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                       Extreme Championship Wrestling 

       Was this the greatest pro wrestling company ever?

    That's what many say, years after it is gone. Joel Goodhart had some really wild-ass shows throughout the New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey area in the early 1990's. His Tri-State Wrestling Alliance didn't last long, however, but when it folded, one of Goodhart's partners in the venture, Todd Gordon, started up a new  promotion called ECW - Eastern Championship Wrestling. At first, this seemed to be just another independent wrestling operation, although they did have an impressive roster that blended local workers, like DC Drake, Johnny Hot Body, Tony Stetson, and the Rockin' Rebel, with veteran performers like Jimmy Snuka, Don Muraco, and Terry Funk.

       In short order, Eddie Gilbert became the booker, and the company became more of a success than normal for a small group and people were taking notice, as the company had its share of craziness and a television time slot on the local Sportschannel affiliate kept the ECW visible and many wrestlers wanted to work there.

      It was when Paul Heyman took over as booker, however, that things really took a dramatic turn. After a falling out with his friend Eddie Gilbert, which saw Gilbert leave, and there is speculation that he was done wrong, Heyman then bought the promotion from Gordon, who was still helping run the company out of his diamond jewelry store. The company then saw an influx of a wide variety of wrestling styles from all over the world; the lucha libre style from Mexico, the Japanese mat-oriented and European work-rate style, and the garbage style from the WINGS and FMW groups in Japan, which was the insane violent format that saw workers take sick bumps and execute high risk manuevers on a regular basis.

     The Memphis style of brawling was evident as well, as Heyman had clearly been influenced during his stay there in the 1980's. He also was a student of the business, both in and out of the ring, and learned much from the constant mistakes that WCW management made during his tenure there. The company began to jointly run shows with Dennis Coraluzzo's NWA New Jersey group, but it proved only to be a swerve on the NWA, as Shane Douglas threw down the NWA Title after winning a tournament for the belt, and they used the win as a way of legitimizing their own newly created version of the world title and abruptly changed the name of the company, at that time in August of 1994, to Extreme Championship Wrestling. And the rest was history.

     History in the making, rather, as ECW continually pushed the envelope as far as being innovative and disparaging the big two national promotions, the WWF and the WCW. While many critics today like to claim that the ECW hurt the industry, be cognizant of the fact that it is usually people in the wrestling business who don't know much about wrestling, its history, and have no clue as to how to run a sports exhibition in an entertainment form. The fact that the company promoted garbage-style wrestling, incorrectly referred to as hardcore wrestling by these people, does not make any sense, as this style of work can clearly be traced to the wild brawling in the Mid-Southern region of the U.S. and it was popularized in Japan. When Heyman incorporated this style into his product, it was just one piece of a much larger puzzle, which included the proliferation of the afforementioned styles from all over the world and enabled many workers in the States to learn various forms of the art of professional wrestling. Not only learn this stuff, but flourish and adapt in an environment that was not provided by the big two companies, and it was done on an indy level, meaning a small budget and in front of smaller audiences, which gave the workers a level of ease.

     At a time when the business was near death, the ECW revitalized the industry, which saw the WWF and WCW copy many attributes of this product, whether it was the high risk manuevers or elements of the superbly written story arcs. The company also showcased smaller workers, which eventually changed the way that the big two promoted by leaving them no choice but to elevate smaller workers to main event positions, thus ending the dominance of the " big man " era.

      In time, Paul Heyman had built up a strong syndicated network for the show, but the roster needed more, and the company had a very hard time trying to secure the Pay-Per-View market as another avenue to increase its finances and exposure. They were able to do this in 1997, yet at the same time were beginning to cooperate with the WWF, as certain members of the roster sporadically appeared on the RAW program. But while there was much progress that made many observers think that ECW was going to be around for decades, the money issue was starting to become a problem as television costs and the cost of traveling and lodging, in addition to paying the talent, was beginning to show that the promotion had gotten to the point where it was too big to remain small, yet it didn't have the means of being a bigger powerhouse. The money generated from the Pay-Per-View broadcasts wasn't coming in as quickly as anticipated, and the action figure line was not selling well. Heyman still had another goal on his agenda and that was obtaining a time slot on a national television station.

       What seemed like another impossible hurdle to overcome did become a reality, as The Nashville Network aired the ECW On TNN program for a year, but it was evident that TNN's goal was to try to lure the WWF programming from the USA Network, instead of hyping the ECW show. The time slot was on Friday nights, and the station never ran ads for the program, other than a few moments after the show ended. The entire final year of ECW's existence, it was later revealed, was funded in large part by Vince McMahon Jr. Shortly after the run on TNN had ended, the company was noticeably different and appeared to be finished. After losing its syndicated television network, and shortly after its final Pay-Per-View show, the final year of intense talent raids by the WWF and WCW, and the lack of money saw the ECW come to a quiet end at a house show in 2001.

      The WWF picked up some of the upper card workers as well as Heyman, and ran an angle in the latter part of the year involving the ECW identity, eventually purchasing the remnants of the promotion, but the company that went through every obstacle in front of it to attain its mythical status remains legendary in the history of pro wrestling's landscape, regardless of any botched revivals by less intelligent writers in the future.      

 


   






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The Todd Gordon ECW fed....is DEAD.
The subsequent, and more visible,
Paul Heyman ECW fed....is DEAD.
(847) 604 - DEAD