ECW. Three simple little letters of the English language. But put in that very unassuming order – E. C. W. – and it illicites a nostalgia wave like very few others for older wrestling fans (and young alike). The renegade NWA territory – Eastern Championship Wrestling out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – whose champion Shane Douglas won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and promptly threw it down and announced ECW’s segregation from the NWA and his crowning as the first Extreme Championship Wrestling World Champion. E-C-Dub was born.
It’s stories are the stuff of legend, from Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven or Shane Douglas vs. Taz to Rob Van Dam vs. Sabu or The Dudley Boyz vs. The Gangstas. They had iconic stables like the Triple Threat, Impact Players, The Full Blooded Italians and the comedic Blue World Order. In a day dominated by the glitz and glamour of the heavyweights in WWF and WCW, ECW rose as the mistreated orphan intent on destroying his parents and bringing hardcore wrestling to the forefront. Like the burgeoning UFC, ECW capitalized on a violent hunger of the new breed of fight fan, introducing barbed wire, chair shots, and other innovations of violence to the world of pro wrestling, becoming one of the most pirated and passed around material in the old days of “tape trading”.
But with all their great characters, stories and legends, how did these larger than life characters fair when they left the barbaric Thunderdome of 2300 South Swanson Street in Philly for the pomp and circumstance of Stamford, Connecticut or Atlanta, Georgia? Some became WWE Hall of Famers, while many became footnotes in the history books.
Here’s a ranking of the top thirty ECW graduates, who went on to a major promotion after cutting their teeth in ECW for the North American market (NOTE: List does NOT include anyone who began in either WWF or WCW with a push, such as Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, Justin Credible (who previously worked in the WWF as Aldo Montoya) or Konnan (who previously worked in the WWF as Max Moon); it also does not include people who transitioned through ECW, such as Steve Austin, Brian Pillman or Mick Foley). THESE RANKINGS ARE PURELY BASED ON THEIR MAINSTREAM SUCCESS POST-ECW AND ARE NOT A REFLECTION OF THEIR MERIT OR SKILL LEVEL.
Extreme Legacy: Grading The ECW Originals Graduates
#30. MIKE AWESOME
ECW (1998-2000): 2x ECW World Heavyweight Champion, ECW World Tag Team Champion
WCW (2000-01): Fat Chick Thrilla, That 70’s Guy
WWE (2001-02): WWE Hardcore Champion
When Mike Awesome left ECW in 2000 for the big money of WCW, many were elated. Mike Awesome defied the blueprints and combined big man size and power (he was 6’6″ and nearly 300 lbs.) with unheard of athleticism (at the time) for a man his size. In an extreme environment like ECW, Awesome dominated and became one of the company’s most popular stars, especially after his feuds with Masato Tanaka. But he was brutally mishandled in WCW – with abysmal gimmicks like “That 70’s Guy” or “The Fat Chick Thrilla” – and ECW fans were hungering for him to return home to avoid future humiliation. When WCW was purchased by WWE in 2001, he was was part of the WCW Invasion, with a character more akin to his ECW character than anything he did in WCW. He was the actually the first WCW “invader” to capture WWE gold, when he won the WWF Hardcore title. But after only a few months, he got lost in the shuffle, and by 2002, he had been released. He would return for the 2005 ECW One Night Stand PPV (again vs. Tanaka), but never captured the lightning in a jar that he had during his original run in ECW. Awesome was 20 years too early – he’d be a Superstar in today’s era, either in the WWE or on the expanded indie circuit. Guys like Donovan Dijak, Cesaro, and even Roman Reigns owe a lot to big men like Mike Awesome breaking the mold of what a big man could do in the late 90s.
ECW (1995-2000): 2x ECW World Heavyweight Champion, ECW FTW Champion, ECW World TV Champion, 3x ECW World Tag Team Champion
TNA (2002-06): Voted “Match of the Year” for TNA, ‘Barbed Wire Massacre’ vs. Abyss
WWE (2006-97): WrestleMania moment at WM23, ECW Originals vs New Breed
One of the most innovative wrestlers of the 90s, Sabu set a standard for risk taking moves that is mimicked on a daily basis on the indie scene. But back when Sabu came on the scene, it was still a novelty in North America. And no one created more jaw dropping HOLY SHIT moments than Sabu. But neither his four year stint in TNA following ECW’s demise or his year of mediocrity in the WWE after that (not his fault) was on the level as his five years in ECW. The bigger the promotion, the more it seemed a part of Sabu’s soul was being sucked out. He always shone brighter in the intimacy of an angry, sweaty mob than the bright lights of 20,000 middle class families.
#28. BALLZ MAHONEY
ECW (1997-2001): 3x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WWE (2005-08): Kelly Kelly was sweet on him.
Okay, so technically he did start in the WWF with his horrendous Xanta Claus angle, but it was hardly a singles push and he was out the door pretty fast. The moment is legendary, but it was hardly a push. He definitely got his legs in ECW, from 1997 until it ended in 2001. While he may not have innovated the chair shot in pro wrestling, no one glorified it with more pronunciation than Ballz Mahoney in the 90s. Part Cactus Jack, part Tommy Dreamer, he was the lovable hardcore goofball you loved to watch get destroyed. He had a three year comeback with the WWE’s rebooted ECW brand from 2005 to 2008 and even got called up to Smackdown. Though to be honest, the only reason he’s ranked higher than Sabu or Mike Awesome, is that due to his love story with Kelly Kelly, he was the only one of the three with anything than resembled a storyline post-ECW (or at least one that wasn’t embarrassing).
ECW (1996-2001): Blue World Order
WWE (2002-2007): Simon Dean, trainer
Another ECW performer 20 years too soon, he was a smaller wrestler who combined high octane offense with technical ability; in an essence, an evolutionary ancestor of the likes of Ricochet or Will Ospreay. He was part of Raven’s early Flock, and with members Stevie Richards and Blue Meanie, founded the Blue World Order. Despite his BWO success, Nova never got the full focus of his abilities as a singles wrestler. When he arrived in the WWE a year after ECW fell, he began to work in booking and training at WWE’s developmental, Ohio Valley Wrestling. He finally got called up to Raw in 2004 and had a nearly three year run as the inspirational fitness guru Simon Dean. While he rarely made it to the mid-card, he was an entertaining guilty pleasure to many. He retired from wrestling in 2007.
#26. PUBLIC ENEMY
ECW (1993-96): 4x ECW World Tag Team Champions
WCW (1996-98): WCW World Tag Team Champions
WWE (1999): Punching bags
The street gang hip hop thugs Public Enemy were one of the most exciting tag teams of the mid-90’s not in WWF or WCW, garnering a hardcore following (no pun intended) and collecting four World Championship runs as a tandem. They went to WCW in 1996 and had a solid run there as well, collecting one more reign as World Champions. The tried to pull of the trifecta of taking over another promotion with the WWF in 1999, but their attitudes didn’t sit well in the WWF locker room and they were worked stiff by most of the locker room. Their run last two months before they ran first back to WCW and then finally ECW, before both finally went under. But they were never truly the same when they left the grime of Philadelphia.
#25. THE SANDMAN
ECW (1992-2001): 5x ECW World Heavyweight Champion, ECW World Tag Team Champion
WCW (1999): Hardcore Hak
TNA (2003-04): Won Hard 10 Tournament
WWE (2005-07): WrestleMania moment at WM23, ECW Originals vs New Breed
Before there was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, there was another foul mouthed ass kicker who loved to drink beer in the ring. James Fullington, best known to the world as The Sandman, whose iconic crowd entrances to Metallica‘s “Enter Sandman” became as famous as the atrocities he performed in the ring – either to himself or his victim. He became a World Champion five times in his ECW career – a career that had a brief hiatus when he had a near year run in WCW as Hak – and opted for TNA over the WWE following ECW’s collapse. He often faced former ECW stars, winning the hardcore Hard 10 Tournament. He was finally brought in to WWE in 2005 for the ECW reboot and by the end of his run, was a regular on Raw. And Sandy actually got a WrestleMania moment, when his team of ECW Originals (Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu and Sandman) beat The New Breed (Matt Striker, Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Ver and Kevin Thorn) at WrestleMania 23. But the minute he left ECW, he became nothing more than a novelty act, a reminder of the glory days of ECW. But nothing can take away from his nearly decade run in ECW, where the Sandman was king of the extreme.
#24. SPIKE DUDLEY
ECW (1996-2001): 2x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WWE (2001-05) WWE Cruiserweight Champion, WWE World Tag Team Champion, WWE European Champion, 8x WWE Hardcore Champion
TNA (2006-07): The high spot pinball
He debuted as the runt of the enormous Dudley family in ECW and often feuded with and against his various family members. Following the demise of ECW, he followed Bubba Ray and D-Von to the WWE where he followed similar booking, but picked up a surprising amount of hardware as a low midcard entertainer. Following the departure of The Dudley Boyz, Spike fell out of favour with WWE creative and was released. He would show up sporadically in TNA over the next few years to help out his two big brothers. While he was one of the most entertaining performers in ECW – largely due to the ridiculous bumps he’d take or spots he’d execute – he found a great amount of championship success in the WWE on a far larger platform.
#23. KID KASH
ECW (1996-2001): ECW World TV Champion
WCW (2001): Got some coffee
TNA (2002-05, 10-13): TNA X-Division Champion, 2x NWA World Tag Team Champion
WWE (2005-06): WWE Cruiserweight Champion
Kid Kash was another aerial innovator in the late 90s, who had a solid run as Television Champion in ECW. When ECW folded, he jumped to WCW, just as WWE purchased it. He ended up in TNA in the early years and found great success there as an early X-Division champion and tag team specialist. He had a quick jump to WWE for a year, where he collected the WWE Cruiserweight title in a short span of time.
ECW (1993-99): 2x ECW World Heavyweight Champion, 2x ECW FTW Champion, 2x ECW World TV Champion, 3x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WWE (2000-09): WWE World Tag Team Champion, 3x WWE Hardcore Champion, Smackdown Commentator
TNA (2009-15): Impact commentator, The Voice of Aces & Eights
He was the unstoppable suplex wrecking machine and submission machine in ECW, the pre-Samoa Joe, and one of the biggest icons in ECW history. But his highly anticipated and hyped jump to the WWF in 2000 fell flat and Taz…sorry, Tazz – the character – never fully connected with the WWE Universe. Several midcard feuds came and went before injury forced him to retire from the ring in 2002. He began a new career as a colour commentator, for both Smackdown and the ECW reboot, until his departure from the WWE in 2009. He quickly jumped to TNA to handle colour for Impact Wrestling before leaving the company in 2015. There’s no question his in-ring career was nearly mythical in comparison to his short run in the WWF, but as an announcer – love him or hate him – he is one of the most recognizable voices of the 2000s.
#21. STEVIE RICHARDS
ECW (1994-97): 2x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WCW (1997): Followed the Raven, Evermore
WWE (1999-2008): 21x WWE Hardcore Champion, lead Right To Censor
TNA (2009-11): Earned doctorate in psychology
ROH (2015-16): Featured guest star
Stevie Richards was lauded as the pretty boy imitation Shawn Michaels in his early days of ECW, but his role as Raven’s right hand man in his Flock – and it’s subsequent Blue World Order offshoot – rose him to cult status. He would briefly follow Raven to WCW in 1997, but things didn’t work out. He was picked up by the WWF in the height of the Attitude Era and was a prominent player in the WWE’s Hardcore division. But he had his greatest success when he cut his signature locks to become Steven Richards, the ultra conservative right winger who lead Right To Censor, who fought to clean up the Attitude Era of it’s sex and violence and return it to family viewing. In hindsight, it would appear they won. He would have a memorable run in TNA as Dr. Stevie, a mad psychiatrist who attempted to sort out such unstables as Abyss and Cody Deaner. A few years back, he made a few guest appearances at various Ring of Honor events. Never the marquee of the card, Richards has always found a way to stay fun and entertaining and never sought to expand beyond what he was good at. He’s been doing guest training spots with the WWE the past year down at the Performance Center.
#20. LITTLE GUIDO
ECW (1992-2001): 2x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WWE (2002-08): 2x WWE Cruiserweight Champion
A lifer since the Eastern Championship days, Little Guido was part of arguably ECW’s most popular faction, The Full Blooded Italians (FBI). While la familia’s membership would change over the years, Little Guido remained it’s constant. Near ECW’s end, he would win tag team gold with Tony Mamaluke. When ECW folded in 2001, he and Mamaluke briefly went to upstart to Ring of Honor, until Guido was signed by the WWE and renamed Nunzio. He briefly formed a new FBI with Chuck Palumbo and Johnny The Bull, before being sent to singles action in the Cruiserweight division, where he captured the Cruiserweight title twice.
#19. SHANE DOUGLAS
ECW (1993-1995, 1996-99): NWA World Heavyweight Champion, 4x ECW World Heavyweight Champion, 2x ECW World TV Champion,
WWE (1996): WWE Intercontinental Champion
WCW (1999-2001): WCW US Champion, NWA World Tag Team Champion, 2x WCW World Tag Team Champion
XPW (2002-03): XPW World Heavyweight Champion
TNA (2003-2009): Feud with Raven, managed The Naturals, colour commentator
Shane Douglas is probably questionable for this list – after all, he had a pre-ECW run in WCW in the late 80’s in the Dynamic Dudes with Johnny “Ace” Laurinaitis of a few months, followed by another few months in the WWF as an early 90s enhancement. His WCW run alone was more profitable than Justin Credible or Konnan’s in WWF prior to ECW – he won NWA World Tag Team gold with Ricky Steamboat of all people. But he found Shane Douglas when he went to Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1993. A year later, he won the NWA World Heavyweight title and announced the birth of ECW. Simply put, there would be no ECW without Shane Douglas. As “The Franchise”, Douglas became the mouthpiece everyone wanted to listen speak – long before there was a Pipebomb, there was The Franchise. But despite launching ECW from the East to the land of the Extreme, Douglas would leave ECW in just over a year. He headed to the WWF during the end of the New Generation, debuting as the scholarly Dean Douglas. While he would capture WWF Intercontinental gold during his year long Stamford sabbatical. But the Franchise was no fit for the WWF during the mid-90s. They were still in damage control from the decline from the 80s and too early for the Attitude Era. Douglas returned to ECW and picked up right where he left off, dominating the main event. He jumped back to WCW in 1999, this time as a big time player and as his ECW Franchise character. Following WCW’s demise, he returned to the hardcore circuit with XPW before joining TNA during its first six years. His in-ring performance in TNA were cut short by injuries and he entered semi-retirement, becoming a colour commentator on Impact Wrestling.
#18. JUVENTUD GUERRERA
ECW (1996): Part of Konnan’s Lucha Libre stable that came to ECW
WCW (1996-2000): 3x WCW Cruiserweight Champion, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, WCW World Tag Team Champion
TNA (2002-04): America’s X Cup Champion
WWE (2005-06): 2x WWE Cruiserweight Champion
AAA (2006-09, 2012- ): AAA Cruiserweight Champion, Mexican National Atomicos Champion
Born and raised in AAA in Mexico, Juventud was part of the Mexican contingent that Konnan brought to the US market, first via ECW in 1996, alongside Rey Mysterio Jr., Psicosis and La Parka. The American audience got its first true taste of Lucha Libre via these four wrestlers, but it was the chemistry between Juventud and Mysterio that captured the most attention. When Konnan jumped to WCW, all three of the rest followed, and Guerrera became a huge star of the famed Cruiserweight Division of WCW, especially after he lost his traditional lucha libre mask. He had a brief stint in TNA following WCW’s demise, but he had a strong year in the WWE where he captured the WWE Cruiserweight title twice. He’s since returned home to AAA where “The Juice” is now a lucha legend and still capturing wrestling gold.
#17. PERRY SATURN
ECW (1995-97): 3x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WCW (1997-2000): WCW World TV Champion, 2x WCW World Tag Team Champion
WWE (2000-02): WWE European Champion, 2x WWE Hardcore Champion
TNA (2003-04): Teamed with ECW Originals
A former indie tag team partner of Triple H, Perry Saturn continued to hone his tag team specialist resume as part of the Eliminators in ECW along with John Kronus in the mid-90s, capturing the ECW Tag Team titles three times, including some outstanding matches against the Dudley Boyz. He came over to WCW in 1997 with an onslaught of ECW stars, feuding with and then joining Raven’s Flock, winning WCW’s prestigious Television title and tag team gold twice with Chris Benoit. In 2000, he jumped to WWF in one of the most skin tingling side switches of the Monday Night Wars, as part of The Radicalz with Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko. He was a WWE European Champion and fixture in the hardcore division. He even got a mop over. His WWE tenure was short lived, despite his championships, and he finished off in TNA with some other ECW Originals, before mounting injuries forced him into retirement in 2004. Those same injuries lead to an addiction to painkillers that has left Saturn a shell of his former self, but thanks to generosity of generations of fans, he’s back on the mend.
#16. STEVE CORINO
ECW (1998-2001): ECW World Heavyweight Champion
ROH (2002-06, 2009-16): ROH World Tag Team Champion, Leader of S.C.U.M., colour commentator
WWE (2017- ): Trainer at Performance Center
“The King of Old School” was one of the stars of the final era of ECW, where he preached a return to the traditional wrestling style of the 1970’s and protest against the violence inherent in the ECW style, capturing the ECW World title in his quest. When ECW folded, he went to upstart Ring of Honor where he was embroiled in a four year feud against Homicide before leaving the company in 2006, with the intention to retire. He was retired only a year before he returned to the indies, targeting Japan in his comeback, before returning to ROH in 2009. He formed the dominant faction S.C.U.M., which featured his tag partner Jimmy Jacobs and Kevin Steen (aka Kevin Owens) for the most part, before entering semi-retirement in 2013 and becoming ROH’s colour commentator, a position he held until the end of 2016. He left ROH to become a trainer at the WWE Performance Center in early 2017.
ECW (1999-2000): Original bodyguard for the Impact Players
WWE (2001-04, 2006-07): 2x WWE Women’s Champion
WSU (2007-11): WSU Tag Team Champion
Jazz originally debuted as part of the original Impact Players in ECW (Jason Knight, Lance Storm and Justin Credible) before turning on Knight and feuding briefly. After a year, she headed to WWE where she became one of the Women’s Division’s resident ass-kickers, capturing the Women’s Championship twice. She left WWE for good in 2007, helping a fledgling Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU) get off the ground and become one of the country’s top female independent promotions. She still works various cards around the country, including a spot in the 2016 CHIKARA King of Trios (where she fought alongside Mickie James and Victoria).
ECW (1999-2001): ECW World Heavyweight Champion, 2x ECW World TV Champion
WWE (2001-05, 2015- ): WWE US Champion, WWE Smackdown Tag Team Champion, 3x WWE Hardcore Champion
TNA (2005-10): NWA World Heavyweight Champion
ROH (2011-15): Hired enforcer for The Embassy, House of Truth and S.C.U.M.
Rhyno has managed to stay relevant in pro wrestling for nearly 20 years following his breakout in ECW at the turn of the millennium. A strong TV champ, he was ECW’s last World Champion prior to it’s demise in 2001. He jumped to WWE as part of the Invasion, winning the US title as well as dominating the Hardcore division with his GORE! GORE! GORE! In 2005, he left WWE for TNA and became the company’s World Champion in the process. Following his departure from TNA, he jumped to Ring of Honor for a few years, acting as an enforcer for various stables in key storylines. He returned to the WWE Universe as a veteran presence in NXT in 2015 and has worked his way back to the main roster and another championship run on Smackdown Live alongside Heath Slater. And his Gore is still one of the most over set-ups today at WWE Live Events.
ECW (1998-2001): ECW World TV Champion, ECW World Tag Team Champion
CZW (2001): CZW World Heavyweight Champion
WWE (2001-08, 2016-17): WWE US Champion, 3x WWE Cruiserweight Champion, WWE Light Heavyweight Champion, 2x WWE World Tag Team Champion
NJPW (2009-11): Feuded with IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi
Wrestle-1 (2014-16): EWP Intercontinental Champion, UWA World Trios Champion
“The Japanese Buzzsaw” was an instant hit with the ECW crowd when he arrived on American shores in 1998. He brought an intensity and stiffness not common in America – true Strong Style – and his kicks became things of legend. When ECW folded in 2001, he jumped briefly to Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) to claim it’s World title, before embarking on a seven year stint in the WWE, dominating it’s Cruiserweight division and winning the hearts of the WWE Universe with his pairing with William Regal. He returned to Japan in 2008 and continued to win titles and run his own promotions and events. He returned to the WWE last year for a final run, but injuries derailed it and he’s since returned to Japan again.
#12. JERRY LYNN
ECW (1997-2001): ECW World Heavyweight Champion
WWE (2001-02): WWE Light Heavyweight Champion
TNA (2002-07, 2013): 2x TNA X-Division Champion, 2x NWA World Tag Team Champion
ROH (2008-12): ROH World Champion
Although he started in WCW in 1996, he was primarily an enhancement talent in WCW’s Cruiserweight Division. He fully blossomed in ECW where his high intensity and combination of quick technique and aerial moves made him the true underdog of the underground. He picked up a World title run before heading to WWE after the end of ECW, where he returned to the lower weight divisions (although he did win the WWF Light Heavyweight title during his one year there). He headed to TNA, whose X-Division was more his speed, capturing the title twice in his five year run. His hunger for more athletic indie style wrestling lead him to spend his final years with Ring of Honor, where he captured his second World title to close out his outstanding and highly influential career. He retired in 2013 and now works for Ring of Honor in a producer role.
#11. DEAN MALENKO
ECW (1994-95): 2x ECW World TV Champion, ECW World Tag Team Champion
WCW (1995-2000): WCW US Champion, 4x WCW Cruiserweight Champion, WCW World Tag Team Champion, Four Horseman
WWE (2000-01): 2x WWE Light Heavyweight Champion
Dean Malenko was already a 15-year veteran of the independent circuit and Florida territories when he debuted with ECW in 1994 as “The Shooter”, a cold as ice traditional submission specialist. His no-nonsense and cold blooded approach to the game became must-see exhibitions, and he jumped to WCW a year later and joined the legendary Four Horsemen. He would become part of one of Chris Jericho’s most famous feuds in the Cruiserweight Division and in 2000, jumped to the WWF as part of The Radicalz. He helped bring credibility to the WWE’s Light Heavyweight Division, winning the title twice before retiring in 2001 due to injury. He’s remained on with the WWE ever since, working as a producer at Live Events.
#10. LANCE STORM
ECW (1997-2000): 3x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WCW (2000-01): 3x WCW US Champion, WCW Cruiserweight Champion, WCW Hardcore Champion
WWE (2001-05): WWE Intercontinental Champion, 4x WWE World Tag Team Champion
“If I can be serious for a moment.” And with that, Lance Storm would gain the most heat of his career. A standout technician, Lance Storm would make his initial impact on the North American scene in ECW, first as a tag team partner of Chris Candido and then again as part of the Impact Players with Justin Credible. It was no surprise when WCW came calling in 2000 and pushed Storm to the moon. In one year, he captured the US Championship (renaming it the Canadian Championship) three times, the WCW Cruiserweight Championship (renamed the 100 kg & Under Championship) and the WCW Hardcore Championship (renamed the Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title, or SHIT). When WCW was purchased by WWE, Storm was the first WCW import to launch the Invasion angle, and went on to become an Intercontinental Champion and snag Tag Team gold four times in his four year career in the WWE. Storm has since retired and runs his own wrestling school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, training such stars of today like Dolph Ziggler, Emma, Oney Lorcan, Laurel Van Ness, Rachael Ellering, Taya Valkryie, and Cheeseburger.
ECW (1994-97, 1999-2000): 2x ECW World Heavyweight Champion, 4x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WCW (1997-99): WCW US Champion, WCW World Tag Team Champion
WWE (2000-03): 27x WWE Hardcore Champion
TNA (2003-10): NWA World Heavyweight Champion, King of the Mountain
Ok, much like Shane Douglas, Raven had a prior career at both WCW and WWF with some success. He was an early star in WCW in the early 90s as Scotty Flamingo, capturing the WCW Light Heavyweight title (a precursor to the Cruiserweight title), plus a run as manager Johnny Polo in the WWF guiding The Quebecers to WWF World Tag Team gold. But it wasn’t till he found his way to ECW in 1994 that Scott Levy found his voice in wrestling as the mentally unhinged Raven. A 2-time World Champion, his Flock terrorized ECW for years, and his feud with Tommy Dreamer is the stuff of nightmares and legend. He joined WCW with an exodus of ECW talent in 1997, bringing in his Flock and antagonizing Diamond Dallas Page. But in 1999, his entire momentum was crushed when Raven became another gatekeeper on the route of Goldberg‘s streak and he returned for another run in ECW. He jumped to WWE in 2000 but was limited to the hardcore division, where he captured the title an astonishing 27 times. He returned to some of his former glory in TNA, where he continued his feud with Dreamer, and battled Jeff Jarrett for the World title, claiming his final accolade.
#8. TOMMY DREAMER
ECW (1993-2001): ECW World Champion, 3x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WWE (2001-10, 2012-16): ECW Champion, 14x WWE Hardcore Champion
TNA (2010-11, 2013-15): Lead hardcore revivals
HOH (2012- ): Runs his own promotion, House of Hardcore
If anyone personifies “Mr. ECW”, it’s Tommy Dreamer. While most ECW Originals left for WCW or WWE at some point, Dreamer stayed the duration and went down with the ship like a good captain. He had an iconic feud with Raven and finally won the ECW World title in 2000 before the company folded. He jumped to WWE as part of the Invasion, becoming a key ambassador for the WWE’s Hardcore Division. When ECW was rebooted, Dreamer was rewarded with another run as ECW’s Champion. He left the WWE in 2010 after nearly a decade with the company, showing up sporadically in TNA whenever they returned for an ECW or hardcore revival. He still makes occasional appearances for the WWE (lately as part of Edge & Christian‘s WWE Network show), but spends most of his time running his emerging indie promotion, House of Hardcore, featuring former ECW stars blended with the best of the young indie stars.
ECW (1999): Ms. Congeniality
WWE (2000-06): 4x WWE Women’s Champion, WWE Hall of Fame (’14)
Trained in Mexico as a luchador with EMLL (the original CMLL), Amy Dumas debuted on American TV in ECW in 1999 as Ms. Congeniality, the valet for her “boyfriend” Danny Doring. She was soon picked up by the WWE and after a debut alongside Essa Rios, was quickly paired with the Hardy Boyz as Team Extreme and the rest, as they say, is history. Lita would be a part of the first Women’s Revolution during the Attitude Era, becoming one of the most influential and popular women’s wrestlers of all time, collecting four Women’s titles, and entering the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014, just the 7th women to enter the Hall. Lita continues to make appearances for the WWE (she’s highly rumoured to return to the broadcast table for the upcoming Mae Young Classic) and has recently returned to the indie circuit to perform.
#6. ROB VAN DAM
ECW (1996-2001): ECW World TV Champion, 2x ECW World Tag Team Champion
WWE (2001-07, 2013-14): WWE Champion, ECW World Champion, 6x WWE Intercontinental Champion, WWE European Champion, 3x WWE World Tag Team Champion, 4x WWE Hardcore Champion, Money In The Bank Winner
TNA (2010-13): TNA World Heavyweight Champion, TNA X-Division Champion
“The Whole F’n Show” was just that during his five year run in ECW, with an unprecedented 700-day reign as the ECW TV Champion, routinely stealing the show at ECW PPVs. His alliance and feuds with Sabu are essential viewing from the 90s. Following ECW’s closure, he was one of the ECW standouts to make an immediate impact in the WWE, becoming one of the WWE’s biggest Superstars of the 2000s. He finally won his ECW Championship with the WWE’s ECW reboot, as well as capturing the WWE Championship during the same reign. Only Chris Jericho has more Intercontinental title reigns than his six, a number he shares with Jeff Jarrett and The Miz. Following his departure from WWE to scale back on his travel schedule, he spent three years with TNA, where he captured both the TNA World and X-Division title. He’s in a state of semi-retirement these days, but still pulls off a few great matches a year. Whether he returns to the WWE for a farewell run or not is always a rumour, but he’s the ECW Original most likely to enter the Hall of Fame first.
#5. CHRIS BENOIT
ECW (1994-95): ECW World Tag Team Champion
WCW (1995-2000): WCW World Heavyweight Champion, 2x WCW US Champion, 3x WCW World TV Champion, 2x WCW World Tag Team Champion, Four Horseman
WWE (2000-07): WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 4x WWE Intercontinental Champion, 3x WWE US Champion, 4x WWE World Tag Team Champion, Royal Rumble Winner
Chris Benoit made a name for himself in Japan and Canada before testing American airwaves in the early 90s. He had a brief stint as enhancement in WCW before signing with ECW in 1994. For a year, he and Dean Malenko put on clinic after clinic, with Benoit earning his “Canadian Crippler” moniker during a match with Sabu where Benoit broke his opponent’s neck in real life from a botch. WCW came calling back, and Benoit became a member of the Four Horseman and one of WCW’s most intense workhorses during the Monday Night Wars. His constant lack of direction became frustrating and, despite winning the WCW World title in 2000, dropped the title and jumped to the WWE. One of WCW’s most decorated champions of the late 90s, he would become one of the WWE’s most decorated of the early 2000s. And then, it happened. A tragic day in history that destroyed his legacy as not only one of the greatest wrestlers to come out of ECW, but to ever live.
#4. REY MYSTERIO JR
ECW (1995-96): Part of Konnan’s Lucha Libre stable that came to ECW
WCW (1996-2001): 5x WCW Cruiserweight Champion, 3x WCW World Tag Team Champion, WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Champion
WWE (2002-15): WWE Champion, 2x WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 2x WWE Intercontinental Champion, 3x WWE Cruiserweight Champion, 4x WWE World Tag Team Champion, Royal Rumble winner
Lucha Underground (2015- ): Trios Champion
A young star in Mexico with AAA, Rey Mysterio Jr. was part of the troupe of luchadores that Konnan brought to ECW for a year in 1995. His explosive lucha libre style was an eye opener for most American wrestling fans and he went on to become a huge star in WCW’s Cruiserweight Division. WCW never pushed him beyond his weight class much though and it wasn’t until he arrived in the WWE that he became a true world wide sensation, capturing the World title three times. Years of injuries and road fatigue took it’s toll on Mysterio and he left the WWE in 2015, heading to the upstart Lucha Underground in 2015. Perhaps the most important luchador of the past 25 years, and one of the greatest of all time.
#3. THE DUDLEY BOYZ
ECW (1996-99): 8x ECW World Tag Team Champions
WWE (1999-2005, 2015-16): 9x WWE World Tag Team Champions, WCW World Tag Team Champions
TNA (2005-14): 2x TNA World Heavyweight Champion (Bully Ray), 2x TNA World TV Champion (D-Von), NWA World Tag Team Champions, 2x TNA World Tag Team Champions, TNA Hall of Fame (’14)
NJPW (2008-10): 2x IWGP Tag Team Champions
Easily in the debate for one of the top five greatest tag teams of all time, and easily the most decorated. Their eight World Championship reigns in ECW alone is impressive enough, but the tandem of Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley would collect another fifteen (15) tag team titles after they left ECW in 1999. Alongside The Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian, they reignited tag team wrestling in the WWF and both men honed their singles careers in TNA, including two World title runs by Bubba/Bully Ray. They made a nostalgic return to the WWE in 2015 but their comeback lasted only a year. While D-Von would retire in 2016 and take a producer job with the WWE, Bully Ray has returned to the indie circuit, where he’s currently the Ring of Honor 6-Man Tag Team Champion with the Briscoe Brothers.
#2. EDDIE GUERRERO
ECW (1995): 2x ECW World TV Champion
WCW (1995-2000): WCW US Champion, 2x WCW Cruiserweight Champion
WWE (2000-05): WWE Champion, 2x WWE Intercontinental Champion, WWE US Champion, 2x WWE European Champion, 4x WWE World Tag Team Champion, WWE Hall of Fame (’06)
Eddie was born into luchador royalty as part of the legendary Guerrero family, spending his developmental years in CMLL, AAA and NJPW before heading to the American promotions in the mid 90s. He started with ECW in 1995 and within a year, captured the ECW Television title twice. He joined his friends Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko in WCW after a year, where he immediately entered the US title picture, before becoming a mainstay in WCW’s Cruiserweight Division. His lack of push beyond the mid-card in WCW lead to his jump to WWE in 2000, where he became one of the WWE’s biggest stars of the mid-2000s. His WWE Championship victory over Brock Lesnar is a defining moment of the Ruthless Aggression Era and he was only hitting his stride when he passed away in 2005. He was inducted posthumously into the WWE Hall of Fame with the Class of 2006.
#1. CHRIS JERICHO
ECW (1995-96): ECW World TV Champion
WCW (1996-99): WCW World TV Champion, 4x WCW Cruiserweight Champion
WWE (1999-2005, 2007-10, 2011-17): Undisputed WWE/WCW Champion, WWE Champion, 2x WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 2x WCW World Heavyweight Champion, 9x WWE Intercontinental Champion, 2x WWE US Champion, WWE European Champion, 7x WWE World Tag Team Champion, WWE Hardcore Champion
Lionheart. The Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah. Y2J. SAVE_US. It Begins. The List. The Gift of Jericho. Chris Jericho is simply put, one of the greatest wrestlers of the past 25 years and easily one of the best entertainers in the history of the business. A combination of Hart Dungeon toughness and New Japan dynamo, the charismatic Jericho has been a superstar wherever he’s touched down. He’s had three huge runs in the WWE and has managed to put over a list and a scarf, all while continuing to maintain a high level of storytelling and in-ring performance, despite going on 30 years in the industry. He’s just left the WWE for commitments with his band, Fozzy, but if Jericho never returns, he’s a Hall of Fame candidate on the first ballot and easily the most successful graduate from the original ECW.
Okay, okay. I can hear most of you already through the vibrations of the interweb. Where’s the other ECW stars, like CW Anderson or Simon Diamond? Or what about Amish Roadkill & Danny Doring or Ian & Axl Rotten? How can you ignore a hardcore icon like New Jack? Well, like we stated at the beginning, we are focusing on the continued success of the ECW performers post-ECW and while all of those names were legendary parts of ECW’s narrative, the rest failed to make as much of an impact beyond it (at least in comparison to the 30 mentioned above). But that’s not to say they weren’t essential characters in the ECW history books – it all just goes to show the influence and impact that ECW has had on the evolution of professional wrestling after all this time.
ECDUB! ECDUB! ECDUB!
Main Photo: WWE