Jim Cornette is the former booker of OVW, the former name of WWE's developmental brand, so he had a hand in the early careers of wrestlers like Randy Orton and Batista. Cornette was recently a guest on the Talk Is Jericho podcast with Chris Jericho and divulged some stories from his time in OVW.
Cornette was asked for his thoughts on some wrestlers from OVW not succeeding when they were called up to the WWE. He said it would make him angry because he felt he would do a good job of preparing the wrestlers, but when tweaks were made to their characters on the main roster, it was often a detriment to their careers. He pointed to his experience with Nick Dinsmore, who debuted as Eugene.
"I would tear my hair out of my head. Nick Dinsmore another example," Cornette said. Great wrestler; once again, he's a guy--I had brought Chris Benoit in and he had a match with him at the Gardens, and he went 30 minutes and tore the house down. It could have aired on RAW or a pay per view. In ring performance, Nick was as good as anybody on the roster, and could hang with; but the way he gets his chance is to become Eugene. I lost my mind when I heard that... I would give them guys that I had gotten over that people took to the gimmicks, that people took to them, and they would change things on television so when the guys came back they were less valuable to me to sell tickets than they were before they went to national TV. It was leading up to a lot of broken furniture at the house."
One of the other call-ups that angered him was Batista when he was paired with Reverend D-Von Dudley as Deacon Batista. Cornette said his gimmick was completely different in OVW, as they billed him as this unstoppable monster with the hope that he would one day have long rivalries with the likes of The Undertaker and Kane. Unfortunately, he wasn't much more than a jobber and Cornette said he was on the verge of being fired before aligning himself with Triple H.
"The most over gimmick we ever had, and people gave him standing ovations was Leviathan, the Demon of the Deep [Batista], the right hand of Satan himself... He was 6'5, massive, tattoos; so we put the chain around his neck. We put the contact lenses in; and he was invulnerable; unstoppable, sold nothing, never did a job. He beat up 2-3 people at a time. He was powered by the sorcery of the dark side," Cornette said. "We were thinking that he can steal pay per views with The Undertaker, Kane, Big Show; at the time i think Foley and Steve Austin, all those top guys; yeah, he was injury prone and a bit older, so his window was short and thought that we should get him while he is hot, for 5-7 years, which is what his career ran. He doesn't need to be on television every week; let's create an attraction for the big guy. Him and Undertaker, that is why I brought both Kane and Undertaker to the Gardens to work with him because I had done the same thing to Kane was in Smoky Mountain, I had brought Undertaker to help him; and I told them both that this is their future pay per view opponent so now you take him and see what you can do with him, and if you can get the things you want out of him then you go tell the boss that they have a guy they can make money with.
"We did all that," he continued, "and tailor-made gimmick for Undertaker, Kane and Big Show, and they bring him up and put him with D-Von, hang that thing around his neck and put a suit on him to cover up his muscles. I had lost my mind; then they were on the verge of firing him until he started working out with Triple H."
Cornette did admit that he was wrong in the case of Randy Orton, who he didn't think would become a star. He said he didn't believe Orton had enough passion for the business to sustain long-term success.
"I don't think originally he was into the business as much as he should have, but he had it in his genes," Cornette said. "He is sitting in the announcer's desk in the Davis Arena, and watching one of the classes. He didn't know that the microphone on the desk was on because Danny [Davis] was recording on video the class that was going on in the ring. He turned the microphone on and Randy said that he only here for the damn $750 a week. Danny loved that; he brought him in the next day in his office when he had all his equipment and he played what Randy had said, but he's made more money since."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: Talk Is Jericho
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.