Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era: #91 – Shane Douglas

91. SHANE DOUGLAS

Real NameTroy Martin
AliasesDean Douglas; The Franchise; Troy Orndorff
HometownNew Brighton, Pennsylvania
Debuted1982
Titles HeldECW World; NWA World Heavyweight; WWE Intercontinental; WCW United States; WCW World Tag Team
Other Accomplishmentstrained alongside Mick Foley; concocted secret plan with Paul Heyman to throw down the NWA belt in 1994 and form Extreme Championship Wrestling; has legitimate heat with Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon, among others

Attempting to summarize a person in one word is always difficult, especially in English. You usually have to turn to foreign languages in those cases and tap into that vein. Such is the case with Shane Douglas. The perfect one-word description for him comes from Yiddish. That word is “schmuck”.

Has there ever been anyone in wrestling who’s managed to burn as many bridges as Shane Douglas? Someone who’s been so abrasive to the exact wrong people that he’s rarely welcome anywhere? Jake Roberts is well-known to everyone as a drug addict who’s turned recidivism into a lifestyle, but he gets calls from Vince to come in as a special guest. Vince will call anyone who he thinks can make money for him. But if he was free right now, with the ECW Originals angle running at full speed, would Shane, the ultimate ECW original, get a call? Absolutely not, not even with his old tag partner in charge of personnel in Stamford. That particular bridge has been well and truly burnt.

Shane Douglas’ backstage rep as a troublemaker, though, is in total contrast to his behavior outside of the arena. He’s always been one of the nicest and most approachable wrestlers around. He’ll go out of his way for the fans. It’s almost a case of cognitive dissonance comparing him around fans to the stories of him in a locker room. It’s a case where someone who’s willing to do so looks for a middle ground, because there has to be one between the two extremes.

I’m the type of person who does that, and the more I do so, the more I appreciate him. There’s a sort of connection there in the first place. Troy Martin and I were born exactly one week apart (he’s older by seven days). There has to be some kind of astrological explanation, some kind of kink in the celestial spheres, that apply to men born in November or December 1964. There’s Shane, there’s Austin, there’s me. That’s the necessary three data points right there. Now someone needs to find the answer.

We both tend to have personalities that do not endear us to others. I was able to find jobs that actually play to that as a strength. He hasn’t. He has to work in an atmosphere where glad-handing and sucking-up are coin of the realm. Shane Douglas is not the kind of person to be a glad-hander. It isn’t necessarily a case of simple ego. It’s a strong will that doesn’t put up with that kind of crap. He’s a jolt to the system, in a system that doesn’t like to be jolted. He’s someone that the power structure feels can’t be trusted. He’ll ruin something, just you wait.

He certainly didn’t start off that way. He trained with Dominic DeNucci in Pittsburgh, near his hometown. Out of his training group, he was considered the can’t-miss prospect. He had the blond good looks and the raw ability that would impress audiences. He was certainly a different case than another guy he trained with, who was doomed even at that point to failure. Some guy named Foley. Wonder what happened to him? He was already a four-year veteran when Eddie Gilbert spotted him and convinced Cowboy Bill Watts to bring him into UWF. It was Gilbert who renamed him Shane Douglas and helped him with his intial face push. It didn’t really work, though. He was a little too raw and, frankly, uncomfortable as a face.

The discomfort continued when he went to WCW. This was the Jim Herd Era, the time of wacky tag teams like the Ding Dongs. Shane was put together with a young Johnny Ace and given skateboards to ride, something neither of them could do. The Dynamic Dudes turned into a joke that would scar Shane’s career permanently. Not even management from Jim Cornette and a feud with the Midnight Express could help them. Ace left for Japan, Shane left for the WWF. But his first WWF run was aborted when he left wrestling to take care of his sick father.

When he came back after a year off, he went back to WCW. This time, his tag partner was Ricky Steamboat. He was able to pick up a lot of tricks from Steamer in the ring, but still couldn’t get a handle on this face thing. A four-month tag title reign and a feud with the Hollywood Blonds, then the hottest team in WCW, didn’t help. Shane left again, this time to go indy.

He landed up in Philadelphia, in Eastern Championship Wrestling, and was again a face and again in a tag team, this time with a young, charismatic wrestler named Tommy Dreamer. It was then that he found himself, turning on Dreamer during a tag title defense against Kevin Sullivan and the soon-to-be Taz. As a heel, he clicked with the audience and his popularity grew.

And then came the moment that changed wrestling forever. The NWA World Heavyweight Championship had been tarnished by WCW’s departure from the organization. A tournament was being held to award the belt. In all of the deprecated NWA territories, there was no heel hotter than Shane Douglas. So he was booked to win. But there were only two people on Earth who knew what would happen when he’d get hold of the belt on August 27th, 1994. Douglas and Paul Heyman had planned it out. Shane would win the strap, then ask for the mic. During that promo, he threw down the NWA belt, calling it worthless. He raised the Eastern Championship Wrestling equivalent and called it the only world title worth fighting for. And then he announced that Eastern was changing its name. It would now officially be Extreme Championship Wrestling. Shane Douglas had finally found a home as nasty as his in-ring personality.

His promos were some of the biggest highlights of ECW’s formative years. He was encouraged to do quasi-shoots, which brought attention from the smarts in the audience. Feuds with Douglas were a way to the top for some lesser-known wrestlers. It’s very doubtful that Sandman or Sabu would have gained so much popularity without feuding with Douglas during critical times in their careers. It was during those formative ECW years that he gave himself the nickname that’s stuck with him, the Franchise, and where he used his popularity to help the careers of two wrestlers who were already technical masters, but a little, well, vanilla in their personalities. Shane Douglas, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit were the original and greatest Triple Threat. With the assembly of his stable, Douglas started to gain some noteworthy comparisons. In the ring, people were calling him the next Tully Blanchard. On the mic, the name “Ric Flair” was whispered. Quite ironic for what would happen later. When the original Triple Threat broke up, Malenko and Benoit headed south. Douglas, having been burned by WCW before, decided to head east.

If people aren’t making fun of Shane Douglas for the Dynamic Dudes, they make fun of him for Dean Douglas. Here’s a question: if it’s such a rotten idea, why is Matt Striker playing the identical character today? The truth of the matter is simple. Dean Douglas, a character that played off Shane’s occasional occupation as schoolteacher, essentially an obnoxious version of Lanny Poffo’s Genius, was getting over. Shane was able to get up to Intercontinental Title level without any assist in his push. He knew how to be obnoxious and how to get an audience to dislike him just on that basis. Unfortunately, a little of the character rubbed off on his backstage personality. Shane was in the wrong place at the wrong time and proceeded to upset the wrong people. This was at the height of the power of the Clique, and no one was going to get over without their approval. Shawn Michaels and Scott Hall didn’t approve, feeling that Douglas didn’t know his place. Being a champion in a piss-ant indy like ECW didn’t mean squat in the WWF. They decided to teach him a lesson, and that lesson eventually caused him to depart on the worst of terms. He will never work for WWE ever again, or at least as long as Michaels is there.

So he went back to ECW and picked up right where he left off. He formed a new Triple Threat, with Chris Candido and Brian Lee (after Lee left, Bam Bam Bigelow took his place). He picked up Francine as a manager. He started winning titles again in matches that impressed everyone. In November 1997, he got the ECW World Heavyweight Title back, and held it for over a year, despite being injured for nearly half that period. Unfortunately, during this period, Shane started to have ego conflicts with Paul Heyman (gee, what a surprise). Shane decided that maybe now was a good time to go back to WCW. So, he dropped the title and headed south.

He wasn’t lacking for attention when he got there. He not only reformed the original Triple Threat, he added another ECW vet, Perry Saturn, to the mix to form Revolution, one of the most talented stables in history. He started berating Ric Flair in what was definitely a work-shoot (Flair has no clue to this day why Douglas is mad at him, and Douglas isn’t telling). But this was 1999 in WCW, when nothing was getting over thanks to some of the most imbecilic booking in history, mostly from the ego of Kevin Nash. One has to wonder if the old feud with the Clique had anything to do with Douglas’ situation. However, he stayed until WCW closed, getting involved in the New Blood/Millionaire’s Club feud (on the side of the former). He got another tag team title run and a US title run out of the deal. But when WCW closed, he had nowhere to go. ECW was dead, and he certainly wasn’t going to WWF.

Fortunately, TNA opened in 2002, and he wasn’t on bad terms with Jeff Jarrett. Eventually, he hooked up with his old ECW buddy Raven to produce an attention-gathering feud. He was helping to build TNA the same way he helped build ECW. But when he hit 40, he decided that he was a little too old now for in-ring competition. He transitioned into a backstage interviewer role on-camera and a road agent’s role off-camera. There was another factor involved in this decision, though: at the time, though no one knew it, Shane Douglas was getting addicted to Hillbilly Heroin, needing more and more of it to perform. He finally decided to confront the demons after his successful promotion of Hardcore Homecoming, meant to challenge WWE’s One-Night Stand. In early 2006, he went into rehab and came out clean three months later. He went back to TNA, this time in a manager’s role for the Naturals. That ended earlier this year, and Douglas hasn’t been seen on camera since, concentrating on his backstage responsibilities.

But it’s his time in ECW that’s indelible to the audience that saw him. It was the perfect storm, the right character in the right place at the right time. There’s a bit of an argument over who exactly deserves the title of “Spirit Of ECW”. Tommy Dreamer’s being pushed that way in WWE at this time (and no one’s going to deny him those props for what he’s done). Other people say that it’s Raven. But for the attention he brought to ECW at a time when it desperately needed it to become more than just another indy, and for the attitude and balls-out honesty that he brought to the table, a hallmark of ECW at its best, my money’s on Shane Douglas. That’s why he’s attained a position in our Top 100.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.