Extreme Championship Wrestling revolutionized the wrestling business in many ways thanks to the vision of Paul Heyman and his misfit group of wrestlers. ECW transitioned into what most remember it as in 1995 when Tod Gordon sold the promotion to Heyman and it changed the wrestling landscape. WWE and WCW were fighting a “war” of two rich owners sending shots to each other with big money contracts and national television ego contests. ECW was not so quietly the distant third promotion but made their presence felt to the big two companies with their cutting edge ideas.
Heyman’s game plan worked perfectly as he created an alternative product for the young adult male fan base that was fed up with the WWE and WCW television shows. ECW featured new styles of wrestling with future stars like Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio Jr. The company also would provide a more edgy atmosphere with violent “hardcore” wrestling and risqué storylines. WCW eventually raided the talent and WWE basically copied the idea of the “Attitude Era” from ECW. Both moves helped create the success of the Monday Night Wars breaking financial and viewership records but you’d have to wonder if it could have happened with ECW’s influence.
Another brilliant move by Heyman was securing great free agent talent such as Steve Austin and Mick Foley while creating characters out of outcast wrestlers like Raven, Sandman and Shane Douglas. WWE would create mega stars out of Austin and Foley as well as later on utilizing the Dudleys and Rob Van Dam to make them money but for every success story, there are more failures. Vince McMahon couldn’t capture Heyman’s magic with all the Extreme names he signed and these are the 15 times WWE dropped the ball with ECW stars.
In ECW, The Sandman was known for coming out to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” song as the crowd would sing the lyrics, as well as drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Add in his kendo stick weapon of choice and Sandman would become a legend to ECW fans. When the WWE started their version of ECW, Sandman was one of the names signed but had zero value on the roster. Due to copyright issues and WWE shying away from hardcore matches, Sandman was basically a nostalgia act that became exposed under the magnifying glass of the WWE system.
14 Super Crazy
Paul Heyman was an incredible scout and found some of the best talent in the world. Super Crazy was a high flying luchador from Mexico and became one of the hottest acts in ECW during its final two years due to his awe-inspiring acrobatic moves. In 2005, WWE decided to give Super Crazy a contract after he impressed on ECW’s One Night stand reunion show for the company. His introduction to the WWE brand was terrible as he was saddled with a stereotypical gimmick as a member of the “Mexicools” along with Juventud Guerrera and Psychosis. After the act failed, Super Crazy toiled away as an enhancement talent.
13 Stevie Richards
Stevie Richards stood out in ECW with two fantastic acts. Starting off as Raven’s lackey, Richards developed great comedy timing and could deliver in the ring. Using both of his strong suits, he was later the leader of the Blue World Order, parodying WCW’s New World Order with The Blue Meanie and Nova. WWE eventually added Richards to their roster in 1999 and was best known as the leader of the Right to Censor, a preachy church like faction trying to stop the vulgar nature of the Attitude Era. Richards was one of the most hated heels making the gimmick work to perfection but once it ended, he never really did anything noteworthy in WWE despite being there almost a decade.
12 2 Cold Scorpio
Perhaps the most underrated star from ECW, 2 Cold Scorpio was one of the company’s most consistent performers thanks to his athleticism. Scorpio was truly a wrestler before his time with his astonishing talent but WWE scooped him up in 1997 and renamed him Flash Funk. The gimmick was that of a "pimp" where he dressed ridiculously, danced and had his girls (the Funkettes) accompany him to the ring. If you can remember a noteworthy storyline or memorable moment of his time in WWE, God bless you. Scorpio was essentially a flashy enhancement talent that wasted three years of his prime doing little to nothing on television.
11 Public Enemy
One of the first hot acts in ECW, the tag team of Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock was adored by the Philadelphia fans for their fun personalities embracing the hip hop culture at the time. In the ring, Public Enemy also embodied ECW spirit with their high risk moves and putting people through tables. After a stint in WCW, Public Enemy tried to make the WWE their home but the locker room didn’t embrace them. The APA brutally beat them up with stiff shots in their only memorable WWE match and many refer to it as their swan song because the APA claimed that they "ran The Public Enemy out" of the WWE.
10 Justin Credible
Already having a failed stint in the WWE as Aldo Montoya, Paul Heyman saw something special in the young wrestler and named him Justin Credible. In very short time, Credible become a star in ECW with successful runs as a tag team standout with Lance Storm and as a singles performer eventually becoming ECW World Champ. WWE wanted Credible again in 2001 with ECW in its dying days but his return wasn’t eventful. Aside from a short lived and forgotten faction with X-Pac and Albert known as The X-Factor, WWE did nothing of note with Credible and he was out of the door in two years.
9 Tommy Dreamer
It would be quite difficult to argue anyone but Tommy Dreamer as the heart and soul of ECW. When you think about the company, Dreamer is usually the face of the company as he was there until its dying days giving his all for the fans. When WWE purchased ECW in 2001, ECW was introduced to the WWE vs. WCW feud by joining WCW to form “The Alliance.” The two big ECW debuts were Dreamer and Rob Van Dam. The moment was huge and fans were excited but Dreamer was an afterthought following that night. While staying employed and having a few memorable moments, diehard ECW fans were frustrated at the lack of Dreamer success in WWE.
8 Shane Douglas
One wrestler that has never been silent about his frustration in WWE was Shane Douglas. Billed as “The Franchise” in ECW, Douglas became one of the most successful wrestlers in the company and held the ECW World Championship a total of four times. In 1995, Douglas tried his luck of making it big in WWE but was struck with the laughable “Dean Douglas” gimmick portraying a dean there to educate his opponents with pain. Running into controversy with the political power known as The Kliq, Allegedly, Douglas was buried by Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon. Frustrated both professionally and personally, Douglas would go back to ECW and talk trash about all who did him wrong in WWE any time he had a live microphone.
7 Lance Storm
Despite not having much charisma, Lance Storm made a name for himself as one of the most respected in ring technicians in the business. All the wrestlers loved working with Storm as he was a guaranteed good match and the fans in ECW loved him for it. Storm went to WCW in its dying days and then ended up in WWE with the invasion storyline. Storm was actually one of the better performers making the move to WWE, having great matches with Edge and Christian. For a few years, Storm was a WWE mainstay and had some good times but he was never truly able to showcase his skills.
Another foreign standout signed by ECW was “The Japanese Buzzsaw” Tajiri. One of the more unique personalities, Tajiri was able to showcase charisma despite not knowing how to speak English. With his excellent matches and great presence, Tajiri was arguably among the most valuable ECW performers from 1999-2001. WWE hired Tajiri in 2001 and he would give them great range from playing a humorous character as Commissioner William Regal’s assistant to a cruel heel as Torrie Wilson’s verbally abusive boyfriend. Always delivering what he was asked of, Tajiri helped make WWE’s cruiserweight division credible for a few years but never was truly appreciated or given many chances of doing more in WWE.
ECW would give fans a product they could not find anywhere else and one of the biggest contributors to that was Sabu. Before it was common to see high spots and weapons in wrestling, Sabu not only excelled in both but would mix them together. The dangerous moves and actions Sabu would try risked his body and career on any given night. Finally, in 2006, Sabu was given an opportunity with WWE during their ECW brand launch. Many fans fell in love with Sabu right away but it wore off quickly as he was another person that couldn’t last in the WWE system due to his stubborn personality and outlook of his wrestling style.
Possibly the last star made in ECW, Paul Heyman saw one of the most physically intimidating and intense wrestlers in Rhyno. Dominating the promotion in its final year of existence, Rhyno was the last true ECW World and TV Champion. When ECW officially folded, Rhyno was one of the first stars signed by WWE and he made an instant impact aligning with Edge and Christian as their muscle. Rhyno would go on to have a very respectable four year run with WWE but he was never in any big matches or treated as anything more than a lower level mid-carder, which is a shame given his talent.
With a career going from promotion to promotion and back, Raven made a name for himself in ECW as one of Paul Heyman’s most fascinating characters. A cult leader who manipulated others with his philosophical words, Raven became the hottest heel in the company before a solid run in WCW. In 2001, WWE decided the Raven character may have been of use to them but they never really used the actual character. Raven basically wrestled in hardcore matches and never touched a microphone before being sent to Sunday Night Heat where he would toil away at the end of his WWE career.
Paul Heyman’s genius was on display when he convinced the wrestling world that a chunky, 5’6’’ angry New Yorker was the baddest man in the wrestling industry. Taz dominated ECW and captivated the fans with his intense promos and no-nonsense style of beating up and choking out his opponents. Taz finally made the move to WWE in 2000 and debuted in grand fashion defeating the undefeated Kurt Angle to a massive reaction in Madison Square Garden. For whatever reason, Taz’s success would end there as he was then relegated to the hardcore division before retiring to become an announcer – his more successful role in WWE.
1 Mike Awesome
The late Mike Awesome may have been the most underrated wrestler of the 90s. Awesome made a name for himself in Japan before Paul Heyman brought him in and instantly made him the ECW World Champion because he was that good. Despite an ugly divorce of Awesome leaving ECW as champ to join WCW, he was given a seemingly new chance in WWE when he came over during the invasion angle. Awesome had everything you would have wanted into a wrestler – the size, the athleticism, the uniqueness and a presence. Sadly, after a fun tag match teaming with Lance Storm vs. Edge and Christian, Awesome was an enhancement talent on Velocity for the rest of his WWE tenure instead of becoming a valuable member of the roster.