True Story Of ECW One Night Stand

Everything you need to know about ECW One Night Stand

The very best wrestling shows are the ones that remind you of why you've continued to watch after so many years. Of all the feel-good wrestling reunions that have ever been pieced together, few have been as celebrated or heralded as the one held in front of an intimate yet vociferous "Big Apple" crowd in mid-2005. It was a night of rediscovery, brashness, controversy, and a familiar blend of violence that one might consider "quaint".

More than two decades after the independently-run Extreme Championship Wrestling held its final card, the influence of the so-termed "Little Promotion That Could" is still felt today. Presenting unflinching brutality, catering to a diehard, in-the-know part of the audience, championing talents that don't conform to the mainstream archetype, displaying all manner of worky-shooty goodness - these elements can all be found in latter-day pro wrestling, and none of them were even remotely standard until ECW carved out its niche following in the 1990s. 

ECW grew beyond its niche, settling into a sort of purgatorial plane. As owner Paul Heyman later mused, ECW was too big to be small time, and too small to be big time, a profound rut that would help doom its business model come 2001, when Heyman was forced to declare bankruptcy, many millions in debt.

Paul heyman one night stand

That didn't stop surviving organisations from continuing to appropriate ECW's tenets, ideas, and characters into their own productions. Crowd-encompassing brawls, coarse language, overt sexuality, elevation of the gifted "indie darling", and other pages of the ECW playbook remained in use outside the walls of the Heyman compound.

Heyman himself came aboard Vince McMahon's WWE in 2001, followed by fellow extreme refugees like Rhyno, Spike Dudley, Jerry Lynn, Tajiri, Tommy Dreamer, and Rob Van Dam. Within TNA's first year of existence in 2002, the likes of Lynn, Raven, Justin Credible, The Sandman, New Jack, and others were often put together to try and recapture some of that South Philly magic. Controversial indie group (and former ECW nemesis) XPW actually moved their operations to the ECW Arena in 2002, as champion/booker Shane Douglas brought in just about every available alumnus to try and fill the ECW void.

Of course, none of it was the same. ECW was a unique, "lightning in a bottle" revelation that couldn't be consciously duplicated. After all, ECW was ECW because it was original. Another organisation trying to recreate ECW cannot, by definition, be original.

Still, the existence of the void was felt not just by the industry, but by the fans. The company and its ethos were sorely missed. It was even more sorely missed following the release of a particular bit of media.

In November of 2004, WWE released The Rise and Fall of ECW on DVD. The life and times of Extreme Championship Wrestling were given a thorough examination, much of it rosy, other parts blunt. Heyman and a host of ECW alums presently working for WWE regaled the viewer with one of the most engrossing documentaries they had yet released. The DVD set also included seven bonus matches, presented in their cosy rawness (hurt only by the expected music dubs, of course).

Rise and fall of ecw dvd cover

While a fondness for the departed ECW had long remained bubbling beneath the surface, the Rise and Fall DVD profoundly struck a chord with the fanbase. In a time before nearly all ECW media was made available on a streaming service, this DVD was just the tonic those lovelorn thrillseekers were crying out for - and it only augmented their cries.

Within three months of the set's release, Rise and Fall had become WWE's second most-bought DVD in their history, trailing only the WrestleMania 20 release. Not long after, it assumed the top spot, indicating that the maw for all things ECW still had slobber dripping from the bottom teeth.

About a month after the DVD came out, rumours began circulating that WWE had booked New York's Hammerstein Ballroom for a pay-per-view the following June. The 2500-seat venue was home to ECW's last two pay-per-views, and made the most sense for a WWE-authorised recreation of ECW (word is that Tommy Dreamer pushed for the smaller, more intimate ECW Arena in Philadelphia, but was turned down).

If strong DVD sales weren't enough of a barometer of feelings, a Rhyno victory over one-off enhancement talent (and fellow Extreme alumnus) Danny Doring at the first Sunday Night Heat taping of 2005 drew a very loud pro-ECW response from the Long Island crowd. Though Doring was simply there to do the honours, it was still one-half of ECW's final tag team champions getting gored and pinned by the final world champion. The crowd caught on to the significance, responding with amplified chants of E-C-Dub.

Reportedly, it was then-SmackDown star Rob Van Dam that suggested bringing back ECW for a night. Some believe that Van Dam asked on behalf of Heyman, who was very unpopular among WWE creative, and feared that the idea would be immediately shot down on the basis of it being *his* idea. Most people liked and respected RVD, so to come from him, the suggestion might carry a little more weight.

Rob van dam paul heyman one night stand 2006

Thus, ECW One Night Stand was incepted. Heyman, understandably, was the man tasked with putting together the special card, though apparently it wasn't originally intended to be that way.

In the early planning stages for One Night Stand, Heyman reportedly wasn't factored in, due to alleged prior clashes between him and creative over the preceding years. By February of 2005, Vince McMahon himself insisted that Heyman be involved. According to Tommy Dreamer, who was involved in the production of the show, it was he who went to bat for Heyman to be involved.

McMahon met with Heyman that February, where the ECW boss laid out his plans. He apparently went so far as to produce three different show scripts for One Night Stand, deathly serious about capturing the quintessential ECW spirit.

The point about the "ECW spirit" was something some detractors had noted, as it seemed ironic to have a reunion of rebels and revolutionaries take place under the banner of a very "corporate" WWE. WWE was essentially the executor of the ECW estate by acquiring the film library, trademarks and the like, and the idea of "WWE presents ECW" didn't sit well with everyone.

By March, plans for another ECW reunion show were made public. TNA personality Shane Douglas got together with broadcaster and producer Jeremy Borash to begin putting together their own reunion card for the ECW Arena, scheduled two nights before One Night Stand. TNA contracted performers like Douglas, Raven, Jerry Lynn, and a few others weren't free to work a WWE-produced event, so "The Franchise" could promote a few exclusive wrestlers on his card.

That card was originally intended to be called Extreme Reunion, but WWE sent them a cease and desist over the use of terms ECW, Extreme Championship Wrestling, and even "Extreme" itself. They couldn't even refer to that famed bingo hall as the ECW Arena. Douglas' opposition card would instead call itself Hardcore Homecoming, and do all it could to sidestep those trademark landmines.

Hardcore homecoming dvd cover

For what it's worth, the Homecoming group released its own documentary called Forever Hardcore. Though it lacks original ECW footage, the doc itself is a magnificent companion to The Rise and Fall of ECW, and includes perspectives from valuable stars left out of WWE's production.

Soon there was a battle over what independent entities would work what show, as Dreamer was permitted to bring in outside wrestlers for One Night Stand, while Douglas had the same access to the free agent pool.

The WWE card could already boast Dreamer, The Dudley Boyz, Taz, Chris Jericho, Tajiri, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and others. Impressive as that group was, there were gaps that needed filling in, and Dreamer knew who to reach out to.

A note in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter claims that The Sandman, after once saying he had no interest in working the WWE card, received an offer from Dreamer to switch his stance, and work One Night Stand instead of Hardcore Homecoming. Dreamer reportedly made similar offers to Justin Credible and Sabu, the latter of whom had ties to TNA, but was apparently free enough to pick his own bookings.

Ultimately, while WWE once held an "us or them" mentality regarding the two cards, they did soften their stance, allowing any non-contracted WWE performers to work both shows if they so desired.

Still, some notable names weren't at One Night Stand. Terry Funk committed to Hardcore Homecoming, turning down an offer three times greater than what WWE presented for him. He felt the way Douglas did, that McMahon shouldn't be the one profiting from ECW's legacy, and didn't want to be part of that. Of course, Funk did change his mind a year later.

Funk's participation at Hardcore Homecoming was to take part in a three-way dance with Douglas and Sabu, a callback to their landmark 1994 ECW Title match that resulted in an hour-long draw.

One name was unable to make it to One Night Stand: The "Original Gangsta" New Jack. The former ECW Tag Team Champion reportedly had one or more outstanding warrants in the state of New York, but was working to resolve them before showtime. Alas, it didn't happen.

New jack close up

Former ECW champ Steve Corino eschewed both cards, reportedly telling fellow alum CW Anderson, "I want to be the d*ck that turns it down. I've moved past that."

In early May, then-TNA booker Dusty Rhodes said on an episode of Live Audio Wrestling that he would permit TNA wrestlers to work WWE's card. However, Dixie Carter herself wouldn't allow for that crossover, so Rhodes' verbal gesture was sadly moot.

One TNA talent found a way around that: disgruntled former X Division champion Kid Kash secured a release from TNA in mid-April, after many months of frustration with the company. As the penultimate ECW Television champion, Kash seemed like a lock to make his mark on that June weekend.

By late April, word of some of the One Night Stand plans leaked. Heyman wanted absolute authenticity, from a lack of pyro, to lower production values in general, to the classic brick-wall entrance set, to using the old referees, as well as Atlas Security for protective detail.

Another major detail was a strong emphasis on putting on the best possible matches. While fans could be forgiving of lacklustre reunion show bouts (in deference to, say, some performers' advanced age), WWE was looking at the possibility of revisiting ECW down the line, should One Night Stand be successful. They didn't want the audience to associate future shows with wrestlers they've learned can't go any more. Thus, only the still-capable need apply.

In all, six of the seven matches were announced ahead of time. In what promised to be a hardcore war, Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman would reunite to face Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley. On the technical side of things, Chris Benoit would take on Eddie Guerrero. 

Dudley boyz one night stand 2005

Calling back to their 1995 matches that raised the bar of ECW showcases, Rey Mysterio was matched up with Psicosis. In three-way action, the 1999 rivalry between Yoshihiro Tajiri, Super Crazy, and Little Guido was dusted off. In a match that had never taken place in ECW in any form, former Television Champion Chris Jericho would face former Thrillseekers partner Lance Storm. After those five matches were announced, a sixth match was added, pitting longtime rivals Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka against one another.

There was also supposed to be a match on Sunday Night Heat, with final tag team champions Danny Doring and Roadkill facing CW Anderson and Johnny Swinger. However, the match was a late scratch, due to WWE deciding they didn't want the unique atmosphere of the venue to be spoiled on the pre-show, instead saving that reveal for when the pay-per-view started.

Oddly enough, none of them were ever promoted on television. The TV build to One Night Stand centred around Raw GM Eric Bischoff expressing his disgust for the company that he used to pluck talents from, and the promotion that regularly lobbed insults his way. It was a contentious rivalry, to be sure.

Bischoff's annoyance led to Raw star Benoit, of all people, taking up the defence of ECW. Mind you, Benoit only worked for ECW off and on for about a year in 1994 and 1995. He reigned as tag team champion there for six weeks with Dean Malenko, and infamously broke Sabu's neck (thus earning him his "Crippler" nickname).

That being said, it was weird to see Benoit suddenly become enthusiastically nostalgic about ECW, going so far as to challenge fellow alum Tajiri to an "ECW style" match, in which Benoit went heavy on weapon use (something he wasn't really known for during his ECW run). Granted, this was little more than an explicit commercial for the pay-per-view, having a recognised star of a popular WWE TV show endorse ECW to parts of the audience that may not have been as familiar with it. But to an ECW diehard, this was an infomercial that didn't exactly "tell the story right".

But Benoit's part in the build was miniscule. The road to One Night Stand was paved by Bischoff and other assorted WWE heels (like Kurt Angle, JBL, Edge, and others) wanting to ruin the extreme festivities. Thus, the villainous horde decided to show up to the Hammerstein Ballroom, casting a possible black cloud over the event.

The build also included a rather memorable TV segment where the three famed promoters of 1990s American wrestling shared the ring together. Bischoff attempted to hold a "funeral" for ECW on the May 23 Raw, which brought out McMahon to both insult Bischoff, and to admit his own financial stake in wanting to see One Night Stand succeed. Then Heyman came out to give his typical hard-sell sermon, capping off a segment that fans of the 1990s probably thought they'd never see.

Paul heyman eric bischoff vince mcmahon 2005

After a few weeks of physical altercations between the ECW originals and the WWE dissenters, a whirlwind of chaos, electricity, and curiosity descended upon the Hammerstein Ballroom on June 12, 2005. One Night Stand was upon us.

48 hours after Hardcore Homecoming hit it out of the park in South Philadelphia, many of the principals from that feel-good card ventured up Interstate 95 to Manhattan, where a larger pay-per-view audience waited to see the renewed adventures of the revived ECW name.

From the jump, it felt like old times. A raucous New York crowd chanted the three familiar letters, leading into the Harry Slash-helmed theme song, and an appearance from a clearly-emotional Joey Styles. Styles was soon joined on commentary by Mick Foley (who at one juncture was asked to wrestle on the show as Cactus Jack, but wouldn't commit at the time to a highly-physical performance).

It didn't take long for the action to hit high gear. Storm and Jericho tore down the house in a hot opener, accessorised by Jericho wearing his old Lionheart gear, and fans chanting unsavoury things at Storm's valet Dawn Marie (just like old times). A cane shot from an interfering Justin Credible gave Storm the win.

Chris jericho one night stand

According to Jericho, he requested Storm as his opponent, on the basis that Storm was on the verge of retiring. As the two were each other's first-ever opponents in the business, Jericho thought it was appropriate that they face off one more time before Storm hung up the boots.

From there, the thrills and spills only intensified. Tajiri, Crazy, and Guido's three-way dance was littered with interference and highwire stunts, before Crazy polished off Tajiri with a series of moonsaults.

This was followed by Mysterio and Psicosis' earnest attempt to turn back the clock, hampered somewhat by 1. Mysterio wearing his modern wardrobe (as opposed to going retro like Jericho), and 2. Psicosis working a slower, more deliberate style, which some speculated was his attempt to get a job with WWE (indeed, Psicosis debuted as one of the Mexicools a month later). Fans booed the WWE-centric 619, but did appreciate Mysterio's springboard rana finish.

Psicosis one night stand

To this point, interspersing the action were video packages of classic ECW moments, as well as a montage of alumni that had passed on since 2001, including the recently-departed Chris Candido.

After Rey's victory, the WWE antagonists arrived, taking their places in the ballroom balcony. JBL and Angle cut inflammatory promos, and received some very vulgar chants in return.

Ultimately, they were interrupted by Rob Van Dam, who was unable to wrestle after tearing his leg up earlier in the year. Nonetheless, he cut an impassioned promo on the intruders, extolling the ECW spirit, before getting gored by Rhyno. The "Man Beast" had been fired from WWE in April (something the crowd was happy to remind him about), and this appearance came during the final weeks of Rhino's non-compete before he signed with TNA.

Saving Van Dam was Sabu, leading to an impromptu match between former ECW champions. RVD did manage to give Rhyno a skateboard dropkick using a steel chair, before Sabu finished with an Arabian Skull Crusher. After all, few things are more "ECW" than Joey Styles shrieking "OHMIGOD" while Sabu does something regrettable.

Sabu pain one night stand

From there, Benoit defeated Guerrero in a mostly solid technical encounter, albeit a compromised one. A combination of fans being distracted by goings-on in the WWE balcony, as well as Guerrero being unhappy about doing a clean job so soon after executing a huge heel turn on SmackDown, led to "Latino Heat" largely giving a lacklustre performance by his high standards. He and Benoit reportedly had heated words backstage after the match.

One performance that more than delivered was Awesome and Tanaka's barbaric chair-and-table duel. The two beat each other mercilessly in what most consider to be the match of the night. Awesome finished his longtime nemesis with an out-of-the-ring Awesome Bomb through a table and a subsequent dive onto his crumpled foe.

Word after the show was that WWE wanted to sign Awesome on the merit of his strong performance. However, Awesome never wrestled again, opting to go back into retirement until his tragic passing in 2007.

Mike awesome one night stand

After that spectacle, Heyman came out next, first to thank the fans, and then entertain them with a wild tirade directed toward the WWE invaders. He openly dropped the verboten name of Matt Hardy to a stunned Edge (amid that whole mess), before reminding JBL that he was only ever WWE champion because Triple H didn't feel like going to SmackDown (a remark that reportedly cracked up Vince).

Verbal violence volleyed back to physical violence in a main event that was ECW personified. The tie-dye-wearing Dudleyz stood toe to toe with Dreamer and Sandman (who entered to his trademark Metallica music at Heyman's vehement insistence, cost be damned). Just about everyone ran in on this match, including The Blue World Order, Balls Mahoney, Axl Rotten, Kid Kash, The Impact Players, Francine, Beulah, and Spike Dudley. Blood was spilled, foreheads were grated, and flames reached for the sky, as Bubba powerbombed Dreamer through a fiery table to finish the fight.

Dudley boyz one night stand

There’s more, though. Steve Austin (wearing an XFL jersey, in honour of another organisation that crashed and burned in 2001) arrived on the scene to call out the gatecrashers for a full-scale brawl between factions. And indeed, the groups clashed, with Taz memorably showing up (shredded towel and all) to do something he'd done once before: choke Kurt Angle unconscious in New York.

But while the gratifying beatdown of Eric Bischoff and subsequent "beer bash" put a nice shiny bow on a memorable night, not all was well.

During the closing scenes, one couldn't help but notice that The Blue Meanie was bleeding heavily. That's because during the group brawl, he had an altercation with JBL that went outside the bounds of kayfabe. JBL reportedly attacked Meanie due to comments Meanie had made in a prior shoot interview about JBL being a bully.

When Meanie later publicly stated that he was considering legal action, WWE signed him to a short-term deal, let him go over JBL in a SmackDown match (in which Stevie Richards gave JBL a brain-rattling chair shot), and booked him in a six-man tag at Great American Bash. Plus, Meanie adds, they doubled his One Night Stand payoff. For what it's worth, JBL and Meanie eventually buried the hatchet.

Blue meanie one night stand

In addition to JBL/Meanie and Guerrero/Benoit, there were also contentious feelings between Francine and Dawn Marie. The two reportedly weren't on friendly terms going back to their ECW days, and an alleged moment of disrespect nearly kicked up a physical altercation between them backstage at One Night Stand. Alas, cooler heads quickly prevailed in that instance.

While all wasn't entirely friendly behind the scenes at One Night Stand, there were greater feelings among those who saw the show. While none of the matches were epic-length struggles, each was an enjoyable primer into what made ECW special, and nothing overstayed its welcome. No five star matches, but probably nothing below three stars, either.

Today, One Night Stand is hailed as one of the greatest productions ever put on by WWE, a tribute that was mostly true to ECW's ideals, and allowed the company to almost have a proper sendoff. 

Business-wise, One Night Stand accounted for 325,000 buys on pay-per-view, as many as the previous year's Survivor Series, and more than any secondary WWE pay-per-view of its time.

According to Scott E. Williams' Hardcore History, McMahon was led to believe that if the pay-per-view did 175,000 buys, it should be considered a success. Kevin Dunn reportedly told McMahon that the coarse loudness of the ECW faithful through the years made the company seem bigger than it actually was, and that he shouldn't expect a sizable buyrate for One Night Stand.

As for what Vince thought of the show, Jericho recalls McMahon saying after Awesome vs. Tanaka, "I wouldn't want to have a PPV like this every month, but it's definitely very unique."

Though the ECW presence on WWE programming ceased in the fallout of One Night Stand, it continued elsewhere. TNA infused their programming with a decidedly stronger extreme flavour, putting the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Title on Raven, pushing Rhino and Sabu near the top of the card, and giving Jerry Lynn a renewed push. Douglas' Hardcore Homecoming continued on into the autumn, last running that November at the 2300 Arena. Both groups gained access to The Dudleyz, after Bubba and D-Von left WWE at the expiration of their deals in August.

Raven nwa champion

Of course, WWE did revisit ECW the following year with another memorable One Night Stand, followed by the launch of the ECW brand. Unfortunately.

The brand's existence was contingent on the re-signing of Heyman, whose WWE contract would have expired in early 2006. WWE didn't want TNA or anyone else to get their mitts on the caustic booker, and following the home run that was the first One Night Stand, Heyman gained a little more leverage in earning a favourable deal to stick around with WWE.

Without consideration to anything that took place after the fact, the 2005 One Night Stand was a fitting love letter to the ECW that everybody remembered. It may have been a WWE production, but Heyman's fingerprints were all over the project, and the unrestrained wrestlers got to have *their* matches. There were a few warts, of course, but that's ECW - a proud grin with some mangled teeth.

Without a genuine "match of the year" candidate, ECW One Night Stand still resides in that very exclusive pantheon of wrestling cards that are considered genuine classics. You can pick nits, and you can offer alternative ideas, but if the best wrestling shows are the ones that easily reaffirm one's fandom, then ECW One Night Stand is as close to perfection as a card really needs to be.

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Written by Cultaholic