In 1995, Paul Heyman purchased ECW from Todd Gordon, and the extreme revolution had begun. He took a group of outcast wrestlers who were either too small, too ugly, or too much for other promoters to handle and made them stars. ECW matches were often a unique blend of blood, violence, and outstanding athleticism. The company would eventually go on to have their own pay-per-views, video games, and even a nationally televised weekly show. ECW was a hot commodity in the late 90’s and the other major wrestling brands took notice. As a result, both WWE & WCW both started to feature hardcore style matches on their programs. Even today pay-per-views like TLC (Table Ladder and Chairs) stand as a reminder of ECW’s legacy. The company eventually lost their television deal when WWE decided to come to TNN, the network ECW was featured on.
The promotion had acquired massive debt, which it was unable to pay without a TV deal. In 2001 WWE bought the company from Heyman, which meant the extreme revolution had ended. This has left many wrestling fans wondering, what if it didn’t end? What if Heyman finds a way to keep going and ECW lives on? How would things have been different for many of the loyal ECW stars that stayed with the company until the bitter end? Join me on a trip to a parallel wrestling universe and let’s find out.
15. CM Punk Challenges The Sandman
With ECW still going strong well into the early 2000s, many independent stars get their big break much earlier on in their careers. One of those stars is CM Punk who Heyman signs in 2002.
Heyman immediately recognizes Punk’s talent on the mic and ability in the ring. He decides to emphasize his alcohol-free straight age lifestyle and puts him in a program with ECW’s resident beer guzzler The Sandman. The Sandman was never known for being a great worker in the ring, but the ultra-talented Punk is able to carry the matches. He portrays a character with a holier-than-though attitude similar to the one he played in WWE for a period. Punk’s heel character goes over well with the largely pro-alcohol ECW fanbase, as he feuds with the promotion’s popular mainstay. CM Punk is a huge success in ECW, where he remains a top act for years to come.
14. Former nWo Members Join The Blue World Order
While WWE was quick to retain the services of nWo’s major stars like Hall and Nash, when WCW went under, they had little interest in some of the lesser known members. Horace Hogan, Vincent (aka Virgil), and Scott Norton were asked to come in to do a program with Heyman’s nWo parody group, known as The Blue World Order or the BWO. This was a comedy angle that involved the three former nWo B-teamers mocking the nWo and swearing allegiance to the BWO’s leader The Blue Meanie. The angle was fun, but when it was over Hogan and Vincent went back to the independent circuit. Scott Norton, on the other hand, went on to have a somewhat memorable feud with Bam Bam Bigelow and stayed with the company for a little over a year.
13. Jerry Lynn Becomes One Of Wrestling’s Top Acts
In his WCW days, Lynn wrestled under a mask as the Mysterious JL who couldn’t seem to win a match if his life depended on it; he was viewed primarily as an enhancement talent. Lynn would go to on to showcase his skills in ECW, most notably in a series of matches against Rob Van Dam. These matches earned him the respect of the ECW crowd. Following WCW’s loss in The Monday Night Wars, many of their former stars begin to trickle into ECW. The loyal ECW fans strongly disliked the WCW washouts, as they are viewed as only being in ECW for lack of a better alternative. Heyman has Lynn defeat a series of former WCW stars, to gain a measure of revenge for how he was treated by his previous employer. The fans love the storyline and get behind Lynn in a big way. When Lynn defeats Jeff Jarret for the ECW World Title, the crowd explodes and a new star is born.
12. New Jack Gets Seriously Injured
In a company full of wrestlers who were willing to take risks with their bodies, New Jack was truly willing to take it to the extreme. He fell off a 15-foot high scaffold, jumped off cages, and took a shot from his own staple gun right in the eye. New Jack truly personified the company’s high-risk approach to wrestling.
As ECW grows in popularity the man from Greensboro, North Carolina continues to want to raise the bar. He tries to convince Paul Heyman to let him sustain a legitimate gunshot wound to the shoulder during a match. Heyman refuses and insists that the gun used in the match remain empty. New Jack briefly argues, but ultimately agree to Heymans request. However, he disobey’s Heyman and loads the gun backstage just prior to the start of the match. New Jack eventually recovers and returns a few months later. The incident generates a ton of negative publicity, but ultimately only makes the company more popular.
11. Francine Poses For Hugh Hefner
With many WWE divas gaining notable fame by gracing the pages of Playboy Magazine, the ladies of ECW let management know that they want in on the action. Since WCW closed shop several of their top ladies have turned up in the ECW locker room. These names include acts like Major Gunns and Kimberly Paige. However, Heyman decides to approach Playboy with an offer to do a photo shoot with Francine Fournier, who had been loyal to the company since the early days. While Playboy isn’t interested in featuring her on the cover, they agree to feature a couple photo’s in an upcoming edition. As a result, Francine becomes the first active ECW star to be featured in Playboy. ECW promotes the issue on air and sales are relatively high.