WrestleWatch Vault: ECW One Night Stand 2006
Diving into the archives for this edition of WrestleWatch! As I've mentioned previously, I'm working my way through the "Ruthless Aggression" Era on the WWE Network. It's the period of time in WWE following the acclaimed Attitude Era, and it bridged the gap between the young adult-oriented mature content we saw from the likes of Austin, Rock and DX in the late 90s, early 2000s, to the more polished PG friendly WWE that came into play around 2008. For the purposes of my viewing, it ranges from July 2002- when the first brand split was solidified with Bischoff and Steph installed as GMs- to Summerslam 2006- I got Foxtel the day after that event and so commenced my weekly viewing of WWE. So, sitting here at ECW One Night Stand, I have two months of content to go to be all caught up.
I opted to review this event for a few reasons. First of all, I plan to do a WrestleWatch for all the remaining Ruthless Aggression PPVs, up to and including Summerslam. Second, the original ECW One Night Stand was one of my all time favourite PPVs, which gives the sequel more significance for me personally. Also, WWE's review of ECW is almost universally panned- to the point where the WWE Network even has documentaries and podcasts detailed how much of a fuck up it all was. But I remember this One Night Stand show being pretty good, and had the weekly WWECW being a product closer in tone to what this PPV presented, I believe it would be much more fondly remembered.
The beauty of coming across these shows by working show by show through the WWE Network is that I get to see all the build up. Buoyed by the success of the original ECW One Night Stand PPV, a reunion show for the defunct Philadelphia wrestling promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling, Vince McMahon decided to re-launch ECW as a third WWE brand in June 2006. It would provide an alternative to Raw and Smackdown, and be a breeding ground for up and coming WWE talent. In many ways, WWE's ECW was like a beta version of what NXT eventually became. Adding to that WWE/NXT comparison, originally the relaunch of ECW was pitched as a weekly show to be streamed on WWE.com, which in 2006 was WAY ahead of its time. Credit has been given to Shane McMahon for that idea. Good thinking, Shane O Mac. But the idea did not come to fruition, and ECW gained a TV slot on the Sci Fi (Sy Fy) channel instead on Tuesday nights, taking place after Smackdown. Just like 205 Live used to. Wow, a lot of parallels to current WWE stuff here.
Using the ECW name/brand/assets was a no brainer. WWE acquired the trademarks of ECW a short while after Paul Heyman filed for bankruptcy in 2001. I've heard conflicting things about the legalities surrounding that. While WCW was purchased by WWE in early 2001, apparently the rights to ECW were in limbo until 2003, when everything was finalised. I'm not 100% sure on the facts of that, but it follows that WWE started releasing footage from the ECW library for home video releases around 2003/2004, most notably on the Rise And Fall of ECW DVD, which sold extremely well and let WWE know that there was demand for the ECW product. Funnily enough, WWE incorporated ECW branding, characters, logos, wrestlers into their TV product in 2001. I guess, Paul Heyman wasn't going to sue them, he was on the WWE payroll, and if an external company held those rights at the time, they didn't care enough about pro wrestling to send any cease and desist letters. Remember all the drama that used to surround TNA wrestlers going to WWE and using their characters, or vice versa?
Anyway, tangent. WWE saw that there was money to be made using ECW. The 2005 edition of One Night Stand was a major success, attracting more buys than WWE PPVs in the same time period, and receiving critical acclaim for a show packed with energy, passion and drama. WWE had the rights, and they also had a plethora of wrestlers at their disposal with ties to the original ECW. So in 2006, the booty call was made. WWE was going to fuck with ECW. The question was, would ECW be sore or satisfied afterwards?
WWE weren't just doing a one-off nostalgia trip. The new brand had to be viable going forward on a weekly basis. So, the centerpiece of WWECW would be the most successful active wrestler WWE had with strong ties to ECW- Rob Van Dam. RVD started in ECW in 1996 and remained with the company until its close in 2001, at which time he jumped to WWE and was probably the only real success story of the ill-fated Invasion angle, immediately gaining popularity with the fans. As the years went on, Van Dam was a key part of WWE's upper midcard, winning Intercontinental, Hardcore and Tag Team Championships. But he had never won the big one.
At the Royal Rumble 2006, RVD returned from being on the shelf a full year with a knee injury. He hadn't missed a beat, and soon after at Wrestlemania 22, Van Dam became just the second man to win the Money In The Bank briefcase, enabling him to receive a WWE Championship opportunity any time and place he chose. Unlike his predecessor Edge, Rob Van Dam gave John Cena a heads-up on the cash in. The time? June 11, 2006. The place? ECW One Night Stand.
So, One Night Stand had a big headline attraction to draw interest, in Rob Van Dam vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship. Wanting this event and brand to be a success, WWE threw more big names at it, some with ties to the original ECW, some without. Mick Foley was a big star with notable ties to ECW. At WM22, he faced Edge in a Hardcore Match that stole the show. A couple of months later, Foley turned heel and sided with Edge, proclaiming their WM match the "greatest Hardcore match of all time" and generally looking down on ECW and the hardcore style wrestlers associated with it. He furthered his turn by emphasising how he became a big time WWE Superstar. Paul Heyman took exception to this, accusing Foley of "prostituting his legacy" and laying down the challenge- Edge & Foley against orignal ECW icons Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer.
Vince McMahon granted Heyman two draft picks to help get the new ECW off the ground, one from Raw and one for Smackdown. The one from Raw was a no-brainer, Rob Van Dam. The Smackdown choice was from left field- Kurt Angle! In 2006, Angle had the moniker of "The Wrestling Machine", which seemed at odds with ECW's hardcore reputation (in fact Angle legitimately walked out of an ECW show in 1996 in disgust), but this was billed as a "new breed unleashed" and Angle was there to bring a different style and intensity to the new ECW. He issued a challenge to any competitor... in a clever line that created a bit of buzz, "from any ring, four sided, six sided, or eight sided", alluding to the possibility of an opponent coming from TNA or even UFC. The man to accept the challenge would be Randy Orton- the antithesis of everything ECW was ever about. But yay, star power.
Heyman issued an open invite to anyone that wanted to join ECW. It yielded a few lower card jumps, such as Al Snow, Stevie Richards and Nunzio (or Little Guido). But more star power was on its way. During a special WWE vs. ECW Head To Head special, Big Show would turn on WWE and join the Extreme brand. At this point, Show's face/heel turns in WWE were still in the single digits, so this was still pretty impactful. Have to give WWE credit, they were committed to putting all their resources towards making the ECW relaunch a success. At the same time, bringing so many "WWE guys" in made it harder for the ECW originals to stand out. That was also one of the many, many problems with the WCW/ECW Invasion angle in 2001.
One of the WWE guys that Paul Heyman tried to get hold of for the ECW brand was Rey Mysterio. the reigning World Champion after his underdog victory at Mania. Mysterio politely declined the offer to join the brand full-time, but he would be a presence on the One Night Stand card as a ECW alumni in his own right, defending the gold against Sabu, one of the biggest stars in ECW history. This was something of a dream match.
So, One Night Stand 2006 was the official beginning of WWECW. It wasn't all bad, I promise. Let's do this!
Paul Heyman opened the show with a heartfelt promo. Unlike last year, where he launched into a profanity-laden and controversial shoot promo, he simply thanked the fans for making the relaunch of ECW possible. He seemed so genuinely grateful and emotional to see his creation get another shot at prosperity. Poor Paul.
Match 1: Taz def. Jerry "The King" Lawler (at 00:35)
Thoughts: More of an angle than a match. In the lead up, Lawler reprised his 1997 role of hating on all things ECW, constantly taking shots at it on Raw colour commentary. Tazz, at the time a Smackdown announcer, took exception to Lawler's barbs. It was all a good way to promote the PPV without eating up too much airtime, honestly. Lawler walks out in the Hammerstein Ballroom in full heel mode, contrasting to his usual face/tweener presentation on WWE programming. With a smug smirk on his face, he slaps the glasses off Joey Styles- Styles had sensationally quit working on Raw commentary alongside Lawler roughly a month earlier in a worked shoot promo. So, Lawler saunters to the ring, Styles tries to retailiate and jumps on King's back with a sleeper hold. Lawler easily shakes him off and sets up young Joseph for a piledriver. Taz stops it by locking in the Tazmission and The King goes to sleep! The ECW faithful roar in approval. Good fun. (**)
Match 2: Kurt Angle def. Randy Orton (at 15:07)
Thoughts: This was a good match, but starting things off with a lot of WWE influence early, which does raise some alarm bells for how ECW was going to be handled moving forward. Orton even got pyro! This was a solid, unspectacular match made a million times better by the hostile crowd. I feel like "hostile" is putting it too mildly. "Brutal", "vicious", maybe? Angle was working a slower, more mat based style here- his body was severely banged up around this time, but he was still able to maintain an intense aura. Orton, who doesn't have a fast-paced style at the best of times, had to really put on the brakes to differentiate from Angle's pace and really heel it up, constantly bailing to the outside and using lots of lazy rest holds. The ECW crowd took the bait wonderfully though, with taunts of "pussy", "you can't wrestle" and straight up "fuck you Orton". There was a really nice sequence where Angle kept trying to suplex Randy and it kept getting denied, which was drawing more and more heat until Angle finally hit a German and the place exploded. Maximising reactions and limiting bumps, very smart work. Eventually, Angle locked in the Ankle Lock, and to the chorus of rabid chants of "break his ankle!", the Legend Killer is forced to tap out. (***1/2)
It's such a shame that Kurt's body broke down the way it did and he left WWE a couple of months later. The Wrestling Machine thing in ECW really seemed to click, especially on this night.
Match 3: The FBI (Little Guido & Tony Mamaluke w/ Big Guido) def. Tajiri & Super Crazy (at 12:24)
Thoughts: A fast-paced mix of styles. Crazy brought the lucha libre, Tajiri brought the Japanese strong style with his trademark strikes, Guido had his submission shoot style, and Mamaluke seemed like he could do it all. Guido had spent a few years in WWE at this point as Nunzio, and captured the Cruiserweight Championship at one point. Styles and Tazz spend a lot of the match making Italian jokes, but also make a point of explicitly calling the action and actual holds as well. This was a good way to remind/inform fans that ECW was more than hardcore gimmick wrestling, a nice dose of workrate/spots to bring the excitement level up. Tajiri, who was brought in for a one-shot appearance after retiring from WWE six months earlier, took the pin following a double Muscle Buster from the FBI. Cool finish. (***)
Post-match, Big Show walks out to a remixed version of his WWE theme song. He starts cleaning house, taking out Big Guido (who was almost his equal size-wise) with ease. He hits Tony Mamaluke with a Cobra Clutch slam that sends him spinning across the ring like a Frisbee. The Hammerstein Ballroom gives him a favourable reaction. Big Show looks rejuvenated here after treading water for a couple of years on Smackdown and Raw. Say what you will, but I think his run in WWECW was some of the best work of his career.
A familiar voice elicits immediate boos from the ECW fans... it's JBL! JBL cuts a promo disparaging the ECW fans and product much like last year. He brags that last time he was there, he beat up a "certain blue piece of crap" (Blue Meanie) and nothing happened to him. With Tazz leaving Smackdown to do ECW commentary, and JBL retiring from active competition a month earlier, Bradshaw announces that he is "the new voice of Smackdown".
Match 4: World Championship- Rey Mysterio vs. Sabu ends in a no-contest (at 9:10)
Thoughts: The ring announcer calls this an 'Extreme Rules" match as we get things started, which was a tad suspicious... shouldn't an ECW show inherently have no rules? Mysterio wears a mask with "ECW" emblazoned on the back, which Tazz calls a "suck up deal". I love Tazz. Sabu brings a chair to the ring and immediately hurls it at the champ. Credit to Rey, he's game, and he and Sabu take turns using the chair for some innovative springboard moves. Sabu fucks up a couple of times but in a weird way it added to the chaos of the match. They didn't want Rey to lose the title, and they didn't want Sabu to take a loss in his ECW home, so they went with a non-finish where Sabu hit a triple jump DDT through a table to the outside. Awesome looking spot, but the fans were NOT happy with the lack of a finish. Much like my issue with the HIAC match last week, these type of gimmick matches need a definitive finish. Calling it off because it "went too far"- both in the HIAC and this "Extreme Rules" match- hurts fan investment in the gimmicks. When it's sold as anything goes, but they do finishes like this... it makes it really hard to buy in. Loud, angry chants of "bullshit" rain down on Rey and Sabu. Legitimately think it would have went over better if Rey had won on a fluky roll-up. It was really fun action while it lasted, though. (***1/2)
Match 5: Extreme Rules- Edge, Mick Foley & Lita def. Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer & Beulah McGillicutty (at 18:45)
Thoughts: This was an all-out homage to the most famed aspect of the original ECW- the almost barbaric levels of hardcore wrestling. Weapons aplenty, including a lot of barbed wire, and even fire! Pre-match, Foley, Edge and Lita do some mic work to rile the crowd up, which brings out Beulah to get in Lita's face and change the originally advertised 2-on-2 match to a six-person mixed tag. Despite this, Beulah and Lita actually stay on the apron for the majority of the match while Edge, Foley, Funk and Dreamer basically kill each other. Lots of blood. Funk is taken out at one point after Foley maims his eye, only for the original Hardcore Legend to make a dramatic return later in the match, wrapped up in bandages like some kind of mummy, or a pirate with dementia. The match ends when Beulah finds herself in the path of Edge, who Spears her and covers her with her legs in the air- and yep, it's just as sexual as it sounds. Well, maybe not quite. He PRETENDS to fuck her as the 3 count goes down. Edge was such a glorious scumbag around this time. This was truly a spectacle. Not the kind that you'd want to see all the time, but as a rare special attraction, it worked well (****).
Match 6: Balls Mahoney def. Masato Tanaka (at 5:03)
Thoughts: This was the definition of a buffer match. The presence of Tanaka evokes memories of the insane match he had with Mike Awesome at the first One Night Stand, but they didn't come close to that level of concussion causing. Pretty standard match with a little brawling. Balls actually had one of the better runs of the ECW Originals in WWE's ECW. Plus, he got to do a romance angle with Kelly Kelly, which had to be a career highlight. He gets the W with one single crushing chair shot, using a custom chair. (*1/2)
We're preparing for the big main event, but Stephen DeAnglis is interrupted by the music of Eugene! Eugene does his usual schtick as a "special" wrestler, and gets booed out of the building as Styles and Tazz note that he is everything ECW is not. Eugene hilariously mis-hears every insult hurled his way, "Are you saying 'boo' or 'U' for 'Eugene'?" and "Good luck to you, too". Eugene says a poem about how much he loves ECW, and is interrupted by the Sandman! Sandman unfortunately has new music (WWE couldn't afford Metallica again), but the crowd is still ecstatic to see him. Sandman canes the shit out of Eugene. All is right in the world. Alright, NOW it's main event time.
Match 7: WWE Championship- Rob Van Dam def. John Cena (at 20:40)
Thoughts: The atmosphere for this was absolutely incredible. Even watching it back 13 years after it happened, it still gave me goosebumps. I can only imagine how it would have felt to actually be in the Hammerstein Ballroom on June 11, 2006. The crowd absolutely ADORES Rob Van Dam, and hates John Cena with the greatest of passion. The infamous sign 'If Cena Wins, We Riot" is shown on camera. I can only imagine what would have happened if that went down. Every time RVD hit an offensive move, the crowd erupted in cheers. Every time Cena hit a move, they exploded into vicious boos and jeers. Cena proves that he can get hardcore here, but Van Dam shows great resilience, buoyed by the crowd. Eventually, Cena gets pissed and decks the ECW referee. We get a run in by a man wearing a long black coat and motorcycle helmet. He Spears Cena through a table and reveals himself as Edge! Styles screams, "Capitalise, Rob, we'll take it!" RVD hits the Five Star Frog Splash and finally wins the big one, holding the WWE Championship for the first time in his career. Action-wise, it was pretty good, but the crowd atmosphere carried this to something special. No point in Cena and RVD doing death-defying spots when they could make everyone lose their shit over a single punch. In that sense, it was brilliant, pro wrestling at its finest. The finish was a bit of a mess, as RVD won directly because of Edge's interference, which does take some shine of the babyface victory. The way to do that was shown with Brock vs. Eddie at No Way Out 2004- have that interference lead to a close near fall, THEN have the challenger hit the Frog Splash for the win. That way, the champ has an out due to the interference, but the challenger can claim a more credible victory (***3/4)
On this night, WWE's re-launch of ECW was a success. What followed in the months to come wasn't, but One Night Stand 2006 was an encouraging rebirth of the Extreme wrestling promotion. In hindsight, there were a few indicators that things could go sideways on this show (Rey vs. Sabu especially), but as a stand-alone show, this found a nice mix of the beloved nostalgia that the original One Night Stand had, as well as an eye on the future of WWE's new third brand. Highly recommended watch, if only for the atmosphere. There are few pro wrestling venues in the world as rabid as the Hammerstein Ballroom, and seeing WWE mainstays like Cena and Orton deal with that challenge was a true joy to watch.
Until next time, take care,