REIMAGINED- ECW December To Dismember 2006
By Mick Robson
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You know those engagement-farming posts/memes that go "what wrestling opinion would have you like this?", accompanied by a picture of a bunch of swords at a dude's throat? Well, here's mine (drum roll please):
WWE's ECW wasn't that bad a product.
Okay, okay! Be careful with those swords. I stand by it, it wasn't a bad wrestling show. People mention the ECW Zombie like it was some major part of the program, and not a quick little skit to appease the Sci Fi gods (or network execs, take your pick). WWECW had plenty of good, launching the WWE careers of guys like CM Punk, The Miz, John Morrison, Kofi Kingston, Sheamus...
Its main problem was that it was called "ECW". Had it been called anything else, I think fans would have been fine with that third, developmental brand. Zombie bollocks aside, the good of WWECW wasn't too dissimilar to the early days of Full Sail NXT, and that is remembered on the complete opposite end of the spectrum for fan/critical reception.
That said, I think the fanbase needed time to adjust, given that it WAS called ECW. The ECW Originals were quickly phased out for the most part, or barely utilised at all. Some 17 years ago- shit, I'm getting old- WWECW put on its first PPV, December to Dismember, six months into its run as a revived brand. And yeah. I won't defend this show at all. It SUCKED.
But that's why we're here! In an effort to bring more diverse content to The Arena Media, we're returning with our fantasy booking series, REIMAGINED. It had a soft launch last year, with Arena contributor Adam Pokrajac giving us his version of WrestleMania 32 (link here: https://www.thearenamedia.net/single-post/reimagined-wrestlemania-32).
We're gonna keep in somewhat realistic parameters. Who was on the roster at the time, who could have cameoed from the main roster, who was a free agent. Let's put on a card that WON'T be considered among the worst PPVs of all time.
I mean, it can't be any worse. Right? Right?!
Let's do this!
Oh, and for an easy reference point, here's the original card:
Dark Match: Stevie Richards def. Rene Dupree
Match 1: The Hardys def MNM (at 22:33)
Match 2: Striker's Rules Match- Balls Mahoney def. Matt Striker (at 7:12)
Match 3: Elijah Burke & Sylvester Terkay def. The FBI (Little Guido & Tony Mamaluke) (at 6:41)
Match 4: Daivari (w/ Great Khali) def. Tommy Dreamer (at 7:22)
Match 5: Kevin Thorn & Ariel def. Mike Knox & Kelly Kelly
Match 6: Extreme Elimination Chamber- Bobby Lashley def. Big Show, Hardcore Holly, Test, Rob Van Dam & CM Punk (at 24:42)
One of the big issues with WWECW is that the "extreme" element was largely taken out of it. I understand that they had to appease Network execs- going back to the days on TNN, where's Cyrus The Virus when we need him?- but a sweeping change I'd make to weekly programming is that every week would have either one Extreme Rules match or another equivalent gimmick match. And I would explicitly explain that change as a network edict- takes the heat off WWE, gives WWECW a taste of extreme and then leads to our big PPV selling point- the rules are out the window on PPV. Every match is Extreme Rules (or otherwise no DQ in the stipulations).
I would still have the Extreme Elimination Chamber. I thought that was a unique stipulation that given the right tools and players, really could have been exceptional. One adjustment- weapons would be attached to the Chamber walls and on top of the pods. It was a bit awkward having the weapons inside the actual pods, especially one having a whole damn table in there.
As for the rest- as long as we have a build-up, we're doing better than the original. Going into December to Dismember 2006, two matches were advertised- Hardys vs. MNM (all four men loaned from the main roster) and the main event Chamber match. No wonder it performed so poorly on PPV.
I would also introduce a couple of championships. Raw and Smackdown both had their own world titles, secondary titles, tag titles, Smackdown had a Cruiserweight Championship, Raw had the Women's Championship. So ECW are bringing back the TV title and the ECW Tag Team Championship, to be crowned at December to Dismember.
Coming in, Big Show was the heel ECW Champion, backed by Paul Heyman and his "security"- masked dudes in helmets who I believe were actually the Bashams. Heyman has it out for RVD, and Sabu. I don't believe they ever actually acknowledged the drug bust on TV, but in our WWECW Universe, Heyman absolutely does. He has rage towards RVD and Sabu, somewhat justified, but he takes it too far with constant attacks by Security and screwing them out of matches. RVD is somewhat contrite, giving a "we all make mistakes, I promise to do better and work my way to the top" promo, while Sabu takes out his frustrations in standard Sabu fashion, wrecking everyone in sight en route to the PPV.
Chamber Qualifying Matches
CM Punk def. Hardcore Holly
RVD def. Mike Knox & Test in an Extreme Rules Handicap Match. Heyman promises Knox & Test both entry if they win, interference by Security, RVD somehow prevails.
Sabu def. Knox, Test & Big Show in an Extreme Rules Handicap Match. Bit of a rehash on the previous week with RVD, but this time, Bobby Lashley interferes to mitigate Show. Fighting the good fight but making himself public enemy no. 1.
Test absolutely destroys Sabu backstage on ECW TV. He's medically ruled out of the Chamber match.
As a reward, Heyman gives Test a qualfying match against Little Guido. Test easily wins.
Heyman is PISSED at Lashley. He books the $50,000 Bounty Battle Royal. Whoever eliminates Lashley gets $50K AND a spot in The Chamber match. We have monsters like Great Khali, Big Show (hey, if he wins it's only a 5 person Chamber AND his bank account gets bigger), and visiting from Raw, Umaga. Lashley somehow overcomes the odds, taking the Chamber spot and the bag of money out of a shocked Heyman's hands.
With Sabu's injury, we have one more spot to fill for the Chamber. Heyman books a triple threat between Mike Knox, Hardcore Holly and Umaga- looking to get one of his "boys" in the Chamber. He's a little reluctant to give Umaga the shot after failing in the Battle Royal the week before, but the threat of a Samoan Spike changes his mind. Before the match can start, the lights go out and Sabu appears in the ring with two chairs. He clears the ring with them and grabs the mic, saying his first words on ECW- "I'm cleared. See you in the Chamber".
ECW TV Championship
We have a tournament to crown the new TV Champion, with the finals happening at Dec to Dis.
Quarter-Finals- Elijah Burke def. RVD, Tommy Dreamer def. Justin Credible, Stevie Richards def. Kevin Thorn, Sandman def. Matt Striker
Semi-Finals- Elijah Burke def. Tommy Dreamer, Sandman def. Stevie Richards
ECW Tag Team Championship
Heyman promises that the two teams with the best resume have a match for the vacant tag titles at December to Dismember, meaning that teams need to build a strong case for themselves in the 6 weeks or so of build. We get some fun cameos as Lance Storm comes back for a one-off to team with Justin Credible to re-form the Impact Players, as does Tajiri to team with a visiting Super Crazy from Raw, but they both fall to the FBI. A third win against Tommy Dreamer & Sandman (Dreamer pinned after Elijah Burke distracts Sandman) secures FBI's spot in the finals.
Meanwhile, Al Snow is on the roster as an ECW original, and he's determined to make one more run at championship glory. Heyman asks who in their right mind would team with Al. Al says, "as long as I've got my Head, that's all I need." Heyman protests that Head can't be a legal competitor, but due to a long forgotten match in 1999, Head has a place in the WWE record books, so Al Snow and Head are officially in the tournament. Al gets on a roll, defeating Kevin Thorn & Rene Dupree, Balls Mahoney & Axl Rotten, and finally, Daivari & Great Khali. Heyman- shaking his head- says, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but Al Snow & Head... you're officially in the finals!"
You know what, I didn't entirely hate the idea of Balls Mahoney & Matt Striker wrestling, but they needed a meatier feud with their contrasting characters, they had one of those last minute matches, and it was a "Striker's Rules" match, meaning they had to abide by stupid rules. I could stomach that as part of the TV build though. Of course Striker thinks that Balls is an absolute slob. Striker challenges Balls to the Striker's Rules match on ECW TV, but it's Striker who cheats to win, with the trifecta of an eye poke, low blow and chair shot sealing the deal while the ref is bumped. The Extreme Rules rematch is on for Dec to Dis.
Tommy Dreamer feuds with Mike Knox over the way he's treating Kelly Kelly- just as it happened on actual WWECW. It gets heated to the point where they have a First Blood match set for the PPV.
Notice I've been careful to sprinkle in ECW originals through my booking of this show- well, we're going to go one step further with a ECW Originals Showcase Match- any six wrestlers in the world who wrestled in the original ECW, they're welcome at December to Dismember.
Alright, we're here! The crowd is slightly up from the 4,500 that actually attended this show, since we have some actual build up for the matches here. Let's see if they get their money's worth.
Match 1: ECW Television Championship- The Sandman vs. Elijah Burke
We are live on PPV, and we've taken a step to making things feel special, as WWE has licensed Enter Sandman one more time for the ECW icon! He comes in through the crowd drinking a beer with a Singapore cane in hand. Elijah Burke is the more refined athlete, but he DOES NOT like it when the cane comes in contact with his back. Lots of talk about Elijah being the potential future of ECW on commentary. He turns the tides when he hits Sandman with an Elijah Express through a chair in the corner. Later, he sets up for the move again, but this time through a table in the corner. Sandman moves and Burke crashes through the table. One more cane shot to the head, and Sandman is the new ECW TV Champion!
Winner: The Sandman (at around 12 minutes)
We get a backstage skit with Stevie Richards. He's sitting around feeling sad. He says to someone off camera, "man, I really thought this time in ECW would be different. I'm older, wiser... but I'm still taking loss after loss. I lost in the ECW TV tournament... I guess I'm just destined to be a loser." The voice off camera says, "C'mon man, you don't have to be like that. Why so... blue?" It's Blue Meanie and Hollywood Nova! The bWo is back together, and Stevie smiles.
Match 2: First Blood- Tommy Dreamer vs. Mike Knox (w/ Kelly Kelly)
This is a physical battle, but Dreamer is the clear underdog, and he struggles against the larger, more powerful Knox. A vicious steel chair shot busts Dreamer open, and he's in a bad way.
Winner: Mike Knox (at around 8:00)
Knox grabs Kelly's hand and looks to drag her away, but she's concerned for Dreamer. This enrages Knox, who grabs her by the hair. Kelly responds by kicking him in the nuts, and Dreamer intervenes and hits him with a DDT. Kelly and Dreamer have a moment as she smiles adoringly at a bloody Dreamer. "She likes it, Tazz!" screams Joey Styles. They look like they're about to kiss, and then Beulah McGillicutty comes out. Beulah says, "I like you, Kelly. Actually, I like you A LOT... crowd cheers but that's my man!" She plants a kiss on her bloodied husband. Dreamer says, "I'm hardcore, I'll take them both!" Scene.
Al Snow's backstage warming up for his tag title match. He talks to Head about the match- and when he gets no response, he reaches into his bag... and pulls out a crushed Head. He's devastated, and then turns around and goes face to face- or face to sternum- with Khali and Daivari. Khali snarls something and Daivari says, "the Great Khali says, "what are you going to do about it?" Al grits his teeth and leaves the locker room.
Match 3: ECW Tag Team Championship- The FBI (Little Guido & Tony Mamaluke) vs. Al Snow & Steve Blackman
Al comes out and says it's his right to name a replacement partner, and he was lucky enough to have an old friend visiting backstage. It's the Lethal Weapon, Steve Blackman! Blackman is in tremendous shape (see the Raw 15th Anniversary Battle Royal that he appeared in roughly a year after this IRL). The FBI are game though, and use speed and high flying offense to get the better of Al, who starts the match. Hot tag to Blackman gets a big pop, and he matches Guido & Mamaluke in speed with his martial arts ability, including some kicks upside the head of both Italians.
Al tags back in and there's some back and forth between the FBI and himself. Guido takes a cheap shot at Blackman on the apron, enraging him. He goes under the ring and gets his combat sticks. As Guido & Mamaluke deal with Blackman, Al gets another Head from under the ring! Mamaluke hits a low blow on Snow, and Guido hits the Sicilian Slice on Al, on Head, for the win!
Winners: The FBI (at approx 10:00)
Match 4: Extreme Rules- Matt Striker vs. Balls Mahoney
Striker does a pre-match promo protesting having to compete in such a barbaric match. Balls makes his entrance to his old ECW theme, AC/DC's "Big Balls". PPV, baby! He's got a steel chair and chases Striker with it. They play the cat and mouse game, but Striker gets the advantage by kicking the middle rope into Balls', well, balls. He takes the chair and blasts Mahoney with it, declaring, "I'm hardcore!"
Mahoney gets another steel chair and they have a chair duel, which he gets the better of. He also gets a table and brings it into the ring. They battle on the ropes, and Balls ultimately puts Striker through the table with a chair shot to the head. Not satisfied with that, he gets another table and puts him through it with a top rope Nutcracker Suite for the win!
Winner: Balls Mahoney (in approx 12 minutes)
Match 5: ECW Originals Showcase- The bWo (Stevie Richards, Hollywood Nova & The Blue Guy) vs. Tajiri, Super Crazy & Chris Jericho
The open invitation to all ECW originals has been answered by Tajiri & Crazy, who were recently seen on ECW TV vying for the new tag titles, but the huge shocker is Chris Jericho, who hasn't been seen in pro wrestling since losing a Loser Leaves WWE match to John Cena back in August 2005. Back as "Lionheart" for one night only, the crowd is elated to see him.
We have very fast-paced action given the talent involved, but we're building to the hot tag to Jericho, who comes in fired up, hitting springboard dropkicks, Lionsaults and even a suicide dive to Richards and Nova! He puts Richards in the Liontamer, but before he can tap, Elijah Burke, Matt Striker (wearing a neck brace) and Kevin Thorn hit the ring with chairs, attacking all six men.
Winner: No Contest (at approx 15 minutes)
Elijah gets on the mic and he is fired up! "We're sick of all this ECW nostalgia crap!" he declares. "All these old-timers getting opportunities over the new generation is ridiculous. My boy Kevin Thorn didn't even get a match on the show! They tried to kill the distinguished Matt Striker with this hardcore wrestling BS! We are the New Breed unleashed, and we're here to make a better ECW... for the future."
Match 6: ECW Championship- Extreme Elimination Chamber- Rob Van Dam vs. CM Punk vs. Sabu vs. Test vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Big Show
The Chamber starts with RVD and Punk. RVD climbs the side of the Chamber and unhooks a steel chair that is chained to the wall, while Punk grabs a ladder that was lying on top of a pod. Before they can get too hardcore, Test is the 3rd man in. He gets a kendo stick and whacks both RVD and Punk. Later, he leans Van Dam against his empty pod and big boots him through it! RVD comes up a bloody mess.
4th in is Sabu, who gets another chair and a table off one of the pods. He throws himself at Test with a variety of chair-assisted springboard attacks, but Test catches him off one and powerbombs him to the steel grate outside the ring. Sabu somehow fights on, and looks to dive off a pod onto Test, but Test catches him and hurls him off the top of the pod through the table below. Sabu is the first competitor eliminated.
Big Show is in 5th. He high fives Test and throws both RVD and Punk through empty pods. With those men down and seemingly out, Show tells Test to lay down. Test is infuriated and big boots him! Heyman is beside himself outside the Chamber. RVD comes in and hits Test with the Van Daminator. Punk goes up to the top of the pod and hits a flying elbow drop on Show. RVD follows up with the Five Star Frog Splash, but when he covers, Punk smashes him with a steel chair! He gets a steel chain and wraps it around RVD's neck while applying the Anaconda Vice, RVD spits out blood as he passes out. "Why, Punk, why?"
6th in is Lashley! Punk catches him with a kick coming in and Big Show follows up with a chokeslam! 1, 2... and Lashley kicks out! Test looks for a big boot, but Lashley moves and Test strikes the champ instead! Punk knocks Lashley outside the ring towards the Chamber pod, and Lashley winds up Spearing him through the last pod standing. Back in the ring, Lashley eliminates Punk with the Dominator. Test attacks Lashley from behind and looks for the pumphandle slam, but Lashley lands on his feet and hits the running powerslam to get another elimination.
We're down to Lashley and Show. They strike each other with the remaining weapons in the Chamber. Show sets up the ladder in the corner and looks for a chokeslam on it, but Lashley lands on his feet and Spears the giant through the ladder! We have a new ECW Champion!
Winner: Bobby Lashley
And there we go. A new ECW that showed a lot of respect to the originals, and the big angle of the show was the New Breed vowing to stop the nostalgia act. And what side of the fence does the new ECW Champion sit? Lashley is a newcomer, but seems to have different views to the disrespectful antics of the New Breed.
And we have CM Punk turning heel. I'd have Punk use solid logic though- he loved ECW growing up, but RVD almost made the relaunched ECW go up in smoke as soon as it started. So now Punk makes RVD pay, because "straight edge means I'm better than you".
What do you think? Is this revised, realistic re-booking of ECW December To Dismember 2006 better than what many argue is the worst PPV of all time? What were your thoughts on WWECW? Let me know if the comments of wherever you see this!
Until next time, take care.