Failed experiments are great, aren’t they readers? With successful experiments, especially in the realms of art and performance, all you have to do is say “Oh, that’s good, we’ll keep doing that then.” But with failed experiments, much more thought is required. Why didn’t that work? What can we learn from it? And perhaps most interestingly, what would have happened if it did work?
Which brings us to December To Dismember, the first and last Pay Per View from the relaunched Extreme Championship Wrestling, which first shut down in 2001 and was then bought by the WWE, who found that their ECW DVDs, books, etc were so popular, and that ECW still had such a massive, loyal fanbase that it would be worth reviving the brand in 2006 and starting a weekly ECW TV show. Since Raw and Smackdown, the other WWE TV shows, had their own PPVs, (at this point in time the WWE was split into ‘brands’, if you appeared on, say, Raw, you didn’t appear on Smackdown, you wrestled only on Raw to earn titles exclusive to Raw, and the same for Smackdown) it seemed only logical that ECW got it’s own PPVs as well. Right?
What follows are my thoughts as I watch the December To Dismember DVD for the first time. The main event here is an ‘Extreme Elimination Chamber’ match for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship; four blokes are locked in pods inside the chamber with weapons while two gentlemen start the match, then every five minutes one guy will be let out of a pod at random along with the weapon, which he can choose to use as he sees fit (SPOILER: Probably to hit the other men with). My observations will largely be bullet-pointed, as I just paused the DVD and scribbled stuff down in a notebook, but I might elaborate on some points if I feel something extra needs saying. I knew little about the show before I started, save for the fact that it is widely criticized as the worst Pay Per View in WWE history, and is the main reason Paul Heyman (the man behind the original ECW, initially given control over the new one) was fired pretty much the next day. So! What are we waiting for? Shove the DVD in the player and let those bodies hit that floor!
- Odd that the trailers are for a load of 80s things, and not, say, ECW DVDs.
- Really nice Extreme Elimination Chamber promo.
- The announcebloke says: “It will be a December…. TO DISMEMBER!” Firstly, that makes no sense as a sentence. Secondly, the whole name December to Dismember is a reference to the shows ECW used to run in Novembers, called November to Remember, but that was in old ECW, and their hasn’t been one since 2000, so I imagine there were a few people unaware of the reference. Just call it ‘Christmas Carnage’ or something.
- Wait, did they have a bloke dressed in riot gear on ECW TV unveiling the weapons they were going to use in the Extreme Elimination Chamber while Paul Heyman told the crowd what they are? That’s AMAZING.
1st Match: The Hardyz vs. MNM
- Red carpets for MNM? Lovely.
- Are those tiny LED screens in Nitro and Mercurys jackets? Wonderful.
- Lots of people in this match look like they haven’t left 2000, actually. Oh, hey Tazz.
- Oh yeah! Whenever a woman is on-screen Tazz turns into a creepy letch! Not watching TNA I’d forgotten! Sorry Melina, you’re really not going to want to watch this event back with the sound on!
- MNM’s fur boots are SO lovely.
- Jeff Hardy tags in! Punch, Snapmare, knee to the arm, armbar, tags out. Whew! Slow down Jeff! You’ll knacker yourself at that rate!
- There are an awful lot of armbars early on in this match actually. None of them sold later on, obviously. What do you think this is, an artform where you tell stories through fighting or something?
- Some really awful chants from the crowd directed at Melina, yeah she’s a heel manager, but do they all have to be so sexualised? All Bobby Heenan ever got was “Weasel”. Oh wait yeah, wrestling fans hate women, sorry I forgot, carry on
- A standing Shooting Star Press from Johnny Nitro. Which team is it that’s actually trying in this match? Hmmm.
- A sitout Razor’s Edge (technically crucifix powerbomb, but… y’know) from Matt Hardy! Pretty nice!
- Oh, then as a babyface he goes out of the ring to chase after Melina. YOU RUINED MY RESPECT FOR YOU THAT YOU GAINED 45 SECONDS AGO.
- Having not seen too much of MNM in the past, I’m quite impressed to be honest. They are carrying the Hardys here.
- Melina’s high-pitched ‘primal scream’ is SO piercing. Instant heat. Great.
- Jeff gets a hot tag and his flying forearm to Mercury is at least a foot away from his head. Must try harder.
- The Hardys spend an awful lot of time getting in each others way, it’s very awkward to watch.
- Awful crossbody out of the ring by Matt onto Mercury, they then both get up and there is a beat before they both remember that Nitro is coming and they need to start punching each other. You can see the lightbulb come on in their heads. Cringeworthy.
- Nitro kicking Jeff in the back while he’s sat down looks really bad in comparison to people doing the same move today, a mere 8 years later. Has Daniel Bryan/the ROH crowd had such an influence? Looking at the point where WWE wrestling became really really good would be an excellent article, but I suspect it would need vast amounts of research. We’ll see.
- Nitro again with a great move, this time a handstand spun into a legdrop. I think this is the problem, the ‘big’ moves look fine, it’s everything else in between that lets it down. And it’s that stuff that actually makes you believe in what wrestlers do, you can get away with a match just doing the little things really well, as Steamboat/Flair always proved, as did William Regal’s stunning match with Cesaro on New Year’s Day.
- Fan shouts “3D RIPOFF!!!” at MNM’s finisher. Err.. thanks mate.
- Bit of a bullshit ending, Matt just punches Nitro and Mercury, then a double twist of fate, then a double Swanton from Jeff. Oh well.
Rob Van Dam Promo
- Rob appears to have forgotten how human beings speak.
Matt Striker vs. Balls Mahoney
- Matt Striker’s gimmick was ‘former school teacher in sweatervest’? Brilliant.
- Matt shakes his head at swearing fans. Looks disappointed.
- Looks visibly disgusted at having to say “Balls” Mahoney. Which is fair enough, really.
- FANS: You really you’re chants “Balls! Balls! Balls!”, right? That’s pretty gay, you guys.
- Mixed reaction when Striker asks “Do you want to see me in an extreme rules match?” Largely yes, but the camera cuts to a kid yelling “NO!” Clearly a hardcore purist who doesn’t want his artform tainted with the unskilled hands of Matt Striker. Fair play to you, sir.
- “We’re going to have an extreme rules match! An extreme…. ENFORCEMENT of rules match!”
- Excellent reactions from the referee throughout this.
- Balls Mahoney is from Nutley? Is he the Great-Great-Grandad of that lady from Futurama? I certainly hope so.
- Matt Striker’s face is on the back of his trunks. Amazing. Why did this gimmick not last?
- Nice strike from… Striker and spit sell from Balls at one point.
- The crowd are not interested in this at all.
- An ok match, surprised at the extent to which Balls Mahoney can actually wrestle.
- Yay! CM Punk!
- Oh. 5 seconds of him punching air. Has no-one thought to give him a microphone yet?
- What? Is that Sabu? Why has he been taken out of the the main event? It can’t be that drugs… kerfuffle he had with RVD, because RVD’s still in it. You’ve sold tickets and indeed the DVD advertising Sabu in an Extreme Elimination Chamber match, something I was actually looking forward to just to see what that crazy son of a gun would do in an (I’m tired of typing the whole thing out, let’s shorten it a bit) ExElimCham. And now he’s been sidelined. I agree, Georgia ECW fans, this IS bullshit.
Elijah Burke & Sylvester Terkay vs. Little Guido & Tony Mamaluke (FBI)
- Wow, these two have NO charisma.
- Burke: “Like a wild animal in heat, we will leave our mark!” …. huh? ‘Burke’ is right.
- ‘The Man Bear’ is a great nickname for Terkay, though.
- Fans not that bothered about FBI (the *sigh* ‘Full Blooded Italians’) either, despite them being ECW originals.
- I like Burke’s 90s hat though.
- A “Where’s my pizza?” chant? WOW. Did all the cool wrestling fans in Georgia kill themselves when Ted Turner bought the NWA?
- A perfectly decent tag team match really.
- Vicious looking big boot from Terkay. Either than or Mamaluke’s selling is excellent.
- Blimey that got sloppy towards the end.
- Terkay does a post-match Musclebuster on Little Guido, someone chants “TNA! TNA!” Again, say what you see, eh lads?
Tommy Dreamer vs. Daivari
- Oh! He’s The Great Kahli’s manager! I KNEW I knew that name!
- Tommy Dreamer’s looking ripped!
- ‘Yonkers’ is the best place name ever. (‘Nutley’ a close second)
- More punching.
- AWFUL reversal sequence! Daivari goes to kick Dreamer who grabs his foot, and just walks him into a suplex. SO obvious it’s not an actual fight.
- A “We want Hardcore!” chant begins around this point, and I think we’ve arrived at the problem with WWECW. It’s fine, and I’m led to believe it gets a lot better than this, but it’s not ECW. If it’d been called anything else, people would’ve loved it. Lower tier WWE guys and newbies on their own show competing for a title exclusive to them? Great!
- Another match where the newbie heels get one over on an ECW old-timer. Give ’em something to keep the fans happy, y’know?
- Dreamer takes an AWFUL bump on the ramp post-match. Such a giving performer, clearly learnt a great deal from Terry Funk.
- The most neckbeard sounding guy ever shouts: “THIS ISN’T EXTREME, THIS IS ENTERTAINMENT!!” Err.. a.) Dreamer’s just been thrown onto a solid steel grate, you absolute prick and b.) So you want it to be so extreme it’s not entertaining anymore? I think you want CZW, guy.
- Massive boos when Heyman says Hardcore Holly will replace Sabu in the main event. Understandably.
Mike Knox & Kelly Kelly vs. Kevin Thorn & Ariel
- Is Mike Know in TNA now? (EDIT: Upon looking him up on Wikipedia I can say that yes, he was in the Aces & Eights for a while, where his unmasking caused me ask “Who?”)
- “How humiliating for Knox” having his girlfriend wish CM Punk luck in the main event! Oh god, poor soul.
- Kevin Thorn! He’s a vampire!
- Look at him. Look at his face. Look at his stupid 2002 goth face.
- Nice lariat by Knox. (EDIT: I couldn’t screencap it though, so just imagine a good lariat done by a man with a beard.)
- Kelly Kelly sums up my feelings for Kevin Thorn with a look. Is she actually the best one here secretly?
- “Kismet, Kismet I say!” Be quiet, Tazz.
- Ariel screams her head off constantly.
- Have they forgotten this is a tag team match?
- (8 seconds later) Oh no, there we go.
- Heavens this is bad. Slowest forearms ever by Ariel. Can we clone Sara Del Rey and send her back in time please?
- Ariel shouts “I HAVE ‘TIL FIVE!” in the referee’s face. For a fucking rope assisted hair pull. Somewhere The American Dragon feels a disturbance in the Force, possibly while kicking a Japanese man repeatedly in the chest.
- Styles finishes a sentence with “Kelly Kelly”, and starts the next one with “Kelly Kelly”, meaning he says ‘Kelly’ four times in a row. Nice job, whoever gave this poor girl her ring.
- Hang on, ‘Kelly Kelly’ = ‘Kelly Squared’. SOLVED
- Aaaaand…. Know refuses to tag Kelly Squared because she acted like a decent, friendly human being! As a heel yes, but this is the only purpose women serve in wrestling, as objects to be treated however anyone sees fit.
- And behaviour like this breeds the horrible chants Melina got in the first match. I wish I could say something pithy here, but I can’t. Wrestling is terrible for this, and needs to get better.
- The crowd chant “CM Punk! CM Punk!” Hang on, is this Hijack December to Dismember? Has someone put a list of instructions on the internet which boil down to “Cheer the faces, boo the heels”? Fun!
- Arie’s finisher. That’s a finisher?
- Wait, why is The Sandman coming to help Kelly Squared?
- I doubt it’ll really be like Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader, Joey. It’ll probably just be like two men hitting each other with sticks.
- The Sandman’s looking thin!
- Does he have a tattoo of his own face on his arm?
- Why is Sabu in this promo video for the main event? He’s not even in the match! You knew this was going to happen, because, y’know, wrestling is scripted, so why not do two versions of the video to prevent more salt being rubbed in the wound?
- Oh gosh. You can by the look on Paul Heyman’s face that somethings not right. His heart’s not in it tonight.
- Not one of his best promos on the surface, but a lot going on in retrospect. “ECW will live on long after Paul Heyman is dead.” Says the man who knows his job is finished.
- Lots of heat when he says The Sandman, RVD, etc. are past it.
Main Event (Big Show, Rob Van Dam, Test, Hardcore Holly, Bobby Lashley and CM Punk in an Extreme Elimination Chamber Match)
- The crowd are riveted!
- *sigh* Wear the belt, Big Show. Like you would, perhaps, a belt.
- Yay! CM Punk! The only guy this crowd likes!
- Nice over the top rope Rolling Thunder by RVD.
- Punk is great here.
- Punk ducks an RVD roundhouse kick, jumps over another and legdrops him while he’s over him. Best move of the night. (Very difficult to screencap, soz)
- Aaaand…. he’s eliminated first.
- Hardcore Holly eliminated, Styles and Tazz don’t even realise. Way to make an impact!
- Then RVD. 4 men left. The crowd care about none of them.
- Styles doing his best to make this seem important.
- Lashley trapped in his pod by Heyman’s goons. Why, exactly? Surely the point of getting Test, Holly and Big Show into this match is that they can take out Lashley from inside? More importantly, why am I expecting logic from this?
- Lashley eliminates Test with over a minute left until Big Show is let out, so just wanders round the ring alone! TERRIBLE booking.
- Lashley lobs table and chair at Big Show’s pod, breaking the table’s legs, ruining it for use as a table in wrestling.
- Lashely gestures to the crowd and they applaud out of what feels like politeness.
- Heyman SCREAMS at Big Show, desperate for people to care about any of this.
- Some crowd members chant “Let’s go Big Show”
- Lashley cannot spear.
And there we are. To be honest, I was hoping to enjoy this ironically, like you might enjoy a spectacularly poor 1950s B-Movie, but as I’m sure my increasingly bored notes demonstrated, I couldn’t even root for December to Dismember with my tongue in my cheek. Were all shows in 2006 this bad? Could none of the WWE’s performers wrestle in an exciting, engaging way? Were they all just hitting their marks? Hmm. WWECW was such a good idea, and I’m led to believe it gets much, much better than this, but on this evidence I can say nothing but that it was poorly implemented. The entire point of this show seems to be to shove Bobby Lashley, a man with no discernable talent or charisma, firmly down our throats, and in this it succeeds. I’m trying to work out who to blame here. Bear with me.
Aha! I’ve got it! Jim Cornette. This is Jim Cornette’s fault. Think about it. Where did Bobby Lashley train? Ohio Vally Wrestling, OVW. Who was the head trainer at OVW. Mr James E Cornette. Think about who else came out of OVW around this time. Batista, Brock Lesnar, John Cena. All bland hyper-aggressive meatheads. Lesnar gets a pass for being the KING of hyper-aggressive meatheads. So readers, I invite you to join me in a spirited round of booing directed at Mr Jim Cornette. Boo! Boo Jim Cornette! Boo! Boo Vince McMahon on principle!