wrestling / Columns

For The Record 7.19.09: ECW Title Since 2006

July 19, 2009 | Posted by Kristopher Rodriguez

The ECW Championship is an interesting world title. In WWE’s world, the bearer of that belt is not necessarily a top guy. WWE’s top names usually compete on Raw and Smackdown. In fact, as we all know, ECW is the “c-show” and is viewed by many as a glorified developmental league. However, ECW is still the home of a world title.

WWE conveys the importance of the ECW Title by having it contested on monthly pay-per-views. Over the years, the ECW Title has taken priority over the Intercontinental and United States Championships.

Since June of 2007, the ECW Title has been given to budding main eventers and longstanding mid-card veterans. For the first year of “ECW on Sci-Fi”, such big names as Rob Van Dam, Bobby Lashley, The Big Show, and Vince McMahon were the brand’s champions. WWE was probably going to keep the title on another big name star at Vengeance 2007 (Chris Benoit). However, as we know, that never materialized.

So what happened at Vengeance 2007? WWE decided to put the title on Johnny Nitro. It was a surprising move, and one that is often forgotten amidst the Benoit story. But WWE gave Nitro a career-defining win. It was also significant because it changed the way the ECW Championship was used. Since then, WWE has strayed from putting the title on quasi main event wrestlers and instead have used the title to put over future top level stars and mid-card veterans.

Younger Stars

Winning the ECW Championship was a major accomplishment for Johnny Nitro. I know, some people will argue that he’s not that young. But he was only 27 when he won that title, and in wrestling years, that is relatively young. He went on to feud with CM Punk for the months that followed and he did quite well in his first major program. He consistently gave the fans quality matches, and even developed his gimmick. During the course of his reign, he became John Morrison.

CM Punk also was also a young superstar with something to prove. I know, he had plenty experience in the indies, ROH, and TNA. But WWE is a different ballgame. It was huge for him to win his first WWE world title at the age of 28, less than a year and a half after his debut. During that time, he had solid matches with the likes of John Morrison, The Miz, Elijah Burke, and Chavo Guerrero. He must have impressed WWE’s top brass. How can we tell? Six months after losing the ECW Championship to Chavo Guerrero, Punk became Raw’s reigning World Heavyweight Champion.

Some may argue that the ECW Championship didn’t do much for Morrison and Punk. I disagree. I believe those title runs planted the seeds for main event pushes. Punk proved that he could carry a brand, and has since won two major Wrestlmania matches and twice seized the World Heavyweight Championship. Morrison’s push hasn’t been as dramatic as Punk’s, but it looks like he’ll wear world title gold before 2010. And because of their history, and the face/heel role reversal, it would be fun to see Morrison take the World Heavyweight Championship from Punk.

Jack Swagger turned a lot of heads by winning the ECW Championship just four months after his debut. That is one of the quickest paths from debut to world title in WWE history. His brief reign afforded him credibility as a major player. We’ll be able to tell in time if it was a catalyst to a main event career.

Loyal Veterans

The ECW Championship has also been a great prize for longstanding veterans. In days past, it wouldn’t have been possible for wrestlers like Matt Hardy, Kane, Chavo Guerrero, and Mark Henry to become WWE world champions. They were talented performers, but not main event headliners. In 2008, however, those four grapplers became world title holders.

Matt Hardy was a 14-year WWE veteran before winning the ECW Championship. He spent his first four years as a jobber and wasn’t even given a full-time contract till 1998. His career finally took off as a member of the Hardy Boyz team.

Sadly, Matt was always in the shadow of his brother. Jeff was always the bigger star, and is now a former WWE and World Heavyweight Champion. WWE never had that kind of confidence in Matt, and probably never will. Fortunately, there’s a world title for guys like Matt Hardy. In September of 2008, Matt became the ECW Champion. He was given his “gold watch” for all those years of service. If he never wins another title again, he can still claim to be a former world champion.

Kane was a unique case. He is indeed a former WWE Champion. However, he only held that title for one day. Kane has given 100% to WWE for the past 12 years, and Glenn Jacobs the performer has been loyal to WWE since 1995. And yet, he’s had to sit back and watch guys like The Great Khali, Goldberg, and Batista win world titles. Fortunately, Kane was given 91 days with the ECW Title in 2008. Though it must have been bittersweet for that world title to be the ECW Championship, it was still a world title nonetheless.

I’m still not exactly sure why Chavo Guerrero was given the ECW Championship. I suppose he’s somewhat over with the fans, but not to a world title level. My only guess is that they were trying to get over the La Familia stable, and secure more heel heat for Edge and Vickie Guerrero. Regardless, it was cool to see Chavo Guerrero wear the ECW Championship. It was something most fans never expected to see, and a fitting tribute to the Guerrero family.

The ECW Championship was also a valuable title for Mark Henry. Entering the WWE scene in 1996 as the World’s Strongest Man, expectations were high for Henry. Unfortunately, Henry never quite clicked with the fans, and his wrestling abilities were subpar. It could be argued that because of the hype, and hefty contract he was given, Mark Henry was the worst signing in WWE history. However, Henry has improved over the years. He’s developed a believable persona and has even improved as a wrestler. He occasionally surfaced as a world title contender on Smackdown, but his big break came last year. He was able to win the ECW Championship, thereby salvaging his career. It can be argued that because of the ECW Title, Henry’s career has not been a total bust.

Christian’s run, on the other hand, was a bit odd. I honestly don’t think he needed the title; and I don’t think it did much for his career. Christian is already an established star, and former two-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Winning the ECW Championship was a lateral move at best. It simply wasn’t a big deal. Looking ahead, I hope WWE keeps the ECW Championship off Christian.

Today’s Roster

How will the ECW Championship be used on today’s roster? None of us know, but I am very interested in the possibilities. Though Tommy Dreamer has had a good run with the title, I’m anxious to see someone unseat him.

There are plenty of veterans on the ECW roster who could experience their signature moments in the “Land of Extreme.” Shelton Benjamin, William Regal, and Goldust have never been world champions. I have to be honest, I would mark out if any of those three wrestlers won the ECW Championship. Benjamin, Regal, and Goldust are respected by the IWC and fans alike. And deservedly so.

Hurricane Helms, who would never be a serious world title contender on Raw or Smackdown, could be championship-bound in ECW. I think the IWC and WWE Universe would love to see The Hurricane become ECW Champion. It appears, however, that Vladimir Kozlov will beat the aforementioned veterans to the ECW Title. Kozlov’s Soviet gimmick is starting to get some legs under it. He’s starting to develop a major presence. I would not be surprised to see Kozlov win the ECW Championship this year, and eventually head back up to Raw or Smackdown to become a main eventer.

Will any of the young superstars receive a massive world title push? Sheamus has been very impressive since his ECW debut. I think in time he could become a very believable champion. Zack Ryder is also a potential ECW Title contender. He seems to be running with his gimmick, and he may be able to carve out quite a nice niche in ECW. I don’t know if Yoshi Tatsu is a future ECW Champion… but ya never know in ECW!

The ECW Championship is not reserved for main eventers. There’s always an open field. ECW is a brand that offers variety in its world title picture. Since 2006, only Bobby Lashley has held the title more than once. That’s what makes ECW so appealing. Nobody has a stronghold on the title. In ECW, young wrestlers can gain career-defining victories, and longstanding veterans can finally have their days in the sun. WWE was smart to reactivate the ECW Championship.

Closing Time

If you get a chance, read this week’s edition of The Wrestling Bard. It’s one of the best articles I’ve read in a while. Kudos to Aaron Hubbard.

That’s it for this week. Below is a fun ECW video.




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Kristopher Rodriguez

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