When it comes to most things in life, you can't please everyone. Despite WWE's desperate attempts to do so during this latest era, that is also true of the pro wrestling business. The most evident example of that is Extreme Championship Wrestling, more commonly known as ECW. Nowadays ECW is looked upon more fondly by the majority than it was while it was active and that somewhat masks the fact that at the time both fans and performers were very split over whether it was actually a good thing or not. There's a reason it was always playing second fiddle to WWE and WCW while the two behemoths battled it out on Monday nights and beyond. It was different, it was innovative, and it catered to a very specific audience.
To this day in WWE and professional wrestling as a whole there are a multitude of wrestlers who made their names in ECW. The likes of Taz and The Dudley Boys and Sabu. All names still relevant today who will look back fondly on their time in ECW as they were all integral parts of it and in hand wouldn't be where they are today without it. Consequently there are also a fair few wrestlers who performed in that famed ECW Arena in Philadelphia that simply couldn't get their heads around the whole concept and merely passed through the company in order to get back to a more 'normal' place to wrestle. I'm afraid to say WWE's unsuccessful ECW reboot will also make a couple of appearances in this list, and you'd be right to assume that all the entries featured will sit firmly within the 'hated' category.
20 Loved: Sabu
There are a certain group of wrestlers that lived and breathed ECW during its hey day. They're affectionately referred to as the ECW Originals and were integral to the company's tremendous success during the '90s. They will also feature heavily in the loved it entries of this list, naturally. Sabu was one of those main stays in ECW. His extreme style wouldn't have worked anywhere else, something that has been proved by a failed run in WWE's watered down ECW reboot. Thanks to that alone Sabu of course has nothing but love for the brand that made his career. Sixteen years after its closure Sabu is still able to ride the coat tails of his success there.
19 Hated: Konnan
Konnan clearly sees himself as a much bigger deal than he actually is. It's also evident that he believed that before he had made a name for himself. He's most noted for his time in WCW which is where he enjoyed a little fame but before he could get to those lofty heights he had to ply his trade in ECW, and he clearly wasn't a big fan of having to do that. According to ECW talents while he was there he treated his peers like they were beneath him, even though he himself had little to no name value while he worked there. He allegedly didn't have any time for the fans either, despite them being some of the most passionate the wrestling business has ever seen.
18 Loved: Jerry Lynn
Another true ECW Original for the list and like Sabu, another man who has to credit his time under the extreme brand's banner for a great career and one that out lasted the company itself. Only recently Jerry Lynn needed surgery and those who remembered his ECW career fondly generously donated so they could make that happen. Lynn will unquestionably look back fondly on his time under Paul Heyman's gaze during the '90s. In particular his feud with Rob van Dam which is still discussed today as one of the greatest in ECW history. You don't wrestle matches like that and not enjoy the place you're performing in and working for. Which is why you should probably keep an eye out for his opponent a little later in this list.
17 Hated: Juventud Guerrera
It's no secret that compared to WWE and WCW at the time, ECW was not on the same level. Not only is that not a secret but it's down right obvious. That being said it was hardly a tiny organization. While WCW and WWE were massive global brands ECW was a step down rather than a steep decline. Which is why it's so surprising that so many wrestlers disrespected it and saw themselves as 'too big' for the brand. Juventud Guerrera is a one of those wrestlers. Like Konnan he was another performer who arrived at the company already thinking he was a big deal when in reality it was ECW that helped him gain that leg up to becoming more well known. On top of that he was also allegedly not a great guy back stage who spoke to his peers with disdain and clearly didn't want to be there.
16 Loved: Shane Douglas
A lot of Superstars suffered a severe down turn in fortune after leaving ECW for seemingly greener pastures. None perhaps more so than The Franchise, Shane Douglas. In the mid '90s he was one of the biggest names in ECW and was unquestionably loving life. Due to his success Douglas tried his hand in WWE but sadly failed miserably. Vince McMahon simply didn't see the talent Shane had exhibited via Paul Heyman's show. Douglas returned to ECW and continued to prosper and his love of the company even continued beyond its existence. Shane created his own promotion named Xtreme Pro Wrestling in an attempt to carry on the spirit of ECW, taking many of his former peers along with him.
15 Hated: Hardcore Holly
Unfortunately for us the fans, and for the majority of wrestlers who were involved, the innovative and legendary ECW was not left to rest peacefully when it folded in 2001. Five years later Vince McMahon saw an opportunity and decided to resurrect its extreme corpse and bleed it dry. The WWE reboot of ECW was not a success, and it actually severely lessened the stock of some of the talents involved with it. One of those talents was Hardcore Holly. Holly had been with WWE for an extremely long time and had even finagled his way into the WWE Championship picture by 2004. Well all that work was forgotten when he was drafted to ECW. I imagine Holly has nothing but disdain for the relaunch as it effectively brought the curtain down on his long WWE career.
14 Loved: Raven
To this day Raven may have had one of the best and most unique gimmicks in professional wrestling. Considering the fans he was trying to appeal to and the culture outside of wrestling at the time it was a stroke of genius. All of that meant Raven enjoyed huge and deserved success in ECW. Spot the trend here though, it couldn't last forever. ECW folded and Raven was forced to try his hand with WWE. We hoped and prayed that WWE would get it but alas, they did not. Raven thrived under ECW as his brooding gimmick appealed to that niche, older, male audience. As we discovered when he moved to WWE, a love of ECW did not necessarily mean a love of violent, hardcore wrestling.
13 Hated: Shawn Michaels
In a time where pro wrestlers were jumping ship left and right, Shawn Michaels' loyalty never wavered. Almost any performer from that period spent time employed by at least two of the three big guns, those being WWE, WCW and ECW. Michaels has revealed since then that his head may have been turned now and again by the blank checks of WCW, especially with many of his closest friends spending some time there. He's also hinted at why ECW was most certainly never an option for him. During an interview he explained exactly why he believed Shane Douglas didn't take to the WWE product and dropped a few digs at ECW in there for good measure. HBK stated that being a good pro wrestler was more than simply being able to swear and put people through tables, labeling a lot of what was going on down at ECW as 'cheap heat.'
12 Loved: Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer is widely regarded as one of the nicest guys in wrestling. You'll struggle to find someone in the locker room with a bad thing to say about him. You'd probably find that hard to believe after watching him perform in the ring however. Dreamer embraced and embodied everything that defined ECW and became a deserved firm fan favorite with the company. Clearly that's where Tommy always felt most at home despite having a continued relationship with WWE to this day. I say that because Dreamer's main focus today is his own promotion, House of Hardcore. As you can probably tell by the name it's a company that clearly takes a lot of aspects from Tommy's former love, ECW.
11 Hated: Bobby Lashley
A reluctant return to the ECW reboot now, and the failed WWE run of Bobby Lashley. Lashley is a pure athlete. He's a man that's probably on round about the same level as Brock Lesnar. Which begs the question why is he not enjoying the success that The Beast Incarnate currently is? Well to begin with Bobby was booked relatively well, then Vince McMahon decided to move him to their newly launched ECW brand. Lashley was, and still is, a legit MMA fighter, so I can only imagine what he thought of a concept like ECW. A brand of wrestling that revolves around hardcore matches and the use of weapons for a man with a legitimate wrestling background. Not the best mix. The placement of Lashley there effectively killed his WWE run before it had really started and I imagine the letters ECW still leave a bad taste in his mouth because of that.
10 Loved: Rob Van Dam
A swift return to the real ECW and another ECW Original, Rob van Dam. I did warn you a little earlier on that we'd eventually make our way to him. Similarly to Raven, RVD came along at the perfect time with the perfect gimmick. What's different about Van Dam though is that he persevered and actually made a go of it in WWE. It took a while but the high flier actually became WWE champion. Unfortunately it was short lived thanks to a wellness policy violation. Since then RVD has seemed a little jaded when it comes to the wrestling business and in all fairness, who can blame him? While in ECW what he did in his recreational time, shall we say, was a corner stone of his gimmick whereas years later in WWE it sparked his down fall.
9 Hated: Jim Cornette
Jim Cornette is one of the most outspoken and controversial minds in the pro wrestling business. He has seen and done it all during his long and storied career, so unsurprisingly he has a lot of opinions on ECW. In keeping with Cornette and his rants and opinions, they don't paint Paul Heyman's creation in a favorable light. During an interview Cornette went off on how the extreme brand of wrestling had damaged the business beyond repair. He claimed that he couldn't get his head around the fact that people were paying to see wrestlers legitimately hurt each other and tear one another apart. He added that because of that other companies suffered, saying that they had to adapt and their performers had to put themselves in more danger in order to seem as real as what was being witnessed in ECW.
8 Loved: The Dudley Boyz
You will struggle to find an act whose career was launched into the stratosphere more successfully than The Dudley Boyz. The masters of the table match began their careers in ECW and are a couple of the lucky ones that Vince McMahon did get when they made the jump to WWE. Despite their success in WWE and beyond it's plain to see, especially with Bubba Ray, that nothing has topped the time they enjoyed in ECW. Bubba in particular often speaks fondly of how much he could get away with under Paul Heyman. The multi time tag champ said some absolutely unspeakable things to the in house crowds during ECW shows that had people trying to hop the barrier to get at him. Not a luxury that was afforded to him later in WWE.
7 Hated: Al Snow
There are going to be a few wrestlers who really resent being a part of WWE's ECW reboot, but maybe none more than Al Snow. Al was actually a part of the original ECW but was pretty unsuccessful. It was nothing compared to his reboot run though. Snow had actually semi retired when ECW returned under the WWE banner and clearly the promise of it was too much for him to pass up on. Whatever fondness for the extreme brand he had at the time though would have been swiftly quashed. His return saw him lose the few matches he was afforded and worst of all he had his trusty companion Head inexplicably taken from him. Who knows, with his signature mannequin head by his side maybe it wouldn't have been so bad.
6 Loved: Taz
Yet another entry on this list who was beloved by ECW fans and a well decorated ECW alumni who was simply not put on the pedestal he should have been when in WWE. Nowadays Taz hosts an extremely successful daily radio show for CBS and as you may have guessed, while The Human Suplex Machine covers an array of topics it is mainly wrestling focused. With two hours a day to interact with fans listeners get a lot of fascinating insight into Taz's career and the inner workings of ECW and WWE. Taz is known for being outspoken and makes no bones about admitting his time with ECW was much more enjoyable than his period with WWE. He describes ECW as being like a family as he and many other ECW Originals worked together with Paul Heyman to keep that company running and make it, along with themselves, a legendary and influential chapter in pro wrestling history.
5 Hated: Jerry 'The King' Lawler
Much like Jim Cornette, Jerry 'The King' Lawler has been very vociferous when it comes to his thoughts on ECW. He even described it as Extremely Crappy Wrestling. During an interview he revealed his reasons for that thinking, and it's quite the opposite to Cornette's reasoning. Rather than ruining the wrestling business, King claims ECW was actually repeating history. In fact he believes that Paul Heyman and co. down right copied what he and his peers were doing in Memphis years before. Lawler rose to prominence wrestling in the Memphis territory for years and helped make the promotion one of the biggest in the United States at the time. He cites that he and the other wrestlers down in Memphis were doing extreme before people called it extreme, and that ECW were simply lifting what they had done and giving it a new label.
4 Loved: The Sandman
Of all the Superstars listed in this article, there is none that is suited to ECW and ECW alone more so than The Sandman. I can't imagine that there's anyone, including The Sandman himself, who would argue with me when I say that he was a pretty poor wrestler. Now I'm not saying that's what qualifies him as being a fit for ECW, but his gimmick would not have worked anywhere else. Sandman got to come to work each week, smoke cigarettes, drink beer and fight, and be universally loved by the ECW fans in the process! Who wouldn't love a job that revolves around you simply having a good time each and every night? The only other place Sandman really fit in was Douglas's aforementioned Xtreme Pro Wrestling which was formed after ECW folded.
3 Hated: CM Punk
Of all the Superstars we've seen over the past fifteen years or so, I can't imagine one that would have fitted in to the original ECW mantra more than CM Punk. Punk has a unique look and an outlook that would have gone hand in hand with the product. So why I hear you ask has he landed under the 'hated' column? Well Punk was another Superstar who fell victim to the WWE reboot of the extreme brand. While it didn't kill his career, it was one of the first things Vince McMahon did to try and stifle the rise of The Second City Saint. McMahon afforded Punk the ECW Championship, but at that time it was a title that meant next to nothing. We're all aware of Punk's confrontational personality and it's highly likely that he did not appreciate being held down in WWE's ECW while being told by Vince that it was the place to be.
2 Loved: Paul Heyman
How can we talk about performers who loved ECW and not mention the man who gifted it to us in the first place, Paul Heyman. To this day Paul Heyman continues to entertain us via his advocating for Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, but without the success he enjoyed running Extreme Championship Wrestling we would probably never have known him. Speak to any of the aforementioned wrestlers on this list who fall in to the 'loved' side of the Venn diagram and they'll tell you that ECW meant everything to Paul. He poured his heart and soul and more into the company and it paid dividends. It may have been the center of many performers' universes at the time but there's no doubt that ECW meant more to Paul Heyman than anybody else. It was his brain child and he was the biggest reason it is still remembered so fondly to this day.
1 Hated: Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle is widely respected as a man who picked up the business of professional wrestling more quickly and successfully than anybody else. What's not so well known is that Kurt actually had the opportunity to make the move from shoot to pro wrestling before he was picked up by WWE. Angle was invited to an ECW show in 1996 and supplied some guest commentary during a Taz match. However, later in the show Raven crucified The Sandman, attaching his opponent to a cross using barbed wire. The Olympic Hero clearly wasn't expecting that and left the building in disgust, threatening Paul Heyman that he would sue the company if his image was used on their product in fear that it would damage his Olympic image.