To be a fan of ECW in the 1990s was to be a part of a movement. As WCW and WWE took wrestling into the mainstream with their weekly ratings duel during the Monday Night Wars, ECW was like a wrestling “Island of Misfit Toys,” a collection of wrestlers who didn’t quite fit the description of WWE/WCW performer. Rather than try to conform, ECW embraced this side of them. People like The Sandman who chain smoked and drank beer backstage, or the demented Sabu, were given a space to thrive, and in the process gain legions of fans. This was Extreme Championship Wrestling, fans came to see violence, and risk-taking and they were never disappointed. It created a visceral and irresistible experience, as the lines between what was fabricated and what was real would become blurred.
In the early '90s, when ECW was Eastern Championship Wrestling, many of the first to hold the belt were stars from the past such as Don Muraco and Tito Santana, who were given reigns to give the belt some kudos. Then in 1994 Shane Douglas threw the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to the floor and raised ECW belt announcing the arrival of Extreme Championship Wrestling. The ECW Golden Age was born, and lasted until an abrupt end in 2001 resulting in the WWE buyout. When ECW was controversially relaunched 2005 the role of the belt evolved and became a way for up-and-coming stars to stamp their authority, and provide a stepping stone for future world champions such as Christian and CM Punk. Wrestling had also become more family friendly, so there was less risk-taking and less violence. The ECW belt became a Heavyweight title anyone was capable of having (hell, even Vince McMahon held the belt briefly!), and many more added their names to a rich list of some of the squared circles greatest ever performers.
It is remarkable how many of the wrestlers on this list left an indelible mark on the industry. So many are cult heroes. Some went on to bigger things at the WWE, some faded soon into obscurity. Too many stories on this list spiraled into tragedy, either through untimely death or substance and alcohol battles that continue to this day. But the list of the 32 ECW Heavyweight Champions is a fascinating cross-section of the wrestling industry through the past two two-and-a half decades. No other belt in wrestling has quite a unique array of characters who have attached their names.
32 Jimmy Snuka
Earlier this year the Superfly was added to the list, already far too long, of wrestlers who passed away too soon, after a battle with cancer. His final years had been mired in controversy, as a case from 1983 involving the death of his then girlfriend was reopened as a homicide case. The charges against him was dropped a few weeks before his death.
Snuka had thrilled audiences throughout the 1980s with his acrobatic feats, including famously launching his famous ‘Superfly Splash’ from the top of a steel cage onto Don Muraco in an Intercontinental Championship match. It was one of the most transformative moments in wrestling history, and turned Snuka into an instant legend.
Snuka made history by beating Salvatore Bellomo to the crowned the inaugural ECW Champion on April 25, 1992, after winning a battle royal earlier in the night to qualify for the championship fight. Snuka’s reign would last one day, as he dropped the belt the very next night to Johnny Hotbody.
31 Johnny Hotbody
Johnny Hotbody is probably one of the more obscure names on this list, but in the early ECW days Hotbody, real name Johnny Weiss, was one of the best heels in the organization. It was thought that the company originally wanted Hotbody to become the first ECW Champion but figured it would be better to have a more well-known star such as Snuka to be the first ever champ.
With a name like Hotbody it’s safe to say he was not a man lacking in confidence. Often strutting to the ring in sunglasses and hot pink robes with feather boas, his arrogant persona was very effective in angering the audience. Hotbody held the belt for a few months, before eventually losing it to the Superfly. Hotbody joined Chris Candido to form the “Suicide Blondes."
Hotbody competed in regional promotions on the East Coast before retiring from the sport completely in 2001, and has all but disappeared from the radar.
30 Don Muraco
The original “Rock” of the WWE, Don Muraco is a wrestling legend. In the 1980s he was one of Hulk Hogan’s greatest foes at the height of Hulkamania, battling regularly at Madison Square Garden. He was also the first winner of the King of the Ring in 1988, and along with tag-team partner Bob Orton opened the historic WrestleMania III in front of 93,000 fans in a loss to the Can-Am Connection.
After leaving the WWE in 1988, Muraco fought for many promotions, including ECW where he had two stints as Champion. On September 30, 1992 Muraco and Snuka had a rematch of their famous Intercontinental fight nearly a decade earlier, where Snuka jumped off the top of the cage. Muraco was again victorious, before losing the title to The Sandman. Muraco won it back from the Sandman before relinquishing it to another past WWE legend, Tito Santana.
After returning Muraco returned to Hawaii, he started Hawaii Championship Wrestling in 2003, which lasted five years. Muraco preferred the island life, and for a time worked as longshoreman in ship yards. He is still involved in the wrestling business after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, and still does interviews, most recently after the death of his most famous foe Jimmy Snuka.
29 The Sandman
Mr. Sandman arrived into Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992 with a slightly dorky surfer persona. He defeated Don Muraco in November 1992, before losing it back to Muraco a few months later. ECW owner Tod Gordon suggested he channel his own personality. He changed his name, and The Sandman became one of the most iconic hardcore wrestlers of Extreme Championship Wrestling. He is the only wrestler to win the ECW Championship five times, and took part in some of the promotions craziest moments, including being blinded by a cigarette, and being literally crucified by Raven.
The Sandman is still seen on the independent circuit chain-smoking and drinking beer on his way to the wring before thrashing opponents with his Singapore cane. He fought with fellow ECW alumni Tommy Dreamer in a tag team match at the appropriately name House of Hardcore in December 2016 in Maryland, and at the age of 53 is still as brutal as ever in the ring.
28 Tito Santana
One of the stars of the WWE in the 1980s, Tito Santana was another recognizable veteran that Tod Gordon drafted into the early years of “Eastern Championship Wrestling” to give the organization some kudos in its formative years.
In early 1993 Tito was reportedly told by WWE officials that he was being consider for a run with the WWE Heavyweight Championship. Instead, they decided to push the up-and-coming Bret “Hitman” Hart and Santana left the organization after stellar years. Santana went to ECW in 1993 where he defeated Don Muraco for the heavyweight belt in July, before forfeiting to Shane Douglas a few months later.
In his 60s Santana still hasn’t officially retired and is still occasionally seen in the ring. For the past 16 years Santana has been full-time Spanish teacher at Eisenhower Middle School in Roxbury Township, N.J. He also owns a hair salon. As so many wrestlers from Santana’s generation are meeting a tragic end, Santana’s life has been an uplifting story, and continues to be an inspiration to his fans and students.
27 Shane Douglas
One of the men responsible for the creation of Extreme Championship Wrestling, and the figure behind one of the most infamous episodes in pro wrestling. In 1993 Douglas threw the NWA Championship to the floor declaring he did not want to be champion of a “dead promotion.” Douglas then held aloft the belt he had got from Tito Santana and the most notorious wrestling brand was born.
While Shane was a key player in ECW in the '90s, his career faded after moving to WCW in 1999. After a spell at TNA, Douglas continues to work the independent circuit as well as being a promoter for Xtreme Pro Wrestling.
Most recently Douglas defeated Joe Coleman at XICW ‘Best in Detroit 20’ event in May 2017 to become the XICW Xtreme Intense Champion.
Douglas, real name Troy Martin, has battled and overcome drug addiction, and works as a motivational speaker. In 2016 he was also one of over 20 wrestlers who filed a lawsuit against the WWE accusing the company of concealing the effects of head-trauma and neurological injuries, along with one of his greatest ECW rivals, Sabu.
When you think of ECW in the 1990s, chances are one of the men you are thinking about is Sabu. Trained by his Uncle the legendary WWE Hall of Famer “The Sheik,” Sabu became famous for death-defying feats in the squared circle. Sabu said that The Sheik would put him through so much in training, that barbed wire matches at ECW were easy, and Sabu became famous for continuing matches even after sustaining serious injuries.
Now in his 50s, incredibly, Sabu still hasn’t retired. Last year his hip was in such a bad way that his friend Rob Van Dam set-up a GoFundMe page for fans to donate towards much needed hip surgery, which helped raise thousands towards the $50k cost. Sabu had the surgery last October and refuses to call it a day. “I’m not done. I don’t know when I’ll be done, but I just know that I’m not,” said Sabu, who goes by Terry Brunk outside the ring, to a Sports Illustrated interview. He actually said that he has shoulder and back injuries that hurt more day-to-day, but his hip hurt the most when he was in the ring which is why he got it fixed first!
Many feel that Sabu hasn’t got the respect he deserves from the wider wrestling world, but his influence can be seen across the industry. SI summed up his unique talent well, saying, "Wrestling, when done well, is an art. Sabu put his mind, body, and soul into the craft.”
25 Terry Funk
One of the genuine legends of the squared circle, Terry Funk’s influence on the industry is remarkable. Countless wrestlers have crossed paths with Funk and owe something to him. He was the one who told Terry Bollea to call Vince McMahon. He discovered Ted DiBiase, Bob Backlund and Stan Hansen. After achieving greatness as a technical wrestling for the WWE and NWA through the '70s and '80s, Funk reinvented himself at ECW, by embracing the companies violent style. He had many memorable and horrific matches with Cactus Jack, Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, and Sabu, who he defeated for the belt at Holiday Hell in December 1993.
Funk continued to wrestle the independent scene into his 70s, even as late as fall last year. Unsurprisingly doctors have been telling Funk to call it a day for a long time now, and before House of Hardcore, doctors told Funk not to compete as he was feeling dizzy. Funk cut an emotional promo where he told the fans “I know if I get out of here…I won’t be back.” After that Funk is now believed to be retired, although in an interview, Tommy Dreamer said Funk will probably have another “ten retirements.” Whatever happens, the wrestling business will not be the same without Terry Funk.
24 Mikey Whipwreck
Mikey Whipwreck’s trainer refused to accept payment from Mikey because he doubted he would ever make it as a wrestler. When he defeated The Sandman in a ladder match is one of the biggest upsets in ECW history.
He joined ECW as part of the ring crew, before Paul Heyman saw him practicing some moves before a show. Whipwreck’s title run last a little over a month. He joined ECW in 1999, where he feuded notably with a young Stone Cold Steve Auston, before making the first of many retirements in 2002 when he was not picked up by the WWE. Whipwreck continued to be a player in the independent scene, including a stint in Japan in 2012, before ,aking his final appearance in 2015.
Whipwreck has recently been involved with the wrestling school the New York Wrestling Connection, where he has trained many wrestlers currently working in the business today.
Raven was a menace to opponents wherever he wrestled, making his name in ECW, WCW and WWE. Raven was involved in some of ECW’s most messed up storylines, including brainwashing The Sandman’s seven-year-old son, and being crucified in the middle of the ring. Raven twice beat The Sandman to be ECW Champion. He also held the WWE Hardcore Championship an incredible 27 times (although most of them were exceptionally short reigns).
Raven is still active on the independent scene. A huge fan of comics, Levy often wore Daredevil t-shirts in the ring, and achieved a lifelong dream when he co-wrote issue #14 Spider-man Tangled Web along with Brian Azzarello. In the issue Spider-man fights Joseph “Crusher” Hogan in a wrestling match.
Levy had an interesting relationship with Vince McMahon. In the early '90s Vince made Levy an associate producer on RAW, believing his talents laid outside of the ring. In 2010 Levy sued McMahon for not providing adequate healthcare or benefits to his employees.
22 Bam Bam Bigelow
One of the most athletic big man to ever step foot in the squared circle, Bam Bam Bigelow was a favorite wherever he wrestled. With his famous tattooed skull, Bigelow had already headlined WrestleMania by the time he joined ECW in 1996 (albeit his bout with football player Lawrence Taylor is regarded by many as one of the worst ‘Mania Main Events in history).
Bigelow formed the Triple Threat faction with Chris Candido, and Shane Douglas, before turning on Douglas to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Bigelow would only stay in WCW for two years before moving to the WCW.
Bigelow’s life would end tragically on January 19, 2007 when he was found dead of a drug overdose by his girlfriend. Those close to Bigelow were often concerned about Bigelow’s private life. At the time his friend Jerry Sags of the Nasty Boys said, “My last conversation with Bam Bam, I saw the state he was in and I said, ‘Man, we’ve lost 40 of our friends (in recent years). I‘m tired of going to funerals. Don’t let it happen to you.’”
Bigelow added his name to the list of wrestlers who have departed this earth far too soon, but had instilled a legacy as one of the sport’s most impressive athletes. He gave the world the rare sight of watching a man nearly 400 pounds completing a Moonsault. Bigelow said that he had lost two inches in height due to multiple back surgeries as a result of his athletic style of wrestling. Bigelow is a true legend.
One of the stars of ECW at it’s peak, ‘The Human Suplex Machine’ won everything there was to be won at ECW, including the Heavyweight Championship twice, the first of which he won by defeating Shane Douglas at Guilty as Charged.
Of all the wrestlers on this list Taz is one of the more familiar faces (and voices) to modern wrestling fans, having had a successful career as a play-by-play commentator, first with the WWE between 2001 and 2009 where he commentated SmackDown alongside Michael Cole, and later with TNA alongside Mike Tenay.
Since 2015 Taz has hosted a daily podcast, ‘The Taz Show’ which focuses on a number of sports as well as wrestling. Taz is sometimes joined by special guests, including fellow wrestling commentators Jim Ross and Mike Tenay.
20 Mike Awesome
Michael Lee Alfonso, better known as Mike Awesome, was a two-time ECW Heavyweight Champion, and one of many tragic stories involving wrestlers of the past two decades.
Alfonso made his name in FMA (Frontier Martial Arts-Wrestling) in Japan where he was known as Gladiator. Awesome became a prominent member of ECW in 1998 where he feuded with Taz and Masato Tanaka, once ‘Awesome Bombing’ the latter off the top rope on to a table outside.
Awesome’s end at ECW in 2000 was controversial when he joined WCW as ECW Heavyweight Champion. Paul Heyman struck a deal to stop Awesome turning up on WCW Nitro with the ECW belt, and Awesome returned to job the belt to Taz.
Awesome stayed at WCW until the Invasion storyline. Awesome hated it at the WWE but returned in 2005 for ECW One Last Stand where he fought Tanaka, and both received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Alfonso retied from professional wrestling in 2006, and worked as a real estate agent in New Tampa, Florida. On February 17 2007, Michael Lee Alfonso took his own life. It is believed Awesome’s life and mental health had spiraled out of control after he was charged with domestic abuse to his wife, who had subsequently filed for divorce. Others close to Alfonso have suggested that Alfonso struggled to make the transition from the wrestling world to life in the real estate business.
19 Masato Tanaka
After making his name, like Michael Lee Alfonso, at FMW in Japan, Masato Tanaka joined ECW and became one of the most popular Japanese wrestlers in the States. His rivalry with Mike Awesome started at FMW (where Awesome was known as ‘Gladiator’) and they had some epic matches at ECW. Tanaka beat Awesome on December 17, 1999 to win his only ECW Heavyweight Championship. He would lose it back to Awesome six days later.
Tanaka went back to Japan soon after he lost the title to Awesome. He has wrestled back and forth in Japan and the USA since 2002. His last notable appearance was at an event for Dragon Gate USA wrestling at New Orleans in 2014, which Tanaka won with a flying elbow. Now in his mid-40s Tanaka showed he is every bit the performer he was two decades ago.
18 Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer’s bio on his website calls him the “Heart and Soul” of the company, and it’s hard to dispute the statement. ECW was, in a way, the “island of misfit toys,” of the wrestling world. Wrestlers who would didn’t seem to have that edge that might make them stars in the WCW or WWE, came to ECW and became cult stars. Dreamer took part in some of the most violent and infamous wrestling matches in ECW history.
Dreamer had to earn his respect among the ECW fans. When Dreamer lost a Singapore Cane match to Sandman, he received 10 lashings. With his back visibly lacerated after 9 swipes, Dreamer took the mic and asked, “please sir, may I have another!” From that moment the fans saw that Dreamer was legit.
Dreamer joined the WWE and took part in the Invasion Storyline, and has continued to work off-and-on with the company to this day. Dreamer has also had a career as an actor, and featured in an episode of Impractical Jokers where he fought Brian Quinn, who was dressed as Peter Pan thinking he was performing show tunes, in front of a live wrestling audience.
17 Justin Credible
Peter Polaco came from promising beginnings, trained in Stu Hart’s Dungeon by the great Pat Patterson. Patterson got Polaco signed with the WWE in 1994, and tried under a few gimmicks, none of which went over. Polaco joined ECW in 1997 and with the help of Paul Heyman created the cocky Justin Credible. Credible became one of the most hated wrestlers in the organization, capable of generating serious heat in his rivalry with fan-favorite Tommy Dreamer. The pinnacle of his career came with his win over Dreamer in April 2000 to win the World Heavyweight Championship, where Dreamer was double-crossed by his manager ‘The Queen of Extreme” Francine, who helped Credible to victory.
Justin Credible played a role in the Invasion storyline, but his stint in ECW was short-lived. Credible fought in the independent scene for much of the past 15 years. He retired in 2015, but like most wrestlers, he was soon back in the ring. He fought his old nemesis Tommy Dreamer at the PWS (Pro Wrestling Syndicate) last year.
In March of this year Polaco was arrested for threatening someone who Polaco claimed to love and “woild never hurt of touch.” In July of this year Polaco posted a disturbing video on YouTube in response to the incident. In the video Credible confessed to issues in his personal life relating to alcohol addiction. Vince and Stephanie McMahon along with Diamond Dallas Page, Jake Roberts, and Scott Hall have reached out to Polaco in support.
16 Jerry Lynn
There is little Jerry Lynn hasn’t seen in his long career in professional wrestling. One of the great journeyman wrestlers of the last 30 years, Lynn was at his peak when he joined ECW in 1997. During his time there he had a memorable feud with Rob Van Dam, where Lynn called himself “The New F’N Show.” Lynn and Van Dam would face each memorably in ECW’s last PPV at the 2001 Guilt as Charged Event.
Lynn’s single heavyweight title reign came after defeating Justin Credible in October 2000. Lynn went to the WWE before a 10-year association with Total Non-Stop Wrestling. After almost three decades in the ring Lynn picked up numerous injuries and had neck surgery and retired in 2013. Like many before him he was incapable of saying goodbye to the profession. In a 2015 interview Lynn said, “Sometimes I hate how much I love wrestling.” Since his retirement Lynn has worked backstage for Ring of Honor Wrestling, where he cuts a very different figure, having cut off his long hair and shaved his beard.
15 Steve Corino
The “King of Old School” made his name by being the anti-ECW wrestler. Corino once stormed a Limp Bizkit concert telling the audience he preferred “good bands like Carly Simon and The Bee Gees” before being attacked by ECW stars. Corino won the Heavyweight belt in November 2000 after defeating Jerry Lynn and Justin Credible in a Double Jeopardy match. He ended up losing the belt in January after leaving the company due to not being paid his salary, an early sign that ECW was in turmoil, pre WWE buy-out.
Corino had numerous tryouts for the WWE but never managed to get signed. He also tried out to be a writer for the company. Last year Corino finally got employment with the WWE as a guest trainer for the WWE Performance Center. Corino’s technical ability was perfect for the WWE’s training program, and he was confirmed as full-time trainer in January 2017.
Rhyno was the last ECW Heavyweight Champion before the belt was deactivated after being the company being signed by Vince McMahon. Rhyno had quickly gained a reputation at ECW for his ferocious style in the ring. After ECW disbanded he took part in the famous TLC match at WrestleMania XVII helping Edge and Christian win the belts. Since leaving the WWE in 2005 Rhyno worked the independent circuit for the next 10 years before a return to the WWE in 2015.
In 2016 Rhyno formed a tag team partnership with Heath Slater on SmackDown where they became SmackDown Tag Team Champions, defeating The USOS. Rhyno took part in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33. In April of this year Rhyno and Slater were moved to RAW.
In 2016 Rhyno real name Terrance Guido Gerin, ran for State Representative in Michgian 15th Distrcit (Dearbon) on the Republican ticket. Gerin was unsuccessful in the traditionally Democrat district. Rather than hit his opponent Abdullah Hammoud with a ‘Gore’, Gerin posted a very gracious post on Facebook telling his followers what an honor it had been to run for office.
13 Rob Van Dam
When ECW was revived by the WWE in 2006, the WWE made it so one of its greatest ever legends was the first champion. At the Main Event of ‘One Night Stand’ Rob Van Dam hit a Five Star Frog Splash on John Cena to win the WWE Championship. By being draft to the new ECW, the WWE Championship was then made the ECW Heavyweight Championship.
Van Dam has gained a reputation as one of the all-time greats in professional wrestling for his high flying moves, and innovative style, and is arguably ECW’s biggest ever star. ‘The Whole F’N Show’ has used his talents largely on the independent scene of late. In June 2017, Van Dam will be appearing in the 128-man tournament hosted by 5-Star Wrestling. Van Dam has also acted in a host of movies including ‘Sniper: Special Ops” (2016) and ‘3-Headed Shark” (2015).
12 Big Show
Big Show has been the dominant big man in the WWE for over twenty years. A throwback to the legendary big men of the past like Andre the Giant, Paul Wight has been of one of the federation's most enduring superstars. Wight stands 7’0” tall, weighs 383 pounds, and wears a 22 EEEEE shoe, Big Show made a colossal impact on his pro-wrestling debut when he defeated Hulk Hogan for the WCW Championship. Despite joking himself that he has “three moves – a headbutt, a chop, and a chokeslam,” Big Show is actually an incredible athlete for his size, and he has since gone onto win almost everything there is to win, including the WWE Heavyweight Championship twice. Big Show defeated Rob Van Dam for the ECW Heavyweight belt after choke-slamming Van Dam onto a steel chair.
Big Show is currently a wrestler for the WWE on the RAW roster. His contract is due to expire in February 2018, after which the Big Show says he will be done with wrestling, “No last matches, no fanfare, just ride off into the sunset and disappear.” The Big Show has said he has been trying to set up a one-on-one match with Shaquille O’Neal that came close to happening at WrestleMania 33, but so far Shaq and the WWE have been unable to strike a deal.
11 Bobby Lashley
For a company so famous for breaking conventions it is surprising that it took over a decade for ECW to have their first black Heavyweight Champion. That man was Bobby Lashley who defeated Big Show on December 3, 2006. Lashley is also the only black TNA Champion, a belt he has held 4-times.
Lashley has had a storied career, including representing future President Donald Trump in a hair-v-hair match at WrestleMania 23. Lashley’s victory helped Trump from having his famous head of hair from being buzzed. During Trump’s Presidential run last year Lashley went on record saying “I can tell you he was not racist.”
But today Lashley is arguably at the top of his game for Impact Wrestling where he is the face of the company and the current Heavyweight Champion, and has been producing some outstanding caliber matches. Lashley has also continued a long career as an MMA artist. Last October he defeated Josh Appelt via submission at Bellator 162. In an interview with Sports Illustrated in Freburary, Lashley said he was open to a return to WWE.
10 Mr. McMahon
One of most transformative figure in all of US entertainment, the man who took over his father’s regionally-run business in 1982 and brought it to the mainstream. A controversial figure for his ruthless business dealings, Mr. McMahon is still fighting lawsuits in relations to steroid abuse and the welfare of his employees. But nobody can argue that the wrestling world would be completely different without Vince’s influence. As well as being an outstanding figure behind the scenes, Mr. McMahon is also one of the greatest characters in wrestling history. His duels with Stone Cold and the Rock during the Attitude Era had Mr. McMahon cast as genuinely one of the all-time great heels.
After Bobby Lashley caused McMahon to have his head shaved at the “Battle of Billionaires” at WrestleMania 23, Mr. McMahon defeated Lashley for the ECW belt at Backlash, teaming up with Umaga and Shane McMahon.
Turing 72 in August, Vince has still been involved intimately with the WWE on a weekly basis. He took a three-week break earlier this year, and Triple H and his children Shane and Stephanie have taken more of the reigns. But an unstoppable workaholic, and reportedly still in good health for his age. Photos on Social Media surfaced in June of McMahon at the gym showing he was still in remarkable shape. It is likely Vince won’t be going anywhere soon.
9 Johnny Nitro
Johnny Nitro’s first World Championship win came in 2007 when he won the vacant ECW World Championship against CM Punk. Chris Benoit was booked to fight Punk, but Benoit was absent due to the infamous “Family Emergency” and Nitro ended up replacing him.
Nitro, real name John Hennigan, got his big break when he won Tough Enough III in 2005. He was with the WWE until 2012, winning the Intercontinental title, before hitting the Independent Circuit. Since 2014 he has wrestled with Lucha Underground Wrestling and Five Star Wrestling under the name Johnny Mundo.
The ‘Shaman of Sexy’ has also taken his talents to the silver screen, starring in low budget movies, Boone the Bounty Hunter earlier this year. He has a number of movie and TV credits, including appearances in the shows ‘Baby Daddy’ and ‘Shameless.’
Hennigan maintains he couldn’t be happier at Lucha and 5-Star Wrestling currently, as it also gives him time to pursue his acting career, but he has his eyes on another stint with the WWE in the future.
8 CM Punk
Before he made his push for the World Heavyweight belt, CM Punk was crowned ECW Champion in 2007, defeating John Morrison. Punk has been one of the most controversial figures in wrestling of recent years, giving many in the WWE headaches. He walked out on the company in 2014, and announced his retirement from wrestling soon after.
On September 10, 2016, Punk made his much publicized debut in the UFC at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.. He trained for nearly two years for his bout with Mickey Gall. Punk lasted just over two minutes in the 1st round. Despite losing, Punk was paid half a million dollars for appearing in the fight, while Gall took home just $30,000 for his victory.
In the last two years Punk, real name Philip Brooks, has written on a number of Marvel comics. Brooks is an avid comics fans, and fulfilled a lifelong dream writing for “Thor Annual” #1 and also for Guardians of the Galaxy member Drax (who was portrayed in the movies by Batista).
In May, Forbes magazine reported that Brooks was offered $ 1million by the WWE to return to the ring. The offer was reportedly matched by 5-Star Wrestling for their 128-man tournament this summer. No offer has been accepted yet.
7 Chavo Guerrero Jr.
ECW was the stage for Chavo Guerrero Jr.’s return after the tragic death of his Uncle Eddie. He immediately went into a feud with champion CM Punk before finally winning the belt with help from Edge. Chavo would lose the belt in a record 11 seconds to Kane at WrestleMania XXIV.
Chavo is currently with Luca Underground wrestling. Aside from the ring Chavo co-created a comic book “Chavo Guerror’s Warrior’s Creed” which features himself as the main character.
Chavo was also brought on as the stunt coordinator for the hit TV show Netflix series Glow. The show has earned a lot of respect for it’s realistic depiction of wrestling. He also appeared in 2 episodes.
Earlier this year Chavo said goodbye to another family member this year. His father, the legendary Chavo Geurrero Sr. passed away in February at the age of 68.
Since his dramatic entrance into the world of professional wrestling when he was revealed as the Undertaker’s brother, Glenn Jacobs as created a legendary legacy in his own right. Kane won the ECW Championship defeating Chavo Guerrero Jr. in 11 seconds at WrestleMania XXIV.
Kane hasn’t wrestled for the WWE since November 2016, and it’s unknown whether we’ll ever see Kane back in the ring. In March earlier this year, Jacobs officially announced he was running for Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee. Jacobs, who describes himself as a Libertarian, will be running on the Republican ticket. Apparently this is for real and not a bad wrestling storyline. Despite being mostly a silent figure behind a mask for much of his wrestling career, Jacobs is highly intelligent and very well-spoken, and has been active in politics for most of his life.
5 Mark Henry
The man known as “Sexual Chocolate” has been an unmissable figure of the WWE for almost two decades. Billed as ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ after a legendary powerlifting career (many in the field feel Henry never achieved his full potential after retiring early at 26-years-old to join the WWE), Henry has achieved legendary status in the industry.
He won the ECW belt from Kane in 2008, where he was given the all new platinum ECW belt by ECW commissioner Theodore Long. A month later Henry would eventually lose the belt to Matt Hardy in a Championship Scramble match at Unforgiven.
Henry is still on the books at WWE, having wrestled most recently at the 2017 Royal Rumble.
In May during Game 2 of the NBA Playoff matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets, Henry (a Texas native) Mark Henry took to the court during a break in the game to attack the Rockets mascot, Clutch the bear. Henry appeared to help fire the crowd up as the Spurs went on to win the game, levelling the series 1-1, and eventually winning the series.
4 Matt Hardy
Almost since he and his brother started their own federation, the TWF (Trampoline Wrestling Federation, in the early 1990s, Hardy has never been too far from wrestling headlines and continues to be one of the biggest personalities in the sport to this day.
After a break of nearly seven years, Hardy returned to the WWE earlier this, year when the Hardy Boyz made an epic return at WrestleMania 33 winning the tag team titles in a 4-way ladder match. In July, the Hardy Boyz took on Cesaro and Sheamus, where Matt literally had his face split open, receiving stitches backstage.
This summer, on a episode of Pro Wrestling Shoots, Hardy revealed a backstage fight with Brock Lesnar. Both wrestlers were being pushed, but Hardy was annoyed at Lesnar who kept changing the narrative of their main event to make him look better. Hardy lost it and during a pre-match segment he purposely hit Lesnar hard in the back of the head with a chair. In the interview Hardy remembers Brock being so angry and wanting to literally kill Hardy, but, luckily for Hardy, Brock was professional enough to see the match through safely. Lucky for Matt who otherwise may not have continued to have the career he still enjoys today.
3 Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger got his first real push in wrestling as a heel in the ECW brand of the WWE. He defeated Matt Hardy for the belt in January 2009. Swagger, with his strong amateur background would wrestle with the WWE for another eight years, where he was also won the World Heavyweight belt, before being released in March this year. In an interview with Uproxx Swagger, real name Donald Hager Jr., revealed that money was the reason for the split. “I valued myself at a certain price, they valued it at another,” he said. Swagger has a non-compete clause in his contract, but when that expires many expect he will join Impact Wrestling, where his friend Zeb Coulter, who was his manager as a member of the “Real Americans” is on the creative team.
Since leaving the WWE Swagger has made in-roads in the independent scene, and is enjoying being home more where he can spend more time with his wife and two children.
The penultimate ECW Champion lost the belt on the last ever episode of Raw on February 16, 2010. Christian is still probably best known for his epic tag-team partnership with Edge at the turn of the century but he has carved out a stellar career wrestling single.
Christian is currently (Sort of but not officially) retired. He hasn’t wrestled a match since 2014, and is unable to get approval from the WWE to perform in-ring due to history of concussion. Christian was reunited with Edge when they filmed the WWE Network show “The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness.”
It’s true that Christian’s wrestling career did not end the way he would have wished, but with the industry saying goodbye far too early to far too many wrestlers it is encouraging to see the industry response. And Christian leaves behind a legacy as one of the most charismatic and gifted performers of the last 20 years.
1 Ezekiel Jackson
The ‘Personification of Domination” was the last ever ECW Champion beating Christian in an Extreme Rules match on the last ever episode of Raw in February 2010. Jackson would last another four years at the WWE before leaving. He said in an interview with wresltinginc.com years later that he never actually got told formally by the WWE that he was no longer with the company, “I knew my contract was to expire the same day as WrestleMania. I asked if I could look for bookings the day after and was told yes.”
Jackson wrestled with Lucha Underground in 2014-15, but left to spend more time with his family. In early 2016, Jackson (real name Rycklon Stephens) opened Brickhouse Pro Wrestling School in Redwood City, California.
Jackson has said he would never rule out a return to the WWE, but will always be on the record books as the last ever Heavyweight Champion of one of the most unique and unforgettable wrestling organizations in history.