Brian Damage and John Carbery
With Extreme Championship Wrestling back in the news, it seemed a very topical idea for a Top Five. So today, Brian and John lead us through their favourite matches and moments from the company’s history. It might be a short history but it was one that burned brightly.
5. The Rebirth of Tommy Dreamer
For the first few years of his career, Tommy Dreamer was nothing more than a cookie cutter type babyface. ECW fans really didn’t like Dreamer and felt he was soft. It wasn’t until his Singapore Cane match with the Sandman that Dreamer arrived as one of ECW’s biggest stars.
Dreamer lost the match and was forced to get 10 lashes from the Sandman’s Singapore cane. After getting the lashes, he kept asking Sandman to give him another…showing fans he was as tough as nails and could withstand a beating endearing him with the fickle Philly crowd.
4. The Debut of Brian “F’n” Pillman
Brian Pillman became a legend for his last days in WCW as he transformed from babyface to a loose cannon gimmick. After leaving WCW, he showed up unexpectedly on ECW TV to an unbelievable roar. He quickly turned the fans against him when he threatened to take out his junk and take a piss on the ECW fans. Absolutely brilliant!
3. Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler’s War Against ECW
A feud between Lawler and ECW developed when the KIng kept on referring ECW as Extremely Crappy Wrestling. That led ECW to show up on Monday Night Raw and also led to Lawler making appearances at the ECW arena with other names such as Jim Cornette and Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts.
2. The Raven/Tommy Dreamer Feud
An epic feud that lasted over 2 years with Raven getting the upper hand for most of it. Dreamer would finally get a pinfall victory over Raven at the end of the feud when Raven was ready to leave ECW.
1. ECW is Born!
Perhaps the single most important event in ECW’s history. Shane Douglas wins the NWA title in a tournament only to throw it on the ground and crown himself the first ever Extreme Championship Wrestling Champion. It was a moment that was only known by a very select few and completely caught the NWA off guard.
5. Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka vs Taz at ECW World Championship match, Anarchy Rulz 99
This match started out as a singles match between Champion Taz and challenger Masato Tanaka until Mike Awesome stomped out of the crowd and it was called a triple threat on the spot. Paul Heyman was genius when it came to playing the hand he was dealt and more often than not this used to mean figuring out how to book his product when WWF or WCW would scoop up one of his wrestlers. Taz had been a top guy for years while Tanaka and Awesome had only made sporadic appearances for the company as they were full time with FMW in Japan. The Human Suplex Machine was eliminated in short order, as he was on his way out of the company like many others before him, leaving the other two to battle it out for the title. While a lot of ECW fans would’ve been familiar with both men from their wild match at Heat Wave 98 there was still a lot for them to prove. Almost the entire locker room amassed on the stage to watch this match along with the fans, these new guys had to deliver something special. Tanaka and Awesome performed an insane style of powerhouse stunt wrestling, combining high-risk spots and brutal weapons based brawling. Their matches were so punishing even the most ardent wrestling sceptic would be hard pressed not to wince at the chair shots and the sight of men over 250lbs being hurled through the air, out of the ring, through a table and onto their heads. It’s a style of wrestling that’s thankfully not really around anymore as it was far too harmful to the health of the performers but damn was it compelling and the ensuing feud between Tanaka and Awesome kept a lot of people watching after the promotion’s biggest star had left for what he thought would be greener pastures. A very successful experiment for Mr Heyman.
4. Terry Funk vs Sabu, No Rope Barbed Wire Death Match at Born To Be Wired 1997
I’ve often had to defend ECW’s reputation to those less acquainted with the company who think of it as nothing but a garbage promotion like FMW or its imitators like CZW & IWA Mid-South. ECW was the most diverse company of the 90s in the ring, they offered everything. However, to be fair, it was easy to think of ECW as just a “Blood n Guts” promotion, they had it printed in gory letters on their ring apron after all. ECW’s reputation was fearsome and helped by the fact that it was hard to find. Every month I’d pick up a magazine and the photos from ECW stood in stark contrast to those from WWF and WCW, it looked like a Roman Coliseum. The old “red turns to green” adage worked in this instance ,though, and I and many others were intrigued by what was going on in the Bingo Hall. The first tape I bought was Born To Be Wired as I just had to see how EXTREME wrestling could get in its most frightening incarnation, the no rope barbed wire match. Funk vs Sabu more than delivered the kind of grand guignol I was looking for. Reckless, anarchic and incredibly violent it was unlike anything I’d ever seen and provided a sick thrill that the big two never could or would. Being an ECW fan felt like you were part of a counter culture, similar to being a Marylin Manson fan when he was considered the incarnation of evil. What mainstream fans couldn’t handle you watched for fun, to a snotty teenager that feeling was priceless. Even if the match was a bit of a stinker when you watch it objectively.
3. Jerry Lynn vs Rob Van Dam atECW Television Championship Match, Living Dangerously 1999
The match that sold thousands of tapes and pioneered a new style of wrestling. You couldn’t read a decent wrestling magazine in 1999 without seeing a review or editorial that heaped praise upon this match. As a kid in Ireland with no way to directly access ECW PPV’s this was torture.When I finally tracked down a copy though the match more than lived up to the hype. RVD and Lynn put on an incredible display mixing technical wrestling, high flying and brawling that guys like Seth Rollins seem to have found very influential as it’s become the main event standard almost in WWE these days. The two would feud up until ECW’s very last PPV and beyond always delivering compelling matches but this is where it all started and if you haven’t seen the match yet, I’m jealous as it’s great to experience for the first time.
2. Raven vs Tommy Dreamer at Wrestlepalooza 1997
Raven vs Tommy Dreamer was a saga. Beginning in 1995 and carrying on for two years with dozens of twists, turns and supporting characters. Also, Tommy Dreamer had never come out on top and gotten the best of his tormentor. With Raven on the way to WCW it was time for their feud to be put to bed once and for all. The biggest program in the company went out with a bang, the two had a wild brawl all over the ECW arena and the crowd went crazy when Dreamer finally put his opponent away for the three count. How do you follow that up? Many promotions have struggled with ending epic feuds but not ECW. Straight after the bell the WWF’s Jerry Lawler hit the ring and brutalised Dreamer with the help of Sabu and RVD. After that, Taz walks out like an absolute monster and chases the villains away but doesn’t stop there as he challenges Shane Douglas to a TV Championship match on the spot and beats him! It was an absolute roller coaster ride and while the biggest feud the company ever presented had come to an end the possibilities for the future were shining bright. Genius booking from Mr Heyman once again.
1. Shane Douglas throws down the NWA Championship
This moment changed the course of pro wrestling in the 90s. When Paul Heyman and Shane Douglas ritually sacrificed the prestigious NWA World Championship so that Eastern Championship Wrestling could be reborn as Extreme Championship Wrestling they put the world on notice. ECW was to be the future of the wrestling business and much to the chagrin of its detractors, it was. Within two years both WWF and WCW were lifting from the ECW playbook and within four they’d outright stolen near everything from it. The promo Shane Douglas cut while throwing the belt away was electric and would be emulated by everybody from Steve Austin to CM Punk. It’s impossible to put into just a few words, so you’ll have to believe me when I say this moment changed everything and it’s something the wrestling world is still trying to get past. E,C-FUCKIN’-W!!!
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.