If you go back and watch the ECW documentary on WWE Network - Not the recent panel discussion, but the full length feature, one of the things that might strike you is a line from Paul Heyman about what made him and his company so successful. To paraphrase…
Find a talent’s strengths and accentuate them. Find a talent’s weaknesses and hide them.
Besides the hours of discussion we could and perhaps should have about using that mantra with present day WWE, this philosophy is evident here in Episode 6 of ECW’s Hardcore TV. As I’ve written about before, this is obviously a company that is finding their sea legs, so to speak, and with each passing week, they seem to find their footing a bit more. Though, to be fair, with each passing week, we as viewers seem to notice another area of weakness as well.
Either way, it’s a fun watch. Let’s get going!
ECW Hardcore TV: Episode 6
Speaking of weaknesses, we start the show with Weakness #1 ECW announcer and 80’s high school vice principal Jay Sulli, along with president Tod Gordon, discussing the tag title match coming up later in the show.
In case you have forgotten, the champions are the Super Destroyers and they are feuding with Tony Stetson and Larry Winters. This will be the third week in a row that they will be battling, and this will be a No Disqualification Title vs. Hair match. To add to the excitement, the manager of the champions, Hunter Q Robbins III, will be handcuffed to “Ironman” Tommy Cairo, to keep him from interfering.
To give this a modern analogy, it would be like if Authors of Pain took on TM61 for the titles, with the locks of Thorne and Miller on the line, and Paul Ellering is handcuffed to No Way Jose. (To be fair, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this in NXT this summer.) There is no relationship that I am aware of between Stetson / Winters and Cairo, but it’s happening anyway.
We also get a look back at the feud between ECW Champion Sandman and Rockin’ Rebel, and the Catfight between Miss Peaches and Tigra that took place last week.
After that, a wrestling match! I’m kidding, of course, because ECW legally needs to acknowledge every single feud they have (Weakness #2), and Jay and Gordon have yet to discuss the Terry Funk / Eddie Gilbert feud and how it will be settled with a Texas Chain match.
This brings out Strength #1, Paul Heyman, leader of the Hot Dangerous Stuff Alliance, who says that the chain match has been cancelled. He and Gordon go back and forth, and at one point, Heyman makes some inappropriate comments about Tod’s wife. Jay Sulli, using expression 134 of his Emotive Matrix, turns his face into something that might resemble shocked, if you squint and tilt your head just so.
With that, we turn to wrestling! Right? OF COURSE NOT! We need to go see Strength #2 Terry Funk down at the Double Cross Ranch, and this time he has a TRACTOR!
Terry continues to talk about the feud with Eddie, only to be joined (apparently), by Gilbert’s brother, who spends the entire time with the back to the camera.
Now, I’m not a wrestling expert, but I have done my share of theater in my life, and so I know one of the first rules of drama - DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK TO THE AUDIENCE! Come on, people - It’s ¾ position! Learn it! (This is sarcasm, mainly because I wanted to brag that I know an acting term... Yeah, I'm proud of it, so what?)
Funk has no patience for Brother Gilbert, and in what many would consider a weakness but I am calling Strength #3, breaks out some fantastic Wrestle Silly.
Yes, that’s Terry throwing an obvious dummy into the bucket of his tractor. He then proceeds to lift him up, dump him out on the ground, and run him over. This makes Terry very happy.
Match 1 - Super Destroyers vs. Tony Stetson and Larry Winters in a No DQ Titles vs. Hair match with the Heel Manager Handcuffed to a Muscular Babyface for the Tag Team Championships
It is FINALLY time for our first match. Robbins, naturally, protests being handcuffed to Cairo, but eventually takes his fate like a champ, even joining Ironman for a seat at ringside.
I know what many of you are thinking, and no, that is not Taz. I swear, it's not!
This match is what you would expect it to be given these talents and these stipulations, despite the fact that according to Jay Sulli, being counted out in this match is technically a disqualification.
Weakness #3 - Jay Sulli’s commentary. I know we mentioned him once before, but that was different. That was just because he looks like a doofus.
This match wasn’t “extreme” by any means, but it did go out into the crowd some. Or, should I say, some crowd. . .
This brings us to Weakness #4, and probably the biggest one of the night. There’s hardly anyone watching live, and it was glaring. Until they can fill the room better, ECW might want to hide their low attendance by staying out of the crowd.
Stetson and Winters win. . . I really can’t remember how. . .My notes tell me it involved Robbins’ cane, but I don’t recall it. . . And we have New Tag Team Champions, our first title change in ECW’s televised history. How’s that for a trivia fact?
Match 2 - Jimmy Snuka and Eddie Gilbert vs. JT Smith and Max Thrasher
We gave Sulli two weaknesses, so it’s only fair we do the opposite for Heyman, who comes out and joins the commentary booth, sending Stevie Wonderful to the back to do some video research. I wouldn’t be surprised if we never see him again, like Judy from Family Matters.
Remember that? Remember when they sent Judy up to her room and she never came back down? And nobody ever talked about it?
We’re introduced to Max Thrasher here, who has a name like a Headbanger and looks like he’d fit in with the WWE UK Championship Tournament crowd, except he’s out of shape and relatively untalented, at least from the 2-3 minute squash match we see.
Either way, this is about Strength #4, Heyman on commentary. From the moment he starts talking, everything about ECW just becomes better. Even Jay Sulli is tolerable now!
We get another promo from “Wildman” Salvatore Bellomo and the only notable thing here is that at one point, he says “I like kids.” Since I was not really paying attention at this point, I was a little stunned and, of course, SUPER uncomfortable.
Match 3 - Salvatore Bellomo vs. The Wolfman
It’s time for the Battle of the Behemoths, or in this case, the Squash of one of them by another. Sal wins with a splash and it’s fun, because the commentary is finally good! Accentuating Heyman makes everything better!
Match 4 - Jonathan Hotbody vs. Tommy Cairo in a Lumberjack match
Strength #5 is that we’re getting some stipulation matches, which is good. Weakness #5 is that this specific stipulation shows us that the ECW roster needs some pumping up, as we get about 6 lumberjacks to surround a 4 sided ring. Between that and the crowd, you’d think this was being done in somebody’s garage.
Still, the match is pretty good. Cairo and Hotbody are talented wrestlers and with Heyman on the mic still, you stay invested. Of course, being a lumberjack match, it’s only natural that it would end with chicanery, as Hunter Q Robbins gets some revenge from the tag title match, and his cane causes Hotbody to get the victory.
After a replay of Funk’s horse promo from last week, it’s time for our main event.
Match 5 - Sandman and Miss Peaches vs. Rockin’ Rebel and Tigra
For those keeping score, that’s a Title vs. Hair match, a Lumberjack match and now a mixed tag, all in one hour long show. It might not be solid yet, but we’re getting extreme!
Miss Peaches is all ready for battle here...
While Tigra stays on the outside for most of the match…
This match also features the “Line of the Night”, which is when Heyman, who is talking about Sandman’s surfer schtick, claims that “(Don)Muraco can hang ten without a surfboard!”
I don’t know what he means and at this point I am afraid to ask.
This match is obviously not going to finish with anything decisive, as Jay Sulli says how they’re almost out of time about thirty seven times. Rockin’ Rebel hit a Stone Cold Stunner, which I thought was kind of neat, and as one would expect, by the time Peaches and Tigra finally lock claws, the show is over.
I suppose we can give Strength #6 to the fact that they ended the show with excitement. That’s still new for them.
As I said in the outset of this column, ECW is still finding its way. Are any of these hours good television? No, but they’re taking baby steps, even if sometimes those are steps backwards. Focusing on Heyman can only be a positive, and they do seem to be getting the knack of the timing of an hour long show. I’m optimistic, despite the fact that it’s been a week and I haven’t had a huge hankering to keep watching.
For all it's strengths, 1993 just can’t hold a candle to 2017.
See you around the #NAIborhood.