Shane Douglas is on top of the world.

For the first time in a long time, he is injury free and wrestling without any pain. WCW is beginning to show signs of recovery and he feels that he’s a part of the turnaround. He’s been paired up with the sultry Torrie Wilson and has recently worked a series of matches with Billy Kidman that have received widespread praise not only from WCW management but also from wrestling fans on the Internet.

While some would argue that Douglas is just a small fish in a big pond, he’s happy with his push and is more than willing to bide his time and work his way up the company ladder.

“I’m ecstatic. I stated when I first came here that I didn’t want to get that push right to the top, shoved down the fans throats,” Douglas told SLAM! Wrestling during an interview last week. “I wanted to acclimate myself to the company. I didn’t want any of the guys that had been in the company working through all the thick and thin to say ‘oh here’s Shane Douglas getting pushed at the top, that’s my spot.’ I’ve been content to work myself up the ladder. I still have a ways to go but I’ve been having a blast. The company, with the lack of having Hogan and those guys around, all of a sudden the dressing room is a fun place to be again.”

Douglas says that morale in the WCW dressing room is high and that everybody is looking to contribute.

“It’s great right now. There’s a sense of we can do it, and everybody’s going around asking questions. The young guys are coming up to the old guys and asking for help and advice. There’s a real positive vibe flowing through the dressing room. Now the question is how long will that last?”

‘The Franchise’ Shane Douglas and Billy Kidman battle during their strap match at the New Blood Rising PPV in Vancouver, B.C. on August 13, 2000. Kidman won the match, but was subsequently hung by Douglas and Torrie Wilson. Big Vito made the save. — Photo by Rik Fedyk

Douglas has some ideas on how to keep the momentum going.

“Stay the course. We need to stop looking over our shoulders to see what Vince McMahon is doing because obviously Vince McMahon has fewer restraints than we have so it doesn’t matter what he does because we can’t do the same thing. Stop looking at his product, keeping looking at our own and keep concentrating on improving our own. The most important aspect of staying the course is when you pick up the ratings for this week and they drop 3%, don’t hit the panic button. Because they might go up 6% next week. That is what has been wrong here. They start down some new path before it gets a chance to take route. They panic and flip out and try to go back to Hulk Hogan again.”

Douglas is very outspoken about how he feels veterans like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair were holding the roster’s younger stars back. He feels that it’s the young talent that will lead the company in the years to come. He’s also fearful that WCW might revert to going back to these same veterans if the current game plan of using the young stars doesn’t pay off immediate dividends.

“Right now, and this is just a guess of mine, I can damn near guarantee that Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan) is sitting in Florida right now, sitting back and keeping his mouth shut, watching and he’s going to wait for the slightest sign that this experiment is not working,” explained Douglas. “And then he’s going to waltz into [WCW VP] Brad Siegel’s office and say ‘Goddamn Brad, it was a great try, nothing against Shane Douglas or Billy Kidman or Shawn Stasiak or Mike Awesome, they’re all great young guys but they just don’t have the marquee value. You need me back.’

“And if Brad is receptive in listening to that and he goes back to that — you know there is no future in Ric Flair, there is no future in Hulk Hogan, there is no future in any of those guys,” continued Douglas. “The future of the company right now is in the new blood and the young guys there. If they don’t stay the course and go back to that, I’ll go on record right now saying that if they ever go back to the genre of wrestling and to that generation, you can pretty much stick a fork in this place, it’ll be done.”

Strong words. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed his career. Douglas has always been a straight shooter who always speaks his mind, fearless of the feathers he might ruffle in WCW.

Or ECW for that matter. Douglas left the company for WCW last year over a money dispute with owner Paul Heyman. Douglas feels that ECW will never be able to recover from the mass exodus of talent that have left the company over the last few years for the WWF and WCW.

“I think ECW is clearly on its last legs,” stated Douglas. “This is not a knock on any of the talent — I was a staple of the place, Taz was a staple, Sabu and you can’t replace a Taz, a Franchise or a Sabu with a Chris Chetti or a C.W. Andersen and expect it to be the same thing. Right now you can’t replace a Goldberg with a Shawn Stasiak. It’s just two levels of talent. And that’s no knock on Shawn, it’s no knock on Chris Chetti or C.W. Andersen. It’s a matter of facts.”

“[ECW] was built on the bedrock of the Franchise and Terry Funk initially,” said Douglas. “Paul Heyman has gone out and made statements publicly after I left that Shane Douglas was the greatest world champion in our company’s history. And then suddenly you’re putting Lance [Simon] Diamond out there and having him wear black and gold and sort of subliminal things that the fans take as a smack in the face. They don’t take that as it’s a cute, cool thing that Paul Heyman is doing, which he thinks it is. The fans see it as a cheap rip off.”

Douglas thinks Heyman has almost no business acumen.

“You start to think about it for a second where he would be right now if he had (kept) the Franchise, Taz, Bam Bam Bigelow, Sabu, the Eliminators, Chris Candido, the Dudleys, Benoit, Malenko, Guerrero. The talent has left him simply because, uh — look with Bam Bam, when Bam Bam left, Paul wouldn’t entertain the idea of even paying him — he was paying him $2,000 a week. In this business, for a main event marquee player like Bam Bam Bigelow was at the time, that’s a bargain-based price. He had guys in the company like Chris Chetti that he was paying his hotel for, but he wouldn’t pay the hotel for Bam Bam Bigelow. That’s just a piss-poor business decision. There is no rhyme or reason or logic to that. That’s just a cheapskate with a stupid, myopic, short-sided business plan.”

‘The Franchise’ Shane Douglas as ECW World Champion.

Douglas can relate to the wrestlers currently on ECW’s roster who are getting paid late or not at all.

“With me, there was nobody more loyal to that company than me. I don’t think Paul Heyman was as loyal to that company as I was. You have to get paid for what you do. And when it starts to become that you’re $30,000 behind, $40,000, $50,000 — hey wait a second, $60,000 — at some point you have to understand that this talent is going to walk sooner or later. If Paul Heyman thought that I would have nothing left to offer that company, then he was sadly mistaken because if you look at the talent roster right now, he can clearly use a Franchise or a Taz or a Sabu right now. I just think the company’s on its last legs.”

Douglas feels Heyman can’t conduct himself professionally and that will be the company’s downfall in the end.

“Here’s a guy, whose company he doesn’t even have a TV slot for coming in the fall, and he’s getting himself involved in fist fights with wrestlers from another company (XPW). I can’t imagine that ESPN2 is going to be very eager to get in bed with a guy like Paul Heyman when they hear these kinds of stories.”

Douglas also doesn’t think the rumoured deal between ECW and the USA Network will come to fruition.

“I don’t believe it and I’ll tell you why. I know people at USA and they’re used to dealing with Vince McMahon, whose product is the slickest program on television. When people create new technologies, they don’t go to ABC, NBC or CBS. They go to the WWF first because they know they’re going to incorporate the new technology. One thing about Vince McMahon, as much as I dislike the guy personally, here’s a guy who could talk the chrome off a bumper-hitch. He’s as smooth as they come.

“Now, Paul Heyman, he can’t even conduct himself in a professional manner in a meeting where you’re thinking he’s being sincere,” continued Douglas. “I think this would be a different story had they garnered any kind of positive ratings for TNN. But the fact of the matter is over the course of the year with TNN, their ratings were no lower than 0.7 and no higher than 1.1. It showed no growth.”

Douglas refutes the argument that the low ratings were a result of TNN failing to throw its full support and efforts behind the show.

“If you go back (in time), you’ll see Paul claiming that his program will sell itself. I personally don’t see it happening with USA just because Paul Heyman is the kind of person who says I’ll call you back in ten minutes and doesn’t. Those people are not going to deal with him that way.”

Douglas used to believe that Heyman was a trustworthy person. Not any more.

“The problem now is his reputation in the business is so soured that I don’t think it can be salvaged,” Douglas said. “I just don’t see any marquee player voluntarily going back to work for Paul Heyman unless he has absolutely no other recourse because of his reputation. The sad part of it is at one point he had the wrestlers eating out of his hands, me included. We all believed he was sincere, and believed what he was saying. For the longest time he exhibited the behaviour that he was sincere in what he was saying. But he lost that. I always told Paul don’t misplace your own word because once you lose it you can never get that back. He did. He just flushed down the drain.”

Douglas believes that Heyman is actually holding back ECW from ever growing into a strong third national company.

“Paul Heyman is one of these guys that will sit back and be content to rip you off for five bucks out of your pocket when there’s five million in a legitimate business deal,” said Douglas. “That’s just the nature of the beast with him. He is so small-minded. I used to always argue with him, I could not get him to take the step to go to large buildings. He wanted to be in these goddamn bingo halls and in this business perception is reality. If the WWF is going to the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and WCW is going to the convention centre and you’re going to the Metropolitan Night Club, you look like a goddamn fourth rate company. The connections I had here in Pittsburgh I can get them into the large buildings and I finally did. I finally did it without his consent. It was always a quandary in my mind why does this guy not want to do this.

“And I really believe Paul Heyman is content to have this tiny little company that he can manage, he still has his bedroom in his mommy and daddy’s house, doesn’t have to have any real kind of responsibilities in the world. The fact that he still has Steve Karel doing syndication for him … He has done more detrimental business dealings for the company than he has done anything positive. Yeah, he’s got the company on pay-per-view and the company’s garnered no money from it. Well, goddamn, I could have got that done. The fact that he’s still doing business with this guy shows you he really doesn’t have, I think, the ambition, gumption and desire to really make the thing work.”