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WRESTLING COLUMNS

History Of ECW: Part 1
(Eastern Championship Wrestling)

October 28, 2006 by Andy Phillips


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In 1992, Tod Gordon formed Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW). It was largely a Philadelphia-based territory, but did have a few shows across Pennsylvania. It was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), one of the most famous organizations in wrestling history. His head booker during this time was ''Hot-Stuff'' Eddie Gilbert, who also wrestled for a period of time in the territory. Unfortunately, Gilbert's tenure was a short one, as he only lasted around six months, before he left the company due to a disagreement with Tod Gordon. Many people believe that Gilbert's drug use and unstable behaviour were the real reasons for his exit.

Gordon was a man that wanted veterans in his company, and he focused on bringing in some big names from years gone buy, such as former WWE superstars, Jimmy Snuka and Don Muraco, plus wrestling legend Terry Funk.

Gordon focused on making Jimmy Snuka his number one star, and crowned Snuka the first Eastern Championship Wrestling champion on April 25th 1992 in Mount Tabor, Pennsylvania. Gordon then went on to add another championship to his territory, an ECW tag team championship. AJ Petrucci and Douglas Stahl, unknown wrestlers at the time, and still largely unknown today won the championships on June 32rd, 1992. He also introduced two other titles, the ECW Pennsylvania Championship, the first holder was Tommy Rich, and the ECW Maryland Championship, the first holder was J.T Smith. However, ECW still hadn't found its feet.

Johnny Hotbody, at 29 years old, was one of the young guns that Gordon decided to push. Hotbody won the ECW Championship from Snuka, and also won the Tag Titles with other youngsters like Chris Candido and. The stable was called The Suicide Blondes. Hotbody also managed to become the first ECW Television Champion during this time.

ECW reinforced it's veteran's policy with Don Muraco winning the championship twice, Tito Santana winning the belt once, and Jimmy Snuka also winning it for a second time. Keep in mind this was before Gilbert left.

One ECW character that lasted nearly all the way was The Sandman. He debuted in 1992, and originally had the gimmick of a surfer. He did manage to win the ECW title with that gimmick, but was never too over with the fans, and so lost it back to Don Muraco quickly.

Even booker Eddie Gilbert and his brother Doug (Dark Patriot) were able to win the Tag Team Titles once before they both left the company. As Gilbert left, the ECW World Championship had just been put on Shane Douglas, another young up and comer in the company, the ECW TV Champion was Johnny Hotbody, and the ECW Tag Team Championship belts were vacant. Gordon now needed to find a new man to turn his company around.

In mid-September 1993, Tod Gordon hired Gilbert's friend and a former manager in WCW, Paul Heyman as his new booker. Heyman's first show was UltraClash 1993, held on September 18th 1993 at the Viking Hall, which was recognised as the ECW Arena. Heyman first hired Johnny Rotten and the Cheetah Kid, who he had seen wrestle each other countless times in Japan, and most recently on the first episode of WWE Monday Night RAW. He renamed them Johnny Grunge and ''Rocco'' Rock, and figured that because they had such chemistry in the ring, they would have great chemistry as a tag team. He called them the Public Enemy, and they went on to become one of the biggest tag teams in ECW history. The two made their debut at UltraClash, defeating Ian Rotten (another one of Heyman's new signings) and Jason Knight in a tag team match. Heyman did also hire Ian's brother, Axl Rotten and the two would become a tag team after this event, known as The Bad Breed.

Heyman's first show largely went well, and it also proved that he was trying to get away from the '''veteran type'' image ECW was getting, as the ECW Championship match at the event was Shane Douglas defending his title against The Sandman. Douglas retained. Heyman then continued to bring in stars that he thought could help ECW. He brought in Sabu, who had been successful in Japan. Sabu had scars all over his body, and had been involved in terrific high-flying and hardcore matches. He brought in Al Polling as 911, who was Sabu's handler. 911 was supposed to keep Sabu under control, and to further Sabu's image, Heyman decided to have Sabu come to the ring, chained up. Heyman also brought in Peter Senerchia (Tazz) as The Tazmaniac. The two new signings faced each other at UltraClash, with Sabu beating The Tazmaniac. During this time, Tony Stetson and Johnny Hotbody were giving the Tag Team Titles. Heyman thought that wrestling was too cartoon-ish, and his vision was to make ECW a grunge-style type company. Heyman got rid of the ECW Pennsylvania and ECW Maryland titles, and kept the original three as championship belts.

Heyman did keep on most of the veterans, like Snuka, Funk and Muraco. He also brought in others of their kind like Abdullah The Butcher, who came from Japan, Kevin Sullivan, Road Warrior Hawk and King Kong Bundy. However, their roles were reduced, and they became mid-carders, usually challenging for the Television Title at the very most. Their main reason for being in the company was to put the young talent over.

Another of Heyman's signings was Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer's original gimmick was that of a pretty boy, wearing suspenders and loose tights. He later went on to become one of the company's biggest stars, but we'll talk about that a little later.

Sabu did win the ECW Championship from Shane Douglas, before losing it to Terry Funk two months later. The first major example of Heyman's new vision was when Sabu won the Television Championship, while teaming with Road Warrior Hawk in a tag team match against Terry Funk and King Kong Bundy at an NWA Bloodfest event. By the end of 1993, The ECW Championship belonged to Terry Funk, the ECW Television Championship belonged to Sabu, while the ECW Tag Team Championships belonged to Kevin Sullivan and The Tazmaniac.

Heyman got rid of most of the veterans in early 1994, and it seemed that Jimmy Snuka, Kevin Sullivan and Terry Funk were the only ''veterans'' left in the company. In 1993, he brought in another wrestler from Japan, The Gladiator and renamed him Mike Awesome. Awesome's first tenure in ECW was a short one, but he did return and have a major impact in the company in later years. More gimmick-type matches, such as dog-collar and cage matches began to appear in ECW, which also proved where Heyman was heading. Heyman's first attempt to put Tommy Dreamer over failed, at ''The Night The Line Was Crossed 1994''. Dreamer did lose the match to Jimmy Snuka, but him being the first person in wrestling history to kick out of the Snuka Splash was enough in Paul Heyman's eyes. Dreamer still wasn't popular after this. With Terry Funk as champion, it gave Heyman a chance to really put somebody on the map. He continued to push Sabu and Shane Douglas as top stars.

He also began to re-create The Sandman, making him a beer-drinking, cigar-smoking son of a bitch. The gimmick made him one of the most popular wrestlers in ECW history. Gary Wolf and Anthony Durante were signed as another tag team, The Pitbulls, and given the simple names ''Pitbull 1#'' and ''Pitbull 2#''.

As part of an agreement with Eric Bischoff, Paul Heyman brought in WCW wrestler Cactus Jack for a dream match with Sabu. It was the main feature of Hostile City Showdown 1994. Jack and Sabu had both set the bar so high, that people were expecting too much from this contest. It was a very good match, but most ECW fans don't regard it as very good. At this event, an infamous incident also happened. Cactus Jack spit on the WCW Tag Team Title belt, proclaiming that he lost his pride after losing to Sabu, and that meant more to him than the tag title belt. Several people backstage had heat with Cactus Jack after this event, but Jack has always proclaimed that is people like Ric Flair had seen the interview instead of being told about it, they would have understood what he was getting across.

Also at this time, Mikey Whipwreck was making a name for himself in ECW. The thing about Whipwreck was that he never got one offensive move in to one of his matches, and it eventually made him popular with the fans. He went through a series of matches in which he was unsuccessful at winning the ECW Television Title belt. He finally beat Pitbull 1# to win the championship, and held it for three months, however usually being dominated in his matches, before winning due to luck or interference. He lost the title to Jason Knight on August 13th 1994.

During this time, Jim Crockett's no-complete clause after selling Jim Crockett Promotions to Ted Turner was coming to an end. Jim Crockett Promotions would eventually become World Championship Wrestling. Crockett suggested that Heyman and Gordon hold a NWA Championship tournament at the ECW Arena, to re-invent the National Wrestling Alliance. Gordon and Heyman both agreed, but Heyman had something else on his mind. During the same time, Heyman signed Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko from Japan, where they had all been major successes in the Super J Cup tournament of 1994. Heyman did want to bring in Eddie and his partner Art Barr as a tag team, but unfortunately, Barr died before this could happen and Guerrero was made a singles wrestler. Heyman also managed to sign Too Cold Scorpio from Japan at the same time. The next few events would change the wrestling world forever.

History Of ECW: Part 2
(Extreme Championship Wrestling Begins!)

November 24, 2006 by Andy Phillips

On the day of the NWA Title tournament, Paul Heyman picked eight wrestlers from around the world to compete in it. The competitors were Too Cold Scorpio, Chris Benoit, 911, Matt Borne, Dean Malenko, Osamu Nishimura, The Tazmaniac and Shane Douglas. Scorpio defeated Benoit, 911 defeated Borne, Dean Malenko defeated Nishimura, and Shane Douglas defeated The Tazmaniac. Scorpio defeated 911, and Shane Douglas defeated Dean Malenko. So, it was down to two men. Either Douglas or Scorpio would be crowned the new NWA Champion. Douglas beat Scorpio, and then cut a classic promo, which read as followed:

"From the Harley Race's, to the Barry Windham's, to the...Ric Flair's. Accept this heavyweight title...wait a second, or Kerry Von Erich, or the fatman himself, Dusty Rhodes. This is it tonight dad. God, this is beautiful, and Rick Steamboat. They can all kiss my ass because I'm not the man to accept a torch passed down to me from a company that died (RIP) seven years ago. "The Franchise" Shane Douglas is the man who ignites the new flame of the sport of professional wrestling. Tonight, with god and my father as my witness, I declare myself, "The Franchise" Shane Douglas as the new ECW Heavyweight Champion. We have set out to change the face of the sport of professional wrestling, and it is now time for a new era. The era of ECW, the era of "The Franchise" Shane Douglas and the era of the sport of professional wrestling!"

Austin left the company after this, and became a major star in the WWE. The next year would be the most controversial in ECW history.

by Andy Phillips..
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