Eric Gargiulo has been a wrestling commentator, radio show host, and writer. He’s interviewed some of the biggest names in wrestling, been a ring announcer for ECW, an announcer for CZW, and helped to innovate the shoot interview.
In his conversation with Chris and Steph, Eric went through his varied career in wrestling; from the time Bruno Sanmartino helped him with his homework, to finding his way into the ECW orbit in the early 90s, falling into an announcing gig, and also occasionally breaking servers with stories about wrestling.
On Roddy Piper Selling Him Lightbulbs
From 1999-2009 Eric ran his own radio show–Pro Wrestling Radio. It was and still is the longest-running wrestling radio show on terrestrial radio ever.
Gargiulo would often cold-call wrestlers to get them on the show.
In a scene that’s ripped straight out of his turn as Da Maniac on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” Roddy Piper turned a cold call from Eric into a sales pitch for some light bulbs he was selling:
So, I got Roddy Piper’s phone number, and mind you, I love Roddy Piper. He’s probably in my top three so, you know, I’m marking out just to call him […] I said, “Hey you know Mr. Piper, I do the show blah blah blah.
You know you could come on, I do it live [at] this time, or we could always record it previously and [Piper] starts going into a whole spiel about light bulbs.
So apparently [Piper] had some part of a business deal where he was selling light bulbs. So, he’s half trying to sell me light bulbs and half trying to like talk about why these light bulbs are so great.
And I’m just listening–I’m just marking out because it’s Roddy Piper talking about light bulbs for 20 minutes and I’m thinking “all right, you know, I’ll roll with this” and “this is cool and I wish I could record this and put this on the air”. I mean this would be gold.
We get to the end of the the phone call […] and he’s like “I’ll call you tomorrow” and hangs up and I never heard from him again, but I got to listen to Roddy Piper trying to hock a light bulb to me for about 20 minutes, and that was worth the 10 years of radio that I put in for sure.
On this week's show, Eric Gargiulo @CamelClutchBlog discusses breaking into ECW, Roddy Piper selling light bulbs & pissing off a wrestling legend. LISTEN NOW! –> https://t.co/UKTjgzduND pic.twitter.com/ISFTTvvlxc
— Not About Wrestling (@NotAboutWrstlng) March 23, 2021
The Time Eric Pissed off a Legend
In the 10 years that Pro Wrestling Radio ran, in addition to the numerous shoot interviews Eric did on the side, Garguilo never had an interview go bad on him–with the exception of one major star.
In a call with the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Garguilo apparently asked the one question that was off-limits:
I was so excited because it was such a hard get and it took me eight years to get [Dusty on the show] […] I was doing shoot interviews for videos on the side. I just got accustomed to a style where I asked hard questions, but never insulted anybody or never got anybody angry.
With him I said something about Thunderbolt Patterson […] there’s kind of this deal where a lot of people think that [Dusty] stole Thunderbolt Patterson’s gimmick because Thunderbolt Patterson, who is African-American, would do all the jive talking, all the same motions as Dusty.
If you ever went back and found a youtube video of Thunderbolt Patterson you’d say “Wow, I feel like I’m watching Dusty Rhodes” but you know, it is what it is. [Dusty] touched on it in his book, but like he kind of glossed over [it] […] So I say “Hey, in your book you know you said something about Thunderbolt Patterson.” I don’t even know what I asked. I mean it wasn’t anything insulting or aggressive in any way.
Then all of the sudden he says, “Wait, I’m losing the connection here. Oh wait, there’s a lot of people around here. We’re cutting out.” He’s like “how about we do this again sometime? I gotta go.”
At the time, I didn’t really think anything of it because I’ve never really had anybody do that, and at that point I’d been doing the show for eight years and talked to everybody and everybody was cool with everything.
Then I had heard from somebody that was there [with Dusty during the interview], it might have been Larry Zbyszko […] Basically had told me that nobody was even near Dusty Rhodes.
He was working that whole thing. Nobody was near him. He was standing at the corner, talking on the phone, and you know and it was all a big work.
So he probably didn’t like the question.
The best part of this is the image of Dusty in a corner of a convention center, all alone, pretending to be mobbed by people as his phone reception cuts out.
Breaking into ECW
Early on Eric got involved with ECW, following the crew around selling merch for his own company, before Paul Heyman drafted him into the company as a ring announcer:
It was very organic. At the time I was working with my buddy and we would go on the ECW roadshow [..] we’d get a table, sell our videos, our merchandise, and as part of our business we had a hotline [..] We would do an ECW recap on our hotline, just something to talk about and [Paul Heyman] would call the hotline every week–not just our’s, everybody’s–because he wanted to hear what people thought of his ECW TV show.
So it was customary after all the shows, after we would sell our stuff, you always go and shake everybody’s hand goodbye, especially Paul because he’s letting you set up there.
I mean, you’re paying him, but still he made you a deal, so we’d always do that. I remember going to shake his hand the one night and said “hey thanks” and he held onto my hand and he’s like, “hone in on your announcing skills” like a Jedi or something. I’m like “okay”.
So, we leave and I’m saying to my buddies, “what do you think he meant?” and nobody knows.
[Paul] would call our office too sometimes. So there’s a little bit of a relationship there not so much with me but with my buddy. [Paul calls my buddy and says] make sure Eric’s in whatever town, somewhere like around Rochester.
So I go out to Rochester, walk in, we set up our stuff and [Paul] grabs me. He’s got a big smile on his face, he puts his arm around me and he’s like “you’re announcing tonight”. I don’t even know what I’m announcing […] so he said, “go around get the weights and the towns with the guys and have fun”
I wasn’t dressed for this, we’d go on the road, you wear a t-shirt and shorts or whatever. so I wasn’t dressed for [ring announcing] so I said to him, “I don’t have anything to wear”.
He’s like, “Go get one of Joel Gertner‘s sweatsuits”. So I got this windbreaker suit from Joel Gertner that was three times like my size. I’m swimming in it–draw your own conclusions [..] I look like I’m out of the Sopranos as I’m walking in Rochester, New York. [I] do the announcements and I don’t know if I did good, I did bad or whatever. I was just kind of glad it was over, because yeah, you’re nervous as anything.
So I say goodbye to [Paul] and say “thank you” […] and he would say, “come to Albany tomorrow night, but bring a suit tomorrow night.”
Check out Not About Wrestling’s full interview with Eric Gargiulo.