Tony Schiavone: Facts Only Hardcore Fans Know About The AEW Commentator

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Tony Schiavone made a name for himself as a wrestling announcer in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of his most famous work was as lead commentator for WCW's weekly television program, "Nitro." Many have called Tony Schiavone the "voice of WCW" because his commentating and distinct sounding voice was synonymous with WCW in the late 1990s. After WCW folded, he found himself at a crossroads — stay in the wrestling business or take a break? Tony decided to take a hiatus from the business and try a few different career paths that still mirrored the skills he had learned in the past.

In 2018, Tony Schiavone's unique voice was heard once again in MLW and in 2019, he inked a deal with AEW. Tony has assumed the role of commentary, along with in-ring and backstage interviews that has helped progress storylines on AEW "Dynamite." Although many fans are familiar with Tony's work across the world of wrestling, he is a man of many talents. Parts of his professional life, along with the 18 year break he took from the wrestling business, leave a lot of hidden and unknown pieces in the career of Tony Schiavone.

He got his start with the Jim Crockett Promotions

Tony Schiavone started his legendary announcing career in 1983 with Jim Crockett Promotions. Jim Crockett Jr. was a promoter who helped elevate many stars from the National Wrestling Alliance. Jim Crockett Promotions was known for showcasing the likes of Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA, and many others. These are the same wrestlers that Tony Schiavone had the honor of interviewing so early into his career.

Tony Schiavone has mentioned in the past that Jim Crockett Jr. was a monumental player in him getting a start in the wrestling business. Jim Crockett Jr. passed away on March 3rd, 2021 and Schiavone was able to talk to him on the phone a few days before his death. Tony shared on "Talk is Jericho" the words he said to Jim, just days before his death, "I said, 'I would be nothing without you because you're the one that gave me my shot, gave me my chance, and so everything that I've done, every success that I've had is really because of your confidence in me.'"

Agreeing to work with the WWF was the dumbest thing he ever said

From 1989 to 1990, Tony Schiavone had a very brief stint with the WWF. Vince McMahon flew Tony to Connecticut to offer him a job and Tony admitted on "WOOOOO! Nation with Ric Flair" that he had "stars in [his] eyes" when accepting the offer. His most notable broadcasts with the company were his play-by-play work with Jesse Ventura at SummerSlam 1989 and Royal Rumble 1990. Tony did some announcing for WWF Challenge along with producing content for Coliseum Home Video as well.

Toward the end of 1989, Tony got a call from Jim Barnett, WCW's senior adviser at the time, to come back to WCW with the offer of twice the amount of money that Vince McMahon was paying him. With the money in mind and the fact that Tony did not live in Connecticut permanently, he decided to leave the WWF in April of 1990. Many years later, Tony Schiavone took to Twitter to "jokingly" state the two dumbest things he has done in his life. In a 2020 tweet, Schiavone exposed the top two items on his mistakes list as, "1.) Yes Vince, I'll come to work for you 2.) Yes, I'll move to Connecticut"

He won the Worst Television Announcer in 1999 and 2000

For a wrestling commentator who is so widely respected in the business, it may come as a shock that the Wrestling Observer named Tony Schiavone the Worst Television Announcer in both 1999 and 2000. During the Monday Nights Wars, Tony was the main voice of WCW broadcasts, often finishing in the Top 7 of the Wrestling Observer Awards for Best Television Announcer before 1999. At this time, Mike Tenay and Jim Ross were claiming the top spots of this award category. Tony Schiavone was not far behind though, so what happened in 1999 and 2000 that turned this around?

The answer comes from WCW's dying product during those years. Tony Schiavone was always WCW's play-by-play announcer, which is a hard job in and of itself. However, when the on-screen product is abysmal week after week, this gets even harder. It also left Tony in the horrible spot of having to explain away all sorts of storyline nonsense. As more proof that it wasn't Tony's ability that brought on the award, his broadcast partner, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, was runner up for Worst Television Announcer in 1999. Both of them were completely phoning it in, and can you blame them? Tony almost "won" the award three times in a row, but Michael Cole took that spot in 2001.

His failed heel run in TNA kept him away from wrestling for 18 years

After WCW folded in 2001, Tony Schiavone was out of a job in the wrestling business. He reappeared in front of an audience with a newly formed company, NWA-TNA (now known as Impact Wrestling). NWA-TNA was running weekly pay-per-views that featured young up and comers, such as AJ Styles. However, early into NWA-TNA's history, Vince Russo entered the scene and things began to be less about the wrestling and more about convoluted storylines. Without WCW money coming in, Schiavone decided to give NWA-TNA a shot as a new career path. Tony debuted as an on screen personality at NWA-TNA pay-per-view #30 by interrupting an interview segment with William Moody, better known as Paul Bearer.

Schiavone began to compare NWA-TNA to WCW, along with berate William Moody for his weight, and Mike Tenay on commentary. This bizarre heel turn received a lukewarm reaction from the audience, who were confused by the whole segment. It is speculated that the long term plan was to have Tony Schiavone be a part of Vince Russo's stable of Sports Entertainment eXtreme (S.E.X.), but Tony Schiavone's heart was not in it. He did one set of taping with NWA-TNA and was never seen in the company again. Tony needed a break from the wrestling business, and this failed venture kept him away from wrestling altogether for 18 years.

He won awards for his time with sports radio

After his failed NWA-TNA heel run, Tony Schiavone needed to try something that wasn't in the realm of wrestling. Having the credentials that Schiavone had at this point in his career, it makes sense that his next career move would be in sports broadcasting. In 2004, he began sports radio for WSB-AM radio and also worked for other small stations owned by different companies. Tony's work with WSB-AM consisted mainly of his sports segment on the WSB Morning News.

In addition, he was part of the Georgia Bulldog Radio Network where he wrote and produced a show called "Best of the Bulldogs." This is one of Tony's biggest contributions to the sports radio world, as the show won the AP Award for "Best Sports Program" in 2004. After being on the air for two years, Tony also won the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Award for "Best Sports Story or Series" in 2006. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts at WSB-AM in 2015, Tony was let go from the station. Once again, Schiavone was at a crossroads of where his career would take him next.

He worked as a Starbucks Barista in between wrestling jobs

While taking a break from wrestling, Tony Schiavone found a love for sports broadcasting, but as a man who likes to keep himself busy, that still wasn't enough. In 2016, Schiavone announced that he would be yelling out names on coffee cups, as he was training to be a Starbucks barista. Tony admits that the biggest part that lured him in was the benefits package that the company offered. This was a completely different venture than Tony Schiavone had ever taken on. 

Regardless of the change, in an interview with Wavy.com (H/T The Sportster), Tony talked about this venture as, "It's a great place to work, I've always loved Starbucks. I've got time and I want to fill up my time working, I really do, I want to stay busy." Although this was a small detour for Schiavone, it ended up playing a major role later on in his career. Tony's work as a barista was the ammo that a newly heel Britt Baker would eventually use to berate Schiavone and put her character over in the process.

Tony Schiavone has hosted podcasts for AEW and beyond

After leaving sports broadcasting in 2015, Tony Schiavone took his radio skills to the world of podcasting. On January 30th, 2017, Tony began hosting "What Happened When?" alongside co-host Conrad Thompson on MLW Radio. The two would discuss stories about Schiavone's time with Jim Crockett Promotions, WWF, and WCW/Turner Broadcasting. In addition, Tony also hosted "Pro Wrestling Wednesdays," alongside, long time wrestling fan, Beau Le Blanc for WZGC FM 92.9 The Game out of Atlanta. This show ran down current events in wrestling, using Tony Schiavone's 30 plus years in the business as perspective. The show eventually went on hiatus on April 22nd, 2020.

On February 20th, 2020, AEW launched their own podcast called "AEW Unrestricted." With Tony Schiavone already on the AEW payroll, he was an obvious choice to host their new show. Alongside Aubrey Edwards, the two run down AEW news along with interview talent from the extensive AEW roster. Tony Schiavone gets to live the best of both worlds in AEW by doing weekly commentary for "Dynamite" and continue his radio hosting career with "AEW Unrestricted."

He called Mick Foley after his infamous 1999 line

All wrestling fans know the story of Tony Schiavone and his infamous call from the broadcast table of "that'll put some butts in the seats." On the January 4th, 1999 episode of WCW "Nitro," Tony Schiavone spoiled the main event of the taped "Monday Night Raw" episode. He buried the world title win of Mick Foley in an effort to keep viewers tuned in to "Nitro." Not only was WCW, as a company, hurt by this call, but so was Mick Foley. He felt that Tony Schiavone had stepped on his world title win in a disrespectful and uncalled for way. 

Tony agreed that this line made him sound like "an arrogant jerk announcer," so he gave Mick Foley a call the next day. Schiavone apologized to Foley by saying that he did not mean anything he said, he was trying to do his job of keeping people from changing the channel. There is no bad blood here, though, as Tony Schiavone explains in an interview with TV Insider: "I talked to Mick at a comic book convention back in September. He said, 'I want to thank you and [Jim Ross] for making my career, for what you said that night and what Jim said when Undertaker threw me off and through the cage.' That made me feel good about it. He is one of the legends in the business."

Tony Schiavone is the author of his own graphic novel

Tony Schiavone is a man of many hobbies, career paths, and talents. After signing with AEW, Tony Schiavone took on another business venture of writing his own graphic novel. The graphic novel follows the life of Tony Schiavone and is very appropriately titled "Butts In Seats: The Tony Schiavone Story," poking fun at his controversial call in 1999. Tony told The Flagship that a lot of people have approached him over the years saying he should write a book. He didn't even think of taking the graphic novel approach until his lawyer mentioned it and was able to hook him up with a top graphic novel seller on Amazon.

Schiavone liked the style of the graphic novel because he collected and read a lot of comic books as a kid. Tony mentioned that he loved writing the story and reflecting on all the different ways he had reinvented himself. He also wanted people to know that he was leery of writing his story because he knows other people have had much tougher lives than him. Tony Schiavone explained what he hopes all readers take away from his story: "I hope it's a story that people are drawn to and will say, he made sure his family was provided for, and he loved wrestling, that never wavered."

He had real life beef with Bobby Heenan

Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Tony Schiavone have a storied past together at the broadcast table. They were heard on commentary for WCW "Nitro" broadcasts throughout the late 1990s. In the "Bobby Heenan: Shoot Interview" by RF Video, Heenan accused Schiavone of hiding finishes and angles on "Nitro" from himself and fellow commentator Mike Tenay. Bobby Heenan felt that the motive behind this was that Schiavone's key to life was "knowledge in power."  Fellow wrestling broadcaster Gene Okerlund agreed with Heenan on this statement. Okerlund said during his own shoot interview with RF Video that although he always liked Schiavone, Tony was a "consummate politician" who often looked out for himself, and in the process, would "bury people along the way."

A tense moment between Heenan and Schiavone happened on the "Nitro" following the death of Heenan's good friend, Gorilla Monsoon. It was alleged that Schiavone did not want to mention Monsoon's name on the broadcast because he had never worked for WCW. Regardless, Heenan still got a small sentiment to his friend on the air. On a "Ross Report" episode in 2014, Tony mentions that he never objected to mentioning Monsoon, he just wanted to make sure it was cleared by Eric Bischoff first. Tony Schiavone takes full responsibility for his collapsed relationship with Bobby Heenan. Tony's response to Heenan's criticism was simple: "I deserve it." 

Has a great friendship with Britt Baker

During Britt Baker's first AEW Women's Title run, Tony Schiavone was her verbal punching bag for any and all interviews that she had with him. Tony played a major role in helping establish Britt Baker as a top heel in the company, and the chemistry the two possessed on screen was undeniable. This great chemistry stems from the fact that Tony Schiavone and Britt Baker are great friends off screen. Britt Baker has mentioned that she would not be the star she is today without the help of Schiavone.

Britt claims she goes to Tony for advice on anything going on in life, whether it's good, bad, or ugly. Along with being a great guy to vent to, he helped Britt greatly when she was first developing her heel promo skills. In an interview with the "In Your Kliq" podcast, Baker describes how Tony calmed her nerves when she first turned heel: "I was so nervous to be cutting these live promos as a bad guy, something I had never done before and I just always knew in the back of my head, 'Hey, if anything goes wrong, I have Tony Schiavone here.'"

He's still getting paid for Ready To Rumble

Many wrestling fans from the late 1990s and early 2000s choose to forget about the wrestling based comedy movie, "Ready To Rumble," and rightfully so. The movie starred David Arquette and was a major reason why Arquette found himself with the WCW World Championship around his waist in the dying days of the company. This movie was essentially a huge advertisement for WCW, had lackluster reviews, and was not a blockbuster by any stretch of the imagination, but Tony Schiavone found himself with a small role in the movie. Even so, Schiavone is still cashing paychecks from the film.

In a 2017 episode of "What Happened When" (H/T Sportskeeda), Tony talked about how he still collects royalty checks from the Screen Actors Guild for his work in the movie. Schiavone told co-host Conrad Thompson that, "If you rent the movie or download it, I do have to say that SAG really comes through. I get a check every year still from this movie." Tony went on to say that the checks bring in about $200 to $300 hundred dollars a year. Although that obviously isn't much, he says that it is still $200 to $300 dollars that he would not have had if he didn't appear in "Ready to Rumble." Conrad Thompson also pointed out how that was still more money than Tony Schiavone would ever make from the WWE Network.

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