WHAT IF… EXTREME DID NOT DIE!? We have done our fair share of fantasy rebooking thanks to the TWM Time Machine™ – from Chris Jericho’s debut to the whole of WrestleMania 36, It’s easy to look back and say what you would have done differently if you know the outcomes. Most wrestling fans have done this repeatedly when a match or storyline hasn’t gone the way they wanted it to. But what if you had a mostly-blank canvas? Enter ECW.
On March 11, 2001, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) was scheduled to run their fourth annual Living Dangerously event. However, financial struggles were plaguing the company, including reports of money owed to members of the roster. With no network television deal, ECW hosted only two shows following January 7’s Guilty As Charged 2001 then took a “break”. On March 9, two days before Living Dangerously, ECW officially cancelled the event.
Rumours were flying about the future, which was answered less than a month later with ECW filing for bankruptcy on April 4. Some would argue the writing was on the wall back at Guilty As Charged, as the event seemed to wrap up all ongoing storylines in one show.
But what if ECW didn’t cancel the March event?
What if they managed to secure funding as a “last chance” to prove they could exist as a viable alternative to WWF and WCW?
What if a mysterious, anonymous benefactor offered to fund the show as a one-off, with a view to further investment if it was successful and refreshed the product for a new audience?
Let’s take a trip in the TWM Twisted Reality Machine™ and have a look at what could have happened…
ECW : Living Dangerously 2001…what could have been!
The show opens with the usual sight of Joey Styles and Joel Gertner in the ring. Gertner is receiving his usual pop from the crowd at The Hammerstein Ballroom until Cyrus The Virus interrupts proceedings bringing Jerry Lynn, Rhino, and Da Baldies (DeVito and Angel) with him.
Cyrus cuts a promo on Paul Heyman, dropping in subtle hints at the financial struggles being experienced by the company. He reminds everyone he was the face of the network and criticises Heyman’s business decisions for losing the deal with TNN. As part of the promo, Cyrus declares the ECW World TV Championship null and void, as there’s no point in having a TV title that can’t be seen on television. Rhino throws the belt into the crowd. Cyrus address the fan who caught it, saying the championship is worth more on eBay than ECW is worth as a company.
Cyrus declares Rhino will be the most dominant World Heavyweight Champion in history. Rhino is a fighting champion and will defend in the main event – but only against someone who has never challenged for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship before. Cyrus has hand-picked his challenger – someone from a famous wrestling family who will be revealed later in the show. Unusually for an ECW opening segment, Cyrus and crew leave the ring with no interruptions.
Four-Way Dance for the ECW World Tag Team Championship:
Danny Doring and Roadkill vs The Unholy Alliance (Yoshihiro Tajiri and Mikey Whipwreck w/ The Sinister Minister) vs Kid Kash and Super Crazy vs The FBI (Little Guido and Tony Mamaluke w/ Sal E. Graziano)
Having earned the number one contenders spot at Guilty As Charged, Tajiri and Whipwreck announce their challenge. Doring and Roadkill answer, but are interrupted by Super Crazy and Kid Kash. Kash states they shouldn’t have been eliminated as Graziano interfered. The FBI enter, claiming they shouldn’t have lost as Tajiri used the mist on Mamaluke. Doring grabs a microphone, shouts “F it” and dives out of the ring, taking out The FBI and Kid Kash to start the match.
The FBI are eliminated first after a Buggy Bang from Doring and Roadkill on Guido. Whipwreck hits a Whippersnapper on Kid Kash to eliminate him and Super Crazy. Roadkill lands his rope-walk splash to put Whipwreck through a table to pick up the win and retain the titles.
Post-match, The Sinister Minister is unhappy with Whipwreck for losing and demands Tajiri attack him. Tajiri refuses. The Sinister Minister shakes his head in dismay and says “you leave me no choice” as a masked man enters the ring. Tajiri and Whipwreck are both beaten down, and Tajiri is the recipient of a Cop Killa. The masked man reveals himself to be Homicide and beckons to the entrance for someone to fight.
ECW Singles Match – Homicide vs Nova
Nova answers the challenge but is soundly beaten by Homicide, and a Cop Killa finishes the match quickly. Tajiri and Whipwreck, still at ringside, attempt to get to The Sinister Minister, but Homicide fends them off – attacking Tajiri with a chair, and throwing a fireball at Mikey. Homicide and The Sinister Minister leave together.
After a quick throw to Joey Styles, who recaps the action from the previous two matches, Simon Diamond comes out to the ring. He lets everyone know “Simon has a problem” that he wants a shot at the tag team titles, but doesn’t have a partner, as Swinger has “gone away”. Diamond wants a new tag team partner and has agreed to personally fund and book a match to find one – inviting four “rookies” to try out. Diamond personally introduces the participants.
Four-Way Dance: Colt Cabana vs Christopher Daniels vs CM Punk vs Chris Hero
An alliance forms between Cabana and Punk early. They work together to eliminate Daniels, with Punk hitting a Pepsi Plunge. Hero puts up a good fight but is eliminated following a Chicago Skyline from Cabana. Punk and Cabana shake hands and start chain wrestling, but Diamond stops them. He tells them he wants a partner who can fight hard and dirty. Punk and Cabana break out a series of dirty tactics, including eye pokes, back rakes, and low blows. Cabana eventually gets the win with another Chicago Skyline, but before he can celebrate is attacked by Diamond. Diamond dismisses all four wrestlers as being unworthy. “Simon Says I already have a partner”. Ace Steel – the trainer of Punk and Cabana – hits the ring and joins Diamond in beating down his students.
C.W. Anderson comes out and asks why Simon’s ignoring him. Anderson was part of the group, but since Guilty As Charged, he’s not heard anything. Diamond responds by saying Anderson has gone soft – shaking Dreamer’s hand was a sign of weakness.
Simon Diamond vs C.W. Anderson
Another impromptu match starts but is quickly thrown out as Steel joins Diamond in attacking Anderson. Tommy Dreamer runs out to make the save.
Steel Diamonds (Ace Steel and Simon Diamond) vs C.W. Anderson and Tommy Dreamer
The match restarts as a tag match and doesn’t last much longer. Despite the respect shown at Guilty As Charged, Anderson and Dreamer don’t trust each other, and miscommunication allows Diamond to hit The Simonizer on Anderson for the victory.
After the match, Dreamer and Anderson stare each other down. Dreamer’s partners in Young Blood, Christian York and Joey Matthews, come out to help calm tensions. Dreamer and Anderson shake hands and leave. York and Matthews call out Da Baldies, wanting revenge for Guilty As Charged.
The Bad Street Boys (Christian York and Joey Matthews) vs Da Baldies (DeVito and Angel)
The match starts as a brawl, and never strays away from it. Matthews and York get in some offence, but DeVito and Angel keep regaining control. Angel dives from a balcony onto both York and Matthews, laid out on tables. Back in the ring, DeVito lands a moonsault on Matthews to get the win.
After the match, Da Baldies continue beating down York and Matthews, until Spike Dudley and Balls Mahoney come out for the save. They clear the ring and challenge Da Baldies. Cyrus reappears and says that none of his men will ever perform twice for no extra money – which is something ECW can’t afford. He has a better idea. He has a new team itching for the chance to deliver a beating…
Spike Dudley and Balls Mahoney vs The Island Boyz (Kimo and Ekmo)
Kimo and Ekmo waste no time in attacking Spike and Balls. With Cyrus shouting orders, they throw Balls out of the ring and focus their efforts on Spike. Spike manages to avoid a leg drop from Ekmo and makes the hot tag to Mahoney. Balls hits a Nutcracker Suite on Kimo, who kicks out at one. The Island Boyz manage to regain control and hit stereo top rope splashes for the win.
Cyrus praises Kimo and Ekmo and promises them a bonus for their good job. He then brings out the ECW World Heavyweight Champion, Rhino, for his title defence. Cyrus says Rhino’s opponent is a young man with a bright future ahead of him if he’s smart and can avoid the problems associated with his famous family. His opponent is “Shawn Michaels’ baby cousin”, Michael Shane. A very nervous-looking Shane enters the ring. Cyrus congratulates him on his five-match winning streak at the live shows, saying he’s the only person signed to ECW that has an active record worthy of challenging Rhino.
ECW World Heavyweight Championship: Rhino vs Michael Shane
Shane puts up a good fight and gets a near fall with a superkick, but Rhino recovers to spike him with a piledriver. Rhino hits a Gore on Shane but refuses to cover. He hits a second, and a third, before finally pinning Shane.
Celebrating after the win, Cyrus says there is no one left to challenge Rhino. He’s cut off as The Sandman makes his entrance through the crowd. Cyrus and Rhino are joined in the ring by Da Baldies, The Island Boyz, and Jerry Lynn, as Rhino lays down the championship to draw a line for Sandman to cross.
Sandman charges the ring swinging his kendo stick. He clears the ring initially, but the numbers prove too much, and he’s on the end of a six-man beat down.
Christian York, Joey Matthews, Spike Dudley, and Balls Mahoney run out to help Sandman, pairing off against their opponents from early in the night. Michael Shane takes out Jerry Lynn, and all ten-men fight to the back, leaving Rhino alone with Sandman.
ECW World Heavyweight Championship: Rhino vs The Sandman
Sandman takes advantage with a White Russian Leg Sweep and starts to set up a table outside. As he re-enters the ring, Rhino Gores him through the table from the apron. Rhino sets up another table in the ring and sets up for a Rhino Spike piledriver. Sandman counters and hits a Rolling Rock on Rhino through the table for a two count. Sandman attacks Rhino with the kendo stick, leaving a bloody champion laying. As he sets up another table, Cyrus motions to the back, and out comes Kurgan!
Kurgan chokeslams Sandman through the table, and then holds him in the Iron Claw while Rhino hits the Gore for the win.
Post-match, Kurgan puts the Iron Claw back on Sandman, holding it until Cyrus slaps him. Cyrus laughs, surrounded by Rhino, Kurgan, Jerry Lynn, DeVito, Angel, Kimo, and Ekmo – standing tall as the pay-per-view goes off the air with Cyrus shouting “Welcome to the new ECW”.
OK… Arguably some big names are missing here. Steve Corino had left the company on the night of Guilty As Charged. Rob Van Dam’s appearance at that event now looks like it was his way of saying goodbye to ECW fans (he’d been “missing” for a while before this, due to the money dispute with Heyman). Justin Credible was still around, but keeping him away for this (and a few other events) would help fuel rumours and allow for a potential face-turn on his return.
The Twisted Reality Machine™ allows us to look at wrestlers who were active at the time (Cabana, Punk, Daniels, Hero, Homicide, The Island Boyz, Shane) and give them a break before the likes of Ring of Honor and TNA did. At the same time, these wrestlers bring fresh faces, ideas, matches, and feuds to an ECW desperately in need of them. Joey Styles on commentary can be trusted to put over each newcomer’s character and backstory to get the crowd invested. Every debutant leaves the event with something to build on, with the potential exceptions of Daniels and Hero – although Daniels is easily written into the Homicide/Sinister Minister story, and Hero against C.W. Anderson is a hindsight fantasy match-up. Even adding Kurgan as a nod to Cyrus’ past (in The Truth Commission) as an enforcer for his new stable allows for several interesting options, even if his appearances are short-lived.
The layout of the show remains faithful to ECW history, with the chaos of run-ins and impromptu matches. However, bookending the show with Cyrus and his crew standing unopposed in the ring not only reinforces their power but also shows a subtle change that can be built on for future events. Battle lines have been drawn, so the next big show after this would instantly have a more structured feel appealing to more casual wrestling viewers.
This alternative timeline would have an obvious impact on the future of Ring of Honor – as ROH was set up by the owner of RF Video (whose name shall not be mentioned here, and is not in mind as the “benefactor” mentioned earlier) as a direct result of ECW folding.
It would also cause some potential changes in the career directions of people like AJ Styles, Bryan Danielson, Low-Ki, and Samoa Joe who were the “makers” of ROH.
Additionally, ECW remaining afloat with new investment, new talent, new storylines, and a natural shift of focus on in-ring product, would change the complexion of the WWF’s buyout of WCW. WWF would feel a bigger commitment to the contracts of WCW talent, as the threat of them jumping ship to ECW would play a part. The entire Invasion angle (yeah, I know…) would have to be dropped or changed – we may even see WCW television shows continuing. Add in WCW sponsors and investors looking at ECW as the genuine contender to WWF’s crown, and 2001 at least would be a very different prospect for the wrestling world.
Obviously, any investment into ECW at this time would have to be carefully managed. I can’t see anyone willing to put in the money needed to keep ECW afloat and pay off their debts wanting to continue with Paul Heyman running the company. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as his timeline gets to play out the same – appearing on commentary for WWF, then going on to being one of the best managers in wrestling history (including our 2020 Manager Of The Year recipient).
Anyway, with TWM acting as booker going forward, who needs him?