Extreme Archive: ECW Television Episode 001
by Robert Schwabe on January 7, 2012

I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. – Neo

All things have a beginning.  Beginnings can be reminders of the painful steps it takes to get to where you eventually ended up.  Often beginnings look nothing like the finished product.

Such is the case of the wrestling federation known as ECW.  ECW is known to most people as the Paul Heyman run independent wrestling company out of the Philadelphia-New York region that was the modern originators of hardcore wrestling.  But, the federation was originally known as NWA: Eastern Championship Wrestling which was created from the ashes of the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance by Tod Gordon. This federation debuted on television on Tuesday, April 06, 1993 on Sports Channel Philadelphia 1 with a program called ECW Television.

As for me, I was one of the ECW faithful, as I have lived in the greater Philadelphia region for all of my life. 2 So, I was there for the extreme revolution, and attended many ECW cards at the ECW arena and a few other locations. 3 As a fan, I want to go back in time and review the evolution of this wrestling federation through the eyes of the weekly television program.  I want to witness fully the evolution from Eastern Championship Wrestling, local Philly indy fed, to Extreme Championship Wrestling, nationally televised wrestling federation.  I want to revisit the phenomenon that went from a indy fed relying on local talent and Ex-WWF wrestlers to the innovative, fan friendly, internet darling that everyone remembers to this day.

That is what this series is about. I plan on watching (and eventually rewatching) the ECW television program, and watch the product and the world evolve around it.  It is going to be painful, at first, but it should be interesting.

ECW Television Episode 001

Taped: March 13, 1993
Broadcast: April 06, 1993
Taping Location: Cabrini College Fieldhouse (in the Philadelphia Suburbs)
Announcing Team: Jay Sulli & Stevie Wonderful

So this is the first episode of Eastern Championship Wrestling. I have never seen this episode. We have at least 15 months before I started watching ECW at all. However, I am familiar with some of the players involved, and will be glad to provide insight where I can.

Two bits of business first:

  • First, I wanted to watch the evolution of ECW as it was originally broadcast, and not through any sort or retelling or re-editing. So, the only legal means of doing so is by going through the original tape distributor of ECW, which is RF Video. People probably know RF Video mostly from the scandal that plagued its owner Rob Feinstein in 2004.
  • Second, recently JD Dunn has been reviewing these same videos for 411mania.com. Dunn is one of my favorite reviewers on the internet. And I just want everyone to know that this has been an idea of mine for over a year. There is even a first draft of this post on my personal blog dated 10/17/2011. I’m chalking this up to a good idea spread serendipitously between two wrestling fans.

Synopsis

Opening Segment
Play-by-play announcer Jay Sulli and (heel) color commentator Stevie Wonderful introduce ECW Commissioner Tod Gordon. Tod is interrupted by Eddie Gilbert who thinks he is joining the broadcast team, but instead it is the living legend, Terry Funk! 
  
Segment #1: ECW Tag Team Championship Match: The Super Destroyers w/ Hunter Q. Robinson vs The Hell Ryders
Super Destroyers are a masked heel tag team somewhat reminiscent of Doom, and are managed by Hunter Q. Robins III (if you merged Slick with M. Night Shamalan you might be pretty close). The Hell Ryders are a jobber tag team with a biker gimmick. The Super Destroyers finish off the Hell Ryders with a powerbomb/rolling senton combination.
 
Segment #2: Sandman Video
A video package highlighting the Eastern Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Champion: The Sandman. Shows lots of Sandman highlights set to Big Shot by Billy Joel.
  
Segment #3: ECW Television Title Tournament
Here are the pairings for the ECW Television Title Tournament:

#1 Jimmy Snuka

#8 Larry Winters

#4 Tommy Cairo

#6 Sal Bellomo

#2 Eddie Gilbert

#7 J.T. Smith

#3 Glen Osborne

#5 Johnny Hotbody

If you’re looking at this list and saying… wow Jimmy Snuka, Eddie Gilbert, and a bunch of nobodies. You’d be mostly correct. All of the rest were certainly 1990s north-east indy mainstays, but no household names certainly.

Segment #4: ECW Television Title Tournament Match: “Wildman” Sal Belomo vs Ironman Tommy Cairo
Belomo is a heel journeyman wrestler who has a crazy gladiator gimmick. Cairo is a muscular young babyface wearing leather jacket, chaps, and green tiger striped tights. Average 90s power vs speed match. Wrestler Johnny Hotbody interferes with the match, accidentally nailing Sal with a flying double-axe handle to give Cairo the count-out victory.
  
Segment #5: Rockin’ Rebel vs Tony “Hitman” Stetson.
Rebel has the 90s southern rocker heel persona, whereas Stetson acts like the local everyman guy. A very sloppy match (mostly from Stetson) where Rebel wins by putting his feet on the ropes. Rebel becomes the #1 contender for the ECW Heavyweight title.
   
Segment #6: ECW Television Title Tournament Match: “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka vs Larry Winters.
Snuka is revealed to be the newest member of Eddie Gilbert’s stable: Hot Stuff International. Winters is a local pro with average grappling talent. After some cheating by Gilbert, Snuka nails Winters with a rib breaker followed by a top-rope Superfly Splash for the victory.
  
Segment #7: Wrap-Up
Funk apologizes for the lack of quality in the show before Sal Belomo pulls a jobber into the ring and proceeds to destroy him.

Random Thoughts

Pretty innovative to give Hunter Q. Robbins III a rich elitist gimmick for a black manager in 1993.  First I can remember of one, but I’m sure there was one.

Most of the early wrestlers in ECW were holdovers from the original Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, which was co-owned by Tod Gordon: The Sandman, Johnny Hotbody, Tony Stetson, Rockin’ Rebel, Larry Winters, JT Smith, and a few others.

The first 38 seconds of this video show the opening title sequence for ECW.  Amazing in some ways, how dated it feels:

ECW Opening Videos

Historical Significance

Other than the show actually debuting, there were three major developments for the history of ECW:

  • The creation of the ECW Television Championship, and the tournament to crown its first champion.
  • The connection of Terry Funk with the promotion he would be most known for in the 90s.
  • The re-formation in ECW of the Eddie Gilbert stable, Hot Stuff International, and it’s first member Jimmy Snuka.

Debuts

Tod Gordon, Jay Sulli, Stevie Wonderful, Eddie Gilbert, Terry Funk, The Super Destroyers, The Hell Ryders, Hunter Q. Robins III, The Sandman (video package), Sal Belomo, Tommy Cairo, Johnny Hotbody, Tony Stetson, Rockin’ Rebel, Jimmy Snuka, Larry Winters

Titles

ECW Heavyweight Champion: The Sandman (since 11/16/1992)

ECW Television Champion: vacant

ECW Tag Team Champions: The Super Destroyers (since 06/23/1992)

ECW Wrestler Spotlight: The Sandman

Now, everyone probably knows The Sandman. The singapore cane swinging, beer drinking, pre-match bleeding, cigarette smoking, hardcore icon. But, this isn’t that version of The Sandman. Hmmm, let’s break it down like this:

Sandman (c. 1992 – 1995)

Sandman (c. 1995 – today)

Gimmick Surfer Dude The Hardcore Icon
Music Surfin USA by the Beach Boys Enter Sandman by Metalica
Outfit Black and Blue Spandex Body Suit White T-Shirt, Jeans
Face Oakley Style Sunglasses Cigarette and Cut on the Forehead
Accessories Surfboard Singapore Cane
Description Bad Sting Ripoff Angry Stripclub Bouncer

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, if you are a visual learner, then maybe this is better:

Surfer Sandman:

Sandman & Peaches

From twaprowrestling.com

Hardcore Sandman:

The Sandman

From en.wikipedia.org

The early 90s were very confusing.

Verdict:

Look, Terry Funk came on and actually officially apologized for the quality of the television show. But, I’m not watching this for wrestling quality, but to see the evolution of something special and interesting.

Regardless, this did not feel very special or interesting.

3.0 Sub-Par

 




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Robert Schwabe

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  • Mike Gojira

    This is quite an endeavor you’ve decided to undertake, and I applaud you for it. Looking forward to more!

  • http://twitter.com/BlairADouglas Blair A. Douglas

    HA! This is awesome. Where has this guy been? Very nice.

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