Founded by Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon in 1992, though the latter sold his share of the company to Heyman and was eventually fired. ECW became a phenomenon amongst hardcore professional wrestling fans, who enjoyed the different style that WWE and WCW didn’t present at that time. In fact, one of the reported reasons that WWE and WCW created the Hardcore Championship is due to the rise of the promotion and hardcore wrestling in general. However, ECW wouldn’t last long mainly due to financial troubles following the cancellation of the popular promotion by TNN in 2000. ECW was the definition of violence, brutality, and surprisingly great technical wrestling. The show wore its heart on its sleeve every week and while ECW was far from perfect, it was definitely a great promotion that ended way too soon.
Despite being out of business for five years, fans fondly remembered the hardcore promotion and Vince McMahon opted to bring back the old ECW for a special event labeled One Night Stand. The event was major success! Because One Night Stand was a big financial gain for WWE then the company opted to bring back the show permanently. For the time being, ECW was sort of the old show that fans knew and loved. Granted, not everything was extreme, and the show had the stink of WWE on it, but flashes of Paul Heyman’s brilliance was still there. That was until he quit following the dismal December to Dismember pay-per-view. Whatever traces of ECW were gone that evening. December to Dismember is infamous for being considered the worst wrestling pay-per-view in WWE history. Not only did this not feel like an ECW original, but the show was extremely bland from beginning to end. Plus, it features the worst Elimination Chamber match in company history.
That night cemented that Vince McMahon didn’t really have intentions of respecting the old ECW fans. He simply wanted to bank off of the ECW name by presenting in the traditional WWE style. What made ECW unique was gone. The strong characters, violent matches, and well crafted and edgy stories were a thing in the past for WWE ECW, and it later served out its years as a developmental brand of sorts until the company official gave the show the ax in 2010. Given the incredible amount of success that the 2005 One Night Stand had, it’s baffling how Vince didn’t understand what made the ECW brand valuable. To be honest, it never truly felt that Vince McMahon cared about the legacy of the show itself. He saw dollar signs and that was enough for the WWE Chairman. Yes, it’s important that every business has financial value, but the key aspect here is that Vince never invested in the product itself. He didn’t care about ECW being ECW. He let the company have some leeway in the beginning, but it became clear over time that this was a Vince McMahon product first and foremost. What’s worse? The brand wasn’t all that compelling when it was turned into Vince’s ECW. There was never any attempt to make the show feel different and new from Raw and Smackdown. ECW was the very definition of bland, there were times when the show was better written than Raw or Smackdown, but there was never a need to watch the product as a whole.
The wrestlers were your WWE-type guys. ECW presented a mixture of talents that didn’t fit the WWE mole and names likes Lance Storm and Rey Mysterio who did. More importantly, memorable characters were showcased in ECW. Guys like Raven, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, Shane Douglas brought something that made the product worth watching. On the surface, it’s understandable that people may see ECW as nothing but hardcore wrestling, but that’s truly a huge understatement. The excellent story of Mikey Whipwreck being the ultimate underdog, Cactus Jack being anti-hardcore or Eddie Guererro, Chris Benoit, and Dean Malenko, who helped the brand grow into a wide array of professional wrestling in the company. ECW was about great characters and incredible stories that the crowd could easily invest into. More importantly, fans felt apart of the ECW world that made the promotion feel intimate and exciting. ECW wasn’t just senseless violence for the sake out it. Was the promotion perfect? No, but it was a product ahead of its time. Paul Heyman didn’t treat ECW like a business. He treated the promotion like it was his baby. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons for the show’s downfall, but you felt the love from Heyman based on the way he crafted his brand. ECW was doomed from the start because Vince McMahon had no emotional attachment to the product. It was another show in his eyes. He may have tainted the legacy of the promotion, but ECW will still live in the hearts of fans who got to enjoy the show during its heyday.
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