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, you can check out part two of the interview below. Make sure to check back tomorrow for part three where Riggs talks about why he left WCW, being in ECW during their dying days, working with Paul Heyman and much more.
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: That next year, business really caught fire with the nWo angle. What was it like when things really started to pick up? Because wrestling was definitely slow in the early ’90’s. WWF and Vince with his legal battles. It just seemed like it was very stale there for a little bit. Then, it just really caught fire very quickly.
Riggs: What really caught fire was going head-to-head in competition. That’s why I give Eric Bischoff where he came up with an idea and pitched it to them. They had their flag ship show which was Saturday Night and we taped on a Tuesday. Then, we would do our house shows in between and that was about it.
When Bischoff came up with the actual idea of going head-to-head with Raw — Raw was a one hour show, it was taped. It would be live one week, tape the next week. Bischoff said, ‘Why don’t we do a one to two hour show that we can air on TNT?’ TNT is a television programming network and Ted Turner owned us. He owned the Braves, and he had the Hawks on his programming. He wanted more programming instead of having movies or anything else on there. A live show actually made sense to him.
We’ve got wrestling on Saturday night and it pulls in great ratings for us. Why don’t we have a live show? Also, it was the right time, right place in that wrestling era to go with that spark of a live show. When the tag titles (switched) on the third ever Nitro, it just gave it credibility. The good thing about wrestling is that you never know what’s going to happen. So, you want to watch it.
Then, you had your closet fans all of a sudden and wrestling became popular. I remember when we were first wrestlers, we were going to a club. That club didn’t want us there because we had a bad reputation of being troublemakers. Then, all of a sudden with Nitro, we became quasi-celebrities since we were on every week. Then, with Thunder, the pay-per-views and everything else — with the expanded audiences — we started going to these small buildings to the Civic Centers. We started going to these arenas. We started going to the United Center in Chicago to do a Nitro. Or the Georgia Dome in front of 40,000 people and do a Nitro.
The Alamodome in San Antonio?. Tacoma, Washington. All these places where we were doing these big, huge arenas with 20-30,000 people. All of a sudden, wrestling just got that shot in the arm because we were doing it live. Nobody had done a live wrestling thing. Every now and then, there was a Clash Of The Champions or something of that sort would be live for TBS and WCW.
WWF wasn’t even doing any live TV until they came to senses with Raw. They were live one week and they would taped the next. So, it wasn’t a continuous thing. But they were n the USA network and they were the flag ship show. Just like Saturday Night was WCW’s flag ship show.
When Nitro and Raw started going head-to-head, it was just the right time and the right place. It just re-energized the business.
WrestlingINC: What was it like working with Eric Bischoff during that period? I’ve heard wrestlers say good things about him and a lot just say that he was increasingly hard to work with during that period.
Riggs: The strange thing about Eric is that he was the first one to give me my first deal, my first contract with WCW. That was after working for about three or four months without a contract. They brought me in August of 1995, finished it up in [November] of 1995. So, about three months went by and I was still working without a contract. A couple of guys actually went up to Eric and said, ‘Eric, this kid’s working without a contract.’ I actually talked to Kevin Sullivan about it and I got a raise and a one year deal.
After that was when they started doing the nWo thing. Eric came up to me at a TV and I was once again working without a contract. There was a rumor going around that I was leaving and I don’t know where it came from. It was untrue but it was rumored that I was leaving WCW to go to WWF at the time to be part of their Light-Heavyweight thing they were trying to start doing.
Eric Bischoff came up to me at a Nitro and said, ‘Hey, I know you’re working without a contract. I appreciate your loyalty. I want to reward you for that.’ So, he gave me a three year deal with a pay raise every year. It gave me security and it gave me balance in a sense and I felt better at home in WCW than if I were to leave there and go re-establish myself and find myself not sure of what they were going to do with me. So, in one sense, Eric did some good things for me, business-wise.
When it came to the wrestling side of it — as soon as Eric became a personality on TV in wrestling, it seemed like he really started to lose his focus. He started worrying a lot more about his own persona on TV than he did about business. He took care of some business things — he did his business meetings and everything else — but instead of handling everyone else business-wise, his whole thing became: we’ve got to beat Vince. We’ve got to beat Vince. Whatever it took him to do that, he was going to do. That’s where he lost his focus.
Instead of beating Vince, just keep doing what you’ve been doing and keep the show that you’ve got different and creative. Just like it’s been. That’s when all these ex-WWF wrestlers came in. Instead of being viable, different option, we became WWF-lite. They were hiring everybody in the world to be on these two live shows with Nitro and Thunder. Five hours a week of live programming. It just got to a point where it became more of a personal vendetta for guys getting back at Vince, instead of having a different style of wrestling.
Bischoff hired Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara. Those guys came in and you could tell this was those guys trying to get back at Vince for firing them. We hired them. When things started going really, really down hill was when those guys came in and it was their crash TV style. Bischoff bought into it instead of being his own mind like he was at the start of it. He got lost with worrying about his persona [instead of] the creative process.
WrestlingINC: What was the feeling like backstage when you were seeing all these WWF guys come in and WCW wasn’t really inserting any of the younger guys into the mix? They did put Luger and Sting in, but they were guys that were already there for such a long time. Instead of building for the future and putting some younger guys in this mix, it was just already-established stars.
Riggs: In one sense, it was a good thing that those guys came in because they had a following. You had your [Randy] Savage, your [Rick] Rude, your [Curt] Hennig. Guys that were viable options. Everybody did dig that. Then again, you had your Benoits, your Guerreros, your Malenkos, your Jerichos. All these guys. Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, Konnan, myself. Even Bagwell, who had gone over to nWo, got lost in the shuffle. He was a part of the bigger picture, but not as a separate entity. He wasn’t even getting the push that he thought he was going to get when he went to nWo.
All the WWF guys seemed to take those spots. They all came in and they were doing business. The WCW guys, we had all been packaged and we got our pay. What your bosses told you and what the booker told you — either Kevin Sullivan, Terry Taylor, Dusty Rhodes — what they told you, we just pretty much did.
The WWE guys came in and they came in with an attitude. ‘OK. We put this creative control in our contracts. If we don’t like what’s going on, we won’t wrestle tonight. We’ll just do two interviews.’ Instead of being a show that was a show that was written and up on the boards at five, every Monday or every Thursday, by eight, you’d know who you were going to wrestle and what you were going to do. There were nights at 7:30 where we didn’t even know who was going to be the first match. We had to scrap and rewrite everything because all these guys didn’t want to do matches. They just wanted to do promos. They wanted to be highlighted at the top of the hour.
Let everybody else do the grunt work in a sense. ‘Let your other guys do the work and we’ll take all the glory.’ That was really the downfall in another sense. Even though they came in and sparked everything, they also took at spark and squandered it. Instead of being team-oriented and saying, ‘Let’s do Nitro great,’ it was, ‘Hey, this is our way of getting back at Vince for firing us.’
The show became misused and instead of being the new item that it was, it just became old habits. People are just regurgitating everything. Then, everybody was leaving. You had, Benoit, Malenko — Jericho was really the first one to leave and go to WWE and become a “star” in a sense. Those guys did start doing that and then you had talent just starting to leave.
All of a sudden, WCW was trying to find a way to establish these young guys. They had the New Blood in a sense start taking on the old guys. The old guys still didn’t want to put over the young guys. They knew they had to do it but they didn’t want to. They all had that creative control in their contract.
WrestlingINC: It also seemed like they tried to push everyone when they started pushing the young guys and no one got over. As opposed to picking a few to move to main event, etc.
Riggs: Yeah. Just like they hot shot me and Marcus. It did get us over and give us credibility. But instead of picking a few guys to do this with and do that with and establishing a team leader or an identity here, they just threw everything against the wall and saw what stuck. If it didn’t stick, they’d pick it up and try to throw it another way.
They were doing all of these skits instead of doing wrestling. They were using all these girls, you know? The Nitro girls went from being a dance group that performed during commercial breaks and 30 second dance routines in the ring or on the stage [into] valets and wrestlers. That was not their thing. All of a sudden, they wanted to be a part of the program. They all wanted to have their personas. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to be a star on TV instead of a part of the team.
As soon as that started happening, that’s actually when I left. January 1st of 2000 was when my contract ran out. I left there and went to ECW and everyone was questioning me about leaving. That’s a whole other story but I was promised another contract with a raise. Then when they told me Jeff Jarrett was coming in that they couldn’t give me a raise. Their money started becoming limited because they were handing out all these huge contracts.
Turner finally started going, ‘Hey, we need to start rolling in some of this money.’ So, they started getting rid of all these guys. Not to point fingers or anything, but there were guys under contract — I was number 47 in ’95 when I got my contract. I was the 47th wrestler under contract. By ’99 when I left — including referees, the Nitro girls, valets and everything else — there were almost 200 guys under contract. They were getting paid guaranteed money. Whether they worked or not. I know a guy that was there for two years. Never even put his boots on but he was making $85,000 a year. There’s a guy that cost you $170,000 in two years and never worked once? He was still getting a paycheck. That’s the thing that was killing WCW.
Eric went out and started hiring everybody so Vince couldn’t get them. Then, they had this talent pool and used none of them except for the same guys every week on Mondays and Thursdays. They used some of the new talent on the Saturday night show, but it wasn’t being watched because everybody knew it was taped.
WrestlingINC: When Kevin Nash was booker and things were blowing up but also spiraling out of control a little bit, were you younger guys ever asked for input as far as angles go or suggesting angles for yourselves?
Riggs: No. [Laughs.] That was one thing that was almost frowned upon. You almost felt entitled if they put you in a match — Nash was good about trying to help the younger guys to a certain point. But, he wasn’t going to give up his, especially with him being the booker and being the World Heavyweight champion and everything else. Him and Hall wanted to end Goldberg’s streak even though Goldberg didn’t want the streak to keep going. He was getting tired of it himself. But it should have meant something.
Bill had that credibility. He wasn’t the most talented guy, but he still believed that he was a machine. All of a sudden, it was two guys that ended that and everybody in the world knew — because of the internet and all and the sheets that were out there and everybody talking about this and that — that Nash taking over.
All of a sudden, when he was world champ, everybody went, ‘Ahh. We see why everything happened the way that it did because certain people wanted to keep themselves in the spotlight.’ That was the thing that really started hurting wrestling. Guys were just keeping themselves in the spotlight and they weren’t listening to the younger guys. Instead of generating new ideas and asking for input — if you did give it, you were applauded for it and it was never used or you were applauded for it and somebody else used it.
You almost didn’t want to give your ideas because you knew it was going to be given to somebody else. You almost just wanted to bite your lip and go, ‘What’s in the air for me now,’ and, ‘At least I’m getting a guaranteed paycheck.’ [Laughs.] That’s what everybody was dealing with at the time. You just kind of went with the flow and you just dealt with what was given to you.
WrestlingINC: Did you think that things were going to change when Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara came in?
Riggs: That’s actually when things got even worse. They came in with a bunch of hype of being the guys that made Raw. At the time, yeah, they did help spark a one hour program and having every minute count. All of a sudden, they had a three hour program where they tried to do the exact same thing with what they called their crash TV. It went from one segment to another segment and it didn’t have no overlap and nothing made any sense.
Wrestling fans just sat back and said, ‘OK. We just went from The Misfits to an nWo segment to a match that had no meaning, with Prince Iaukea who is known the Wrestler Formerly Known As Prince Iaukea. [Laughs.] Nothing made sense because there was no overlapping theme because it was their way of keeping your attention. But you can’t keep everybody attentive for three straight hours. Instead of giving them good, solid wrestling like we used to do when we have the talent to do it — you just went, ‘Wow!’
All of a sudden, Ed Ferrara became Oklahoma. You could tell these guys were not doing anything to make WCW better. They were using it as a vehicle to say, ‘Hey, Vince. You fired us but we got hired here so we’re now going to poke fun at you and poke fun at your employees.’ Everything became poking fun at somebody.
They were poking the sleeping bear, which was WWF, by going, ‘Hey, we’re going to use your personas in our TV show.’ Ehh. Why would you do that? Create your own identity. Don’t make fun of somebody else’s.
Wrestling fans aren’t stupid. It was a Southern-based wrestling company and all of a sudden, it turned into a TV show. They’re not going to stick with you. Well, everybody knew WWF was a TV show that was based on wrestling. They had characters and skits. They had images and their wrestling was solid, but it wasn’t the highlight of their show. WCW highlight was the great technical wrestling you got and your personas — which were powerful with a Sting or a Flair — they’re the most powerful personas in a wrestling venue.
The Horsemen. Those guys, just as a group, had the most powerful influence and the fans believed them. All because they knew how to wrestle. They put on great wrestling and great stories. You watched the match instead of having to watch a skit or story.
WrestlingINC: Weren’t they were trying to recycle Lex Luger’s WWF gimmick with you?
Riggs: In a sense, yeah. I went from being an American Male, a clean cut good looking kid to being apart of the Flock which was a grunge-type, dirty looking gimmick. The funny thing was that I got more attention with either fans or chicks by being a part of that grunge factor, by being a part of that darker image than I did being the pretty boy. Then, when they disbanded the Flock — which was a very political thing (because) we were getting more heat than the nWo was and a few guys just didn’t like the fact that we were actually hated.
Believe me, when we sat in that front row and you actually heard what those fans were yelling at us, we were hated. When the nWo guys came out, the fans just swooned them and loved them. They were the cool heels. Man, there’s no such thing as a cool heel. [Laughs.] You’re either hated or you’re loved. That’s it, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Then, they took me from that image and wanted to re-package me back into being the pretty boy again. I was going, like, ‘Wow. Talk about a roller-coaster ride.’ You know? I wanted to keep the eye patch and got some approval. Then, we it finally got to Terry Taylor — and I had disgruntles with him — he just said, ‘No. We’re not going to do that with him. This is what we want to do.’ I went, ‘You want to do what?? That makes no sense.’
I went from having a bad eye, to all of a sudden having a good eye. I just went, ‘Man. You’re not making anything make any sense. Let me be who I want to be and develop this persona. You want me to be this.’ So, I had, ‘Do this, or we’re just not going to do anything with you and you’re just going to flounder.’ So, I kind of had to do what they gave me.
WrestlingINC: That first run with Russo and Ferrara didn’t last too long. They were gone and all hell broke loose when Benoit, Guerrero, Saturn and all those guys requested their releases and got them. What was it like during that time?
Riggs: At the time, everybody was walking on egg shells. Time Warner was being bought by AOL [and] the business side of it was; we started losing ratings. Again, there were so many people under contract and the company went from making money and being a high-rated program, to losing money. When AOL suits were coming in, they didn’t want a program that was actually losing money. They didn’t understand TV and programming or anything else, they just wanted everything to be in the black and everything to be making money with what they were investing in.
Again, that’s when WCW started losing its steam because instead of keeping all these young guys, they were keeping these millionaire guys that were actually making a million dollars a year through Time Warner — not a WCW contract, but a Time Warner contract — but were only working Nitros or the live Thunders. Not the taped Thunders, but the live ones. They would never work a Saturday night program. They would work maybe a couple of house shows, but only the big ones. They wouldn’t work the smaller towns.
They were making the most money. So, we started trimming the fat with the lower paid guys and the mid-pay guys and those were the ones that were getting the axe. Then, you also had everybody that was coming up for contract re-negotiations now wanting more money. It became an issue or where, ‘OK. We’re getting guaranteed money as it is.’ But everybody wanted more of it. WCW just became a selfish place to work.
Nobody was worried about putting on good matches, they were just worried about getting their personalities over. It just became a selfish time for a lot of the people. I saw a lot of people — at one point — we [had] a team effort. All of a sudden, everybody was out for themselves. That’s when it became a hard place to work. It really did. I was kind of glad, in a sense, to get out of there.
Click here for part one of our interview with Riggs. Make sure to check back tomorrow for part three of our interview with Riggs, where he talks about why he left WCW, being in ECW during their dying days, working with Paul Heyman and much more.
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.