They've been called everything from "That little wrestling group from the bingo hall" to "The little promotion that could" to "The blood & guts promotion", but if you were a fan like I was, you call it the ultimate wrestling movement. I decided to do a sneaker themed tribute to what I consider to this day to be my all time favorite wrestling promotion but want to give you a little story along the way, both of me becoming a fan as well as some background on "The Land Of Extreme" for those who might be unaware (and of course some sneaker pics along the way).
As a kid growing up in Philadelphia PA in the 80s (now residing in Brooklyn NY) I was a HUGE wrestling fan. I first discovered wrestling via the World Wrestling Federation/WWF (now known as WWE/World Wrestling Entertainment) during a time when guys like Hulk Hogan & "Macho Man" Randy Savage were the top stars. A few months into my being a fan of this phenomenon, I discovered a company a few channels over called the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) which boasted guys like "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, etc. While I still watched WWF I became an ever bigger fan of the NWA due to it's grittier style and more athletic based product. Plus there were other wrestling companies I followed as well (too many to name here) but the overall wrestling landscape was fun for a kid like me who was fully engrossed in it.
Fast forward to the early 90s.....the WWF's product was getting stale due to it becoming more and more kiddie-ish with cartoon-like gimmicky characters (stuff like Doink The Clown & Papa Shango completely started to turn me off from watching) and even NWA, which by that time had become WCW (World Championship Wrestling) also became a little stale in its own way i'd say by 1994, when they started bringing in former WWF stars & watering down certain aspects of their style. Meanwhile, a little independent promotion started up in my hometown in 1992 called Eastern Championship Wrestling.
ECW at the time was part of the NWA, which was/is an alliance of different wrestling promotions/territories around the country (which WCW had separated from by this time.....if you're not a wrestling fan or unfamiliar with the whole NWA thing it might get confusing to you so I won't go into that here because it's way too long an explanation). Anyway, ECW started off with familiar names from the past like Terry Funk (who became incredibly important to the company later), Road Warrior Hawk, Jimmy Snuka, & Tito Santana just to name a few. As time went on they began developing their own upcoming stars like Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, Sabu, and The Tazmaniac (who would later just become Taz) to name a few. The company continued on under the Eastern name until one fateful night when a young wrestler & future company "Franchise" named Shane Douglas won a tournament to crown a new NWA World Champion & made a speech in the ring that not only pissed off every NWA official, but launched what became a new era in wrestling.
The Extreme Era:
By 1994, the "Extreme" era was in full effect and would continue to progress. As the years went on, the company from the bingo hall in South Philadelphia would continue to make waves & be seen by people nationwide due to tape trading among hardcore wrestling fans as well as wrestling magazine coverage. The bingo hall, known originally as Viking Hall, became known to fans as the ECW Arena (and yes it really was an actual bingo hall):
(Actual sign that sat outside the building)
The building is still active to this day and has even been renovated/expanded. It's now called the 2300 Arena & still hosts wrestling among other events but to us fans who were there in the 90s, it will always be the ECW Arena.
ECW created lots of new stars such as Taz, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, New Jack, Steve Corino, The Dudley Boyz, Justin Credible, and Rhino to name a few. Some of whom would go on to companies like WWF and WCW and become bigger names. Many well known stars got their start here and/or passed through ECW before moving on to other companies such as Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Rey Misterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero. Steve Austin himself even said that his "Stone Cold" persona has some influence from guys like Taz & The Sandman. It's also pretty well known that the hardcore, edgy style of ECW inspired WWF's Attitude Era, which would be a major turning point for the company and helped them in their war against WCW for the Monday Night ratings. Many detractors love to say that ECW was nothing more than chairs, tables, barbed wire, and chaos in their matches but while they had those things, they also had a nice mix of other styles like pure technical wrestling (I suggest the Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko series of matches) and Lucha Libre (Mexican style wrestling with guys like Rey Misterio, Juventud Guerrera, & Psicosis). It was a company with a hybrid of styles but the focus was always on the in-ring product and had some edgy story lines and interesting personalities. When the internet started to become a thing in the mid 90s, they were one of the first companies if not the first to take advantage of it with the launch of their website and holding the annual Cyberslam weekend, which was a Q & A session with the wrestlers & fans around the world as well as an actual wrestling show of the same name. Its influence on the business was felt heavily back then & still is to this day.
Sadly, ECW went out of business in early 2001 due to bankruptcy but its legacy still lives on strong to this day. There have since been reunion shows done inside and outside the WWE realm (WWE owns the company library) as well as a few different documentaries and some of its former stars are still active in the business today. I am proud as a fan to be able to say "I was there" when it comes to a lot of those live shows in Philly and remember standing in those long lines outside the arena for hours because I knew at bell time I was gonna get my moneys worth every time. It was more than a wrestling company, it was a movement and the fans were like family....not just the Philly fans, but fans all over the country & world who had the pleasure of going to a live show in their area or seeing the product on TV and Pay Per View. There has never been another wrestling company like it and there never will be.
"EC F'N W!!!!!"
(P.S., These were done as a tribute to the ORIGNIAL version of ECW that ran from 1992-2001 and not that short lived remake done by the WWE in the mid 2000s.....the less spoken of that one, the better...Lol)
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