14 years ago, on June 12th, 2005, ECW One Night Stand occurred under the WWE umbrella, the extreme brand had a nostalgic night to remember. As fans know now, it was much more than just a one-night occurrence. After experiencing its final days in 2001, it was an event that was celebrated after returning to the Hammerstein Ballroom. Many fans by the end of ECW were left with a bad taste in their mouth as they hoped for a vintage version of the company they had fallen in love with.
Instead, they received a watered-down version that did not exemplify the extreme style of wrestling and became much of a normal wrestling brand. However, following the One Night Stand event in 2005, I feel the legacy of WWE’s ECW is to be more appreciated nine years after its final time airing on television. Let us look at ECW’s return at 2005’s One Night Stand and what the brand helped create.
ECW One Night Stand 2005
Tommy Dreamer was placed in position to help lead the one-time only event to get the ECW Originals back on the show. Originals like Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero made their presence felt as they returned to the place that gave them and opportunity years before their time in the WWE. The crowd was hot all night as they saw the return of the company they had fallen in love with before they ultimately had to shut down. From the incredible Sandman entrance prior to the main event, to the multiple chants by the fans attacking the WWE product, it was certainly an incredible night.
Such an incredible night that it led to the WWE higher ups to wanting the ECW brand to not only be a one-time thing. Many can remember the RVD promo that made it known to all the fans that missing this event was much worse than missing WrestleMania months prior. Looking back 14 years later, remembering the love the fans and performers showed that night is how many fans should remember ECW and WWE’s vision of it, because the love and passion of pro wrestling was there.
In the WWE Untold Series that began on YouTube and is also on the WWE Network, Paul Heyman pointed to this love and passion in a simple sentence; “ECW One Night Stand in 2005 was really your last chance to experience each other and by that, I mean the audience and ECW, and ECW along with its audience.” Heyman and the rest of the ECW Originals knew that this would be the special night they wanted to really say goodbye, rather than being canceled and going bankrupt in 2001. Of course, the WWE had other plans which would lead to ECW being revamped in a whole new way.
ECW: The Brand
Vince McMahon saw the success of the first One Night Stand event of ECW and wanted to make it bigger and better. The money signs were huge as he held a second ECW One Night Stand in 2006 which would lead to the beginning of ECW as a third brand on WWE television. While ECW One Night Stand 2006 may forever be looked at as phenomenal event led by the hate of John Cena by the fans and the huge victory of Rob Van Dam in the main event to capture the WWE Championship and ECW Championship. Despite the forever memorable event, what followed was WWE’s ECW which fans and the originals of ECW dislike and hate on to this very day.
While Paul Heyman was put in control creatively, he would ultimately leave when his ideas under the WWE umbrella would not be passed as their vision for the brand was incredibly different. Heyman has been on record of saying how he knew from day one that it would be a disaster and he even told Tommy Dreamer that he would not be working for the company within a year. He was right as the ECW he hoped for never got off the ground running and became a difficult home for the ECW Originals who would all be gone in the years following.
What fans should appreciate about the WWE ECW is that it opened up a door for young guys to develop and learn, allowing them to become big stars on Raw and SmackDown after television seasoning when the show was on the Sci Fi channel. To appreciate the quiet success, here is a few stars that debuted and learned from their days on ECW. Being on television while also working with veterans like Christian, Kane, and Fit Finlay crafted these stars to become better in the long run.
Becoming a “Paul Heyman Guy” goes all the way back to ECW when Paul Heyman asked for CM Punk to be a part of his roster. He knew the brand would be used to craft the younger talent rather than be the extreme show he expected, leading him to choose the talented Chicago Native. Punk became the centerpiece in quick order for ECW, ultimately winning the ECW Championship while feuding with the likes of John Morrison (aka Johnny Impact) and Chavo Guerrero on the show.
When Heyman left, Punk figured his days would be numbered as well, but instead he went on to be the longest WWE Champion of the modern era with a 434-day reign and became a main event performer for the company. Maybe he didn’t need ECW to be groomed, but instead ECW allowed him to change the company’s mind about him, leading to his incredible run in the WWE.
The current WWE Champion got his first opportunity in the WWE as a part of ECW 11 years ago when he debuted on the January 22nd episode. Kofi Kingston would be on a fast track to becoming a fan favorite for years as he was able to show his incredible athleticism on ECW as the “Jamaican Sensation”. Out of all four of the men listed here, Kingston’s rise to the top took the longest but developed into such a key player for the WWE following his days as a part of ECW.
The list of accolades following his time in ECW is a list that many people may not realize. Kingston is the reigning WWE Champion, along with being a four-time Intercontinental Champion, three-time United States Champion, and an eight-time tag team champion, including the longest reigning in WWE history. Without being able to appear on ECW and learn from the veterans on the brand, who knows if all of this could have been possible.
As a part of the then “New Superstar Talent Initiative” that took over ECW in 2008, Jack Swagger debuted as a member of ECW and went on to have an impressive run doing so. “The All-American American” quickly became one of the more hated performers by the fans as he continued to brag about simply how good he was. The former college wrestler continuously showed his impressive talent leading him to the ECW Championship and a rivalry with top veterans like Matt Hardy, Finlay, and ultimately Christian who would defeat him for the championship.
His work on ECW would have him soon promoted to the big time as he would win the Money in the Bank briefcase in 2010 and soon enough the World Heavyweight Championship. This probably was his high point with the WWE, but without his time in ECW developing, the current Bellator performer may not be where he is now without his time in ECW.
Fans may not know this, but Sheamus debuted on ECW television in June of 2009 and quickly rose to the top of the WWE in the same year. Sheamus was always high on the lists of the likes of Vince McMahon and especially Triple H. They believed debuting “The Celtic Warrior” on ECW would allow him to become dominant and shock the world later in the year when he defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship. ECW was a development brand much like NXT is now, far before the times, however. It allowed the talent to gain experience which was all Sheamus needed before being propelled into the main event. Sheamus is now four-time world champion and a five-time tag team champion. Sheamus may be one of the more underappreciated stars of the past decade as we near his debut.
These four stars all had incredible runs following their ECW days which more so proves that the run of WWE’s ECW was in no way a waste. 14 years ago, today, ECW was brought back for a one night only event that moved on to be so much more. From the love and passion that was exemplified that night, to the years of being a televised platform for certain young stars to learn from some of the best veterans who traveled around the world, the reformation of ECW under the WWE banner was completely worth it in the long run for the WWE and fans the past decade-plus due to the stars developed.