Nearly 13 years after the death of ECW, I still hear those 3 letters. Sure we hear those 3 letters when we see an insane, crazy spot in a match. But, those 3 letters meant so much more.. Those 3 letters meant a Revolution, a "go against the grain" mentality, that couldn't be stopped during it's peak years. I remember it like it was yesterday, in 1996.. I was 11 years old and was up watching T.V at 3 in the morning. I turn on ECW, which was on a "Shop at Home" Channel, it was Sabu vs Louie Spicolli, and I was hooked. I found myself making sure, I stayed up every Saturday Night to watch ECW. I would also order older videos, and do some light tape-trading as well. I had known about the illusion of Pro Wrestling for a while now, but in my 11-12 year old brain, I thought this was REAL. The crowd was crazier than I had ever seen, and the wrestlers were even crazier. ECW came on this channel, all the way up to the announcement of Barely Legal in 1997, and then mysteriously disappeared. I was heart-broken but knew, that on April 13th, by hell or high-water, I was watching that Pay-Per-View. I would then go on to make sure that I found every avenue possible to watch this great promotion and great talent in it.
There were a lot of talents that I found awesome in ECW. But, no one grabbed my attention like "The Franchise" Shane Douglas. Shane Douglas for all intents and purposes, does not get the credit he deserves for how great of a heel he was from 1996-1998. He was the cornerstone of ECW in the way that Ric Flair was for the NWA in the mid-to-late 80s. A lot of fans, that didn't get to see or experience ECW, missed out on a lot but, they really missed out on how great Shane Douglas was. When I first saw ECW, Shane Douglas was fresh off breaking the neck of "Pitbull 1" Gary Wolfe, he was cutting these scathing awesome promos, and was getting all kinds of heat from that ruckus Philly crowd. All I can say is, take a look back at Shane Douglas' work from that era, and you will more than likely see that he was what he said he was, and that's "The Franchise."
Another talent who reached out and grabbed my attention was Taz. Taz was a short, stocky guy, who talked tough and, could get up under people and suplex them on there heads. I had never seen someone dump so many people on their head, from all kinds of crazy angles, and as a kid I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Taz also had that ability to make you feel like he was a legit fighter, by the way he talked. When he spoke, you could just tell the guy didn't take no $h!t.
True innovators of Pro Wrestling are hard to come by, but one in ECW, went by the name of Sabu. When I first saw Sabu, I knew I was seeing someone special. A guy who looked crazy, had scars all over his body, and did things in and out of that ring that I had never seen before. It's sad that a lot of fans who didn't live through ECW, see these "Reunion Shows" and see a guy who is broken down and a shell of his former self. But Sabu was really something different in that ECW era, to the likes we may never see again. Rob Van Dam and Sabu had an awesome chemistry as partners and opponents. They had some legendary moments, that will never be duplicated.
Speaking of Rob Van Dam, there was no one more cool, calm, and collective, yet who could kick so much ass, than that guy. RVD was truly at one point in ECW, "The Whole F'N Show!" Fans didn't want to see RVD get angry, they just wanted to see RVD give an exhibition of his cool moves, all while delivering a 5-Star Match, like only RVD could. RVD is still in great shape and can do so much in the ring, but he was at his athletic peak in ECW. He was booked properly, and was able to connect with the ECW audience like no one could.
Raven was another guy in ECW, who had the uncanny ability to make you believe that he was evil. Raven would go into these deep and dark promos, that even though as a little kid, I did not know what they meant, I just knew they meant something. Raven also engaged in awesome feuds with The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer, that to this day, rank right up with any feud ever. At the time, it was ground-breaking to see some of things that went on with Raven and Sandman. Like Raven abducting Sandman's son, or the way Raven's promos were produced in that gritty, ECW manner. Raven was definitely something different, and that's what got him so over with the audience.
You can't mention ECW without mentioning The Dudleys. The Dudleys would incite riots and, knew how to generate heat within the arena. The Dudleys also knew how to get the job done in the ring as well. Were the matches Flair vs. Steamboat or, Brisco vs Funk? No. But, they worked and got over because The Dudleys knew how to listen to what the crowd wanted. There was a time in ECW, when the "Tag-Team Division" had some very good teams like, The Dudleys, The Gangstas, The Eliminators, The Pitbulls, and others. But, no team had the success, like the "Boys from Dudleyville."
You also have to mention, Tommy Dreamer. Tommy Dreamer was the "working man" of ECW. A lot never went right for Dreamer but, when it did, it was big. Dreamer was ECW's resident baby face and put his heart and soul into that company. You could feel his passion, his sorrow, and the true love he had for ECW, everytime he was in the ring. He gave a lot to ECW and, the fans will always remember him for it.
ECW is more than just 3 letters. It's the definition of Hardcore. It's the definition of Extreme. But most importantly, it's the definition of Passion. I encourage anyone who didn't live through ECW, to at least go back and relive some of the great moments. I even find myself, now at age 28, reliving those classic memories. ECW is 3 letters that will never, ever DIE.
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