Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com recently spoke with Shane Douglas about this Saturday's Extreme Rising iPPV from the Golden Dome in Monaca, PA. You can purchase tickets for the event by clicking here, or order the iPPV starting at just under $15 on WWNLive.com.
All iPPV orders will receive a free iPPV download of the company's 6/30 Philadelphia event, which was headlined by Mat Hardy vs. Jerry Lynn vs. Homicide. Fans ordering the iPPV for 11/17 will receive an email code for downloading the 6/30 event within 24 hours.
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WrestlingINC: You started your career in the '80s, you've been around a long time now. In the '90s, you started in WCW before going to ECW and you were there right when ECW started to reach catch fire and it was completely different than anything we had seen. What were your thoughts on being there at that time and being there from WCW and when you left?
Douglas: Well, I got my break in the business with the now-defunct Bill Watts' TWF, the old Mid-South, Which was really in many ways the predecessor to ECW in it's time, in that age. It was a really cool, high-impact, snug type of product. It was pro wrestling the way we all remembered it.
WCW sort of followed that theme. Then, you started to see a lot of the silly story lines. WCW lost sight of what it's strength was. At least from my point of view, it was always seen as the wrestling company, not the entertainment company. When they got away from that and started getting into the cartoon characters instead of their strength, you could see their support and popularity sort of begin to wane away.
To leave all that and go to this little company named ECW -- I had been out of the business a while, six months or so when I got the call from Eddie Gilbert to go to Eastern Championship Wrestling. For me, going in for the first time, I remember going to the airport. Terry Funk and I being picked up at the same time. Driving over the hotel, he said to me, 'Shane, how long do you think we'll ride this train before it runs off the tracks?' We really thought it was just another independent company. Seven and a half years later, I think we were all in awe of what it had become and what it left as a legacy.
It was just one of those things where everything lined up right. When Eddie Gilbert left, I think Paul Heyman was a much better choice. Especially for the time frame to give it that hip, cool look. I think Eddie Gilbert rekindled a lot of the Memphis stuff. I love Eddie and I respect Eddie and my break into the business Eddie gave me. But, I think Paul Heyman was the right thing at the right time to bring that new feel and style that the American wrestling scene had never seen before.
It was great for me to be a part of it. To see something go from nothing more than a small, tiny independent wrestling company to something that changed the flow of professional wrestling and left a very lasting legacy.
WrestlingINC: When you signed with WWF in 1995 and left ECW during it's initial ascent, what was that like? WWF at that time was completely the opposite. It was really geared towards kids, you have a bunch of silly gimmicks, I mean, they gave you the Dean Douglas character. How big of a change was that?
Douglas: Tectonic, to me. I mean, coming from ECW where I was basically given the chance to shoot my promos. There were no scripted out promos given to me. The finishes in our matches and the story lines -- Paul would give us the general outline of a story line he was developing and then we would take it and steer it with how we were finising the match, the spots that we would show. We really did have input in that, to me, was very refreshing. I'd never seen that before that.
To go from that then to the WWF... I remember the first time I was doing the promo, which I was well known for in the business, and given the time cue countdown into it. I'm looking into the camera and all of a sudden I see the teleprompter feeding these words up to me. I said, 'Stop, stop, stop. I don't need that.' They said, 'No, we want you to...' I said, 'Please take that off, I'll do this without it.' So that just started to make me begin to realize that this may not have been the smartest move.
For me, at the time though, I can still explain what my reasoning was. I had had a pretty strong run as ECW champion and I knew that that was coming to a close. For a company the size of ECW, there wasn't room for multiple over-the-top personalities. So I though, well, this might be the perfect time for me to leave. So, I'll make money there and then come back in a year or two. Id' of had that exposure on a national level. it wasn't until I left and had gone to the WWF that I realized that this was a universal change from what I was familiar with and what I thought my character did best.
So, almost from the very beginning of getting there, it was time to get the hell out.
WrestlingINC: What was the feeling like of leaving WWF and going back to ECW?
Douglas: It was like being reborn. I remember the first day I was back and I just felt like a kid in a playground. Being home and being around everybody. Several things had changed in the six months that I was gone. Paul had leaned back from the more straight-forward hey-were-a-shoot to leaning towards the more entertainment side of things. Not that the Dudleyz were entertainment-based but their presentation with the broken glasses with no glass, the stuttering from Bubba. One black, one white brothers. It was just a shift from what I was familiar with.
At first, I was a little turned off by it. Then, once I saw the Dudleyz work, for instance, I realized that, hey, the presentation might not be my cup of tee, but these guys are like a hand and a glove, they fit.
WrestlingINC: You were there for a few years this time before you went to WCW. What were your thoughts on your final run with the company and why did you ultimately end up leaving?
Douglas: Well, I was broken-hearted to leave. I mean, I put literally my heart, soul and body into ECW and it didn't feel as if it were right, just or fair that I was leaving. The only reason I was leaving was that I was owed so much money. Every time Paul would tell me something to try and reassure me, I knew that he was lying. I had already done my homework and spoken with people behind the scenes like Steve or his mother and father. I knew that what he was telling me was a lie.
For me, the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak, was after all I'd done for the company, what we'd all done for the company, I think the one thing we deserved was money. At that point, before the Taz match, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $144,000, somewhere around that. I didn't want to leave, all I wanted was the money. And a lot of it -- about half of it, $77,000 -- has money that I had spent out of my own promoting shows in Pittburgh or plane fair or rental cars or whatever.
So, it wasn't money that I deserved and it would be tough to lose it. It was money out of my pocket that I had already made and spent. So, when he came up with this idea where after a year of going over on Taz. I would not have for that year building up to that match done the things that I had done. I would never have back-peddled from Taz knowing that I was losing to him. That kills my character. For a year, I would have been running from this guy, terrified of Taz. Now you put him over on me and my heat is completely gone.
So, I knew at that point what Paul was thinking was get the belt off of Shane because the belt was the only leverage that I had. There was an offer made to me at the time to go and drop the belt to Ric Flair for a considerable amount of money. And I have to admit and be honest, I certainly thought about it because I was owed a lot of money and I really couldn't afford to lose $144,000.
So, I entertained the thought. Then, once I got my head into and I was like, I can't possibly go drop the belt to Flair. It would kill ECW, it would kill my resolve and my connection with the fans -- how loyal I had been to the company and how loyal they had been to the company -- it would have broken that. So, I knew that I couldn't do that. That's why I ultimately decided to go ahead and do the match with Taz as Paul wanted it. Albeit, keeping myself as strong as possible.
The outcome of that match, if you look closely at the end when we do the finish -- I had told Tax beforehand because I knew the ECW fans. I knew that them seeing this huge paradigm shift going from this ultra-heel character that had been so prodiminate in ECW. The fans would see that and they were definitely going to give the 'Thank you, Shane,' and all that. I told Taz, 'If you climb the ropes like you do every other time, the fans are going to crap on it. So, don't do it. Be very humble. Take the belt, hold the belt up, almost look at me out of respect and leave.
So, as I'm laying there and I'm looking out at the crowd, they're all flipping me the middle finger. I'm thinking, boy, did I misjudge that. It's rare that I misjudge something that extreme. Very quickly, I realized, they weren't flipping me the middle finger. I rolled over and Taz had taken the belt and climbed the ropes like he always did. And the fans, I think, saw that as a sign of disrespect. Not that taz meant it that way but that's the way the fans took it. Still, the fans flipped him the middle fingers and it was something very different. It humbled Taz a little bit that the crowd turned on him that quickly.
WrestlingINC: When you did go, the writing so starting to appear on the wall. ECW's talent was being raided by WCW, you could see the problems with TNN. What were your feelings during that time knowing that ECW was kind of on it's final leg?
Douglas: None of us wanted to leave, all of us were extremely comfortable, no pun intended. I can speak for myself personally, I loved ECW. I loved everything about it. I loved the crew, I loved the fans, the style, working there. I was the last person in the world that wanted to leave ECW. So, when I got to the realization that, hey, this thing is on the wane, the money that we're owed is only getting larger and larger by the week. So, it's either jump out now or once this this ship sinks, then you're going to have to take whatever pittance they throw at you because you have no leverage.
So, for me, as much as I wanted to stay there after I came back from WWF -- for me, I had already experienced that and learned my lesson very, very, quickly. I was worried that it would happen again. But when Eric Bischoff put on an offer on the table that, really, could never -- it was more money than I ever dreamt of making in my entire life time. And more money than I ever made in wrestling. From that point, from being owed so much money, that was literally a life preserver to me financially.
If I didn't have that offer, and had to take the money that WWF was offering me at that time to return, which was only $115,000 a year, I would have been in financial trouble very quickly. So, as much as I didn't relish my run in WCW the last time, I was extremely happy for the offer and opportunity financially.
WrestlingINC: When WCW went under, did you have any sort of similar connection or was that kind of a pay check for you?
Douglas: We had heard the rumors for months leading into it that Vince McMahon was buying it. I for one, and I know most of the people in the dressing room, didn't believe it. We didn't believe it was possible that, A, Time Warner would turn it's back completely on something that was still getting fairly solid ratings. In the years since they sold it -- I've gone back and checked about a year and a half ago and it may be different since then -- but the highest rating they've gotten in that time slot is a .6. So, I'm guessing they probably would have liked to re-think that position.
But, at the time, this was a company that was handing Nash and Hall $6 million a year, God knows how much to Hogan. All this money floating out the door. I know that there was a woman there, Diana something, she was an attorney, she was really upset that all these shlep wrestlers with no educations -- at least in many of their situations, not mine -- but, how dare they make that kind of money and be so disrespectful back to the company? They really were just crapping on the leg that was feeding them, you know?
Nash and Hall one time made WCW rent them a $12,000 leer jet for a 20-30 minute flight because their contracts said that they had to be flown out in first class. In Sturgis, Eric Bischoff had leased the Houston Rockets charter jet. He was afraid that after Sturgis, even though the next TV was only 90 miles, that with the party atmosphere there, many of the guys may get lost in the shuffle. When Nash and Hall walked on board and saw the 'first class cabin,' they pulled Bischoff off and said, 'If we're forced to fly on this plane, it'll be in breach of contract and we'll show up on Vince's tonight.'
What I think Bischoff should have done was call their bluff, because there was no way Vince was going to pay them $6 million. So, where Bischoff made his mistake was that he should have called their bluff because Vince was no way going to pay them $6 million. And, if they left, OK, that's $12 million saved. Instead, he went a rented for $12,000 a leer jet, which for two 7 foot guys or close, is like a VolksWagen.
So, I think that kind of attitude, from the office/Time Warner stand point, they thought that these guys don't give a damn about what we're giving them and certainly aren't concerned about helping us out. That just furthered the idea of just jettison it and get rid of it.
But we all thought with this pie-in-the-sky idealism that this was never going to happen and didn't believe it could happen. So, I for one, my wrist was broken at the time and I was watching TV. When I flipped it on, I thought I flipped on the wrong channel. I kept flipping back and forth two or three times before I realized what in the hell was going on. I, for one, was shocked.
It didn't matter to me, really, because my pay checks were guaranteed for the duration of the contract. Thinking back on it, in hindsight, how this huge company in Time Warner just walked away from it and sold it for pennies on the dollar, it just seemed to be an unbelievable thing at the time and still is. I'm still shocked that they did it. Like I said, it's something I'm sure they'd like to revisit and do over.
I think in the long run, it's hurt Vince more than anybody. When Vince had competition, someone that was giving him real competition, he was putting out a pretty strong and decent product. Once that waned and was gone and it wasn't that big company to hold his seat to the fire, then we started getting this Hollywood writer, insane, silly story line writing. Just poor presentation of the characters. The talent that they had was amazing when you look at someone like The Rock or Steve Austin or whatever. When that all ran it's course, I think you're starting to see the vestiges of that creative genius isn't so creative or genius anymore.
WrestlingINC: Then, in 2005, WWE did the One Night Stand pay-per-view, which was kind of the first ECW revival. Were you contacted at all when they were coming up with that show?
Douglas: Yeah, I was. Tommy Dreamer contacted me and asked me to be a part of it. For me, A, we were going to Hardcore Homecoming at the same weekend. Being the person that was writing it, producing it and performing on it, I really didn't want to water it down and put myself in yet another rule for another company. I just didn't see where it would make sense to have me on one show -- I mean, let's face it, the ultra-spirit of ECW was so anti-WWF and WWE that it made no sense to try and water those two together.
In hindsight, especially after watching One Night Stand, I was thrilled with the decision not to go after taking every finishing move from the ECW guys and keep getting to his feet. Then, take one bump from 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin and he's dead to the world. It was just fore-shadowing of what was to come with Vince's take on ECW.
But, I knew that going in because when I had worked for him in 1996, he never once said the letters ECW to me. It was always some back-handed euphemism. I worked for the blood-and-guts company, the bingo hall company, the minor league, the small pond. There were all these back-handed euphemisms. But, he and Jim Ross, I vividly remember, were constantly trying to pick my brain as to ECW and how it was presented. 'Why the tables and why the chairs? Why this and why that. Why the bumping of the women.'
They were trying to figure it out. But they were completely missing the point of all of those things, which was that they weren't the steak on the plate, they were the seasoning on the stake. The stake on the plate was the strong story lines that Paul had written at the base of all of that.
WrestlingINC: Right. You were doing the Hardcore Homecoming shows at the same time. What was it like doing the rival-ECW shows while WWE were doing them at the same time? Were they kind of getting into your face about that? Were they giving you a hard time?
Douglas: No. Tommy had called me and -- I sure Tommy was being told to do this -- but the first thing Tommy told me was to try and get Sabu and some of the bigger names to work exclusively for their show. Thankfully, and I'll be eternally grateful to Sabu and guys like that, they had already given me their word. They went and told Tommy, 'Look, I already gave Shane my word. I can't go back.' So, Tommy asked that we don't try to do anything to overtly hurt their show. And I gave them my word that it wasn't about that.
This was not about slamming the other companies at that point. Hardcore Homecoming was meant to be ECW's swan song. It was to give our fans the last look at ECW and revel in it.
Make sure to check back Saturday morning for the second part of our interview with Douglas.
The debut iPPV from Extreme Rising takes place tomorrow, November 17th from the Golden Dome in Monaca, PA. In the main event, Shane Douglas will battle Matt Hardy (w/ Reby Sky). The following matches are also scheduled for the event: Sabu vs. Devon Storm, Jerry Lynn vs. Homicide, FBI vs. BLK Out, Bestia vs Facade, Perry Saturn vs. Luke Hawx and Stevie Richards vs. Papadon. You can purchase tickets for the event by clicking here, or order the iPPV starting at just under $15 on WWNLive.com. You can also check out this promo from Matt Hardy about facing Douglas at tomorrow's card: