2006 was a… odd year in WWE. Odd in that there was a lot of noise and buzz to get excited about, but not a lot of action. I mean, it was a momentous year with DX reuiniting, the Rey Mysterio underdog title reign etc. But ultimately, it didn’t pay off as well as WWE anticipated. Mysterio look incredibly weak as champion and DX wasn’t quite the same as it was before. And with the exceptions of like Kurt Angle vs Undertaker at No Way Out, there wasn’t a lot of marque quality matches to shout about in WWE at this time. However, one match that really stood out from this year was perhaps the genesis of the completely new direction for John Cena and the spawn of something that was supposed to be… EXTREMELY beautiful. Yes, it was the Hammerstein Ballroom. Yes, it was One Night Stand. And yes, it was Rob Van Dam vs John Cena for the WWE Championship.
With ECW coming back full-time, WWE had to do something in order to make seem as legitimate competition to RAW and SmackDown! So along with big-names like Big Show and Kurt Angle, they returned Rob Van Dam to the land of extreme. But there was one HUGE factor that made this move all the more interesting, RVD’s Money In The Bank contract.
RVD successfully captured the Money In The Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania 22, with the chance to cash in for any world championship at any time. But what made this cash-in all the more intriguing was the decision by Van Dam to let the champion he planned to cash-in on, John Cena, know in advance when the title match would take place – ECW One Night Stand 2006.
With the title match for the WWE Championship in the place, Van Dam had the chance to not only become the first ECW Champion of the new ECW but also win the WWE Title for the first time and hold both belts at the same time. John Cena was not gonna let that happen, but the Doctor of Thuganomics got more than he bargained for at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
Sometimes the crowd really does make the match. Sometimes a match can be considered a five star match, purely because of the fan response to it. Think of Hollywood Hogan vs The Rock at Wrestlemania 18. One of the most memorable matches in Wrestlemania history. A technical classic? Far from. But the fans didn’t care. The fans MADE that match extraordinary. The anti-Rock crowd and the extremely over Hogan set a new standard into fans cheering who they wanna cheer for, no matter if they’re the good guy or the bad guy. However, Van Dam vs Cena was not good vs evil and they just didn’t like the god guy, the fans just REALLY didn’t like Cena!
Cena had been booed at the Hall of Fame that year and was the less-than-favorable fan favorite in his match with Triple H at Wrestlemania, but these fans oozed with hate for Cena. A true indicator of a huge minority that disapproved of good old John Cena. These fans MADE this match.
However, I’m not taking away anything from Cena or RVD. This match was a very good match. Even if a lot of the match was just them standing and responding to the fans, there was a lot to like about this one.
Now the finish. The referee was down when the table was set up in the corner. As Cena was getting Van Dam up, a man in a biker helmet and jacket speared Cena through the table. Surprise, surprise, it was Edge!
Edge was the number one contender for the WWE Title for the Vengeance PPV and earlier on in the show, led an anti-ECW tirade with Lita and Mick Foley. So it was amazing how the ECW faithful had suddenly forgiven him with “Thank You Edge” chants! But this moment wasn’t Edge’s, it was Van Dam’s…
As RVD hit the Frog Splash and Tazz pretty much said “Alright, we’ll take it!”, there was no referee. That was when the creator of ECW, Paul Heyman, ran down to make the count and Van Dam was declared the winner.
Van Dam had won his first World title and what a night to do it on. This was a TRUE ECW moment, even if it was a WWE product at the time. At this moment, ECW was on top of the world, and Van Dam was the King of Extreme!
If you were to ask me what I thought the match of the year was in 2006, I’d tell you it was this one. Strong contenders include Kurt Angle’s matches with Samoa Joe and Undertaker this year, but this match had the good in-ring action, a quality finish and a fanbase that just made this moment magical. And it was a true game-changer for the Cena character. Gone was the idea that Cena was beloved by all. The only thing that was beloved at that moment was ECW…