The East Coast titan, extreme wrestling pioneer, and all-around beloved promotion known as ECW had an eclectic cast of characters that could only come to life in the den of destruction that was an ECW show. Surely you remember many of the stars that came to form out of the core group of performers there, sometimes referred to as ECW Originals. They invaded WWE, they changed the face of professional wrestling, and they did it their way: extreme.
No spot was too high, no match too bloody, there wasn’t any length they wouldn’t go to give the Philly crowds what they wanted. At times the veil between the crowd and the ring eroded completely, the fans seemingly a part of the action. However the veil between life and performance for many of these wrestlers was just as thin. This list takes a look at 15 shocking things that you didn’t know about ECW Originals.
15 Spiked Dudley
ECW was most definitely known for their drug references, but no one did it as well as Spike Dudley. The third member of the Dudley Boyz, also known as the “Giant Killer”, Spike got his start as “Little Spike Dudley”; otherwise recognized as an acronym for LSD. It didn’t end there either, his finishing move, a running bulldog up the turnbuckle, was also called the acid drop. Many times Spike would stare at his hands, waving them in front of his face as if to mime that he was on a trip.
Ironically, he wasn’t actually a raving drug addict like his gimmick implied. Spike was a third grade English teacher before making his way into professional wrestling. He graduated from Skidmore College with a Bachelor of Arts, making him one of few that actually had a degree. He adopted the deadhead gimmick most likely due to his image, his light frame, and scruffy hair.
14 Sandman Jailed in Yonkers
In 2008, “Hardcore Icon” The Sandman was put behind bars after assaulting a restaurant employee in the Bronx, New York. The employee called the police after he was DDTed into a chair. No, seriously, he feared the Sandman was becoming unruly, and when the police arrived they were also assaulted; Sandman threw glasses at them, injuring two.
Due to prior convictions, these charges became more daunting for the “King of Extreme” who was denied bail at first. The court decided to place a restraining order on Sandman, barring him from ever returning to said restaurant. In addition he paid at least ten thousand dollars in bail money, a one thousand dollar fine, and two hundred dollars in court fees.
I imagine it’s not the first, and probably won’t be the last restaurant that Sandman gets barred from. I wouldn’t appreciate someone bashing my customers with a kendo stick either. Or maybe it was a barbed wire bat, it’s hard to get the story straight nowadays.
13 Balls Mahoney Dead at 44
It’s not uncommon for a wrestler to make an early exit from life, but the death of beloved ECW staple, John Rechner, also known as Balls Mahoney, came as a shocker to many that knew him as well as fans all over the world. In April 2016, Rechner became unconscious and passed away before medics could arrive to aid him. The autopsy revealed that he had suffered a fatal heart attack, what is still being speculated is whether or not the fact that Rechner suffered from CTE played a role in his passing.
Balls Mahoney was known especially for being one of the more extreme performers on the ECW roster, and chances are the concussions he suffered during his career aren’t directly linked to his death. Still it is vital to better understand the underlying effects CTE is having on the brains of retired athletes and the like. That lingering fact that CTE had fundamentally changed this man’s brain begs the question of how it might have changed his body, even his mind.
The Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freak himself, Mahoney was pedal to the metal when it came to putting on a show with chair shots galor. Unfortunately, that choice of style may have cost him his life at just forty-four years of age.
12 Rhyno: Wrestler & Politician
Outside of wrestling, outside of goring people in half, Rhyno is also legitimately a candidate for political office this November in the general election. He won the primary for the Republican Party candidacy to run for the Michigan House of Representatives. Rhyno is trying to win the 15th district seat in the House, which encompasses his hometown of Dearborn.
It’s not impossible that Rhyno may be the first wrestler to hold a public office while still being an active performer, especially with WWE. So if you happen to be a Michigan native and are going out to vote, keep your eye out for Terrance Gerin. He may be the man to represent your interests in your community. The Man Beast is for the people - Gores for everyone.
11 RVD 420
It’s no surprise that Rob Van Dam smokes weed, it’s not something he’s ever hid from in his personal or professional life. What people forget is that Van Dam incorporated 420 into his gimmick to rival the wave of Austin 3:16 going on in the WWF. He would even mimic Austin’s famous promo, “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass”, but replaced a key word in the phrased to make it sound like: “RVD 420 means I just smoked your ass.” Much to the delight of the crowd, often they’d chant “Rob smokes pot!” as well as stealing signs off of Pennsylvania Route 420 to bring to the shows.
It became ingrained in his character, so much so that Rob himself felt it hurt his push when it came time to move on to WWE. The ultra-mainstream promotion that Vince McMahon runs couldn’t utilize what had legitimately made him a fan favorite in ECW, that alongside his immense talent. People could relate to Van Dam in ways they couldn’t other superstars, people wanted to hang out with him, people wanted to smoke with him - and they still do. There’s no denying that he may very well be the chillest professional wrestler to have ever hit it big, and for that we always remember why “it’s smoking time” was and still is one of the most appropriate catch phrases of all time.
10 Tommy “Wiseguy” Dreamer
On the Art of Wrestling podcast in 2011, Dreamer revealed that his family has mob ties; i.e. his family is “connected” to the New York mafia. What’s more interesting is that during one of his earliest matches as a wrestler in Brooklyn, he was attacked from behind by Sweet William, also known as Bill DeMott. His family wasn’t aware of the kayfabe, or scripted nature, that’s implied in professional wrestling.
As a result, many of his family members in attendance were outraged by DeMott’s actions, they went as far as to climb the guard rail and fight off security guards to try and come to his aid. Afterwards there was allegedly going to be a “hit” put out on DeMott, but Dreamer said the issue was resolved peacefully once they came to terms with the fact that wrestling was not a “real” fight.
9 Hannibal Sabu
Sabu’s introduction to ECW was on a gurney; originally he was only brought to the ring with a handler, and his face was covered with a mask a la Hannibal Lector. The gimmick was that he was only released to wrestle, given the impression he was not in control of his own actions; people even began to speculate that many of his scars were self-induced. The little known fact is that Sabu did not like this angle, as being strapped down would wear him out by the time he made it to the ring. Plus, he undoubtedly wanted to appear to have some autonomy when it came to his work in the ring. He was very much known for table-breaking at this time, he could not control himself around them. Truthfully, Sabu chose to do all of these extreme stunts, I’m sure in a way he couldn’t resist, but he knew what he was doing was having an impact on the business. In this way, he embodied everything hardcore wrestling was, is, and always will be about.
8 Steel Shower, Raining Chairs
One of the most iconic moments in ECW history, where fans rained chairs into the ring and outside area started in 1994 with none other than Terry Funk. In a tag-team match with Cactus Jack versus “Flyboy” Rocco Rock and Johnny grunge, otherwise known as The Public Enemy, it was Funk who demanded a chair from the crowd. On a whim he called for more, to heighten the excitement, but what he didn’t know was just how willing they were to oblige their idol. After that, chairs rained down on the ring area from all over. The canvas was completely covered in steel chairs and Funk had been hit in the head. Regardless the moment would live on and help define the company’s identity, all thanks to Terry Funk being overzealous about weapons. That’s not all that shocking; how over he was with the crowd, now that was.
7 420 Bust: RVD and Sabu
In 2006 both RVD and Sabu were both pulled over in the state of Ohio by a highway patroller. What was a routine stop turned into a major “bust”, as it turned out that both wrestlers were in possession of narcotics. Van Dam had eighteen grams of marijuana and five Vicodin pills, while Sabu had drug paraphernalia and nine tablets of Testolactone.
Unfortunately for Rob Van Dam, due to WWE’s wellness policy this arrest forced him to relinquish his WWE Championship and his ECW Championship in consecutive nights. In true ECW fashion, RVD got himself suspended alongside his good friend and rival Sabu right at the “peak” of his career. Was it worth it? Probably not, but it adds to the legendary story and career of two icons from a strange era. An era where censorship was more frowned upon than being anti-PC is now.
After producing a prescription for the Vicodin, the charges for marijuana were fairly lenient. Both RVD and Sabu got off fairly easily in terms of legal charges; however WWE would never quite treat them the same after this instance.
6 Shane Douglas is Educated, and an Educator
The Franchise Shane Douglas was one of the most pivotal members of the ECW Originals. Some have gone as far as saying that without Douglas, there wouldn’t have been an ECW. Whether that’s true or not does not take away from the fact that Douglas was also highly educated. He graduated cum laude from Bethany College in 1986, and even received offers to continue to study at Saba University School of Medicine. However he took his degrees in history and political science and decided to continue pursuing wrestling. This didn’t stop him from staying in the world of education though; in 1993 while working with WCW, Douglas taught several classes at a high school. There wasn’t much he couldn’t do apparently, The Franchise really is a renaissance man.
5 Sandman or Deadman?
Tommy Dreamer told the story on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast, about one of wildest shows he was ever a part of. Really, it sounds more like a day in the life of the Sandman, the absolute pinnacle of I-don’t-give-a-f*** attitude. So the legend goes like this: Sandman overdosed on nubain, a synthetic opiate, on the way to a wrestling show and Rhyno, Bill Alfonso, and Little Guido, aka Nunzio, watched him "die". Instead of rushing him to the hospital, they pull over so Alfonso can mule all the drugs they had in the car. They drop off Sandman at the hospital claiming they found him, and they continue to the show, not knowing if he was dead or alive. So it goes, Sandman calls Dreamer who is running the show in place of Paul Heyman and says “They shot me with a needle like Pulp Fiction, I’m ready to go.” He wrestled that night. And you didn’t make it to work because?
4 Taz Should’ve Been Paralyzed
In 1995, Taz had a piledriver performed on him by 2 Cold Scorpion and Dean Malenko and his neck was broken. He was totally aware of what was about to happen, but had too little time to protect himself and therefore he landed right on his head. When he arrived at the hospital, Dreamer claimed that the doctors said they couldn’t believe that he walked into the building. Effectively he had torn almost every muscle in his neck, putting him through a terribly long recovery. Best those "short" jokes aren't as funny now!
3 Sabu is Broken
No surprise here really, Sabu has broken his neck twice, his ribs, his jaw, and more during his tenure as a homicidal, suicidal, and genocidal maniac. What people might not have known is that now Sabu is working on recovering his body from the tremendous damage it endured during the early parts of his career. Recently he crowd funded enough money to receive a hip surgery, and that probably won’t be all. His body is broken, but he continues to insist that he will wrestle to help pay for the accruing medical bills. The man can’t be stopped, not until his heart beats its final beat.
2 Shane Douglas Incites a Riot
This was one of the more controversial moments in the company’s history, Gary Wolfe, i.e. Pitbull Gary, still claims to this day that Shane Douglas broke his neck. What’s worse is Shane had just returned from WWF and strong-armed his way back to the top talent at ECW, the fans had already turned on him. Then he went and botched a DDT on Gary Wolfe and proceeded to make light of it, even going as far as to make jokes about Wolfe’s children. Then at his first segment back, Douglas yanked on his neck brace and the arena was ready to rip his limbs off. It turned into a literal riot, where the fans rushed the ring prepared to do serious harm to Douglas for having taken the angle too far. This wouldn’t be the last time the crowd would become out of control, but this was maybe the only time they had a personal vendetta against an in-ring performer.
1 ECW Developmental
No matter what you want to believe, Paul Heyman’s loyalty to Vince McMahon has always been a big part of why he has had so much success in the business of professional wrestling. During his time at ECW, Heyman agreed to develop certain talents for McMahon, like Terry Gordy and 2 Cold Scorpio. So in a way Vince had already vested in ECW long before he purchased it for $2,000,000. No competitor has ever been able to avoid the long reach of the law that is Vince McMahon, but ECW was in his pocket essentially because of Heyman’s agreement to help each other. The promotion helped to prime many superstars that would go on to have storied careers in WWF/WWE, so much so that one could argue that ECW was a developmental area despite its popularity. Truth is, there was always more money to be made when you have a McMahon on your side.