On a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast, Aubrey Edwards turned it around on her co-host Tony Schiavone and interviewed him about his AEW story and how he signed. Schiavone started by talking about his initial thoughts about AEW after hearing about it on his podcast with Conrad Thompson, What Happened When.
"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 gave some backstory about the struggles in his life where he lost his job at a radio station after over a decade working there. He opened up 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."
Schiavone noted that his time in Starbucks was a positive one. He said later that year, Thompson had contacted him to do a podcast. Thompson also co-hosts a podcast with Bruce Prichard, Something to Wrestle, and Schiavone got to know Prichard through that. He said after Prichard was hired by WWE in 2019, he said Prichard said that he would try to get him a job in WWE.
"During 2016, I did a NWA Fan Fest where I did a panel with Jim Valley," Schiavone stated. "Conrad Thompson was in that, and he saw how funny I was, how irreverent I was [and] how I was, obviously, talking honestly. And he approached me in 2017 to do a podcast, and we started the podcast. That podcast led to us doing some crazy things online of which Tony Khan saw and liked, and I got to know Bruce Prichard because Bruce does a podcast with Conrad as well.
"Bruce told me, at the beginning of 2019, he said, 'I'm going to go back to work for Vince. You'll give me a few months. I'll contact you because I think you can come to work here.' He did contact me on a Sunday in the summertime of that year, and he said, 'Vince wants you to come back to work for us.' And I said, 'great, what are we talking about?' He said, 'We still don't know yet, but we know we like for you to be a producer. We know you like to produce. We know you like to work behind the scenes. We'll be back in touch.' I said, 'Got it.'"
Schiavone admitted that instead of calling his wife, he called Thompson who then called AEW EVP Cody Rhodes. He revealed that Rhodes did not want him to work for WWE and asked him to talk to AEW President Tony Khan.
"So you get a get an offer like that thinking, man, things may be on the way up," Schiavone noted. "So do I call my wife? No, I call Conrad. I say, 'I just got offered a job from the WWE,' and he said, 'That's great.' Hung up the phone. Two minutes later, I got a text from Cody. Conrad called him, and Cody says, 'I don't want you to go to work for the WWE.' And I said, 'Okay good.' And that's all I said, and then he said, 'Will you accept a call from Tony Khan?' I said, 'Sure.' Tony called me. We talked for over an hour because you know how you can go. So it was very interesting, and he said, 'I might have you come down to Jacksonville.'"
Schiavone also revealed that his talks with WWE were mainly WWE expressing their interest in him but never offering him a contract. He said that after a meeting with Khan, he knew he wanted to work with AEW, and he said that his wife was adamant against him working for WWE.
"Now during this time, the WWE kept talking to me, and I never told the WWE that Tony Khan had an interest in me. I would just listen to what they had to say. So they would call me, and they would say, 'We don't have our ducks in a row yet. We'll be back in touch with you.' Bruce called and said, 'Vince is very much interested, really wants you to come here and end your career.' I said, 'Okay, well then make me an offer.' So they had an HR person call me, and they said, 'How much do you need?' Well, I threw the ball way up in the air on that one, and they said, 'Okay, we'll be back in touch with you.' Meanwhile, I go down and talk to Tony Khan, and I met with Tony.
"It was an all-day meeting at the stadium, and I knew immediately I wanted to work there. And I also had my wife of mine, we've been married now 39 years, who told me, 'If you take a job back with the WWE, I'm going to divorce your ass,' but I didn't play two sides against the middle. I didn't, so I was just waiting and waiting to hear. Tony offered me something phenomenal, and I knew I wanted to work there, but I was going to listen to what the WWE had to say."
Schiavone noted that he was upfront and was willing to listen to the offers he received. However, WWE called him after SummerSlam telling him that they were no longer interested in signing him giving him the confidence to sign with AEW.
"I was not one to call the WWE and say, 'Listen, Tony Khan offered me this' or go to Tony, and I did tell Tony," Schiavone revealed. "I said, 'I did hear from the WWE, and Tony says, 'Well, if they offer you a million dollars, take it.' I said, 'Don't worry, I will, and Lois told me, 'It doesn't matter what they offer you. Don't take it.' She has a bad feeling about them. So anyway, the week of SummerSlam, they contacted me.
"I was talking to one of the HR ladies. 'We'll be back in touch with you right after SummerSlam.' So the Monday after SummerSlam, I get a call first thing in the morning, and the lady from the WWE says, 'Thank you for your interest Mr. Schiavone. We have nothing for you,' and I went, 'You guys contacted me.' I immediately turned around and called Tony. I said, 'I'm in.' That's how it happened."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.