In 1993, a small Philadelphia-based promotion known as Eastern Championship Wrestling was desperately in need of someone who could step up and be its franchise star. Booker Paul Heyman needed that guy he could book shows around, that he could rely on to help build the brand.
With a growing roster of unique characters and solid hands, he needed a legitimate star—and he got one in the form of former WWE and WCW star Shane Douglas.
An incredibly talented babyface, Douglas was the guy Heyman knew he could build around, but not necessarily in the way most figured.
The stigma of bad gimmicks and poor booking during his days working for Ted Turner's company in Atlanta had stuck with the Pittsburgh native, so the evil genius that Heyman was opted to go in a radically different direction with Douglas.
No longer was he the pretty boy Pennsylvanian who smiled big for the cameras and pretended to skateboard. Instead, he was an arrogant, egotistical loudmouth who was great and, more importantly, knew he was great.
Dubbed "The Franchise," Douglas would become the epitome of the high school jock that everyone loved to hate and, in the process, the first legitimate star that the promotion (renamed Extreme Championship Wrestling shortly after his arrival) produced.
One of the most vocal and opinionated stars of his generation, Douglas became as recognizable for his shoot promos and genuine dislike of Ric Flair as he did for his solid in-ring work and championship reigns. An underrated star from the 1990s, Douglas was integral to the success of ECW and its growth into the No. 3 promotion in the industry.
Relive his rise to prominence with some of the greatest matches and moments of his career.
A retrospective of Douglas' career would not be complete without a look back at the worst gimmick he had to work with, something that surely has become the bane of his existence in the years that have followed it.
In 1989, after Douglas signed with WCW, the promotion paired him with Johnny "Ace" Laurinaitis in a team known as the Dynamic Dudes. Supposedly skater boys from California, they were good-looking blondes who should have gotten over with the female portion of the audience, at the very least.
The problem was that no one bought them in the gimmick because neither Douglas nor Ace knew how to skateboard, and it was painfully obvious. Though they got to work with some incredibly talented wrestlers such as the Midnight Express, the duo failed to hit the mark like bookers had hoped, and Douglas' first flirtation with the big time came to a disappointing conclusion.
WCW Tag Team Champions
After a brief stint in WWE, doing nothing of note, Douglas returned to WCW and partnered with Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat for the first truly successful run of his career. With the future Hall of Famer, Douglas captured his first high-profile championship, defeating Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham for the WCW Tag Team Championships.
Douglas and Steamboat would help elevate the titles in some truly memorable defenses against the Hollywood Blondes.
Upon losing the straps to Steve Austin and Brian Pillman, though, Douglas left the promotion and headed to Philadelphia, where he would make it abundantly clear just how unsatisfied he was with his time spent in WCW.
The Franchise, Part One
In 1993, Douglas arrived in Philadelphia and ECW for the first time. A very solid in-ring worker, he was the most talented wrestler Paul Heyman had. He was quickly turned heel to make fans forget the cheesy babyface who had been saddled in the midcard in both WCW and WWE, then allowed to speak his mind.
The treatment Douglas received in WCW pissed him off, especially over what he perceived to be political maneuvering by booker Ric Flair. He would cut impassioned promos that set him apart from anyone else on the roster and helped him become one of the hottest performers in ECW.
An hour-long Three Way Dance also involving Terry Funk and Sabu only intensified the buzz surrounding him.
Then, on August 27, 1994, he defeated 2 Cold Scorpio to win the NWA Championship. It was a tournament final and what many had hoped would be the start of the rejuvenation of the National Wrestling Alliance.
Instead, controversy struck, as Douglas tossed the NWA title to the ground, declaring it a relic and himself the new ECW champion. The move earned Douglas the scorn of old-school promoters, but it was very much something that needed to happen in order to spark the extreme revolution.
During his reign over the young promotion, The Franchise aligned himself with Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko to form the first incarnation of the Triple Threat.
Unfortunately, an offer to join WWE would cut the trip off at the legs and lead to the greatest frustration of Douglas' career.
"The Franchise," Part Two
After a disastrous run in WWE in which Vince McMahon's company portrayed Douglas as a teacher and forced him to deal with the real-life politics of the Kliq, Douglas returned to ECW and immediately set his sights on the heavyweight title he held with great pride before leaving.
This time, new and exciting talent such as the enigmatic Raven and the dangerous Cactus Jack would provide opposition.
It would be some time before he regained that title, but he did manage to capture the ECW Television Championship on two different occasions. It was during that time that he feuded with the Pitbulls and gained one of the more important elements of his character, "Head Cheerleader" Francine.
One of the most despicable villains of his era, Douglas would relish in the fact that he broke Pitbull No. 1's neck in a match, creating near riotous conditions every time he laid a hand on the handicapped star.
So hot was he as a heel that Heyman could no longer deny him the top prize in the company.
After reforming the Triple Threat with Chris Candido and Bam Bam Bigelow, Douglas regained the ECW Championship and would hold it from 1997 until 1999, with only a two-week period breaking up the lengthy reign.
Douglas suffered a nasty elbow injury during his run with the title, an injury he worked through for the most part. And when the time came, he did what was best for the company and dropped the title to Taz.
With the industry as hot as it had ever been, one last opportunity for a big payday presented itself in the form of another WCW contract, and Douglas jumped at the opportunity, waving goodbye to the company that made him a star.
Douglas reunited with Benoit and Malenko when he arrived back in WCW and, along with Perry Saturn, formed the Revolution. Together, they feuded with the Filthy Animals (Billy Kidman, Rey Mysterio, Konan and Juventud Guerrera), leading to a tag team elimination bout at Mayhem in November 1999.
From there, he would join Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo in the New Blood, capturing the WCW Tag Team Championships with Buff Bagwell. Their reign would be short-lived. In fact, they would become rivals, leading to a match at the 2000 Bash at the Beach show, where Douglas would unveil Torrie Wilson as his latest valet.
He would win the United States Championship as his last great accomplishment on a national stage.
In the years that followed the demise of WCW, Douglas continued (and continues, actually) to work independent shows across the country, performing with younger stars and helping influence and inspire them as they chase their dreams.