INTERACTIVE WRESTLING RADIO INTERVIEW - Tony Schiavone

Show: Interactive Wrestling Radio
Guest: Tony Schiavone
Date: 08/28/19
Your Host: James Walsh

Being totally honest with you all, this week's guest is special to me. When I started doing interviews in 2002, I made up a list of 10 people I really wanted to have on because I knew if I did, I'd hit a home run with them and deliver great content. Of that list, I had on now 8 of the 10 I sought out to get with the only exceptions being "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Miss Elizabeth. This week, the 8th of that list of 10 and the final one that is possible to get joins us. He's all over the headlines right now. And, he's in the Epicenter! It is legendary former WWE, WCW, and present MLW and AEW announcer Tony Schiavone!

In this incredible interview, the home run I knew it would be, Tony talks about his memories of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan including a hysterical story of the "Brain" being the "Brain" at a convenience store, his critics over the "butts in seats" and "greatest night in the history of our sport" lines, falling in love with wrestling again thanks to MLW, signing with AEW and working with Cody Rhodes, and so much more. This one just hits the nail right on the head. No ground rule doubles here, home runs. Possibly, a grand slam? Our foreign readers have no idea of the sports terms I'm using at all right now, do they?

 

 

TONY SCHIAVONE:

 

On coming back to wrestling to call MLW:
"I'll tell you what got me back in. I'm really big, and I discovered this after WCW closed, I'm really big now on working for and with people that are good people. Court Bauer is a good person. Got to talking to Court, did some things for him before he got the beIN Sports deal. It was a little bit of money, of course. Every bit helps when you're trying to cull a bunch of jobs together like I was doing. But, I got a real good feeling from the guys, like Tom Lawlor, Sami Callihan who was working with us at that time, Darby Allin was working for us back when I first started with MLW... I got a good feeling from them about their respect for the business and their love of my work. I got to thinking, if I'm a big enough name, and I never, James, I never was like that. But, if they feel that I'm a big enough name and they want me to try to help their career, I'm going to do it! I'm going to try and get these kids over and see if I can make their matches exciting. It all kind of fell together. It all kind of came together when Court Bauer contacted me. But, again, at my age, James, you can't really put a price on happiness. And, James, you probably know this as much as anybody else. If you work for good people and you're happy with your job, that is worth a lot of money in and of itself."

On his many non-wrestling gigs at the moment:
"I'm happy with the radio station that I'm working with. I'm happy with the Georgia Bulldogs, I'm happy with the Atlanta Braves... They're all great people to work for. That is where I am in my life right now."

On the change of style from wrestling then versus what is on MLW now:
"When I left Nitro in March of 2001, I really went cold turkey. I didn't watch anything. Until I started the podcast with Conrad in 2017... So, from 2001 until the Royal Rumble of 2017, I didn't watch any wrestling at all. So, I didn't know about the style that was going on. But, it was pretty apparent that it had changed a great deal. It was pretty apparent it was more high spot based, whatever you want to call it. Court and I talked about this. I said, "Court, the business may have passed me by. I don't know if I'm going to be any good for you." He said, "No, you're doing great!" So, Rich Bocchini started doing play by play and I started doing the color commentary. So, I think it worked. I think what we're seeing now is a combination of what we (WCW) did with the Cruiserweight Division and what they used to do in ECW. I think the ECW stuff, the crazy stuff, jumping out of the ring on top of chairs... That has kind of stood the test of time! I've watched old ECW matches with Conrad and that is kind of more where we're headed right now."

On his plans for AEW ALl Out this weekend:
"We've got a weekend in Chicago... Starcast III. Unfortunately, even though I have signed with AEW, I won't be at All Out because I have a Georgia football game on Saturday. But, I will be at Starcast today, tomorrow, and Friday."

On if he ever thought he'd be back with a wrestling brand on TNT:
"No, and I'll tell you why. I had a very bad feeling about the Turner people when I left. The good news is, the Turner people that I didn't have a good feeling towards are no longer around - I'm talking about the people that ran WCW, basically. I never thought I would do it again. I never thought wrestling would be back on TNT again! Because, they were very against wrestling. I guess under Brad Siegel and James Kelner. I don't know the history. They didn't want wrestling on their networks anymore. When I walked away from Panama City that night, I thought I was done with the wrestling business. I'm like that, James. I like to move on with my life. People that I've worked with in the past... I'm not good at staying in touch with people. That is my fault. Thank goodness for guys like Arn Anderson and Jim Ross... Guys that are my friends in the business."

On being pulled back in to wrestling:
"I was talking to Gary Jester who is a promoter with Ring of Honor. He used to be with us. I said, "Isn't this the craziest business." He said, "Yes, it is the greatest business." You know, it is like, you get involved in it, and even though the business may crap on you, you still come back to it once you're in it. It is like the flu!"

On what his role is in AEW:
"Ok, well, I do know I'm a producer. I'm going to be working on a lot of the videos you see in the shows. I'm going to be working behind the scenes when the live shows are going, the TNT shows. I've met with Tony Khan. I've met with, obviously, Cody. We do some production here in Atlanta... Cody and I actually live pretty close to each other. So, when I talked to Tony Khan, the idea was I would do Control Centers and on camera stuff but I would not be on the broadcast team because his broadcast team was in place."

On rumors he was to join the TNT broadcast team:
"I'm not looking to shoe-horn anyone out of the broadcast team - I'm not! Excalibur is a great guy. I know that Alex Marvez, gosh, is a very talented guy. But, I know that Jim Ross has always wanted me with him. I know that - He's pushed for that. So, I told Tony, "I really want to work for you. But, I don't want to be the guy who is seen as trying to shoe-horn his way into the broadcast team." I don't know what has happened since Tony and I have talked last. I just know I'm going to be part of the show in some capacity. I didn't expect and I don't expect right now to be a part of the broadcast team. There's not been any official announcement that has been made about that. But, I'm just going to have my hand in the broadcasts in some way."

On his friendship with the Rhodes family:
"Cody's mom and Dusty's wife Michelle is still very close with us, with our family, with my daughter - They go to the same Catholic church together. We had the christening of my grandson. So, I'm very close with the family. I remember going to high school wrestling events here in Georgia - My son wrestled too and Cody was state champion, he is a great wrestler. He (Cody) is different than his dad. There's never been anyone like his dad. But, he still has this unique personality that draws everybody to him. I just felt like anytime I could help him out, I would!"

On doing the AEW All Out video without MLW's approval:
"I did a thing that kind of got me in trouble. It is my fault. That is just the way that I am. I don't think things through. He (Cody) called me one day and said, "Hey, could you do something on camera for us?" I said, "Sure" because it is Cody and I'll do anything for him at all. So, I did the thing on camera and I thought, "Oh shit, I'm contracted to MLW and I didn't check it out with Court." That didn't sit well with Court which I understand because then everyone was saying, "Tony is with AEW" which, at the time, I wasn't. So, I could understand him being upset."

On his relationship with Dustin Rhodes:
"Dustin is a different character. Dustin is old! He's decrepit! I feel like maybe I could help him with a bed pan, maybe a colostomy bag or something? No, I'm kidding. I've known Dustin, I know Cody was 10 years old (at Slamboree 1995) but Dustin was a kid too! And now, here he is with a grown daughter and everything. It is just absolutely amazing!"


On if he will continue working with MLW even with his AEW contract:
"Yes, that's right. In fact, we're going to be doing some voice over work (for MLW) in just a couple of weeks. That was part of the deal with Court - I was kind of at the mercy of Court Bauer which is not such a bad place to be because he's such a good business man and a good guy. I had talked to Tony Khan. Court Bauer said, "We can work something out. I just need to talk to Tony." So, you've got two guys promoting their own companies, two guys who are good business men. But, also, we are in a different era now. So, they worked out a deal that I was going to sign with AEW but I was going to stay with MLW as well. I think the fact that you see MJF doing stuff with MLW and stuff with AEW. I think it is great for these kids. I think my appearances for AEW is going to help MLW although I'm not going to be promoting MLW on AEW and I think the flip side is good too."

On if he ever thought wrestling would be as healthy as it is now:
"No, I always believed competition during the Monday Night Wars, and it was a real war behind the scenes, I thought that helped elevate the product. I think the lack of competition for Vince McMahon up until this point has helped the product (now) because there is a want for something different out there. For AEW to be successful, we have to offer something different than Vince, I think."

On AEW's Turner TV deal:
"My Gosh, wrestling is going to be on Turner again! Television is different now - I get that. I very rarely watch my cable TV. I watch Hulu and Netflix and the DC Universe... I even have the CBS pay app because I love Star Trek. So, I know TV is different now because you can take TV with you and watch it anywhere. But, to have wrestling back on legitimate TV just shows you how much wrestling means to TV throughout the years. It is a TV sport!"

On his memories of Bobby Heenan:
"I think Bobby Heenan, as we know from watching him on TV for so many years, was one of the funniest men in America. If someone would have taken the time to work with him, I think he could have been a stand up comedian. I think he could've toured. I think he could have had his own television show! I know the WWE wanted to start that at one time. But, I really think he could have done that!" Tony goes on to share a story about Heenan, Lee Marshall, "Mean" Gene Okerlund, and himself at a convenience store that doesn't translate to text but really should be heard. It is classic Bobby Heenan humor.

On if his "Hulk Hogan, you can Go to Hell" line was one of his favorite:
"I would say it was a career defining moment. I would also say the "butts in seats" coment was pretty memorable, I'm not sure if you'd call that career defining or not. It is funny. I am on Twitter but I don't go on there much because there is a lot of miserable people on there and I'd just as soon keep them out of my life. When I signed with AEW, I read the Twitter remarks and a lot were saying, "That will put butts in seats." So, that is out there. If fans want to consider what I said a big part of the wrestling wars, I feel honored. I didn't think I had that much pull."

On the "Greatest Night in the History of Our Sport" line:
"That line, so you know, James, I knew some people were going to say, "Gosh, he says that too much!" and others were going to say, "I love when he says that!" I kept saying it almost as a joke. They kept wanting me to hype stuff so much almost to the point of, what the hell else are you going to say? At the end of Nitro, when I would call a match, I wasn't really calling a match. I was just hyping a pay per view coming up. The real magic to me was always making the guys in the ring, and women in the ring now, seem bigger than life, elevating them and not just hyping a pay per view. So, it got real silly. But, it got to the point where if they want me to be over the top hyping, I'll be real silly. You'll never hear that again, I promise you. I'll hype stuff. But, I'll never do what we were doing back then."

On his commentary on the final Nitro being emotional:
"There is something on like that, I guess, Chris McDonald built. It has some of my commentary from the last Nitro when Sting and Flair had that last match. When I think back to my high points as an announcer, when I go back and listen to the emotion in my voice as I called that match and I'm trying to say just how special WCW was for us, I think you'll hear that was a big point in my life."

On MLW paying homage to Gary Hart in Dallas:
"I am right there with you with MLW paying tribute to Gary Hart. I worked with Gary early in my career. That is one of the reasons I'm glad I was able to continue doing things with Court. Recognizing, remembering, and honoring the business. Even if you listen to the open of MLW Fusion, our television show, you hear Dusty Rhodes saying, "MLW, baby." That's Court Bauer loving the business."

On MLW's incredible young roster:
"What I like about MLW is how talented the locker room is. Court has done an outstanding job going out and getting some guys who are very, very talented. Obviously, thereis, we call him the Samoan Warewolf and he's spectacular - He really is. It is going to be great seeing the Von Erichs wrestle in Dallas again - Those kids are great. And, I like the idea of the War Chamber. I think it is innovative. And, I'm glad to be associated with a company that remembers the past. Dallas was always a great city. "

On he and Jim Ross' age being a benefit or a negative:
"That's the thing people were saying. "Oh, Schiavone and JR, they're old." Well, people remember that stuff. We're talking to people out there that Vince no longer talks to. (Wrestling fans)"