Don’t do this: December to Dismember

This week, we’ll be looking at one of the biggest PPV snafus ever.  That’s right – the now-defunct ECW brand’s first (and only) solo branded PPV, December to Dismember.

Nothing screams Christmas quite like the Sandman's arm.

WWE (ECW Brand): December 3, 2006

Things had not been going well for the ECW brand since it was introduced after the second edition of One Night Stand in June.  At that point, the brand had drafted Kurt Angle and had an intriguing storyline in which Rob Van Dam held both the newly reestablished ECW Championship as well as Raw’s WWE Championship, which he had won from John Cena at the PPV.  Unfortunately, just after having broken through his so-called “glass ceiling”, RVD got caught driving while smoking pot, so the WWE quickly took both the belts off of him and made him climb up and glue the shattered ceiling back together.  Kurt Angle was released to give him proper time to heal his staggering list of injuries, but quickly jumped ship to the neophyte TNA.  So in full panic mode, the Big Show was elevated to the top spot and the increasingly popular Bobby Lashley was shoehorned in from Smackdown to pad the roster.

December to Dismember, an awful named PPV trying to harken back to the original ECW’s November to Remember, would be the ECW brand’s first PPV, though it was pretty much doomed right from the start.  The Survivor Series – one of the WWE’s big four PPVs – was held the week before, and the Smackdown brand’s Armageddon would be held two weeks later.  Just three weeks after that would be Raw’s New Year’s Revolution.  So right off the bat, the show was in trouble since both Raw and Smackdown had been focusing on Survivor Series and had not had time to help promote this show.  Not that there was much to promote.

In an apparent throwback to the old days of ECW, only two matches were announced for the show.  One was an Extreme Elimination Chamber match, which was basically an elimination chamber with weapons tossed in, featuring the big names of the brand – champion Big Show, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, and Lashley, along with hot newcomer CM Punk and the recently returned Test.  The other match was an open challenge from the reuntied Hardys – one on Raw, one on Smackdown – answered by the reunited MNM – one of Raw, one on Smackdown.  You may notice that half of those announced matches had no ECW members present.  And that was it.  No other matches were announced on TV nor on WWE.com.

The thought process here was that fans would have to buy the show to find out what would be going on.  It was done in an attempt to add the spontanaity that had defined the original ECW (if you look at it with rose-colored glasses).  But that logic was taking quite a leap.  For one, the ECW roster at the time was made up of old ECW guys past their prime, midcard WWE guys who would get some spotlight here, and rookie using the brand as an entrance point.  The names people were interested in were all in the Elimination Chamber match.  And with only one title belt in the brand – also in the Elimination Chamber – why would fans care about random unannounced matches?  It was basically an episode of ECW on Sci-Fi that they would have to pay to see.  And to his credit, Paul Heyman saw disaster looming.  He saw the overbooked PPV schedule and the weakness of the show, but his complaints fell upon deaf ears within WWE management, and eventually he was sent home.  He would never again appear on WWE programming.

But it was unfair to assume that the formula was a winning one to begin with.  Despite fans’ apparent love (in the past tense) for the original ECW, there is a reason it shut down.  ECW PPVs, while completely unlike anything put on by the WWF or WCW at the time, were never considered outstanding.  Name one match you can recall the winner of that doesn’t involve Bam Bam Bigelow and Taz going through the ring.  Hell, you probably don’t even remember who won that one, do you?  But ECW at the time had a ridiculously loyal fanbase – and a Philadelphia fanbase to boot.  That fanbase had not stayed this long with the new ECW, as soon as the likes of Justin Credible had been replaced by the likes of Sylvester Terkay.

So how did the show turn out?  The two announced matches were actually pretty good – except that Sabu was pulled from the show and replaced by Hardcore Holly (in yet another WWE attempt to get him over).  The rest of the card featured the painful undercard: Balls Mahoney defeated Matt Striker, Elijah Burke and Sylvester Terkay defeated the FBI, Daivari defeated ECW legend Tommy Dreamer, and vampires Kevin Thorn and Ariel defeated Mike Knox and Kelly Kelly (when Knox abandoned Kelly).  As for the fans?  Only 4,800 people attended the event (compared to over 15,000 for Survivor Series and 8,200 for Armageddon) and the PPV buy rate was abysmal – 90,000 (55,000 being domestic), setting it at the lowest PPV buy rate in the history of the WWE.

So perhaps December to Dismember is the reason that in 2007 all the PPVs went to multi-branding, meaning all three brands had matches on them.  Perhaps it’s the reason that several multi-month PPVs, including New Year’s Revolution, Cyber Sunday and this mess, were cancelled, reducing the PPV schedule back to twelve annual shows.  Perhaps it is the reason that WWE abandoned all attempts to try to connect the original ECW to its new brand, eventually just giving up and switching it to NXT.  But one thing cannot be disputed – the entirety of December to Dismember is an example of what not to do in the field of PPV booking.  And as for the image above?  Sandman wasn’t even on the show.

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