The relaunch of ECW in 2006 under the WWE banner brought with it an almost endless barrage of backlash from fans of the original Paul Heyman-led product. It simply wasn’t ‘Extreme’ Championship Wrestling anymore, with a lack of key stars, outside of the likes of Rob Van Dam, annoying fans and WWE-enforced restrictions prohibiting them from being their original entity.
Other key ECW stars were still around though. Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman were among some of the performers sent to the ECW brand by WWE management in a bid to attract viewers of the old product. Joining them was a new breed of ECW Superstars, including CM Punk, Bobby Lashley, and Elijah Burke.
The ECW brand ultimately folded in 2010, hosting its final episode in February before the birth of NXT. By this point, the old guard had left, with Rob Van Dam leaving WWE a whole three years prior to this last broadcast. At the time of ECW’s demise, the roster was largely comprised of WWE Superstars with no affiliation to ECW being sent there anyway, including Christian, Zack Ryder, and final ECW Champion Ezekiel Jackson.
“Some People Are Comfortable Just Taking That Position Of Control” – Rob Van Dam
Speaking exclusively to Kenny McIntosh during an Inside The Ropes live event, Rob Van Dam recalled a time when CM Punk, who was still classed as a rookie in WWE, called a locker room meeting, viewing himself as a backstage leader:
“When WWE ECW was around, as everyone knows, shortly after we started I got suspended for 30 days and there was some new guys coming in besides CM Punk like Bobby Lashley and vampire dude [Kevin Thorn]. Anyway, a few guys came in, they were new. I’ve [been] gone for 30 days, when I came back it was the first show back and CM Punk approaches me at the building and he says, ‘Hey, Rob, I just want to let you know, I’m going to have a team meeting in the dressing room.’
He says, ‘Of course, this has nothing to do with you. I just want to tell you so you know, like when everyone’s back there and stuff.’ I’m like, ‘What? You’re locker room leader, like what happened?’ But some people are comfortable just taking that position of control and moving forward and I don’t know. I kind of think he’s one of them. In the meeting, he said, ‘Somebody’s been stealing from the bags in the dressing room and we know it’s one of the boys.’ He said to me, ‘Obviously we know it’s not you.’
I mean, I hadn’t been around but nobody would blame me for that. But just as an example of you know, of seeing CM Punk’s sternness, I don’t think he’s real flexible in his code of ethics. I think he lived by a real strict guideline where he’s like, ‘What, is somebody offending me? Am I offended? Should I be offended right now?’ I feel like that’s his energy.”
During the interview, Rob Van Dam also spoke of CM Punk’s ego, believing the two-time AEW World Champion to have one of the biggest egos of anyone he’s ever met during his time in wrestling.
If you use any quotes from this transcription, please link back to the original video with a H/T to Inside The Ropes.