‘On This Day’ is a commemorative article series. It is dedicated to specific events, matches, and occurrences in wrestling history. We revisit those key moments and look back at how they went down and what they meant to the wrestling industry. On this day, Shane Douglas Throws Away the NWA Championship.
In July of 1991, relations between World Championship Wrestling and The National Wrestling Alliance began to break down. Ric Flair, then recognized as both WCW and NWA World Heavyweight Champion, debuted for the World Wrestling Federation, taking the WCW/NWA belt with him. WCW insisted Flair vacated the title upon his departure in July. Meanwhile, the NWA wouldn’t strip Flair of the title until he officially signed with the WWF in August. WCW would crown a new champion on July 14th, when Lex Luger defeated Barry Windham at the Great American Bash. The National Wrestling Alliance, however, would leave their world heavyweight Championship vacant for almost a whole year. The NWA elected to crown the winner of the 1992 G1 Climax their new World Heavyweight Champion. WCW and NWA would re-unify their belts in February 1993. That relationship ended when WCW officially withdrew from the NWA on September 1st, 1993.
Shane Douglas Throws Away the NWA Championship
Without World Championship Wrestling, the NWA had lost all their national television presence. There were smaller NWA-affiliated promotions all across the United States, but none of them had the same reach WCW did. The NWA decided to leave all of their major championships vacant while they planned their next move. Months later, board member Dennis Coralluzzo proposed a tournament to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Shortly after they announced his proposal, they began receiving letters from Tod Gordon and Paul Heyman. Gordon and Heyman were the owner and booker respectively, of the Philidelphia-based, NWA-affiliated promotion known as Eastern Championship Wrestling. They argued that ECW, having the largest television audience of any NWA affiliate, they should host the tournament. The board of directors for the NWA accepted the proposal, and scheduled the tournament for August of 1994. However, nobody with the NWA knew what Gordon and Heyman had planned.
What Was Eastern Championship Wrestling?
In 1989, Joel Goodhart registered the trademark for the Tri-State Wrestling Association, a promotion that would open its doors the following year. The TWA did alright for an upstart indie promotion in those times, but was still losing money. In 1992, Goodhart sold his share in the company to his business partner, Tod Gordon. Gordon would re-brand the company as Eastern Championship Wrestling, bringing in “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert as a wrestler and booker. Gilbert would be instrumental in the rise of ECW, bringing in old colleagues like Jimmy Snuka and Don Muraco to give the new company a sense of legitimacy. He also played a major role in securing ECW’s first television deal with SportsChannel Philadelphia in April of 1993. That September after a series of disagreements with Gordon, Eddie Gilbert would resign from ECW. Gordon swiftly promoted Paul Heyman to booker, and the rest is history.
Eastern Championship Wrestling was a different creature to the beast Extreme Championship Wrestling would become in the late 90’s. At the same time, it was more similar to the workrate-centric promotion ECW would begin to morph into at the tail end of its existence. Older hands like Jimmy Snuka, Terry Funk, and Tito Santana made up the main event scene. However, the undercard featured familiar names in unfamiliar gimmicks. For instance, The Sandman was a surfer and The Tazmaniac was a wildman. But overall, the action was heavily rooted in technical skill rather than the ultraviolence they became known for later.
The NWA World Title Tournament
The NWA World Title Tournament was a live supercard, held in the arena at 2300 South Swanson Street in Philadelphia. Then called Viking Hall due to the Nordic-themed theater company who called it home, it would eventually become known as The ECW Arena. 8 men participated in the tournament: Osamu Nishimura, 911, 2 Cold Scorpio, Doink the Clown, The Tazmaniac, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, and of course Shane Douglas. The first match on the card featured an aerial masterclass where Scorpio defeated Benoit. Then the big man 911 squashed Doink in under 2 minutes. Dean Malenko and Osamu Nishimura put on a technical clinic where Malenko won by submission. Shane Douglas defeated The Tazmaniac to close out the first round. In the second round, 2 Cold Scorpio picked up a count-out win over 911. Shane Douglas defeated Dean Malenko after back-to-back piledrivers. The collision course was set.
There were 8 matches on the card that night, 7 of which comprised the NWA World Title Tournament. The lone match that wasn’t for the vacant NWA championship was for the ECW Tag Team Championship. Heyman had originally booked Terry Funk and Cactus Jack to take on champions Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge. Funk, however, couldn’t make the show, forcing Heyman to find a replacement. Heyman looked to Mick Foley for advice, who suggested Mikey Whipwreck, his trainee. Whipwreck had debuted as a wrestler in February of that year, and quickly went from nameless jobber to underdog babyface. The unlikely duo would capture the hearts of audiences. If Shane Douglas was the soul of ECW, Cactus Jack and Mikey Whipwreck were the heart. But enough about them.
The Tournament Finals
Shane Douglas and 2 Cold Scorpio put on a solid 12 minutes of wrestling in the final match. Much of the match revolved around Douglas trying to keep Scorpio on the mat, tying him up with Boston Crabs and sleeper holds. Towards the end, Scorpio dropped Douglas with a tombstone piledriver, and went to follow up with a moonsault. However, Shane Douglas had the presence of mind to roll out of the way, leaving Scorpio open to the belly-to-belly suplex. Douglas cinched in Scorpios legs for the pin, and became the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
Following the bell, Scorpio took to the mic, congratulating Shane on becoming the new champion, but making it clear he has a target on his back. Then Shane took the mic. He expressed his respect for Scorpio, and promised him a rematch. Then, he started into an acceptance speech:
Shane Douglas Throws Away the NWA Championship: The Aftermath
The episode of ECW Hardcore TV that aired two days after the event opened with an announcement from Tod Gordon. He announced that the NWA had opted not to recognize Shane Douglas as champion, and in response, he had folded NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling. However, in the same move, he had launched a new entity called Extreme Championship Wrestling. He closed the announcement by inviting wrestlers from around the world to challenge the new ECW World Heavyweight Champion. Later on, they would update the TV and tag team titles, becoming the ECW World Television and World Tag Team championships. ECW would go on to become the third-largest pro wrestling promotion in America.
In an interview shortly after the event, Dennis Coralluzzo decried the actions of Shane Douglas and ECW as a disgrace. Furthermore, he promised to strip Shane Douglas of his ECW and NWA World Heavyweight titles. The NWA kept their world championship vacant for two more months, during which time they settled on a new home promotion, Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Then, in November of 1994, they started a new tournament for the vacant title.
Supposedly this tournament would feature 16 men, but they could only muster 10, leading to the semi-finals being a bye week for all competitors. Chris Candido defeated Tracy Smothers in the finals on November 19th, but by then the damage was done. Shane Douglas had stripped the NWA World Heavyweight title of all credibility. The next time the NWA World Heavyweight Championship appeared on national TV was around Dan Severn’s waist during his 1997-99 run with the WWF. We remember on this day twenty-six years ago, Shane Douglas Throws Away the NWA Championship.