In its heyday, Extreme Championship Wrestling was an incredible promotion. It was a bit of a phenomenon, and it's growth and popularity undeniably influenced that period of wrestling. WCW and WWE frequently borrowed ideas from the company, and more notably often hired talent away from ECW.
Yet Paul Heyman constantly found new talent, or reclaimed veterans and made it work. Long defunct, plenty of fans still look back on that era with a fondness. Fans can also still catch a random ECW chant from time to time on a WWE broadcast, too. With it gone, but not forgotten, let's look at five things we miss from ECW, and five things we don't.
10 We Don't Miss: Wrestlers Getting Stiffed
Granted, this didn't personally impact the fans (as in, it didn't hurt our wallets or bank accounts), it hurt the talent. Some wrestlers continued to work, figuring that things would eventually work out. Others sometimes skipped shows because of non-payment (and in those cases, that did impact fans).
Paul Heyman is and was a sharp wrestling mind, particularly when it comes to creative and promotional ideas. A shrewd businessman with good financial sense? No one will ever accuse him of that.
9 We Do Miss: Awesome Gimmick Matches
Some of them were crazy and over the top (Taipei Death Match?!). Some of them were too racy (the infamous ECW catfights). Some of them? Some of them were just excellent. ECW had some basic ones, occasionally allowing some of the gifted wrestlers to work to a time limit draw. Others were really neat.
A personal favorite was the ECW three-way dance. In WWE today, fans get a lot of triple threat matches, but that gives us only a single pinfall, and a champ doesn't need to be pinned to lose. That's kind of lame. The three-way dance? You got two pins or submissions, so the champ had to be pinned by someone, or outlast both opponents. This was just one of several great offerings we got from ECW.
8 We Don't Miss: The Violence
As someone who regularly went to the ECW Arena in its heyday, this might be a surprising take, but it's true. Sure, every one into ECW loved it for what it was at the time. A lot of us didn't know any better, or were young enough to not care. Wrestlers were crazy. Some guys were on their last chance, so they'd do anything to get over.
Others were getting what they thought could be their only shot, so they'd take insane risks. ECW gave many fans their first exposure to crazy chair shots, thumbtacks, barbed wire and all other sorts of weapons. It was a company calling card, but looking back on it, it was excessive and just insane. Sometimes the violence overshadows the fact that the company gave us some of the best wrestling, and wrestlers, for that time period. No violence necessary.
7 We Do Miss: Mat Technicians and Fine Wrestling
Because ECW was an indy, Heyman was always looking for new talent and willing to give guys a shot. Superstars we all know now often got their big break thanks to ECW. The company showcased Lucha stars before anyone else in America would. Because of ECW, fans got to know names like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit.
Sure, all those men were insanely gifted and likely would have been discovered by WCW or WWE eventually...but ECW got them on their way. The company was not afraid to let the technicians work technical matches and tell great stories. All of these stars worked matches in ECW that were amazing, and didn't have to resort to gratuitous barbarism to make it work.
6 We Don't Miss: The WWE Reboot
ECW One Night Stand wasn't bad. ECW getting rebooted as a regular brand and show? Probably could have gone without that, to be honest. I mean, we had WWE Superstars like The Big Show, Mark Henry and Kane fighting for and winning the rebooted ECW Championship? That was not what ECW was all about.
To put that into perspective, consider this: Steve Austin did a stint in ECW before he landed in WWE-first as the Ringmaster, but eventually as Stone Cold. Austin could have easily gotten a run with the ECW belt, but he never did. Plenty of big names went through the company, but just because you were a big name didn't mean you would be ECW Champion (Jericho never was either). The reboot just felt like a lame attempt to cash in on nostalgia. It's a forgettable period.
5 We Do Miss: The Surprises
This could be a general indictment of wrestling in the social media age as well. The huge surprises that fans used to get are going away, as social media has a great ability to spoil things...and fans can't help but look for spoilers and rumors as well. But back in it's prime, ECW existed before social media. The internet wasn't then what it is now.
Fans could watch a show and not know that Sabu was about to make a surprise return, or that Terry Funk had plans to light a branding iron and go crazy. The best part of most of these surprises? They happened with regularity. ECW ran shows out of the ECW Arena basically once a month for TV, and there was a good chance at each taping, you'd get a pretty incredible surprise.
4 We Don't Miss: Shots Taken Against the Brand
As in, a certain Hall of Fame announcer degrading the product for being shot "in a bingo hall". Now, some of that was Jerry Lawler being Jerry Lawler, and obviously some of it became part of an angle. But that was a period of time where the big boys (WCW took shots too) put down a superior product because that product took a no frills approach.
Fans didn't care that the Arena also served as a bingo hall. Fans didn't care that some of the top stars were former WWE or WCW rejects, hoping for a new shot (which several did do well with). It was a shame because, for all the negativity, the reality was, at that time ECW was providing fans better wrestling than most.
3 We Do Miss: The Promos
There is a reason why current Superstars like Ronda Rousey have reached out to Paul Heyman. He's excellent at crafting promos. He did a masterful job during his time in ECW, and you can see it in WWE today. This talent is another reason why Heyman recently got a big gig on RAW. If fans aren't sure about this, then go to the WWE Network or elsewhere and find some old ECW television tapings, and check out some of the promos.
It could be from anyone, really-someone well known like Mick Foley, or some company mainstays like Shane Douglas, Tommy Dreamer or Mikey Whipwreck. Heyman was able to get any of them capable of delivering a really strong promo, and in today's wrestling, that is a lost art for too many Superstars. Plenty can work well in the ring, but not many are talented on the mic.
2 We Don't Miss: The Stuntmen
Here's the thing about ECW-fans loved to see the wrestlers take a beating, so in some cases, you could have been a terrible wrestler, but if you were willing and able to take crazy bumps, participate in crazy spots with ridiculous foreign objects, and blade or bleed as much as possible, there was a spot in ECW with your name on it.
While some of these types endeared themselves to ECW fans (like, Sandman and Dreamer), some were a bit much. New Jack, for example, was just crazy. Also, that mentality opened up ECW to some less than pleasant incidents (like the Mass Transit debacle).
1 We Do Miss: The Freedom
It's worth saying this, even if it should be obvious: the ECW we all know and love? There's almost no chance it would be allowed to exist in that form in this day and age. Everything was politically incorrect-and that was even one of the company tag lines," politically incorrect, and damn proud of it".
There's no way a wrestling show could have a wrestler smoke in the ring today. Catfights? No chance. The profanity-laced tirades? The sensor would have a stroke. It's an example of how that company existed in a time and place that was perfect for it to thrive. ECW couldn't do that today, but it is something many fans miss.