When Eastern Championship Wrestling began in the early 1990s, it was just one of the many companies trying to hang on as WWE and WCW fought it out. It got more attention in 1993 with its good talent but it was Shane Douglas throwing down the NWA title belt that made it a standout promotion. Renamed Extreme Championship Wrestling, it changed the entire business forever. Paul Heyman was a master of making guys look so much better than they were and it paid off with ECW handling itself well throughout the decade and its legacy still dominates today.
The list of ECW guys who became bigger stars elsewhere is well known and famous. However, it can be forgotten how a lot of people passed through ECW that maybe didn’t quite belong there. It’s something unique in how many stars were in ECW rather briefly and their tenures forgettable. There’s also some folks it’s hard to believe Paul Heyman hired in the first place as they don’t match the ECW mold. Here are 10 wrestlers it’s amazing ECW hired to show how not everyone there was an extreme star.
10 Terry Gordy
A decade earlier, Terry Gordy would have ruled ECW. One part of the Fabulous Freebirds, Gordy was a fantastic tough worker who could brawl and get technical like few others. Hiring him in 1996 was a bit rough as it’s known Gordy was never the same after a brutal stroke just three years earlier. He faced Bam Bam Bigelow in a “Battle of the Bam Bams” but it was clear Gordy just wasn’t the same guy as he had been before. His ECW run was quite short and some chastised Heyman for putting Gordy through that when the man should have been recovering.
The only thing more surprising than Sid hired by ECW? The fact the fans actually liked him. While looking amazing as an imposing heel, Sid is also known for his wild behavior and various crazy antics that has led to sloppy work. He was between gigs in WCW when ECW hired him on in early 1999.
Amazingly, the fans ate up his actions, especially when he did an epic double choke slam on the Dudley Boyz and followed it up by pitching Spike off the ramp way and through a table. He left in May after a fight over his lack of money for a big WCW payday. Yet Sid actually showed he worked in ECW better than expected.
8 Rick Rude
Once, hiring Rick Rude would have been a great move for ECW. “The Ravishing One” would have fit in wonderfully with his cocky heel persona and able to handle himself in hard-hitting matches. In 1997, Rude made an epic debut for the company to attack Shane Douglas under a mask. Heyman was an old friend of Rude’s to hire him on but the confusing part was that because of his severe back injury, Rude couldn’t actually compete. He tried his hand as a commentator but oddly, this great promo guy wasn’t that good at it. Rude left for WWE and the famous moment of appearing on “RAW” and “Nitro” on the same night to make his ECW run forgettable in his career.
7 Marty Jannetty
While not a bad worker, Marty Jannetty always suffered being in the shadow of Shawn Michaels. His various personal issues didn’t help either and he burnt bridges in WWE. Jannetty was more of a high-flyer than a hardcore worker so it baffled many when ECW hired him on in 1997.
He teamed with Vampire Warrior to lose to Roadkill and Al Snow where the fans were not happy with Jannetty’ usual antics as they didn’t fit with the ECW mantra of the time. Jannetty would leave after that match to join WCW to make this a blip in his career as well as an odd ECW hire.
6 Dusty Rhodes
In a way, Dusty Rhodes would have been the kind of guy ECW fans liked in his prime. While he became a rather pudgy man in his later years, Dusty was known for serious hardcore brawling and could blade with the best of them. Still, it was a surprise when in 2000, Steve Corino was on his “King of the Old School” run and running down Dusty (who was in the crowd) for that style. That brought Dusty out to attack him and the two had a feud going. It seemed odd Heyman was giving Dusty so much time but then, ECW was in tough times in that period. Dusty would put Corino over and still surprising ECW hired him on.
5 Jake Roberts
While loved for his amazing ring work and stellar promos, Jake Roberts has a bad reputation due to his numerous personal issues. During a wild brawl between Jake Roberts and Tommy Dreamer, the lights went out and Roberts was in the ring. He attacked both men, hitting each with his DDT finisher and mocking them, making it sound like he was taking on a new moral character.
Putting a man of such infamous personal problems as Roberts into ECW seemed a crazy idea and sure enough, he didn’t last long before vanishing. That makes his hiring for the company in the first place seem even odder.
4 Scott Hall
In his prime, Scott Hall was a sensational worker and a major star. He proved that as Razor Ramon and then his turn in WCW. By 2000, Hall’s various personal problems were overwhelming him and made him a serious risk to hire. That’s what made it amazing when Heyman hired Hall for a few appearances. More baffling was rather than a big PPV show, Hall showed up at two untelevised house shows where he went over Justin Credible and Rhino. He only lasted that weekend before leaving and it’s confusing why Heyman would hire such a big name for two house shows when the company was in some financial trouble.
It’s well known how badly WWE suffered in 1995 with the attempt to turn Mabel into a main eventer. While imposing in his size, the man was a horrible worker and his run as “King” was a major reason business in 1995 was horrible for the company. So for ECW to hire him in 1998 was stunning.
But sure enough, during a brawl at 1998’s November to Remember, Mabel came out to help the FBI during a big beat-down. This led to Spike Dudley challenging him and Mabel missing a splash onto a table. Fans couldn’t believe that ECW would hire this hated worker. He later returned to the WWE version as Big Daddy V but his first appearance is still notable.
2 Kerry von Erich
Kerry Von Erich’s story is a sad one as the man had all the ingredients to be a huge star and even a very brief reign as NWA World champion. He also had a run in WWE as IC champion. Sadly, by 1992, Kerry was a total mess in his personal life and not much better in the ring. He was to debut in Eastern Championship Wrestling as a masked character with the story of him trying his shoes together in the locker room. He then headed out to the ring in his mask... and a jacket bearing his name on the back. Kerry would end up meeting his end just a few months later when he was in no condition to be working for ECW in the first place.
The original Doink the Clown was a genius creation as a truly evil clown who’d terrorize the kids. Sadly, WWE ruined that by turning him into a comic character that fans hated. ECW bringing him in would seem crazy given how much they hated those kinds of antics. Matt Osborne, the original Doink, showed up in full costume and makeup with the fans soon chanting “Kill the Clown!” 911 obliged by showing up to destroy him with a chokeslam. Osborne continued for a bit as a version of Doink without the makeup but that didn’t work out either. It’s still amazing how a character that represented everything ECW was against ended up working for the company.