Shane Helms On TNA's Numbers, Being A TNA Agent, WWE's Vertebreaker Ban, Having Three Personas, More

I recently spoke to TNA agent and former WCW and WWE Cruiserweight Champion Shane Helms, who had a fantastic run as The Hurricane, Sugar Shane, as well as Gregory Helms. I talked to him about the difference in the three personas, banning the Vertebreaker, and much more. You can see the full first part of the interview below, and the second part soon here on WrestlingInc.

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You've had three successful personas is Shane Helms, Gregory Helms and Hurricane that were all the same person, but different personalities. Were you conscious of that when you differentiated the three?

"Yeah, I was very conscious of it, especially when going from Hurricane to Gregory Helms. Going from Sugar Shane to Hurricane, that was something that happened organically. When I was Sugar Shane, I was one of the best light heavyweights around and had a style that is commonplace now, but was newer back then. When I would wrestle as the Hurricane, the character would get lost, and there was a disconnect there. I wasn't a superhero, I was a guy who thought he was a super hero. If you think you're a super hero, you have to be a little off-kilter upstairs. When I'd go out there and wrestle like Sugar Shane and do 1000 moves in every match, there was a disconnect from the Hurricane gimmick, so I had to switch my style and give even more character, and that's what made Hurricane work. Fast forward to when I'm Gregory Helms, and I gotta be this ass kicking wrestler again. One of the strangest compliments I ever got was a couple weeks into that run, Arn Anderson and said 'Damn, kid. I forgot how good you were.' As the Hurricane, I almost had to wrestle down to get that character to work. It's hard for people to understand, but I explain it like this — Tom Hanks that was in Philadelphia was in Big. It's the same guy, but you have to act differently to make these characters work. I can't go out and wrestle like Sugar Shane when I'm the Hurricane. If I do that, it just wouldn't have worked. When I got to the Gregory Helms thing, I tried to take out a lot of the high flying things and that was intentional. I didn't want people to cheer me. That's one of the biggest things in the business missing today is heels that get booed. I didn't want merchandise. I had that conversation with Vince about it about what I wanted to do, because that was going to cost me merchandise money. My thought process was that if people are buying my merchandise, I'm not getting over as a heel. I wanted people to absolutely hate me. He took care of me on the PPV side with my PPV checks. That kind of compensated what I lost in merchandise. I wanted people to hate what I was. If I was wrestling a guy like Jimmy Yang who did a lot of high flying stuff, I would do some of it, because I knew Jimmy could counter me with higher stuff. If I was working with a guy like Nunzio or Jamie Noble that didn't have a lot of high flying stuff, I'd keep it on the ground as much as possible. That was all intentional."

What's the process of becoming an agent for TNA been like, and how were you approached to come in?

"I think they were looking for a new agent, and I think Matt was the person to mention my name. Other people started to mention my name as well. I'm not quite certain how it happened to be honest, but I'm glad it did. I agent all the matches on the OMEGA shows we do, and a couple of dark matches in WWE here and there. I would always help guys. Not just lower card or mid card, I'd go to anybody if I had something I thought would help them. I guess I got that reputation for helping people and being generous with it, not wanting anything in return. It's went way better than I thought it would. I've never been an official agent, so I didn't know how it would work out for me, but it's been great and I'm extremely happy."

I saw that you had to do the Shera Shuffle, though. Were you happy about that?

"(Laughs) That was pretty funny. That was one of the weeks that I'd read about how morale was bad, and it concerned me going down there. I've always been able to keep the locker room laughing. I try to keep things upbeat and be one of the Dr. Phils of the locker room, diffuse situations, and keep people happy. A happy locker room will put out a better performance. I read things about bad morale and I go down there and everyone's just having a blast. I went out of my way to tweet things about it. Shera is a young guy, but he's trying really hard. One of the nicest guys I've met on the planet. Constantly smiling. When he finally got the crowd to do that shuffle, the backstage erupted. It was something small, nothing Steamboat-Savage on impact on the industry by any means, but it was a good moment. Everybody was having fun doing that dance. I didn't mind doing it. I looked like a tub of s–t at that particular time, post-knee surgery wait, it was definitely showing, but I had fun doing it."

What was your reaction to TNA moving to Pop TV, and when did you find out about it?

"I'm not in on any of the business things, so I found out at the same time as everybody else. I knew something was going on. They were so adamant about locking me into a contract. When I first went there, I wasn't sure I wanted to do that. They offered me a contract pretty much right away, and I didn't want one at first, because I thought it might be beginner's luck and didn't want to tie myself down and end up sucking at it. It started working out and going well and were adamant and I thought it was really weird. If they're having all these reported problems, they wouldn't be trying to lock me down. They have agents, it's not like they don't have any. Certain little things and comments I'd pick up on told me they had something going on. With the announcement of Pop TV, and their partnerships with affiliates are huge, it can really end up being something bigger than it is. It's worked out well for us. Not to knock Destination America, but that network is almost Destination Unknown. Nobody I knew had it. I think this was a better move for us."

The numbers aren't where you want them to be, but the numbers are the best they've been since the summer.

"I'm just saying...I came into TNA in the summer. The President of Pop TV came into our show. I've been in a number of different shows and a number of different networks, and I've never had that happen before. I thought that was a big deal for the guys, and the company as a sign of unity that Pop TV is really behind this. I think we live in a day and age where if something isn't this magnificent hit, people try to jump ship right off the bat. A lot of the greatest shows of all time didn't start out hot at all. I think once we hit the second week on Pop, then we were cooking. The first week, we had to finish that title series, which was the biggest tournament in pro wrestling history to my knowledge– as far as the number of competitors and the length of time it took until that thing finished. That was an endeavor, and it sort of monopolized that show in the first week. About 70 percent of that show was dedicated to finishing that tournament. The second week I thought was better."

That tournament was polarizing. There was some great wrestling, but it took a long time and many thought it was a lot of work to get back where you were with EC3 and Matt Hardy. How did you feel about it? It was very carefully crafted.

"Not only that, but to do it in such a way that this tournament that was pre-taped, but was more surprising and unpredictable to WWE's tournament. I hate to constantly compare us to WWE, but they did have a tournament that happened at the same time and it was one of the most predictable tournaments in wrestling history. That's not cause of WWE, that's because of what happened. The fact that TNA did what we did and everything didn't get out the way people thought it would happen, that was awesome. To be honest, they might have lucked into a few things and situations indirectly, but that's the art of pro wrestling. I really liked it. I just wish we didn't have the amount of down time in between the quarterfinals and the finals. That took a little bit of steam out for me. I was ready for the finals. I think there was a lot of great wrestling in the ring, and that's not TNA's problem at all. They have a lot of great talent there. I think there's always room for improvement in presentation with any company."

What is one of the biggest challenges as an agent? Egos?

"That hasn't been to hard for me so far, because there aren't a lot of egos. There's a lot of great guys down there. I haven't really dealt with anyone saying they wouldn't do this, or their character wouldn't do that. It's a really unified front down there when it comes time to go to work. One of my things was that I didn't want to make the same mistakes I've seen other agents make. There were agents I saw come into WWE that hadn't watched the product in years. That baffled the s–t out of me. Did you just get hired yesterday? You had to know this opportunity coming up, didn't you watch a bunch of stuff to at least find out who everybody was? I had an agent come up and ask me if I was a face or a heel. I was wearing my Hurricane outfit. I was like you gotta be f–king kidding me. This was after The Rock and all that where I had kinda made a name for myself, and you don't know I'm a babyface? Get the f–k out of here. That was somebody's friend, and doing a favor for this guy. The good ol' boy network still existed. I didn't want to make those mistakes. One of the things that helped me as an agent was that my career wasn't as one dimensional as some of the agents I dealt with. I was a heel and had success with that, I was a babyface and had success with that, I was a wrestler and gimmick character and a success at that. A lot of the agents are good at what they did. Steamboat's one of the greatest babyfaces of all-time, but if I'm working as a heel, that could be a little tricky. The polar opposite was Arn Anderson, who is one of the greatest wrestling minds I've ever worked with, but Arn was a heel. When I came to him as Hurricane, Arn might not have been the agent for me at times, but when I was Gregory Helms, I wanted him as my agent every time. As the Hurricane, I'd want Steamboat. I benefit from my crazy career that I've done enough that there aren't a lot of situations I haven't been in myself."

Do talents ever have a say in who is the agent?

"I imagine guys at the top of the card have more say. There are times if an agent wasn't right for me, I'd sneak off and have someone else. You can't piss these agents off. Stepahnie McMahon told me one time, you have to win the agents over. I had agents that had never been over telling me how to get over, and I thought if they knew how they'd have been over themselves. I know it makes me sound like a dick, but I believe that. That became a battle. They're writing reports that are directly to Vince. Vince isn't at all the live events, so if he reads these reports and Hurricane's an asshole and all these problems, that can reflect negatively on you. You had to work the agents, then work the match."

WWE had banned your move, the Vertebreaker. Who tells you that and how did it go over with you?

"Yeah, the move was over, but it didn't affect me because there were very few guys in the WWE I could do it to, especially as the Hurricane. All of my feuds were with big guys and I couldn't pick them up. That came from Vince himself. I didn't try to argue my point or anything. Vince tells you to do something, you kind of just do it. It wasn't that big of a deal, I didn't need to go to Vince and have a debate about it. It wasn't a big loss to me."

Did he say it was dangerous? You had to have a talented person to take that move.

"You had to have a talented person to give the move. It's easy to take, you tuck your chin. You take it like a German suplex impact. I would take a lot of impact on my upper back which caused problems in my lower back. If I did it a couple nights in a row, my back was jacked by the end of the loop. That's because I was taking care of the guy. I never drilled anybody. Kaz Hayashi would stare at the mat and pull his chin up at the last second and was just masterful at that. I think Kidman tried to to that one time and didn't tuck in time. I can't see what's going on back there, so if you don't tuck your chin, you're on your own. He got pegged a little bit, but he was okay. Someone backstage said I killed him, but I had to see it back. I do it the exact same way every time. It is a dangerous move. At that time, there had been a string of neck surgeries in WWE, and they were getting away from anything where you landed on your neck. Even the German suplexes were modified. You wouldn't see the guys doing the Japanese style where they'd drop someone on their head. It was something I knew was coming anyway. I was prepared for it. I was off and running as the Hurricane, so I didn't need that."

Stay tuned for part two of the interview coming soon where we talk more about TNA, as well as the WWE Network, OMEGA, and much more.