(Are YOU going to tell him he's not?)
Welp, I knocked off a little early today, hooked up with my buddy Steve, hooked up with BatBong, and now we're watching ECW's first-ever PPV, Barely Legal on WWE Network. I don't know how many times I've seen it & it's still great. I loved that ECW got nationwide exposure with TNN (Yeah, I know...) & were able to sell out bigger venues, but the feel of the PPVs were much different on the road than they were in ECW country. Road fans gave it their best, but nothing was better than the quickness & spontaneity of the (pun probably intended) hardcore ECW fans.
Real quick, if you don't watch wrestling stoned, I really have to shake my head, bro. You really don't know what you're missing. Taz v. Sabu is on right now & the first "ECW!" chant went up & when I'm high, it takes on such a weird vibe. It's like deja vu mixed with Saturday morning cartoons. I dunno. I'm high.
Anyway, just finished watching Shane Douglas take on Pitbull Anthony (Rassle In Peace) after breaking Pitbull Gary's neck, and there was a swerve with Rick Rude & Brian Lee & Douglas got his comeuppance. It was a solid match. Not his best, but far from his worst. Everything's unfolding & the crowd is rooting against Douglas passionately, as they have subliminally been instructed to, and I'm thinking of what "The Franchise" really means.
Any promo Douglas ever cut as an ECW wrestler was fucking brilliant. I'm not saying that as a kiss-ass mark (well, a little, I guess), I'm saying that as someone who has a lot of public speaking experience & has worked as a broadcaster/journalist for 30 years & understands people and the psychology of crowds. Douglas reached into these people & pulled something out, something substantial. The night he threw down the NWA belt (something even I heard about while living in Spain & not having watched wrestling in three years; it was a big fucking deal), he cut a promo that still gives me chills, especially now having heard him provide the backstory about his dad.
The crowd lapped it up like dehydrated puppies.
"Face Shane" has always been over for the same reason ECW still has rabid fans: because first & foremost, he respected the fans & didn't treat them like idiots. He didn't talk down to the fans like they were six & still sleeping with their Hulk Hogan pillows; he talked to them the way they talked to others. Bluntly. Directly. Honestly.
And that's why "Heel Shane" is even more over. He built that equity on the fact the fans knew he was a real shooter. So when Douglas went rogue, his promos fucking KILLED. Every time. And no matter if he left for Monday nights, he was still given the respect he had earned as the first ECW champion.
Because he's The Franchise.
(And behind every Franchise is a Head Cheerleader. Oof. #IHaveToTakeCareOfSomething)
Paul E. was the brains, and Tommy Dreamer was the soul, and that's a fact. Those two went down with the ship and are the two most recognized figures. In my opinion. And what do I know, I'm just a fan. And a stoned one at that. Watching a 21-year-old PPV with my stuffed bear, Steve. My opinion is suspect. But my point is that with Sandman being the spirit of ECW; the Dudleys as its sense of extreme violence; and Raven, its dark side; Shane is The Franchise and that means something.
Shane was the ECW wrestler with the mainstream look. The fact WWF & WCW couldn't do anything with him shows how ridiculous they were (and based on what they're trying to do with Becky Lynch, still are). Fuck, if Shane had been in WWF instead of Austin & they let Shane be Shane the way they let Austin be Austin? Fucking PLEASE. He'd be a goddamned legend. I mean, MORE of a goddamned legend. You know what I mean.
It was that mainstream look that gave his words weight. This guy had been around. He'd been tabbed for NWA gold. He'd been a WWF champ. But he was a shooter, and the newly-evolving internet message boards proved that out.
(I'm sorry, we're doing the intros for the Barely Legal Three-Way Dance to see who will fight Raven & I always get a little wet-eyed when Terry Funk comes to the ring. Sorry again.)
More importantly, he went toe-to-toe with the best & usually whipped their asses. He could go hardcore, he could bleed, he could be athletic, he could & fucking DID carry that company on his back during those first couple years, the years that laid the foundation for the most influential wrestling company since WWF put the belt on Hogan. That's still a factual statement. You show me a wrestling federation out there right now that isn't basing their foundation on what ECW did. I'll wait.
So when Douglas is dismissed as a guy who, yes, was a key figure in ECW's history & success, but other wrestlers deserve more recognition, I ask who? Taz? I think we all knew Taz would leave, and that's no disrespect to him. People have families. I get it. Not Tommy either. Tommy had a different role to play within the company.
Douglas is like Batman in The Dark Knight. Maybe Shane Douglas wasn't the wrestler fans felt they deserved. But he was the one they needed.
Because he's The fucking Franchise.
(Yeah, even this one. He's the fucking Franchise, too, by God.)