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When you look at his career prior, and his career after, Shane Douglas was not a big deal. When you watch the WWE produced ECW documentary – Shane Douglas was not a big deal. Yet in 1994 Shane Douglas was a star, a star in the rising promotion of Eastern Championship Wrestling.
Douglas profited from a company that, while it wasn't necessarily laden with the hardcore style that it would ultimately be famous for, but certainly one that was happy to try and try new things and one that was happy to push boundaries in other wise. In the first couple of months of 1994 Douglas would take part in not one, but two long matches that would make a name for the company.
The first, in January, was probably far lesser known, but Douglas and Terry Funk fought in a very, very good 45 minute time limit draw (18th January 1994 on the WWE Network). The Douglas/Funk over then then Eastern Championship Wrestling title in the early part of the year continued into February with a triangle match including Sabu.
READ MORE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF WCW AND ECW WORKING TOGETHER IN 1994
Fascinating, as was through 1994 in ECW (and beyond) was the lack of true babyface in ECW, or even something that resembled one. Funk was vile, Douglas was arrogant and Sabu was maniacal. It was the perfect recipe for ECW making a name of themselves on February 5th 1994 in the ECW Arena in Philadelphia.
The match lasted an hour, billed as a “Triangle Elimination Match” it started with Douglas and Sabu for the first fifteen minutes, with Sabu wiping himself out near that mark going for a springboard moonsault from the apron to the outside, Douglas would role off the table and Sabu would (as his gimmick had become) go crashing through the vacant table.
Sabu was escorted off, seemingly for good, but Funk would run out and the match continued. What followed was a unique match that ebbed and flowed, with Sabu eventually returning and saw interference from Funk's Few Good Men (Axl and Ian Rotten), Douglas' manager Sensational Sherri Martel and Sabu's handler Paul E. Dangeroulsy (Heyman).
Applause broke out at the end of sixty minutes. No elimination, no clear winner, but all three had worked incredibly hard to put on a show. It would became known as much for what happened in the aftermath, a staged “press conference” with a teary, bloodied Champion (Funk) who geniunely seemed thrilled and emotional at the development in the short history in ECW. This at least, was a babyface you could recognise.
READ MORE: ECW IN REVIEW IN 1994
Douglas, however, was fired up. Believing he should have been champion after being the only member of the trio to have lasted the full hour. Douglas, as he would for the entire year, would cut promos on a par with anyone in North America, be that Ric Flair, be that Jerry Lawler, be that Paul Heyman. Douglas and Funk would come to blows in what would become known as “The Night The Line was Crossed” (ECW Hardcore TV, February 8th 1994 on the WWE Network). One of the best ECW segments all year – or ever. It ended with Funk offering Douglas the title, Douglas declined before a brawl broke out, but he would soon become ECW Champion.
For Douglas, somewhat disappointingly, that would probably be the peak of his year – even as early as February. While he would win the ECW Heavyweight Championship in March in a “Ultimate Jeopardy” (War Games Cage) 8 man tag match which included Douglas, Funk, The Public Enemy, The Tazmanic (Taz), Kevin Sullivan, Road Warrior Hawk and Mr Hughes that included various stipulations depending on who took the pin fall. Douglas would win the title in a finish that involved suffocating Funk with a paper bag.
Douglas' role in the company, particularly once Funk dissapeared not long after losing the title, was a senior role, largely responsible for headlining live events and face-off against big name imports that the company could bring in like Ron Simmons. On TV, it didn't quite translate, as ECW focussed on characters like The Sandman and the Public Enemy. Douglas settled into “The Franchise” role, cutting promos about the state of ECW, ripping Ric Flair and the idea of “sports entertainers” in Atlanta and New York.
Douglas' other big night would come in August, on the night of the NWA Title Tournament. He would defeat Too Cold Scorpio in the main event to become the NWA World Champion. Except he didn't, he threw the title belt on the mat and proclaimed himself the new champion of “Extreme Championship Wrestling”. If Douglas didn't make it in wrestling he could've made a career out of a sound engineer, so good was he at making noises.
Douglas' under-representation in the WWE History of ECW, in part, probably just falls down because Douglas isn't a guy who was in the WWE stable since then like a Taz was, like Tommy Dreamer was. Both he and Funk are guys who don't get enough praise in the WWE version of the early story of ECW.
Looking back at 1994, really, Douglas' career as a headliner really could've began that year. WWF would sign him in 1995, and had they have harnessed the Franchise character into a WWF-friendly heel (that didn't involve him being a school-teacher) they really could've given him a shot. He might have been the shot in the arm they needed. But for 1994, it really was the year of the Franchise.