I recently interviewed former WWE star Kevin Fertig, who wrestled as Kevin Thorn and Mordecai. In the second and final part of the interview below, Thorn discussed his second WWE departure, Vince yelling at him for looking like The Undertaker after being told to, if he had talks with WWE since leaving, TNA, WWE Wellness Policy violations, how often he was tested, Buff Bagwell's lawsuit against WWE, how much his royalties went down after the WWE Network launched, why former stars aren't returning to the company and more.
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Yeah. So what led to your departure during that second run?
"Man, it was just a difference of a lot of opinions. I was supposed to get in the hunt and wrestle Taker again. I had hip surgery six [or] seven months beforehand and they weren't doing anything with me. It went from me being a vampire guy. One day Vince goes, 'why are you dressing like Taker?' I went, 'because you told me to. You guys wanted me to wrestle Taker. That's what Dusty is telling me. I don't know. I don't know what you want me to tell you.' [Vince said] 'you're trying to copy him'. I'm like, 'no, I'm really not because you're the one who told me to go all black, remember? I had red streaks in my hair and a little red tie. I was really trying to kind of look a little different. All of a sudden, you're tell me that I'm trying to copy him because you told me to lose the red streaks and lose the red tie? You're telling me this and this.' And then, they told me to cut my hair and do everything. And then, they didn't know how to write for me. And I'm like, 'okay, why the f--k do we do this?' And then, Vince goes, 'why'd you cut your hair?' And I went, that's why I was like, 'alright' and then, they were kind of lost with what they wanted to do with me.
"And I tore my labrum in my hip. I'd been working for months, and months, and months with just excruciating pain in the hip. And I was finally like, 'f--k it. I'm getting my hip fixed. They're not doing anything with me. I'm going home. I'm wasting money every time they bring me. I'm just going to get it fixed.' I went and got it fixed and, like, as soon as I'm leaving the hospital doped up on Percocet on the way home, barely feeling my existence, [and] Johnny calls, 'hey, I just want to see how you're feeling.' [Fertig replied] 'I'm great.' [Laurinaitis said] 'I have an idea for you. How soon can you be back?' [Fertig responded] 'well, Johnny, the doctor said six to eight months.' [Laurinaitis asked] 'you can't make it back any sooner?' [Fertig said] 'yeah, I guess I can if you've actually got something for me.' [Laurinaitis said] 'yeah, start growing your hair long again' and all he talked about was doing the exact same thing I was doing before I cut my hair and I was like, 'you've lost your f--king minds' because Freddie Prinze came in, had all kinds of killer ideas for a vampire character and all this other stuff and it was a go. I mean, so I busted my ass. I went to physical therapy every day for six weeks. The doctor wouldn't release me until I could run a mile at a speed of seven and run 50 flights of stairs and I went, 'okay'. And at the end of the six weeks, I did it. And he's like, 'this is like nothing I've ever seen.' I'm like, 'well, I've got to get back to work'.
"And I get back to work thinking I'm going to go up there and start and then I went down to Tampa for two weeks. I did these killer interviews or vignette ideas with Dusty. The next thing I know, the next week, there's a kid Van something, I forget his name, in England, that just did my entire vignette, outside of whatever, talking about The Undertaker and everything else, and I just went, 'you've got to be s--tting me'. So that time, it was in Pittsburgh and I went to Baltimore, so I drove up to Pittsburgh on my own and got in front of them and they were like, 'oh, we were going to bring you in, but he's going to be your mouthpiece' and I went, 'okay'. And then, the next night in Baltimore, Taker grabbed me and basically told me that something happened and whatever else, 'you're going to be squashed and they want you to go down to Tampa for a while'. And that's when I went, 'you know what? f--k this.' I didn't kill myself for six weeks to get back to just be thrown to the wayside. That's basically when I went, I told Johnny, 'maybe it's best if I go away for awhile'. And it took him a couple of weeks to give me my release. Finally, they gave it to me and here I am. Should I have done that? No. Did my ego get in the way? Yeah, but it's typical WWE. I love them to death. It is one of the greatest companies in the world to work for, but sometimes it's so confusing that your emotions get in the way and mine definitely did."
Have you talked to them at all since you left or just kind of left it where it was?
"A little bit. I was always favorable with the agents. I was always favorable with everybody. I really don't know them too much. I'm frustrated sometimes. But, yeah, here and there. Nothing that I'm going to come back in this moment in time. My hips, that six weeks of me doing what did didn't do anything for my hip. I probably screwed myself worse by doing that than letting it heal. And I have issues sometimes with my hip. Could I do a full-time schedule? Man, I don't know. I'd love to, but also, too, man, I was blessed by leaving when I did because my son's nine. I've been gone eight years. I have been there every day for so much. And then, my daughter's five now. I've been a stay-at-home dad and I've loved every minute of it. I haven't missed a thing. I get them off the bus, I put them on the bus, I've made some good investment choices in life, my wife and I just opened up a Farmers Insurance agency, so hey, if anybody out there needs insurance and they live in Indiana, call me. But, I look back and you always look back with some sort of regret and, honest to God, I have none. I'd much rather have a family that's together and kids that I love, that I'm able to go see sporting events and everything else, than be world champion sometimes."
As far as TNA, you went there for a couple of shots, right, or one-shot?
"One shot. Yeah, I went down there. They flew me in from England. I went and had a hell of a match with Billy and I don't know. I was told by Terry Taylor that office politics played a part and contact him again in six months. And I was like, 'well, if we're going to do office politics here too, it's really not worth it.' I would love to be in TNA. God, what a great schedule. You work one weekend a month, you get paid pretty good, and you can do whatever you want during the rest of the time. It's a great deal. With Billy being President now, hell, we'll see what happens. It could be huge. The Harris Brothers, there's a lot of potential there if they just get it moving on track. Matt Hardy is doing some great stuff, Jeff, I mean, who knows?"
Yeah. Did you get to talk to Dixie Carter much when you were there?
"Very briefly. Very briefly."
And so, you think Billy Corgan stepping in, you think that's probably a good move for the company?
"It can't hurt, honestly. They can be something. Not that they're not something, they can be a little bit more. They've got the star power. They need to use it."
Alberto Del Rio was [recently] suspended for a Wellness Policy violation. I was curious, when you were with the company, how stringent was their Wellness Policy?
"It's funny you ask. I was going through a bunch of stuff, I was cleaning out a bunch of stuff yesterday, and I found 15 of my Aegis tests from Dr. Black. I passed every one of them, but I think it's one of those things to me that I think it's used when they need it. I don't know. I find it odd that there [are] a lot of guys up there that probably shouldn't pass that do and there [are] a lot of guys that when they need them to go away, all of a sudden they get a 30-day [suspension]. Rey Mysterio is a prime example, knee hurt forever, they're paying him a huge downside and everything else, they needed to make some money back, and the next thing you know, he's popped. I don't know. That's a conspiracy theory, I guess."
Yeah. But did you notice any discrepancies with how guys were tested when you were there. Like, certain guys getting tested a lot more or was it pretty uniform?
"It was pretty uniform. The funny thing is, when I was sitting at home, I got tested, like, every two weeks after my hip surgery. And I'm like, 'you guys know that I am still taking stuff because I'm still black and blue all throughout my leg.' They wanted the doctor's script. They saw it and there it was. I mean, they would come into my house. That's where I always felt kind of a little violated with it is, us as independent contractors, I just got my house painted a couple of weeks ago. I didn't test my painters. If I did ask them, they probably would have told me to f--k off and I would have had to find a new painter. That's where I get it as employees, but I don't get it as independent contractors. And I get that they need to save face and protect themselves. It always seems like to me guys get popped when they need them to go away. Reigns was semi getting over, they were still pushing him, they didn't know what to do with him, the next thing you know, he gets popped. So, I don't know. Del Rio, supposedly has heat with Hunter. The next thing you know, he gets popped. I don't know."
Yeah, and kind of with that, are you surprised that there haven't been more lawsuits regarding the independent contractor claim that WWE has over their talent?
"Yeah, I think what that is, is we get to a spot, do you ever want to bite the hand that feeds you every now and then? And I think guys get scared off is, 'oh, if I put a lawsuit against them, maybe they're not going to call me this week'. Granted, they're probably not going to call you anyway. But, guys always think maybe 15 guys will die or something and they'll get the call. They don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. Two, the way the WWE does their contracts, the reason why the lawyers are some of the highest paid in the country is because they don't want to get sued and they have it set up in contracts and everything else, you've got to come to Connecticut and everything else and you ain't going to win, not there, so it's pointless."
Yeah, and kind of to that point, Buff Bagwell is suing WWE.
"Yeah, I just saw Buff a couple of weeks ago. I didn't didn't know anything about it, I saw it the other day, and I'm like, 'I mean, he has a point within reason'."
Yeah, what are your thoughts on that?
"I don't know. The Network confuses me because I get a check every now and then for royalties for this and that, from video sales and stuff. But now that we have the Network, video sales are out the door. So how does that [happen]? I think it's just them being so smart and seeing so much into the future with how things are going to be produced that they knew how to write it so they wouldn't have to pay anybody. And I mean, you could try [to sue WWE], but it's not worth it. Guys can try. They'll just tie it up [in litigation] for as long as they need to and you're eventually going to run out of money trying to fight them, so why bother?"
Did you notice, so you've been receiving royalty checks, did you notice a difference in the checks once the Network started?
"Oh, huge! They were always, it wasn't on a whole lot, but $2,000, $3,000, somewhere in there, and now they're $67. I think the last one I got [was $67]."
Was that per quarter?
So you went from $2,000 to $3,000 to $67?
"Yeah. It took a while, but yeah. It's basically what it is. Now, you'll get one, it'll be here and there, but nothing compared to what they were."
Wow, and do you think, do you see that Buff Bagwell lawsuit going anywhere?
"Man, his lawyer has to be real smart. WWE's guys are insane. I don't know. That's a huge fight. They can try. I just think they saw into the future and knew how to write the contracts. He might be in that cusp, being in 2003, but coming into when my deal or new deal, it was written in there. 'Future this, future that'."
Yeah, so now recently, WWE, their brand extension, when you were there, they already had the separate brands. They went away from it and now they're back at it. I contacted a lot of former stars and I don't want to press you too much on finances, but a lot of guys have been turning them down. Are you surprised that they haven't been able to get a lot of their former stars back?
"Yeah, because the majority of the guys know they're going to push the guys they're going to push. You're really going there to be an enhancement talent within reason. Yeah, they're going to say they're going to do these big vignettes for you, but all you're really there to do is to get the next guys over."
And the money just isn't good enough for that kind of a role?
"Not the way downsides are done. They'll blow you up or give you a downside, but you'll use that up in three months and then they'll starve you out the rest of the year. A lot of guys already have had that done. Jimmy Wang Yang, those guys that were prior. There [were] guys that were just starting when I was there because they weren't being used, but they were brought to TVs two nights, so they had to pay hotel, rent a car, food while they're there, and everything else, and they're only making $500, $600 a week because they've already blown through their downside. So with taxes and everything else, guys are getting $75,000 to $150,000 downsides. By the time you pay taxes, your road expenses, and everything else, really and truly, you're only making $40,000, $35,000. So what's the point?
"And the indies is all cash. It's pretty much all cash. You can hide it the way you want to hide it and everything else."
So have you been approached?
"Not really. There was talk, but nothing substantial. And I don't know if I'd want to go back full-time. If TNA called me, yeah. Hell yeah. A couple of days a month doing something, yes. WWE, man, it'd have to be decent. Just knowing how it was up there and just like I said before, you blow through your downside and all of a sudden you're just dragged along and you're their monkey. Man, I have rose from the ashes from where I was and we've got everything going so good here that I don't know if I could leave it."
So the kind of role that Jinder Mahal kind of went back for, that's wouldn't interest you?
"Man, I'd love to go put some guys over in [NXT] and stuff. But I don't want to be there every day. If I could go down to [NXT] for their TV tapings here and there, yes, heck yeah, I'd do it in a heartbeat, as long as it was a couple of days and I can come back to the reality that I've set in."
Right. And one of the guys that turned down the WWE deal, Tommy Dreamer, he's running a House Of Hardcore and you'll be a part of it, right, their upcoming show in October?
"Yeah, in October, man. Tommy's one of my dear friends who was in my wedding. Great, unbelievable person and just knows what he's doing, man. He's going to make it great."
Yeah. Have you seen any of their shows before?
"Yeah, oh yeah. I was a part of the one in Philadelphia. It was off the chain at the old ECW Arena, man. It was insane. I just did a quick run-in on Bull James and Billy Gunn. X-Pac came out and fended me off. Man, it was insane. He packs the house. I mean, great look to the set. It's just awesome."
Yeah, and you're on social media as well, right?
"Yep, on social media. I am @TheKevinFertig on Twitter, @thekevinfertig on Instagram, and then, Kevin Thorn Fertig on Facebook Like page if anybody wants to find me, I didn't use Kevin Thorn completely. I didn't think it was appropriate. I've been Kevin Fertig my whole life. I figured it's now get people to realize who I am."
Yeah, and are you having fun being… it looks like you've increased your appearances.
"Yeah, I've increased my appearances. September is kind of slow because my son is playing football. And basically, I try to dial it down just a little bit because I wanted to make games. And then, October and November, it goes right back to getting out there. My thing is, I get to be at home and be a stay-at-home dad all the time and it's awesome. And then, the weekends, I go out and play a little bit and I've been able to take my son to a lot of stuff and it [has] been awesome. Introduce him to my friends. Now, it's just having fun for me. It's work, but being able to see the fans again makes me realize how much I love wrestling and loved the guys, loved the boys in the back, and loved the fans, and just seeing everybody."
Thanks a lot, Kevin. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today.
"Oh man, I appreciate it, man. You guys got a great thing going, man. When I got asked to do it, I was like, 'oh yeah! I definitely want to do that.'"
You can follow Kevin on Twitter @TheKevinFertig and @thekevinfertig on Instagram. Click here for part one of the interview, where Thorn discussed getting into the business, signing with WWE, the bar fight that led to his first WWE departure, a nixed Vince McMahon angle working with CM Punk, speaking to Donald Trump at WrestleMania and more.