The history of ECW saw many outstanding talents getting a chance when WWE and WCW were not calling them. Most ECW wrestlers wanted to turn that narrative around and gain an identity in professional wrestling from the smaller rising brand. The hope was that WWE or WCW would eventually see their value and offer a big contract. Most of the top ECW names did eventually jump ship for a better deal, but some could have come way sooner.
We will look at the ECW names that would have benefited from leaving the company sooner. Some didn’t have the opportunity to leave at the ideal time, while others felt a loyalty for ECW that prevented them from leaving when they should have. Let's break down the top ten ECW wrestlers that stuck around much longer than they should have.
10 Rob Van Dam
The career of Rob Van Dam reached a peak when he finally joined WWE after ECW went out of business. Van Dam was the most popular performer in ECW for many years and remained loyal to the company until it went out of business in early 2001.
The move to WWE would see RVD instantly become a beloved superstar. Van Dam may have ended up a bigger star if he joined a few years earlier. His departure coincided with the most loaded roster in WWE history.
Another ECW star to find success in WWE around 2001 was Tajiri. His first gimmick as the assistant of WWE Commissioner William Regal saw the two wrestlers develop incredible chemistry. Regal and Tajiri were the perfect odd couple, always creating compelling television together.
Tajiri knew how to play up the comedic element for the entertainment side in WWE. Once the bell rung for a match, he became a top-tier worker. Tajiri thrived after leaving ECW and may have been better off leaving far earlier to start his WWE career before it actually happened.
Raven's two stints both showcased how valuable of a performer he was. Raven was the top heel in ECW in the mid-90s, its first growing phase, before leaving for WCW. He returned in a face role, this time teaming with Tommy Dreamer, until he joined WWE.
Raven should have never even entertained the second offer from ECW. A move from WCW right to the WWE may have given him a bigger overall push. Instead, he lost some of his momentum and joined WWE in a lower-tier role, never getting the chance to break out.
7 New Jack
The hardcore style of New Jack made him one of the most feared men in wrestling. New Jack’s matches led to him often jumping off tall structures and attacking his opponents with brutal weapons. An underrated element to his game was the impressive promo work.
New Jack could have had a solid run in WWE or WCW, using his character skills more than the weapons and unpredictable violence. He enjoyed the style of ECW more, though, and other promotions were often scared off by his actions.
6 Justin Credible
Paul Heyman helped rejuvenate the career of Justin Credible in ECW. The failed WWE run in the 90s as Aldo Montoya almost doomed his career. Heyman gave him the new name and had him ditch the embarrassing mask from the prior chapter of his career.
Credible became a top star for ECW with solid technical wrestling matches against Jerry Lynn and Chris Candido as well as hardcore matches with Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman. The success of Credible earned him a spot back in WWE, but the roster was too deep in 2001 for him to break out. Credible leaving a year earlier may have been the perfect timing to make an impact.
There were always rumors of Taz being courted by WWE and WCW during the Monday Night Wars after he broke out in ECW. Taz became an unstoppable monster, destroying his opponents for years. Paul Heyman booked Taz strong enough for fans to think he was the coolest person in the industry.
WWE signed him for a run in 2000 (as Tazz) with little success. Taz fell into the lower mid-card territory until finding his calling and breaking out as a broadcaster when he retired. The move to WWE earlier would have given him a better chance at in-ring success before his move to the commentary table.
The run of Rhyno in ECW made him one of the last main event stars born in the promotion. Rhyno trained with Edge and Christian before Paul Heyman discovered him. The final year of ECW featured Rhyno destroying The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer and others to become a new hot act.
Rhyno joining WWE in 2001 earned him a solid mid-card spot for the next few years. He may have been better served leaving a little earlier, before the company purchased WCW and a whole roster of new talents.
3 Lance Storm
Lance Storm jumped ship from ECW late in the game to become a new WCW roster addition in 2000. Unlike most stars from ECW, WCW valued Storm and gave him a credible push. Storm played the anti-American and pro-Canadian heel, getting huge heat from the audience most weeks.
Matches with Booker T, Mike Awesome and Sting cemented Storm as an impressive heel. Storm would have been a far bigger star in WCW if he joined a year or two earlier before things spiraled out of the control. The ECW run did give us an incredible tag team run from Storm and Justin Credible, even if Storm could have benefited from ending it earlier.
2 Dudley Boyz
Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley were a dominant force in the ECW tag team division for many years. WWE gave them a chance in the Attitude Era, and they hit a home run. The fans were always happy to see them.
Ten tag title reigns would come their way during their stint in WWE. Bubba and D-Von entered the realistic conversation for the greatest tag team in wrestling history after their WWE run. The tag team likely wishes they jumped ship from ECW a year or two earlier, given the money they could have made in a bigger company. Those who rise to the top of the wrestling business can make absurd sums, after all.
Sabu is one of the few top ECW wrestlers that never got the chance to have a major run in WWE or WCW. The one WCW run came when Sabu was unofficially fired from ECW, only lasting a few weeks before he decided it wasn’t the place for him.
WWE would sign Sabu a few years after ECW went out of business, for the reincarnation of the brand in 2006. Sabu only lasted a short while before they quit on the project. ECW saw Sabu put his body on the line every match and he’s paying the price for it today. Sabu still wrestles, probably regretting not leaving ECW when he had the opportunity.