The Rise & Fall of ECW (2004 Video)
Tommy Dreamer: When Taz broke his neck in Florida, he finished his match. And he just kept on saying "Damn, my neck is... my neck his hurt." I walked him into the hospital. And... we just, you know, we would always travel together and... they asked him "How'd you get in here?" He's like "I walked." And, uh... they're like "There's no way you walked in here." He was like "Yeah, I did. I walked in here." And they're like "Well, sir, you have a broken neck."
Taz: I was out for, actually, about nine months. And Paul paid me every single week of our agreement in my guarantee. I didn't have no contract with the man. I had a handshake with the guy. And he stuck to that, and I will never, ever forget that.
Paul Heyman: You cannot achieve success without the risk of failure. And I learned a long time ago you cannot achieve success if you fear failure. If you're not afraid to fail, man you have a chance to succeed. But you're never gonna get there unless you risk it, all the way.
Paul Heyman: ECW was the first victim of the Monday Night War. Oh, in August 1995, WCW stole Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko all in one swoop.
Eric Bischoff: I-I need to point out that one man's raid is another company's acquisition. We never raided anybody. We never raided the WWE, despite everybody's opinion to the contrary. We never raided ECW, we never raided anybody. I mean, when you think about it, did Vince McMahon raid all the local territories when he accumulated talent that made a decision that they would rather work for Vince McMahon as he was expanding his national territory as opposed to working for local promoters? Was that a raid? Certainly not in Vince McMahon's mind. Or certainly not in the minds of the people that work at WWE currently. Or the fans of WWE, or for that matter mine. Did some talent leave ECW and come to WCW? Of course they did. Because A, they probably weren't getting paid and they had to, in order to pay their bills and feed their families, and B, they recognized that WCW was a much stronger, much more secure, much larger international platform for them to ply their trade. Did they make that choice to come to WCW? Of course they did. Did some of them make those choices to go to WWE? Of course they did. But that's not a raid, despite what Paul Heyman and others would have you think.
Paul Heyman: Eric Bischoff is full of shit. And much like a lot of other people, never gave ECW the credit that ECW deserved. Eric Bischoff stole Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko from ECW in one fell swoop. Same way he signed Chris Jericho from ECW, same way he stole the cruiserweights from ECW. And it was a smart move by Eric Bischoff to do it. Because he was in a competition with WWE and he had to have the talent, and he found it them in ECW before WWE had a chance to sign them as well. It was smart by Bischoff to do it. I just don't like the fact that he never says "Yeah, I stole them from ECW."
Tommy Dreamer: If you watch early ECW, Paul Heyman was pissed off and hell-bent to... take down WCW. I believe when Paul had left WCW, he was actually supposed to come here and wr... do the whole Paul E. Dangerously in WWE. But he was just waiting, and then he started with the whole ECW thing. Paul had painted Eric Bischoff and WCW as... the most vile people and organization that you could ever, ever work for. You were joining the Taliban if you went and joined up with WCW and Eric Bischoff. Eric Bischoff was Satan.
Paul Heyman: It just... I-I didn't like them, and they didn't like me. I didn't like the way I was treated, they didn't like the way I treated them back. I pretty much told them to go fuck themselves when... they were treating people like shit. And I don't think they enjoyed that. This was during the Bill Watts administration. And Bill wasn't really a people person.
Tommy Dreamer: I think why he started ECW was because he hated WCW so much. He didn't have any beef with WWE. He *hated* WCW. And everything that they stood for. He had a bitter... contract dispute with them. Um... they screwed him over, and he wanted to do nothing but take them down.
Paul Heyman: Creatively speaking, I think the "anti-hardcore" promos that Mick Foley did in 1995 were the most creative and best-performed interviews in the history of this business, bar none.
D-Von Dudley: [about ECW's demise] It just died, at the end. I think Paul E. just gave up.
Bubba Ray Dudley: Paul did things his way. Paul was gonna live by the sword and die by the sword. He lived by his ways and he died by his ways. And that's why ECW's not around today. Because of... mismanagement is probably the best word I could give it.
Paul Heyman: I think the Dudleys are the greatest team in the history of ECW, bar none. They egged on a crowd, they antagonized the audience more than any other act in the history of this business. And they were *fearless* in doing it.
Lance Storm: I had a couple of bounced checks. I was working on a verbal contract at the time. And... he had put in a clause of, um... if there was a breach in the contract due to pay, he had thirty days to correct it. And I told him that was okay, but I wanted a "three strikes or you're out" rule where if he did it three times, I could walk. And on the third one, I went to him and said "We're on a verbal contract, I'm verbally breaking it. You've striked out three times. I'm no longer under contract. I'm not quitting, but if I have another check bounce, I'm leaving."
Mick Foley: I believe, uh, Paul E. is one of the- one of the greatest minds in the history of wrestling.
Tommy Dreamer: [about winning the ECW Championship] The night I won the belt, I was actually pissed off. I wanted to go my entire ECW career without ever winning a title. When Mike Awesome left, Paul put the belt on me because he knew I wasn't going anywhere. The only reason why I won titles was because guys left.
Paul Heyman: Mikey Whipwreck was part of our ring crew. And these kids worked on the ring crew for free as long as they could fly around the ring a little bit and, uh, just be noticed. And we noticed Mikey Whipwreck and he was nineteen years old, and he would take a bump and-and he had such sympathy. And... so we asked him if-if he'd like to wrestle, and he said "Oh, my God, it's my dream to wrestle." And he was trained and so we put him in the ring, and the one key was we never gave him an offensive maneuver. The next thing you know, he'd come out and-and-and the audience would just explode. And people fell in love with him. He took the best beatings of anybody you'd ever seen. And people fell in love with him.
Paul Heyman: There would not have been an ECW without Terry Funk. He was the only veteran from that era who had the reputation of being legitimately tough but also had the business sense to realize "I gotta get the next generation ready for there to be a business. For there to be an industry for me to leave behind something to." And Terry had that mindset. A-a lot of the veterans back then were unwilling to get the young guys ready. A lot of the veterans were still clinging and clutching, uh... to their- to their spot. You know, to their reputation of being *the* top guy, "I want to be the champion, I want to be the top guy", and Terry Funk just said "Oh, I can make him. Oh, I could make him, too. Oh, let me make him, I'll do something special with him." And did, with everybody that he worked with.
Taz: I used to call our locker room and our guys the land of the misfit toys. 'Cause we were the wrestlers that the other promotions didn't want.
Paul Heyman: The Dudleys were very, very, very important in the history of ECW. Because people paid their money to see the Dudleys get beat up.
Paul Heyman: The most emotional angle that we ever did in ECW was the one involving the Sandman's son and Raven. Here's Raven, who's doing the cult deal. And he's involved with the Sandman's ex-wife, Laurie Fullington. And along with Laurie comes Tyler Fullington, the Sandman's eight year old son. And here's the Sandman, getting beat down, beat up, and never caring. And yet when the Sandman sees his own son kiss Raven on the cheek and say "I love you more than my own daddy", the Sandman, on television, breaks down and *cries*. Openly weeps. Now, who can't feel that?
Tommy Dreamer: Paul never lied to the fans. He lied to the wrestlers, but he never lied to the fans. Anything that the Internet or any magazine or story that got out, Paul alloted time to address. And he would do it by going to the ring and telling them.
Jerry Lawler: The Philadelphia fans are some of the most vocal and, at times, most violent.
Paul Heyman: [about debuting in WWE after ECW closed] I remember two things about that night. I remember sitting next to J.R. and looking over towards him, and he just looked at me and went "We'll do just fine, kid." And I pretty much knew that we would. And I remember everybody in the headsets gasping when I said the line about Trish Stratus.
Paul Heyman: Hey, mom! I came to Washington D.C. and I'm gonna get to see Bush!
[back to the studio]
Paul Heyman: And you just hear about thirty voices in the headset *panicking*, 'cause we're live, and I have a live mic, and I'm talking, and Vince is in the ring, so there's no governor on me. It's just full-bore. And I think at that moment, they got a taste of who they had, and I got a taste of... what ceiling I shouldn't be crashing through.
Tommy Dreamer: Around that time, Michael Fay was convicted of a crime in Singapore. And it was a big deal here in the United States; he was gonna get caned, and how could America let someone get caned. We had the Sandman, who walked around and he was drinking beer and smoking cigarettes coming to the ring. In the early stages of ECW, I was labeled a pretty boy, and Paul came up with the idea of a Singapore cane match. And the loser of the match, uh, had to get caned. And I lost. The first time he hit me, boom, I went down; the place cheered. Second time, he hit me, the place cheered again. The third time, he hit me so hard, they could start seeing my back start to bleed. I remember the first couple of shots, they hurt like hell. And then after that, adrenaline kicks in. No matter how much I hurt and really wanted to stay down, there was nothing that would have made me. I remember fans telling me to stay down. I remember two girls crying, just telling me to stay down. People I... I didn't know. I just kept getting up and getting up. It-it was brutal. And ECW preyed on human emotion with a lot of angles. Paul made that "Rocky"-type of story. I remember facing off with the Sandman after that, and his lip was quivering, 'cause it was so emotional, and he was like "Oh, my God", you know, "We're living this great moment right now." That was a turning point in my career, but it was also a turning point in ECW, where it was a form of redemption to violence forming, and to the fans. It's the best drug in the world, that rush from the fans. And it's amazing. And that's... that's what always kept me going. Pretty much the fans.
Paul Heyman: We did a lot of things with the Sandman and Tommy Dreamer that-that broke a lot of taboos. We did the thing where Tommy Dreamer had a cane match with the Sandman, and Dreamer knocked the cigarette in the Sandman's eye and then caned Sandman in the other eye, and Sandman was blind. And-and we tore down the dressing room wall, and you saw both the good guys and the bad guys co-mingling over this hurt wrestler. And Tommy Dreamer saying "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt him." Which was *really* taboo back then. And then the Sandman, to his credit, stayed at home for a month. So that nobody saw him around town. So that you didn't say "Yeah, they're doing this thing, with the Sandman blind." He stayed at home. He never left his house, he never answered his door. His wife answered the door. It was unheard of back then for somebody to-to stick to the storyline to this degree.
Paul Heyman: [about ECW's financial straits] The wrestling business at that stage became almost like the... the dot com industry, in that it was an inflated bubble. It had to burst. And... the pay scale just went off the chart. And it became very difficult to afford talent. And these guys are turning down... hundreds of thousands of dollars to go elsewhere just to stay with us. And there comes a time where that's not fiscally responsible to your own family. So we had to step it up. We had to get licenses, we had to get advertisers, we had to get sponsers and the only way to do that is to be real enough to be on national TV.
Matt Hyson: It-it was a struggle. I mean, that was when we... a lot of the guys were starving, you know? That was when you were eating tuna and then rice seven days a week. Uh... so it was tough because the veterans that were there, uh, that couldn't put up with it quit. And these were the guys with the... the rest of the locker room looked up to. And, you know, here I was going "What the hell? Bam Bam Bigelow just walked out." Because he says this place, you know, isn't worth it. And I'm going, in my mind, I'm thinking "Is he right? Am I, you know, trying to stay on a sinking ship? I mean, it's obvious my checks are bouncing. Why should I be loyal to this guy now?"
Paul Heyman: Taz was untouchable in ECW. And... no one could imagine that Taz could lose a match.
Taz: When Paul Heyman came into ECW, Todd Gordon was the owner of ECW. At the time, it was called Eastern Championship Wrestling. And Eddie Gilbert was the booker there, uh... matchmaker.
Paul Heyman: Todd and Eddie had a bad falling out. And Todd turned to me because I was Eddie's closest confidante, and said "What do I do here?". And he had a big show coming up, at the bingo hall, which was dubbed the ECW Arena. I thought that the business, the industry, the presentation needed to change in the same way music had changed. Because music was all about Poison and Mötley Crüe and Winger and all these hair bands, and then along came Nirvana and *BAM*! The whole industry changed. So in the same way, I thought wrestling needed to change, in that wrestling had become the equivalent of hair bands, and we needed wrestling's version of Nirvana to come along and just shake everything up. And Todd gave me his blessing. "Come on in, take over the show, and do what you have to do."
Ron Buffone: ECW was counterculture, it was... cutting-edge, it was fan-oriented, we wanted it to look more like a reality-based product where, you know, all of a sudden, the spot happens, you run around the corner, and you catch it at, you know, more excitement.
Paul Heyman: There was no way to compete with the production values that Ted Turner or Vince McMahon could afford. They had million dollar, multi-million dollar budgets! We didn't! We had a very simple philosophy when it came to our wrestlers: accentuate the positives, hide the negatives. Well, the negative is that we don't have the budget to compete with WWE and-and WCW on lighting and pyro... why go there? Hide it! Accentuate the positives: best interviews, most action, wildest brawls, best wrestling, highest-flying cruiserweights, all these different things that we could do better than everybody else, we're going to accentuate that. Why be second best at anything? Why not say "Screw the lights, screw the pyro, here it is, down and dirty, it's all about the presentation. It's all about the audience's participation in the show."
Mick Foley: I got a lot of heat for spitting on the, uh, WCW tag belts. I still maintain that the people in charge would not have been so upset - Ric Flair in particular - if they'd actually seen the interview instead of just hearing about it. Because what I was doing, I was saying the tag team belt was important to me, but not as important as my pride, which I felt I had lost that night at the ECW Arena.
Stevie Richards: [about the angle in which Raven "crucified" the Sandman] The whole time I'm doing it, actually me and Meanie were there and, you know, Raven's like, you know, "Tie him up. Tie him up. Put the cross up." And I'm there going "Oh, this is... this is fucked up, Meanie. This is fucked up." And he's like "I know." 'Cause Meanie is Catholic, too, so, I was like "This is... this is bullshit, man." And that was a one time in the ECW arena where the fans weren't saying, you know, "Go to hell" and screaming, they were just... quiet. You know, Raven had to go back out and apologize to the fans. It was a big deal. And, actually, Kurt Angle was in the... in the arena that night. One, he was gonna come to ECW. Taz brought him in, he was gonna come in and do some stuff with ECW.
Kurt Angle: I'm sitting there watching, and I saw an episode that just completely shocked me. It was a crucifixion of, uh, Sandman, and Raven and Sandman's son. And it offended me so badly that I got up in the middle of the show, I went straight to Paul Heyman and I said "I'm leaving right now. I want you to send me my check. And if I- if I'm TV with that crucifixion, if-if-if my name or my face is seen on TV on the same program, you'll be hearing from my attorney."
Al Snow: The best thing for me about ECW was I found Head. 'Cause, you know, due to the grace of God and a plastic head, I'm here today. If I hadn't found that head and if I hadn't had the opportunity that Paul Heyman and ECW had given me, I really don't know where my career would have ended up. I honestly don't. And for that, I owe Paul E. no end of an amount of thanks. And to ECW and those fans.
Paul Heyman: We were in the right place at the right time in front of the right audience that wanted something different.
Al Snow: Came backstage one night at the ECW arena, um... where, uh... a lot of people don't realize that that's a bingo hall, but also on the other side they build the floats for the Mummer's Day parades. And... I was just rummaging around in the junk and we were taking a picture for the- a Japanese magazine and I picked up a styrofoam head, um... and I thought "Well," you know, I remembered back to a car ride that Mick and, uh, Sid Vicious and Bob Holly and I had where Mick was kind of fooling around with a styrofoam head that he had for his Mankind mask. And he was acting like it was his girlfriend. And I thought "I've been talking to myself but nobody's been getting it. I'll take this to the ring and I'll talk to it like it's a human being." And that was where the Head gimmick started, there in ECW.