The difference between the WWE and ECW was drastic. WWE had been the powerhouse of sports entertainment and pro wrestling for decades. ECW came out of nowhere in the mid-90s and created an alternative product to satisfy fans sick of WWE and WCW. The promotion featured different styles of wrestling. There was violence with Sandman, Tommy Dreamer and New Jack swinging weapons every night. Technical wrestling was highlighted with Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho getting their first breaks in America. Most importantly, the wrestling was unique. You had to watch ECW to see a talent like Rob Van Dam or Sabu leave you in awe.
ECW used the landscape of wrestling and society to captivate an audience. The talent consisted mostly of former failed WWE/WCW stars. Paul Heyman would find wrestlers the two big companies didn’t use to the best of their potential and put the spotlight on them. Heyman tapped into their personalities to find the most ideal characters that the talent could realistically portray and fans would care about. On the other side, WWE would sign ECW stars after they progressed and made their name in South Philadelphia. The companies had a working relationship but if WWE saw a talent they could make money with, they didn’t hesitate to sign them away from ECW.
Most of the wrestlers to compete for WWE and ECW succeeded in one more than the other with the successful stint usually taking place in ECW. A bigger fish will always appear more appealing in a smaller pond. A small group of wrestlers were able to succeed in both promotions but even less wrestlers failed in both. It’s hard to define failure in pro wrestling but in this instance it will be wrestlers that were unable to live up to their potential, couldn’t move up the card when relied upon or just flat out sucked. We are examining the top fifteen wrestlers to fail in both WWE and ECW.
14 Tony Mamaluke
Tony Mamaluke was a member of the Full Blooded Italians and delivered decent matches in tag team work with Little Guido. The problem is Mamaluke was an afterthought and deemed more of a sidekick than a great wrestler. Fans remember Guido’s wrestling and Sal E. Graziano’s antics more than anything Mamaluke did. In WWE’s version of ECW, Mamaluke was brought in to team with Guido once again but the act fell apart in quick fashion. Once the new ECW was launched, Mamaluke and Guido were rarely used and WWE released Mamaluke less than a year after hiring him.
Fans remember Jazz’s time in both WWE and ECW more fondly than it actually was. She barely did anything of note in ECW despite gaining a reputation over the years for her start in the company. Jazz feuded with comedic goof Jason and was inconsistently used on television after it ended. In WWE, she achieved more success as a multiple time Women’s Champion in her three year run. Jazz had a good few months when feuding with Trish Stratus but quickly fell lower in the pecking order behind Molly Holly and Victoria as the top female heel in the company.
12 C.W. Anderson
Many ECW fans would argue that C.W. Anderson had a good run in the promotion but they would also be hard pressed to name a memorable match of his aside from the ones with Tommy Dreamer. Anderson was one of the wrestlers ECW tried to push late in its dying days after WWE and WCW signed the company’s top stars to bigger contracts. While Anderson had a great feud with Dreamer, he didn’t evolve into the credible main event act he was put in the position to become. WWE signed Anderson to add to the roster of their ECW brand in 2006. The company didn’t see anything special in him as he only made one appearance on television – a loss to new star CM Punk.
11 Marty Jannetty
The story of Marty Jannetty is pretty depressing. As a part of The Rockers with Shawn Michaels, both men were rising stars. The team would famously break up with the hopes of pushing Michaels as a future main eventer. Jannetty was also supposed to continue with a good role in WWE, but his personal issues ruined it. Though he was given multiple opportunities, Jannetty failed due to his issues with substances. ECW tried to utilize Jannetty in 1995, but he failed to impress during his short stint with the company. Jannetty left ECW for one of his multiple failed “second chances” with WWE.
10 Louie Spicolli
After a successful run in Mexico under the name “Madonna’s Boyfriend,” Louie Spicolli was signed by WWE. Spicolli had promise but could not fulfill his potential in WWE. With the name Rad Radford, he did very little on WWE television aside from a feud with The Bodydonnas that led to nothing, before WWE would release him after he had issues with drug abuse. Spicolli had another chance in ECW as he was brought in to feud with Tommy Dreamer. The two would deliver some entertaining work together but his time in ECW quickly ended after Paul Heyman found out Spicolli was negotiating with WWE and WCW behind his back.
9 The Harris Brothers
Ron and Don Harris were known most for their intimidating look, as a pair of twin brothers that you would never want to meet in a dark alley. They got their first break in ECW as The Bruise Brothers but could not stand out as a top team for the company. Then, WWE would sign the duo for two runs. As The Blu Brothers, they had a forgettable time despite opening WrestleMania XI against Lex Luger and Davey Boy Smith. Their most memorable stint was being part of The Disciples of Apocalypse faction. Sadly, that didn't last long and can't be considered a huge success.
9. Simon Dean
The Blue World Order will always be remembered for the fun times and great moments it provided in ECW. While Blue Meanie and Stevie Richards were the stars of the group, Nova gave a humorous impression of “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan. Unfortunately, that was where the rise ended for Nova. ECW tried pushing him as a singles star in the last years of the company when looking to build new faces. Nova wasn’t terrible but he definitely didn’t show anything to be more than an opening match performer. In WWE, he was repackaged as Simon Dean and the gimmick failed. The matches and promos were some of the worst work WWE did during the mid-2000s.
8 Mr. Hughes
Mr. Hughes is one of the least talented wrestlers to have runs in both WWE and ECW. Coming into WWE with heel manager Harvey Wippleman, Mr. Hughes entered a feud with The Undertaker. Considering The Undertaker’s success in WWE, you’d have assumed this was good for the career of Hughes. Wrong. He lost every match between the two and was released from the WWE just a couple of months later. Hughes would have future failed stints in the WWE as the bodyguard of Triple H and Chris Jericho in the late 90s. His work in ECW may have been even worse as a henchman for Shane Douglas. Hughes just couldn’t deliver in the ring, on the microphone, or in any other way when it came to wrestling.
7 One Man Gang
One Man Gang perfectly summed up the ideal late 80s WWE villain. He was a beast of a man that served as a monster heel but was extremely limited and slow in the ring. It’s hard to watch some of these matches back but One Man Gang worked with Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and many other top stars during his run. The problem came when he was changed to Akeem and given a borderline racist gimmick. His career took a downturn there and never rebounded. ECW tried to get some value out of the former WWE star in 1998 but quickly learned how limited he was. One Man Gang was gone faster than you can say Akeem.
6 “Dr. Death” Steve Williams
With a successful past in amateur wrestling and college football, Steve Williams entered professional wrestling with a world of potential. Williams actually had an undefeated streak last ten years through various wrestling promotions before losing to Raven in ECW. Despite his talent and reputation, Williams did not stand out during his short time in ECW. WWE signed Dr. Death in 1998 with the intent to push him as a main event star. The rumors were that the Brawl for All event was created to have Williams destroy members of the roster in a shoot environment before moving on to feud with Steve Austin for the WWE Championship. Williams surprisingly lost in the competition via a knockout and was never used as a credible performer again.
5 Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon
The tag team of Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon traveled the world together before coming to work for WWE and ECW in the late 90s. The duo debuted for WWE at Survivor Series 1996 in impressive fashion as they defeated highly respected stars Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith to score the victory for their team. Sadly that turned out to be the peak of their time in WWE. Furnas and Lafon didn’t have much charisma, which was their downfall. WWE sent them back to ECW to work as part of an invaders storyline. They were unable to achieve success in either company and proved to be a poor fit for the new Attitude Era style of wrestling.
4 Brian Lee
Brian Lee looked like the ideal wrestler for the early 90s. He was tall, in great shape, had long flowing hair and just looked like he would kick your ass. After a successful run in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, WWE hired Lee to play the impostor version of The Undertaker. Managed by Ted DiBiase, he faced the real Undertaker at SummerSlam 1994 in one of the worst matches in WWE history. Years later, Lee would have another poor run with WWE as a member of the failed Disciples of Apocalypse faction. In between his two WWE tenures, Lee was in ECW and pushed in a very violent feud with Tommy Dreamer. Paul Heyman tried to get the most of Lee’s potential but he just was another average brawler and nowhere the upper card with ECW.
J.C. Ice and Wolfie D formed the tag team of PG-13 as a duo of white rappers, a thing that wasn’t as common in the early 90s as it is now. They debuted in WWE as members of The Nation of Domination faction and would rap the entrance song as the group walked to the ring. Then WWE decided they had no use for PG-13 as actual wrestlers and wanted to change the Nation’s presentation, so they were exiled. The team got a shot in ECW to wrestle and would get some heel heat as the crowd despised them. Despite getting a reaction from the fans, PG-13 couldn’t compete at the level of the successful stars of the time and were quickly let go.
The career of Gangrel was actually quite interesting, as he did achieve some notoriety during in the Attitude Era as a midcarder. As a member of The Brood along with Edge and Christian, Gangrel did not have the talent or potential his partners possessed and was left behind. Edge and Christian were pushed as a successful tag team and Gangrel was one of the lower level members of The Ministry before getting released. Very few wrestling fans are aware of this, but Gangrel actually spent time in ECW before getting a WWE deal. Gangrel feuded with Tommy Dreamer because of Dreamer’s on-air association with his wife Luna Vachon. ECW wasn’t impressed enough with his work to sign him and he was a free agent for a few more years before WWE signed him.
Here’s a history lesson for one of the biggest flops in wrestling history. Brakkus entered the pro wrestling world because Vince McMahon loved his look and background. As a German bodybuilder and fitness standout, Brakkus was signed to be a future star despite his lack of wrestling talent. He was trained in a WWE program for top prospects along with The Rock and Mark Henry but obviously failed to understand the business like the other two. Brakkus could not get into wrestling match shape and failed to ever make an impact in WWE. They actually sent him to ECW as part of a working relationship to get him more experience but he was terrible there as well. While he was employed by WWE the entire time, Brakkus is the best example of a wrestler failing in both WWE and ECW.