DALLAS – ECW World Champion Johnny Nitro couldn’t stop smiling as he emerged from the locker room. His long brown locks were still drenched in sweat from his hard-fought victory earlier that night over legendary ECW Original Tommy Dreamer – an opponent that his chief rival, CM Punk, had chosen for him in a “Pick Your Poison”-themed ECW on Sci Fi. In turn, Nitro’s handpicked “poison” for Punk was Kevin Thorn – and he had just watched the Straightedge Superstar impale the powerful vampire.
Nitro seemed impressed, but his smile slowly faded as his eyes locked on Punk. The No. 1 contender to the ECW World Title did not take his eyes off the champion either, and challenged Nitro to get into the ring. But Punk was then blindsided by Thorn, and would have been double-teamed by him and Nitro if he hadn’t fought off the powerhouse.
Nitro backed away from a likely attack on his challenger as Punk invited him to duke it out. As our fans at the American Airlines Center in Dallas chanted “CM Punk! CM Punk!” Nitro stuck his nose up and held his – and he would stress his – ECW World Title for Punk and the whole world to see. “You may have won your match, Punk, but I’m still the champ,” he seemed to say. “I’m the ECW World Champion, and you’re not.”
The latest duel between Punk and Nitro was essentially a draw as both men beat their respective “poisons.” Their rivalry, which began when Nitro defeated Punk for the vacant ECW World Title at Vengeance: Night of Champions, has only heated up in recent weeks as both men have traded verbal jabs at one another. They will have the opportunity to throw five-knuckled jabs when they wage war again over the ECW World Title at The Great American Bash on July 22.
But tonight, both young Superstars were content with having other men literally fight their battles for them. In some ways, it wasn’t surprising that Punk chose Dreamer to test Nitro. Punk, a fan of the original incarnation of ECW, respects Dreamer and the legacy he has built, and the two teamed together with Sandman in a Six-Man Tag Team Tables Match against the New Breed at One Night Stand.
Nitro, however, doesn’t have much respect for Dreamer and ECW’s history. Dreamer, a former ECW World Champion who has broken his back and neck for the promotion, is among those who have questioned Nitro’s toughness and whether he was “ECW enough” to be ECW World Champion. Nitro, in turn, has been on a mission to show naysayers that he represents the evolution of the Land of the Extreme.
Dreamer took Nitro to the extreme – but the focused A-lister showed Dreamer that he was redefining extreme with his athleticism. Dreamer learned that Nitro’s pretty boy looks, stylish fur and Hollywood shades could be deceiving as the ECW Champion tortured him by targeting his left shoulder before ultimately flattening him with a corkscrew neckbreaker.
In Kevin Thorn, Nitro had a brutal, sadistic opponent who was well-acquainted with Punk. The two had battled several times, and Nitro knew Thorn would be relentless and remorseless in his assault.
Thorn had been on a reign of terror, bulldozing all foes since he had left the New Breed months ago. He overwhelmed Punk for much of their contest with his power. But the Straightedge Superstar – at the urging of his cheering legion of supporters – shook with adrenaline and showed the heart that has won fans the world over.
As he stood victorious in the ring, Punk looked at Nitro. He definitely had Nitro's undivided attention and had won him over. But make no mistake; the ECW World Champion is no fan of Punk. He knows the Straightedge Superstar is the biggest threat to his championship reign. For now, these two young Superstars are only exchanging glares. What will be next as they try to gain an advantage in the weeks before their clash at The Great American Bash?