How ECW Lost its Place in the Wrestling World Part III
This is a long one. This is NOT a biography, or "the story of" ECW. This is simply MY ECW.
I have seen the progress and regress of ECW. I have watched as this has gone from what I call "our ECW" to "their ECW."
This was a unique, bloody, new brand. There was a new excitement, more spectacle, and crazy, dedicated men behind it all.This was Extreme Championship Wrestling!
This was the idea, was the unique vision, sparked by the inspiration, of the WWF. This ECW of old, was the fruition, of a man's dream, determination, and "follow through."
Please, keep in mind, I loved ECW. I still love watching wrestling. There will always be ways, to love wrestling. One brand, or the next. One form, or the other. Wrestling will always be...wrestling.
Part 1: The ECW Inspiration. "Where it all began."
ECW is a company, of which it's existence I was not aware of, for many years. Like many, I had enjoyed the "safety" of the WWF.
I began watching these men beat the hell out of each other, and the pageantry of it all. Between WCW , ECW, and TNA, these were all inspired by the WWF (as have several other promotions.)
The mascot of ECW, Paul Heyman, has even told of his photograph of Vince McMahon and Andre the Giant, backstage. If this was not the sign of a fire burning, I cannot say what is.
Part 2: Paul's Ambition
Many of us have ideas, desire, ambition. Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon seemed to have the drive and initiative. With this, Paul had started his wrestling promotion with a style that was all his own.
Many other promotions may have had their own style, but no one had ever seen anything like this before.
This is a style, which made ECW stand out from the rest. This was and is such a unique style, that WWF, WCW, WWF, TNA, have all done their own versions, their own imitation of ECW.
Paul had two things which made this legacy possible. The first thing, was the style that evolved into ECW. But the second, he could not have made that style without his loyal pack of stars.
He brought in a mix of odd, ambitious and lethal men. One man in the beginning, who had joined Paul on his quest, was this next man...
Part 3.1: Acquiring Talent (The Human Suplex Machine)
These were men, soldiers, who were willing to stick with Heyman from the beginning. Times were tough; this did not pay much at all.
These men committed themselves to this unique brand of wrestling, because they saw something...new. Guys like, "the human suplex machine," TAZ, and...
Part 3.2: Acquiring Talent (The Hardcore King)
Tommy Dreamer. He was always willing to push the envelope, get down and dirty, remain loyal. This man also had that look that all the fans loved. This man couldn't help being a "Face."
Dreamer was the man famous for bringing in the oddest, impractical, yet innovative weapons. He has been known to be the "Innovator of Violence" for this very reason.
Part 3.3: Acquiring Talent (The Whole Dam Show)
Rob Van Dam! This is yet another man whose name comes to mind when you think of ECW. RVD, Mr. Monday Night, the Whole Dam Show.
Whatever he is, was, will be called, RVD is a man who drew a crowd.
He was not the most "hardcore" out of the original members, but he was a risk taker and bone breaker.
This man has always flown in, around; over the ring. RVD was able to fly from one ring post to the next, with ease. He had the "Van Daminator." He and this next wrestler, carried on one of the longest, yet most entertaining feuds in history. RVD and this next man were extremely tight on and especially off stage...
Part 3: Acquiring Talent (The Suicidal, Homicidal, Genocidal...)
Sabu is and was one amazing "Hardcore" legend. He did not possess the showmanship of this next man. He was a "high flier," but was not known for that the way Mysterio or RVD were. What this man had, was complete disregard for his body.
Sabu would definitely rival, if not surpass, just about any star in the land of "Hard Core." Sabu made a habit of getting more bloody than his opponent.
Diving onto cement, bringing barbed wire into a match, using anything to make himself become the bloodiest man in the ring.
This way of fighting, (as one could hardly call this wrestling) was frightening to his opponents as well as the fans.
This bloody man was called, “the suicidal, homicidal, genocidal, death-defying" SABU!!!
The Genesis of The Original ECW
I am certain I have missed, or overlooked several. Terry Funk ( a huge part of ECW), Johnny Grunge, the Rotten Brothers, Dudleys, Cactus Jack, Rhyno, Al Snow, Balls Mahoney, Shane Douglas, Sandman...etc. What I am sure of, is that ECW could not have existed, without these men. ECW could not have developed its own style without these stars.
The most impressive part of all of this, is that they were only stars. These men did not receive worldwide recognition. These men were not paid even half of what the WCW and WWF, or WWE, could offer.
These men (somewhat comparable to the TNA roster) believed in more than all of the above. They believed in loyalty and they believed in the company THEY helped to build.
Part 4: The Arrival of Hardcore
As mentioned, the other half of this recipe was the style of the whole promotion. Heyman wanted more than to simply "follow the rules." Above we see a picture of wrestling legend, Terry Funk, as he is cut out of his barbed wire.
Heyman wanted to see this new vision of his, break all of "the rules." This promotion broke them all, then more! Heyman's vision was a raw/ street version. The fights were often in the crowd, the wrestlers would accept objects form fans, to beat their opponents with. This style was bloody!
Part 4: The Hardcore Style
This new style had spectacle, the likes of which were stunning. There was FIRE!!!
Part 4: Enter Sandman
"The Sandman" was not the traditional "role model." This man would start off at the top of the arena. The crowd would finally take notice, as he made his way through.
Upon arrival, Sandman would guzzle down a beer (this was before "Stone Cold"), then drive it into his forehead until it would bleed!
We now have more blood and a thing the man loved, his SINGAPORE CANE!
Part 4: "Rotten" Warfare
Brothers Ian and Axel Rotten, began a feud with each other. This was a long and bloody feud along the way.
One thing that no one saw coming was this unbelievable, match that words cannot describe. This was a match that can only be seen, to understand its gravity.
For this match, each of the opponents would wrap their own hands in tape. Next on the agenda, was to dip these taped hands of theirs into a bucket of glue.
This next step, is what would make history, while simultaneously, turning stomachs.
The Rotten Brothers, with their taped and glue ready fists, would then dip these hands in a broken-glass filled container. When they would complete this process, and knuckles were coated in broken glass, that is when they decided to begin.
Now we have yet, more blood.
This time we also had BROKEN GLASS!!!
Part 4: The Gladiators of Hardcore
Whether there were tables, thumb tacks, fires, glass, Singapore canes, beer, chairs, ladders, or just bringing the fight to the crowd, and beyond...this company invented several matches, made history, and shocked all who watched.
I know I have made this assertion in my previous articles. This style, this blood bath, carnage, chaos, spectacle and inventive destruction of opponents. This all, makes us just as bad if not worse than the Romans of ancient times, as they watch the gladiators square off in battle.
Adding some "Styles"
ECW was on the rise. Joey Styles, would provide commentary as the "common man." There were two phrases for this company. #1 ECFNW ! The next was a Joey Styles' "OH MY GOD!!!"
Not your Ma and Pa's Professional Wrestling
The fan base was growing, from bingo halls in Philly. This company was manufacturing and drawing in more stars. The two "big companies" were beginning to see that this was not simply another small promotion.
The wahoos down south known as WCW enjoyed the story line. Ted turner's general manager was Eric Bischoff. He enjoyed the thin line between reality and story.
Frothing at the Sight of Bloodsport
The Chairman of the WWF Is and Was Vincent Kennedy McMahon. He saw the violence of ECW, and was immediately drawn to that.
Imitation isn't the sincerest form of flattery.
The WWF began with the invention of a "Hardcore" title. This was an attempt to push the physicality of the match. They developed the "Attitude!" angle. The logo was even made to look as raw as possible, to imitate the ECW style.
The stars of ECW were handed contracts. These stars were becoming Superstars. These men were given several times the amount they were paid. If this were not enough, they were given, much more recognition.
WCW Sputters To Contend With ECW
WCW began trying to imitate the style more than the violence. They began by creating storylines similar to ECW's.
This was an attempt to make the line between story and reality, as thin as possible. ECW had successfully achieved this, but it proved to be more difficult for WCW. This was a tough act to follow.
The Loss of stars proves self destructive for ECW.
Losing stars at an alarming rate. The unique style (imitated, yet effective),was being taken as well. ECW began to lose the race. The company was beginning to go bankrupt.
The "big two" were taking the fans. Paul Heyman was left to fight for his progeny.
Finale: The Ultimate Armageddon of ECW
There was only a matter of time, before this company was swallowed by, what turned out to be the WWF/ WWE. The Company was able to pick and choose whomever they desired. WWE added new superstars to the roster.
With the "rebirth" of ECW, the audience had only a mere image of the old ECW.
The WWE has fired the man who ran it all. The man whose dream this was. The vision, the creation, the whole company, was the brain child of Paul Heyman.
With Heyman gone, the WWE has seen fit to fire many other 'ECW greats." In fact, the entire cast, of every star, manager...etc, have all been replaced.
We have only three employees left at WWE, from the original ECW.
We have Tommy Dreamer, (with talks of retirement) and Joey Styles (running a website). Taking the place of an announcer, is now an "ECW original,"star. Tazz.
WWE has made the ECW show, a one-hour show, as opposed to the two other shows. ECW has become the bottom rung in the "WWE Universe."
ECW, is now a place that holds the line between employment, and being "canned."
The way a star is made into a "superstar" these days, is to make their way off of the ECW roster.
There is all but the rubble and the original name left of "the old days." The only way to remember this original brand, in its prime, is to search archives and hope that Google has something on it somewhere.
We will miss this brand, however, we still nave one brand that the wrestling monopoly has not taken. We still have "TNA." So it goes, as we all are able to still, find a way to love this sport.
But nothing can compare to seeing chairs being flung from the stands to the ring below, seeing Spike Dudley get carried around the arena by the fans that he was launched in, watching the ECW Originals embrace their fallen comrades Dean Malenko, Tommy Dreamer & Tazz when they made the jump to WWE and/or WCW.
But above all else, nothing could or ever will hold a candle to hearing the chants of thousands of bloodthirsty degenerates screaming alongside Tommy Dreamer, "ECW! ECW! ECW!"
In my eyes, that's the real Land of Extreme...and there isn't much that Vince McMahon can do to make it feel like that again.