1994: The Rise of ECW

The ECW took off under the NWA banner with Paul Heyman booking shows. 1994 would be a huge year for the company. All of the shows in the promotions history up to this point have been really terrible, but starting in 1994 the ECW would begin a steady rise in quality from show to show. It all started in February's "The Night The Line Was Crossed". The Night The Line Was Crossed was really the night that it all started for Paul Heyman's ECW. The show was an instant success, and would generate a tremendous amount of buzz in the pro wrestling industry for the ECW. All of the newsletter reading smarks of the time had to get their hands on The Night The Line Was Crossed tape. One of the standout matches of the show was a No Rules match between The Public Enemy and the Bruise Brothers. The Public Enemy burst on the scene in the ECW on Paul's first show(Ultraclash) as the booker for the promotion, and he pushed them as the dangerous, violent, thugish east coast hood rats throughout the fall of 1993.

Heyman booked the Public Enemy to be nearly unstoppable. At The Night The Line Was Crossed, The Public Enemy gave a glimpse of things to come for the ECW when they battled the Bruise Brothers in an incredibly stiff, violent "No Rules" match (received 4 stars from Wrestling Observer Newsletter). Another future mainstay that took a big step up at The Night The Line Was Crossed was Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer was being pushed down the throats of the fans as the clean babyface. The problem was that nobody liked him the way Paul envisioned. Tommy had a match against Jimmy Snuka at The Night The Line Was Crossed. Snuka played a snarling, villainous heel in an attempt to get Tommy over as "THE" face of the ECW, but it just didn't work. Something about Tommy was just not jiving with the Philly ECW crowd. Future World Champion Mike Awesome would also compete at The Night The Line Was Crossed. Awesome always was a very quick, strong, agile heavywieght that could fly through the air like a cruiserweight. Awesome did what he did best at The Night The Line Was Crossed, and nearly decapitated JT Smith with a dive over the top rope down to Smith on the outside of the ring.

In the main event of The Night The Line Was Crossed, Terry Funk helped out the ECW again by putting over their best two wrestlers in the very first ever 3 Way Dance match(or Triple Threat as it would come to be known in the WWE later). Terry Funk battled the most popular wrestler on the independant scene at the time, Sabu, as well as Shane Douglas. The three men battled to a 60 minute time limit draw that drew a standing ovation from the fans in the ECW Arena. After the match Terry Funk helped establish Shane Douglas as "The Franchise" in one of the all time classic pro wrestling promos. The match would go on to inspire hundreds of three and four way matches throughout the rest of the 90's, and generated the buzz among the Smarks of the "Pre Internet" era that the ECW needed to become #3 in North America.

After the match, the hype around Sabu and Shane Douglas grew to phenomenal proportions amongst the indy wrestling fans of the mid 90's. Sabu's aerial style of suicidal spot wrestling had never been seen before. Shane Douglas looked like "The Next Big Thing", and it was all really thanks to Terry Funk, and the original 3 way dance at The Night The Line Was Crossed. Looking back at the match now, it isn't really anything to get riled up about, but back in 1994, this was the match that put Eastern Championship Wrestling on the radar of the smart indy wrestling fans.

The very next month ECW would continue to push Shane Douglas. Douglas would win the ECW World title from Terry Funk in a War Games match by smothering him with a plastic bag. In April of 94, ECW would take another step up. When WCW used "When Worlds Collide" pay per view name for their AAA show in 1994, the title was already trademarked by ECW. ECW threatened to sue, but were able to reach a settlement out of court. As part of the settlement, WCW agreed to send two wrestlers to compete at the ECW's When Worlds Collide show in April. Paul Heyman originally requested Steve Austin and Bobby Eaton, but Austin was unable to make the show for some reason. Arn Anderson would take his place. Bobby Eaton would partner with Sabu to defeat Terry Funk and Arn Anderson in a tag match for the main event of When Worlds Collide. Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton's presense in the ECW at When Worlds Collide only helped to propel the promotion into the #3 behind WCW, and WWF(multi million dollar companies). The very next show at the ECW Arena in June of 1994, an old Philadelphia favorite would be making his debut in the ECW while still under contract with the WCW.

Cactus Jack became an immediate favorite of the city of Philadelphia when he was a regular in the Tri States Wrestling Alliance(the precursor to the ECW). In TSWA in 1991, Cactus fueded with Eddie "Hot Stuff" Gilbert in one of the most memorable, violent feuds in indy wrestling in the 90's. Cactus would go on to have a successful career in WCW, and would eventually win the Tag Team Titles. While a tag champion in WCW, Cactus was allowed to wrestle in the ECW Hostile City Showdown card in the ECW Arena in June. Cactus Jack was defeated in his ECW debut by Sabu. After the match Cactus cut one of his classic promos by spitting on the WCW tag belt before throwing it to the ground. This would be a move that got Cactus in a lot of hot water with his regular gig in the WCW, but it was a pivitol angle for the ECW. An angle they used to help establish themselves as the top indy promotion in North America.

Also at Hostile City Showdown in June of 1994, Paul Heyman pushed the Public Enemy into their first major headline feud. A feud that would establish them as a serious threat in the ECW. A feud that would put them over as one of the ECW's biggest draws for the next couple of years. The Public Enemy were defeated at Hostile City Showdown by Terry Funk, and his legendary brother Dory Funk Jr.

It just kept getting better for the ECW through 1994, from show to show, it was a constant improvement. By the summer, ECW Hardcore TV was hot(Best weekly show for 1994 by Wrestling Observer Newsletter), and the buzz for the company was there. The ECW continued to get more and more violent through the year, and by the summer the Eastern Championship Wrestling was already looking like the Extreme Championship Wrestling that it would later become.

Another important note about this time period was the relationship with Paul Heyman and the NWA's Jim Crockett. Crockett had originally planned for Heyman to book his WWN promotion once it got launched. As the ECW grew through 1994, Heyman's desire to run Crockett's promotion started to fade. Crockett was old school, and wasn't going to fly for the types of ideas Heyman was pushing in the ECW. Paul Heyman declined to take the job, and remained in the ECW. Soon after, ECW owner Todd Gordon declined an offer from Crockett for ECW to even further entrench themselves into the NWA by becoming an affliate of his WWN(World Wrestling Network).

The next show we are going to take a look at is another pivitol show, and another where the promotion just seemed to keep improving. Our next review will be Heatwave, from July of 1994. The promotion is still affiliated with the NWA, and they are still Eastern Championship Wrestling, but things are changing big time by now. ECW is starting to outgrow the NWA, and things are starting to get really Extreme.


Post a Comment