ECW took what had already been done and put it together in the context of one promotion. They took the technical wrestling that was done in Japan, combined it with lucha libre from Mexico and topped it all off with the wild brawls & hot angles of the southern territories.Of course. WCW from late 1995 onwards were doing the technical and lucha libre matches that ECW had been doing before them (think Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, Mysterio, Psychosis, Guerrera, Jericho), Steve Austin with long blond hair was basically doing in ECW in late 1995 what would become the bald headed Stone Cold persona in the WWF. The whole blending of faces and heels, of encouraging kayfabe and real life to mix where possible, the incredible promos that could draw gasps etc. was also in ECW long before the WWF's "Attitude".
So, while they did these things before WCW & WWF, they certainly weren't the innovators of it.
Bret may very well have been influenced by that but that particular dynamic didn't originate with ECW. Jim Cornette has talked about it often, from his experiences in WCW and Crockett years prior. It was the northeast fans that caused the planned Jake-Hogan program to be scrapped. And beyond wrestling, look at how Philadelphia sports fans used to behave at games.Bret Hart has himself talked about ECW fan influence on him turning heel in 1997, how ECW fans would go to WWF shows near Philadelphia, or the north east USA in general, and boo a lot of faces, which was starting to change the culture in wrestling, which was Paul Heyman's plan at the beginning.
Heyman didn't change the culture in wrestling. What he did was reactionary. Noticing the change and accepting it, rather than resisting it. And that was a philosophy he adapted from Eddie Gilbert.
When it came to presenting a compelling product, he was a genius.Paul Heyman was a creative genius. Nearly all the great stuff in the Monday Night Wars seemed to start in ECW, although the nWo started in Japan. Paul Heyman has said himself that the whole September 1993 and on period, until about 7 years later, while he was running ECW, was consuming him almost all the time. But in the last month or so of ECW, Joey Styles said that Paul Heyman was a "disaster" and "checked out", and that Tommy Dreamer was actually running the shows by that time.
But, he wasn't creative or innovative. While the big two may have copied him, he did his fair share of copying, too. To me, he was great at what he did but what he actually did shouldn't be defined as more than what it actually was.