Mike Johnson of PWInsider is the host of a series named Legends of Extreme that is produced under the Highspots banner. The idea of the series is to get a roundtable of former Extreme Championship Wrestling wrestlers and discuss various events that happened during the existence of ECW. As of November 2017 there has been two seasons produced and released.
I’ll be starting with season one, episode one.
THE EARLY YEARS
Mike Johnson is with Todd Gordon, Mikey Whipwreck and The Sandman for the first episode of the series. It’s actually kind of comical for the show to start with all three guests checking their phones. Johnson goes over how he worked for ECW’s official website and now writes for PWInsider. They will talk about different topics and share both great and sad stories.
Todd Gordon: Founder of ECW, first known as Eastern Championship Wrestling
The Sandman: Former ECW World Champion and ECW Tag Team Champion
Mikey Whipwreck: The first man to win ECW World, TV and Tag Team Championships
Johnson talks about hearing Todd Gordon for the first time on Connie Chung where Gordon was shown talking about wrestling with his family. Gordon recalls Joel Goodhart doing a wrestling radio show while running Tri-State Wrestling Alliance shows. Gordon gave him a call and got Missy Hyatt into his jewelry show. Sandman jokes about Hyatt selling the same 90s photos when she goes to conventions. Gordon recalls Hyatt laying across his counter and he was stunned by her.
Sandman worked for Tri-State known as Mr. Sandman and remembers hearing about them when they put flyers out in the parking lot of a WWF show. Sandman trained for a short time before starting to wrestle and his first match was with JT Smith. TWA went out of business by the end of 1991. Johnson says there is a myth that Gordon didn’t look to continue his venture in wrestling. Gordon says that the Civic Center shows were the shows that killed off CWA. They brought in a lot of talents from all over the world.
Gordon mentions that Buddy Landell stole the TWA Championship from Bob Ortiz on the show that was cancelled. Gordon saw the Papa Shango/Ultimate Warrior angle on television and that inspired him to never watch professional wrestling again. Several TWA wrestlers came to his jewelry store to convince Gordon to continue on with the business. Gordon was just running bar shows once a month. Gordon was told to not have Sandman work a show at the bar. The reason was because Sandman spit on a waitress. Gordon does an impersonation of Sandman flipping out that he couldn’t be on the first show. Sandman had to apologize for his behavior to start getting booked.
Todd talks about how ECW got onto Sports Channel Philadelphia. Gordon agreed to do a pilot for the network. He got to do it for free and kept advertising money. There was 800 kids in the audience for the TV pilot. He brought in Jimmy Snuka and Sal Bellomo to attract fans. Gordon remembers expanding shows out of the bar and eventually finding a home in the ECW Arena. Todd was shocked that the owner of a bar wouldn’t allow anyone under 21 into the show even though it was a day show. That was the first time Gordon lost any money. Gordon recalls JT Smith refusing the money because Gordon got killed that night. Gordon ended up hiring Smith to work at his jewelry store. Johnson notes that it is rare for a wrestler to refuse a check in wrestling.
Gordon recalls getting the ECW Arena and was simply told that they could do whatever they wanted but they’d have to pay for any repairs. Nowadays, the ECW Arena has many rules and it’s interesting to see the differences. Gordon recalls a woman getting her top ripped off and Gordon recalls the kids in attendance enjoying the visual.
Mikey started to train in Long Island with Sonny Blaze and trained for free because Blaze didn’t think Whipwreck would make it in the business. Sandman is literally reading a newspaper during this part. His defense is that he can listen and read at the same time.
Whipwreck’s involvement in wrestling started when he met Bill Alfonso. He was 18 years old and he had a curfew of 11pm. He had to sneak out of his bedroom window to wrestle. He was eventually kicked out of his house because he kept on coming home beaten up and sneaking out. He was the ECW World Champion and homeless. He lived out of his car.
Mikey got involved in ECW through Sonny Blaze, who was renting a ring to ECW. Blaze owned a supermarket and the ring was left in the basement. Mikey worked as ring crew and didn’t know anything about ECW. When he saw the show, he thought it was nuts and the craziest thing he had ever seen.
Tod reveals that they wanted to call Mikey “The Ultimate Worrier” prior to Mikey Whipwreck because Mikey was always nervous about his parents. Mikey had his first match against Mr. Hughes. Mikey’s dragon shirt was just a shirt his buddy had gotten him for Christmas. Hughes just asked if he can take a side walk slam and jump real high. That was their communication for the match.
Mikey tells a story of not knowing his name was Mikey Whipwreck and when they called for him to come into the ring, he didn’t go because he didn’t know. Paul Heyman had to tell Mikey it was his name. “I was in the business for five minutes and I’m already in trouble.”
Tod talks about how he met Eddie Gilbert and his involvement in ECW. Tod met him at a show that Dennis Carluzzo had been running. Gordon puts over Gilbert for how great he was. Johnson wants to know why Gilbert’s vision of ECW didn’t work. Gordon says it was simply because Gilbert wanted to be Jerry Lawler but it just didn’t pan out. Gilbert also had his demons that led to his demise in ECW.
Sandman didn’t communicate much with Eddie Gilbert. Gordon says they had a little bit of an issue with Gilbert not having time for local guys. Gilbert made time for the bigger names, which wasn’t the point of ECW.
Gordon talks about how ECW was attractive to Gilbert because it had a similar style to Memphis and what Lawler was doing. Sandman talks about going to Memphis and having the second worst week done there in terms of house, second behind Steve Corino, who had a worse house and Memphis closed down shortly after. Sandman messed up a joke when down in Memphis were he was working with Lawler. Sandman was told a joke by Lawler, and he messed it up. Lawler told him to do it again and he did managing to get a pop. Gordon jokes that Sandman held a VHS tape for a while that Sandman was proud of having since he worked with Lawler on top. Sandman defended it because he never thought that would happen in his career, let along eighteen months in.
Tod credits the Arena for being one of the few places where they could do things outside of the ring. He tells a story about the Dynamic Duo getting booed by the Freebirds in Philadelphia. He wanted to keep the feeling of Philly enjoying the heels more in ECW. Gordon notes that the people who aired the ECW TV show never actually watched the product. They didn’t censor the audience chants or anything like that.
Gilbert had a falling out before Ultra Clash and Paul Heyman was going to leave to work with Jim Crockett. Gilbert had a feeling that he was going to get screwed over and decided to quit. Gilbert quit three days before the big main event and Gordon called in Kevin Sullivan. Eddie tried to get back on the show, but Gordon had replaced him already. Gordon noted that Gilbert and Sullivan were bitter rivals. Gordon recalls that Gilbert was crushed. Tod says that how Heyman handled the backstage area for the show was how Heyman became the booker. Tod was unaware how the deal with Crockett had fallen through.
Gordon says that in Gilbert’s mind was that Crockett and Gordon were going to align together and push Gilbert out, but that was never going to happen. Sandman jokes that Heyman would put other people on TV when he was a booker while Gilbert just promoted himself. Gordon talks about how he had the same mindset on wrestling that Heyman had. They’d be able to talk about wrestling for hours at a time. They had a natural connection.
Tod’s first memory of Sabu was climbing a cage really fast to get in the ring. Gordon says that Heyman knew of Sabu and Mike Awesome in Japan and that’s how they got into the company. Gordon recalls the one show he co-promoted with Dennis. He was sketched out by Dennis saying he can’t talk about how much they mad to Larry Sharpe, who was partners with Dennis. Mikey recalls Dennis calling the ring crew to offer them money to not deliver the ring for the shows.
Gordon tells a story of Mick Foley getting on the phone and threatening Dennis to never impact his career ever again. Gordon was shocked to see a mild mannered man get so angry on a pay phone.
Gordon says he micromanaged the money and started to book matches at Flagstaff to try and off-set the expense of talent and hotels. Gordon doesn’t know where Terry Funk would have gone at the time aside from ECW. He thinks that Funk enjoyed what they were doing in ECW.
Johnson considers The Night The Line Was Crossed in February was the show when ECW elevated itself from being just another independent company. Gordon recalls going to the hotel afterward and there being 500 fans in the lobby giving them an applause to put over the match and show. Gordon agrees that the show put them over the line.
Public Enemy is brought up as the first homecoming stars. Gordon puts over Jason Knight as being in the category as well because he had a character that grabbed people. He puts over Heyman for developing that character. Gordon puts over Public Enemy for being phenomenal talents. Rocco Rock never cut a promo and he was a natural. Gordon misses them both badly. Mikey notes that Rocco was actually in early 40s at the start of his ECW days.
They talk about the NWA World Championship tournament in August 1994. Terry was supposed to come in and didn’t arrive to team with Cactus Jack. The reason was because Paul Heyman didn’t give his flying information until the day before. Gordon remembers the tag match being hyped up heavily and was worried about the crowd turning on them. Heyman suggested 911 being inserted into the match because he was so over that the crowd wouldn’t boo him. Gordon didn’t agree and was adamant that Mikey Whipwreck be inserted in. Gordon suggested the spot where Mikey doesn’t wanna go to the ring but Cactus pulls him towards the ring. Gordon mentions that nobody left the arena that night.
Mikey didn’t make curfew that night, he jokes. Whipwreck couldn’t believe that he was replacing Terry Funk in the tag match. He was scared to be put in the match against Public Enemy. Mikey decided to come to the ring with the worst weapon ever, a shitty piece of wood. Gordon talks about how Whipwreck didn’t have money to go home following the event. Mikey use to go to a local restaurant and eat leftovers as people left.
Johnson talks about Sandman’s transformation from a surfer into the beer drinking character that he made famous. It was Gordon’s suggestion for Sandman to be the beer drinking, cigarette smoking guy that he was backstage. He started off with a bottle of beer, but switched to can of beer because it was easier. Sandman did a lot of things that nobody had done previously. He would think about what he could do that nobody had ever done before. Gordon puts over Sandman’s mind for the business as being second to none. Gordon thinks Sandman is brilliant. Mikey does a great Sandman impersonation when describing how Sandman would come up with ideas for their matches.
Mikey notes that he didn’t say more than two words during his matches with Sandman as Sandman called the spots. Whipwreck says that his mother has never watched him wrestle and refuses to do so. Mikey tells a story of Nancy Sullivan telling Mikey that if Mikey gives her the look, she will cut Sandman to stop him with the cane shots. They all put over Nancy as being a great person.
That wraps up the first episode of Legends Of Extreme. It’s a decent start, I’d say. I think Johnson is a little rough as a host as he awkwardly sits there and doesn’t really direct the flow of the show very well. I’m hopeful that he improves with that. As expected, Gordon had a lot to say and repeated some stories that he had said in his Kayfabe Commentaries shoot. If you like learning about a promotion from the very beginning, you’d enjoy this.
The next installment will focus on the war between WCW and ECW. That should be very interesting.
Thanks for reading.
34-year-old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Long-time fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls, and Minnesota Vikings. An avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on old-school wrestling.