CHERRY HILL, NJ — Having never seen ECW, I had to guess which one was Tod Gordon at the ‘ex-of-ECW’ table.

On one side, two smaller, bulky men signed photos, wearing Pitbulls shirts. Naturally, I guessed who they were. That narrowed things down to two men in loud clothing.

Sandman at the NWA 50th Anniversary show with Tod Gordon (seated) and Pitbull #2 (left) and Pitbull #1 (right). — Photo by Greg Oliver

One talked in a deep, throaty voice and had the look of a surfer ten years past his prime. The other wore an unbelievably loud, sequined red jacket and talked reallyreallyfast. And they seemed inseparable.

Finally, I asked the woman selling the tickets who was who. Turns out Sandman’s the surfer (makes sense), and that Tod Gordon was the motor mouth laughing it up.

Gordon is the founder of ECW, but is no longer involved with the company. I asked what his thoughts were on ECW.

“I love ECW. It will always be my heart and soul,” he expressed. “It will always be my baby. I’m the one who started it. I’m the one grew it up to a pay-per-view company. It will always be in my heart. I don’t have the time to put in 25-hour days anymore.”

That night, he was in Cherry Hill, New Jersey for the NWA 50th Anniversary convention and show. He was supposed to lead a team of ECW exiles like the Pitbulls up against an NWA team led by local promoter Dennis Corraluzzo and captained by Dangerous Doug Gilbert.

He cut a mean promo on the match for my recorder: “I just come out once in a while, meet the fans, have a little bit of fun, get to beat the hell out of [NWA promoter] Dennis Corraluzzo, which I would do for free. What more can you ask for in life!”

But then a funny thing happened by the time the show started. Turns out Gordon wasn’t happy with the planned match, put together in part by Jim Cornette, and walked out on the show, with Sandman along for the ride.

It changed my impression of Gordon a little. He seemed nice enough when I met him, answering the questions with a smile and a touch of dazzle — helped by the jacket of course. But he is a total salesman (he owns a jewelry store in Philadelphia) and obviously didn’t get his way.

But back to ECW. Why did Gordon leave?

“We were global, in Japan, all over the world,” he explained. “[It] came time to step aside because my six kids were starting to forget what I look like. And that told me it was time to step back. So I sold my shares to Paul E.”

Gordon still wants ECW to succeed.

“I hope they keep on rising just the way they are. I hope they end up passing WCW, because I think that company sucks. I think Vince is doing a real good job now trying to be ECW. He’s doing it pretty well, but doesn’t quite have it down yet, but he’s working in that direction. And I hope that eventually ECW becomes the number one company in the world.”

His greatest memory from ECW is the feud he had with manager Bill Alfonso.

He explained why.

“[It was my] first-time ever working as a worker in the ring as opposed to simply playing the suit and tie. First-time ever going out there and getting knocked around, put through tables by Sabu. Going out there and kicking the hell out of Bill and him kicking the hell out of me. And both of us being all lumped-up and bruised because we weren’t workers, so we just knew how to go out there and fight. So that’s all we really did was legit, go out there and fight. The people liked it. I had seen so many matches over the years with Jim Cornette, Paul E., this one or that one, where they would have manager against manager, and they were all bulls— kind of matches. They were all gimmick matches. We gave them a fight.”

It gave Gordon a whole new perspective on what goes on in the ring.

“There were weeks where I couldn’t lift my arm up over my shoulder, where I limped around with a broken this, or a broken that,” he recalled.

ECW has always drawn fire for the violence, the treatment of women, the blood. How does Gordon respond to those accusations?

“I say two words — don’t watch!”

It turns out that a few years back, Gordon negotiated with Canada’s TSN to broadcast the show.

“The network said to us, you curse too much, you’re too violent, and you’re hitting each other with chairs, you’re beating the hell out of each other with canes. … Women going half-naked in the ring and you’re just too hardcore for what we want to show our audience,” he said.

“They were not really attuned to our product or our audience.”

Finally, after squinting through the interview because of the brightness of his jacket, I ask whether his jewelry store sells similarly blinding merchandise.

Gordon doesn’t miss a step, and responded “This is my Hot Stuff original. I stole — I mean borrowed — this from Eddie Gilbert. He gave it to me as a gift. I did not steal this jacket no matter what anybody says. Eddie Gilbert was my brother. He gave this to me when he was my booker.”