On August 27, 1994 Shane Douglas won a tournament in the Philadelphia-based territory know as Eastern Championship Wrestling. The prize of the tournament was the historic NWA championship. After the match, Douglas took to the mic and proceeded to list a number of wrestlers before him who had held the prestigious championship including Terry Funk, Barry Windham, Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair. Douglas then proceeded to say that the aforementioned legends could “kiss his ass,” before throwing the belt down in an unscripted act of defiance. He would then tell the crowd that he was not the man to carry a torch that burned out seven years ago. He then grabbed the ECW championship and proclaimed himself not as the new NWA champion but rather the ECW champion.
This was an absolute shock to the wrestling world and Dennis Corralluzo, who was the president of the NWA committee at the time. It was a stunning double-cross orchestrated by then-ECW promoters Tod Gordon and Paul Heyman. Three days after this took place, Tod Gordon opened up their weekly television show with a PSA-of sorts issuing a statement that he had folded Eastern Championship Wrestling. In its place he had founded ECW, Extreme Championship Wrestling. He announced that the new promotion recognized Shane Douglas as their championship and would be until he lost it.
The change was not just in name only, there was a direct shift in direction, focusing more on bloody death matches and profanity. Due to this, it provided an outlet for fans who were sick of WCW and WWF’s “clean” products. These rabid fans helped ECW develop a cult-like following that would propel the promotions popularity into the stratosphere until they closed their doors in 2001.
It’s very hard to dispute how important this moment was for professional wrestling as a whole. As mentioned earlier, both WWF and WCW were losing viewers for their “fluffy” programming” and fans wanted a change. Shane Douglas was the perfect man for the job as he showed little care for what he said or who he offended. His past disputes with the heads of WCW, in particular Ric Flair, made him the protagonist for those who hated the Atlanta-based promotion. Douglas’ career in ECW was extremely successful even later having another ECW championship reign lasting over 400 days.
The effects of this moment can still be felt today in the mentality of promoters to try to convince the fans if what they’re seeing is a shoot or a work. For a recent example, just look at this past Monday’s edition of RAW with John Cena and Roman Reigns “shooting from the hip” on how they felt about one another. One could say that this was the precursor to CM Punks now-(in)famous PipeBomb. Much like Douglas’ promo, Punk left the audience in attendance and those watching around the world unsure if what they were hearing was meant to be heard. Also in each case, the aftermath of both events left each company with newfound popularity in the mainstream, with ECW local fan base becoming national and WWE reliving a small taste of the media interest that they were well-known for throughout the Attitude Era.