I can still remember the first time I watched ECW on MSG Network in New Jersey at about 1 am on a Saturday night. Up until that point, I never saw someone go through a table. I never saw someone get whipped repeatedly with a Singapore cane. At that age, I was just starting to realize that wrestling wasn't exactly...well, how do I put this? I knew that something was up, but when I watched ECW, I wasn't quite sure. While I still enjoyed watching guys like Duke "The Dumpster" and Doink "The Clown" in the WWF, I really enjoyed watching Raven, Tommy Dreamer, Taz, The Sandman, and Public Enemy. I loved the cutting-edge, alternative style that went hand and hand with the way pop culture was headed. I loved hearing bands like Nirvana, The Offspring, White Zombie, and Alice in Chains play in the background of video packages that paved the way for the brilliant packages put together now by WWE for feuds.
The feeling was bittersweet for me when I heard that the name ECW was going into permanent retirement. Although the real ECW has been gone since 2001, I still watched the WWE version on a semi-regular basis out of loyalty and respect for the brand that was being represented. Paul Heyman, the long-time owner and head booker of ECW, gave the wrestling world a product that changed the business forever. Heyman helped open creative doors that didn't even exist up until that point. He deserves more credit than most give him and he will always be the true pioneer and creative genius behind ECW and what the WWE later brilliantly titled "WWF Attitude." I've always liked Paul Heyman and I truly believe that someday he will have a place that he rightfully deserves in the WWE Hall of Fame.
I remember seeing such realism in the matches and storylines that I was immediately intrigued. Without realizing it, I was watching these future superstars and World Champions put their lives on the line inside a small bingo hall in the middle of South Philadelphia which was dubbed the ECW Arena. Guys like Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam, and The Dudley Boys are just some of the guys that went on to have a huge amount of success in the WWE. The one thing I'll never forget about ECW was the crowd. Up until that time, no one ever saw such a passionate wrestling crowd in America.
Since WWE restarted the brand in 2006, there have been few highs and many lows. One of the highs was seeing Tommy Dreamer get a well deserved run as ECW Champion and become one of the most respected men on the WWE roster. Another high was seeing Rob Van Dam defeat John Cena for the WWE title at One Night Stand II in June 2006. These moments will be forever etched in WWE history and there is no doubt in my mind that ECW is a brand that won't soon be forgotten.
ECW will no doubt live on forever in the hearts of the wrestling fans that were able to experience it firsthand.