Over the past few months I've taken you on important parts of my journey as a new fan in the Ruthless Aggression Era. One Night Stand was the break from the plateau, and I was more hype than ever to be a fan. And I bet you're all expecting me to say that December to Dismember was the steep decline. In reality, it wasn't. I still tuned in to see what was up. But, pouring over results pages and reviews, even I was smart enough to realize us fans had been let down. And that's been the prevailing narrative since this PPV hit the airwaves, and I wanted to take a critical look at and see, is it really that bad.
Opening video package: Weird. Paul Heyman is narrating all of this, and they've neglected the usual Elimination Chamber soundbites, and Heyman isn't nearly as verbose as he normally is. Plus The Bashams demo the weapons, like we, fans of ECW wouldn't understand how bludgeoning weapons work.
This was a tale of two matches. The first half was The Hardyz being the Rock 'n Roll Express and MNM were the Midnight Express. Old school tag team stuff. Then the second half happened, which was all spots. This is like when you eat two foods but the first thing you ate is still on your taste buds so the second thing doesn't taste as good. Both of these teams could have an amazing match of both kinds but like, not together. The icing on this trying too hard sundae is a reem of false finishes at the end where Melina takes a stiff kick to the face . The Hardyz hit a Double Top Rope Twist of Fate into a Swanton for the win Also God bless the crowd for trying to have fun.
Matt Striker promo: AWESOME. He trolls the crowd and condescends to them. He then uses his magical booking powers to tell the ref his ruleset. The ref does a great job at miming understanding for the more traditional rules, and miming annoyance for the more ludicrous ones. We then get...
Matt Striker vs Balls Mahoney
Striker has his own face on his tights Joey makes a comment about a man who sits on his own face. This breaks Tazz. It becomes clear at this point that Joey and Tazz are just trying to have a good time, as they know what a shit show this will be. Balls gets his "Hey look everybody, I can wrestle!" stuff in, but then Striker breaks the rules and uses the opportunity to work Balls' arm. Balls goes up top at one point (and one of the rules is "no moves off the top rope) so he looks like an idiot, luckily this is one of the two times Striker breaks the rules so it validates his rules. Balls fights back and wins. This would have been fun with some build, or if Striker had broken the rules more, but alas we're left with a slightly-below-average match.
Sabu is found unconcious backstage: Fine for what it was.
Tazz speculates how someone could be incapacitated like this if he'd had barbed wire matches in the past. I'm pretty sure if I snuck up on Sabu and hit him with a croquet mallet, he'd be out, despite how tough he is.
Rob Van Dam promo: Alright. Starts super impassioned about the risks involved and how he's fine with that if he becomes ECW Champion. Then he ends on a super corny line of "When you think ECW Champion you think RVD"
To my knowledge this is the only time Guido has been announced as Guido Maritato. I remember thinking in 2006 that the smart thing to do would've been to have Terkay squash someone, not have a tag team match. And looking back on it, teenage me was right. When Burke is in the ring, it's a competitive tag team match, but when Terkay is in it becomes a squash. And it's not like Terkay comes in and wins, he tags out to Burke, The FBI fight back but Terkay cheats. Terkay and Burke win. This was a bonkers match
Post match: Terkay hits a Muscle Buster. TNA chants happen. Yawn.
Sabu is loaded into an ambulance: Why did this need its own segment? Props to Joey and Tazz giving this angle heaps more than it deserves, speculating who attacked Sabu.
The idea is that Tommy is the only person crazy enough to fight Great Khali. Except he's not, he's fighting his manager. The two proceed to have the most boring match in history. Khali low bridges Dreamer and gets sent to the back. Dreamer hits his Tree of Woe Dropkick, the thing that leads into his finisher....and then gets rolled up with a handful of tights. Ridiculous.
Post match: Dreamer runs after Daivari but Khali grabs him behind the curtain and Tree Slams him on the stage. Why did this match have to happen to get here?
Paul Heyman inserts Hardcore Holly into the main event: He goes on a long rambling tangent about how everyone has to respect what he says before he actually makes his point. I feel like Vince possessed Paul in this moment
Mike Knox and Kelly Kelly vs Kevin Thorn and Ariel
Kelly covets the mic and wishes Punk luck tonight, which angers Knox. The boys have a boring match and then tag in the women. This leads to Ariel getting the heat, and Knox walking out on Kelly, allowing Ariel to pick up the win.
Don't get me wrong, the wrestling was terrible from all parties, but at least it told a story, albeit badly.
Post match: The Sandman comes out and beats up Thorn and celebrates after. The crowd is super into this. As long as an ECW original or a beautiful woman is on screen the crowd is somewhat hot. I love Ruthless Aggression fans. Modern fans would've shit on this before they even walked in.
Bobby Lashley promo: Spoilerific! I've never seen a guy get his own video package before the video package. Now we all know who's winning. Lashley cuts a generic promo.
Extreme Elimination Chamber package: Great. Joey Styles puts over the challengers and Big Show comes across as super cocky. I would've rather seen this video package at the beginning and here as opposed to the one we got
Paul Heyman promo: Prolific. "Long after my death ECW will live on" and saying that the day of the ECW Originals have died. There's also a super loud heckler who says Big Show will retire next year.
Big Show (c) vs Hardcore Holly vs Test vs Rob Van Dam vs CM Punk vs. Bobby Lashley
During entrances the heels are chummy with each other. Rob Van Dam and Holly are first. Holly gets his shit in. Punk is next. This match would've been much more effective if it was played like Wargames where the heels had the man advantage. Punk and RVD have some cool exchanges, and Punk makes Holly look good. Test had some killer spots with the crowbar. Punk is the first eliminated, Test randomly turns on Holly and the ref botches the three count. RVD is eliminated next. So all the fun wrestlers are gone and the crowd is turning. The Bashams keep Lashley in his pod which solves nothing, Lashley busts out with the table, and Test goes careening into it. This was the only use of the table. Lashley eliminates Test after a small back and forth leaving Lashley and Show. Lashley having the time to stare down Big Show is pretty lame. Lashley throws weapons at Show's pod door for no reason. They tease a barbed wire bat shot once Big Show gets in, but don't use it. Big Show looks like a lumbering idiot who gets some time. They do the slowest, turning into a rope rebounded spear spot for a finish.
This had some fun spots, but the many MANY problems beat it down into the smelly, gross Earth.
Post match: We get a big celebration with Lashley and the title with huge pyro.
But no. What we have here is a bad show that seemed deliberately designed to have pointless, poorly worked matches, with dysfunctional psychology up and down the card. Even The Hardyz and MNM would spend the next two months or so having better matches than they did on this show in half the length. Normally I'd end on some hyperbolic statement like "do not watch this show" or something, but in fact I have the opposite decree. Whenever your favorite wrestler is misused, or there's some strange psychology or a cold match on an otherwise good card, television show, Pay Per View or whatever, pop this show on the WWE Network, because it doesn't get any worse than this show, and it'll help keep you as a fan level headed.