Tod Gordon Shoots on the Early Years of ECW

Gordon covers Heyman’s hustles, plus all the gritty sex, drugs and blood ECW was known for…

Presented by Kayfabe Commentaries 

Hosted by Sean Oliver 
In a cool touch, Kayfabe Commentaries taped this live from the ECW arena.

We start by talking about Joel Gerhardt’s Tri-State wrestling. Gordon heard about the promotion on the radio in Philadelphia and began to work as a sponsor for them, as he owned a jewelry store.

Gerhart was a wrestling fan, but he wasn’t good with business. Tri-State would bring in a ton of big names and spend way more than he would take in. Gordon convinced him to let him join the business and straighten things up.

Joel didn’t have a booker and was letting the big name stars call their own shots.

Philly fans liked their heels, and wanted guys to show that they tried their hardest to put on a good show.

In January of 1992, Gerhart went out of business. He had a big show planned that he had to cancel after it became evident that ticket sales would not match the cash needed to pay the wrestlers.

Gordon picked up the pieces and created “Eastern Championship Wrestling”. He wanted to work small bars and build the company up.

Sandman had to make amends with a local bar’s waitress for spitting beer on her or he would no longer be able to be booked in the establishment.

Philly fans had not seen a wild Memphis-like promotion, and Gordon intended on giving them one to compete with the cartoonish national products.

Papa Shango making the Ultimate Warrior puke after putting a hex on him was the moment that Gordon cites made him give up on the national wrestling scene.

On the first show, booker Larry Winters went against Gordon’s wishes and ran an angle where a black guy was painted white, so he was taken out of power right away.

Stevie Richards was part of the first match ever in ECW history. He was a student of Gerhart’s wrestling school. Stevie showed Gordon how tough he was early on by taking a series of stiff chops as part of paying his dues in a match.

Ivan Koloff came in as the name talent on the first show, He volunteered to put over the local talent without being asked to.

Sandman and Gordon are the same age and both men loved Philly sports, and it helped them to become great friends.

Missy Hyatt was working in ECW with the Sandman and he was determined to have sex with her. Finally one day he ended up banging her in a public bathroom, with the other wrestlers coming in and out of the place while Missy was being railed.

Sandman would stay up for days at a time drinking and doing cocaine. One time Sandman was dancing in the middle of a bar, shirtless as everyone cheered for him. He then realized there were no ladies in the place and that it was a gay bar, so he danced right out to the kitchen and bailed.

Jimmy Snuka ended up as the first ECW champion, in order to later have him put over a younger star to make ECW a new drawing card. Snuka was still very over from his WWF run and he loved the ECW locker room experience. (I take that to mean everyone snorted coke together.)

Sal Bellomo pushed to be on the shows since he was local and would not ask for extra money for a hotel and transportation.

Sandman was suppose to beat Snuka for the title, but blabbed about it to his friends and Gordon felt compelled to change the booking plans.

Japan wanted to run a story where Tatsumi Fujinami was rebuilding his career after losing the IWGP title, so while he was touring the US he worked an ECW show for free as the New Japan’s cameras filmed the bout.

A lot of young guys would work matches for free to prove they deserved a spot on the touring ECW circle.

By the middle of 1992, Snuka moved closer to Philly and thus was able to be booked a lot more frequently.

A local strip club was booked to run an ECW show, since no one under 21 could be admitted, only 17 fans came and Gordon took a financial bath.

Terry Taylor could do excellent impressions of other wrestlers. Gordon pushed for him to take the “gimmick” to Vince to use in the WWF.

Men hitting women in wrestling didn’t bother Tod, as long as it was done infrequently and for the sake of angle for shock value.

The Metal Maniac was Snuka’s paid helper. He’d travel with Jimmy and wash his clothes, among other things.

Snuka ribbed the Maniac one night by convincing him that Jimmy was going to use a rusty razor to blade him during their match. After pretending to cut him, he told Maniac to tense up so the blood would come faster. Gordon watched this unfold from the audience and nearly fell over laughing from seeing Maniac making these wild faces trying to make his “cut” bleed more.

The fans would come up to Tod and thank them for giving them such a great product.

The crowd would chant “Piper” at Snuka as Jimmy was a heel. This led to Gordon asking Piper to come in. Piper wanted 1500 dollars, plus transportation, but he told Gordon it was not worth it because Snuka and Muraco were excellent hands and they could easily carry ECW.

Gordon wanted ECW to become the “new Memphis” in 1993 as they expanded TV syndication and market share.

Kevin Sullivan had to miss a show, so they brought in Kerry Von Erich as a make good to the fans. They wanted it to be a surprise, so they got a hood for Kerry to wear as he walked to the ring. Von Erich, being mentally gone, put on his ring jacket with “Kerry “ on it and walked to the ring.

Eddie Gilbert was brought in as booker. ECW took three months off to regroup and plan. Then the night of their rebirth, a huge snow storm blocked a lot of people from coming, and the college campus they ran the show on went on spring break early and no one was on the college grounds. The show bombed.

Since they had no sponsors, ECW TV had mostly ECW commercials during the breaks.

Chris Candido debuted in April. Tod thinks Gilbert was trying to bang Tammy Sytch, and this was a step in that direction.

Paul Heyman was brought in as a talent in May. Heyman was also in charge of helping talent develop promo skills.

The ECW arena was just a leaky storage building where bingo was held every few weeks.

Buckets collecting rain water dripping from the ceiling was a constant sight all eight years the “arena” was used.

Gordon puts over the fans for their dedication, which is what made ECW special.

The fact that the ECW arena was also used as storage came in handy as it gave the guys places to hide to go smoke pot.

Road Warrior Hawk told Gordon he was impressed by how the ECW locker room was so unified that everyone gathered around the TV and cheer on one another.

Gordon always paid the talent. Another promoter was working with Gordon and told Tod he wasn’t going to pay the guys. Gordon went and got Ron and Don Harris to threaten the S.O.B. into being honest.

Hawk called Gordon and told him since he’s never lied to Hawk, Hawk wasn’t going to lie to him. Hawk went on to tell him that he was going to skip his next ECW date so he could stay home and smoke crack.

Tape trading and selling gave ECW the extra money it needed to survive the early years.

While Chris Candido was busy in SMW, Eddie Gilbert booked Tammy Sytch to come to ECW and Gordon implies that he finally got to sleep with her that night.

Once ECW got on TV and enjoyed a little success, then all the free agents in wrestling started to call. This led to an amusing phone call from “Bob Marian” who wanted to get booked. It took Tod a bit to realize it was the gruff-voiced “Barbarian”.

Eddie Gilbert wanted Tod to tell people that Gilbert was a co-owner.

SMW and ECW had no issues until the Gangstas abruptly jumped ship from SMW and showed up in ECW. The two groups had much different fan bases and very few talents that crossed over.

Shane Douglas was not popular among his ECW mates as he was very cocky, would threaten to quit wrestling for a teaching gig and claimed not to partake in drugs and partying.

Eddie Gilbert quit in September of 1993 after finding out ECW was going to join the NWA. He did not trust Jim Crockett, who was leading the NWA’s new direction. Heyman was booking for Crockett, who was trying to start another promotion.

Gilbert tried to come back two days later, but Gordon had already replaced him with Kevin Sullivan on the cards. Gilbert hated Sullivan. Heyman ended up taking Gilbert’s spot as booker.

Heyman did not take a salary but he was ultimately awarded 49% of the company for his services.

Eddie Gilbert was making ECW TV all about himself, trying to become the Jerry Lawler of Philly.

Heyman would work all night writing and producing TV. He drove Joey Styles crazy since Joey had a day job, and yet he had to try and keep up Heyman’s hours too.

Paul E. created the “Public Enemy” with the intention of moving them up to the WWF since they were New York hoodies.

Heyman made guys wait until after the ECW shows to tape promos. That meant very often the promos were not taped until after midnight. The talent was not pleased.

Future ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky went to work writing an ECW newsletter, and this led to him being a gopher for the company.

Dennis Coralluzzo was a competing promoter from New York. Sabu was blocked by Gordon because ECW was too close to Coralluzzo’s territory and it would hurt business. This kicked off a feud among the promoters.

Taz was clean cut, never touched drugs, and just wanted to work out.

ECW spread into Maryland because they needed more dates for guys to work in order to earn a living and be able justify sticking around. The local commission demanded no blood, among other rules, and ECW pulled out after one show.

Terry Funk loved the ECW style, and the fans loved him, so Funk ended up making ECW his home base.

Sabu did not want to be champion as he found it to be a hassle to carry around the belt props.

Dennis Coraluzzo contacted local commissions to try and have ECW TV taken off the air for its content.

King Kong Bundy was local but he didn’t want to have to put in any effort in his matches, so he was not used more than once.

Mr. Hughes refused to lose to Taz because he had once beat Lex Luger in WCW and thus he felt he was too big of a star to job.

Heyman lied to Gordon about having contracts for advertising in New York and Florida. This led to Gordon spending thousands of dollars a week running ECW TV for the areas and going in the red since they had no ad revenue. Gordon would ultimately leave the business over incidents like this.

ECW would have probably grown and survived until the PC police came and had them snuffed out had Heyman had a better financial backer and been able to keep the company alive past 2001.

There was nothing to Tod being a “mole” for WCW. Gordon was leaving and the story of him aiding talent in getting WCW contracts was created by Heyman to get more “Us vs. Them” heat for the promotion.

Gordon did help Public Enemy get WCW contracts because they had served ECW well and deserved the large contracts that were offered.

Final thoughts: I am not an ECW fanboy, and honestly I was kind of dreading watching this 3+ hour shoot, however Gordon’s passion and the large amount of untold stories really made the DVD fly by fast.

Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin’ and true crimes.

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