ECW's history is romanticized for the impact it had on the industry. Paul Heyman’s vision and intelligence pushed the business into the next wave of entertainment and it led to WWE changing their business with the birth of The Attitude Era. You have to wonder if things would have turned out differently if ECW never existed. The company was wise and effective in showcasing new stars with a smaller budget than their competition. One of the intelligent mindsets Heyman showed was keeping his title picture simple but credible. The promotion only featured three titles with the ECW World Championship, ECW Television Championship and ECW Tag Team Championship.
The majority wrestlers to wear gold in ECW were credible and popular stars. That’s the key to a title becoming relevant – treating it with respect. Taz’s FTW Championship wasn’t an ECW Title as much as it was part of Taz’s gimmick, but even that held more prestige than some of WWE or WCW’s belts. Unfortunately, not even Heyman could have a perfect percentage and made some poor choices with champions that either couldn’t live up to expectations or just weren’t very good. This list is going to expand and look at the worst talents to hold titles in ECW.
Things get tricky when discussing the letters ECW. The list is only going to look at wrestlers that were champs under the Extreme Championship Wrestling banner. The company changed from Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1994 and never looked back. We’re also including the WWE portion when Vince McMahon decided to bring back the ECW brand because it was originally intended to follow the same legacy under the same name. WWE’s version of ECW was met with great controversy and criticism and you’re definitely going to see why. While the legacy of Extreme Championship Wrestling will live forever, we wish some of these title reigns didn’t as we look at the top fifteen worst ECW champions of all time.
15 Jack Swagger
The first selection features a champion from WWE’s version of ECW. Jack Swagger was one of the young prospects to be showcased as an ECW brand main eventer, with the hopes of being developed for a bigger run on Raw or SmackDown. Swagger worked with Matt Hardy and Christian in decent matches but you could tell how limited his ceiling was as a performer. The amateur wrestling star could perform competently in the ring but he wasn’t anything special and his promo skills were atrocious. Swagger lacked a presence that stood out as someone you need to watch and that was highlighted with a lackluster ECW Championship reign.
14 Tommy Dreamer
Sorry to burst your bubble, old school ECW fans. Tommy Dreamer personified hard work and passion but he wasn’t a very good wrestler. The magic of Dreamer came from being a product of ECW’s system that featured violence and weapons. While his ability to get the fans to love him was indeed a strong skill, Dreamer didn’t perform at the level of guys like Rob Van Dam, Jerry Lynn or Sabu. Dreamer has admitted he never wanted to hold the ECW Championship because he thought it was better suited with other guys and he was popular enough without it. The hopes were broken twice as Dreamer had short and uneventful reigns with the ECW World Championship in both incarnations of the company.
The Gangstas are rightfully recognized as one of the most successful tag teams in ECW history but that had more to do with the popularity of New Jack. Say what you want about his unpredictable and violent personality, but New Jack was an absolute star at his peak. His tag team champion partner Mustafa Saeed was lucky to be along for the ride. Mustafa was a giant monster of a man that you would not want to meet in a dark alley but for all his muscles, he lacked the ability to connect with a wrestling crowd. Fans bought into New Jack’s matches and overall attitude, so they accepted Mustafa by proxy but Mustafa wasn’t a title worthy performer.
12 Kid Kash
ECW had the reputation of finding diamonds in the rough and maximizing their potential. Kid Kash was always pretty good but he appeared to be a superstar in ECW thanks to Paul Heyman’s booking. Only in ECW could a guy essentially cosplaying as Kid Rock become one of the hotter talents to watch. Kash won the ECW Television Championship due to his rising popularity and had the second to last reign in company history before Rhyno defeated him. Kash's career following the death of ECW was a combination of mediocrity in TNA and WWE showing how pivotal Heyman was to making him look better than he was.
11 Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley's potential was unlimited but he failed to ever scratch the surface of what he could achieve in pro wrestling. WWE envisioned him following the steps of John Cena and Batista as the prototypical superstar that could become a face of the company. Lashley’s introduction to WWE fans was his ECW run with an ECW Championship win over Big Show in the Elimination Chamber at the infamous December to Dismember PPV. Rumors surfaced that Paul Heyman fought for CM Punk to win the title but Vince McMahon was adamant it should be Lashley. McMahon’s choice would go on to be a forgettable champion and have a bore of a title reign.
10 Danny Doring
The dying days of ECW saw a downgrade in talent and it led to various lackluster wrestlers holding titles. Many of the stars to be prominently featured in 2000-2001 would have never sniffed any title picture in ECW during the golden years of 1997-1998 before WWE and WCW raided their top stars. Danny Doring and Roadkill would become one of the fixtures in the tag team division and win gold together. Roadkill was an impressive high-flying big man with a humorous gimmick but Doring was rather bland and less pivotal to their success. Nothing about Doring was particularly bad but everything about him screamed mediocrity.
9 Pitbull #2
Most successful tag teams feature one wrestler that is clearly better than his partner and is meant to eventually move on to bigger things. The Pitbulls were the first star tag team attraction in the ECW change to “Extreme” and worked perfectly together but neither man showed the special skills suited to become a singles superstar. That didn’t stop ECW from giving them chances in singles work and Pitbull #2 ended up having a reign with the Television Championship. Pitbull #2 was one of the least interesting names to hold a championship in the history books when you look at Paul Heyman’s tenure as a booker.
8 Tracy Smothers
The Full Blooded Italians were a highly entertaining act in ECW with a couple of different incarnations of the faction. The tag team of Little Guido and Tracy Smothers went on to win the tag team titles in 1997. Guido was the most talented member of the F.B.I> when it came to the in-ring work. Unfortunately, Smothers wasn’t as effective at putting together memorable matches or a great body of work in ECW. Smothers was mostly known for his silly dancing and played more of a comedic role. It was fine at the time because he was a veteran and the humor provided some fun but looking back, Smothers is one of the worst title holders in ECW history.
7 Shane Douglas
Paul Heyman had the ability to make lackluster wrestlers that failed in WWE or WCW more confident and highlight them in a bigger role. Shane Douglas was the greatest example of the ECW rebranding. Before becoming “The Franchise,” Douglas failed in both WWE and WCW, saying bigger names held him down. Heyman used that to have Douglas cut “shoot promos” trashing Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and others for their past drama and the ECW fans ate it up, which led to four world title reigns. While Douglas was compelling at times, he was nowhere near the best wrestlers in the companies but somehow held the title for a total 874 days collectively. Douglas’ matches are a chore to look back at and every promo he cut was exactly the same.
6 Chavo Guerrero
The true that sign WWE's ECW experiment was failing was Chavo Guerrero becoming world champion. WWE always viewed Chavo as a midcard act at best and he was rarely featured in a relevant role. Bobby Lashley, CM Punk and Jack Swagger were all ECW World Champions because the company had high hopes for their futures. Christian, Kane and Matt Hardy were ECW World Champions due to their name value. Chavo's run was flat out WWE showing they had no interest in building the credibility of the title back up. Chavo would lose the title to Kane at WrestleMania XXIV in eleven seconds, showing just how irrelevant his title run was.
The Eliminators became an instant hit in the ECW tag team division due to their hard hitting style and intense personas. Perry Saturn and John Kronus could possibly go down as the best tag team in company history depending on how you feel about The Dudleys but Kronus was significantly less talented than Saturn. Most remember Saturn for his success as a singles performer in the midcard for WCW and WWE but Kronus’ career went downhill after the split. Saturn leaving exposed Kronus as a below average wrestler and while ECW gave him another tag title reign with New Jack, he just wasn’t good enough to get over and is one of the promotion’s worst champions.
4 The Sandman
There’s no argument that The Sandman represented the time with his unapologetic love of drinking, swearing and kicking ass. ECW would make Sandman one of the cornerstones of the company and he was a five-time World Champion. If you’ve watched any Sandman match, you know what the problem with this was. Sandman was one of the worst in-ring competitors in the history of wrestling to achieve a sustained success due to the character work and Heyman’s genius. Considering how many future stars and underrated talent thrived in ECW, it’s nearly impossible to believe the guy that couldn’t pull off most basic moves was given the most World Championship reigns.
3 Vince McMahon
The most embarrassing moment in the return of the ECW brand was Vince McMahon winning the World Championship and wearing the old ECW title design. McMahon was forced to shave his head after Bobby Lashley’s Wrestlemania 23 victory over Umaga in the Battle of the Billionaires with Donald Trump involved. McMahon got his revenge by defeating Lashley for the ECW title in a moment that sickens any longtime fans of the promotion. Various wrestlers like Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer have revealed in interviews how depressing of a moment it was when McMahon wore the once extreme title. The popular belief is McMahon went this route specifically to rub it in the faces of former ECW talent and fans that he owns everything in the wrestling industry.
Around the time ECW was made the change to Extreme Championship Wrestling, Jason was the ECW Television Championship and gets this spot by default. Jason is often remembered as the heel manager of The Impact Players, along with Dawn Marie. The faction was perfect together in 1999 but Jason actually wrestled in the early 90s and had his reign with the TV title in 1994. Jason is by far the least talented performer to ever hold a championship under the Extreme Championship Wrestling name of Paul Heyman’s era. Obviously, the company realized he wasn’t very good and had him lose to the superior 2 Cold Scorpio quickly after, but the record books show his name and it always glaringly stands out negatively.
1 Ezekiel Jackson
The worst champion of all time is the final man to ever hold the ECW Championship. Once WWE realized the ECW brand wasn’t creating stars and any chance of using the former name value was long gone, they decided to ditch the concept. The final show featured Ezekiel Jackson defeating Christian to get the rub of being the last ECW Champion in history. The idea was fine in theory but Jackson was an absolute scrub that predictably flopped with every opportunity given to him. It was another case of a failing muscular stiff that WWE desperately wanted to become a star but couldn’t cut the mustard. The legacy of the ECW Championship ending with the abysmal Ezekiel Jackson makes him the worst champion under the ECW name.