Shane Douglas and Tom Pritchard Interview
Lets threw together this Fantasy Camp as a way to remember Brian Hildebrand… I know you two were in Smokey Mountain at the same time, and I think of everybody here, you’d be one of the best guys to talk to about Brian’s afinity for the business….
Tom Pritchard: Yeah, I mean, when I first went to Smokey Mountain, he was doing everything with Cornette… not just refereeing, but publicity, whatever it took. A great kid, a class act from day one, a real wrestling FAN. A fan like from the old school days — “wrestling the way it used to be” — like Cornette was, like I was, but obviously not like anybody else. That’s why the place went out of business.
Brian was just a great guy. I know everybody would say that, it’s a cliche, but it’s true. He was a good friend. I never heard a negative word come out of his mouth, even when he was sick. And that’s a cool thing about him. And the cool thing about this (the fantasy camp) is that everybody from the WWF, from WCW, from ECW, it’s like “I don’t give a shit who you work for, this is for Brian Hildebrand — and for Pillman.”
I really enjoy coming and doing this because training the new guys in the WWF and then being able to come here and see guys who really want to give this a try, it’s a cool thing.
A cool thing last year when I came here was being able to see Brian, you know, right before he passed. You know, and I never heard a bad word said ABOUT him, either….
You talked about how now you’re training new guys for the WWF, and I know Brian (Hildebrand) he actually stepped into the ring a few times down in SMW. How would you assess Brian, the wrestler, that none of us got to see?
TP: Brian was actually a tremendous wrestler… he did the Ninja Turtle gimmick, Cornette put him a couple of shows. He could actually wrestle. He could do all the lucha and high flying stuff, and he knew everything about the… you know, his size is the only thing that held him back. It’s a shame, because everybody should get a chance. For instance, a guy like Eddie Guerrero has really made it in this business… he’s a guy like Brian who can just really do everything. But with Brian, it was just his size that held him back. A tremendous athlete, a great wrestler, and he loved this business. Would do anything for this business.
As a trainer, what do you think about what you’re seeing here today? I mean, for some of these guys, it’s just a chance to interact with the stars, but some of ’em are taking it pretty seriously, learning, learning respect….
TP: Well, the guys who are in here, they’re mostly just here to find out what it’s all about. They find out that the simple things we do, the simple things like a headlock, a takeover, they don’t realize how much mechanics go into that. It’s pretty complicated.
Dean Malenko just showed somebody a new way to do a fireman’s carry. And Dean, he just told me that one of his pet peeves is he wants everything in his match to look solid, no holes. That’s why he’s the performer he is today. I think the fans who came here today, they’re not just getting the opportunity to mix with us, but a chance to learn and from a lot of different guys.
We haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff… hitting the ropes? We’re just on the headlock takeover, it looks real easy, but then you figure out it’s not really easy.
How about from the other side, from the campers’ side… they’ve got a lot of different teachers here, and a lot of different teaching styles. For example, what we just saw out of Perry (Saturn) a few minutes ago — when he was obviously holding back a lot — was lots different from what you’re doing… are they responding better or learning more from any particular teaching style?
TP: Here’s the thing, about this business, about life: everybody has a different side, a different style. I’ve seen something different from Malenko, from Guerrero, Saturn, Hugh Morrus… we’ve got five different ways to teach a fireman’s carry, how to teach it as well as how to do the move. Perry’s got a different, aggressive way. I mean, in the warehouse, I get that way, too, with a guy who I knew was under contract. But these guys, it’s their first time ever in a ring. I mean, frustration can set in for us, because we know what we want them to do, but at the same time, you know they’ve never been in a ring before.
Still, you want them to do it right, so it’s good for a guy like Malenko, who can break it down and show them the right way. Again, just a fireman’s carry [gesturing up into the ring where Malenko is working over a camper], I mean that’s one way to do it. I’d probably show ’em a different way, go down on my knees and do it this way. Perry would do it a different way. Eddie would do it a different way. But it’s cool that we can all come together and do something like this, and interact not just with fans but with each other. You know, “Try it this way, and see how you like it… if like it my way, do it that way, if you like it your way, do it your way.”
There’s a hundred ways to hit the ropes, but there’s only one right way? Really? Is there? You know what I mean? We all teach different ways and have different views on things. That’s the cool things about this.
I’d definitely like to get some of your first hand opinions on the up and coming guys in the WWF developmental system… some of the guys now working dark matches, or maybe a guy like Vic Grimes who’s been working ECW?
TP: I don’t know that much about what Grimes has been doing in ECW. Unfortunately, I’ve been travelling a lot on Friday nights, so I haven’t been able to see the ECW show. Or I’ve been working late on Friday nights. I haven’t been able to keep up on what they’re doing. The last ECW thing I saw with Grimes was the bump he and ahhhh…..
TP: Yeah, New Jack, that bump they did.
That was insane…
TP: Yeah, it was insane…. speaking of insane, hey, there’s Shane Douglas.
[Shane Douglas walks into the training area, and begins walking over to join us.]
TP: Shane Douglas would have an entirely different way of doing stuff, too. All of our stuff comes out the same in the end, I guess, but it’s all different translations.
As far as guys getting ready…..
[To Shane, who just arrived at our spot] Hey, Shane, sorry, I just saw you there and wanted to mention you…
[To me, again] But like I was saying, as far as guys getting ready goes….
Shane Douglas: You mean like getting ready for a match?
TP: Yeah, well, like getting ready for TV. Different guys getting ready for TV. I know down in Puerto Rico we’ve got some guys who are…. a guy who I’d REALLY like to see come up is Steve Bradley.
Is that “Super Man” or “Super Bad” or something like that when he did dark matches?
TP: You know, I’m not sure… but a good kid, a good head. The kid’s great, and he’s gonna be a really good talent for us.
SD: How old is he?
TP: Uhh, 24. Damn kid’s been working since he was 15.
SD: Where’s he from?
TP: Uhhhh, Providence…..
SD: Man… Steve Bradley… that sounds familiar. Has he worked on TV under his own name?
TP: Uh, he might have, but if he did, it’s been a while. I mean, this kid can do it all. High flying….
SD: How big is he?
TP: Right now, I think he’s about 240 lbs…. about six foot.
SD: That’s about perfect these days….
TP: Yeah… he can really move around. I hate to see him wasted away for too long. I mean, he loves the business so much, but I’d hate to see him get that sour taste in his mouth….
SD: Why’s he been down in Puerto Rico, then?
TP: Just on developmental… we want to make sure… actually, when we bring him in, we just want to make sure there’s a spot for him, otherwise then he’d really be wasted….
SD: A heel, a baby?
TP: He can do anything, but right now, he’s a heel.
SD: That’s good, cause you guys are desperate for heels right now.
TP: Boy, you are not kidding… the heel side is what we really need. Hopefully….
SD: You know what I think the biggest problem in the business is today? I mean, not just you guys, I see it down south, too… I love to heel, but other people, they’re equating the whole thing… they think “If I tell these people what I did, blah, blah, blah, then they won’t buy my t-shirt and it’s less money in my pocket.” I mean, we turned Sting heel, but he wouldn’t go out there and really heel. If he had done it right, he could have drawn big money. I mean, he’d never been a heel before, and it’s perfect because of the dark character and all. But he was afraid to do it because he thought it’d hurt his merchandise sales.
TP: I think he was a heel early on….
SD: Well, yeah, but I’m talking since he got pushed and stuff. It’s crazy.
TP: The thing is, with the schedules the way they are, if you get hurt and you know you’re out for that period of time, it throws the entire roster off… you NEED everybody.
SD: Plus, I think as I look at your guys’ product, the guys who have the best chance of getting that big spot — like the Rock or Austin spot — are the babyfaces, so they’re thinking of cool sayings or something that resonates with the crowd. So even the heels are more worried about being cool than being heels….
I think Triple H is….
SD: Yeah, Triple H will go for the heel role… that’s why he’s on top right now, too. He’s standing out. HHH does nothing spectacular, but does everything solid and works his ass off. And he HEELS. He heels.
That arrogance comes through, and it resonates. Everybody knows and understands an arrogant son of a bitch, because they all know one.
TP: You can’t help but respect the guy. I mean, you hate him, but you can’t help but respect him at the same time. He doesn’t give a shit about getting the people to cheer him or any of that… but at the same time, look at the Dudleys, they came in as heels, and the people…
SD: Now they’re getting over as babies?
TP: Oh yeah, the reaction…..
SD: Buh Buh and D-Von are both good guys and they work their asses off.
You know, I was talking about this the other day, and I said, “Can you imagine if Paul Heyman hadn’t gotten his head up his ass so far and had been able to keep this crew together?”…. look at the names: Benoit, Saturn, Malenko, Guerrero, Douglas, Taz, the Dudleys, Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, Tracey Smothers, Cactus and Steve Austin were in for a while.
But it came down to a point where he stopped looking at the guys… he got into the promoter double talk: “You can make $70,000 for the pay-per-views,” he’d say. And then when you didn’t get that money, he’d say, “That’s a bonus, that’s at my discretion.” You know, I checked around and I found out that Steve Karel — oh, Steve Karel, what a jackass — he’s putting up money for the pay-per-views. He wouldn’t do it unless Paul agreed to pay him 30% interest over 90 days.
Now you know, that’s about the margin of profit for a wrestling company… by the time the cable companies take their cut and everything, everybody gets their check from that 30%. So now, there’s no more money to give the guys. Paul has locked himself into a corner. He should never have mortgaged his good faith with the boys. I mean, for the first five years, he never bothered me once — much as he is a liar — and my money was always there, my checks always cleared. We’d work in front of 30 people in Jim Thorpe, PA, and my checks would clear.
[Remembering attending two shows in Jim Thorpe] Was that the Flagstaff…
SD: [Chuckling, obviously remembering it was kind of a shit hole] Yeah, that place… totally different from now where they’re working in front of three, four thousand people, and it’s bounce-bounce-bounce.
Alright, so he decides “I’ve gotten all I can out of Shane Douglas, he’s been here for six years.” But how about a guy like Chris Benoit, who decided to go up north to you guys, if he even has an inkling about coming to work for you — split time between your company and Japan, he likes Japan — but he thinks, “Wait, he screwed Shane Douglas, and Shane Douglas was loyal to him for six years”… so Paul, he’s gotta stop mortgaging his organization that way.
I think, my opinion is that he doesn’t give a shit anymore if the place closes or if he’s gotta sell to Vince or go work for Vince or whatever… but I think he’s got a stash of money someplace… Paul used to pull the old gimmick — like we haven’t been around the block — take off his shoe and start scratching his foot and go, “Man, I can’t even afford a new pair of socks.” So I’m like “Come the f*ck on… you can’t afford a new pair of socks? Jesus….” [Now chuckling and getting very sarcastic] “OK here, let me give you some money.”
TP: [Trying to switch gears] But yeah, getting back to the new talent… we’ve got some guys under development contract that I think are gonna be pretty good. They need seasoning, yeah, but they’re gonna be OK….
SD: Sounds like you guys are doing better than we are… I mean, I get down there, work with guys who’ve been in the business 8, 10 years, and something as simple as trading punches. You know, I’m thinking boom-boom, boom-boom, so I throw my punch, and there’s his coming in… so I’m like, “Don’t you understand it’s back and forth?” Even simple chain wrestling stuff, they’ve been in the business 10 years, and they’re like “I’ve never heard of this stuff.”
TP: [Laughing heartily] Oh man! That’s scary stuff, pal…. that’s some of the first things I try to teach them: you know, here it is, here’s how it works. I don’t want to be hurt, and I don’t want to hurt you.
SD: Yeah, it surprised me, a lot of the people who think they’re really good… you know I was talking about this on the plane here, talking about a guy — [turning to me] sorry, I won’t mention his name — he’s really bad. He’s so far out there, though, he says, “I’m about to be part of the best match of the night.” And then it turns out to be a cluster — an abortion.
I sit there and listen to this stuff, and now I’m just trying to fit myself in, sit back, and sit there and watch it. It took me a couple different times in and out of the different places, but now I’ve learned my lesson….
TP: There you go… cause it is a couple times, and then all of sudden, you go, “Ohhhh… wait a minute, if I just kinda chill. Let me just get it when I can get it.” That’s the truth.
SD: It makes life a lot easier, too. I’m such a high strung person that if I start to worry about stuff… I mean, I was riding with somebody — and again, he’ll have to remain nameless — but all it was was bitch-bitch-bitch. I won’t get in the car with him again. You can be miserable and collect your check or be happy and get your paycheck. I prefer happy. Bitching in the car for six hours isn’t changing anything, it’s not making things any better or making the check any different, it’s just making our blood pressure higher. You can drive yourself crazy.
I think that’s the reason I’m having so much more fun this time. It’s no stress, it’s just easy. Before, I was always one of those people, who if I saw something I didn’t… well, I’d be like, “What the f*ck…” with veins sticking out and everything.
TP: That’s good, that’s good… after a while, you just learn, it’s good. Things are always going to be that way, and you can learn how to be laid back and still get done what you need to get done. You can.
With us, the good thing about now as opposed to when you were up here before [referring to Douglas’ 1995 stint in the WWF] is that now… I’m sure you’re always going to have some of that head-butting, but it’s not really as much of that, it’s more laid back like “Well, what do you want to do?” And they get told this-and-this-and-this… and if somebody asks “Why?” the answer is “Well, because that’s the way Vince wants it.” And they go “OK, cool.”
And then these sumbitches will go out and bust their ass… and even guys like Saturn and Malenko, who we’re getting to the point of trying to really figure out what to do with them. They were a little frustrated at first, but then they realize it’s gonna be OK because everybody really is getting along. You know, it’s scary almost, because you know once it’s calm, there’s gotta be some ripples in the water somewhere… but there haven’t been any!
SD: Yeah, things are like that in WCW right now… things are really smooth, and everybody’s kind of feeling things out. Vince [Russo] is feeling things out, too, trying to feel out who’s gonna be his A-team. Right now, everybody’s kind of getting an opportunity, there is no A-team or B-team, so everybody’s busting ass and working hard… but everybody’s getting along. So I’m thinking, “Hmmm, where’s the storm coming from?”….
TP: Well, with us, doing what I’m doing, I’ve been getting a bit more of a chance to see how he [Vince McMahon] thinks and operates. He really does watch and really does take notice and will give somebody an opportunity if he can deliver. That Benoit — well, he was impressive always — but that sumbitch went out there and BAM-BAM-BAM, and Vince was just like “Man, this is the guy!”.
Same way with Malenko, same way with Saturn and Guerrero. It’s just the way they came in: it’s like “OK, let’s see what they do.” And these guys did it. They showed ’em.
SD: In WCW, I sat down with Vince [Russo] and… on TV that last couple weeks, we’ve been doing things that are very uncharacteristic of the character. And I was OK with that, but I wanted to just have an idea of where we were going with the character. I’ll do whatever and help you get there, but I gotta know where we’re going, what road we’re taking. So we sat down, and he explained it, and now I know what we’re doing and I can throw myself headlong into it…
But now I’m sitting back listening to them talk about some plans… just the fact that they brought me back the way they did… I mean when I was working the first time, I had to fight with them to call me “The Franchise.” I own the name and everything, but they’d tell me “Oh, we don’t know” or whatever. This time, I come in, and BOOM, there it is.
Even my song, the “Perfect Strangers,” last time I was here, I was like “Can we just do an updated version of it, change it around a bit?” but it was like pulling teeth. Seven months they couldn’t get it done. This time, first week I’m here, and I haven’t even asked about it, and I’m in the car, and I get a call on the cell phone, and it’s Jimmy Hart. He asks me what album that song is on because they’re in the studio and want to cut it this week. Jesus, last time it was seven months and this time, I didn’t even ask for it…. and man, it sounds kick ass, changed it around just enough to avoid copyright infringement, but it sounds great.
You know what else they told me this time? They sent me out there and told me to cuss all I want… the first time I was there, the ringpost mic caught me saying “son of a bitch” or something like that. I don’t even know if you could really hear it on TV, but they could hear it on headset, and they told me “You can’t say that, you’ve got a ton of heat for that.” Now they’re TELLING me to do it.
They did have a meeting a couple weeks ago, and they told everybody not to cuss, because for a while it was getting out of hand and guys were doing it just to see what they could get away with. It was getting gratuitous, so they clamped back down. But they pulled me aside and told me because of my character, you know without the f-word and within reason, that I could go ahead and do it every time I cut a promo. You know, that’s kind of the character: he’s an intelligent guy, but he’s gotta cuss because he’s so pissed off at the world.
So the way things are going for you this time, you’re pretty……
SD: You know, I was doing an interview somewhere, and they said I should be working for the world belt…. but they just don’t realize that I’ve signed a three year contract, a three year deal, and I have no interest in just shooting up like that and then shooting right back down, and then have nothing to do for three years.
I’m much more interesting in working my way up the ladder, doing an angle here, an angle there, the way I am now. I wanted the Flair angle, I guess, cuz that’s what made the most sense, but unfortunately, his shoulder’s out. So the stuff they’re doing with David, it’s kind of…. well, when Flair’s back in September, we’ve got some pretty well-laid out plans that I think are going to make a lot of sense to the fans and build a super amount of heat between now and then. But yeah, my idea is I’d definitely rather do it right than do it half-assed just to get it in…
I mean, how good does it look if we go out there and he can’t even throw a punch and is just going through the motions…. I tell you what though, at that last pay-per-view he chopped me harder even than Benoit did. Man, I didn’t want him to think I was backing off, but I think he stopped my heart twice.
And I gotta give him credit, for all the stuff I’ve railed him for for years, he’s still got incredible heart in that ring. It’s unreal. Even Hogan, he’s been working hard in there, Terry has. I think he realizes that the last image is the image you leave, and he’s gonna give ’em a hell of an image.
Do you think Kidman’s got anything to do with that… I mean, he’s more talented opposition than Hogan’s had in a while, which helps. Plus Hogan might just not want to get shown up by Kidman, out of pride or….
SD: Absolutely, a big part of it is that Billy can go so well. Exactly, it’s somebody to push him.
TP: Yeah, somebody to push his ass, light a fire under him.
SD: In talking to Hogan — and this time, I’m getting along with him a lot better than in the past — so this time I was talking to him and he was telling me he’s been trying hard to cut down on the “brother, brother” bit in his promos. He recognizes that. And one week, he was keeping it under control, but there was one guy at ringside really heckling him, got under his skin, and he slipped back into character for a second.
So I mean, just by that, I know that he listens, that he has to be cogniscent of the criticisms. And when you hear that stuff, it does light a fire under your ass a bit. You’ve made a lot of money and you want to justify it a bit. So yeah, Billy can go and that helps, but Hogan’s picking up his slack, too. Flair’s picking up his, everybody…. Savage….
Savage, what’s the deal with that? We did that gimmick, had a battle royal, he came in for one week, threw four guys out, and that was it. Nobody saw him again. That’s a hell of a deal: come in, throw four guys out…
Actually, Hogan came up to me after that, pulled me aside and told me I almost made his weekend. I asked why, and he said the rumor around Florida is that Savage has got hair plugs. In that battle royal, I was supposed to turn Savage around, so I reached for the back of his head, and he thought I was gonna pull his hat off. Hogan said he thought for sure I was gonna expose it. Thank god I didn’t, I’d probably be fired, you know….
TP: That’s cool, especially with Hogan, cuz he’s probably still the most recognizable man in the business. If he wants to turn it up, that’s cool…
SD: Exactly….the thing is, even for you guys up there, it’s best for us to get our company back up and solid. I mean, Vince doesn’t have any opposition, and who knows? But we’re bringing it back up… it’s gonna take a while, and some of the people in the dressing room are paranoid. It’s like “Oh, did you see the numbers, we dropped .4 last week?” but they don’t realize that even when you guys came up from 2 to 1, it wasn’t a steady rise every week. It was up and down, and up and down, but you look at the long-term trends. You look at it in three months, in six month…. and if in six months, we’re still doing 3.1, then we’ve got a problem.
I just don’t think that’s going to be the case. We’re on the right track. The only criticism I have of Vince’s work is that he’s trying to do too much….
TP: Yeah, that could just be trying to cram too much in, there’s too much to follow, and you don’t remember what happened two segments ago because all of a sudden….
SD: Well, I had to remind him, the last time they saw me, the New Blood kinda turned on me after I was given the book and f*cked up royally, the Millionaires jobbed us all out, so they were pissed at me. So then this week, they all helped me trying to get the hardcore title off of Terry Funk. I think it was Chris Candido who asked why they were helping me this week when they walked out on me last week.
We just have to make logical connections of that sort. None of this now-I-hate-you-but-next-week-I’m-helping-you stuff. Explain it somehow.
That’s a thing…. you know for seven years I’ve talked about Flair, but then when we’re finally gonna do the match, I didn’t do one promo about Flair going into that match. I mean, one time, they told us they were gonna have nine minutes for this segment, but Ric was gonna carry it. I got like 30 seconds. I asked for two mintues, and he said, “Shane, you cut a promo last week.” And I had to tell him that was a vignette, that was a pre-tape, and I didn’t mention Flair at all, so it wasn’t really a promo. So I said to Vince, “I’ve taking about this guy for seven years, calling him a dick, shooting on him, and now going into the match, I haven’t said one word.” That’s when he explained to me about Ric taking time off, so he didn’t want to go full bore into the angle and then just drop it. I still think it’s crazy… if you’re gonna do the match up, then at least give ’em….
I mean, I watch TV, and they give the mic to some guy who can’t talk very well and they give him two minutes just to get his match started. That two minutes could have been used to help build the semi-main event of the PPV. They gave Flair a five minute promo about it, and it was stellar — the whole “those lights, those are stars shining down on us,” off the cuff, just wonderful shit — and me, nothing in response.
Then one time we went out, and Russo kept the mic most of the time… I said, “I’m not saying you shouldn’t have it ever, but for god’s sakes, I don’t need somebody to talk for me.” I mean, that’s like 50% of my gimmick. I’m like Hunter in the same vein that I don’t do anything spectacular. I can’t out-fly Sabu or out-high-spot Rey Misterio, but I can tell a hell of a storyline. If you let me talk my shit, I can get heat. If you don’t let me talk my shit, then I’m just another guy getting bossed around. You gotta give me a chance to get the people pissed off at me.
I mean, the ECW marks, they understand the heat with Flair because they heard it for seven years. But that’s like maybe 15-20 percent of our audience, if that. The other bunch of marks, they think something like “I thought Sting was the Franchise, so why’s he pissed at Flair?” So they’re spending TV time on guys who are greener than hell, instead of spending a segment on me. I’ll reproduce the promos from ECW… wear some different clothes, look younger, call Flair a dick, challenge him to a shoot, talk about his family, all that kind of stuff. People would look at that stuff and think, “What an asshole.”
I even forgot some of the stuff I did. Bob Ryder was talking to me about it asking if I remember this and that. And eventually, I did remember it, and it was some pretty heavy shit, some pretty heavy stuff in there.
Eric came to me and told me some of the boys started ribbing Flair telling him he should be pissed about that, and so we started to get a little nervous and he said he didn’t really want to go in that vein, go too far. So I had to tell him, “Ric, when I go through that curtain, I’m the Franchise, but back here, you can say whatever you want about me and I don’t give a shit.” I mean, we’re out there and we’re the Nature Boy and the Franchise, and then when we’re back here, we’re Ric Fliehr and Troy Martin, and I know how to separate the two. But part of this business is trying to stir it up to the point where they don’t.
Shane Douglas: The one thing I’ll give Vince [Russo] credit for, after where’s he’s been and after what he did with you guys he got a pretty big head, but he still sat me down and said, “I want you to be my wrestling brain.” I asked him why, and he told me he knows how to write a storyline, but he doesn’t know what a dropkick comes before this move, or why you pause to do something before you make a cover. He’s never been in the ring, so he doesn’t understand these things.
Paul [Heyman] would never that He’d make the same mistakes, but he’d never admit to them. Vince is man enough to admit them. So I’ve been sitting there talking with him the past couple weeks, going over the stuff he’s been doing, the directions he’s been going… and good directions, but some of those directions… like the stuff he’s doing with the New Blood… well, I explained it to him, and he said he understood, and right away off of that he said we’re going to go through to August and call it “New Blood Rising” as the summer wears on. So instead of us each having an individual agenda, we’ll start to come together and it’ll turn out all this discombobulation in the New Blood was part of a ruse to work the Millionaires into believing that they have us.
I told him that’s a good way to go, but if you’re gonna do it, you have to explain it to the marks. If you don’t, they’ll never buy it.
Tom Pritchard: You know, another thing is that Vince, and I’m talking Russo now, here… he shouldn’t be on TV all the time. It’s….
SD: [jumping in] Yeah, but you know one time he said to me, “I’m the guy who put Vince McMahon in the ring, and then Vince got really saturated with it.” But he also says he knows why, because now that he’s done it, he thinks it’s really fun out there. But he did, he asked me to let him know if I see him doing it too much.
So just last night, we were doing this one vignette with a big nose in a coffin, and Vince was setting it up and he was like, “OK, so start with the camera on me, then cut to this, then there, then bring it back to me…” you know? So I had to tell him, “Do you hear yourself? Me, me me?” But he listened because he’s been in like five segments on every Nitro, and last night he put himself in — what? — one or two.
I told him, “I’m not going to steer you wrong cause I’m in this ship for three years.” I want this baby to go up. I mean, my paycheck doesn’t get any better or worse if the ratings go up, but I’d rather we close the gap a little bit, instead of the show being so crappy.
I’m actually glad I was gone those three months, because it was damned embarrasing. I mean, “the Dog”?!? Wow! I was sitting back watching that and I was like, “Well things have been set back 20 years just right there.” The barking, the pissing on the ropes… Wow.
And they tell me now that Kevin Sullivan had poor Al Greene believing that he was gonna get a seven figure contract off that gimmick, that it’d be big money. And I think Kevin probably even believed that. The whole time they thought they were screwing me, I thought Vince or Eric — I didn’t know both of ’em, but I thought one of ’em — they were being paid too much money to sit at home, and I knew Kevin wasn’t going to survive. I’ve known Kevin for 15, 17 years, and the whole time, he’s never impressed me as a wrestler, as a booker. I mean, when he first came to us after me and Johnny [Ace] were put together as the Dudes, he told us, [Douglas adopts phony Boston accent] “You guys should do nothing but monkeyflips and armdrags.” I was like, [in a sarcastic tone] “Monkeyflips and armdrags? Wow, that’s really get me over big.” So yeah, I knew the Sullivan thing was gonna change.
I had a chance to go home, let the arm heal. I wasn’t part of any of the shitty storylines. I would talk to some of the guys, and they were just absolutely miserable. They’d get to TV and just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, BANG, it would get worse and worse and worse. Then when you start hearing all the negatory things… I mean, even Goldberg, you heard the negatory things, and you knew that house of cards wouldn’t stand much longer.
The sad part of it was, is the damage it does to the boys in general, because when that company got down to a 1.9, and “Walker, Texas Ranger” was beating us, I see Turner selling the place. If they had never been to the top of the mountain, it’d be one thing to take those losses. But once you’ve been number one, truckloads of money were pouring in, and all of a sudden you’re losing lots more money and ratings are going the wrong way and reruns of b-grade shows are beating you… I mean, if it’s Monday night and you’re a wrestling fan, you should be watching Nitro when it’s unopposed for that hour. And if you’re not, it must be some pretty damned bad wrestling. So I just knew that whole thing would turnaround.
But what I was worried about is if this place folds, then what does Vince [McMahon] do? When this guy’s contract’s up, or this guy’s contract? “I’ll give you $75,000, but don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.” C’mon… it’s like, I was talking earlier to the mother of the one girl we’re training here today, and she said, “With all the money Vince McMahon makes, he should be paying for health insurance for the guys.”
SD: You just think about all the money this business is generating, and we’re all fearful of breaking a leg, for chrissakes. You break a leg, you worry about losing your job. I mean, when I was out for a while, there was a clause in my contract — it’s not there anymore! — but there was a clause that said if I was injured for 30 days, they could fire me. So they enacted that clause.
But they don’t understand the contract and tort law, that even if they have it in everybody’s contract, that actually makes it WORSE for them. Because then, how do you get away with saying, “Well Sting’s hurt,” but they kept him on. Goldberg is out for six months, but they keep him on… you can NOT selectively enforce contracts. And that’s part of the old school of wrestling that’s going to be gone as it becomes more and more of a multi-billion dollar business. More and more business acumen is going to creep in.
You’re gonna have a hard time in front of a jury saying, “Well, this guy was hurt, he had bone chips”… and you get a doctor up there and ask him how long somebody should be out of the ring if they have bone chips removed, and when it was me, he told me two weeks, just long enough for the incision to heel. Because you’re not dealing with any of the structures. Sting, he took three-and-a-half, four months, just because he didn’t want to be part of the product at that point. So you have a hell of a time explaining that… and they KNEW something was going on at the time, because we’re talking about people who deal with other sports teams. They deal with baseball, football… this isn’t anything new to them. A rich athlete gets hurt, and he probably won’t be in a hurry to come back to the losing team. These aren’t dumb shits we’re talking about, they knew that stuff was going on. They just opened themselves up to so many problems just by very bad enforcement of law.
I’m just so thankful that the whole thing ended when it did, that we’re getting it turned around when we did. I think if it had gone any longer than it did, Turner was getting quite liable to sell. And right now, they’ve got a new commitment to it.
It’s the little things our show can’t compete with ours, because we don’t have the capacity to do it. I was reading in a trade magazine one time that when companies are recruiting new computer graphics people and products, the first place those people go is to Vince McMahon because they knew he’ll take it. That’s why your product looks so f*cking slick constantly. But WCW looked at it the other way, they were making boatloads of money when they were number one, so they figured, “We don’t have to spend any more, because we’re still number one.”
For instance, when Austin comes out for you guys, you hear the glass break, you hear the [humming Austin’s theme] “DA-da da-daa” coming through your TV, it grabs you by the balls. Our music hits — and we’ve finally got some good music that kicks ass now — but I hear the playback on TV, and you can only hear it on the house mics coming through the system, because we didn’t have the capacity to do that. Little things like that… but I guess they just spent $9 million on a new truck that’s going to be ready in 120 days that will upgrade all of that.
The fact that they’re investing that kind of money in us when we’re down shows there is a commitment. It also mean that if things are still down in 12 months, we may all be in big trouble.
Kind of a giving you guys enough rope to hang yourselves sort of a thing?
SD: Yeah… man, it could be…. [turning to Tom and laughing] hey, Tom, could you or Bruce talk to Vince for me?
TP: Heh heh… well, that’s the thing, with TBS, man, I was talking to somebody who said, if wrestling’s down there, they’ll send guys to the Braves game, Hawks game, send the production crew, whatever, and treat ’em like they’re third stringers for Turner. Because that’s how they view wrestling, whereas with Vince [McMahon] all he does is the wrestling…
SD: Another thing that amazes me is how hot the wrestling books are. Now I think I’ve got a pretty interesting story to tell, and with Time Warner, it’s the biggest publishing conglomerate in the history of mankind. If I want to write a book, it should be a a simple matter of making a call and saying, “Hey Tom in publishing, I’ve got a guy here who wants to write a book” and making it happen.
Meanwhile, it’s like quatuum physics to these guys, and you guys up there have got book after book coming out.
Even the Fabulous Moolah has got a book coming out…..
SD: Right… and you know, it’ll sell, too.
But you know, they told me they want to get exposure for Shane Douglas, get fans to know who the Franchise is. They’re wracking their brains like this is hard. Why don’t they just call Larry King, get me on there for a segment. Or Billy Bob’s Bug Theater or whatever that is, anything…. bounce us back and forth. I can bounce back and forth, talk about whatever, current events, whatever. But that’s like an afterthought to them, it’s the farthest thing from their minds.
I will say this, there’s new people come in, talking about shaking the department up from head-to-toe, do stuff like Vince [McMahon] does like interviewing us about what our likes and dislikes are, a new creative services department.
There are so many things that need to be fixed, and I hope they keep tackling it one at a time and not gobble it up all at one time, because it’s so systemic. There’s so many problems… the sound, the lights…
Like the other day, for instance: classic WCW f*ck up. I’m in the back, I interfere in one of the matches, and then we’re in the back, it’s a big fight, here comes Dallas Page, it’s a big spot, we get tossed around. Cut to the next segment, there we are pushing the coffin down the hallway, and there I am fresh, sunglasses, hair combed nice, like nothing ever happened. I’m getting beat up just two seconds ago, not even a cut to a commercial or anything. Didn’t somebody look at the thing and say “Shane’s getting beat up here, we ought to spread this out.” It’s horrifying. That sort of thing just should never happen. I can’t imagine that thing EVER happening on your show.
TP: Exactly. That’s the kind of thing where Vince really does pay attention to detail. And again, Russo did a lot, I’m sure he did. But McMahon also curtailed Russo in a lot of ways. That’s why he did LiveWire like once and then [motions like pulling a plug]. I’m not saying Vince knows what’s right all the time, but it’s just more times than not.
And the thing is, maybe Russo didn’t catch that. He needs guys who can catch that stuff. The production guys, the Kevin Dunns, or whoever it is.
SD: There was something grotesque a couple of weeks ago, too… I can’t… oh, I remember what it was. Hogan was in the ring and had the crowd on their feet — and it’s been a long time since we’ve had a full house and even longer since we’ve had a crowd on their feet — but on the sheet, on the itinerary, that was the end of the segment… and now we’ve got to cut to… whatever, Tom Pritchard walking down the hall in the back.
Now, to me, if you get that crowd of people all fired up and chanting “Hogan Hogan,” then at least stay with the live shot for seven f*cking seconds longer. Make the next 30 second thing 23 seconds instead. It’s not that big a deal. I told Vince, have guys who understand that — whether its the boys or the agents or whatever — have them sit down with a tape of our show with the production crew and have them explain. “Stop right here! See that guy climbing the top rope?” Stuff like that.
I can’t even count how many times since I’ve been here that somebody goes to the top rope, and they cut to the crowd. Then when we cut back to the ring, there’s no action. We’re like “God!”.
TP: And that’s where the details come in… the agents, they have to know every move so that they don’t miss it. We sit there at Gorilla [the “Gorilla Position” right behind the entrance curtain] and we make sure we tell ’em what’s happening next…
SD: Terry [Taylor], he’s getting on that. He’s come to me a couple of times and told me just to give him a little more notice.
One of my things I’m a stickler on is position and things, especially for TV. I know how crictical it is, and with our crew, I know how easy it is to miss stuff unless you put a big sticker out there that says, “Put a Camera Here!”… you know?
TP: Yeah, you gotta have somebody in the headset saying, “Don’t miss it, it’s coming next, so don’t you miss it.”
SD: Like I said, there’s a lot of things we gotta work on, a lot of things we gotta tackle. We have to fix these things first before we even think about moving on to something else. There was something with the lights…..
Oh, I know… if I’m on your show, I come out to the ring, and the lights are going, it’s like a live video game. But then even as the match is going, the lights are still going. Like the big TitanTron, the lights are still going. Instead of just a wall, the lights are still going. So I said to Vince, “Why don’t we do that?” and now we’re trying, we’ve got the lights on the ceiling moving back and forth. We just have to start watching — if we want to compete with you guys — we just have to pay attention.
It’s like I was on the plane with some of the crew coming here… they were flying home to Kentucky, I guess, going home to spend their time fishing, this, and that, whatever. So I said to one of them, “What’s the WWF been up to lately?” And he just goes, “I don’t know, I work Mondays and Thursdays. We don’t watch.” So I was like, “PLEASE watch. That’s how our show should look.”
Part of my job in ECW was to sit with Paul, and tell Paul, “You know, that angle sucks, we should do a dropkick from this angle, because it’d show more height” or whatever. Sometimes he’d say, yeah, but there’s a drop out of the tape on that angle, and that’s a logical reason, but still…
That’d just be a pretty good way of doing things: sit down, watch a tape of our show, then watch a tape of your show. I’d be telling ’em where you couldn’t hear my music, but on your show, it’s [humming Austin’s theme again] “DA-da da-daa”. Stuff like that.
TP: Again, I think it’s about establishing the segments. You cram too much into the segments, you don’t remember what happened last segment, you don’t pay attention to this segment, and you get to the last segment, and you not really sure what happened the whole show. Now, I don’t get to watch your show very often, with travelling and all, but I did get to see the last half hour, with the bloodbath with Nash….
SD: Oh, did you see that? It missed him…..
TP: Yeah, and he tried to back up into it….
SD: God, how do you screw that up?!?
TP: It’s little things like that. There’s GOTTA be a mark on the floor. There’s gotta be SOMETHING.
SD: A square of tape. Or a piece of tape here, and a piece of tape there and you have to line yourself up exactly with both pieces.
Did you hear about Buff with the crewmember? Buff punching the crew member?
TP: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah….
SD: A lot of the crew guys get along well with the wrestlers, but a lot of them will walk right by, won’t even talk to them. It’s almost like two separate classes of people. There’s just that separation.
Like, I know Jackie Crockett is cool. If I need a particular handheld shot or something like that, I know I can go to him. But I’ve gone to other people, I’ve gone to the pyro guy and asked him if we could get something done, cause I wanted to do it right, cause if I’m not in the right place, they won’t send it cause I’m standing right on top of the f*cking thing. And for me, in the dark, without my glasses, it’s really hard for me to see a piece of black tape on a black carpet or on something painted black or dark. So I asked if we could use white, or something. And they told me no, because it’d show up on TV. So I asked if they would just, right before I come out, run out and put a piece of white tape there. “Let’s just get it right,” I said. It’s like pulling teeth.
It’s dark out there… I mean, I’ve almost walked off the edge of the stage before. I get out there, and I get my focus, and I’m like “Whoa!”.
How about… did you hear about Arquette? Aw, jesus, this was hilarious…. this was a couple weeks back. We were coming back from the ring, getting beat up on the stage. And all of a sudden behind me, I hear this WHAM, like the backdrop is falling or something. Turns out the stage was gimmicked, and it was supposed to be for a big spot at the end of the show. But Arquette, nobody told him, and he went right through it.
TP: See that’s exactly what I’m talking about… little things, man.
SD: Yeah… hey, it was good to see you, Tom. I’m gonna head out of here…
TP: Yeah, good to see you, too.
Yeah, thanks for your time, Shane….
[Handshakes all around as Shane leaves.]
TP: Sorry ’bout that man… it’s just I saw Shane, and it’s been a long time, so it was cool to catch up.
Oh, don’t worry about it. It was interesting even just to be mostly a fly on the wall there. So you and Shane seemed to share a lot of the same thoughts on how things are going for your respective companies?
TP: Well, yeah, I think Shane has a lot of ideas, most of ’em good, and he’s got a good head for this… I don’t totally agree with him that WCW TV is really making any great strides, I mean…
I look at it this way: if I go see a bad movie, I’m not gonna feel like I got my money’s worth. It doesn’t matter if it’s better than another even worse movie I’ve seen, it’s still a bad movie, and that’s not fun to watch. That’s WCW right now: it’s getting a little better, but it’s still pretty bad.
Do you think that’s really because of the “little things,” the production things like you Shane talked about?
TP: Definitely, that’s a part of it. Other little things, too, like the fact that there’s just too much Russo on their show, and it’s totally unwarranted. Or their roster and who they’re choosing to use on TV…
Well, it does seem like they’re trying to make stars out of a lot of guys who haven’t been in that spot before, but the only one who’s really caught on is Jeff Jarrett. That was probably because of where he came from, the fact that he jumped ship and made a splash that way… do you think they’re just experiencing the limitations of promoting from within?
TP: I’m not sure I know what you mean….
Well, I’ve always kind of thought that the mere act of jumping ship MAKES you a bigger star, because it puts you in the news, makes people take notice of your first acts with your new company. That’s why Jeff Jarrett made a big splash for WCW more than anything, I think…. I also look at guys like Booker T and D’Lo Brown as guys who have seemingly reached their peaks with their current companies; both those guys have huge talents but have sort of hit the wall.
TP: Yeah, I see what you mean, but I think I kind of disagree, too. I mean, with D’Lo, trust me, we’ve got some ideas for him, and I think he’ll do best to stay with us and ride it out. He’ll be a bigger star with us than he’d ever be down south.
But I mean, with Jarrett, I don’t know that WCW really did anything with him, made him into any more of a star. They got like our second best heel, a guy who was way over with our audience. They didn’t have to do anything with him. It’s just that our second best guy was that much better than anyone else they had, and they used him. You can go back even to Nash and Hall, and it’s the same thing. They may have been higher on the card or been more important to the company after they left us, but they were already big stars thanks to us.
How about the talent moves that go the other way, like the Radicals coming up earlier this year? Are those guys really in much better spots than they were six months ago? I mean, Benoit’s obviously going to be good wherever he goes, and Eddie’s starting to catch on, but how about Malen…..
TP: It’s like I was saying earlier, there is a certain amount of frustration there, but there’s also an effort in place to get all those guys to where they belong. I know… I’m pretty sure you can look for a different direction for Dean Malenko in the next few weeks, for instance. We’re going to let his real personality shine through, and I think you’ll see a witty and intelligent Dean Malenko soon.
OK… that’s cool, but another facet of those guys’ talents is that gimmick or no, they can just go [in the ring]. What do you think about Vince Russo’s recent public statement about how the WWF’s move towards more in-ring wrestling is a sign that Vince McMahon is out of ideas and his show is getting passe and boring?
TP: [Laughing] Oh, god…. you know, I totally disagree with that. We’re pretty well in tune with what the fans want, what they’re responding to. Right now, I think this is a great direction for us to be going, especially since it plays to the strengths of so many guys on our roster. If we keep giving the fans what they want, I can’t see how we’re out of good ideas.
In terms of staying on top with the fans, did you ever think you’d see the day when either company would rattle off 83 straight Monday night ratings wins again… I mean, did you realize that sometime in the next two months, you guys will be beating Nitro’s streak?
TP: Come again?
Back when you guys were struggling, Nitro beat you 82 weeks in a row….
TP: Oh yeah, but now….
Yeah, now you’re coming up on doing the same thing back at them. You’ll beat that streak, I think in July… did you even think it could swing so decisively, and do you see it continuing on much further before they close the gap?
TP: Well, I know I hadn’t really been thinking in terms of a streak like that, but I guess we always knew we could turn it around. Since we really got back on top a couple years ago, we’ve always put our best effort out and wanted to win. The fact that we’ve done it for however many weeks in a row just goes back to us being able to deliver something the fans want. And with things the way they’re going, I don’t really see any reason to think our run will come to an end. Our streak could end at some point in the future — probably way, way down the line — but I don’t see us ever getting away from giving the fans a good show and losing that competitive edge. We’ll be running strong for a long time to come.
Alright, Doctor Tom… I know it’s getting on dinner time, and I do apologize for taking up so much of your time….
TP: [Chuckling] Well, that wasn’t all you, you know!
Yeah, but in any case, thanks a lot for your time, and I’m sure our readers appreciate it as well.
TP: OK… see you later….