Matt Hardy vs. Evan Bourne for the ECW Championship
We continue on through the fall of 2008 and ECW was in an interesting state at this point as most of what it was when it launched in 2006 was gone and now it was becoming more of a brand for younger guys to get some exposure. At the same, you still have some veterans carrying the workload and Matt was one of them, and he was on the biggest run of his career at this point as he had been US Champion and was now the ECW Champion. On this night, he was set to face one of three men as chosen by the fans which would either be former champion Mark Henry, Finlay, or the newcomer Bourne. On paper, it seemed like the obvious choice would be Bourne as it would provide a fresh matchup for Matt while giving Bourne a big showcase on PPV, and Finlay also seemed like a good dark horse pick while it was very obvious that Henry wasn’t going to get another shot after losing clean at No Mercy.
On the 10/7 ECW, Jamie Noble was meeting with Teddy Long and Tiffany when Henry interrupted and demanded another title shot as Noble challenged him to a match, and Henry would defeat Noble in a squash and attacked him afterwards until Matt made the save and he took out Atlas only for Henry to assault him. On the 10/14 ECW, Long announced that Henry would be one of 3 choices the fans would choose from to see who would face Matt for the title at the PPV, and Bourne would defeat Chavo Guerrero while Finlay would defeat John Morrison to become the other two choices only for Henry to attack both of them after their matches. On the 10/21 ECW, Matt cut a promo on who the fans should choose as all three men plead their cases as well, and in the main event Bourne defeated Finlay and Henry in a Triple Threat match. Even though they were setting it up for Henry to be the potential choice by having him do a lot of damage, I think it was obvious that it would more than likely be Bourne or even possible Finlay.
Matt gets a big pop from the crowd as Long and Tiffany come out to reveal the fans’ choice while the 3 men wait backstage, and the results are revealed with Bourne receiving 69% to Finlay’s 25% and Henry’s 6% as Bourne gets a good pop from the crowd as well. The two men lock up to start with Bourne working on the arm until Matt turns it around and hooks a headlock, and he knocks Bourne down twice only for Bourne to hit a dropkick and they lock up with Bourne hitting a snapmare and he hooks a headlock on. Matt powers out of the hold and slams Bourne to the mat for a two count as he tries to hold his shoulders to the mat, and Bourne kicks Matt away and leaps up as he hooks a rollup for a two count and Matt gets a kick in. Bourne hooks a sunset flip for a two count and Matt gets a shot in as Bourne blocks the Side Effect with a rollup for a two count, and he hits a high knee on Matt and kicks him down before hitting a headscissors only for Matt to send him over the top with Bourne landing on the apron. Matt knocks Bourne to the floor and goes outside as he throws Bourne back into the ring and rams him into the buckle twice, and he hits a clothesline on Bourne for a two count and whips him into the corner before splashing him though Bourne blocks a running bulldog by ramming Matt into the corner. He takes Matt to the mat and hooks a submission on the arm as Matt fights to his feet only for Bourne to take him back to the mat, and he continues to work the arm as Matt battles back though Bourne catches a kick attempt and hits a legsweep. He hits a standing moonsault on Matt for a two count and goes back to the arm as Matt battles back only for Bourne to get a kick in, and he goes up top as Matt rolls outside and Bourne comes down as he fakes Matt out with a slingshot and lands on the apron. Bourne gets a kick in and attempts a springboard only for Matt to get him hung up in the ropes and he hits a slam on the floor, and he throws Bourne back into the ring for a two count and hits a pair of slams before going up to the middle rope and he drives the elbow into Bourne’s back for a two count. He hooks an abdominal stretch on Bourne who fights out of the hold only for Matt to hit a clothesline and he kicks at Bourne, and he hoists Bourne up for a splash mountain bomb only for Bourne to escape with a hurricanrana. Bourne tries to fire up only for Matt to hit the Side Effect for a two count and then he hits a second Side Effect for a two count, and he goes up to the middle rope only for Bourne to catch him with a spin kick and he kicks at him repeatedly. Matt reverses a whip into the corner as Bourne leaps up top and hits a moonsault for a two count, and he splashes Matt in the corner and hits a jumping kick for a two count before going up top. He hits a pair of flying double knees that drive Matt into the mat for a two count as Matt ducks a spin kick and hooks a rollup for a two count, and Bourne ducks a shot and flips onto Matt as he drives into the mat before rolling out to the apron. He goes up top only for Matt to pound on him as he goes up himself with Bourne battling back and he knocks Matt to the mat, and he sets himself on the top rope only to miss Air Bourne and Matt gets a kick in as Bourne blocks the Twist of Fate with a backslide for a two count and Matt hits the Twist of Fate which gets the three and he retains the title.
The match itself was very good as both men worked hard and put on a fun title match. It was a good thing that Bourne won the vote because no one wanted Henry to get another shot and while Finlay would’ve provided a good match with Matt, Bourne was the right choice as he had been gaining steam and deserved a chance to shine here. Even though you figured that Matt was going to retain regardless of who got the shot, Bourne seemed like the most likely to possibly pull off an upset and become champion given the push he was getting. Considering these two never faced each other prior to this show, they had great chemistry as Matt rarely faces guys smaller than him and Bourne showed off his skills, and they went back and forth with no one really doing a heat segment and Bourne did well to keep Matt off balance until Matt caught him in the end. Again, you figured that Matt was going to retain here though Bourne got a great showcase and he seemed like a guy that they knew they could bank on for the future especially on ECW given what the brand was looking like at the time. The crowd was into the match and split between both men, and they did pop for Matt when he won though gave Bourne respect for his effort. Matt retains the title over a game Bourne and both men move on.
Final Grade: ***1/2