In the '90s, WCW and WWE were battling tooth and nail during the Monday Night Wars. While they were fighting for brand supremacy and the biggest television ratings, a third company was building a lot of momentum in ECW. While not on a major television network until the very end, they had pay-per-views that earned them more and more fans as time went on.
However, much like WCW, by the end of the decade, ECW was also failing and soon went out of business. Similarly, just like WCW, WWE purchased the company mostly for its assets. While some ECW stars went on to see massive success in WWE, the truth is that their style of wrestling was not what WWE was looking for and many ECW stars never made it big, even though they should have.
Taz was a true ECW original, working for the company when it was still Eastern Championship Wrestling under the NWA banner. Formerly known as The Tazmaniac, he was mostly a tag team wrestler before being repackaged as Taz after an injury and becoming one of the biggest stars in ECW. He created his original FTW title and then won the ECW world title.
Taz signed with WWE while still holding the ECW title and after dropping it on his last show in the company, debuted in WWE as Tazz. After making a big-time debut in WWE against Kurt Angle, Tazz slowly disappeared. Finally, injuries forced Tazz to focus more on commentary, and he never did achieve the success in WWE before retiring that he enjoyed in ECW.
9 MIKE AWESOME
Mike Awesome had it all. He was a huge man, at 6-foot-6 and 292 pounds. He was in great shape. He could also fly when needed and was one of the most athletic wrestlers in ECW. By the time 1999 rolled around, Awesome had wrestled on two previous occasions in ECW and on his third stint with the company became their champion.
Sadly, outside of his ECW world title reign, Awesome never became a big star anywhere else. He went to WCW where they gave him embarrassing gimmicks like "The Fat Chick Thrilla" and "That '70s Guy." He moved on to WWE after they purchased WCW and was released one year later.
8 JERRY LYNN
Jerry Lynn was one of the best in-ring wrestlers in ECW history, and that says a lot considering men like Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero also wrestled there. However, unlike those two future WWE superstars, Lynn never did make it big in professional wrestling outside of the indies.
In ECW, Lynn put on five-star classics against Lance Storm and Rob Van Dam, but when he got a chance to work in a major promotion, his lack of promo skills held him down. In WWE, he held the Light Heavyweight Championship once for a short run, and in TNA he was part of the X-Division, but he never got the opportunities his contemporaries did to enjoy a nice run on top.
7 STEVIE RICHARDS
Now, there is the argument that Stevie Richards did make it "big" in WWE because he was the leader of one of the more entertaining factions at the tail end of the Attitude Era. As Steven Richards, he was the leader of Right to Censor, a group that wanted to cover up scantily clad women and spoke out against glorified violence in WWE.
However, when Stevie was in ECW, he proved time and time again that he was one of the most charismatic and talented wrestlers in the company, despite always ending up in goofy gimmicks -- usually stuck as Raven's sidekick. When he got his chance in WCW, it was still as Raven's sidekick, and in WWE, he was just part of a faction and never showed what he could do on his own.
6 2 COLD SCORPIO
In 1994, Shane Douglas won the NWA World Championship in a tournament finale and then threw down the title and denounced the NWA. ECW broke off from the NWA and became extreme, and the rest is history. Almost lost in time is the fact that the man that Douglas beat in that tournament finale was 2 Cold Scorpio.
2 Cold Scorpio remained with ECW, also leaving the NWA and was relatively successful there, winning the TV title four times and holding the tag team titles once with Sandman. He was an exciting wrestler, and when he signed with WWE in 1996, fans had high hopes. WWE put him in a zoot suit and had him dance as Flash Funk before moving him to the J.O.B. Squad with Al Snow, a faction of wrestlers who lost continuously.
5 JUVENTUD GUERRERA
Juventud Guerrera is a case of a wrestler who had all the talent in the world but self-sabotaged his success. Juvi got his big break in ECW in 1996 around the same time that the company was bringing in a ton of Luchador wrestlers, introducing the world to names like Rey Mysterio, Psicosis and La Parka.
However, WCW saw how exciting these wrestlers were and paid them enough to leave ECW for the big leagues. Juvi looked like a star when he showed up in WCW and won the Cruiserweight title. He never rose above the mid-card in WCW and was fired after an arrest in 2000. He went to WWE in 2005 and was stuck in the stereotypical Mexicools gimmick before they also fired him.
4 SUPER CRAZY
Super Crazy faced the same problem as Juventud Guerrera in WWE but without the attitude problems. Super Crazy was the second of three famous Latino Luchador wrestlers WWE brought in and then forced to dress like laborers and drive lawnmowers to the ring. Out of the three, Super Crazy was the most successful but nowhere near as successful as he could have been.
Super Crazy was in ECW from 1998 through 2001, working for the company until they went out of business. While he was just a mid-card wrestler involved mostly in multi-man matches for his first two years, Super Crazy went on to win the TV title in 2000 and always turned in great performances while never rising into the star he could have.
3 THE ELIMINATORS
The Eliminators might be the best tag team ever to step foot in an ECW ring. However, while the Dudley Boyz went on to become hugely successful in WWE and ended up as Hall of Famers, the Eliminators died out when the two men went their separate ways -- never getting to show how great they were on a larger stage.
The Eliminators were Perry Saturn and John Kronus, and they were a tag team in the indies before moving on to ECW. In ECW, they enjoyed massive success, winning the tag team titles three times and beating everyone from the Gangsters to the Dudley Boyz and Pitbulls. According to Saturn, he felt Kronus lacked motivation, and Saturn left ECW on his own for WCW.
2 BAM BAM BIGELOW
Bam Bam Bigelow worked the main event of a WrestleMania, so there is consideration that he did make it big outside of ECW. However, his main event match was a loss to an NFL football player in Lawrence Taylor, and that was the extent of his push in WWE despite his immense talent -- one of the best big men ever to step in the ring.
Bigelow also got a shot in WCW but only saw some success as the Jersey Triad with Diamond Dallas Page, although that was nothing more than Bigelow once again joining a trio faction after his stint in ECW as part of the Triple Threat with Shane Douglas. As big and talented as Bigelow was, he never reached the level of success he deserved.
Much like Shane Douglas, when Michael Bucci went to WWE, he was saddled with a ridiculous gimmick. While Douglas basically gave up on his gimmick of Dean Douglass and left to go back to ECW, Bucci tried to make it work. His gimmick was Simon Dean, a fitness expert who wanted to pimp out his own diet and exercise supplement program.
However, in ECW, Bucci was Nova. Yes, he was part of the Blue World Order comedy group with Stevie Richards and Blue Meanie, but he was also a fantastic wrestler in the ring. WWE never gave him a chance to be more than a gimmick although they knew how talented he was and hired him later to train young wrestlers in OVW.