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Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW)

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The wrestling promotion currently known as Extreme Championship Wrestling began as Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992, when Philadelphia pawn broker Tod Gordon began promoting wrestling cards in local bars. Thanks to a television arrangement with SportsChannel Philadelphia, ECW attracted a small fan base in the north-eastern United States, and became the strongest promotion in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).

Jim Crockett, who was about to return to wrestling promoting for the first time since selling his stake in the NWA to Ted Turner in 1990, went to Gordon in 1994 and asked him to host a tournament to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion. However, since Crockett and Gordon had not paid NWA membership dues in some time, NWA promoter Dennis Corraluzo was able to work his way into some booking power in the tournament, under the threat of withdrawing NWA support for the tournament.

On the night of 27 August ,1994, Shane Douglas, who at the time was ECW champion, defeated 2 Cold Scorpio in the finals of the tournament to become the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion. However, after receiving the belt, Douglas threw the belt down and proceeded to give a long interview, claiming the NWA was dead and that the ECW title was the only title that meant anything in wrestling. Tod Gordon then withdrew his promotion from the NWA and renamed it Extreme Championship Wrestling.

It was an incident which generated a lot of publicity for ECW, and damaged an already weak NWA. ECW continued to slowly build on its success by promoting a wrestling product much different from what the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) were offering at the time. In addition to de-emphasising the traditional 'good guys vs bad guys' element of wrestling, ECW focused on creating quality, crisp matches inside the ring.

Paul Heyman, who had been brought into ECW as a booker shortly after its creation, bought the promotion from Tod Gordon in 1996. Gordon would remain in ECW portraying the on-air 'ECW commissioner' until 1997 when, in a wrestling-tinged slice of reality, it was revealed that he had been helping ECW wrestlers secure better contracts with WCW.

But 1997 was the year that ECW made its biggest strides in terms of popularity, as they ventured into the world of pay-per-view for the first time. Despite drawing significantly fewer buys than WWF or WCW pay-per-views, ECW's lower production costs still insured the company's profits. In addition, ECW also co-promoted with the WWF during the first half of the year, including a memorable episode of the WWF's flagship show, Monday Night Raw, in which Heyman and ECW stars 'invaded' the show and ran several matches.

In 1999 ECW signed a national television deal with the Nashville Network (TNN), providing the company with its largest exposure to date. Finally in March, 2000, ECW overtook WCW in the area of pay-per-view buys.

Current ECW stars include:

  • 'The Whole F'n Show' Rob van Dam
  • Mike Awesome
  • The Sandman
  • 'The Innovator of Violence' Tommy Dreamer
  • Lil' Spike Dudley
  • 'The Extreme Luchador' Super Crazy
  • 'The Japanese Buzzsaw' Yoshihiro Tajiri

Former ECW stars include

  • 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
  • Mick Foley
  • Tazz
  • Chris Jericho
  • Chris Benoit
  • Dean Malenko
  • Perry Saturn
  • Eddy Guerrero
  • The Dudley Boys
  • Konnan
  • Rey Mysterio Jr

ECW airs two television shows per week, ECW on TNN (which can be seen Fridays at 8pm Eastern time on TNN) and ECW Hardcore TV (available in syndication - check local listings).

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