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.
10. Tommy Dreamer Joins The Management Team
Dreamer was one of the Faces of ECW in its heyday. He also is known for having a good business sense when it comes to pro wrestling. Dreamer has even gone on to start his own promotion called House of Hardcore.
In this wrestling universe, Heyman needs more help with the business side of things as ECW continues to grow. He begins to rely more and more on close personal friend Tommy Dreamer to handle booking duties and things of that nature. As the years go on, ECW starts to feel a little too corporate for some fans. There are some longtime followers who feel the company has sold out and they point to Dreamer, who now shows up to the arena in a suit and tie, as a prime example. Regardless of how the fans feel, Dreamer eventually becomes a high-level executive for the company.
9. ECW & WWE Cross Promote A Pay-Per-View
While Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff never got along, when there two promotions were going head to head, McMahon and Heyman were actually on good terms. You may recall that WWE even allowed ECW to do an invasion angle on Raw at one point, prior to WWE purchasing the company.
As both companies continue to progress many fans and wrestling websites begin to discuss dream matches between top stars in WWE and ECW. The thought of matches like Jerry Lynn versus Kurt Angle have some wrestling fans salivating. McMahon and Heyman decide to co-promote a one-off pay-per-view, which generates over a one million buys. The event also becomes one of the best-selling wrestling DVDs of its time. However, a lawsuit is eventually filed when WWE tries to feature the event on their network, years later.
8. Rob Van Dam Becomes An Action Film Star
Rob Van Dam was given his name based on his resemblance to film star Jean-Claude Van Dam. As ECW becomes more mainstream Hollywood begins to take notice of the companies top star. While impressed with his look and athleticism, his mic work gives Hollywood execs cause for concern, in regards to his acting ability. They decided to feature him an action film entitled “Let’s Kick It”. While the movie does feature some great action scenes, Van Dam’s acting is universally despised by critics. The movie is a box office flop and is Van Dam’s only appearance on the big screen. However, he does go on to make some straight to DVD films that are modestly successful. When it’s all said in done, even with his movie career, Van Dam is best remembered for his time in ECW.
7. Paul Heyman Signs Brock Lesnar, Becomes The Face Of The Company
It’s no secret that Lesnar and Heyman are both friends in real life and have a great deal of on-screen chemistry. It’s also true that Heyman has a pretty good eye for evaluating talent. When his talent scouts tell him about the 6 foot 3 nearly 300-pound former college wrestler, Heyman is very intrigued. In fact, he is so intrigued he asks to schedule a meeting with Brock personally. Much like a college football coach trying to recruit a player, Heyman does his best to sell Lesnar on the benefits of joining ECW. The young Lesnar likes Heyman and finds his offer intriguing. Despite Vince McMahon throwing a large amount of money at Brock, he ultimately decides to sign with ECW, and is rewarded by becoming the face of the company.
6. Tazz Becomes An Angry Heel Commentator
Tazz remains a top draw in ECW well into the early 2000’s. When he is no longer able to compete due to injuries, much like in reality, he is given a shot in the commentator’s booth next to Joey Styles. However, instead of the more laid back style he used during his time in WWE and TNA, Tazz delivers an edgier brand of commentary. He stays true to the angry character he played in ECW and often goes off into profanity-laced tirades, much to the delight of the fans. His no-nonsense approach only makes him more popular with the ECW faithful. However, once the company goes public, Heyman is forced to ask him to “tone it down a little.” A furious Tazz accuses Heyman of being a sell-out and decides to leave the company. The two eventually reconcile and Tazz occasionally returns to do guest commentary.
5. Raven Returns With The Flock
After the fall of WCW, Raven, Van Hammer, and Sick Boy arrive at ECW arena. The fans are pleased to have Raven back and he his met with the signature “welcome back” chant. Raven immediately clothes lines Sick Boy and hits Van Hammer with his signature DDT. He then goes on to cut a heartfelt anti-WCW promo. Sick Boy and Van Hammer stick around a few months and are primarily used to put existing ECW talent over, before both men are eventually released. Raven goes to regain his spot amongst the tops stars in ECW, before eventually replacing Tazz in the commentator’s booth. Raven enjoys a great deal of success in this scenario.
4. Jeff Jarrett Wins The ECW World Title
Jeff Jarrett is a great example of a guy who would really have liked the scenarios discussed in 15 Things That Could Have Happened If WCW Won The Monday Night Wars to have played out. He was the only member of the WCW roster who was publicly fired on air.
Jeff Jarrett in arguably the most high-profile star who heads immediately over to ECW, after WCW closes up shop. Looking to capitalize on the notoriety, Jarrett had gained with his former promotion, he is immediately booked to win the title. The fans view Jarrett as an outsider and immediately reject his title push, making him one of the biggest heels in the company. However, once Jarret loses the title after his initial push, fans begin to lose interest in him. Moreover, Jarrett decides his in-ring style doesn’t mesh well with ECW’s more hardcore approach. He decides to leave ECW and start his own promotion with his father and former wrestling promoter Jerry Jarrett.
3. ECW Becomes A Publicly Traded Company
Paul Heyman isn’t one to be outdone. When WWE becomes a publicly traded company, Heyman decides to follow suit. With WCW no longer in the picture, ECW has now solidly established itself as the number 2 brand in pro wrestling. The competition between the two organization keeps many fans who stopped watching wrestling after theMonday Night War (in the real world), still engaged in the sport. ECW’s initial public offering is a mild success. However, their new affiliation with Wall Street leaves many of their core fan base frustrated. While some fans leave, the publicity they gain from the move attracts a new generation of fans to the product. The company that started in a Philadelphia bingo hall, is now part of someone’s retirement portfolio.
2. Madusa Helps Start The ECW Women’s Divison
After the infamous incident that involved Madusa tossing the WWE Women’s Championship in the trash can on national TV, Vince McMahon isn’t quite ready to welcome her back into the fold yet. Heyman is interested in bringing her in, but ECW doesn’t have an established women’s division, and Madusa doesn’t see much of future as a valet in ECW. They collectively decided to have Madusa train some of the other ladies in ECW like Dawn Maire and Francine to wrestle. The division gets off to a rough start with Madusa having to carry the other women in the ring. However, over time, other female talent starts to trickle in and the ECW Women’s Championship eventually becomes somewhat respectable. Madusa goes down in ECW history as the pioneer of their women’s division
1. Sabu Becomes The First ECW Hall Of Famer
After nearly two decades as a performer with the company, Sabu becomes a member of the inaugural ECW Hall of Fame class. He is inducted as part of a class which also features Shane Douglas and Tazz. The man who was known for being “Homicidal, Suicidal, and Genocidal”now finds himself the proud owner of millions of dollars worth of ECW stock. The damage Sabu did to his body in contests like his infamous barb wire match with Terry Funk, seem like a small price to pay. With so many wrestlers struggling financially, Sabu bucks the trend and is able to retire well off. Who doesn’t love a happy ending?