But Paul Heyman was fired from his job with cable TV's Turner Broadcasting Co. for being too controversial, he says.
He joined "Eastern Conference Wrestling," a local Philadelphia cable TV wrestling show, where his antics got fans' notice.
"We started adding other TV stations and cable networks left and right," says Mr. Heyman, now executive producer and majority stock holder of HHG Corp.'s ECW.
A pay-per-view event, "Barely Legal," garnered 45,000 buys, and Extreme Championship Wrestling muscled its way into the big time. More PPV shows and 150 annual live arena events generated buzz on the Internet among wrestling fans.
Last fall, ECW advanced beyond patchwork coverage on various cable networks to ink a deal with TNN, where its show airs once a week. Licensing deals have also exploded, including a hot-selling ECW-themed videogame with Acclaim Entertainment and a motorsports tie-in.
Mr. Heyman penned ECW's 1999 tagline, which really sums up the program: "The lewdest, the rudest, the crudest, the most insane, the most severe, the most extreme form of wrestling in the U.S. today."
A line like that is a love call to wrestling fans.
Mr. Heyman contends ECW now is attracting a 70% share of the estimated 30 million people who watch wrestling each month.
"Wrestling is my life," he says.