ECW was a wrestling promotion that had devoted followers all around the world. It got its start as it moved away from the NWA tradition and became the underground company that was hardcore while hardcore was cool. Their niche market and a targeted audience were among the most knowledgeable audiences out there. They were also a bit insane.
Like any promotion, what fans saw in front of the curtain and out in the ring was not always what took place behind the scenes. There are plenty of secrets and disturbing backstage incidences the now defunct company would just as soon have you likely forget ever took place. From illegal stories of stealing music to contract negotiations that would make your head spin. An ECW led by a very slick and often unethical Paul Heyman was a company that did what it could to survive. Often times, it meant being underhanded.
For ECW fans, what's left of the company is a handful of talents who still pop up from time to time in the news. Very few are still wrestling to this day, but both those who retired and those who make a living have stories to tell. The next 15 stories are among the most disturbing of ECW's backstage secrets. Some of these are so wild, it's not surprising the company is now gone. No one can ever say that ECW didn't do things their own way.
16 Francine and Dawn Marie Hated Each Other
There are all sorts of stories about wrestlers who didn't get along. ECW was no stranger to this phenomenon. In fact, one of the most heated rivalries which still exists today is that of the nastiness between Francine and Dawn Marie. These two were among the most influential female performers in ECW history and while they were never officially wrestlers, they still don't get along despite frequently working with each other.
One confrontation specifically took place at ECW One Night Stand where the two almost came to blows. Dawn Marie felt disrespected by Francine's general holier than thou attitude and let Francine know about it. After trying to shake Francine's hand, Dawn Marie didn't like Francine's response and said something to the effect of 'it's good to see you haven't changed, bit^$%'.
15 ECW Illegally Used Copywritten Music Without License
Some of the most famous ECW moments revolved around music and song connections to the ECW performers. None of these connections were more apparent than the one shared between Sandman and Metallica. You can still visualize The Sandman coming to the ring smoking and drinking to the "Enter Sandman" song. The problem was, most of what ECW did with music wasn't exactly legal.
ECW didn't obtain copyright approval to play most of the music heard on ECW programming. They danced around the legality of it by piping the music through the ambient feeds in the arena, but still, ECW never paid the royalties and licensing fees that soundtrack some of the most iconic moments in ECW history.
14 Bradshaw Planned To Beat Up The Blue Meanie
At ECW One Night Stand, JBL took liberties with the Blue Meanie near the end of the show as ECW wrestlers brawled with WCW and WWE wrestlers. The brawl became all too real for JBL who legitimately fed Blue Meanie with repeated shots to the face, bloodying him on a live broadcast all because of some silly heated exchange and JBL's decision to teach the "ECW" originals a lesson.
Word has since come down that this attack wasn't just a result of miscommunication in the ring. It was actually planned and premeditated by JBL who searched out Meanie and found his punching bag to which Meanie just took the abuse so as to not ruffle feathers with the WWE higher-ups. It was another incident in a long line of JBL bullying stories.
13 RVD Came Up With The ECW One Night Stand Concept
ECW One Night Stand almost never happened. It took the convincing of one Rob Van Dam to get in Vince McMahon's ear to make the idea become reality. The only reason Van Dam was able to pull it off was by appealing to Vince's financial side.
McMahon didn't think the ECW pay per view would find success, but Van Dam noted that Vince had a number of ECW originals already employed in the company and not doing anything productive. If Vince was already paying these performers, why not get actual use out of them? As a result, Vince agreed and was surprised to learn the continued ECW chants were not because Vince had programmed fans into chanting ECW, but the fact there was still a hardcore contingent of ECW fans in the WWE Universe. RVD knew this. Unfortunately, an injury kept RVD from being able to perform on his own show.
12 WWE Funded ECW During the 1990s
Despite Paul Heyman's pleas to his wrestlers in ECW that they believe he wasn't accepting money from the WWE, Heyman has since admitted that he absolutely was and used that WWE investment to keep ECW afloat on more than one occasion.
ECW wrestlers were programmed to hate the WWE. After all, the WWE was the giant monopoly killing smaller promotions like the Philly-based ECW. If only the wrestlers had known the WWE was bankrolling them, performers like Tommy Dreamer might have demanded their paycheques a bit more quickly.
Why did the WWE do so? They wanted access to stars like Tazz and The Dudley's. Paul's financial troubles and willingness to let WWE bail him out made all of that possible.
11 ECW Had A Deal With TNN and TNN Didn't Promote The Product
One of the downfalls of the ECW promotion was the assumption that they couldn't land a quality television deal to keep them going financially. In those days, a good tv deal meant a hugely profitable business. There is some truth to ECW's troubles in this area, but only after the very lucrative tv deal with TNN fell through.
ECW actually had a deal with TNN in 1999 and TNN had a lot of money. For some reason, TNN also didn't care about the ECW product and didn't promote it. Instead, they spent more time trying to get one of the larger wrestling companies on board and landed a deal with the WWE in 2000. As a result, TNN didn't advertise they even carried ECW programming and the ratings a viewership suffered as a result. Paul Heyman was close to securing rights with another company... Disney.
10 The Sandman Once Died Before a Match and Returned to Wrestle
It sounds too crazy to be true but there was an incident before an ECW show were Sandman — who was known to take and inject a few stimulants — had overdosed on Nubain and died on the way to the show. A panicked Rhino ran into the arena and told Tommy Dreamer.
Not sure what to do, the ECW wrestlers dropped The Sandman's body off at the hospital and told the nurse they'd found him on the side of the road. Dreamer and Rhino ditched the scene and the nurse revived The Sandman with an adrenaline needle. The Sandman then crazily decided to find his own way back to the arena and wrestle his scheduled match with Dreamer that evening. This was the type of commitment wrestlers showed to the ECW brand. It also speaks highly to the lack of safe working habits that ultimately led to the untimely exits of some of ECW's biggest stars.
9 ECW Spit In The Face Of The NWA
One of the most iconic moments in ECW history came at the company's inception on paper. In August, 1994 and at a show that has been widely viewed by many as ECW's origins, ECW-NWA Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas threw down the belt in defiance and declared himself the 'Extreme' Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Champion", not the ECW champion. It signified the split of ECW from the traditional NWA and in the process trashed years of championship titles holders like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes. To this day, the display has Douglas and Flair at odds.
This was just one of the many things ECW became known for. Spitting in the face of tradition, ECW's approach was to be different, unique and brash. They wanted to be the opposite of what they'd been known for in the past. Disrespecting their old title was the kickstart they needed. ECW just never bothered to tell the NWA they were going that route.
8 ECW Owed Its Talents Big Money And Rarely Paid Them
When you're not wrestling in the WWE or Japan, it's a widely known fact that making a living as a professional wrestler is tough sledding. That doesn't mean that wrestlers want to put their health on the line for free. Often times in ECW, that's exactly what the performers did.
During the final days of ECW, there were months that went by when wrestlers didn't get paid. Tommy Dreamer says he once went six months without a paycheque. Working as more than just in-ring talent, the performers were often doing the tasks of three people but still were owed money. Often the less traveled veterans of ECW took the biggest hit while international stars got their cheques. It was blind loyalty that made it all possible and Paul Heyman took full advantage.
7 ECW Fans Started Riot After Riot
If you were a security guard assigned to work an ECW show, you earned your pay. In The Rise & Fall of ECW book, Spike Dudley cites not even being able to recall just how many brawls he got into at the ECW Arena. He claims he did a lot less of that than other wrestlers who went out to try and calm the crowd.
It was a repeated showcase of which fan could outdo the other and often it went too far. Fans would throw items, physically get involved with wrestlers and to many, the entire process was scary. In a way, the ECW product encouraged such behaviour by being so involved with the crowd during each show. In one instance, the brawl included another promotion called XPW. It was a local wrestling promotion that wanted to make a name for itself. ECW wrestlers were happy to oblige.
6 ECW Talent Had Nowhere To Go The Bathroom
If you thought your office or workspace was bad, imagine what it was like to be one of 20-40, 200-plus lbs wrestlers crammed into a small arena. Now imagine performers and fans had to share the same restroom facilities. That would be ok if it came to it. The only problem was, the arena didn't have working toilets. This was the norm as an ECW performer.
It wasn't enough to be asked to work the job or two or three other people. It also wasn't bad enough to ask many of these performers to do their jobs for free. If ECW wrestlers stuck around long enough after you did all that to them, then to ask them to continue with no place to use the restroom, seems inhumane. There was a lot of things that seem inhumane about working in ECW. It should come as no surprise to hear something like this went on for years.
5 The Eric Kulas Trial
This story is one of those things that Paul Heyman wishes would have never gotten out to the public. Eric Kulas, a young man who was in attendance for an ECW live event on November 23, 1996 in Revere, Massachusetts, somehow Kulas convinced Heyman that he was a professional wrestler trained by Killer Kowalski. When Axl Rotten was missing for a match, Heyman should have clued in that something was amiss with Kulas, but instead, let the unknown overweight kid who called himself Mass Transit wrestle in a tag-team match against The Gangstas, New Jack and Mustafa Saed. That Kulas was in the ring with New Jack, who was known to take things over the top, should have been the second set of alarm bells.
Kulas asked New Jack to blade him and New Jack obliged. The cut was way too deep and Kulas bled all over the ring and was taken to a hospital to get over 50 stitches. In July of 1998, the Kulas family sued ECW and New Jack for physical and psychological damage. The case was thrown out of court as it was determined Kulas lied on multiple occasions, including about his age. Unrelated, on May 12th, 2002, Eric Kulas died at the age of 22.
4 Major Segments Were Filmed In A Basement
When you saw legends like Mick Foley do a pre-match interview meant to intimidate an opponent or you saw great announcers like Joey Styles doing pre-show openings, did you know that Ron Buffone's mom was probably watching in the background? Who is Ron Buffone you ask...
Ron Buffone was an ECW producer who was very much responsible for editing and creating the segments often viewed on ECW programming. Because ECW had literally production no budget and Buffone worked all hours of the day and night, wrestlers and talents would make their way to Buffone's parent's house and shoot their segments in his basement with only an ECW curtain making the whole thing look like a real production.
3 The Ultimate Warrior Had Contract Talks With ECW
During a time that The Ultimate Warrior was in limbo, there were ongoing talks between the Warrior's camp and ECW. How serious those talks were and how often he would appear are unknown. Warrior was always one to follow the money and ECW was known near the end not to have a lot of it. The two parties on paper didn't seem like a much of a fit.
It appears the "Ultimate" undoing was that Heyman wanted the Warrior to come in a lose clean to Taz which would put ECW over as a legit brand with credibility to employ Superstars who could beat the best of the best from other global promotions. Warrior didn't want anything to do with that idea and ultimately chose to sit out, stay home and cash other cheques while being a little bit nuts.
2 ECW Had A Locker Room Mole
One of the major issues that hurt ECW in its final years was the loss of talent to the bigger companies like WCW and the WWE. It's hard enough when you're a company with no budget and the big guys scoop your best wrestlers who undoubtedly view a company like the WWE as a dream employer. When you have to compete with that and your own staff, it's almost impossible to stay afloat.
Tod Gordon (Pictured Right) was the founder of Eastern Championship Wrestling (later ECW). He owned the promotion until it was sold to Paul Heyman in May of 1995. Before he left, he was supposedly involved with Bill Alfonso (Pictured Left) and Terry Taylor who attempted to secretly get several ECW wrestlers to go to WCW. Todd Gordon stood to benefit financially and it was a lot of behind the scenes conversations while wrestlers were under contract. If the rumour is true, the whole situation was very illegal.
1 Stone Cold Character Originated in ECW
One of the most famous wrestlers of all time was Stone Cold Steve Austin. He sold more merchandise than anyone, sold out arenas and led the WWE for years as the poster-child for the Attitude Era. That character got it roots from his short tenure in ECW.
Austin had been recently released from WCW. He wasn't happy about it. Heyman saw an opportunity to let a frustrated Austin go on ECW programming and vent his grievances for all to see. If you look back at the concept, it was basically a frustrated redneck taking on his former boss and shunning authority.
What stemmed from that was the fact that Austin was a surprisingly good worker on a mic. His attitude shone through the tv screen and it led to him signing with the WWE. While his first gimmick for Vince McMahon didn't amount to much, these ECW promos likely gave a bit of confidence to the WWE to let Austin become the character he eventually became.