Tonight’s edition of ECW started out with a big 24 man tag match. It featured a team of faces taking on a team of heels. All 24 guys are scheduled to compete in the 24 man battle royal at WrestleMania, with an ECW title shot being on the line. The wrestlers were culled from all three brands, with most of the ECW roster, obviously, being represented.
There were some fun parts in this match – one in particular where a bunch of the cruiserweights involved hit some aerial moves on the outside, only for Trevor Murdoch to retaliate with a plancha of his own. And, believe it or not, SNITSKY got the winning pin, following a big boot to Dreamer. I was surprised to see this match go on first, and even more surprised to see it wrap up so quickly. Still, a good way to showcase all those involved in the battle royal.
Next, we saw a backstage segment with Chavo Guerrero, Colin Delaney, and Tommy Dreamer. Tommy challenged Chavo to a non-title match later in the evening. Chavo reluctantly accepted. I was very excited to see this, as the backstage bit was dramatic and seemed promising.
Carlito and Shelton Benjamin faced off in a Money in the Bank “preview” match. Basically, it’s like what we’ve been seeing on Raw, except that the Money in the Bank briefcase was hanging above the ring, purely for visual effect. The crowd seemed a little uncertain as to what to do during the heel vs. heel match. Eventually, they rallied behind Shelton.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Shelton’s ECW undefeated streak was kept alive! After Carlito countered the “Paydirt” (the awesome name for Shelton’s inverted bulldog finisher) into a backbreaker, Carlito went to the top rope. Shelton leaped up top, then countered into Paydirt for the pinfall victory. The crowd seemed really into this match at the end. Perhaps, given the wealth of heels already on ECW, Shelton could be turned face? We’ll see.
I believe it was at about this point that the show came undone for me. Not because of anything specific to this edition, mind you. Instead, this was due to a booking decision by WWE which I’d be fearing for the past several weeks. Two words: dark match. That’s right…this battle royal which was to be held “at WrestleMania” will be a pre-show match, available for viewing on WWE.com. Frankly, that seems insulting to all the wrestlers who finally appeared to have a spot on the ‘Mania card.
Also, how much drama will be in the ECW title match for the pay-per-view audience, given that many of them didn’t get to ride the rollercoaster which set up the bout? I really dislike decisions like these. The battle royal was a nice touch to add to the card, and it just doesn’t do anything for me when it’s not an actual part of the show.
The Shelton – Carlito match went pretty long and, with the various WrestleMania video packages, the show seemed to be running long, itself. Mike Knox and Layla teamed up to defeat Stevie Richards and Kelly Kelly, with Knox pinning Richards. It was a good enough match, with the girls seemingly the focus.
My expectations for the main event came somewhat unglued at this point. I’d been excited earlier, when it was announced, because I figured we’d get a strong showing from Dreamer. After a dramatic match, we’d have a winner (probably Chavo) and some more build toward the ECW title match. By the time we got to the main event of the evening, there were two problems. First, most of the excitement has been drained from the battle royal. Second, Chavo came down to the ring at 11:02, leaving about three minutes for the match with a default overrun.
The other competitors for the battle royal stood around the ring watching. The match was good, but way too short. There was really no time for it to become exciting. Chavo won clean, which was good for him going into Mania. They’re finally giving him a decent push as ECW champ.
After the match, the battle royal competitors hit the ring and attacked Chavo, before brawling with one another. If the battle royal were actually going to happen at MANIA and not on WWE.com, this would have been a tremendous ending.
It’s time to rate the show and, this week, we have a first. The March 25th edition of ECW gets an “n/a” rating. I can’t give the show a poor grade, because the placement (or lackthereof) of the battle royal on the Mania card was, undoubtedly, a call from somewhere higher up in WWE. It wasn’t the fault of the ECW brand, as far as I can tell. At the same time, the show was much less enjoyable, given the fact that it was built around a web-exclusive match.
My pick to win the battle royal is The Great Khali, to capitalize on his popularity in India.
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Kevin McElvaney is also a contributing writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated and The Wrestler / Inside Wrestling. Send questions or comments to email@example.com