Though some wrestling pundits had predicted Rhino’s ascension to ECW World Champion, especially given ECW’s tendency to twist storylines and offer surprise matches, Rhino wasn’t one of the believers.

The new champ was surprised to learn on Sunday, January 7th that he’d be coming away with both the world and TV titles.

Terry “Rhino” Richards. Courtesy ECW.

“Put it this way — I didn’t even know I had a match until I say maybe an hour and a half before the pay-per-view,” Rhino told SLAM! Wrestling from the road on Friday.

He never doubted he’d be on the show somehow, though. “Why wouldn’t he put me on the show? We’re just surrounded with superstar talent, me being the biggest superstar in ECW, obviously,” he joked, voice dripping in sarcasm.

“I knew I was going to be on the show, why wouldn’t he put me on the show with all the money and time he’s invested into me? I knew I was doing something. I didn’t think I was going to have a match. I thought I’d go out there and destroy people and cut a promo.”

Well, that part of the show he accomplished with the usual style and grace fans associate with Rhino’s attacks. In the words of PPV reviewer John Powell, Rhino “went absolutely berserk” on Swinger, Simon Diamond, Balls Mahoney and Chilly Willy during their match. Rhino topped that with attacks on The Blue Boy, Dawn Marie and piledriving Jasmine St. Claire off the top rope.

After Sandman emerged in the main event with the ECW World title, having defeated both Steve Corino and Justin Credible, Rhino came out again and cut loose a promo where he threatened to kill Sandman’s family in order to provoke a spur-of-the-moment match. Some may think that was going too far, even in ECW, but not Rhino. He reminds the viewer to put things in perspective with what has gone on before.

“Look at what I’ve done to the family. Think about it. I mean, just verbally assaulting them wasn’t as bad as the things that I’ve done to his wife in the past — piledriving her, through a table over the ring,” said Rhino, aka Terry Richards in real life. “It’s maybe a little bit [too much], I’m still old-school as far as wrestling goes. It might have been a slip of the tongue. I mean, they’ve done a lot worse in this company. I’m not really going to lose any sleep over it.”

ECW fans want to know what Rhino has planned for the ECW TV title, hotly anticipating an exciting tournament for a vacated title. Rhino doesn’t know what the actual plans are for the belt, but expects to surrender it rather than be stripped of the title.

With ECW working less and less dates, Rhino finds himself taking more indy bookings than normal. Those that book him shouldn’t expect the title belts to automatically come with the package.

“If I do an independent show, I won’t bring the belt. For the simple fact that I’ve never asked Paul, and I wouldn’t ask him,” Rhino explained. “For the simple fact that nothing don’t happen to it, for one. And two, I don’t think that Paul would really appreciate it. I might bring a replica … but they look like the real f****** thing!”

One of his bookings is this Tuesday, January 16th, at Seneca College’s Newnham campus in Toronto for the Twin Tower Wrestling Federation. He’s spent a lot of time over the years in Canada, both hitting the backroads of Manitoba for Tony Condello’s IWA, and for various indy promotions throughout Ontario. He admits to having a soft spot for the Great White North. “Seeing as a broke in in Canada, I spent a lot of time on the road in Winnipeg. It’s fun. I enjoy Canada. Nice country.”

Traditionally, the world champion sets the pace for a promotion, and is the defacto leader in many ways. Rhino doesn’t see his role like that.

“Does the champ need to be a leader? I hope not because if the champ needs to be the leader, we’re in some serious f****** trouble!” he said with a laugh. “I think that everybody here [in ECW] realizes that it’s a business. Everybody looks to Paul and Dreamer as far as guidance or to be led.”

According to Rhino, there’s not a lot of worry about a TV deal. The locker room knows that ECW is owner Paul Heyman’s baby, his life, and that they expect things to be settled soon. “He’s going to get a TV deal, he’s just waiting for the right TV deal, that’s all it is,” Rhino said.

The ECW locker room is pretty “cool” in general, said Rhino. “I just go there, have fun, try to think of new moves and stuff, and think if I’m working this person, or this person, what I can do. Everybody treats everybody the same. I think if people have heat, they really don’t show it. But, I’m blind to a lot of things. Even if I did have heat with someone, or someone had heat with me, I really don’t see. It’s just over my head. Everybody treats everybody good. It’s a real laid-back locker room.”