Former Extreme Championship Wrestling stars Bubby Ray Dudley, Devon Dudley and Tommy Dreamer were standing inside of a World Wrestling Entertainment ring together as an adoring crowd chanted “ECW! ECW!” in support of the wrestlers. This occurred in 2015, nearly 15 years after ECW was forced to close its doors for good. That is just one story that speaks to how much fans loved ECW when it was around and how fondly that company is remembered years after its demise. There has never been anything like ECW since the glory days of the company and it is likely that we will never again see anything like it.
Paul Heyman, who ran the company that was once known as Eastern Championship Wrestling until it became “extreme,” has said in interviews that ECW was a wrestling version of the “Island of Misfit Toys.” Some wrestlers went on to have great careers after receiving a break in ECW. Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko are just a few examples. These men eventually made great money and won championships while performing in World Championship Wrestling and/or the WWE. Jericho, Van Dam and Guerrero won world championships in the WWE.
Not all of the performers who worked in ECW during in the 1990s were future stars who simply needed an opportunity to work for a national company. Some were, as stated in the description that Heyman has used, misfits. Those individuals found work in ECW because they were recognized names who had performed in the WWE, WCW and/or the National Wrestling Alliance. Some, like Terry Funk, helped ECW out quite a bit. Others, however, had missable runs in ECW, so much so that you may have forgotten or never even knew that they worked for the company.
15 Luna Vachon
The feud involving Tommy Dreamer and Raven may very well be the best storyline that ECW ever had from the start of the company all the way through its final day. What that story did not need, however, was Luna Vachon getting involved in-between her stints with the WWE. Vachon was a fine women's wrestler. The company just could have gone in a different and more-interesting direction than bringing in somebody, in part, because she was a known name. Some out there may not even remember Vachon ever working for the extreme wrestling organization.
14 Rick Rude
It is understandable that ECW would have wanted to sign “Ravishing” Rick Rude in the 1990s. Rude was not just a recognized wrestler who worked in the WWE and WCW, but the man who feuded with The Ultimate Warrior over the Intercontinental Championship was also a very talented in-ring worker. Rude makes the list, however, because he was signed after injuries forced him to retire as an active full-time wrestler. Unable to be the man that he was during the prime of his career, Rude seemed like more of a fill-in than an actual big deal in ECW.
13 Jake Roberts
By the time that Jake “The Snake” Roberts made his way to ECW in 1997, life on the road and personal demons had negatively affected the master of the “DDT” finishing move. Roberts was a big name and a wrestler who fans liked to see in-person, but he was also a shell of his former self while working ECW shows. Roberts was visibly out of shape and he was unable to put on anything resembling a classic match. Wrestling fans are well aware of the steps that Roberts has taken to get his life in order. Here is hoping Roberts has won that important battle.
12 Viscera/Big Daddy V
This could be a moment of “hey, he wrestled in ECW?” for those who were casual fans of the product in the 1990s. The wrestler who went by the names of Mabel, Viscera and Big Daddy V during his stints in the WWE did make a brief stop in the land of the extreme during the '90s. It was so brief, in fact, that Viscera only worked for the ECW a single time before he eventually made his return to the WWE. While his size made him a noteworthy act in the professional wrestling business, it would be a stretch to suggest that Viscera was a great worker or a difference-maker as it pertained to business.
11 Dudley Dudley
Paul Heyman had an ability to take a guy who was just a wrestler on the roster of a company such as the WWE and turn him into something remarkable. In the WWE, the wrestler who would later be known as Dudley Dudley did not do much of note. In ECW, Dudley was, well, mostly a big guy who was in the background and who sometimes served as protection for others in the Dudley family. The Dudley Boyz were incredibly over as heels in ECW. Dudley Dudley never came close to reaching that point in ECW or in any other national company that he worked in during his career.
10 Horace Hogan
It can be a great benefit to one's career to have a famous last name. The wrestler who went by the name Horace Hogan is the real-life nephew of wrestling icon Hulk Hogan. While The Hulkster is remembered as one of the greatest overall acts and maybe the best babyface in the history of the business, Horace, we found out, had about a fraction of the more-famous Hogan's talent. Horace Hogan was given a chance to work in the WWE and he then had one match in ECW. That one match was probably enough for everybody who watched it.
9 One Man Gang
One Man Gang was a humongous wrestler during his active career. That was about the only thing that he had going for him. He had some matches where you couldn't help but wonder if he was going to pass out because of how blown up he was and that occurred even during “squashes.” You have to give credit to One Man Gang for continuously finding work and also for getting himself in better shape later on in his life following a health scare. Those points aside, ECW would have been just fine had One Man Gang never worked a single show with the company.
8 Nikolai Volkoff
That Nikolai Volkoff even worked in ECW is more of a trivia tidbit than it is a remarkable portion of the wrestler's career. Volkoff made just a handful of appearances in ECW during the twilight of his career and those who watched him work could notice that the wear and tear that comes with wrestling for decades had slowed him down. It is fitting that Volkoff worked for the company before it embraced its extreme nature. The veteran of the WWE and of other organizations likely would not have done all that well working for the harsher version of ECW.
7 Tully Blanchard
Tully Blanchard had a fascinating wrestling career. Blanchard was a member of the Four Horsemen. He won championships in multiple companies. Blanchard has, in interviews, talked about how he was a troubled person, one who lost his job with the WWE after he failed a drug test. As underrated as he was in his prime, Blanchard was not the wrestler of old when he had his one match in ECW. While Blanchard certainly did not do any harm to ECW, the truth of the matter is that the company would have still had success in the 1990s without him.
6 Justin Credible
There are some things that just don't age all that well, such as the run this man had in ECW. The former Aldo Montoya, the “Portuguese Man O' War,” went by the name Justin Credible in ECW and later in the WWE. Credible was, at the time, oddly fitting for a wrestling company that had a gimmick of pushing wrestlers who had not made it in other organizations. Being able to go back and watch that era of ECW has, however, shown that Credible was not a strength at the tops of cards. Credible probably would not have risen to the point of winning a championship in ECW during the top days of the organization.
5 Scott Hall
Anybody in the wrestling world who knew anything about Scott Hall in 2000 was aware that Hall was battling serious demons, problems that have affected him to this day. Hall was a name due to his runs in the WWE and WCW, though, and thus he received an opportunity to work in ECW in 2000. Hall was basically just a guy on the roster during his brief stint in the company. In fact, those who only followed ECW via television shows never actually watched Hall wrestle for the company live. Hall wouldn't have been worth the money for ECW, although it wouldn't be a surprise if he wasn't paid considering the financial state of the company at that time.
Sid just never looked right in ECW. He was a star and a big name with the look and size that made him stand out in a crowd. The problem was that Sid was not all that good of a wrestler, nor was he always so great when cutting promos. Watching Sid powerbomb foe after foe in hardcore matches was fun, but only for a time. It would be one thing if signing Sid made ECW more popular among fans or if he was a massive television and arena draw. Sid made no difference for ECW long-term and ECW was no different after his brief stint with the company.
ECW had a strict “no clowns allowed” policy and thus Matt Osborne went from playing Doink to a “Borne Again” character who terrorized opponents with his wrestling skills. This gimmick could have been great for the wrestler and for ECW. Sadly, though, Osborne's well-documented personal problems kept him from being what he could have been outside of the WWE. The shame here is that one can't help but wonder if Osborne would not have been better off had he never worked in the WWE in the first place and instead got a start in ECW.
2 Marty Jannetty
Marty Jannetty will forever be remembered as the “other guy” who was in “The Rockers” team that also featured “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Jannetty never had the success that was enjoyed by his former partner following the breakup of the Rockers and the talented in-ring worker made his way to ECW in 1995. Jannetty was fine inside of the ring. He was also somebody who was never going to be a big draw for a company. Some wrestlers, like Jannetty, just don't have the “it factor” that is often discussed as it pertains to a performer becoming a star.
1 Jim Neidhart
Jim Neidhart is somewhat of the black sheep of the famous Hart wrestling family. While Neidhart was a perfectly acceptable wrestler inside of the ring and on the microphone, he did not have the talent had by Bret “Hitman” Hart or by Owen Hart. Neidhart, thus, jumped from promotion to promotion in the 1990s. One of organizations was ECW. Neidhart's time in the company was brief, as he eventually found a home in the WWE. Odds are that Neidhart would not have done much in ECW had he remained with the company, as Heyman had other and better options to push at the tops of cards.