The Sandman – ECW’s Neverland Anti-Hero

The Sandman, whose real name is James Fullington, is a professional wrestler known for his hardcore style and his time in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), where he became a cult favorite.

James Fullington began his wrestling career in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He initially wrestled under various gimmicks in different promotions before adopting the persona of The Sandman.

The Sandman
[Photo: Instagram/Nancy Benoit Tribute]
Early Career and ECW Debut: Before becoming The Sandman, James Fullington, the wrestler behind the persona, wrestled under various names and gimmicks while he was initially there. He had a surfer-like persona, but with any wrestler trying to find themselves, Sandman was no different.

However, his arrival in Eastern Championship Wrestling (at the time )in 1992 marked the beginning of his significant impact on the wrestling world.

By 1994, ECW would stand for Extreme Championship Wrestling, under the leadership of Paul Heyman, was known for its edgy and unconventional style, providing a perfect platform for Fullington to redefine himself as The Sandman.

The Sandman’s most notable and successful tenure was in ECW, where he became synonymous with the promotion’s hardcore style.

After adopting an edgier character that smoked cigarettes and pulled from the notorious caning of Michael P. Fay, The Sandman would be managed by Woman and would initially be embroiled in a feud with Tommy Cairo and Sandman’s estranged wife, Lori Fullington.

Woman would open his beers and light his cigarettes while coming to the ring to Metalica’s “Enter Sandman,” all while he would come to the ring wielding a Singapore cane/Kendo Stick.

He became a beloved anti-hero figure among ECW fans. One that represented the rebellious and anti-establishment image that resonated with ECW’s hardcore fanbase.

[Photo: WWE]

The Sandman vs. Raven Feud –
One of ECW’s Most Notorious Rivalries

The feud between The Sandman and Raven is one of the most memorable in ECW history. Raven, a manipulative and cunning character, targeted The Sandman’s family and personal life, leading to a deeply personal and intense rivalry.

Their matches were brutal and violent, often involving weapons and extreme stipulations. The culmination of their feud at events like “The Night the Line Was Crossed” and “November to Remember” are still talked about among wrestling fans today.

The feud was built over several months, with Raven constantly antagonizing and tormenting The Sandman both physically and emotionally.

Raven’s psychological warfare, combined with The Sandman’s defiance and determination, created a volatile and explosive atmosphere leading up to their confrontations.

The matches between The Sandman and Raven were violent and unpredictable, often involving weapons and extreme stipulations.

One particularly memorable encounter was their “Singapore Cane on a Pole” match, in which the object was to retrieve a Singapore cane suspended above the ring to use as a weapon.

The brutality of their matches showcased their willingness to push the boundaries of hardcore wrestling and captivated audiences around the world.

What set apart The Sandman and Raven feud was its emotional depth. Their rivalry’s personal nature resonated with fans on a visceral level, drawing them emotionally invested in the outcome of their battles.

Whether The Sandman sought revenge for Raven’s attacks or Raven attempted to psychologically break his opponent, each confrontation was charged with raw emotion and intensity. In particular, the event that saw the crucifixion of the Sandman…

The crucifixion angle in ECW stands as one of the most controversial and polarizing moments in the promotion’s history, sparking intense debate and leaving a lasting impact on both ECW and the wrestling industry as a whole.

Let’s delve deeper into the expansion of this angle, its fallout, and its broader implications:

The Crucifixion Angle:

The crucifixion angle unfolded during a pivotal moment in the Raven vs. Sandman feud, which was known for its intense and personal nature.

At ECW High Incident 1996, Raven orchestrated a segment where he crucified The Sandman on a steel cross constructed from scaffolding and wrapped in barbed wire.

This shocking and sacrilegious act was a deliberate attempt to provoke a strong reaction from the audience and further escalate the feud between Raven and The Sandman.

The segment was carefully choreographed to maximize its dramatic impact, with Raven delivering a chilling promo before the crucifixion and The Sandman being restrained and nailed to the cross in a symbolic representation of his suffering.


The crucifixion angle immediately generated widespread controversy and condemnation from various quarters, including wrestling fans, religious groups, and mainstream media outlets.

Many viewed the angle as tasteless, offensive, and disrespectful, particularly due to its religious imagery and symbolism.

The graphic nature of the angle, with The Sandman being depicted as a Christ-like figure, drew intense scrutiny and criticism, leading to significant backlash against ECW.

The controversy surrounding the crucifixion angle prompted ECW to issue statements defending the segment as a dramatic and symbolic storytelling device.

However, the damage to the promotion’s reputation had already been done, and ECW faced increased pressure to tone down its edgy content and adhere to more conventional standards of decency.

One of those in attendance of the crucifixion angle was, at the time, an amateur wrestler who would one day become a WWE Hall of Famer, Kurt Angle. His experience sitting in attendance was nothing short of offensive.

“You’ve got to understand that I’m a Christian kid from Pittsburgh, and to see the crucifixion, was really offensive.

I do want to say this because I do want to get it off my chest – I didn’t understand the storytelling of pro wrestling and how you want to get the ‘wow’ factor.

Surprise people and get them excited or pissed off. A lot of emotion is involved in pro wrestling in telling a story. I didn’t get all that and I didn’t understand it.

When I saw it, I was like this is a crucifixion. It’s someone portraying Jesus on a cross, and I can’t believe I’m here. I was really upset.”

It was unquestionably a night Kurt Angle would not forget and wished he had never been there to witness in the first place.

The Impact on ECW:

The fallout from the crucifixion angle had far-reaching implications for ECW and its place in the wrestling industry.

While the angle garnered attention and publicity for the promotion, it also brought heightened scrutiny and criticism, threatening ECW’s relationships with sponsors, television networks, and mainstream audiences.

The controversy surrounding the crucifixion angle forced ECW to confront the delicate balance between creative freedom and public perception.

It highlighted the risks and challenges associated with presenting controversial and provocative content in a mainstream environment, as well as the potential consequences of crossing societal and cultural boundaries.

In the aftermath of the crucifixion angle, ECW faced increased pressure to modify its programming and adopt a more sanitized and family-friendly image.

While the promotion continued to push the envelope and challenge traditional wrestling norms, the controversy served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of crossing certain lines in pursuit of shock value and edginess.

Despite the controversy and backlash, the crucifixion angle remains a memorable and divisive moment in ECW history.

It symbolizes the promotion’s willingness to push boundaries and provoke strong reactions, while also underscoring the challenges and controversies that came with that approach.

The Sandman and Raven feud remains one of the most iconic storylines in ECW history. It not only showcased the extreme nature of ECW’s product but also demonstrated the power of storytelling in professional wrestling.

The impact of their rivalry continues to be felt in the wrestling industry, influencing future feuds and storylines that strive to evoke the same level of emotion and intensity.

The feud between The Sandman and Raven exemplifies their ability to captivate audiences with their compelling characters, intense storytelling, and brutal in-ring action.

It stands as a testament to their influence on the wrestling industry and their enduring legacy as two of ECW’s most iconic figures.

"The Sandman vs. Tommy Dreamer - Singapore Cane Match: Hardcore Heaven, August 13, 1994"
[Photo: WWE]

The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer –
‘Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another”

The feud between The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer in ECW is another legendary rivalry that defined the hardcore wrestling landscape of the 1990s.

In fact, the above quote best exemplified the change in the trajectory of one character while another was firmly heading for the main event in ECW.

The rivalry between The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer had its roots in mutual respect but quickly evolved into a bitter and intense feud.

Both men represented different aspects of ECW’s rebellious spirit, with The Sandman embodying the hardcore brawler and Dreamer symbolizing the underdog fighting against the odds.

But that wasn’t always the case. Dreamer’s initial time with ECW was met with some resistance by fans. It was, in fact, the merciless cane he received at the hands of The Sandman that created the Innovator of Violence that fans had long come to adore.

The feud between The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer was built over time through a series of personal and emotionally charged encounters. The storylines often involved elements of betrayal, redemption, and revenge, resonating deeply with ECW’s passionate fanbase.

This was no greater exemplified than The Sandman’s ‘retirement because he was blinded by a cigarette’. It was only to be nothing more than a ruse to draw in Tommy Dreamer and reunite with Tommy Cairo in the process.

Moments in the Rivalry of The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer

The Singapore Cane Match from November to Remember 1995 was a brutal encounter in which The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer beat each other mercilessly using Singapore canes as weapons.

The match’s physicality and intensity showcased their willingness to endure punishment and push each other to their limits.

The two also engaged in barbed wire matches. The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer engaged in several barbed wire matches throughout their feud, including encounters where the ring ropes were replaced with strands of barbed wire.

These matches were notorious for their extreme violence and brutality, with both men sacrificing their bodies in pursuit of victory.

Their feud’s personal stakes were heightened by their shared history and both men’s emotional investment in their rivalry.

The emotional depth of their feud resonated with fans and added layers of complexity to their characters, making their matches more compelling and emotionally resonant.

Lasting Impact:

The feud between The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer played a significant role in shaping ECW’s legacy as a promotion known for its hardcore wrestling and intense rivalries. Their matches helped define the promotion’s identity and contributed to its lasting impact on the wrestling industry.

The emotional resonance of their feud helped solidify The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer as two of ECW’s most iconic and beloved stars.

Their ability to connect with audiences on an emotional level and deliver compelling performances endeared them to fans and cemented their place in wrestling history.

Their willingness to push the boundaries of what was possible in professional wrestling has left a lasting legacy that continues to influence wrestlers and fans alike.

Their feud is a prime example of the intense and emotionally charged rivalries that defined ECW’s groundbreaking era. Their battles inside and outside the ring captivated audiences and left an indelible mark on the wrestling industry, inspiring generations of wrestlers to follow in their footsteps.

[Photo: Tumblr]

The Sandman and Sabu –
Their Homicidal, Genocidal, and Suicidal Rivalry

The rivalry between The Sandman and Sabu in ECW is another storied chapter in the promotion’s history, characterized by their contrasting styles and intense in-ring battles.

The Sandman represented the brawling, hardcore side of ECW, while Sabu epitomized the high-flying, daredevil approach to wrestling. Their clash of styles and personalities set the stage for an intense and memorable rivalry.

The feud between The Sandman and Sabu developed over time as they crossed paths in ECW. Each sought to prove their superiority in the hardcore wrestling landscape.

Their encounters were marked by a mix of mutual respect and competitive animosity, driving them to push each other to their limits in pursuit of victory.

The rivalry between The Sandman and Sabu in ECW was rooted in their divergent wrestling styles and personas.

The Sandman epitomized the hardcore brawler, known for his gritty in-ring tactics and rebellious attitude, while Sabu represented the high-flying, risk-taking daredevil renowned for his innovative maneuvers and fearless approach to wrestling.

Their clash of styles and personalities created a combustible dynamic that fueled their rivalry.

The feud between The Sandman and Sabu developed organically as they competed against each other in ECW’s hardcore environment.

Their encounters were marked by a mix of competitiveness, mutual respect, and personal animosity, with both men vying for dominance in the promotion’s hardcore landscape.

As their rivalry intensified, it became a focal point of ECW programming, captivating audiences and driving ticket sales.

Key Moments:

The Sandman and Sabu engaged in a series of extreme matches that pushed the boundaries of hardcore wrestling.

These matches often featured weapons, bloodshed, and high-risk maneuvers, showcasing the physicality and intensity of their rivalry.

From barbed-wire bouts to table matches, dueling canes, and the first-ever stairway to hell, each encounter raised the stakes and left a lasting impression on ECW fans.

Their encounters included moments in which The Sandman was so badly burned that a match was discontinued at the As Good as It Gets event in 1997.

The Sandman and Sabu clashed over championship gold on multiple occasions, with the ECW World Heavyweight Championship and the ECW World Television Championship often at stake.

Their title matches were highly anticipated and drew sell-out crowds, as fans eagerly awaited the outcome of their epic battles for supremacy in ECW.

Both The Sandman and Sabu were determined to establish their dominance in the promotion’s hardcore landscape, leading to intense confrontations and memorable moments that resonated with fans.

Their contributions to ECW’s legacy and the wrestling industry as a whole have earned them a place in the pantheon of wrestling greats. Their rivalry is remembered as a defining moment in ECW’s storied history.

Their intense and memorable feud helped define ECW’s hardcore identity and left an indelible mark on wrestling history, inspiring future generations of wrestlers and fans alike.

After The Sandman departed ECW, he joined WCW under the name Hardcore Hak. His time in the promotion saw him mainly engage in matches and storylines involving past ECW alumni such as Bam Bam Bigelow and Raven. Unfortunately, he suffered an injured shoulder and neck, and while he was out of action was released the following September in 1999.

But as the door to WCW closed, the door to ECW would re-open. The Sandman would return to the Philadelphia-based promotion, feuding with the likes of Rhino and even winning the ECW World Heavyweight title for the fifth time. He would remain with the company until its demise.

With ultra-violence still coursing through his veins, The Sandman would compete for Xtreme Pro Wrestling for a time.

He would then compete for periods of time for NWA-TNA/TNA/IMPACT!, rekindling relationships with past ECW alumni such as Justin Credible, Raven, and Steve Corino. He has even competed as part of the rebranded ECW that was home to the WWE.

After departing the WWE, The Sandman has competed on the independent circuit, even competing and appearing in promotions known for their ultraviolent deathmatches.

The life and times of The Sandman are seemingly interchangeable. Whether it be James Fullington outside the ring or The Sandman inside the ring, the lines were never blurred as he hardcore to the soul, carrying on the mantra of being the anti-hero carrying.