The History of Extreme Championship Wrestling

The Beginning:

Eastern Championship Wrestling was founded by Tod Gordon in Philadelphia. One of the original bookers of the promotion was Eddie Gilbert. By 1993, Paul Heyman became the booker. His vision of wrestling was very different than what the WWF and WCW were offering. In the mid-90’s, the WWF was featuring a roster full of wrestlers with day jobs while WCW soon became a boring show to watch due to Hulk Hogan and his friends stroking their egos.

The Revolution:

While ECW is best known for sex and violence, ECW also offered incredible wrestling action not seen anywhere else. Wrestlers like Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho and luchadores like Rey Mysterio and Juventud Guerrera got their first real breaks in ECW. Fan participation was another thing that made ECW different. In the beginning, fans brought weapons to the ECW Arena for the wrestlers to use on each other.

ECW Goes Extreme:

In 1994, Shane Douglas won a tournament to become the NWA World Champion. He threw the belt in the garbage and declared himself the first ECW World Champion. Shortly after that, the E stood for Extreme. In the early days, ECW had a working relationship with WCW but they soon raided the company. In 1995 and 1996, ECW took wrestlers like Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, and The Public Enemy. The WWF also got into the act and in that period took Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and Shane Douglas.

A New Owner and Creating New Talent:

In 1995, Paul Heyman became the owner of ECW. One of his gifts was that he was able to accentuate the positive while hiding the negative. He used this ability to continually create a new roster of stars. The new generation of stars created in this era included The Dudley Boys and Tazz.

By 1997, the company was ready for their first PPV event but an incident involving New Jack and Mass Transit almost caused it to be canceled.

ECW Invades the WWF:

In 1997, the WWF and ECW began working together. To promote the first ECW PPV event, ECW starts appeared on Monday Night RAW. Their second PPV was built around WWF announcer Jerry Lawler invading ECW. While ECW was gaining in popularity, it was losing more and more talent to the Monday Night War between the WWF and WCW. As wrestling became more popular due to success of The Attitude Era in the WWF and the new World order in WCW, it cost ECW more money to keep their talent.

The Nashville Network:

By 1999, ECW needed a national television program so they could get licensing agreements. They got a time slot on TNN and thought that their problems were done. However, most people think that ECW was used as a test to see if professional wrestling could work on the network. The TNN deal wound up costing ECW money and to add insult to injury they felt that TNN didn’t promote the show even though it was their top rated program. In early 2001, ECW closed due to bankruptcy.

The Reunions:

ECW could be the first promotion to close while the attendance and popularity of the promotion were at an all time high.

The WWE bought the assets in bankruptcy court. For years whenever a wrestler did an incredible maneuver, the crowds would chant "ECW". In 2004, the WWE released a DVD about ECW that was so popular that in 1995 the company held a PPV event called ECW One Night Stand. That same weekend, ECW alumni not affiliated with the WWE held their own event called hardcore homecoming.

The Rebirth, Second Death, and Final Stand:

In 2006, the WWE announced that they would be bringing back ECW on a full-time basis. While it could never be as it once was, many ECW fans were happy that they were once again able to chant ECW. Those cheers didn't last for too long as the new ECW ended in early 2010. A few months later, TNA scheduled an event called Hardcore Justice: The Final Stand to give ECW the final sendoff it deserved.

Sources: Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, Turning the Tables by John Lister, and Hardcore History by Scott Williams.