Timeline: The History of ECW 1994
As Told by Shane Douglas
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
Who better to talk ECW’s early years than Shane “The Franchise” Douglas?
Nostalgia is so much fun, and so easy to forget the bad stuff, the stupid stuff and the realities of what ECW actually was, but to also remember fondly what it was like when a professional wrestling revolution rocked the underpinnings of an otherwise moribund industry.
What’s great about ECW was the ‘characters’… we don’t have to fondly remember the actual wrestling, which ranged from awesome to the Rottens, or the endless commercials, or the ongoing issues inside the ring and with the roster.
The moments that ECW produced were also of great importance, but those moments came because of the characters – the wrestlers themselves, who were often playing amped-up versions of themselves.
In 1994, those moments were being established, and the characters as well.
The argument over who was the standard-bearer for ECW will always rage. In hindsight, the mainstream will claim Tommy Dreamer, the more enlightened will gravitate to Mick Foley. Terry Funk – the hardcore legend – should always be in the mix, and so should be Sabu – who spearheaded the insanity that would become synonymous with the renegade promotion.
Certainly there are those who will point to Tazz, or Rob Van Dam, or even others.
But Shane Douglas was realistically the mouthpiece of the promotion.
Douglas toiled as a mid-carder in WCW and paid his dues across the world. He was an unheralded wrestler who would take on the mantle of the best pure wrestler that ECW could muster in its inception, and even through his disastrous stint in the WWE, Douglas was the go-to guy in terms of being the ECW Heavyweight Champion.
All that goes back to the big moments in the early history of ECW: The Three Way Dance at the event, the Night the Line was Crossed; the constant badgering of Ric (to Shane, Dick) Flair; the eventual formation of the Triple Threat.
Shane was the guy who could go the distance, who could challenge the big boys, and who made declarations that he could back up.
On this DVD, Shane explains the evolution of “The Franchise” and that he wanted to distance himself from the notion of the top heel being the big ugly, and that he was the starting point for the heel who looked like a babyface, and was more the bad guy because he shouldn’t have to be a heel.
(In fairness, I think he overlooks Buddy Rogers and Dick Flair… err … Ric Flair.)
Setting aside that argument, the point is that Shane was the guy that carried the mantle of the Champion of ECW. While Sabu raised the bar in terms of violence and daredevilry (all the while selling like an all-time great – the distinction that so many other pretenders failed at), it was The Franchise that took the rub from Terry Funk, and The Franchise that established the believability of ECW as the home to great wrestling as well as insanity, blood and adult (read: intelligent) storylines.
To most, the biggest blow of ECW was the dissing of the NWA Belt, and the winning of the Tournament set up by Dennis Coraluzzo, to try to revive the heritage of the National Wrestling Alliance.
That whole situation is detailed by Douglas, involves the mad scientist Paul Heyman, and is alone worth the price of the DVD for the entertainment, drama and insight into the seedier world of professional wrestling.
That, plus one more incredibly crazy story about Coraluzzo that has to be heard to be believed.
Aside from various diversions, one of the prime movers of ECW’s reputation, and guiders of The Franchise’s career, is Terry Funk.
Funk was the godfather of ECW, shepherding Douglas along, being the ring general, setting the stage and providing the example. The respect and thanks that Douglas gives to Funk is of note. Could there be a Franchise without the Funker? No way. Not even possible.
And it’s not my words, its Shane’s view.
Funk provided the verbal and non-verbal guidance. He made suggestions, he gave his impressions after the matches in many ways. Funk had his own bar of greatness, and he obviously imposed his views on Shane, and ECW was all the better for that influence.
Ironically, one of Shane’s greatest moments was throwing down the NWA Belt, and all but spitting on the heritage of the National Wrestling Alliance. But then again, the NWA circa 1993 wasn’t exactly carrying the traditions of Sam Muchnick, the Briscos, the Funks or even Ric Flair.
And Shane poured his passion into that feud, that’s for sure.
Most of Funk’s peers, we are told, didn’t hold Douglas to that Promo or his actions.
Timeline: The History of ECW 1994, As Told by Shane Douglas, is one more awesome DVD in a historic series by Kayfabe Commentaries. The setting is a little different, with Sean Oliver and Shane Douglas sitting more across from each other. The subtle red shading is interesting, but further of interest are the Rob Feinstein videos shown. Kayfabe Commentaries actually sells an expanded version of the DVD, with a lot more footage.joe joeb
All the better to enjoy the nostalgic trip back to the real ECW.
Yeah, I went there.
No, seriously, I did attend more than a few ECW events at the infamous Bingo Hall. I’ve also had the opportunity to talk to Shane on a few occasions as well, so this was definitely a DVD of interest to me.
Beyond nostalgia, however, the DVD provides some great commentary on the workings of ECW. It’s been beaten to death, but when you hear Shane talking about how the ‘mad genius’ Paul Heyman guided things without being a micro-manager, how he provided direction yet let the talent work things out for themselves, how most of the time the guys went out to create history, not to regurgitate lines, you really should get the understanding of how professional wrestling is meant to be.
What ECW was is the theme of this DVD, and there are so many “only in ECW” stories, and a whole lot of insight on all the names associated with the transition from Eastern Championship to Extreme Championship, including 911, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman, Sherri Martel, Jimmy Snuka and Tazz.
For those who don’t know Shane Douglas, or forget his impact, he’s definitely mellowed with age, and it’s great to see him in good shape. With him, there’s no doubt about his passion and his respect, his understanding of both tradition and the nature of the sport, and he has an awesome ability to explain things both at the insider level and at a mainstream level.
Add Mr. Douglas to the short list of qualified, knowledgeable guy who very well should be doing color commentary for the sport.
One of the classy aspects of Shane’s remembrances is his talk about Sherri Martel. The Sensational one was Shane’s manager for much of 1994, and he attributes much to her assistance, and how he grew into The Franchise with her help. When the time came to separate her from the package, he was truly concerned about having to do it all himself, but both Martel and Funk prepared him well.
Kayfabe Commentaries brings out one more DVD that provides two hours of enjoyable talk about professional wrestling, with some great footage of great moments, instead of two hours of a professional wrestling program filled with talk and little wrestling.
And again, who better to talk about ECW’s early years than the guy who put the Extreme Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Championship on the map?