There has never been a promotion quite like ECW. At a time when WCW and WWE were struggling to get anyone to watch their shows, ECW came along and demanded fans' attention. ECW was built on the same brand of violence, sex, and hardcore wrestling that WWE and WCW went out of their way to stay away from. Even those who weren’t interested in such things couldn’t help but be intrigued by how unique the company was and ECW’s own brand of attitude. The promotion changed the business forever and remains one of the most beloved parts of wrestling history.
But what about the wrestlers that made ECW what it was? ECW was infamous for the company’s relaxed attitude towards things like drinking and drug use among its stars, which certainly helped the promotion retain it grungy image. However, what happened to the band of ECW misfits after the lights are turned off and it's time to find another way through the world? Some former ECW actually did quite well for themselves and managed to turn ECW into just another chapter in their lives. Other performers were simply never the same. These are the eight former ECW wrestlers whose lives fell apart and the seven who became successes.
15 Fell Apart - Bill Alfonso
As a member of ECW, Bill Afonso made a name for himself as the promotion’s ultimate manager. He’s famous for managing Rob Van Dam, but Paul Heyman found a way to insert Alfonso into all manners of feuds. Alfonso existed to annoy fans. His screeching voice and even more grating whistle just got under the skin of wrestling fans everywhere. Alfonso remained with ECW for quite some time, but was unable to find much work in wrestling after his departure. What’s he up to now? Not much.
Alfonso worked the ECW One Night Stand shows in 2005 and 2006, but his only long-term job in wrestling following the fall of ECW was with Women’s Extreme Wrestling. WEW eventually became little more than a 'softcore' wrestling league, and Alfonso was the league’s commissioner. He made a brief appearance in TNA, but his only other television time was an appearance on Judge Mathis where he lost to Missy Hyatt over a $500 lawsuit.
14 Doing Well - Shane Douglas
“The Franchise” Shane Douglas is one of the most important wrestlers in ECW history. It was Douglas who threw the NWA Championship to the ground and kicked off the “Extreme” era of ECW. It was Douglas who served as the champion for the promotion’s early days. When Douglas left ECW in 1999, he ended up doing quite well for himself in WCW. He enjoyed a decent stint in TNA following WCW’s fall and worked the indies with some regularity. Douglas battled a drug addiction problem following the death of his son, but he has since recovered and is staying quite active as a promoter.
In 2014, Douglas announced that he plans to start a promotion that will focus on ensuring that wrestlers receive proper benefits. He’s also a leading member of the class action lawsuit against WWE.
13 Fell Apart - Vic Grimes
Vic Grimes actually enjoyed a brief run in WWE prior to arriving in ECW. When his character Key - a drug dealing wrestler - brought WWE more problems than it did ratings, WWE let him go and advised him to go to ECW. Grimes did just that but never really found his place within that company. Most people probably would have never known he was in ECW if it weren’t for a 2000 match with New Jack which saw Grimes take one of the nastiest bumps in wrestling history. Following the Dansbury Fall incident, Grimes departed ECW and started working for ECW competitor Xtreme Pro Wrestling.
Despite the fact that Grimes put himself through incredible hardcore match punishment during this time, the XPW eventually folded and Grimes was out of work. Grimes then joined Wrestling Society X, but that didn’t last long either. Despite suffering through a tremendous amount of punishment, Grimes is still looking for consistent wrestling work.
12 Doing Well - Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer was never supposed to be an ECW star. In fact, ECW fans flat-out rejected him when he first appeared for the company. However, he quickly became a fan favorite after willingly taking a vicious beating from The Sandman. From that point on, Tommy Dreamer became one of the faces of the promotion. When ECW ended, some fans speculated that Dreamer would have trouble finding work elsewhere. Instead, Dreamer enjoyed a nine-year run in WWE followed by a brief run in TNA. From there, Dreamer worked occasional indie appearances as a hardcore legend but mostly just enjoyed semi-retirement.
Recently, it seems that Dreamer is back with WWE in some capacity as he has appeared in a number of WWE Network shows. Not bad for a guy that wasn’t expected to have a career in wrestling at all.
11 Fell Apart - Mikey Whipwreck
Mikey Whipwreck is the embodiment of what ECW was all about. He was a scrawny kid with very few actual wrestling skills to his name. Companies like WWE and WCW would look at him and laugh. Paul Heyman looked at him and saw a future champion. Heyman turned Whipwreck into the promotion’s most lovable loser. It was an innovative strategy that is still used today. Whipwreck jumped ship to WCW in 1998, but returned to ECW when that didn’t work out. He started an indie run in 2001 following the closure of ECW. Whipwreck - real name John Watson - slowly began to put on quite a bit of weight and lost his athletic prowess. Whipwreck eventually decided to call it quits for good in 2015 and has struggled to find what comes next
10 Doing Well - Rob Van Dam
It’s hard to say for sure who ECW’s biggest star was, but most people will tell you that Rob Van Dam was the company’s best all-around wrestler. Van Dam worked at a speed that few other wrestlers in ECW or elsewhere could possibly keep up with. In fact, many wondered why it was that Vince McMahon never went after Van Dam as he seemed like a surefire star. Whatever the reason, Van Dam didn’t join WWE until ECW fell apart. Van Dam actually enjoyed an incredibly successful WWE run which culminated in a brief stint as WWE Champion. Van Dam remained a valuable name even after he left WWE and found success on the independent scene and in TNA. Van Dam recently started his own entertainment network and is a well-known advocate for marijuana legalization.
9 Fell Apart - The Sandman
Before Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Sandman was known as wrestling’s premier blue-collar wrestler. Sandman didn’t look like much of a wrestler and, to be honest, he wasn’t much of a wrestler. However, ECW fans quickly rallied behind his drinking, smoking, and hard fighting ways. He became one of the company’s biggest draws during his prime. Many speculated that The Sandman would be one of those characters that just wouldn’t survive the fall of ECW, and those fans were absolutely right.
The Sandman bounced around the indies for a while playing the same gimmick but didn’t really accomplish much in wrestling outside of a brief run in TNA during that company’s ECW reunion storyline. Most of Sandman’s time outside of the ring has consisted of him living the Sandman lifestyle (lots of drinking and pills) which has resulted in a slew of legal issues.
8 Doing Well - Jerry Lynn
Jerry Lynn’s early career was nothing worth writing home about. He was picked up by WCW and actually stayed on the company’s roster for a few years during the early ‘90s, but it soon became clear that WCW didn’t have any long-term plans for him. It wasn’t until Lynn entered ECW that he achieved real notoriety. His matches against Rob Van Dam soon became legendary amongst ‘90s wrestling fans and helped establish Lynn as one of the best pure wrestlers in the business.
Lynn eventually went on to work in WWE for a brief time, but he really shined in the indies where he remained a great talent. Lynn won the Ring of Honor Championship in 2009 and worked in every prominent indie company before his retirement in 2013. He’s currently a producer for Ring of Honor.
7 Fell Apart - New Jack
Technically speaking, New Jack’s life was always kind of a mess. He came up through the territory system as a hardcore thug, but that gimmick never fit into a promotion as well as it did with ECW. In a company full of hardcore wrestlers, New Jack was a breed apart. He almost never employed any actual wrestling moves and instead preferred to simply beat his opponents with weapons or old-fashioned fists. New Jack drew a lot of heat for his killer attitude and general disregard for the welfare of his fellow wrestlers. This made it hard for him to find consistent work after ECW folded. New Jack worked in TNA briefly, but that’s about it so far as notable appearances go. He tried to retire in 2013 but was drawn back to the ring shortly thereafter. Outside of wrestling, New Jack has dealt with various financial and legal obstacles.
6 Doing Well - Taz
If you ever need proof that Paul Heyman was a wrestling genius, just look at the character of Taz. At the start of his ECW career, Taz worked a wildman gimmick that was semi-successful, but largely forgettable. Following a life-threatening neck injury in a match vs. Sabu, Taz returned as a “legitimate” street fighter who was booked to resemble an unbeatable MMA star. Promotions across the world fell in love with the gimmick and started to book some of their own top wrestlers in a similar fashion. Injuries prevented Taz from enjoying much of a run in WWE as a wrestler, but he stayed on with the company as an announcer until 2009. He then served as an announcer for TNA until 2015. These days he mostly focuses on his internet radio program, The Taz Show.
5 Fell Apart - Tammy Sytch
Tammy Sytch became a household name during her time in WWE as Sunny. She was one of the first female wrestlers that WWE really presented in an overtly sexual fashion. In that sense, she was an innovator for the women of the Attitude Era. Eventually, Sytch joined ECW where she worked pretty much the same gimmick but was allowed to be even more risque. Sytch joined WCW briefly in 2000, but her time in the company didn’t result in more than a couple of PPV appearances. Following the fall of WCW, Sytch’s life slowly spiraled out of control. Her substance abuse issues combined with her money problems led to her making a number of bad decisions. She’s been arrested many times and has been in and out of rehab for years. She recently put out some adult movies.
4 Doing Well - Spike Dudley
Spike Dudley was just one of those guys who should have just never gotten as far in the wrestling industry as he did. He was brought into ECW as a part of the Dudley stable and was treated as the runt of the litter. Much like how Mikey Whipwreck got over as a lovable loser, fans quickly rallied behind Spike as an underdog. He was never going to be ECW Champion, but he was constantly over with fans. Spike actually made the transition to WWE following ECW’s fall and stayed with the company for four years. Spike worked TNA and the indies for a few years following the end of his WWE run, but he’s one of the few ex-ECW guys to comfortably settle into a more “civilian” life after wrestling. He currently works as a financial planner for Merrill Lynch.
3 Fell Apart - Raven
Paul Heyman has always said that Raven was his greatest creation, and it’s hard to argue with that. Taking cues from the rise of Nirvana, Heyman booked Raven as a kind of grunge wrestler who didn’t really care about himself, wins, or losses. He just wanted to cause someone else to hurt like he hurt. He was an absolutely brilliant character. WCW quickly snatched him up in 1997, but things between the two parties just never worked out. Raven returned to ECW and eventually wound up in WWE for a few years. After that, things started to go downhill for Raven.
He’d always had problems with drugs and alcohol, but things really spiraled out of control following the end of Raven’s prime. Raven has struggled to stay sober and active. He stopped wrestling a few years ago and hasn’t done much since.
2 Doing Well - Al Snow
Al Snow actually first wrestled for ECW in 1995, but you’re forgiven for not remembering that run. In fact, it wasn’t until Snow returned to ECW following a failed run in WWE that Snow found the “Head” gimmick that propelled him into superstardom. This gimmick basically consisted of Snow losing his mind while talking to a mannequin head and breaking the fourth wall. Fans ate it up, though, and the gimmick proved to be so successful that WWE basically stole it. Snow enjoyed a 10-year run in WWE before returning to the indies and working in TNA for eight years. Snow has stepped away from wrestling and mostly focuses on training a new generation of performers at his wrestling academy. He also occasionally takes odd jobs in the film industry.
1 Fell Apart - Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn is certainly one of wrestling’s greatest examples of “What could have been.” He made his name in ECW as a member of The Eliminators tag team and was generally agreed to be an incredible in-ring talent. WCW soon picked him up and decided to pair him with Raven as part of The Flock. Fans recognized that guys like Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit were obviously more talented in-ring workers than most of the WCW roster.
All of those guys jumped to WWE, but Perry Saturn’s brief push ended when he legitimately beat up a jobber in the ring. Saturn was never the same after he left WWE 2002. Some of that is due to Saturn’s lingering substance abuse issues, but it was also revealed that Saturn was suffering from a brain injury. In recent years, he’s admitted that he has no more money left to pay his medical bills or keep up with his day to day life. He’s recently taken to the crowdfunding scene for help.