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   Mon, April 11, 2011



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COMMENT





ECW resurrected at PPV
By BRIAN ELLIOTT - SLAM! Wrestling




Given that the concept of a third WWE brand was given the green light by Vince McMahon almost eight weeks ago, one could've hoped for a much more applicable pay-per-view title than "ECW One Night Stand". After all, for Extreme Championship Wrestling, this is a new beginning, and far from an end.

Beginning this Tuesday, live on the Sci-Fi channel in the United States, ECW joins Raw and Smackdown as another part of the WWE's stranglehold on American pro wrestling. Paul Heyman -- who, it must be noted, has limited power within ECW despite his deep history with the company -- has claimed that ECW will have a new direction under top star Kurt Angle. It is said that the Olympic Gold medallist will still be extreme, but more in the manner of Taz than Tommy Dreamer.

Having been announced to limited fanfare on WWE television, the fortunes of ECW would be easier assessed following One Night Stand. A title win for either Sabu or, more likely, Rob Van Dam, would encourage fans to tune in to the inaugural ECW TV show, at a time when the WWE will be desperate to make a good impression.

Setting the tone for the evening's proceedings, the first visual of tonight's event was simply that of a raucous Hammerstein Ballroom crowd, seemingly all of whom were engaged in a chant of "ECW". This only changed when Paul Heyman entered the ring, and the fans appreciation manifested itself in chants of "Thank you Paul E.!"

"This didn't happen because of me," said Heyman, "and it didn't happen because of Vince McMahon. This happened because of you. And on behalf of every single one of us, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Match #1: Tazz vs Jerry "The King" Lawler

Although he emerged for his contest with "The King" in his trademark orange and black colours, and complete with head-towel, it was rather noticeable that instead of his usual ECW-era ring attire, that Tazz entered the squared circle wearing full-length training pants and a large shirt. I guess that five years as an announcer on Smackdown isn't the ideal preparation for an athletic contest.

The crowd's hatred of Lawler was emphatic, which was unsurprising considering he has a very real dislike of what he calls "Extremely Crappy Wrestling". This was only heightened when Lawler approached Joey Styles at the announce table and slapped him hard across the face.

Styles -- and his spectacles -- soon recovered however, and just as Lawler and Tazz were about to lock up, Styles jumped Lawler from behind and attempted to apply a sleeperhold. Lawler was able to subdue him before setting him up for a piledriver, at which point Tazz entered the fray, locking on the Tazmission for a startlingly-quick thirty second win.

Winner: Tazz
Match Rating: 5 / 10 (for what was essentially an angle)

Match #2: Randy Orton vs Kurt Angle

Watching Randy Orton work the crowd so brilliantly here, it is hard to fathom that the WWE even considered placing him as their top babyface in 2004. Orton's smug demeanour -- all too real behind the scenes, it is said -- created tremendous heat among this already pro-Angle crowd, and it was only when Angle aggressively took Orton to the mat that the St. Louis native's arrogant smile was broken.

The Olympic Gold medallist dominated on the ground until he missed a running shoulder-tackle, propelling himself into the ringpost. Rather than take a more effective advantage, however, Orton decided to lock on a rear chinlock for loud chants of "Boring!" which were soon silenced when Angle caught him with a series of German suplexes.

The new ECW star then managed to hit the Angle Slam for a two count, before Orton hit a beautiful Neck Cracker after reversing an ankle lock attempt. The match was red hot by this point, as Orton continued to evade the ankle lock, and even hit a beautiful top rope crossbody which Angle rolled through for the near fall. Going for his submission finisher once again, Angle managed to fully apply the ankle lock, and gained the tapout victory.

Winner: Kurt Angle
Match rating: 7.5 / 10

Match #3: F.B.I (Little Guido & Tony Mamaluke) vs Super Crazy & Yoshihiro Tajiri

"Welcome back!" was the message to Tajiri from the ECW faithful upon his entrance to the ring, and clearly it was he and his former nemesis Super Crazy who were the crowd favourites in this contest. The match began with some nice wrestling by Crazy and Mamaluke -- including a short-arm scissors and a key-lock held with a bridge -- but things took a more familiar ECW turn when both Crazy and Tajiri hit baseball slides into the corner on Mamaluke and Guido respectively.

The babyfaces continued to control the match -- including a beautiful Asai moonsault by Crazy onto both his opponents -- until the towering Big Guido pulled Crazy outside the ring and put the boots to him. He soon recovered however, and when Tajiri got the hot tag he immediately dominated, hitting his patented springing back elbow off the ropes on both men. But when Crazy was propelled into the crowd by Little Guido, the FBI ganged up on "The Japanese Buzzsaw", hitting him with a double Muscle Buster for the pin.

After the match, Big Show entered the fray and cleared the ring, hitting Mamaluke with a painful-looking Cobra Clutch into a backbreaker. Despite his booking as ECW's monster, Big Show looked out of place, and the crowd were reluctant to cheer the him after he disposed of favourites Crazy and Tajiri.

Winners: The FBI
Match rating: 6.5 / 10

A little over a week after announcing on his radio show that he was finished with wrestling, JBL made a surprise appearance to rip on ECW. He made reference to his pummeling of The Blue Meanie on last year's show, and referred to himself as "The King of Hardcore", all to a tremendous heel reaction. He also announced that he was the new colour commentator for Smackdown.

Match #4, World Heavyweight Title match: Sabu vs Rey Mysterio ( c )

Mysterio received a light heel reaction for this championship match with Sabu, who came to the ring with a nasty-looking bruise on the left side of his face. The chair which Sabu brought to the ring with him played an important role in the beginning of the match, as the challenger hit an Air Sabu in the corner, before simply throwing the chair at Smackdown's champion, striking him in the head.

For his own part, Mysterio hit a beautiful huricanrana and a moonsault press, before falling victim to a guillotine legdrop from the second rope. In between setting up a number of tables at ringside, Sabu hit an Arabian Facebuster for a near-fall, but his setting up of the ladders backfired on him as Mysterio launched himself onto the top rope, delivering a Thesz press which took Sabu through the table.

After recovering, Sabu hit an impressive triple-jump moonsault, and then evaded another Thesz press which sent Mysterio crotch-first into a chair. The Sheik's famous nephew then lay Mysterio onto a ringside table and attempted to score with a triple-jump somersault splash over the top rope and on to Mysterio. Just as Sabu was rebounding off the ropes however, Mysterio made it to his feet and instead Sabu caught him with a DDT which drove his head not only through the table, but also hard onto the floor as well.

At this point, with both men down, a doctor came to ringside and declared the match over. The crowd were not amused, which was unsurprising considering that while this was a nasty bump, the finish was so obviously contrived.

Winner: No Contest
Match Rating: 7 / 10

Match 5: Mick Foley & Edge vs Terry Funk & Tommy Dreamer

WHAT YOU THINK
What did you think of ECW One Night Stand?
It was great 37%
It was okay 19%
It sucked 9%
Didn't see it 34%
Given that the singles match between Edge and Foley at Wrestlemania contained the ultimate hardcore weapon in the flaming table, it was concerning that this match would be expected to top it. Foley came to the ring first, with a shocking-looking black eye, courtesy of "The Funker" on last week's edition of RAW. Before the match got underway, Foley worked the crowd up into even more of a frenzy, claiming that he did once have respect for ECW, when they "were run by a visionary and owned by a true creative genius". He wasn't, of course, referring to Paul Heyman, but Stephanie McMahon, and at that, even Taz couldn't stop himself from laughing loudly.

Funk and Dreamer were accompanied to the ring by Beulah McGullicutty, who suggested that they make this match a three-on-three encounter. Lita agreed to the challenge with a slap to her female opponent, and the match began. Dreamer and Funk sent the heels scurrying to the outside with shots from a trash can and a metal sign, and Dreamer hip-tossed Edge into a ladder which "The R-rated Superstar" himself had set up in the corner.

As Funk went for the oldest moonsault in the business on Foley, though, Edge pushed the ladder down and Funk took a nasty bump to the canvas. With "The Funker" incapacitated, Edge and Foley grabbed a board wrapped in barbed wire from under the ring, and suplexed it onto Dreamer. As the capacity crowd chanted "We Want Fire!" Foley wrapped barbed wire around his fist and raked it grotesquely across the forehead and eyes of Funk. Rekindling memories of his classic Empty Arena bout with Jerry Lawler, Funk was taken to the back screaming "My God Mick, my eye!"

This left Dreamer virtually defenceless against the heels, and as they ganged up on him, Foley then went for the Socko Claw, but instead applied it to Beulah until Dreamer made the save. Dreamer was soon struck with an Edge Spear however, and it seemed like he would take the fall until Funk returned, through the crowd, clutching a 2x4 encased in barbed wire. After striking Foley and Edge, Funk then set the 2x4 on fire, blasting Foley again, who not only landed on the barbed wire board at ringside, but whose flaming shirt had to be quickly put out by a ringside attendant. Edge pushed Funk off the apron and down on top of Foley, before being caught himself with a DDT by Dreamer, who then locked on an STF, using the barbed wire against Edge's face. Lita broke up the hold, however, and when Edge recovered and blindsided Dreamer, Beulah entered the ring to prevent more damage being inflicted on him. She was then Speared by Edge for the pinfall.

Winners: Mick Foley, Edge & Lita
Match rating: 8 / 10

Match #6: Balls Mahoney vs Masato Tanaka

An all-out brawl was what was expected in this match, and that is exactly what Mahoney and Tanaka served up. After the obligatory "Balls!" chants as Mahoney threw repeated jabs at Tanaka, the two took it to the outside where Mahoney borrowed a fan's beer to throw in his opponent's face. Back in the ring, Tanaka hit a superplex for a big bump, before the roles were reversed and Balls hit his own version of the move. Soon, the two found themselves duelling with steel chairs, leading to Balls cracking Tanaka with a remarkably hard chair shot for the pin.

Winner: Balls Mahoney
Rating: 6 / 10

Before the WWE championship match, Eugene hit the ring and reminded everyone that he was the nephew of Eric Bischoff, which ensured that the already-sceptical crowd were even more passionate against him. The Sandman soon interrupted Eugene's shenanigans, however, cracking him with the Singapore cane several times across the head and back, causing the Raw native to flee, much to everyone's delight.

Match #7, WWE Championship: Rob Van Dam vs John Cena ( c )

To no surprise whatsoever, John Cena was afforded an even more scolding reaction than Jerry Lawler as he made his way to ringside for his title defence against RVD. Hilariously, it took several minutes for the bell to sound, as each time that Cena tried to throw his shirt into the crowd, the fans continually threw it back. Furthermore, toilet paper was thrown into the ring, and the fans engaged in a fantastically loud chant of "You can't wrestle!"

Seemingly wishing to dispel those thoughts, Cena began the bout with a fisherman suplex, which grabbed a near fall. But as the action spilled to the outside, it was Van Dam who took the advantage with a superb moonsault press from the ring steps, followed up with a twisting legdrop from the apron, as Cena lay prone across the guard rail.

Van Dam continued on the offence, placing a steel chair on the neck and chest of Cena as he hit the Rolling Thunder, a move from which he only got a two count. When he went for a similar chair-aided split legged moonsault, however, Cena got the knees up and it was Van Dam who took the hit. Continuing the chair-based theme, Cena hit a DDT on the steel and even sent RVD flying into a chair with a slingshot. To say that the crowd were unhappy when Cena went for the "You Can't See Me" fistdrop would be an understatement, but at least they were spared the sight of a match-winning F-U when RVD blocked the move.

RVD then set up a table in the corner of the ring, but as he turned to grab Cena, the champion took him down into an STF. When Van Dam managed to reach the ropes, Cena admonished referee Jon Finnegan for not stopping the bout, shoving him in the process. When Finnegan shoved him back, Cena laid him out with a clothesline, and went to the outside, bringing the steel steps back into the ring, striking RVD in the head with them. The proceeding cover brought out Smackdown referee Nick Patrick to do the honours, but Van Dam kicked out at two.

Disposing of the challenger over the top rope, Cena turned around into a spear from Edge, clad in a motorcycle helmet. Edge also knocked out Patrick, so that when RVD hit Cena with a Frog Splash, there was no-one to make the count, until Heyman ran to the ring and counted down the champion for the three.

After the decision, the ECW locker room poured into the ring to give Van Dam a prolonged championship celebration, although there will no doubt be those who question the victory, given that it was Heyman who counted the pinfall.

Winner -- Rob Van Dam
Match rating -- 7.5 / 10

Although far from the spectacle that was last year's event, One Night Stand 2006 was an entertaining showpiece which will have sent the ECW faithful home happy, in the knowledge that their man now has control over the WWE/ECW championship. We will have to wait until Monday -- or perhaps Tuesday -- to find out if the win remains valid.

In his report on last year's show, SLAM! Wrestling's Chris Gramlich noted that "ECW will never be the outlaw promotion that it once was, just a reminder of glory days gone by. Maybe some things should be left in the past."

Twelve months on, and with a new and bold venture immediately ahead, the question of whether the McMahon version of ECW can ever work, still has yet to be answered.


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    Brian Elliott is a freelance journalist specialising in soccer, pro wrestling, and MMA. Please visit his website at http://spaces.msn.com/brianelliott/