n spring 2006, devoted fans of ECW were shocked by the news: The promotion that went bankrupt in 2001 was making its return. They were more surprised by the brand name attached to the announcement: WWE. To say hardcore fans were cynical about the introduction of ECW as WWE’s third brand would be an understatement.
There were plenty of questions being bandied about ahead of ECW’s official relaunch at One Night Stand 2006. How extreme would the brawlers be allowed to get in a WWE ring? Would it be the counter-culture, envelope-pushing wrestling they had come to know and love passionately? At first, it seemed that way. But as 2006 continued, it became more and more evident that as much as the three letters appeared on TV every Tuesday night, the ECW of old was gone.
To get the real story behind the relaunch of ECW and find out whether it was “doomed from the start,” WWE Classics reached out to the people who lived it. Most were more than happy to speak at length about the new ECW. However, one person was not.
When we initially approached Paul Heyman about the subject, the ECW architect went on a lengthy tirade, accusing WWE.com’s reporters of engaging in yellow journalism and trying to ruin his current relationship with WWE.
Heyman tweeted his outrage at the topic, suggesting our time would be better served focusing on WWE Champion CM Punk’s record-breaking reign.
Later, he reluctantly agreed to talk with us. This is what he, and many of the men who worked for him, had to say. (PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)
Paul Heyman: Mr. McMahon first came to me right after Thanksgiving 2005 and said he had a concept of Shane [McMahon] running the business end of a relaunched ECW, with me heading the creative end, where the model would be digital distribution.
Mick Foley: I heard it was because of the success of the first ECW pay-per-view. The fact WWE had put together a successful ECW show gave an indication there was some interest in the product.
Tommy Dreamer: The two biggest proponents that put it together, and I don’t think a lot of people know this, were Shane McMahon and John Laurinaitis. From the corporate side, they were pushing hard for it and fought a lot to make it happen, due to the success of the [“Rise and Fall of ECW”] DVD and the first One Night Stand.
Stevie Richards: I was training with Shane McMahon for his match against Shawn Michaels on Saturday Night’s Main Event. Tommy Dreamer was there for a few of the sessions. That’s when I first heard about the relaunch of ECW, or at least the One Night Stand heading into the relaunch. The idea sounded great when we talked about it.
Matt Striker: WWE realized the popularity of ECW. Just because ECW went away doesn’t mean the fanbase did.
Joey Styles: I was told they were bringing Jim Ross back to Raw and that I was going to be hosting the relaunch of ECW, which would be happening following One Night Stand 2006. I knew it was a possibility, because when the company signed me to call One Night Stand 2005, they made it clear there would be one in 2006. That’s why it wasn’t called One Last Stand, but One Night Stand.