The NWA World Heavyweight Championship is a title rooted in history. Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, and Ric Flair. These are just some of the legendary wrestlers who have worn the strap with pride and purpose.
On August 27th, 1994, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship would suffer its greatest shaming at the hands of Shane Douglas; who was crowned champion while competing for Eastern Championship Wrestling.
That night in Philadelphia, a new breed of wrestling was born as Shane Douglas would toss the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to the mat in a bold and unapologetic statement; introducing Extreme Championship Wrestling in the process.
This was the beginning, as the Wicked were set to wreak havoc upon the wrestling world. In ECW, every tradition associated with the industry was placed aside in favor of this new form of Freak Show.
Paul Heyman – the Mad Carny – attracted locals to his sideshow tent; a grungy-looking building located in South Philadelphia and dubbed the ECW Arena. There, the hardcore circus of ECW would live and breathe as its own independent wrestling entity.
While WWE and WCW were going to battle each and every Monday night in a Ratings War, ECW was reinventing the business. And in many ways, influencing both major brand with their incendiary style of wrestling.
Perhaps unknown to many but ECW has contributed much to the direction of the industry. The Copy-Cat-Effect was evident to those who knew and loved The Lands of Lunatics and for this, ECW must receive its just recognition.
Many of your favourite wrestling stars may have never found the spotlight elsewhere had they not spent time in the dimly-lit ECW Arena. The kind of place where a man can find his true inner monster.
These are the top 15 ways you didn’t realize ECW influenced wrestling:
Prior to the aforementioned Shane Douglas incident, the National Wrestling Alliance had fallen on hard times. The promotion was in dire need of a rejuvenation as the territorial system had completely broken down.
While not necessarily a positive influence on the wrestling industry, ECW would effectively kill any remaining prestige and honor left within the NWA. And while the promotion remains in existence, its impact on wrestling is nonexistent.
14. Appearance of Venue
Many opponents of ECW would call the ECW Arena – with lack of affection – nothing more than a Bingo Hall. While the Philadelphia-based arena was certainly not a Madison Square Garden Beauty Queen, it was loaded with character.
The low-budget value look of ECW was a result of circumstance. While these venues have existed prior to ECW, the promotion would serve as the prime example of making something work within your means.
13. Three-Way Dance
The Triple Threat match has become a common concept in WWE. In fact, the match has even been used as the headlining bout at WrestleMania. However, this concept was truly enforced during the days of ECW.
Known as the Three-Way Dance in ECW, the promotion would help make this style of match matter in the grand scheme of wrestling bouts. Specifically, a legendary match which featured Terry Funk, Shane Douglas, and Sabu.
12. Lucha Libre Style
There are many who would attribute the introduction of the Luchador to the North American audience to WCW; and to an extent this is true. WCW helped display this style of wrestling on a wider scale.
However, it was in ECW where wrestlers such as Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, and Psicosis were first introduced on a much smaller scale. While WCW may have launched this style into the mainstream, it built its North American foundation in ECW.
11. Hardcore Style
The Hardcore style of wrestling is now practiced everywhere. Our savage culture and thirst for blood have made this style a mainstay within the wrestling community. While no longer practiced in WWE, hardcore wrestling was once a major part of the show.
The WWE would even go as far as introducing the Hardcore Championship; an old WWE Championship mangled into a mess of a belt. This Hardcore element would have never become so popular had it not been for ECW.
10. Religion and Race
Down in ECW, The Sandman was being crucified while a faction known as The Gangstas were bringing race to the forefront of storylines. These angles were never seen in the cookie-cutter world of WWE.
However, as the WWE began to incorporate more of an edge into their product, along came The Nation of Domination; a racially-charged faction. As well as The Ministry of Darkness who practiced the act of sacrifice.
9. Hope for Independent Promotions
In WWE, there is seemingly a motion to rid the wrestling world of independent promotions as NXT is essentially an Indy Brand with million-dollar production value. The attraction is fierce.
What ECW did for independent wrestling was inspire any future upstart promotions. ECW proved that wrestling companies did not need a Vince McMahon or Ted Turner-type figure. They simply needed passion.
8. Appearance of Performer
Going back to the 1980s and the rise of professional wrestling, appearance has been king. While Ric Flair traveled the country as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Hulk Hogan represented WWE as their top performer and possessor of the belt.
Picture a guy like Raven or The Sandman representing either company during this time. Such a thought would disgust a Wrestling Purist. However, these were the men placed at the front gates of ECW, as the appearance of a performer had drastically changed.
7. No More Cartoons
The cartoon-like days of WWE and WCW were clearly passed their limits when ECW came around. Such characters were not welcomed in ECW as a sense of realism was provided with the promotion.
As a result, the Big Two would follow suit. Eric Bischoff would introduce the likes of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as themselves, making way for an entirely new, realistic direction. While WWE would no other alternative but to drop the cartoon characters.
6. Dark Age
The formula for professional wrestling has always been simple: Good Guy vs. Bad Guy. And of course, in time, the Good Guy would prevail. However, ECW was determined to change this dated concept.
While the Good Guy did exist in ECW, even he would face inner demons. The light had left the room and it was time for the Dark Age of professional wrestling. ECW eliminated the traditional format and moved into a more shady and slanderous side of competition.
5. Popular Culture
The 1990s were a decade of decadence and despair. The music scene had changed from the Hair Metal sound of the 1980s to the gloomy Seattle sound which became known as Grunge. The youth no longer craved the sunshine, cloudy days were now the norm.
Paul Heyman was tuned into this movement as the Grunge lifestyle was heavily incorporated in the ECW product. Sure, WWE may have used cross-promoted with MTV in the ’80s but that was cheesy. ECW made pop culture crossovers cool and acceptable.
4. Monday Night War
According to Paul Heyman: “ECW was the first victim of the Monday Night War.” Which is completely true. WWE and WCW were raiding the promotion and flashing around some big money to lure talent away.
While not on the battle field during the Monday Night War, ECW definitely played its role in the weekly battles between the two major promotions through talents “jumping ship” and the “borrowing” of its innovative concepts.
3. Attitude Era
Reaming with the subject of “borrowing” concepts. WWE concepts were often a complete copy of ECW. To the credit of Eric Bischoff, the boss of WCW did not take as much from ECW as Vince McMahon.
ECW was Attitude before the WWE had ever dreamed of switching the system. During this time, WWE would introduce its beloved Attitude Era, a period which may have never existed if not for the influence of ECW.
2. Mick Foley
Mick Foley has stated that his time in ECW was “therapeutic.” When Foley left the promotion it was akin to jumping off a therapist’s couch. And that’s what ECW was all about; a place for the misfit to vent his frustrations.
Mick Foley would then make his way to WWE where, while working as Mankind, he would find the greatest success of his career. However, one must wonder: where would wrestling be if Mick Foley hadn’t gone to ECW? (Perhaps no Hell in a Cell spot?).
1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Your favourite wrestler may have never become your favorite wrestler if not for ECW. Before taking on the “Stone Cold” aspect of his name, Steve Austin was creating a never-before-seen character in ECW.
He came over to WWE and Steve Austin became The Ringmaster. Allow that character to die and give birth to “Stone Cold.” Now, all of the sudden, the biggest and baddest star in WWE history is on you television screen flipping you the bird.
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