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.