Tod Gordon founded Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992. The company expanded out of the East and moved towards the hardcore starting in August of 1994, changing their name to Extreme Championship Wrestling in the process. Sometime along the way, Gordon sold the company to Paul Heyman, and it gradually grew in importance until a bevy of terrible financial decisions drove the company out of business in 2001. ECW never had anywhere near the money or resources of WCW or WWE, but they managed to put on such a loud, innovative show they ended up being the unquestionable #3 wrestling promotion in America during the industry boom of the late 90s.
ECW wasn’t a perfect company by any means. The promoters and the wrestlers were both known to disappoint on a regular basis. Even when they weren’t outright disappointing, some of the wrestlers didn’t have too much talent in the first place, and were often derided as garbage men offering violent crap. However, ECW is also responsible for some of the greatest matches, angles, and wrestlers of all time, and the company’s brief tenure changed the face of wrestling in ways fans are still feeling today. Read on and learn about 15 things ECW did better than any of the big guys, and start learning how they earned their reputation.
14 Constant Surprises
13 Time Management
12 Hyping The Big Event
11 Listening To The Crowd
10 Not Overusing Celebrities
9 Feeling Cutting Edge
8 Building An Atmosphere
7 Showing Emotion
6 Finding Talent
5 Making Stars, Fast
Because ECW only had their biggest and best stars for a few short months before McMahon or Bischoff would steal them, they had to make the most of things the fastest they could. WCW had a serious problem in this category, which drove them out of business, and WWE’s new stars either took years to break through, or paved their way in ECW. In other cases, the stars ECW made would be thrown into those other companies and get lost in the shuffle, either not understanding or not caring what made them connect with so many fans.
4 Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas was known as The Franchise of ECW. Of course, the success of the company can’t be placed on the back of one man (and even if it could, that man wouldn’t be Douglas), but the nickname perfectly fit his heel persona, which ran wild in a dominant fashion, staying on top of ECW for the better part of five years. Douglas was the definition of a douche bag, going out of his way to attack the defenseless, mock the public, and make sure everyone knew his girlfriend was hotter than theirs. In WWE, he was a nerdy teacher.
The ECW version of Taz was Goldberg combined with Ken Shamrock a full year before either of them made their debut in professional wrestling. He was called The Human Suplex Machine, The One-Man Crime Spree, and sometimes simply The Most Miserable Son of a Bitch on the Planet. Regardless of the sobriquet, something was clear—Taz was a killer, and absolutely no one on the planet would ever dare to mess with him. Utilizing this attitude, Taz won every title in ECW, usually holding on to them for pretty lengthy reigns.
We mentioned the great feuds, the big shows, and the hardcore matches, but we didn’t mention the fact all of them are best exemplified by the same thing: the never ending war between Tommy Dreamer and Raven. The feud wouldn’t have reached its legendary status without Dreamer’s natural ability to gain a crowd’s sympathy, but Raven was the true star and mastermind of the story that took ECW to the history books. Another feud generally considered amongst the greatest in history was Raven’s battle with The Sandman.
1 The Lead Announcer
No one would deny the commentary of one-time WWE lead announcer Jim Ross ranks as perhaps the greatest of all time, but WCW’s lead announcer Tony Schiavone is a different story. The commentary of broadcasters including Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff, Steve McMichael, Michael Cole, and honestly the majority of the other announcers working for WWE and WCW during the Attitude Era fell into the Schiavone category. The lead announcer of ECW, usually calling complete broadcasts by himself, was Joey Styles, and outside of Good Ol’ JR, Styles was probably the best announcer in the business when he had the job.
Joey Styles was more than a lead announcer. As the host of the weekly Hardcore TV, he narrated absolutely everything that happened in ECW, with the exception of a few episodes during the first year of the show. When ECW got their second show on TNN, Joey was called on as the host, and continued to prove his mastery of the field with a regular partner in Joel Gertner. Styles got a chance to call Raw for a few months in 2005 and 2006 before returning to WWE’s version of ECW, where he retired from announcing in 2008. Styles now works WWE.com as Vice President of Digital Media Content, and likely won’t ever return to the booth, but if Michael Cole ever gets sick, fans can cross their fingers and beg we might get to hear those three words one more time…OH MY GOD!
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