NAIstalgia is a funny thing, my friends. As Jason Moltov has said himself, it is nostalgia that is what keeps many of us WWE fans coming back for more, even when it’s not necessarily what we wish it would be. We spend our time pining for the wrestling we remember, and as I’ve written about in each of the previous columns about ECW Hardcore TV, these small independent promotions used nostalgia to sell tickets.
Consider the intro for ECW TV. We see Jimmy Snuka, the British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart, Don Muraco, Nikolai Volkoff and Ivan Koloff, as if these six superstars are regulars on the show, despite the fact that the only one we’ve seen so far is Superfly, but that doesn’t matter. If a fan saw the intro while flipping channels (and remember, back in 1993 it was much easier to do that), they might linger on the show in the hopes of seeing a running powerslam or. . . Whatever it was that Neidhart or Volkoff used as finishing moves. If they watched more than one episode, as I did, they begin to get drawn in, starting to recognize names and faces.
ECW TV Episode 3
This is how our third episode begins, as I finally figure out the name of the Sean Mooney style play by play guy. Jay Sulli is his name, joined as always by Stevie Wonderful, welcome us to another thrilling hour of television, and much the same as the previous weeks, out comes Hotstuff Eddie Gilbert, though this version is a bit more respectful and contrite when it comes to one Terry Funk. Fans at ringside and at home immediately smell a rat, as they should.
Match 1 - Super Destroyers vs. Super Ninja and Wolfman
The ECW tag champions open the show, joined by their manager, yet another guy whose name I am now aware of. He is Hunter Q Robbins III, so instead of Untalented Slick, we’ll call him the Illegitimate Son of Slick and Clarence Mason.
While this is another squash for Super Destroyers, I must admit to being markedly impressed with their ring work. Both talents, whomever they are, have some skill in the ring, and it makes me wish a bit that Konnor, Viktor, Akam and Rezar (or however you spell it) would take some time under the WWE Network learning tree. These two, while the announcers still don’t know how to tell them apart, pull off the monster heel card very well. I especially liked when one of them forced Wolfman (who looks exactly like his namesake except for the lack of hair on his head and the keg attached to his stomach) to tag in Super Ninja.
Following the victory (a nice side slam to senton combo), Terry Funk seeks an audience with Mr. Robbins III (or, as the Funkster called him, Turd), but in doing so, commits the cardinal sin of turning his back, which is what he promised not to do in the initial minutes of the episode. He is then immediately attacked by a chair-wielding Gilbert. We can all tell where this is going.
Match 2 - Jimmy Snuka vs. Tommy Cairo
Hotstuff remains at ringside, serving as advisor to Jimmy Snuka for this TV Title Semi-Final matchup. He’s still wearing his PWI t-shirt (I wish I owned one of those) and he has obviously “borrowed” Terry Funk’s cowboy hat, as he is aping the Funkster on the ring apron. He also, hilariously enough, begins doing commentary as Terry Funk, and sadly enough, it took me a minute or two to notice the difference.
The match itself starts out nicely enough but ends, to put it as Liam Stryker does, with one of those “5 paragraph endings”. Gilbert tries to hold Cairo back, Snuka hits Gilbert, ref bump, Johnny Hotbody emerges, foreign objects change hands, and Snuka picks up the victory, advancing to the finals.
This entire episode has really been about Eddie Gilbert, who truly is a very entertaining heel to watch, unlike one Jimmy Snuka, who can’t seem to stop smiling most of the time (generally considered to be an unheel move). Gilbert’s promo with Jay Sulli (who needs some on-air direction from Eddie on how to stand without completely blocking Snuka from camera view) basically announces ECW as Hotstuff International’s property.
Match 2 - Eddie Gilbert vs. Glenn Osbourne
Episode 3 of Hotstuff International Wrestling continues as Gilbert ditches the PWI shirt for his ring jacket to take on “The Madman from the Badlands” in the second semi-final matchup. But first, another promo from Eddie, who tries to convince Osbourne to abandon the match now, saving himself from a Snuka beatdown later. Gilbert claims that Glenn has 20 kids, which as we all know, is 2 and a half Heath Slaters’.
Like other Hotstuff matches, this one goes all over the place, with chairs and tables totally legal. Sulli and Wonderful try their best to play Monsoon and Heenan here, but both seem like they are just blatantly reading lines from a script from Tuesday Night Titans or something.
We also learn that without HD, wrestling guys who wear face paint can look awfully awkward on TV. There’s a lot of smearing, that’s all I’ll say.
Eddie Gilbert gets the win with a foreign object (just like last week), but once again, Jay Sulli leaves his post to inform the referee, who reverses the decision when the object is discovered.
So, in case you’re playing at home, Gilbert was allowed to use chairs and tables, including turning one over on Osbourne and standing on it like a surfboard. . . But the use of “brass knuckles” is a cause for DQ.
The tag line for ECW at this stage is “It’s not for everyone”, because some people demand logic and reason to their wrestling. Not anyone I know, necessarily, but some people.
Understandably, Gilbert is upset, so he has words with Sulli, conveniently also turning his back. Shockingly, Funk is back with his own chair, and the brawl is on! Following a couple creative chair shots (holding the unfolded chair and smacking Gilbert into the seat end), Gilbert escapes to the back, and Terry Funk offers up a master class in promos, especially if you’re not given a script and are allowed to curse.
Match 3 - Rockin’ Rebel vs. Frank Cody
Rockin Rebel, the number one contender to Sandman’s ECW title, confronts Peaches the ring attendant, insisting on getting a kiss just like the champ got last week, but gets a slap for his trouble. Incensed, he takes his fury out on Frank Cody (who doesn’t even get a namedrop by the announce team), winning in super quick fashion with a spinebuster. Chasing Peaches down the aisle, Rebel brings her back by the hair, obviously intending on taking his kiss by force, but Sandman makes the save, only to be attacked by Tigra, the other ring attendant. (Attempts were made to find pictures of both Peaches and Tigra, but all searches wound up making me uncomfortable.)
Has any other promotion named their ring attendants? Does WWE even have them anymore?
Taking advantage of the situation, Rebel smashes the surfboard over Sandman’s head, and we get one of my favorite wrestling tropes - “Generic Babyfaces in various states of street clothes running to the ring to help the fallen hero.” Jay Sulli is very upset, claiming that Sandman might be dead, though since his body is about three feet from the announcer and he is obviously still breathing, maybe that proclamation was a bit premature.
Peaches goes to tend to the champ, but pretty much the first thing she does is cradle his head, and anyone trained in first aid will tell you that was a terrible move on her part. You don’t know if Sandman’s neck is broken, Peaches??? STOP HURTING HIM!
(Fun and random DC Matthews fact - I spent a summer as a lifeguard and swim instructor.)
Match 4 - Jimmy Snuka vs. Glenn Osbourne for the TV title
Seriously, Eddie Gilbert has been out here for 80-90% of this TV episode. Even Stephanie McMahon and Triple H aren’t THAT bad!
Having said that, I seriously love this guy. Since Funk got hit with a chair and with Stevie Wonderful in the back checking on Sandman, Jay Sulli is joined by Tod Gordon at commentary. Eddie Gilbert arrives and immediately tries to start negotiating his contract. He then pretends to drive part of Sandman’s surfboard around ringside.
No joke, I’m beginning to think WWF / WCW missed the boat not picking up Gilbert. He’d have easily been another Jerry Lawler.
I’m guessing we all can predict how this match goes. Ref bump, Gilbert shenanigans, the weakest backbreaker in history (I get it, Snuka is 50, but still . . .Geez), one Superfly Splash, and amazingly enough, the first ever ECW TV champion is the biggest star the company has.
Stevie Wonderful is backstage checking on Sandman, but apparently someone in graphics wanted to have a little fun. . . Or they were just confused.
Either way, Peaches answers the door and in her best Carmella impression, lets us know Sandman is hurt and she can’t talk right now. She makes sure to say that about twelve times before shutting the door. Wonderful assures us we’ll get an update on Sandman next week.
This was the weakest episode of ECW TV in terms of match quality, but it is worth watching alone just for the antics of Eddie Gilbert. Much like Matt Hardy did with TNA in 2016, Gilbert is doing his utmost to keep ECW alive, even in its relative infancy.
Will Sandman make a recovery? Will Terry Funk step into the ring to settle his score with Gilbert? Will Wolfman eat a large piece of meat on live TV? We’ll find out next time on DC’s Network Diaries.
Until we meet again, my friends, I’ll see you around the NAIborhood.