10 Spot: ECW’s Greatest Stars

by Billy Carpenter (@4CR_Billy) and Robot Hammer (@robot_hammer)

 

Welcome to another edition of 4CR’s column built by social media, the 10 Spot! This particular countdown has been a few weeks in the making but it’s finally time to take the 10 Spot TO THE EXTREME! ECW is one of the most fondly remembered promotions of all-time, and not just for the 2 gentleman who authored this article. The company was the very definition of ‘revolutionary’ as far as the wrestling business goes, creating new stars and cutting edge storylines that would change the entire creative direction of professional wrestling.  For this list, we asked Twitter to send us their personal top 10 list of the greatest ECW stars of all-time and we got an overwhelming response! Many of ECW’s greatest names were mentioned in the ballots and together, we’ve created this week’s top 10.  So, how did you guys rank ECW’s best? It’s time to find out as 4CRwrestling.com goes to the extreme!

 

 

 

 

#10: The Dudley Boys

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Robot: “The Dudleys couldn’t be considered the most decorated tag team in the history of professional wrestling without first making their start in ECW. After D-Von joined the promotion and helped his brother Bubba Ray chase off the rest of the Dudley family, they set their sights on the ECW tag titles. Their battles against the likes of the Eliminators, the Gangstas, and the rest of ECW’s formidable tag division showed the beginnings of their tag team prowess. They left a trail of victims and broken tables scattered across arenas nationwide, and nearly incited riots every time they got on the microphone. The Dudleys were the only tag team to make it onto this Extreme edition of the 10 Spot, and rightfully so. No other tag team made the impact that the Dudleys did in ECW.”

 

Billy: “Two teams made my list—Public Enemy being one and the brothers Dudley being the other. As much as a staple the PE were in the early years of ECW, the Dudleys are THE team that defines the tag history of ECW. Buh Buh Ray was having fun as a stuttering, dancing, happy-go-lucky member of the misfit Dudley family. After his more serious half-brother D-Von showed up and changed his mind about the direction of the family, the rest was history. They battled—and defeated—every combination put before them and set a record with a staggering 8 reigns as ECW World tag team champions. They incited near-riots, broke too many tables to count and became a legendary combination in the process. They would parlay their ECW successes into worldwide dominance and have become the most decorated team in wrestling history. But it all started in ECW and the Dudleys are more than deserving of being placed on this, or any other, ECW top 10 list.”

 

 

 

 

#9: Terry Funk

 

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Billy: “Terry Funk is one of the most important names in discussing the history of ECW. He dedicated most of the final act of his active in-ring career to helping ECW grow into what it would become. He didn’t take it easy either—from tag team barbed wire matches against the Public Enemy, feuding with Shane Douglas, almost setting the ECW Arena on fire with Cactus Jack or his story with Tommy Dreamer, Terry put his heart & soul into the promotion. He was a two-time champion and there’s a strong case to be made that ECW may not have lasted as long as it did without the efforts of ‘The Desperado’.”

 

Robot: “Funk was 50 years old when he arrived in ECW for the first time. At that age, most active wrestlers would have made occasional appearances, wrestled softball matches, and collected their paychecks. Most wrestlers aren’t Middle Aged And Crazy. Funk went into ECW and headlined their first pay per view, defeating Raven to become their world heavyweight champion. He lost that title to Sabu, in their infamous and brutal barb wire match. At a time when he could have coasted on his past achievements, Funk was helping ECW set a standard for hardcore wrestling that still stands, because Terry Funk doesn’t coast, wrestling fans.”

 

 

 

 

#8: Cactus Jack

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Robot: “After establishing himself within the company, Cactus Jack, one of the most dangerous competitors in the history of professional wrestling, walked into the most hardcore promotion running in North America and did the one thing no one expected: he denounced his hardcore ways and begged his ‘Uncle Eric’ Bischoff to re-hire him for WCW.  Foley would play the bad guy role for most of his time in ECW, trying to teach Tommy Dreamer to leave his hardcore style behind him too.   It was a move that incensed the ECW faithful, setting Cactus up to be one of the most hated figures within the company, a fact that might surprise fans that are more familiar with happy go lucky Mick Foley and his near sainted status among the current wrestling community.”

 

Billy: “I said on Twitter recently that I didn’t think people gave Cactus enough due when talking about his importance to ECW’s history. His feud with Sabu in 1994 put a lot of eyes all over the globe on the tiny promotion from Philly and from there, Cactus became one of ECW’s biggest stars. He became a truly hated man during the time he denounced ‘hardcore wrestling’, many times inciting near riotous responses from the hostile ECW crowd. That time period spawned some of Foley’s best promo work too, including the now legendary ‘Cane Dewey’ promo. Anyone that came across Foley’s path—friend or foe—during his ECW run was made to feel more important and came out for the better. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why Cactus Jack made this list. Bang bang.”

 

 

 

 

#7: The Sandman

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Billy: “’The Extreme Icon’ is one of the most memorable characters from the menagerie known as ECW. Starting in the company as a surfer, he would morph into one of the company’s most enduring figures through his penchant for hardcore. My first memories of ECW are of the ‘blind angle’ with Tommy Dreamer & Tommy Cairo, of which longtime ECW fans will fondly remember. He would go on to have one of ECW’s most storied careers, taking part in some of its most infamous moments and clashing with every top star. The Sandman became a multiple-time World champion—all while drinking beer, chain smoking and performing one of the most memorable ring entrances of all-time.”

 

Robot: “If any one wrestler best exemplifies what Paul Heyman could do for the wrestlers under his banner, in my book, it has to be the beer chugging, chain smoking, cane swinging, blue collar folk hero known as the Sandman. Sandman walked to the ring with a six pack of beer and a lit cigarette, and usually busted himself open by bashing beer cans into his forehead prior to his matches. No one will ever confuse his bar room brawling style for the classic catch as catch can technical prowess of some of his peers, but in ECW, that didn’t matter. Sandman had the raw charisma to draw the crowd into his match and the fearlessness required to keep them hooked.”

 

 

 

 

 

#6: Shane Douglas

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Robot: “The man who started the Extreme revolution by tossing aside the prestigious NWA title and telling a hall of fame worthy list of wrestlers to kiss his ass, Shane Douglas claims his rightful place on this edition of the 10 Spot. After being overlooked in both the WWF and WCW, Douglas became one of the early cornerstones of the fledgling promotion, where he put on a string of impressive matches. Sometimes on his own, but usually with the help of the Triple Threat and Francine, the Franchise helped set the tone for the company and added much needed legitimacy to their World Title.”

 

Billy: “The catalyst for ECW’s genesis, ‘The Franchise’ was the perfect choice to usher in the revolution. He believed he was the best on the planet and did his damndest to make sure you believed it too. Outspoken, brash, cocky but damn talented to boot. He was the cornerstone for much of the promotion’s lifespan and like he said in his infamous promo after throwing down the NWA title, he was the man who ignited the new flame in the sport of professional wrestling. Douglas worked hard to carve out his own legacy, taking on any and all challengers that came his way in pursuit of his ECW World title. In turn, he raised the profile of ECW and there it’s a safe bet to say that if not for ‘The Franchise’, there would have been no ECW.”

 

 

 

 

 

#5: Rob Van Dam

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Robot: “Where do you even start with ECW Rob Van Dam? His death defying leaps into the crowd became a staple of ECW highlight reels. At the time, no one was using chairs and props quite like Mr Monday Night. When I first started hearing the buzz about ECW, RVD was the guy I was most excited to see. He displayed a level of athleticism that I wasn’t used to seeing in wrestling at the time. Also, it didn’t hurt that he had the services of the Manager Of Champions, Mr Bill Alfonso, DADDY!”

 

Billy: “There was nothing like RVD during his heyday in ECW. A truly unique athlete, he mesmerized the ECW audience and within a year of his ECW debut the WWF had already come calling. He was an integral part of the WWF/ECW war in 1997 and that boost was all Van Dam needed. He quickly became the company’s most popular star, and overwhelmingly so. He was ECW TV champion for a staggering 21 consecutive months and was poised to challenge for the company’s World title before an untimely injury. Nonetheless, he’s parlayed his ECW successes into a great career in WWE & TNA but it all started in Philly in January 1996. ECW allowed RVD the chance to truly become wrestling’s human highlight reel and RVD became an ECW icon in the process.”

 

 

 

 

 

#4: Taz

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Billy: “There’s very few wrestlers that I’ve ever been a bigger fan of in my lifetime than ‘ECW’ Taz. The ‘Human Suplex Machine’ was the baddest mother fucker on the planet during his time in ECW and cut a swath of destruction like no one else. After sort of floating around from makeshift team to team in the early years, an injury put Taz on the sidelines in 95. Upon his re-debut though, he had adopted a new style and attitude. When he was paired with Bill Alfonso though, Taz’s ECW career took off. Introducing the wrestling world to the notion of making your opponent tap out, he took to choking out his opponents one by one. A legendary feud with Sabu would take shape and ECW’s first foray into PPV was built around this grudge. After Barely Legal, Taz rolled through the rest of ECW en route to finally winning the heavyweight crown in 1999. Taz would be gone a year later but would come back later in 2000 to wrest the ECW crown away from WCW defector Mike Awesome in one last dance with his ECW fans. A legendary run in ECW ensured that the ‘One Man Crime Spree’ made this list, and ranked as high as he did.”

 

Robot: “Taz was a killer. He was a short, stocky, suplex throwing killer who marched to the ring with bad intentions on his mind. Taz did the number one thing I look for when deciding if a wrestler is good at what they do: he made me believe that he believed in what he was doing. Taz didn’t wink at the camera and smile at the kids. He carried himself like a businessman going about his trade, and his trade was kicking ass. His ‘beat me if you can, survive if I let you’ catchphrase ranks among my all-time favorites. He wasn’t in the ring to garner affection or put on a show. He was there to fight, and he’s one of the things i miss most about ECW.

 

And most importantly, he was managed by Bill Alfonso too.”

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#3: Raven

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Robot: “In a promotion where breaking the traditional rules of professional wrestling was the law of the land, Raven was king. If Sandman is the best example of what Paul E could do with a talent, Raven is the best example of what a talent could do in Paul E’s new environment. The former Scotty Flamingo reinvented himself in ECW as the dark, disturbed cult leader Raven, who looked like the personification of the late 90s in human form. Raven’s storyline with Tommy Dreamer, involving their childhood as kids at camp and bringing in Beulah McGillicutty, and his storyline where he brainwashed Sandman’s son were both light years beyond what WWF and WCW were offering. Raven was my #1 pick for this edition of the 10 Spot, and it wasn’t even a close race. For me, Raven was ECW in spirit and aesthetics, warts and all.”

 

Billy: “Raven is one of the most brilliant characters in not just ECW history, but all of wrestling history. The former Scotty the Body/Scotty Flamingo/Johnny Polo reinvented himself in a way like possibly no one else had ever done and embodied the spirit of what ECW was. His story with Tommy Dreamer is the stuff of wrestling legend and remains one of the best I’ve seen in almost 30 years of watching pro wrestling. Nothing that I can write in my blurb will do justice to the character, especially for those who didn’t get to see Raven’s ECW run. It’s something you need to see and there was only one man I ranked higher on my personal list than Raven. He was the perfect character in the perfect promotion at the perfect time and is one of the company’s biggest accomplishments.”

 

 

 

 

#2: Sabu

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Billy: “Homicidal. Suicidal. Genocidal. An attraction unlike anything we had ever seen before here in the States upon his ECW debut in ’93, Sabu captured our collective imagination in the land of extreme. The pioneer of table breaking sacrificed his body time & time again, racking up a catalog of injuries like perhaps no one else in wrestling history. His style was as reckless as it was unique and we couldn’t turn our eyes away from him. He was a part of some of ECW’s most legendary matches & moments and even with his tumultuous ‘on again, off again’ relationship with Paul E., he became an indelible part of the promotion’s history.”

 

Robot: “Sabu made his way to the ring chained to a furniture dolly, sometimes in a strait jacket, with a mask strapped over his face. He fought his bonds the entire time and was only released for his matches, and once the match was over, he was bound and chained again. It was showmanship at its finest and added to his already manic persona. His wars with Taz and RVD still hold up to this day, and of course, Sabu was also managed by Bill Alfonso.”

 

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#1: Tommy Dreamer

 

Robot: “The greatest everyman that ever wrestled, Tommy Dreamer started out in a bow tie and suspenders and was nearly booed out of the arena. After proving his worth and near superhuman tolerance for pain, Tommy started dressing less like a wrestler and more like member of the audience. Long before people started using the term ‘face of the company,’ Dreamer became the unquestioned heart and soul of ECW. When his peers were jumping ship to go to the WWF or WCW, he stayed in the promotion that made him a star and further earned the loyalty of the ECW faithful.

 

It’s a true testament to Dreamer’s worth to ECW that it’s nearly impossible to discuss the promotion without eventually talking about Tommy and his nearly endless feuds against everyone else who wrestled there. From Raven to Justin Credible, The Dudleys to Cactus Jack and beyond, Dreamer represented ECW to his fullest, taking on all comers in the process. Even though I was always cheering for Raven (He wore Morpheus shirts and had a Starman tattoo, I had to cheer for Raven) I’m not surprised to see the Innovator of Violence claim the victory this week on the 10 Spot.”

 

Billy: “I had a long diatribe planned for the man that I voted number 1 on my list, but I can actually sum it up quite simply: Tommy Dreamer is ECW and ECW is Tommy Dreamer. He is the embodiment of the promotion’s spirit and without question, Tommy Dreamer is the heart & soul of ECW. There is no one else who can be number 1 on any ECW top 10 list, in my view.”

 

 

There is YOUR list of ECW’s greatest stars as compiled by all of you along with Robot & myself! Those are no doubt some of the greatest, but there were so many favorites during ECW’s run for me. Mikey Whipwreck, Public Enemy, 911, 2 Cold Scorpio, The Eliminators, Spike Dudley, CW Anderson, Nova, Stevie Richards, Steve Corino, Tajiri, Super Crazy and so many more helped define the most influential promotion of the 90s. That’s not to mention all of the legendary names that passed through during ECW’s history–Austin, Pillman, Gilbert, Sullivan, Gordy, Williams, Eaton, Anderson, Blanchard and countless others.  The memory and spirit of ECW will continue to live on through those of us who lived through and experienced the hardcore revolution as fans, and by a new generation who is captivated by the flame of ECW that still burns to this very day.

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