WrestleWatch Vault: WWE Vengeance 2006
Not long to go now! Almost done with our run through the Ruthless Aggression Era. We will still have Vault reviews in the WrestleWatch series, but they will be from the famed Attitude Era! Today we have a Raw-exclusive PPV from June 2006. As you can tell from the title, the event was Vengeance. Side note, PPV names were so much cooler in the Attitude/Ruthless Aggression eras.
June 2006 was an interesting time in WWE. ECW was re-launched as WWE's third brand, Rey Mysterio was the World Champion on Smackdown, and Raw's biggest story was the reunion of popular Attitude Era group, D-Generation X. DX's founding members, Triple H and Shawn Michaels, opted to join forces after they spent the first half of the year being individually targeted by Vince and Shane McMahon.
In true pro wrestling fashion, the seeds for the return of DX were planted early, to make fans anticipate and clamour for the return of the renegades who sparked so much controversy in the late 1990s. At Wrestlemania 22, in separate matches, Shawn Michaels and Triple H both busted out the signature DX crotch chop taunt. At the time, HBK faced Vince in a Street Fight and Triple H was still a heel, challenging John Cena for the WWE Championship in the main event.
Post-Wrestlemania, the McMahons continued to make Shawn's life a living hell. At Backlash, the McMahons faced Michaels and his tag team partner, "God." Yep. On Raw in the weeks that followed, the Spirit Squad would do the McMahons bidding and beat up HBK, and then Vince decided to enlist the help of Triple H. Instead, DX opened up a can of whoop-ass on the group of male cheerleaders. DX vs. the Spirit Squad, the main event of Vengeance was on.
Worth noting that the 2006 incarnation of DX was very different to the 1997 one. Although WWE wasn't fully PG at this time, they didn't push the envelope quite as much, and also Shawn was a born-again Christian, so he wasn't on board with the more offensive stuff, often covering his eyes or leaving the scene while Triple H did something more crude. To use a couple of semi-dated references- 1990s DX was like Jackass, 2000s DX was like Nickelodeon... if Nickelodeon could get away with the occasional dick joke.
Elsewhere on the Vengeance card, WWE were looking to establish the new ECW as a viable third brand, 2 weeks into their new TV deal on Sci-Fi. Rob Van Dam was the WWE and ECW Champion, and he was set to defend the spinner belt against the Rated R Superstar, Edge. Also, John Cena, who lost the WWE Championship to RVD at One Night Stand, was set to take on ECW Original, Sabu, in an Extreme Lumberjack match.
It's all about DX. It's all about ECW. It's all about the game and how you play it. Vengeance 2006. Let's. Do. This.
Match 1: Randy Orton def. Kurt Angle (at 13:00)
Thoughts: Like the previous PPV, One Night Stand, we open with an Orton vs. Angle match (well, there was Tazz vs. Lawler, but that wasn't really a match tbh). I mentioned in the One Night Stand review that the atmosphere really elevated what was otherwise a fairly pedestrian match. Angle, who had been moved over to ECW, was falling apart physically, and Orton wasn't (or isn't) the type of performer to lead a dynamic match. This match lacked the ECW atmosphere, and was slow-paced and devoid of the intensity that made the ONS match work. Fairly boring in all honesty, especially considering the track record of both men to do well in big time matches. (**)
Backstage segment where Vince is mean to a boy in a wheelchair wearing a DX shirt. He pushes him into another room and loud crashing noises are heard (presumably to sell the disabled kid falling down the stairs). Coach comes up to Vince and says he invited a family friend to the show, a boy in a wheelchair. Whoops. Talk about a skit WWE would never do today. You might say there's... no chance in hell. Ba dum tish.
Match 2: Umaga def. Eugene (at 1:30)
Thoughts: Quick squash to get the newly arrived monster, Umaga, over. Eugene was accompanied to the ring by Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Doink the Clown and Kamala. Post-match, Umaga kills Hacksaw and Doink, but is backed away from Kamala by his manager. His manager's name, in case you didn't know, is Armando Alejandro Estrrrrrrrrada. It was a match. Effective in introducing Umaga, who would go on to have some truly classic PPV matches before his untimely passing. (*1/2)
Backstage interview with Todd Grisham and Mick Foley. Foley reads the 'glorified stuntman" line from Ric Flair's book and vows to out-wrestle the Nature Boy tonight.
Match 3: Ric Flair def. Mick Foley in a 2 Out Of 3 Fall match (at 7:00)
Thoughts: So, the story here seemed to be that Foley tried to play Flair's game and lost. Flair surprised Foley with an inside cradle to get an early fall, and a frustrated Foley attacked him with weapons. I was actually interested to see the Hardcore Legend try and work a straight up wrestling match, but this was presented as Part 1 of a bigger story. We're gonna have to wait to see what these two legends can do with 15-20 minutes up their sleeves at a future date (**)
Backstage interview with Maria (fuck she was hot back then) and Carlito. Carlito was transitioning to a face/tweener role around this time. Maria busts out some surprisingly eloquent talk for her character, asking about the paradox of people who don't try to be cool usually being the coolest. The interview is interrupted by Torrie Wilson, who asks Maria to rub oil all over her body for a photo shoot. Umm, okay. Carlito watches this in delight, but his entrance music hits. He's got a match next.
Match 4: Intercontinental Championship- Johnny Nitro (w/ Melina) def. Carlito & Shelton Benjamin in a Triple Threat match (at 12:00)
Thoughts: This match raised the level of the PPV at this point. Three young, hungry guys looking to prove themselves. Carlito had some fire about him, unleashing a gorgeous looking double springboard dive on his opponents. Benjamin had carried the IC title division for a long time, but new arrival to Raw, Johnny Nitro, got the big career moment with his first singles title in WWE. Not a classic triple threat, but a great dose of athleticism and a cool look into WWE's future at the time (**3/4)
Backstage again with Vince, who gives the Spirit Squad a pep talk after DX embarrassed them on Raw with a slime bath. They leave and Vince takes a look at the penis pump DX sent him. Yep. He tries to use it and it explodes with green slime in his face. This is stupid as hell, but still a little funny for the way Vince sells it. "It's a booby-trapped penis pump!" King exclaims on commentary.
Match 5: WWE Championship- Rob Van Dam def. Edge (at 19:00)
Thoughts: Kinda weird to have the WWE Championship in the middle of the show. It's the same problem that has plagued guys like CM Punk and AJ Styles in the past- they are given the championship, but rather than the championship moving them to the main event, it just moves the championship to their place in the mid-card. It devalues both the wrestler and the championship. I could see an argument for having the return of DX be the main event on this show, but RVD and Edge still should have been placed above John Cena's match. Card placement gripes aside, both Van Dam and Edge worked hard to have a strong match, with a nice pace and some athletic, risky spots. The sense of drama, the feeling that RVD's title reign could come to an end, was a bit absent though. (***1/2)
Backstage (I'm not used to so many backstage segment on a PPV), Paul Heyman is giving a pep talk to the ECW locker room. Sadly, the infamous lines of "fuck you, you're wrong, fuck you, we're right" are absent in this particular talk.
Match 6: Imposter Kane def. Kane (at 7:00)
Thoughts: This was a BAD feud, and the match wasn't much better. Imposter Kane (who was dressed as the 1998 version of the Big Red Machine) was played by Luke Gallows. Gallows was a bit green at this stage, and he was noticeably a bit smaller than Kane, although they tried to present him as a mirror image. The Imposter wins, but I'm pretty sure he gets killed off immediately after this, which makes me wonder what the whole point of it was. (1/2*)
Match 7: John Cena def. Sabu in an Extreme Lumberjack match (at 7:00)
Thoughts: This made Sabu- and the entire ECW roster, for that matter- look like chumps. First of all, the WWE lumberjacks to counteract ECW were the heroes of Heat (i.e. the C squad of WWE Superstars). Second of all, the "extreme" aspect of this was near non-existent. The finish was terrible, with Cena failing to launch Sabu through the table properly with a FU... and then making him tap to the shitty STFU. The suicidal, homicidal, genocidal Sabu... tapping to maybe the lamest submission hold in WWE history. I don't hate Cena as much as some do, but performances like this help me understand why people turned so hard on Cena in 2006. A new act in terms of WWE in Sabu, and a new brand in the revamped ECW, sacrificed just so WWE can say, "look how tough Cena is, taking it to the extreme!' Ugh. (*)
Backstage, RVD and John Cena cross paths.Van Dam offers Cena a rematch for the WWE Championship. On Raw, tomorrow night. Wonder if it'll main event?
Match 8: DX (Triple H & Shawn Michaels) def. The Spirit Squad (at 18:00)
Thoughts: This was actually pretty good. Michaels played the face in peril, the Squad worked the numbers advantage nicely, and Triple H came in like a house on fire off the hot tag. Squad had some cool moves- Mikey was actually the MVP, doing a trampoline-assisted bulldog on HBK and later using the launch pad to hit a standing 450 which, while intended for Michaels, actually wiped his own teammates. Despite the cool moves, the numbers game and the trampoline, the Spirit Squad never felt like a true threat to win here. This was all about the feel-good moment of seeing HHH and HBK back together, and they delivered with stereo finishers- Sweet Chin Music and Pedigree- for the win. Nothing spectacular but served its purpose. (***1/4)
Post-match, Vince comes out and congratulates DX, saying, "I'll see you tomorrow night!" This ain't over yet, folks.
Vengeance 2006 took place at a time where the phrase "what's old is new again" rang true. The focal points of the show were DX and ECW, two parts of wrestling history most prominent in the 1990s. The nostalgia and excitement of seeing D-Generation X back together carried that part of the event nicely, but the "ECW" influence left a bit of a sour taste- three weeks into the WWE ECW experiment and it was clear we weren't getting the ECW of old, or even a fitting modernised take on it. A weak undercard where the feuds and matches just didn't click led to a show that was ultimately disappointing. However, WWE had a strong roster around this time, and some shuffling of parts could lead to a more satisfying product as we come out of this event and begin the road to Summerslam.
Until next time, take care,