E-C-W! E-C-W! E-C-W!
Often credited by pro-wrestling fans as the pioneer of the style known today as “hardcore,” Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) promotion has been sorely missed by those fans since it folded up shop for good back in 2001. Today, the chant of “E-C-W” still echoes through arenas as a sort of tribute by knowing fans, usually following a chair-shot to the head, or an insane spot through a table.
In the early to mid ’90s, ECW came to epitomize the style known as hardcore. In doing so, it also played a major role in helping to create the wrestling boom which would occur later in the decade.
The formula was simple. Using older wrestling veterans like Terry Funk nearing their twilight years to “put over” then young, rising talent like Raven, Sandman, and Tommy “The Innovator of Violence” Dreamer, ECW built a reputation for hard hitting realism that stood directly opposite the “sports entertainment” driven storylines of their more established counterparts in Ted Turner’s WCW (World Championship Wrestling) and Vince McMahon’s then World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
The staged violence, even by pro-wrestling standards, was off the charts. Barbed wire matches. Bodies hurtling through stacks of flaming tables — and occasionally off of a second floor balcony or two. And lots of lots of blood. All of these things were commonplace in the matches which took place in the small “ECW Arena” (often referred to as a “bingo hall”) in Philadelphia.
Throw in plenty of T&A, some cat-fighting lesbians, and characters like the cigarette smoking, beer swilling Sandman, and it was only a matter of time before the big boys would begin to take notice. Which is exactly what happened shortly after the ECW Pay Per View “Barely Legal” in 1995.
Shortly thereafter, when Vince McMahon began to duplicate the ECW formula on his shows.
With many of ECW’s biggest names, including Rob Van Dam, the Dudley Boys, and even Paul Heyman himself, working for McMahon by that time, it was inevitable an ECW “family reunion” would eventually take place on Pay Per View. That happened last summer when WWE reunited many of the ECW hardcore legends for the “One Night Stand” PPV in June 2005.
At that show there were plenty of bittersweet moments sandwiched in between the numerous chairshots and flaming table spots. More than a few of the players, including Heyman and the “Voice of ECW” Joey Styles — guys who are supposed to be tough as nails — wept openly on camera.
The other somewhat unexpected thing which happened was the show became one of WWE’s most profitable events of that year. ECW DVDs like The Rise and Fall of ECW and ECW Bloodsport: The Most Violent Matches began selling like hotcakes. Rumors of a full-time return of ECW began circulating almost immediately.
Those rumors have now become a reality.
In addition to a second “One Night Stand” Pay Per View on June 11, WWE has announced it will begin a regular weekly cable series for the revived ECW brand. The yet to be named one-hour show will begin airing on the Sci-Fi Channel Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. beginning June 13.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon has made it clear he plans to take the revived ECW brand to a global audience, complete with all the merchandising and promotions you’d expect from the WWE machine.
“We will bring forward many of the more legendary characters of ECW’s past,” said McMahon regarding today’s ECW. “But it can’t be the same. That’s pretty much impossible. It’s now five years later. A lot of the performers now have five more years under their belt, and the ECW style has taken a great deal out of them. This is something that the ECW audience already realizes. They know that if ECW was still in business today, they would be very different from what they were five years ago.”
With that in mind, WWE has also scheduled a full slate of ECW live “house shows” for the summer. All shows go on sale June 17 unless otherwise indicated. Here is the schedule of summer dates for ECW:
June 20 – Albany, N.Y. – Pepsi Arena (already on sale)
June 24 – Philadelphia Pa. – Alhambra Arena
June 25 – Elizabeth, Pa. – Court Time Sports Center
June 26 – Huntington, W. Va. – Big Sandy Superstore Arena
July 1 – Toms River, N.J. – Poland Springs Arena
July 2 – York, Pa. – Toyota Center
July 8 – Racine, Wis. – Memorial Hall
July 9 – Green Bay, Wis. – Brown County Expo Center
July 10 – La Crosse, Wis. – La Crosse Center
July 11 – Minneapolis, Minn. –Target Center (on sale June 10)
July 15 – Tyler, Texas – Oil Palace
July 16 – Huntsville, Texas – Sam Houston Coliseum
July 17 – Austin, Texas – Palmer Event Center
July 18 – Corpus Christi, Texas – American Bank Center
July 22 – Muskegon, Mich. – L.C. Walker Arena
July 23 – Saginaw, Mich. – Dow Event Center
July 24 – Battle Creek, Mich – Kellogg Arena
July 25- Detroit, Mich. – Joe Louis Arena (On Sale June 24)
July 29 – Durham, N.H. – Whittemore Center
July 30 – Fitchburg, Mass. – Wallace Civic Center
August 5 – Poplar Bluff, Mo – Black River Coliseum
August 6 – Jackson, Tenn. – Oman Arena
August 7 – McMinnville, Tenn.– McMinnville Civic Center
August 8 – Nashville, Tenn. – Gaylord Entertainment Center (on Sale June 24)
August 12 – Elmira, N.Y. – First Arena
August 13 – White Plains, N.Y. – Westchester County Center
August 14 – Salisbury, Md. – Wicomico Center
August 15 – Washington, D.C. – MCI Center (on Sale June 24)
E-C-FN’-W is back. Let the chants begin anew.
E-C-W! E-C-W! E-C-W!