Quarter Marshall here, reporting on things great and wonderful from the historical history of professional wrestling. The topic today: ECW. The promotion was briefly a touchstone of conversation at our last get-together, and I was forced to admit complete ignorance. Sure, I've seen the Rise and Fall of ECW, and I've watched all of the Eddie Guerrero-Dean Malenko matches from their 1995 feud, but that's about it. I'm familiar with the iconic characters, and of course the reputation ECW had for being cutting-edge, influential, and inspiring a cultish fanbase which to this day imbues every wrestling crowd in America with chants of Eee-Cee-Dub! In order to get a taste of this zeal, I've been watching Hardcore TV chronologically from it's inception in April 1993. I'm 20 episodes (4.5 months) deep, which seemed like a reasonable juncture to stop into SCW Online and drop some of my reactions on you. Also, for your viewing enjoyment, I've assembled a highlight reel of my personal favorite moments.
First off, when I'm talking about ECW here, it's still Eastern Championship Wrestling. "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert is still head booker, and the main heel in the company. He's associated with Jimmy Snuka, Don Muraco, his brother Doug (as The Dark Patriot), his brother Freddy, and their manager Paul E Dangerously. They collectively feud with at least half of the babyfaces. Heyman's presence on the show is profound. After debuting on the fifth show (with high audience recognition, since he'd been a manager in WCW for about five years) he quickly earns one of the top heel spots, and edges out the original color commentator (Stevie Wonderful) so that his voice is all over the product. Promos, interviews, commentary, ads. It's often his infectious passion, devious wit, and brilliant salesmanship that hold the shows together with a feeling of constant intensity. Of course, things haven't even started to heat up yet, but for it's time, it was pretty wicked.
The shows have provided a cool opportunity to watch some guys that I've heard of, but rarely seen in action. Namely: Eddie Gilbert, Chris Candido, Ivan Koloff, Jimmy Snuka, and Don Muraco. Of the bunch, I'd have to say that Snuka's ring work is the most entertaining (his splash looks absolutely sick) and Don Muraco's promos are my personal favorite, though Gilbert's a natural on the stick as well. The only talent I've seen who I like but hadn't heard of was "Wildman" Sal Bellomo, a big buffoon kind of character who's billed from Italy and dresses like a centurion. The shows have also provided opportunity to see more from a few of my favorites, being Heyman, Terry Funk, and Stan Hansen. The only iconic Extreme CW guy I've seen so far is Sandman, but to my shocking surprise he works in a wetsuit and comes out to Surfin USA by the Beach Boys. He's a top player nonetheless.
It takes about three months for the show to start feeling really different from other wrestling programs of the time. The first balcony spot (by Dark Patriot and JT Smith) was performed in June, and the show's opening video is updated in July, featuring the most violent and raunchy footage compiled from the show's brief tenure. Almost every show ends in some kind of melee or beatdown. Angles are kept hot, titles are coveted, and promo time is used efficiently. Already, the fans have noticeably become bigger marks for the good guys, and the crowds have grown. The oft-repeated tagline for the show was "It's not for everyone", which (ironically) is as good a sales pitch as anything.
As much as I've enjoyed it, I'm really looking forward to the rebranding (which was foreshadowed on the most recent show I watched, as it debuted a happy shiny Shane Douglas). I'm looking forward to more pissed-off WCW guys coming to Philly to air their grievances. I'm looking forward to having context for some of the iconic ECW moments, and witnessing the feuds step by step. Most of all, I'm looking forward to Joey Styles, my favorite commentator aside from Jim Ross. Encyclopedic knowledge of technical wrestling and a good scream once in a while is my cup of tea. *sip* Mmmmm.
Well that was my rant, so here as promised is the highlight reel:
1. Sandman promo (2nd show, 4/12/93)
2. Terry Funk promo (5th show, 5/04)
3. Paul E promo (6th show, (5/11)
4. Terry Funk promo (6th show, (5/11)
5. JT Smith/Dark Patriot spot (from live event, broadcast on 12th show, 6/22)
6. Stan Hansen vs. Jimmy Snuka (19th show, 8/17)
The bald, bearded, and abused guy in #2 is Tod Gordon, the ECW founder/owner/president. I meant to include another clip which featured Gordon being casually strangled during a wild-assed Stan Hansen promo, so I'll put that on the next reel.