Top Wrestlers in the History of Extreme Championship Wrestling

Over the course of the history of the original Extreme Championship Wrestling (1992 - 2001), there were nine singles wrestlers in a class by themselves. This list is based upon their impact both inside the ring and in helping establish the company as more than a local promotion from a bingo hall in Philly.

1
Terry Funk

Terry FUnk was the greatest wrestler in the history of ECW.
Terry Funk. Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images

The importance Terry Funk had on the company can best be seen by the respect he was shown in the theatrically released documentary Beyond the Mat. ECW owner Paul Heyman credited Terry for the company making it to pay-per-view in a pep speech prior to Barely Legal. Terry Funk was the rare veteran that understands the importance of helping to create new stars.  With a combination of hardcore matches, a tough guy reputation, and the pedigree of the NWA championship, Terry Funk is responsible for making stars out of many ECW wrestlers.

2
Shane Douglas

Shane was known as “The Franchise” for a reason.  In a promotion filled with rule breakers (if there were any rules) he was the ultimate bad guy. By destroying the legacy of the National Wrestling Alliance by dumping their championship in the garbage, he helped create the aura of ECW. His three-way match against Sabu and Terry Funk made three-way matches a popular match stipulation. In addition to his singles success, he also rubbed some of his prestige off to others by forming The Triple Threat.  At different times members of the group included wrestlers such as Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Chris Candido, Brian Lee, and Bam Bam Bigelow.

3
The Sandman

The Sandman was the icon of ECW. He was the man that every fan could gravitate towards.  His gimmick was liberally copied by Steve Austin and that helped to change the wrestling industry.  His feud with Tommy Dreamer got Dreamer over with the tough Philly crowd and his feud with Raven was perhaps the most emotional story line in ECW history.  His ring entrance, which consisted of him downing many cans of beer while Metallica's Enter Sandman played over the arena's sound system, could be the best in wrestling history and might have been the highlight of the first One Night Stand when the company was revived by WWE in 2005.

4
Tommy Dreamer

Tommy Dreamer’s career was similar to the story of ECW.  He would face huge obstacles and as soon as he appeared to conquer them an even bigger problem would creep up.  Originally a squeaky clean baby face that was hated by the Philly crowd, he gained respect in his feud with The Sandman. The most famous feud in ECW history was between him and Raven.  He is the only wrestler to have been with the company from it’s inception until it ended in 2001.

5
Sabu

Sabu has carried on the tradition of his uncle, The Shiek.  The brutality he shows towards his opponents was nothing compared to what he would do to his own body.  Early in his ECW tenure, Chris Benoit broke Sabu’s neck in a match but he returned to the ring a few weeks later.  A misunderstanding over dates led to Sabu missing much of 1995.  One of his most famous matches saw him beat Terry Funk for the ECW Championship in a Barbed Wire Match that required the two men to be cut apart.

6
Raven

Raven’s feuds with Sandman and Tommy Dreamer made people forget about the horrific Johnny Polo gimmick he was given in WWE.  He was only there for two years before leaving for WCW.  He returned for a short stint a few years later but left due to the financial problems the company had.  Raven holds the distinction of being the only man to hold titles in and have action figures made of himself from ECW, TNA, WWF, and WCW.

7
Rob Van Dam

RVD joined ECW in 1996 and was in the main event of their final televised event.  While he never held the World Title, he held the Television Championship for almost two years and only lost it due to injury.  Despite not holding the world title, his matches were the main event in the last few years of the promotion.

8
Tazz

Tazz was originally a Tazmanian Devil type character.  He refined his persona into a shoot fighter with a really bad attitude. Taz feuded with Sabu for over a year without ever touching him. Their encounter was the main event of ECW’s first pay-per-view event. That idea was copied with great success by WCW in the Hulk Hogan vs. Sting feud.  He was also a part of one of the strangest moments in wrestling history.  As a WWE contracted wrestler, he returned to ECW and won the ECW Championship from WCW star Mike Awesome.  Before losing the belt in ECW, he was pinned by Triple H on WWE Television.

9
Cactus Jack

Cactus Jack’s first ECW match was while he was under contract to WCW in a talent exchange program.  Despite becoming famous in WWE for his hardcore style, which is what ECW was most famous for, it might seem unbelievable to many to say that he is most famous for his promos while in ECW.  His anti-hardcore promos are perhaps the best ever in the wrestling business.  He used his fame to elevate wrestlers like Tommy Dreamer and he accomplished the impossible by helping to turn Mikey Whipwreck from a lovable loser into a main event wrestler.