Some nights in wrestling history will forever be remembered as iconic and groundbreaking—nights where the crowd almost took control of an event and helped one guy ride on a sea of emotion toward ultimate success.
CM Punk's victory at Money in the Bank in 2011 is one such example—with the hometown hero beating John Cena for the WWE Championship before absconding with the title in Chicago.
However, whilst that event will be considered as a truly unique night, five years prior to that coup de grace by the people of Chicago, something very similar unfolded in New York involving a Money in the Bank briefcase.
The Hammerstein Ballroom is a venue that is synonymous with professional wrestling—and is perhaps even more famous with its association with ECW. WWE had revived the brand, bringing back the One Night Stand show in 2005. And one year later, WWE hosted the show again.
John Cena was WWE champion heading into the show but did not meet a conventional challenger. Rob Van Dam had won the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 22, earning the right to have a title match at any point over the next 12 months. For a guy who had never won the championship before, this was big business.
And Van Dam stunned the world when he announced the exact date he would cash it in, giving Cena plenty of time to prepare. However, RVD had one thing on his side—an ECW crowd that absolutely adored him.
When the bell rang for both men to make their entrance at the show, the atmosphere was electric. In fact, it was almost exactly the same as the cauldron of fire that Cena would walk into five years later at Money in the Bank.
Van Dam came out to an enormous pop, as the crowd immediately made it clear whom they supported. When Cena's music hit, boos and plenty of abuse were hurled Cena's way as he made his way down to the ring—in fact, his T-shirt was thrown back at him several times.
The match—and Cena's entrance—was the closest we will likely ever get to seeing him as a true heel. He was throwing abuse back at the crowd, and as the match got nearer to its conclusion, he even hit the referee with a clothesline.
Both Cena and Van Dam put on a great occasion for the huge crowd in attendance. There were some pretty brutal spots—as expected, given how it was an ECW show.
However, hardly anyone could have foreseen the ending. After Cena tossed Van Dam out of the ring, he was met by a man in a motorcycle helmet, who speared him through a table that was positioned nicely in the corner. That man revealed himself to be Edge, with the "Thank you, Edge!" chants going up almost instantly.
Van Dam capitalized, too. He hit his signature splash off the top rope, but there was no referee to make the defining three-count. However, ECW's hero came down to round off an amazing night. Paul Heyman sprinted to the ring and provided one of the fastest three-counts you are likely to ever see at a pay-per-view.
Van Dam had finally got his hands on a top belt. Sure, he had been intercontinental champion with the WWE, but he had never been a WWE or a world heavyweight champion. It was a mammoth moment in the career of one of the most exciting stars to ever step into a wrestling ring.
Many will remember the night for the insane level of crowd noise throughout that main event match. However, it should be more fondly remembered as the night Van Dam finally got what he deserved.