Over 14 and a half years ago, ECW closed its doors permanently after Paul Heyman struggled to make enough income to keep the company afloat.
Having played third fiddle to WCW, which played second fiddle to WWE, the Philadelphia-based company was consistently the victim of talent poaching for the promise of significant pay packets, mainly by WCW. As a result, ECW struggled to maintain star power and regularly had to rebuild its roster.
On top of having to reshape itself on a regular basis, ECW’s downfall was fast-tracked by TNN, now Spike, which used its ECW on TNN program as an opportunity to test the waters for a future WWE programming acquisition.
Since the company’s closure, and even more significantly so while still operational, a number of stars that played significant roles in ECW’s success in the mid-90s have gone on to carve successful careers in WWE, TNA, in Japan and on the independent circuit.
While most fans know what happened to the likes of Paul Heyman, Eddie Guerrero, Cactus Jack, Rhyno, Rob Van Dam, The Dudley Boyz and Taz, a number of men that took ECW from an NWA division to a nationally-recognized hardcore wrestling company have somewhat fallen into the shadows.
Nevertheless, these pioneers of hardcore professional wrestling deserve to receive the necessary recognition for their contributions to how wrestling is portrayed today.
Here are 25 ‘where are they now?’ stories of ECW’s biggest stars.
25 Masato Tanaka
Making his name in Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, Masato Tanaka joined ECW in 1998 and reprised his feud with Mike Awesome, which went a long way to him gaining notoriety in the company. After returning to FMW for a short period of time in 1999, Tanaka began vying for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, his feud with Mike Awesome continuing to be a highlight. Tanaka moved back to FMW in 2000, where he has continued to wrestle until the present day, forming the Dangan Yankies stable and teaming with Takashi Sugiura to reach great heights in Japanese tag team wrestling.
24 2 Cold Scorpio
Despite not being necessarily memorable in the "big two," 2 Cold Scorpio holds the moniker of working for all three major wrestling companies during the 90s. After cutting his teeth around America before training in the NJPW Dojo and wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling, 2 Cold Scorpio debuted in WCW in 1992 and won the World Tag Team Championships with Marcus Alexander Bagwell. After a three-year tenure in ECW, during which he won the World Television Championship four times, won the World Tag Team Championships with The Sandman and had notable feuds with the likes of Taz, Shane Douglas and Sabu, Scorpio signed with WWE in 1996 under the name Flash Funk - it was terrible, but came to an end when 2 Cold couldn't deal with a hard drug issue. Scorpio remains active on the independent scene, scheduled to make an appearance at WrestleCade on November 28 in Winston-Salem.
23 Jerry Lynn
Making his name in WCW as the masked Mr J.L., Jerry Lynn was a WCW undercard highlight, taking on the likes of Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Sabu and Chris Jericho during his three-year tenure. Upon joining ECW in 1997, Lynn became best known for his long-term feud with Rob Van Dam over the World Television Title. In October 2000, Lynn won the World Heavyweight Championship from Justin Credible, only holding it for a month before losing to Steve Corino. Lynn featured in the main event of ECW's final pay-per-view event, Guilty as Charged, losing to RVD. After ECW went bankrupt in early 2001, Lynn worked with WWE and defeated Crash Holly for the Light Heavyweight Championship on his debut. Under a year later, Lynn was working with TNA. Having been active in TNA, Ring of Honor and various independent companies since, Lynn held his retirement match in Minneapolis in March of 2013 against Horace the Psychopath, JB Trash and Sean Waltman in a four-way match, which he won. Lynn still makes appearance at various events and will appear for Ring of Honor in Nashville on November 20.
22 The Public Enemy
Consisting of Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge, The Public Enemy made their ECW debut in September of 1993 as duo of white men embracing American hip hop culture. Their upbeat style, wild brawling and use of tables made them one of the company's most prolific tag teams along with The Dudley Boyz and The Gangstas. Diverting to WCW in 1996 until 1998, the duo only received an eight-day World Tag Team Championship title reign after a victory over Harlem Heat before signing for only two months with WWE, causing issues backstage due to their decision to sign with WCW while being scouted by WWE. Not being able to find a consistent home after ECW and WCW folded, the duo made brief appearances on the independent scene until the death of Rocco Rock in 2002 due to a heart attack following a wrestling event. Johnny Grunge died in his sleep in 2006 in a friend's home, suffering from complications brought on by sleep apnea, heart disease and obesity.
21 Yoshihiro Tajiri
After initially wanting to be a kickboxer, Yoshihiro Tajiri's career led him to ECW in 1998 after being spotted in Mexico by Paul Heyman. Feuding with other quick-offense wrestlers such as Super Crazy, Jerry Lynn and Little Guido, Tajiri also showed his versatility by working notable feuds with Tommy Dreamer, Taz and Justin Credible. After aligning with Mikey Whipwreck to form The Unholy Alliance, Tajiri's popularity skyrocketed with the fans, making him one of the crowd favourites until the company folded in 2001. After some time on the independents, Tajiri joined WWE in 2001 as Commissioner William Regal's assistant and became a regular highlight of the Cruiserweight division until it was disbanded. Upon his WWE release, Tajiri returned to Japan in 2006 and has worked for Wrestle-1 since 2014, though he is only wrestling with the company on a part-time basis in order for him to pursue a career as an acupuncturist.
20 The Eliminators
Consisting of Perry Saturn and John Kronus, The Eliminators wrestled their first match together in 1993 as part of the United States Wrestling Association. During a tour of Japan, Saturn caught the attention of Paul Heyman in 1995, who signed the two to ECW as fodder for The Steiner Brothers when he initially thought the pair would remain with his company. The duo was a tag team mainstay in the company until Saturn tore his ACL in 1997, but his relationship with Kronus broke down behind the scenes and Saturn refused to work with his partner as a result. Having found alternate employment, Saturn signed for WCW despite not being 100% after his knee injury. Saturn went on to have a notable singles career in both WCW and WWE before initially retiring in 2004 due to past injuries, though he still makes sporadic in-ring appearances around the country. Kronus could never regain the same tag team success as he had with Saturn, retiring in 2002 before making two ECW reunion appearances in 2005 and being found dead at just 38 by his fiancée several days after undergoing knee surgery in 2007.
19 Steve Corino
After some jobbing in WWE, Steve Corino joined ECW in 1998 and remained with the company until its closure, rapidly becoming one of the company's most recognized names. Corino was due to make a WCW debut at the company's third last pay-per-view event, Sin, after he left ECW when he failed to receive his salary in January of 2001, but the move never happened, prompting Corino to join the independent circuit, TNA and eventually Ring of Honor in 2002. Corino announced his retirement in 2007, however he returned to the ring in 2008 and eventually began working with Ring of Honor in 2009, where he continues to work today.
18 Mikey Whipwreck
Before becoming a wrestler, Mikey Whipwreck joined ECW as part of the company's road crew in 1993 before Paul Heyman witnessed him practicing his craft before a show, later asking him to perform in the ring. Whipwreck went on to become an ECW Triple Crown Champion and after little success in his 1999 WCW stint, returned to the extreme company and spent the majority of the time working to build the profile of the younger talent. Whipwreck announced his intention to retire in May of 2002 if not picked up by WWE, with injuries causing too many issues, however he returned soon after in 2003. Whipwreck worked the independent circuit sporadically before full retirement in 2012, and most recently was made a playable character in 2K Games' WWE 2K16 title.
17 Bam Bam Bigelow
Bam Bam Bigelow's remarkable agility for his size made him a standout in WWE in 1988, going on to work for Jim Crockett Promotions and various companies in Japan until returning to the company in 1992. By the time he joined ECW in 1996, Bigelow was a well-known name in professional wrestling, becoming a company highlight until departing for WCW in 1998. Bigelow remained prominent on the independent circuit until his death in 2007, found by his girlfriend Janis Remiesiewicz in his home. The autopsy discovered Bigelow had multiple drugs in his system including high levels of cocaine and an anti-anxiety drug.
16 Lance Storm
Fresh off the independent circuit, Lance Storm struggled to gain the crowd's admiration early in his time in ECW. Teaming with Chris Candido, the pair claimed the ECW Tag Team Championships which paved the way for the duo to feud. Afterwards, Storm sided with Justin Credible to form The Impact Players, continuing his solid tag team division run with the company until he gained a position as a booker, leaving soon after to support his family thanks to WCW's hefty payments. Becoming a singles star, Storm won multiple titles before joining WWE as part of the Invasion storyline. Despite a thrilling introduction, Storm failed to gain much notoriety in WWE, returning to the independent circuit in 2005. Currently in semi-retirement, Storm was recently acknowledged by Chris Jericho at WWE's Live from MSG event on the WWE Network.
15 Al Snow
Starting his career in 1982, Al Snow wrestled for WWE, was a vital part in NWA bouts and operated a wrestling school, Body Slammers, before joining ECW in 1995. His stay was short, signing on with WWE for two years before returning to ECW in 1997, where he adopted the infamous mannequin head that simply became known as Head. He then returned to WWE in 1998, remaining with the company until 2008 when he turned to TNA and the independent circuit to continue his career, still doing so on a part-time basis. Snow was notably part of Drew Galloway's TNA debut in February.
14 Stevie Richards
Stevie Richards is professional wrestling's perennial bridesmaid, though he has played that role magnificently for his entire career. As part of Raven's Nest, Richards was part of ECW's controversial crucifix angle, which was responsible for Kurt Angle not signing with the company. He formed part of the Blue World Order, a blatant parody of the nWo, and exited ECW after announcing his retirement from wrestling in 1997 after Terry Funk slammed a metal guardrail into his back, severely damaging his neck. Richards broke his retirement in 1997, signing with WCW and later working for WWE from 1999 until 2008, the highlight being his Right to Censor run, working the independent scene since. Richards recently united with Da Blue Guy and Hollywood Nova as the Blue World Order in September of this year at Chikara's 2015 King of Trios and is seeking to be brought back to Ring of Honor.
13 Balls Mahoney
After performing the unmemorable role of Xanta Klaus in WWE, Balls Mahoney joined ECW in 1997 and capitalized on the crowd's lust for violence, teaming with Axl Rotten to form The Hardcore Chair Swingin' Freaks, feuding with the company's top teams. Later teaming with Spike Dudley and enjoying a singles career before ECW closed its doors, Balls worked the independent circuit before joining WWE in 2005 as part of its reprised ECW brand. He returned to the independents in 2008 where he has remained, currently working for La Revolution and claiming both the WWA Heavyweight and Tag Team Championships with Rock Thunder.
12 Chris Candido
Chris Candido's first stint with ECW came in 1993, teaming up with Johnny Hotbody and Chris Michaels to win the ECW Tag Team Championships twice before Candido left to join Smoky Mountain Wrestling and eventually WWE. Candido returned to ECW as a part of the No Gimmicks Needed stable with Shane Douglas, Lance Storm and later Bam Bam Bigelow. Storm and Candido eventually teamed up after a successful feud, using their mutual dislike for each other as a recipe for success and holding the ECW Tag Team Championships for six months. Candido made the jump to WCW and won the Cruiserweight Championship before continuing his career on the independent circuit and in Japan, then signing on with TNA in 2005 before his unfortunate death. During TNA's pay-per-view event Lockdown in Paril of 2005, Candido fractured both his tibia and fibula and dislocated his ankle in a tag team steel cage match, requiring immediate surgery. Just four days later, Candido felt ill and was rushed to hospital with pneumonia. Despite doctors draining his lungs, Candido died at 33 due to a blood clot caused from his surgery.
11 Spike Dudley
Joining The Dudley Boyz as part of the Dudley family in 1996, Spike Dudley shot to fame with consecutive victories over Bam Bam Bigelow. Following a storyline family breakdown, Spike teamed up with various opponents to feud with The Dudley Boyz, winning the ECW Tag Team Championships with Balls Mahoney on two occasions in 1999. When the company went out of business, Spike joined his kayfabe brothers in WWE where he remained until 2005. After two years with TNA, where he renamed himself Matt "LSD" Hyson, Spike continues to work on the independent circuit. There have been rumors that Spike will be reunited with The Dudley Boyz in WWE to aid them in their feud with The New Day.
10 New Jack
There is no more controversial ECW name than New Jack, who was only involved in ECW for a year before the infamous Mass Transit incident, in which he hospitalized a 17-year-old and was charged with aggravated assault, although acquitted. New Jack suffered a significant brain injury and was permanently blinded in his right eye when he and opponent Vic Grimes took a 25-foot fall in 2000. If those two incidents weren't bad enough, New Jack pulled out a metal blade from his attire in a 2004 match with William Jason Lane, stabbing his opponent 14 times and receiving various felony charges. On April 5 of 2013, New Jack wrestled his retirement match against Necro Butcher at Pro Wrestling Syndicate's Super Card show - thank god, though he might be coming our of retirement for Saturday Night Championship Wrestling in Tennessee.
9 Mike Awesome
Despite becoming a top star in ECW, Awesome first became a Japan sensation with Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling between 1990 and 1998 as The Gladiator. Continuing a long-standing feud with Mosato Tonaka from FMW and All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1998, the pair added star power to ECW in 1998, bringing a more extreme style into their duels. Upon making his third arrival in ECW in 1998, Awesome, managed by Judge Jeff Jones, almost immediately won the World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Taz and Masato Tanaka, a match that was made on the spot at Anarchy Rulz. In 2000, Awesome was hired by WCW as part of its influx of factions in controversial fashion; WCW avoided booking Awesome who was still holding the ECW title to avoid legal issues. In settling the issue, the two companies worked a deal to allow Awesome to work one final ECW event, losing the title to Tazz, who was then working for WWE. Awesome's gimmick was twice slaughtered by WCW, turning him into "The Fat Chick Thrilla" and secondly into "That '70s Guy" before going out of business. Awesome worked for WWE, TNA and on the independent circuit until his unfortunate death in February 2007, found by friends in his home in Tampa.
8 Justin Credible
Initially jobbing for WWE in 1993 under the name of P.J. Walker, Justin Credible was given the name of Aldo Montoya by Pat Patterson, defining his character by Credible's Portugese ethnicity. Despite becoming good friends with The Kliq, Credible had his release request denied, only eventually allowed under the condition he could not work for WCW. In 1997, Credible began working for ECW, feuding with the major stars in the company throughout his five years, winning numerous tag championships before winning an on-the-spot match in 2000 against Tommy Dreamer for the ECW Championship. Credible was part of the unmemorable Invasion storyline upon WWE's acquisition of ECW stars, released in 2003 and continuing to work the independent scene to the present day. On November 20, Justin Credible will have his retirement match against Tommy Dreamer at Pro Wrestling Syndicate.
7 Dean Malenko
Dean Malenko is credited as one of the best technical wrestlers to ever grace the wrestling business and his highlight matches with Eddie Guerrero around America, Mexico and Japan soon brought the duo to ECW, completely changing the way ECW portrayed itself. As a result, Malenko and Guerrero became important acquisitions for WCW, though the company underutilised both and allowed them to waste away in the lower-midcard with other cruiserweight talent. As part of The Radicalz, Malenko joined WWE in 2000 and retired in 2001, making sporadic appearances on WWE programing throughout the 00s. He continues to work as a road agent for the company.
Although Raven worked with both WCW and WWE before his ECW tenure, it wasn't until he joined the extreme company and developed the 'Raven' character that he shot to notoriety. Adding various piercings and adopting the grunge look, Raven's long-standing feud with Tommy Dreamer and ECW World Heavyweight Championship runs made him a top star in the company before he took the Raven character to WCW, forming The Flock and later The Dead Pool. The character continued to have moderate success in WWE from 2000 to 2003 before Raven joined TNA, becoming a company mainstay until 2010, going on to continue his career on the independent circuit before his retirement in late 2014. Raven now works behind the scenes for various independent companies and shows.
5 Shane Douglas
Although Shane Douglas had crafted a 10-year career before his time in ECW, he shot to fame after one of professional wrestling’s most notorious happenings. Known as "The Franchise", Douglas featured in ECW's biggest moment, claiming the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1994 and throwing the title to the ground, stating that he did not want to be a champion of a "dead promotion" and proclaiming himself as the new ECW Heavyweight Champion. Douglas became one of the company's most prominent names and returned to WCW in 1999, but managed to get lost in the stable clutter. Having worked for XPW and TNA since, Douglas continues to work on the independents and more prominently on the booking side of the business.
4 The Sandman
Having first arrived in Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992 as a surfer-pimp, The Sandman soon adopted an edgier character and creating The Sandman gimick known today. Smoking cigarettes on the way to the ring and beating himself in the head with a beer can until he bled, The Sandman was an iconic figure of ECW and arguably their most popular performer. Remaining with the company until its doors closed, aside from an extremely forgettable stint in WCW in 1999, The Sandman jumped between XPW, TNA and WWE between 2001 and 2007 before wrestling on the independent circuit in recent years, despite initially announcing his retirement in 2008 due to family reasons. He did return to TNA in 2010, but that didn't last long.
Trained by The Sheik as a technical wrestler, Sabu's Saudi Arabian gimmick helped him rise to fame in Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling in 1991 before joining ECW in 1993. His first tenure with the company ended in dramatic fashion in 1995, as Sabu no-showed an ECW event in order to tour in Japan with New Japan Pro Wrestling, leading to Paul Heyman publically firing him at that event. After an unsuccessful few months in WCW, Sabu returned to ECW in late 1995 and remained with the company until 2000, featuring in a number of the company's top highlights and causing significant damage to his own body. Floating between TNA, WWE, JCW and the independents in the following years, Sabu continues to work despite the physical injuries he has obtained through the years, recently highlighting a bloody chair match with Rob Van Dam in Scranton.
2 Tommy Dreamer
There is arguably no other person that personifies ECW more than Tommy Dreamer, who joined the company just before it changed names from Eastern to Extreme in 1993. Having remained with the company until it closed its doors in early 2001, Dreamer feuded with all of the company's top stars, and in the WWE Home Video documentary The Rise and Fall of ECW, Dreamer said regarding his title reigns: "I was actually pissed off. I wanted to go my entire ECW career without winning titles. The only reason I won titles is because guys left." Dreamer joined WWE in 2011 and remained with the company until 2010 before joining TNA and working the independents. Dreamer founded House of Hardcore in 2012, a wrestling organisation much like ECW that holds events a handful of times per year while training new stars throughout the year. The company has events on November 13th and November 14th at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia and the Elmcor Center in Queens respectively.
1 Terry Funk
At 71 years old, Terry Funk is one of the most iconic names in professional wrestling. An NWA legend before WWE rose to prominence, Funk has carved the way for many to come during his time across almost every major company in the business. However, his time in ECW cemented his legacy, as he changed from a traditional wrestling style to ECW's more violent ways, headlining with the likes of Cactus Jack, Shane Douglas, The Sandman, Sabu and Tommy Dreamer. Having worked the independent scene since 2002, Funk's most previous match came on October 24th against Jerry Lawler for USA Championship Wrestling in Tennessee, a match that Lawler won by disqualification.
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