With Paul Heyman’s re-emergence in professional wrestling, and the forthcoming release of a new ECW DVD from WWE Home Video, let’s look back at the fifty most memorable moments in the history of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
And no, there’s none of that watered-down WWE brand to be found here. Well, WWE is KIND OF involved, but….well, you’ll see.
50. F$#& Sabu! (April 8, 1995)
Although Sabu is synonymous with ECW and its heritage, his decision to attend a New Japan show over a heavily hyped three way match led to Paul Heyman, his boss and on-screen manager, to publicly fire him. The fans at the ECW Arena chanted the expletive above, but welcomed Sabu back seven months later after he returned from a lukewarm WCW run.
49. The Mysterious Masked Man (January 11, 1997)
ECW Television Champion Shane Douglas was confronted at ECW House Party by a tall, casually-dressed individual with a lucha libre mask. The fans weren’t sure what to make of the specter, until he spoke, “It’s a NEWWWW YEAR, Franchise Shane Douglas!” Clearly, the voice belonged to the retired Ravishing Rick Rude. After insulting Douglas and his valet, Francine, Rude introduced the returning Pitbull 1 to maul the man who injured him.
48. “It’s Tommy’s” (January 5, 1996)
Raven seemingly held everything over Tommy Dreamer psychologically, until his squeeze Beulah McGillicutty revealed to Stevie Richards in-ring that she was pregnant. Raven throttled her when she admitted it belonged to Dreamer. Before Raven could attack further, Dreamer hit the ring, annihilated his arch-nemesis, and embraced his future wife. The ante had been raised in ECW’s greatest feud.
47. The Surprise Challenger (October 16, 1997)
Rick Rude eventually became a mentor to Shane Douglas, aligning himself with the Triple Threat. His goal was to find competition for Douglas, now ECW Champion. After two months of doing so, Rude swerved his protégé by sticking him with Bam Bam Bigelow, then Douglas’ hired muscle. Bigelow crushed Douglas with a powerbomb in Queens, shocking everyone by becoming ECW Champion.
The end of “Midtown Massacre” in New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom saw a near-riot break out, which featured Television Champion Rhino goring an NYC police officer. As the locker room emptied and a massive brawl erupted, Kid Kash hit the ring to challenge for the gold. As chaos continued to reign, Rob Van Dam assisted Kash in taking the Man Beast out, scoring the biggest win of his career.
45. The Danbury Fall (March 12, 2000)
“The Original Gangsta” New Jack is known for his crazy dives and risky offense, but at Living Dangerously 2000, he had the scariest moment of his career. During a brawl with Da Baldies, New Jack and the 400 pound Vic Grimes ascended a ledge overtop a table. The ledge proved narrow, and the duo tumbled off, with New Jack splattering his head on the concrete, blinding himself in one eye.
44. Rolling in the Deep (March 1, 1998)
Adele wasn’t even ten years old when Taz and Bam Bam Bigelow, during their TV Title match in Bammer’s native Asbury Park, created a highlight that played for years in the opening montage. With the Tazmission locked on Bigelow, Bam Bam threw himself backward, putting both men through the ring, and smacking Taz’s head onto a support beam underneath. Bigelow won moments later.
43. Los Angeles Invasion, Starring the Knockoffs (July 16, 2000)
ECW Heat Wave ventured to the City of Angels, where Justin Credible and Tommy Dreamer were to do battle for the World Title in a Stairway to Hell match. As the match got underway, members of LA’s XPW promotion caused a fracas in the front row, which led to a brawl in the parking lot between members of the rival promotions. ECW is said to have won the fight handily.
42. Whipwreck’s David vs. Goliath Tale (October 28, 1995)
Months after chasing World Champion Sandman as an unlikely challenger, Mikey Whipwreck got one last opportunity against the hard-drinking kingpin, with a ladder in play. Mikey took the fight to the Extreme Icon, and even busted him open. Sandman had little offense, as Mikey laid the ladder on him, and splashed him off the top, ending Sandman’s six month reign as champion.
41. Return of The Funker (February 25, 1995)
After Cactus Jack defeated antiquated Tri-State alum DC Drake, he brawled with Sandman, who was knocked backward into a draped gift box at ringside. Jack pulled who he thought was Sandman out of the crate, as he was wearing the same clothes as Sandman, only with the curtain concealing his head. Jack pulled the curtain off….and was shocked to see Terry Funk stand before him. Funk and Sandman double teamed Cactus in a brutal assault afterward.
40. No Respect for Sabu (May 11, 1996)
Sabu and Rob Van Dam kicked off a stylishly competitive rivalry, and the show dubbed “A Matter of Respect” showcased the two in a match where the loser had to openly profess respect for the winner. RVD narrowly won, and Sabu humbled himself. However, RVD blew off Sabu’s gesture of a handshake, told Sabu he didn’t respect him, and walked out
39. “I’m Hardcore!” (November 1995)
On ECW’s weekly broadcast, Cactus Jack cut many a quizzical and quirky promo, but nothing was quite like the one he offered up shortly after November to Remember in 1995. Wearing a suit, Cactus attempted to win fans back over by proving he was still ‘hardcore.’ He did so by pointing out that he couldn’t wear glasses due to his missing ear, much less rest a pen on his nub. Text doesn’t do this promo justice; it tops the “Cane Dewey” monologue by a hair or two.
38. Sandman and Sabu’s Stairway to Hell (January 10, 1998)
The Sandman and Sabu culminated their seven-month blood feud with the first ever Stairway to Hell match, in which a rolled-up section of barbed wire hung overtop the ring. Both men suffered horrific injuries: Sandman was virtually skinned alive by the barbs and a spike, while Sabu broke his jaw in multiple places on the guardrail. Sandman finally ended the bloodbath with an emphatic cane shot.
37. Tommy Wins Big; Loses it All (April 22, 2000)
Tommy Dreamer finally won the big one, defeating Taz (on loan from WWE) for the ECW Championship in Philadelphia. After a tearful speech, in which even Raven congratulated him, Justin Credible attacked with his Singapore cane. After throwing down both Tag Team titles (his and Lance Storm’s), Credible goaded Dreamer into a title match then and there. Dreamer almost won, but Francine double crossed him, and Credible Tombstoned his way into ECW’s top spot, ending Dreamer’s dream.
36. Born to be Wired (August 9, 1997)
53 year old Terry Funk was ECW Champion, and he defended against old nemesis Sabu in a barbed wire match. You knew it’d be violent, but the cagey duo set new standards for self-mutilation that night. Sabu shredded nearly the length of his arm on an “Air Sabu” gone wrong, and the match ended with both men hopelessly tangled in the wires. Sabu managed to cover Funk in the clutter to get the gold.
35. The Infamous Fire (October 28, 1995)
Things got a little too out of hand when Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk were building their war with Cactus Jack and Raven. During a show-ending fracas that would lead to November to Remember three weeks later, a chair came into play with one modifier: it was wrapped in a towel that was set on fire. Funk and Cactus fought with the deadly weapon, and the towel was sent flying into the crowd, scalding a fan. Footage of the incident has allegedly long since been destroyed.
34. “You’re Steve Austin!” (September 1995)
After WCW gave him his walking papers over the phone, Stunning Steve Austin made his way to ECW, where the eventual wrestling icon laid the foundation for Stone Cold’s personality. He mocked Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff with humorous parodies, before eventually setting his sights on Sandman and Mikey Whipwreck’s runs as ECW Champion. Austin’s run was a memorable three months.
33. Douglas Sort of Avenges Flair (March 26, 1994)
In an eight man Ultimate Jeopardy match, with Terry Funk’s ECW Championship at stake, Shane Douglas remembered how, over four years earlier, Funk had attempted to suffocate Ric Flair with a plastic bag during a melee at NWA Clash of the Champions. Douglas invoked some irony into the proceedings by using a similar bag to asphyxiate the Funker, allowing Douglas to begin a one year reign as ECW Champion.
32. Mysterio and Psicosis Astound (September 16, 1995)
Rey Mysterio and Psicosis brought their AAA rivalry to the ECW Arena, putting together one of the best dual debuts you’ll ever see in professional wrestling. Psicosis was impressive enough, but it was the diminutive twenty-year-old Mysterio who dazzled the Philly fans with his flawless acrobatics, and unheard-of aerial maneuvers. Never boring, and always jaw-dropping, Mysterio won the epic clash.
31. Kimona Makes Us Hotter (June 22, 1996)
The ring broke several times during Hardcore Heaven, and the already overheated bingo hall was turning into an oven of body heat and frustration from the fans. To remedy the rage, Paul Heyman sent 19-year-old Kimona Wanalaya (say it fast) to the Eagle’s Nest stage, where she stripped to the amusement of all. Despite promising Kimona that the footage would never air anymore, it made ECW’s “Extreme Warfare” commercial release.
30. Eddie and Dean Bid Farewell (August 26, 1995)
After over four months of putting on some of the most technically proficient wrestling matches yet seen in North America (this is before Ring of Honor, remember), Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko clashed once more in a two out of three falls match before heading to WCW. Guerrero won the first fall, Malenko made him tap in the second, and a double pin ended the third in a draw. The two gave their sincere goodbyes afterward. Sadly, a sign in the front row, reading “YOU’LL BE BACK” wasn’t prophetic.
29. The Night the Line Was Crossed (February 5, 1994)
Shane Douglas, Sabu, and Terry Funk provided ECW with its first truly memorable World Title feud, even if the battle doesn’t hold up today. For one hour, all three men tried to lay claim to ECW’s crown jewel, in Funk’s possession, and battled numerous injuries along the way. The match ended in a draw, resulting in wild applause from the Philly faithful, providing an indelible moment in ECW’s folklore.
28. Gordon Gone (September 1997)
In one of ECW’s darkest hours, on-screen figurehead, and company founder, Tod Gordon was revealed to have been a mole that was funneling ECW talent to WCW Executive VP Terry Taylor. Paul Heyman found indisputable proof that Gordon had helped Perry Saturn jump, and was doing the same with The Sandman, which ended up falling through. Sabu and Rob Van Dam were on the recruitment list, but they revealed to Heyman the underhanded act, and Paul E had to cut the beloved executive loose.
27. The Passion of The Sandman (October 26, 1996)
Fresh off winning his Olympic gold medal with a broken freakin’ neck, Kurt Angle appeared at the ECW Arena, and was horrified by what he saw: Raven and his band of misfits had fastened The Sandman to a makeshift crucifix, complete with a crown of barbed wire in lieu of thorns. Angle threatened legal action if that scene made airwaves in conjunction with his appearance. Raven was forced to apologize in front of a legitimately stunned audience, and Angle never worked for ECW again.
26. RVD Starts Something Big (April 4, 1998)
He was just supposed to wear down Television Champion Bam Bam Bigelow for his best friend Sabu, but Rob Van Dam ended up defeating the Beast from the East for the gold in Buffalo. What seemed like an innocuous victory for RVD, netting him his first piece of gold in ECW, turned into a twenty-three month super reign that made Van Dam the biggest star of the company, oftentimes over the World Champion du jour.
25. Mick Struts His Way Out (March 9, 1996)
It was Cactus Jack’s last ECW match before heading off to WWE, and becoming an icon as both a hardcore legend and a kid-friendly hero. Jack defeated former unlikely partner Mikey Whipwreck in a wild brawl, and Jack cut a humble, touching promo afterward. In his final act, he strutted his way out of the arena flanked by Stevie Richards and The Blue Meanie. Fun fact: 24 hours earlier, Cactus jobbed at a non-televised show to an up-and-coming Chris Jericho, whom he saw tons of promise in.
24. Chairshot Heard ‘Round the World (July 15, 1995)
With Raven lowering the boom on him at every turn, Tommy Dreamer finally exacted a measure of sweet revenge on his former teenage rival. At Heat Wave, Dreamer handcuffed Raven to a steel cage and slowly tormented him. The coup de grace was a moment that lasted for years in ECW’s opening video: a running chair shot that scrambled Raven’s brains, leading to a thunderous “E-C-DUB” chant from the Arena crowd.
23. Shane’s Most Vile Moment (October 5, 1996)
Three months after snapping Pitbull 1’s neck with a botched DDT, Douglas was wearing down Pitbull 2 in singles action with a sunk-in full nelson. PB1 was at ringside, with an implanted halo around his head, and he threw in the towel before his partner could suffer the same fate. Then Douglas took the injured man, shook his halo, and threw him to the ground, before being chased off by nearly the entire locker room, faces and heels. A legitimate near riot occurred from sickened fans that evening.
22. The Original HLA (April 20, 1996)
So Shane Douglas revealed Beulah wasn’t pregnant. And she revealed that she was a lesbian who loved Kimona Wanalaya. And the two made out. And then Tommy Dreamer insisted “I’LL TAKE EM BOTH, I’M HARDCORE” and engaging in a tongue orgy with both of them. And ECW lost TV clearance in a few markets. AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. You had to be there to appreciate it, really.
21. Fonzie Dies for His Art (September 20, 1997)
Remember that Tod Gordon moment mentioned a bit ago? Bill Alfonso was part of the scandal, and was due to be fired after putting over Beulah McGillicutty in a mixed tag that night. Thing is, Fonzie bladed himself during the match so horribly, that he was covered in what seemed like half the blood in his body. He and Beulah put forth an oddly entertaining struggle, and he put over Beulah cleanly. Heyman, so moved by Fonzie proving his loyalty in this manner, couldn’t bring himself to fire the man.
20. It’s Raining Chairs! (August 13, 1994)
Cactus Jack and Terry Funk waged war with The Public Enemy at the annual Hardcore Heaven in a way most expected. However, it was the aftermath that gave the confrontation its legendary status. Cactus and Funk stood in opposite corners with Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge lying prone. Then suddenly, the ECW Arena crowd began throwing hundreds upon hundreds of steel chairs into the ring, burying the Tag Team Champions in a sea of metal, in one of wrestling’s most surreal visuals ever.
19. The Dudleyz Reign Nevermore (August 26, 1999)
In Queens, NY, before jumping to WWE, The Dudley Boyz won their eighth and final ECW World Tag Team Championship, and threatened to take the belts to Vince McMahon. But they had one final act to commit: destroying Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer took on the duo in a handicap match and managed to DDT D-Von. Then Raven (fresh from quitting WCW) slid in the ring, DDTed Bubba, and the champs were pinned. Dreamer anguished when he discovered his new partner was his most hated enemy.
18. The Mass Transit Incident (November 23, 1996)
17 year old Erich Kulas lied his way into an ECW show in Revere, MA, and somehow wound up in the tag team title match, teaming with D-Von Dudley against The Gangstas. Working as Mass Transit, a fat, disgruntled bus driver, Kulas was carved open by New Jack, as Kulas had never bladed before. The blood poured out like a broken faucet, and Kulas later tried to sue ECW and New Jack for damages. New Jack was found not guilty in 1999, when it was revealed New Jack didn’t attack him out of character.
17. Dreamer Finally Beats Raven (June 7, 1997)
After two years of falling short, or watching his tag team partners pin the Bowery’s enigma, Dreamer had one last chance to down Raven in a “loser leaves” match at WrestlePalooza. The brawl went all over the ECW Arena one last time, and Dreamer fended off the likes of Lupus (a Stevie Richards wannabe) and Louie Spicoli to hang in there. Finally, Dreamer landed one last DDT (with a yell of E-C-F—ING-W!!) and pinned Raven to finally get his long-awaited victory. The aftermath however….well, just wait.
16. Rocco Rock: Extreme Flyboy (July 15, 1995)
The Public Enemy and The Gangstas rumbled inside a weapons-filled steel cage to try and settle their relatively new, albeit vicious, blood feud. Although the war would remain unsettled until January 1996, it was here that the most famous moment in the war took place. With New Jack laid upon two stacked-up tables, Rocco ascended the cage and moonsaulted off, putting New Jack through the mini-tower. ECW wouldn’t even show the moment on free TV, enticing fans to buy the tape of Heat Wave.
15. Taz’s Awesome Exit (September 19, 1999)
ECW Champion Taz had signed three year contract with WWE, so getting the title off of him was a must. At Anarchy Rulz in Chicago, the fans nearly booed him out of the Odeum Theater before his defense against FMW’s Masato Tanaka. Mike Awesome appeared in the crowd, and Taz egged him into the match. Bad move, as Taz was pinned by both men minutes later. Awesome and Tanaka waged war with Awesome stunning everyone by winning, and Taz respectfully passed the torch to the giant.
14. Taz’s Awesome Return (April 13, 2000)
Mike Awesome jumped ship to WCW in April 2000, despite being ECW Champion. A federal injunction prevented the title from being showcased on Nitro, and Awesome agreed to come back and job the belt. Heyman and WWE came up with a nice way to make WCW look bad: borrow Taz from WWE for a night, and have a WWE star beat a WCW star for ECW’s title. Taz shocked the world by coming into a house show in Indianapolis and choking out Awesome for the gold.
13. The Classic in Poughkeepsie (May 16, 1999)
Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn was one of the last technically proficient rivalries in ECW’s tenure, and the two had many classic battles in 1999 over Van Dam’s Television title. Their near-half hour match at Hardcore Heaven is considered the peak of the feud, and Lynn had to gut his way through it. A botched spot early on saw Lynn shatter his face on the floor outside, but he and Van Dam pieced together an exciting sequence for the finish, culminating with Van Dam retaining the gold with the Five Star.
12. The Biggest Chokeslam Ever (September 16, 1995)
Raven and Stevie Richards defended the ECW World Tag Team Championship against The Pitbulls in what many hail as the wildest, best-booked match in ECW history. The Pitbulls upended the champs after what seemed like six different storylines converged, including one of the greatest payoffs ever: corrupt referee Bill Alfonso ended up being chokeslammed by 911, more than four months after fans begged and screamed for Paul Heyman’s bodyguard to shut the loudmouth official up.
11. ECW Invades Raw (February 24, 1997)
With half of WWE’s roster in Europe for a tour, Vince McMahon needed to spice up Monday Night Raw at the Manhattan Center. An open challenge issued from Jerry Lawler to Paul Heyman saw the ECW Troupe come to town for three matches, in one of the first truly watershed Raws. Stevie Richards beat Little Guido, Taz choked out Mikey Whipwreck, and Tommy Dreamer downed D-Von Dudley. Heyman and Lawler bickered on commentary, and a big skirmish broke out between both rosters.
10. The TNN Debut (August 27, 1999)
Sure, the thirteen-plus month tenure on The Nashville Network (“The only network whose corporate office is on wheels” – Joey Styles) didn’t end well, nor did it particularly go well. But ECW made it nationally when not everybody gave them the benefit of the doubt. The first telecast featured the Van Dam/Lynn classic from item #13, and series of video packages to hype up the more prominent members of the tribe of Extreme.
9. Re-Enter The Sandman (October 23, 1999)
A year after jumping to WCW to become the watered-down Hardcore Hak, The Sandman was released from Turnerland after a massive talent purge during the inception of the Russo era. Days later, Justin Credible and Lance Storm were about to cheat their way into beating Tommy Dreamer and Raven for the tag team gold when the lights went out. As they illuminated, Sandman stood above the entrance way, and received one of the loudest ovations in ECW history, a veritable hero’s welcome.
8. Sandman Blinded (October 1, 1994)
But Dreamer and Sandman weren’t always buddies. In 1994, the two were engaged in a twisted set of battles where then-pretty boy Dreamer worked to prove his ruggedness against sadistic drunk Sandman. Sandman had the upper hand in this I Quit match when he lit up his trademark cigarette. Dreamer managed to knock the blazing object into Sandman’s eyes, and caned him in the face, “blinding” him. The moment was presented as a “worked shoot”, making many fans believe Sandman was truly hurt.
7. Lawler Leads an Invasion (June 7, 1997)
Minutes after Dreamer defeated Raven in their ‘final’ battle, The Innovator of Violence was assaulted by Rob Van Dam and Sabu, both of whom swore allegiance to WWE. When Dreamer tried to turn the tables, Jerry Lawler appeared in the ring, and a massive beatdown commenced on Dreamer, Sandman, and anyone else who tried to defend ECW’s honor. Finally, Taz hit the ring, and the WWE proxy army finally bailed out. The war between Lawler’s dissenters and Dreamer continued through the summer.
6. The Pose Off (November 16, 1996)
Building to ECW’s first PPV, Barely Legal, was priority. After a year of fans clamoring to see Sabu destroy Taz, and getting neither man in the vicinity of the other, the lights went out as Taz rampaged at November to Remember. Once back on, Sabu stood on one side of the ring with his ceiling point taunt, and Taz stood with his arms crossed. Fans got the message loud and clear, and the lights went off once more. This time, when the room was lit again, both men were gone. The intrigue commenced.
5. The Rogue Horseman (February 17, 1996)
After working out a complex, Rube Goldberg-esque way of getting out of his WCW contract, Brian Pillman showed up at the ECW Arena, and what followed was the work of a genius AND a madman (both the same guy). First he ran down Bischoff. Then he ripped the ECW fans. Then he threatened to piss all over the canvas. Then he stabbed a fan (indy worker Chris Krueger) with a fork before being chased off by security, Paul Heyman, and Shane Douglas. Just a normal day for “Flyin’ Brian”, really.
4. Benoit Becomes the Crippler (November 5, 1994)
Due to Benoit’s ugly end, this moment will never see the light of day again on WWE releases, but it bears mentioning here. In a match with Sabu at the November to Remember, the two international standouts were only minutes into their clash when Benoit caber tossed Sabu into the air, and the Arabian daredevil landed square on his head, breaking his neck. Benoit reportedly had a breakdown after discovering the extent of Sabu’s damage, but Heyman gave Benoit his timeless nickname for it.
Tommy Dreamer had a hard time living down his image as a punchable pretty boy. Even the ECW Arena fans wanted the babyface to be mangled. After losing a match to Sandman where the loser get ten whacks with a Singapore cane, Dreamer took all ten shots like a man, refusing to back out when given the option by Sandman’s valet, Woman. Dreamer begged for more, stood up after the final shot, and stared Sandman down. From then on, Tommy Dreamer became a respected man to ECW fans.
2. “And they….can ALL…..KISS…..MY…..A$$” (August 27, 1994)
ECW was once a branch on the NWA tree, and likely the most influential one. In the summer of 1994, a tournament was held to crown a new NWA Champion, and ECW Champion Shane Douglas wound up beating 2 Cold Scorpio in the finals. Douglas cut a heartfelt speech about the belt’s meaning….and then threw the title down, vacating it. He declared NWA dead, as a double cross from he and Heyman to break away from NWA. ECW then stood out as their own entity, the night they became “Extreme.”
1. Barely Legal (April 13, 1997)
All of this had to be included as one entry, and it had to be number one. ECW gained PPV clearance and put forth a memorable night of action with Barely Legal at the ECW Arena. The Eliminators regained the Tag Team Titles, Sabu and Taz had their famous double turn, Rick Rude caused Brian Lee to turn on Shane Douglas, Rob Van Dam toyed with jumping to WWE, a wild Michinoku Pro six man tag wowed the fans, and Terry Funk, at age 52, won his last World Title, defeating Raven in the finale. It was the only PPV ever held at the ECW Arena, and it remains the most memorable night in company history.