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Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) was a professional wrestling promotion that was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker in 1992 by Tod Gordon and closed when his successor, Paul Heyman, declared bankruptcy in April 2001. After subsequently purchasing the assets of ECW, World Wrestling Entertainment relaunched the Extreme Championship Wrestling franchise as a WWE brand in June 2006 to complement their existing Raw and SmackDown brands.

The company became known for its loyal fan base as well as its tendency to push the envelope with storylines. The group has showcased many different styles of professional wrestling, ranging from lucha libre to hardcore wrestling.


Tri-State Wrestling Alliance and Eastern Championship Wrestling

ECW had its origins in 1991 under the banner Tri-State Wrestling Alliance owned by Joel Goodhart. In 1992, Goodhart sold his share of the company to his partner, Tod Gordon, who in return renamed the promotion Eastern Championship Wrestling. When Eastern Championship Wrestling was founded, it was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). At the time, "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert was the lead booker of Eastern Championship Wrestling. Gilbert (after a falling out with Tod Gordon) was replaced in September 1993 by Paul Heyman (a.k.a. Paul E. Dangerously), who had just left World Championship Wrestling and was looking for a new challenge.

Eastern Championship Wrestling contrasted contemporary professional wrestling, which contained many cartoonish gimmicks and was marketed more towards children. Extreme Championship Wrestling, aiming at males between 18 to 35, broke a few taboos such as blading. Heyman saw ECW as the professional wrestling equivalent to the grunge movement and focused on taking the company in a new direction.

Secession from the NWA

In 1994, Jim Crockett's non-compete agreement with Ted Turner, who purchased World Championship Wrestling (WCW) from Crockett in 1988, was up and he decided to start promoting with the NWA again. Crockett went to Tod Gordon and asked him to hold a tournament for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at the ECW Arena on August 27, 1994. NWA President Dennis Coralluzzo thought that Crockett and Gordon were going to try to monopolize the title (much like Crockett did in the 1980s) and told them they did not have the NWA board's approval so he took control over the tournament. Gordon was upset at Coralluzzo for his power plays so Gordon and Shane Douglas, who was booked to win the title against 2 Cold Scorpio, planned to have Douglas throw the title down after he won it and break ECW from the NWA. So after the match, Douglas threw down the NWA belt stating that he did not want to be champion of a "dead promotion." He then raised the Eastern Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Title and declared it to be a World Heavyweight Championship—calling it the only real World Title. According to the Forever Hardcore DVD, Douglas only agreed to throw down the NWA belt. The idea of throwing down the NWA World Title was planned and only two other people were in on it: Todd Gordon and Paul Heyman. Paul told Shane the negative would be that many he grew up loving would peg him as a "backstabber" if he did it. What made the decision easy is Dennis Carluzzo's commentary about Shane at the time. Carluzzo went on the radio and behind his back and told everyone not to book Shane as he would no show and was a "bad risk." Shane can't recall ever no showing an event. Carluzzo, a high-ranking NWA official, apparently was talking about a show Shane no showed because he was worried about pay. The promoter kept backing out of parts of the agreement and in the end wanted Shane to drive instead of fly as was planned in the arrangement. So, Shane told the promoter to take his name off the show and not to book him again. Shane credits Mike Tenay for telling him the story as Shane did not even remember it. The day of the event, Shane was to throw down the NWA belt, he was still undecided. It was not until Carluzzo showed up and was stuck to Shane's side "like a dingleberry" and wanted him to sign a contract which Shane could not sign. When he saw how disingenuous Carluzzo was being, he decided to do it using his father's theory of doing right by the people that do right by you. Shane feels there is some left over anger from the NWA about the tossing of the belt. When he went to TNA, he feels they could have had him do the typical heel "nobody beat me for the belt" angle but opted not to after Dennis Coraluzzo buried Douglas on Mike Tenay’s radio show.

In accord with this speech, Paul Heyman later stated that "the National Wrestling Alliance was old-school when old-school wasn't hip anymore. We wanted to set our mark, we wanted to breakaway from the pack, we wanted to let the world know that we weren't just some independent promotion."

After ECW withdrew from the NWA, it officially changed its name from "Eastern Championship Wrestling" to "Extreme Championship Wrestling". The unorthodox style of moves and controversial story lines made it popular among many wrestling fans in the 18- to 35-year-old male demographic. The group showcased many different styles of professional wrestling, popularizing bloody hardcore wrestling matches and the 3-Way Dance. ECW was always intended to be counterculture and a grittier alternative to multi-million dollar organizations such as WWF and WCW. In addition to their hardcore match types, they provided an alternative to North American wrestling with technical wrestling that was common overseas.

ECW Arena and television syndication

The bulk of ECW's shows remained at the ECW Arenamarker, a bingo hall secluded under a section of Interstate 95. Seating comprised simple folding chairs and four sets of portable bleachers, and the whole sort of unconventional set up reflected the gritty style of the wrestling itself. Shows were actually broadcast on a Philadelphia local cable sports station (SportsChannel America's local affiliate, SportsChannel Philadelphia) on Tuesday evenings. After Sports Channel Philadelphia went off the air in 1997, the show moved to WPPX-TV 61marker. It later moved to a former independent broadcast station (WGTWmarker 48) in Philadelphia on either Friday or Saturday night at 1 or 2 a.m. Shows were also aired on the MSG Network in NYC on Friday nights (Early Saturday morning) at 2 a.m. Due to the obscurity of the stations and ECW itself, as well as the lack of FCC oversight at that late hour, many times expletives and violence were not edited out of these showings, helping to get ECW noticed.

Paul Heyman and cross promotion

In 1996, Tod Gordon sold ECW to his head booker, Paul Heyman. Afterward, Gordon remained in ECW as a figure-head commissioner. Years after being the ECW "Commissioner", Gordon left ECW. His absence was explained on-air that he retired from wrestling due to family. Rumors circulate, however, that Gordon was fired by Heyman after he was suspected as a "locker room mole" for a rival wrestling promotion, helping to lure talent to World Championship Wrestling. Many years later, in an interview, Gordon claims that the "WCW mole" situation was nothing more than a work.

Storyline-wise, Vince McMahon first became "aware" of ECW while at the 1995 King of the Ring event in ECW's home base of Philadelphia. During the match between Mabel and Savio Vega, the crowd suddenly started to angrily chant, "ECW ECW ECW!". On September 22, 1996, at the In Your House: Mind Games event in Philadelphia, ECW stars The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Paul Heyman, and Taz were in the front row with Sandman even interfering in one match (when he threw beer on Savio Vega during his strap match with Bradshaw). McMahon acknowledged ECW's status as a local, up and coming promotion on the air. On February 24, 1997, ECW "invaded" Raw from the Manhattan Centermarker. They advanced a storyline, plugged their first ever pay-per-view and worked three matches in front of the WWF audience while McMahon called the action with both Jerry "The King" Lawler and Paul Heyman. The Manhattan Center in New Yorkmarker was peppered with a large number of ECW fans, who gave the WWF wrestlers "Boring!" chants when they felt it was warranted. Likewise, when the ECW performers arrived, they popped and introduced the WWF Monday night audience to some trademark ECW group chants. This invasion sparked an inter-promotional feud between ECW and Lawler's United States Wrestling Association. Lawler disparaged ECW on-camera and convinced wrestlers such as Rob Van Dam and Sabu to join him in an anti-ECW crusade. Throughout 1997, ECW wrestlers appeared on USWA television programs, and vice versa.

On April 13, 1997, ECW finally broadcast its first pay-per-view wrestling card, Barely Legal, highlighted by Terry Funk winning the ECW World Heavyweight Title from Raven. That June, the company's Wrestlepalooza '97 event featured Raven's final ECW match before leaving for WCW. In this match, Tommy Dreamer finally beat Raven, his long time nemesis. Dreamer's celebration was short-lived, though, as Jerry Lawler, along with Sabu and Rob Van Dam showed up to attack Dreamer. This set up a match between Dreamer and Lawler at the company's second pay-per-view, 1997 Hardcore Heaven, on August 17, which was won by Dreamer. ECW continued through 1998 and early 1999 with a string of successful pay-per-views.

Mike Awesome controversy and promotional rivalry

In April 2000, Mike Awesome made a surprise appearance on WCW Monday Nitro — making his debut by attacking Kevin Nash — while still reigning as ECW World Champion. Awesome's friend Lance Storm has said that Awesome had refused to sign a new contract with ECW until Paul Heyman paid him overdue wages. There were rumors that WCW Executive Vice-President Eric Bischoff wanted Awesome to drop the ECW World Championship belt in the trash can on television, as had been done previously with the WWF Women's title by Madusa when she jumped from the WWF to WCW. Due to concerns over legal issues, WCW refrained from having Awesome appear on Nitro with the ECW belt, but did acknowledge him as the ECW Champion. Eventually, a compromise was reached. Awesome (a WCW employee and the reigning ECW champion) appeared at an April 13, 2000 ECW event in Indianapolis, Indianamarker, where he lost the title to Tazz (who was working for the World Wrestling Federation).

In 2000, ECW made its West Coast debut, holding its annual summer pay-per-view Heat Wave in Los Angeles. At the time Los Angeles was home to Xtreme Pro Wrestling (XPW), and its owner Rob Black purchased six front row tickets for the show. The tickets were given to a cadre of XPW talent, and their mission was to make it clear that ECW was on enemy turf. This was not a storyline. At the beginning of the main event, the XPW contingent donned shirts emblazoned with the XPW logo, gaining the attention of security and ECW wrestler Tommy Dreamer. Security ejected the XPW group from the building and later, a brawl broke out in the parking lot between members of the XPW ring crew and the ECW locker room. The XPW wrestlers were not involved in the fracas, during which the ECW wrestlers brutalized the XPW ring crew with several of the ring crew members left in pools of their own blood. Initial reports claimed that XPW valet Kristi Myst had somehow touched ECW valet Francine Fournier and that this is what prompted the incident, but Fournier herself has since gone on record as saying that she was never grabbed or in any other way touched by any of the XPW crew, and other eye witnesses support the story that Fournier never had a hand laid on her. XPW was not acknowledged by ECW announcer Joey Styles during the pay-per-view telecast, however at the November to Remember pay-per-view a few months later, color-commentator Don Callis made a subtle reference to the incident, describing a wild brawl as "looking like a Los Angeles parking lot". The XPW contingent at ringside consisted of wrestlers The Messiah, Kid Kaos, Supreme, Kristi Myst, Homeless Jimmy and XPW announcer Kris Kloss.

ECW on TNN and bankruptcy

In August 1999, ECW began to broadcast nationally on TNN (for what was initially a three year contract). Despite no advertising and a low budget, ECW became TNN's highest rated show. ECW on TNN was canceled in October 2000 (with the final episode airing on October 6, 2000) in favor of WWF Raw moving to the network. On the Rise and Fall on ECW DVD, Paul Heyman stated that he strongly believed that the lack of a national television deal (especially after the TNN ordeal) was the main cause of ECW's demise.

ECW struggled for months after the cancellation, trying to secure a new national TV deal. On December 30, 2000, ECW Hardcore TV aired for the last time and Guilty as Charged in 2001 was the last PPV aired on January 7, 2001. Living Dangerously was scheduled to air on March 11, 2001, but because of financial trouble it was canceled before March 11. Despite help from the WWF, Heyman could not get out of financial trouble and filed for bankruptcy on April 4, 2001. Heyman supposedly had never told his wrestlers that the company was on its dying legs and was unable to pay them for well over a month before finally filing for bankruptcy.

The company was listed as having assets totaling $1,385,500. Included in that number was $860,000 in accounts receivable owed the company by In Demand Network (PPV), Acclaim (video games), and Original San Francisco Toy Company (action figures). The balance of the assets were the video tape library ($500,000), a 1998 Ford Truck ($19,500) and the remaining inventory of merchandise ($4). The liabilities of the company totaled $8,881,435.17. The bankruptcy filing included hundreds of claims, including production companies, buildings ECW ran in, TV stations ECW was televised on, travel agencies, phone companies, attorney's fees, wrestlers, and other talent. Wrestlers and talent were listed, with amounts owed ranging from $1 for Sabu and Steve Corino to hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars. The highest amounts owed to talents were Rob Van Dam ($150,000), Tommy Dreamer ($125,000), Joey Styles ($50,000), Shane Douglas ($48,000), and Francine Fournier ($47,875). These assets were eventually purchased by the WWF, now World Wrestling Entertainment.

Legacy and resurface

Crowds at ECW events were well known for their rowdiness and distinctive chants that either supported or demeaned what was transpiring in the ring. ECW chants such as "You fucked up!" and "Holy shit!" became infamous during those shows, and are still used by fans in other promotions.

In ECW, there were virtually no rules. The role of referees only included counting pinfalls and acknowledging submissions. ECW was known for making popular several types of matches, including the Barbed wire match, Flaming Tables match, Singapore Cane match among others.

After noticing ECW's growing popularity, the "Big Two" (World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation) started adopting their ideas and hiring away their talent. ECW, according to Heyman, was the first victim of the "Monday Night Wars" between WCW Monday Nitro and Monday Night Raw. The WWF had a working relationship with ECW, going so far as allowing cross-promotional angles, providing talent on loan in exchange for marketable gimmicks (Al Snow's "head" gimmick among them), and even providing financial aid to Heyman for a considerable period of time. WCW on the other hand refused to even mention ECW by name (with a few notable exceptions; including a passing remark by Raven in late 1997 and Kevin Nash and Scott Hall mentioning it as a viable second option in American wrestling in a slight on their main competition, the World Wrestling Federation), referring to it as "barbed wire city" and "a major independent promotion that wrestled in bingo halls" during a segment directed at Diamond Dallas Page. Despite these on-air slights, WCW also provided talent for ECW as settlement of several lawsuits filed by ECW (most notably Mick Foley).

The Alliance

A few months after the promotion's 2001 demise, ECW resurfaced as a stable as part of the World Wrestling Federation Invasion storyline. As a participant in the inter-promotional feud between Shane McMahon's WCW and Vince McMahon's WWF, ECW was initially "owned" by Paul Heyman and harbored no loyalty to either promotion. Soon after (on the very same night), it was revealed Stephanie McMahon was ECW's new "owner", and she soon conspired with her brother Shane to oust their father from his leadership position in the World Wrestling Federation. Although WWF used the ECW name, the rights to the company were disputed at the time. With the creation of The Alliance, the inter-promotional feud shifted into an internal power struggle among the McMahon family. The defection of WWF superstars to The Alliance continued the shift as less focus was placed on WCW and ECW performers. The feud lasted six months and concluded with WWF defeating The Alliance at the 2001 Survivor Series. The WWF's victory also marked the end of the Invasion storyline, and WCW and ECW wrestlers were reintegrated into the WWF.


In the summer of 2003, WWE purchased ECW's assets in bankruptcy court, acquiring the rights to ECW's video library. They used this video library to put together a two-disc DVD entitled The Rise and Fall of ECW. The set was released in November 2004. The main feature of the DVD was a three-hour documentary on the company's history, with the other disc featuring matches from the promotion. An unauthorized DVD called Forever Hardcore was written and directed by Shane Douglas, and produced by former WCW crew member Jeremy Borash in response to The Rise and Fall of ECW. The DVD had stories of wrestlers who were not employed by WWE telling their side of ECW's history. However, due to the WWE owning the ECW video library, there was no video of ECW events.

Reunions and relaunch

By 2005, WWE began reintroducing ECW through content from the ECW video library and a series books, which included the release of The Rise and Fall of ECW documentary. With heightened and rejuvenated interest in the ECW franchise, WWE organized ECW One Night Stand on June 12, a reunion event that featured ECW alumni. Due to the financial and critical success of the production, WWE produced the second ECW One Night Stand on June 11, 2006, which served as the premiere event in the relaunch of the ECW franchise as a third WWE brand, complementary to Raw and SmackDown. On June 13, Paul Heyman, former ECW owner and newly appointed figurehead for the ECW brand, recommissioned the ECW World Heavyweight Championship to be the brand's world title and awarded it to Rob Van Dam as a result of winning the WWE Championship at One Night Stand 2006. Under the WWE banner, ECW is presented in a modernized style to that when it was an independent promotion and is produced following the same format of the other brands, with match rules, such as count outs and disqualifications, being standard. Matches featuring the rule set of the ECW promotion are now classified as being contested under "Extreme Rules" and are only fought when specified.

Tod Gordon dispute

In December 2005, Eastern Championship Wrestling founder Tod Gordon challenged WWE's ownership of the Eastern Championship Wrestling section of the ECW video library, claiming that the state did not have the right to sell that section of the video library to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment. He also claims that Eastern Championship Wrestling, Inc. was separate from Extreme Championship Wrestling. On May 8, 2006 the case was thrown out and Gordon planned to appeal the decision.


See also


Further reading

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