Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Now I’m not gonna sit here and tell you ECW was the greatest promotion of all time because we all know it isn’t. However, it is my favorite promotion, and I know there is a whole legion of die hard fans out there like me.
I still wear an EC F’N W shirt to this day. If you throw on any episode of Hardcore TV on The Network you can see they are basically a blueprint for every modern indie promotion. The setup, the in ring competition, even the music, and I know this has been edited from the stuff on The Network.
I am a huge fan of learning the history behind things I like and I think it helps understand how we got to where we are now - ECW is a huge part of wrestling history.
I was too young to remember the original ECW. I was born in '93, so I would have been about 8 when they went out of business. My first exposure to ECW was ECW One Night Stand 06. This show opened my eyes. I’ve said it before, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment something clicks for you, but this was it for me. I had never seen anything like this. I was probably only 12 at the time and was relatively new to wrestling maybe about 6 months, but it’s not like WWE did a ton of stuff like that back then.
I remember seeing all these wrestlers doing so many things I had never seen before. Sabu was jumping off chairs and DDTing Mysterio through a table set up between the barricade and the ring. Sandman came out smoking and drinking and the crowd ate it up. They wanted to catch the beer falling from his mouth as he chugged as gross as that is.
The one thing that stood out to me more than anything else was the crowd. I was only 12, but I was not a John Cena fan. Even then I was a snarky little kid that hated Cena for always winning and the crowd loved him, but I’ve always been a fan of heels. For those uninitiated, this was the show where Rob Van Dam challenged John Cena by cashing in Money in the Bank on Rob’s home turf of ECW in an extreme rules match. This was the first anti-Cena crowd I had ever seen .They wanted his head. RVD was our man, he was winning or as my favorite wrestling sign of all time says “IF CENA WINS WE RIOT.” I immediately fell in love with this crowd. They were hungry and there’s no better way for a wrestling crowd to be. I have since then gone back and watched a ton of ECW on The Network and YouTube, and I can never get enough.
It’s time to go back to the beginnings of ECW as we know it today. Back to the infamous Shane Douglas NWA Title win. ECW started off with an extremely bold move. I’m gonna go into a little wrestling history lesson here. The NWA was the authority in wrestling for a long time in the territory days but they were starting to lose steam around August '94 when this occurred. NWA planned this big tournament to crown a new champion and Shane Douglas was supposed to win on ECW turf. Paul Heyman decided he was going to conspire with Shane Douglas to try to establish themselves as a new strong promotion, at this time ECW actually stood for Eastern Championship Wrestling, so they hatched a scheme.
When Shane Douglas won this tournament and got on the mic he proceeded to disrespect the NWA championship going so far as to throw it down and Shane Douglas declared the ECW Championship the true Heavy Weight Championship. Throwing a huge middle finger to most of wrestling and putting the final nail in the casket of the NWA back then. NWA has made a comeback in the last year or so but they were not in good shape for a long time after this. As you can imagine, the NWA was none too pleased about these antics and immediately demanded Shane Douglas be stripped of both the NWA title and ECW title.
On the next ECW show it was announced that Eastern Championship Wrestling had folded and in its place Extreme Championship Wrestling was being established and they recognized Shane Douglas as their champion.
This move established ECW as the outlaws we all know they were, as Tazz puts it “this is some renegade shit.”
ECW was more than just crazy turns. They were incredibly ahead of their time in the product they were putting out. To put it into perspective, ECW was bringing in Japanese and Lucha talents early in the game way before they made their way to WCW or WWF. Paul Heyman really knew what he was doing. Bringing in these special attractions at the time was a huge draw for them. They also used a different style I would consider way ahead of its time. If you look at the athletes performing there at the time it looks more similar to a promotion of modern era than it does in that era, it was a slimmer more athletic performer not necessarily a body guy like many of the performers in WWF or WCW of the time. Their shows truly looked like an indie show of today.
Now I’m going to get to the bread and butter of ECW, what everybody thinks of when they think of ECW, hardcore. ECW was the first promotion to bring hardcore matches to the mainstream. Deathmatches started in Japan way before here in America, one of the first I am aware of was Atsushi Onita’s FMW. This style made its way across the ocean and there were a few promotions doing it in America but they were fairly short lived. ECW was truly the first American promotion to bring hardcore matches to the forefront of wrestling. It wasn’t until they started doing it that WCW and WWF started adding these elements into their shows. When you think of hardcore, you think of ECW originals.
You think Sandman, you think Tommy Dreamer, you think Sabu, you think Catcus Jack, you think the Dudley Boys and the list goes on.
These guys weren’t going so far as the Japanese deathmatch promotions at the time, but they were pushing it right up to the line of acceptable in popular culture and in the 90s that was the coolest thing. It was all about being edgy and trying to push it. ECW was very much a product of its time.
ECW was an incredibly important piece of wrestling history. I don’t think there is one person on that roster you could point to that I was not a fan of for some reason. ECW was the promotion for all of us outcast wrestling fans out there. ECW was so popular because it was a gritty real environment in a world where wrestling was larger than life, not to mention the list of talent that came out of ECW is absolutely unbelievable. I am so excited to see ECW living on through AEW right now with the FTW belt, but their legacy is so much more.
Follow Jon on Twitter @Badger751