wrestling / Columns

Moments That Changed Wrestling History 9.30.12: ECW is Born

September 30, 2012 | Posted by Craig Wilson

In a new weekly feature, I will look at moments throughout the history of wrestling that were game changers. No era will be off limits for this column, although I will ease into it gently.

The scope for this column is incredible and can take in fairly recent events such as Ted Turner bankrolling Eric Bischoff to run the WCW, the Monday Night Wars, the NWO or go further back in time Bruno Sammartino dropping the WWWF title after an 18 year reign at the top to Hogan winning the WWF Championship for the first time and the birth of Wrestlemania.

The first moment I will look at is from the not too distant past, August 1994, when Extreme Championship Wrestling was born and changed the landscape of professional wrestling forever.


Before we start looking at ECW, first we have to look at the state of play with the NWA – of which ECW then known as Eastern Championship Wrestling was then member. In September of 1993, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) formally withdrew from NWA leaving Eastern Championship Wrestling as the most watched televised NWA show.

Despite losing WCW as its flagship promotion, the NWA picked up some new members and remained in existence as a legal entity. After the best part of a year, the organization scheduled a tournament to crown a new champion, and brought back the “Domed Globe” belt from the ’70s to early ’80s to represent this new Champion.

Eastern Championship Wrestling


Eastern Championship Wrestling was created by Tod Gordon. Previously known, from 1989 onwards, as Tri-state Wrestling Alliance, Gordon bought out his partner Joel Goodhart in 1992 and soon renamed the promotion Eastern Championship Wrestling. The company was originally booked by Eddie Gilbert but after a fall-out he was replaced by Paul Heyman. Heyman’s, previously known to wrestling fans as Paul E. Dangerously from his stint with the WCW, was in search of a new challenge and his vision for wrestling was completely different to that which had gone before, as wrestling fans would soon see.

The President of the NWA, Dennis Coralluzzo, was under the belief that that Crockett and Gordon were going to try to monopolize the title and publically stated that Crockett did not have the approval from the NWA board to run this tournament and placed himself in the position of overseeing the forthcoming tournament.

Unsurprisingly Gordon did not take kindly to this and began contemplating removing the ECW from NWA. Any plan would court controversy but also attract great public interest – a tactic that ECW would use time and time again. The plan was to have Shane Douglas, who was scheduled to face 2 Cold Scorpio in the tournament finals, win the title then throw down the NWA World Heavyweight Championship upon as an act of defiance.

This was planned by Gordon and Heyman. Heyman persuaded Douglas by noting that the only real negative of this move would be that NWA traditionalists would just see them as traitors to the tradition of the NWA. It’s difficult to imagine that Heyman cared all that much about the traditions of the NWA at this point.

There was also some bad feeling between Douglas and Coralluzzo. The NWA President had been quite vocal in his criticism of Douglas and told NWA affiliated bookers not to book him for shows as he believed Douglas had the tendency to not appear at events in which he was scheduled.

Shane Douglas NWA
Shane Douglas moments before throwing down the NWA title

Douglas ultimately decided to go through with Gordon and Heyman’s plan, inspired by his father’s motto of “doing right by the people that do right by you.” After looking up and saying, “This is it tonight, Dad,” Douglas threw down the NWA World Heavyweight Championship stating that he did not want to be champion of a “dead promotion” that “died seven years ago”. He then proceeded to raise the Eastern Championship Wrestling title and declared it to be a World Heavyweight Championship and cut a quite magnificent promo, as you can see below.

The Legacy

When Heyman began booking the promotion as he searched for a new challenge, I doubt he could have envisaged the way that ECW really did change the wrestling landscape.

ECW head honcho Paul Heyman

While the then WWF were intent on booking cartoon characters and latterly guys with gimmicks that involved them having day jobs and while the WCW saw a procession of former WWF guys join their ranks, ECW were creating a stir by having a product unlike any other. They popularised three way dances (triple threat matches) and their performers were being thrown through tables long before the WWF started booking Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches.

It would, however, be naïve to suggest that ECW was all about hard-core wrestling and that alone. That’s not the case at all. ECW also offered incredible wrestling action not seen anywhere else in America. Wrestlers such as Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho and the luchadores Rey Mysterio and Juventud Guerrera got their first real breaks in ECW.

It’s fair to say that ECW really was the first victim of the Monday Night Wars. Both the WCW and the WWF raided the promotion for its top talent and it was no real surprise when ECW closed its doors for the final time – other than a few reunions and spin-offs – in April 2001 when the company was declared bankrupt.

The main legacy of ECW, though, was the way that it forced other promotions to up the ante. The WWF got rid of the cartoon characters and outlandish gimmicks that largely made up New Generation wrestling fans saw the birth of the Attitude Era. A new dawn for the WWF led by a beer swilling, middle finger waving and foul mouthed anti-hero in Stone Cold Steve Austin. So while they did not win the battle, you could certainly argue that their ideas won the war.

The attitude era is clearly heavily influenced by what happened in ECW. We saw table matches, hardcore wrestling and bouts descend into brawls. This was the change in direction that WWF needed and eventually saw Vince McMahon’s promotion regain the initiative from the WCW after a prolonged period of losing in the Monday Night Wars and the rest is, as they say, history.

More of my musings on the often crazy world of wrestling can be found on the blog I write with a couple of friends RingtheDamnBell Blog. You can follow the blog on Twitter @Ringthedamnbel1

Feel free to suggest future ‘Moments that changed the face of wrestling’ in the comments section or tweet them to me Ringthedamnbel1


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Craig Wilson

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