I recently interviewed former WWE and TNA Superstar Ken Anderson. In second and final part of the interview below, Anderson discussed the problems facing TNA, the problems with wrestling today, if he has been contacted about a WWE return and more.
* * *
When you signed with TNA in 2010, TNA was still pretty strong. I mean, they had shows there that did like two million viewers. What are your thoughts on what's going on with TNA right now, and I guess the kind of current landscape of pro wrestling?
"It's really sort of frustrating. And the thing is, I feel like I have so many friends there that bust their asses week in and week out. And, from the time that I was there until today talking to some of my friends that have worked there since the beginning, it has been like this all the time that the decisions management makes within that company are frustrating and you can only, talent will only do so much for you if you don't let them take you to that next level. It's so frustrating that things keep happening where just I don't know. It's really frustrating because we were busting our butts putting on great shows. Busting our asses and we would be doing house shows in front of f--king 230 people.
"I remember one time doing a baseball park in Baltimore that holds about 7,000 to 10,000 people and there were 235 people in attendance. And they were all sort of spread out. It was really embarrassing. And I think that night, Ring Of Honor ran a show somewhere else and sold the place out. And there were pictures online of the two sort of side by side. And is that the talent's fault? No, it is not the talent's fault. Knowing we'd go to a town, we'd go to the gym and 20 wrestling fans would come up and say, 'what are you guys doing here, man? I'm a huge wrestling fan. What's going on?' Like, 'oh, we've got a show a mile down the road' or whatever it was. 'Really? We didn't see any advertisements for wrestling!' Things like that and we would always try to give our, put our two cents in, and sort of give suggestions to management and it was like, 'you guys shut up and do the wrestling. This is our job over here - we do this stuff, so shut the f--k up and get in line and just go out there and bump and feed and we'll handle the rest.'
"What I really want to see and I feel like the rest of the world wants to see, is a company that has some money behind it, so they can spend some money and put out an adult show, an adult product. I'm not talking you need to get, what was that XWF or whatever, the porn stuff, but, like, it doesn't even have to get to ECW or anything with cheese graters and 37 tables and flaming tables and stuff like that, it doesn't have to get that far. But I can't wrap my head around the idea that you've got a show that is geared towards 18 to 35 year old males that you're not allowed to curse at all, you're not allowed to do certain things, like everything is just so PG and I don't know how two guys fighting each other ever turns out PG. I've never been in a fight in my life where every f--king curse word under the sun came out of my mouth and the guy I was fighting. Yeah, so, I think, and you look at all the popular shows out there today, you've got, and I'm going to date myself because I don't really watch a whole lot of TV, but just the last 10 years, say, you've got shows like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Sons Of Anarchy, Game Of Thrones! I mean, these are violent shows. They toe the line at every step. Family Guy. Family Guy! It's a cartoon and it's the edgiest show out there because they're not afraid to go anywhere, they're not afraid to make fun of anything. And I just really hope that somebody somewhere can start that up.
Yeah, I think that's what Eric Bischoff did in the 90s. And Vince had so many kiddie ideas and Eric Bischoff kind of made an adult product and it changed everything. I'd love to see that again. When did you get the idea for a wrestling school?
"It was something that I always kicked around in my head. It was like I just have to get to a point in my career where I feel comfortable where I don't put together a wrestling school and people out there, my peers, the people that… like the internet reporters and stuff like that, like, they don't say, 'who the f--k is this guy and what did he ever do that he can start a wrestling school?' Do you know what I mean? Honestly, that was a concern of mine and I think I'm at that stage in my career. I've been in the business for 18 years. I've had a little more than a cup of coffee in the WWE and TNA and wrestled around the world. And I really started on a lot of this international stuff that I've been doing for the last couple of years, I started doing these camps, these seminars. The promoter would, in addition to me wrestling a show, I would spend a couple of hours at their school teaching their kids. And I really, really found out that I enjoyed doing it. And I enjoy the challenge of trying out different ways to motivate and train different people because everybody sort of learns differently. And then, I said, 'if I'm going to do it, I want to do it right.'
"I'm a guy that, it almost hamstrings me that I have to wait till all of my ducks are in a row before I'll pull the trigger on something. And that's not necessarily a good thing because your ducks are never in a row. It's never going to happen, and so, with my podcast, when I started my podcast, I wanted to make sure that we did a couple of test runs, and we did this, and we did that, and we had a format down and everything. My co-host was like, 'do you know what? Lets just do it, get a couple in the can, and we can modify it as we go' and that turned out to be a fantastic way of doing things. And that sort of when I brought it to Daivari, and we started talking about it, I said, 'I want to start a wrestling school. I want to make sure it's done right. I want it to be a nice facility. I want when people walk through the doors with their 16 year old kid, because you're going to get those from time to time, you're going to get a 16 or 17 year old kid with his parents, I want the parents to look and say, 'I'm comfortable with my kid training in a facility like this.'' When wrestling fans, who, and wrestlers are the biggest fans out there, like I'm a huge wrestling fan. I'm such a huge fan that I decided to shave my legs and wear tights and baby oil and fight people for 18 years. So when a wrestling fan comes through the doors and see what our school looks like, and they see us there, 'I want to train at this place.'
"So yeah, and Shawn [Daivari] and I kicked the idea around and, again, I wanted to drag my feet and make sure we had everything set in stone and set in place. And he was like, 'lets just do this and lets go.' And we were, honestly, he started working on the website and putting together, the very first thing we put up on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook was like a, it looked like a little business card, an Instagram-sized picture, where it's our two pictures, The Academy, and it's sort of like a little flyer. It took us about 10 hours to put that together because we just argued over every little detail. But in the end, it turned out pretty good."
You and Shawn, Shawn Daivari, you guys go way back, right? Is that the same with Nora, Molly Holly? Have you known each other for a long time?
"So Shawn and I have been best friends the better part of the last 17 years, since I got in the business or shortly after I got in the business. He was really young, too, when I first met him and we started hanging out. But I realized that he had the same motivation that I did, so we motivated each other to do whatever we could to try to get to WWE or reaching out and sending tapes, get booked at as many places as we could. If I wasn't booked, he'd ask the promoter, 'hey, can I bring Ken with me?', vice versa, so we were always friends and then when he got to WWE, he told me he had become really good friends with Molly Holly, Nora, Molly Holly. And she happened to live in Minneapolis. And I got to know her through Shawn a little bit, but I never really spent a great deal of time around her. But he became really, really close with her. Those two are thick as thieves. But I will tell you this. She is such a nice person. I really try to be a good human being. I try to learn from my mistakes. I try to recognize that I am flawed and I do make mistakes from time to time. I try to do good things for good people, or just for everybody. Nora makes me feel like a scumbag being around her because she is so frickin nice. It's crazy. So, yeah, those two became really good friends and they've always kept in contact. And then, when we started talking about, 'hey, who are we going to have with us?', that was the first name that he brought up and he asked her. And I think she was a little tentative about it at first. She really, she's one of those people that got out of the business and she was done with the business. Not still, I have a retirement match and then, I come back a year later and have a retirement match. And she just, she walked away gracefully and that was it, but Shawn talked her into it. And then, we brought her to an independent show and it was just to sort of advertise a little for our school and see some of our prospective students. And when she was there and she saw that show, she fell in love with it again, like, 'okay, we have to do this.'
I did want to ask you, I think a lot of people feel like your run is almost incomplete in WWE. Have they contacted you since you left about a possible return, especially with the brand split and everything?
"Nope, no. There [has] been no contact. I don't know that I'm necessarily welcome there. I mean, I don't know. I don't know what the feeling is there.
Do you think it's just a couple of people at the top?
"I don't know. I mean, I never tried to be… I understand that I was a little abrasive. And when I say, 'a little abrasive,' I'm being nice to myself, but I was a little abrasive at times and I said some things that looking back, I wish I wouldn't have said. And so, with that being said, I don't know that. They say that time heals all wounds, and there have been crazier comebacks in WWE. There have been people that have done far worse and then come back. I don't know. We'll see. We'll see and I'll tell you, I am very, very happy with the career that I've had. Yeah, there are things that I wish I could have done and there were almost, but didn't happen. But I've had a really good run and I'm ready to start sort of passing on the knowledge that I have from the good things that I've done and the bad things that I've done in the business to the next generation.
I also did want to ask this because it seems WWE contacted a lot of people after the brand split. No one really came back and it seems like you're seeing a lot of, in the 80s and 90s, a lot of guys that were there seemed like they would stay as long as possibly could. And now you see people getting out and not wanting to go back. Why do you think that is?
"It's an extraordinarily tough schedule, for one. Working five, six days a week, bumping, falling down, multiple times every single night it's just hard to do that. It's hard on that schedule, especially if someone has a family. And I have kids right now, so you asked if WWE had contacted me and if there's talk of me going back there, there hasn't been, but I don't know that I necessarily could go back if they did reach out because I believe I would have sort of a limited schedule and I don't know that they're willing to do that for anybody other than the really big stars that have been through there, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, obviously, has a light schedule. But I want to see my kids grow up. And that's just me. I want to see my kids grow up and I want to be there for their football games or ballet or whatever it is that they do. I want to be there.
And what are some changes that you think could be made in wrestling that would make it more enticing? Like, lets say if you've been there five years, you get a month off; in 10 years, you get two months off a year; something like that.
"That is definitely something that I think needs to change in the business, that it's just a 365… 24/7, 365. There is never an off season. There is never, you don't get vacation. At WWE, the only time you get vacation is if you are injured. And then, you're not really vacationing because your arm's in a frickin sling and you're doing rehab to try to get back to the ring, back into ring-shape. Or when I was injured, all the times that I was injured at WWE, I was still making appearances, still go to Washington, D.C. to do appearances. They were bringing me to TV sometimes to do stuff there or just to be seen, so I was constantly doing phoners, advertising, and stuff like that. So yeah, I just think it's a really tough schedule.
"And so, that's the one thing, some kind of vacation system or just give guys some time off. It's good for the body too. Everything that we know about the human body now, if you work out super hard seven days a week, and you're in the gym for three hours a day, and you don't sleep at night, and you never take days off or weeks off, your body will not get any better. Your body will get worse. You'll be in worse shape than if you cut your training time in half, and make sure you get eight to 10 hours of sleep at night, and you take two days off at the gym every week. Every once in a while or every few months, you just stop and don't go to the gym at all for a week. That's how you make gains! And I feel like that's what you need in WWE. And so there's that and this idea, and we talked about it briefly about the NXT stuff, the idea that you can be successful, sort of on your own, you can take risks, or you're given the green light to go out in front of the camera…
"When I got to TNA, I was given a completely different set of instructions than what I had at WWE the previous three years or four years that I was there. And that was, 'here [are] some bullet points. Here's where we need to go at the end of the day. Get us there in your words, in your style, in your character, whatever. Get us there.' I don't… I didn't have to run every little thing by creative and I wouldn't get yelled at if I missed a sentence or went off script slightly when I was out there. That sort of, I believe… because we're artists. At the end of the day, we're artists and we're actors. And the one thing that I've learned from taking lots of acting classes is directors don't tell actors what to do. They don't sit and go, like, 'hey, you should really… when you say these lines, I want you to say it like this.' It's, the director has to hire the person that is right for the role, and then sit back and see what that person gives him. And you could make minor suggestions here and there, but for the most part, the directors, the good directors, just lay back because they know that the actors are going to go out there and do their work. And the actor might give them something different that works better than what they had in their mind and that's what happens in wrestling, good wrestling. The promoter tells you, 'go out there and do X' and you go out there and you do that, but then, you throw in this little twist, this little flair, and I wouldn't be talking to you right now if I hadn't gone out and Paul Heyman told me to go out and cut the ring announcer off and do my own introduction and I added in the second Kennedy or the second Anderson. And five weeks later, I was on TV and it was largely because of that because I came back through the curtain and everybody was like, 'man, that was a great job.' And it wasn't, 'you and Brent Albright went out there and put on a clinic,' it was, 'man, when you said your last name twice, that was friggin awesome!'
Yeah, I mean that seems to be a big problem today, a lot of people don't fit what they're saying. Many of the promos don't feel organic at all. When did that change? It seemed like with The Rock and 'Stone Cold', back during the Attitude Era, that they did have more freedom.
"You look at all those guys back then. Watch promos from that era and it was like everybody, even if they're not… People who aren't good in the mic today were decent back then because at least they were being honest to who they really were. The thing about acting, and I get in trouble for saying this, people disagree with me, my colleagues disagree with me. That's fine. We are actors. When somebody hands you a piece of paper with some lines on it, and you've got a camera and a director yelling, 'cut' and 'action' and all that stuff and you or I am told, 'hey, here are these lines. Go out there and I want you to emote.' 'I want you to be sad,' or 'be happy,' or 'be angry,' or whatever, that's acting. That's what it is. And I just feel like people need to, sort of, I totally got off topic there!
I just feel like when you look at… I was watching, I've watched wrestling now, since we opened up the school, or since we started advertising for the school, I've been watching a lot more wrestling. I'll tell you, first of all, I don't want to watch my girlfriend play with her p---y for three hours. Let that detonate in your brain for a minute.
It's a good point.
"Seriously, I mean, it's fantastic. I love watching it. But after a little while, 'okay, I only need two or three minutes of it and I'm done.' And then, on top of it, you've got bad acting. It's because they're given a script, told 'go out there and say it exactly like this, say it verbatim,' and you've got guys who aren't actors trying to act. And I think that's a real big problem and that's one of the things Shawn and I want to do with our wrestling school, is so, for anybody who hasn't seen the movie Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's a fantastic sort of mockumentary, or it was a documentary that was sort of scripted a little bit. And there's a part in there where Arnold is wanting to be more graceful posing, so he goes to a ballet. He goes to ballet classes and he learns a little bit about ballet and their movements and stuff. And it's something you wouldn't normally associate with wrestling or with bodybuilding. But it's another way, tool, that people can have in their toolbox. So that's what we want to do. We want to, in addition to bringing in guest trainers like Victoria, and, say, Scott Hall, bring these guys in for two-day seminars, and X-Pac, for coming in for two-day seminar, here to give the kids, 'here's my recipe for success,' we also want to bring in acting coaches and have a little two-day workshop here. They do some scenes with each other and we want to bring in… You've got to talk through your teeth in this business. The camera doesn't pick you up, so we want to think about bringing in a ventriloquist to teach people how to do that. In addition to learning something, we're going to have fun doing it and it's going to bring the group closer together. And I think that's helpful when you have people routing for each other and having a good time with each other, enjoying their company, that's when you have success.
And that seems like a fantastic idea because it seems like so many places now, it's just about the moves and not about the character. And I think that's just tremendous that you guys are doing that.
"We're going to bring in, I have some friends down in Chicago that are improv comics, comedians or whatever, improv artists. We're going to bring them in and have them do a seminar. I really think that's the way of the future, yeah. "
Click here for part one of the interview, where Anderson discussed if he had issues with Randy Orton before his WWE release, growing up a wrestling fan, his WWE release, his new professional wrestling school called The Academy: School Of Professional Wrestling, which opened earlier this month and more. For more information on The Academy: School Of Professional Wrestling, which opened this month, click here.