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.