Monday, August 30, 2010

Pro Wrestling Primer: An early ECW TV taping

In the early ‘90s, ECW was one in a million of American indie wrestling promotions putting on matches with local unknowns and the occasional big name of the past. Nobody dove out of the balcony in Eastern Championship Wrestling. Sabu had yet to show up and do a moonsault through a table. It’d be a little bit before Tommy Dreamer innovated some violence. A Tai Pai Death Match would have scared the little kids who showed up to see Superfly Jimmy Snuka. And hell, the Sandman wasn’t even drunk. This kinda stuff doesn’t usually happen overnight.

This video I found claims that it is the very first ECW TV broadcast. Forget about ECW meaning blood, guts, and violent spectacles for a little bit. Anybody who misses the days of studio wrestling may want to give this a chance. I love the intro!

The show opens with ECW commissioner Tod Gordon, announcers Jay Sulli and Stevie Wonderful, and the late “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert standing ringside in what appears to be a high school gym. Apparently Hot Stuff thinks he’s going to provide expert analysis on commentary, but the commissioner has other plans. Instead, he announces Terry Funk as the third man in the booth and Gilbert is pissed. After backing Gilbert out of the picture, Funk lets us know that he’s happy to be here and expresses his appreciation for the wrestling fans in Philadelphia. To Terry Funk, Philly is the “HC” portion of the American wrestling circuit. “HC” meaning “hardcore,” of course. He promises that the ECW wrestlers will give their heart and soul in the ring, even though they’ve never been on TV before.

Back from commercial break, our first match has the Super Destroyers defending their ECW tag team titles against the Hell Riders. The Super Ds come out to Michael Meyers’ theme from the
Halloween movies, so they’re automatically cool in my book. It’s probably safe to say that whoever are under the masks are not the same wrestlers who portrayed the Super Destroyers in the days of World Class. As they enter the ring, I notice Hat Guy, complete with straw hat and Hawaiian shirt, in the crowd. The Hell Riders go on the attack before the bell, but the Super Ds rally back and make quick work of their foes. Super D #2 scores the win with a front somersault splash onto one of the Riders.

Terry Funk wants an interview with the Super Destroyers, but gets their manager Hunter Q. Robins III instead. Funk addresses this typical bush-league wrestling managers as “Hunter Q. Robins The Turd” and gets hollered at for it. Robins wants respect, but he’s not getting it from Funk tonight as we go to a promo video about the ECW champion, the Sandman.

The Sandman may not have been the beer-chugging, cigarette-puffing psychopath that made him one of ECW’s most recognizable wrestlers…but you’d have to be drunk to believe that his early gimmick was going to get him far in life. In 1993, the Sandman was a surfer who carried his board with him to the ring. Even though it’s safe to say that Memphis (where the matches featured on the video took place) isn’t exactly known for its great surf, the Sandman is ready drop in on any wave any time. Yes, that is Billy Joel singing “Big Shot” in the background. Oy vey. No wonder the Sandman became a drunk later on.

We’re back from commercial break and Stevie Wonderful is breaking down the first round of ECW’s TV title tournament. Match #2 is about to take place, pitting Tommy Cairo vs. Wildman Sal Bellomo. “Born to Be Wild” hits the speakers and here comes the Wildman. Those of you who may remember Salvatore Bellomo from his early ‘80s WWF jobber tenure won’t recognize him in ECW at all. Apparently things got pretty wild in between. Dressed in a Roman soldier outfit, Sal’s added long greasy hair, a beard, and a ton of weight. It’s not a pretty sight. But if you’re a fan of the Confederacy of Scum bands, you’d be stoked to see that Bellomo is led to the ring on a chain by none other than the Cosmic Commander of Wrestling.

Out comes the undefeated Tommy Cairo, who probably thinks he looks really tough in his motorcycle leathers. Too bad he just looks really gay instead. The match is watchable, but nothing to write home about. Sal Bellomo has Cairo on the verge of his first defeat a number of times, but the Iron Man manages to fight with courage and vigor and whatever. The Cosmic Commander distracts the referee long enough for Johnny Hotbody to interfere. His attempt backfires, sending the Wildman careening over the top rope and losing the match via countout. Stevie Wonderful claims that the result should have been Tommy Cairo losing by disqualification due to the outside interference, thus breaking his no-loss record.

There doesn’t appear to be a third part to this video. I even looked around on the page it was posted on. Oh well. Still, it’s fun to see ECW in their humble beginnings. They certainly weren’t any worse than the WWF or WCW were at the time.

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