Recap by: Jeff Rush
Noteworthy items (full timestamps at the end)
This show was nearly three-and-a-half hours long and loaded with interesting items. A few that stood out:
– Punjabi Big Bossman.
– Following the success of the first ECW One Night Stand PPV, Vince McMahon was the driving force behind starting ECW as a third brand.
– Confirmation that Vince loves trolling Jim Ross.
– Bruce discusses the legwork they have to do in order to use fire on a show.
– The Zombie character was created to make fun of the fact that the show was on SyFy.
– Sign Guy Dudley is a successful marketing director and was actually hired by WWE in that capacity without the company knowing he was a wrestler.
– Vince hates the bleached hair, black beard look.
– Big Dick Johnson originated as a prank on Vince at his birthday party.
– Vince once reached out to Dusty Rhodes for booking advice, knowing he was working for TNA at the time.
– Paul Heyman’s fascinating idea for getting C.M. Punk over at December To Dismember.
– What really happened with the fallout between Vince and Heyman?
– Insight into how Vince will sometimes book on a whim.
– Jerry Jarrett’s Chicken Salad Recipe, straight from the horse’s mouth.
What happened when the WWE brought back ECW?
Conrad opens talking about ECW fans, like himself. He says the company helped revolutionize wrestling and that the audience was extremely loyal. He says it feels like an idea that would’ve been pitched for years. When did it first come up?
Bruce says the first time it was pitched was when Paul came onboard full time. He argued that the WCW brand was dead and that the ECW name had a better chance of growing under the WWF banner. He says, however, that everything Paul said about WCW was true about ECW as well. Vince, too, agreed that he’d have better luck and would be able to better secure airtime on a Turner station with the WCW brand.
Vince was not even considering ECW as a WWE brand at the time. He felt there would be three brands – Raw, Smackdown, and WCW.
Bruce and Michael Hayes were not fans of ECW, nor was Vince. Shane McMahon, however, was. Some of the younger writers that grew up on ECW were also into it.
It was always the plan to bring in ECW “originals” and use them to help develop new, young talent. Bruce says it was similar to the idea for NXT and every other developmental area the company has had.
RVD and some other longtime ECW guys felt that you couldn’t recreate ECW and Bruce agrees. The original ECW had a different look and feel from WWE and was done for a different audience. Paul Heyman would say it was done “for potheads, written by potheads, about potheads.” That was the audience, talent and creators. When it’s taken out of that environment and mindset, you will alienate the people who loved it. That fan base will feel betrayed because you’re trying to grow and become something different.
Conrad equates it to liking a band before they’re famous. When they’re famous you don’t like them as much. It’s the same band but you have a different feeling for them now that they’ve made it big. Bruce agrees and adds that the band got a new producer, a new manager and are trying some different songs, maybe adding a horn section.
Paul Heyman wanted to move forward but also wanted to recreate the glory days.
We then discuss the fans who loved the original product and if there was concern about them not enjoying it the way they remembered from 10 years earlier. Conrad compares it to the ongoing Jordan-LeBron debate about the greatest of all time and if rose-tinted glasses can be a factor. Bruce says the old ECW product does not stand up today. He says you want to remember it as it was the first time and after you’re exposed to so many other things, it’s not the same. He relates it to Vince’s desire to bring back Ivan Putski years after he’d headlined WWF. He couldn’t do what he used to do. He was an old man in great shape but was not Ivan Putski anymore. He feels the same held true for ECW.
DVDs were huge in 2004 and the idea was to always include something on the DVD that you couldn’t get anywhere else. That’s how you sold them. It was a huge part of WWE’s business.
This brings us to The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD. Bruce says without this release and it’s surprising popularity, ECW would never have been relaunched. The production was excellent and was done by fans who loved their job and did extensive research. By June 2005, it was the second best-selling DVD in WWE history behind only WrestleMania 21. It would win DVD of the year by Wrestling Observer and at this time would inspire WWE to produce One Night Stand, an ECW reunion PPV. It was held at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan.
Conrad asks Bruce who sold Vince on the idea of an ECW PPV and Bruce responds by saying Vince sold him on the idea. He saw the success of the DVD and realized there was an audience out there for that nostalgia. Bruce, fully entrenched in his WWE mindset at the time, bristled at the idea. He thought “they were horrible then, what are they going to be like now?’
Old school ECW fan, Conrad, rolls his eyes at such a comment and says “my goodness, listen to you.” Brue stands by his assertion and says they were broken down men and WWE already had the best of who was there, what else could they possibly get?
Paul Heyman put One Night Stand 2005 together. Bruce wasn’t there and cannot offer backstage insight, but he thought it was great nostalgia. He felt it was a fun night for old fans of ECW. Understanding he is a WWE stalwart, he emphasizes that he loves the passion the ECW fans had for their product.
Vince McMahon will tell you “I’m a southerner from North Carolina,” but dude is a New Yorker. When he heard the crowd at Hammerstein, he immediately felt that if he could reign in Paul Heyman, ECW had the legs to be a potential third brand.
Taz was an announcer on this show. At times during his tenure, he felt pigeonholed being stuck in a commentary position but was also happy he wasn’t beating his body up every night. As a result, he was in a tough spot, generally speaking, but he was happy with this show.
Conrad brings up Sandman’s entrance on this show and how it’s one of the coolest things he’s ever seen in wrestling. Bruce saw him do the traditional Sandman entrance once in Reading, PA. He loved the rush of the audience singing along with his music. He jokingly insults Sandman’s in-ring capabilities and then goes all in on how much he loves the guy.
Bruce tried to get Joey Styles into WWE long before it ended up happening. He felt if they cut back on the overselling that Paul always had him do, he could be awesome.
Wait a sec. Bruce watched ECW? Ok, anyway…
They’d talked about having Styles in for a long time prior to One Night Stand but this served as a great “try before you buy” moment.
Hardcore Homecoming was an ECW reunion show that took place at the ECW arena the night before One Night Stand. Forever Hardcore was a non-WWE ECW documentary. Both were obviously piggyback concepts on something WWE was doing at the time. As a big fan of the brand, Conrad is very interested in hearing Bruce’s thoughts on both these topics.
“I did not see either,” says Bruce. Moving on…
Though Bruce was not at One Night Stand, Conrad attended as a fan and it’s one of his favorite live shows to this day. He wants to know about Bruce’s thoughts on the JBL-Blue Meanie situation that night, where JBL busts open Meanie with a bunch of shoot punches. He says the fallout from this situation reflected on JBL the same way current events do – with JBL coming off like a bullying a**hole. He mentions it’s crazy that things are still so similar 12 years later. Bruce is a close friend of JBL’s to this day, so what are his thoughts?
Bruce wasn’t there and can’t give first-hand perspective. He says JBL told him he had been hit in the back of the head, thought it was Meanie and went at him. He says having the guys drinking on the show was a bad idea. The two guys have since made up and are on good terms now. S**t happens.
Bruce isn’t sure what the punishment was, but he knows JBL was disciplined over the matter.
On May 29, 2006, the second One Night Stand is promoted on a Raw that took place in Tacoma, WA. Kurt Angle and RVD were both drafted to ECW that night. It was five years earlier in the same venue that the WCW dumpster fire invasion featuring a terrible Booker T-Buff Bagwell match took place and Conrad wonders what the deal is with having invasion and takeover angles always take place in the Tacoma Dome.
Angle is reportedly upset by getting what he felt was demoted to the ECW brand. Bruce says that Angle could have a 15-minute match one night and be told to have a 12-minute match the following night and, as a result, would be worried that he did something wrong. He says he’s always been a bit paranoid that way, but that he doesn’t recall him being upset with the shift to ECW.
During a WWE-ECW head-to-head special on June 7, 2006, in an effort to promote One Night Stand 2, Conrad says certain people in the company wanted to put Sabu vs. John Cena in the main event slot to prove that ECW sucked, as the guy the ECW fans hated (Cena) would far outperform they’re favorite (Sabu).
Bruce says that’s one of the stupidest f**king things he’s ever heard. Why would they spend a ton of money promoting a PPV, then turn around and sabotage themselves by making the guy look bad. He gets heated and goes off on this for a solid minute or two.
Conrad coughs “Invasion.”
A pull apart brawl was shot during this special. As part of it, Joey Styles knocks JR’s hat off. Bruce says though it seemed unscripted, he would bet Vince instructed him to do it.
Why does Vince love trolling JR?
Because JR sells.
If he didn’t sell Vince’s ribbing, Vince would move on and find someone else to mess with.
Where announcers are concerned in general, Vince likes combinations. He likes Jerry Lawler with anyone. Same with JR and Michael Cole. He likes Taz best with Cole, though Bruce feels Taz and JR are the best combo. Vince didn’t like Styles and Taz together as he felt it was too ECWish.
That brings us to One Night Stand 2006. Edge cuts a promo telling the fans this is like their Christmas, except their Santa Claus is “a fat Jew” and instead of presents, he hands out Percocet’s. Conrad asks how in the hell he got permission to say such things on the air.
This prompts an excellent impression from Bruce. As Paul Heyman, he says they have to speak to their fanbase, that the fans know he is fat, assume that he’s Jewish and he likes Percocet.
Terry Funk and Mick Foley used barbed wire and a flaming 2×4 on this show. Conrad wants to know how having fire on a WWE show was worked out beforehand. Bruce always hated using fire because it meant someone, often times Bruce, would have to take a walk around the building with a fire marshal and talk him into it.
“How many times did you take a walk with a fire marshal?”
“Did you ever have any unmarked bills on you when you did that?”
“You know, some fire marshals are friendlier than others.”
RVD defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship on this show. Conrad says the decision to put RVD over was made the Tuesday prior to the show, but Cena wasn’t told until the day of. Cena is fine with this and actually enjoyed the crowd response.
Bruce said no one believed Cena would drop the title, and as a result, everyone was for it and thought it would be a great shock.
Conrad says Vince was heavily involved in this show, that Heyman didn’t have the control you would expect. Bruce says he always assumed that’s how it would go, as it’s Vince’s company.
The buy rate for the second One Night Stand was down from the first one. This was not a concern to the company. Bruce likens it to a band having a reunion show. The first one is just more special.
It was reported that Heyman wanted Harry Smith on the ECW brand. Conrad says Brian Gewirtz then rushed him onto a schmoz finish on Raw so that he could claim he was there first and not some sort of ECW product. Bruce dismisses this as “conspiracy theory rumor innuendo bulls**t.” He says that would’ve been Vince’s call anyway and had nothing to do with Gewirtz.
We then discuss at length an interview Paul Heyman did with Mike Mooneyham. Since what you’re reading is already a recap of an interview of sorts, it seems we’d be going a bit too far down the rabbit hole to then also transcribe an interview from ten years ago that is basically being transcribed on the show I’m transcribing. See? What we’ll do here is go over the things Conrad and Bruce discuss while going through Heyman’s interview. As a result, we’ll be jumping quickly from topic to topic for a bit.
Bruce says he and others in the company felt ECW would be a very short-lived project.
The guys then discuss how ECW is being brought back for nostalgia purposes, but then Heyman says it will not be a nostalgia show, and how that, then, is not ECW.
Bruce adds that ECW was always “us against them” and as soon as you’re a part of “them” there’s nothing to fight for or against. You are no longer anti-establishment, you’re part of the establishment.
On the subject of Stephanie McMahon, Bruce does not feel she was opposed to the ECW concept. He admits that he and Michael Hayes were willing to do what they had to to make it work, but that neither of them were in favor of it.
Putting ECW on SyFy (then SciFi) was a weird fit. The plan was to try bringing in younger viewers, have them watch ECW and maybe stick around to watch other things on the channel.
Bruce thinks what makes Heyman’s booking style stand out, whether it be in ECW, OVW or Smackdown, is his ability to take negatives and turn them into positives, to accentuate the positives to the point that you don’t even notice the negatives. He was great at hiding people’s faults.
WWE was looking for something for Greg Gagne to do, so they sent him down to write for OVW where he ultimately replaced Heyman, allowing Paul to focus on ECW.
The first few weeks of the new ECW show were painful at best. Conrad brings up Tony DeVito’s Macho Libre character, which prompts an awesome Bruce impression.
Next up, we get into the Zombie. He was played by Tim Arson. He was initially supposed to be a Martian, but the network was not cool with an alien being beat up on the SyFy channel. Bruce says the plan for this character changed a lot, that it was at various points going to be Frankenstein and a mummy. He doesn’t recall the network putting the kibosh on the Martian, but he does remember them specifically shooting down Frankenstein. Bruce then admits that, ultimately, the character was created to make fun of being on the SyFy Network.
Sandman claimed that everyone signed a one-year deal. This prompts a segment where Conrad runs down various ECW names to determine who WWE was and was not interested in:
Raven: Bruce thinks he didn’t want to be a part of it.
Shane Douglas: Also didn’t want to be a part of it.
Dudleys: Were in TNA.
Bam Bam Bigelow: Didn’t like the offer.
Spike Dudley and Rhyno: Were in TNA and felt safe with their deals there.
Conrad then asks about New Jack. He says there’s a story floating around that he was brought in for a tryout match with Val Venis and also wanted to be the storyline guy who stabbed John Cena in the Carlito nightclub story from a few years earlier. Bruce doesn’t remember there being a tryout match. He says he does remember the John Cena stabbing pitch, but he felt that storyline was already sewn up with Carlito. It wasn’t like they were looking for someone for that role.
Bruce doesn’t know why Steve Corino wasn’t brought in but he does know that Vince hated his look – bleached hair and black beard, all the scars on his head.
Conrad counters: “Hollywood Hogan, Michael Hayes, Scott Steiner. Tell me again how Vince hates bleached blond hair and a black beard.”
We then shift to the weird terms Vince prefers to use and not use and how that applied to ECW. Joey Styles started out calling the wrestlers Superstars, then Wrestlers, then Rebels and eventually Extremists. The women are referred to as Vixens. This was done to provide distinction for ECW from Raw or Smackdown. Bruce discusses how this has been done by Vince for decades, to distinguish himself from other wrestling companies.
Next up is Kevin Fertig. First, we discuss his Mordecai character. He was supposed to be the “White Undertaker.” Kevin tried too hard to emulate the old school, slow motion Undertaker. Since he wasn’t the same size as the Undertaker and didn’t have that next gear, the gimmick “s**t the bed horribly.”
He was brought back for the ECW relaunch as a Vampire. Conrad talks about how cool it must’ve been to get the call to come back, only to find out you’re being saddled with a lame Vampire gimmick. Bruce says Kevin loved it. Conrad counters that sure, everyone loves getting paid.
Conrad says people wrote in asking about Shelly Martinez character, Ariel, more than anything else and he doesn’t understand why. Bruce says the Vampire and Ariel were a Dark Shadows gimmick.
It came out after signing her that Martinez had nude photos out there. Conrad wants to know if this was an issue for those in the company. Bruce absolutely slays him with an impression of JR questioning Martinez about such photos. He says these conversations actually happened.
Sign Guy Dudley (Lou D’Angeli) was brought in to work behind-the-scenes for the new ECW. Conrad says this seems like a random hire. Bruce says he was a promotions and marketing guy that got hired without them even knowing his wrestling past. Bruce says he was good at his job. A quick Google search shows that Sign Guy is currently Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. So there.
Regarding the first episode of ECW, Bruce said it would have to improve a lot to just suck.
Conrad brings up Dave Lagana and the rumor that he was being brought on to eventually replace Paul Heyman. Bruce says Heyman wanted Lagana there because he was an old ECW guy. He does not see a scenario where Lagana would be a Stephanie disciple.
Two weeks into the ECW relaunch, we reach Vengeance 2006. John Cena battles Sabu in a Lumberjack Match. In the end, Sabu taps out to an STF. Conrad says this was a new finish lobbied for by Michael Hayes who was not a fan of Paul Heyman or the ECW brand. Given each wrestlers standing in the company, the finish made sense.
Conrad mentions other matches ECW wrestlers appeared in during this show but points out the main event was DX vs. The Spirit Squad. Not a rib.
WWE then ran a show in the old ECW Arena. Bruce says they felt that was a mistake the minute they walked into the building. The look and feel was all wrong. This was, however, where C.M. Punk made his debut, defeating Stevie Richards. Bruce says Punk was a victim of backlash from being pushed too hard backstage by Heyman.
“It’s time to talk about the time the WWE World Champion was popped for drugs by the police.”
RVD and Sabu are arrested driving back from a show on a Sunday night in Huntington, WV. The title was shifted to Edge on Raw the following night in an angle that was supposed to play out on an upcoming episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event. Now, they’re stuck without a main event for an NBC special.
Bruce says the whole thing sucked. He recalls that Vince was pissed, but also wasn’t all that livid, thinking it was only marijuana. He says Vince liked RVD. He says they knew they’d be going with Edge anyway, that this just sped everything up.
Bruce figured both guys had to talk to a lot of people about the situation, so he didn’t bother them about it. He knows they’ve both been up front about their marijuana usage and that they’re both good guys, so it just was what it was.
Unlike the first show, the second episode of ECW was almost entirely Heyman’s script. The ECW arena dumped on the show and even chanted “sellout” at Heyman. Vince then inserted himself and had his writing crew take over the third show. Bruce says, given the venue, the fans wouldn’t be satisfied with traditional WWE booking regardless, but it left Vince feeling he couldn’t trust Heyman to have control of the product, that he was protecting Paul from himself.
Discussion moves to the Big Dick Johnson character, portrayed by WWE writer, Chris DeJoseph. Bruce says it originated with a backstage skit for Vince’s birthday and that Chris Farley’s male stripper character on SNL inspired this. DeJoseph was told to go for it and do everything but get oil on Vince’s suit. Everyone behind the scene’s loved it so it blossomed into a recurring character. Since it ultimately proved to be groan-inducing to live audiences, though, WWE decided to sacrifice Big Dick on ECW by having Sandman come out and cane him. DeJoseph was all in for this storyline.
Tommy Dreamer had a WWE-sponsored blog at the time where he voiced his frustration with the new ECW product. The blog was then discontinued. Bruce says it’s one thing to go out and insult the product, and another to so publicly wash your hands of what’s happening, rather than just leaving it alone. Dreamer was replaced as Director of Developmental shortly after this incident and replaced by Mike Bucci, aka, Simon Dean. The guys don’t discuss Bruce having any kind of heat or history with Bucci but do carry out a quick, enlightening exchange:
“On a scale of 1-10, how much do you hate Simon Dean, Bruce?”
“I don’t hate him. I’d have to care to hate him.”
So there we have it.
A Ric Flair-Big Show hardcore match involving thumbtacks took place on an episode of ECW. Bruce hated this and says both guys were totally perplexed by the whole thing too.
Kelly Kelly is up next. She was 19 at the time she joined the company and Heyman was infatuated with her. She was doing a stripper/dancer gimmick but was not able to dance. This brings us to an epic story, complete with impressions of how Vince McMahon “taught” Kelly Kelly how to dance.
“YOU GOTTA MOOOOVE. YOU GOTTA GROOOOVE!”
Kurt Angle’s last match with the company would come in August of 2006 following issues with pain medication. Conrad points out that, following the issues with Angle, RVD and Sabu that the whole concept seemed snake bit. Bruce concurs that things might have been better off being left as annual or once every few year’s reunion shows. He feels the relaunch was ultimately not planned out well, but that they had to take advantage of the TV deal.
We then discuss the time the Undertaker and Big Show had a Punjabi Prison match. It was a terrible idea, and both wrestlers hated it. Its origins lie in trying to come up with a concept that would hide the Great Khali’s limitations. A cage made of bamboo was chosen since Khali had actually spent time as a police officer in India. Though Khali was not a part of this match, his legend lived on.
Conrad wonders how a match like this can come to fruition when neither participant knows what they’re supposed to be doing. He likens it to the recent House Of Horrors match between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. He says it used to be that you would know what your finish was and then work backward. This provokes a story from Bruce:
There was a bull rope match between Eddie Guerrero and JBL. Bruce pitched a finish for it to both guys as well as Vince. Everyone loved it. The day of the show, Vince told him he didn’t get the finish and told him to call Dusty Rhodes since he’d booked such matches in the past. Bruce pointed out that Dusty was working for TNA at the time. That didn’t deter Vince. Bruce called Dusty and explained the situation. Dusty loved Bruce’s idea, which Bruce had stolen from Wahoo McDaniel from years earlier. He concludes that his finish was not used.
Bruce then admits that sometimes storylines are laid out six months in advance, and sometimes you just deal with things on the fly.
This then brings us to one of the most talked about segments of the show: The Punjabi Big Bossman. Conrad and Bruce both lose their s**t as Bruce carries out a revamped version of the Big Bossman’s theme.
Conrad says the fan reaction alone is worth checking out the August 1, 2006, match between Batista vs. Big Show at the Hammerstein Ballroom. It was completely s**t on. When asked for his thoughts, Bruce says “thank god” he wasn’t there. Conrad asks why he feels that way and Bruce says he’s happy he didn’t have to go to a lot of ECW tapings and he’s glad because the push and pull between Vince and Paul was exhausting.
First run episodes of ECW on SyFy did great in the ratings. The guys discuss how it helped for everything else on the channel to suck as it made their crappy show look like a million bucks.
Bruce qualifies that he hasn’t been involved in quite a while, but that production costs for running a show of this nature would cost anywhere from $800,000-$1M per day.
Bruce feels that Bonnie Hammer’s dealings with WWE at USA are what put her on the map. He speaks highly of her.
Matt Striker is up next. He was a teacher in NYC who would use sick days to take off to go wrestle. He made it on to Raw and it was discovered that he wasn’t sick and he lost his teaching job. This was used to help round out his on-air character.
By November 2006, the call was made to scrap ECW house shows, as they were averaging around 1,000 fans per show. This was a sign of the beginning of the end.
That brings us to a show recognized as being one of the worst PPV’s of all time – December To Dismember 2006. The show received approximately 55,000 domestic buys, which is roughly 2/3 of the amount of people that attend WrestleMania live each year. The 8,000 seat arena was about half full. Everyone there was treated to the Big Show defending his ECW title in an Elimination Chamber match. This would be the first and last ECW-only PPV under the WWE umbrella. Bruce is asked to grade this show on a scale of 1-10. He dusts off his best Paul Heyman and gives the show “a negative four stars, sir.”
The Big Show was tired and beat up at this point. He wanted to drop the title and get off the road. Conrad points out that this was 11 years ago.
Other than Show, the Chamber match included Bobby Lashley, C.M. Punk, Test, RVD, and Hardcore Holly. Lashley would go on to win the match and the ECW Championship. The two major stories being reported on coming out of the show were the creative fallout between Heyman and Vince and the last minute replacement of Sabu in the main event.
Bruce says that Heyman’s idea for the Chamber match was to have Punk start off against Big Show and have him tap out to the Anaconda Vice 15 seconds in. Punk would then wait for each of the following contestants to be released from their pod and do the same, eventually making everyone tap and winning the title.
This actually sounds like an original and awesome way to have gotten Punk over very early in his WWE run. It was during the main event of a PPV that carried little interest, so if it didn’t go over with the live audience, no one would really know anyway. Seems like a blown opportunity and, of course, like a total Heyman idea. It’s a shame we never got to see this.
Anyway, off my soapbox and back to the show, Vince hated the idea and thought, given Punk’s build, it was totally unbelievable. Man, would he do an about face on that line of thinking just a few short years later. Vince was in love with Lashley at this point and saw this as a launching point towards a big future for him. At this point, however, Vince was furious with the constant needling by Heyman to get his idea approved. It ended up being the last straw for Paul and the thing that finally got him removed from his position.
As for Sabu, he was replaced on this night in the main event by Hardcore Holly. Vince was unhappy with Sabu, thinking he just wanted to perform stunts, but not work matches. His indifference at tapings also rubbed Vince the wrong way. Additionally, Vince wanted Sabu to talk, but Heyman disagreed. Heyman thought Sabu was perfect for the Elimination Chamber and was upset with this decision. It was also reported at this time that Sabu was not doing well and was in need of help for addiction issues.
Bruce didn’t like a lot about this show going in, including using the Chamber, which he thought belonged to WWE, not ECW. It was very poorly promoted and was a surprise to no one when it came out as it did. The Wrestling Observer fan poll gave the show: Thumbs Up 00.8%, Thumbs Down 90.3%. Thumbs In The Middle 9%. That’s actually a little better than I would’ve guessed after listening to the last half hour of this show.
Further details regarding the Vince/Heyman relationship: Talent would go to Heyman with ideas and Heyman would say Vince nixed them. When they would talk to Vince, Vince would say he’d never heard the ideas. Bruce says his guess is that the ideas were never pitched by Heyman to Vince, as he was always happy to explain to people why he didn’t like an idea. He wasn’t shy about this.
Regarding a report by Dave Meltzer regarding Heyman completing the script for December To Dismember too late for Vince and Stephanie to make any adjustments other than in the main event, Bruce calls bulls**t. He says PPV scripts were almost always turned in 2-3 days before the show, that scripts were never completed three weeks out. He says knowing Heyman, though, that the script was probably late to some extent.
The following day, Heyman and Vince have a heated argument. Vince blames Paul for complaints from DirecTV and the poor reviews of the show, Paul blames Vince for all the limitations he’d put on the ECW product, by toning down the violence.
Bruce says that Vince knew on Sunday that he was done with Heyman, that this argument didn’t change anything.
The behind-the-scenes feeling is that Heyman had been “phoning in” his performance as a writer since September.
WWE released a statement about Heyman being sent home that seemed like an angle, but it wasn’t. Stephanie tells the writers in a meeting the following day that Heyman wasn’t fired, just removed as head writer.
Bruce recalls a time Heyman was sent home over a “pinch fight” with Brian Gewirtz that was totally ridiculous. He says it was silly because Heyman still got paid, just didn’t have to go to work. In the meantime, everyone else was stuck dealing with his workload. He says he’d love to be “punished” like that.
Dave Lagana took Paul’s spot writing for ECW and Bruce feels he was a natural fit, that Lagana worked well with Vince.
The next ECW title change would take place in April 2007, when Bobby Lashley would drop the title to… Vince McMahon. This was on the heels of WrestleMania 23, where Vince had his head shaved after Lashley defeated Vince’s surrogate, Umaga. Conrad speculates that Vince may have been self-conscious about the hair removal since it was in this match where the world would be introduced to “Doo Rag Vince.”
“Vince made himself the ECW Champion and is wearing a doo rag. Talk me through this,” prods an earnest Conrad.
Bruce wanted Vince to wear a mask with a wig sewn into the top of it, but Vince thought that was silly. When pressed for info on how Vince ended up with the green light to put the belt on himself and who was supporting it, Bruce gives that type of response that may mean he doesn’t actually know or he’s just not going to divulge that information: “Well, Lagana was the head writer. I guess it was Lagana.” The reason this stands out as possible shenanigans are the same reason this show exists and is as good as it is – Bruce remembers everything. We get a ton. A ton. But once in a while, we don’t get everything. Conrad, for his part, rarely sells this.
Lashley won the title back in June when he won a street fight as part of One Night Stand 2007. Vince chokes Lashley with a hammer in this match. The contest is then immediately followed by a “pudding match” between Melina and Candace. This prompts two questions for Bruce:
1. What was your favorite pudding match?
2. How Vince McMahon is it to choke a guy with a hammer?
This is the sort of hard-hitting journalism that inspires me to transcribe 3+ hour shows and, I assume, compels you to read them.
Bruce says the whole angle with Vince and Lashley was an attempt to recreate Vince-Austin and make Bobby the guy. Jesus, did that not work. It was thought that Lashley shaving Vince’s head made a feud between the two a natural transition.
Conrad asks if Vince felt he needed to be on TV since ratings for the ECW show were dipping. Bruce says, to hear it from Vince, the goal was always to get him off TV. But it seems to him that Vince on TV was always the fail safe and that it always worked. Conrad brings up the conundrum of being Lashley in this position. If the match is awesome, it’s considered so because Vince is involved. If it’s not, it’s because you made Vince look bad on TV. Bruce counters that it’s still an opportunity.
A week later, Lashley was drafted to Raw and dropped the belt. A tournament was held and came down to C.M. Punk and Chris Benoit in the finals. This match would, of course, never happen as this was the weekend of the Benoit family tragedy. Johnny Nitro was put into the match against Punk on the fly and ended up winning the title. Bruce confirms that the original plan was for Benoit to win. It makes you wonder, based on how much this show has taught us about someone pushing for actually having a negative effect and hurt their chances, how much Heyman’s enthusiasm really hampered the start of Punk’s WWE career.
Nitro was chosen, Bruce feels, because he had balls. He and the Miz both we’re always coming up with ideas and trying to get over. They fought and did whatever it took. This was an opportunity to reward him.
By September, Punk was finally put over Nitro for the title. Conrad points out that Heyman was gone by then. Punk didn’t really have one primary advocate, everyone was pulling for him at that time. Bruce says he listened to people describe Punk and found it painful, as no one could really say who he was or what he was about. He then admits that he was also guilty of tuning Punk out because of how hard Heyman had pushed for him. He didn’t know what his character was supposed to be either and began to feel bad about how things were shaping up for Punk due to Paul’s exuberance. Bruce says he took a camera and went into the stands at an arena with Punk one day and spent an hour and a half or so trying to figure him out. He asked him about his Pepsi tattoo and others. He asked about Punk being Straight Edge and what that meant. He says the more Punk talked, the more interesting he became and that he became a real person that Bruce felt the audience could identify with.
We then run down a list of the various wrestlers who’ve held the WWECW title – Kane, Mark Henry, Matt Hardy, Jack Swagger, Christian, Tommy Dreamer, and Ezekiel Jackson..
We then discuss the “historic run” of Braden Walker. The former Chris Harris made a name for himself in TNA as part of his tag team with James Storm. It was a big deal that he would make his way to WWE and super surprising at how profoundly this failed. Bruce says the problem was the guy we all got a good look at in TNA was not the same guy who showed up in WWE. He was out of shape and lacking any personality. He says he didn’t even look like the same guy.
After a brief discussion about the various commentators used for the ECW brand, we arrive at Mike Adamle. Conrad wants crazy dirt on this guy and believes him to have been a terrible hire. He’s no doubt disappointed by Bruce’s retort that Adamle is a great guy. Turns out Bruce and Adamle go all the way back to the ’80s, where Mike was hosting a boxing show. He doesn’t elaborate on his relationship with Adamle there, other than to say he had some crazy stories. He points out Mike was also a part of the XFL broadcasts. Womp womp womp. No dirt on Mike Adamle here.
Teddy Long served as GM of ECW for nearly a year. Conrad sarcastically points out that his “Holla, Holla” style was a perfect fit for ECW.
For a time, the company was trying to give ECW different production touches, using unique camera angles, etc. They also allowed ECW to play by a different set of rules from Raw and Smackdown. Eventually, these differences went away and the show began feeling like just another WWE show. Conrad asks if this was Vince giving up on the brand and simply honoring the television contract. Bruce says the brand was already given up on, and in his opinion, it was a dead brand to start with.
Kelly’s Expose was an in-ring stripping/dancing routine with Kelly Kelly, Layla, and Brooke Adams. The latter two women were added to the mix to hide the fact that Kelly Kelly could not dance.
The guys then briefly discuss a few other segments: Matt Striker’s Classroom, 15 Minutes Of Fame with John Morrison, The Dirt Sheet with Morrison and The Miz. Bruce says The Dirt Sheet is what got Miz and Morrison over with him. He was really impressed with all the effort and energy the put into the segment.
Word Association time!
Alicia Fox: Foxy.
Balls Mahoney: Xanta Claus.
Big Daddy V: *Impression of Vince coming up with the Viscera character*
Big Guido: Russo.
Bobby Lashley: Bad Mamma Jamma.
The Boogie Man: Worms.
Brooke Adams: World Class Rear End.
CW Anderson: Vanilla.
Colin Delaney: Ice Milk.
The modern day version of Colin Delaney was James Ellsworth. He took a great ass whooping.
Daivari: The Flying Carpet.
Danny Doring: DOR-ING.
Elijah Burke: The Piz-ope.
Evan Bourne: Fantastic.
Even though Francine was a big part of the original ECW, Vince never got the act.
Hardcore Holly: The true definition of hardcore.
Jack Swagger: A legit bad ass, and a great pick for World Champion.
Jazz: Another legit bad ass.
Katie Lea Burchill: Provocative.
Kevin Thorn: …ok.
Kofi Kingston: Ahead of his time.
Layla: Too nice for this business.
Lena Yada: The sh**ts.
Mike Knox: Paul Heyman wanted to make him ECW champ and build the brand around him.
Marcus Cor Von: Personal family issues prevented him from growing.
Matt Striker: Underrated.
Nunzio: One of Bruce’s favorite people in the whole world. The kind of guy you can always count on to have a smile on his face and be positive even when the world’s falling down around him. Just a really great guy.
Paul Burchill: Missing that second or third gear.
Roadkill: Nice kid, just couldn’t find that second or third gear, either.
Sabu: Ahead of his time.
Shannon Moore: Interesting.
Shelton Benjamin: A true badass who, back in the day, would’ve been World Champion.
Snitsky: Hilarious. Likes feet.
Stevie Richards: Takes himself too seriously.
Super Crazy: Wonderful man, fun to be around.
Sylvester Terkay: Belonged in Japan.
Tiffany: Live and in living color.
Zack Ryder: Gotta love him.
The guys then discuss some questions sent in from Twitter:
There was an ECW episode where the final five minutes had no commentary, as Taz and Mike Adamle just up and walked to the back. What happened?
In the middle of the show, Vince asks Bruce what would happen if Adamle just got up and left. Bruce says Taz would be lost. Vince replies “think we could do something with it.” Bruce had no idea where he was going. Vince then got in Adamle’s headset and instructed him to get up and walk through the crowd to the back. Bruce was then sent to get Adamle and bring him to Vince’s office and to let him know he isn’t in trouble. They then did the same thing with Taz. Taz still doesn’t know what happened with Adamle and is pissed off and wants to beat everybody up. Vince comes in and says he thinks they have an angle. People will think it’s a shoot, that Adamle just left. It was just one of those weird, spur of the moment things that Vince did.
Remember this story next time you wonder how much planning went into a certain angle.
More on Sylvester Terkay: He was missing the personality that would’ve put him over the top. He was very soft spoken and saw himself as Bruiser Brody, but didn’t know how to turn the volume up.
Paul and Katie Lea Burchill pitched an incest angle. Bruce said incest is just not a topic the company wants to touch. Conrad retorts “We’re cool with banging corpses, but incest is just too far.”
Finlay was never given a run with the title. Bruce says this didn’t happen because Fit wasn’t a promo guy. This prompts Conrad to ask what Bobby Lashley promo was Bruce’s favorite. Bruce doesn’t sell.
ECW never had Tag or TV titles. Bruce thinks TV titles are stupid and Vince didn’t like Tag titles. Additionally, they were working with a one-hour show. There wasn’t time for such shenanigans.
Conrad closes by noting that Bruce was not with the company when ECW died in 2010, but that the show was replaced by NXT.
This week’s show closes with a clip from another show:
A wrestling radio show out of Memphis had Jerry Jarrett on as a guest the previous week. The host was obviously a fan of Something To Wrestle With and had some fun with Jerry, asking him if he knew of his newfound internet fame, then getting Jerry to run down his chicken salad recipe. It came off as a little sad since Jerry was answering the questions honestly and wasn’t in on the joke. He truly did seem passionate about chicken salad. That recipe along with all the mannerisms included in a Bruce Prichard impression were present and prove that Bruce really is nailing it when he does Jerry Jarrett.
It was a top-notch week for impressions and, though this is how I felt they ranked, I could easily accept these in a different order. But it may never get better than hearing north of 60 Vince McMahon teaching a 19-year-old woman how to dance.
14. Heyman loves shaving products.
13. Heyman going on and on about bringing back ECW.
12. Johnny Ace reprimands RVD.
11. Dusty likes Bruce’s finish.
10. Vince McMahon, Zombie Hunter
9. Vince doesn’t give a s**t about tampering with TNA.
8. Vince uses a hammer on Lashley.
7. Vince doesn’t buy C.M. Punk.
6. Vince has a new idea for Mabel.
5. JR doesn’t like surprises.
4. Bilingual Macho Man.
3. Johnny Ace needs to know if there’s pornography in your background.
2. Heyman discusses his attributes as listed by Edge.
1. Vince McMahon, Dance Instructor.
Rating – 9/10
This was a pretty epic episode. Loaded with hilarious impressions and fascinating information about a pivotal time in WWE. Not only do we hear everything there is to know about WWE’s relaunch of ECW, we’re also given terrific insight into how the company deals with expanding and killing off brands and projects. An episode worth going out of your way for or spending an afternoon reading about.
9:54: Show begins
10:56: When did the idea first come up?
14:08: Were ECW Originals against the idea?
16:39: Was Heyman ever opposed?
17:16: Concern that fans would not enjoy reliving ECW
18:36: Ivan Putski analogy
19:32: The Rise And Fall Of ECW DVD
21:33: One Night Stand
23:46: One thing Bruce loves about ECW
24:06: Vince decides to launch a third brand
26:13: Sandman’s entrance
27:00: Joey Styles
28:15: Hardcore Homecoming/Forever Hardcore
29:08: JBL-Blue Meanie incident
32:40: Kurt Angle is moved to ECW brand
37:09: Did WWE officials attempt to expose Sabu?
38:41: Announcer pull apart
39:22: Vince trolling JR
39:50: Announcer pairings
41:32: One Night Stand 2
42:26: Fire on a WWE show
43:23: RVD wins the WWE title
44:48: Vince is hands on with ECW
45:40: Tommy Dreamers backstage role
46:19: Buy rate down for ONS 2
47:11: Tanaka’s chair shots
47:47: Harry Smith
48:41: House show at ECW Arena
49:49: Heyman discusses his influence
50:55: Did Bruce think this was short term?
51:58: Nostalgia/Relaunch Catch 22
53:18: Stephanie’s involvement
55:18: ECW on SciFi
56:08: Heyman’s writing style
57:07: Greg Gagne in OVW
57:49: Early grumblings on the relaunch
58:34: Macho Libre
59:47: The Zombie
1:02:32: Other bad character ideas
1:03:14: Shane Douglas
1:04:15: New Jack
1:05:10: Steve Corino
1:06:23: The evolution of WWE speak
1:08:16: Kevin Fertig
1:12:06: Shelly Martinez
1:16:15: Sign Guy Dudley, Marketing Guy
1:17:36: Dave Lagana moves to ECW
1:19:24: Vengeance 2006
1:21:07: WWE in ECW Arena
1:22:06: CM Punk’s debut
1:23:22: Steve Keirn
1:24:07: Ed Koskey
1:24:31: RVD and Sabu are arrested
1:33:44: ECW fans dump on new ECW
1:35:53: Big Dick Johnson
1:37:54: Tommy Dreamer vents
1:39:56: Ric Flair and thumbtacks
1:40:36: Kelly Kelly
1:44:21: Paul Heyman heel turn
1:45:15: Kurt Angle leaves the company
1:46:40: Big Show vs. Undertaker, Punjabi Prison match
1:48:39: Bull Rope Match story
1:51:26: Punjabi Prison origins
1:51:53: Punjabi Big Bossman
1:53:33: Heyman interview with UK Sun
1:57:39: Batista vs. Big Show at Hammerstein
1:58:31: ECW a hit on SyFy
1:59:42: TV expenses
2:00:27: Bonnie Hammer
2:01:26: Matt Striker
2:03:01: Booker T and Sharmel
2:03:23: ECW house shows scrapped
2:04:25: December To Dismember
2:07:09: Sabu written off TV
2:09:51: Vince and Heyman butt heads
2:12:11: More on Sabu
2:13:42: “The worst promoted PPV in company history”
2:14:49: Bob Sapp
2:17:34: Politics with Heyman and Vince
2:19:40: Issues with scripts
2:21:19: Heyman is sent home
2:25:53: Lagana replaces Heyman
2:28:20: Vince becomes ECW Champion
2:29:07: Doo Rag Vince
2:33:27: Benoit scheduled to be champion
2:34:43: Johnny Nitro
2:35:29: Punk gets a push
2:37:32: Everyone wins the ECW title
2:40:25: The historic run of Braden Walker
2:42:26: Wrestler appearances on SyFy shows
2:42:55: Joey Styles
2:42:31: Mike Adamle
2:44:36: Todd Grisham
2:44:57: Taz departs
2:45:20: Matt Striker on commentary
2:45:57: Armando Estrada
2:46:32: Teddy Long
2:46:55: Production costs cut
2:47:56: ECW is just another WWE show
2:49:15: Various in-show segments
2:50:37: Word association
2:57:14: Vince experiments with Adamle
2:59:22: Sylvester Terkay
2:59:42: Paul Burchill incest angle
3:00:09: Why Finlay never got the title
3:00:42: Thoughts on multiple ECW titles
3:01:20: Wrap Up
3:10:14: Chicken Salad BONUS