Whether you were around to watch it or not, there’s one thing every one knows about the old ECW: things were extremely likely to get violent. From fans getting involved in the action by throwing things into the ring or even bringing their own weapons for their favorite wrestlers to use, to the wrestlers themselves doing things that no sane man would ever agree to, there are a plethora of death defying moments scattered throughout the history of ECW.
It was clear from the moment that The Franchise Shane Douglas renounced the former NWA World Heavyweight Title and declared that ECW was going to be doing their own thing that the little promotion that could was going to go above and beyond to deliver a product that neither of the the two giant promotions at the time were going to be able to match. By bringing in stars such as Terry Funk, Cactus Jack, The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, The Dudley Boyz, The Gangstas, and countless more, you knew that whenever you turned the product on there was a chance that you’d see something you’d never seen before.
Looking back on the promotion now, you can see that the shelf life of a company like ECW was never going to be very long considering that whatever unbelievably dangerous stunt they pulled the week before had to get one upped to keep the blood thirsty masses satisfied. An enumerable amount of wrestlers were put into situations that easily could’ve ended their careers or worse just to keep eyes on the screen and butts in the seats. Paul Heyman should consider himself a very lucky man considering that throughout the most dangerous moments in ECW history, no one turned up dead.
The content in this article is very strong. Viewer Discretion is Advised!
20. Spike Dudley Goes Crowdsurfing
While on the surface this may seem like a rather tame moment compared to some of the others on the list, all you have to do is ask any aspiring rock star who tried to pull off a stage dive, but was left to his own devices to find out how horribly wrong it can go. On top of that, Spike wasn’t just jumping from a stage to his adoring fans, he was over the head tossed by the massive Bam Bam Bigelow into the fifth row of the rabid masses with nothing but hope protecting his body from the unforgiving concrete floor. Thankfully for Spike, the fans not only were able to catch the diminutive Dudley, but were kind enough to crowd surf him back towards his opponent.
19. Dreamer Gets Initiated
Today, we think of Tommy Dreamer as one of the most beloved stars that had ever stepped foot in ECW, someone who you couldn’t help but love and cheer for throughout his constant showings of heart and fortitude, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time before Tommy became one of the kings of hardcore where he was just another good looking cookie cutter wrestler that had nothing to make him stand out or seem special. Enter The Sandman to give this white meat character some edge. The two did battle in a Singapore Cane match where the loser would be dealt ten lashes to their bare back with The Sandman’s trademark weapon. After Dreamer lost the match, he buckled up for the beating he was about to take, ready to stand tall and deal with it like a man. Brutal whacks from the cane came one after another, but Tommy stood tall, working his way into the hearts of the ECW masses with one simple question, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”
18. Cactus Jack Concusses Sandman
With a rivalry as heated as the one between Cactus Jack and The Sandman back in 1995, there was only one way for the two to try and settle their score: a Texas Deathmatch of course! Unfortunately for The Sandman, and Cactus for that matter, there was a spot early in the match that didn’t go according to plan, leaving The Sandman out on his feet for the remaining ten minutes of the contest. Throughout the bout, there were numerous uses of weapons to try and incapacitate the other but the most brutal was without a doubt when Cactus Jack winded up with a heavy duty frying pan and connected with a lot more force than he intended. The incredibly dangerous blow left The Sandman badly concussed, so bad in fact that he had forgotten the scripted ending to the match, kicking out of what was supposed to be the finish on multiple occasions.
17. Dreamer Gets Revenge on Raven
Following Tommy Dreamer’s feud with The Sandman that was mentioned earlier, Dreamer was riding a wave of momentum as the plucky underdog babyface that all the fans could see themselves in. Tommy was feeling good as one of the most popular guys on the roster, until Raven came along that is. For months and months, Raven was hiding behind his “Nest,” mainly Stevie Richards, while laying in cheap shot after cheap shot on Dreamer, making sure that Raven left with his hand held high no matter the circumstance. Finally, at Heatwave 95, Dreamer got his hands on the elusive Raven after Luna Vachon defeated Stevie Richards in a cage match. Tommy handcuffed his foe to the steel cage in a crucifix position before unloading on his head with a steel chair with such force that the chair broke!
16. Rocco Rock’s Moonsault on New Jack
Few can argue that outside of The Dudley Boyz, there were only two tag teams that really epitomized what ECW was all about, those teams being The Gangstas and Public Enemy. These two teams were violent enough on their own, but whenever they were paired together, you were sure to get chair shots, broken tables, and plenty of brutality. What you wouldn’t expect from them would be some high flying action, but leave it to some of the most innovative extreme wrestlers to come up with something that’ll leave you speechless. During a tag team cage match, Public Enemy was looking to put away their vicious opponents by putting New Jack through not just one, but two tables stacked on top of one another. A normal splash from the top would have more than sufficed considering the size of Rocco Rock, but he took it one stop further, performing a moonsault that not only nearly killed New Jack, but himself as well.
15. The Flaming Chair
The ECW crowd played a pivotal role in making the little brand that could as exciting as it was. A big part that was the connection that the fans felt with the superstars, being up close to the action and even getting to interact with their favorite wrestlers from time to time. The downside of this situation was that the fans would find themselves in harm’s way, which was never more obvious then when a fire stunt involving Foley and Terry Funk went wrong. After The Funkster brought his trademark flaming branding iron (which we’ll get to later) to the ring, Foley took the opportunity to turn the tables on his old foe, using the iron to ignite towels that were wrapped around a steel chair. After hitting Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk with the chair, the towels came flying off the chair sending the steel burning accessory into the crowd. Luckily security on hand were quick with the fire extinguishers before any serious damage was done.
14. Bam Bam Gets Suplexed Off Stage
ECW was known for their vicious feuds where each guy wanted nothing more than to end the career of their opponent. No where was that more evident than the feud between Taz and Bam Bam Bigelow. The two did battle throughout every arena that they ever fought in, going out into the crowd, going through an entrance ramp, and going through a ring, it seemed as if these two had nothing left in the tank. Taz and Bigelow would do battle again at the Living Dangerously event in 1998 where they pulled off a stunt that neither man should’ve been able to walk away from. After starting the match with some traditional wrestling ,it didn’t take too long for the bitter enemies to take the fight to the outside, ending up on the entrance ramp where Taz looked to put Bam Bam away for good. The Human Suplex Machine lived up to his name, grabbing Bigelow in a T-Bone suplex, throwing himself and his opponent clear off the ramp landing on a guard rail before falling down to the unforgiving concrete floor.
13. The Dudleyz Get The Flaming Table
There’s nothing that can fascinate a crowd more than flames, which is clearly something ECW learned early on. While The Dudley Boyz were one of the most dominant tag teams that the brand had ever seen, they were looking for something more than just their standard table to punish their opponents. Enter the fire. When whatever feud the Dudleyz found themselves involved in got a little more intense than the usual affairs, the brothers from Dudleyville went to the most extreme measure possible to try and make sure they were the only ones left standing. A multitude of ECW wrestlers fell victim to this death defying spot but the most commonly remembered recipient was certainly little Spike Dudley. Not only would he be put through the table that was on fire, but he was powerbombed through it off the ring apron down to the concrete floor below.
12. Avalanche of Chairs
One of the most infamous moments in ECW history was just one bad bounce away from becoming a tragedy. On this fateful night in 1995, there was a dream match of sorts as two legends of the extreme genre were scheduled to go toe to toe when Cactus Jack took on Terry Funk. Shortly after the contest got underway, Funk’s rivals at the time, Public Enemy, charged the ring bringing the match to a disappointingly early conclusion. Not one to be left out of the spotlight, Cactus Jack tried to help help his old friend fend off the dastardly duo, which is when Funk motioned to a fan to let Terry “borrow” his chair to use as a weapon. Instead of getting one chair, however, Terry received hundreds of chairs being thrown into the ring from all over the arena completely burying Public Enemy under a mountain of steel in one of the most dangerous spots of all time.
11. Chokeslam Off Stage
For a while in the mid to late 90s, there wasn’t a single person in any of the major companies as hated as Bill Alfonso. The former crooked ref turned crooked manager who always blasted on his unbelievably annoying whistle at ringside is getting me upset just thinking about him now. As much as all the fans hated Fonsy, there was someone on the ECW roster who might have been more upset with him than anyone watching. For months upon months, 911 was doing anything he could to try and get his hands on Alfonso and shut him up for good, but the slippery referee always managed to weasel away. Finally Bill had nowhere to run when 911 had him trapped with Joey Styles up near the ceiling in the announce booth. 911 did what 911 does, and chokeslammed the helpless Alfonso off the edge of the broadcast area down to the floor.
10. Mike Awesome Tries To Murder Spike Dudley
In one corner, you have the reigning ECW World Heavyweight Champion, the man who looked like someone made in a laboratory in an attempt to create a professional wrestler, and in the other corner there is…little Spike Dudley. Everyone knew going into the match exactly what it was shaping up to be, a spotlight for Dudley to show off his heart and determination while taking a brutal beating from the huge Mike Awesome and that’s exactly what we got. Throughout the course of the match, Spike was thrown over the top rope through a table multiple times, was put through a stack of two tables set up on the outside, and in the most crushing spot of the contest, Awesomebombed from off the top rope through a table in the ring. Poor Spike never had a chance.
9. One Night Stand Gets Extreme
After the land of extreme closed their doors and with ECW officially under the large umbrella of WWE, many fans expected there to never be another true ECW show, let alone another death defying spot again, but after thunderous fan support following the release of ‘The Rise and Fall of ECW’ WWE officials decided to bring the brand back for a special event. After ECW One Night Stand was widely regarded as a great success, WWE went to the well one more time in 2006 and made sure to pull out all the stops. The amount of barbed wire used during the six person tag match involving Edge, Lita, and Mick Foley going against Tommy Dreamer, Beulah, and Terry Funk rivals anything that the original ECW ever put on. There was plain barbed wire that Foley wrapped around his hands to try and gouge Funk’s eye out with, there was a board covered with barbed wire that all the men in the match with were either hit with or slammed on at some point, and there was a 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire as the icing on the cake.
8. Funk And His Flaming Branding Iron
Haven’t quite had your fill of fire on this list? Don’t worry we got one more to go through! Leave it to the pure cowboy that is Terry Funk to incorporate something as wild and barbaric as a branding iron into a wrestling match, and leave it to someone as crazy as Cactus Jack to be on the receiving end. There are no two wrestlers that can match the hardcore history that these two men have established and it’s stunts like this that make them live on forever and ever…and ever. At the conclusion of one of their standard death matches, with trash covering the ring and weapons scattered all about, The Sandman came out to attack Cactus Jack with his trusty Singapore Cane giving Terry Funk enough time to go backstage and retrieve the flaming branding iron. As soon as he entered the ring, Funk blew a fireball straight into Cactus’ face before going on to try and burn Jack over and over again.
7. New Jack’s Stage Dives
Crazy, unpredictable, willing to put himself in harm’s way, and downright suicidal, New Jack is truly a walking definition of Extreme Championship Wrestling. One of the most dangerous men to ever step foot into a squared circle had no regard for, not only his opponent’s well being, but even his own which led to him being one of the most popular superstars the promotion had ever seen. While there were multiple incidents involving the insane superstar, it’s his infamous stage dives that really set him apart in the land of the extreme. New Jack took it upon himself time and time again to climb up to the highest possible vantage point in the building before launching himself down onto his unfortunate opponent no matter what was underneath them.
6. Everything Awesome Did to Tanaka
Back in the hey day of ECW, you’d be hard pressed to find a more stiff feud than Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka. With Tanaka obviously being from Japan, the pair weren’t afraid to play strong style and do their damnedest to knock a tooth out of the other. Their styles didn’t change over the years either, which the two made very apparent during their contest at ECW One Night Stand in 2005. Nearly right after the bell rang, Awesome threw himself over the top rope down at Tanaka on the outside, leading to Masato making a comeback by hitting Mike with a nasty running chair shot. The deadliest stunts were still to come though, with one of the nastiest looking Awesome Bombs the ECW faithful had ever seen when Mike Awesome powerbombed Tanaka from the inside of the ring to the outside to the concrete floor, with a table in the middle to help break his fall.
5. The Mass Transit Incident
When Axl Rotten didn’t show up to an ECW house show back in 1996, Eric Kulas took it upon himself to step up and join a tag match Rotten was supposed to take part in against The Gangstas. For those unfamiliar with their old school ECW tag teams, there’s really only one half of The Gangstas that you need to know and that man is New Jack. As previously stated, Jack is far from the sanest person that’s ever laced up a pair of boots but on this fateful night, he took things about a mile too far and kept on going. Kulas was only in the ring after lying about his age (stating he was 19 despite being 17) and his experience, which didn’t help shrink the giant target on his head he already had after replacing Rotten. New Jack took it upon himself to introduce the kid to the business by beating him with a crutch, a toaster, and even a knife gashing the youngster across the forehead. The kid known as Mass Transit needed medical help, as he received 50 stitches to repair the damage from that brutal night.
4. Stairway To Hell
While the concept of having a weapon above the ring for two combatants to fight over isn’t all that exciting these days, think of Kevin Nash vs. Triple H’s sledgehammer match, ECW did it like they did all things, to the extreme. In 1998, The Sandman took on Sabu with the goal of being the first man to climb a ladder and grab a spool of barbed wire that was hanging above the ring. While there were a few nasty spots in the beginning, the truly scary moments come after the barbed wire was retrieved, with the worst of them all not even involving the main weapon. Of course, you had your barbed wire shots to the head and singapore cane shots to the face, but the most dangerous moment came when Sabu attempted to launch himself to the outside onto The Sandman only to legitimately break his jaw on the guard rail! Not one to let a little thing like that slow him down, Sabu had his manager Bill Alfonso grab some tape and wrap around his jaw in an attempt to prevent further damage. No one accused Sabu of being the sanest man on the planet.
3. Taipei Death Match
Tired of watching two guys trading plain old boring punches in the middle of the ring? Then the Taipei Death Match is right up your alley! Not only is it two guys just beating the snot out of each other, but they dip their hands in glue and attach pieces of broken glass to their hands to give them that extra bit of brutality. Naturally, throughout the bout, pieces would fly off of the competitors, ending up either on the ground or, even worse, sent out into the crowd. Another bonus of this match type is that when you get bored of punching someone using broken glass, you can grab one of the pieces that’s attached to you and use it to gash open your opponent’s head!
2. Barbed Wire Match
It’s nearly impossible to imagine a wrestling match without the ropes, as what would the guys bounce off of or climb in order to deliver punishment to their opponents? ECW, being the innovators that they were, decided to try and answer that question by replacing the aforementioned standard ropes with barbed wire, leading to disastrous results. When Terry Funk met Sabu inside the demonic variation of a wrestling ring, both men came extremely close to not just never wrestling again, but perhaps never being able to walk again. The most grotesque moment was without a doubt when Sabu tore his bicep open after getting caught in the wire, but let’s not forget the end of the match where Terry Funk legitimately thought he was going to be blinded by the barbs while he laid trapped waiting for someone with bolt cutters to set him free from the tangled mess of wire.
1. Scaffold Match
In what should be a surprise to no one, the most death defying moment in ECW history came in one of the most dangerous match types the industry has ever seen. Considering that the match can only end when you shove your opponent off of a platform the two of you have been fighting on down to the ring 20-30 feet below, it’s a guarantee that something won’t go according to plan. There’s one glaring example that proves the point perfectly, when New Jack (surprise surprise!) took on Vic Grimes in a grudge match. Well, you know what, let the GIF above explain the carnage to you.
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