was conducted with "The Franchise" Shane Douglas via telephone call on
6/2/99 exclusively for ECWNews.com. Please credit this site and columnist
for any reproductions of this interview.
Frank Romeo: Well, I truly believe that the Pit Bull scenario will go down as one of ECW's greatest feuds and angles.
Shane Douglas: Ya know, I'm sad to say, but I think in some ways ECW has lost sight of that. At one point, Paul turned to me and said, "you know, the marks know what this is," and I said, "Really Paul? Then why did they come over the railing when we did the angle with Gary Wolfe?" You know when we turned on Taz, the crowd was visibly upset at the Triple Threat. I still maintain that fans are wrestling fans, and they still wanna get entertained, and still wanna get pissed off, and still wanna cheer, and they suspend belief enough that when you get in there, they want you to entertain them with that premise in mind. What they don't want to do is make excuses and say, "Uh, well, this guy is a dragon, or this guy is a dead guy who comes back to life. People who hate you don't hate you. They just do that because they're supposed to." That's bullshit. I've gotten into fights with fans just trying to get in and out of buildings. Now, if they thought that well, this is Shane Douglas, a nice guy who's just playing a role. . .which is Paul Heyman's analogy. . .well then I would've been able to walk by the fans any time any day of the week, yet Francine and I have to be snuck into buildings in the trunks of cars. Gee, I wonder why.
FR: In years past in ECW, who do you think have been some of the most under pushed talent?
SD: Hmmm. Wow. I think a lot of the talent has been underutilized at certain times. I think once "The Franchise" became a babyface he was underutilized. Commonplace in this business is when somebody is having a huge run as a babyface or a heel and they turn sides. Usually you get a hell of a run as a singles, but my run came as Tommy Dreamer's tag team partner . . .which I wasn't thrilled with. I thought I earned the right to be a babyface and stand on my own two feet, which I clearly can do. I think Justin Credible has been underutilized to a certain point. I think Sabu has been at certain times. I think Mikey Whipwreck was at certain times. I think Taz was when he was the Tazmaniac, he was being tremendously underutilized. Then again, there are some people who are greatly over-utilized. I don't think the fans want to see the Dudleys every time they turn the TV on. That's no slap to the Dudleys' talent, I think they're both talented guys and they're both good friends of mine, but I don't want to see them 52 weeks out of 52 weeks. Especially when there's a chance that I can see some people who don't get a lot of television time in ECW. That's another problem I think Paul Heyman has got to address. He's at the point where everyone is recognized as a star in ECW, and not just a "Franchise," or not just a Taz, or not just a Justin Credible or a Tommy Dreamer, or a Francine, but the entire dressing room.
FR: What are your thoughts on guys like Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney who . . .
SD: Both underutilized!
FR: . . .for two or three years now . . .
SD: Both underutilized! In Axl Rotten, you've got a guy, and I'll preface by saying he's my friend. So for anyone out there saying, "He's saying that cause he's his friend," Guilty. I am his friend, but if he was a piece of shit talent I wouldn't put my stamp of approval on it and give him this kind of a promo. This guy clearly is a talented guy. Does he have the best body in the world? No. Does Tommy Dreamer? No. It's not about being the best body in the business. It's about being able to get in the ring, being able to get a fan to stand up, get a fan to sit down, get a fan to throw shit, get a fan pissed off, happy, sad, and everything in-between. It's about being good on the microphone. Axl Rotten possesses those skills. Why not put the tag team titles on Axl and Balls? Why? Cause you don't like them? If that's the case, then it's a piss poor reason. When you've had the title belts on the Dudleys, what five or six times? Could you not have made it four times and put them on Axl and Balls once to see if they'd draw? To me, the titles are used to put people over. That's why whenever I read that Shane Douglas left ECW because he wasn't gonna be figured back into the world title. Bullshit. That had nothing to do with my decision and it never did. In fact, I was sorta happy to get rid of it. I wasn't happy the way it was down, because I felt like I was swerved, but as far as getting rid of it, I think that Taz is a very capable champion and I think that he's doing a good job with the belt. He's been pure pro the entire time that we've worked together. I think "The Franchise" is over with or without the belt and I don't think the Dudleys need the titles to be looked at as a tough tag team in ECW. But Axl and Balls on the other hand, that would've helped establish them and elevate them as being world champion caliber and as being a tag team worth paying to see. Well, you'll never know if you don't give them the chance. ECW, now that they are on the verge of going national, has got to have more stars than it has right now. Clearly, they can't go the national status with a bunch of people who are sorta seen like stars.
FR: Something that really got my goat at the Cyberslam Q&A Session this year was when a women asked Paul when Balls and Axl would get the tag titles. Paul's response to her was, "When they pin the champs." He then asked her if she'd pay to see Balls and Axl challenge the Dudleys for the titles, and she said yes. He said, "You'd pay to see Balls and Axl CHALLENGE the Dudleys for the titles?" Her reply again was yes. He responded with, "That's good booking."
SD: Ya know, he's an impressive booker sometimes. I think he's been a lot more impressive in the past. I think he'll be a lot more impressive once they get over all these problems he's been tending to. I'd ask him a question right back. I'd ask, "Do you think that Balls and Axl could be put on a T-shirt right now and make a lot of money selling the T-shirts?" If not, then that's his fault. There are a lot of other people who are not yet major stars in ECW but should be and could be. And obviously the more stars you have the better off you are as the booker. What he did is, he took that girl's statement and twisted it. He said, "Ok, I don't have to put the belts on them, cause you'll still pay to see them." What the real question should be is, "If I draw the belts to them and make them our tag team champions, will you still pay to see them and will you pay to see them feud with other people?" The glass is half-empty, the glass is half full. Six of one, a half dozen of the other. It's all the same thing.
FR: Whom in the other organizations would you enjoy squaring off with?
SD: Oh, I would love to get in the ring right now with Steve Austin. I would love to get in the ring now with Ric Flair. There is no other man on the planet today, and I know this is a big statement, but I'll make it. There is no other man on the planet today, who could get in the ring with Ric Flair, and have any impact like it would with me. That's because of six years of me calling him out. I would love to get in the ring with Rocky Miavia. Rocky has really developed as a talent. I'd love to get in the ring with Paul Wight. I think I could do some really good things in the ring with him. I'd love to get in the ring with Benoit and Malenko as partners and take on a new version of the Horsemen. I think that would be a huge money draw. Gosh, let me think who else I mark out for. I'd love to work with Ken Shamrock. I met him this past weekend under the very unfortunate circumstance at Owen's funeral. I was really impressed with him. He seemed like a true gentleman and a great competitor. He's intense. If you have a guy with that kind of intensity and that kind of skill, you can draw money with him.
FR: I know that you were friends with Owen. How well did you get to know him and are there any Owen stories that you'd like to share with everyone?
SD: Oh sure. I can be here all night with these. My rookie year, as far as wrestling books are concerned, was in 1986. The funny thing about pro wrestling is that your rookie year isn't the year that you break in, it's the year you get your break in an organization. I broke in in 1982, but I had my break with the UWF in 1986. That was also Owen's rookie year. He won Rookie of the Year and I was second runner up. So ever since then, our careers sorta mirrored each other. When I first met Owen in 1990, in my first time with the company, we immediately became good friends because he was such an amiable guy, friendly person, and he had a real love for the sport of professional wrestling. We would bounce things off of each other all the time, and talk, and cut-up. . .Ya know, there's a lot of people who like to call themselves jokers in the business, who do malicious things like cut people's pants up or shit in people's bag, or something of that nature. Sometimes that is warranted if someone has a got a big head or something. Owen never did anything malicious like that. Owen always pulled jokes that were fun-hearted and made everybody laugh, including the guy it was pulled on. The story that comes to mind immediately is one night when he was going to wrestle Davey Boy Smith while we were in Germany or England. He told Davey beforehand that we was going to put hair in his mouth. Davey said, "You do you little bastard and I'll stretch you," or something along that line. So, they're in the ring and Owen gets him down in a chin lock. He reaches up, pulls a hair out of his head, and slaps it in his mouth. Davey starts fighting to get it out of his mouth, and no sooner does he get it out, that Owen goes into his tights and pulls out some coffee grounds. He shoves those into his mouth, and no sooner does Davey spit them out, and Owen pulls out an old rotten banana and shoves that in his mouth. By that time, everyone in the ring, ringside, and in the audience is laughing. Davey Boy is pissed but he's still laughing. Owen sat there giggling like only he could do, and it was just a hilarious thing to watch.
FR: Does your consideration towards going back to the WWF have anything to do with the virtual non-existence of the Kliq and Shawn Michaels absence from the ring?
SD: Uh, no. The first question that I got asked by the WWF was, "Would you be able to put the past issues behind you?" They acknowledged that I got screwed in 1995, those were their words, not mind. I was happy to see that and I believe that anytime someone with willing to own up to their mistakes and admit to them, then it shows great stature in that person, as long as they are sincere in it. I accepted that and the first question they asked was what was I gonna do the first time I walked into a room with Shawn Michaels? I said, "I'm going to put my hand out to him and shake his hand. I'm going to be friendly with him, not friends with him." I think that sums up the way I feel about a lot of those guys. We're in the business of making money, drawing people into a building and entertaining them. You and I hating each other or loving each other in the back has nothing to do with that. Sometimes people take that too close to heart and let that sway their decision. They say, these are my friends so I've gonna push them, or this guy isn't my best friend so I'm not gonna push him. To me, I've always said if you can put asses in the seats, I can hate your freakin' guts, I'm gonna push you and make sure you're a star on my television. If I do like you and you suck, then I'll try to do an adequate job cause you're my buddy, but I'm not gonna make you the star of my company, cause if so, in time, it's gonna damage the reputation of the company, damage the quality of the product, and damage the ability to put asses in the seats. It's like a linear law, A+B=C. Linear logic usually doesn't work, but in this case it does. If your talent is great, and you could put asses in the seats, then you outta be pushed. What was amazing about Shawn was that he reverted to a game of politics where he clearly had great talent, and he didn't need to resort to that. He was gonna rise to the top either way because he's a talented guy. I've always respected him for the worker he is. Do I respect him as a person? Well, that's something different, but I am able to put it behind me and work beyond that whole situation. The Kliq being there or not being there didn't sway my decision. What it boiled down to was, "The Franchise," being a hot commodity right could get into the ring with Steve Austin and draw a hell of a lot of money. That's what really sways heavy in my negotiations with the WWF.
FR: What are you opinions of Ric Flair using his name and position in the company to bring his son into the picture and take valuable television time away from more worthy athletes?
SD: It's his kid. I can understand why he's doing it. Again, revert back to my last answer and you'll see how I really feel about it. The ratings are sour right now for WCW, and when I say sour, they're heading south and you better do something to try and fix them. For better or worse, this industry today is built around television ratings. Their ratings have been on the decline and have been heading south for some time now. I think at this time, they better take a good hard look at what their product is, what it's strong and weak points are, and make changes accordingly. I think that if I were the booker for WCW right now, I would have a generational war. When ECW first started, everyone said, "Well, they play to the smart hardcore fans. Well, how many of them are there? They'll always be small time." Well, there's enough of them that we've become the most influential company today and we've changed the face of the industry. So, clearly there are enough of those smart hardcore fans out there that WCW better start to play to. I would have a generational war. There is no reason why a Benoit and Malenko should have to play backseat or second fiddle to someone who's 50 years old, regardless of how talented the 50-year-old is. I would have an uprising or a mutiny of sorts. It would be a grand scale New World Order or sorts that would fight for ratings, and I think that would be very arguably something that would pull viewers away from the WWF, at least for the time being. Once you pull them away for one week, then you give them, for instance, Shane Douglas vs. Ric Flair the following week. Because once you give them Douglas vs. Flair, you know one hell of a lot of people are going to tune in because for years I've talked crap on him and he's finally given me an answer. I think there is a lot of interest in the fan's eyes to see that match. Well, if you're going to get a bunch of people tuning in next Monday night because of that match, being the proverbial spark plug of the engine that's going to change this ratings war. The next I'd make sure I have every piece of talent used to it's maximum capability and make sure every match is as hot as it can be, to make sure that every match has as much interest as it can for the fan's sake. I would do that week after week after week. The hard part is getting the fans to turn away and leave the WWF for the first time. If you can do that, and give them a good product, then next week it's not so hard for them to turn the channel back. I clearly think that a generational war is where the interest is at for the WCW right now. Do they have the gumption and intestinal fortitude to pull it off? That's another issue.
FR: Ok, let's play a little word association game. Just rattle off the first thoughts that come to your mind.
FR: Rocky Miavia.
SD: Very entertaining. Very skilled. Getting better and better. He's the type of guy you'll pay money to see.
FR: Steve Austin.
SD: Incredibly charismatic. Great ring presence. Not the greatest skilled technician. His strength is that he keeps moving and there is always something going on with Steve Austin in the ring. He has a great fan base, so that makes it easier.
FR: Al Snow.
SD: Really, really under respected. When I worked with him, he always impressed me with what his skills were. He's a guy who's been around the business for a long enough time that he doesn't take the business too seriously and that's what makes him as good as he is.
FR: Vince McMahon.
SD: Responsible for the resurgence of wrestling. When wrestling started dying down, he put everything together, putting music to it and adding a guy named Hulk Hogan, he put together one hell of an entertaining product and he took wrestling to new levels.
FR: Eric Bischoff.
SD: Gutsy. He came into the business where Vince McMahon was THE MAN. Back when I was with WCW and everyone said that it will never challenge the WWF, and they listed 110 reasons why they couldn't, Eric Bischoff came in there and said, "The hell I can't." He took the chance, took a swing and hit a home run with it for what was it, 87 weeks? He did by sitting down and doing what I said before, analyzing the strong and weak points of WCW. He asked what he needed. What did it need to grow to the next level? He went and asked for money from Ted Turner's and got it. That was a great addition for WCW because it got an unlimited supply of money, and he went out spending that money, assembling one hell of a crew. Now, he's also made a lot of mistakes when it comes to over and under utilizing talent, but the fact of that matter is he turned WCW around from being a loser and made it a winner.
FR: Hollywood Hogan:
SD: A true icon in the sport. I have key differences with his style, but who could argue with his reputation and legacy. I remember being in the WWF in 83-84, going out there, wrestling, getting beaten up by Paul Orndorff or Butch Reed, and showering right after I got back, so I can go out and watch Hulk Hogan's matches. Not because of the skill level that Hulk Hogan possessed, but his ring presence. Boy, he'd walk through that curtain and you could legitimately feel the electricity in the air. He was just amazing because of that.
FR: Kevin Nash.
SD: A guy who's worked way beyond his skill level. Here's a guy, who because he hung around guys like Shawn, gained a great amount of respect from working with them, and also a lot of confidence. This business is all about confidence. Ya know, before I went to work for ECW, I heard, "Ya know, Shane Douglas is nothing more than a mid-card wrestler." Well, when you hear that long enough, you start to believe it, and doubt if you can become a main eventer. Then when I came to work for Paul Heyman, I credit him for being the one who really opened my eyes as to who good I really could be, and how good I was. That's why I was able to pull of being "The Franchise." Paul instilled a great amount of confidence in me. The same deal goes with Kevin Nash. Here's a guy who with a little confidence that Vince McMahon put in him, he became a big star, he took the ball and ran with it.
SD: A guy who is so devoted to the sport that he's willing to put his body on the line every single night.
SD: A guy with a great head for the business. Raven sometimes over-thinks his matches, but he always puts on entertaining matches and he always puts his nose to the grindstone to give the fans a great entertaining match.
FR: Lex Luger.
SD: Great physique.
SD: Chastity, uhh, great video. *Laughter*
SD: Francine is a good friend. She's brought something new to the women's side of wrestling and she excels beyond just being a head cheerleader. She took the time to learn all about the business. Every night we would sit down and talk about what she did right, what she did wrong, why. I think she took well to being with a 15-year veteran and capitalized on it.
FR: Rob Van Dam.
SD: An amazing athlete. I wish I could do half of the moves that Rob can do. I think that with another year or two of experience, when he really starts to put it together, when his psychology together with his athleticism, he's gonna be an amazing talent. He's already an amazing talent, but he's 9/10ths of the way towards being the legitimate "Total Package."
SD: Great technician. Here's a guy who's as sound as anybody I've ever seen in this sport. He loves this business and really believes in the old school way of being respectful to each other, showing respect to the old timers in the business, protecting the business, and is really creative with his suplexes and that's impressive.
FR: Justin Credible.
SD: A great young talent who is not afraid to get heat and as a heel in this business, when the heels are so determined to get over with selling a T-shirt or getting a pop, he's not. He's not. He's willing to go take a chance and get heat with the crowd. That's pretty much what I did when I was a heel and it worked and drew money. I think that's the reason it's easy to work with Justin because he'll go out and get heat and he's very capable in the ring as well. He just needs to improve on his interview skills though.
FR: Paul Heyman.
SD: I'd be interested if to hear if you said, Troy Martin to Paul Heyman, but this is coming straight from the heart. I've considered Paul a friend for 13 years and for better or worse what's happened in ECW, I still consider him a friend. I wish him well with his company whether or not I'm still part of it, which is still unclear at this point. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to exhibit my skills to create a "Franchise." A booking genius when he's not worried about balancing a checkbook or paying a bill. Truly responsible for changing the face of the industry in the 90's. All said, as of late, I think he's putting friendships in front of business. In the past he'd push someone because they're talented, not cause they're a friend. I think he's done a little bit of that lately. I think he's allowed himself to be played certain ways. I noticed there was a person who was let go from the company for supposed drug use, and I can tell you without hesitation that I know this person very well, and if there is anyone who I would say is not a drug user, I would say Taz is not a drug user, and I would say that this person is not a drug user. But on a whim and a rumor, this guy lost his job. That was the reason I was told he lost his job. If that's the case, then I think that's the kind of situation that Paul Heyman has to get away from, because that's what he never did before, and that's what took the company to great heights.
FR: Stevie Richards.
SD: I think he's a guy that's almost afraid of success. He was right on the verge of being pushed in a huge way in ECW and he walked away for whatever reason. Then he got a second chance and missed out on that. Somebody told me at Break The Barrier that he had said, "no," to working with me and Abdullah "The Butcher," because something bad might happen. That surprised me because I've never said anything crossed about the kid. So, I just think he missed the boat on success.
FR: And finally, Shane Douglas.
SD: A guy who truly loves this business. A guy who's worked for 18 years to be as good as he can in this business. A guy who at times has exhibited a very short temper, who has in the past couple years brought that into reigns. A guy who has been instrumental in changing the face of the industry by being handed the ball by Paul Heyman, and being able to carry that ball for touchdowns, which I consistently did for ECW. A guy whom was a company person, and I legitimately put ECW before myself for six years, and that's exhibited in the fact that I've wrestled with serious injuries. A guy who believes in giving the fans what they pay for, and that's why I wrestled Wrestlepalooza with a fractured pallet. A guy who is extremely capable, who can get in the ring with the top stars of today like Steve Austin, Mankind, Rocky Miavia, Paul Wight, Ric Flair, Randy Savage ,and draw money. He is truly a commodity. If I were a booker, I'd want guys like Shane Douglas in my locker room because of his voracity, because of his honesty, because of his ability to go out and do and see things for the company that will draw money, and his loyalty.
FR: And for the last question. If you could go back in time and change something either before or while you were in the sport, would you? What would it be and why?
SD: I never like to look back and say that I regret anything, because regret sorta implies that you knew when you were doing something, that you shouldn't have done it. Whenever I make a decision or a move, I always make sure I think it through clearly and there's not repercussions with it, and I'm willing to lye in whatever bed I've made. In going back, as far as my wrestling character, there's not a think that I'd change. A lot of people are saying, "Now that you're trying to negotiate with the different companies, would you have still said things about Ric Flair?" Yeah, yeah I would've. I wouldn't have changed anything about that. "Would you have still walked out on the WWF and been as outspoken on the Kliq as you were?" Absolutely, because that was me as a man talking, and I think any booker should respect that. A Vince McMahon or Eric Bischoff should respect that, because the one thing they know they won't get from Troy Martin is, "Hey yeah! Everything is great," when everything sucks. Or "Yeah, I'm really happy with it," when I'm not happy with it. They're gonna get a straight-up honest answer. Would I change anything before or after? Beforehand, yeah, I would've spent a lot more time with my father before he got sick. He was a huge influence on my life in sort of an odd or different kind of way. I've learned a lot of things from my dad on how to live my life, and I've also learned a lot by the things that he didn't' tell me. I wish I could've gotten to know him a little bit better than that. The big question in my mind is, where would my life be right now if I had pursued medical school? It's a big question. I might be a great surgeon right now, or I might not have been able to get the business out of my blood and walked away from it. Who knows. For a day, I might've just liked to change it, to see what being surgeon is like.
FR: Thank you very much Shane.
SD: You're welcome.