"From the Harley Races to the Barry Windhams, to the... Ric Flairs... I accept this heavyweight title. Wait a second... wait a second, of Kerry Von Erich, of the fat man himself Dusty Rhodes... this is it tonight, Dad...God, that's beautiful...and Rick Steamboat...and they can all kiss my ass! (Joey Styles: "What in the hell is he doing?!") [...] Tonight, let the new era begin! The era of the sport of professional wrestling! The era of the Franchise! The era of the E-C-W!"
The little wrestling promotion that could - and did - change everything
Tod Gordon started Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992, with the first event being held on February 25, at the Original Sports Bar in Philadelphia, PA as a member of the National Wrestling Alliance
. Memphis legend "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert
was the original booker, but he split from the company in October 1993, right before Ultra Clash. Former WCW
manager/commentator Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman)
, who had arrived in the summer as a manager, took over as booker, while also working on-screen as a manager.
Along with the young hopefuls who would go on to become at least semi-stars (Stevie Richards
, the Sandman
, Chris Candido
, later Tommy Dreamer
and the Tazmaniac
), the promotion also featured many Ring Oldies
, such as Jimmy Snuka
(the first NWA ECW Heavyweight Champion
), Terry Funk
, Don Muraco
and Ivan Koloff
, as well as cameos by Davey Boy Smith
, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, Nikolai Volkoff
and one of the final in-ring appearances of Kerry Von Erich.
In 1994, the company was part of an NWA World Heavyweight Championship
tournament that would crown a new champion. The NWA president was worried that ECW was going to monopolize the title much like Jim Crockett Promotions did in the '80s, so he took control of the tournament. In retaliation, Tod Gordon and Paul Heyman devised a plan with the man booked to win the tournament - Shane Douglas - that went into effect after Shane won the title. The quote that starts off this article comes from Shane's post-match speech after defeating 2 Cold Scorpio
for the title; Douglas ended up tossing down the NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt, raised up the NWA ECW Heavyweight Championship belt, and declared himself the "new ECW Heavyweight Champion of the World". August 27, 1994 would forever be known as the day Eastern Championship Wrestling died; the NWA dissolved its association with the company and stripped Douglas of its world title, while the company itself would change a single word in its name just days later - it was now officially Extreme Championship Wrestling
For the next seven years, ECW would drastically change the landscape of the national pro wrestling scene. Taking a cue from Garbage Wrestlers
of the past (like Terry Funk - himself an ECW alumni - and Abdullah the Butcher
, who also appeared), as well as Japanese "deathmatch" promotions like FMW
, ECW popularized "hardcore" wrestling in the United States; practically every match was fought under what's now known as "Extreme Rules" (where pretty much anything except hitting a ref was legal). Several other wrestling styles were also highlighted and popularized thanks to ECW, including lucha libre
(which led WCW to raid ECW's talent roster for the best luchadores
they had to create their famous Cruiserweight division).
ECW presented a product for a more mature wrestling fan, giving them flawed heroes, deeper storylines, dramatic matches, and - oh, yeah, how could we forget - plenty of sex and violence. Their product was a stark contrast to the family-friendly comic-book superheroes of the WWF
and WCW, as well as the highly-kayfabed
style of the NWA. ECW also invented and/or popularized many things that the modern wrestling fan takes for granted these days: having an arsenal of weapons under the ring, the presence of an Evil Authority Figure (in the form of Bill Alphonso from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, and later Cyrus
from "The Network"), many of the most daring maneuvers that are now seen on TV on a regular basis (mostly in Gimmick Matches
), and angles with "shades of grey". ECW also turned a whole bunch of wrestlers who were rejects from the big promotions (because they were too short, or not muscular enough, or too ethnic, or anything not having to do with actual skill) and turned them into hot commodities, leading to many of them having long and successful careers with the bigger promotions. (Amongst the ECW alumni that left the company to go on and have memorable careers were Chris Benoit
, Eddie Guerrero
, Mick Foley
, Rey Mysterio Jr
, Chris Jericho
, Mike "Crash Holly" Lockwood, Raven
, Ron Simmons
, Rob Van Dam
, and - arguably the most famous of them all - "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Even the ECW crowds had a big influence on other wrestling fans. The "WOO!" when one wrestler chops another (a homage
to Ric Flair
), the "This is awesome!" chant for a great match, the "Holy shit!" chant for a particularly impressive move, and the "You fucked up!" chant when a wrestler misses a spot were born in ECW, and almost all of these chants remain ingrained in wrestling crowds to this day. The fans were also allowed to bring their own weapons to the show in its early days, and wrestlers would use them during matches (infamous weapons included a cactus, a ladder, an NES, a VCR, a two-man kayak,
and a cast-iron skillet
, whose use by Mick Foley against The Sandman brought "Bring Your Own Weapons" nights to an end).
The promotion was not without its share of controversy, either - in 1996, two incidents marred the company almost to the point of ruination. At High Incident on October 26, ECW World Heavyweight Champion
the Sandman defeated his former tag team partner 2 Cold Scorpio. After the match, Raven and members of his Nest, Stevie Richards, the Blue Meanie and Super Nova
, crucified the Sandman, with a ring of barbed-wire instead of thorns. This incident caused many fans to go silent as it happened, marking the first time even the ECW Mutants (as the fans came to be known) were left speechless. Fearing possible backlash, Raven was ordered to apologize for the act to the crowd. The incident would not be seen until nearly a decade later thanks to Kurt Angle
- he had attended the show where the "crucifixion" happened and even appeared in the ring to set up an angle between himself and Taz, but threatened to sue Heyman and ECW should footage of him at that show ever be aired; the footage of both Angle and
the crucifixion wouldn't be seen by the general public until The Rise and Fall of ECW
On top of that, there was also the "Mass Transit Incident". In late 1996, a young man by the name of Eric Kulas managed to get into a match when another wrestler no-showed due to travel issues; going by the ring name "Mass Transit", Kulas competed in a tag team match and was cut open pretty deep by infamous hardcore wrestler/psychopath New Jack
. This wouldn't normally be a problem, but in Kulas' case, he was underage and had no wrestling experience of any kind - he had lied to Heyman and other ECW bookers to get a spot on the card. The incident caused ECW to come under major scrutiny and almost cost them their first big pay-per-view spot until Kulas' lying to the booking team came to light. You can read more about this at That Other Wiki.
Once the colorful supermen the WWF had built their company on started to fail and they found themselves chasing WCW's lead, its rise back to dominance came through mimicking the ECW style. ECW's popularization of "hardcore" wrestling also resulted in countless independent federations, such as XPW poorly mimicking that style. ECW also brought back old-school technical wrestling and high-flying spot-wrestlers, and thus served as a big influence on Ring of Honor
. Both the WWF and WCW raided ECW's talent rosters with varying levels of success (the biggest success being "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, whose firing from WCW led him to go to ECW for a brief period before entering the WWF and becoming the most famous pro wrestler since Hulk Hogan
Sadly, ECW was not long for this world: combined with a TV deal with cable network The Nashville Network (the precursor to Spike TV
) that went horribly awry thanks to the WWF, Paul Heyman's notoriously bad business sense (something even Heyman owns up to) sent the promotion into bankruptcy even as the wrestling styles and writing style they popularized took the wrestling world by storm. Wrestlers were lucky to get paid in the final year or two. In the end, the company went out on pay-per-view - its last event was their "Guilty as Charged" PPV in January of 2001, and the main event saw Jerry Lynn
face a returning Rob Van Dam (who had taken a hiatus from the company because of contract disagreements) in the last great match of the promotion. (Incidentally, the show was held at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, the same building where the two ECW One Night Stand
pay-per-views were held.) Once the company officially declared bankruptcy, the WWF bought the promotion, getting all of its trademarks and its video library in the deal. This buyout, coupled with the eventual buyout of WCW just a couple of months later, left the WWF as the biggest wrestling promotion on the planet.
In June 2005, the ECW name was revived by WWE for ECW One Night Stand
, a one-night pay-per-view reunion of ECW alumni (that same weekend, there was another ECW tribute show - Hardcore Homecoming
- which was spearheaded by Shane Douglas and featured several ECW wrestlers who didn't appear at One Night Stand
). The event proved so successful that a second ECW One Night Stand
was held a year later - this time, ECW and WWE talent was mixed together, since this event would be the starting point for ECW becoming WWE's third brand (alongside Raw
). WWE's ECW brand, which had an weekly hour-long show on SyFy
, would last until February 16th, 2010 - the next week, it was replaced with WWE NXT
, the wrestlers on the ECW brand were split up and placed on the Raw
rosters (or released outright), and the brand was laid to rest by WWE for good. In the summer of 2010, TNA would put on Hard CORE Justice
as a "tribute" to the ECW Originals, and brought several of them in as members of the roster after the PPV under the group name "EV 2.0" (with "EV" standing for "Extreme Violence").
Despite whatever damage the WWE's version of ECW and TNA's "EV 2.0" may have done to the promotion's legacy, most fans agree: there was only one real
ECW. Backyard CZW
would takeover ECW's territory, projecting itself as a successor but proving to be a very different promotion.
"Extreme Championship Tropes!":
- Acrofatic: The Blue Meanie, Bam Bam Bigelow
- Action Girl: Beulah McGillicutty, as well as Francine (on occasion).
- Luna Vachon had a brief ECW tenure, during which time she had a feud with Stevie Richards, including a cage match at ECW Heat Wave 95.
- Malia Hosaka and Sherri Martel made some appearances in the early years.
- All Men Are Perverts: Joel Gertner, of course.
- Also, starting around 1999, ECW's website would feature photoshoots of Francine, Dawn Marie and Jasmine St. Clairenote that were billed as "Pervert Pics."
- Arch-Enemy: Eric Bischoff and WCW. It really cannot be exaggerated how much the fans of ECW hated this man. While some would put WWE here as well, their relationship was a bit more complicated.
- Both WCW and WWE were the arch enemies of ECW fans. ECW fans hated Vince McMahon just as much (and probably way more now) as Bischoff. The fanbase just wasn't aware that Vince McMahon and WWE were actively helping ECW. That certainly would not have gone over well if known. And the "you sold out" chants might have been directed at Paul Heyman.
- In Have A Nice Day, Mick Foley explained that he had specifically chosen Bischoff and WCW as a suggested alternative for Tommy Dreamer in his "Cane Dewey" promo because of how much ECW fans hated him. This was what also led Cactus to wear spoofy "Dungeon of Doom" and Bischoff shirts at ECW November to Remember 95.
- Audience Participation: Taken to the extreme with the infamous chair-throwing incident at the end of Hardcore Heaven 94. Also, Cactus Jack hitting the Sandman with a cast-iron skillet at Double Tables ended the "Fans Bring the Weapons" concept. However, matches would sometimes feature fans holding up chairs so wrestlers could run their opponents into them.
- Ax-Crazy: Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, Terry Funk, Cactus Jack, NEW JACK. You know, several fights featuring any of them are extremely sadistic.
- Bilingual Bonus: In wrestling, fans have a tendency to count to ten when a wrestler climbs the ropes and delivers punches to a dazed opponent while he's in the corner. The ECW fans took it a step further by chanting to ten in Spanish when Mexican wrestlers did it.
- Bittersweet Ending: Rob Van Dam returning to wrestle Jerry Lynn...at ECW's final event.
- Brick Joke/Mythology Gag: Once during a Pitbulls (#1 and #2) match, Joey said that the fans chanting "Two Two Two" made it sound like they were chanting for Mr. Wrestling II, and joked that WCW was thinking of bringing him back. Starting in 1999 on ECW on TNN, when a wrestler would do a kneelift, Joey would say, "There's the Mr. Wrestling II kneelift," and Joel Gertner would chant "Two Two Two!"
- Catfight: Aside from being a Joey Styles catchphrase, it was both played straight and subverted. The ECW girls absolutely would roll around a ring trying to tear each other's hair out . . . and then later piledrive, powerbomb, and hurricanrana each other.
- Celebrity Resemblance: Faith No More Guy, named for his remarkable resemblance to the band's guitarist Jim Martin.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Cyrus, a representative of "The Network", during ECW's run on The Nashville Network.
- Crossover: ECW in its early days did joint promotional events with, among others, the Mid-Eastern Wrestling Federation in Maryland. More so when they started working with WWE, leading to ECW wrestlers competing on Raw and WWE guys (Flash Funk/2 Cold Scorpio, Aldo Montoya/Justin Credible and Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon) being shipped down to ECW.
- In December 1997, Dreamer, Sandman, Terry Funk, and the Dudley Boys went over to FMW for the FMW Super Extreme Wrestling War shows. This marked Masato Tanaka's first appearance on American television and led to him debuting in the U.S. at Living Dangerously, March 1, 1998 and, in the summer, his big feud with Mike Awesome (known in FMW as the Gladiator), being brought to the States.
- Darker and Edgier: While WCW and the WWF were still putting on shows with colorful larger-than-life personalities, ECW was putting on a product with a more realistic edge, featuring much more sex and violence than any other major promotion at the time...until the WWF decided to take a lot of ECW's edge and inject it into their company, creating the Attitude Era.
- Deep South: The Dupps
- Even Evil Has Standards: Played straight with the Dudley Boys showing their disgust when Justin Credible interrupted a ten-bell salute for Tommy Dreamer's deceased grandfather. However, it would be horrifically subverted after they broke Beulah's neck with the 3D.
- Fat Bastard: Big Val Puccio, Big Sal E. Graziano
- Fire-Forged Friends: The guys who are widely considered to be part of ECW's foundation have bonded into brothers-in-arms through their time with the company. This is especially evident through kayfabe in other companies over the years following the end of ECW.
- Follow the Leader: A few things that are copied from ECW to this day include submissions symbolized by tapping out, three-way matches (till then only found in even smaller promotions), saying "WOO" when using Ric Flair's moves, lucha libre and Japanese-influenced lightweight wrestling, fans bringing weapons and of course, hardcore wrestling.
- Foreshadowing: The 3/25/98 episode of ECW Hardcore TV started with a promo from Rob Van Dam, Bill Alfonso, and Wrestling/Sabu about Bam Bam Bigelow defending the ECW World Television Title against Sabu. Before that could happen, he would have a tune-up match against RVD. In that, RVD mentioned how he beat Bigelow in the past, and that he'll beat him again so Sabu can take the TV Title and bring it to Fonzie's stable. Afterward, he said "what's yours (Sabu's) is mine, and what's mine is mine." RVD would win the World TV Title from Bigelow himself (and hold it for 700 days, the longest title reign in ECW history, and the longest title reign for a secondary title in a major promotion since the Honky Tonk Man's epic run with the WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Title from 1987-1988. Van Dam was exactly one month away from having held the title for a full TWO YEARS. As an aside, this win was legitimately the moment that MADE RVD, as the fans were cheering like crazy for him, something that continues today 15 years later.)
- Franchise Zombie: Between WWECW, the Extreme Revolution (an ECW stable in early TNA), Hardcore Homecoming's tours and EV2.0, a lot of people seem to have trouble letting go.
- Frenemy: The promotion as a whole had this relationship with the WWF. While ECW would mock and decry WWF almost as much as they did WCW, WWF would return fire on a regular basis, and it was WWF's Channel Hop to TNN that would eventually help kill ECW. However, the WWF provided a lot of support to the promotion, giving them large loans, loaning out wrestlers they weren't using at the moment, and even engaging in the occasional Crossover to help promote ECW's talent and product as equal to, if very different than, WWF's.
- Fun with Acronyms: Little Spike Dudley. (His finisher? The Acid Drop.)
- Garbage Wrestler: The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, the Public Enemy, Terry Funk, the Gangstas, the Bad Breed (Axl and Ian Rotten), Balls Mahoney...
- The Giant: 911, Big Guido
- Gimmick Matches: Several. At ECW Double Tables, February 4, 1995, ECW introduced the tables match. They also had no-rope barbed-wire matches, the Taipei (hands wrapped in tape, dipped in glue and covered with glass) Death Match, and Ultimate Jeopardy, which was a cage match with a variety of stipulations.
- Happily Married: Long after ECW went out of business, Tommy Dreamer married Beulah McGillicutty.
- Ms. Fanservice: Beulah McGillicutty, Francine, Kimona Wanalaya, Dawn Marie, Tammy Lynn Sytch
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After the company became Extreme Championship Wrestling, pretty much every match became this in theory, as pretty much anything and everything was allowed during a match (except hitting a referee intentionally).
- Once per Episode: ECW Hardcore TV frequently ended with several "surprise" run-ins and the match turning into an all out brawl. When Chris Candido asked Jim Cornette to participate saying "we always have a surprise ending!", Cornette remarked that it's not much of a surprise if it's done every night.
- One of the Boys: Muscular female wrestler Jazz. She wrestled the guys, and was portrayed more as a wrestler who happened to be female rather than a female wrestler, since ECW didn't have a proper women's division. Whether or not she was attractive was never discussed, most likely because she'd beat up whoever said she wasn't.
- Actually, Tommy Dreamer once opined that she looked like a crack whore and inferred that "the boys in the back" would rather receive fellatio from her stable mate Jason.
- One-Shot Character: At ECW Enter Sandman, May 13, 1995, The Tazmaniac and 911 squashed the Oriental Connection, made up of Japanese wrestlers Tsubo Genjin and Hiroyoshi Iekuda under masks. Genjin had previously defeated Tony Stetson at ECW Hostile City Showdown on April 15, and has competed for many different Japanese promotions. Iekuda is so obscure that a Google search for him only turns up references to this one match, with no indication as to where ECW had found him or what, if anything, he had done before this or went on to do after this.
- Parts Unknown:
- The Dudley Boys, from "Dudleyville"
- Tracy Smothers, from "Nashville, Italy"
- The Blue Meanie, from "Pepperland"
- Donn E. Allen, from "The Banks of the Sugo River"
- Sabu, from "Bombay, Michigan"
- Person with the Clothing: Hat Guy.
- Power Stable: Raven's Nest, the Network
- Power Trio: The Triple Threat (Shane Douglas and various allies)
- Really Seventeen Years Old: The infamous "Mass Transit incident". See the trope page for details.
- Real Song Theme Tune: ECW were notable for using real songs for wrestlers' entrance music - most famously, "Enter Sandman".
- Refuge in Audacity: A lot of ECW, but anything out of Joel Gertner's mouth. Forget Getting Crap Past the Radar - Gertner took the Radar out behind the toolshed and made it cry for its mama.
- Ring Oldies: Terry Funk, of course. In the Eastern Championship Wrestling days, Jimmy Snuka, Don Muraco, Tito Santana, Ivan Koloff, Nikolai Volkoff, Stan Hansen, Abdullah The Butcher and Kevin Sullivan all appeared.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The caning of Michael Fay in Singapore led to the famous Simgapore Caning Match between the Sandman and Tommy Dreamer, something Paul Heyman acknowledged on the Rise & Fall of ECW DVD.
- Scary Black Man: New Jack. Full stop.
- Take That: The Blue World Order. As Joey Styles put it during the first ECW One Night Stand event:
If any gimmick never deserved to make a dime and made a whole boatload of cash, this is it!
And the best is they
couldn't sue us because of parody
- And then there was Paul Heyman's infamous shoot promo on The Nashville Network (later The National Network, and now Spike TV) at the end of ECW's run. "Hey, Network - throw us off the air! I DARE YOU!"
- Naming a jobber "Joel Hartgood," a shot at TWA (Tri-State) Wrestling Alliance promoter Joel Goodhart.note
- Technology Marches On: During the Tommy Dreamer/Terry Funk vs. Raven/Cactus Jack main event at ECW November to Remember '95, Dreamer hit Raven with a VCR, something which would be next to impossible to find today.
- Unnecessary Roughness: The infamous Barbed Wire Match between Sabu and Terry Funk; the Mass Transit Incident.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Believe it or not, this was the relationship between ECW and WWE. Despite several employees, most notably Jerry Lawler, openly admitting to hating ECW, WWE did damn near everything they could to help ECW get off the ground. Both did quite a bit of cross promotion, and Vince even helped ECW get out of a bit of financial trouble from time to time. Really, most of the hate seems to stem from the fact that WWE replaced ECW on TNN, ultimately leading to the latter's dissolution, and that's more TNN's fault than WWE's.
- World of Badass: Compared to WWF and WCW at the time.
- Win Back the Crowd: Invoked. ECW Hardcore Heaven 95, July 1, 1995, featured a tag team match with Chad Austin and The Broadstreet Bully (Tony Stetson) vs. Donn E. Allen and Dino Sendoff that featured blown spots, with the crowd turning on it and Joey even saying, "This match isn't very good," and, figuring that the match probably wouldn't make TV, using it to take a shot at WCW Slamboree, a PPV which, from 1993-1995, would feature Ring Oldies along with wrestlers from the regular roster. Then "Frankenstein" by the Edgar Winter Group hit, bringing out Paul E. and 911. 911 chokeslammed all four guys to the cheers of the crowd.
- Worthy Opponents: RVD-Jerry Lynn is the most notable of this, but the Eliminators vs. the Gangstas is such that New Jack and John Kronus would become a tag team themselves when Mustafa Saed and Perry Saturn left ECW in 1997.
- Would Hit a Girl: Absolutely everyone, but most notable in the case of Tommy Dreamer's repeated piledriving of Raven's female compatriots.
- As Bill Alfonso famously discovered at As Good As It Gets, September 20, 1997, sometimes they hit back.note
- Wrestling Doesn't Pay: In this case, literally; when the promotion declared bankruptcy, some wrestlers were still owed hundreds, if not thousands, in back pay from Paul Heyman.
- This was one of the reasons that WWE didn't immediately purchase the assets of ECW following its demise, instead waiting for the bankruptcy court to go about its business (though they managed to earn a stern warning from the same bankruptcy court for utilizing ECW trademarks during the Invasion period, necessitating a quick-fix rename of the WCW/ECW faction to "The Alliance"). WWE was actually listed as a creditor in ECW's bankruptcy, to the tune of $587,500 - which was, not-so-coincidentally, very close to the amount listed as the value of ECW's tape library.
- Many of the wrestlers did double duty through much of the promotion's existence - Stevie Richards would take calls, Bubba Ray Dudley booked venues, Tommy Dreamer dealt with shirts and merchandise, Taz designed logos, etc. Of course, Paul Heyman handled the finances, and we all know how well that went...
- Wrestling Family: In kayfabe, the Dudleys were all fathered by the same man (a traveling salesman), but were born to different mothers.
- C.W. Anderson was related to the famous Anderson family in kayfabe. In real life, like all the Andersons, there's no actual relation, just a strong resemblance.
- Axl and Ian Rotten, not really related.
- Wrestling Monster: Big Dick Dudley
E-C-DUB! E-C-DUB! E-C-DUB!