The full interview is below:
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I became a wrestling fan in the late 80's. How is it being one of the voices of that era?
"Yeah. You know what is really interesting about this whole - I don't want to say resurgence, but in a sense, it really is with the WWE and that Network that they have. It is amazing how it's just burst open again because a lot of people remember that period being one of the greatest in professional wrestling history, and I think in a lot of ways for me it was looking back.
"Looking at what happened in the 80s and 90s, which is what this podcast that I do now; joined by 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan is really all about; celebrating that time. I was out of wrestling for a long time. It wasn't because I had any reason to look back on it and have regrets doing it, it's just that I went on and did other things when I left in 1993. I still have a lot of friends that are in WWE still and stay in contact with them; but within the last few years as I mentioned with the Network, people are being able to go back and look at all this stuff on the Network, it is just amazing. I really initially was blown away by it because people just started to contact me, but now I really embraced it because I understand what that meant to a lot of people. It wasn't what I had meant on television, but it was because I was part of it; it's as though I had a part on this great show that people loved in the 80s as I was one of the players. I still have people who come up to me and say that they used to watch me every week on some of the shows that I was on. It's just really cool to have that response from people still. I've been gone almost 25 years almost so it's really great."
Your podcast, Primetime with Sean Mooney and 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan, is on Court Bauer's massive MLW Wrestling Network, which he has turned into an empire. Tell us more about it.
"We drop every Wednesday morning at 7AM eastern time, and it's really been a great adventure so far. Initially when Court contacted me, I was curious as to what it would all be about. Then when I started talking to him, and we talked over weeks, he asked me if I had an idea on how I would like to do one of these podcasts if I wanted to do it, and I talked about maybe having a co-host with someone I had worked with. I started thinking about it; I want to approach this completely different than most of these. I wanted to get somebody from that era who was on a different side of the curtain to me and give a perspective from what I experience from television production being in the WWF and everything I had watched behind the scenes, and also get somebody who was pretty much from the other side - not just from the wrestling perspective, but from a Superstar perspective as well.
"When you look at Jim Duggan and I, we come from really different worlds. I didn't come from the wrestling world. At the time I was working with MLB in New York when I had auditioned for the WWF, and Jim is old school wrestling, who came up through the ranks, from all the independence and Mid-South, and so I think when you bring us together, there are a lot of things that we talk about that I still wonder till this day from the boys perspective, and then I think initially Jim looked at this experience going through it in his life, when he gets in an interview situation, it's one person asking him questions, well that is not the way we work, initially it was more of a shoot interview, but now we are going back and forth with the real idea of this is if someone were to drop in on this conversation, they would hear just two guys talking about something that they loved and that is the way I approach this every single week because I am still wide-eyed and learning a lot of new things about what went on then that I didn't have the opportunity because we had different perspectives back then. I was never one of the boys, and now I am asking all these questions that I had thought about back then, which has definitely been a great experience for me."
You had mentioned that you didn't come up with Primetime with Sean Mooney and 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan. Who had come up with that?
"Well, we kind of put it out there when we started tweeting about this. A lot of people had a lot of great suggestions; I had liked 'Ho Nation,' which I thought was pretty cool that somebody had. We had a lot of different ones. I wanted to call it The Event Center because so many people remember that, and when you think about it, the Event Center was every single show we did pretty much. I would be doing five shows a week as I toiled in the studios at Stamford putting those different Event Centers that appeared in different times of the program, but then I didn't want it to be so focused on me so MLW came up with Primetime with Hacksaw and Sean Mooney and that was kind of the way it went."
You mentioned how you weren't one of the boys - you weren't really a wrestling fan growing up, right?
"Well, it wasn't that I wasn't a wrestling fan; I just never had the opportunity to see it. I lived in Tucson, AZ, where back then it was a small city, a small town in a lot of ways. We didn't get a lot of independence coming in or stuff like that, so I didn't really get a chance to see it so when I moved back to New York, that was in the early 80's when I started working for MLB Productions, and I just remember how huge it was becoming at that point. You have to think about it being 1982, where Vince [McMahon] really took the chance and did WrestleMania and that whole co-promotion with MTV and how it was exploding, and New York was the hub of it. That was when I started getting educated in it and started to become a fan, and then the opportunity came up and I never looked back."
Did you audition?
"Yeah. I was a producer and a talent. Any opportunity I got to get in front of a camera, because with MLB I was a Producer first, but I did a show called "Light Moment of Sports," which was hosted by Joe Namath back then, and it was really one of those blooper shows about pro sports that somebody realized how sports had these bloopers because we had done all these bloopers with MLB every week, with Major League Baseball Productions with "This Week in Baseball," well they had a segment on the show that got Joe Namath to host the thing and they got me to be one of the Producers and needed somebody to be a Correspondent because Joe Namath couldn't do it, he was not physically capable to do it with all his years in Baseball, so I raised my hand and said that I would do it and I would go and do all these crazy stunt stories, riding Camels, jumping out of airplanes and all kinds of things. I did a story of the Monster Factory in New Jersey. Pretty Boy Mike Sharpe school, and went and did a story then. I was really respectful because I knew about the sport, but when I did the story I didn't go in there saying that it is fake and I am going to ridicule this whole thing. I went in and played the complete stooge and tried to see what they did, and Mike beat the stew out of me, he really did, but the story aired and was on NBC affiliate in New York at the time. Somebody in the WWF saw it and mentioned it to Vince, and got a phone call from the WWF because I had known somebody from there and said that Vince wanted me to come up and audition, stating that they saw the story and wanted me to come up.
"Two weeks later I went up and auditioned and did the whole, 'Sell Me the Broom' audition thing, and I just remember the one thing that stands out to me, as I had mentioned it before, but I knew back then that they brought 100's of people back then to audition. So many people wanted to be part of it even back then, and I just added a little extra when I went to the audition. I asked if I could do something that I had worked on? I put together this monologue on my own and did it, and it was basically something along the lines of, 'If you are a wrestling fan, come out of the closet. Let everybody know who you are!' It was something along those lines. I think that kind of thing is what did it because years later I had heard that Vince liked that I was thinking on my feet and came up with it, nobody had asked me to do it, and from that point I got in."
When you got in, how long did it take you to get up to speed on the product?
"Ah man. Well, that's one thing in my career - because I've done so many different things covering sports. I was a huge Baseball fan when I went to go work for Major League Baseball. I loved Baseball and followed the Dodgers because we didn't have a pro team at the time in Arizona, so we had to adopt other cities; one thing I've always done is do my homework - till this day, no matter what I'm doing, I make sure I know that I am prepared. I had two weeks to prepare to go to WWF. You didn't have the internet back then so you had to find different ways to do it, and I had some wrestling magazines. My friend was working up there was sending me all kinds of WWF Magazines to get familiarized with the talent. When I got up there I was prepared; I knew everybody and knew all the storylines going on because it's like anything else, I took it very seriously and I wanted the opportunity to get in front of a camera. That is what I wanted to do."
Was it hard backstage with the talent? You mentioned you weren't one of the boys. Did you get ribbed a lot? Did they just kind of leave you alone?
"No, not at all. If you remember at that time; Vince, and his genius of having a goal to where he wanted to go. He knew he couldn't do it with the people that had produced wrestling at that point. He knew I had to take it to another level and way beyond, and the only way he was going to do this is to get the best production people he could get. At that time - you also had old school wrestlers coming in. You had other guys, who didn't really come from wrestling generations, and then you had people from the television world - network television world from all over the country colliding all at once. It was really a kayfabe world. When you walk into the locker rooms and they're speaking carny; you didn't take your shoes off on a flight because they were merciless.
"It took a good year and I've said many times before; if it wasn't for Gorilla [Monsoon] and it wasn't for Alfred [Hayes] it took a while for me to earn their trust and their respect, but then they really took me under their wings and helped me tremendously. Everyday from that point on they told me that I wasn't one of the boys. I could be friendly, you can be friends in a sense, but never think you are one of them, and that was the best lesson I ever got, and I never forgot that until the day I left WWE. There was a lot of stuff that happened, and Alfred told me that they were going to do things to me, and it wasn't vicious to the point where it was, but it was pretty intense, but I never said a word; I took it and after about a year I was 'in,' not one of them, ever, but I was in and was respected, which is the best way that I could put it. "
You were there at an era where you had one of the most charismatic wrestlers you have ever seen: [Hulk] Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Roddy Piper. What was it like interviewing them on television? Did you go over stuff ahead of time? Did you just go over it?
"We talked about this a few times on the podcast, even this week where Hacksaw and I had a discussion about the difference between the Superstars of today and the guys of my era, and Jim Duggan's era when we were there. We both agreed; there are guys in WWE right now that we think would be tremendous personalities if they were back in the 80s and 90s. The difference between today and back then is back then the boys had a lot more freedom with their character, and all those interviews they did, they had an idea, they had a storyline going on; but a lot of that stuff they had their own method; whether it was memorizing stuff. Jim mentioned that he would go with an idea and what he wanted to do and the best thing I could have done was just get in front of the camera and go. Hulk Hogan was like that too, as well as Randy Savage; guys that were the best to cut promos. I remember Hulk saying that he was giving advice to one of the boys where he would tell to not talk about wrestling; he would come back to whatever it was:
(imitating Hulk Hogan) "Cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway, dipping my toes in the Pacific; hanging and banging with the boys at Muscle Beach."
"He would do that, and was hammering away with what he wanted to do, but he took you away from something else. It wasn't just saying that he was going to get into the arena and is going to do this on you and whatever. That worked for him. It was great, and he pretty much did that whenever he was interviewed. You asked about interviewing them; we had a pretty good idea; we had direction. Vince McMahon would tell you that he would do this and I would have to pass the mic, but after a while being with these guys I knew how to do that, as long as we knew where we were going with it. The only time it was really structured is when we did Saturday NIght's Main Event, then it was pretty much word for word. I didn't appear on too many of those episodes because everybody had to hit their mark, and that was pretty much what they do today. My point was a lot of these guys could be huge and could have that same connection with the fans if it wasn't so much focused on scripting these things and letting some of that stuff happen."
Who are some of the guys today that you think are being hampered by that?
"Well, we were talking like Bray Wyatt, who I think is great. His promos that he cuts, it reminds me of Jake 'The Snake' Roberts. I call it the slow burn and some of the stuff that they do; and some of the guys that they are pushing are up there. Roman Reigns and these other guys I think are great, but it's kind of like having a Governor on them; if you take these characters and allow them to develop. You think back to some of those people that were instrumental in developing The Rock, and a really good friend of mine who worked closely there said that Vince McMahon had gave him the idea, but in order for him to own it, The Rock took it and ran with it. I'm not involved with how they do that anymore, but I don't think they have the ability as much to develop that on their own and really own it, which is how they become those people. The story like Stone Cold Steve Austin; who would have really say to him that his is how you are going to do this; you are going to be a heel/babyface, and be able to cross the line whenever you want and people are still going to love you. He basically said you know what, screw it, I'm just going to do it and look what happened. That is kind of my view today. I'm not really in it so I don't know the inner workings; I'm looking at it from a total fan's viewpoint."
If you ever hear Steve Austin talk, they all say the same thing. They're all just over scripted and sound the same so that when their characters come out, they all kind of sound the same and I believe that is hurting the product right now. Have you kept up with wrestling since you left, or was there a period when you didn't, and then you came back?
"No, I really haven't, and as much as I would have liked to, but I'm raising three kids an awful lot, but I still - to be honest, there was a period where I just didn't like where it was going and I certainly have paid a lot more attention now with the Network; but I must admit, I spend a lot of time looking back now. I told Jim Duggan on the podcast that I wanted to look because we did a whole segment on Sensational Sherri and her contribution to the Professional Wrestling world. I believe the greatest match she was ever involved in was at SummerSlam 1989, with Hulk and Brutus, Zeus and Randy Savage. I watched the match and then thought I should watch a different match and then I ended up watching almost the whole thing, and that happens to me a lot now. I like looking back at the older shows like Prime Time Wrestling; there's just so many great stuff on there that I totally blanked. People send me these gifts of these stuff that I did that I had totally forgotten about.
"Somebody sent me something, and this was brought up just recently on the podcast, where Sherri and I hosted a show together with my 'evil twin' Ian. She used to beat the stew out of me every show. I just kept saying, thank God she liked me, because I couldn't imagine what she would have done if she didn't. There was one show in particular where I end up tied to this chair and I have a card on my feet that says a message on the bottom. When I lift up my feet she flips up the chair; it's out there somewhere. I have it on my twitter feed; I landed on the back of my head, so I am really enjoying seeing some of this stuff. All those stuff on Coliseum Home Video, the crazy on cameras with Alfred Hayes and I did. I forgot about a lot of these things. I'm enjoying a lot of these and hope others are as well; so a lot of those memories are slowly coming back now and now I can share them on the podcast with people. There was one where I was on the roof with Sgt Slaughter, General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa where they take me hostage at the Stamford Television facility and just all the fun that we had."
The first Monday Night Raw. What were your thoughts on that? You were trying to keep Bobby Heenan trying to break into the building.
"One of the reasons why they brought me back for the 1,000th episode was because I was the first face ever to appear on Raw. I was freezing. I remember that night in New York it was so cold, and I got through it, that open. You can tell, but a couple of times there I was stuttering because of how cold I was, and I had to wait a long time to get those shots in, but yeah, we had a blast. I have told a few stories from that night when Bobby was in different costumes, just classic Bobby because none of that was scripted because we just let Bobby do what Bobby does and I just followed along with him, knowing that I had to get him somewhere. There was a part where he was dressed as Hasim, with the big black hat and beard, and he was rushing by me and I was asking if he was trying to get tickets for the next Raw, and he was saying, no, he's Uncle Marty and is trying to get by here and saying that he doesn't need tickets or anything like that. He's got this big furry black beards on, and if you look at the scene there, he starts choking on the beard and I almost lost it because if you would have seen that, you would have seen me almost on the ground laughing, and Bobby was able to get that out of me."
What was it like working with Bobby Heenan?
"He didn't turn it off, really. It was who he was. He was just so quick. In any situation he had he would come up with a line that would drop you to your knees. Gene [Okerlund] was like that too; he had a rolodex of lines, and I laughed every time he said it no matter what it was. Bobby was just so quick; in any situation, he would come up with a line that would drop you to your knee a lot of time. Bobby was quick with situations."
With the first episode of Monday Night Raw, did you imagine it would still be going on today and be that huge?
"Oh gosh, to what it is today? I knew they were onto something because it was different. The idea to make it more intimate with that small house that they did. I thought that it was going to be exciting; I liked the idea of the live, and then the more intimate with the small crowd. It wasn't like taking it back to the studio. I mean, here you are in a small theater, not sure how many people it held, maybe a few thousand at the Manhattan Center, and I knew they were on to something; if someone said it was going to turn into something this big 20 years later I would have thought no way, and that they were kidding. We knew that night there was something special about it."
You were also a part of the first SummerSlam, which is now one of the three big events; Survivor Series is there too, but what were your memories of the first SummerSlam?
"I remember that these pay per views, and I don't know if that was my first event, I do remember WrestleMania 5 very vividly, but those pay per view events were another - they were gigantic that they were putting so many thousands of people at these pay per views. I try not to think about how many people were watching because these interviews, you had to nail them. SummerSlam, you also wondered how big it is going to get, and you look at it today where people are so excited about this next one coming up, so look how far it has come."
What was Randy Savage like backstage?
"Randy was as intense as he was on the microphone as he was backstage; you had the same person. That whole thing with Elizabeth and how he was really protective, yeah, that was a shoot. Randy was like that, and it took a long time for me to get close to him where he could really trust me, but he was a really good and honorable guy, with how he conducted himself and how professional he was. Everything that he did was not only to make money, but just the way he conducted himself in and out of the ring.
"There was a few times, like there was the one time when he was the King, and he got in a little stiff with me in an interview, and I knew that I had to say something because this is just - you knew you had to stand up for yourself, and I didn't know what he was going to do to me, whether he was going to smack me or what, but I said, Randy, look, that was really not good. He had said to me that I had to bow to the King, and when I told him that he kind of mumbled and said that it was a good point, but from that point forward we were good, but I remember thinking how at any point this could go sideways, because he was one tough SOB, really."
When you left in 1993 it was right when wrestling started going in a downturn. It was April right around WrestleMania 9. It started getting a lot more cartoony. Did you sense the vibe, as far as popularity went, and that their best days may have been behind?
"Well, it was clearly a tough time for the company. They had a lot going on with the whole court case and all these things were going on, and the steroids and that whole thing, but that is one of the most often asked questions as far as why I left. Did I get fired? It wasn't anything like that; I kind of reached a point after 5 years being there where I felt that I had grown tremendously. Where else can you go to work, as far as talent goes, where you get studio work, get to shoot stuff out on location with Coliseum Videos on pay per views, and preparing for live events, Saturday Night's Main Event, and I was kind of thinking whether or not I had wanted to do this for the rest of my career or try something else too. At that point I had some other opportunities about possibly doing other things, and as you mentioned I didn't really like the direction where it was headed. At that point it was very family oriented where I was just not comfortable with some of the stuff, and my contract had came up and went to Vince McMahon and told him that I didn't want to do this anymore.
"I was tired of the Event Center, too. People don't realize how brutal that was. Please don't get me wrong at how grateful I was to be part of the WWF and to be on television, but it was a long week, and I had wanted to do other things, but there wasn't that many other things there I could have done, and also the company was in a tough situation, and I told Vince that I wasn't going to renew. I don't think he initially believed me; he kept asking if I was going to go down 'South' to WCW, and I was like, no, I never lied to him about anything so I wasn't going to start then. I wanted to leave there on a really good relationship in case I ever wanted to come back, and I actually stayed there a few weeks afterwards because he needed some help finishing up stuff with the Event Center, and I didn't know if they were phasing that out or not, but once I left they pretty much ended it, but yeah, I left and a year later I was anchoring in New York at WWOR. I remember Vince sent me a telegram congratulating me, and that meant a lot to me, even until this day. Today we see Scott Stanford who is an anchor out of New York, and being able to cross-over to WWE. At that point people never really did that, but I think that he loved the idea that I went from doing that to being a news anchor; people used to ask me what the difference is of doing news vs professional wrestling, and at least now professional wrestling admits it's fake."
Was it hard to get a job after WWE just because of the 'pro wrestling stigma?'
"I was kidding myself thinking that I had done all this stuff, but yeah, it was really tough. When I started working at WWOR, I was on a week to week contract as they had taken a big chance with me because he liked my appearance in front of a camera, but he didn't know if I could write and put a story together so literally, it was a week to week contract and it was two weeks, then a month, so yeah, it was tough. I also had a baby at the time, still living in Connecticut and had to take the train to New York to do auditions during that time period, and when I hooked up with WWOR, and the rest is history."
You mentioned Vince sending you a telegram; I know you get asked this a lot, but what was your relationship with Vince McMahon and did it change over the years?
"Well, the people that talk about how intense he is; and every part of that is true. There were moments when I was not real fond of him, I will leave it at that, but I have always said this from the very beginning, that he is responsible for me to be able to do what I want to do. As I mentioned all the different things that I was able to do in front of a camera, and what better training I was able to do in front of the camera than what I was able to do at the WWF? There were times that he was really patient with me. I didn't really think I was good at all when I got there; but he saw my potential. However, when I look at some of the early Event Center stuff, I was thinking, how in the world did he put me on television? Who was I yelling at when i was doing introductions? Finally though, I found my place and I think that what I did there I did good wprk, but he was really patient with me.
"I remember one time before a match, I had to go down there because I was doing something with a Steel Cage, I just couldn't get it. It was pretty scripted, and instead of Vince saying to get me out of there and send Gene [Okerlund] or someone else in, he came down to ringside and coached me through it. He recognized that; and I saw him do that over the years with the talent. He didn't scream, or yell, that isn't his style, but with my experience he was awesome to me and I am forever grateful for the time over those five years, including time times they brought me back those few times."
Did you get to speak to him much the times you were able to go back?
"No, not at all. One time I went to an event, maybe in Phoenix I think it was, with my son, and also went to WrestleMania, but I remember seeing him in the hallway because he has a thousand things going on, but he looked at me and noticed that I looked familiar, so I went up to him and said, 'Hey Vince, Sean Mooney." He's asking how I was and introduced him to my son, and that was it, and the times I've been back there, like recently I went back there to shoot an 'Unseen Matches' that will be coming out, but in Stamford, the TV studios is several miles away from where his office is, so I didn't get a chance to see him, only twice since I left."
What about at Raw 1000, did you get to speak with him there?
"Yeah, just a quick, hi and how are you doing? We don't exchange Twitters and Emails or anything."
But at Raw 1000, there wasn't anyone there, as far as talent, when you were around right? As far as talent was concerned, perhaps [Shawn] Michaels or Undertaker.
"True, but he brought a lot of guys back like Hacksaw, but what a great experience that was. I took my son to that; it was in St. Louis, and they had a 'Legends Locker Room,' which I had no business being in. I had to sneak in there, but they had a place for the former people that were involved with the WWF. I got to see Gene, and hang out with him. It was great for me because my son was a huge WWE fan at the time and Joe [Animal] was so awesome to my son, and all those guys. Roddy [Piper] practically adopted him that night. He gave my son, Kyle, his t-shirt, the Roddy t-shirt off his back and gave it to him. It was one of the greatest experiences for me because it was just extra special to see so many people; it was like a mini-reunion for me, of some of the people I hadn't seen in decades."
Yeah, that was a special episode. They've done the retro stuff too. It's always fun when they do things like that.
"Yeah. I'm glad that they celebrate that, and they should. These guys all laid the bricks, you know? As Jim [Duggan] said; when you talk to somebody about that era of superstars, and they will name 20 of them right away during that period. It is really amazing after all these years that it is still attached in their minds, and when you hear that it was part of their childhood, you think, wow, that's unbelievable.'
What is one story that Hacksaw told you during both of your tenures in the WWF were you most surprised by?
"I'm up in my ears to remember, but he's told some tremendous stories. He's told some great stories; one story he told yesterday was about Sherri being at an event where they were snowed in, where they couldn't get to the event, and she was there, and a champion. He said Blackjack Lanza asked him if Jim's wife can be in the ring to face Sherri because the person that was supposed to be there couldn't because of being snowed in, so they worked this whole thing out, and Deborah goes in there and Sherri beats the stew out of her, she gets up, throws the referee out of the ring and this big disqualification, so Deborah technically had won that match. That, I thought was an awesome story, but he's full of them. He talks a lot about the stuff on the road that people had went through, with such amazing era."
If there's anything from that era that they can bring back today, one aspect from the 80's, what do you think that would be that could really improve the product?
"Um, put Sean Mooney back in the Event Center, I think it would be a really good idea. I think that people loved those promos, at what they would do to build those matches up. Now, it's these short segments where guys backstage aren't really involved with it, and aren't really part of that, but if you think of some of the stuff that Gene and I did, if they let guys rift with their characters people would love that and there would be more of a connection with fans."
Now that you are doing a podcast, do you get the itch to do something with wrestling again?
"I'm wide open now and enjoying every minute of this. I've been asked to do some of these memorabilia, autograph shows that I have really enjoyed. The WWE has had me in here and there. I did the Edge and Christian show, this new DVD is coming out, and I tell them that anything else that hey have going, like, I would really love to host a show on the Network where we go into some of this vintage stuff to do a perspective and do theme shows that I was part if, I would love to do something like that, but you know, we'll see what happens. I have a full time job here, putting these kids through college, but I'm loving it now and whatever happens I'm enjoying the ride."