What if ECW didn't close? Insiders tell all

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May 15, 2013

On March 5, 2001, Paul Heyman showed up at the Raw broadcast table alongside Jim Ross. It was a shocking moment. What was the brash visionary behind Extreme Championship Wrestling doing on WWE programming? ECW had been on hiatus for two months following the Guilty as Charged pay-per-view, but the assumption by many fans and ECW employees was that the company would eventually return. Heyman’s emergence as a WWE color commentator put the nail in ECW’s proverbial coffin (which, no doubt, would have been on fire).

But what would have happened if ECW hadn’t closed its doors? What could have kept it alive? What matches would have been presented at ECW’s next pay-per-view, Living Dangerously? Who would have been the organization’s next stars? How would ECW have evolved? WWEClassics.com talked to Heyman and others who were there at the company’s end to get the untold story behind the ECW that almost was.

What would you have wanted to see most if ECW didn’t close? Vote now!

The Players:

  • PAUL HEYMAN — owner and mastermind behind ECW, always capable of opening his mouth and delivering a Scarsdale surprise
  • TOMMY DREAMER — The Innovator of Violence and beloved longtime hero who still hears chants of “E-C-Dub!” at independent shows around the country
  • JOEY STYLES — The Extreme Announcer, widely respected as the voice of ECW for the duration of the entire company
  • RHYNO — The last-ever ECW World Champion and ECW Television Champion, which he held simultaneously at the company’s closing
  • STEVE CORINO — The King of Old School, who often put his body on the line and entered the company’s final pay-per-view as the ECW World Champion
  • JERRY LYNN — the recently retired former ECW World Champion, regarded as one of the best ring technicians of his generation
  • JOEY MERCURY — current trainer in WWE’s developmental system and formerly known as Joey Matthews, one half of a bright young ECW tag team with Christian York

WWECLASSICS.COM: When Guilty as Charged happened in 2001, were you aware that it was the end of the company?

JOEY STYLES: Everyone who was in the inner circle knew that Paul was scratching and clawing for that last lifeline, be it an investment, be it getting on USA Network — and there were discussions. We were close to getting that last lifeline. Knowing that there wasn’t going to be another Hardcore TV after Guilty as Charged, I knew it was the end.

Read more about behind the scenes of Guilty as Charged | Watch highlights

TOMMY DREAMER: We were hoping and praying. Paul was telling us all that he was doing everything in his power to keep us afloat. We had good signs. That show was sold out and it was a really good show. Paul was telling us that there were talks of us going to USA Network.

STEVE CORINO: I went down there that day thinking, “Ah, man. This could be it.” I remember one of the pay-per-view guys asking Paul if he should run an ad for the March pay-per-view. Paul told him to run it. People can say what they want about Paul — that he lied or manipulated. But to me, Paul was always the ultimate optimist. He believed he was going to save it.

JERRY LYNN: Yeah, I had a feeling. It wasn’t for sure, but the rumors were floating around and we were a couple months behind in pay. I had heard the night before that we were only getting half our paychecks for that pay-per-view. Things were looking bleak. They had been for a while.

JOEY MERCURY: I remember the second to last show in Poplar Bluff, Mo., we all went out after the show. I remember Sandman telling me, “I don’t care what anybody tells you, kid. This is it. It’s all over.” I was in disbelief. Minutes after he told me that, Dreamer walked in the door and sat down at the table. That clued me in, because Dreamer never came out with us. The next night in Arkansas, I went outside the building to look at the stars and Tommy came out and saw me. I asked, “Is this it?” And he said, “Yeah. This is it.” Tommy apologized and said, “I’m so sorry. I did what I could.” I got emotional. I still have the empty Budweiser can from the beer bash we had in the ring at the end of the night.

Visit Joey Mercury’s Alumni profile

PAUL HEYMAN:I don’t think this is any secret. Universal Music was coming in to purchase a minority share of ECW. Which is why, after we were off TNN, our videos started appearing on “Doug & Jimmy’s Farm Club” on USA Network. Doug & Jimmy were Doug Morris and Jimmy Iovine, the co-chairmen of Universal Music. The concept was: one, exploit the massive financing available from Universal Music; two, use Universal’s distribution for our DVDs and CDs; three, utilize their web development teams as we expanded into the ever-growing Internet platforms that were becoming available in 2001.

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