Talk about unlikely stars.
You’d never guess by looking at him, but ECW’s Sandman was undoubtedly one of the greatest of all-time from bell to bell.
Specifically, from the bell that cued the intros, to the bell that started the match. After that, things tended to fall apart.
Obviously, Sandman wasn’t a great (or even passable) technical wrestler, and most of his moveset was just an excuse to throw in as many alcohol references as possible…
…but if you judge him solely on in-ring performance, you’re missing the point; it’s the Sandman persona — the look, the attitude, the entrance — that connected him to the fans.
One reason Sandman flopped in WCW and WWE was that neither of those promotions were willing to pay the expensive licensing fees for his original theme music, nor risk a lawsuit by using it without permission.
The word “iconic” gets thrown around entirely too much these days, but the Sandman’s theme music was just that.
Picture this: You’re in a packed house at the ECW Arena. It’s main event time. The Sandman, the ECW Champion, is set to arrive any second now. That classic guitar riff plays over the PA, nearly drowned out by the roar of the crowd. The lyrics kick in:
“If everybody had an ocean/
across the USA…”
What, were you expecting Metallica? No, I said Sandman’s original theme music. That’s right — before he was a cigarette-smoking, beer-swilling hardcore icon, he was all about the surf and the sand, man.
As Jerry Lawler put it during Sandman’s brief stint in the USWA, the latter liked to hang out at the beach and “flirt with all the little girls in the bikinis”. His words, not mine.
While Lawler’s understanding of the Cali lifestyle was unsurprisingly skewed, there was no denying the Sandman was a huge surfer.
Not only did he bring his board to the ring…
…but he’d also hang ten on the top rope.
Sandman wore his surfer shades at all times until he had to wrestle…
…at which point he’d carefully remove them and complain about the bright lights of the Memphis TV studio…
…which were apparently much brighter than the California sun he was used to.
To drive it all home, Sandy wore this unflattering romper…
…emblazoned with catch phrases like, “Surf’s Up!”
Curiously, Sandman never bothered adopting a surfer accent, making it obvious that this rad dude hailed not from Californ-I-A, but Philadelph-I-A.
Alas, not everybody had an ocean across the USA, so Sandman had to ride the gnarly barrels of the Delaware River…
…rather than the Pacific coast of Southern Beach, California (which was neither his hometown nor anyone else’s, as it didn’t exist).
Perhaps the most astounding part of Sandman’s original gimmick was that, as a phony surfer cutting corny promos, he was a babyface in ECW. He even won the ECW title in a wetsuit!
It wasn’t until he started mistreating his wife that he turned heel…
…and dropped the gimmick (and the surfer music!)
Spousal abuse: totally not tubular.