On Monday — July 10, 2017, if you’re reading this in the future — WWE Network added over 140 episodes of the WWE version of ECW. To celebrate, I’m going to recap the very first one, which might objectively be one of the worst pure hours of WWE programming ever. If you’d like to watch it and follow along, click here.
What You Need To Know: In the 1990s, nothing exemplified the violent, reckless spirit of independent pro wrestling like Philadelphia’s Extreme Championship Wrestling. Run mostly out of a bingo hall by former WCW manager Paul E. Dangerously, the former Eastern Championship Wrestling seceded from the National Wrestling Alliance in 1994, turned up the violence and sexuality to 11, turned its crew of unknowns and has-beens into stars and ended up changing the entire landscape of North American wrestling. Like every wrestling story from the ’90s, this one ends with WWE helping them out, then stealing all their shit, watching them go out of business, buying them and re-purposing them as a half-assed WWE “brand.” See also: WCW.
In 2005, WWE put on “One Night Stand,” an ECW reunion pay-per-view. For better or worse, it was as close to a “real” Extreme Championship Wrestling show as WWE could manage. A year later, they decided to do it again, only this time with less of a focus on ECW and more of a focus on … you know, WWE. That led to a weekly ECW show on SciFi — yes, the science fiction channel — that put even MORE of an emphasis on WWE and was basically an episode of Main Event with ECW stickers on it.
Eventually the show would turn into something more closely resembling the glory days of NXT, wherein the new, young stars of WWE could get in work and hone their craft before ending up on the main shows. Future WWE stars like CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger and Sheamus all got their WWE TV starts on the show, while veterans like Matt Hardy and Mark Henry had new life breathed into them. It wasn’t ECW — not even close — but it was something. Eventually WWE was like, “ECW is still too ECW” and replaced it with history’s worst pro wrestling game show. Eventually, as you know, NXT became a new version of WWE ECW without all the hangups of having to be “extreme.”
So here’s a look at the show’s first episode, which is definitely not about how much better than ECW WWE is.