Everyone claims the Monday Night Wars changed wrestling. If you ask WWE, they were the company that revolutionised wrestling, and that's a fair statement to make considering Vince McMahon's vision obtained huge success on a worldwide scale with the boom of Hulkamania, and again with the Attitude Era, both of which are thought of as ground breaking. The NWO was thought of as ground breaking for WCW and helped put them on the map. But it was after one night in Eastern Championship Wrestling that the face of professional wrestling was changed forever and ushered in the creation of one of Wrestling's most ground breaking promotions, Extreme Championship Wrestling. It was this promotion that kick started a wrestling revolution and helped shape the most successful eras of the two biggest companies in professional wrestling. If it wasn't for ECW then I'm not sure the wrestling industry would have experienced the boom it did during the late 90's.
If you say the letters ECW to any wrestling fan the images that instantly come to mind are of barbed wire, blood, flaming tables, thumbtacks, and pure violence. Even in it's infant form of NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling the company was known for it's more violent approach where chairs, tables, and kendo sticks would often be used in matches. The catalyst that started the change to Extreme Championship Wrestling, and began the spark that changed the business forever going forward was the moment Shane Douglas had just won an 8 man singles tournament to crown a new NWA Champion. Instead of giving a speech to accept the belt Douglas threw down the NWA Championship and proclaimed himself as the new ECW Champion while saying all those that held the belt for the NWA could kiss his ass. It was a truly shocking moment at the time but was a bold statement of intention from Paul Heyman's brand of the vision he had for the company going forward.
ECW very quickly became the alternative wrestling brand as WWE was still stuck in an era of cartoonish characters that were just not believable and were mostly gimmick based and WCW as a company were very out of touch with the modern concepts of the time, something the top brass at WCW clearly could not understand due to their dwindling attendances. ECW brought hardcore wrestling to the attention of fans who were looking for something more alternative and were looking for a product that would fit their needs. ECW made itself a stand out promotion by changing the way matches took place. Weapons were involved, gimmicky characters were no longer used and instead saw stars using much more real life personas that for the first time in a long time the audience felt they could connect with. The appeal of ECW due to it's violent nature and realistic direction made it revolutionary and is a huge reason the company was so successful and caught the attentions of WWE and WCW, who whether they like to admit it or not need to give ECW the credit it deserves for inspiring creations like the NWO, the Attitude Era, and if anything ECW deserves the credit for nurturing many of the top stars we would see during the boom era of the Monday Night Wars.
With a established stars like Terry Funk and Dory Funk Junior, as well as huge future names like Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, and Cactus Jack, ECW became the breeding ground for a hot bed of talent. Look at some of the most successful names of the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars; Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley all cut their teeth in ECW originally and it was their work in those promotions that really brought them to the attentions of WWE and WCW at the time. The company knew how to make stars and gave us so many names that are now considered legends of the industry. Wrestling's most successful tag team in the Dudley Boys first came to the attention of the world for their work in ECW and there isn't a tag team today that can rival them for the amazing achievements they made. ECW created stars that helped shape the industry to what it is today and while history may not be written that way it deserves the rightful credit as a company for what it achieved.
What made ECW so standout was no doubt the mad genius of an owner Paul Heyman. His vision and genius helped to make stars out of names like Tazz and Tommy Dreamer, who before the company became known as Extreme Championship Wrestling were not fan favourites or the types to get over. Tazz was a character based on being a savage animal who dressed in fur that while he was over with fans was not going to be a huge star. Paul Heyman turned him into the human suplex machine and a star was born. Tommy Dreamer was seen as a pretty boy and was not liked by the fans for his look. What turned him around? The night he became hardcore and took a savage Singapore Caning from the Sandman. Heyman was a creative genius who had a fantastic mind for the business, for creating deep and intriguing story lines, and knew the best way to get the best out of anyone was to simply try to hide their negative traits and accentuate the positives. Paul made his vision of ECW a success because he never accepted anything less than perfection and worked hard to make ECW the successful company it became.
ECW was a creative master piece of a company and it's while it is one thing to claim ECW changed the face of professional wrestling it is another to discredit any of the input and the influence that ECW had to change the game. The touch paper was lit on that fateful night when Shane Douglas denounced the NWA Championship and proclaimed himself as ECW Champion, and the company would go on to become one of wrestling's most memorable and successful companies that fans all over the world love even to this day. The industry will never see anything like the movement of ECW again and it has to be given the credit it deserves for the fact this little upstart promotion from Philadelphia helped inspire the two biggest names in wrestling to learn from the influence of the company and would take the ideas that were the brainchild of Paul Heyman to help become the driving force of WWE and WCW's biggest eras. ECW really deserves more credit than it has received from wrestling historians for it's influence on the wrestling industry and for the fact that in my mind it really was the driving force that helped change the direction of the business forever by bringing realistic characters and bringing legitimacy to an industry that was always classed as phoney. The three letters ECW will forever be immortalised in the wrestling industry and will be something that will probably never be seen or experienced again.