Growing up a wrestling fan in the 1990s was incredible.
There are so many little things I look back to now that seem decisive in my development as a person — lowkey indie wrestling events in my high school auditorium, waiting in line at the grocery store to meet the British Bulldog, my extensive collection of oversized t-shirts, my brothers and I trying “this” at home when we’re explicitly told not to.
But the most important wrestling highlights in my life resulted from just being in the right place at the right time.
Every so often my brothers and I would stay at my grandparents house in Williams Township, Pennsylvania. This was very exciting for us because late at night, when we were probably supposed to be in asleep, something amazing would come on TV.
Public access television would air promos for ECW, the Extreme Wrestling Championship. This was a true gem of my childhood, because I felt like I was part of something special.I would brag about seeing this amazing hardcore wrestling promotion to my friends in school.
I passed on The Rock and Mankind t-shirts and bought the Tommy Dreamer one instead.
At a Friday night party when I was in the 7th grade I watched ECW on TNN in a separate room while everyone else was getting their first experiences with flirting. I probably had a better time anyway.
When ECW wrestlers started making their transitions into WWF, I felt the pride of what I would assume parents feel when their children graduate.
Now, I’m 30. ECW is dead, and wrestling is boring, aside from the few independent promotions that come through the 2300 Arena.
Kids these days will likely never get to see grown men flung onto flaming tables by other grown men.
They’ll never get to see people hit with barbed wire bats, or chairs raining into to the ring.
They won’t see New Jack jump from the rafters or Tommy Dreamer ask for more Singapore Cane Shots from The Sandman.
They will never have the opportunity to see Cactus Jack and Terry Funk beat each other to a bloody pulp, or Taz and Bam Bam Bigelow crash through the entrance ramp.
Luckily for wrestling fans of the ‘90s and in the Northeast, we had ECW. In Philadelphia, there is a distinct link to ECW. It was founded here on April 25, 1992, which may explain our city’s continued love affair with pro wrestling, or it could just be the fact that 1990s wrestling was all-around quality entertainment.
Here’s to 25 years since the day Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon decided to flip the script on the entire wrestling industry. To honor that contribution, we’re going to take a look at the famous faces of ECW, and answer the question that’s been on all of your minds.
Where are they now?
Paul Heyman was one of the driving forces behind ECW. He changed it from Eastern Championship Wrestling to Extreme Championship Wrestling, and encouraged characters to be extreme not only in the ring, but in their promos as well.
Now, Heyman is a regular character on WWE’s RAW program as an “advocate” of Brock Lesnar.
The “heart and soul” of ECW, Tommy Dreamer was loved by the crowd. He could really “take a licking and keep on ticking.” Dreamer’s iconic feuds with The Sandman and Raven catapulted him as the babyface of ECW. Dreamer is still at it today. He is the founder and owner of the independent promotion “House of Hardcore”, in which he currently wrestles.
“The Homicidal, Suicidal, Genocidal … Death–Defying Maniac” Sabu was known for launching himself out of the ring and into opponents, fans, tables, chairs, and really almost anything else. He was an icon of the ECW brand. As of 2015, Sabu is still wrestling in the indy circuit. Last year he was a guest on Action Bronson’s show on Viceland, “Traveling the Stars: Action Bronson and Friends Watch ‘Ancient Aliens’: Alien Devastation”.
Here he is just moseying around in the background.
The “Hardcore Icon” The Sandman was known for smashing beer cans on his head ’til he bled and beating his opponents, mostly Tommy Dreamer, with a Singapore cane. The Sandman was a five-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion. Sandman is still featured from time to time on Tommy Dreamer’s promotion House of Hardcore.
Taz could very well be the most decorated ECW wrestlers. In his career he has won the World Heavyweight Champion twice, the World Television Champion twice, and the World Tag Team Champion three times. He is considered the inaugural FTW Heavyweight Champion and won the fourth (and final) ECW Triple Crown Champion. Currently, Taz hosts his own Internet radio show called “The Taz Show” and has not wrestled since 2006.
— TAZ (@OfficialTAZ) April 24, 2017
Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam was loved in ECW for his high flying aerobatics. He and Sabu were part of some of the most legendary matches. It’s safe to say that any fans of RVD were doing “Five Star Frog Splashes” at home every time he entered the ring. Van Dam won the PCW Heavyweight Championship at Pacific Coast Wrestling in November of 2016. He’s also been starred in two movies in the past year, one called “Sniper Ops” alongside Steven Seagal.
“The Franchise” Shane Douglas played a huge role in getting ECW on the map. After winning an NWA tournament for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, Douglas publically rejected the title and declared himself as the new ECW Heavyweight Champion. Douglas hasn’t wrestled since 2012. In July of 2016, he was named part of a class action lawsuit against the WWE that claimed the WWE concealed the risk of traumatic brain injuries.