It’s a busy-busy-busy week. Let’s start with the ECW Title match at Vengeance 2007 between CM Punk and…oh.
CM Punk vs. Johnny Nitro (for the vacant ECW Title)
This was vacated due to then-champ Lashley getting drafted to Raw. He didn’t vacate it on TV or give a speech, he left and that was it. CM Punk enters to a very positive reception…and his opponent is Johnny Nitro with a lot of silence from the crowd (and commentators on the Network version). The Network can’t remove the ”We Want Benoit” chants though. Punk kicks Nitro for a bit until he takes a breather outside. Nitro tries to enter the ring to get the advantage on Punk but he gets pulled down and Punk enters via slingshot splash. Nitro relents to punt Punk with a springboard spinning wheel kick. Nitro snapmares Punk into an armbar as more pro-Benoit chants kick in. Nitro combos a forward-backbreaker into a single-arm DDT. I’m not a fan of those combo moves as the wrestler taking them usually has to land in a different way than they would in order for the second move to work. They should stay in Tekken. Both men slug it out with Punk finally getting the advantage with his MMA-style offence and jumping calf kick. Nitro tries a Dirty Pin (by pressing R2 near the ropes) but the ref spots it. Punk gives Nitro a big-ass clothesline and sunset flip for two. Running Knee/Bulldog sets up the springboard knee which misses. He goes for another but Nitro cuts him off and gives him a draping spinning neckbreaker for the win and the title.
Winner and new ECW Champion: Johnny Nitro (They did the best they could given the circumstances but they were never going to have anything other than an OK match with a dead-crowd (who didn’t chant CM Punk once) with a feud-less build.)
The Benoit incident has become almost the JFK Assassination of modern-day wrestling as it was so shocking a lot of people clearly remember where they were when they heard about it. I was working at a library and had just moved into a new house but had pulled the rookie mistake of ordering internet when you move in (rather than two weeks before) so decided to stay after work to use the library PCs to find out the news on 411mania. And ended up staying back for at least two hours following the news cycle of BENOIT NO-SHOWS PPV, BENOIT DEAD, RAW CANCELLED, VINCE STORYLINE SCRAPPED OUT OF RESPECT (the show was scheduled to be Vince’s funeral), TRIBUTE TO BENOIT SHOW AIRS INSTEAD, -BREAKING NEWS AS TRIBUTE SHOW IS ON AIR- BENOIT ONLY SUSPECT, BENOIT CONFIRMED AS KILLER OF WIFE & CHILD THEN SELF, STEROIDS FOUND IN BENOIT’S HOUSE DESPITE BENOIT PASSING RECENT DRUG TESTS BY WWE and so on and so forth. People who weren’t into wrestling were asking me about it and suddenly Benoit was as mainstream popular as Hogan and Austin. The Benoit tragedy ended up directly or otherwise inspiring the shift to PG and the Wellness Policy so the impact is still felt today. It’s still a sensitive topic for many due to the horrific nature of the end but I’m morbid and read the Unresolved Mysteries bit on reddit more frequently than I should and so still laugh at Benoit jokes because it’s either smile or cry at the situation. The only thing funnier than Benoit jokes are fans seriously asking ”Will Benoit be in the Hall of Fame one day? I know he killed his wife and kid but he beat Orlando Jordan for the U.S. Title.” Fuck him and his Super J Cup ’94-winning, steroid devouring, T-Rex armed, too short to do the Multiple German spot without his opponent standing up before him which didn’t prevent him from doing it every single match, couldn’t cut a promo to save his life (oh wait), mullet-in-the-2000s, four shouldered, squat-obsessed child killer.
But him vs. Jericho at Rumble ’01 was ****1/2
(In case you were wondering, the 25/06/07 Raw on the Network is a Todd Grisham-presented special with various matches shown as part of a Best Championship matches theme. Matches shown are Undertaker vs. Batista from WM23, Cruiserweight Open Invitational from NWO 2007, second half of the Extreme Elimination Chamber from December to Dismember, the tag battle royal where Cena & HBK lost their titles from Raw 2007, Mickie James vs. Melina, Backlash 2007, JBL vs. Rey Mysterio from Judgement Day 2006, King Booker vs. Batista from Survivor Series 2006, John Cena vs. The Great Khali from One Night Stand 2007.)
With all that morbidity in mind, let’s watch ECW from San Antonio, Texas.
Vince appears pre-recorded to kind-of-but-not-really apologise for showing the tribute to Benoit now they realise he was the one who did it. This episode is dedicated to everyone affected by the tragedy and Benoit’s not going to be mentioned anymore. Shame we never got the end of the Vince McMahon Is Dead storyline and the only potential appearance of Vince’s brother on WWE TV (along with the Army of Hobos he was going to use to take back Titan Towers.)
John Cena vs. Johnny Nitro
HEY LOOK IT’S JOHN CENA FORGET ABOUT BENOIT. This is a champion vs. champion match to keep people focused on wrestling and none of that bad stuff on the news. Cena has the advantage over Morrison with headlocks while the crowd gets the chants out the way. Oh wait, it’s actually 90% pro-Cena. I forget even in 2007 Cena was very over as a good guy in certain cities. Nitro blocks a STFU and gets an elbow but Cena gives him that funny suplex for two. Spinning sideslam gets another two and a ”wow, really?” reaction from him. Mate it’s a sideslam not a Canadian Destroyer. Nitro misses a charge in the corner and ducks Cena’s shoulder block, which looks as bad as it did at Wrestlemania XXVII (and every other time he does it).
Nitro sends Cena into the steel steps (BANG!) for two and Nitro works him over in a pedestrian way. Nitro is kicking out of moves but isn’t getting a chance to show off anything which isn’t helping a flashy wrestler. Cena takes a Diesel Clothesline but manages a Facebuster before being told there’s a break coming so he spills to the outside for a breather. When we come back, Nitro and Cena battle on the top rope with Nitro dropkicking Cena off the top to the outside again. Nitro’s punches are blocked by Cena putting his hands on his hips, looking to the crowd and going ”c’mon!!” He lands the Five Knuckle Shuffle and Nitro lands on his feet on a F-U attempt and gets a two after colliding with the springboard kick. Nitro dumps Cena with a rough reverse powerbomb for two and decides to sleeper hold Cena to death instead. Cena runs backwards to get him off his back and Cena nails the guillotine legdrop and finishes with the STFU.
Winner: John Cena (Nitro wasn’t ready as a singles wrestler to have a match with Cena and make people think anything other than ”damn he’s got great abs.” The Big John Big Match formula was still being perfected and thankfully he’d do a lot less smiling and sassy hands-on-hips later on.)
Vengeance gets a MV recap. The rest of the PPV was filled with skippable hype-filled matches with because they had a lot of former champions at ring-side. Batista vs. Edge was the highlight and take your pick between Umaga getting cheered vs. underdog Santino or the 10-minute main event as the lowlight.
Rowdy Roddy Piper (!) is here. ”I don’t consider you hardcore unless you’ve dated Sweaty Betty!” Aye OK pal. Thankfully Matt Striker shows up (not often that’s typed) with a birthday cake. ”I’d have a cake for you if it was your birthday Piper…there’d be 96 candles on it and the fire marshal would have the show shut down but still.” He asks if Piper could sing him Happy Birthday. Piper gets the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to The Mark (”my name’s Matt” ”Yeah, OK Mark”) before shoving the cake in his face.
Then Boogeyman shows up to worm Striker. Pretty sure they looked in the locker room to see which WWE Legend was still hanging around and hadn’t gone back to their job at the DMV and spotted Piper. Striker was amusing as the unintentionally insulting fan-boy who was marking out (bro).
Johnny Nitro is interviewed by the commentators (because not-even-going-to-google-her-name had thankfully been released) and he cough-coughs and tells everyone Cena’s lucky he had a cold tonight cough-cough. He’s going to be watching the winner of the next match and I’m sure they’ll be doing the same for you, King Of Abs.
CM Punk vs. Elijah Burke (2/3 Falls, No. 1 Contendership)
CM Punk called Burke his least favourite wrestler to wrestle, probably because he had to wrestle him a thousand times in 2007. Please let this be their last match for a while. Grappling and mat-wrestling to begin as I notice Cor Von isn’t in Burke’s corner tonight. Or any other night from now on. Punk snapmares Burke and kicks him in the spine as the commentators discuss Burke’s stamina.
Tazz: ”He was a boxer, you used to box didn’t you Joey?”
Joey: ”Yes, oranges and bananas and-”
Tazz: ”Oh you’ve heard that one.”
Burke halts Punk’s kicking by front-headlocking him, Punk charges towards the corner and Burke turns that into a snake-eyes. Nice sequence. Punk gets crotched on top and Burke converts it into an Elijah Express to get the first fall.
Burke tries multiple pin-fall attempts straight away (no break in between falls) but doesn’t get it, so he tries for an Unprettier. Punk misses a charge and ends up outside. Right on the ribs Burke spent weeks working over, as expertly pointed out by Tazz. He’s good when he tries. Burke tries to suplex him into the ring but Punk goes over and turns it into a roll-up for the second fall.
After the break, Burke has Punk in a surfboard. Punk escapes but Burke plants him on the back of his head. Burke misses the Outer Limits Elbow but gets a two from a quick roll-up. Both men decide to start knocking each other down with uppercuts and big kicks until Burke comes off the top but connects with a Punk spin-kick to the mush. They slug it out, expecting a better crowd response (no CM Punk chants for the second show in a row) with Punk landing the Running Knee/Bulldog combo for two. Tazz ”I thought he had it!!” Burke tries to throw Punk out the ring but Punk rests in the corner, then Burke tries again and Punk does the same. Looked a bit odd, I think Punk didn’t want to go outside for real-real. Instead he connects with a Tornado DDT for a very close two. Crowd are wanting tables even though it’s not an Extreme Rules match because some crowds are just dumb. Burke connects with a STO for another two. They go through the Malenko/Guerrero pin sequence but unlike a lot of times that sequence is emulated it feels like any of them could actually end the match. Burke bridges upwards and they battle over a backslide until Punk uses the momentum to hoist Burke onto his shoulders and win with the GTS.
Winner and No. 1 Contender: CM Punk (Easily the best Punk vs. Burke singles match and an early snapshot of what ECW matches would turn into by 2008 with long, story-driven matches.)
Nitro comes out to stare at Punk and that’s your lot.
Overall: Punk/Burke was worth a watch but the rest is more interesting for the events occurring outside of the wrestling. But you didn’t need me to tell you that, it’s the fucking Benoit Tragedy. It was only ten years ago and most of you reading this will recall where you were and how dire the whole thing was. I bet you were wondering what happened on ECW on Sci-Fi two days later and you’re thrilled to find out ”Striker got wormed.”
I haven’t got anything new to plug or link to right now on Botchamania.com because it’s been a busy week but Botchamania 341 is still a thing.