As previously noted, former WWE talent and current NJPW color commentator Don Callis recently sat down with WWE Hall Of Famer Steve Austin at 316 Gimmick Street for a two-part interview on The Steve Austin Show. On this installment, Callis talked about his time with WWE, how WWE Hall Of Famer Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart helped Callis get to WWE, and how former WWE Superstar Kurgan went from the silent and menacing Interrogator to the dancing Oddity.
“I think part of the challenge I had there, I think in my mind and I wasn’t consciously trying to do it because I came from a wrestling background, I’m trying to get myself over because to me, I don’t care if you’re an opening [match] guy, midcard guy, a manager, whatever, if you’re not over, you have no value, so I’m trying to get over, but it’s like, ‘okay, is this guy a manager because he’s sort of his own thing?’ I think it was something that not everybody was all that comfortable with because it was like, ‘okay, do we want this guy to be getting over? He’s not wrestling. What’s the payoff?'”
With respect to Callis’ WWE run, the man formerly known as The Jackal professed that The Truth Commission “was just a challenging gimmick to get over and be believable in.” Callis claimed that it was his idea to turn The Truth Commission, a play on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, into a Koreshian cult.
“I thought I had to come up with something for why these three monsters are doing what I say. And I thought, ‘I need to monetize it. I need to make myself look like a star,’ so I thought, ‘well, okay, I’m a guru, I’m whatever, so I thought, ‘maybe I have this jewel on my head.'” Callis continued, “it was all just me trying to get over and show that I had value. It’s not that I wanted to be a cult leader or a manager, but I thought, ‘if I get over enough, good things are going to happen.'”
According to Callis, he knew WWE was not behind the gimmick when ‘the David Koresh of WWE’ wanted to film something in Waco, Texas, at the location of the infamous raid and siege that resulted in nearly 80 fatalities, and was not allowed. Additionally, ‘The Natural’ shared that he was going to portray a character on WWE programming called The Messiah, but nothing ever came of it.
“I’m sitting at home one night and I’m off TV because they didn’t know what to do with me, and they had called me up and [Vince] Russo goes, ‘I’ve got a great gimmick for you’ because I think they got cold feet with the cult leader thing. I knew we were screwed with it [when] we were in Waco, Texas. I said, ‘let me go to the [David] Koresh site and let me cause a hubbub and let me not get arrested, but get thrown off and let’s get it on video’ and they wouldn’t do it. I said, ‘we’re in trouble’ and I guess they were worried about the heat. Russo calls me and goes, ‘I’ve got a great gimmick for you. You’re going to be ‘The Messiah’. I’m like, ‘The Messiah?’ He’s like, ‘yeah, like Jesus. You’re going to wear all white. We’re going to lower you from the ceiling like you’re on a cross.’ I’m like, ‘you know this is going to get nuclear heat in the U.S.?’ He’s like, ‘do you care?’ I’m like, ‘nope, I just want to get over.’ So that never happened.”
Also, Callis put over Hart for his hand in helping many Canadian pro wrestlers catch on with WWE. Apparently, Callis had heat with WWE officials because Rick Martel agreed to partner with Callis in WWE, but ‘The Model’ backed out and went to WCW instead. ‘The Hitman’ smoothed things over for Callis with one telephone call to WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. ‘The Halliburton Cowboy’ went on to say that was supposed to manage the new Hart Foundation, but ended up with the Truth Commission.
“Without Bret Hart, I never would’ve gotten into the WWF and Bret was such a great? and I don’t think he gets the credit for how many Canadian guys he helped.” Callis explained, “when Martel left for WCW, I had heat with WWF because they thought we tried to screw them and go to WCW, which actually wasn’t the case. I wanted to go to Vince. It was always my dream of being with Vince’s company. And it was Bret that saved that. Bret got on the phone with Vince and said, ‘the kid’s good and he wants to work, blah, blah, blah.’ And Bret called me back; he says, ‘send in your contract.’ But the original plan was for me to be part of the new Hart Foundation as the mouthpiece. And then, they called me two weeks later and ribbed me with the Truth Commission gimmick.”
As for The Oddities, Callis suggested that the faction was then-WWE writer Vince Russo’s “pet project”. ‘The Warrior Prophet’ stated he was given the option of having Al Snow, Regal, or John Tenta in the group, but was ultimately told he had to manage Tenta.
“The Oddities thing, the way it happened, they said, ‘we’re going to give you another guy because you’re getting over as a manager.’ I said, ‘okay, who am I getting?’ And they said, ‘well, we’ve got three guys coming and you’re going to get one of them.’ I said, ‘who are they?’ They said, ‘Al Snow, Steven Regal, and John Tenta.’ And I went, ‘ooh!’ and they said, ‘do you have a preference?’ I am a huge mark for Steven Regal, I f–king love that guy, but I go, ‘I think Al Snow because he was doing the ‘Head’ gimmick in ECW.'” Callis recalled, “I said, ‘because I need a technician. I’ve got all the giants. I need a technician.’ ‘Ah, yeah, we can’t do that’ [the office replied]. ‘Okay, can I have Regal?’ I want Regal. ‘Yeah, you’re getting Tenta.’ I go, ‘well, why did you ask me then?'”
Callis indicated that he learned to not do anything in front of McMahon that he would not want to do with millions of people watching when he told Kurrgan not to let McMahon see him dance at a WrestleMania afterparty.
“How Kurgan turned into an Oddity, after WrestleMania where [Austin] took the [world title] belt from Shawn [Michaels], I’m at the afterparty and Kurrgan’s there with his wife and Kurrgan says, ‘my wife is going to have me dancing. I’m going to get up and dance and I’m sure you’re going to have a laugh.’ And I go, ‘dude, don’t do it.’ He’s like, ‘why?’ I go, ‘don’t let Vince see you up dancing.’ And he’s like, ‘well, my wife wants me to dance, blah, blah, blah.’ I’m like, ‘don’t do it.’ He got up, he’s dancing, disco dancing, he’s pretty good, but I’m not watching him. I’m watching Vince and I saw [him] catch [Vince’s] eye and I’m like, ‘he’s not a giant anymore.’ And within a month, he was in a tuxedo dancing and that’s the night I learned ‘don’t do anything in front of Vince that you don’t want to do in front of millions of people.”
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Sources: The Steve Austin Show