Long before WWE made Extreme Rules a part of its annual pay-per-view lineup, the company allowed the group that brought the word extreme into the wrestling business to be part of an event known as ECW One Night Stand.
WWE probably didn't expect it to be so successful.
Extreme Championship Wrestling was a controversial yet successful company that operated from 1992 until it went bankrupt in the early part of 2001. For much of its existence, ECW was owned by Paul Heyman.
Heyman was known for his ability to give the fans what they wanted to see, and ECW was seen as an alternative to WWE in many ways. It was hardcore, it was edgy and it was fun to watch.
After ECW went out of business, WWE revived the company in storylines, making it part of its invasion angle in late 2001 that also included WCW. Once WWE reigned supreme over The Alliance at Survivor Series in 2001, it appeared ECW was buried for good.
However, in the summer of 2005, WWE decided to hold a reunion show for the company. This was based largely off the sales numbers of the DVD The Rise and Fall of ECW, which was released in November 2004.
The two-disc set would go on to be one of the best-selling DVDs ever released by WWE, and it would open doors for the former hardcore wrestling promotion that no one could have imagined.
ECW One Night Stand was certainly not a very heavily promoted pay-per-view from the WWE's standpoint. In fact, it didn't have any buildup for any of the matches on the card. It was billed as a reunion show for the old ECW.
WWE chose to run an angle where several Superstars from Raw and SmackDown would invade ECW One Night Stand, destroying it once and for all. Those Superstars were led by Eric Bischoff and included Kurt Angle, JBL and Edge.
Fans were probably hoping to see old ECW stars such as Sandman, Tommy Dreamer and Sabu as well as some great matches that would make them remember why they loved the original ECW so much.
But they were equally hoping that WWE wouldn't disgrace the old ECW and ruin their night inside the Hammerstein Ballroom.
The event started with an excellent speech from Joey Styles before he and Mick Foley prepared to call all the action. It was a great feeling that night in New York. WWE had managed to get plenty of former ECW Superstars, and the event was held in the perfect venue.
It really felt like the old ECW.
In the very first match of the night, Lance Storm took on Chris Jericho. He was accompanied to the ring by Dawn Marie. Though Storm needed and assist from Justin Credible, he was able to get the victory in what would go down as the last match of his career.
That match set the tone for a great night, as each match that followed highlighted something that helped put ECW on the map.
Remember that it was ECW that made the Three Way Dance popular, not WWE with the Triple Threat. Super Crazy, Tajiri and Little Guido had a great Three Way Dance that night. Psychosis and Rey Mysterio reminded fans how good Luchador wrestling was in ECW.
Later in the night, Mike Awesome faced Masato Tanaka, renewing their old rivalry. It was like the two hadn't missed a beat, and the match was excellent. It was a Falls Count Anywhere match that featured broken tables and some death-defying moves—some of the things the old ECW fans loved.
The final match of the evening saw Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman take on The Dudley Boyz in the main event. The Dudleys were able to pick up the win following a powerbomb to Dreamer through a flaming table.
Following the match, all of the ECW originals came to the ring and were joined by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. He challenged the Superstars from Raw and SmackDown to come to the ring, setting off a huge brawl.
Taz made his first appearance during this fight, slapping the Tazmission on Kurt Angle to the delight of the crowd.
ECW got the best of the brawl, and it was capped off by Austin delivering the Stunner to Bischoff.
This show had everything. It was not only a nostalgic night but one where fans truly felt like something special was happening.
Who can forget the crowd chants that night? Who can forget Heyman's passionate promo? And who can forget the fans singing along to "Enter Sandman" by Metallica as Sandman made his way to the ring?
WWE likely expected this show to be a one-time thing, but it literally re-launched the ECW product.
ECW One Night Stand was held again the following year, but that was only part of what this night did for the history of the business.
In May 2006, WWE announced that ECW would become its own brand with its own TV show on the Sci-Fi network.
Separate from Raw and SmackDown, the revived ECW had a roster all its own, complete with ECW originals such as Dreamer, Sandman, Sabu and Rob Van Dam.
The ECW World Championship returned and became one of the major titles in WWE. In December 2006, ECW had its own pay-per-view event, December to Dismember.
Amazingly, WWE had succeeded in bringing ECW back.
However, it soon became clear that WWE's version of ECW would not resemble the old model for long. In early 2010, the show was cancelled and ECW was gone—presumably for good.
Still, if not for that day in June 2005, none of that would have ever happened. Many hardcore ECW fans may have preferred it didn't.
ECW One Night Stand proved to be more than just a reunion show, and while many fans never saw ECW as true competition to WWE, this event proved why it was.
WWE continued to use One Night Stand as a pay-per-view event until 2009, when it became Extreme Rules.
For my money, ECW One Night Stand was the best non-WrestleMania pay-per-view event of the last decade.
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