In an interview with Wrestling Epicenter, former WWE, WCW and ECW star Erik Watts talked about joining ECW in the year 2000. The road began with him working with the short lived promotion WXO Wrestling based out of Florida.
“Ted DiBiase told me ‘I’m starting this new promotion,'” Watts recalled. ‘”We’re going to put X number of hours in the can.’ He had already shopped the federation and had huge interest. He flew me down and we did, I don’t remember how many tapings. And on the last day of the tapings, there was a tournament to crown the first WXO Champion. I didn’t know anything about it going in. But, Ted came up to me and said ‘son, you earned it. You did this, you did that. We’re making you the WXO Champion.’ It was awesome! I was honored! And, plus, all the history with Ted DiBiase and Mid South Sports. I mean, I was like ‘I’m honored!’ So, we do the taping and after it, he says ‘listen. It is probably going to be a couple, two, three months but after that, we’re going to do house shows and there is going to be a huge contract. So, be ready!’ I said ‘no problem!'”
In between working WXO dates Watts then got involved with Dusty Rhodes’ Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling. A hang out between the two led to Dusty taking Watts with him to an ECW show.
“I was helping out with Dusty Rhodes’ Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling, I believe,” Watts said. “And, I was with Dusty in the office. Dusty always had a story about my dad. So I was sitting there with Dusty having a great time and Dusty says ‘hey, baby. Lets go down and see Paul E!’ I was like ‘Paul E?’ He said ‘yeah, Paul E! He’s got that ECW, baby!’ Now my first match ever was at Center Stage for Saturday Night. So, I was like ‘ok, I’ll jump down with you.’ I guess Dusty didn’t say anything about bringing me down with him. I didn’t bring any clothes. Rule number one is you don’t go anywhere without your ring attire. But, I didn’t! So, I get there. And I know 90% of their card. So, I’m there and Tommy Dreamer comes up to me ‘ERIK WATTS! ERIK WATTS!’ I was like ‘man, that is about as over as I think I’ve ever gotten!’ He was like ‘I watch all of your stuff!’
“I kind of laughed because I used to always dig recording ECW. I’d record it and watch it when I got home. So I knew all the guys but I didn’t personally know them. I love Dreamer! And I had a million matches with Raven when he was Scotty Flamingo so I knew him. Sandman, oh my God I was the biggest Sandman fan. Rhino! Dreamer goes ‘I didn’t know you were coming to the show.’ I said ‘well, that makes two of us!’ Then here comes Raven. Raven is just different. I love him. He’s one of my good friends. But he’s just Mr. Different. He’s like Willy Wonka! He goes “ah Dusty brings his young prodigy!’ And, starts doing his Raven b------t. Then another person comes out, and another, and Bubba Ray Dudley comes over. And, all these people are there. And Dreamer goes ‘can I ask you something? Is there any way that you would just come out and light me up with a chair and split my head open and leave me in blood?’ I was like ‘excuse me?’ Honest to God, I didn’t know what to say! He was like ‘I’ve watched you. It would be an honor if you would just come out and split me open with the f***ing chair.’ I said ‘it would be my honor!’ I didn’t know what else to say!”
Watts was soon after approached by Paul Heyman and was surprised to see Heyman reaction to Dreamer’s idea. According to Watts, doing things on the fly was just the ECW way.
“Then Paul Heyman walks up and says ‘hey, Erik! I didn’t know you were coming to the show,'” Watts recalled. “Dreamer says ‘I just asked him if he would split me open with a chair at the end of the show. Paul goes ‘oh! That’s awesome!’ I was like ‘wait a minute, guys! Isn’t this stuff booked already?’ Little did I know that is just the way ECW was! Things could change 44 times before it was all said and done.”
Watts’ father, “Cowboy” Bill Watts, had notoriously butted heads with Heyman while both were in WCW, largely due to Heyman’s high salary at the time. Watts discussed the rocky relationship with the two and revealed that he himself had high respect for Heyman.
“Paul E didn’t get along with my dad,” Watts said. “Not at all. But I liked Paul E because he was brilliant. But he was a s--t disturber. He got into trouble because he, lets just say he made up some expenses. And he got caught. My dad was like (to Paul Heyman) ‘you’re just so smart. You’re the dumbest smart guy I’ve ever met!’ My dad was like ‘I don’t dislike him. I just don’t like b------t artists.’ But I love Paul E!”
The experience with ECW was a good one for Watts and Heyman soon approached him about appearing with ECW full time. Watts had no issue with that as long as something could be worked out between ECW and WXO.
“So Paul E was like ‘I have to have you,'” Watts recalled. “I was like ‘here’s the deal. I’m working with DiBiase.’ He was like ‘oh I’ll call Ted!’ So Ted told him he could have me because he didn’t know if it was going to be 3, 4, 5, 6 months before we were up and running. But he said ‘here’s the deal. You can have him but we have to talk about matches where he’s not going over because he’s my champion and I can’t have him be a pigeon on your show. It would be bad for my business.’ Paul E said that was no problem.”
Once that was settled Watts was put in a program with Heyman, based off the animosity between Heyman and Watts’ father. To this day Watts is blown away by the heat he received in his first segment with Heyman.
“They fly me up somewhere in the northeast,” Watts said. “They did the deal where they hide me in the trunk. So I can’t remember the guy with the bull horn there but he was going to do all the talking. And Paul E was going to cut a promo on me. So I’m there, I’ve got my jeans on and my tight shirt and sunglasses. And, I go out there and the place erupts! I mean, that Philly place went nuts! I think I still have hearing damage from it to this day! It was off the chain! When I say that, I mean 6 year old kids telling me to stick my privates inside myself. I was like ‘WOAH! That’s a vocabulary!’ I wanted to be verbally abused. I learned something from 3 kids aged 5, 7, and 9 and I don’t even think they were brothers! People were spitting, throwing s--t, it was nuts! Paul E then cut this epic promo on me on what a piece of s--t he thought my dad is and that he always hated me. And I was walking back and forth for what felt like 10 minutes looking mad as he did it. It was insane. And I loved every second of it!”
Ultimately Watts would only spend two months in ECW. The reason, according to him, was usual wrestling politics and ECW’s inability to pay its talent.
“Then the political b------t started,” Watts revealed. “Paul was like ‘we’re going to sell s--t out from dusk till dawn with you.’ So, I’m excited for the pay per view. They said they were going to put me with, I think, Dreamer. Six hours or so before the show, they pull me from the card. I’m like ‘what’s up?’ They said ‘Erik, we just don’t know who we want to put you with first. Rhino wants you. Dreamer wants you. Raven wants you. Sandman wants you. They all want you. We just don’t know who we want to put you with.’ I was like ‘don’t kill yourself! You just named 5 guys! That’s a years worth of stuff! Just keep me hot and lets go!’ But, it just kept happening and they kept stepping on me.”
“Then I started to hear that Paul E was getting behind on pay. I had to make a stand. I said ‘listen, if everyone is not paid up before the pay per view, I’m not coming.’ Paul E called me 20 times ‘hey Erik, I’m sorry.’ I said ‘I love you. I’m having a blast. But, no.’ He says ‘the money’s right around the corner.’ I said ‘no, no it is not. These kids have been hearing it.’ When people didn’t get caught up, I just said ‘man, I appreciate it. But I’m good.'”
You can watch the full interview below.