There was something infamous about WWE ECW in 2007. Unlike in years past, ECW revolved around its younger talent instead of ECW Originals like RVD, Dreamer, and Sabu.
The actions of Chris Benoit only weeks after being drafted to the ECW brand will forever remain a virus to professional wrestling. On the other hand, ECW was drastically altered by Benoit’s actions.
Originally scheduled for an ECW Title bout against CM Punk, Chris Benoit no-showed the 2007 Night of Champions event and was replaced by Johnny Nitro.
At the time, I despised the man known as Johnny Nitro. I was impressed by his athletic ability but he remained a nuisance to my viewership. Although my hatred for Nitro reached a boiling point at times, there are always to sides to any story.
A week before the pay per view, Nitro made his ECW debut against Nunzio. Unlike any Nitro match before, I was impressed by his abilities and the innovative finisher, the Corkscrew Neckbreaker.
Despite my newfound respect for Johnny Nitro, CM Punk was the superior Superstar. I enjoyed every aspect of Punk’s character and felt he would reach nirvana with a title win at the Night of Champions.
When Nitro replaced Chris Benoit, I was shocked. I figured Benoit had a family issue and whoever would become Champion had an animalistic wolverine awaiting him on Tuesday night.
The match was as great as I thought it would be.
The back-and-forth action between the two got to the point that I was unable to decide on a winner. Seconds later, a miscalculation by CM Punk ended with Johnny Nitro winning the ECW Championship.
The feeling of an unpredictable ending was everlasting.
However, that feeling was soon overshadowed with shock, anger, and despair. Around 8:45 that Monday night, I was watching classic wrestling videos on YouTube. As I locked my attention on the Rock/Austin WrestleMania 17 pre-match promo, my younger sibling called out to me at exactly 9 PM.
As I gazed at the TV screen to see the words “In memory of Chris Benoit 1967-2007” his World Title victory at WrestleMania XX interrupted my train of thought as if I’d watched it the day before.
I sat on my couch wondering what had happened to Chris Benoit. Was it murder? Did he die of a medical issue? Or was it a terrible accident?
Never in a million years would I have guessed the true nature of Benoit’s actions.
I didn’t find out about that weekend's events until the next morning. Multiple news outlets labeled Benoit’s actions the result of roid rage.
Before I could come to the realization of what happened, I was watching ECW as Vince McMahon apologized for the Tribute show and to the fans affected by Benoit’s actions.
Before I knew it, Vince was gone and John Cena was storming to the ECW ring. It was 2007 and John Cena could do no wrong in my book. I wasn’t surprised that Nitro was facing Cena but I was surprised at the amount of offense Nitro inflicted on him.
In the end, Cena won with the STFU, but the Benoit story overshadowed this great match.
I found comic relief from Nitro as he feigned a cold as the reason for his loss.
If I wasn't sure I admired John before this, his match with Tommy Dreamer cemented it. It had been months since I’d witnessed an innovative display like the one Nitro put on.
Despite this, CM Punk was still my favorite Superstar and it was a must for him to become the ECW Champion.
I was almost 100 percent sure that the Great American Bash was the place it would happen. My prediction changed when Nitro morphed into John Morrison a week before the event. The Rock Star attire, cocky accent, and the obvious Jim Morrison comparison meant Morrison was in line for big things.
Unsurprisingly, Morrison retained the ECW Championship.
I expected Punk to drop out of the number one contenders’ race, but he was given another chance with a win over Morrison. SummerSlam was the date and the third time was the charm. Unfortunately, Morrison prevailed once again with the help of the ring ropes.
It seemed as if this was the story of CM Punk’s career. Close but no cigar.
At this point, I was a staple on the ECW viewership and the numerous shortcomings of CM Punk made the show that much more interesting.
The 2nd City Saint received one last shot at the ECW Championship. In perhaps the most contested match in ECW history, CM Punk defeated JoMo with the Go 2 Sleep. Despite the loss, Morrison went out as flashy as he came in.
This was the same match Morrison debuted Starship Pain. Looking back on this feud, I notice it has become an afterthought.
Plagued by the circumstances that sparked it, CM Punk vs. John Morrison wasn’t just a feud.
Unlike its counterparts, this feud didn’t revolve around a guy punting each opponent in the head. The World Championship wasn’t held by a seven-foot monster that wasn’t even able to speak the native language.
It didn’t revolve around the same two superstars who won championships at WrestleMania 21.
CM Punk vs. John Morrison was about creating the stars of the future.
ECW may have been considered the red-headed step child, but this feud was the best thing going at the time.
A feud that occurred by chance created two of the WWE’s biggest Superstars.