I recently spoke to former WCW booker and talent Kevin Sullivan. Below is the second and final part of the interview.
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How was working with Hulk Hogan and how receptive was he of ideas?
"He had complete control, but he was receptive of ideas. Turning him heel was my idea, and it took him forever to grasp it. But once it was done, it was good."
So did you come up with the n.W.o angle? [Eric] Bischoff always said it was him.
"He was at my house and Nature Boy was saying 'don't do it Hulk.' It was Eric's idea to bring in Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, it was my idea to turn Hulk."
How hard was it to convince him to do that?
"Like extracting pee from a lion. It was very hard. There were a lot of people against it. I understood that when he was coming out and getting babyface pops that something was wrong when the faces are getting booed and the heels are getting pops."
You see the same thing with John Cena. It'd be kind of the same reaction and the same risks with all of the Make-A-Wish things he does.
"Here's the only thing with Cena. I've watched him over the years. He did something very nice for me one time. I had my great nephew go to the matches and introduced them. He signed autographs, he's the real deal. There are a lot of guys that are full of s--t, and I may be one of them. For him to do that to me, and didn't know me from Adam. He's a real good guy, he's the kind of guy I'd be at the pub with and have a beer. He's walking the line as a grey matter. He's got the audience split. The kids are cheering him until 17, girls until 25 are cheering him. Everyone else is booing him. He is playing a role that's never been touched. Austin was a babyface. Nash and Hall was the easiest guys I ever worked with. Anything you wanted to do, they'd do. But they were pretty much babyfaces, but Cena has this audience cut in half."
If you were booking, you'd keep him how he is?
"Let me ask you something? Kevin Owens, who everybody is jumping up and down over. Can you name a person besides Cactus Jack to get over like that with a shirt on? Name me one. If you ask me who hit 500 home runs, I can name you ten off the top of my head. So why does everybody say these guys have to be pushed? If you're an athlete, and you're walking down the street at 2 am, John Cena is walking on the left, Kevin Owens is on the right, which side of the street are you gonna get up on? They need to want to be you, or be afraid to fight you. I think they've tried to make a chance,a nd people listen to the pounding of the drum, but have attendance or ratings gone up? We don't want to listen to when people tell us what to do. For 14 years the ratings have went down. If that happened in college football, would those people still have a job? Coaches would get cut for not doing their job. Players would get cut."
What changes do you think can be made to get the ball rolling again?
"You'd have to snuff it off. A guy brought up to me that wrestling and boxing was built on legitimacy. We have a bunch of tongue-in-cheek people laughing at us. It wasn't like that with Bruno Sammartino, but we can't go back. My great great great uncle was the first world heavyweight champion, my step cousin was the world heavyweight wrestling champion. Boxing keeps on producing fights, and it doesn't look much different than the 50's. The wrestling product today doesn't even look anything like the 90's or the early 2000's? There's a 'stunt double' and nobody complains. This is where I'm going to be a nasty old man. This country needs Donald Trump as President. Because we put up with this stuff. If we hate it that bad, why don't we turn it off and stop watching?"
I think the problem is that people are turning it off, and things still aren't changing. Nitro used to get ratings in the 6's, and now Raw is around 2.
"I had the greatest talent of all-time. I'm not the smartest guy in the world. If you book talent and you have hall of famers on the bench, I had that. We had Kevin Nash with us, Scott with us, I had all these guys in a box together. You didn't see our guys running around in t-shirts wrestling. In the UFC do they wear shirts?"
Just the ladies.
"(laughs) Yeah. The men? They're not. Ali in his day would have drawn $100 million on pay-per-view, and he wasn't boxing in a shirt."
You see the UFC building people as stars, looking like stars, and presenting them as stars.
"I've seen it all, and I have personal favorites. I'm a heel, so I have favorites. Bruiser Brody, Pat Patterson, Ray Stevens, Dory Funk, Ric Flair. All of these people, and I saw champions. I knew Bruno was real. I knew the Sheik was real by the way they carried themselves to the ring. I had wrestled, so I knew it was all bulls--t, but I thought they were real. We've lost that. People always asked how we made Goldberg. Have you ever seen Mike Tyson? Look at tapes of Tyson and Goldberg, they were the same. Goldberg came out in black boots, black shorts, and what'd he do? Ran through everybody. That's what they do with Ronda Rousey now. Ronda Rousey is the hottest thing to draw money. Why doesn't somebody else try it? If it works so f--kin' good, everyone should try it! So what are they doing? I'll tell you how good she is. Her and Rock stole the show in San Jose, and supposedly she doesn't know how to work?"
The Tyson thing still works today. Look at Brock Lesnar.
"I'm a baseball fan. The Red Sox got great there for a few years. The Yankees are s--t and they're leading the way. But they're the f--kin' Yankees. They know how to keep somebody hot. It's like Ronda Rousey, Goldberg. It's not like the UFC is like 'She hasn't lost, so should we beat her?' WWE should be paying attention. It's run by old, white Republicans. You have to get somebody young to run this thing. Michael Jackson is no longer relevant on the radio. That's what their problem is."
What was your reaction to the idea of ending Goldberg's streak?
"43,000 people here and they want to beat him because he's not going to be over, because he's won too much? They killed it."
You could almost hear the money being burned. Was anyone disagreeing publicly behind the scenes?
"No, that was Eric's call. A lot of people said no, and Nash was one of them, he said that it wasn't the way to go. He thought it was time to beat him."
Having worked so closely with Hulk, what are your feelings on what's going on with him right now?
"I believe all men are created equal. We're all together. We grew up in different places, and I'm not one to cast the first stone. I think someone should ask his close, personal friends what they think, because his close friends are coming to his aid."
When you worked with him, did you hear him talk like that backstage?
"Supposedly there's a code of honor among us and we're not supposed to talk about what we heard. Almost like a lawyer, we keep it confidential. I haven't heard anything, but even if I did, I wouldn't say. That's kicking somebody when they're down. I'm not somebody who kicks someone when they're down. I don't want to say something and hurt anyone."
I had actually never heard of that. I wanted to ask you about "Macho Man" Randy Savage. What was it like working with him in WCW?
"I remember when he was playing minor league baseball for the Cincinnati Reds, he was catching. He broke his arm, he threw $10,000 against the wall, but came back as a left-handed first baseman. The guy could have probably done anything he wanted to accomplish. He had great early interviews that people never talk about. He had all these candles, bent over in a corner. He was the real deal."
When did your reign as WCW booker come to an end?
"They hired [Vince] Russo and [Ed] Ferrara, and they thought they got something...and they did. If you want to blame one or two people, it's those two."
Did you work with them when they came in?
"Yeah, that's when I realized they were trying to do what some called a rope opera. Pretty obvious, wasn't it? I had a guy draw 43,000 people because he was real. Two weeks after I was gone they had him run from Booker T. You tell me that wasn't done on purpose. If you don't like my lineup, you go in a 360."
What were your thoughts when all that happened, did you see the writing on the wall?
"I hope Donald Trump wins. We deserve what we get. 76 percent of the high school graduates of the education system in Florida can't tell you where the Pacific Ocean is. They can't tell you who fought in World War II. Trump wins by a landslide. We're watching something we all love, and we still watch it, but they get ratings because we hate it."
Those last three years were so chaotic for WCW.
"They didn't know how to do it. They booked like there was some kind of perversion there."
When you first heard WWF purchased WCW, what were your feelings?
"Wasn't much of a payday. 47 years of a library? What'd they pay? A couple million dollars? So that was a good deal."
What were some of your favorite memories of Dusty Rhodes?
"He was bigger than life. A great guy. A lot of guys couldn't have made a lot of the money they made without Dusty. Me too. He gave a lot of people a chance, a lot of people forgot about that. People said he put himself in everything. Sometimes the ideas are good, sometimes they were bad, but the good outweighed the bad. He did everything right in the business. He was the smartest guy I ever met in the wrestling business."
Click here for part one of the interview, where Sullivan talked about talking with WWE about debuting with The Undertaker, Goldberg's streak ending, what he said at the meeting when it was suggested that Ric Flair get a haircut, his feud with Brian Pillman and more.