Teddy Long Shoots On CM Punk, AEW All Out Brawl, Vince McMahon Retiring & More! - Exclusive

Throughout his illustrious career, Theodore Robert Rufus Long has worn many hats. His first break in the business came in the mid-1980s, when he was given the chance to become a part of the ring crew for Jim Crockett Promotions. Helping lay wooden planks and wrap turnbuckles in padding led to him being promoted to referee not long after, when he was officially given his ring name, Teddy Long. After calling it down the middle for a few years, Long began to show favor to the bad guy wrestlers in the matches he was officiating. His new heelish ways led to him leaving officiating behind altogether in favor of becoming a manger for some of the biggest stars in JCP and WCW. Names like Johnny B Badd, "Mean" Mark Callaway (later known as The Undertaker), One Man Gang, and others all found Long in their corner at one point or another.

In 1998, Long officially signed with WWE as both a referee and manager. However, it was a new role that many WWE fans would go on to lovingly associate Long with — "WWE SmackDown" General Manager. On a good night, a lucky fan attending "SmackDown" may have been treated to Long turning a singles contest into a tag team match, or making a top WWE star go "one on one... WITH THE UNDERTAKER!" He went on to hold the iconic role for eight years, and was honored with an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2017.

In this exclusive interview with Wrestling Inc. Senior News Editor Nick Hausman, Long examines some of pro wrestling's buzziest stories, including the wild backstage melee that occurred at AEW All Out and Vince McMahon stepping down from his WWE roles amidst an internal investigation into reported abusive behavior.

'CM Punk is going to be CM Punk'

My guest at this time is the WWE Hall of Famer Teddy Long. Teddy, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

Hey man, anytime I can get a chance to chat with you, it's my honor and my pleasure. And I want to thank you personally for being a part of Mac Davis and I's After Hours at the SummerSlam event. You come by to see us, and man, that really made me feel real good. That was a big surprise. I never would've dreamed that you'd have dropped by on us, so to have you come by man, like I said, what an honor, and thank you again. Thank you very much.

Pleasure's all mine. We got to hang out. There was this crazy bird phenomenon going on over our shoulders that we got to enjoy. It was wonderful.

Well Teddy, I had a great time this past week at AEW All Out. I don't know if you saw the video, but I found myself in a very precarious situation in this All Out media scrum. CM Punk decides to just go nuclear in a lot of ways. What did you think about this all, Teddy? I'm sure you've seen it and read all about it at this point.

Well, I mean, CM Punk is going to be CM Punk, you know what I mean? That's just it. The one thing I can say, a lot of people may not like him, may not like what he done, but I mean, sometime you have to tell the truth. And sometime, there's an old saying, the truth hurts. But CM Punk is going to be CM Punk, ain't nobody going to change him. So you know what I mean? Kudos to him, that's all I can say.

Working With Punk

Man, well a lot of people don't feel that way. A lot of people would do the opposite of kudos. There's some people who seem genuinely really, really upset right now about what Punk said. Now, before we kind get into more of the comments, you actually worked with Punk in WWF or WWE together.

Yeah.

What was your experience like working with CM Punk?

Well, I had a great time with CM Punk. Him and I were real close. We trained together. I do a lot of cardio and I used to run with him. And I tell you another story, a lot of people don't know is one time, I think we were in Italy or Spain, I'm not sure where it was, but I was in this gym ... I think me and Kane was working out together, and I was doing cardio ... I was about five minutes away from my hour that I do, and CM Punk come in and he bet me, he told Kane, he said, "I bet you won't bet Teddy could do another hour." So they put up a $200 bet, and Punk will tell you this, and I got off the machine, went and took a p*ss, and I got right back on and I did another hour. 

Wow. And you won the money? Is that the deal?

Yeah.

The thing other people are saying is Punk had an aura, even back at WWE, where there were people taking sides, kind of divided the locker room about. Did you get that vibe with CM Punk, where there were camps of people that loved him and hated him backstage?

Yeah. That was in WWE too, man. There were a lot of people disliked him and there were a lot of people that liked him. So sometime in our business, some things you just don't say or some things you're not supposed to say, well that was like back in the day, times have changed and people have changed ... So I think a lot of people that would have been back in that old bad era, they still living in that bad era. So they think that things are not right or you shouldn't have said this, but I hear a lot of people say a lot of things on TV that I don't think is right, then they say it and nobody don't say nothing about that. And I know, I'm sure the people know what I'm talking about. I don't have to go any further.

So why not CM Punk, because he's telling the truth? But I'll tell you something else you have to pay attention to, the last time he had a rant that like is when he was on the stage on the ramp there talking about John Cena. Like I said, if they didn't want you to hear that, all they had to do was cut CM Punk's mic. They never cut that mic. They let him kept on talking about Cena. The only time they cut that mic is when he started to say some stuff about Vince. So evidently if they didn't cut the mic on Cena, then that must have been ... Well, Vince's old term is, "That's good TV."

Being Ground Zero For CM Punk's Pipebomb

The pipe bomb segment you're talking, the promo you're talking about, it's pretty known at this point that the company kind of knew what Punk was going to do. Nothing that he said was really unexpected, even though it did kind of toe the line.

Some of it was kind of unexpected, they kind of really didn't know. That's why they kind left that mic on just to see exactly what he was going to say. So some of it I don't think they knew.

So you're saying that this is not like there was a scripted, everybody knew everything he was going to say?

No, like I said, if that was scripted or written then I know nothing about it. I never saw anybody give him any papers, you know what I mean? Any scripts to read. Like I said, there may be things that are done backstage, sometimes people don't know, but I pretty much think it was a shoot. It was real.

So were you there that night when he'd cut the original pipe bomb, Teddy?

Yes.

So what was the vibe like backstage after he dropped the pipe bomb?

Well, everybody was kind of looking at each other like, "Did he just say that? Or did that just ..." You know what I mean? Because this was all brand new. We never had anybody to go out on live TV and to just go off on a rant like that and just speak their mind. So it was all brand new. It was all something that we'd never experienced and we'd never heard. So we're like, "Man, this is too much."

AEW All Out Media Scrums Go Nuclear

And in this situation, Tony Khan didn't cut off CM Punk, and Tony Khan was right there the whole time. What was your impression of the way Tony Khan handled it when all this started to break out?

Well, I think with Tony Khan being new to our business, you know what I mean? I really don't think Tony Khan knew what to do ... I don't even think he even thought about cutting off CM Punk's mic. I think Tony Khan wanted to hear it. So a lot of times, a lot of things used to happen in WWE. A lot of things were going, people would wonder why, but then somebody wanted to see that or somebody wanted to hear it. So that's why it wouldn't cut. So like I said, I just don't think Tony Khan knew what to do. I think he was probably more surprised than anybody.

Well and you worked for Vince McMahon for many years, how do you think Vince would've handled this situation?

Well, I think if some of it was good and if Vince felt that way about some of them, like Punk felt that way, if he really felt that way and they didn't know it, well then that would be Vince's way of letting them know, by somebody else saying it. So like I said, I don't know. I think Vince would've maybe probably let him continue to talk until maybe he started saying something that might have been just too outrageous. Then I think they might have cut him off. But like I said, he's just talking about the talent, and some things we don't know. I'm not there and you're not there, but some things might be true, we just don't know. But in order for a guy to get out there and speak stuff like that, then he has to know what he's talking about. You can be sued.

You can't be just saying stuff like that about people unless you really know what you're talking about. So if nobody's trying to sue him or nobody's trying to go after him for what he said, then I think pretty much it might have been true.

So you made an interesting comment there about how Vince would let somebody else go out and say for him maybe how he was feeling. Now Tony did sit there and not stop Punk. Are you saying that maybe a little part of you believes that maybe some of what Punk was saying is stuff that Tony wanted out there that he may have wanted to be said and just didn't want to have to say it himself?

Well sometimes that does happen. Now I don't know that about Tony Khan, 'cause I don't really know him. Never had the opportunity to meet him. But like I said, I think with that, with Punk doing that for the first time there in AEW, Tony Khan sitting there, never heard nothing like this before, and all of a sudden, boom, here it is. My opinion is, I just think Tony Khan was just at a point where he didn't know what to do.

The Fall Of Vince McMahon

You've been around some locker rooms in your day, Teddy. Does this dynamic right now, this kind of crazy atmosphere, does it feel like any other kind of locker room you've ever been around? Is there anything that comes to mind when you see this kind of drama played out backstage?

Well, I've seen that drama played out backstage and that's where it kind of stayed at was backstage. It never came to the light. So like I said, this is a different era now, Nick ... People ain't living back in the '90s, and back that when you couldn't talk or you couldn't say this or either you could say it, but you knew you would get fired or you'd get in trouble.

These young people now are out there, they're not afraid and they're not afraid to talk back. And I'll go for this instance with Sasha Banks and Naomi, these girls, this is the first time I ever seen anything like that. These girls like, "Hey, f*** it. I've had enough." They go in, turn in their tag team belts and say, "We're out of here." I never thought I'd see any women to step that far, you know what I mean? So that just goes to show you how our business has changed and how times have changed. And a lot of people in that old era, they don't want to come into the new era. They want to stay back in the day, and that's where you got the problem.

Well let's pivot a little bit here, let's talk a little bit about the new era we're moving into here from the other side. Now, Vince McMahon stepped down from all of his roles amid all of these allegations recently in this internal investigation. Teddy, did you ever think you would see the day that there was a WWE without Vince McMahon as long as he had a heart beating in his body?

No, I did not. I would never. Because I was there, and I know the times that Vince McMahon was at home sick, wasn't able to make it to the TV, but they went to his house, set up monitors, everything at his house, just like he was still there at TV, and he ran that company from his sick bed. So that's what I'm saying, to be that dedicated and be that involved, it's probably hurting Vince more now than it is us.

You mean for him to sit and have to watch his product be played with by somebody else now?

Right, that's probably really hurting him.

Vince McMahon Under Investigation

What's your observation of the dynamic between Triple H, Stephanie and Vince, and I guess to a lesser degree Nick Khan? Because I don't know how well you know Nick Khan, but Triple H or Paul, whatever you want to call him, Hunter, is really trying to distance himself from the idea that Vince McMahon has any influence over the product at the moment. A lot of people have been skeptical of that. Do you think that's genuine? Do you think that Vince is out of the picture right now?

Well, I just don't know, because I think with all this stuff that's going on between him and all this stuff that's happening right now, I think possibly that Vince is probably stepped away. And that's what I mean about this was probably hurting him more than anything else, because I never would forget that Michael Cole told me one time, he said, "Wrestling is Vince's life." And I was on Vince's plane at the time and Michael Cole told me, he said, "Vince will talk about wrestling when we take off and he'll talk about it until we land." And that's exactly what he did. We talked about wrestling that whole flight. So that's why I say I think him being away is, like I said, he's been doing this for so many years, so to step away, that has got to take a lot out of it.

Now were you surprised by the allegations, Teddy? A lot of people are out there saying very nice things about Vince, he's a genius, he's responsible for your childhood, and that's all true, too. That is all true. But there's the other side of the coin where it does seem like there was some shenanigans with him and John Laurinaitis, to say it nicely, with women backstage at WWE. Did any of that surprise you, Teddy?

Well, yes it did, because I never experienced none of that. I never did see Vince or nothing flirting around or having conversations with the girls or nothing. And Laurinaitis I did see a couple of times having conversations with the girls, but to know that what he was trying to do and far as that, I didn't have no knowledge of that. And I really didn't pay that much attention. I mean when this come out about Vince and stuff, it was really a shock to me, because you would never ... I mean to be around him as long as I was, and I mean to just see how professional and how business he was ... I just would've never thought that.

Johnny Ace Loses People Power

And so John Laurinaitis got taken down in all of this. He's no longer with the company as well. How do you feel about his removal from the WWE system?

Well I think with John Laurinaitis, it's karma. Karma will come back to get you. Laurinaitis was never a big fan of mine. He always laughed and grinned in my face, but he hated my guts ... and I knew that he probably thought I didn't know it, because he used to come and try to bulls*** me with, "Well hey Teddy, so glad you could make it. Man, we were thinking about you." You ain't thinking about me. You know what I mean? Jesus Christ. But anyway, like I said, I learned how to play the game. So you go along with the bulls*** and that's how you keep your job and survive another day.

Are you happy to know that there's a new generation of people that aren't going to have to put up with that bulls*** to survive another day, Teddy?

Yes I am. I'm really happy about that. Because I mean, people shouldn't have to do that to keep a job. If you're out there doing your job, then you should be awarded for doing your job ... I mean, it just doesn't make any sense. Some guy that walk up to you and maybe give you a bump in paycheck or raising your paycheck or put the belt on you and now you're the big star. But all that's bribe. So for somebody to do that, I mean if you doing your job, do your job, you don't have to worry about that. I didn't go do none of that, because I did my job, and that's what I knew that Vince wanted from me was me to do my job. Vince might not have liked me, but I did my job. There's a lot of people Vince didn't like, but they did their job. So that's what it's all about. You know what I mean? So you make people like you, whether they like you or not.

Possible WWE Return

And on that note, look, Johnny Ace is gone, right? And Vince is also gone, but new management coming in here ... Are you heartened by that? Do you see that as an opportunity for you to maybe to come back and do more now that there are different players in charge now with the company?

Well, yeah, I don't think it'll do anything for me. You know what I mean? They got new people there and I wish them all the best of luck. And like I said, I hope they get things turned around and get the company back like the Attitude Era, and like it used to be. But I mean, there's some people there now that I won't call any names, but I don't think they'll ever bring me back there again.

I don't know man, that "NXT" GM spot is just sitting there. Regal's gone, Teddy.

Well, I don't think they want me, and they'll use the excuse that I'm too old ... But I can still do my job. And I'm not bragging nothing, but I'm in better condition than half of some of those guys that work back there, those agents, the older guys, and I'm not talking about them, it's just me, it's what I do with my body. So I'm in tremendous shape, I'm in good shape. I don't look bad, but I'm old.

You don't seem old, Teddy. I just hung out with you a month ago.

I mean, brother, that's an excuse. All that's just an excuse. Tell me how many old guys are working backstage in AEW?

Quite a few at the moment, actually.

AEW's Locker Room Leadership

We had Booker T on last week, and he was talking about the AEW turmoil backstage, and how they don't have an Undertaker figure, and they don't have respect for Wrestler's Court as a way to govern themselves backstage, to prevent these kinds of blowouts from happening. From your perspective, do you think there is somebody backstage at AEW that can serve as that Undertaker figure to keep order in the locker room?

Well, there are some people there that can do that. I mean, there's several guys I know that are there now. You take Jake Roberts, who's a great, phenomenal guy, he would be a supreme locker room captain, because Jake will tell you just like it is. He's just like me. He ain't going to sugarcoat nothing. If you're good, you're good. If you're bad, you're bad. It ain't no, "Well I didn't think..." It ain't none of that. It's yes or no, good or bad. So Jake Roberts would certainly be a great locker room captain.

Could you see him as a head of talent relations for Tony Khan?

Yes. Because Jake has come a long way. And from Jake's past and up to now, Jake has made a tremendous change. Big 360 in his life, God bless him. And I'm just so happy that he's still around. He's still alive and he survived those demons. And we've all been there. I've been there, done that too. I've had them demons too. I was just able to be able to shake them. A lot of guys like JYD and guys that we've lost, they weren't able to shake those demons. So I want to applaud Jake Roberts, and I think he'd be great for talent relations, because Jake just going tell you like it is and he ain't going to play that favoritism game.

The Future Of Authority Roles

Do you think [AEW] could benefit from an on-air general manager?

Well, if that's what they wanted to do, you know what I mean? They rehash everything, you know what I mean? Maybe they could start it over but change the name, you know what I mean? Make it a little bit different. Don't call it the GM, maybe give it another name like commissioner. They never used that a lot. They used it, but they never really forced ... Like there was never really like a full-time commissioner, like it was a full-time GM. So you change the name and you bring somebody in to do it, you know what I mean? It worked in WWE, and if it hadn't of worked then Vince wouldn't have never done it. I stayed in that spot for nine years, and he didn't put me there to stay in there just because he liked me.

But he did, you did win him over, in the end, he liked you.

But the reason I won him over is because I did my job. That's all Vince wants you to do is do your job. And every time he would put pressure on me, I was able to handle the pressure. And what I mean about pressure is sometimes I'd have, the writers would give me a promo, I'd remember all that stuff, get it in my head and get ready to walk out and say it, and Vince would come and ask me what I was saying. Now he knows what I'm saying, he's already read, he has the final word on it. Then he'll tell me, "Well I don't want you saying that now. Here's what I want you to say."

And he change it right in the middle of everything. And I'm like five minutes before walking out. So now as I'm walking out, I'm smiling, but I'm also trying to remember everything he just told me. So I was able to pull all that off, and Vince would do that to make sure you was on top of your game. And so I was always on top of my game with him.

One-On-One Without The Undertaker

Are you aware that you saying, "It's going to be a tag match, playa" has become an online meme? Are you aware you're a meme now, Teddy?

Well I see different things on social media where people use that, and a lot of people still use the one-on-one with Undertaker.

It's true.

And then I'm going to say this to you, Nick, and I know I said this to you at SummerSlam. Now just think about this, now Undertaker goes into the Hall of Fame. I'm the only guy, and this wasn't nothing Vince gave me, I created one-on-one with the Undertaker myself. Now you going to tell me, and you were there, you saw people, everybody walking up to me, one-on-one with the Undertaker. So how can you not bring me back to the Hall of Fame for Undertaker's induction?

You didn't even get an invite?

No.

Really?

Right.

Man, that's really surprising, because I know you and 'Taker are actually close.

Right. I managed Undertaker before he was ever Undertaker. He was Mean Mark Callous.

Man, that's a bummer to hear, Teddy, I'm sorry.

No, I'm just saying to you, like I said, didn't bother me. I don't care. Because I know this business and I know that there are people that didn't want me there, and I know who those people are, so I'm just saying to you, how do you miss that? 

Yeah, that's a great question, Teddy. I don't know the answer to that one. I'm very surprised by that.

Yeah, well, I'm not.

You could have come to the one-man show with me. I invited you.

You did, but I didn't feel right. You know what I mean? I just didn't feel right doing that. I didn't want to look like I'm sucking up to Undertaker.

Other WWE Authority Figures

Besides yourself, who do you consider to be the best onscreen authority figure in WWE history?

Oh wow. Probably Vickie Guerrero.

Yeah?

Yeah. Because she was really good in her role, you know what I mean? So I think with Vickie Guerrero, I'd have to say that.

[Do] you have any interest in refereeing one more time?

I have any interest in doing anything they want me to do. All you got to do is get me a check.

There you go. Teddy, where can people find you, hit you up, support you, all those great things?

@teddyplayalong, that's my Twitter information, and Teddy Long on Facebook.

And you and Mac, you guys are out and you're doing more of these kind of events you mentioned earlier, is that what I gather now?

Well, yeah, it's called After Hours. We're doing a lot of Comic-Cons. We're doing a lot of wrestling independent shows, a lot of meet-and-greets and where you can come by. We do a Q&A, you can ask me questions, you can ask Mac questions, and we have different guests. So if you'd like to book us, just get in touch with Mac Davis. Our information is out there and I know you know how to contact us too, and we'll just come out and give you guys a great time.

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