With a healthy mix of hardcore and pure wrestling, ECW enjoyed some extreme highs before inevitably closing its doors in 2001 — creating megastars in the making along the way. Acting as sort of a proving ground for many names, many stars plied their trade inside the ropes of the Philadelphia-based promotion, and eventually went on to be some of the most popular wrestlers in the world.
Many of them went on to succeed in WWE, doing better than they ever would have under Paul Heyman. Still, while many ECW alumni ended up under the employment of Vince McMahon, not everyone skyrocketed to the top of the card. In fact, many of the biggest names in ECW never reached the heights expected of them when they headed to ECW. We're going to focus on both sides of the coin for this list, here are 5 ECW Stars WWE Messed Up (&5 That Did Better).
10 Messed Up: Tazz
In many ways, Tazz was ECW. The Suplex Machine didn't need weapons to take down his foes — he was dangerous enough with his own hands. This made him the perfect opponent to the stereotypical ECW style, creating a fresh character while they were at it. So, when he finally debuted in WWE, fans were excited. Things started out strong, with his first match taking place against Kurt Angle at Royal Rumble 2000. Things started out strong too, the star beat the Olympic gold medalist, and went on to face Triple H. Unfortunately, he lost that match and slid down the card before becoming a very good commentator for the company.
9 Better: Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam may go down as the most popular ECW star ever, but he actually never won the company's top championship in its original incarnation. Despite that, he picked up the Tag Team Championship and TV Title along the way. Still, his unique highflying martial-arts inspired offense and cool stoner persona made him one of the biggest stars in the company.
When he came to WWE, that popularity carried over, and he quickly won over the new audience. Capturing the European Championship and even the Intercontinental Championship, RVD's career skyrocketed until he finally won the WWE Championship in a match against the face of the company, John Cena.
8 Messed Up: Terry Funk
As a revered name around the world, Funk came to ECW in his late 40s and instantly brought legitimacy to the show that was transitioning to something more hardcore. The star was featured prominently as one of the top names, acting as a gatekeeper for many up and comers, and in a way, he put stars like Cactus Jack, Sand Man and Sabu on the map.
Unfortunately, during his two runs in WWE, Funk was always an afterthought. His first time in WWE came during 1985, where he was mostly known as a tag-team wrestler. Still, he did have a few often-forgotten championship matches with Hulk Hogan. During his second stint in WWE in the middle of the Attitude Era, Funk dropped his name, was called Chainsaw Charlie, and came out with pantyhose over his face.
7 Better: Mick Foley
It's hard to argue that Mick Foley isn't one of the most successful people to graduate from ECW. He actually spent years in the company on and off, capturing championships along the way as the hardcore Cactus Jack. His time in the company may be best known for when he gave up hardcore matches and became a "boring" wrestler, much to the chagrin of the bloodthirsty crowd.
Despite that sustained success in ECW, Foley shined in WWE under multiple personas. Best known as Mankind, Foley also revived the Cactus Jack character along with the peace-loving Dude Love, all as alternate personalities of a very complex character. Foley eventually won the WWE Championship and headlined WrestleMania, so it's hard to argue his stock didn't rise when coming to WWE.
6 Messed Up: Super Crazy
Starting his career in 1988, Super Crazy became a huge success in Mexico before heading over to ECW in 1998. When that happened, the popular star became a fixture in Paul Heyman's company. In fact, he was part of some of the brand's most famous set of matches — two three-way dances with Little Guido and Tajiri, then Little Guido and Jerry Lynn. He then transitioned into the TV title scene, where he stayed until the brand died in 2001.
When he came to WWE in 2005, things were a little different. Despite being an insanely popular star, Super Crazy was put in a trio team consisting of Psicosis and Juventud Guerra. That sounds great on paper, but those celebrated Mexican stars came to the ring dressed like custodians while riding lawn mowers.
5 Better: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho's time with ECW was short and sweet, but he still accomplished a lot. Taking on the biggest stars in the company like Rob Van Dam, Shane Douglas, and Taz, Jericho eventually went on to win the ECW Television Championship in 1996. Yet, his star burned too bright, and he caught the eye of Eric Bischoff and he was ECW bound by the end of the year.
Still, it's hard to argue that Jericho didn't do better in WWE. The now-AEW Heavyweight Champion won the most Intercontinental Championships in WWE history, was the first-ever WWE Undisputed Champion, former World Heavyweight Champion, multi-time pay-per-view headliner, and one of the few remaining pop-culture icons in wrestling who represented WWE in the best ways possible. He's a first-ballot Hall Of Famer, for sure.
4 Messed Up: Rhyno
The powerhouse star was equal parts powerful and charismatic, and fans of the Paul Heyman promotion knew that when Rhyno came to the ring, all-out chaos would ensue. Picking up titles left and right, Rhyno was part of some of the most entertaining battles in ECW history, including, his World Television Championship win against Tajiri or when he squashed Sandman to become the ECW Heavyweight Champions. Sadly, Rhyno will go down in history as the company's final champion for both straps.
So, with such a decorated run in ECW, surely Rhyno would rocket up the card in WWE, right? Well, not so much. While he was a threat, he never reached the main event. Sure, he challenged for the World Heavyweight Championship, but he never caught the big gold belt.
3 Better: Steve Austin
Steve Austin is probably the biggest star to ever go through ECW, especially considering he was only in the promotion for a cup of coffee. After being fired from WCW, and Angry Steve Austin cut passionate promos, ripping into his former employer, he backed up everything he said in the ring too.
Then he moved to WWE a few months later, and the rest is history. While his start with Vince McMahon was a little rocky, Steve Austin went on to become the biggest name in all of wrestling.
2 Messed Up: Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas was the franchise in ECW, but when he came to WWE, he was an afterthought. The first-ever ECW champion, Douglas wowed audiences with his mix of brute strength and agility, putting on classic matches with pretty much everyone.
Yet, when it came to his two runs in WWE, you would never have guessed he was so good. In his two stints that culminated in around two years, Douglas was given a dean gimmick and was never taken seriously.
1 Better: Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero made a name for himself in ECW as one of the most gifted technical wrestlers in the world. Winning the Television Championship in his debut match, Guerrero quickly became a fan favorite as he fought for and defended the belt over the course of the year, yet, much like others on this list, he was too popular for ECW to keep, and he left for greener pastures in WCW.
When he finally made his way to WWE, things got a little dicey when the company was forced to release him, but he came back shortly after that and was better than ever. Guerrero went on the win the WWE Championship, along with a few tag- team titles along the way, and was consistently one of the most endearing stars in the company until his untimely passing in 2005.