On episode 26 of WOOOOO! Nation with Ric Flair, ‘the Nature Boy’ spoke with former professional wrestling announcer Tony Schiavone. Schiavone talked about his stint with WWE. Schiavone said that Gorilla Monsoon and Lord Alfred Hayes are some of his favorite people from the professional wrestling business and called ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund one of the greatest professional wrestling announcers of all time. Also, Schiavone shared his theory on why WWE ultimately won the Monday Night Wars.
According to Schiavone, he left Jim Crockett Promotions, Inc. for WWE because Jim Crockett Promotions was being sold to Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. at the time and he did not want to move to Atlanta, Georgia and work for Turner Broadcasting.
“I had a meeting with [Executive Vice President of WCW] Jim Herd and Jack Dietrich at Turner Broadcasting and they offered me more money than a baseball announcer had ever made in his life and it was incredible. And compared to what the [professional wrestlers] made, it wasn’t much, but compared to what I’d been making, it was a lot. But I didn’t want to work for Turner. I didn’t want to move to Atlanta, which is odd because I’ve been living there for 25 years now, but I didn’t want to move to Atlanta from Charlotte [North Carolina]. And, just something in that meeting did not go right! I didn’t like it.”
That same day, Schiavone got a call from JJ Dillon about the possibility of moving to WWE as an announcer.
“I remember watching [WWF Prime Time Wrestling with Magnum P.A.] and I went back home and my wife said JJ Dillon just called, so I called JJ back and JJ said, ‘I just signed to work for Vince [McMahon] and he’s very interested in having you come work for him, so can I have him call you?’, and, of course, these were the days before cell phones, so I said ‘yes’. So, Vince called the house the next day, flew me up there later that week to his house in Greenwich [Connecticut]. And, of course, needless to say, I had stars in my eyes back then and I accepted the job, went to work there in April of 1989 and worked there until April of 1990. At the end of ’89, I got a call from Jim Barnett to come back to WCW and they offered me almost twice the money Vince was. And we really didn’t like living in Connecticut, and, so, based on the money they were offering me, and the chance to move back south, I took it.”
Unlike many other former WWE announcers who claimed to be micromanaged or overproduced by Vince McMahon, Schiavone indicated that McMahon was never in his ear when he was working for WWE. Schiavone suggested that McMahon’s admiration for Gorilla Monsoon may have been the reason Schiavone was never overproduced.
“Vince never did produce me at all. He always had Bruce Pritchard produce me, so Bruce would always tell me what to say and remind me of things. But as far as anybody being in my ear during a pay-per-view, it was always Bruce Pritchard. It never was Vince. I did [WWF] Wrestling Challenge with Gorilla Monsoon, which was one of the two syndicated shows Vince had back then. And we did all the commentary back at the studio, so that was before the days of the live [WWE Monday Night] RAW and what they’re doing right now, the live taped RAW or whatever they do. So, no, he didn’t produce me that much at all. But, of course, working with Gorilla Monsoon, he wouldn’t dare tell Gorilla Monsoon what to do, I don’t think.”
On the subject of Monsoon, Schiavone called Monsoon and Lord Alfred Hayes two of the best people he has met from the professional wrestling business.
“When I go back and think about my entire announcing career, [Monsoon] was one of the nicest guys. He helped me so much and he was such a gentleman. Yeah, I have a lot of great feelings about him. Him and Lord Alfred Hayes will go down as two of my favorite people of all time.”
Also, Schiavone shared his view that ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund does not get the credit he deserves.
“I know Jim Ross was a great play-by-play guy and will go down, it’s he and Gordon Solie [are] the greatest announcers ever, but I really think that if you think about the best announcers ever in wrestling, you’ve got to include Gene Okerlund in there. Nobody did promos like him and he was one of the funniest men ever.”
In Schiavone’s opinion, talents being overproduced is what led to the downfall of WCW. Schiavone claimed that WCW was never going to win the Monday Night Wars because professional wrestling was never Turner Broadcasting’s focus.
“Turner Broadcasting was never going to win this war because it wasn’t Turner Broadcasting’s only thing. It was Vince’s business. He was all into the business and he was always going to win it because of that.” Schiavone continued, “I really thought that there were many days where, and this was early on when Jim Herd was running it, there were many days where I would go to work thinking, ‘well, they’re going to close us down any day now.'”
Flair agreed with Schiavone that WCW was overproduced. Flair added that there were “too many cooks in the kitchen and too many personal agendas.”
“I think we’re all lucky that Vince did win out because God only knows where we’d be if we’d gone in the same direction we were going in.”
When asked whether he would ever consider returning to professional wrestling, Schiavone said that while he loves professional wrestling, he has tried to move on in his career and enjoys his current position too much to leave it behind.
“I didn’t want to go the route of the small time promotions and things like that. I tried to go a different route,” Schiavone admitted. “At the end of WCW, it was not good. It was not a good working atmosphere. Yeah, it was horrible! And I could only imagine what [the professional wrestlers] went through because I know what I went through. And I work with such good people – I’ve been working with such good people now for 14 years that I really don’t want to leave them. They’re just too good to me and the benefits are too good. The lifestyle’s too good.”
Click here to listen to the entire show.
Source: WOOOOO! Nation with Ric Flair