Back in 1993, a regional wrestling outfit based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania changed the game forever. Thanks to co-promoters Paul Heyman and Todd Gordon, Eastern Championship Wrestling was re-launched as Extreme Championship Wrestling. With this product re-launch literally came a revolution. What was gimmicky and child-driven in the two other major promotions would be countered with extreme, adult-oriented content. ECW was the epitome of cult status as it could not be watched nationwide. Many fans would use the internet to figure out what was going on and trade VHS tapes via mail just to see the insane action. Other promotions began to take notice.
It was not just the matches in ECW that made the promotion great, it was the storylines. During this time when the internet was not easily made available to everyone to leak news, Paul Heyman booked some amazing stories that pushed the lines of censorship. The storylines in ECW were where the comparisons to soap operas could become abundantly seen. Add to this the issues with talent constantly coming and going unannounced and the promotion offered quite a bit of entertainment. However, let us not forget the crowd interaction. WWE and WCW wanted to keep the crowd as far and away as possible. This could be due to the size of the crowds. However, any sports crowd in Philadelphia is going be consumed with angst as that city requires the best entertainment possible.
Today’s list takes a look at the top 15 storylines that ECW had to offer. This list includes storylines spanning beyond the original product and going into the TNN and WWE days. Whatever Heyman was a part of, he usually delivered gold. He was so good at developing characters and stories that Vince McMahon got involved with the promotion by creating an invasion angle. Supposedly, Eric Bischoff was planning to do the same thing, however Heyman was unaware of this. If you have ever wondered about ECW, this list will show off some of the better segments.
Paul Heyman’s ability to capitalize on things is unheralded. Steven Richards and the Blue Meanie were in the midst of doing parody skits (much like Damien Sandow has in recent years) and they decided to jump on the bWo. Featuring The Blue Guy, the Blue World Order was a parody on the founding members of the nWo in WCW. Meanie played Scott Hall, Nova played Hogan, and Richards was Kevin Nash. The trademark phrase for the stable was “we’re taking over.” Richards always pronounced the phrased with corniness. It was even brought over to the WWE during the original invasion segments.
14 The Network Against Paul Heyman
ECW had to get a television deal to help save the company. Paul Heyman was all for it until TNN tried to dictate his show. Nobody tells Paul Heyman how to handle his product. So he created a storyline involving The Network and Cyrus as the heels of the main storyline. Almost like The Authority is in WWE now, The Network had to have things their way to provide what was best for business. Cyrus would be the figure head of the stable, as Steve Corino, Rhyno, Tajiri, and Jack Victory would be the ones to do matches. This storyline lasted the entire time that ECW was on TNN as TNN provided them little funds and had high expectations. After announcing TNN were bringing over the WWE, Heyman had an amazing Pipebomb on television. Heyman was able to carry this storyline due to the constant issues he was having with TNN as they would butt heads.
13 Mikey Whipwreck
There might not have been a bigger underdog in all of wrestling than Mikey Whipwreck in ECW. He started off as a crew member who worked for free just to have the opportunity to mess around after shows. Joey Styles actually caught eye of Whipwreck and informed Paul Heyman about him. Whipwreck got a shot and began competing. His gimmick was that he would pull off no offensive moves. This almost pins him as the ultimate jobber. However, Whipwreck would be trained by the likes of Taz and Tommy Dreamer. He would end up pulling the ultimate upset and defeating Pitbull #1 for the World Television Title. He would begin to get a push as he lucked into a spot with Cactus Jack in a tag team match that involved Terry Funk bolting at the last second. He would also go on to defeat The Sandman for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. Whipwreck truly rose above all odds.
12 Mike Awesome Going To WCW as ECW Champion
In the late 1990s after a lot of the main talent in ECW had been plucked by WCW or WWE, an emerging star in Mike Awesome won the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. However, due to a lack of pay in ECW, Awesome jumped to WCW as the ECW Champion. This was completely out of nowhere, and WCW would refuse to mention him as the current ECW Champion. A settlement was reached, and possibly the rarest occurrence in the history of professional wrestling happened in Indianapolis a few days after the appearance. Awesome, who was employed with WCW competed against Taz, who at this point was a full time WWE employee. Awesome would drop the belt to Taz, who soon after dropped the belt to Tommy Dreamer giving Dreamer his first World Championship in ECW.
11 One Night Stand
When ECW started to invade WWE after the merger, Vince McMahon kept with the gimmick and ended up creating a third brand. While it was never the ECW that everyone remembers, there were members still involved and arguably was a better product than what was on RAW or SmackDown. The biggest gain from this version of ECW were the One Night Stand Pay-Per-Views. This included classic legends from ECW in matches with current WWE Superstars. The best One Night Stands carried in a storyline that involved members from all three shows. The first two were some of the most entertaining matches to date. These two shows were the meaning of uncensored.
10 Cactus Jack Against the Fans
Cactus Jack’s promos were some of the best of all time in ECW. Thinking back, it is hard to imagine Mick Foley playing a heel. During his feud with Tommy Dreamer, his focus on his promos involved being anti-hardcore. While Dreamer boasted about being hardcore, Cactus Jack threw the idea of hardcore professional wrestling in the garbage. He preached about how well the WWE was doing and spit on the fans that continued to support the type of product that ECW produced. However, in his final match, the crowd finally supported him and gave him a good farewell as he jumped ship over to the WWE.
While not necessarily a storyline, the feud that involved these wrestlers changed the face of professional wrestling. The matches went against the guard of what ECW was accustomed at that point. Paul Heyman stated that if they did not have the production value, they would make up for it with the best promos and wrestling available. These guys were more traditional, but it was fast action that was perfectly choreographed which stood out. The real story involved Eric Bischoff raiding ECW of their guys, including these three. Interestingly enough, the three had enough of the political tirades in WCW and jumped ship to WWE where they flourished. These guys created an inside storyline themselves going forward as many ECW fans began to wonder who would be plucked next.
8 Steve Austin
There is nothing as entertaining as an angry Steve Austin. After being fired via phone by Eric Bischoff and WCW, Paul Heyman reached out and extended an offer to Austin where he could air his grievances on ECW programming. The result was an on-going shoot against WCW. Austin would beg Bischoff to bring him back to WCW because he was not good enough to work in ECW. This was also the transition period between Austin going bald. Austin did not contribute in the ring that much, but his promos including Monday Nyquil, are some of the best things seen on ECW. He also managed to help give Mikey Whipreck a push.
7 Three-Way Kiss
During the rivalry between Tommy Dreamer and Raven, there was a woman involved for the time being. Taking the soap opera aspect of wrestling to the next level, Beulah McGillicutty would announce she was pregnant. The actual storyline that involved her being overweight in summer camp as a kid and falling in love with Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer, pinned as the jock, attended the camp and was best friends with Raven, who was an outcast. Beulah returns as a Penthouse model, and becomes involved with Dreamer. Shane Douglas announces that she has been cheating on Dreamer, but not with another guy. Female wrestler, Kimona, would intervene and announce that the other party was her. They would then kiss on television. Dreamer would grab both by the hair and declare he is taking him both and that he is “hardcore.” They all then make out with each other. This is the first time this was ever done in wrestling.
6 ECW’s Original Invasion Of WWE
While I believe there was more to the original invasion angle that wasperceived by Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon, it certainly peaked interest and helped both causes. Rather if it was scouting talent or testing the waters on how big the promotion was, ECW certainly caught Vince McMahon’s ear as crowds would chant the brand name at events in the Northeast. The invasion angle certainly managed to legitimately anger Jerry Lawler. Lawler even appeared on ECW randomly after the invasion angle. WWE Raw would feature matches from wrestlers from a different promotion. The matches were actual match types from ECW, which certainly went against the guard that Vince McMahon had established. This opened the door for the ridiculousness that was the Attitude Era in WWE.
5 Raven Always Getting The Best Of Tommy Dreamer
One thing that can be given to ECW and Paul Heyman was their ability to book long and interesting storylines. Tommy Dreamer and Raven would have the longest feud in ECW history, lasting from 1995-2000. Between 1995 and 1997, the two had wrestled each other every weekend in every kind of match possible. With this many matches, Dreamer was never able to beat Raven. This created hatred in Dreamer. Raven would eventually sign with WCW in 1997, and the ECW fans assumed they knew the result of the final match. Raven would push hard to actually win the match, but in the end, Dreamer finally gets the monkey off of his back with an amazing match. The two would actually team up and win the ECW Tag Titles when Raven would return but the animosity was still there.
4 The Taz And Sabu Build
There was no other build up in the history of wrestling. Sabu and Taz always seemed to have something happen when an encounter occurred. Taz would continue to challenge Sabu, but it was never accepted. The lights would go out and an attack from behind would happen. The two eventually met at Barely Legal in 1997. That match would push the storyline into the stratosphere as Taz would knock out Sabu. However, Taz covered himself with Sabu’s body to give Sabu the win and ownership of the FTW Title. These two had amazing and dangerous matches together. Paul Heyman drew this up perfectly.
3 The Crucifixion
The Sandman never portrayed the most fatherly figure in ECW. Drinking beer upon entrance, lighting up a cigarette, then beating his head senseless with the beer can would make a lot of trailer park boys envious. However, his son would call him a bad father and stated that he worshipped Raven. Taking after Raven caused Sandman to lose it. However, one of the more shocking moments in wrestling history occurred during this storyline. Leaving the ECW audience speechless and causing Kurt Angle to disown any attempt at joining ECW, Raven would put The Sandman on a cross and tie him up. This occurred even with his son present. Blue Meanie and Steven Richards would do the tying as they carried The Sandman to the back. Paul Heyman had "no idea" that this was going to happen.
2 Blind Sandman
This storyline was a bit ridiculous, but kudos to The Sandman for selling this for a month. Back when the internet was not mainstream, storylines like this could be sold. Tommy Dreamer had thrown a lit cigarette in Sandman’s eye and then proceeded to use a kendo stick on the other side of his head. What seemed to be breaking kayfabe in the locker room really sold the story. Good guys and bad guys freaking out over the injury and Dreamer apologizing really got the story going. The icing on the cake was The Sandman refusing to be seen in public. He would not answer the door, take phone calls, or go anywhere. While one could argue that this could not be done with a full national audience, the execution worked extremely well in the area. The Sandman would return for an official retirement only to pull off the bandages and knock Dreamer over the head with his kendo stick.
1 Shane Douglas Throws Away The NWA Title
While this was more of a moment than an actual storyline, nobody knew it was coming. Only Heyman and Shane Douglas had any idea. In an attempt to change up the industry, Shane Douglas would win the NWA Heavyweight Championship and praise legends from the past. However, he would flip the switch and declared that all of those guys could “kiss his ass.” Todd Gordon would go on to announce afterwards that ECW would no longer be Eastern Championship Wrestling, but rather it would be Extreme Championship Wrestling. This was more important than Madusa tossing the WWE Women’s Title in the trash on WCW. If this moment had never happened, there would probably not have been an Attitude Era.