20 YRS AGO: Insight into The Clique and Vince McMahon in remarkable Shane Douglas “Torch Talk” interview


Twenty years ago this week, the PWTorch Newsletter #411 featured part three of a remarkable “Torch Talk” with Shane Douglas, who spoke in great detail about the dynamic with The Clique and Vince McMahon behind the scenes in the WWF during his stint there. Check out this extended excerpt of that interview, and then read the entire interview by going VIP. VIP members can jump right to the text of the entire newsletter of a PDF of the entire newsletter HERE.

Torch Talk with Shane Douglas, pt. 3

HEADLINE: Shane Douglas says Vince McMahon was insulated from the truth

The following is part three of a multi-part “Torch Talk” interview with Shane Douglas (“Dean Douglas,” real name Troy Martin) conducted Sept. 8. In this segment, he talks about the influence of the controversial “Clique” of top wrestlers (Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, 1-2-3 Kid) in the WWF last year during his stay there.

Wade Keller: You said that road agents and front office assistants to Vince are all yes-men, afraid to be independent thinkers. Did you sense that bothered any of them but they begrudgingly went along with it? Or did they all seem to think that was their lot in life?

Shane Douglas: Well, there was an incident on the tour bus where The Clique were bitching about there being no Corona beer. There were three great big tubs of you-name-it German beer for free – drink as much as you want, drink ’til you puke, drink ’til you pass out. But there was no Corona. They started complaining. We had about a three hour trip that night to the next town. They complained the whole time. I sat next to Owen Hart. We talked for a while. I finally had to put my headset on for my CD player because I couldn’t take it anymore. It was like little kids. “You call Vince and tell him if there’s no f—in’ Corona on this bus tomorrow the f—in’ Clique isn’t f—in’ workin’. We’re sitting down. That mother f—- is in a mansion tonight with his family and we’re thousands of mile away making that mother f—- money.” This is how they’re talking and I’m thinking, geez, these are the kind of guys if I were Vince, I would fire. Or who I would starve.

I went to Tony Garea and I said, “Tony, why do you tolerate that kind of conduct? You’re an agent?” I know what will happen. Tonight he’ll get to the hotel and he’ll call Vince and he’ll give him a report on the show and he’ll put The Clique over because he knows The Clique is over with Vince. And he’ll bury everybody else. If there was a bad match, it won’t be a Clique member’s fault, it will be the other person’s fault. I asked him why he tolerates that and why he doesn’t report it to Vince. And he said, “Oh, I do, I do.” I could tell he didn’t. I just think there were a whole lot of people there who wish he would have. He seemed madder than hell. When we got off the bus that night, he seemed very angry. But they would never follow up on it.

When you stepped back and looked at this, you could see how really bungled up this whole thing is. I mean, it’s such a big mess, a bungled up mess of people afraid to say this and people afraid to do that. So you have to ask yourself how much Vince really knows about what The Clique were like on the road. I have to think Vince knows a lot because Vince is a very hands on person in the way he runs the company. Look at the incident where he flew out to Indianapolis where the Clique had the sit-down strike. He spent three days with them on the road. Given things like that, he had to know how they were handling themselves on the road and treating other people on the road and how that was affecting morale. He refused to deal with it.

One person came up to me as I was leaving Madison Square Garden the night we had the big schmooz about my back and the doctor wouldn’t let me work. One of the guys came up to me and nudged me. He looked up and down the hall to make sure nobody was around and he said, “You’re doing the right thing, kid. Take care of you back. I nudged him and said, “Thanks a lot, that means a lot to me.” He said, “I’ve got to be careful what I say because I don’t want to lose my job and I don’t want heat. I told him I understood he was doing his job and that I appreciated his words. And I walked out of the building. That was someone who had been with Vince for years and years.

A lot of these people have been in the business for 50 years and they understand what’s right and wrong to do. I think they sense – it’s like the people who gave Elvis Presley the drugs. I’m thinking to myself if I was a bodyguard for Elvis Presley, I’d make sure I got his ass into detox because I want him to be around for the next 30 years to make me a living. These people are saying, “Let Vince do and say what he wants. What’s right is right as long as it’s going and let’s collect our paychecks.

Keller: How bad did things get during that three day period when Vince went on the road for the first time perhaps ever?

Douglas: I was home at the time. I think it was when I had the fractured larynx. I was home at the time and my phone started ringing off the hook. Davey Boy and Dustin and Aldo Montoya and six or seven people in total called me from the road. They were saying, “You won’t believe what’s going on.” They told me and I thought it was a rib. I kept waiting for somebody to call me and tell me it was a rib. When I heard that it was and then I saw it reported in the TORCH, I was dumbfounded. I can tell you the morale from the people I was associated with was really, really… well, it was a big heat. I think that incident more than anything else really set the Clique up as being both a powerful organization or a powerful group of guys because everybody looked at them and said, “Geez, if they have the authority to get Vince on the road by threatening to strike, those guys have authority and if I say something about them, I’m gone. So at that point a lot of people sat back and said, “Geez, watch what you say about these five guys.” I think Vince alienated a lot of people like Davey Boy and Dustin because they would call me and say, “I’d never think of striking, and if we did strike Vince would fire us.” That was the consensus from people in the business, but the Clique felt differently. They felt they were so special and so important to the company that Vince would do that. And they think, “If we’re making 300 thousand a year and you’re only making twenty-some thousand in six or seven months, well that’s too bad.”

Keller: What were the main issues the Clique wanted addressed?

Douglas: I think they felt they should control the belts, that nobody else was worthy of having those belts, character-assassination, and I think they did it in a very strong, very sly and cunning working way. Somebody dropped a hint to Vince, “Boy, this guy may not be able to work.” Somebody else would then say, “Gee, I just worked a match with this guy and f—.” Somebody else would say, “Vince I was watching this match and someone said it didn’t look very good.” I think it was that systematic, carefully thought out cunning type of work. Looking back I think they played Vince for a puppet, all of them did. I have to laugh where Vince said someone, maybe he told you, “I know people are going to laugh when I say this, but there is such a thing as friendships in this business,” and then two weeks later Razor and Diesel had both signed contracts to leave. I thought to myself, there is friendship Vince. That’s what you got for pushing these guys and making them wealthy men and kissing their asses when they wanted to go on strike.

If I’m running a company and you tell me you’re going to go on strike, I’m going to call you up and say, “Go ahead and go on strike, and by the way, you’re gone.” Bottom line, you’re the employee, I’m the boss. I think Vince missed the boat in asserting himself. I think it’s a lot of what brought Don Shula down. The hallmark of Shula was always great discipline. I don’t imagine Paul Orndorff, when he was the hottest heel Vince had, ever decided to call Vince and threaten to go on a sit-down strike. Or Hogan when he was at his peak, the biggest phenomenon this business has ever known, I don’t think he ever called Vince and told him he better get on a plane and fly on down or he’d threaten to not work.

Keller: I guess Jim Hellwig is the closest to that happening.

Douglas: Jim was a whole different story. As much as I like Jim, I think Jim really was inept at handling the pressure of the situation he was put in. The pressure hit him so hard and so fast, I don’t think he was ready for it. He got over so big so quickly that I think it just swamped him and he felt overwhelmed. I remember just looking at his face when he walked into the building and he just looked like he was overwhelmed. And really nobody was trying to help him. The one night we were at the bar in some town drinking and Hogan got a call from Hellwig. He went down to his room and he was gone for 20 minutes. When he came back he was laughing. Savage was in the bar along with the rest of us and Hogan said, “Jim’s down there tearing his hotel room apart because he can’t take the pressure.” They thought it was funny. Instead of pulling him aside and saying, “Calm down, relax” – because this is where Hogan could have played mentor – it goes down to what I’ve said several times about these old-timers, it’s time for you to step aside and hand that torch over and teach that next generation how to handle that torch. That would have been an opportune time for him to sit down with him and say, “Gee, Jim, I know it’s a lot of pressure, but you have to handle it.” Maybe he said those types of things, but it seemed to me when he came back to the bar that night he seemed to be making more of a joke about it to everybody in the room including some marks about how Jim couldn’t handle it. He had broken a TV and all that. He thought it was funny.

Getting back to the Clique, they felt they had that kind of authority, and I guess in a way they did because they certainly played Vince for it.

Keller: Which came first – the Clique being against you or you showing frustration with the way your push was going?….


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