Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com recently spoke with former WWE / ECW / TNA Superstar Rhino about the upcoming Extreme Rising event 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 second part of our interview below, 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 read the first part of our interview, where Rhino talked about his time with ECW and WWE, Vince McMahon interrupting his match with Tajiri at a live event, signing with TNA and more at this link.
WrestlingINC: While you were in TNA, you were teaming with Team 3D and Jesse Neal and then Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan came in and that angle was dropped. What was your reaction when you heard that they would be coming in?
Rhino: I was happy because I always liked Eric, I always got a lot with him. And with Vince Russo, I liked working with Vince because he understood how I worked. He'd give me a sheet of paper on the promo and then, I'd go 'OK, what's very necessary? What are the bullet points?'
Me personally, and it's my own fault, when I get a shoot for a promo or something, it's just the way I was trained, I have a hard time reading it word for word because I feel like I'm supposed to deliver it how they say it. I just did a promo the other day and a guy handed me something for this little company in Ohio. He said a word I would never use for my character. Me as a person -- like, I think it was that the last time I was in the ring, I had a stellar performance or something like that. [Laughs.]
Yeah, if my character started wearing pink and started to enjoy the company of the same sex a lot to where it's questionable, maybe I might say that. I think you know what type of character I'm talking about. But, I'm trying to be PC in this interview. [Laughs.] But it's one of those things where Vince Russo and I, you know, he would deliver it how my character would deliver it.
But, I thought it was going to be good and then the next thing you know, I'm doing house shows. The thing is, and I'm not just saying this because you hear a lot about how so and so drew money, but every time I'd go over, I'd get the biggest reaction. It was because I was on TV for so long and people really like my style. I don't know if they identify with it, but they just really enjoy my style. They chant for my finish. How many people in the ring have people chant for their finish?
So, I was on all the house shows even before that and they just never did anything on TV. That's one of the things that I never understood about the agent reports. It's very important, but the writers aren't there to see and feel the crowd. They can see on paper that this guys over or that guys over, but until you see and feel the fans...
Then, I wasn't on TV for six to eight months, then I was home for three and then they cut my pay. [Laughs.] Then they brought me back and worked me because I was on my down side and then they cut my pay on top of that where I couldn't even pay my bills. Then, they put me on the road and then they released me. [Laughs.] Wow. That makes me feel good after seven years of my life that I gave to you.
WrestlingINC: Did they give you a reason for your release?
Rhino: No. Well, they go 'This is what it is. We have to renegotiate contracts.' Then, what they do is the last two months, they cut your pay to the bare minimum and then they put you on the road. So, they get the money out of the down side they paid you. Which is a smart business move.
Everybody thought I was going to WWE because I was so happy and did the thing on TV. I'm like 'I haven't even talked to them and it's really none of your business.' Even Terry Taylor pulled me aside and goes 'Are you really going there?' 'No, I haven't even talked to anybody.' 'You're just really happy?' 'Because I'm working, I' on the road doing the house shows and I'm at TV doing some stuff there. But, I'm on the road and that's what making me happy.'
They didn't get it. It wasn't like I signed a million dollar contract but I'm working. You guys never worked me, it's been sporadic. But one of the many good things about that is that I didn't beat up my body because the schedule was like...I hated it.
WrestlingINC: Were you eventually offered a new contract?
Rhino: No, what they were trying to do at that point -- and I don't know if they changed -- but they were saying to a lot of people 'Hey, we'll give you this much if we use you.' Yeah, that works to your benefit. But, you're saying that if you sit a guy at home for three months, he can't go work indies but he's only paid if you use him. I just threw them some numbers and I came down to my per-show price but I wanted to be on all the shows.
The thing is that if they allowed you to work indies, a lot of these indies will set it up for days and months in advance. Then, they'll swoop down and say 'Hey, I need you this weekend.' Well, I have some shows, I can't cancel them. It's not fair to an independent promoter. You know? He spends hundreds if not a few thousand dollars in advertisement and getting it ready and all that stuff for you to cancel? It's not fair.
WrestlingINC: While you were there, TNA also had their ECW reunion show and you were a part of that. And you were a part of WWE's first ECW reunion show. What do you think the biggest differences were between the two?
Rhino: Tommy [Dreamer] ran that one [TNA], it was very successful. I never got the real numbers but I heard it outdrew by four times any of their other pay-per-views. That's just what I've heard, I never actually saw the numbers. But, it was fun. I remember the locker room being so empty. It was a good show, it was an entertaining show. The crowd was happy with it, the fans were happy with it. There's a longing for it. It's just like with this whole Extreme Rising thing.
It's just one of those things were there's still a market for it and it's a solid market. That's one thing I remember. Everybody had the day off and it was just Dreamer. He let people have knowledge of who they were working with and say 'Do this, this, this,' and it just worked because everybody would go out and do their thing.
WrestlingINC: With Extreme Rising, when they had their first show with Extreme Reunion, it seems like Shane Douglas kind of had a better idea of how to book former ECW talent. I think one of the biggest complaints or criticisms you hear is that WWE or TNA never fully knew what to do with your characters like Paul Heyman did. They don't really know how to push talent that they didn't create like Rob Van Dam or Sabu.
Rhino: Yeah, Paul Heyman I think knew my character better than I did. Paul, Tommy, Shane, Jim Cornette -- Jim Cornette actually got me a tryout for WWE in 1998. He saw my tape and still to this date if he reads it, I'll have to confess it to him. But, in my tryout match with WWE and because I work with Ring Of Honor, too, Cornette would say 'You're an animal. Just go out there and beat people up and you can work, too. Then, slowly build to the matches where you can go out there and have a 50/50 match with someone.'
But, here's a little bit of history for you. I used to do a top rope splash, right? And I still do, every once in a while I'll bust it out. But, in 1998 I had a dark match against this kid and we actually worked before several times. I forget what I did right before and I go up to splash him and he's three quarters across the ring. I'm like 'Oh, s--t. I'll never be able to hit this splash.' [Laughs.] So, I'm thinking that I better do a diving headbutt to his mid-section because I was working his mid-section. He's three quarters across the ring and WWE's ring is big, it's like 20 feet.
So, I hit a headbutt to his mid-section. So, I get back and Cornette's like 'Wow, that was the greatest thing. A diving headbutt three quarters across the ring.' I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was supposed to be a splash but he was too far away. As I was climbing up, I was just 'Oh, s--t. Well, I guess I'll do a diving headbutt.' I used to do a headbutt off the second rope and I used to fall forward. So, I was like 'I gotta really jump for this one.' At that time, I was every bit of 300 pounds.
But, those four guys know my character and the character can evolve when it's on TV to different things because I'd like to do funny things. Some funny stuff, some dramatic things and more entertaining. Because as you get older, you want to be more of an entertainer and less of a bump taker. [Laughs.]
WrestlingINC: You weren't a part of the first Extreme Rising shows. Were you asked?
Rhino: Yeah. Actually, we got a little mixed up with booking. I was already booked and committed to other shows. Which was sad because I really wanted to be a part of it from day one. But it just didn't work out. Now, I'm going to be the first Extreme Rising champion.
WrestlingINC: Yeah, what are your thoughts on last month's show where you defeated Homicide in the tournament?
Rhino: It was packed. I'd never worked that building and I was actually happy to. I'd seen footage from that building that was really cool. And Homicide, he's tough. He's the real deal.
WrestlingINC: Yeah. At first, a lot of people initially just looked at this as just an ECW reunion tour. It seems like it's evolved into kind of it's own thing as opposed to just an ECW reunion thing.
Rhino: It's definitely grown into its own animal. Obviously, it's got the good mixture and you have that younger talent with that good mixture with older talent. Good booking. All the signs are there for success. Obviously, the first few shows were very successful as far as drawing and in-ring work and all that stuff.
WrestlingINC: It seems like it's been a lot harder in wrestling to find young talent. They either burned out too quickly, pushed too fast and getting dropped. So, it definitely seems like promotions like this really help bring up the up and coming stars.
Rhino: Sure. And it gives some of the younger guys an opportunity to sit in a locker room and talk.
That's one of the things that I like doing now. I'm in locker rooms with young guys and I get to tell these guys all the stuff I've learned. I'll be honest with you, my last year in TNA, the best education was I received there was changing in the same locker room as [Ric] Flair. We were in the green room was Flair, [Kevin] Nash, myself, [Kurt] Angle -- which I've been traveling with Angle for such a long time -- and I think [Matt] Morgan was in there. But, I would just sit there because you're there all day at TV and I'd just start asking Ric questions.
I never got the opportunity to see Harley Race in his pre-WWE days until after I got into wrestling and started studying tapes. I'd ask Flair, what made that work? His feud with Harley Race, how did that work? Where'd you go from here, here and here. Just learning and by me learning, I can tell the other guys and help them learn.
You learn the business outside the ring. The outside-the-ring education is just as important as learning the moves, you know.
WrestlingINC: Is that some advice you give to other wrestlers, to listen to the veterans?
Rhino: Listen, pick out some things. Don't just listen, talk to them and ask questions. You might pick up one thing that'll last you through your whole career. If you hear something over and over, you might think 'Wow, that might work because I'm hearing it a lot.' Just because you're in the business 10 or 15 years doesn't mean you know it all. I'm still learning to this day and the business still changes. but, take an opportunity and you might learn something -- or you might not. Or you might learn what not to do. I've definitely looked at a lot of wrestlers and learned what not to do outside the ring. [Laughs.]
WrestlingINC: Yeah. [Laughs.] Now, you're facing Devon Storm later this month and the winner of that faces Stevie Richards and Luke Hawx. I know you're familiar with Richards, are you pretty familiar with Devon Storm and Luke Hawx?
Rhino: Yeah, I've been watching them for a while. It's like I said: I was the last ECW Heavyweight champion and I think we can highlight that and I'll be the first Extreme Rising champion. Obviously, I just turned 37. I just added it up at the gym the other day, I've been wrestling 18 years and I still have a lot to offer. So, it's just one of those things where it's another belt you want to -- you want to go on the history books as the first ever.
WrestlingINC: What can fans expect from the December event and your match with Devon?
Rhino: Intensity. I mean, I have to get through Devon to move on. He's a helluva worker, helluva talent. It's something you don't want to take lightly and he's capable of a lot of stuff. He stays in great shape. I've never wrestled him before so this will definitely be a first for a lot of things that night.
WrestlingINC: You've mentioned being in the business 18 years now. What are your thoughts on the business today? I know you've seen some crazy periods with the late-'90s and early 2000s and then today. What are your thoughts on where it is?
Rhino: I like the fact that there's a lot of divas. [Laughs.] I had my TV on pause and there's a nice blond lady in a bikini on a beach. I just noticed that. Cause I hit pause to do this and I'm like, how did I not see that. But yeah, the divas are very nice.
Actually, I get it a lot from fans. 'Oh, there's too much talk, too much this, too much that.' I mean, they're older or whatever and they come from earlier days where there was more wrestling or this or that. I mean, I think it's better. People need to change too with it. It's gone the more entertainment route. With Extreme Rising, you have more matches. It's a different show. But, I can't complain the way the business is going.
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.
You can read the first part of our interview, where Rhino talked about his time with ECW and WWE, Vince McMahon interrupting his match with Tajiri at a live event, signing with TNA and more at this link. You can check out a TV spot for Extreme Rising below: