The Casualties of (Monday Night) War: ECW

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Brian Damage

“Unfortunately, in war, there are casualties…”– John O. Brennan

Few fans can argue that one of the greatest eras in pro wrestling history was the well documented…Monday Night Wars between the WWE and WCW. Television ratings, pay per view buy rates and guaranteed contracts skyrocketed like never before. Wrestlers would jump ship from promotion to promotion with bigger pay checks being handed out like candy. Vince McMahon and Ted Turner spending millions just to get the advantage in the ratings that came out every Tuesday afternoon.

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While wrestlers were getting richer and more mainstream….promoters were looking for new ideas to top the other. Even if it meant buying the competition’s creative writers. It was a great time to be a fan…but with every “war” there are casualties….collateral damage so to speak. It isn’t widely talked about much…but ECW…the little wrestling promotion based in a bingo hall in Philadelphia was the Monday Night Wars biggest casualty.

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Most of what you saw on Nitro or Raw was first done on ECW shows. Concepts, gimmicks and angles were regularly “borrowed” or flat out stolen from Paul Heyman’s mind. If you saw something cool on WCW or WWE shows…99.999999% of the time Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling did it first. ECW was the first to give U.S. fans exposure to the Mexican lucha libre style by the likes of Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, Eddie Guerrero and Psicosis. The super strong style (Stiff) of Japan was also introduced on ECW TV by the likes of Masato Tanaka and Mike Awesome. ECW introduced countless smaller, faster, high flying wrestlers to US fans like Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho.

Both the WWE and WCW formed “hardcore divisions” based on the everyday extreme style of ECW.

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Shane McMahon ripped of Rob Van Dam’s Van Terminator move as his own.

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If ideas and move sets weren’t enough…why not get the wrestlers that perfected them to join. Paul Heyman simply didn’t have the money to compete with a millionaire and a billionaire. As a result, a plethora of wrestlers jumped ECW’s ship to either WCW or the WWE. The Dudley Boyz, Rhino, Lance Storm, Perry Saturn, Raven, Taz, Public Enemy, Sabu, The Sandman etc…all left at one point or another for the greener pastures of the warring companies.

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Despite the numerous wrestlers that left, came back and left again…ECW was forced to continue to think outside the box and try to be as innovative as possible. While they brought in and created new stars…many of the established ECW talent was walking away. Perhaps the biggest blow to ECW came in the form of its reigning, defending world champion….Mike Awesome.

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Mike Awesome felt that he wasn’t paid enough or at all by Paul Heyman, so when Eric Bischoff came calling…Mike Awesome joined WCW. It was a huge blow to Heyman and the company…as their current champion was now in another promotion. To avoid lawsuits and other legal entanglements…Awesome agreed to drop the ECW title to Taz (Who by this time, was a WWF employee) So in ECW, we saw a WCW guy (Awesome) defend the ECW title against a WWE guy (Taz)

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Despite all the losses in the Monday Night Wars…ECW continued to chug along for another year…but the repeated loss of talent and lack of funds finally put the final nail in their coffin in 2001. While fans reminisce over the battles between WCW and the WWE for wrestling supremacy….just remember….every war has casualties.

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