Paul Heyman has often said that the ECW culture was akin to the grunge rock period of the nineties. The way that bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana changed the way music was listened to, ECW also changed the wrestling industry. Even though the company folded 15 years ago now, fans will still chant “E–C–W” when something insane happens. When fans chant NXT or ROH now, it’s because the fans of ECW used to do the same with their beloved promotion.
Taking things to the extreme became paramount in ECW. After all, that’s what the name of the promotion was. The mark they left on the industry was the first step for a strong style birth in America, that the promotion Ring of Honor proudly carries on to this day. By extension, WWE still carries that torch as well, seeing as how so many of the top guys now on the main roster and NXT all came from ROH. Despite being held at a “bingo hall,” ECW changed the industry and brought a sense of heightened realism that simply wasn’t there in the nineties and was the basis for some of Eric Bischoff’s ideas and definitely WWE's Attitude Era.
But the company every so often would take things beyond extreme, scaring themselves, fans, and the industry at large in the process. Good and bad, too far or not, looking back, it all was influential, but here the top 15 times ECW took Extreme too far.
15 15. Uncalled for Comment
Mike Awesome left the company as its World Champion in 2000 and he was going to take the belt with him to WCW, but Paul Heyman and lawyers intervened and prevented that from happening. It led to one of the strangest situations in wrestling history, where a WCW guy, Awesome, would take on a WWE guy, Tazz, for the ECW Championship. Awesome’s actions did not endear himself to lot of people in ECW and the company’s fans, who once loved Awesome for his devastating move set, no longer cared for the guy on a personal level.
14 14. Characters
Before The Attitude Era, the WWE was known for their job–based characters like barbers, plumbers, garbage men, accountants, and clowns. WCW had absurd horror characters like The Taskmaster, The Shark, and The Yeti. Of course, they weren’t all that those two promotions had, but when pointing out the weaknesses of those promotions, those characters get cited.
13 13. Sandman Blinded?
This is one of the only items on this list where taking things too far might have been a good thing for the business at large. Things like backstage vignettes and breaking kayfabe to make things seem more realistic were born during this hot angle. In a match, Tommy Dreamer would blind The Sandman with his own cigarette in one eye and his cane in the other. It was perceived as real, as Dreamer would head to the back and attempt to apologize, but heels and faces together were appalled at his actions and wouldn’t let him near The Sandman; who also stayed home for about a month with his eyes bandaged and played a blind man to the hilt. Even off camera, at home, The Sandman would keep the angle going and his wife would answer the door when people came looking for him.
12 12. Shane Douglas Pulls a Madusa
11 11. Extreme Threesome
10 10. High Incident
Scaffold matches in wrestling are always a bit extreme, as two or more men wrestling high atop the arena and the only way to win is to heave your opponent off of the scaffold into the ring. The most famous Scaffold match in wrestling history took place at Night of the Skywalkers at NWA Starrcade ’86, between the LOD and The Midnight Express.
9 9. The Danbury Fall
8 8. Tommy Dreamer Caned
7 7. Funker’s on Fire
Cactus Jack and Terry Funk are both known for having violent, hardcore matches all over the world and often against each other. In those matches, they have made each other bleed on just about every habitable continent on the planet. In Japan, during their death matches, they had a spot where they’d wrap a towel dipped in kerosene around a chair, light it on fire and start swinging. So naturally, this was a spot primed and ready for ECW.
6 6. Fonzie Bleeds Buckets
During the WCW talent raid or acquisition, depending on who you ask, of many ECW guys, rumors were abound that there was a mole in the ECW locker room, with it most likely being company founder, Tod Gordon. Another theory was that it was Bill Alfonso, aka Fonzie. Heyman would fire Gordon and on air wish him well in his future endeavors, but Alfonso’s fate was slightly different.
5 5. Crucifying The Sandman
One of the best feuds in ECW history was between Raven and The Sandman. What began as a war for the ECW title became a brutal, bitter rivalry that even saw the cult leader Raven cast his net over The Sandman’s wife and son to lure them to his side. At one show, Raven, Stevie Richards, and The Blue Meanie would tie The Sandman up to a cross and place a crown of barbed wire on top his head. We all know what this was supposed to represent.
4 4. “Gimme a Chair!”
God bless the ECW faithful. They were always there for the wrestlers, bringing all kinds of weapons and household items they no longer needed for the wrestlers to use in their matches. Fans would even give ECW wrestlers their own chairs to use and often times Tommy Dreamer would be happy to oblige, as he would have a fan hold up their chair and launch his opponent into it.
3 3. Taipei Death Match
Some ideas for matches sound amazing on paper, but then in practice are simply way too violent and way too risky for the competitors that having it once might have been way too much. In 1995, The Bad Breed, Axl and Ian Rotten, who were already too hardcore for mainstream audiences had broken up and saw their bloody war go full tilt when they decided to wrestle in a Taipei Death Match.
2 2. Born to be Wired
Terry Funk and Sabu are known, revered, and loved amongst hardcore wrestling fans for their ability to commit unspeakable acts of violence to their opponents and sometimes to themselves just to hurt their opponents even more. When these two finally collided, there could only be one way to showcase the levels of violence that these two loved to reach - replace the ring ropes with barbed wire in a match that would be titled Born to be Wired.
1 1. Mass Transit
There aren’t many events in the history of the entire industry that are as gruesome as the Mass Transit incident. When Axl Rotten couldn’t make the show one night, Eric Kulas would lie about his age and his ability in the ring to get a shot in ECW. He would team with D–Von Dudley against The Gangstas, who were known for utterly destroying opponents.
The poor kid asked New Jack to help him get color, but he bladed too deep and severed a few arteries, passing out and having to be escorted to the hospital. The event would see the company and New Jack sued (both unsuccessfully) and it put the first ever ECW PPV in jeopardy. However, just like the rest of ECW’s success, the fans demanded it and despite the horrible accident, the company rebounded on their way to Barely Legal. Luckily, the accident didn’t crush the company, but the story of Eric Kulas is one of the scariest stores in wrestling history.
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