In April 2000, a contracted WWF employee defeated Mike Awesome (a contracted WCW employee) under the ECW banner. This remains one of the most unique moments in wrestling history.
ECW World Champion Mike Awesome Makes a Surprise Appearance on WCW Monday Nitro
If we explained to the average wrestling fan that a contracted WWF wrestler defeated a WCW wrestler under the ECW banner for their world championship, you would think that it was some twisted pro wrestling Abbott and Costello routine, but this exact scenario transpired over 20 years ago.
On April 10, 2000, reigning ECW World Champion Mike Awesome jumped the guardrail on WCW Monday Nitro and immediately made an impact by jumping Kevin Nash from behind. There was just one question, was Mike Awesome still under contract with ECW?
"He didn’t have a contract," Eric Bischoff explained on the 83 Weeks podcast. "Mike Awesome came to us like so many people did from ECW because he had issues of getting paid, and honesty and transparency surrounding that issue. He couldn’t take it anymore. Whether or not he had a verbal agreement with Paul Heyman or Paul had signed the agreement, but Mike Awesome hadn’t, there was a lot of back-and-forth over that. I did try to work with Paul to try and find a solution other than a legal one. So there was some confusion, but there was some dialogue."
Bischoff continued, "I think anybody that’s ever worked with Paul Heyman in ECW is going to be really honest with you. They’ve all had those types of problems in the past. The check was always in the mail; the contract was always gonna be sent next week. But there wasn’t a contract. We didn’t go to Mike. Mike came to us."
Years earlier, Lance Storm echoed much of Eric Bischoff’s perspective on Awesome’s decision to abruptly leave the Philadelphia-based promotion and noted that any heat was unjustified.
"Mike got a lot of heat for the way he left ECW, but a lot of that was unjustified. The true story is that Mike was owed a significant amount of money from ECW, and he refused to sign his contract until he received all the money due to him. After repeatedly not receiving money promised to him, Mike accepted an offer from WCW that offered his family financial security. I’m not sure there is anyone in the business that would have done differently."
During a video series for Kayfabe Commentaries, Justin Credible noted that Mike Awesome "probably lost around $50,000 in unpaid money."
A Turner contact with WCW offered Mike Awesome financial security along with a sizeable signing bonus. According to disclosed figures, his contract was worth $279,578.
With Mike Awesome Receiving a Hefty Contract from WCW, What About the ECW Championship?
Paul Heyman made a request to Vince McMahon asking if former ECW wrestler and current WWF wrestler Tazz could return for one night to face Mike Awesome. Vince agreed.
During an appearance on Bill Apter’s podcast, Tazz shared how he was approached about the situation.
"It was awesome, it was a lot of fun, but I didn’t want to do it. I remember coming back from the road, and I get a call on the phone from WWE, and Vince [McMahon] is one of the guys on the other phone. I was at the mall with my wife pushing my kid in a stroller. They’re like, ‘Hey, uh, Paul Heyman needs a little help.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ Vince was like, ‘Hey look, pal, they got a guy there who is holding the title hostage, and I need you to go in there and help Paul and take the title from this Mike Awesome guy.’"
It was now up to WCW to agree to this scenario, which Eric Bischoff ultimately allowed.
"It was just something that we worked out with Paul. I didn’t really care, and I know that sounds strange to people," Bischoff explained. "Again, it sounds like I’m taking a shot at ECW, and I don’t mean it to sound this way.
"By this time, they were on what eventually became the Paramount Network, and previous to that was the Spike Network. And previous to that was The Nashville Network. But their footprint, the size of their audience, was still relatively small. I didn’t feel that it was really going to matter all that much in the long run. And it was just something that we worked out with Paul, so we could not be going back and forth and spending time with attorneys.
"There was a lot of time spent with Turner attorneys trying to figure this situation out. And quite honestly, I was tired of it. It didn’t have a long-term implication for me. It was weird as fuck, no doubt about it. It didn’t matter to me whether he lost to a WWE guy, or an ECW guy, or anybody. He was going there to perform. We were going to wrap this thing up with a bow on it and get out of this mess and move on. And that’s kind of the way I looked at it, and none of it really mattered to me."
On April 14, 2000, Mike Awesome returned to ECW to defend his championship during a house show in Indiana. Mike Awesome came to the ring and was showered by chants of "you sold out!" Moments later, Taz made his illustrious return to the ECW promotion and was greeted by a hero’s welcome.
The match that transpired only lasted minutes long and was dominated by the Human Suplex Machine, who eventually forced Mike Awesome to tap out in the Tazmission to capture the ECW Championship.
Taz would drop the ECW Championship to Tommy Dreamer one week later.
This was the first and last occasion a contracted WWF employee defeated a contracted WCW under the ECW banner.
WATCH: ECW World Champion Mike Awesome makes a big splash in his WCW debut
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