Nitro makes a hardcore point

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July 11, 2007

NEW ORLEANS -- ECW World Champion Johnny Nitro's chest heaved up and down as he sneered at Tommy Dreamer. Perspiration stung his eyes and left a salty taste in his mouth as he glared at our fans at the New Orleans Arena and lifted the ECW World Title.

Nitro had first heard the whispers three weeks ago, when he was drafted to ECW during the Supplemental Draft on WWE.com. They only grew louder after he shocked the world when he won the ECW World Title at Vengeance: Night of Champions. "He's not hardcore. He's too pretty to be extreme. He's not ECW-enough to be ECW World Champion."

One of those whisperers was ECW Original Tommy Dreamer, a former ECW World Champion and legend who has literally broken his back for the promotion. Even when Nitro bested him in a competitive non-title match last week, Dreamer was not convinced that the young, arrogant newcomer was truly worthy of carrying ECW's top prize. This week on ECW on Sci Fi, Dreamer decided to test Nitro again -- this time in his specialty, an Extreme Rules Match. (WATCH)

The criticism by Dreamer and others of Nitro was not unfounded. For two years, our fans and Superstars had watched Nitro primp and preen before any and all cameras, walking on a red carpet to the ring surrounded by paparazzi. Wearing fur and sunglasses, the Los Angeles native fashioned himself a Hollywood A-lister. His talent and athleticism could not be ignored; he was a multi-time WWE Tag Team Champion and Intercontinental Champion years before his 30th birthday. But his antics overshadowed his accomplishments. After all, how seriously can you take a guy who stuffed his championship down his pants?

Even when he defeated the heralded CM Punk at Vengeance for the vacant ECW World Title, Nitro couldn't win anyone's respect. Many in the ECW locker room were convinced he was just keeping the belt warm for the Straightedge Superstar, against whom he will defend the title at The Great American Bash on July 22. Read the preview of The Great American Bash Match ...

Perhaps angered by the criticism and driven by his desire to hold on to his title, our fans and ECW Superstars have seen a new, more focused and intense Johnny Nitro in recent weeks. Gone is the red carpet. The paparazzi are MIA. He wears his ECW Championship around his waist and not down his pants. Nitro's eyes have burned with a rage no one believed he was even capable of.

Dreamer himself may have identified more with Nitro than the ECW World Champion realized. Once upon a time, at the beginning of Dreamer's career in ECW in 1993, he was a suspenders-wearing pretty boy that hardcore fans tortured and jeered in the ECW Arena in Philadelphia. That all changed -- and a legend was born -- when Dreamer became the first man to kick out of a Superfly Splash from WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy Snuka.

For his part, Nitro didn't show much respect for Dreamer and the other pioneers of ECW when he first arrived on the scene. He said Originals like Dreamer were washed-up, relics from the past and that he represented the evolution of Extreme -- the extreme athlete. But on ECW on Sci Fi Tuesday night, Dreamer showed Nitro why he had the reputation of being innovative with chairs, tables, frying pans and other unconventional weapons around the ring.

Though Dreamer kept Nitro off-balance for much of their war, the ECW World Champion showed him -- and the rest of ECW -- that he was very, maybe surprisingly, comfortable using chairs and tables. Dreamer felt the brunt of the so-called A-lister's wrath under Extreme Rules. His combination of athleticism and handy work ultimately overwhelmed Dreamer and left our fans stunned.

It was difficult to decipher the grimace from a grin on his face as he surveyed the scene. Dreamer was left in a heap. Weeks before The Great American Bash, Punk and the rest of the ECW locker room and the world were put on notice. And with the ECW World Title in his hands, Nitro couldn't have been happier. Maybe an ECW legend was born tonight.

To get the full results of ECW on Sci Fi, click HERE.

Pick up the One Night Stand '07 DVD Package now available at WWEShop...

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