This is an interesting homework assignment for the week. Each and every week without a pay per view, sorry, a premium live event, the hosts of the At Odds with Wrestling podcast assign a classic wrestling show for each other and loyal fans to watch. This week features the debut of the WWE version of ECW.
ECW died, Paul Heyman showed up on Raw, and the talent that wasn’t already in WWE scattered to the wind. WWE bought up the tape libraries for ECW and WCW then started the ill fated Invasion angle. An angle that was not working as just a WCW vs WWE feud and thus ECW was brought in as an ally to WCW. Later, WWE had a one off PPV, ECW One Night Stand. It was ridiculously successful and as part of the return the following year (Two Night Stand?) WWE would also relaunch the ECW brand. These two shows for this week’s assignment are the beginning of the new ECW. First off, what is now called episode zero was previously a one off event on the USA channel called WWE vs ECW. ECW episode one is the debut of ECW on Syfy. The One Night Stand PPV took place on the Sunday in between these two shows. The two shows are full of highs and lows and an interesting parallel to WWE today.
WWE vs ECW took place June 7, 2006 from Dayton, OH.
We start with Mick Foley hyping up the Raw and Smackdown Superstars in the WWE locker room. Meanwhile Paul Heyman is hyping up the ECW wrestlers. A distinction was made between Superstars and wrestlers. All of the wrestlers in the ECW locker room are ECW originals except for Kurt Angle. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler call the action for WWE while Joey Styles and Tazz are here for ECW. Tazz and the King almost fight from the start, and will not get along the rest of the evening.
Rey Mysterio (Smackdown World champion – the big gold belt) vs Rob Van Dam (Mr Money in the Bank).
This match was so good. So much fun, so much energy. Both guys going all out – lots of offense but also lots of selling. The crowd is hot. Plenty of time to tell the story for the match and not feel rushed. RVD wins clean after a 5 star frog splash. Which makes sense, he will be challenging for the WWE title at the PPV.
Kurt Angle is headed to the ring, then he’s in the ring. Angle cuts a promo on Randy Orton. Orton comes out to respond. Angle comes across great as he’s trying to get over this new version of himself. This extreme assassin who will tear through the entire ECW roster. Orton comes across as routine and repetitious and this is 16 years ago.
Mickie James (WWE Women’s champion) vs Jazz.
Absolute height of her powers Mickie James. I’m trying to tone down the lecherous gimmick for At Odds but as soon as she was on screen I wrote “wow”. Just stunning. I feel safe saying that because I don’t sound nearly as bad as Lawler. Styles and Tazz mock him for yelling puppies. King says WWE has puppies but ECW has rottweilers. Now the story is WWE has pretty girls and ECW does not. King pretty much calls Jazz ugly. Jazz who is a multiple time WWE Women’s champion at this point. A heel most of her career. But because she has now been moved to ECW he has to trash her. Styles and Tazz put over everyone while also supporting ECW. Was Lawler ever that good as a commentator or did we all just love boobs as much as he did? Mickie James pins Jazz following a DDT.
Backstage, Todd Grisham interviews spinner belt WWE champion John Cena. Cena puts over the Usos before they even work for the company with a “down since day one” shirt. I know it’s cool to boo Cena but he puts his all into this, puts over ECW and RVD as threats and hypes the hell out of the PPV.
Paul Heyman comes out to hype up the PPV card. Kurt Angle hypes up the ECW locker room ahead of the battle royal. Big Show does the same for the WWE locker room.
For WWE: Big Show, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Tatanka, Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Finlay, Carlito, Bobby Lashley, and Edge.
For ECW: Kurt Angle, Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer, Al Snow, Stevie Richard, the Sandman, The FBI, Balls Mahoney, Justin Credible.
All of the WWE wrestlers come out to their individual theme music. The ECW wrestlers come out as a unit. Oh, this is also the time frame where the WWE Superstars come out through the TitanTron entrance but ECW guys have the side faux brick entrance. Edge stays on the outside and pulls ECW wrestlers out. Angle is the last ECW representative. Big Angle slam on the Big Show. Edge finally enters and sets up a spear but Angle catches him and tosses Edge over the top. Orton sneaks up and tosses Angle out so WWE wins. But wait! The Big Show tears off his Raw shirt to reveal an ECW shirt beneath. Show tosses out Orton so now ECW wins. Angle and Show celebrate. This swerve should have thrown out the entire battle royal because the sides were not even. But we don’t apply logic to wrestling. Later, Show is celebrating in the ECW locker room.
Edge (with Mick Foley and Lita vs Tommy Dreamer (with Terry Funk) in an ECW Rules match.
Edge plays a classic Cactus Jack ECW clip. This match is competitive as hell and fans are believing that Dreamer has a chance to beat the former WWE champion. I was a huge Tommy Dreamer fan but at this point Edge is positioned much higher than Dreamer and yet they wrestle as equals here. Lita hits Tommy, Funk grabs Lita, Foley wraps barbed wire around Funk. Everyone gets involved! Dreamer back body drops Edge from the top turnbuckle and Edge misses the table! Dreamer picks up Edge and hits a Spicolli Driver through the table to set up the next spot. Lita breaks up the pin attempt by hitting Dreamer with a cane. Dreamer picks up Lita for a power bomb, Edge spears Dreamer and Lita rides Dreamer’s face down to the mat while Edge gets the pin. Very few people could pull that off but Edge and Lita just radiated over the top sex at the time and this makes a ton of sense to get over the more adult ECW product. On the outside, Funk is punching Foley in the head until he opens up a cut.
Mick Foley is alone in the ring. He sits on a chair with one spotlight on him and cuts a hell of a promo. Calls himself a sell out whore for being with WWE. Intense promo and one that we barely see today.
Tazz and Lawler finally go at it. Fun fact, Hook is 7 years old at this time.
John Cena (WWE champion) vs Sabu.
Great fight. Cena puts over Sabu and sells his ass off for someone who, in WWE’s eyes, is below Cena. Cena gets Sabu in the STFU and Big Show runs out to break that up, causing the DQ. All of the wrestlers we’ve seen tonight come out for a huge brawl as the show goes off the air.
Episode 1. June 13, 2006 from Trenton, NJ.
Highlights from One Night Stand and then Paul Heyman comes out. Joey Styles and Tazz are the commentators. Heyman brings out the new WWE champion, Rob Van Dam. Paul gives RVD the new ECW World title. RVD has two belts, one that means everything to him and “look at this one – it spins.” I was waiting for this line. Such an asshole dig at the spinner belt, and well deserved too. Edge and Lita come out to congratulate Rob but it’s all a trick to sucker in RVD and spear him. Edge leaves through the crowd but doesn’t realize John Cena is standing behind him. Edge and Cena fight. Cena and RVD fight over who gets to beat up Edge and head up fighting each other. Cena hits Heyman on his way out.
Backstage, Paul Heyman addresses the troops.
The Zombie vs Sandman.
Ok, the Zombie is stupid and we all remember how cringe this moment was. Adding unnecessary sci-fi because this show is on Syfy. But it is also brilliant work by Heyman. You want a zombie? Fine. I’ll put one on, have Sandman beat the shit out of him, and two minutes later move on to the next thing. Sandman hits a White Russian leg sweep for the easy pin. Sandman continues to hit the Zombie all the way to the back.
Kelly (not yet Kelly Kelly) tells us she’s an exhibitionist.
Kurt Angle vs Justin Credible.
Credible tries but this is an absolute squash. The set up is weird, with the announcers directly across from the hard camera. Credible taps out and I like this killer version of Angle.
Paul Heyman cuts a promo from the back. He is throwing out his plans for the night and wants to show what ECW can be. Tonight there will be an Extreme Battle Royal with the winner facing John Cena at Vengeance. So, back to back weeks there’s a battle royal. Even though this one is different because it’s an “extreme” one.
Kelly with another promo. Kevin Thorn is outside. I’m a much bigger fan of Ariel but a goth gimmick could work in wrestling as a regular gimmick yet dark enough for Syfy to think it’s vampires.
Welcome Kelly! She dances, strips, and barely keeps her nipples covered. She’s also 19 and has had very little wrestling experience. She’s barely legal and barely trained. Honestly, she’s lucky she came out of all this with a smile on her face still.
Battle Royal: Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, Danny Doring, Amish Roadkill, Al Snow, Stevie Richard, the FBI (with?), Balls Mahoney, Big Show.
Trinity comes out with the FBI and I had completely forgotten about her. Big Guido is the big member of the FBI and is gone the next week. Big Show pretty much runs through everyone. It becomes tough to know who is and is not still in the match, because so many people are fighting on the outside. Show tosses Roadkill out like he’s a cruiserweight. It appears that everyone in the match was instructed to do nothing until Show chooses to eliminate them. Dreamer keeps hitting Show with a cookie sheet and it’s the most damage anyone does to Big Show. Tommy Dreamer lets up, hits the FBI to free up Sabu so Sabu can hit Show. Show tosses Dreamer out and through a table. Show and Big Guido face off but it ends up being an easy elimination. Guido hangs onto Show’s arm and Sabu attacks from behind, thus causing Show to fall out. Sabu wins the battle royal.
There are some real fun matches here with energy from the wrestlers and the fans. Everyone is excited about what they’re putting out there. Episode one has matches that make sense and are building stories within the brand. Then there’s also things that don’t make sense like the monsters and Kelly. But there are always notes from the network that have to be dealt with, and I think they did their best to put something out there and move forward with the wrestling. Kelly’s segment feels so wrong. I’m all for pretty women doing things but despite this being a more “mature” product there are still kids and families in the audience. Plus this is a wide eyed naïve 19 year old girl put out on display in an industry that doesn’t have a shortage of underage stories. In the end I’m watching this wondering what might have been. If there was more faith in the product. If RVD and Sabu didn’t smoke that day. On the other hand, this seems so much better than the current WWE. There’s just more fire and excitement from everyone. The energy of building something new versus keeping the status quo.