Although a divisive figure, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas was one of the most prominent faces in wrestling in the 1990s as an all-round great value talent. Perhaps the greatest ECW World Heavyweight champion in the history of that promotion, Douglas’ role as an aggressive, hostile, ruthless talker helped prop up the company on the way to its peak years. Due to his crucial role in professional wrestling, he has more than a few strings in his bow, which he was the first to achieve.
1. First Three-Way Match
ECW was the first major organization to put on a three-way match in professional wrestling. This occurred at The Night The Line Was Crossed, in which Terry Funk defended his ECW World Heavyweight title.
Taking place in February 1994, the match resulted after Douglas cost Sabu his world title against Funk, leading to a triangular feud between the trio. Always innovating, booker Paul E. Dangerously thus created the first three-man match on a major level. This was christened a ‘Three Way Dance’ match.
The match started with Douglas and Sabu before Funk’s entry after 15 minutes (had either pinned the other in the meantime, Funk would have come out earlier). The match featured a famous triple sleeper spot and ran right up to 60 minutes, ending in a time limit draw that received a standing ovation. The match itself received praise, although it did feature a typical ECW clusterf*ck, involving mass interference on all sides from 911 to Sherri Martel to The Bad Breed (Ian & Axl Rotten).
Douglas has said of the match: “The first match that I recall ever feeling good about was The Night the Line Was Crossed. I remember coming back to the back and thinking to myself ‘I don’t know how we did it, but somehow that was a pretty damn good match.'”
2. First Post-NWA ECW Champion
It is probably fair to say the National Wrestling Alliance was, for several decades, a low-lying shadow of its former self, existing in the margins of the independent scene about 15 years prior to somewhat of a revival in recent years. Why was the NWA a stagnating entity after 1994? That would be because of Douglas.
In 1994, Douglas won the NWA title in an eight-man tournament (a tournament some, such as NWA president Dennis Coralluzzo, wanted Chris Benoit to win) for the vacated belt. “The Franchise” beat The Tazmaniac, Dean Malenko, and eventually 2 Cold Scorpio in the finals to win the strap.
Enraged by derogatory comments from Coralluzzo and persuaded by Tod Gordon and Dangerously, Douglas agreed to trash the NWA title post-match, throwing the belt down on the mat. Initially hesitant, Shane stalled, listing off the names of ex-NWA champions including Harley Race, The Funk Brothers, old foe Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, and others before declaring they could all: “Kiss my a**!”
Douglas held up the ECW title belt, declaring it the real-world title belt, a belt he had won earlier that year.
Eastern Championship Wrestling (the biggest bow in the NWA’s cap at the time) eventually seceded from the NWA whilst Douglas was the reigning world champion, the first title holder under the Extreme Championship Wrestling banner.
3. First Year-Long ECW Champion
Douglas’ time as ECW champion is one of those that feels like it lasted forever—and there is a reason for that.
ECW had a lot of short title reigns, often involving those surrounding Douglas. For example, he got the belt off Tito Santana who was a month-long champion, ended Sabu’s eight-day reign in 1997, and lost it to 45-day holder Bam Bam Bigelow. Yet Douglas’ reigns were, for the most part, very lengthy, owning the longest-combined reign: a total sum of 874 days.
Douglas’ second reign lasted 385 days, the first to last a year. Only two reigns have lasted over a year, the other person to do so being…Shane Douglas again. His fourth and final reign ran from 1997-1999, lasting over 13 months.
4. First Champion In ECW, WCW, & WWF
There have only been 11 titleholders in the North American big three promotions, the first of which was Shane Douglas, accomplishing this feat on October 22nd, 1995.
In November 1992, a young, babyface Shane Douglas picked up his first major title, winning the WCW/NWA titles with tag partner Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at Clash Of The Champions XXI from Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes. Having a great Starrcade match against Windham and Brian Pillman, they lost the belts in march to The Hollywood Blondes. Upon return to WCW years later, Douglas won the WCW World Tag Team, Hardcore, and United States championship belts.
In late 1993, Douglas won his first ECW title. He would go on to win four world titles and two TV titles over two runs, becoming a dominant world champion as the figurehead of the company, backed by his Triple Threat faction.
As Dean Douglas, he won the Intercontinental title in 1995 at In Your House 4: Great White North, opponent Shawn Michaels forfeited the belt after “HBK” was allegedly battered by marines in the Syracuse incident. He would lose it to Razor Ramon straight afterward, in an exacerbation of Kliq d*ckish politicking. Due to its shortness, it is regarded as one of (if not, the) worst IC title reigns of all time. That said, it is still in the history books, thus making him the first titleholder in all 3 promotions.
5. First Wrestler To Retain A Championship On An ECW Pay-Per-View (PPV)
Originally, ECW’s first PPV Barely Legal was set to take place in late 1996 but controversies such as that year’s ‘Mass Transit’ incident led to the event being postponed and pushed into 1997.
When the event commenced, three title matches took place, with the night crowning two new champions.
In the opener, The Eliminators squashed The Dudley Boyz for the ECW World Tag Team titles, winning the straps. The main event saw a new ECW champion crowned as “Middle-Aged And Crazy” Terry Funk ended his title drought, capturing the belt from Raven.
Wedged in the middle of the card was Shane Douglas defending his Television title against Pitbull #2, Anthony Durante. The angle leading up to it was a highly controversial one. Known as the ‘Halo Incident’, Douglas tried to break the neck of Pitbull #1, Gary Wolfe, a sickening spot that led to a near-riot as fans swarmed Douglas, with the hectic atmosphere ramping up the realism and seriousness of the situation. On his podcast, Douglas admitted that he thought he may not exit the area alive.
The match pitting Douglas versus Wolfe’s partner was centered on the idea of both men trying to break the other’s neck, a very gory and uncomfortable storyline, especially today. After a match featuring much object plunder and moves attempting to break the neck (such as various piledrivers), Douglas hit his belly-to-belly finisher to Durante to get the win and retain his title.
Not only was he the first to retain a title on ECW PPV, but he was also the only one to do it on their debut PPV.
Douglas is arguably the single most important figure in ECW history, helping to not just aid ECW through a transition period but cause the revolution that shaped ECW into what it is most loved and remembered for. Shane was a pioneer, an appropriate man to commit many firsts in the wrestling business.