JC’s Top Rope Report: ECW’s 10 Most Important Performers

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So I haven’t written much outside of my RAW Reviews the last few weeks. Part of it has to do with my busy schedule. Part of it also has to do with the fact that there isn’t much to write about. I talked about Hell In A Cell a couple weeks ago. At least the WWE got one match right.

With there not being a lot to write about, I decided to go back in time. And thanks to the WWE Network, I can do that a lot easier nowadays. Everyone seems to be going back and watching WCW. And while I have done that with the Network, I also started watching a lot more ECW in the last month. So much so that I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s column to ECW.

ECW was a great alternative to WWE and WCW during its time. Now, a lot of it doesn’t hold up well. There’s obviously some painful chair shots to the head to watch. And about half the matches on every PPV are choppy and don’t really have any pacing to them. But there’s also some good to ECW as well. It was definitely unique. I just wish people would let the memory of ECW die already though. It should have ended at One Night Stand 2005. It should have never been launched as its own brand. And TNA should have never tried its half ass attempts to do reunion shows.

There are many different things that you can look at when it comes to ECW. I’m going to try and write a couple of different pieces on ECW in the coming weeks. To start, I plan on looking at the promotion’s ten best performers of all time. To me, this list was actually rather easy to do. I immediately had ten (well technically 11) performers come to mind. The list isn’t all about work rate or promo ability, it’s about names that are synonymous with the ECW brand.

So with that being said, lets get right into the list.

10. Cactus Jack

-Cactus Jack didn’t spend much time in ECW. By the time he had got there, he was already an established name from his WCW days. But Cactus Jack definitely made his mark in ECW. Immediately upon his arrival he entered into a “dream” feud with Sabu. After a brief hiatus he came back to ECW and did some great promo work as the anti-hardcore crusader who tried to talk Tommy Dreamer out of the hardcore lifestyle. It’s some of the best promo work around and if you have never seen them I would highly recommend it.

9. The Sandman

-Some of you may find this to be too low for the Sandman. Outside of a brief time where he left for WCW, The Sandman spent most of his career in ECW. He was drinking beers before Stone Cold Steve Austin made it cool. But while the Sandman’s character was way ahead of its time and definitely one of the most memorable in the history of ECW, he didn’t really do too much outside of that. You aren’t going to go out of your way to find Sandman matches. He wasn’t a technical wrestler. He never cut a great promo. He was a brawler. He did have a great entrance coming to the ring to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. But everything that was great about The Sandman happened before the bell rang. After that, he was nothing to write home about. But his character alone is enough to put him on this list.

8. Terry Funk

-By the time Terry Funk arrived in ECW, he was already getting up there in age. But Funk’s name alone helped the ECW brand after they broke away from the NWA. Funk helped work with the talent that would later go on to carry the ECW brand in the later years. For all of his effort to help get ECW off the ground, Funk was given the opportunity to win the ECW Title at its very first PPV event, Barely Legal. It was a great moment and a great way to pay respect to Funk for everything he did for ECW.

7. Sabu

-Honestly, I had a hard time placing the rest of this list. There are so many different ways you could rank everyone. And I guess it all depends on what you value more when it comes to your rankings. Sabu was a man that wasn’t afraid to put his body on the line during a match. On a recent episode of WWE Countdown, Sabu was talked about as being one of the best high flyers. But he also only hit about 50% of his moves. Sabu’s injuries are numerous throughout his career. In a Barbed Wire match against Terry Funk, he taped his biceps shut to continue the match. Sabu had a long standing feud with Taz. His career in ECW will be remembered for all of the crazy spots he did during his matches and the risks he was willing to take to entertain the fans.

6. Raven

-You might say that ECW saved the career of Scott Levy. He didn’t establish himself at all in WCW or the WWF. He showed up at ECW and Paul Heyman helped him turn into Raven. And the gimmick stuck with Levy for the rest of his career. The Raven character was something unique and different at the time. It was a dark character that captivated the audience with his often great promos. Raven had a long standing feud with Tommy Dreamer during his first ECW run and also had a memorable program with The Sandman, which resulted in Raven brain washing his ex-wife and son. Had Raven stayed in ECW longer, he might have ended up higher on the list. But Raven’s departure for WCW and two year absence keep him from being higher on the list.

5. Shane Douglas

-Here is another wrestler on the list that found most of his success in ECW, and didn’t really have any other success in WWF or WCW. Douglas helped establish ECW when he threw down the NWA Title. Though Douglas left for the WWF, he came back to ECW and was their top heel while there. Douglas formed the Triple Threat with Chris Candido and Bam Bam Bigelow. Douglas had two World Title reigns that lasted over a year. I liked the work of Douglas and also thought he was an underrated worker that doesn’t get enough credit. If I was running WCW, I would have picked him to be my top guy instead of Jeff Jarrett in 1999. Shane Douglas in his prime is a guy I would have loved to have in a promotion if I were starting one. Luckily Paul Heyman had him during his his prime in ECW, and he pushed him as his top star.

4. The Dudley Boyz

-Easily the greatest tag team in ECW history. And perhaps their best heels as well. I know I just talked about Shane Douglas as ECW’s top heel star, but no act could generate as much heat as the Dudley Boyz did. Want to see a heat generating promo that almost incited a riot? Check out the Dudley Boyz promo from Heatwave 1999. Fans loved to see the Dudleyz get their asses kicked. That’s what a good heel does. They get the audience to pay to see them get beat. The Dudleyz were great at that. The Dudleyz were pushed as a top act and Buh Buh Ray even challenged for the World Title at one point. It’s rare in today’s day and age to see a tag team pushed as main eventers, but the Dudley Boyz were certainly pushed as such in ECW.

3. Rob Van Dam

-The Whole F’n Show as he was called. Without a doubt, Rob Van Dam was ECW’s most popular wrestler from 1998 until ECW’s closure in 2001. RVD brought a care free style to ECW and his work in the ring was over with the fans. Even when he was suppose to be a heel, the fans still loved RVD. When he won the TV Title, he was treated as an equal to the ECW Champion. That’s something that is missing in today’s world of wrestling: mid-card Titles getting equal treatment as World Titles. RVD often had the match of the night as TV Champ and would often go on after the World Champ. It’s a shame that RVD had to forfeit the TV Title due to an injury, and that we never got a Mike Awesome vs RVD “Champion vs Champion” match due to Van Dam’s ankle injury. And RVD’s popularity carried over from ECW into the WWE, something that didn’t happen with a lot of ECW talents. RVD’s run as ECW TV Champ and his run of good matches with Jerry Lynn and others puts RVD at #3 on this list.

2. Taz

-Here’s another wrestler who made his mark in ECW but couldn’t find the same success in the WWE. Injuries played a part in that, but there was no reason to not see Taz get a bigger push in the WWE. His time in ECW was quite memorable. His match against Sabu was the main attraction of ECW’s first PPV. Taz had a no non-sense attitude and was pushed, as Paul Heyman called him, as ECW’s shoot fight/UFC like fighter. Since Taz was not given a shot at the ECW Championship by Shane Douglas, he created his own title called the FTW Title. Taz eventually won the Title from Douglas and held it for the first half of 1999 until he lost it on his way out of ECW. Taz was as close to a mainstay in ECW as they come. Taz’s attitude sometimes rubbed fans the wrong way and he would get booed because of it. Taz’s “Beat if you can, survive if I let you,” catchphrase is one of my favorite to this day. Taz’s time spent at the top in ECW is what puts him on this list.

1. Tommy Dreamer

-Dreamer gets the #1 Spot from me for one main reason: He never left ECW. He had been there all the way from the beginning. Even when he wasn’t getting paid toward the end of the promotion, he still showed up and worked. Dreamer was the heart and soul of ECW. Similar to what Sting was to WCW. He was never remembered for holding any Titles. He held the World Title for all of 30 minutes after beating Taz for it. I talked about Raven’s long feud with Tommy Dreamer earlier. Dreamer was someone who was able to transform from the pretty boy early in his career to the Innovator of Violence that he would become later. While Dreamer was never a workhorse in the ring, he always busted his ass for the ECW crowds every night. I have a ton of respect for Dreamer sticking around in ECW even until its end. Dreamer loved this business and it showed all throughout his time in ECW.

So what would your list look like? Feel free to let me know in your comments.

Until Next Time,

Justin C

Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka