Paul Heyman is rightfully viewed as one of the greatest wrestling minds of all time. The wrestling genius perfectly understood the pulse of what the wrestling fan wanted and had the creativity to figure out how to execute it. Heyman’s most celebrated for both his role as a manager and, of course, for the history of ECW. Not only did Paul turn the small bingo hall promotion into a huge success but he helped wrestlers grow. The greatest compliment one can give Paul Heyman is he found a group of undesired wrestlers and put them in the best position to succeed.
The Sandman was a drunk with very little athletic ability. Heyman made him a badass who would kick your ass and drink a beer while doing it. Taz was a short, stocky angry Brooklynite with a chip on his shoulder. Heyman turned him into the most unbeatable man on the planet. Tommy Dreamer was a generic pretty boy. Heyman convinced us he was the face of extreme. There are dozens of other stories like this but the morale remains the same. Heyman knew how to use most wrestlers he worked with effectively and could put them in a situation that would see them reach their full potential.
Heyman’s percentage is second to none but that doesn’t mean he was perfect. ECW saw quite a few wrestlers fail to be used to the absolute best of their abilities. There are so few spots but Heyman tended to keep the same wrestlers in the top positions. Many would argue today that Shane Douglas, The Sandman and Taz were each given too much time in the world title picture and there should have been a couple of other underutilized stars getting more opportunities. There were definitely a couple of stars not getting to hit their full potential and we’re going to break those down as we look at the top twenty most criminally underused ECW talents of all time.
20 Simon Diamond
The latter days of ECW featured the company looking to develop new stars. WWE and WCW secured most of the top ECW names with lucrative contracts and it caused Paul Heyman to scramble for quick fixes. Simon Diamond was one of the new names in the promotion but he spent his time in the opening matches. The charisma and character work by Diamond was on point and he likely would have become a bigger star if the company didn’t die shortly after his debut. Simon still should have been featured more as most of the wrestlers higher up the card couldn’t match his heel promos.
19 Lance Storm
The ranking of Lance Storm is a bit of give and take as he was featured prominently but never got the main event push he deserved. Storm was most successful in the Impact Players tag team with Justin Credible and gained a reputation as being one of the greatest in-ring technicians in the business. ECW had the stigma of caring more about hardcore wrestling rather than having the best matches possible. A title reign or a stint as the top heel for Storm would have really benefited ECW. With the history of the promotion available on the WWE Network, Storm’s matches stand the test of time much more than the other ECW wrestlers and he deserved more time in the spotlight.
18 Johnny Swinger
Another young talent ECW tried to develop in a last ditch effort to keep the company afloat was Johnny Swinger. After a failed stint in WCW, ECW tried to get the best out of Swinger by putting him in a tag team with Simon Diamond. Swinger had a couple of good matches before the company went under. Instead of a small role, the young man could have been one of the better prospects to have a chance in an upper card spot. It's often forgotten that he even had a role in ECW and it’s a shame because he did have talent.
17 Joey Matthews
Joey Matthews is another young prospect that ECW introduced in a tag team with Christian York to revamp the division after all of their stars were either signed by bigger companies or forced to move up the card due to a lack of depth. Matthews was arguably the most successful young star in ECW at that time that blossomed into a bigger name later in his career. With his bread and butter always coming in tag team action, Matthews should have been a big singles star in ECW. Matthews represented everything ECW needed at the time and should have been highlighted in a more efficient manner.
16 C.W. Anderson
The emergence of C.W. Anderson was a great addition to the late years of ECW but it should have come sooner. The most memorable late feud in the last year of the company’s existence was the blood rivalry between Anderson and Tommy Dreamer. Anderson was a made-man after those matches but he was in the company for over a year before this push started. The well-rounded performer could have been a bigger help as the company desperately tried to keep the ship afloat after losing all of their stars. Anderson was a great heel and the company needed more heels to get put in a position to succeed.
15 Mikey Whipwreck
It's difficult to say one of the few triple-crown champions in the history of the promotion was underused but ECW left money on the table with Mikey Whipwreck. The lovable underdog became a fan-favorite and delivered memories for a few years but he was rarely showcased after his world title reign ended. Whipwreck jumped ship to WCW for a bigger contract but returned to ECW in less than a year and the company placed him in a group with Tajiri and Sinister Minister. Whipwreck was clearly the third most important person in the trio and he was basically an afterthought for his remaining years with ECW.
14 EZ Money
EZ Money was one of the new faces in ECW in 2000 and showed a ton of promise. The young man worked an exciting style that could have developed into one of the best workers in the company but was typically used in lower-tier matches until he made the jump to WCW. Under the name Jason Jett, he could have been a Cruiserweight staple for years but WCW went out of business shortly after. Find Jett’s match against Kwee Wee on WCW Greed to see his potential. The EZ Money project should have allowed for a bigger opportunity in ECW, as he was that good.
13 Al Snow
Al Snow's peak in ECW was incredibly special with his character becoming one of the hottest gimmicks in wrestling at the time. Fans loved his mannequin head and would rejoice in throwing dozens of Styrofoam heads into the ring as a way to celebrate him. Sadly, Snow very rarely was placed in the main event picture and eventually left for the WWE to become an important member of their hardcore division. ECW easily could have made more money with Snow having a bigger run instead of sticking with the same few guys in the title picture like Taz, Shane Douglas and Sabu.
12 Tony Mamaluke
The Full Blooded Italians were one of the more memorable stables in ECW. The last version with Little Guido, Tony Mamaluke and Big Sal is often the one most associated with the success of the faction. Guido was positioned as an important part of the company but Mamaluke was a glorified sidekick. With the talent and commitment to the gimmick, Mamaluke was a valuable asset but not treated as such. It would have been great to see the young talent featured in more noteworthy matches or given any room at all to grow without being a second in command to Guido as a supplemental piece of the FBI.
Danny Doring and Roadkill were a tremendous tag team towards the end of the company’s run but neither could become a big singles star in ECW. The gimmick of Roadkill along with his skill set of being an agile big man that could fly all around the ring made him a unique talent that fans loved. Roadkill gave them the best of both worlds between delivering power moves in the ring and jumping off the top rope minutes later. The big man could have been a credible main eventer if the company put their faith into him and gave him a rocket push to the top of the card.
ECW rarely would push female talent in a wrestling role but they would employ various future Divas. The women would play valets, show off skin for eye candy purposes and get into cat fights. Lita was the biggest missed opportunity as she worked under the name Miss Congeniality. The future star mostly worked as the girlfriend of Danny Doring and served in a managerial role. Considering how much money Lita would end up making for WWE as a wrestler and bringing in new female fans to the company, it’s shocking that Paul Heyman failed to bring out her magic. Regardless of if she worked intergender matches or started a female division, Lita could have been a far bigger deal in ECW.
9 Masato Tanaka
Paul Heyman was brilliant at finding and utilizing some of the best foreign talents all around the world. Various international stars become important members of the ECW roster and Masato Tanaka was one of them. With a short world title reign and many classic matches in a storied rivalry vs. Mike Awesome, Tanaka was an entertaining performer. The Japanese star took some of the most brutal chair shots to the head and gave them back with even more intensity. Fans loved his style and he could have been one of the faces of the promotion. After his feud with Awesome, Tanaka was used outside of the main event despite being a main event performer.
8 Cyrus The Virus
Don Callis didn’t work for ECW as a wrestler but he was second to none as an on-screen character. With the name of Cyrus the Virus, Callis played a network executive of TNN trying to water down the ECW product, which stemmed from real life struggles with ECW’s new television partner. Cyrus was one of the best heels in the industry and just knew how to cut the perfect promo. ECW used him well but it should have been bigger. Cyrus should go down as one of the best heels in company history and maybe should have entered the wrestling ring more. Callis trained to be an active wrestler and his character was good enough to warrant matches.
7 Spike Dudley
The Dudley Brothers were pivotal to ECW's success. The dysfunctional family of brothers were led by Bubba Ray and Devon but you can argue Little Spike Dudley was truly the most entertaining wrestler from the group. Spike was given a singles push and the ECW faithful absolutely adored him. With his most memorable moments coming in matches against larger wrestlers, Spike was deemed the giant slayer and played the underdog role to perfection. The promotion was struggling to find the right people to have at the top of the company with the loss of many names and Spike is someone that they could have got a lot more out of than they actually did.
6 Perry Saturn
Almost every noteworthy name to sign with WCW after a run with ECW was utilized worse as Paul Heyman had an eye for talent and knew how to get the best out of his wrestlers. One of the rare cares of a talent being used better in WCW was Perry Saturn. After spending his time in ECW as a tag team wrestler with John Kronus in The Eliminators, Saturn proved he could get over as a singles performer and hold his own in WCW. The Eliminators were a great team but Saturn was clearly better than Kronus and should have been treated as such with a singles push.
Very few international talents were able to get the American style of wrestling and appeal to the American wrestling fan base as well as Tajiri did. Paul Heyman found a gem when he booked Tajiri and made him one of the more prominent midcarders in the company with a worthwhile spot on most shows in their last two years of existence. The issue is Tajiri should have been a main eventer and a world champion for ECW. Tajiri’s time in WWE showed just great he was when working against Rey Mysterio in the Cruiserweight matches or interacting with William Regal and Torrie Wilson in character based storylines. The Japanese Buzzsaw was a special performer and ECW failed to use him as well as they should have.
4 Kid Kash
The most exciting young star to breakthrough during the last few years in ECW was Kid Kash. Utilizing the popularity of musician Kid Rock at the time, Kid Kash looked similar to the rocker and it earned him a spot in ECW. Kash delivered superb matches and is often remembered for her aerial maneuvers. Despite a few title shots and television main events, Kash was never highlighted as a genuine main eventer and easily could have been the new top babyface in the company with Rob Van Dam injured at the time.
Nova had a hell of a career in ECW with his first claim to fame being the impersonator of Hulk Hogan in the nWo parody known as The Blue World Order. The gimmick was hilarious but Nova somehow got lost in the shuffle. Blue Meanie and Stevie Richards portraying Scott Hall and Kevin Nash got more credit. Nova later received a singles push in the last year or two of ECW and became very popular. His entrance song of “Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys would result in a massive pop because the fans were excited to see Nova. ECW should have put Nova in a top spot but he was just a midcarder.
2 Chris Candido
WWE and WCW both managed to completely drop the ball on Chris Candido. Typically treated as a secondary performer to his wife Tammy “Sunny” Sytch, Candido was rarely treated with respect by the big companies but Paul Heyman noticed his talent. Candido’s in-ring work was among the best in North America and he showcased it in great matches for ECW against Lance Storm. The promotion was red hot but didn’t see Candido being a main event player so he was placed in tag teams or undercard work. While effective, ECW missed out on a top performer to build the company around and squandered Candido’s true potential.
1 2 Cold Scorpio
The top ECW performer that was not used as strongly as he should have been was 2 Cold Scorpio. Until Rob Van Dam started to get hot, no ECW wrestler could match the excitement and in-ring work of 2 Cold Scorpio. Between his dazzling array of moves and ridiculously cool personality, Scorpio didn’t need the weapons or a gimmick to get over. While he was indeed used as an upper card act and chose to leave the company for WWE, Scorpio should have been a world champion for ECW and it may have given him reason to stay. The ECW world title is synonymous with the likes of Shane Douglas, Taz, The Sandman and Raven, but Scorpio was flat out better than all of them. ECW missed out on 2 Cold Scorpio being their top superstar.