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.
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:
#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.
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:
Other than the show actually debuting, there were three major developments for the history of ECW:
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
ECW Heavyweight Champion: The Sandman (since 11/16/1992)
ECW Television Champion: vacant
ECW Tag Team Champions: The Super Destroyers (since 06/23/1992)
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|
|Description||Bad Sting Ripoff||Angry Stripclub Bouncer|
However, if you are a visual learner, then maybe this is better:
The early 90s were very confusing.
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.