Extreme Championship Wrestling was one of the most notorious indy wrestling promotions ever. Founded by Tod Gordon, the promotion was truly put on the map by Paul Heyman. It was a melting pot of wrestling, and it gave veteran wrestlers a second chance, a chance to reinvent themselves, or an opportunity to keep earning a paycheck.
It also gave up and coming wrestlers a crazy way to make their mark. The group really exposed American wrestling fans to some of the more unique international talents, bringing in stars from Mexico and Japan and wowing fans in the process. With great talent came great opportunity, of course, and plenty of ECW Champions went on to WWE. Some of those had success, while others did not. Here's a look at five who had a great run in WWE, and five who didn't fare as well.
10 Great Run: Rob Van Dam
With names like Mr. Monday Night and "The whole f'n show" among his many monikers, it might seem like Van Dam was full of himself. The reality is, it was just truth in advertising.
An incredibly athletic performer who was ready, willing, and able to do just about anything in the ring for the sake of the match, Rob Van Dam was one of the greatest wrestlers to work for ECW. He parlayed his time in ECW into a series of compelling runs with WWE.
He's enjoyed a long and storied career, holding both the ECW and WWE World Championships, to name just a few. He's also been involved in quite a few memorable programs over the years, from the ECW Invasion to the emotional appearance at ECW One Night Stand while he was sidelined with a knee injury.
9 Forgettable: Shane Douglas
This former ECW Champion was known as The Franchise while he put the Philadelphia-based promotion on the map. He was brash, he was bold, and he was loud. He had more than one crack at WWE, and never managed much success. He was there as both Shane Douglas as well as Dean Douglas—playing off his teaching background.
It would have been interesting to see how Douglas might have fared if WWE had allowed for him to bring The Franchise to the company along with his Triple Threat stable. Unfortunately, the version of Douglas who worked in WWE never measured up to what he was in ECW, and his time working for the suits in Stamford was largely forgettable.
8 Great Run: Rhyno
While in ECW, The Man-Beast was much more of a mauler than a comedy act. He is an impressive wrestler. Given his build, he has the power fans would expect. He is also far quicker for his size. While he didn't achieve a WWE Heavyweight Championship run, he did have quite a nice stint with WWE.
Recently he had enjoyed an extended run a tag team champion alongside Heath Slater. One might argue that his time with WWE was more of a mid-card guy, but here's the thing about that: first, mid-card is not terrible. Second, consider how long he has hung around WWE after ECW was completely retired. That's a very nice career.
7 Forgettable: The Sandman
One of the most popular ECW Champions ever, it's easy to see in hindsight how his character just would not translate to mainstream audiences. Sandman was well-known for his beer drinking, cigarette smoking, and cane swinging. As much fun as that could be in the bingo halls, it did not play well in major arenas.
WWE wasn't about to let a wrestler come down to the ring with an open beer—that was for Steve Austin—or a lit cigarette—there had to be some standards. As beloved as he was for ECW, he basically had no shot of success within WWE.
6 Great Run: Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley's tenure with WWE goes back a while. The Superstar just happened to have had a very long break between stints, but, for those of you who have followed ECW and WWE for a bit, then you probably can recall Lashley's time as an ECW Champion. If you can't, just trust us, he was one.
He returned to WWE last year, having worked all over and having dabbled in MMA in his time away from the company. Since his return, he's enjoyed a run as one of the company's top heels on either brand... once he finally turned after returning as a babyface.
5 Forgettable: Taz
When WWE signed Taz, it was an interesting happening. It could be argued that he was a big signing. WWE actually hammered out some fashion of an agreement with ECW surrounding Taz, too, which could be seen as a good example of when ECW and WWE ended up getting cozier-but that's a different story.
As good as Taz was in ECW—and he was exceptional—it didn't really translate into too much in WWE. Sure, he debuted by defeating the undefeated Kurt Angle, but once WWE saddled him with an extra Z, things just went downhill. Injuries caught up to Taz not long after. He did have quite a nice run as a commentator, however.
4 Great Run: CM Punk
For all that CM Punk has said or done, either in his wrestling career or after, it's actually kind of easy to forget that he, too, held the ECW Championship. There is no denying, looking back at things now, that, for Punk, it was just the start of something great.
The mercurial Superstar enjoyed a very strong run with WWE, but it came to a sudden and nasty end. A multi-time world champion, Punk would boast that he was "the best in the world". To this day, even though he's been gone for several years already, fans will still chant his name at live events on a regular basis. Talk about staying power!
3 Forgettable: Justin Credible
There's an interesting twist on this one. Justin Credible had himself a WWE run before he came to ECW and showed the wrestling world a whole new side of himself. However, before he became the bald-headed, cane-swinging Justin Credible, he worked in WWE as... the Portuguese Man-o-War, Aldo Montoya.
A fan must sympathize with Justin Credible, for, during his time in WWE, he basically had to wear an athletic supporter for a mask. With that attire, it's no wonder he was so angry in ECW. What probably hindered him? It was a different time back then-the big Superstars were just that big. Credible came along too soon for his own good.
2 Great Run: John Morrison
To be honest, ECW had its fair share of champions. There were some who were accomplished before they worked in Philadelphia, and there were those who were not. So, while a name like Big Show or Terry Funk could have been used here, they really were already established before ECW, so the spirit of this would be lost. Morrison, otherwise known as Johnny Nitro—or, now, Johnny Impact—was still developing when he claimed his ECW Championship.
It was an opportunity he only got because of what turned out to be the tragic end to Chris Benoit, but he's continued on to a great career. He might be in Impact now, but following his ECW title run, he did enjoy a good stretch for WWE. He's still a talent that many speculate could return to the company at some point down the road.
1 Forgettable: Mike Awesome
In Extreme Championship Wrestling, Mike Awesome was... well, awesome. He had some legendary extreme matches. His matches against Masato Tanaka were among the most violent and hard hitting matches fans had ever seen.
Awesome gained some notoriety because he was recruited to WCW while still holding the ECW Championship. That lead to a unique bit of wrestling history: awesome—That 70s Guy, still one of the worst gimmicks ever—had to go work an ECW show as a WCW employee, where he dropped the ECW Championship to Taz, who, at the time, was now Tazz, WWE employee.
It didn't take long for Tazz to drop the belt to actual full-time ECW wrestler Tommy Dreamer. That bit of wrestling history was perhaps the most exciting moment of Awesome's career.