Tod Gordon Shoot Interviewby Brandon Truitt
Mar 4, 2003, 19:00
Man, what a pisser today... It has been confirmed that Kurt Angle will be out for about a year for neck surgery and rehabilitation. Even worse than that is that he can't even have one more match before he goes, meaning that the highly anticipated Angle vs. Lesnar match at Wrestlemania is off and the booking committee will be scrambling to find a new opponent for Brock at Mania as well as a reason to explain to those not in-the-know why Angle is forfeiting the belt rather than losing it in the ring.
Oh, and Triple H and the WWE writers can all go to Hell. That promo last night was bad enough when they could have played it off as double entendres about "you people" and how Booker should "dance for me". The second the term "nappy hair" popped up, they confirmed that this was a blatantly racist promo about how Booker T, or ANY other black wrestler, could never win the big one.
Know what the sad thing is? Triple H could have been out there doing the Chevy Chase / Richard Pryor racial slur skit from Saturday Night Live and STILL couldn't get heat. He could be out in Harlem dressed up as a Klansman and a sandwich board proclaiming "I hate n******" and not get more than a slight chorus of boos. Granted, they WERE in Long Island, home of the dead crowd, but Booker was getting cheers after he spoke while you could hear crickets after Triple H was done.
If you haven't already, be sure to check out my Rey Misterio Jr. Shoot Interview review from yesterday.
As always, you can feel free to Drop me an e-mail, read the archives, buy me stuff, or buy yourself stuff at Highspots.com.
Tod Gordon Shoot Interview (2001)
We start out with some ECW footage pitting Commissioner Tod Gordon against former referee Bill Alfonzo, aka Fonzie. Gordon kicks Fonzie in the marbles, hits him over the head with a frying pan, and Tazz starts counting the three… and turns o him. He throws Fonzie on top of Gordon for the three.
How did he get involved in the business? He got to know Joel Goodhart, promoter of a group that had a lot of influence on ECW, Tri-State Wrestling Alliance. He became a minor partner in TWA and they would spend $25,000 to $30,000 in order to draw $20,000 houses. Once Goodhart went bankrupt, Gordon started up ECW, then Eastern Championship Wrestling.
Was he aware of Goodhart’s money problems? Yes, and he told him not to take the ticket money for the last show because there was no way they could afford to put it on. Joel ended up splitting with all the money.
The 20/20 segment on him, his family, and his company- Connie Chung put on a segment where he and his family were watching wrestling. Donnie Allen had been told by Comcast to find a family in the Lower Marion area for the segment and he chose Tod’s family. The crew was there for 14 hours to get what ended up being a 3-minute segment.
Starting up ECW- He wanted to run Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware on the Memphis plan. He wanted to go from running monthly shows to running weekly shows and have a live Saturday TV taping become the centerpiece of it all.
What were the bar shows they promoted like? They had a lot of fun doing them. The only guys from out of town brought in to do the shows were Don “The Rock” Muraco, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, and Ivan “I’ve got to be 90 years old and yet I'm STILL wrestling” Koloff. Muraco loved doing it because he didn’t pay for his tickets (he had a ton of frequent flyer miles from when he worked from the airlines) and was looking for something to do besides living out his WWF character of a beach bum. It started out as them working with one building in one city but built to where they were running venues across the northeast.
The Chestnut Cabaret show- A few days before the show, the owner dropped a bomb on him about how everyone going to see the show had to be at least 21 because of their liquor license. They only had 30 people there and, in order to give the public a reason why the show only admitted people 21 or older, they stripped Tigress of her top in the bar. When he was handing out payoffs that night, the last guy in line, JT Smith, told him “I can’t accept this… you got killed tonight” and ripped up the check. JT ended up being the first guy Tod hired for the promotion full-time because of his honesty.
Eddie Gilbert- He went to a multi-promotional show where ECW worked with with Dennis Coralluzzo and Larry Sharpe’s promotion. Eddie offered to help book their ECW and it took off from there. He also tells a story about how Coralluzzo and Sharpe’s partnership was breaking up at the time because Sharpe thought they were going to lose too much money. When he met Dennis for the first time, Dennis was begging him to lie to Sharpe about how many people were expected to come and how much money they’d make. He told Dennis “He’s your partner, YOU lie to him. I don’t even know the guy.”
Early impressions of Gilbert- He was great when he first met him, putting together the TV shows and helping book the matches, etc. Eddie was VERY paranoid, though, and didn’t trust anyone. He’d sit down and read the sheets and then start reading WAY too much into them. Example- “Eddie Gilbert worked a show down in Memphis” was interpreted as “Eddie Gilbert worked a show down in Memphis because no one else would bring him in.” He ended up bringing in his brother Doug Gilbert as well as Jerry Lawler’s son, Kevin Christopher (brother of the NWA TNA’s Brian Lawler, aka Grandmaster Sexay or Brian Christopher).
Was there anyone out for Eddie’s job at this time? No, because he’d never even met Paul Heyman at the time. He considered Terry Funk but Funk wouldn’t commit to spending as much time in Philly as he felt the job deserved. Funk was also trying to talk him out of being a promoter.
Getting on TV- They got word that the Sports Channel in Philly was looking for more shows to fill out time when the Phillies, Flyers, 76ers, Eagles, etc. weren’t playing. They ended up putting together a pilot episode of the show based around the current champion, The Sandman. He describes it as “an abomination” because Sandman’s wife missed Don Muraco by about 10 to 15 feet with her powder throw then Muraco sold it once he realized what was going on. That would normally make the Jackie Gayda debacle on RAW seem like nothing, except this was a pre-taped local show while that was a live RAW on TNN. The guy at the network still liked the show, though, and they got a timeslot. Eddie Gilbert was brought in to book full time at that point because Tod couldn’t deal with the producing shows and booking at the same time.
The veterans- They went after the guys they liked as kids, such as The Sheik, Abdullah the Butcher, and Kevin Sullivan, who were all hardcore wrestlers. They did hire guys like Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and say “Ugh, what a waste of money that was” after the fact, though. Ivan Koloff was the nicest guy in the world, as he came in the first night and said “How about I put over one of your guys tonight so we can start elevating them?” Eddie also brought in guys he knew would work out, such as Paul Heyman, and put them to work.
Chris Candido- He remembers Sunny more than Chris early in their careers. Chris was a MUCH different person back when he first met him because his “personal demons” have caused a lot of problems for him. He and Johnny Hotbody worked as the Suicide Blondes, which he thought was hilarious because Hotbody’s hair was still dark. Sunny only worked one show for them, as she sprayed someone’s eyes at the end of a match, then went to work for Jim Cornette in Smokey Mountain Wrestling the next week.
Was Kevin Sullivan involved in the booking while he was there? No, but he did make a power play to try and become booker.
The story goes that they were planning their first big show at the ECW Arena with a Terry Funk vs. Eddie Gilbert main event.
He then starts drifting off on a tangent about how, on the undercard of that show, they had Angel get her top ripped off, which was done because of a conversation they had about bullshit stipulations. They had specifically discussed how bra and panties matches were bullshit because they covered something up as soon as it popped loose. (Jerry Lawler, THIS is EXACTLY why we could give less than a shit about puppies unless they’re on PPV… they WON’T be seen on a live RAW unless they belong to Stephanie McMahon and she forgets to wear a bra.) They ended up hiring Angel to do that because she was desperate to get her foot in the door and would do anything they asked of her. It ended up on the Super Summer Sizzler Spectacular 1993 tape. They decided that night that, if they ever did a stipulation match, they had to go through with the stipulation. He specifically addresses bullshit like Dusty Rhodes losing a Loser Leaves Town match and coming back under a mask (the “Midnight Rider” angle, considered a flop on TWO separate occasions) when talking about their reasoning. They said someone was going to get stripped, so Angel got stripped.
Their second major show was Stan Hansen vs. Terry Funk. He says that Hansen hadn’t worked for anyone in the US for about 5 years at that point, but he called him up and Hansen agreed to it (Tod’s exaggerating a bit. Hansen had a run as the US champion in WCW in late 1990, which was only 3 years prior to this show.) Around that time, Eddie Gilbert started getting paranoid about how Paul Heyman was associating with promoter Gary Juster of WCW and that former NWA bigwig Jim Crockett may be involved, so he had a blowup at the office and quit. At that time, Eddie called up and apologized but was told “I’m sorry but I replaced you in your match with Kevin Sullivan”, which was NEVER the right thing to say to Eddie because he and Sullivan hate each other. (Missy Hyatt, in her first shoot, talks at length about how the “little devil-worshipping troll” was always out to get Eddie.) Eddie ended up asking if he could do a run-in at that show, which Tod agreed to. During that run-in, Eddie grabbed the mic, which he wasn’t supposed to do, and pissed off Paul E, who was running his first show as booker at the time. Doug Gilbert also flipped out in the back and destroyed the locker room with a baseball bat, so that was the last time any of the Gilberts were welcomed in Philly.
The story about Stan Hansen strangling him- Stan’s blind as a bat to begin with. The plan to get Stan over as a badass going into the match was for him to strangle the ring announcer with his bullrope. Since Stan can’t see worth a crap, he strangled Tod (the company owner) by accident. He was easy to work with though.
Why did Paul E get the book? Tod got together well with Paul and it started to freak Eddie out, thinking that Paul E was trying to force him out. Once Eddie flipped out, Paul E offered to help with the show that night and Tod accepted. He did such a good job for the next few weeks that he got the position permanently.
Does he regret hiring Paul E in hindsight? He doesn’t regret hiring Paul E because he was the right guy to take them as far as they got. He doesn’t know if he should have given Paul E that much control over his company though. He feels he knew enough that he could have done it if he wasn’t running another business at the same time.
Was his family supportive of his investment in the company? They didn’t care at first because there wasn’t much money going into the company. They only investment at first was in a promoter’s license and bonding costs. Once he started to run on the networks, the costs starting piling up. He says if it wasn’t for the Internet, and makes a big point about how they were the first to reach out to the Internet fans, that they would have probably died off. They did a Q and A with Bob Ryder on Prodigy, which helped get their name going amongst the online fans and got them to buy the tapes of their shows. (Prodigy was a national online services network, like America OnLine, that later became an Internet Service Provider. They, along with Compuserve and GEnie, were actually larger than AOL in the early 90s.) He says that the shows effectively funded the company because they were sold for as much as the admission cost to a show so, instead of drawing 400 people to the ECW arena, it was like drawing 800 for one show. He says that he walked out of the company with everything he started with, which most other people in this business weren’t capable of doing. He also takes credit for making them into one of the Big Three, although I’d say his role was mainly writing the checks than making a product that people want to see. He eventually decided in 1997 to get out of the company because he was spending so much time on all of his jobs that he wasn’t able to be a father to his kids.
Terry Funk- Funk only wanted to do color commentary “which lasted all of about 5 minutes.” They taped three shows at a time and, in one of those shows, they had an angle where Eddie Gilbert whacked Terry across the back with a chair. In the back, Terry sold that shot like it had crippled him when, actually, Eddie hadn’t hit him that hard. He says that he was a great teacher to the guys in the locker room.
JT Smith and The Sandman- The first show they ran, there was an angle where JT was supposed to get painted white while DC Drake would get painted black. He ended up getting worked by the boys, as they only wanted to paint JT white, so they left the black paint in the locker room when they went to do the angle. He got pissed at that because it made it racist. (O…..K. And painting a white guy black at the same time would make it LESS racist? It was a dumb, racist angle from the start Tod.) As a result of that, he took the book back from Larry Winters, who was booking his first show that night, and booked everything himself.
Did people think JT got preferential treatment because he worked in the pawn shop part time? No, because JT had been in the territory for a long time before he ever started at the pawn shop and, besides that, he never really had a bunch of success. He was never a world champion, tag champion, etc. He was a hard worker, always volunteered to do the company’s community service stuff, etc. He’s an all-around great uy.
What was the first big show he promoted where he realized he had something? The first show where the crowd chanted E-C-Dub, although he can’t remember when that was. He says that something like that is a rarity and that, when WCW had a mascot trying to start a WCW chant, it didn’t work. He claims that they were the first promotion to do the “Wrestler X won’t be here tonight. If you don’t like the first half of the show, you can get a refund if you like” thing.
Sidenote- The WWE certainly hasn’t done that LATELY… there were a bunch of PISSED people at Madison Square Garden who couldn’t get refunds when the main event was changed on the fly from Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H to Brock Lesnar vs. Team Angle in a gauntlet match. What makes this stupider is that they KNEW that Trips was going to be out but still promoted the show around him instead of being honest and saying “He’s hurt, so we have a substitute match” at the beginning of the night.
Tod also discusses how the fans would applaud them for anything, with at least 200 of them coming to their hotel one night to give them a standing ovation after the show. He feels it was because they didn’t do a lot of the “cartoon crap’ like the Big Two, as well as them shooting on the other federations, which was not done at that time. He specifically mentions promos they cut about Hulk Hogan jabbing a needle in his ass. He talks about the bond between a lot of the people who were there at the beginning, such as Public Enemy (Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge), Too Cold Scorpio, Sandman, etc. Everyone had wanted the whole promotion to succeed instead of just getting themselves over.
He also says that, on more than one occasion, he’d gone out and apologized to the fans if something sucked. One such occasion was when they promised the crowd a bomb match with Paul Diamond and a partner against Public Enemy and the bomb didn’t go off because one of the people helping set up had knocked over the bowl of gunpowder. He was at ringside counting down to the explosion and not knowing what had happened. “THREEEEE, TWOOOOO, ONEEEEE *no explosion * Oh boy…” He went out and explained the situation and promised that the next show would be better.
He also loved how they would get a crowd reaction by having a big name such as a Bobby Eaton, Arn Anderson, or Rick Rude would come in without any forewarning. I can see that viewpoint if the ECW Arena was sold out for every show, as it wouldn’t make a difference in the number of fans they could draw if they promoted them first.
Victor Quinones- Victor called him up about possible talent exchanges, offering him the Headhunters. They had the Headhunters vs. Hugh Morrus (Bill DeMott, Crash the Terminator) and Miguel Perez (the hairy member of Los Boriquas) at the ECW Arena and one of the Headhunters ended up going through a wall, exposing Abdullah the Butcher, who was in the back sitting in his underwear and smoking a cigar. When he realized the entire crowd was staring at him, he waved at them and then walked away quickly. The arena’s owners didn’t care what they did as long as they repaired any damage they caused, so they went through plasterboard walls every week. “It cost us more to repair what we did than we made from the shows.”
Getting Bobby Eaton and Arn Anderson into ECW- They were under WCW contract but were allowed to take other dates, such as for Smokey Mountain. SMW wasn’t sure if they were going to bring them back, so ECW went ahead and brought them in for a show under hoods. When Bobby took his hood off, the people popped big. When Arn came out, they popped even MORE. He calls it one of the defining moments of ECW. Arn came up to him that night and told him to make sure that they were building to things and not just doing blood, guts, and chairs every night. He puts over Arn heavily.
Shane Douglas- Eddie Gilbert brought Shane in when he was still running ECW. Tod’s first memory of him was as a fan at Halloween Havoc 1989 when Shane and WWE road agent Johnny Ace faced The Freebirds (WWE road agent Michael PS Hayes and Jimmy “I make money on the side as a Ron Jeremy lookalike” Garvin). Every time Shane or Ace, the supposed faces, did anything on offense, the crowd would boo. Anytime the Freebirds went on offense, the crowd would pop. When Shane came into ECW, Tod remembered that night and told him “You’ll never make it in Philly as a face because they hate pretty-boys. You’ll have to be a heel.” They just let him loose on the mic as a heel and wonders how no one had ever tried in him that position before. He ranted and raved for about 40 minutes one night in a promo and it was so good that the entire thing ended up on TV. He talks about how Ric Flair was a God in Philly yet Shane came out and buried him because there was legitimate heat between the two of them.
Sidenote on Gilbert and Shane- (This relationship goes all the way back to when Shane, then Troy Orndorff, and Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) were doing tryout matches for Bill Watts’ UWF. Both Shane and Cactus immediately bonded with Eddie and his then-wife Missy Hyatt, which influenced both their careers. Unfortunately for Cactus, he screwed up in his last tryout match against Sam Houston and didn’t end up making the cut, despite Watts being high on him for his previous few matches.
Tommy Dreamer- Nice guy, soft spoken, etc. Tommy was the straight man to a locker room full of party guys, so everyone got a kick out of the night where Tommy got a contact high just by being on a bus full of wrestlers smoking pot. Tommy once told him that he’d die for the company if necessary. “The fact that his body is in one piece is amazing.” He didn’t get over until Sandman caned the hell out of him and everyone saw the bleeding wounds on his back.
Tazz and Sabu- Tazz kept to himself all the time but was appreciative of his opportunity. Neither he nor Paul ever thought that Tazz would end up being the promo guy that he ended up being, as his first gimmick was the stupid Tasmaniac gimmick where he was a wildman in furs, etc. and didn’t talk. Sabu was pretty interesting himself, as he’d been working for Dennis Coralluzzo, who’d only run shows about every 3 or 4 months. They ended up signing him and then using a Hannibal Lector gimmick on him where 911 would wheel him down to the ring on a gurney. The crowd was immediately scared shitless of him even though he was only about 5’7”. A bunch of people are scared to talk to him and will attempt to book him by getting Fonzie to talk to him. He feels bad about how Sabu’s career went down the crapper because Sabu and Paul E didn’t get along. There was a lot of that going on, as he felt great for Public Enemy when they jumped to WCW and got paid $100,000 a year each, while Paul E. got pissed off that his creations were leaving. “Sabu had given so much to the company… he broke his neck in the ring for God’s sakes…” Great guy. Sabu is a lot like his uncle, the original Sheik, in the way that people are scared shitless of him.
Paul E. purging a lot of the old ECW guys to make room for his guys- Larry Winters was let go because he was old to begin with and didn’t want to take chairshots. Rebel was sloppy in the ring and had attitude problems. One night, they held a battle royal in Wildwood where the winner would get to face Jimmy Snuka for the title. As a rib, Paul E told Rebel that he was winning the battle royal when, instead, he was the first one going out. After hearing he was winning, he immediately went and told his girlfriend he was winning it, proving to Tod and Paul E why they never thought him capable of holding a title. Immediately after the battle royal started, EVERYONE went after Rebel. He was fighting them and say “I’m going over!” but they threw him out anyway.
“Big Cat” Curtis Hughes- Speaking of attitude problems, Curtis Hughes was a pain in the ass about doing jobs. They told him he was losing to Taz one night and he said “I can’t put Taz over… I beat Lex Luger.” They thought he was joking but he was serious. He didn’t seem to realize that he didn’t beat Luger, Vince McMahon put him over Luger. Curtis did the job but kicked out on the two count, so that was the beginning of the end for him in ECW. (If only the WWE would do this when someone coughUNDERTAKERcough does the same thing.)
Too Cold Scorpio- Badass, one of the legitimate toughest guys in the business. He once knocked Road Warrior Hawk out in Japan. Scorpio was wrestling Hughes one night when Hughes left the ring and went into the back because he got hit with a stiff shot. Scorpio got on the house mic and sad “Curtis, come back out here or I’m going to go back there and kill you.” That was enough to get him back to the ring.
Joey Styles- The first time he met Joey, Joey was standing in the ECW locker room in his underwear. Tod didn’t know who the hell Joey was so he asked him to explain what was going on and was told that Paul E had brought him in to try out for an announcer’s position. Joey wanted to be a heel announcer pretty bad but they needed him to be a face. They ended up altering his style so that he would heel on the other federations while being a face for all the ECW guys. When Joey briefly quit as announcer because he hated coming to Philly each week, they brought in a black guy as announcer and called him Willy Watts, a play on Bill Watts’ supposed hatred of black people (Watts himself says that he doesn’t see black or white, only green.). They didn’t realize how good Styles was until they had to do take after take with the new guy.
How frustrating was it for ECW to have its shows cancelled by Dennis Coralluzzo? When he and Dennis first met, they had an agreement where Dennis wouldn’t run shows in Philly and Tod wouldn’t run shows in New Jersey. When ECW got television and grew, employing a bunch of guys full-time like Sabu and Chris Benoit that used to work for him, he got PISSED. He started by taking tapes of the ECW TV shows and sending them to any place where ECW was running shows, and some would cancel due to the content. The guys in the locker room were pissed, especially one person not known for being a hothead… Cactus Jack himself, Mick Foley. Foley called Dennis one night and yelled at him for being a son of a bitch and claimed that if Dennis ever took food out of his mouth again, he’d come to his house. One night, Dennis and Gino Moore were found in the ECW parking lot screwing with the valves on people’s tires in the parking lot. He would also call the fire marshal to harass them about how many people were in the building and fire codes, etc. “If he’d put half that energy into his own company, he might actually have been successful.”
Shane Douglas throwing down the NWA title- Jim Crockett was trying to revive the NWA title, as he, Gordon, Jim Cornette, Gary Juster, and several other people were still active promoters. Crockett suggested that they put the title on an ECW wrestler because they were the only NWA territory at the time with a TV show, which he agreed to as a favor for Crockett. He found out a week later that Dennis Coralluzzo was messing with the whole title situation and got pissed because he didn’t really give two shits about the NWA to begin with. They’d had enough of him messing with the ECW shows at that point, so they decided to REALLY get him back. They ended up bringing in a bunch of people like Joe Malenko and Dean Malenko in addition to the local guys in order to give the tournament a bigger feel to it. A week before the tournament, they decided to throw down belt and change the company’s name to Extreme Championship Wrestling. They sat down with Coralluzzo and convinced him not to put the belt on Chris Benoit but, rather, the ECW champion Shane Douglas. Shane threw down the belt, Dennis cut a promo saying that Shane better defend the belt or ECW would be thrown out of the NWA and then left, and then Gordon cut a promo saying that they’d quit the NWA and they were now Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Was there any fallout from the wrestlers? None, although some people claimed it was why Terry Funk no-showed some ECW shows around that time.
Why DID Terry Funk no-show his tag match with Cactus Jack against Public Enemy? Paul screwed up the transportation plans for Funk. Paul didn’t tell Funk his ticket information until about 2 AM the night before the flight, so Terry got pissed that he wasn’t being treated with respect and no-showed. Tod then takes credit for making Cactus Jack’s mystery partner that night Mikey Whipwreck and having them go over Public Enemy for the tag belts, although Foley claims in his book that he came up with it himself. This was in Mikey’s “Guy who always gets his ass kicked accidentally wins the title then almost loses it each week, only winning due to screwy circumstances” phase, as opposed to his “bad dye job and hanging out with The Sinister Minister and Tajiri” phase from near the end of ECW.
Were there ever any alternative motives for Paul for some of his stuff? “I’m sure there were people that pissed him off that he buried on purpose, but not any angles with ulterior motives.”
Shane Douglas leaving for the WWF- He’d had a long run on the top of ECW, so there was nowhere for him to go there. Shane figured that he’d go into the WWF and make a huge splash since he was the ECW champion, had the wrong attitude about it, and failed miserably. Shane ended up calling him about getting out of his WWF contract, so Tod called up WWF Talent Relations manager JJ Dillon and asked what it would take to get Shane out of his contract. JJ’s response? “Just ask.” The WWF was so sick of him that the let him go with no hesitation.
Jimmy Snuka’s gopher- Jimmy’s gopher was The Metal Maniac. One night, Metal Maniac got a clothesline from JT Smith and left the match covering his face and yelling “You broke my nose!” Another night, Snuka, Maniac, and Ivan Koloff were sitting in the back talking when Snuka asked if Koloff had a blade they could use on Maniac. Koloff ended up pulling out a rusty old blade and showing it to them before the match and Maniac started freaking out. During the match, Snuka pretended to take out a blade and cut Maniac’s forehead and then told him to squeeze hard because they weren’t getting enough blood. This ended up on one of their Jimmy Snuka tapes that they released. Yet another time, some fans asked Snuka to do a shoot interview at a time when they weren’t common and Snuka answered EVERY question with “And the Superfly LEAPT off the cage…” because he didn’t know the difference between a shoot interview and a promo. The final story is about the night when Snuka was doing a “passing of the torch” angle with Tazz and they told Snuka that he could say whatever he wanted. Snuka ended up rambling on for 20 minutes saying things like “And the lava flowed down from the mountain…” while Tazz had to sit there with a straight face and wait on him.
Another random story- One night, Tazz and Dreamer were at a hotel when they found former heavyweight boxer Leon Spinks sitting at a table with a hood over his head and drooling on himself. They weren’t sure if he’d been injecting himself with something or what. They ended up getting talking Spinks into doing an appearance the next night where he’d work with Tazz. Spinks was so out of it that they never ended up doing an angle with him.
Public Enemy leaving- Nobody was irreplaceable in ECW. Paul Heyman didn’t want someone to act like The Ultimate Warrior and stick him up for money under the threat of no-showing. Paul still wasn’t happy when guys that he felt he made went on to bigger and better things. Tod puts over how good a worker Rocco Rock was, despite all the claims that Paul E made about how Public Enemy was only good because of the way he booked them. (Rocco Rock died in the fall of 2002 due to a heart attack on the way to wrestle at an indy show) Tod thought them leaving the company would be a bigger blow than it ended up being because every show started off with them coming out and pumping up the crowd with their audience participation stuff. It didn’t end up hurting them though.
He also puts over how “inside” the crowd was but that they were still able to work them twice. One of those times was the angle where Sandman was blinded. Not even the guys in the locker room knew that Sandman could still see.
Raven- “Scotty is a great guy.” Very competitive.
Fonzie, Tod, Sandman, Scorpio, and Nancy Sullivan (Woman, now Chris Benoit’s wife/fiancee/girlfriend/whatever) all used to ride together Once Nancy left, they had a rotating fifth member of the crew for a long time. He’s just really rambling at about this point. I’m surprised he hasn’t said “I have THREE daughters all with at least two, TWO, fingers on EACH hand” or something else that sounds like a Twilight Zone version of Bill Cosby.
Was the crucifixion angle in poor taste? No, but he still regrets it because it kept ECW from bringing in Kurt Angle. At the time, Angle had won the Olympic gold medals in wrestling but was only working as a sportscaster in Pittsburg instead of wrestling for the WWF. Shane Douglas brought him in and they decided to do something with them. Unfortunately, it was the same night as the crucifixion angle which no one thought anything of beforehand because both Sandman and Raven are Jewish. The angle got such a bad reaction from Angle and Shane, amongst others, that Raven broke character and apologized for it.
Drug use in the locker room- It was very prevalent. The only requirements that ECW had for its workers are that they had to show up and be in a condition to perform. What they did on their own time was their business. Probably 65-75% of the locker room was heavily on drugs.
Were Sandman’s substance problems causing trouble in the ring? Yes, because Sandman would have about 15 beers on the way to the building and about another 2 or 3 on the way to the ring, so he’d be pretty sloshed by the time he actually wrestled. He and Cactus Jack had a series of matches in which they would beat the crap out of each other with chairs, pots, pans, etc. Cactus eventually came up to Tod and told him he wasn’t working with Sandman anymore unless he’s sober. The problem was that every time Sandman ever worked sober, he got hurt. Unfortunately, he started to believe he could only work while he was piss drunk.
ECW wrestlers who have died- While none of them were in ECW at the time, they’ve employed a lot of guys who have OD’ed. Brian Pillman, Rick Rude, Louie Spicoli, Eddie Gilbert, etc.
Does a boss who gets too close with his employees lose respect? They can if they let their friendships affect their business decisions. If he’d made Sandman champ for 7 years, it would have been a problem, but it didn’t work out that way. “Sandman didn’t win a match for two years.” (That was probably when he was feuding with Raven… Raven won every night until Dreamer beat him the night Raven left for WCW)
Did any of the guys try to use intimidation to get what they want? One guy… Ron Simmons. Simmons tried to hit him up for an extra $100 in order to do a job on his first night in the company. He told Simmons that if he had a problem with the money they’d agreed on, then they’d find someone else to take his spot. Simmons ended up respecting him over that and, as a result, was the first guy in the WWF locker room to come over and talk to Tod when the ECW invasion of RAW started in 1997.
Did his involvement in wrestling strain his marriage? Yes, and that’s part of why he got out. He calls the business “the marriage-killer” and says that it’s hard to be on the road while his wife and kids are at home in addition to the temptations. “Even if you’re the ugliest, fattest wrestler, there are still 20 rats waiting on you at the hotel.”
Were there constant problems between him and Paul E? The first year or two were fine, as they’d settle things peacefully at first. Once the company started growing, they started arguing a lot behind closed doors. The booking was fine but the actual business end was where the arguments started. Paul E didn’t know as much as him about the business world, so that’s where a lot of problems started. Paul didn’t handle any part of the business side of the promotion until he bought Tod out.
Did Paul E almost quit at one point when he was a part owner? No, it’s not true. Paul became a part owner after he worked for the company two and a half years without pay. Paul wanted a share of the profits if the company ever became profitable so Tod gave him 49% of the company in lieu of his back pay.
Was there a time when he didn’t trust Paul? There were parts of him that he wouldn’t trust. He knew Paul wouldn’t steal from him but that he was untrustworthy in other ways. He then starts talking about Paul E’s personal demons and that Paul had a problem with making promises and not fulfilling them.
Did he get to a point when he realized he lost too much money in ECW? He always thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel instead of a subway train. He ended up making an exit strategy where he ended up selling the company for enough that he ended up breaking even on the deal.
Feuding with Fonzie- People bought Fonzie as a member of the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission whenever he would try to mess with the ECW shows, not realizing that it was booked like that. “There were people with baseball bats outside the building at 2AM waiting to kill Fonzie.” They still believed that he was a state official even months after working angles in the company. They would just go out and beat the shit out of each other because Tod didn’t know how to throw a worked punch.
Barely Legal 97- “That was possibly the hardest month of my life.” There wasn’t enough power for the arena, they had trouble with the satellite hookup, etc. They had trouble getting people to end their matches on time. (Sidenote- In addition to the PPV running long and almost being cut off by the cable companies, the generator broke down like 2 minutes after the show ended and would have been a disaster if their first PPV ended before Raven jobbed the belt to Terry Funk.)
Were there money problems after the first PPV? “There were money problems from the very first day.” Things weren’t helped by the fact that they PPV companies don’t pay you until 120 days after a show. They got into a cycle of debt where they were taking the money they were making in 1997 to pay the bills from 1996. Short of a big investor pumping cash into the company, there was no way that Paul could keep it going long after 2000.
The relationship with the WWF- They’d spent years telling people that the WWF was crap yet Paul E wanted to work an angle with them in 1997. He REALLY didn’t see eye-to-eye with Paul E over that. He didn’t have the control, though, because he’d sold the company in 1995. When the whole deal started, Vince McMahon hadn’t told his locker room what was going on so, when the ECW guys started messing with them in Philly, the WWF guys tried to kill them. (This would probably be the IYH: Mind Games show, famous only for Sandman spitting beer on Savio Vega and for the classic Mankind vs. Shawn Michaels match.)
Did ECW almost go out of business at any time during the early years? “Just about 500 or so.” They went month to month from 1995 on until the end.
The whole “revolution” theme behind ECW- It was never a work on the fans although it was a marketing gimmick. Paul E and Bruce Pritchard (Brother Love) had a relationship that went back a long time and it was to the point that Paul E would know who walked into Titan Towers within 10 minutes of it happening. “Stevie Richards was there today.” “How did you know?” “He just left.” Etc. etc. etc. He doesn’t know what the relationship between Paul and Vince McMahon is like or why Vince put up with him while Paul was trashing him left and right on TV. “Maybe Paul has pictures of Vince… I don’t know.”
Eric Bischoff- “The first conversation I ever had with Eric Bischoff told me he was a bad businessman.” Eric didn’t know Tod and had never talked to him before but offered to lend him any guys he wanted, including Sting in particular, if ECW would run against Smokey Mountain Wrestling in Tennessee. Bischoff didn’t even bother to find out if Cornette was a friend or relative of Tod before he made the offer, which gave Tod an immediate bad image of Bischoff. The original deal was for Steve Austin, but Austin got hurt and released by WCW and was replaced by Brian Pillman. They ran the “worked shoot” angle with Pillman for a while. He talks about how that angle was one that blew up in Kevin Sullivan’s face, along with the Benoit angle where Kevin accidentally booked his own divorce, but that he's still sitting at home collecting fat checks from WCW.
(This was all a part of Bischoff’s feud with Jim Cornette which went back to 1992-1993 when Bischoff and a few other people screwed over Bill Watts when he ran an angle with Cornette and Smokey Mountain Wrestling. They edited the angle so it ended up as crap, but Watts had already authorized a lot of financial aid to SMW in exchange for coming up with the angle and supplying the talent and it pissed off Bischoff to no end.)
Raven leaving for WCW- He was disappointed in him. He didn’t think Raven would get as big a push as he got, but WCW didn’t know how to end an angle. “I’m still waiting to see Baby Doll’s pictures of Dusty Rhodes.” (That angle was from about 1988, BTW, that was dropped with no warning.) They never followed through with anything.
What lead him to call Terry Taylor in WCW- Perry Saturn wanted to jump to WCW and there were several other people who wanted to jump including Sabu, Rob Van Dam, Sandman, and Fonzie. This was in mid-1997 and he started trying to negotiate a package deal for them all in WCW. Each person had their reasons, such as some people had personality conflicts with Paul, others had been lied to, and the rest just wanted more money. He admits that he helped Public Enemy jump in 1995-1996 and implies that if Paul is pissed at him over that that he can kiss his ass. He feels that there was no point in keeping people around who didn’t want to be there, especially if they were his friends and they were unhappy.
He started talking with Taylor as an intermediary with Bischoff. He started naming names and found that they were against Sabu because of his poorly-received run there in 1995 but told them it was a package deal. He told Taylor that he wasn’t coming with them although he wouldn’t mind a fee for brokering the deal. He says that there was only one phone call to Taylor but that the rumor mill started and people like Tazz, Shane Douglas, the Dudley Boyz, etc. started claiming that they’d been offered $300,000 to jump. Paul E also belived that half his company was about to jump when it was only about 4 guys. This became a part of Tod’s exit strategy to step away from the business. He then starts talking about how he had a decent relationship with Paul E as of the past year and that he was supposed to work an angle with them surrounding a Sandman vs. Mike Awesome match. He was supposed to be the referee for the match and screw Sandman over and become Awesome’s manager, replacing Judge Jeff Jones.
What killed the deal? Bischoff wanted to deal with everyone individually while Tod wanted to bring everyone in as a package deal. Bischoff’s main sticking point was that he didn’t want Sabu. Perry Saturn ended up cutting his own deal with Bischoff and jumping, thus screwing up Tod’s plans and the possible invasion angle that would result. There was little heat between him and Paul E. by the time things were all said and done, as there was even talk of Tod coming back later in an angle where he’d be trying to temp ECW guys to jump to WCW. The sticking point was that Tod would have to go back on the road and he didn’t want to do it, so it didn’t end up happening. (This sounds VERY close to the negotiations the Radicals had with the WWF in 2000, except they did a package deal for Eddy Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Benoit, and Saturn while leaving Shane Douglas twisting in the wind.)
911 and plants in the audience- One night, to get 911’s gimmick over, he chokeslammed a guy in the crowd, who got up and sat back down in his seat, not selling the chokeslam at all. 911 then went back up to the guy and said “If you’re not going to cooperate, I can do this so that you WON’T get back up.” 911 was also capable of spinning incredible lines of bullshit and having them believe it all. Example- He got a crowd of people feeling sorry for him by saying his first two wives died by eating poisoned mushrooms. He then talked about how his third wife died from a blow to the head and, when they asked about it, he said it was because he couldn’t get her to eat the mushrooms. Another time, he told everyone that he was getting a blowjob from a hooker the night before and found out it was a guy in drag. When they asked him what he did, he says he told the hooker “Once you’re finished with what you’re doing, I’m gonna kick your ass!”
Did the locker room treat him differently over the whole WCW thing? Not really, not even New Jack who people claim had been bitter over the whole deal. The “New York Clique” (Tazz, Dreamer, etc. Pretty much Paul’s core group) was pissed at him though. He thinks they could have drawn money with the ECW regional cliques fighting each other but Paul E didn’t want to be the heel in Philly. The only person to cut nasty promos about Tod was Tazz and Sandman did an interview knocking Tazz as a direct result of it. Tazz later apologized, claiming that Paul E told him to do it and had convinced him that everyone would be doing the interviews but he was the only one who did it. He never ended up talking to Bubba Ray Dudley or Tommy Dreamer again, although he gets along with everyone else.
Stevie Richards- “He had a chance to be the next Shawn Michaels” but that neck and back injury he had killed his career. He’s still very talented and has supposedly recovered from his injuries.
Running an angle with Dennis Coralluzzo- Someone acted as an intermediary because Dennis would never have asked a bunch of ECW people directly to work with him after the wars they had together. It got to the point where Kimona Wannalaya and 911, amongst others, were out of work so he took Dennis up on his offer. He decided to screw over Dennis on the whole deal by putting together this great angle with Public Enemy, 911, Brian Lee, and a lot of other people then cutting a shoot promo and having all the ECW guys walk out. Tod bitches about Jim Cornette for getting into Dennis’s ear and trying to talk him out of the whole deal but Dennis ended up going through with it. He starts bitching more about Cornette being a shit-stirrer because he was jealous of ECW’s success and how it helped put Smokey Mountain out of business.
Will he ever start up another wrestling group again? No, and it’s not because they haven’t asked him to do it. WCW talked to him about getting back in the business at some point. The NWA did the same thing.
The biggest misconceptions about Paul E- He thinks people don’t realize how much it hurt Paul to have to close ECW and that he hated having to owe people thousands of dollars. He feels that he’s trying to do the right thing by bringing some select guys into the WWF like Spike Dudley and Rhyno (Other ECW guys hired due to Paul E’s influence were Jerry Lynn, Tajiri, and Little Guido, (Nunzio)).
He then starts taking credit for ECW inventing a lot of things, including violence on women, shoot interviews, involving the Internet fans, table matches, flaming tables, etc.
What were Paul’s long-term goals? “Paul always wanted to be Vince McMahon, like how Eddie Gilbert always wanted to be Jerry Lawler.”
Why did he ask for a job in WCW? He never asked for a job in WCW, he just wanted a finder’s fee for sending a group of ECW’s core guys to WCW in a package deal. He wanted the money so he could get off the road and go back to his family.
Were there any angles he regrets in ECW? No, not even the fire angle that got him sued because that was just the way the angle worked out. (This was a match in which Cactus Jack had a flaming chair and, during the match, the burning towel came off of the chair, landed on Terry Funk then went out into the audience and burned a fan. That fan got into a motorcycle accident a few months later, lost a leg, and got talked into suing Funk, Cactus, Heyman, Gordon, ECW, and anyone else associated with the business he could possibly blame.) He doesn’t regret the bomb match angle, either, even though the bomb didn’t go off.
When he left ECW, what were his dealings with Paul E? Paul E would occasionally call him up for advice on how to book an angle or on how to run his business. When Paul declared bankruptcy, he called up Tod for advice although he didn’t use it.
How much influence did he have on ECW booking up before he left? None, although he had a tremendous amount of influence on the booking from 1993 to 1995 when he owned the company. He had total control of the business side of things up until the time he sold out, at which point he only had 50% control of that side of things.
Did Paul ever try to screw him over on an angle? Yeah, but he won’t go into it.
Favorite ECW employee and why- He can’t pick one favorite. He will say that, right off the top of his head, he loves Public Enemy, Too Cold Scorpio, Sandman, Sabu, and a few others. His least favorite employee would probably be Curtis Hughes. Brian Pillman was strange to deal with because he would act erratically.
Favorite match or angle- Sandman getting blinded, Fonzie being a part of the commission, Funk In The Box, Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton appearing, King Kong Bundy as a mystery partner, etc. The last one was particularly funny because Ian Rotten was shown as the mystery partner at first, the fans turned on Tod and started cussing him out, then King Kong Bundy walked out and the place popped.
What killed ECW? Money, because they never caught up to what they were spending. The salaries also escalated to high levels, from $300 a shot to thousands of dollars each week, in order to compete with the Big Two.
What could have saved ECW? Expanding market by market instead of going national all at once. “Taking a whole crew to Florida is expensive.” They could have stayed in the northeast and made the same or more and paid less in transit costs.
Can a smaller promotion last? Absolutely, as long as they stay small and don’t try to compete with the big guys. He feels he could run the ECW Arena every Saturday and make a profit if he wanted to.
Future plans? Stay where he is. After another 10 years of his current job, he wants to retire and move to Florida.
Eddie Gilbert- So talented that everyone really WAS out to get him. He was very political and wanted to enter politics eventually. He has no ill feelings towards Eddie or any of his family.
Missy Hyatt- When he was just working at the jewelry shop, Missy was referred to him by Joel Goodhart and asked him to make a gold charm with Jim Kelly’s number on it because she’d seen him wearing a Missy Hyatt t-shirt. A week later, she called to check on whether it was done and, when she found out it wasn’t, got them to change it to the number of the new football player she was dating. They ended up changing it like 5 times before she got a finished charm.
Vince Russo- Never met him, although he was asked to work an angle with him in Florida by request of NWA president Howard Brody. Most of what he’s heard about him is positive. He then starts talking about the Radicalz jumping and that they didn’t have any heat and Vince wasn’t using them anyway. The WWF only wanted Benoit but had to take all of them.
Dave Meltzer- He hates him because Meltzer wouldn’t acknowledge ECW for years. He’d also use inaccurate match results in his newsletter, he wouldn’t do any fact-checking, and yet is seen as an authority on the sport by the legitimate media. He says that ECW was ignored because Meltzer was a big Smokey Mountain fan instead because he “discovered” them. He also says that Meltzer doesn’t know jack about being in the ring. “The most green wrestler in the world knows more about psychology.”
Bruce Mitchell- A guy who wants to make himself bigger than he really is. He tried to screw them over when they were trying to get Barely Legal on PPV by sending tapes of the Mass Transit incident to the PPV companies. (Mass Transit was a guy who claimed to be an indy wrestler that subbed for a no-show at an ECW house show. He’d asked one of his opponents that night, New Jack, to blade him and New Jack cut WAY too far, to the point where blood was spurting all over the place and the kid nearly bled to death.)
Wade Keller- Never had problems with him although he feels that aligning himself with Bruce Mitchell and Mark Madden was a mistake.
New Jack- Natural entertainer. He took over as a DJ in a club one night and did a great job. Always felt he had to prove himself. “If he thinks he’s right, no one can make him think otherwise.”
Beulah McGillicuddy- A great person but not cut out for the business. “She was all T+A but hated doing it.”
Paul Heyman- They’ll be friends until they die. “I’d love to see him get married some day and have a real normal life.” (It would certainly kill all those nasty rumors people love to spread about him) “No one who’s married to someone in the business will ever be faithful. I won’t name names, but take a look at the married people in my locker room.” (Sounds like Sunny all right, no matter what she or Candido claim)
Best rib he’s seen- The battle royal with Rebel was pretty good. There was also a battle royal where a guy was stripped butt naked because it was his last day in the company.
Favorite show- November to Remember 95 because of his match with Fonzie. The double dog collar match between the Pitbulls and Raven and Stevie Richards was up there too, with him and Fonzie as the two refs.
How do you want wrestling fans to remember you? “I want to be remembered as the guy who started the revolution” even though Paul was the frontman for the company. He takes credit for the business turning around because of what they did.
Anything he wants to say to his fans? Thanks for keeping ECW alive as long as it lasted and for giving him a chance to live out his dreams.
We get early ECW footage here, which appears to be the pilot. It’s hosted by Jay Sulli and Steve Wonderful, who looks like a cross between Diamond Dallas Page and Michael PS Hayes in that he has a ratty mullet and looks like trailer trash. Outside of Terry Funk and Eddie Gilbert being involved, it’s crap.
Next is Fonzie, with Tazz, against Tod Gordon, with Bam Bam Bigelow. Typical ECW garbage match here. Fonzie and Gordon fight in the ring while Bigelow and Tazz brawl at ringside. Gordon has the pin but Tazz kicks his ass and throws Fonzie on top for the win. Afterwards, he hits Bigelow with a chair about 10 times, which Bigelow no-sells, at which point Tazz runs like a little bitch to the locker room with Fonzie in tow.
Next is an Eddie Gilbert video where he’s dressed up in a crown and kape making an ass of himself.
After that is a shitty brawl between a bunch of unidentified guys where Gordon comes out to protest and gets flattened for his troubles.
The rest of this is mainly clips, so I’ll skip it unless there’s something worth mentioning.
Speaking of which, we get a match pitting Fonzie, with Tazz, against Gordon. Gordon and Fonzie may really have been hitting each other, but it looks like a slapfight between two 10-year old girls. Just like last time, Gordon has Fonzie beat but Tazz’s outside interference gives Fonzie the win. Tazz cuts a post-match promo but I’m not even going to bother.
Thoughts: For the most part, Gordon’s funny and well spoken but he tends to let his ego get out of hand when discussing his place in the industry and the treatment of ECW by others. He likes to personally take credit for a lot of things that ECW did that were done by other places before (man on woman violence, for instance, was done on the WWF’s This Tuesday in Texas PPV when Jake “The Snake” Roberts slapped Miss Elizabeth around) or were probably the brainchild ideas of bookers Eddie Gilbert and Paul Heyman. Stil, this is interesting on several levels because he describes what it is like to run a successful indy promotion, how to expand to the national level, and some choice interactions with WCW and the WWF.
Highly recommended for ECW fans, recommended for everyone else.