Pro Wrestling Torch: Torch Talk with Wade Keller, 2002
Credit to

Wade Keller: What happened with you and WWE over the past couple of months? My understanding is it boils down to you and WWE reaching a mutual decision to part ways.

Sean Waltman: Yeah, I think that's probably a safe way of putting it. It's almost like any other kind of relationship. No matter how much you like each other, if you clash on so many things that the negatives start outweighing the positives, regardless of how much you like them or the other person, you have to break it off or end the relationship. It goes back longer than a couple of months, Wade. This has been going on for, God, since the end of the DX thing.

Keller: How much time was left on your contract?

Waltman: Probably about nine months, maybe ten.

Keller: As it worked out, are you losing out on quite a bit of money or was there a settlement where it was reasonable given that you don't have to work the last nine months?

Waltman: It was just... Well, first of all, it really has nothing to do with money. Let's put it this way, there's like a confidentiality clause in the release agreement, so I'm going out on a limb a little bit. But I don't really give a sh--. If they want to sue me over what I'm going to say, then f---in' feel free because it's the truth. They took care of me. I didn't get bought out of my contract to where I was paid the whole thing and they told me I could go or "Feel free to do what you want and here's all of your money." It was nothing like that, but they gave me a good amount of money just so I had some income coming in a little bit until I was able to get some income coming in from other sources.

Keller: If the incident with you at the airport had not happened at all, would you still be there today? I'm not saying things would be great, I'm not saying you'd be happy or they'd be happy, but might you still be there today if that had not happened?

Waltman: No.

Keller: Okay, so it wasn't just that, but did that contribute to speeding things up?

Waltman: Well, they could say it contributed, but I'll have to disagree with that and here's why. You've alluded to it and everybody... not everybody but quite a few people already know the story anyhow. I was totally up front about everything that happened. I talked to VinceS I woke up in the hospital and was like, "What the f--- am I doing here?" I had no idea if I was in Philly already or what happened. As soon as I realized what the deal was, it was in Edina, Minnesota at Fairview Southdale Hospital which is only like ten minutes from the airport, the first thing I was thinking about was not making up a story to cover up my ass because I don't care. I'm not ashamed of what happened at all, Wade. I had a bad reaction to... I took a couple of somas before I was going to get on the airplane. If anybody has ever had a broken neck or severe disc problems... even without that, anybody who has ever had to travel on an airplane knows that it's not the most comfortable thing in the> The first thing I did was call the office and tell them exactly what happened and that I was getting to the airport and that I would be there. I had just gotten to the airport and I got a phone call from Vince and he was legitimately concerned and asking what was going on. And I was in the main event that night, so business-wise he was very concerned as well and I don't blame him. I assured him and told him I was fine. I told him exactly what happened. I said: "I'll be there, Vince. I'll be there in plenty of time," and I was. I was there in plenty of time. Other f---ers are way more late than that on a regular basis, including me. I've been way later than that without any instances ever having happened at all. I showed up and was fine. Obviously I was fine enough to carry the first three-quarters of that f---in' match if anybody cares to go back and look at it. The match was chaos. Nobody knew what the hell they were doing going into it. Michael Hayes was supposed to be the agent in charge of the match and he did absolutely f---ing zero to help organize that thing. We don't really need an agent to organize a match in the first place, but that's just how things have turned out. That's what that place has turned into. So, when you think that that's how it's going to work and then you don't get that... In Michael's defense, and everybody knows about the heat between Michael Hayes and I, but the guy does work hard and puts a lot into what he does and he was spread thin that night. He had a couple of more matches than he should have had to deal with. It was a ten-man tag... It was just a major clusterf---. And when Kevin (Nash) came in and there were guys lying all over the ring and he's gotta dodge the referee and try to run across the ring to do his sh-- and steps on somebody and blows his quad, there goes one of Vince's top storylines. No matter how f---ed up the storyline had been prior to that, he was still trying to make it go. And he did put a lot of eggs in that NWO basket still, Kevin's first match back and everything. After that, that was it. That was what really did it, Wade.

Keller: Do you think Vince believed you when you told him that you had a bad reaction to a couple of somas, because in all honesty, Sean, that sounds like the classic line that.. I don't want to name names, but you know there are people out there with problems who still have problems and that would have been their story. Did you know going through Vince's head that, "Oh, man, this sounds like the cliched answer for drug addicts or someone who's up partying all the time"?

Waltman: Of course, of course. You know what, though, your average drug addict wouldn't even have said that. It would have been some other excuse altogether.

Keller: Yeah, that's a good point (laughs).

Waltman: And I'm not your average drug addict, I'm just a drug addict or whatever (laughs). I totally understand what you're saying, Wade. The point I was trying to make is that if that was their major concern was for my health, then I would not have been in that ring that night. Yes or no?

Keller: No, I would hope not.

Waltman: I know that you're the one doing the questions here, so I shouldn't be asking you "buts"...

Keller: And don't let it happen again (laughs).

Waltman: I won't, I promise (laughs). But does it make any sense?

Keller: Well, maybe they were willing to risk your life as long as Kevin Nash was part of a money-making angle and as soon as he got injured they weren't willing to risk your life anymore.

Waltman: Maybe that's the case.

Keller: Here's my question, though. Do you think Vince believed you when you told him, "I had a bad reaction to a couple of somas," or do you think he thought...

Waltman: Sure, I think he believed me. He knows I'm not a bullsh--er. I've told him straight up the truth when I knew it was going to get me in hot water.

Keller: Going into that night, had you as admittedly a former drug addict who is susceptible for the rest of your life and you've said that you need to be aware of that for the rest of your life, had you been taking pain pills regularly before that for any length of time?

Waltman: I'm trying to think of how long, but at a certain point several months back I started taking pain killers again. I'm just being totally honest. At first I was totally ashamed. I had a decision to make. And this might sound like a cop-out or something that a drug addict might say... Wade, I went f---in' six or seven years, however long it was, without a drink of alcohol or without taking any pain medication. And I went through a lot of pain in that time while wrestling, too. Part of that time was at a time when I broke my neck for a second time and had to have surgery and all of that. I've been out (of the ring) a couple of times in the last couple of years and I lost a tremendous amount of money being out. It was a decision that I had to make as to whether, "Okay, I'm going to take more time off, or I'm going to have to take something to get through some times." In my opinion, and you can ask anybody around me, I never got out of hand with it again.

Keller: When you started taking pain pills again, were you tempted to and did you ever take it to get high, or was it purely a prescribed dose with your tolerance down to get through the work week?

Waltman: Yeah, that was exactly how it was. Yes. Just to get through the work week.

Keller: The reason I ask that is did WWE have any reason to suspect that this is a sign of Sean slipping again? Because there is obviously at least one other person in WWE right now who is showing tremendous signs of distress and you would think that WWE would be very conscious of that with you given your past. Did you give them any reason, other than that one bad reaction at the airport, to think that something more was wrong with you?

Waltman: I could probably think of one other thing that happened. I had still been out and... You remember I came back after WrestleMania and did the thing with (Hulk) Hogan and hit him over the head with a chair and joined the NWO again? Well, during the WrestleMania fan-fest and all of that crap, I overslept. I had been out all night. I had my wife in Toronto and we had been out partying the night before and didn't get in until really late and I overslept and slept through it. One of the office people that I've known for years, and she's a great lady, actually had the hotel people come in and barge into my room. That part was bullsh--. My wife and I were lying in bed and I was out cold. It was just a really crazy moment. Other than that, no. There were no other times.

Keller: You must have had a pretty good track record for them to barge into your hotel room because you no-showed an appearance?

Waltman: Yeah, I never missed anything. I've been late countless numbers of time, but you can ask anybody...

Keller: You learned from the best.

Waltman: Yes, I did.

Keller: You learned from Bret Hart and Curt Hennig about that.

Waltman: Uh huh, exactly. Yeah, I did ride with Bret for a long time and Bret was never on time (laughs). But that was an understanding. Apparently they were willing to live with that when it came to Bret. My reputation as far as making shows is impeccable. I've chartered airplanes, Wade, and chartered private flights to make shows where I didn't even make half of the amount of money that it cost me to get there just so I wouldn't miss the show. And they know that.

Keller: Did you ever find out what caused you to pass out at the airport? I assume that concerned you.

Waltman: Yes, it was exactly what I thought. That was their best guess. They took a toxicology on my blood and all of that, and nothing showed up, not even somas, nothing. No alcohol, nothing. Only because I told them what I took, that was the conclusion that the doctors came to. A lot of it might have had to do with the amount of stress that I had been going through in my life recently, which is a whole other issue altogether.

Keller: Did outside of work issues and stress also contribute to you wanting to get out of the contractual obligations that you had with WWE? Did that make you more likely to be agreeable to settling your contract early?

Waltman: Yes, that was part of it. Actually, how do I put this? It wouldn't have been part of it had I been happy at work because at least at one time... I've had drama in my personal life nonstop for a decade. There have been good times and bad times, but people who know me and the sh-- that I've been through, some don't believe it and other people are just amazed that I'm even alive and not in a nut house somewhere. At least I had my wrestling. That made me happy. And for whatever reason, they made it miserable for me there. And you know what? I was a pain in the ass to them, too.

Keller: Did you leave in a way that you think you are on good terms with Vince McMahon to the point that under different circumstances at a different time you'll probably be back in WWE or at least consider going back there?

Waltman: I didn't leave on any worse terms than I left the first time. Here's the thing, when all of this started going down, I had so much turmoil in my personal life, Wade, that the last thing I wanted to do was to dicker back and forth with them on this sh--. Wrestling has been my life since I was ten years old. At the same time, other things are more important, on the personal level. Dealing with that just made it impossible for me to deal with them on these issues, so I just had my attorney handle it, my representation. They don't like to deal with people like that anyhow, so if anything, I could see that being a problem.

Keller: But if they understand that to whatever degree they understand the details, they know that you were going through personal issues and might be able to understand why you wouldn't want to deal with the details?

Waltman: I hope so, because there are a number of people there who I really love. On a personal level, Vince McMahon has been very, very good to me. And Jim Ross, I've always had a very good relationship with him. We've had it out a couple of times, but very little.

Keller: For as long as you've worked with him, there have only been a couple of times when it's been tense.

Waltman: Yeah.

Keller: This might sound like a silly question, but did the idea that NWA-TNA was out there encourage you whatsoever to get out of the WWE situation, knowing that there was this national outlet where you could work part-time and be creative and make a little money?

Waltman: Of course. And I could be a professional wrestler, not a sports entertainer, although I don't see the difference. One person calls it something different because he doesn't want to be labeled a wrestling promoter.

Keller: What did you think of the concept of NWA-TNA before it even launched... The idea of selling pay-per-views based on word of mouth and various other advertising methods, but no television. Did you look at that and go, "That's gonna last a couple of weeks," or did you think, "Hey, this has potential"?

Waltman: Well, when I heard what the business plan was, and I heard a lot of people at the time being pessimistic and a lot of people who are so-called experts on all of this stuff doom it from the start as if it had no chance to survive. I totally disagreed. I thought it was a very cutting edge business plan. It wasn't like trying to take a template that was already made and trying to follow that template. I thought it was a very, very, very, very smart idea. I was kind of bummed out that I didn't come up with it myself. It's a good idea, Wade. You don't have the cost of producing television. You don't have to deal with the networks. You don't need to mainstream the casual fans. There are enough wrestling fans that are starving for what they love and aren't getting that anymore. As long as they know it's out there, there's enough to support that. I think that's true right now. If they hadn't have run into the problems they did, they'd be a lot further along than they are now, and I truly believe that. I wouldn't be there right now otherwise. Well, I would because Jeff Jarrett is a good friend of mine, but I have faith in it, too.

Keller: How many of their pay-per-views did you see before you went there?

Waltman: A couple, not all of them.

Keller: What did you think of the product? What did you think were the strengths and weaknesses of what you saw?

Waltman: I agree with a lot that's been written about it as far as it not being consistent. One week it will be all focussed on just matches and none of the backstage stuff. Then the next week there will be too much ha-ha and too much bullsh-- like the Dupps and all of that. But you have some talent there that is incredible. There's talent there, Wade, and I'm not afraid to admit it, who can do sh-- that I could never do. I thank God that I have one thing over those people and that's my brain. When they catch up to me in that regard, then it's time for me to hang up my boots. But that day hasn't come yet. They have a pretty decent mix of guys who are known and with potential. There are still things that I don't like about the show. I'd like to be involved more in the production aspect of it and writing and that type of thing. Hopefully we'll get there at some point.

Keller: At the time we are talking, you've been to two shows now. What was your impression from being backstage in terms of how it was produced compared to Raw and Nitro? Jerry Jarrett has been at Raws before. He's been backstage at many important Raws, and obviously Vince Russo has been backstage at both Raws and Nitros. Did you get a sense of, hey, on a lower budget they do a pretty good job of running this, or did it look as chaotic as WCW at its worst, or somewhere in the middle?

Waltman: The first time I came in, I'll have to be honest with you and say that it was pretty chaotic. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that even though Jerry and Russo were there in the WWF, I can't think of too many other guys there who had been. So they have nothing to go by. They have nothing to compare it to, so a number of people probably didn't even realize that that was the case. But the second week I went was a lot more organized. I think it will get better. I think they just need to simplify the product a little more.

Keller: What do you mean by simplify?

Waltman: Alright, for instance, I thought the Gauntlet for the Gold for the tag team (titles) was too complicated. If I don't understand it, how in the f--- are the people going to understand it? But who am I to come in right off the bat and say, "Oh, this is wrong," when they busted their asses trying to come up with the show?

Keller: Is it true that Scott Hall came back because of you, just because he thought it might be fun and that he probably wouldn't be there if it wasn't for you?

Waltman: I think that's safe to say. He's one of my best friends ever. People can say anything they want about Scott..

Keller: And they do.

Waltman: People say a lot of things about Scott Hall, everybody does. Tons of that stuff is true, and he'll say the same thing. He made his bed and he's accepted having to sleep in it.

Keller: How is he doing?

Waltman: He's stable. I don't want to get into full detail on his personal life...

Keller: Of course, but to cut to the chase, you're not worried about him right now?

Waltman: No, I'm not worried about him dying any time soon, let's put it that way.

Keller: And at a time, you were?

Waltman: You're f---in' right I was.

Keller: And that's enough said. You know what he's doing, and he's made that much of an improvement.

Waltman: Yes.

Keller: You've known the Jarretts for a long time. Do you get the impression from any of your dealings with them or seeing them that this TNA project has turned into a living nightmare for them? Or are their spirits up and they just see everything that's happened as an exciting on-going challenge?

Waltman: Would both be a fair enough answer?

Keller: Sure. What gives you those indications?

Waltman: Well, when you have all that on the line, Wade, not somebody else's f---ing money, but your own money into something like this, and then these problems come along like they've had to deal with lately... I think it was probably a pretty touch and go situation there for a while. God, anybody would be stressed. I don't know how... And you've got Jeff running around and trying to keep things in order and telling everybody what to do, and having to have a match? I mean, God. I just can't imagine. Well, yes I can because I've had plenty of pressure on myself too, but the situation is different. But my God, I think at the same time that they have a lot of joy in trying to produce a good product. They don't always get on base. They don't always hit a home run, but they f---in' go down swinging. They don't let the ball just go past them.

Keller: Do you think they knew what they were in for, or do you get the feeling that there's almost an element of shell-shock over everything that's gone on?

Waltman: I don't think they... How could anybody know what they were in for if the allegations that have been made are true? How could anybody know what they were in for? Provided the stuff is all true, I'm just shocked that that happened.

Keller: Without being specific in any way, in your own way, do you think you know enough about the situation to know that yes, those allegations are probably true? Or do you just really not know enough to even comment?

Waltman: (Pause) That's a good... I don't know how to answer that. I probably know more than just about anybody else.

Keller: You've been brought up to speed?

Waltman: Yes. My gut tells me that that sh-- is true. If that's wrong for me to say that, then f---in' sue me. Get in line. It wouldn't be the first time that I've been sued. I believe it, I totally believe it. There is no reason in hell why they couldn't have had some kind of commercial on the preview channel because they were getting ready to launch right around the time of the Mike Tyson (versus Lennox Lewis) fight. They were told that the promotion would start kicking in after that because everything was geared toward the Tyson fight. Well, that's bullsh--. Everything else has to stop because of the Tyson fight? I don't buy it.

Keller: Does the Jay Hassman, Jason Hervey, Eric Bischoff connection seem like just a...

Waltman: That's way too f---in' fishy for me, way too fishy. And you know, I don't hold any grudge against Eric Bischoff, believe it or not. A lot of people might think I do, but anybody in that company will tell you that I was recommending he be brought in for storyline purposes long before anybody else ever f--in' brought his name up. I thought it was (A) a good idea, (B) I thought the guy had paid the price for some of the bad things he'd done. And he's admitted many, many times in public that what he did to me was was a huge mistake. And for me not to be able to forgive that would be bad of me as a person. But that's a whole other story. But this here is just too... Come on, it can't just all be a coincidence. What I know of it, it's just too much. We'll have to see what happens when more of the details come out. I have a feeling that people are going to be surprised at what does come out.

Keller: Why do you think so far the cable industry media has just looked at this as just a back page, little paragraph, laughable story that isn't worth taking seriously despite the level of allegations being thrown around out there?

Waltman: Well, I honestly don't even know. I couldn't even begin to guess why the cable industry has treated it like that, because it's in their own best interest for this thing to survive, unless they're waiting for it to take a sh-- so that they can come in and buy it for a penny on the dollar and Bogart it for themselves and make all of the money. Other than that, I don't understand why. I don't know a ton about the cable industry and the pay-per-view business, but I know more than most because I've had to make a lot of my money that way. I'm not one of the guys who just takes the money and doesn't care about how or why things happen. It's a mystery to me, Wade, it really is.

Keller: Do you sense at this point that TNA is going to be around for six months or a year, or is there still some trepidation that the plug could be pulled any week?

Waltman: No, it's going to be around.

Keller: With or without new financial backing?

Waltman: It's going to be around. I met the new people, the new financiers, the new money people. They are a hundred percent enthused and behind this thing, and they are really, really, really cool people. They see people like myself and different people who have faith in this thing, and I think it really helps them as far as being able to believe in it themselves. And you know what? These are sharp people. They wouldn't have the money they have if they weren't. And they wouldn't be putting the money into this thing if they didn't think this was a sound business plan.

Keller: Are they fully aware of the lawsuits and the counter-lawsuits that's all involved in this also?

Waltman: Of course they are, yes.

Keller: And that doesn't scare them away?

Waltman: Obviously not.

Keller: Okay, let's switch to something a little more wrestling oriented than behind the scenes business. Who stands out in your eyes as a potential star and pay-per-view drawing card that is currently on the TNA roster? Granted, you might miss a name or two, so no one has to feel bad, but who are the main people that come to mind right now as wrestlers to build around?

Waltman: Well, the one obvious guy is Ron Killings. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. Why he's not in the WWF anymore is a whole other story. And I don't even want to go off on that because, you know, that whole thing is a bunch of bullsh--. How can you keep some of the guys who they've kept and then get rid of a guy like Ron?

Keller: Why did they? Did they think he was too small or too inexperienced orS

Waltman: Nope, no, none of that. In my opinion, I think part of it was that he didn't want to give up the rights to his music. I think that might have had something to do with it. I'm sorry to say, and I feel bad about this, but I think another part was that he was friends with Brian James and me. I feel bad about that. Actually, I kind of warned him a little bit. I don't know, he's an obvious standout. He's got some work to do as far as being a well-rounded wrestler, but he has so many things going for him that it's not even funny. He's great on the stick, he's a phenomenal athlete, I think he has a perfect look. He's not all jacked up.

Keller: He looks like a running back without the pads.

Waltman: Yes.

Keller: He doesn't look like a bodybuilder and he doesn't look like an offensive lineman either, just big and fat, he has a marketable look.

Waltman: Yeah, he looks great. And you know what else, the main thing or one of the main things, is that he's a wonderful person. You can't say a bad thing about the guy. I challenge you to find one person that's run into him that can say a bad thing about him. There's one guy. I really like Low-Ki, all of those guys who are in the X Division. A.J. (Styles) is great, phenomenal. The stuff they do is beyond belief. I think those guys need some work as far as being able to know when to do some of that stuff they do and know when not to. But if that's the worst thing you can say about those guys, then I think they are doing pretty good. Jerry Lynn has been sh-- on by this business for, hell, as long as I've been around. I don't know if him being sh-- on is the right term to use, but how he still has any motivation left after the bad experiences he's had is beyond me, and it's just a testament to the guy's heart. And he still goes out there and is one of the top five guys in wrestling, at least, as far as in-ring performance goes. And you can get around some of the things that they talked about as far as personality or whatever. You don't f---in' use that as a negative, just find a way to capitalize on his personality. He's a good guy, so don't f---in' hold it against him.

Keller: Jim Ross has Bell's Palsy, can't smile, has a Southern accent, isn't the attractive-type face that Vince McMahon wants on his programs, and he has been a very important part and one of the MVPs at times of the successful period of the WWF.

Waltman: Yes, exactly. There's a guy right there, who a lot of people can say what they want about, but he works harder than anybody in that company. And he doesn't get nearly the reward that he should for the amount of work that he does. I know all of the responsibilities that he has. If I told you, you wouldn't believe it. I'm sure you know.

Keller: He's an example of someone who had enough strength in a couple of areas as an on-air person and Jerry Lynn obviously has strengths where the negatives could overcome.

Waltman: Sorry he's not like one of the beautiful people, so to speak. What are you going to have, everybody is a perfect ten on your show? That's not reality, man.

Keller: Does the crew of people you talked aboutS ECW always had the mentality that they were a bunch of misfits and rejects and people who were fighting for an opportunity. That's kind of what defined how good the promotion was when it was really good, and it was really good a lot of the time. Did you sense a similar attitude back there that, "We're a bunch of misfits who are out to prove the establishment wrong?"

Waltman: Not so much as what you're talking about with the ECW guys, but in a certain sense, yes. Not that they are misfits, but that they are being overlooked. They are wanting their opportunity, that's all they're asking for, any of these guys. And some of them aren't going to make it. Some of them aren't nearly as good as they think they are.

Keller: Like who?

Waltman: I don't really...

Keller: I don't really expect you to answer that. That would be unfair.

Waltman: If I could think of someone as an example off the top of my head, I would tell you...

Wade Keller: The WWF couldn't find anything for Jerry Lynn because he was too bland or didn't have the right look. They sure have made good use of Jim Ross, who has Bell's Palsy, can't quite smile, has a Southern accent, and isn't exactly the attractive-type face that Vince McMahon wants on his programs. Yet, he has been a very important part of the WWF and one of the MVPs of the entire company at times over the last few years.

Waltman: Yes, exactly. There's a guy right there, who a lot of people can say what they want about, but he works harder than anybody in that company. And he doesn't get nearly the reward that he should for the amount of work that he does. I know all of the responsibilities that he has. If I told you, you wouldn't believe it. I'm sure you know.

Keller: He's an example of someone who had enough strength in a couple of areas as an on-air person and Jerry Lynn obviously has strengths that could overcome the negatives had they bothered to try.

Waltman: Sorry he's not like one of the beautiful people, so to speak. What are you going to have, everybody is a perfect ten on your show? That's not reality, man.

Keller: ECW always had the mentality that they wre a bunch of misfits and rejects and people who were fighting for an opportunity. That's kind of what defined how good the promotion was when it was really good, and it was really good a lot of the time. Did you sense a similar attitude backstage at NWA-TNA's PPVs that "we're a bunch of misfits who are out to prove the establishment wrong"?

Waltman: Not so much as what you're talking about with the ECW guys, but in a certain sense, yes. Not that they are misfits, but that they are being overlooked. They are wanting their opportunity, that's all they're asking for, any of these guys. And some of them aren't going to make it. Some of them aren't nearly as good as they think they are.

Keller: Like who?

Waltman: I don't really...

Keller: I don't really expect you to answer that. That would be unfair to expect you to...

Waltman: If I could think of someone as an example off the top of my head, I would tell you...

Keller: But you've been in the locker room, it's not this depressing place where, oh my God, we're here, it would be so nice to be in WWE, or it would be so nice if WCW were still around. Is there a sense that this is a fun place to be and we're excited that we can showcase ourselves?

Waltman: Yeah, let me tell you, the feeling I get from those guys, from the crew they have down there. They're not there with the attitude that, okay, I'm going to come on here and hopefully Vince will see me on this show and then I can get to the WWF. That's not the feeling I get from any of these guys. They're there and are trying to make something for themselves. They're trying to be a part of building something good. I really don't believe most of the guys are there with the sole motive of trying to use it as a stepping stone to the WWF, I really don't. There are a number of guys that I'm thinking of that I think are phenomenal talents in the raw, they're like an un-cut diamond. I think Elix Skipper is a phenomenal athlete and does some really good stuff. God, there are some guys there whose names I can't even remember but have a lot of potential.

Keller: Have you seen a lot of guys in TNA who are indy wrestlers who wrestle in a way that needs to be overhauled in order to be a part of a large or national promotion as opposed to an indy show where you're just trying to get a pop out of 125 people who are close-up?

Waltman: Yes, there are a bunch of those, too.

Keller: That doesn't mean that they can't be taught or can't adapt.

Waltman: No, definitely not, because I was one of those guys before. There are some guys who you look at and you see "indy wrestler." I'm not a big fan of guys wearing something other than wrestling trunks and wrestling tights to wrestle. If you have a bunch of guys wearing short and sh*t in the ring, it just looks like a bunch of backyard wrestlers. A lot of them don't realize how far they have to go as far as what they're doing in the ring. A lot of them are so enthusiastic and they have a lot of ideas. It's really cool to feed off of that, but in a tactful way, you kind of have to mold the ideas they're giving you and show them why they fit here better, or why you can't do that in the beginning of a match, a lot of things.

Keller: What is the much talked about "WWF style" that Chris Jericho purportedly did not have when he got there, and people talk about, and other people kind of mock by saying, "Since when does the WWF have the universally ideal style?" What does it mean when people say that you have to "learn WWF style"?

Waltman: It's not WWF style, it's main event style.

Keller: What does that mean? Does it mean dubing down your matches so you don't get hurt? Seriously, that's what some people think it means. What does it mean to work "main event style"?

Waltman: It's almost hard to explain it. It's just doing things and... You have to be able to know what the people want or how they're going to react to certain things at a certain time. When Chris Jericho came to the WWF, he didn't get it yet. He didn't even realize that he didn't get it, and it was very frustrating for him at the time. He had a hard time when he got there. I worked with him. And it felt really good one day when he came and thanked me. I know he doesn't go on the internet and go, "Oh, thanks to Sean Waltman for doing this or that." I don't want him to, I don't care. He pulled me aside one day after he had a f*cking awesome match with somebody and said, "I want to thank you for what you did to help me learn how to do things." I'm not the only one who helped him, and he helped me too in a lot of ways. But that made me feel good, Wade, because I don't give a f*ck if all of these people on these message boards are leaving comments saying that I'm the sh*ts, and I'm not worthy of having a job, or whatever. There's a lot of sh*t that these people say about me. You know what? When somebody like Jericho says that to me, that means so f*cking much that you wouldn't even believe me.

Keller: What do you say to a wrestling fan who watched Jericho in WCW and though, "This guy is underutilized, he's a great worker, I can't wait until he gets to the WWF"? Then he gets there and all you hear out of the WWF locker room is that Jericho needs to learn to wrestle. What do you tell the wrestling fan who says, "Wait a second, I loved his work in WCW. What do you mean he has to learn to work?" How do you make that something that a fan can understand when you say that Jericho needs to learn to work a "main event style" when they already liked what he was doing?

Waltman: They as in the people...

Keller: Yes, just the average fan who was popping for Jericho in WCW and really thought he was cool and had good matches and was an exciting worker who had these good matches with Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit and Rey Jr. Then he gets to the WWF and all they hear his, "Jericho doesn't know how to work, that's why he's not getting pushed right now."

Waltman: Do you really think that that was the average fan?

Keller: I don't knwo. What do you say to the average fan who said that, however many there were? Or to the wrestling reporters who didn't get it and kept saying it was all politics holding Jericho back?

Waltman: I sat I agree 100 percent that the guy was underutilized. I agree 100 percent that the guy is a fantastic talent. But you have to adjust.

Keller: To what?

Waltman: You have to adjust to the way the majority of your main event talent works. And they are main event talent, Wade, for a reason. Not because somebody has a hard-on for them or they're somebody's friend and they decided to give them a push. You can't f*ckin' make the masses like somebody. You can't force them to like somebody. That's a fact. At one time you probably could.

Keller: To a degree, but Rick Martel wasn't selling out when the AWA shoved him down people's throats.

Waltman: Right, you can't, so all of these people, the so-called average wrestling fan that is really such a small minority of the people who are actually wrestling fans. Those people who they say suck, they don't suck. They don't do moonsaults and topes and planchas and a million different phenomenal moves, but they know what to do and when to do it. It's really simple. It's like a song, Wade. It's really hard to follow a speed metal fan. Yngwie Malmsteen, which might be a really obscure reference to make but he's a guitar player. Guys like that are phenomenal guitar players, but it's just busy guitar playing. You know what? AC/DC's music is very, very simple, and that's what gets the masses and it's easy to follow. I don't know how else to describe it. Don't complicate things for the fans. Don't set your match up to f*ckin entertain yourself, set your match up to entertain the people. And that's where a lot of the guys are going wrong. Because that's what entertains you... You have to separate yourself from the people, as far as that goes, and it doesn't happen a lot of times.

Keller: Give us something, if you can, more tangible to the person out there... And I use Chris Jericho as just one example of many. What, for instance, is something that Jericho did that he had to stop doing, and what's something he started doing when he really did learn what being main event was about? And if you think you've already answered it, tell me that. But if there is something specific you can create a picture of...

Waltman: It's a hard question to answer for somebody that's reading this interview. I'm kind of getting a little frustrated with myself. Part of it was, just using Chris as an example, where he placed his signature offense. Building a match from beginning to end, like a song or a roller coaster ride, it's the flow of the sequence of moves. Even if you're not talking about moves, but just punches and stomps and kicks and chops and everything, has to flow forward smoothly. If something is done in the wrong place, it's like going on that smooth ride and then all of a sudden hitting a pothole or a part in the ride that just jerks you backward all of a sudden. When something isn't done in the right place, subconsciously the fan is taken out of the match. You'll hear the bottom fall out of the crowd if a move is done in the wrong spot or if something is not done at the certain time and should be. I'm probably still not answering the question right, but I'm trying to get there.

Keller: Is this one of the reasons that everybody in TNA's best match so far has been with Jerry Lynn? And no one who has wrestled Jerry Lynn has better matches with someone else?

Waltman: Yes.

Keller: Because he knows, he gets it?

Waltman: Yes, exactly.

Keller: It's hard for people because they think, ooh, Low-Ki's match with Jerry Lynn was great. A.J. Styles' match with Jerry Lynn was great. And then A.J. and Low-Ki have a match and everyone is disappointed becasue they perceive A.J. and Low-Ki as being the exciting young guys who made the match with Jerry...

Waltman: That's where they were wrong. And a lot of fans have a problem when they are told that are wrong about something. And I understand that, but it doesn't change the fact. There is a reason certain guys are in positions that a number of fans think they shouldn't be in, because they are the ones who are the glue that is able to hold the match together. That's why I was in a spot that so many people thought I was totally undeserving of. Looking at it from their standpoint, I can see maybe why they might think that. But the reason I was there is because I could take a guy that didn't even know how to work, Wade, and make a match.

Keller: When you started to get known in the early '90s, you were a hardcore fan or wreslting fan favorite. Before there was the internet and the World Wide Web, you were known among whatever hardcore fans there were as a favorite underdog to root for because of your style and your innovative, high-flying, realistic style. There was a big buzz about you and you were one of the smart fan favorites, to put it simply.

Waltman: Yes, I was.

Keller: Ironically, that was based on your matches with Jerry Lynn and Sabu, among others. Then, over the past couple of years, the tide has turned completely. You've been ridiculed as much as any wrestler out there among the internet fan, or smart fan, or hardcore community, or whatever you want to call them. And it's not like there have been a lot of people running to your defense. Does that bother you, and what do you think caused it?

Waltman: I'd likr to tell you that it doesn't bother me, but I'd be full of sh*t. People who don't know me don't realize it, but wrestling has been my life since I was ten. I do read what people say about me and it does bother me. I'll call someone on it, and I'm not going to name names, but somebody wrote some sh*t, and yeah, it might be fun, I might be the en vogue person to pick on... Then when I call somebody on it and state my case on things, they go, "Oh, yeah, well maybe it was mean of me to say that, but you have to understand that it's cool to pick on you now" or whatever it was. Yeah, fine, but it f*ckin' hurts. It hurts my feelings. So I guess I'm a little thin-skinned when it comes to that because I love wrestling so much.

Keller: Do you think the backlash against you is becasue of your persona, your size, your style, or the perception that you are a hanger-on to these big stars and are only where you are and get away with things you wouldn't get away with if it wasn't for who your friends are? Is it one of those things or a combination?

Waltman: That has a lot to do with it, the perception. And that's all it is is a perception. And you can ask any one of my friends this, Kevin or Scott or whoever, the fact of the matter is that I wasn't the f*cking one hanging on or taking a free ride. And you can ask them that. Most of the stuff we did, a big majority of it was my idea. Putting together a lot of the matches was my idea.

Keller: What about people who say, okay, you're a smart worker and help other guys and you're not a hanger-on and you're valuable in matches, we just don't like you? We don't like your personality, we don't like your tongue, we don't like your hair, we don't like your ring outfit, we just think your gimmick has run its course.

Waltman: See, and I've read stuff like that, "You need to change your gimmick." Wade, it's not a gimmick, okay. I'm not a gimmick. That's me, and if they don't like me, there isn't a whole lot I can do about it because I'm not going to be a gimmick. I'm not going to become a gimmick. When was I ever a gimmick? Just because I have a name other than my own, that does not mean it's a gimmick. I've never been a gimmick in my f*ckn' whole career. And I think that's why I was successful, a lot of the reason why. If the people don't accept me for who I am, then there isn't a whole lot that I can do about it, because as soon as I become a gimmick, I'm really f*ckin' dead in the water. That's just my opinion.

Keller: Have you considered just cutting your hair and just changing your look because people say, oh, he's trying to live out, in their perception, Syxx or DX or whatever?

Waltman: No, I haven't. If they don't want me how I am, then they're not going to get me. If that means I don't get work, if that means I don't get adored by wrestling fans then that's fine. I'll live with that. It will hurt, but I'll live it.

Keller: What's the last match you have that stands out that you are proud of, not because of how you helped somebody else look good, but because you, with the opponent or opponents, in concert, showcased your talents?

Waltman: I'll tell you the last match, and it wasn't in the WWF, it was in Philadelphia two weeks ago with Sabu. I'm not going to say that it was match of the year or four stars or whatever the hell you want to call it, but the people left the building happy that night. And I was happy, and I was excited about wrestling. And I thanked Sabu for that, for helping me get excited about it. There's a guy right there, and he's got his reputation...

Keller: He has his well-earned reputation.

Waltman: Yeah, but you know what, he loves wrestling. This guy has f*ckin' given his body to entertain these people for years, as long as I've been doing it, and he's never gotten that big payoff. And you know what, he still coninues on, likst Jerry Lynn. We went out there and f*ckin', I knocked him out with a kick 30 seconds into the match. And then he got knocked out again going off the top rope and through the table when I was giving him my finish. He didn't care because he loves it.

Keller: But what you just described sounds like, and I'm not saying again the picture you painted so far, not that the whole picture has been drawn, is a picture of go out and knock yourself out and do highspots, but that's not how Rock became a main eventer...

Waltman: No, I understand that. It (Sabu getting knocked out) was an accident.

Keller: Right, but you're still praising a match because you did things that were dangerous. Is that why you're proud of it because...

Waltman: No, no, no, no. We did things that were dangerous in the proper context and it was calculated risks, and people wanted to see that. In that building, they wanted to see that.

Keller: When was the last WWF match that you had that you would point to someone and say, yeah, go look that up, that's what I do, this is what I do for a living? Because I don't think you've probably had as many as you wished you did in the last couple of years because it was so start/stop with injuries and people working against you. But when is the last match that you remember where you were like, yeah, this is what I do, this is where everything fell into place?

Waltman: Last year's Summerslam when I wrestled Tajiri. I was fairly proud of that. I had something with Billy Kidman. I haven't been able to have too many of those matches lately.

Keller: Is that part of why you're excited about TNA?

Waltman: Yes, it's a big part.

Keller: Because between you and Jerry Lynn, here are two guys who started off and earned reputations wrestling when the politics weren't in the way, when there weren't people working against you, and you had great matches. With Jerry Lynn and Sabu, too. You probably wouldn't even want to go back and look at those matches now because there would be too many things that would stand out...

Waltman: Yeah, without a doubt. The first match I had with Sabu, and I've only had two, the one I was just talking about and the other was ten years ago, you were there. I tell you what, both Sabu and I have come a long ways as far as working and knowing when to do things and when not to.

Keller: And Jerry Lynn is somebody who you haven't had a chance to work with in years. Have you guys crossed paths at all and had matches with each other even since the indy scene?

Waltman: Nope.

Keller: And that has to be exciting because even though he's in his late thirties, he's in the peak of his career right now when it comes to everything falling into place.

Waltman: Yes, and that hopefully will happen soon. I just want it to be... I'm glad we didn't do it in the WWF because it wouldn't have gotten the proper buildup or whatever. It would not have been treated like anything special.

Keller: You talked earlier about TNA trying to figure out what they are and what they should focus on, and it seems as if Jerry jarrett does not have confidence in his own mind of what his vision should be for this promotion right now, because it changes so radically every two or three weeks. What do you think TNA should be concentrating on? Sixty percent gimmickry and skits and storylines to get personalities across and forty percent wrestling? Or should it be 90 percent hardcore wrestling and just a little bit of other stuff on the side? What's the right mix?

Waltman: Number one, I would not have more than a couple X Division matches on the show. It's just that, okay, but the time the second or third match comes out, you've seen the same stuff over again a couple two or three times. I would get rid of all the bullsh*t. This is just what I would like to see. And since they are targeting the actual true wrestling fans, I think they should try to stay away from trying to be anything like the WWF and all of this Crash TV sh*t or whatever you call it. I would stick to concentrating on the matches, presenting each match and making each match feel like it meant something. I think I read smething wehre somebody said that they should bring back the tail of the tape, little things like that production-wise. I love how they do the backstage stuff where they don't act like the camera's not there, because that is one of the things that I hate the most. That whole soap-opera bullsh*t behind the scenes stuff that they do in the WWF. I was something that I always hated and I was always very vocal against that.

Keller: What's wrong with having wrestlers ignore the camera when viewers already know wrestling is fake?

Waltman: They don't want to know it's f*ckn' fake when they're watching! They know it's a work, but they don't want that thrown in their face, and there's nothing you can say to me that will make me agree with the other argument.

Keller: When Stephanie McMahon, Vince McMahon, and Brian Gewirtz argue, and maybe they would argue better than me, but wouldn't they argue that after a while fans just accept it? They become numb to the fact that people are ignoring it and they just buy into the storyline and the characters? The same way you get numb to the fact that Flair does the flip into the corner every time or that people don't bleed under the eye from punches but instead they only bleed on the forehead. There are things that are fake in wrestling all over the place, people adjust and accept it.

Waltman: No, I'm not going to go along with that.

Keller: Why doesn't someone just hang on the ropes when they are thrown into them? Why do they always bounce off and get clotheslined? How is that different?

Waltman: Maybe they should hold onto the ropes sometimes.

Keller: But they don't (laughs). What makes the camera being invisible different from someone bouncing off the ropes when there is a big guy waiting in the center of the ring to punch him?

Waltman: Because that... I said this in a letter that I wrote to Vince one time, when Brian Gewirtz had Mick Foley go out on television and say all of these things about WCW vs. the WWF, all of these title vs. title matches, and then out nowhere he said something along the lines of, "X-Pac is MIA and nobody gives a sh*t." It was something along those lines. It was a line, it was the only line that was given to Mick to say. Everything else was Mick's own stuff. As soon as I heard that, I was kinda hurt that Mick said that. But you know what, I immediately realized exactly who it was (who wrote that line). And Mick even called me and totally apologized to me. And he didn't even need to do that because he is one of the classiest guys I've ever met in wrestling. Where the f*ck was I going with this?

Keller: I asked you the difference between fans ignoring the fact that wrestlers don't hang onto the ropes and bounce off them into a fist as it relates to the cameras being "invisible"...

Waltman: Oh, yes, so I wrote this letter to Vince because I was so pissed off at that Brian Gewirtz. Actually I wrote the letter to Brian himself, but I carbon copied one to Vince. I was going to send it over the internet, but Shane McMahon asked me not to. But I explained to Vince hat my philosophy on it is that people tune in to our show because, okay, it's entertainment, but it is not... contrary to what they say, it is not an "action-adventure series." Okay? It is a mock sporting event, the same as if you were watching a boxing card. As the people only put up with that sh*t... and I use that term, they put up with it, because they like watching wrestling. And they are wiling to put up with some of these things that they don't like in order to see the actual performers do their thing. That's all it is is that they're just putting up with it, Wade.

Keller: I'm confused about what Mick's comment about you had to do with the analogy about realism.

Waltman: That was why I wrote this letter. I explained myself to Vince. And I just told him, "One example is that the majority of our revenue comes from house shows, and you don't have backstage segments at house shows and all of this comedy bullsh*t." And that's another thing is all of this comedy that they were doing. I may be too much of a traditionalist, but I just don't like it, Wade. And you know what, that's the word I get off of the average person on the street that comes up to me.

Keller: Because you said earlier, don't wrestle a match for what you want, wrestle a match for the people.

Waltman: Exactly.

Keller: Now, maybe Stephanie McMahon, Brian Gewirtz, or Vince at this point woul argue that what the hardcore fans want- hardcore eing he ones who buy tickets to see the shows at the arena- that they want to see wrestling and we know that and we give them enough of it. But we need to draw more than 20,000 or 10,000 fans in the town who will go buy the ticket. We ned to draw more viewers than that in every city in order to survive on television, and that's why we add so much of Stephanie McMahon and Eric Bischoff on TV, and the backstage dramatic soap opera segments with Vince kissing younger women. We need to pile in more fans. And like you said, wrestling fans will be there anyway because they want their wrestling. We need to add other things in order to draw more people who won't tune in because they are not enough of a wrestling fan just to tune in just to see wrestling. How do you counter that in an age of UPN, TNN, and major cable shows?

Waltman: Okay, if you want to add some of those ingredients, it's how you present it to the people. Okay? You can do any of that stuff that you're talking about, Wade, in a way that doesn't compromise what I'm talking about, as far as taking the people out of their suspension of disbelief. And what I mean by that is tht you can do the same thing with the cameras where a camera is sneaking and looking through the crack of a door and sees this sh*t happening.

Keller: Kind of going full-circle here, do you think Jerry Jarrett and TNA have done that? That's one of the things that you like about it?

Waltman: Yes, that's one of the things I like about it. But one show in particular that I saw, they did way too much of it. It was like every segment that was behind the scenes had somebody fighting through the background or something like that. That's where I was going with that.

Keller: What mix should the NWA-TNA have? I believe you said earlier that to make the matches seem more important, they shouldn't have more than two X-Division matches on any card.

Waltman: Two matches? Maybe that's not even the right thing to say. Maybe the way I should put it is, okay, if you're going to have these X-Division matches, everybody needs to be on the same page. And the person who goes out after the match before them needs to make sure that they aren't doing the same sh*t.

Keller: You're saying that matches should lead into each other and compliment each other and not just try to steal the show independent of what else is on the show?

Waltman: And that's the thing too, yes. That's what I always knew my place. If I was going to be on, let's say a house show, and I was on the first match, okay, they haven't seen anything up until that point. Granted, your job is to go our there and get over. At the same time, you have to know your place on the card. Okay, they haven't see everything yet, so you don't give them everything in the book during the first match. That's not your spot. If you do a good job in the first match, then you won't be in the first match next time. Then you'll move up and you do more sh*t. But that's not so much the talent's fault as it is whoever is producing the show. They have to make it clear to these guys that: "OKay, I know you can do all of this sh*t, phenomenal stuff, but that's not your spot tonight. Go out there and show your talent, but this next match here is an important match and they are going to be doing this, this, and this in this match, so you need to stay away from that." Now, these guys know an awful lot of stuff, and they should be able to go out there and have a match without having to do everything they know.

Keller: Because you have the same audience every week for the most part with TNA, does that change things? TNA is a similar format as a "weekly territory" like Memphis or anywhere where there have been weekly house shows in the same arena. TNA's arena is PPV. Do the rules change as far as that goes compared to WWE house shows, where a crowd might only see the wrestlers live once every few months?

Waltman: I think that they are fairly the same because it's not a TV show. It's on TV, but it's not a TV show. Every Wednesday night it's like you're going to a house show but you are sitting at home. You're paying your ten dollars... Okay, you already have a captive audience. They paid ten bucks, they're not going to turn the channel unless it's downright f*ckin' awful. I've honestly not seen one match that was bad enough to make somebody turn the channel after they paid their ten bucks. So they're not turning the channel. It's not like ratings grabbing. It's not like, okay, you have to go out there and kick this thing off. Okay, I've gotten in the ring on WWF TV and they're yelling at the referee through the earpiece, "Tell him to get the action going~" You don't have to do that. They're not turning the channel. It's the same philosophy, I think.

Keller: Because you just need them to be happy by the end, but you don't need them to be happy every 15 seconds?

Waltman: You have to build. You have to build he show. You need a hell of a match to start the show off. That much is true, but it's like I was saying, you haven't have repetitive sh*t on your shows, either. When Rick Flair worked with Vince McMahon on the pay-per-views he's worked on, they specifically said to all of the boys and it was on a sign, "no chops." And that's right. Sure, a lot of guys do chops, that's Ric Flair's thing, though. hey f*ckin' go "Whoo" for a reason, because of Ric Flair. That's just an example.

Keller: So you would like to see the TNA events feature, and tell me if I'm wrong as I summarize this, matches that are built up so that they matter or that there is importance to them and they have meaning, and that the whole two hours is part of a concert of part of a larger picture? There's a first act, a middle act, and a last act, where everything kind of works in coordination with each other. TNA events should be booked in a way where you couldn't just shuffle the matches in any order and have the show be as effective?

Waltman: True. Even though there's a first act, a second act, whatever, there has to be a thread connecting everything, sewing everything together, it can't just be shuffled around like you said. Things have to roll, just like a single match. The show has to flow as well. There's a reason they have a match that's called a popcorn match after the fans get back from intermission. That's an expendable match. Well, not expendable, but one they know that people aren't going to be as in to. A lot of people don't realize that, but that's called a popcorn match. But that's not a good spot to be in, generally speaking.

Keller: Or if a guy is hurt or has the flu, that's where they're going to put him.

Waltman: Or the match just isn't that important and they know the people are going to fart on it or not be that into it. They understand that, so that's why they put that match there. And that's why a lot of times you'll see, okay, on pay-per-view, you'll see a match second-to-last that your average person is going, "Why is this match on so late" or "Why is that match so high on the card?" In reality, it's not high on the card, it's just put there as a buffer to bring the fans down so that they can come back up for the main event. There are so many variables that go into producing a wrestling show that these know-it-alls that they think they know everything about wrestling have no idea about, Wade. If any of the things I say can help clue them into that, then I'm happy to do so. And if they think I'm full of sh*t, then that's fine (laughs).

Keller: How important are production values for the future success or lack thereof for TNA?

Waltman: I think their production values as far as graphics and things like that are just fine. I don't think that is of major importance. I think the aesthetics of the arena are of major importance. I was sitting the building the other day and was looking at the building and the way they had it set up. Opposite of the hard camera are the bleachers, the risers that go up a certain ways. And then there's this big gap and it's just cement, it's this cement wall that goes up about eight feet and then there are some more bleachers up there. All you see is that it looks like a little row of bleachers back there and it's this big gap and then there's more seats up top. On the other side of the... not the direct opposite side, but straight to the left of that, that side of the building has bleachers that go all the way up to the top. And if they switch the hard camera to that side, the look of the show would be so much different and would improve it so much you wouldn't even believe it. The only problem that they had was that the set wouldn't fit anywhere other than where it was. It wasn't doable. It's little things like that that matter that don't cost any money, Wade.

Keller: Is this something they can do, or it really is ruled out because of the set?

Waltman: Probably at this point it's ruled out, but I think that's a very important thing that they need to work on. And a lot of it isn't budget stuff.

Keller: But if everything else you're talking about in terms of the wrestling presentation, interviews, announcing, if all of that is there, can production values become almost invisible even if they are below par? Or will the below par production values take something away from everything no matter how good the rest is?

Waltman: When you say below par production values, what do you mean?

Keller: Where people look and they notice them. Production values are either something that you notice as good, something you notice as bad, or something that is invisible like a good referee.

Waltman: It's a big deal. It's a big deal even if the people don't consciously notice it. It's a major deal. Camera angles even... The TNA ring is the same size as WCW's ring used to be. It's smaller than WWE rings, which is cool, that's fine. I have no problem with that. As a matter of fact, I like working in that ring better. It's not an issue. But when you have a guy standing up on the apron with a camera on his shoulder and it's actually shooting down at an angle into the ring at the guys, it makes everything look smaller. It makes the guys look smaller, it makes the ring look tiny, and there's no reason that you need that shot, that you can't get the same thing out of the guy standing on the floor and shooting up. There's no reason, and that's just my opinion, but that's one of the things that bothers me. And they do it in the WWF and have done it in other places. I really notice little things.

Keller: Wen I grew up watching wrestling, part of what I liked, I think, looking back, was seeing green wrestlers behind the mic and struggling their ways through interviews. And I also enjoyed the really good interviews- Jesse Ventura, Adrian Adonis, Nick Bockwinkel and Bobby Heenan, and Hulk Hogan. How important right now is it for TNA to have better interviews than they have had? Or is part of the charm of watching wrestling seeing young guys without a lot of mic experience kind of struggle and not really be super smooth?

Waltman: They need to be given the ball anyway.

Keller: Okay, so you don't protect people who can't talk?

Waltman: Nope. You might want to do a pre-tape, so if it sucks you can do it again, take two, take three, take ten, however many it takes. I think those guys need to be given an opportunity, and it's like okay, if that's not one of their strong suits, to give it to them anyhow, even if they're afraid of it.

Keller: Just because they're entertaining, or that's the only way they'll get better, or why? You wouldn't suggest sending a bad camera man out to the ring even if he can't shoot?

Waltman: No.

Keller: You wouldn't send a bad wrestler to the ring even if he's going to miss moves and show light, so why let a wrestler "show light" so-to-speak behind the microphone? Why is that okay?

Waltman: Like I said, if you do a pre-tape and it sucks, then you don't have to show it. They have to learn. I'm not the greatest interview of all time by any means, everybody knows that. But you kind of find your way doing it. Not everybody is supposed to be The Rock. Not everybody is supposed to be Ric Flair. If every was, it wouldn't be good. But guys have to be able to articulate to some degree to be able to get the people to be emotionally attached to them.

Keller: Have you seen good coaching of interviews behind the scenes in TNA in the two weeks you've been there? Is someone saying, "Here are points we need to hit, here are some lines that you want to say, here are the subjects we want to get across"? Has there been good producing and coaching in that? Has Vince Russo helped in that arena? Or is that an area that needs more attention?

Waltman: Vince Russo helped me when I was there and did the first one. The only thing that I did that I wish I wouldn't have done was use his words for the outline for the guys to come in and attack us, which was something I totally wouldn't say and it sounded like something I wouldn't say. The "Blaze of Glory" thing, I don't even know if the people will remember that. Those were his words. And it was to the point where it was time to go out and I just needed an out. We need a cue to know when to send these guys to the ring. So I felt like the whole thing went well, but if I had to do it over again I would have left that part out and said something in my own words. But no, that's one of the areas that Vince helps in.

Keller: What did you observe of Vince Russo these two weeks versus when you were around him in the WWF? Is he a different person? Does he have a different role? Does he seem to have changed with the times? How is he a different persona nd a different contributor than he was during his peak WWF time?

Waltman: I'm not sure and I don't know enough about it. We didn't see eye-to-eye on a great many things. But at the same time, I could definitely appreciate the good things that he brought to the table.

Keller: We're going to shift a couple gears a little bit. You, during your last couple of months in WWE, were reportedly refusing to take part in a number of finishes. You were accused of avoiding jobs through a series of injuries and not wanting to do what was asked of you. Is that a fair representation of some of the stuff that was going on in your final couple of months? Did you get so frustrated that you became difficult to work with?

Waltman: There's some accuracy to that, but if anybody says that I ever refused to do a job for somebody they are f*ckin' dead wrong. I'll tell you a situation where I was accused of weaseling out of doing a job was when I was supposed to work with Booker on television. We were on a house show run before (the) television (tapings) and Brian Gewirtz told me what they had planned for television. They were doing this stupid sh*t, this tough love angle, which I had no idea what it was supposed to prove. It was like, okay, I lost a match and my own friends, who everybody knows are my best friends, beat me up because I lost a match and then take me back and say, "Okay, it's okay now, you learned your lesson." That was downright f*ckin' stupid. What happened was that I had a match in the (Madison Square) Garden that night. It was Big Show and me versus Booker T and Goldust. We had a heck of a match. The next night we were in a place called the Mohegan Sun (casino) in Connecticut. Booker did like a spinebuster to me and I landed all f*cked up. And I literally could barely walk the next day. Mind you, I had guys telling me, "Don't be a hero." I was that hurt. If anybody wants to say that I've never worked hurt, that's ridiculous. I've worked hurt more than or as much as anybody in wrestling, maybe with an exception or two. Undertaker has worked hurt so many times I can't even believe it. But I have nothing to prove when it comes to that. But I could barely walk, and I still would have gone in there and done the job to Booker T. I've never f*ckin' refused to do a job.

Keller: Have you talked your way out of them?

Waltman: No. I couldn't work. I could not work, okay? Okay, if you want to get to the point of me being difficult and not wanting to do something, I would have worked. I would have done that f*ckin' match and put Booker over, but I wouldn't have done that f*ckin' bullsh*t that they wanted me to do.

Keller: What was?

Waltman: That whole tough love bullsh*t. If that's a problem, then fire me.

Keller: When things were presented to you in the last couple of months, did you have a pattern of consistently or at least often discussing the finish... well, not the finish, but the way that things were going to be and try to get them changed from the way they were presented to you?

Waltman: Yes.

Keller: Did you do that a lot more in the last two months, and reasons aside, than you have before that? Or is that something you've always done?

Waltman: I did it a lot more toward the end. I've been like that on many occasions in the past, too. It got to the point where my career was going very well, and when I first came back to the WWF after being fired by Eric (Bischoff), I came back and was very paranoid due to the experience I had in WCW. I immediately questioned a lot of things. And if there was something I didn't like, I was very vocal about it. Then it got to the point where I got in a comfort zone, where I began to give them my trust. Okay, people can say what they want about, "This is your job and you just do what you're told." At the same time, we're talking about somebody's career here and the perception among wrestling fans. And if you're damaged goods, it's hard to go somewhere and get a f*cking job. People have to understand that.

Keller: Because unlike other jobs where somebody abuses you in your job and the boss tells you to do something and you do it for a while and get really damaged and then you leave for whatever reason- you quit, you're fired, your contract runs out- you go to another job and that reputation doesn't follow you.

Waltman: Right, (in the wrestling business) you're no longer perceived as the star that you were, you're a f*cking jabroni.

Back to the Sean Waltman archive