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Extreme Archive: ECW Television 001

by on October 17, 2011

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.

All things have a beginning. And sometimes the beginning can be very different from what later becomes very familiar. Such is the case with the wrestling federation known as ECW. Most fans know ECW as the WWE brand from the last 10 years, many other fans know ECW as the independent federation known as Extreme Championship Wrestling, run by the mad scientist of professional wrestling, Paul Heyman.

But, ECW started as Eastern Championship Wrestling (or more specifically NWA: Eastern Championship Wrestling), and on Tuesday April 06, 1993, local cable channel Sports Channel Philadelphia debuted a television program called ECW Television. Through this television program, the world of professional wrestling would be altered forever.

As a fan of the original (not WWE version) of ECW, I wanted to go back in time and review the evolution of this wrestling federation through the eyes of the weekly television program. To see the evolution from Eastern Championship Wrestling, local Philly indy fed, to Extreme Championship Wrestling, nationally televised wrestling federation that became the fan friendly internet darling that everyone remembers to this day.

Keep in mind, the journey may be very painful. As ECW started with a much different roster, a much different attitude, and a much different style than later fans would come to know. With no further ado, let me introduce them to you:

ECW Television Epsiode 001
Taped: March 13, 1993 | Broadcast: April 06, 1993

In which ECW Commissioner Tod Gordon invites a living legend to the broadcast booth, the ECW Television Title tournament begins, and a classic heel stable re-establishes itself.

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.

A bit of business 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.

Synopsis

Taping from the Calibri College Fieldhouse in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

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 is the pairings for the ECW Television Title Tournament

Segment #4: ECW Television Title 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 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 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.

Here’s the opening theme and theme song for ECW. The actual opening shows match footage, but even so, you may begin to understand the level of video for this (think local high school football on cable access).

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 Championship: The Sandman (since 11/16/92)

ECW Television Championship: vacant

ECW Tag Team Championship: The Super Destroyers (since 06/23/92)

ECW Wrestler Spotlight: The Sandman

Okay, if you’re going to spotlight a wrestler in ECW, you gotta start with the heavyweight champion, right? So, the champion is the wrestler known as The Sandman. A mainstay from the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance (TWA) where he was a heel known as Mr. Sandman, who typically faced DC Drake, Tony Stetson, and Rockin’ Rebel.

And while, it is the same person who became the extreme icon, later on, it’s not ‘quite’ the same. Maybe it’s just easier to do a quick breakdown of the two versions:

Or just see for yourself:

Overall Comments

From humble beginnings and all that nonsense. But in the early 1990s, most people were still watching WWF Wrestling Challenge and WCW Worldwide for their weekly wrestling fix. This is a little bit slow and plodding, even for an independent wrestling show, but the feeling of something new is kindof there.

I wouldn’t recommend this episode to anyone but the true ECW die-hard fans.

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