In 1992, a man by the name of Tod Gordon founded a wrestling promotion known as Eastern Championship Wrestling. The new company was a proud member of the National Wrestling Alliance – at least for the time being.
That was until another man would come along with a different vision – a new way of looking at professional wrestling – an extreme view point unlike anything the wrestling world had ever seen before. That man was of course, the one and only, Paul Heyman.
Heyman saw something beyond the traditional sense of wrestling and soon Eastern Championship Wrestling would become Extreme Championship Wrestling – breaking away from the National Wrestling Alliance in the most controversial of manners (more on that to follow).
However, the mad man behind the new promotion would provide fans with what became the sub-culture of the wrestling industry. ECW was the strange kid in the high school cafeteria – aloof and alone and away from the popular crowd.
Of course the nineties will always be remembered for the Monday Night War which took place between WWE and WCW but under Interstate-95 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a building dubbed the ECW Arena, a little company was making a lot of noise.
This noise faded in 2001 when ECW filed for bankruptcy and was subsequently purchased by Vince McMahon – not long before his purchase of WCW – thus ensuring McMahon the wrestling trinity of America.
In 2005, WWE produced an ECW Pay-Per-View known as One Night Stand. The affair between WWE and ECW would prove successful and a second one-night rendez-vous was produced the following year – this time along with a relaunched version of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
The new ECW began with a lot of steam and was supposed to be an alternative to WWE programming such as Raw and SmackDown. However, the brand would soon be designated as nothing more than the third-string show.
The eventual departure of Paul Heyman and the lack of extreme wrestling – the entire point of ECW – made the show feel weak and weary compared to the original days of the promotion. It wasn’t long before ECW was folded and replaced with a new WWE-produced show, NXT.
Before we dive into our list a few honorable shout outs are in order: Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Psicosis, Cactus Jack, and “Superstar” Steve Austin – all of whom were once members of ECW but are omitted form our list due to their lack of time spent with the promotion.
In the following article we will take a look at the good old days of Extreme Championship Wrestling as we countdown the top 20 greatest stars in ECW history:
20. New Jack
If you are unfamiliar with ECW, look no farther than New Jack – an ex-con whose battered face symbolizes just what Extreme Championship Wrestling really meant.
Calling New Jack a “wrestler” is a bit of a stretch since his matches looked more like a violent assault rather than any sort of traditional wrestling match. New Jack was known for his brutal and often barbaric in-ring style. The Gangsta could be seen carrying a trash can full of weapons down to the ring prior to a match – turning the squared-circle into his own vicious playground.
19. The Eliminators
The Eliminators were a tag team made up of Perry Saturn and John Kronus who worked together in ECW between 1995 and 1997.
The team were discovered by Paul Heyman during a tour of Japan and offered a contract at ECW. The original plan called for The Eliminators to be presented as sadomasochists but Heyman would change his mind, instead presenting the team as an unstoppable force.
Due to their poor mic skills, they were soon managed by Jason Knight who served as a mouthpiece for the tag team.
18. Kid Kash
The name Kid Kash was given David Cash (real name) while in ECW due to his resemblance of multi-genre musician, Kid Rock. This lead to Kash dressing like Kid and even coming to the ring to his music.
During his time in ECW, Kid Kash would prove to be one tough little man (by wrestling standards). Often wrestling hurt and in complete pain, the spirit of Extreme Championship Wrestling was alive and well in the Kid Rock wannabe.
17. Jerry Lynn
Prior to his run in ECW, where he would find the most success of his career, Jerry Lynn worked under a mask in WCW as a high-flying crusierweight.
Upon his arrival in ECW, Lynn would find himself in a number of exciting feuds, perhaps most notably with Rob Van Dam – a rivalry in which Lynn would begin referring to himself as “The New F’N Show,” which was a mimic of Van Dam’s nickname.
In the year 2000, Jerry Lynn would capture his first and only ECW World Heavyweight Championship – a reign that would only last for one short month.
16. Justin Credible
Before he was Justin Credible in ECW, Peter Polaco was employed by the WWE where he spent a number of years working as a jobber and using a ridiculous gimmick.
When he left WWE, the condition of his release stated that he could not work for WCW – who were luring away talent at the time. Where else could Polaco go and wrestle? In ECW, of course. Polaco would adopt the popular grunge style of the nineties and was soon known as Justin Credible.
Credible would go on to become a two-time ECW World Tag Team Champion as well as a one-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion.
15. Bam Bam Bigelow
The late Bam Bam Bigelow has worked for WWE, WCW, and ECW throughout his storied career. In WWE; Bigelow would headline WrestleMania XI. In WCW, Bigelow went very much under the radar and was not necessarily used to the best of his abilities.
In ECW, Bigelow made his presence felt. The big, agile, tattooed man from New Jersey made himself at home in ECW. In fact, he looked as though he was in the comfort of his own living room. Bigelow managed to win two titles while working for the promotion. The ECW World Television Championship and the ECW World Heavyweight Championship.
When ECW folded in 2001, Rhino held both the ECW World Television Championship and the ECW World Heavyweight Championship – making him sole possessor of the promotion’s top two titles upon their demise.
The in-ring abilities of Rhino were powerful and painful for opponents – a man bordering a beast in the ring and ready to tear everybody limb from limb. Rhino will forever be a significant part of the history of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
13. 2 Cold Scorpio
Perhaps the most decorated ECW World Television Champion, 2 Cold Scorpio made his ECW debut in 1994 as a charismatic newcomer in the extreme promotion.
Scorpio would capture the ECW World Television Championship on four separate occasions – more than any other ECW competitor. Scorpio’s success in ECW was not limited to the TV title as he was always a former ECW World Tag Team Champion along side The Sandman.
You may recall Scorpio’s time in WWE as Flash Funk – another one of the company’s unsuccessful dancing gimmicks.
12. The Public Enemy
When mentioning Public Enemy, names such as Chuck D and Flavor Flav may come to mind. However, we are not talking about an influential hip hop group; we are talking about The Public Enemy – a former ECW tag team made up of members Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock.
Although their name was inspired by the hip hop group, The Public Enemy consisted of two chubby white guys who simply embraced and loved the hip hop culture – a growing American trend at the time.
The team were wildly popular in ECW as fans enjoyed not only the gimmick but their brawling style of in-ring competition accompanied by their use of foreign objects. The Public Enemy were four-time ECW World Tag Team Champions.
11. Mikey Whipwreck
Mikey Whipwreck (real name: John Watson) was first employed by ECW as a member of the ring crew, working for free as long as he and the rest of the crew were afforded some time to mess around in the ring before and after events.
When Joey Styles (ECW announcer) suggested to Paul Heyman that he check out Watson in the ring, Heyman decided to offer the young man a spot on the ECW roster. Christened Mikey Whipwreck and perceived as a huge underdog, the former member of the ring crew would go on to become an ECW Triple Crown Champion by winning the Television, Tag Team, and World Championships.
10. Mike Awesome
Michael Alfonso, better known as Mike Awesome would take three trips to the land of extreme during his career. The first two of which were mediocre at best but on the very first night of his third run in ECW, Mike Awesome would win the ECW World Heavyweight Championship.
Awesome was now a major player in ECW and would remain at a main event level until his departure to WCW. In April 2000, Awesome would appear on Monday Nitro while still the ECW Champion. The two promotions would reach a compromise that saw Awesome lose the belt to Taz – who was then employed by WWE – a few days following his appearance on WCW television.
Taz would drop the belt a week later to Tommy Dreamer – placing the ECW Championship back on a full-time employee.
9. Terry Funk
The legendary Terry Funk was brought into the fledgling Eastern Championship Wrestling as he made a promise to help the promotion and a name like Funk was sure to capture attention.
Funk had already been an experienced wrestler who usually worked a traditional Southern style in the ring. When the “E” in ECW took on a whole new meaning, Funk adapted his style with ease and began to embrace the hardcore wrestling aspect of the new promotion.
On April 13, 1997, Terry Funk headlined the very first ECW Pay-Per-View, Barely Legal – where he would emerge victorious and as the new ECW World Heavyweight Champion.
8. Shane Douglas
On August 27th, 1994, Shane Douglas won a tournament to determine the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion. This victory would lead to a controversial segment that saw ECW succeed from the National Wrestling Alliance.
Paul Heyman, Tod Gordon, and Shane Douglas would come up with a way to truly launch extreme wrestling into the atmosphere when Douglas would take the NWA Championship and throw it to his feet – citing that he did not want to be champion of a dead promotion.
Douglas would then raise the ECW World Heavyweight Championship belt above his head and declare that the ECW title was only real World Title. This moment in many ways was the unofficial birth of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Although his in-ring days in WWE were cut short due to injury, Taz(z) would find a comfortable job with the company as a color commentator. Currently; Taz is employed over at Total Nonstop Action Wrestling – where he once again sits at the announce table.
Modern wrestling fans will most likely remember Taz more for his voice than his wrestling abilities but fans of the original ECW will always remember Taz as a badass wrestler from Red Hook who could hang with the toughest men in the industry.
During his tenure in Extreme Championship Wrestling, Taz would become a three-time ECW World Tag Team Champion, a two-time ECW World Television Champion, and a two-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion.
One of the most unique wrestling characters of all time – in any promotion – was the character of Raven played by Scott Levy. Raven was misunderstood and misanthropic. Nihilistic and non-approachable. Damaged and depressed.
Raven looked and sounded like the youth culture on the nineties. The gloom of his personality matched with his grunge style along with his psychological execution was a perfect example of good men gone wrong in the new broken down world.
Raven twice held the ECW World Heavyweight Championship.
5. The Dudley Boyz
The Dudley Boyz, Buh Buh Ray and D-Von, have solidified themselves as one of the greatest tag teams in the history of professional wrestling.
While in ECW, The Dudley Boyz took part in some of the most memorable tag team feuds that the promotion ever produced. The most dominant tag team to ever feature on Extreme Championship Wrestling, The Dudley Boyz became eight-time ECW World Tag Team Champions.
The success of The Dudley Boyz continued to flourish following their stint in ECW when the boys achieved tag team glory in the WWE.
4. Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer was widely regarded as the heart and soul of Extreme Championship Wrestling. The only man to have won the ECW World Heavyweight Championship in both the original promotion and the WWE relaunch version.
Tommy Dreamer took part in two of the biggest feuds in the history of ECW with The Sandman and Raven. Following a loss to The Sandman in a Singapore Cane match, Dreamer was forced to take ten lashes on his back as the stipulation entailed.
When The Sandman was finished with the public lashes, Dreamer would ask for one more – causing the fans to sympathize and connect with the fallen Dreamer on a level unlike any before.
Sabu once participated in a match with Terry Funk titled the No-Rope Barbed Wire match – which is exactly what it sounds like – the ropes around the wrestling ring were replaced with barbed wire. This match was one of the most brutal matches ever – a match that could have cost Terry Funk and Sabu their lives due to the excessive blood loss – a match where Sabu tore open his biceps on the wire only to tape it back together. This match was deemed “too extreme even for ECW.”
Nonetheless, that match sums up Sabu in a gnarly, sliced up, little package. Sabu wears his wrestling scars with honor and has certainly earned each and every one. The quintessential hardcore wrestler, Sabu would twice win the ECW World Heavyweight Championship.
2. The Sandman
ENTER SANDMAN!!! … The cane-wielding, cigarette smoking, beer drinking, “hardcore icon” was one of the cornerstones of the original ECW.
The ex-carpenter would find much success in Extreme Championship Wrestling. The Sandman seemed like an average Joe gone crazy – a man tired of society’s ills and fed up of life bringing him down – so he decided to take everybody else down as well.
The Sandman is an ECW legend and holds the record for most ECW World Heavyweight Championship reigns – having won the title five times … EXIT SANDMAN!!!
1. Rob Van Dam
Who doesn’t love Rob Van Dam? … In 2001, Van Dam turned out to be the best part of the failed “Invasion” storyline in WWE and although he was part of the heel stable, the fans began to adore the exciting and innovating superstar.
For many WWE fans, this was their for introduction to Rob Van Dam but for those who had witnessed him perform in ECW, this was nothing new. Van Dam was always exciting, always fun to watch, always coming up with news ways to entertain the crowd.
Rob Van Dam would become the longest reigning ECW World Television Champion in history with a reign of seven hundred days – forced to relinquish the title due to injury and never defeated for the gold.
Whether you know him as “Mr. Monday Night” or “The Whole F’N Show,” Rob Van Dam tops out list as the greatest star of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
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