Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW)
ECW ECW! Three letters that changed wrestling in the 90s and forever. In the early 90s wrestling fans found them unsatisfied with the WWF turning to increasingly cartoony characters like clowns, garbage men, and hockey players. This led Tod Gordon to form Eastern Championship Wrestling which had a more serious presentation and put together matches more appealing to serious wrestling fans. By 1994 things were not improving on the general wrestling scene as WCW lost its unique southern style wrestling flavor with the arrival of Hulk Hogan. However, ECW had already started the ball rolling in a much different, more exciting direction. Following a tournament for the vacant NWA World Title (which had lost its prestige), Shane Douglas threw down the belt, declared himself the "ECW World Champion" with Eastern now becoming "Extreme". Under the leadership of Paul Heyman ECW went from a small promotion running out of Philadelphia to getting their first Pay-Per-View event Barely Legal in 1998. With edgy storylines, a mixture of great talent, including the legendary Terry Funk ECW was the talk of the wrestling world. So much that the bigger companies began to notice and started almost continuously raiding the company's talent. WWF moved from their usual fare to the fondly remembered "Attitude Era" which brought adult storylines and memorable characters like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, & DX. Meanwhile, WCW was also going a hot new direction with the introduction of the New World Order (NWO). While Paul adapted as long as he could the constant talent exodus and challenges of operating on a national scale eventually proved to be too much. That said ECW continues to be celebrated and deservedly so as they gave the fans what they wanted every time out and ultimately changed the course of the industry at a time when it was desperately needed.