Guilty as Charged: Remembering the final ECW pay-per-view

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January 11, 2013

It has been 12 long years since the original ECW has presented a pay-per-view. When the final one, Guilty as Charged, was broadcast on Jan. 7, 2001, fans had no idea they were witnessing the end of an extreme era. In fact, advertisements for the next pay-per-view, Living Dangerously, were broadcast during the show. Yet while the hardcore faithful were unaware that their beloved organization was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, the competitors who were shortchanged on their paychecks night after night knew the end was in sight.

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“To me, it was the end, and I was calling the final ECW show,” commentator Joey Styles told WWE Classics. “I knew we were completely out of money. We borrowed money from everybody we could, including Acclaim video games and Original San Francisco Toymakers. The death knell was that there was going to be no Hardcore TV the following week. There was no money left to pay talent, no money left to rent buildings and no money left to pay the production team. It was over.”

Two years earlier, at the first Guilty as Charged show in 1999, ECW was at the height of its popularity as the alternative third brand to WWE and WCW. Paul Heyman opened the broadcast speaking directly through the camera to the audience at home, explaining changes to the evening’s lineup of matches. It was rare for the owner of a company to be that open and honest.

“The key to everything was our credibility with the audience,” Heyman told WWE Classics. “As long as they had reason to believe us, and believe in us, we maintained a relationship neither WWE nor WCW could enjoy. We never violated a stipulation. We offered refunds when there was a substitution. So when our pay-per-view lineup had to change, I didn't think twice about it. I was going to address our audience, tell them the truth and assure them the changes would end up being for the better.”

Styles agreed. “That’s how ECW was. We valued our fans above everything else,” The Extreme Announcer said. “They were as much a part of ECW as any of the performers.”

That show in 1999 also set a tone for Guilty as Charged being home to endings and new beginnings. In the main event, the first-ever ECW Champion Shane Douglas defended the title against rising star Tazz.

“If you look back at the history of the original ECW, the two greatest ECW Champions were, without question, Shane Douglas and Tazz,” Styles said.

Heyman knew it was Tazz’s moment. “I look at Tazz winning the ECW World Title from Shane Douglas as the logical progression of the championship,” the ECW mastermind explained. “It wasn't so much a passing of the torch, as Shane had been surpassed by both Tazz and ECW World Television Champion Rob Van Dam as the top attraction for quite some time already. The ECW Title belonged on Tazz.” (WATCH)

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