Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com recently spoke with former WWE / ECW / TNA Superstar Rhino about the upcoming Extreme Rising iPPV from the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday, December 29th. You can purchase tickets for the event or get more information at ExtremeRising.com.
Fans worldwide can watch the event -- which features a fully loaded card, title tournament finals, a title match to crown the first ever champion, as well as a cage match -- by ordering the iPPV VOD now at HighSpots.com by clicking here.
In the first part of our interview below, Rhino talks about his time with ECW and WWE, Vince McMahon interrupting his match with Tajiri at a live event, signing with TNA and more. Make sure to check back Friday for the second part of our interview, where Rhino discusses his time with TNA, why he left, the differences between the WWE & TNA ECW reunion shows, his second round title tournament match with Devon Storm at Extreme Rising, why he wasn't a part of the first two Extreme Rising events and more.
WrestlingINC: What were your thoughts when you first got your big break with ECW back in 1999?
Rhino: It was just one day at a time, take it as it comes. It was just about going in there and making an impact. Try to get a job and keep a job.
WrestlingINC: You were there during a crazy period for that company. Did you see the writing on the wall that there was a good chance it could fold?
Rhino: No, not at that time because we were still drawing really well. They were just trying to land a network deal which they had -- I want to say -- six or seven months after I had got in there. Some guys had left prior to that and we were needing to build some new talent. Paul [Heyman] was really good at doing that.
WrestlingINC: When it did fold, were you nervous? At that point, did you see it happening? What were your thoughts during that time?
Rhino: I was in disbelief, you know? I didn't think it was going to fall because business was still pretty strong back then. I thought we were going to get another TV deal. I mean, the writing was on the wall but I didn't think it was going to fold. I still claim to this day, and I don't have any insider information, but I think Paul was just burned out and tired. Just so physically, mentally burned out and tired in every which way.
He burned the candle at both ends. His fight was done. Not saying that he gave up on the fans or anything but I think when a person burns himself out, there's nothing you can really do.
WrestlingINC: You then worked with Paul in WWE shortly after that. Did you see a change in his demeanor?
Rhino: Oh, yeah. Not having to have all the pressure on him. When I saw him a few months after, he looked like a new man, batteries recharged. I think in a lot of ways, he got out of it at the right time because it didn't kill him and he was able to bounce back as a person.
WrestlingINC: When you signed with WWE, what was that feeling like? Were you relieved because WCW was going under at the same time or were you kind of expecting it at that point?
Rhino: No, I actually got a call from Bruce Prichard and this was three weeks after ECW closed. We had touched base before it closed because I got a call to call them. Then, it was like 'Hey, if something happens, I'll be interested. But, right now, we still have a pay-per-view coming up.' That's the one where I won the title. I didn't even know I was going to win the title. Anyways, I go 'If something happens after that, I'd be interested.'
Then it closed and we had our last two house shows. About three weeks after that, they had called me and I had put some feelers out to New Japan and I always wanted to wrestle for New Japan or All Japan. Actually, Jerry Lynn got me in contact with Brad Rheingans. Then, Bruce Prichard called me back three weeks after it closed and he said 'Well, look, this is our deal. We'll send you out a contract, have a lawyer look at it.' It was a pretty basic, standard contract for that time.
Then, later that night, Brad Rheingans called me for a March tour. [Laughs.] When it rains, it pours. I told Brad that if you would have called me before them, I would have taken your tour because it was always a goal to wrestle over there. But, obviously, I ended up signing with WWE.
WrestlingINC: There was that incident in 2003 where Vince McMahon entered the ring and cut short a match with you and Tajiri at a house show...
Rhino: You know what? It's funny you just brought that up. [Laughs.] Someone brought that up the other day. Yeah, this was the deal. ... Yeah, well, a lot of people online got mad at Vince. Before the match, he goes 'You can't make any mistakes.' That's when he was going on the loops, right, the house show loop with New York and stuff.
In ECW, if they start chanting 'BORING', you just work out of it and go into something and do whatever. I was told by an agent -- and I'm not revealing any names because I don't believe in that -- that if you go into a hold and they start chanting boring just to sit on it. So, I snap-mare and we didn't call anything but Tajiri was all about calling stuff.
So, I think he just got nervous. So, they were chanting boring. So, obviously, they're watching the match, right? So, I go, you want to see boring. Locked that reverse chin lock in and did it three times. Anyway, I thought Vince was working because I couldn't really hear him when he was talking. I couldn't really hear because of the way that the speakers are set up.
Before that show, he was like 'You can't make a mistake out there.' So, I'm thinking, oh, he wants to get involved in the match or something to see how we'd work on our feet and adlib and stuff like that. [Laughs.] So, I'm like 'What are you going to do? Fire me?' And I'm staring in the middle of the ring and the referee goes 'I think he's serious.' I'm like 'Serious about what? I can't hear him.' So, Vince talks to me and says 'Tajiri's going to drop kick you and go to the back.'
So, I talk to Vince afterwards and he says 'If they're chanting boring, they're bored.' You can't argue with the guy when he comes back with an answer like that. And I understand what the agents told me. So I said 'Well, one of your agents told me that if they're chanting boring, just sit on the hold. At least I had Tajiri stand up and kicked him.' He's like 'Well, obviously, that agent wasn't a top guy. Top guys save their money, they don't need to work and they don't become agents.'
Nowadays, you've got some guys that have really done some serious money and are agents and stuff. But, there was no arguing. What do you say? 'Oh, so if they're chanting to a girl to show your t--s, are they obligated to show their t--s?' You know what I mean?
So, a lot of people online were upset and all that with how Vince handled that. But, I actually got a really good pay off, too.
WrestlingINC: Was that kind of the end of that, or did you talk to Vince after?
Rhino: No, we talked after the match and that was it. I think he felt bad because I did get a really good pay check for that match. I was like, s--t, I wish he would have came out after the first reverse chin lock. [Laughs.] It was actually a pretty good house, too. But, I got a little bit more I think.
It was a learning experience, too. A lot of people online had my back because I think at that time they appreciated my hard work. Even Tajiri's.
WrestlingINC: When they brought in the ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view, did you think that was a good idea? Were you excited about that?
Rhino: Yeah. Obviously the WWE -- it's not just Vince. People think WWE = Vince. Him and Linda [McMahon], because I study where I go, I watch this and that, if it wasn't for Linda, there wouldn't be a Linda. If there wasn't a Vince, there wouldn't be a Linda. Then, there wouldn't be a WWE if it wasn't for guys like Pat Patterson. I mean, guys behind the scenes were just as important as the guys that were in front of the camera.
Nowadays, the guys that are writing the shows and helping characters out, agents... So, it's a team effort. So, I think from the business point, they saw an opportunity to create revenue and stuff like that. There was still a market for ECW because that was in '05. The company had ceased to exist for four years and there was a crying out for it.
So, obviously they did the math on paper and 'OK, we'll give this DVD a go,' and that was successful. Then, they did a show and that was very successful and Tommy Dreamer had his hands in on that. There's still a market and people crying out for that.
WrestlingINC: Looking back now at your WWE run, are you happy with it?
Rhino: Yes and no. I was in my mid-20's. The thing that I'm not happy with is I didn't take the time to enjoy it. I see that with a lot of young guys in wrestling. They don't stop, take a breath and enjoy it. It's sad because you look back and you're like 'Wow.'
I'm very blessed with the whole wrestling business. But, I didn't really take the time and enjoy ECW -- I mean, I did but I didn't. With WWE, I didn't really take that time and take a breath and enjoy it. That's what I think a lot of people do. They're there at a young age and they don't realize 'Wow, this is something greater than great.'
I don't say 'Oh, I wish I had a better push.' You know, I think I could have contributed more. I think I've learned in the last five years to say 'Hey, we can get more out of this, more out of that.'
WrestlingINC: When you joined TNA, was that something you were excited about or was it just something to do at that time?
Rhino: I was excited about it because it was a young company and it was something different. I think we as people get comfortable. It's kind of like a term, you know, you serve one or two terms. You're fresh, then it gets stale and you need a change up. I think if you're at one place for too long doing the same thing, you kind of get comfortable and stale and you lose that fire and that passion to make a difference and contribute and help growth. Whether it's in a country, a company or in everyday life.
I'm not telling all the guys out there to get a divorce and get a new woman or vice-versa. [Laughs.] Definitely not saying that. Guy walks home tonight from the factory 'Hey honey, it's online, Rhino said freshen things up. I've been married to you for four years. Pack your bags. I need a new wife.' [Laughs.]
WrestlingINC: [Laughs.] It's good that you cleared that up. You also famously ripped up a contract that you were offered from WWE to go back and be a part of their ECW. Did you kind of know ahead of time that that wasn't going to work out?
Rhino: Actually, I didn't rip up a contract. Did I rip up a paper? I know I did the promo. They were starting ECW again and they had contacted me about that. The way I looked was I was released from WWE because of bad behavior which was understandable. But TNA gave me a shot.
The thing is, they had a lot to gain. I was on TV for four years with WWE and two years with ECW. I had been working for three or four years before that. So, I had a lot to offer TNA. I think it's just growing up in a family where you show loyalty. They gave me an opportunity when they necessarily didn't have to. They had a lot to gain so I felt some kind of loyalty to at least re-sign one more contract. And it wasn't that good of a contract but I felt like I owed it to them because they helped me out.
Not saying that any other company never gave me an opportunity. But, I felt, OK, they're starting to grow -- that was the decision-breaker right there. In a way, am I glad I re-signed? Yes and no. Because I would have made a lot more money in WWE. But, I think I had to grow as a person too. Because I think if I would have gone back there at that time, the end result would have been the same. The end result would have been negative. I would have worked hard and everything, but as a person, I wouldn't have been able to stop and enjoy it and contribute 110%.
You can follow Rhino on Twitter at @Rhyno313. To get more information or to purchase tickets for Extreme Rising from the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday, December 29th, visit ExtremeRising.com. You can order the iPPV VOD now at HighSpots.com by clicking here.
Make sure to check back Friday for the second part of our interview, where Rhino discusses his time with TNA, why he left, the differences between the WWE & TNA ECW reunion shows, his second round title tournament match with Devon Storm at Extreme Rising, why he wasn't a part of the first two Extreme Rising events and more. You can also view this promo from Devon Storm about his match with Rhino below: