New York Post – July 1, 1999
By Don Kaplan
Now it’s going to get really ugly.
CBS has thrown itself into the pro-wrestling ring and will begin airing “Extreme Championship Wrestling” – the most hard-core wrestling federation of all – on its cable channel, The Nashville Network.
Until now, ECW – whose wrestlers have been known to hit each other with baseball bats wrapped in barbed-wire – has aired sporadically for about six years late at night on regional sports networks and local stations.
Beginning late next month, the as-yet-untitled hour of wrestling will air as part of a TNN Friday-night lineup that already includes an updated version of roller derby, “RollerJam,” “Championship Rodeo” and “Motor Madness,” a smash-’em-up car show that features demolition derbies.
Because of its violent content, ECW has been slapped with a PG-TV-14 rating.
“The reason that we’ve got that ‘hard-core’ handle is because we are innovators,” said Steve Karel, the ECW’s managing director.
According to Karel, the “hard-core” stuff featured in WWF and WCW matches such as using folding tables and steel chairs as weapons was not known on TV five years ago. “It was more of the old-fashioned kind of wrestling, much more limited in scope, demeanor and creativity,” Karel said.
“We have paved the way for what I like to call the ‘Howard Stern’ version of wrestling – wilder antics and stunts pushing the envelope in some areas.”
Unlike its larger rivals, the WWF and Turner’s WCW, ECW does not rely on elaborate outside-the-ring storylines. Instead the league prides itself on providing more matches per hour.
“We also implement more topical news into our matches,” Karl said.
“When Hugh Grant got busted with a prostitute in L.A., as a joke we hired Divine Brown – the [woman] he was with -to be our ring announcer,” Karel said.
For the TNN show, the focus is going to be less sensationalism and more athleticism, Karel said.
“We’re putting our own person in there to produce the show,” said TNN president, David Hall, noting that he hopes to draw teen male viewers who have already been tuning in for “RollerJam.”
“We’re going to contain this to a tamer form of wrestling. We’re going to have a show that’sgood entertainment, but I don’t think we’ll go off the deep end. ”