WrestlingINC.com recently caught up with former WCW Superstar Scotty “Riggs” Antol. We spoke about a large range of topics, including his start in the business, being hired by WCW, his ups and downs in WCW, leaving WCW for ECW and much more. Part one of the interview is at this link, and part two is here.
The interview was conducted before Riggs underwent gallbladder surgery last week. You can follow Riggs on Twitter at @REALScottyRiggs and send him your well wishes as he recovers from the procedure. We here at WrestlingINC.com would like to wish Riggs the best as he recovers.
WrestlingINC: So, you basically left when Vince Russo came back with Eric Bischoff. Shortly after that, you left?
Riggs: Right. Everybody goes, ‘He just got fired or released.’ The true story of it was that I was supposed to get a pay raise. Went in there, met with J.J. Dillon, had a conversation, talked out a nice, little deal for another one year contract. I get called back in about three days later and they’re like, ‘Well, we’re bringing these guys back. We’re bringing Jeff Jarrett in. We’re doing this and we’re doing that and we’re not going to be able to give you that pay raise. We want to put you on a nightly deal. You’ll still make X amount of dollars, but it’s more of an incentive-type thing. We’ll work you, but we’re not going to guarantee you anything. Do you want to accept that?’
I went, ‘You’re going to yank what you just gave me and want me to come back and work, in a sense, just as much but not having anything guaranteed? So, if I get hurt, I’m screwed?’ The one thing that happened is that I did have a few injuries where I separated my shoulder and kept trying to work and stuff like that but was basically told to take time off. ‘You’re getting paid anyway, take some time off and heal. Make your appearances like we need you to do but you don’t have to wrestle.’
So, I’m like, ‘Now, all of a sudden, you take away all of my security? You want me to be happy about it? No.’ So, basically, when I turned down their deal, they said that they were about to let me go. I said, ‘Well, fine. I want to leave anyway.’ It was not a happy place to work. When they started bringing all these guys and everything started getting re-done and everybody had to be a certain persona — like, me with he mirror was not the happiest of times but it was something that they wanted me to do. [Laughs.]
That was not the way I wanted to be and towards the end of that thing, I just got rid of the mirror and just started being myself. Just started being Scotty Riggs — just a wrestler — and that was not what they wanted.
WrestlingINC: When you finally decided not to take their nightly deal, did you try sending feelers to WWF or did you just want to go directly to ECW?
Riggs: The funny thing was that I was living in Atlanta and ECW actually came in to do a show at Center Stage. I had been good friends with Rob Van Dam for a long time. Since ’93, we really had known each other. We had talked and had phone calls and traveled and everything for a long time. We just kept in touch.
With him and some of the guys coming into town, Rob was like, ‘Why don’t you just come to the show?’ So, I came in and the first guys I really bumped into was Tommy Dreamer and Paul Heyman. They kind of pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey, we’d love for you to come here. Do you have a clause where you can’t do this or you can’t do that?’ I said, ‘I’m still receiving paychecks for X amount of weeks from these guys. Tommy said, ‘Well, I don’t want to mess that up for you but we want you in here.’
If I hadn’t gone to that show, I might have sent out feelers to WWF. But, at the time, Tommy, Paul and Rob said, ‘Hey, I want to bring Scotty in. We can do this thing together.’ So, it was kind of like they automatically reached out to me and it was just by chance that I had gone to that show. Just to see the guys and watch the event. The next thing I know, that’s where I was wanted before anybody else really had a chance to grab me.
I got a nice little pay day coming from them for a little while at least so I couldn’t complain. It was a schedule I liked and it was still a wrestling viable thing. I was always hesitant about WWE because you just never knew how they were going to use you. You went in there and you had to re-establish yourself which I didn’t even mind doing, but you just never knew what they were going to do to you. When they took Mr. Ass and put him with Chuck Polumbo and had ‘Chuck loves Billy’ and ‘Billy Loves Chuck,’ I went, ‘Wow. They can do that to a guy that was a part of the D-Generation X and really helped establish that era? Then turn him into this kind of hokey thing. What are they going to do to anybody else?’
You just never knew what they were going to do to you or how they were going to use you.Were they going to use you for a short period of time and then get rid of you? Did they want to use you for a long period of time and never let you do anything? It was just one of those things where there was a whole bunch of uncertainty there. Unless you were one of the top guys, there was an uncertainty there.
I had the fact of going to ECW where I knew a lot of the guys because I had met them and talked to them along the way. I was great friends with Rob so I knew that decent things were going to be happening with me there. Paul Heyman actually sat down and said, ‘This is the way I want to use you and for a six month period of time.’ Then, he went through a-b-c-d-e-f and g with me. The funny thing was when I actually sat with him and started working with him, that’s exactly what happened.
Already put in his mind was, ‘This is what I want to do with this guy and this is how I’m going to build him, use him and work him.’ That happened like he said. Bischoff didn’t do that. Sullivan did that at the start of it. Bit this was a boss that actually ran the company and said, ‘This is what I want to do with you,’ and you run with it and made it happened? For me, that was a chance for me to actually grow and gain more perspective for wrestling. Not only as a sport, but from the business side of it.
Paul Heyman was going to teach me more of the business side of it. That was just really a great time for a guy that creative. Paul Heyman — he’s definitely a Dr. Frankenstein. He’s a creative genius when it comes to that. Businessman? He kind of sucks. When it comes to wrestling, he is phenomenal.
WrestlingINC: He’s badly missed right now.
Riggs: Oh, God. Yeah. If he went in to TNA or even Ring Of Honor with just his genius being put into that and actually being used right? Wow! The things that could happen. If he went back to Vince and WWE, they’d be the same thing like when he was there before. He’d have great ideas, but when Vince didn’t like them and didn’t want to do them — Vince is the final say-so. A lot of fans don’t understand that. Vince has the final say-so in Daniel Bryan getting squashed in 18 seconds by Sheamus. Vince said, ‘This is what we want to do,’ and that’s what happened.
No matter what anybody else said, Vince said, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ He’s the boss. In one sense, that’s a great thing to have. In another, it’s, like, ‘Wow!.’ If he doesn’t have any flexibility, I’m a little nervous.
Paul E. was just so good but all of the times, he got squashed with what he wanted to do which was keep things sparked. Keep things alive. Instead of going one route in a story, you’d have a fork in the road. You could go either way. He had that golden horse shoe that could tell which way you needed to go with this. The crowd would go nuts over it.
WrestlingINC: You mentioned the business end of it with him. You were there at the end when ECW finally went under. Did they ever miss payments to you?
Riggs: Long story short: Yes. We started working shows towards the end with no pay. Once certain guys that had been there for a while like RVD, Sandman? Dusty Rhodes was actually the first guy to [leave]. When they stopped paying him, he just said, ‘Hey, I’m not coming to your shows until you pay me.’ He was still under a deal with him and he stopped coming. Then, even their top guys were not getting paid.
Some of the guys stayed and worked because they knew that that’s what helped establish the company. So, I stayed there for a short period of time working and then even tried to re-structure my deal Paul so that I would still get paid something. But, they just didn’t have the funds to pay anybody anything towards the end of it.
Unfortunately, at the beginning of ECW, they were a mom and pop operation in the sense that when they made money, they just spent it as best they could. Everybody was working. When Paul got that deal with TNN, he sat down with them and got one pay-per-view that was done using their satellite trucks, lighting and rigging, and one SpikeTV program that was taped using their lighting, rigging, cameras, production process and everything else. That’s all he was guaranteed. One of each.
So, when they came in and did their one, that was it. But we had to deal with them to be on TV, which ECW never had before with actually being on TV. If you notice, the production value of the first couple of shows was great, but after that, Spike pulled their stuff out and said, ‘Hey. We’ve fulfilled our obligation. You got on TV. Now, you’ve got to keep doing the TV thing for us,’ So, we went from having hard cameras, two hand held cameras and everything else, to having one guy on the side of the ring with one hand held camera and one guy with a hard camera that they had used in the past.
The lighting went to hell. The whole production value went down because, all of a sudden, they had to produce it themselves. Because we were on TV, we were actually making money and we were drawing the house show money and stuff like that. But Paul was having to pay his past creditors from buildings that he didn’t pay and stuff like that. Towards the end of it, unfortunately, he could go back to a lot of the buildings because he owed them money for renting the buildings. There were very little places you could go because he owed money.
That was the thing. If Paul would have just hired somebody to be a businessman for him, instead of him trying to do the business side of it himself and he could just be the creative guy that he was before — I don’t know what the relationship with Todd Gordon and him was and how they worked together. I was a wrestler, not a businessman. But, just as a fly on the wall, I saw how everything just started going straight down hill. The money started drying up and you stopped receiving your paycheck.
The FedEx package with your paychecks just weren’t there. You didn’t get them at the TV. Whenever you just kept getting promised them and you knew they weren’t showing up, guys stopped coming. It just became a hard time and you just knew the money was not going to be there. You wanted to keep the company viable and you really wanted to be there because that was one of the greatest companies I ever worked for. So, I don’t want to get all down and dreary on the place.
Those guys had the biggest egos in the world, but it wasn’t with themselves, it was in their matches. Everyone there tried to make ECW better. When I left WCW, where everyone was pretty much cut throat and tried to make themselves better and went to ECW, it was just a breath of fresh air. Everyone from C.W. Anderson to Steve Corino, Dreamer — all those guys. Jerry Lynn. Everything they were doing was to try to make that show better. They all took pride in that. That was something that I hadn’t seen in wrestling in a long time since Nitro first started. Everyone tried to make everyone better.
WrestlingINC: Basically, when ECW went under and WCW sold to WWE all within a span of just a short period, it was kind of the end of that golden age. Today you now have WWE, and the TNA and ROH on a much smaller scale. What are your thoughts on TNA?
Riggs: I think they are probably a viable option, for real, future wrestling stars. They do focus more on the wrestling. They do have their top guys with Kurt Angle or Sting or Jeff Jarrett — I’ll give Jarrett props — they go out there to build other guys.
For a Bobby Roode, who has probably worked so hard from the beginning of that company until now to elevate everything he’s done with himself — he’s done that. When Sting put him over — Sting is not ego-driven. ‘You know, you can’t beat Sting.’ No. He wants to see that company succeed. They just need to capture their audience in order to be able to go to other places and do their TV tapings. Not to be stuck down there in Orlando. They’ve got to find that way of getting to that next level.
They’ve been around longer than anybody would even give them credit for being around. When Jarrett got that thing going at Universal, that gave them a place to do their TVs and do it properly. So, they’ve taken that next step. Now, their next step is to keep broadening and being able to do tours overseas and have their product be seen overseas. To keep their brand growing. If they keep doing what they’re doing, they’ll be on the right track. The thing is that they do it through wrestling. They’re not doing it through celebrity status or personalities and stuff like that. They’re doing it through their matches. That’s where they create your interest.
They’re building that credibility back into wrestling, where fans are going, ‘What’s going to happen next? Who is Bobby Roode going to fight next? Is that guy going to be able to kick his ass?’ That’s what they want to see. ‘If Sting can’t get it done, maybe James Storm can get it done or maybe the next guy can get it done.’ That’s what they want to see and that’s what is going to build credibility back into wrestling. Not just being a big show that WWE is. It’s a wrestling show. But, again, it’s a show.
WrestlingINC: You were then competing on the independent scene before suffering an injury in 2007. What happened? Are you still taking bookings?
Riggs: Long story short, I had an accident at a show where I slipped on a wet spot and pretty much shattered the ulna bone in my left elbow. I did that in ’07 and I’ve had three surgeries on it where they fillet it open like a fish. Long story short, it took 13 screws and steel plates to put back together again.
I had no feeling in my hand for a while I tried to make a brief comeback, but the elbow just does not have the stability I need. So, I really don’t take wrestling bookings anymore. I just can’t because of the liability with myself and the liability with promoters.
I tell them, ‘Hey, if something happens, we’ve got to come up with some way of you paying the bills and not me. Because I’m working for you. The promoters like, ‘Dude, I don’t have that type of insurance.’ So, unless you’re working with someone that has a worker’s comp. plan or something like that — my left elbow extends about five inches shorter than my right elbow does. So, that basically ended my full-time wrestling career. I can’t work out like I used to.
I was talking to Lex [Luger] about two weeks ago to see how he’s been doing and when I was first hurt, I remembered how he had his injury. I knew what he went through to get rehab and get his arm back to where it was. But his wasn’t shattered like mine was. He had one fracture. With mine, the doctor said he had to go to the muscle and find the bone to give me an ulna bone again in my forearm.
Basically, he had to put my arm back together again. So, that’s kind of ended my wrestling career when it comes down to actually wrestling. Which kind of sucks, being 41 and not being able to pursue your passion like you did when you were 23 or 24. When you were a young guys, going, ‘Wow!’ Now that I know more and can do more, unfortunately, I only know more and want to do more. I just don’t have that option open to me.
I’ve had people ask me, ‘Why don’t you go be a part of the behind-the-scene stuff?’ I wouldn’t mind being a part of the creative process and helping guys get better but I just don’t want to deal with the politics of it. I’m just not a cold-hearted person. ‘You either got to do this or you got to do that.’ I’m not the put-the-knife-in-the-back-of-the-other-guy type of dude. Never been that way. I wouldn’t mind helping other guys get better if I could do it in the ring. Not having to do it verbally.
So, I do some appearances at some conventions and memorial shows and stuff like that. But, basically, when it comes down to the wrestling aspect of it — unfortunately — that part’s over.
WrestlingINC: Thanks again Scotty, we really appreciate it.
Riggs: Thank you, this was fun.
Also, you can follow Riggs on Twitter at @REALScottyRiggs and you can send him your well wishes as he recovers from his recent gallbladder surgery. We here at WrestlingINC.com would also like to wish Riggs the best as he recovers.