NWA’s Eastern Championship Wrestling started out in the early 90s and ended in the early 2000s. In that time, it had a drastic makeover in which they became one of the biggest wrestling promotions on the planet. ECW had many brilliant matches, moments and talents across their near-decade stretch and some of the very best are not acknowledged.
Taz, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer and Shane Douglas are just some of the beloved names out of the Philadelphia organization but who were some brilliant stars earlier on who could have perhaps displayed more later on? In this we will look at some of the most suitable wrestlers for ECW’s golden age and displayed so much more had they not left.
For reference, we say ECW’s peak years are somewhere from 1996-1999.
Although his subsequent run in The Dungeon Of Doom in WCW would have been more Scooby-Doo than Hammerstein Ballroom, Sullivan is definitely someone who would have had plenty of ideas and great moments in ECW had he stuck around longer.
In ECW, Sullivan was initially joined by a wife Woman and would quickly form an alliance with The Tazmaniac – who would go on to better success under the name Taz(z) – in a slightly disturbing master/slave relationship. Having 2 reigns with the ECW World Tag Team titles, Sullivan battled many of the wrestlers on this list in both solo and tag bouts.
After disbanding the union with the man billed from Tanzania, Sullivan challenged for the ECW Television title then held by Mikey Whipwreck before losing to Jimmy Snuka at When Worlds Collide in 1994 for his last match in ECW just a few months before the famous Shane Douglas promo that created Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Still using the Satanic gimmick he developed about a decade earlier, Sullivan was still a mystical, unpredictable and unnerving character. Potentially a brilliant fit for ECW, it seems as though his role was taken by Raven who set up his own faction similar to Sullivan’s Dark Army. A big run for the dark character and his own stable would not have looked out of place in the promotion and could have aided the company make a name for themselves with known name talent.
Today, the WWF’s Doink The Clown of the early-mid 90s may seem to be one of the more silly, cartoonish gimmicks of the era. However, the original portrayer of the gimmick, Matt Borne, played his role tremendously. A sinister, twisted evil clown who had no mercy and laughed at his acts of wickedness – the gimmick was only ruined when Borne left the WWF to be replaced by a new, low-fat, kid-friendly Doink who used whoopie cushions, called Jerry Lawler a “burger king” and had an entourage of midget sidekicks.
When Borne left, the former Mid-South standout moved to NWA’s ECW where he created the epic yet short-lived Borne Again character. Debuting as Doink, fans hated this make-believe character in the supposedly grittier company and after a loss to ECW titleholder Shane Douglas, the wear of a talented wrestler becoming a wacky character became evident.
Still wearing the clown attire, he was a depressing interpretation of the gimmick – who had patchy and worn off face-paint, unkempt hair and was unshaved. A messy, imposter of a joker, he cut truly chilling promos that showed the real guy behind the guise. Borne would even dress up his defeated opponents in the costume as a stark symbol of his insanity. Doink’s run was brief due to his real-life personal problems with his biggest moment likely being a loss to 911 in the quarter-finals of the NWA title tournament that would go on to revolutionize ECW after “The Franchise” cut his famous shoot promo.
It would have been intriguing to see what this warped, unhinged madman would have done had it not been for his leave from the Philadelphia promotion.
You may not even know it but the cowboy hoss was in ECW for a number of matches in its early years. Stan “The Lariat” Hansen is of course a legend in Japan for his work as a dominant gaijin in the main event scene noted for his stiff in-ring work rate.
Hansen debuted in ECW challenging Jimmy Snuka for the ECW TV title, winning via DQ. He would then win a 2-on-1 handicap against Twisted Steel and Sex Appeal (Don E. Allen & Herve Renesto) and get another win via DQ in tag action when he and Tito Santana defeated Don Muraco and Shane Douglas. Hansen’s biggest and final ECW match took place at Ultraclash ‘94 when he teamed with Terry Funk to defeat Abdullah The Butcher and Kevin Sullivan.
As displayed in runs in the AWA, NWA, WWF, AJPW – Hansen can be portrayed as a top star. Memorably breaking Bruno Sammartino’s neck, beating up bystanders and destroying the AWA world title, he was known for violent actions that may not have endeared him to promotors and their PR departments but he was always a great hand.
A snug, solid, hard-striking monster, Hansen could have been a top-level and legitimate top ‘rassler for the promotion had he not gone back to his spiritual home in All Japan where he would continue his legacy in the land of the rising sun.
Eddie Gilbert’s wrestling legacy is a mixed one; coming from the regarded Gilbert family but also is considered to be a Jerry Lawler rip-off by many.
“Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert wrestled pretty much everywhere throughout the 80s and 90s including the WWF, CWA, UWF, JCP/WCW and USWA. In Eastern Championship Wrestling, Gilbert was the main booker and promoter of the company for about 6 months.
This brief look at his career saw a team with his brother Doug – where they won a 1993 tournament and held the World Tag Team titles once – and a rivalry with Terry Funk. Dubbing himself “The King of Philadelphia”, he was soon replaced in ECW by Paul Heyman who would take the promotion to almost unthinkable heights.
His run was entirely within 1993, it would be interesting to see what would happen had he stayed or returned but such never happened. Gilbert never even saw his company at its peak as he died in 1995 with suspected drug problems to heal a serious car accident injury sustained years earlier. Perhaps he could have had a similar role to that of Steve Corino or Jerry Lawler when both had stints in the wrestling promotion.
A staple of early ECW, besides his name, the promotion’s “Wildman” was nearly unrecognizable from his previous big break.
A former WWF enhancement talent – Bellomo gained weight, grew out a much larger beard and donned a gladiatorial outfit during his time working under Paul Heyman. Bellomo saw his fair share of success in ECW too; closing out ECW’s first TV show and becoming the finalist in a tournament to be the inaugural ECW titleholder. During his 1992-1994 run, he was a dominant and entertaining force who was a common face for the promotion.
Wacky and fun, he was booked strongly and stood across the ring from talents like Jimmy Snuka, Chris Candido and The Sandman. A big and burly powerhouse, he could have been a good fit for a mid-card ECW scene had he remained in Philadelphia.
Better known as Gangrel, the blood-spewing Brood member would seem like a great fit for ECW but his stay was blink-and-you’ll-miss-it.
With fanged teeth and pronounced eyebrows, Vampire Warrior sure had a unique look albeit not one that kept him in the door very long. His total run in ECW was about a month-long and saw him battle Tommy Dreamer. After Beating Hack Myers in short order at the ECW Barbed Wire, Hoodies and Chokeslams event, Dreamer would come out and defeat David Heath after a chair assisted jumping DDT. During this time, he was accompanied by his wife Luna Vachon.
Still working enhancement matches for the WWF, his other matches would see him, team, with Dudley Dudley against The Pitbulls and The Steiners during the latter’s short and forgotten ECW run.
Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko
Okay, so we are lumping two entries together here but they had their high-point when aligned in The Triple Threat under the leadership of Shane Douglas.
Benoit could have been a great fit for ECW on account of his willingness to take huge pumps and sheer tenacity. His work rate would have made matches alongside RVD, Jerry Lynn, Taz, Terry Funk and Rhino must-see. A one-time ECW Tag Team titleholder, his most memorable ECW moment is likely in the original main event for November To Remember 1994 when he broke Sabu’s neck and became “The Crippler”.
Dean Malenko would see more success in ECW as a one-time ECW Tag Team champion and 2-time Television champion. “The Shooter” was even a double champion, holding both belts simultaneously. Malenko’s best matches likely came against Eddy (as his name was then spelt) Guerrero. The in-ring technician was not short of classic matches wherever he went and he could have made much more magic in ECW but instead jumped to WCW.
Both brilliant workers and henchmen for “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, both debuted in 1994 but would be gone by 1995 finding their way to WCW.
Abdullah The Butcher
His legacy has taken a huge dip in more recent years so Abdullah The Butcher may seem a weird choice for this list. He may not have – by any means – been a top worker but ECW managed to make top guys out of the likes of The Sandman despite his limited skill set.
Abby made a name for himself in regions such as the Puerto Rican wrestling market for his blood-soaked battles with Carlos Colón and Bruiser Brody. A violent sign of the extreme style of wrestling, he has distinct blading marks on top of his head so deep gambling chips could be placed in them.
“The Man From Sudan” had a few NWA ECW bouts under his belt. His biggest rivalry during his short stay was with Kevin Sullivan but he would also battle against Stan Hansen and Terry Funk on an Eastern Championship Wrestling Supercard.
Although a pretty perfect fit for the promotion with his lust for blood, devious fork attacks and brawler style, he would not re-emerge after his small stint in late 1993.
Although not spoken highly enough of today, Badd Company were a tag team that wrestled in many of the major wrestling promotions of the 1980s and 1990s such as the AWA, WWF (as The Orient Express) and even WCW. One place we wish they had stayed however was ECW. Having left the WWF where member Paul Diamond had replaced Konnan in the role of Max Moon, the duo headed for ECW.
They impressed – debuting at NWA Bloodfest: Part 1, knocking off The Bad Breed (Ian and Axl Rotten) before later challenging Tony Stetson and Johnny Hotbody for their tag belts but emerging unsuccessful.
Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond then started a competitive and multi-month feud with the new ECW tandem The Public Enemy. Badd Company would unfortunately never hold the ECW World Tag titles in the end as their biggest opportunity at The Night The Line Was Crossed (featuring The Sheik subbing in for Paul Diamond) saw opponents Tazmaniac and Kevin Sullivan be stripped of the belts the night before.
It is sad in hindsight that the duo would never be a pillar of the tag division as they had proved in the AWA that they were a formidable team – being one of the highlights of the latter days of that promotion. Although saddled with a bad gimmick, they even had good WWF PPV matches with The Rockers and The New Foundation. Seeing how burgeoning the ECW tag scene would become packed with The Dudleys, Eliminators, Sabu and RVD, The Unholy Alliance and The Impact Players across ECW history, it is a shame we never got to see more of the duo who strolled out to the tune of Bad Company’s Bad Company.
Paul E. Dangerously’s bodyguard in ECW, 911 had one of the most unique gimmicks in the company’s run. A huge 6’8, 300lbs individual – 911 was a force to be reckoned with and barely ever lost in the promotion. Created when Paul E. Dangerously dialled the same number to call for security, 911’s gimmick was he hit chokeslams. He did minimal work but was over like crazy with the crowd for this. Not only did it get a pop but it could also be used as a way to interrupt a segment the fans were not embracing to so could be used as a way to stop try-outs that were unsuccessful.
The 1994 Rookie Of The Year as ranked by Pro Wrestling Illustrated, he was a member of Dangerously’s Dangerous Alliance in its ECW iteration alongside The Tazmaniac and Sabu (who 911 was also the handler of).
He would compete in the historic 1994 NWA World Heavyweight title tournament beating Doink in the quarter-finals but losing to 2 Cold Scorpio by count-out. Protected well, his first true loss was a pinfall defeat to Mick Foley.
911 would wrestle a smorgasbord of 1990s talents during his time in ECW; Mick Foley, Ron Simmons, Doink, Shane Douglas, Mickey Whipwreck and others all stepped into the ring with this ECW original. Considering how he was booked during his short stay in WCW (as enhancement talent with ever-changing names), we wish we had seen what 911 could do if he had decided to stick around for a little longer.