WWE's ECW Anniversary Review: Top Stars the Brand Helped Produce in the WWE
Tonight at 11:05 ET marks the two-year anniversary of the last seconds of WWE's version of ECW.
The brand closed its doors on February 16, 2010, with Ezekiel Jackson defeating Christian for the ECW Championship. The match itself, while entertaining, served as the perfect symbol for the failures and lost magic that WWE could never recapture.
As the match ended, and ECW shut down for the final time, many believed that ECW was dead for good and would never rise again.
While the brand never did live up to the hype of the original show, it has left a lasting impression and will always be remembered as the birthplace for some of the company's current crop of superstars.
This list is not to rip on ECW's death in 2001 and repeat burial in 2010, but rather to honor the select few that help keep the fallen company alive through their current work and growth.
10. Ezekiel Jackson
In at No. 10 is the last ECW Champion, Ezekiel Jackson.
Back in ECW, Ezekiel Jackson served as a member of the brand's powerhouse stable, Ruthless Round Table, with former mentor William Regal and former tag team partner Vladmir Kozlov. The group will go down as one of the most underused pairings the company has seen, as the ceiling was rather high with the group.
While Ezekiel will not go down as one of the must memorable guys in WWE, he has carved himself out a nice career as former muscle to The Core, and one-time Intercontinental Champion.
Who could forget the lovely Layla.
After winning Diva Search 2006, Layla wrestling career really failed to gain traction in the company.
Before bouncing back and becoming one half of the Diva tag team LayCool, she served as a manager and dancer for the ECW Brand with Extreme Expose.
While...... you know what I am just going to shut up and let you enjoy the video.
Random Embarrassing Moment; DJ Gabriel and Alicia Fox
Alicia Fox somehow recovered from what may be one of the worst segments in wrestling history, however her dancing partner in crime DJ Gabriel was not so lucky.
I hope the guy or gal responsible for this travesty lost their job as well.
8. Jack Swagger
The true Rodney Dangerfield of the WWE, Swagger is truly a man who gets little to no respect.
Back in the land of extreme, Jack Swagger carried the brand throughout early 2009 and was among one of the top heels in the WWE at that time.
Since leaving ECW, Swagger has won Money In the Bank, a World Heavyweight Title, and currently serves as the WWE's United States Champion.
While his tenure in the WWE has been rocky at times since his departure, Swagger has rebounded nicely with his partnership with Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler.
He is also a perfect example of what WWE's Talent Intiative for ECW in 2007 through 2010, has done for the company over the years.
7. Kelly Kelly
I will be the first to admit that I am not really a fan of Kelly Kelly's wrestling ability. I will however gladly admit in the next breath, that she has come a long way from her "Expose" days of ECW.
After her ECW days ended, Kelly Kelly went on to lay claim to a Diva's title and became one of the most recognizable faces in the WWE.
She is among the very few crop of Divas to actually build up a solid career after ECW, and Kelly Kelly has definitively earned my respect because of that.
We Can't Forget: Drew McIntyre
Drew McIntyre, similar to Swagger, has had a rocky relationship with the WWE.
After his start in the company back in 2007 began without much steam or success, he went on to parlay his small success on ECW to a big run on Smackdown as the McMahon's "Chosen One," winning the Intercontinental Championship in the process.
While his current run in the company has been less then spectacular, McIntyre has had plenty of good runs in the WWE, and it can all be traced back to his time in the land of extreme.
Other Names That Stood Out:
While not top company guys in the WWE quite yet, there was a select few of guys and girls in ECW lower cards that have made a small name for themselves.
Tyson Kidd has emerged as one of the best workers and even held the tag titles for a bit as member of The Hart Dynasty.
Yoshi Tatsu won the Wrestlemania 26 man battle royal back in 2010.
ECW Notables On the WWE's Current Roster:
6. Zack Ryder
"OMG, that guy looks like a complete idiot" were my little sister first words when she saw the new Zack Ryder debut on ECW.
Long before becoming the IWC's darling, Zack Ryder Long Island persona got it's start in ECW on Tuesday nights.
What many considered a ripoff of the reality TV show Jersey Shore, was actually a character created by Ryder months before the reality show even happened.
The gimmick would eventually stick and grew from a gulity pleasure among wrestling fans to a full grown revolution of sorts.
Since then, the Long Island Revolution has been storming across not just the WWE, but all of entertainment and sports.
2011 became the breakout year for Zack Ryder, as he was recognize as one of the top 100 Tweeter's by Sports Illustrated. He ended the year capturing the United States Championship and becoming a fan favorite in the company.
Zack Ryder has arrived in the wrestling world, and ECW is the place where the Long Island Ice Z got his start.
In the words of Ryder: "Woo Woo Woo You Know It"
5. Mark Henry
Mark Henry has spent close to sixteen years in the WWE. During that time, he has been bounced around a couple of places, among them being ECW.
Mark Henry came into ECW as a force taking out Kane and Big Show. He later went on to introduce the last concept of the ECW Belt for the brand.
While Mark Henry is by no means a WWE ECW original like so many others on the list. ECW for Henry proved to the place where the "World's Strongest Man" showed the WWE brass and fans that he was capable of carrying a brand if booked right.
Since then, Henry hopped around from RAW and Smackdown over the years before making a huge impact on Smackdown throughout late summer-early fall of 2011 with his "Hall of Pain" taking out the likes of Big Show, Randy Orton, Great Khali, and Kane once again.
Random Awesome Moment: Christian Returns to the WWE in the Land of Extreme
In what turned out to be a shocker, Christian made his long awaited return to the WWE in ECW.
Christian returned at the time, interrupted the reign of Swagger and brought some much needed charisma to the brand.
Christian would go on to win the ECW Champion from Swagger and became one of the top faces in the WWE at the time.
4. Kofi Kingston
While this Sunday Kofi Kingston hopes to make a major splash in the 2012 edition of the Elimination Chamber, we can't forget that he made his very first leap on ECW.
It is really amazing to watch how much he has grown as a wrestler and character over the years. He might not have capture a World Title just yet, but he is coming into his own as a future star in the WWE.
Like Swagger, Drew Mcintyre, and Zack Ryder; Kofi Kingston has emerged as one of the top faces of the WWE's Talent Initiative in ECW that many fans at the time complained about.
Kingston would later leave ECW in 2008, defeating Chris Jericho at Night of Champions for the Intercontinental Title, making his debut on RAW as champ.
Since then he has not looked back, adding two more IC titles, two United States Champion runs, and two Tag Team Title runs.
3. The Miz
Unlike other guys on the list who used ECW as a way to gain exposure, The Miz had to start from scratch in both the exposure and wrestling department.
He had to develop his wrestling skill set, create a gimmick, build up his endurance, and try not to get lost while learning on the job.
Looking back Miz was fighting an uphill battle just to keep a roster spot in the WWE. Luckily for us he did more then just gain a spot, he emerged as a young talent with a lot of upside due to his partnership with John Morrison.
While Miz's ECW days in and of itself were full of a lot of great moments and equally number of bad segments; the days he spent learning and developing his character pay dividend.
After leaving ECW, The Miz went on to become one of the biggest mainstream wrestlers in the WWE. He headline Wrestlemania 27 with John Cena, is a former Money In the Bank winner, and was the last person in the WWE to hold three major titles at the same time carrying the World Tag Team Title, WWE Tag Titles, and United States Championship simultaneously.
The Match That Defined WWE's ECW: Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin Ladder Match
Who can forget the epic clash Christian and Shelton had at TLC back in 2009.
The two going in said they were going to steal the show from guys like Chris Jericho, John Cena, Sheamus, and HHH, and they did just that.
The match will forever go down as one of the greatest matches not in just ECW, but the WWE's PG Era as well.
The two pulled out all the stops and payed great homage to the ECW name.
Honorary Star: Christian
Christian didn't get his start in ECW, and most likely will never be truly remember for the time he spent with the brand.
However with all that said, I would be remiss if I didn't mention to his run as ECW Champion from mid 2009 all the way to the last final seconds of ECW in 2010.
During his time there he clashed with a variety of guys on the brand, from veterans like William Regal and ECW Legend Tommy Dreamer, to up and comers like Zack Ryder and Jack Swagger.
As you seen in the last slide, along with Shelton Benjamin, he has a knack for bringing out the best in his opponents in the ring. A quality that has benefited a ton of talent in the WWE.
I remember watching the debut of Sheamus with my roommate at the time, laughing as the Celtic Warrior made his way to the ring and squash his opponent.
There was no way in my mind did I believe, that Sheamus would arrive as a star in ECW let alone the entire WWE.
Well after two and half years, it is about time I made a public statement admitting how 100% wrong I was at the time.
After winning a battle royal for the No. 1 contender status over the WWE Championship, Sheamus made his leap from ECW by capturing the WWE title, defeating John Cena in the now infamous Tables Match back at TLC 2009. The win made him one of the quickest guys to win a World Title in the company's history.
Since then Sheamus has added a U.S Championship to his name along with a King of the Ring run, a win in the Royal Rumble Match back in January, and will headline Wrestleamania 28. Whew!!!
All of that success can be traced back to his 4 minute and 43 second debut on ECW.
1. CM Punk
Coming from a small but dedicated cult following from Ring of Honor, CM Punk made his stamp on ECW right away defeating ECW Legend Justin Credible in his debut.
The momentum and buzz in the air would continue to follow Punk as he made his way up the ECW ranks, capturing the ECW Championship.
Once done with the land of extreme Punk would soon became one of the WWE's main staples, becoming a 6 time World Champion, 1 time Intercontinental Champ, and the 19th Triple Crown Champion in the company's history.
Like many of his ECW alums on the list, CM Punk dominated 2011, turning wrestling on its head, with his now famous "shoot" on the WWE live on RAW. During the promo, CM Punk talked about being a "Paul Heyman Guy" and without a doubt spoke up for himself as well as many of his cohorts who have also been slighted and overlooked throughout their time in ECW.
Out of all the guys on the list, no one represents what ECW stood for, quite like CM Punk. It is because of that, that the ECW name will forever live on.
What ECW Talent Initiative Roster Could Look Like in 2012
Potential 2012 ECW Roster:
CM Punk The Miz
Kofi Kingston Yoshi Tatsu
Sheamus Jack Swagger
Mark Henry Zack Ryder
Goldust Shelton Benjamin
Tyson Kidd Brie Bella
Drew McIntyre Trent Barreta
Kelly Kelly Ezekiel Jackson
Layla Tyler Reks
Alicia Fox Savannah
Nicki Bella Rosa Mendes
Kozlov William Regal
Christian John Morrison
Matt Stryker and Josh Matthews
ECW Elimination Chamber Match Could Have Looked Like:
CM Punk vs. Mark Henry vs. Jack Swagger vs. The Miz vs. Christian vs. Kofi Kingston
Royal Rumble Winner 2012:
The Talent Initiative Reviewed
"Don't Question the Fire That Burns Inside"
Taking a look at each of the men and women of WWE's ECW, they each embody a certain character trait that made the original one so great.
That trait being the never say quit attitude, even when it seem like all are odds are against you succeeding at the highest level.
The trait can be seen in CM Punk attitude when it comes to authority, Sheamus ruthless aggression against all that stands in his way, and even in a guy like Zack Ryder. When he didn't received the pushed he felt he deserved, he created his own road to fame through his web series without the backing of his company.
Determination and perseverance is what guys like Mark Henry and The Miz built their whole entire careers on in ECW and moving forward into present day. They kept on moving and when one avenue shutdown, they adapted and flexed into one that showed more promise. It eventually led them both to World Title runs.
While a lot of folks look upon WWE's ECW as a failed stint that killed the name of a once pride organization, I will forever look upon the brand as the training grounds for the new wave of talent in the WWE, just as it did in the early to late 90s.
February 16, 2010 may serve as the official day that ECW was buried for some, but as long as stars like CM Punk, The Miz, Kelly Kelly, and Sheamus are competing in the ring, the flames of extreme will forever burn and shine bright.