As the summer comes winding to an end….20 years ago….a small Philadelphia based promotion called ECW was as well. ECW at the time was short for Eastern Championship Wrestling and it was owned and operated by Tod Gordon and booked by Paul Heyman (Paul E. Dangerously)
ECW was promoted under the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) banner which had become a shell of its former self with the deterioration of the territories. Eastern Championship Wrestling like Jim Crockett Promotions had years before…became the NWA’s flagship promotion.
When WCW seceded from the NWA permanently in 1993…Ric Flair was stripped of the NWA world championship in September of ’93 and the title was declared vacant. A tournament was then set up to declare a new NWA world champion.
The decision was made by ECW top brass that Shane Douglas should be crowned the next world champion. At the time, Shane was considered more of a journey man, wrestling for WCW, WWF, UWF and the territories without really making a big splash anywhere he went. NWA President Dennis Coralluzzo was not initially fond of the choice, but his main worries were that ECW would hold on to the new champion instead of allowing him to travel to different regions defending the belt. ECW would monopolize the title much the way Jim Crockett did earlier and TNA would do a few years later.
A struggle of power ensued between Dennis Coralluzzo and Tod Gordon over who and how the NWA world title should be represented. To ensure that the NWA got its way, Coralluzzo personally oversaw the entire tournament. Feeling that the NWA was playing hardball and the fact that ECW was the strongest of all the promotions the NWA was affiliated with…a secret meeting was held between Gordon, Heyman and Shane Douglas.
The three agreed and decided that if the NWA was not going to loosen their reigns on ECW…then ECW would cut ties with the NWA. They didn’t just want to say thanks but no thanks to Coralluzzo, they wanted to do it in a loud, controversial way. To achieve that goal, they needed to keep their motives completely quiet from the rest of the ECW locker room and the NWA hierarchy as well. This move would either create a tremendous buzz and put ECW on the map or it would bury the company for good.
On August 27th, 1994…in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania…Shane Douglas defeated 2 Cold Scorpio in the tournament finals to be declared the new NWA world heavyweight champion. What happened next, changed the course of history for ECW, the NWA and pro wrestling in general….
Shane Douglas’ victory speech…
“In the tradition of Lou Thesz, in the tradition of Jack Brisco of the Brisco Brothers, of Dory Funk Jr., of Terry Funk– the man who will never die. As the real Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, upstairs tonight. From the Harley Races, to the Barry Windhams, to the Ric Flairs, I accept this heavyweight title. … Wait a second, I’m Kerry Von Erich. I’m the fat man himself, Dusty Rhodes. This is it tonight, Dad. God, that’s beautiful. And Rick Steamboat, and they can all kiss my ass.”
Shane throws down the NWA title.
“I am not the man who accepts a torch to be handed down to me from an organization that died seven years ago. The Franchise, Shane Douglas, is the man who ignites the new flame of the sport of professional wrestling.”
“Tonight, before God and my father is witness, I declare myself, The Franchise, as the new ECW Heavyweight Champion of the world! We have set out to change the face of professional wrestling. So tonight, let the new era begin: the era of the sport of professional wrestling, the era of The Franchise, the era of the ECW.”
Just like that, ‘The Franchise’ Shane Douglas and EXTREME Championship Wrestling were born.
Dennis Coralluzzo was left stunned, embarrassed and angered. He immediately went on the defensive by saying Shane’s actions were a disgrace and was unworthy to be called NWA champion. He vowed to take whatever actions were necessary against Shane Douglas, Tod Gordon, Paul Heyman and the rest of ECW.
Some wrestling purist felt that this was the death knell for ECW…but what it did was spark a revolution like nothing seen before in the history of pro wrestling. So much so, that the bigger money companies like WCW and the WWE would mimic ideas, concepts and gimmicks. Every promoter, booker and fan wanted a taste of the Extreme.