Wednesday, December 7, 2022

ECW on SyFy (August 1st, 2006): The Show That Killed ECW

At least one guy paid to see CM Punk. Is that a good thing?

We're switching gears by looking at an episode of WWE's rebooted ECW show. Extreme Championship Wrestling was a promotion that gained a cult following until its closure in 2001. WWE would later release a DVD on ECW in 2004 that sold big numbers, prompting them to book a reunion PPV the following year that would also prove successful. This resulted in WWE deciding to revive ECW as a third brand.

"Hooray!" everyone thought, "ECW is back, baby!"

Except it really wasn't. Oh, sure, it started off on the right foot with another One Night Stand that saw Rob Van Dam defeat John Cena in ECW territory to win the WWE World title, and later getting the revived ECW title. But then that first episode hit and it took place after a Smackdown taping. It was largely poorly received. WWE's third brand was off to a bad start. Then RVD got busted for weed and he'd lose the the ECW title to the Big Show before getting suspended.

Eventually, ECW would hold a live show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York; one of the old ECW strongholds that held a strong ECW following. So what does WWE book as a main event for this return to New York? The reigning ECW World Heavyweight Champion BIG SHOW would defend the title against Dave Batista... the furthest thing from an ECW main event that you could get.

What could possibly go right?

The show opens with an "Extreme Rules" match between ECW Originals Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman going up against Test - a former Attitude Era guy who left WWE for a spell and brought back a short time prior before getting released and eventually passing away - and Mike Knox - large burly fellow accompanied by the fresh-faced blond, Kelly Kelly.

We get a backstage bit with Paul Heyman and his goons being looked upon with contempt by numerous ECW originals before he is approached by SABU, who speaks about wanting another shot at Big Show for the title. Heyman shoots him down.

Next match is former ECW champion Justin Credible going up against a youngun by the name of CM Punk. They have a nice back-and-forth match, with Credible getting the upper hand on this newcomer, but eventually Punk manages a comeback and submits the former Portuguese Man-O-War with his Vice Hold thing for his first ECW win. This CM Punk fellow seems pretty popular among the ECW faithful. I think he might have a future in this business as long as he doesn't grow old, get hurt or fucking tired, and doesn't get to work with fucking children.

We get a video package on Batista... because that's what this ECW audience needs is a spotlight video on a WWE guy. This is followed by Shannon Moore dressed like a punk riding a subway. This is followed by the BROOKLYN BRAWLER cutting a promo on the ECW crowd before getting beat up by Kurt Angle. Kurt Angle would soon be gone from WWE shortly after this, by the way... and then he's show up on TNA and have a career there for better or worse.

And yes, Kurt Angle beating up the BROOKLYN BRAWLER was something featured in the Hammerstein Ballroom under the ECW banner... which actually doesn't sound as out of place as it looked. The one highlight includes Kurt Angle headbutting the Brawler to the ground; he would headbutt Samoa Joe on his TNA debut.

We get a video package on the FUCKING BIG SHOW... because again, that's what this ECW audience needs

Hey, it's Shelley the vampire... I forgot she was a vampire... and there's the vampire... Kevin What's His name? That's extreme, I guess...

And now, it's time for the... no, wait. Let's bring in a professional to do this right.

Take it away, Mark Henry!

Out comes the reigning and defending ECW World Champion FUCKING BIG SHOW, who looks like he'd rather be anywhere else but here... and the ECW crowd sure as shit would rather see anything else but this dumpster fire of a main event. The crowd is chanting for RVD before Batista even comes out and Big Dave looks even more like a guy who'd rather be anywhere else and the crowd shits on him. Justin Roberts does the intros for both guys as the crowd boos before they eventually settle on a loud "You Both Suck" chant as the two men grapple. Because that's Extreme.

Anyway, the match is a very WWE-esque match; a slow, plodding match between two big guys in front of a crowd who prefer extreme moments and workrate over roided-up freaks of nature. The crowd boo the shit out of both guys. There's a fade to black to signify that they're going to commercial and then the picture pops up again with the crowd chanting boring and Big Show letting out a very audible "FUCK YOU" to let the ECW faithful know how he feels about them... and that gets a mild pop and a SABU chant. That prompts Big Show to get on the mic and go "SCREW SABU! SCREW RVD! I'M THE CHAMP AND THERE'S NOTHIN' YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT! KISS MY ASS!"

If Big Show told more people to fuck off and kiss his ass, he'd be over with the ECW mutants.

So the crowd goes back to a Boring chant, then a "Big Show Is Fat" chant, then Batista FINALLY comes out and gets superkicked by Show, who gets a mild "You Still Got It" chant. Sadly, this does not make the aired show and we're back from "commercial" break where both guys are in the ring. The crowd resorts to a SAME OLD SHIT chant. Batista mounts a comeback as the crowd tells the television audience to CHANGE THE CHANNEL. Even Taz acknowledges the chants by saying "We like it here on Sci-Fi! What's that all about?" Sometimes, it's fun to get announcers to response to chants like this. It's little things that make the show seem more organic and even the Big Show had to crack a smile.

A few more BORING chants and heavy boos towards both guys later and Big Show hits Batista with the ECW title belt for the DQ... in an ECW event held at the Hammerstein Ballroom. There's a white rag in the ring for some reason. Big Show continues to hit Big Dave with the belt and poses for the crowd before SABU comes out and attack Big Show, eventually hitting him with an Arabian Facebuster that sends Big Show through the ringside table. Well, at least they sent the crowd home happy.

This was a glorious clusterfuck to witness and I am thankful that the WWE Network retained the crowd noise for this because it is pretty much the only thing that elevates what would've been an otherwise ho-hum match into legendarily bad status. The match exemplifies the tone-deaf nature of WWE and their handling of the ECW brand. They came into the Manhattan Center expecting the crowd to accept any dogshit thrown their way and they were given a rude awakening. The ECW crowd came in STRONG on this night and they were given the same WWE garbage that they wanted nothing to do with.

Top it off with two guys in the main event who are the furthest things from Extreme, the very epitome of WWE, and who very clearly do not want to be there, and you've got a recipe for disaster that is very readily apparent to everyone from the wrestlers to the fans to Stevie Wonder... all except those in charge.

After this show, ECW was tied to the hip around Smackdown, airing on Tuesday nights after said Smackdown taping viewed by a largely tired WWE crowd who were largely ambivalent towards this ECW stuff that seemed less than stellar. I don't think they ever did any more of these live ECW shows on Sci-Fi. It was just a taped thing until the very end. Slowly but surely, the remants of the old ECW would fade away; the set would've evolve into a fancier set before settling on the generic HD sets during its final years, ECW Originals were phased out and replaced with the C-teams of WWE commentary and talent. Any and all pretense at making this seem like a continuation of the original ECW would fade away and you were left with a third brand with a recognizable brand name focused more on younger talent and lower-tier WWE guys.

That was the idea from the get-go and WWE got what they wanted with NXT... not the game show version, but the other one.

I may consider watching other ECW on SyFy episodes here and there; mostly because it's a show that I have not watched during its heyday. It'll be something different to see the show through the eyes of someone who missed out on it the first time around.

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