In the lead up to Vengeance 2007, WWE put on the ECW Championship Tournament 2007. The tournament was a four man bracket to decide the next ECW Champion, and the fifth since the company reinstated the title in 2006.
The ECW Championship had been vacated by Bobby Lashley, who won the championship from Vince McMahon at One Night Stand 2007 in a handicap match, also featuring Shane McMahon and Umaga. McMahon and Lashley had been feuding since Lashley was chosen as Donald Trump’s representative in the Wrestlemania 23 “Battle of the Billionaires”. In the match, Bobby Lashley defeated Umaga, forcing Vince McMahon to have his head shaved bald.
This led to a feud between McMahon and Lashley over Lashley’s ECW Championship. At Backlash 2007, McMahon pinned Lashley with the help of Shane McMahon and Umaga in a 3 on 1 handicap match to win the ECW Championship. It was the second title reign of McMahon’s career (being a former WWE Champion), and it made him the oldest ECW Champion of all time at 62 years of age.
McMahon would lose the title back to Lashley at One Night Stand 2007, although his feud with the former US Soldier would take one final turn.
On June 11 2007, Bobby Lashley was selected to be drafted to the Raw brand from ECW. As a result, McMahon ordered Lashley to be stripped of the ECW Championship. This was unfair at the time, as previous champions had been able to keep their belts when being drafted (such as when John Cena was drafted to Raw as WWE Champion). However, this was Vince McMahon’s final move in his feud with Bobby Lashley.
As a result, the ECW Championship was now vacant and a tournament was set up to decide who would take home the gold. Four men were chosen to take part in the tournament, with the winner being crowned as the new ECW Champion, and the fifth man (after Rob Van Dam, Big Show, Bobby Lashley and Vince McMahon) to hold the belt since the ECW reboot in 2006.
Those four men were:
- Chris Benoit
- CM Punk
- Elijah Burke
- Marcus Cor Von
The four men competed in the ECW Championship Tournament 2007, for the chance to become the next ECW Champion.
ECW Championship Tournament 2007
Chris Benoit vs Elijah Burke
The first match of the ECW Championship Tournament 2007 was Chris Benoit vs Elijah Burke. This was Chris Benoit’s last match, for reasons that will be explained later in the article.
Chris Benoit defeated Elijah Burke in a short match, lasting a little over five minutes. Benoit forced Burke to tap out with The Sharpshooter, a move made famous by fellow Canadian grappler Bret Hart. It was an even match that laid the foundations for a future match down the line.
CM Punk vs Marcus Cor Von
The second match of the 2007 ECW Championship Tournament was CM Punk vs Marcus Cor Von. Both men were up-and-comers in ECW, and there was high hopes for both men to become stars in WWE, via the ECW brand.
CM Punk won the match after seven minutes with the GTS. This set up CM Punk vs Chris Benoit at Vengeance 2007 for the vacant ECW Champion, although that match would not take place as planned…
CM Punk vs Johnny Nitro
CM Punk faced Johnny Nitro in the final of the ECW Championship Tournament 2007 at Vengeance 2007. Nitro took the place of Chris Benoit, who qualified for the final after defeating Elijah Burke on ECW, after the Canadian no-showed the event after missing the previous nights house shows.
Johnny Nitro, who was not part of the original tournament, was drafted in to replace the absent Benoit, rather than Elijah Burke who was previously defeated by Chris Benoit. Johnny Nitro (later known in WWE as John Morrison) faced CM Punk in a match announced during the show for the vacant ECW Championship.
Johnny Nitro defeated CM Punk with a corkscrew neckbreaker to win the vacant ECW Championship. It was his second singles title in WWE and his first ECW Championship reign, although he would not win the championship again after losing it to CM Punk 69 days later.
Chris Benoit meanwhile was found dead in his home, after murdering his wife and son before committing suicide. His name was not spoken on WWE TV again once it was discovered what he had done, and his match with Elijah Burke was Chris Benoit’s last match.
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