Extreme Makeover: Philadelphia Edition

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Brian Damage

If at first you don’t succeed…try, try again…or just give them to Paul Heyman.

By now, we are all aware of Heyman’s successes and failures with Extreme Championship Wrestling AKA ECW. He took a small independent promotion and took it to heights never imagined. The aura of ECW still resonates today with many die hard fans. It was, at one time…the gold standard in booking a wrestling show.

He introduced fans to a wrestling world outside the norm of outlandish characters and quick squash matches. He gave us lucha libre with guys like Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and Super Crazy. He brought in Japanese talent to perform its “Super Strong Style,” with guys like Masato Tanaka and Mike Awesome. It wasn’t all hardcore with blood, tables, chairs and scaffolds…it had depth.

One of the greatest achievements on Paul Heyman’s resume, was taking wrestlers from other promotions and breathing new life into them. Wrestlers who had stagnant, outdated gimmicks….who were going nowhere and made them into huge stars. This piece will look at just a few of Paul Heyman’s greatest makeovers.

1. Taz

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Peter Senercia had a decent career booked as a barefoot savage with long hair and face paint named The Tasmaniac. His beginnings in ECW had him booked with Kevin Sullivan mostly as a tag team specialist. The savage gimmick was okay, but it wasn’t until he lost the face paint, cut his hair and laced up a pair of boots as the pseudo MMA “Human Suplex Machine” Taz..that Senercia’s career skyrocketed.

2. Steve Austin

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Before Steve Austin’s memorable albeit brief ECW stint…Austin seemed to be cut from the typical Ric Flair cloth, ie sequined robes, long blonde hair and arrogant attitude. When he arrived in ECW, Austin was allowed free reign to speak his mind about the state of the business and showed a side to him never before seen. Many say, this was the prototype to the eventual “Stone Cold” gimmick he developed in the WWE.

3. Tommy Dreamer

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It may be hard to imagine, but Tommy Dreamer wasn’t always the hardcore “Innovator of Violence” in professional wrestling. At one time, he wore spandex…was clean shaven and made the lady fans swoon as the babyface T.D. Madison.

4. The Sandman

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At one time, the Sandman didn’t chain smoke, drink beer and carry a Singapore cane to the ring…He wore sun glasses, sun tan lotion, surf suit and carried a surf board. He was a “Dude with little or no attitude,” but after becoming a pimp character briefly…became infamous for the character he would later become.

5. Raven

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Scott Levy had made a career of failed gimmicks…from Scotty the Body to Scotty Flamingo to Scott Anthony to Johnny Polo. Upon his arrival in ECW he drastically changed from the smarmy, arrogant kid of privilege to a sadomasochist, grungy, cult like character called Raven. A gimmick he still uses to this day.

There are countless other success stories within the confines of that small, but beloved Philadelphia based promotion called ECW. For all its highs and lows….The wrestling city of Philadelphia took misfits and made them into legends.

One thought on “Extreme Makeover: Philadelphia Edition

  1. There were so many others, Shane Douglas calling himself the Franchise and re-making his character, okay he was still bitter over “Dick” Flair as he calls him. Chris Candido was one half of the Suicide Blonds and part of the Triple Threat he became more prominent. Brian Lee was no longer the blonde big man but now “The Bulldozer”…it was great while it lasted.

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