Shane Douglas christened Extreme Championship Wrestling on August 27, 1994, when he dramatically threw down the NWA World Championship in favor of the extreme. The company technically existed for about two years before that, when Tod Gordon created NWA: Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992. ECW would air its final show in 2001, officially closing in April of that year when new owner Paul Heyman declared bankruptcy. At its worst, ECW was just a bunch of violent crap, outright endangering the well being of the wrestlers and even the fans for ultimately meaningless reactions. At its best, ECW produced the absolute greatest wrestling of the 1990’s.
ECW was the third most successful wrestling promotion in America while it existed, but it still distantly trailed behind WWE and WCW. They eventually held a national TV deal for about a year, and aired Pay-Per-Views for about four, but the majority of their output came in the form of an hour-long syndicated recap show called Hardcore TV. Thanks to the WWE Network, the majority of these matches can be viewed in full for the first time in years as they aired on that show, without spending months trying to track down rare VHS tapes. If you’re a younger fan or maybe you just missed the ECW boat, these 15 matches should prove how important, influence, and of course, extreme, the company that helped launched the Attitude Era could regularly get.
15 Jerry Lynn vs. Rob Van Dam - Hardcore Heaven, 1999
14 Sabu vs. Too Cold Scorpio - CyberSlam, 1996
13 Rey Mysterio, Jr. vs Juventud Guerrera - Big Ass Extreme Bash, 1996
12 Terry Funk vs. Bret Hart - Wrestle Fest, 1997
11 Beulah McGillicutty vs. Bill Alfonso - As Good As It Gets, 1997
10 Steve Corino vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri - Hardcore Heaven, 2000
9 The Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada and Masato Yukushiji vs. bWo Japan - Barely Legal, 1997
8 The Unholy Alliance vs. Kid Kash and Super Crazy - Massacre on 34th Street, 2000
7 Al Snow vs. Chris Benoit - Double Tables, 1995
6 Too Cold Scorpio vs. Shane Douglas vs. Pitbull #2 vs. Chris Jericho - Heat Wave, 1996
5 Sabu & Bobby Eaton vs. Terry Funk & Arn Anderson - When Worlds Collide, 1994
4 Cactus Jack vs. Mikey Whipwreck - Big Ass Extreme Bash, 1996
3 Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero - Hostile City Showdown, 1995
2 The Pitbulls vs. Raven and Stevie Richards - Gangstas Paradise, 1995
1 Raven and Cactus Jack vs. Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer, November To Remember, 1995
ECW didn’t last long enough to build their own WrestleMania, but the closest thing they had was November to Remember. As this list has shown, 1995 was probably the best year for the company, both in the ring and in terms of interviews and storylines, at the main event of their biggest show naturally was the climax of the era. Amazingly, the first highlight of the match is as simple as the clothing, with Cactus Jack wearing a Dungeon of Doom t-shirt he eventually takes off in favor of one reading “Forgive Me, Uncle Eric,” calling out the man who fired him from WCW.
Outside of sartorial choices, the match is a bloody, violent classic, with all four men bleeding for their art before the end. It isn’t the technical masterpiece as some other matches we may not have ranked as high, but it’s a top-notch brawl, and that’s what ECW was all about. Terry Funk won the match by pinning Raven, but all four men kept fighting until the show went off the air, while the crowd screamed three letters: ECW! ECW! ECW!
Sources: WWE Network, Cage Match
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