Due primarily to financial mismanagement, ECW—the proverbial "Little Engine That Could"—officially closed its doors in 2001. For all the hardcore fans, this was a great blow to the wrestling business.
Stars such as Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Steve Austin and Rey Mysterio, all became world champions in the WWE after a stint in ECW.
The popularity of ECW resonated throughout the WWE even after its closure. Whenever a "hardcore" spot would happen during a match, fans would quickly accredit it to Extreme Championship Wrestling with their "E-C-Dubb... E-C-Dubb... E-C-Dubb" chants.
The WWE attempted to revive the brand in 2006 after two successful ECW "One Night Stand" pay-per-views. However, shortly after this revival, we began to see WWE's version of ECW.
Although the brand integrated WWE stars, such as Kurt Angle and the Big Show, the hardcore style faded away, and it just became a third brand all the way to its extinction in 2010.
Despite a severely diluted version of what had a cult-like following—which did not have the approval of many fans—there were some perks to WWE's version of ECW.
Let's analyze a few.
We all are aware of the amazing popularity that CM Punk has developed in the WWE. He is one of the staple superstars in the WWE, and his career has propelled him to being one of the longest reigning WWE champions in the history of the company.
But it all started in ECW.
Although ECW had sort of "minor league" perception among many, it benefited a slew of current and former WWE superstars. Along with CM Punk, stars such as Sheamus, Jack Swagger, John Morrison, Zack Ryder and Kofi Kingston all started in ECW and became recognizable names in the WWE.
He was the flagship of ECW, surviving past even the most notable. Despite his longevity, Tommy Dreamer's biggest accolade was winning the ECW Championship in 1999 for just 30 minutes.
Until the revamping of ECW.
In 2009, ECW had a four-month angle revolving around Dreamer having his last opportunity to become the company's champion. He achieved this feat by winning a hardcore triple threat match against Christian and Jack Swagger at Extreme Rules.
Others received a career resurgence in ECW as well, including Mark Henry, Goldust and William Regal.
The ECW Championship provided a good platform for stars to become a WWE world champion, along with WWE superstars to receive their "moments."
Remember WrestleMania 24?
At the time, one of Kane's best moments of his career—defeating Chavo Guerrero in less than 20 seconds for the ECW Championship. This was exactly what Kane needed to put him back on the main-event map.
Others such as Mark Henry, Matt Hardy and Chavo Guerrero also benefited from a run as ECW Champion. Especially for Matt Hardy, Chavo Guerrero, John Morrison and Ezekiel Jackson, because it was the only notable "World Championship" attained by them.
Tune-in Tuesday night (March 26, 2013) at 11 p.m. ET to the One Year Anniversary of the Pancakes and Powerslams show on Blog Talk Radio, featuring former WWE, ECW and TNA star Elijah Burke. Call in live with your questions, 347.884.8452. We will talk more about the WWE's version of ECW. Click here for link.
Chris Featherstone is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, as well as a writer for WrestlingInc.com. Follow @cravewrestling.