The ECW Championship featured a hit list of talented wrestlers holding the title and adding to its legacy. Paul Heyman’s direction for ECW helped push the wrestling industry forward. ECW had an edgier approach to wrestling than was ever seen before, which played a role in WWE adopting the Attitude Era. The most important thing about ECW was that it gave opportunities to talented wrestlers that did not have a job in WWE or WCW.
Everyone in ECW hoped to win the title and earn the spot as the face of the company. The legend of ECW was strong enough that Vince McMahon brought the promotion back under the WWE banner in 2006. Even though the revamp didn’t work, it showed the power and legacy of ECW. Let's take a look at the current status of some of the men to hold the company’s top title.
10 Still wrestling: Rhyno
Rhyno was the final ECW Champion under the company’s original run in 2001. The career of Rhyno has seen him work for just about every promotion since then, with runs in WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor and countless independent promotions.
WWE would see Rhyno leave in 2019, despite getting a reported impressive contract offer. Rhyno then decided to return to Impact Wrestling. The return has him in an upper card role with a chance to make a difference.
9 Surprisingly retired: Taz
Not many fans would have expected Taz to become one of the first ECW Champions to retire from the ring. Taz made the decision during his time in WWE, around the early 2000s. The run in the bigger promotion was not going well, as WWE didn’t view him as a relevant superstar.
Taz, however, would find his ideal role in WWE by joining the commentary team. The part-time status in the ring ended after years of injuries piled up. Taz became a full-time commentator for WWE and is now a sports radio host for CBS.
8 Still wrestling: Masato Tanaka
Masato Tanaka is still wrestling full-time in his home country of Japan, many years after his ECW run. The rivalry between Tanaka and Mike Awesome created some of the most violent and entertaining matches in ECW history, with both men winning the ECW Championship along the way.
Tanaka made his return to the United States in early 2019 during WrestleMania weekend, for matches at the WrestleCon shows along with a few other independent promotion appearances. Fans still enjoy watching Tanaka perform and he does not appear to be approaching retirement any time soon.
7 Surprisingly retired: Jerry Lynn
Jerry Lynn was one of the most underrated wrestlers of this time and showcased the importance of ECW. Neither WCW nor WWE could use Lynn well, as he had disappointing tenures in both promotions. Paul Heyman, however, made him a star as a credible ECW Champion.
Lynn’s classic matches against Rob Van Dam cemented him as a superstar in ECW. The career of Lynn continued after ECW ended, with runs in TNA and Ring of Honor. Lynn retired a few years ago due to his health, but is still involved in the business as an AEW coach.
6 Still wrestling: Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam, surprisingly, didn’t win the ECW Championship until WWE brought the company and the title back. The original ECW run of RVD did make him a huge star, though.
One of the reasons Heyman didn’t put the title on Van Dam is that he was already over at that level without it. WWE did want RVD to win the title to start the brand, but nothing involving the revamp went well. Van Dam is still wrestling today as a member of the TNA roster.
5 Surprisingly retired: Terry Funk
We shouldn’t be surprised that Terry Funk is retired at the age of 75, but it felt like he’d never truly step away from the ring. Funk retired from the ring many times throughout the years, going back to the 90s, and always broke the retirement within a few months.
The career of Funk continued until 2017, when he most recently wrestled at 73 years old. Funk finally stepped away from the ring, given his age and health. ECW fans will always have the upmost respect for Funk. The legend enjoyed working in the smaller promotion and his ECW Championship helped bring more fans in.
4 Still wrestling: The Sandman
The wrestling style of The Sandman was criticized during his ECW run, but it certainly allowed him to continue working to this day. Sandman was never the most athletically gifted in the ring. Most of his matches consisted of basic holds and the use of various weapons, specifically the kendo stick.
Sandman can easily still pull this off and makes regular appearances in the independent scene. Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling and MLW have all booked Sandman for one-off appearances over the past year. Sandman doesn’t seem ready for retirement any time soon.
3 Surprisingly retired: Christian
Christian was one of the better ECW Champions from the WWE chapter of the promotion. Christian's matches were always worth a watch, which was crucial for a show that had such a difficult start. Christian helped keep the title afloat until the show was finally inching towards the end.
Christian's retirement came faster than anyone expected. Following a match where he won the #1 contender spot for the Intercontinental Championship, Christian realized he had a concussion. WWE never cleared him, and Christian has since retired from the in-ring aspect of wrestling.
2 Still wrestling: Sabu
The body of Sabu has been in rough shape for many years due to the brutal matches he endured in ECW. Sabu was known for using tables, chairs, ladders and barbed wire quite consistently in his matches. This led to his body feeling more pain than the average wrestler.
Sabu still wrestles today on the independent circuit, surprisingly. He didn’t have a long run in WWE or WCW, which plays a huge role in his decision to continue wrestling in 2019.
1 Surprisingly retired: Steve Corino
Steve Corino was one of the final main event stars made in ECW towards the end of its existence. The rivalries with Tajiri, The Sandman and even Dusty Rhodes made Corino a top heel for the promotion. Corino continued his career with impressive runs in Ring of Honor and various Japanese companies.
WWE finally came calling for Corino in the role of a coach at the Performance Center. Corino helped progress the careers of current WWE talents Kevin Owens, Adam Cole, Mike Kanellis and many others. The new job teaching the youngsters his knowledge ended Corino’s time wrestling on the independent circuit, after he had his final match against Cody Rhodes in ROH.