Whereas WWF had Miss Elizabeth as the First Lady of Wrestling, Francine was known as the First Lady of ECW. She was the Queen of Extreme and is best known for her time with Shane Douglas and the Triple Threat.
But Francine also had a stint in WWE’s version of ECW in 2006. She recalled why it wasn’t the best experience working there when Francine joined The Ryback Show.
“I never wanted to work there. Everybody thinks that’s the mecca and that’s their goal in the business; it wasn’t my goal. I was very comfortable with working for ECW and I said if we didn’t go out of business, I would have probably died working for them. I would have been there for a long time,” said Francine.
“We did 2005 [ECW One Night Stand]. They had the One Night Stand reunion thing and they called, ‘Do you want to do it?’ ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’ It’s nostalgia, whatever. I thought it was a one-time deal and I go and I do the thing in New York and then, a year later, they tell me, ‘Oh, we’re bringing ECW back and I’m just like, ‘Really?’ Now I’m 34 when I get this call in 2006. I’m 48 now. I’m 34 then and I said to myself, ‘Is this something I want to do?’ because what they’re telling me is probably not going to happen, because I know people who work there. And I know how they get you in and then, they change everything.”
“Then, the other side of me says, ‘This is probably the last chance I’ll get a big run for some money because I’m getting up there in years and the girls don’t last as long as the men do.’ Being a woman, your time is shorter. I’ll give it a try. So, they tell me ‘You’re going to do exactly what you did for Paul [Heyman] and we’re going to put you with somebody. Probably, you’ll be a mouthpiece’ because I can talk and I said, ‘That’s great. I love to be a manager. I’ll bump. Whatever you need.’ And I said, ‘Can I sign a one-year deal’ and they said, ‘No, you need to sign a three-year deal.’ [Tommy] Dreamer was the one that was doing the deals and he said they want to know you’re committed and you’re going to ride it out. ‘Okay, I’ll do it’, but my gut tells me I’m not going to make the three whole years.”
Francine’s gut was correct as was her worry that WWE would sell her one thing and then have her do something completely different. That involved doing bikini contests which is something she didn’t even do in ECW.
“Even before, I said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to last three years.’ I know what people tell me. I’m not homegrown. I don’t look like a Barbie Doll. I mean, I have a different look to me, which is fine. Not everybody has to be the classic blonde, blue-eyed. I don’t think I’m Vince’s cup of tea, but I’ll give it a go. Who knows? No. I get in there and it was exactly the opposite,” stated Francine.
“And I begged and begged and begged to work and Johnny Ace, I mean, I cried in front of him. I begged, ‘Just sit tight. We’ll do something.’ They had me in a bikini, that I never did in my 20s. Mind you, now I’m in my mid-30s and working with a 19-year-old [Kelly Kelly]. It was very uncomfortable. The audience was very young. There are so many children and they had us coming out in these thong bikinis and it was just not right and very uncomfortable. It wasn’t what I signed up for and I’m a team player. I’ll do what you want me to do, but if you ask me what can you do and I tell you I’m willing to work, let me work because at that point I had 13 years’ experience, more than any girl that was in that locker room. I had the most experience although I went in as the most humble person. I would get the girls cookies from the catering, ‘Does anybody need a bottle of water’ because I’m the new kid here. I’m trying to make friends.”
Francine said she didn’t think she was Vince McMahon’s cup of tea and McMahon reportedly knew nothing about her previous work in ECW. She recalled learning that during a conversation she had with McMahon backstage.
“I hear, ‘Francine, can I speak to you for a second’ and I turn around and it’s Vince McMahon. He’s just standing there and I’ve shaken his hand a bunch of times, but I’ve never had a conversation with him because he’s untouchable sometimes,” said Francine. “And so, I go, ‘Sure’ and he goes, ‘Take a walk with me.’ I said, ‘Okay.’
“We start walking around the arena and he says to me, ‘What makes you so special?’ I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re getting at’ and he goes, ‘Why should I put money into you?’ I said, ‘I can work’ and I said, ‘You never watched?’ And he goes, ‘No, I never watched ECW’ and I said, ‘You have our tape library.’ He goes, ‘I don’t watch it.’ I said ‘Okay then’ and I learned later Shane McMahon was the ECW mark. So, I’m like, ‘Where is Shane!?’ I’m taking laps with this man and he’s just like, ‘You’re beautiful, but beautiful girls are a dime a dozen. What can you do for me?’ And I said, ‘Well if you let me work, I can show you what I’m capable of doing. If you don’t want to watch the tapes of my performances’ ? because part of me wanted to say ? ‘Why’d you hire me?’ But I know he’s not the only one in that. There are a bunch of people doing it.”
At this time WWE would do Raw on Mondays and then do both SmackDown and ECW on Tuesdays. All talent had to work both days even though Francine ? being a part of SmackDown ? was never used on Raw on Mondays.
“So, he says, ‘You come to RAW and look for me. No matter where I am, you run up to me and you smack me on the back and you say, ‘Hey Vince, what do you got for me tonight?’ So, I go back and sit down and go, ‘I’m going to look like a moron for doing this, but I’m going to do it because I want to show him I’m a team player,” said Francine.
“Next week is RAW and I see him and he’s standing there with a bunch of suits ? guys I didn’t even know who they are. He’s at the end of the hallway and I ran like a lunatic. I ran down the hall, I smacked him so hard on his back and I said, ‘Hey Vince, what do you got for me tonight?’ And he grabbed me and embraced me and just hugged me and he said, ‘That’s my girl!’ And he let me go and he walked away. I said, ‘Okay, but you didn’t tell me what you got for me tonight. Am I working? Am I not working?’ And I walked over and my name’s on the TV.”
Francine would be paired with a fellow ECW Original in Balls Mahoney but the duo would be short-lived thanks to Mahoney’s personal problems.
“So, we get this little angle where they paired me with Balls Mahoney. Balls was a dear friend of mine from ECW. It was a weird pairing but it worked,” said Francine. “They were the beauty and the beast; they were labeling us. So, fine. Then, Balls takes the drug test and he goes in the cup and they find something and I get a phone call, ‘Oh, bring your bathing suit back’ and there goes my deal and I wanted to kill Balls. I was just like, ‘You could’ve got me out’ and he goes, ‘I’m sorry!’
“There were talks about putting me with Test. They were going to make us this monster heel team and I was all on board for that, never happened. I said, ‘I don’t care who I work with, I just don’t want to do this bikini stuff, because number one, it’s God awful. It’s stupid and I don’t want to say I’m above it, but I know I have talent and I know I can work and I know I can help get somebody over if they need it and this is just something I didn’t sign up for.'”
WWE wasn’t able to find anything else for Francine outside of the occasional bikini contest and she would be released just one month after making her WWE TV debut.
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Ryback Show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.