June 11, 2006
New York City
What a strange time this was for WWE, when Vince McMahon decided to re-launch ECW as a third WWE brand. In retrospect, a lot of people seem to think this was designed to fail, but I think the way this show is set-up disproves that theory. WWE put the full weight of their massive promotional machine behind ECW, bringing in almost all of their available stars (guys like Rhino, Raven, and The Dudleyz were under TNA contracts), putting them on pay-per-view and national television, and even adding several big WWE stars to their roster: Big Show and Kurt Angle, plus they loaded this show up with guys like John Cena, Randy Orton, and Edge.
Yes, the main event would feature Rob Van Dam cashing in the Money in the Bank contract against John Cena for the WWE Championship. It makes absolute sense for RVD to cash-in on his home ECW turf, where the fans are behind him and the match will be extreme rules. Also on the card ECW turncoat Mick Foley will team with Edge against Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer, Kurt Angle will face Randy Orton, Sabu will battle Rey Mysterio for the World Heavyweight Championship. That’s quite a card.
Joey Styles and Tazz are our hosts tonight.
Tazz vs. Jerry Lawler
Lawler is back in shithead heel mode, which is always what he’s best at. He goes to the announce table and slaps Joey Styles, leading Styles to jump on his back in the ring.
That distraction allows Tazz to choke Lawler out for the win in about 30 seconds.
Rating: ¼*. Tazz’s neck was too messed up to wrestle, so that was the best this could have been. Wouldn’t have minded a Lawler match with somebody else who was more physically fit.
Kurt Angle vs. Randy Orton
This is probably my favorite incarnation of Angle, insane Wrestling Machine Kurt Angle. He’s sort of a mini-Brock Lesnar here as a guy who is just totally unstoppable when he’s in his zone. And Orton is amazingly dickish here with his longer hair and pretty boy look. The ECW crowd fucking hates Orton and loves Angle, giving this a special atmosphere. “Angle’s Gonna Kill You” chants ring out.
This match is weird, but great. Angle’s style is way toned down here from how he usually wrestled. Sure, there are still some Suplexes, but he mixes in a lot of mat-wrestling and ground and pound so that the big Suplexes really stand out. And Randy Orton proves to be pretty good on the mat himself, able to hang with Angle. This seems set up to be a squash, but Orton ends up more than holding his own and is on the verge of winning at points. Angle is able to block the RKO and snap on the Ankle Lock for the submission victory.
Rating: ***3/4. Kind of a revelation of a match, with Angle displaying a style that could have extended his career if he had hung with it. The ECW crowd was totally appreciative of the bridging, the shoots, and the other amateur-inspired offense. Really makes me wish Angle had lasted longer on ECW, but his drug problems were getting out of control.
The Full Blooded Italians vs. Super Crazy and Yoshihiro Tajiri
Former rivals team up in Tajiri and Crazy. The FBI are Little Guido and Tony Mamaluke with Big Guido on the floor. This match exceeds my expectations as I was expecting filler but all four guys bring it. And there aren’t a bunch of huge spots, instead it’s a lot of cool mat wrestling and counters. These first couple matches are giving us a vision of ECW as a Ring of Honor-style alternative brand that could really work. This reminds of a match from WCW, where guys with radically different styles would get in the ring and everybody would just do their stuff. A Double Fisherman’s Buster on Tajiri gets the win for the FBI.
Rating: ***. Like I said, that was surprisingly good. Loved the stuff they brought here. Excellent addition to the card.
Big Show shows up and kills everyone. Kind of too bad that the guys worked so hard only to get smashed afterward, but it made sense to establish Show as a monster.
JBL shows up, cutting a promo up in the balcony. The heat here is excellent. This crowd legitimately hated JBL. The promo goes on a little long, and didn’t serve much purpose. JBL announces he’s taking over for Tazz as Smackdown’s color commentator.
World Heavyweight Championship: Rey Mysterio (c) vs. Sabu
This match is a bad idea. Rey can’t beat Sabu, Sabu can’t beat Rey. And there are no count outs or DQs in ECW, so it’s guaranteed that some bullshit is going to go down. The ECW crowds hated on Mysterio at these reunion shows and it was never totally clear why to me.
This is basic Sabu fare: chair shots, thrown chairs, springboard stuff. Rey breaks out a nice Moonsault from the top rope, and later a Seated Senton through a table. Sabu hits Rey with a Springboard DDT through a table, leading to a no contest.
Rating: *½. Was alright for the time it lasted, but that was some serious bullshit with the finish.
Mick Foley, Edge, and Lita vs. Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer, and Beulah McGillicutty
Foley turned on ECW, channeling his anti-hardcore character from ECW in the mid-1990s. He joined up with Edge, with whom he had become friends (despite engaging in a vicious rivalry with him just a few months prior). Foley cuts a great dick promo before the match, praising Stephanie McMahon and The Alliance. Edge calls the crowd a bunch of losers, saying they’re going to go home and jerk off to pictures of Lita. Lita takes some shots at Beulah, leading to the twist that Beulah and Lita are added to the match.
Foley tries to walk out on the match, leading to a brawl on the floor. The weapons come out, with trash can shots all around. Edge brings out a ladder, but gets hit with a Hip Toss onto it by Dreamer. Funk climbs the ladder and gets thrown off. He’s way too old to be doing that. Foley and Edge pull out a massive board covered in barbed wire. It backfires on them, and Edge and Foley were quickly busted open. Funk does an absolutely sick bladejob and is covered in blood. He’s helped to the back by medics.
Lita Leg Drops a barbed wire bat onto Dreamer’s junk, and Foley brings out Mr. Socko…then applies it to Beulah! Dreamer breaks it up and gets triple teamed. Total destruction by Edge, Foley, and Lita. As they turn their sights to Beulah, Funk returns with a barbed wire 2×4! He beats Edge and Foley with it, then lights it on fire! Everything is better with fire. Foley is knocked from the apron and smashes through the barbed wire board. This is absolute chaos. Edge knocks Funk down on top of him, then gets spiked with a DDT by Dreamer. Lita saves him, leading to a CAT FIGHT with Beulah!
Dreamer hits the Dreamer Driver on Lita, but gets slammed by Edge. Edge levels Beulah with a Spear and then humps her while pinning her. An insane and disgusting but great match.
Rating: ****. Not your traditional four star match, but everybody did a great job here. Foley, Funk, and Dreamer were nobody’s ideas of professional athletes, but they beat the shit of each other and worked the crowd into a frenzy. And Edge proved just how tough he was by outlasting all of them. Also, Lita and Beulah added a lot to the match.
Nothing about this match is allowed in WWE today. And that’s probably a good thing.
Balls Mahoney vs. Masato Tanaka
Filler. Makes sense to throw a cool down match in before the main event. Tanaka had slimmed down a lot here. Balls…not so much. This match actually proves to be pretty decent as far as five minute filler matches go. The crowd loved Balls, and for a big fat guy he moved pretty well. Mahoney crushes Tanaka with a sick chair shot to the head (unprotected) for the win.
Rating: *¼. Not too bad as far as filler matches go.
Comedy segment follows, with Eugene coming to the ring and getting beaten up by Sandman.
WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Rob Van Dam
The hatred for Cena is so visceral. The crowd is the best character in this match as they just rip Cena at every turn. Cena controls most of the match and is pretty heelish in doing so. Not quite as good as he would get at in later years, but he was still a work in progress as a wrestler at this point. Cena holding up a “Fuck You Cena” sign in front of RVD and then punching him in the face is a highlight.
Van Dam sells Cena’s offense really well here. Just bouncing all around the ring. Business really picks up when RVD gets to the ropes on an STF and the referee forces a break. So Cena decks the referee. Cena blasts Van Dam with the ring steps, at which point crooked referee Nick Patrick shows up with a quick two count. Then the plot thickens as a man in a motorcycle helmet Spears RVD through a table. It’s Edge…in a motorcycle helmet, for some reason. And he punches out Nick Patrick for some reason. This gives Van Dam the chance to go up top and hit the FIVE STAR FROG SPLASH! Heyman runs in to count the pin and Rob Van Dam wins the WWE Championship.
Rating: ***¼. It was good. Not the classic it’s been billed as. I loved the crowd, but I thought the actual wrestling was a little flat. RVD wrestled the same match he always does and Cena didn’t bring the heel quite the way he should have.
Van Dam celebrates with the title. He goes into the crowd and celebrates up at the top of the arena. ECW wrestlers fill the ring to join the celebration.
Overall: That was a great show. Not only on its own in a vacuum, but also as an introduction to the new ECW brand. This didn’t feel like a WWE show from the time. It just had its own atmosphere, its own wrestling style, and it was shot differently. The commentary from Styles and Tazz didn’t sound like what you’d hear on Raw or Smackdown as they were actually calling holds and focusing on the match. I actually enjoyed the technical matches on the undercard more than a lot of the hardcore stuff, the Foley/Edge/Funk/Dreamer match excepted. This had people excited for ECW, and for good reason.
Of course, from here everything went wrong. Van Dam and Sabu got pulled over and cited for DUI, leading to suspensions for both of them and Van Dam dropping the WWE and ECW Titles prematurely. Angle was suspended for violating the Wellness Policy and then released when he refused to go to rehab. After such a great atmosphere for this show, the subsequent ECW TVs were shot after Smackdown in front of worn out crowds in soulless arenas. And when they came back to the Hammerstein Ballroom they decided it was a good idea to book Batista vs. Big Show as the main event. This all culminated with December 2 Dismember, one of the worst pay-per-views in wrestling history. After that, Paul Heyman was fired and any tie to the original ECW was gone. But we’ll always have One Night Stand.