There are many pay per views that have been critically panned by fans and wrestling journalists alike, but none in WWE history more so than the one and only stand-alone ECW pay-per-view, December to Dismember, in 2006.
ECW had been relaunched as a third brand alongside Raw and Smackdown in 2006 following on from the major success of ECW One Night Stand the year prior. The assets to the original Extreme Championship Wrestling had been acquired by WWE in 2003, two years after the upstart promotion had gone out of business.
However, despite a positive second One Night Stand in 2006 and the excitement around the first episode in June of that year, fans soon realised the new WWE ECW had little in common with the original promotion, outside of its name and some of the old superstars, namely Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman.
Van Dam had at first been positioned as the no.1 guy on the new show, briefly alongside Kurt Angle prior to his release. RVD was the first ECW Champion of the new era, handed the title by Paul Heyman after defeating John Cena at One Night Stand 2006 for the WWE title. So far so good.
Just weeks into his reign, Van Dam was suspended by the company after being arrested on a drug possession charge and dropped both titles prior to 30 days at home. He lost the ECW title to The Big Show, who had been moved to the third brand much to the chagrin of its loyal fanbase.
By the time December came around, the brand was badly faltering, not helped by its network being the Sci-Fi channel and the constant influx of Raw and Smackdown superstars diluting the supposed different nature of the product.
Disqualifications and count-outs in ECW too? It might as well have been Sunday Night Heat or Velocity by this stage.
The pay per view itself was a revival of the 1995 event held by the old ECW and built around the “Extreme Elimination Chamber.” It was a more violent take on a WWE specialty match, with each chamber pod containing a weapon.
The initial participants were the champion, The Big Show, and his five challengers: RVD, Sabu, Test, Bobby Lashley and CM Punk, in his first year under the WWE umbrella.
Earlier in the show, a segment was shown where an injured Sabu was ruled out of the match with a kayfabe injury. The ECW original was replaced by Hardcore Holly, who despite his name did not fit the fans’ description of a hardcore wrestler.
Things worsened for anyone with an affiliation to the old brand as CM Punk, a new era but old-school wrestler, was eliminated first, soon followed by RVD. Bobby Lashley went on to win the title, pinning The Big Show to the sound of crickets, more so because of the overall booking and event than anything to do with Lashley’s obvious talents.
The undercard did little to make up for the abomination of the main event, with the Hardys victory over MNM the sole upside to a miserable pay per view. And none of these four wrestlers were even members of the ECW roster.
Less than 24 hours after December to Dismember, WWE announced on their official website that Paul Heyman had been dismissed from his role on the ECW creative team.
This was an attempt from Vince McMahon and co. to put the blame on Heyman for the disastrous pay per view but in reality Heyman had been overruled in the booking of the event, and most of the ECW shows prior.
He had wanted CM Punk to win the title, and not for the first time the WWE hierarchy did not seem to “get” what the Straight Edge Superstar was all about. This show of faith in Punk was later played out in storyline when Heyman managed him, and Punk declared himself a “Paul Heyman guy.”
Soon joining Heyman in departing WWE was The Big Show, who took a break from the sport in early 2007.
The buy rate only added to the dismal feel around the show. There were just 90,000 buys (55,000 domestic), making December to Dismember the lowest selling pay per view in WWE history.
The events of December to Dismember can be seen as the beginning of the end for the WWE iteration of ECW.
Original plans for a repeat event the following year were cancelled, no stand-alone ECW pay per view ever took place again, and the brand soon became a developmental one before being replaced by NXT in February 2010.
For its main event, undercard, buy rates and the overall fall-out from the show, it is safe to say that December to Dismember is unlikely to be topped as the worst pay per view in WWE history.