Watch AEW founder Tony Khan pay tribute to ECW in the defunct promotion’s hometown in off-air footage from the most recent episode of Rampage.
After the most recent episode of AEW Rampage went off the air, All Elite Wrestling founder Tony Khan took to the ring to pay his respects to the now-defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) — a fitting tribute, given that this past Friday’s edition of Rampage emanated from ECW’s native Philadelphia.
In off-air footage shared by AEW as an online-exclusive, Khan invites the various ECW alums currently signed to AEW down to the ring, including former ECW World Heavyweight Champions Taz and Jerry Lynn, as well as former ECW World Television Champions Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko (the latter two of whom also had a legendary feud during their time in WCW).
CM Punk even joined in on the fun, reminding the audience that he too was, at one point, ECW Champion, albeit after ECW was rebooted under the WWE banner in 2006. Mind you, while the infamous “WWECW” has long been derided by fans of the original promotion, Punk’s involvement in the rebooted ECW has always been seen as a high point in the barbed wire brand’s short history. Nevertheless, Punk made it clear that he never would have been ECW Champion had it not been for the groundwork laid by performers like Taz, Jericho, Malenko and Lynn.
Punk’s involvement in WWE’s take on ECW is especially noteworthy, as the Second City Saint was actually invited to join the brand by legendary ECW promoter Paul Heyman himself, whom Punk had worked with extensively with during his time in then-WWE developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) in the mid-2000s.
As detailed in Punk’s 2012 WWE-produced documentary CM Punk: Best in the World, despite the fact that he had inked a developmental deal with WWE after a successful run on the indies, the powers-that-be had no intention of ever calling Punk up to Monday Night Raw or Friday Night SmackDown. However, thanks to Heyman, Punk eventually made it to WWE television via the new ECW show. In the documentary, Heyman described Punk as his “first draft pick.”
Based in Philadelphia, ECW was originally founded by Tod Gordon as Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992. In 1994, Eastern Championship Wrestling withdrew from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in controversial fashion and rebranded itself as Extreme Championship Wrestling. In 1995, Gordon sold Extreme Championship Wrestling to Heyman, who was the promotion’s head booker at the time.
The beloved but notoriously financially-unstable counter-culture promotion closed its doors in April 2001, with WWE later buying ECW’s assets out of bankruptcy in January 2003. ECW One Night Stand, an acclaimed ECW reunion pay-per-view produced by WWE, aired in 2005, with a follow-up show airing in 2006.
2006 was also the year WWE relaunched ECW as its own brand, with WWE ECW airing on Sci-Fi/Syfy from June 2006 to February 2010, at which point it was replaced by the original iteration of NXT. Interestingly enough, Punk isn’t the only person currently signed to AEW to have held the ECW Championship under the WWE banner, with others including Paul Wight (Big Show), Christian Cage (Christian), Matt Hardy, Jake Hager (Jack Swagger), Mark Henry and Chavo Guerrero.
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