On a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast, Aubrey Edwards interviewed her fellow co-host Tony Schiavone about his iconic career in pro wrestling. Schiavone has been outspoken about his time in WCW, and he addressed being called “the worst announcer” in 1999.
“It was not a good time,” Schiavone stated. “I’ve had people since then say, ‘Oh, the matches were so bad that it drug you down.’ Well, that’s an excuse. When the matches are really bad is when you have to shine. It’s when you have to up your game. I was a little too much over the top, and I go back and listen to those days, ’99 and 2000.
“I go back and listen to those days or watch that, and it bugs me because I was nothing but a hype machine. And I try to overhype it, and I was pushed to do that too. And I get it, but still, you got to accept responsibility for it. I could have done a much better job, and I was kind of checked out at that time. I’m giving you a litany of excuses here, which I shouldn’t, but I get it. I was bad. We were bad. Let’s move on.”
Schiavone then talked about how despite his bad experiences in WCW, there were still fans that expressed their love for his work there. He talked about how he’s always trying to be better and accept change for the better.
“That had left such a bad taste in my mouth that I left wrestling for a long long time, and now that I look back on it, I didn’t realize exactly how many fans out there really did, overall, like my work,” Schiavone said. “Right now, I’m the product of nostalgia. Nostalgia’s big and so I’m reaping the benefits of that, and that fact has not escaped me, but I go back and I look at that and I try to grow from it, and I try to get better. I accept change. I think I accept change more than most people do.”
Schiavone also revealed details that led to him signing with AEW. He said he was interested in what AEW was doing, but he never contacted anyone for a job. However, AEW EVP Cody Rhodes did reach out.
“Conrad Thompson and I have been doing a podcast for quite a while, and Conrad had told me a few years back that it looks like that Tony Khan’s new promotion is going to be on TNT,” Schiavone recalled. “He said, ‘What do you think about that? I said, ‘I don’t think anything about it. I’m out of wrestling with exception doing your podcast.’ So it did interest me. I thought man, that’s a great idea to get somebody else’s product on a major cable channel. So that being said, I never did, at all, ask for a job or call Tony Khan, or called Cody or just check with The Bucks. Didn’t do anything. Cody [reached out].”
Schiavone also took Twitter questions from fans. Schiavone opened up about late WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson. He talked about the traveling with him and how everyone at WWE, including Vince McMahon, did not judge Patterson for being gay and welcomed him in with open arms.
“I don’t know if he gave me any advice, but when I interviewed with Vince McMahon in 1990 at Vince’s house, Pat was there, and I got to know Pat,” Schiavone recalled. “I was very fortunate in that one year I worked with Vince. I traveled on Vince’s private plane to television, and also on the road between towns. We would go out and do Superstars one night and Challenge the next, and so we would fly into one town, do Superstars, drive to another town, do Challenge and then fly back.
“And I would ride in the car with Vince, and Pat, and Bruce Prichard Kevin Dunn, and I got to know Pat. He had a great sense of humor, and he was always thinking about the business. Even when a bunch of us were cutting up in the car, he was always somewhere else, and he would turn to Vince. ‘Hey, I got an idea about the finish of that match.’ So I knew that he was thinking about wrestling more than any of us were thinking about wrestling all the time, and he was also very funny about his sexuality. We’re talking ’89. He wrestled in an era where you had to keep it quiet.
“I’ve said a lot of bad things on other podcasts about the people of the WWE, but this is one thing I can say about Vince and the company back then. They did not care about Pat’s sexuality. They did not care that Pat was gay, and they accepted him for it, thus Pat was very relaxed with us about talking about it and making jokes. We all got along, and I just thought that was so cool that we could accept him and we all loved him and could travel with him.”
Schiavone said that he later met Patterson’s partner Louie and attended many Christmas parties with him. He credited Patterson for bringing him to WWE from Jim Crockett Promotions, and he talked about what he learned from Patterson.
“I really think that he was instrumental in me leaving Jim Crockett Promotions and working for the WWF back then because he advised Vince on who he liked to see on TV, and it was a great experience,” Schiavone expressed. “Did I learn anything from him? Yeah, I learned that it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter your sexuality. It doesn’t matter what you think.
“You’re a person and accept a person for that. So I think I learned a lot from him because I come from a — that was ’89. I left my hometown in 1981. So eight years before that, I lived in a very redneck town in the south in the hills, and I never really experienced anything like this. It helped me grow as a person, and I really feel that Pat was a part of that.”
Schiavone also opened up about the struggles in his life where he lost his job at a radio station after over a decade working there. He talked about the financial struggles his family was going through that forced him to work at Starbucks.
“At end of 2015, I lost my job with the radio station WSB, and I’d been working as their sports director and working as an editor on their website for a number of years, actually for 13 years,” Schiavone said. “I lost that job. My contract was not renewed. They wanted to cut back, and so in December 2015, I was thrown out. Basically, no job and no health insurance.
“For someone in their 50s, that’s a pretty scary thing. I still worked for the University of Georgia on their football broadcast, on their basketball broadcast. I still had a job with the Braves’ AAA team. So I did have work, but I didn’t have enough to really supplement my income and pay the house here. So I got the family together.
“I said, ‘I’m going to sell the house guys. I don’t think I can afford this.’ So hung in there and 2016 was a terrible year financially for the Schiavone family. I started working at Starbucks for a number of reasons. Number one, I needed the job and was looking for health insurance, which they offered, and number two, I really like Starbucks, and I liked the people there.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.