Our Worst Wrestling Shows series generally focuses on main events of both particular awfulness and historical significance. WrestleMania IX, the toga-drowned mess that provided the world with the bitter end of Hulkamania and the absolute worst Taker match of all time. Halloween Havoc ‘98 - the time Ultimate Warrior showed up to cynically dismantle one of the most beloved matches of all time. We stick to the big ones because they’re very memorable. It’s easier to laugh and commiserate when things are bad in large, public spaces.
December to Dismember is not that. December to Dismember isn’t even close. In fact, for all the PPVs released through the WWE and WCW brands, I’m pretty sure December to Dismember is the absolute least-watched PPV in wrestling history. Actually, I don’t even need to guess; the numbers confirm that the show picked up a mere 90,000 buys, the lowest in WWE history. It was part of that brief, watered-down ECW run on Sci-Fi, years after the legendary Philadelphia chaos, and it is most notable for being one of the primary reasons Vince McMahon fired Paul Heyman in the mid-2000s.
Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for us, the WWE Network has made sure that every moment, even the most banal and trivial ones, are etched permanently on the internet. With that, let’s take a look at what made December to Dismember go so, so wrong.
Hardys over MNM
I remembered liking Tazz for approximately five minutes. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have any wistful tremors when they cut over to Joey Styles and his crustacean-in-tiny-sunglasses right hand man. I relished those few moments of “oh yeah! They were letting Tazz call wrestling matches for a while! That’s pretty dumb!”
Then Melina walked out, and Tazz spent literally the entire match acting like a cartoon wolf seeing a pretty lady. Every single time they cut over to Melina at ringside, we got some combination of “OH MOMMA” or “SHE’S SMOKIN’ HUH?” or “SHH JOEY BE QUIET, YOU’RE INTERRUPTING THIS.” Then, unfortunately, you remembered that you hated Tazz.
It’s not like he was ruining anything transcendent. I actually kinda like Melina; she could certainly work, but she mostly got over by doing the splits and showing up in Playboy. This is the post-Championship version of the permanently irrelevant MNM, where John Morrison was clawing his way up to Raw and Joey Mercury was in the midst of various addiction issues and about to be out of the company. They’re facing off against an over-the-hill Hardy Boyz, who probably thought they were slumming it down in ECW.
There’s always something kinda sad about teams and wrestlers who previously demanded some respect going at it in the earliest slot on a bargain-bin PPV. Out of the five people involved in this match, two are burning off their golden years in TNA, one is doing swan dives in Lucha Underground, and the others are pretty much retired. Matt Hardy climbs the corner turnbuckle, and the crowd barely eeks out a desperate “E-C-DUB, E-C-DUB.” It’d be nice to see those dudes come out on top and rid themselves of the TNA demons à la Sting. I think they deserve it.
Balls Mahoney over Matt Striker
I liked Balls Mahoney. His name was Balls. He was a big schlubby Raven-looking dude who wrestled in jorts like some sort of hxc pit monster pulled directly out of your local Blood Brothers show. Dudes like this exist everywhere in independent wrestling: giant, angry men who like using those qualities to further their own causes. Balls would never, ever, ever have had a shot in vanilla WWE, but when they brought back the ECW brand? Sure, why not.
He’s going up against Matt Striker, who was the WRESTLING TEACHER! A guy who was teaching high school history, and who became a brief national curiosity after getting fired for using his sick days to wrestle. Vince McMahon, forever the cynical opportunist, shouted, “I want that guy in my show!!” And thus began the legend of Matt Striker, a man who’s still kicking it in wrestling, right now commentating on Lucha Underground.
This match is fine. Striker has a giant picture of his face on his way-too-small speedo and that’s pretty awesome. Balls wins, because apparently rooting for high school bullies is more EXTREME than rooting for high school teachers.
Elijah Burke and Sylvester Terkay over FBI
At one point during this match the crowd chants TNA. That’s how bad this show was. That’s how bored these people are. Can you even imagine that? Like, I know we complain about the product now, but there’s no way a WWE audience would interrupt something like Kane and Ryback with TNA chants now. Man, 2006 was really a long time ago, wasn’t it?
Also, three of the four people involved in this match ended up in TNA for a spell. I still love you Elijah Burke, wherever you are.
Daivari over Tommy Dreamer
There’s really nothing to say about this match. It’s a very, very standard set of circumstances where Daivari rolls up legitimate ECW legend Tommy Dreamer to push the career of The Great Khali. A couple years from this show, Khali would be world champion, and generally bumming everyone out. Daivari, whom I barely remember, seems to mess every spot up. I’m not an expert in his wrestling legacy, but man, December to Dismember (shockingly) wasn’t his best moment.
It does, however, seem to illuminate all the things that went wrong with the ECW reboot. I mean, if you’re trying to refresh a beloved independent promotion, maybe get guys on the show that embody that. Maybe don’t have one of the penultimate matches of a feature pay-per-view be The Great Khali’s terrible open-hand slap.
According to lore, Tommy Dreamer asked out of his contract after this night. I don’t particularly like Dreamer, but it’s hard to blame him. If I was a dude that helped build ECW from the ground up, and now I had to job out to Daivari, I’d be pretty miffed too.
Kevin Thorn and Ariel over Mike Knox and Kelly Kelly
Kevin Thorn was a vampire. That fact alone leads to arguably the greatest line in wrestling history, where Joey Styles says “regardless of vampirism, he’s a really good technician.”
Kelly Kelly was an EXIBITIONIST which means each week she threatens to take her clothes off but never actually does, because this is television in the grand tradition of Sable and early Trish Stratus and the fundamental philosophy of pre-PG WWE.
Whenever people talk about bringing back the brand split and how concentrating Raw into a single roster buries some of the talent, I like to remind them that when you have different shows showcasing different guys, you end up with ECW booking a vampire to feud with an exibitionist at the top of the PPV card. That’s no good.
Bobby Lashley over Big Show, Rob Van Dam, Hardcore Holly, Test, CM Punk
This crowd is covered in CM Punk shirts. This was shortly after he got signed from the indies, still fresh-faced in his greasy bleach-blonde hair and not yet sporting the chest piece. The people were here for Punk. There was no performer more exciting in the building, and they were right.
Then, CM Punk entered the elimination chamber, took a crowbar from Test, ate a frog splash from Van Dam, and was the first to exit.
You can seriously feel the energy slump out of the building. The one thing they were resting hopes on ripped from their hands. Obviously, Punk turned out okay, but man was that a body blow. Sure, he wasn’t a star yet, but the WWE was still okay finishing a main event of a PPV with Big Show, Rob Van Dam, Bobby Lashley, Hardcore Holly, and Test. Test! I didn’t even know Test was wrestling at this point. God rest your soul Test, you weren’t a good wrestler, but that time you almost married Stephanie was awesome.
This is also, famously, the match that got Paul Heyman fired, after Heyman and Vince got into a huge argument over booking of the finish, specifically CM Punk’s early exit. Honestly, that drama tends to overshadow what really went down. There’s nothing wrong with ECW Champion Bobby Lashley. The failed 10-minute championship parade where the crowd was supposed to go CRAZY for their new title-holder and instead just kinda mumbled and walked towards the exit? Pretty funny! But Lashley was fine; the booking was bad in the sense of say… Batista winning the Royal Rumble this year and accidentally turning everyone against him.
Is there an alternate history out there where CM Punk snags the title and leads an upstart brand into crisp, modern glory? Well, maybe, but that would also imply that the SciFi ECW Champion actually meant something, which is doesn’t. In that sense, Bobby Lashley winning the title makes perfect sense.