, Jay Sulli has no idea who this guy is. So apparently, his schtick is that he is the single dumbest man on the face of the planet.
The fans are clued in, however, as Sal gives the camera a hint…
I know it’s a screenshot of a 25 year old piece of video, so in case you can’t decipher it, Sal has lifted the mask and shushed the camera. Don’t spoil it, NAIborhood!
Following the match (I don’t recall how it ended), the four brawl to the back, showing us a great view of the entrance ramp…
Fun fact - My elementary school had a stage just like this.
Match 3 - Magnificent Muraco vs. Glen Osbourne
This match was awful - I’m not sure if it was a lack of communication or what, but there were a lot of awkward moments, so instead, let’s do a Jimmy Snuka Silly Face Gallery!
Well, that was fun! Muraco won with a “front piledriver”, by the way. Wasn’t known as a Tombstone around the world quite yet.
Match 4 - Sandman vs. Rockin’ Rebel
I feel like these two have wrestled each other a thousand times already, though this time Miss Peaches and Tigra are banned from ringside, so at least we won’t have that trouble to deal with. . . .
Rockin’ Rebel has his mullet braid going strong, and once again showcases that he is a pretty decent wrestler. I’m surprised we never saw him on WCW Saturday Night or WWF Superstars, even as a jobber.
Also, since I enjoy sharing moments I’ve never seen with you, here’s another one…
At one point, in order to encourage the Rebel to fight him, Sandman lays down in the ring and invites him to attack. Now, usually when we see this, the babyface on the mat has some sort of trick up his sleeve - Maybe an amateur style takedown or a kick to the face. But no, in this instance, Rebel just runs over and kicks him in the head. A little unusual, perhaps, but it does fall in line with who the Sandman becomes as ECW moves on, so I’ll allow it.
Shockingly and surprisingly, this match ends in a no-decision as Peaches and Tigra hit the ring within four seconds of each other, leading to yet another catfight.
With that, we’ve reached the end of our hour, and Sulli and Stevie try to wrap things up, only to be joined by Super Sal 3 once more, this time with some pizza.
Recipe for Wrestle Silly Success
Take one guy with a thick Italian accent and obviously recognizable physical features.
Put him in a mask.
Fill his mouth with pizza.
Let him talk a lot.
Also, have him reveal his identity 3 or 4 times.
That, my friends, is ECW right now.
Until we meet again, my friends, I’ll see you around the NAIborhood.
From this author’s perspective, Episode 5 of ECW TV is when things started to look Extreme. There was silliness, innuendo, focus on females and, of course, the debut of a cult leader. Let’s get to it!
ECW TV Episode 5
Jay Sulli and Stevie Wonderful kick off our show as per usual, but that’s not important. What’s important is what Sulli is wearing. . .
Did anyone know they made tuxedo ties and cummerbunds in Tweety Bird yellow? I didn’t.
We’re joined by ECW President Tod Gordon, who recaps the feud between Eddie Gilbert and Terry Funk, before sending us to Double Cross Ranch for a word with the Funkster.As Funk explains, he’s been riding around all day looking for Eddie Gilbert, but he can’t find him. Then, all of a sudden, he shows up...
See what I mean? It’s not “extreme”, but we’re getting there!
Funk fills the equine rump in on the rules of a Texas Chain match (no pins, no submissions, must touch all 4 turnbuckles) before asking for questions or a response from Gilbert. What follows is seriously one of the funniest moments ever… Not the clip, but just this picture…
Bah Gawd, Terry, don’t do that, your face might freeze that way!
Match 1 - Magnificent Muraco and Eddie Gilbert vs. JT Smith and Glenn Osbourne
I’m not sure how we’re supposed to focus on wrestling after that, and this tag match doesn’t offer a whole lot to get excited about, save for the ending...
Yes, folks, that is the ECW debut of one Paul Heyman, though at this point, he is still known as Paul E. Dangerously, former manager extraordinaire in World Championship Wrestling, and the newest ally of Hotstuff International. Heyman grabs a microphone (always a good sign) and lets us know that this merger between Hotstuff and the Dangerous Alliance makes this the greatest day in ECW history.
Or something like that. I was too busy marking out to notice the specifics. IT’S HEYMAN!!!
Match 2 - Super Destroyers vs. Tony Stetson and Larry Winters
Once again, the wrestling here seems like an afterthought to the promos, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when the promos are done by two of the all time greats in Funk and Heyman.
Then there’s this guy…
The manager of the Super Destroyers announces that this is it. . . Without question, the absolute end of this feud. . . The final, ultimate, no mas match between his charges and Stetson and Winters. So we know what that means...
The match begins, and we’re treated to the single biggest gimmick in ECW so far - That Jay Sulli is a stupid, stupid man. Seriously, he’s still complaining to Wonderful that he doesn’t know the difference between Super Destroyer 1 and 2. What is the point of him even being here?
We’re also treated to what is the superkick of 1993, aka the move that is completely overdone. In this instance, its when one wrestler takes another one by the hair / back of the head and then slams them face first into the mat. I swear, I’ve seen it twenty two times in 5 episodes. Maybe it happened so much because of the preponderance of mullets???
The Super Destroyers cheat to win again, so as I said, we know what’s going to happen next…
No, NAIborhood, Cousin It never became a professional wrestler. What you’re seeing is Salvatore Bellomo, cutting a promo. Don’t worry, though, he makes sure you know, lifting his hair out of his face to say “By the way, it’s me behind here.” This is the WrestleSilly goodness I’m always craving!
As for what else Sal said, though, I remain in the dark. If you thought anyone in WWE had accent problems, take a listen to the Wildman and hear what true nonsense sounds like. I can only guess that it was about his upcoming title match, because…
Match 3 - Salvatore Bellomo vs. The Sandman
Apparently the ring attendant career is over for Peaches, for she now seems to be Sandman’s manager and is known as Miss Peaches. Gee, I wonder who she is emulating…
As I’ve said in previous Diaries, Sandman’s in ring work strikes me as very different from his ECW heyday, though to be fair, I’m not well versed. He does a lot of aerial moves and he LOVES the schoolboy roll-up. As in, it happens multiple times a match.
However, we run into a problem, and that problem is the ECW ring. Obviously smaller than a WWF ring, if not most rings, any attempt at a schoolboy inevitably winds up with one or both of the wrestlers lying underneath the ropes. It accentuates the amateur qualities of this promotion each time it happens.
Sandman winds up winning by countout when Bellomo leaves the ring and seemingly forgets what he’s doing, wandering through the crowd. Maybe that’s because he’s Wild?? Did Marc Mero ever do that??
Rockin’ Rebel and Tigra, who has also been promoted to manager, are by the lockers next, and I finally get a question answered that has plagued me for ages.
What did mullet owners do with their hair when they wanted to have a fancy night on the town? (They braid it, apparently)
Match 4 - Rockin’ Rebel vs. . . . Ernesto Benefico?
After his promo, which I didn’t listen to, Rebel gets showcased in the ring against. . .This guy. I think that’s what the graphic said, though Jay Sulli pronounces it in about 37 different ways over the course of this 2 minute squash match. All I know is that the guy looks like a young and blurry Borat.
I know that we’re dealing with 25 year old technology here, but how can WWE expect new fans, if any fan, to go back and watch some of these archived shows with the video quality like this? (This is where you whisper - “Hey DC, they don’t expect you to. . .In fact, you’re the only one who does!”)
HD has spoiled us. The person who figures out how to turn grainy old video into high definition gold is going to be swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck!
Tod Gordon is out with Hunter G Robbins and says that Stetson and Winters are willing to put their hair on the line in order to get another tag title match. Robbins quickly signs, not reading the fine print where he will have to be handcuffed to Tommy Cairo for this match as well. Robbins gets mad.
Don’t let it be said that I don’t keep you up to speed, friends.
We get another Suicide Blonds promo, which sounded just like the original one. It actually might have been the same one, if I’m being honest.
Match 5 - Tommy Cairo vs. Jonathan Hotbody
Now that they are a tag team, Hotbody and Candido want to go by their full names, because that’s how we know they’re serious.
This next image is for Doc Manson, who as anyone who listened to our commentary on the Cruiserweight Classic knows, is a fan of cheeky predicaments.
Seriously, who thought chaps and wrestling trunks was a good combo?
As the action unfolds, Hotbody is sent to ringside early in this match, and being the good teammate that he is, Candido gives his aching back a nice massage. Like I said, there’s nothing overt happening. But the innuendo is there.
We see the advantages of having the announce team at ringside, as Candido is able to offer some pretty funny commentary at points during the match, at one time screaming that his partner’s hair is blond, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Despite my high opinions on both Cairo and Hotbody, this match isn’t fluid. The best moment, when Hotbody DDT’s Cairo off the top rope, seemed to be a botched superplex. Cairo wins when the Blonds once again crash into each other, leading to an O’Connor roll and a victory.
(Full disclosure: Up until a couple months ago, I thought this move was called an Okada Roll, and kept trying to figure out why it was named after a Japanese guy who wasn’t on the WWE roster.)
Cairo and Hotbody brawl at ringside and for the first time, we’re out of time, and the show ends relatively abruptly, but actually, I think that’s a good thing. As I’ve written about before, the previous shows seemed to not have enough to fill the time, but this one did. Once again, forward progress.
The wrestling in this episode was probably the worst of the five episodes so far, but the promos were easily the best. Even Sal Bellomo was funny, if incomprehensible. The pieces are beginning to fall into place. I like where things are headed with ECW.
Until we meet again, my friends, I’ll see you around the NAIborhood.
While I am not a parent, I do have an appreciation for watching someone grow up. As an educator, I see it all the time, and it does warm my heart, even if it can be painful at times as well. That’s where we’re at with this week’s episode of ECW - They’re making small changes to improve things, taking their baby steps, but it can still be VERY cringeworthy.
Either way, onward!
ECW TV Episode 4
We begin, as usual, with Jay Sulli and Stevie Wonderful, but unlike the previous 3 editions of ECW TV, things look . . . Dare I say it. . . Professional! Maybe it’s the fancy new tuxedo Sulli must have stolen off a high school junior going to prom, though I would guess it has more to do with the fact that someone figured out how to turn the lights off in the gymnasium they’re taping in, but things look a bit better to start off the week.
Sulli and Wonderful run down the show, but our eyes are drawn once again to the MVP of ECW, Hotstuff Eddie Gilbert, who is wearing sunglasses despite the darkened conditions. Gilbert brags about running Terry Funk out of ECW and even has provided a VCR tape of their I Quit match as proof.
Now, kids, VCR stands for “video cassette recording”, and back before everything was in The Cloud, even back before DVD’s, video tapes is how you were able to watch your wrestling content. It was the dark ages, friends, and life was terrible. That’s all you need know.
There isn’t much to this video evidence, though at one point, Gilbert and Funk are using a moving dolly, though not really as a weapon. The video is then cut, and the voiceover (Tod Gordon, I think) tells us it is too graphic to be shown on TV, but rest assured, the Funkster will be back next week!
Continuing with the trend of improved visuals, we see a close up of Hunter Q Robbins III, manager of the ECW tag champs, Super Destroyers. Despite trying to look menacing in front of a wall of lockers (I’m telling you, this is a high school, not a college), this does look far better than any promo they’ve tried to do beforehand. Robbins mocks the number one contenders, Larry Winters and Tony Stetson (calling them Bart and Homer Simpson, which was part of pop culture even back then) and offers them $500 if they can beat his charges. Before we know it, it’s time for the match.
Match 1 - Super Destroyers vs. Larry Winters and Tony Stetson
As we get the ring introductions, I believe I have realized why the lights are low - There’s about 30 people in the audience. The “hard camera” side is practically empty.
This starts, as Doc Manson would put it, with the traditional tag formula. Hot start by the babyfaces, followed by Super Destroyers getting the edge by isolating Stetson. Once again, Sulli and Wonderful try to figure out which one is which, claiming they look identical.
First of all, one of them is about 30 pounds heavier than the other. Second, the armbands are totally different. One wears a red bandana around his bicep, while the other has. . . Polka dots? Hard to tell in a 1993 camera. Either way, someone could figure it out.
When it comes to commentators, I try to keep an open mind. I don’t have much of a problem with Byron Saxton, and I actually think David Otunga is slowly. . . SLOWLY. . . making improvements. Guys today are far better than some of the rough times of the past. I remember the days of Rob Bartlett, which were bad, and Mark Madden, which might have been worse.
Having said all of that, Jay Sulli might be the worst play by play guy I’ve ever heard. For whatever reason, this poor guy can’t seem to be able to say the full phrase “ECW Tag Team Championship”. He just refers to Super Destroyers as the “ECW Tag Team”, as if they are the only one. (Though, to be fair, he might be accurate in that sense.)
Add that to the general awkwardness, the lack of camera sense and the insistence on trying to help every babyface who has been hit with a Gilbert foreign object, and it is just terrible. My apologies, Sulli, but you stink!
Then there is Stevie Wonderful, who is at least borderline tolerable, if only because he borrows from the Bobby Heenan playbook as often as he can. I honestly think he has a stack of Heenanisms on the announce table and just goes through them at will.
The tag match mercifully ends when one of the Destroyers hits Winters with Robbins’ cane. I think I’ve figured it out - When the Super Destroyers wrestle squash matches, they look good. When they wrestle people who also need to look good, everything goes to pot.
Nobody bothers to mention that since Winters and Stetson technically won, they should be getting $500. Hopefully it is brought up later, but I’m not optimistic.
Match 2 - Glenn Osbourne vs. Salvatore Bellomo
OK, I officially give up. I’ve been trying to figure out whether or not Osbourne’s first name has one N or two, but even ECW can’t figure it out. It’s been listed as both on multiple occasions. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter, as Eddie “Takeover like a McMahon” Gilbert is back out with a big announcement, so the match never takes place.
We have a new member of Hotstuff International and it is “Dad at the Beach” Magnificent Muraco, who lumbers down to the ring with Superfly Snuka. Seriously. . . It takes a while.
Muraco, Snuka and Gilbert talk about taking over ECW… Or, at least, I think that’s what they said - Between the mic troubles and the general gobbledygook of their promo skills, it was hard to tell. Either way, ECW has been put on notice by a 50 year old and a 43 year old. Gotta love name recognition!
After the break, it’s big news! Finally, someone else you might recognize as an actual ECW guy! It’s Chris Candido!!! Now, I’ve always liked Candido, for reasons that I am sure will be discussed at a later date, but besides her turn as Skip in the Bodydonnas, I haven’t seen too much of his work. He’s here with Johnny Hotbody, who has somehow managed to put more hair atop his head, and they are putting ECW tag teams on notice, for they are the Suicide Blonds.
Except Hotbody currently has brown hair… No, really, look!
Match 3 - Suicide Blond and Brunette vs. Tommy Cairo and JT Smith
Despite the misnomer, the Suicide Blondes* have an entertaining entrance, weighing 600 pounds (if you count their egos) and being from “Anywhere but Philadelphia”.
I have given and will likely continue to give Jay Sulli a hard time for his lack of craft, but at least he opens the match by admitting the lack of blondness in Hotbody. I appreciated that, but 90 seconds later, he’s claiming Chris Candido has Tommy Cairo in a “double reverse chinlock”.
Sigh. . .
As for the only blond in the bunch, Candido handled himself relatively well for his first ECW appearance. A bit green, but there is obvious potential there, and he and Hotbody have the comedy heel schtick down pretty well already. (Lot of Cairo and Smith tossing one Blond into the other - That sort of thing.)
Couple quick points - First, how, exactly, is it less painful to be Irish whipped into your partner than the turnbuckle? Cairo makes the save on Smith at one point, leaning over the turnbuckle, but there’s padding there. I know - I’ve seen George Steele eat it. Wouldn’t a toss into somebody’s shoulder or ribcage be more of a problem?
Plus, while many of you might criticize the current formulaic nature of tag team wrestling, it was worse in 1993. Multiple times during this match, Candido or Hotbody would try to sneak into the ring, leading to Smith or Cairo doing it as well, but the referee would only admonish the babyface, leading to some heelish double teams. I’m talking four or five times in what was only a five to six minute match.
It was tactics like this that allowed the Suicide Blonds to pick up the victory, with Hotbody taking advantage of a distracted referee to attack Smith from behind, leading to the victory.
Muraco and Snuka are outside the lockers talking about the greatness that is Hotstuff International, teasing that there may be more to come. I only mention this because Snuka and I use the same acronym - TCB (Taking Care of Business).
Match 4 - Hotstuff International vs. Hellriders
Another squash tag match, another attempt by Sulli and Wonderful to try to tell people apart - This time being the difference between EZ and HD Ryder.
The only thing I found noteworthy was Muraco’s use of a “front face piledriver”, though to be fair, it might have been just a very bad shoulderbreaker. Made me wonder - Was it Undertaker using the move that caused it to be called a Tombstone? Or did that happen beforehand?
If you know, help me out - @DCMatthewsNAI
I swear, this man is the world’s first attempt at a Life Model Decoy, and it went horribly, horribly wrong.
Sulli is back by the lockers (for reasons) to introduce this video clip from last week, where Rockin’ Rebel took off Sandman’s head with his own surfboard. Following the recap, we join the championship match in progress, because why not?
Match 5 - Sandman vs. Rockin’ Rebel
Peaches and Tigra are at ringside cheering on their charges, though nobody has explained to me why Tigra has aligned herself with the Rebel, who generally comes across as not a good dude. She does have a funny moment, though, as she approaches the camera to brandish her claws (like Tigras always do), except the auto-zoom feature is too slow for her, so it just looks blurry.
Having said that, it’s nice to see some personality, as opposed to Peaches, who obviously took lessons from the Miss Elizabeth Institute of Anguished Facial Expressions.
The match is fairly one sided in the favor of Rockin’ Rebel, save for the final minute, which is when Tigra gets involved. In comes Peaches and the crowd goes crazy for the first time in my ECW viewing.
Seriously, the crowd has never been this vocal. It’s creepy.
After a recap of the TV title tournament, Hunter Q. Robbins is out again, infuriated because Bart and Homer have another shot at the belts next week, and oddly enough, that ends our show.
Obviously this is a company experiencing some growing pains and learning on their feet. They still can’t seem to figure out timing for their shows, as everything ends with something much less exciting than what came before. As much as it pains me to say it, the catfight between Peaches and Tigra was the real “main event” in the eyes of the fans (note: I have yet to see a female in the audience at an ECW taping), so doing anything after that would obviously be a letdown.
So we’ll give them a pass, though I’m hoping against hope to see Joey Styles come save the announce booth soon.
Thanks for reading, friends. I’m DC Matthews (@DCMatthewsNAI) and until we meet again, I’ll see you around the NAIborhood.
I don’t know if you got the memo, NAIborhood, but there are over 7,000 hours of content on WWE Network. You might not have heard, I think WWE has been downplaying it. . .
With almost 300 full days worth of wrestling to watch, some of you must be wondering why in the world I am subjecting myself to viewing the early days of ECW TV. Before Van Dam, before Heyman, before even Taz or Tommy Dreamer.
Well, part of it is the small bits of OCD inside of me that insist on doing these quests of mine completely - That means from the very first episode to the very last one, no matter what horrors await me. (Yes, I know you’re there, Tank Abbott wearing the shirt with the nipples cut out. . . )
Another reason is because of the lessons and connections one can make between wrestling of the past and today’s sports entertainment. In that vein, let’s begin another THRILLING edition of DC’s Network Diaries.
ECW Hardcore TV, Episode 2
Once again, the episode starts with Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert trying to insert himself into the commentary team, only to be met with opposition from one Terry Funk. Now, I’m sure we’ll cover the future Chainsaw Charlie in much more detail as these episodes continue, but I want to focus on Gilbert right now.
Full disclosure - I know next to nothing about Eddie Gilbert. I’ve read his name a bunch and seen him a handful of times in various promotions, but I am generally completely oblivious to Mr. Hot Stuff. However, as I watch these early promos and interactions, I can see that he’s influenced a fair share of people. I’d venture a guess that without Eddie Gilbert, the heel side of Chris Jericho would look a lot different. There are similarities (albeit small ones) in terms of the use of inflection and cadence. Now, I’m not saying that Gilbert is the originator of that, but it’s worth noting. I look forward to seeing more Hot Stuff in the future…
That sounded bad… Speaking of uncomfortable names, let’s get to our first match.
Match 1 - Glen Osbourne vs. Johnny Hotbody
It’s a testament to the times that a wrestler who looks like Johnny does can get away with a name like Hotbody. He’s not a Playboy Buddy Rose or Adrian Adonis, but he’s also nowhere near a Lex Luger, either. For those who might only watch independent wrestling, though, I suppose he could qualify.
He is, however, my favorite ECW wrestler so far, which I know isn’t saying much, since I’m an episode in. Regardless, Johnny Hotbody is a pretty good wrestler. I keep getting Luke Harper comparisons in my mind when I watch him, though to be fair, that’s probably solely because of the combover.
That’s Luke Harper, the 2016 winner of the Triple H Ponytail Memorial DDT Award for best hair! Be sure to listen to all three parts of our end of the year podcast-a-palooza!
I also see some Harper in Hotbody (awkwarddddd) because of the moveset. Johnny breaks out a German suplex (back in 1993, Suplex City hadn’t been built yet), a suplex to the outside and then a pretty impressive shoulderblock from the apron to the floor. Again, those aren’t moves to set the world on fire, but considers this was just about a quarter of a century ago, they were enough to make me sit up and take notice.
As for Osbourne. . . Well. . . He had a decent look. Like if Tatanka met The Ascension. And that’s about all I can say.
Tommy Cairo makes an appearance to seek revenge on Hotbody’s interference from the previous week, and Osbourne picks up the victory, despite having almost zero offense in the match. That doesn’t stop it from cutting your typical tough guy promo, where he claims that Hotbody was “just the first victim” in his quest for the TV title. Apparently Glen assumes we didn’t see the match.
Match 2 - Tony Stetson and Larry Winters vs. Chris Michaels and Samoan Warrior
Stetson and Winters, who we saw in singles action on the premiere episode, are the number one contenders to the ECW tag titles. Just goes to show, NAIborhood, as bad as we might think the RAW and SDLive tag scene is, it could always be worse! These two have pretty decent double team moves, which was fun, but other than that look very much like any random duo of jobbers you’ve seen. Just to make you uncomfortable, here's an awkward picture of Larry Winters.
Chris Michaels sees the majority of the in-ring action for the opposition, and my guess is his ring name comes from the fact that it looks like he stole the hair from Rockers-Era Shawn Michaels and stapled it to his head. To be fair, this is not uncommon. . . The name thing, not the stapling thing…
Remember what we talked about in the last column, indie promoters used to fill their card with generic guys and then find a couple headliners to sell tickets. However, if they could “trick” a very casual fan (or, perhaps, a casual fan’s grandmother) into believing there were headliners there who actually were not, so much the better. I remember reading in PWI about a promotion where the headline match was Buck Hogan taking on King Kong Button, or something like that. Up and down the card were names that looked somewhat similar to WWF names, but obviously were not. Tricky promoters!
As for the Samoan Warrior (or, as Terry Funk called him, the Warrior from Sah-Moe-Ahhh), his best moves where when he gave himself bumps. When you added another wrestler, things went bad fast.
Stetson and Winters get the victory here, and as usual, Terry Funk interviews them to try to put them over, to various levels of success. I think he tries to quote the Jeffersons theme song and is then interrupted by Untalented Slick, who needs a lesson in talking into the microphone.
We get another look at Sandman and then the ECW champion is out to talk to Terry Funk. He praises Funk and the fans, which is just hilarious when you consider his future of chain smoking and beer drinking.
Match 3 - Sandman vs. Kodiak Bear
Not surprisingly, Kodiak Bear is a 300 pound plus guy from Alaska, wearing the traditional Foley Flannel, albeit a couple years before Mick made it famous. Even moreso than Johnny Hotbody, Bear looks like Luke Harper, provided Harper ate the Wyatt Family first.
The ring attendant is up on the apron, but Sandman just hangs his surfboard off the ringpost and apparently is going to wrestle in the faux wetsuit. I swear, I am not making this up. Actually, I mention the ring attendant because the commentary team spent a bunch of time this episode talking about how they couldn’t stop staring at the ring girls. Classy move, gents.
Peaches (the name of the ring girl, and I assume the wife of Sandman) kisses the champion, then almost falls down the ring stairs. Again, I’m not making any of this up.
After a quick match, Sandman wins with a missile dropkick, a slingshot shoulderblock and then a Cobra Clutch, which Stevie Wonderful dubs the Sandman Sleeper. Now, perhaps he’ll prove me wrong as I keep watching, but I wasn’t aware that Sandman could do any of those moves. I figured it was punches, kicks, Kendo Stick and then the White Russian legsweep (which is a pretty clever name for a move for an alcoholic gimmick.)
To celebrate his win, Terry Funk begins singing “Oh, Mr. Sandman”. Not. Making. This. Up.
Match 4 - Eddie Gilbert vs. JT Smith
It’s our first in-ring look at Hotstuff (which is, apparently, one word) and not only does he give the ring announcer bunny ears, he does a pose which reminds me a bit of the “Drink It In, Mannnn” schtick. Just saying.
Less than a minute into the match and we’re out among the crowd, and that’s after Gilbert hits Smith with a chair and bounces him off a table. Apparently, disqualifications and count outs don’t apply here. It’s also worth noting that the “barricade” which separates fans from the action looks like the same extendable seat belt things that banks use to signal how to line up.
JT Smith, another name from PWI lore, doesn’t do much in this match, though he has a nice fallaway slam and an impressive (albeit unsuccessful) moonsault. Gilbert, having cheated the entire time, eventually picks up the win by hitting Smith with an international object. Much offended, the play by play guy (whose name I still don’t know) runs out to inform the referee. Imagine Mauro Ranallo doing that, or Michael Cole doing it as a babyface.
This serves as a good point to remind us all that this was once a thing.
Match 5 - Tommy Cairo vs. Super Ninja
Another appearance by Ironman here as he picks up a quickish victory over Super Ninja with essentially what became a Deadlift German Suplex. Super Ninja, according to Google, is indie wrestler Rick Michaels. I only mention that because, on his Wikipedia page, is says he was signed by WWE in 2005, but as a tailor. There’s a WWE Network series I want to see - The “Odd Jobs” of professional wrestling. What is it like to be a tailor for WWE? Do other former wrestlers do that? What’s involved in the creation of wrestling gear? I’m not kidding - I want this show!
Johnny Hotbody returns to continue his feud with Cairo, though he’s polite enough to run around the ring in a circle until Cairo gets the 3 count before attacking. Chivalry is not dead, NAIborhood! Cairo and Hotbody brawl “back to the dressing room”, which means they go up the stairs and onto the stage in this gymatorium. (A gymatorium is a technical term in education for when small schools use a single space for both purposes. I once worked in a school that had a cafegymatorium, where the physical education classes, assemblies AND lunches all took place.)
Terry Funk and Tod Gordon preview next week’s show, where we get the semifinals (and maybe the finals - Funk’s been wrong before) of the TV title tournament. Terry also makes sure to shake Gordon’s hand. . . This is a big thing for the Funker; I’m guessing he feels like being seen shaking the hand of a talent is a sign of approval. I do give him a lot of credit for adding his name and reputation to such a small promotion.
Overall, I found Episode 2 of ECW TV to be better than the pilot. The matches were generally of a better caliber and now that I’m familiar with some of the talent, following the stories was fun.
Plus, come on, you gotta watch just to see Sandman wrestle in a faux wetsuit.
Thanks for spending some NAIstalgic time with me. Until we meet again, my friends, I’ll see you around the NAIborhood.
In case you’re a relative neophyte to the DDTWrestling experience, let’s take a minute for some education. Doc Manson and DC Matthews began their online careers as writers, going back and forth in Google Docs. If you can imagine a written version of our podcast, that was essentially it, only without any song parodies or food discussion.
As the podcast grew, the writing dwindled, to the point where I can’t even remember the last time I put fingers to keyboard, as it were. This is a strange feeling - I’m not even sure I remember how to log into ddtpod.com! This could be a disaster…
Regardless, while I didn’t sit down and scribe out resolutions for 2017, I did have a couple of goals in mind. One of them was to dive back into the WWE Network archives. Since the brand split, I haven’t had the time or the energy to watch anything other than the current WWE / NXT / 205 Live product. On the most recent episode of Doc Talk, my partner in crime was effusive in praising my wrestle-nerd-dom, citing my perusal of “The Vault” as his prime example. So, really, I have no choice in the matter.
Plus, Doc laid down the unspoken gamut by writing his own column about the puzzle that is the Emmalina booking. Truthfully, I just think he was looking for a reason to post pictures of Miss Tenille without the Captain of the household (that would be Mrs. Manson, for those of you playing at home) questioning his motives. Either way, though, now I feel like I need to contribute as well. Thanks, Doc…
(Author’s Note: Another resolution for 2017 - To have my podcast vocabulary expand to as similar a level as possible as my written one. I don’t feel like I use such expansive words aurally. Perusal, effusive, gamut. . . I’ve got to step my game up when it comes to my verbal verbosity.)
In an effort to mix the best of both worlds, let’s dust off the old “DC’s Network Diaries”, shall we? As tempting as it was to head right back into the wonders of WCW, circa 1995 / 1996, I feel like I should start something new, especially if I’m going to be writing about it on the regular.
So, Mr. ECW, let us dance. Michael Cole and Byron Saxton just LOVE bragging about how the “complete” ECW library is on WWE Network. Now, that’s what Lewis Black would call a “Liar, liar, pants on fire situation”, since I don’t think I can find Marcus Cor Von or Kevin Thorn as much as I’d like to, but I do get what they’re saying. Even WWE employees won’t count the Sci-Fi ECW as part of the canon.
Thus, our journey takes us back to April of 1993, and the first episode of EASTERN Championship Wrestling on TV. Join us as we head into a high school gymnasium (though the announcers insist on calling it a college athletic center), won’t you?
ECW Hardcore TV: Episode 1
Our announcers are Terry Funk, Stevie Wonderful (a name worthy of every E-fed I was ever a part of as a kid) and . . . . Joey Sussi? Jimmy Stewie? Josh Suggi? I don’t remember his name, but I do recall that he was doing as much as he could to look just like Sean Mooney from WWE, even down to the very gelled hairstyle.
We get a bit of banter between Funk, ECW President Tod Gordon (they weren’t making enough money to afford the second D, apparently) and Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert. More on him later.
Match 1 - Super Destroyers (ECW Tag Champions) vs. The Hellryders (EZ and HD)
I don’t know what HD Ryder is supposed to mean, and I am too uncomfortable to ask.
The Super Destroyers, according to Google, peaked with this tag title run. I found nothing else of note for either of these two, masked or not. Neither did the announce team, apparently, since most of the match is spent trying to figure out which Destroyer is which.
I like the archives because even though this match happened likely before most of you were born, you can watch it and still make connections to modern day wrestling. For example, the Super Destroyers make you wonder why in the world the Authors of Pain ever took the masks off. Rule 368 of pro wrestling: Monster heels should not have baby faces, unless they are covered up by Strowman style facial hair.
The match ends with an assisted powerbomb and then a somersault senton, which was pretty impressive for what I was expecting. A successful title defense from the Super Destroyers.
After the match, the manager of the Super Destroyers, who shall be known as “The Untalented Slick” cuts a promo, but his voice was so Urkelish I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
We are then treated to a promo package hyping the ECW Champion, The Sandman. Now, if you’re expecting Metallica, kendo sticks and self-induced beer can injuries, think again. Back in 1993, The Sandman was a surfer.
Why? I have no idea.
Match 2 - “Wildman” Salvatore Bellomo vs. “Ironman” Tommy Cairo
This is what I love about the WWE Network archives. Both Bellomo and Cairo are names that I recognize from my days avidly reading Pro Wrestling Illustrated. For those Internet natives reading this, PWI was what we called a magazine. Ask your parents for more information.
Sal Bellomo is dressed like a Roman centurion if said centurion didn’t have on any pants, and he is managed by Generic Grand Wizard Ripoff #3. Tommy Cairo, on the other hand, is the first guy to step between the ropes who looks like he could actually pass as a legitimate wrestler. Decent musculature, good look, fair to middling promo skills. This takes nothing away from Bellomo, who actually had some good moves, but if he were in either WWF or WCW during this time, he’d be Norman the Lunatic or Mantaur.
Man. . . I miss Mantaur. . .
The match ends when Johnny Hotbody, who apparently is feuding with Cairo, tries to interfere but messes up, and Cairo picks up the victory.
Did I mention that there’s a tournament going on for the ECW TV Title? No? Well, there is, and people are even ranked! I love that!
Somewhere around this point we also get our first glimpse of Hat Guy, an ECW standard. Just thought I’d mention it.
Match 3 - Tony Stetson vs. Rockin’ Rebel
For my money, this was the match of the first show, as it could have been on Monday Night RAW in 1993 and fit in relatively well. Rockin’ Rebel is another guy who “looked like a wrestler”. Imagine if Luther Reigns (remember him?) had an Eddie Guerrero mullet and you have a pretty decent idea of what he looks like.
I don’t have as much to say about this match because I actually wound up watching it without taking too many notes, which is usually how I know something is good. Stetson looks like the progeny of the Brooklyn Brawler, but was a decent wrestler (to be fair, so was Steve Lombardi) and Rebel proved why he was the number one contender to the ECW title.
Following his victory, Rebel calls out Sandman, who must have been too busy hanging ten to respond.
Match 4 - Jimmy Snuka vs. Larry Winters
Back in the day, the key to these little independent wrestling promotions was to stuff your card full of no-name guys like the Hellryders and Tony Stetson (no offense), and then get one or two “big names” to sell tickets. The ECW TV intro is proof positive of this, as guys like British Bulldog and Nikolai Volkoff are seen, along with a bunch of “other” talents.
Snuka comes out and, from what I could discern, cuts a typical face “shucks, it’s good to be here” promo, but then Eddie Gilbert returns to announce he has signed Snuka to join his stable, which may or may not be called Hot Stuff International. (I know that was a stable of his, thanks to PWI, but not sure if that’s what he called it this time).
Superfly then goes on to have a heel match against Larry Winters, which is what Glacier’s real name would have been had WCW gone that way. Actually, on second thought, it would have been Cole Winters…
Not surprisingly, Snuka wins (Even at 50 years old, that splash was still beautiful to watch), then does the very heelish thing of throwing his opponent out to the floor, but then doing nothing else with him.
Match 5 - Salvatore Bellomo vs. the Unnamed Caped Man
My guess is that the folks at ECW wound up needing to fill more time on their TV show, because Wildman Bellomo comes out to protest his loss and demands competition, and thankfully there is a teenager in a cape in the ring (for reasons, obviously), so Sal squashes him.
That’s pretty much the end of episode 1 of ECW TV, though Terry Funk makes a point of letting everyone know that this is new for all of them and so things will get better. Admirable from the Funkster, but it doesn’t fill me with optimism, especially since he’s obviously not sure what matches are when and who the champions are. We also get a sneak preview of other matches in the TV title tournament (using the same type of computer graphics I learned how to do during my single semester television and media course I took in high school), along with an appearance from World Champion Sandman.
All in all, it was a nostalgic hour of wrestling, which is what you say when something isn’t very good but you don’t want to insult it too badly. I enjoyed the Stetson / Rebel match and it was nice putting faces to the names off of the PWI 500. Is it something I recommend the NAIborhood watch? No, not really, despite being educational and a bit fun to mock.
In which case, actually, yes, I do recommend it. Go watch it right this second, and stay tuned, because I’ve already started Episode 2, so I imagine there will be another edition of DC’s Network Diaries coming at you real soon.
Thanks for reading, and until we meet again, my friends, I’ll see you around the NAIborhood.
After a whirlwind of a Wrestlemania weekend, it's common for fans to turn their wrestle-weary eyes forward and gaze into the future, trying to establish what is likely next for their favorite superstars, which I can happily say now include both male and female talents.
Trouble is, after this particular weekend, that task is difficult. . .If not out and out impossible.
Wrestlemania gave us more questions than answers and tonight's RAW could be one of the most intriguing in ages simply because we have no idea what to expect. Will Shane be there? Could Sting be there? Is John Cena back? Did the League of Nations break up? What about Baron Corbin? WHEN DOES EVA MARIE GET HER WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH?
. . . Ok, so maybe I'm the only one asking that one. . . And even that's just to be annoying. . .
So yeah, WWE is hard to figure out... But so is NXT, and the issues with that brand are even harder to solve!
The Problems with NXT
There's no doubt that NXT has a TON of depth, and actually since I started writing this, NXT has signed eleventeen new talents, including YOUR favorite indie guy. Go check, it could have happened!
The problems I want to talk about today don't have to do with how to manage all of that talent, although that is certainly something NXT will need to figure out. A 60 minute show once a week isn't going to work, long term, with so many superstars that need a chance to shine.
But that's another column.
No, the problems I want to delve into today are the fact that despite this depth, there aren't a huge list of top contenders for NXT's 3 championships. Let's look at them one at a time, in order of the matches as they appeared at Takeover Dallas.
The Tag Titles
American Alpha has climbed the mountain and won their gold, and while I am delighted for Jordan and Gable, who do they face next? Besides a rematch with The Revival. . . What other teams are there? The Vaudevillains? Blake and Murphy? We are all assuming that Enzo and Cass are showing up on RAW tonight. . . Are there even any other tag teams in NXT?
I don't think anyone would mind seeing Dash and Dawson continue their feud with Jordan and Gable into the summer - That tag match was one of the best we've seen in ages - But what happens when that is over? How does NXT quickly establish qualified tag teams, when there aren't many in the first place?
Keep this in mind.
The Women's Title
Asuka has proven herself to be the most dominant female talent since Charlotte, and more than likely she's even better than Miss Flair was. Bayley did a halfway decent job (though as we said on DDT Wrestling this weekend, neither Doc Manson or I were huge fans of their match), but even she paled in comparison to the Empress of NXT.
So who does she fight next?
Sure, we haven't seen a conclusion to the Asuka / Nia Jax and Eva Marie storyline, so there's something. But, just like the tag team situation, who comes after that? Carmella? Alexa Bliss? Dana Brooke? Nobody seems like a qualified contender. In fact, nobody seems remotely qualified to even come close to being a contender!
How does NXT quickly build up their young roster of female talent (Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Santana Garrett, etc.) to be able to even be in the same conversation as their new Womens' Champion?
Detecting a pattern yet?
The NXT Title
Both Doc Manson and I, along with a great number of you out there in the NAIborhood, were CONVINCED that Samoa Joe was going to win the NXT title on Friday night, and Finn Balor would be part of the WWE roster soon after, perhaps even as soon as Sunday's Wrestlemania. That didn't happen, and now once again, we have questions about who becomes the next contender.
In this instance, at least, there are a number of viable contenders to choose from. Austin Aries, Baron Corbin (complete with trophy), Apollo Crews and oh. . . That Nakamura guy. . . All could be potential challengers for Balor's title. Samoa Joe is likely also not done with Mr. Balor, although as Doc and I mentioned, the way Joe handled losing was particularly curious. Not sure what his future is.
Either way, we can be reasonably confident that the NXT male singles scene is relatively set heading out of Takeover - We just don't know what it's going to look like or who's going to step up to challenge the champion.
Yeah we do. . . He's the guy with the knees.
Confusion and questions reign in the two World Wrestling Entertainment properties. Nobody is really sure what happens next. . . Some people can use that to be negative - To fault WWE / NXT for being so muddled and "unprepared". Or, if you follow the Ten Commandments of the NAIborhood, you can be excited about the endless possibilities.