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Looking At Forgotten ECW Stars

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Recently, WWE.com conducted a poll asking fans about their favorite “forgotten ECW star” and thus far, its yielded some intriguing results. That being said, another question that has to be asked is, should these particular stars have been in the position to be forgotten at all? Granted, the WWE Network gives more fans more access to footage than anytime in history, but did these extremists deserve another national stage after ECW folded?

Joel Gertner, the raunchy manager of the Dudley Boys during their heyday in the South Philadelphia based promotion, was one of the main pieces of the puzzle that allowed the complete package of the Dudley stable to get legitimate heat from the savvy ECW crowd during a time when the possibility of getting that type of heat wasn’t as common as during the kayfabe era of the business. Gertner also took some dangerous spots during his run so there was actually a payoff when one of the extreme heroes finally got to him. Simply put and this is meant as a compliment, Gertner was easy to hate as a heel and tailored his role perfectly to the ECW environment. On the flip side, Joel was over as a baby face as well and his verbal exchanges with Cyrus were anticipated openings of pay-per-views. While he had good promos, Joel Gertner was one of those performers that seemed to be molded specifically for ECW and it’s doubtful that he could’ve transitioned to another national promotion without a watered down act. That’s not a jab at him either, just that he played his role so well in ECW that it would have been diluted under more PG restrictions. However, Gertner is still involved with independent wrestling and started his own podcast earlier this year.

The late John Kronus was a product of the famed Killer Kowalski wrestling school and along with Perry Saturn, formed one of the promotion’s most popular teams, The Eliminators. It should be noted that The Eliminators were one of the teams that put an emphasis on tag wrestling in 1997 before the “golden age” of the division with the TLC matches a few year later. Kronus was a heavyweight that could perform some amazing aerial moves and while he wasn’t the most graceful high flyer, it was impressive that a competitor his size could do an array of top rope moves. He was probably too one-dimensional to transition elsewhere, but had a decent run there because his positives skills were allowed to shine. He left ECW in 1999 and had a brief run on the independent scene before he passed away in 2007.

Roadkill was one of the initial students to debut from the ECW House of Hardcore school and along with another HOH school alumni, Danny Doring formed a tag team that became the last ECW tag champions. The Amish inspired character was a heavyweight that was really agile and the wild style of ECW tag matches allowed for a simple formula to hide his relatively inexperience with only a few years in the business. While the gimmick was memorable, Road Kill was signed to a WWE developmental deal in 2005 and despite wrestling within the system for three years, he was eventually released. Road Kill shouldn’t be forgotten, but he wasn’t exactly the most well rounded wrestler either so it’s understandable that he didn’t resurface on the national stage after WWE’s ECW project.

“The Sinister Minister” James Mitchell is the one on this list that jumps out as someone who should still have a job with a national company today and he could still be a valuable performer for any promotion. Originally signed for the doomed “blood runs cold” angle in WCW, Mitchell sat at home for the majority of his Turner deal and there was speculation that the office didn’t realize he was still on the payroll. After two years off the radar, The Sinister Minister debuted as a cult persona on Hardcore TV in 2000 and he narrated some of the episodes. Eventually, Mitchell managed Mikey Whipwreck and Tajiri as well as becoming a notable character during the later era of the organization. After ECW folded, Mitchell had a few different runs in TNA and did exceptional mic work during them. The mic skills, the persona, and the ability to do just enough to get a talent over without overshadowing them, which is the key to a great manager, made Jim Mitchell a valuable piece of the puzzle for his angles. His work with Abyss gave the monster more substance and something to build storylines around, and really added a new dimension to the character. Mitchell understands the role of a manager and if used correctly, managers could still be used effectively today. Sadly, since managers are used to push angles, not t-shirt sales, it’s a nearly forgotten art form. That being said, James Mitchell shouldn’t be on a forgotten list, he should still be working on national TV.

Sadly, Hack Myers recently passed away at the age of 42 and sincere condolences to his family. Myers started in the early days of ECW as just a local enhancement talent, but he gained cult status as the “Extreme Shah” and had a run as one of the more popular competitors on the card. While his in ring ability was limited, he had a better run than most probably would’ve guessed and is still remembered as one of the more colorful characters of the Philadelphia promotion.

Similar to James Mitchell, Cyrus was a later addition to the ECW roster, but he was effective anytime he was on screen. Booked as the Network representative when TNN began interfering with the formatting of the TV show, Cyrus generated tremendous heat for the angles he worked and in the process, helped continue to provide intriguing TV when the promotion had declining star power. That being said, the roster at the time was still capable and Cryus’ mic skills added a sizzle that highlighted the potential of some of the younger stars, including Rhino. Interestingly enough, Don Callis had a somewhat notable wrestling career before he surfaced as the TNN authority figure and worked in several different countries in the early 90s. He was noticed by fellow Canadian, Bret Hart and was eventually signed for the WWF as the cult leader Jackyl in 1997. For whatever reason, Callis was abruptly released a year later and surfaced in ECW shortly after that. While The Jackyl character was booked to manage the cartoonish Truth Commission and later subjected to Vince Russo booking, Cryus showed the true ability that Callis had as a performer. He made a few appearances in TNA during its early days, but eventually retired from the industry and works for the Canadian trade commission. I would guess that Callis found a good job outside of pro wrestling and was content to make good money, but he really is an underrated talent that should’ve had a job after ECW closed.

During the early stages of ECW, when it was just finding its extreme niche in the otherwise stagnant industry of the early 90s, Paul Heyman still worked in front of the camera as Paul E. Dangerously and using his trademark phone, he called 911. The big man known as 911 would storm the ring at Paul E’s request and choke slam the jobbers that were going to cause a mutiny among the die hard Philadelphia fans. As 911 provided a conclusion to the intentionally corny segments, the fans chanted loudly for the rescue. As one dimensional as 911 was, the choke slam segment being the only notable ability he could bring to the table, he received some of the biggest reactions of early ECW shows. According to almost all observations, his few attempts at actual matches were disastrous so it’s understandable that his career concluded in ECW.

Chilly Willy was an example of an addition to the roster that could have done extremely well, if he was given the opportunity to develop his skills while wrestling for the extreme group, but considering the wrestling landscape was flooded with free agents in 2001 when WWE bought WCW, Chilly Willy probably got lost in the shuffle of the industry and hadn’t necessarily made enough of a name for himself during his rather short run in ECW to get a contract. Eventually, Chilly Willy was signed to a WWE developmental deal in 2004, but he was released a year later.

-Jim LaMotta

@jimlamotta

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