Welcome to part three, if you haven’t read part one, you’re missing the entire first five years of the company from 1992-1997, and you should definitely check that out first right here. And if you’ve also missed part two covering how ECW got to TNN, you’ll need to also check that out right here.
And now that you’re all caught up...
The Era of ECW on TNN: Crash & Burn
With much ado, ECW on TNN debuted Friday, August 27th of 1999 from Toledo, Ohio which had 1,500 paid in a building that can hold 2,300. It let people know the history of ECW mostly. Chronicling the stays of past stars and current stars from Steve Austin to Mikey Whipwreck. It replayed past angles and the glory days & present times of ECW, recapped the awesome Jerry Lynn/Rob Van Dam TV title match from Hardcore Heaven, and the show ended with a ferocious promo in the ring from Taz who let everyone know that the “mood was about to change.” The debut episode got a 0.9 rating which was considered a success by many, including Heyman. TNN was very displeased though. Even though Heyman had told them he could not in any way predict a rating average for the show, TNN had sold advertising minutes on the promise of a 2.0 rating and had just had a nasty wake up call for their optimism.
ECW hits national TV
The week that ECW debuted on TNN, Eric Bischoff had heard enough of wrestlers grumbling that if given the chance they would leave and held a meeting telling anyone who had the balls to live up to that could walk out of the room and be granted a full release with no restrictions from their contract and not expect to work for him again (of course than it was changed to the stipulation that they couldn’t go to the WWF). The only person to take him up on his offer was none other than Raven who was “going home.” On ECWs second TNN show he made his return defeating the Dudleys for the tag team titles in their final ECW match (almost causing yet another riot thanks to Bubba) with the most interesting partner choice that could’ve been made. Long time blood rival Tommy Dreamer.
By September 9ths Anarchy Rulz PPV (in Chicago as Heyman had hoped) in front of 6,000 rabid fans Mike Awesome returned from his double knee reconstruction and defeated Taz, who was almost out of his contract & WWF bound, & Masato Tanaka for the ECW Heavyweight championship (Tanaka & Awesome double teamed Taz to start off and eliminated him in 121 seconds) in a great scene as a teary eyed Taz shook Awesome’s hand and kissed the belt before handing it over to him. Taz hugged Heyman and when eliminated watched the match from the ramp with the rest of the locker room and had to try and get fans to stop chanting his name as it was diluting the Awesome/Tanaka match. Also on the solid card (which garnered an 0.23), Tommy Dreamer & Raven retained their titles by defeating Steve Corino & Jack Victory, Lance Storm went over Jerry Lynn, Tajiri beat Super Crazy & Little Guido in a match that cemeted them so much with Heyman that he tried to and did buy them out from Puerto Rico promoter Victor Qionones who they were “leasing” the two stars from, Justin Credible was given another big name fed to his push, this time Sabu, and in the main event RVD kept his TV title by beating Balls Mahoney. Awesome was exposed in WWF & WCW for the worker he was but as the monster (with the Splash Mountain through a table outside the ring death move) in ECW he performed tremendously as Spike Dudley put him over huge and he & Tanaka would’ve had to be on speed balls to even come close to getting under ***1/2 in brutal matches. Also, Awesome would have been back sooner but had committed to the summer tour with All Japan Pro Wrestling. He had an offer for a full time job from both but no part time offer from other and had to take a while before deciding on ECW, likely with the title run as his biggest bait. Sadly with the buy rate 0.03 lower than it had been before TNN, ECW discovered that the only people watching ECW seemed to be the people that had already been watching it in the first place and by the end of the month the ratings would dip all the way down to an 0.72 (which at least beat the 0.68 RollerJam that same night) which down from their initial 0.97 is a loss of 26% of their initial audience.
The next month in WCW was a release that ECW couldn’t have been happier to hear. For some reason a guy who couldn’t work but got over on his awesome and long entrance, smoking, drinking, and turning himself into a “barbed wire battering ram” somehow didn’t work when they took that away from him and ¼ assed his push. Go figure. In October, the Sandman was released from WCW and just days later returned to ECW to yet another gigantic return pop. He had a built in return storyline for him with Justin Credible (as was discussed earlier, Credible claimed to be the real Hardcore Icon and began brandishing a cane once Sandman left in a show of ultimate disrespect to him).
WCW signed me to misuse me.
With the return of the Sandman, and Heyman deciding that scientific and great matches weren’t drawing despite his best offerings, ECW decided to say screw the market saturation and take back the style it had popularized. Heyman planned to return to storylines that wouldn’t be allowed anywhere else, man on woman violence, and catfights, even bringing back Tammy Lynn Sytch to feud with Dawn Marie and spend one entire show talking about her drug problems. Slowly, the ratings did grow and averaged above a 1.0 while peaking at 1.3, all the while Francine & Dawn Marie rolled around with their skirts above their heads, Steve Corino called Tajiri a Jap and any other racial slur he could think of, Rhino decided to try and maim Sandman’s wife, and Steve Corino bled so often he’d have permanent scarring in a mere year. But we’ll get to all that in due time.
TNN still considered ECWs ratings a disappointment. ECW didn’t have production levels like the big two, or the marquee names, and the show had to go to commercial break so often that the show was usually about 35 minutes in total time. TNN also decided that it would not give as much creative leeway to Heyman as promised and made him cut down on his blood, violence, and other ECW drawing points. Most enraging to Heyman though, was that TNN would not advertise the ECW program at all. Period. Not on the TV Guide channel or magazine ads, not late night, and especially not during its daytime/ primetime time shows. ECW was losing money again. Fast.
ECW wouldn’t be ECW without more problems accumulating. The storylines were obviously censored and majorly by TNN as was apparent to anyone still watching the syndicated programming. In fact, TNN had even complained about ECW showing the old clips of the Beulah pregnancy angle. From the Raven-Dreamer feud while they explained their history (As a stupid angle really. Beulah claimed for a long time she was pregnant from Tommy, never showed any signs, told him she lied the whole time and was faking the “keep-a-brotha baby”, and despite the fact he hated her before and more then he still stayed with her for reasons unknown to this day.) It seemed the most interesting characters were managers. The Lou E. Dangerously character (spoof of Paul E.), the Sinister Minister, and Steve Corino. Dangeroulsy starting a stable and doing a grade A parody of Paul E. Minister giving great promos eventually for Mikey & Tajiri, and Steve Corino as he led Rhino, the network, and got into a chair wielding incident with Fred Durst at a Limp Bizkit concert.
Worse was Raven. Thought at first that his return was a gift from God, he turned out to be treading water while waiting to go to Titan. His storyline with Tommy Dreamer never went anywhere of note (he got mad at Tommy for bringing Sandman into the fold with them and became jealous). He seemed to be bored while gaining weight (which is odd since at this point he said he was finally off steroids and had lost eight pounds down to 237). He was going through the motions in the ring and on the mic, and wasn’t exactly secretive about his want to go to the WWF and his frequent head butting and shouting matches with Paul Heyman.
The traitorous champ should’ve Awesome Bombed Jeff Jones
Mike Awesome was having tremendously brutal matches. To cover up for his sub-par promo ability, he was given Judge Jeff Jones as a manager - someone not liked throughout the company and not the best fit for Awesome or that great of a mouthpiece at this time period. Awesome’s interviews and mullet look were mocked as often as his matches heralded. The Sandman was old and beaten up and though he got great heat for his entries he was getting more and more broken down. The midcard was nothing to make anyone go crazy either. CW Anderson, Danny Doring, Roadkill, PN News, Vic Grimes & the Baldies and the like hardly compared to the mid card of the big two or even to what ECW had offered in that spot in the past. MMA beast Mark Coleman was scheduled for a November try-out with the company but between seeing what they did with Paul Verleans (jobbed him out to Taz in a worked shoot… he was hyped big but ended up being a huge flop in the MMA world) and mostly from seeing what ECW wrestlers put their bodies through, he decided against it. It’s a shame because he’s a phenomenal shoot fighter and true MMA legend and in Japan wrestling matches he displays great charisma and is fairly decent for his level of training & experience. Just since it’s worth mentioning for humor, at this time the Ultimate Warrior responded to Heyman’s want and offer to bring him in if he’d put over Taz. Warrior said he had no problems jobbing but that Heyman wanted to “devalue an already established marketing persona” which I think translates to him having a problem with doing a job. He said he’d only ever go to ECW on one condition. That condition being that it had to be a shoot match and if he (Warrior) was still standing after thirty seconds that he’d have full control of the company. Heyman declined. Then laughed.
November also saw the return of Mikey Whipwreck. Sign Guy Dudley on ECW syndicated TV at the arena, transformed himself into Paul E., dressing, talking, and using gimmicks like he did in WCW and brought back a former ECW champion to defeat Awesome but Mikey was defeated thoroughly in six minutes. Some ideas were also being redone with new faces. Simon Diamond now had a sidekick named Big Dick Hertz and made tons of dick jokes just like with the Big Dick Dudley character except Hertz was a putz unlike Dudley. The Baldies were given promos written ‘to a T’ like the original Dudley Boys scripts. To make matters worse, ECW continued to be snubbed by TNN in favor of Roller Jam. Roller Jam got worse ratings despite heavy TNN advertising, and in November they had man on woman violence when one male skater suplexed a female skater and slammed her crotch her first onto a guardrail. TNN did not allow ECW to do things like this. Both were sports entertainment and should’ve had the same equal guidelines, but for some reason, ECW continued to get blatantly snubbed to the point of it seeming intentional on the part of the network.
The show was mainly being carried by Tammy Sytch, which put Heyman in a tough situation. He had to keep her on or suffer the ratings fall from before but this month she passed out backstage before doing her promos. She said it was caused by drinking a Pepsi with GHB in it and she didn’t know whose it was. That’s a bad, totally unbelievable excuse for a number of reasons but you can figure them out yourself.
November to Remember ‘99 got a 0.20 buy rate, enough to make ends meet and matching their lowest ever from November to Remember of 1997. Jerry Lynn beat Tajiri & Super Crazy, The Baldies (Spanish Angel, Tony DeVito, Vito Lograsso, & PN News) were actually booked over New Jack, Axl Rotten, & Balls Mahoney. Sabu defeated Chris Candido, Mike Awesome had a solid match with Tanaka, RVD pinned Taz to keep the TV title before Taz left to Titan, and in the main event Rhino & the Impact Players defeated Raven, Tommy Dreamer, & Sandman when Credible pinned another major ECW name, Sandman. The crowd at times was hot but usually was apathetic and ruined the aura of a lot of matches. Granted some matches weren’t worth much of their attention if we’re being fair (The Baldies), but also some good-great matches were totally ignored and devoid of heat (Sabu/Candido).
After November to Remember came arguably the best angle of the ECW on TNN period. Originally it was supposed to be Balls Mahoney coming out onstage of a Limp Bizkit concert, running down the band and then taking a bump for a Durst clothesline but that angle was contradictory to Balls character and the fact that Durst weighs maybe 165lbs. Instead, Steve Corino came out onstage and told Durst he prefers the Backstreet Boys and that all his fans only came to his concerts as an excuse to get high. This brought out Balls Mahoney, New Jack, & Axl Rotten who flattened him with chairshots, one while Durst was hold his arms back that was so stiff it knocked him out on stage for real. Corino managed to plug ECW on TNN every Friday at 8pm and clips were played all week on MTV news as teasers and letting people know when and where to see the full angle. Lots of publicity certainly occurred from this. Amy Dumas also left ECW for the WWF at this point and was repackaged as “Lita,” the valet of cruiserweight Essa Rios and went on to great popularity. Doring replaced her with the real life of ex-wife of ex-ECW star Big Dick Dudley, Elektra (trained by Johnny Rodz & Fabulous Moolah and came to Heyman’s attention by being on WWF TV just weeks earlier and being splashed and destroyed by Viscera). To subside the loss of Vito Lograsso who was signed by WCW as a favor to Vince Russo who he had been friends with for over a decade, Heyman brought in BattlArts star Ikuto Hidaka while also trying to get in brawler Kintaro Kanemura along with Masato Tanaka.
Tanaka was the main event MVP in ECW near the end…
On the December 2nd ECW tapings in Atlanta, Dusty Rhodes debuted in ECW. They mentioned he was in the building but couldn’t appear due to legal reasons so people would think he wasn’t going to appear. Corino came out and began promoing on him which brought Dusty out into the crowd and then into the ring to beat down Corino & Jack Victory with Bionic Elbows for a big pop. Shawn Michaels was also rumored as coming in and was using PJ Polaco (Credible) as a go between. Michaels wouldn’t have wrestled but made a PPV appearance but when McMahon was asked to okay the appearance, the idea was shot down. It was thought it would happen as WWF was sending him a $15,000 paycheck every week to sit at home as they didn’t use him on their own TV because of major heat with Rock, Steve Austin, Undertaker, and the majority of management. ECW felt the same about both guys and that’s that. They were just using ECW as their ticket to get back on TV and eventually back on Big Two TV and not because of any real interest to help the company with Heyman even publically acknowledging such. During the final week of the year 1999 Heyman fired Chris Candido, Tammy Sytch, & Axl Rotten due to an out of control locker room mess in Dover, DE. Also during the episodes run they redid the old crufixition angle as during a tag team title match of Dreamer & Raven vs. Da Baldies, Da Baldies crucified Raven on the TNN set as Dreamer was out of the way from helping him. Raven cut a promo, telling “Tommy” that he was too weak to turn on him though he deserved it, and Francine ended up being who Raven was talking to.
On January 9th of the last year of the 20th century, before 4,700 fans, Guilty As Charged aired on PPV and is considered by many to be one of the top 5 PPVs in company history. Tajiri & Super Crazy defeated Jerry Lynn & Little Guido in a great match, Rob Van Dam & Sabu had a great match against each other for the TV title, which of course was won by RVD. The Impact Players defeated Dreamer & Raven for the tag team titles, and in the main event Mike Awesome brutalized Spike Dudley and reached his peak as a monster force. The rest of the month of January featured compelling television as RVD finally emerged to challenge for the TV title by confronting Mike Awesome. Unfortunately the feud never came to be as RVD broke his ankle performing a baseball slide out of the ring when it got stuck under the ring apron and bent violently at the end of January. The midcard featured great matches and feuding between Guido, Tajiri, Super Crazy, Guido, and company performing great matches. Danny Doring & Amish Roadkill were quickly becoming cult favorites in the cult ECW audience, Rhino began a program with football player Josh Wilcox (alongside Dreamer vs. Corino in the same program) that was cut short when Wilcox had to undergo shoulder surgery, and Mike Awesome again destroyed Spike Dudley. The company was peaking on TV ratings with 1.2’s for the 7th & 14th, and for the January 21st episode, a 1.3 (a show highlighted by RVD confronting Awesome, Dusty Rhodes finally getting some action as he saved Tommy Dreamer from a beatdown by Corino & Rhino, delivering Bionic Elbows as the roof blew off the building before Rhino laid him out with a spear. It also had another great Crazy/Tajiri match, and the debut of Don Callis as a “evil representative of TNN” & The Network as he confronted Gertner over his language and conduct) a rating only matched by the 3/30 show. They ended the month with a 1.0 rating.
In the month of January, ECW of course lost some major players, as seemed the norm for the group as injuries and larger promotions continually raped the talent base. Sabu accepted an offer to join WCW without realizing that his ECW contract wouldn’t allow him to do so. Don’t ask me how he didn’t realize that. He not only didn’t go to WCW he was removed from all ECW booking, never to return to the company, and though relations were horrible Heyman allowed him to at least earn a living and work any indepandant dates he wanted (well, within reason, he did threaten the Insane Clown Posse with legal action when they wanted Sabu to go to their Juggalo Championshit Wrestling tour. XPW used him against legal restraint on 4/15 because he wasn’t being paid and thought that was a loophole (of course, he was paid) and Heyman sued Rob Black & Sabu. He sued Sabu for breach of contact, and Black for tortuous interference of a contract and also copyright infringment). Before this Sabu was unhappy no longer being a top star in the promotion, and rejecfted an angle where he’d tell RVD if he could beat him he’d give him his wrestling boots. Spike Dudley injured his knee during the course of a match with Rhino, and as stated Rob Van Dam, arguably the most important man in the company, broke his fibula and ankle both, which would require him to take three months off and rehabilitate, ruining Heyman’s planned top feud for the first quarter of the year. Jerry Lynn also went out for two months with an ankle injury. Lance Storm also had to have eight staples in his skull when he took a blind back bump over a guardrail and cracked his head open on a chair. The civil trial also finally had a date set for the next month in regards to a fan in the front row injured by the fire chair incident back in 1995 when Cactus Jack almost burnt down the ECW arena and severely burned Terry Funk all in one spot. Heyman also cut back on house shows from three or four per week back to two. The promotion team of Lou E Dangerously & Jack Victory to make it work, plus attendances were down compared to the same time the previous year, it was eating up expenses and it helped with paying wrestlers because half the roster was on a per night deal and so Heyman was able to cut their pay 33% via proxy.
February continued the build to the next PPV. The undercard was with the usual suspects with Rhino & Super Crazy being built strong, going over Sandman & CW Anderson respectively and most notably for the TV title, which RVD relinquished upon his injury. A tournament took place and the semis & finals would be on the Living Dangerously PPV the following month. Doring & Roadkill were also climbing the tag team ranks defeating the Dupps & Chetti & Nova while Erik Watts debuted and fought Steve Corino to a No Contest. Mike Awesome had strong matches with Spike, Masato Tanaka, and on the last show before the PPV he teamed up with Raven to defeat Tanaka & Dreamer for the tag team titles (who had won them just a week earlier from the Impact Players) as Raven had finally turned heel on Dreamer in an attempt to get a spark to their feud. The whole time garnering very respectable ratings that ranged from 1.1 to 1.3 (3/30 which tied for the highest ECW TV rating in history on a show that specifically featured Awesome/LSD, Watts/Corino, Super Crazy/Little Guido/Tajri, & the tag title change of Dreamer & Tanaka over the Impact Players).
On March 12th, ECW presented Living Dangerously. The card was met with extremely mixed reviews. Dusty Rhodes defeated Steve Corino in a very bloody Texas Bullrope match. Mike Awesome defeated Kid Kash in just three minutes in a world title match, Super Nova & Chris Chetti went over Gedo & Jado in a good match that the crowd made better. Vic Grimes went to a No Contest. Balls Mahoney pinned Kintaro Kanemura in just three minutes, The Impact Players defeated both Dreamer & Tanaka as well as Raven & Mike Awesome to regain the tag titles and Super Crazy defeated Little Guido and then in the main event defeated Rhino to win the TV title.
After the show, ECW started a PPV slide from which they would never recover, which is unfortunate as March was the only time in history where ECW could truly have an argument as the PPV show and house attendances both were ahead of WCWs. If you add in Living Dangerously to ECW they average 2,036 paid per show. If you include Uncensored, WCW averaged 1,932 paid. They garnered 0.8 ratings the next two TV shows and only reached either a 1.0 or 1.1 six times before the final show on October 6th, 2000. The rest of the time they got between an 0.7 & a 0.9 and the end never seemed closer. While I’m talking about ratings the argument that the ECW Friday 8-9pm timeslot on “the hick network” hurt their chances and point out some fallacies. SmackDown! at this point was on UPN, a ghetto garbage network barely off the ground and just terrible. The show was built up enough to compete with every other network’s ratings bar the big four (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX). Also, according to the Neilsens, on Monday from 9-11pm 68% of homes with TV sets are watching TV. For Friday 8-9pm that percentage only drop to 60%. That difference is 0.90 or 1.02. Not a lot. Also, ECW didn’t have any head to head competition.
Anyways, Heyman continued to go with what worked, showcasing Super Crazy, Tajiri, Dreamer, the Impact Players and Mike Awesome while attempting to build Doring & Roadkill, the Baldies, Steve Corino, & Kid Kash. He also had preliminary talks with Toryumon to bring in Dragon Kid, Magnum Tokyo, & Cima, which much to my personal chagrin, never turned into any real plans. Sandman also got the company into a bit of trouble at a Virginia house show. Sandman saved Tommy Dreamer from a beatdown and brought out a six pack. He said he had one for himself and five audience members and brought in five girls. The first one looked very young so he said he couldn’t take her shirt off and instead poured beer down her shirt and drank it. The next one he took the shirt off of had a bra on and he poured beer into the cups until they runeth over, so to speak, and drank from them. The third is where he got in trouble as he took the girls shirt off and she was topless and he paraded her around the ring. The Virginia state law that refuses topless entertainment, even in strip clubs, was certainly smashed on that night.
ECW was about to be hit hard. Mike Awesome showed up backstage for an episode of WCW Thunder expecting to start immediately with the company as a result of frustration from not receiving paychecks for months from ECW. While ECW and WCW lawyers came to an impasse, Awesome claimed his contract with ECW, which had over two years left, extending through summer of 2002, was invalid and that the deal he signed with WCW on April 3rd was totally legal. He had been no showing ECW house shows, but ECW hadn’t considered he’d leave for WCW until they heard the news that he was offered a six figure contract, which he excepted. On April 10th, while still holding the ECW title, Awesome debuted and attacked Kevin Nash (2 weeks later he would pin Hulk Hogan) after jumping out of the crowd while announcers sold him as the ECW champion. He would become known as the “Career Killer” and battle with Nash, Steiner, Kanyon, DDP, and Hulk Hogan on a great run eventually ruined by a badly timed and performed face turn. Let’s make the situation a little bit more clear though. Awesome, according to the Pro Wrestling Torch & Wrestling Observer newsletters, had originally almost gotten a restraining order placed on him from attending WCW but was cleared to on air as ECW and WCW lawyers came to an agreement just minutes before show began. According to the deal, Awesome could not wear the title but had to be referred to by the announcers as the ECW champion with no disparaging remarks about the company allowed under any circumstances as well as promoting his last ECW match on TNN the coming Friday, the allowing of WCW to honor the April 3rd contract, an unstated sig figure amount to ECW, and most importantly, a guarantee that Awesome would appear on the upcoming Indianapolis April 13th house show to drop the title. Heyman needed someone to take the title and as a slap to the face of WCW he signed Taz to win the title (as WWF slapped WCW in the face too, as one of their stars destroyed a heavily pushed WCW star). That night WCW legally broke the agreement and somewhat shot themselves in the foot as the announcers made no clear reference to Awesome as ECW champion, didn’t plug the TNN show, and had Awesome cut a promo mid ring. At the Buffalo show Heyman made all his verbal deals on paper and legal, as he signed a contract extension with the Sandman, signed Rhino, who had been in talks with WCW, to a five-year deal, as well as Don Callis to a one year deal. Lance Storm agreed to only a thirty-day deal as he had already given Heyman his notice back in late February.
Awesome waited outside the building from fear of reactions of the locker room, entered, lost the title to Taz, and left immediately. The event was shown on the April 14th edition of ECW on TNN, receiving a 1.1 rating on what was a solid show regardless with Rhino over Kid Kash, Impact Players over Nova & Chetti, & Tajiri winning the TV title in a three-way dance with Guido & Crazy. Awesome was later quoted as he saying he didn’t do anything that anyone else with a family wouldn’t have done. Last time I checked results and history, they wouldn’t screw over the company that made them who they were and possibly throw their title in the trash after not dropping it before signing a new contract, but what do I know.
The acronym ECW wasn’t about to stop being mentioned on the television shows of the big two companies. But now it would take a turn for the worse. On the April 18th SmackDown!, Taz appeared wearing the ECW championship. A match was signed later that evening for an interpromotion World Champion vs. World Champion match between Taz & HHH. Not only did HHH destroy Taz, he beat the hell out of him post match and when Tommy Dreamer, arguably the star most representative of the company, ran into the ring for the save, so HHH destroyed both of them single handedly. To say ECWs reputation took a hit from that even would be an understatement of great proportions. Amongst all this chaos ECW lost another star, this time Tammy Sytch, though it was of less consequence as her drawing powers had all but died off and her personal problems were raging once again.
On the April 22nd show from the ECW arena, Taz dropped the championship to Tommy Dreamer, his first ECW singles title after seven years with the company. But amongst the emotional celebration, Justin Credible interrupted and challenged the worn out Dreamer to a title match and minutes later won his first ECW title; Heyman’s pet project was about to finally get his chance to shine. Heyman just might be able to pull out of this.
Nothing to do with anything. I just think Kronus deserves a medal for this blade job.
Give me a break, this is ECW, you know SOMETHING had to get in the way. Paul Heyman got news that he knew would be the death of him at the end of April, something even he, the king of staying alive and using what you have to it’s fullest potential couldn’t survive. Viacom, the owner of TNN announced that it had officially bought a minority share in the WWF and their plans were to change the channel from a southern-interests based “Nashville Network” and become “The National Network” changing their program to a more accepted level of programming featuring shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, and that their flagship program would be WWF’s “Raw is War”. TNN informed ECW that they would not be renewing their contract, and that their last show would be in September. Though Heyman knew it might happen, and thus the anti-TNN angles he aired, he wasn’t sure it would happen. He even knew that likely his deal with TNN would end as their relations were never positive and they were at each others throats from the beginning, Heyman didn’t appreciate them lying to advertisers and lying about what he would actually end up being allowed to show on the air, among a hundred other things, and TNN took great insult from the “network” angle. While it can be argued that since TNN gave ECW national TV exposure and ECW gave TNN its highest rated programming that that would have been enough to keep them dealing with each other for the future. Personally, I think they would’ve been off TNN either way. Heyman had turned down an offer to move to Tuesday because he himself thought they would end up getting kicked off the network, and even stated on ECW on TNN, that he “hates all the commercials, too, but TNN had to raise $100 million to pay the WWF somehow.” Now it was signed and sealed. The WWF made mention of the deal as well. And between the Mike Awesome situation, the HHH vs. Taz & Dreamer disaster, and the fact that WWF would be moving to TNN and ECW would be gone, ECW’s slowly climbing ratings went into the basement and stayed there. It didn’t help that Paul Heyman finally felt defeated and the storylines and TV quality hit all time lows for the company as he put it in cruise control as they headed into the end.
Heyman sought out new deals but never found any after negotiations with USA, FX, and ESPN2. The most he got was airtime with clips of ECW on USA’s Farmclub music TV which followed Raw is War every Monday night. Networks claimed that wrestling was a fad off 1999 and was on its way down and didn’t want to risk adding the far away #3 promotion in the country to their line ups, and ECWs content didn’t help matters. Vince McMahon told him he would be allowed to keep his show on the air if he wished, but Heyman declined. The morale in the office and locker room was bottoming out and disarray was in the air.
The May 14th PPV was solid, and an example of the professionalism of the locker room as they went out and gave their best effort. In Milwaukee, before 3,400 fans, New Jack finally got to win a match, this time against Vic Grimes. Tajri beat the ever loving hell out of a blood soaked Steve Corino, Rhino pinned the Sandman to retain the TV title. Jerry Lynn pinned Rob Van Dam and began to get a push in a rematch of their great PPV matches from the previous year. The main event saw Justin Credible defeated Lance Storm to retain his ECW Heavyweight Championship in Lance Storm’s goodbye match in ECW as he immediately left for WCW thereafter.
July 16ths “Heat Wave” PPV from Los Angeles (finally), before 5,700 people showcased Doring, Roadkill & Kid Kash over CW Anderdon, Simon & Swinger. Jerry Lynn pinned Steve Corino in a great match which even saw Jerry paint the word “DIE” on his chest with a thick coat of Corino’s blood. Tajiri defeated Psychosis, Guido, and Mikey Whipwreck. Rhino pinned Sandman to keep his TV title again, Rob Van Dam defeated Scott Anton (a friend of RVD’s brought in as a favor to him, his gimmick was clapping. No, really). And the main event saw Justin Credible defeat Tommy Dreamer to retain his ECW championship in a Stairway to Hell match, a rematch of their classic bout of old. The action was almost forgotten, though. During the main event, XPW (an ECW imitation fed from California started by Rob Black when Heyman & Steve Karel stopped dealings with him coming into ECW after finding out he was a porn mogul) wrestlers grabbed a hold of Francine which brought out the entire locker room in a legit brawl before ECWs Atlas Security Force (the scariest ever in wrestling, I swear) got a hold of the situation and removed the intruding workers.
October 1st gave way to the Anarchy Rulz PPV from Saint Paul, Minnesota. Kid Kash pinned EZ Money, Steve Corino pinned CW Anderson in a Number One Contenders match, The FBI defeated Mikey Whipwreck & Tajiri to retain the tag titles, Rhino pinned Rob Van Dam to retain the TV title, and Jerry Lynn defeated Justin Credible to win the ECW Heavyweight title. October began a hard month for ECW wrestlers. With the promotion about to die and financial troubles at their worst ever and only heightening, many wrestlers began looking for work elsewhere, and most of the roster did not find it. RVD decided he wasn’t going to work for Heyman anymore, but he wasn’t quitting either. He was going to sit at home and wait for Heyman to pay him what he owed, knowing he was the promotion’s top commodity and hoping to pressure Heyman, which he claimed was over $100,000. Raven left the company in this time period as well after months of having no angles after a less than impressive storyline with Dreamer, this time he headed to the WWF when his contract ended on August 25th. ECW entered the red at a dramatic rate and Tommy Dreamer stated on the Wresting Observer Live that they had tried to get funding at this point in a last ditch effort but no company would provide them with funding because ECW couldn’t provide any verifiable bookkeeping records. October 6th also was the final episode of ECW on TNN. It was a horrible card featuring Nova over Bilvis Wesley, Kid Kash over EZ Money, and the main event of Joel Gertner vs. Don Callis. It received the lowest rating in the history of the television show, a 0.6.
Levity was almost a word to be used with the booking of ECW for its last six months. On a taping for the still-running syndicated shows, Scott Hall made a surprise appearance as a favor to long time friend Justin Credible and defeated him in a non-sanctioned match. Heyman also gave Steve Corino the title at November to Remember as a type of “thank you” for his hard work, loyalty, and consistently good brawls and promos. November to Remember 2000 from Chicago also saw Kid Kash pin CW Anderson, Nova beat Chris Chetti in a Loser Leaves ECW match as Chetti made his way to the big two as well. Balls Mahoney and Chilly Willy (a worker somewhat reminiscent of Scorpio who had the hilarious cheap heat gimmick of always being announced as being from the city he was wrestling in) defeated Da Baldies in a Flaming Tables match, Rhino defeated New Jack in a brawl to retain his TV title, The FBI defeated Mikey & Tajiri to retain their tag titles, and in a Double Jeopardy match, Steve Corino won the title by beating Sandman, Justin Credible, & Jerry Lynn.
Just a month later on December 3rd, ECW held Massacre on 34th Street, a PPV which got an astonishingly big 0.98 PPV buyrate, for a card that showed York & Matthews over Simon & Swinger, EZ Money over Balls, Nova over Julio Dinero, Doring & Roadkill over the FBI to win the tag team championships, Tommy Dreamer putting over CW Anderson, Rhino destroying Spike Dudley who had retirned from his knee injury. Mikey & Tajiri over Crazy & Kid Kash, and the main event was a three way dance Justin Credible pin Lynn for the first elimination and then Steve Corino pin Justin Credible to retain the title.
A month later ECW held its 21st and final PPV, Guilty As Charged, before a sellout of 2,500 fans in the Hammerstein Ballroom, from NYC, NY on January 7th, 2001. Don Callis & Jerry Lynn defeated York & Matthews, Doring & Roadkill retained the tag team titles against Hot Commodity (EZ Money & Julio Dinero), Tommy Dreamer defeated ECW in an I Quit match, Tajiri & Mikey defeated Crazy & Kash and The FBI in a three way match. Sandman won the world title by defeating Steve Corino & Justin Credible in a Tables, Ladders, Chairs, and Canes match, before Rhino defeated him for the world title in two minutes even to hold both ECW singles titles. The main event saw Rob Van Dam pin Jerry Lynn. The era of ECW being seen on a national scale was officially over with their last PPV and people could only watch them on syndicated TV programs from here on out.
Days after Guilty As Charged, Justin Credible, Rhino, & Jerry Lynn all signed WWF deals with Paul Heyman’s complete blessing. ECW was as good as dead and Heyman wanted Rhino to be the final representative of the promotion. Heyman publicly stated that he anticipated another PPV show on March 11th, but ECW was gone and everybody knew it & nobody counted on the PPV ever happening (it didn’t).
Paul Heyman comes to Raw
On March 5th, Paul Heyman debuted on WWF Raw is War to replace Jerry Lawler as the color commentator. He didn’t want to be a color commentator but couldn’t say “no” to Vince McMahon on his first day working for the company. And thank God, because he ended up being a breath of fresh air and is still missed today. He was immediately said to become a major part of the writing team, attending booking committees for Raw and SmackDown! that week and booking the finish for the main event of that nights Raw (Rock & Stone Cold vs. Kurt Angle & HHH. The finish was Angle gets Rock Bottomed but HHH breaks the count, Angle gets the Ankle Lock on Rock but Debra distracts the ref and Austin Stunners Angle, ref turns around and Rock crawls on top for the pin).
A bit over or under a month later, depending on your source (April 4th or 11th) Paul Heyman made it official. ECW’s parent company, HHG Corporation, filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, claiming $8,881,435,17 in debt (which will be broken down for you later).
Various Numbers & Facts
Performers Who Went Directly From ECW to the American Big Two: 39 (Steve Austin, Mike Awesome, Juventud Guerrera, Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, Lance Storm, Justin Credible, Johnny Grunge, Shane Douglas, Buh-Buh Ray and D-Von Dudley, Bobby Duncum, Jr., Chris Daniels, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Paul Heyman, Angelica, Konnan, Brian Lee, Jerry Lynn, Dean Malenko, Rey Misterio, Jr., Mikey Whipwreck, Angelica, Psicosis, Raven, Stevie Richards, Rhino, Rocco Rock, Rick Rude, Sabu, Sandman, Taz, Ron Simmons, Louie Spicolli, Chastity, Tammy Sytch, Super Calo, Perry Saturn)
Most ECW Heavyweight Title Reigns: Sandman (5)
Most ECW TV Title Reigns: 2 Cold Scorpio (4)
Most ECW Tag Team Title Reigns: The Dudley Boys (8)
Highest ECW TV Rating: 1.3 (1/21/00 & 3/3/00)
Lowest ECW TV Rating: 0.6 (10/6/00)
Highest ECW PPV Buyrate: 0.98 (Massacre on 34th Street)
Lowest ECW PPV Buyrate: 0.20 (November to Remember 1997, November to Remember 1999)
ECW Grand Slam Champions (held all three titles), Date Achieved, Order Acheived:
-Johnny Hotbody, 4/12/93, World, TV, Tag
-Sabu, 2/4/95, World, TV, Tag
-Mikey Whipwreck, 10/28/95, TV, Tag, World
-Taz, 1/10/99, Tag, TV, World
The Nest (1995-1997) Raven, Stevie Richards, The Blue Meanie, Lupus, "Prime Time" Brian Lee, Beulah, Kimona Wanalaya, and Super Nova.
The Dudleys (1996-1999) Big Dick Dudley, D-Von Dudley, Buh-Buh Ray Dudley, Sign Guy Dudley, Dances With Dudley, Joel Gertner, Spike Dudley, Little Snot Dudley, Chubby Dudley, Dudley Dudley (all sons of Big Daddy Dudley, aka “Willie Loman Dudley”)
Blue World Order (1997) "Big Stevie Cool" Stevie Richards, "Da Blue Guy" The Blue Meanie, “6-1/2” or "7-11" Rob Feinstein, "Hollywood Nova" Super Nova, Thomas "The Inchworm" Rodman
Triple Threat (1997-1999) Shane Douglas, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko
Shane Douglas, Bam Bam Bigelow, Francine (Manager), Chris Candido, Tammy Sytch (Manager), Rick Rude (Manager)
Full Blooded Italians (1997-2000) Tommy Rich, Tracey Smothers, Little Guido, Big Sal E. Graziano, Tony Mamaluke
Da Baldies (1999-2000) Spanish Angel, Vito LaGrasso, Tom DeVito, Grimes, PN Newz
Impact Players (1999) Justin Credible, Lance Storm, Jason, Dawn Marie
The New Dangerous Alliance (1999-2000) Lou E. Dangerously, CW Anderson, Bilvis Wesley, and Elektra
The Network (2000) Cyrus, Rhino, Steve Corino, Jack Victory, Yoshihiro Tajiri
Hot Commodity (2000) EZ Money, Julio Dinero, Chris Hammerick, Elektra
Sideshow Freaks (2000) Simon Diamond, Johnny Swinger, The Muskateer, Prodigy, Prodigette, Bilvis Wesley
Young Blood (2000-2001) Tommy Dreamer, Christian York, and Joey Matthews
Team No Respect (2000-2001) Cyrus (manager), Jerry Lynn, and Rhino
Sinister (2000-2001) Sinister Minister (manager), Mikey Whipwreck and Yoshihiro Tajiri.
Tap Out (2000-2001) CW Anderson, Simon Diamond and Swinger.
Impact Players (2001) Justin Credible, Francine (manager), Steve Corino and Jack Victory.
Official ECW Petition of Debt:
-In 1999 ECW grossed $5,822,312 in total income (WWF grossed $259,000,000, WCW grossed $130,000,000 and lost $16,000,000)
-In 2000 ECW grossed $4,124,452 & lost $2.5 million. (WWF grossed $379,000,000, WCW grossed $120,000,000 and lost $65,000,000)
This results in the conclusion that ECW grossed less than one percent of the market share in a half billion dollar pro wrestling industry). The company sharply declined in gross income, though less sharply than WCW, when it actually had national television.
ECW was owned 85 percent by Paul Heyman & 15 percent by Annondeus, Inc., a division of Acclaim.
Major Creditors Owed (owed over $20,000):
Advanced Transportation Service of West Caldwell, NJ: $125,140
Annondeus, Inc. $1,000,000
Farm Club Online $300,000
Paul Heyman (back wages) $128,000
Madison Square Garden Cable $244,000
American Cable Productions $243,000
Gregory Bagarozy (area promoter) $20,576.93
Eugene Boffa Jr. (lawyer) $188,000
William Byrd (ECW on TNN producer) $64,000
Chase Manhattan Bank of Jericho, NY $29,441
Eugene Ciarkowski (lawyer) $183,000
Donahue, Gironda & Doria (accountants) $50,000
Richard Heyman (company funder) $3,575,429.19
Sulamita Heyman (company funder) $226,500
Hoffinger, Friedland, Dobrish, & Stern (law firm) $140,000
In Demand Cable $150,000
Steve Karel $50,000
Peter Klamka (PTN Media) $50,000
Original San Francisco Toymakers $250,000
Players Computers, Inc. $24,640
Stonecutter Productions (Steve Karel) $75,000
Top Rope Productions $25,000
Weigel Broadcasting (Chicago V) $60,000
World Wrestling Federation Entertainment $587,500
All Performers Owed:
William Alfonso (Fonzie) $5,000
Scott Antol (Scotty Anton) unknown
Joseph Bonsignore $50,480
Mike Bucci (Nova) $4,000
Don Callis $12,000
Lou D’Angeli (Lou E. Dangerously/Sign Guy Dudley) $7,000
Michael DiPaolo (Roadkill) $21,250
Joseph Dorgan (Swinger) unknown
John Finnegan unknown
Francine Fournier $47,275
James Fullington (Sandman) unknown
Terry Gerin (Rhino) $50,000
Matt Hyson (Spike Dudley) unknown
Francisco Islas (Super Crazy) $5,000
Mike Kehner unknown
Patrick Kenney (Simon Diamond) $9,000
Tom Laughlin (Tommy Dreamer) $100,000
Jerry Lynn unknown
James Maritano (Little Guido) $25,000
Troy Martin (Shane Douglas) $48,000
Jim Mitchell (Sinister Minister) unknown
James Molineaux unknown
Dan Morrison (Danny Doring) $2,100
Peter Polaco (Justin Credible) $7,990
Dawn Psalpis (Dawn Marie) $9,000
Joe Rechner (Balls Mahoney) $4,000
Ken Reininhaus (Jack Victory) $3,000
Robert Szatkowski (Rob Van Dam) $150,000
Yoshihiro Tajiri $5,000
John Watson (Mikey Whipwreck) $12,000
My Final Say
Extreme Championship Wrestling has been called many things by many people. Even their ECW Arena fans have a degree of notoriety. Whether you choose to love or hate ECW is a matter of your own personal tastes. What cannot be denied is its place in history.
Without ECW ever coming in to existence, and you can credit that to Paul Heyman, Tod Gordon, or Eddie Gilbert; or all three, the entire wrestling landscape as we know it today would not exist. While it likely would have come from somewhere eventually, it’s also likely as it may never have happened at all.
A good majority of wrestlers would likely have never made it as far as they did. I doubt anyone else would’ve given Buh Buh & D Von a chance, I doubt Steve Austin turning into a sensational promo overnight would’ve been noticed from an untaped indy show in Podunk, USA, and I doubt Vince ever would’ve seen Mick Foley as a marketable commodity, its obvious no one else did until after Heyman used him to perfection. Rob Van Dam was never any more than cannon fodder anywhere else, and Shane Douglas was certainly almost a nobody (on a skateboard) before ECW made him a star. A lot of the people who maybe didn’t ultimately achieve the success of those stated certainly would have gotten such a stage to show their skills and make a living for themselves without ECW.
ECW changed the entire idea of what a wrestling show should be.While WCW & WWF showcased cartoonish gimmicks for children featuring roided up monsters, ECW took men of every shape, size, and specific talent and gave them gimmicks they’d often carry for the rest of their lives. No one else knew how to use the Public Enemy or the Sandman for example, yet Heyman made greats amount of money showcasing them. Nobody wanted great wrestlers like Chris Benoit, who’d already been given a WCW try out and was passed over, until Paul Heyman let him have his great matches in the states and gave him a gimmick he still uses today in mid 2003. And honestly, who else could’ve gotten Al Polig (“911”) as the most over and beloved man in their company? No one was using women in overtly violent or sexual roles until it was done in ECW whether you enjoy or hate that kind of thing, the blame, or credit, falls on ECW. While it had been done before, agitated & controversial angles certainly hadn’t been seen in over a decade but peaked under Heyman with the Tommy Dreamer/Sandman “blind” angle, the Raven/Tommy Dreamer feud, and Raven’s “Search for the Ultimate Slut” to name a few. Nobody was highflying hardcore in the USA until Sabu got to show off his work, and though people who got in late and watched a tape of him may not be all that impressed, when he was first doing this stuff, people’s jaws dropped. This stuff was 1994 or 1995, folks, the only other thing close to Sabu was Cactus Jack in WCW doing his Cactuslines, ring apron elbowdrops, and getting the hell beat out of him to a sick degree. If ECW didn’t come around and show the big two what fans really wanted, where the future of wrestling was really headed, then who knows, we might have Doink as WWE Heavyweight Champion and WCWs strong base of cruisers may never have come. They already ignored Japanese performers before, preferring luchadores, and already had passed up on Malenko (both, actually) and Benoit before, as well as others.
It can be argued that ECW’s fans were disgusting and devoid of any class or compassion, and I think that’s a totally valid opinion. It can be argued that ECW pandered to the misogynists, and on some levels, that’s true. It can also be said that ECW pandered to blood thirsty “vampire fans” and that would also be true on some levels. It can be argued that while backyard feds always existed, they really popped up thanks to ECW making people feel like you didn’t have to be 6’6” and 290lbs to be a wrester. I couldn’t really argue any of those past a certain point because every promotion has its faults and ECW probably had a lot more than most. A lot more.
Personally, the sexuality and involvement of the women, and children, never offended me. I’m not the type to be offended, I watch R rated movies, I watch gory non-fiction forensics shows. Ie; I’ve probably seen things worse and unlike some people I don’t put wrestling shows under a different standard than I put primetime TV. The thing that mostly got under my skin about ECW, besides the fact that they had wanted TV only to get it and put out bad television, was their fans. While the fans unmatched passion for their home promotion set an atmosphere for ECW that was as big a part of the show as anything else (honestly, when was that crowd EVER quiet?) the utter disrespect and disregard they show for the performers was sickening to me on more than one occasion. Chanting “You Fucked Up” at JT Smith is still among the most offensive things I’ve ever seen in wrestling. The Mass Transit Incident was fairly sickening as well, despite the fact that the kid almost did it to himself with the actions he took.
When I look back on ECW, I’m one of the ones that has more good memories than bad. People that judge off the TNN show, and there are a LOT of them, are quite frankly, uninformed and assuming. From 1994 to mid 1997 ECW was arguably the best promotion in North America. The storylines were compelling, the fans were given what they wanted, and wrestlers were given every possible chance. When I look back on ECW I hate some of it and love more of it. I can see totally where its detractors are coming from, and at often times I agree with them. However, I also give credence to the groundbreaking force that was Extreme Championship Wrestling, and that part is the beauty, the tragedy is that almost nobody saw it when it was actually at its peak.
In its prime there was not only nothing like it, and some would say, nothing better. It’s too bad there were so few who got to actually see it.
If you’d like to reply, I’d love to hear any and all views and responses to all and any parts of this column. You can e-mail me directly at DaysWorkrate@hotmail.com. As I said, I’d love and appreciate some feedback for this.
-Banners: Samir, Mike Maloney and Stuart Smith.
-Wrestling Information Archive (online)
-Pro Wrestling Torch (newsletter, online)
-Figure Four Weekly (newsletter)
-A great column by a great columnist named Will Parrish (online)
-And last but not at all least, the past ten years worth of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter (newsletter, online)
It should be noted that when numbers, stats, or facts didn’t match up I went with the Wrestling Observer’s facts & figures above all.