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Renewed breed of extreme

As Rob Van Dam captured the WWE Championship from John Cena at ECW: One Night Stand on June 11, 2006, the ECW loyalists attending New York City's Hammerstein Ballroom, plus the masses watching the pay-per-view from home, knew that they were witnessing an Extreme rebirth. A breed of hardcore athleticism and innovation, not seen since ECW's demise in 2001, had been resurrected from the ashes now held by World Wrestling Entertainment.

Without question, ECW's renaissance is WWE.com's No. 1 story for 2006. After all, no one knew just how far this reinvented wheel could travel down a road paved with barbed wire and broken kendo sticks. During its eight-year existence, Extreme Championship Wrestling had attracted a devoted following, particularly on the East Coast, but it had never achieved the multitudes one would find at a WWE live event.

For the new ECW to survive, it needed to thrive. That meant evolving beyond regional recognition and bingo-hall status, and assuming a national identity—much like Vince McMahon had done with the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s. Therefore, two nights after RVD won the WWE Championship at One Night Stand, ECW premiered on Sci Fi Channel, and Van Dam was declared the ECW World Champion—effectively giving the brand its own title, even after RVD lost the WWE Championship to Edge three weeks later.

Another Extreme factor for success came after unifying ECW Originals (RVD, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and Sandman) with established WWE Superstars (Big Show, Hardcore Holly, and Bobby Lashley) and new Extremists (CM Punk, Kelly Kelly, Mike Knox, and Kevin Thorn, among others). The eclectic mix quickly attracted new fans, yet still provided a familiar venue for the hardcore loyalists' undying, warlike "ECW!" chants.

After more than six months, it's safe to say that ECW is clearly thriving more than surviving. The brand celebrated its second pay-per-view in 2006—December to Dismember, in which Lashley became the new ECW World Champion, dethroning Big Show after a sizeable five-month reign. Meanwhile, ECW on Sci Fi remains a cable TV ratings powerhouse, having extended what was originally a 13-week trial run on the network into a long-term fixture throughout 2007.

As the Extreme evolution continues, Tommy Dreamer summed up the key ingredient to ECW's future success in his "Diary of Violence" for WWE.com: "You should always acknowledge and cherish the past, but not live in it."

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