ECW: Hardcore Wrestling to the End
Extreme Championship Wrestling was a groundbreaking wrestling organization. It helped influence the WWE and spawned many copycat wrestling organizations. ECW was well known for its die-hard and loyal fans. Audience participation and chanting were a regular part of any ECW show. They were also well known for pushing the envelope with their story lines and the ferocity of their matches. In ECW anything goes. Weapons were used in basically every match and blood was spilled numerous times.
ECW was an innovator with the type of matches they held. Most American wrestling fans never saw matches like Barbwire Rope, Flaming Tables, and Dog Collar matches before. ECW creator, Paul Heyman, borrowed heavily from Japanese wrestling promotions like FMW. He wanted to blend Japanese style with Mexican lucha libre style and with American wrestling to create something never seen before.
ECW was intended to be a more gritty alternative to the big two, WWF and WCW. Many major wrestlers passed through ECW at some point during their careers. Wrestlers like Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Terry Funk, and Rob Van Dam all wrestled in ECW during their careers.
ECW story lines were more intense and extreme than ones featured in WWF and WCW. ECW had the first ever lesbian storyline between Kimona Wana Laya and Beulah McGillicutty. Another storyline featured Raven crucifying the Sandman.
Raven and the Sandman were fighting over the Sandman’s son. Just as Sandman was going to hug his kid in the middle of the ring, Raven comes out and nails Sandman over the head with a chair. He then proceeds to tie Sandman to a wooden cross and put a barbed wire halo around his head.
This incident never made it to the syndicated television show because it was deemed too offensive. ECW stars invaded WWF RAW during the early part of 1997. ECW wrestlers showed up on Monday Night RAW. This led to a series of confrontations between wrestlers most notably Jerry Lawler and Tommy Dreamer.
Lawler even showed up at ECW shows and challenged Tommy Dreamer to a match.
Both the WWF and WCW started to institute hardcore matches when ECW began to become more popular. These hardcore matches were nothing compared to any of ECW’s matches. WWF and WCW hardcore matches basically consisted of two wrestlers hitting each other with trashcans and chairs.
They were usually boring and repetitive. ECW matches used weapons but they also had amazing wrestling moves like somersaults into the crowd. In August 1999, ECW began to broadcast on national television on TNN which was known as The Nashville Network back then.
Before ECW was on TNN, the only way people could see ECW would be their syndicated show, tape trading, and the Internet which severely limited their audience. Unfortunately, TNN and ECW didn’t get along very well. ECW was hardly advertised and their one hour Friday night show was heavily edited.
ECW was known for its graphic violence and raunchiness so it lost part of it’s edge when edited by TNN. After a year, TNN began secret negotiations with WWF. ECW was then canceled in October 2000 so TNN could air Monday Night Raw.
After being canceled, ECW tried to secure a national television deal but they could not. ECW was in deep financial trouble and Paul Heyman had no choice but to file for bankruptcy on April 4, 2001. Soon after, Heyman was hired by the WWE as a commentator and he brought along many wrestlers from ECW with him including Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer. In 2003, WWE purchased ECW’s assets and the rights to ECW’s video library.
They released a DVD called The Rise and Fall of ECW which chronicles the entire history of the company. Many ECW wrestlers still wrestle in the WWE today. Even though there many ECW wrestlers competing in the WWE today it is still nothing like how ECW used to be.
WWE is too mainstream to be like ECW. ECW had everything you could want from a wrestling organization: violence, hard rock music, beautiful women, and hardcore insane stunts. There are many imitators like XPW but there will only be one ECW and there will never be anything like it again.