Sometimes time really does fly by. Tomorrow, February 5th, will be the ten year anniversary of one of the most important wrestling matches of the modern era. It occurred at the ECW Arena in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, long before the bingo hall became a "famous wrestling building". In fact, ECW wasn't even "Extreme" yet, but was NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling. The term "Three Way Dance" didn't even exist. The match, a three way battle between ECW Champion Terry Funk, Sabu and Shane Douglas was followed by a classic promo exchange between Funk and Douglas. February 5th, 1994 would later be referred to as "The Night The Line Was Crossed", and is arguably the match that launched ECW from being a regional promotion to a cult phenomenon.
Let's back up to December of 1993. Sabu, managed by Paul E. Dangerously, was still being wheeled to the ring on a gurney with a face mask ala Hannibal Lechter, and was the ECW Champion, feuding with Terry Funk. They were gearing up for a big title showdown on December 26th, with Dangerously informing Funk that he would have to commit "heinous sins" the day after Christmas to keep his title. Dangerously said he was going to keep Sabu in a cage until the match, just throwing raw meat at him. Dangerously even got musical with one interview, singing about the carnage Sabu would bring to the tune of "Silent Night". In response, Funk hired a "few good men" in Axl & Ian Rotten to watch his back, and even mocked Sabu, leading to a profanity laced exchange between Funk and Dangerously on December 3rd at the ECW Arena.
As for Shane Douglas, he was wrecking his own havoc in ECW. He turned down an offer to join with Woman's group, but it turned out to just be a ploy to mess with Tommy Dreamer. When Dreamer's ECW Tag Team Championship partner Johnny Gunn was unable to appear and defend the belts against Woman's team of Kevin Sullivan & Tazmaniac, Douglas offered to team with Dreamer, only to turn on him and cost him the tag straps. Douglas continued to play games with Dreamer, as in a singles match, Douglas knocked out Dreamer with a chain, then placed the chain around Dreamer's hand, so the referee would see it and disqualify Dreamer. On December 26, 1993, at Holiday Hell at the ECW Arena, Douglas ended his feud with Dreamer by knocking him out with a chain and pinning him. However, the "Franchise" was not done for the night. During a no-disqualification match between Sabu and Funk, Douglas interfered, hitting Sabu with a chain and allowing Funk to pin Sabu while Douglas' valet Sherri Martel attacked Paul Dangerously. After the match, the manager of Sabu was incensed, accusing Douglas of "selling his soul" to Terry Funk in exchange for a title match on January 7, 1994. Dangerously insisted that Sabu, who was a madman before, was now angry, and that he would end the careers of both Funk and Douglas.
Douglas for his part, proclaimed himself the future of ECW, and said that Funk was one of the all time greats, like Lou Thesz or Bruno Sammartino, but his time was in the past. Douglas also claimed that Sabu was a freak show that could never keep up with him in the ring. However, Funk insisted that he didn't need any help from Shane Douglas, and that he could win the title on his own. Funk said that it was a disgrace to be compared to "has-beens" like Thesz and Sammartino, and vowed to show Douglas that his time was far from over on January 7th.
As fate would have it, a snow storm forced the show to be delayed until January 8th, 1994. Shane Douglas was confident he would win the title from Funk, while the champion proclaimed ECW to be his "last stand", as it was the only wrestling organization that was still based around "tough individuals" and not cookie-cutter sports entertainers. Funk said he had respect for Douglas, but that he would retain his title. Paul Dangerously, meanwhile, insisted that Sabu was the victim of a conspiracy between Funk and Douglas to keep the title between the two of them, and away from his charge.
Funk and Douglas engaged in a classic battle that day, and after 37 minutes of wrestling and brawling, Douglas got a pinfall by using the ropes for leverage. Ian & Axl Rotten came in and protested the decision. Paul E. Dangerously, doing color commentary on the bout, ran to the ring and also protested. ECW Commissioner Tod Gordon finally came in, and ordered the match to continue. Dangerously, who just wanted to see Funk and Douglas continue to batter each other, took a cheap shot at Funk, but was run off by the Rottens. Funk and Douglas continued to do battle, with Funk kicking Douglas in the groin and going for a cover as the bell rang, signaling a 45-minute draw.
With neither Douglas or Funk able to declare victory on that night, and Dangerously still demanding that Sabu get a rematch, ECW announced that on February 5th, the three wrestlers would do battle in one match. A three way elimination bout with a one hour time limit, in which one man would be able to emerge as the winner. Funk, as the champion, was given a special dispensation in that Douglas and Sabu would have to wrestle for 15 minutes before Funk entered the ring, giving both men the chance to eliminate the other challenger before going for the gold.
The undercard was short and to the point. .... 911 pinned Chad Austin with a single chokeslam. ... Mr. Hughes pinned Sal Bellomo in under four minutes. ... Tommy Cairo & The Sandman defeated The Pitbull & Rockin' Rebel in a double dog collar chain match. ... The Public Enemy defeated Ron & Don Harris in a "No Rules" match. ... Jimmy Snuka defeated Tommy Dreamer, but not before Dreamer kicked out of the Superfly Splash. Incensed, Snuka repeatedly hit the move on Dreamer, causing him to cough up blood. ... The Sheik & Pat Tanaka defeated The Tazmaniac & Kevin Sullivan after Tanaka pinned the future Tazz. And yes, the Sheik did throw fire. ... JT Smith managed to pin Mike Awesome with a small package in two minutes, despite being dominated the whole bout (including Awesome literally bending Smith's back over a guardrail with a tope). After the match, Awesome attacked the referee and went to give him a top rope splash, but the rope broke.
Shane Douglas came to the ring accompanied by Sherri Martel. Paul E. Dangerously ran to the ring and immediately hit Sherri Martel with his phone. Douglas attacked Dangerously, and Sabu charged the ring and attacked Douglas, starting the match. Sabu hit a series of rights, but ran into a Douglas boot, and Shane followed up with a back suplex. Douglas hit a side backbreaker and a kneelift, as 911 came to ringside to keep Sherri away from Dangerously. Douglas hit a vertical suplex to score the first two count of the match, then went to a reverse chinlock. Sabu elbowed out, but Douglas snapmared Sabu to the mat and reapplied the hold. Douglas rammed Sabu into the turnbuckles in all four corners, but Sabu fired back with punches, then hit a spinning leg lariat. Douglas rolled to the floor, and Sabu hit him with a baseball slide. Sabu rolled Douglas back into the ring, slammed him, and hit a rolling senton off the second rope for a two count. Sabu applied a nervehold to Douglas as five minutes had passed in the match.
Sabu turned the nervehold into a Dragon Sleeper, but Douglas escaped and hit a neckbreaker. Douglas missed a elbowdrop, and Sabu applied a jujigatame armbreaker. Sabu legdropped the arm, then went into a conventional armbar. Sabu elbowed and worked on Douglas' shoulder, driving his knee into it. Sabu used a series of armbar variations, dropping all his weight onto Douglas' shoulder, then going back to the jujigatame. Shane powered up, lifting Sabu off the mat to break the hold. Sabu stayed on the offense, hitting a leg lariat in the corner, then going back to the armbar. Douglas tripped out of it, then hit a reverse atomic drop. Ten minutes gone.
Shane hit a boot to the face, but was favoring his shoulder. Douglas hit another boot to the face, and covered for a two count. Sabu went back after the arm of Douglas with elbows, and pulled it around the top rope. Sabu pounded Shane in a corner, but Douglas reversed a whip and tossed Sabu through the ropes and to the floor. Shane tossed Sabu into the guardrail and the ring apron, but Sabu reversed a whip and sent Douglas over the rails and into the crowd. Sabu and 911 set up a table in the crowd, and placed Douglas on it. Sabu went for an Asai moonsault, but Douglas moved and Sabu crashed through the table to the floor. Douglas pulled Sabu over the rails and shoved him back into the ring. Douglas hit a shinbuster on Sabu's right leg, then stomped it as the 15 minute mark was reached. Terry Funk was already on his way to the ring.
Sabu rolled to the floor, as Funk went after Douglas, hitting a series of right hands, then tossing him over the top rope and to the floor. Funk took the fight into the crowd, trading right hands with Douglas. Douglas and Funk continued the exchange of punches in the ring, as 911 carried a limp Sabu back to the locker room. Douglas applied a bearhug, but Funk, after spitting at Sherri Martel, broke out with punches and tossed Douglas back through the ropes to the floor. Funk gave Douglas a piledriver on the floor, then briefly chased after Martel. Funk brought Douglas into the ring and delivered a DDT, then picked him up for a second. Funk covered, but Sherri put Douglas' foot on the bottom rope for two. Funk punched Douglas back through the ropes to the floor. Funk pushed Sherri away, and DDT'd Douglas on the floor. Funk tossed some chairs into the ring as he chased Martel around ringside. Funk called for the fans to toss in chairs, and a few did, as security kept it from getting out of hand.
Funk piled up some of the chairs in the middle of the ring, then brought Shane back in and DDT'd him on the pile at the twenty minute mark. Funk, hurting his back on the move, was down on the mat, as was Douglas. Douglas got on the top rope and delivered a fistdrop to the lower back of Funk. Douglas hit a backdrop driver for a two count, then complained about the count. Douglas pounded on the back, and punched Funk through the ropes and to the floor. Shane tossed Funk into the guardrail, then they brawled near the entranceway, where Douglas rammed Funk into a ladder. Douglas slammed Funk on the floor, then drove him back first into the ring apron. Martel handed Douglas a shoe, which he used to blast Funk in the head. Back in the ring, Douglas hit a DDT on a now bleeding Funk for a two count as the match reached the twenty-five minute mark.
Douglas complained about the count again, and Funk rolled up Shane from behind for a two count. Funk went for a spinning toehold, but Shane reversed it into a small package for two. Shane then hit a lariat and drove his fingers into the wounds on Funk's forehead. Douglas rammed Funk into a turnbuckle, then pulled off one of the buckle pads as Funk, flailing wildly, accidentally knocked out the referee. Douglas rammed Funk into the exposed steel buckle several times, then Sherri hit some shots as Funk fell to the floor. Shane kicked Funk in the head from the ring apron, then brought Funk back into the ring. Shane went to ram him into the exposed turnbuckle again, but Funk reversed it and sent Shane into the steel. Funk then slapped Shane repeatedly before decking him to the mat. The referee was starting to recover, as Funk pounded Shane in a corner. Funk delivered chops and punches, then hit a back elbow. Funk tossed Douglas back to the floor, and as the match reached the thirty minute mark, Funk took Douglas into the crowd.
Funk and Douglas battled up and over the bleachers in the ECW Arena, and Funk hit Douglas with an atomic drop before crotching Douglas over the guardrail. Funk yanked the back of Douglas' trunks down, and pummeled him. Sherri tried to trip up Funk, and he briefly chased her, but then turned his attention back to Douglas. Funk choked him with some tape, then the two collided on a shoulderblock, with Funk falling through the ropes to the floor. At that point Sabu, with hit right knee taped up, came back to the ring. Sabu chased Douglas around ringside, while Funk wandered through the crowd to the announcers table. Funk screamed into a microphone for Douglas and Sabu to join him in the crowd, not realizing it was a TV mic, not a house microphone. In the ring, Shane Douglas applied a single leg Boston Crab to Sabu's bad leg. Funk made it back to the ring, and for the first time, all three men were in the ring. Shane pounded on Funk, as thirty-five minutes were gone.
Shane missed a charge and clotheslined himself on the top rope, allowing Funk to go after Sabu. Funk put Sabu in a spinning toehold, and as 911 kept the referee from checking with Sabu for a submission, Dangerously hit Funk with his phone to break up the cover. On all fours, Funk drove headbutts into Douglas and Sabu, then hit both men with neckbreakers. Funk covered Sabu, but Dangerously put his foot on the ropes. Douglas punched Funk down, then went after Sabu's leg, kicking it and applying a leglace. While Douglas had the hold applied, Funk covered Sabu for a two count. Douglas put Sabu in a sleeper, while Funk punched Sherri off the apron. Funk then applied a sleeper on Shane, who had one on Sabu, a new spot that would be copied countless times in the years following this match. Douglas released his sleeper first, then elbowed out of Funk's. Douglas clotheslined Funk to the floor, then kicked at Sabu's leg before applying a figure four. In the middle of the ring, Sabu could not make the ropes, as Funk stalked Sherri at ringside. Sabu pulled the referee closer to him, so he would not see Dangerously run in and rake Douglas' eyes to break the hold.
With forty minutes now gone, Sabu slammed Douglas and went for an Arabian Press, but slipped on the ropes and fell to the mat. Sabu went for it a second time, this time hitting the move for a two count. Sherri Martel ran in, and stopped Sabu from going to the top again. Sabu chased Sherri around ringside, while Douglas now hit Funk repeatedly on the floor with a chair. Ian & Axl Rotten then ran out to chase the chair-wielding Franchise away from Funk. Back in the ring, Douglas hit a cradle suplex on Sabu for a two count. Sabu went for a rana, but both men just fell to the mat from exhaustion. Ian & Axl Rotten carried a lifeless Funk to the back, as Sabu hit a slingshot legdrop on Douglas for a two count. Sabu put Shane in a camel clutch, as Ian and Axl Rotten ran back in with chairs to attack Douglas and Sabu. Douglas and Sabu were rammed together, and Ian choked Douglas with a chair as Axl tossed Sabu to the floor. The Rottens hit a drop toe hold/legdrop combination on Douglas as the match reached the forty-five minute mark.
Douglas dodged an Ian Rotten charge, sending him to the floor. Axl clotheslined Sabu to the outside, then brawled with him into the crowd until they disappeared into the locker room. Douglas was the only participant in the match remaining in the ring. Sabu came back out, and then battled Ian Rotten to the entranceway. Douglas came out to meet Sabu in the aisle, and dragged him back to the ring. Douglas tried for an whip, but Sabu's leg buckled and he fell to the mat. Terry Funk was now limping back to the ring. Douglas attacked Funk on his way in, and the two were soon brawling on the floor. 911 showed up with Ian Rotten, and Dangerously hit him repeatedly with his phone. Meanwhile, Funk, Sabu and Douglas were fighting into the crowd and even briefly went out the front door. They made their way back to ringside, with Douglas crotching Sabu on a guardrail. Funk headbutted the referee, then kicked Shane Douglas in the groin. Ten minutes were remaining.
Funk headbutted Sabu repeatedly, then cracked skulls with Douglas before falling to the mat. Sabu clotheslined Douglas, then Funk. Sabu slammed Funk, then tried to moonsault off the center of the loose ropes before finally going to the top rope in the corner before hitting the move on Funk. Sabu then slammed Douglas and moonsaulted him out of the corner. Funk and Sabu covered Douglas, but the referee was still down from the Funk headbutt. Douglas gave Funk a piledriver, then suplexed Sabu on top of Funk. Douglas tried to revive the referee, then covered Funk for a two count. Sabu stomped and kicked Douglas and Funk, then splashed Funk twice for a one count. Douglas snapmared Funk, dropped a leg, and delivered a brainbuster. As Douglas came down with the brainbuster, Sabu splashed both of them, but only got a two count. Sabu put Funk in a camel clutch, and Douglas got behind Sabu and applied a chinlock, then pulled on the nose of Sabu. The hold fell apart, and Funk headbutted Sabu as he started to apply a spinning toehold to Douglas.
Five minutes remaining.
Martel jumped on Funk's back to break up the spinning toehold. Funk suplexed Sherri, then went to give her a spinning toehold, but Douglas broke it up with a clothesline. Sabu missed a right hand, and Douglas hit him with a back suplex.
Four minutes remaining.
Dangerously got on the ring apron, and Douglas slugged him to the floor. Shane lifted Sabu for a piledriver, but Sabu backdropped him. Funk pulled off one of Sherri's shoes and hit Sabu in the groin with it.
Three minutes remaining.
Funk grinded the heel of Sherri's heel into Douglas' ear. Sabu knocked Funk from the ring, and soon the brawl was back on the floor. All three men exchanging blows on the outside.
Two minutes remaining.
Funk gave Dangerously an atomic drop on the floor. Back in the ring, Douglas gave Sabu a flying bodypress, but Funk shoved him off and covered Sabu, then covered Douglas, then covered Sabu, but there was no referee to count.
One minute remaining.
Douglas and Sabu exchanged blows, and Douglas went for a cover, but the referee was still down. Dangerously tossed the ref back into the ring.
Thirty seconds remaining.
Shane grabbed Funk from behind and Sherri Martel went to hit him, but Funk ducked and Martel laid out Douglas. Sabu dove onto Douglas. Funk dove on top of Sabu, but Douglas got his shoulder up a two and Funk rolled off the pile. Sabu then covered Funk, but Funk kicked out at two.
Then the bell rang. The sixty-minute time limit had expired. Douglas, Sabu and Funk were all laid out in the ring, and the fans rose to their feet (those few that weren't already standing) and gave all three men a standing ovation.
The Line Is Crossed
After the show, Joey Styles interviewed a very emotional, crying, Terry Funk, who talked about his love of wrestling, stating that WCW wasn't "worth a damn", and was killing the profession because people with no respect for wrestling were running that company and WWF. Funk talked about his pride in ECW and the wrestling they provided, and paid compliments to Sabu and Shane Douglas, saying he respected both men.
Paul E. Dangerously, with a still wild Sabu, entered for the next interview. Dangerously insisted that Sabu should still be the ECW Champion, and that this was still a conspiracy between Shane Douglas and Terry Funk. Dangerously claimed that neither man could win one-one-one with Sabu.
Shane Douglas and Sherri Martel were out last, with Douglas talking about how he beat down both men, and demanded to be declared the ECW Champion. In a profanity laced promo, Douglas boasted of his superiority of both men, pointing out that both of them were carried to the back over the course of the match. Funk interrupted, asking Shane what was wrong with him, and why he was ranting and raving. Shane said that Funk was a shell of his former self. Shane pointed out Funk's bloody face, and how his own face after sixty minutes looked much better. Funk pointed out that he was showing respect to Douglas, but Douglas, calling Funk an "old man", again reiterated that both men were carried out during the match while he was not. Funk told Shane that since he wanted the ECW Title so badly, he would give it to him. Funk said he wanted Shane to take it, so that the "old man" would have the satisfaction of beating him for it and taking it back. Douglas threw the belt in the face of Terry Funk, and Funk responded with a slap. The two started brawling on the floor of the conference room, with wrestlers running in to pull them apart as Douglas and Funk continued to scream at each other.
The match became legendary in the eyes of ECW fans, and on August 17, 1997, there would be a rematch at ECW's second Pay-per-view, Hardcore Heaven. That night, Shane Douglas emerged victorious, winning the ECW World Title from Sabu when, after Douglas and Funk had already eliminated Sabu, Shane pinned Funk at the twenty-six minute mark. Still, that bout never came close to reaching the level of recognition that the first one did. All three men are still active on the independent scene today.
You can write me at BuckWrestling@aol.com.