ECW on TNN was a television program that aired on The Nashville Network (TNN, now Spike). Created by Paul Heyman, the owner of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), it presented original ECW matches on Friday nights and was the only national television program in ECW's history. It debuted on August 27, 1999 - five years to the date (and almost to the exact minute) that Shane Douglas threw down the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and rechristened ECW (then known as Eastern Championship Wrestling) as Extreme Championship Wrestling. The final episode aired on October 6, 2000.
In 1999, Heyman signed a three-year contract with TNN in the hopes of expanding national awareness of his company. Prior to ECW on TNN, ECW shows were only televised via syndication. For its part, TNN added ECW to its "Friday Night Thrill Zone" lineup in an attempt to help build on the increase in teenager/young male viewership that RollerJam had brought to the network. Into 2000, the network claimed a vast improvement in the young male demographic on Friday nights due to ECW's addition.
Early signs of a rocky relationship between ECW and TNN came when TNN president David Hall implied that the program would be "toned down" from the usual ECW fare – which emphasized more violent matches and explicit content than that offered by the two leading professional wrestling companies of the day, the WWF and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). On WWE's The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, Heyman alleged that the requests from TNN to tone down ECW's content, including the removal of references to hatred ("intense dislike" was preferred) and objections to the show's theme music on the grounds that it sounded "demonic", were excessive.
It also became a source of contention, since it did not consist of original programming. Unsatisfied with the first TNN shoot, Heyman instead chose to air a compilation of promos and old ECW matches designed to act as an introduction to the company for those who had never before heard of it or seen it. ECW commentator Joey Styles said that "the network crapped on" this episode, and ECW wrestler Tommy Dreamer's recollection supported this assertion.
The network also had reportedly placed a great deal of importance on ECW retaining top star Taz. Initially, the company announced that he'd signed a lucrative deal to remain with the company. However, the deal fell through shortly thereafter and Taz signed a contract with the WWF just months after the show's premiere. His departure, coupled with that of The Dudley Boyz (who also joined the WWF), forced the company to build storylines around new champions only weeks after starting its first national cable television show.
Former ECW producer Ron Buffone also complained about TNN's production expectations. On Rise and Fall, Buffone stated that TNN provided ECW with a very small budget to produce the program while simultaneously asking for high-quality production on par with WCW Nitro and WWF Raw. This irritated Buffone and Heyman—not only because of the difficulty of meeting standards, but also because they felt ECW's "bare-bones" look was part of its appeal. Heyman and former ECW wrestlers also alleged a lack of promotion of the show by the network specifically and by its parent company Viacom in general. Heyman's dissatisfaction culminated in an on-air promo targeted at the network and a running storyline in which manager/commentator Cyrus portrayed a heel TNN representative. TNN muted Heyman's promo and ran a crawl across the bottom of the screen poking fun at Heyman's sanity (though the full promo with audio aired on ECW's syndicated programming).
ECW on TNN's run would only last thirteen-and-a-half months. As part of its effort to rebrand itself The National Network, TNN acquired WWF programming as part of an extensive WWF-Viacom agreement. The WWF's RAW Is WAR debuted on TNN on September 25, 2000. Despite brief rumors that the two shows might co-exist on TNN for an extended period of time, ECW on TNN was canceled only two weeks thereafter.
Having lost a significant part of its national exposure and left with various contracts to fulfill, ECW ran its final pay-per-view event (the third Guilty as Charged) in January 2001. The company folded soon afterwards, and Heyman appeared in the WWF shortly thereafter, with the WWF incorporating the ECW brand into its Invasion storyline later that year. Heyman has speculated that a new television deal would have left ECW a strong #2 in North American wrestling due to the sale of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) to the WWF only weeks after ECW collapsed.
TNN eventually rebranded itself as Spike TV in 2003 (and again as simply Spike in 2006) and featured WWF/E programming until late September 2005. Immediately thereafter, it began airing Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's Impact! program. Since ECW on TNN's debut, the network had consistently featured professional wrestling on its schedule until the end of 2014.