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QUICK QUOTES: Steve Keirn on what movie inspired the Skinner character, the early days of FCW, why he left WWE

Steve Keirn (Skinner, The Fabulous Ones) was a recent guest on The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast to talk about his lengthy career. Here are some of the highlights they sent us:

Joining the WWF and what was the inspiration for Skinner:

“It was because of Jimmy Hart and Hulkster. Jimmy Hart had seen me here down in Tampa and asked if I was working and why I wasn’t in the WWF. I really wasn’t sure what I’d be because everyone is a character up there. There is the one guy that is the wrestler and that is The Hulkster and everybody else is something like a Big Boss Man and I sat around in the dressing room and I wasn’t real sure how those things worked. That year I had killed 15 alligators in the first harvest here in the state of Florida (where we are allowed to kill alligators) so I took a skull, a hide and a paw and some other stuff up to Vince when I went to meet with him and when I laid it out on his desk, I said I just killed 15 alligators and I don’t know if there is something I can do with that. He said to go home and get rid of that blonde hair (I had) and let my hair grow out natural and do a beard but don’t keep it cut clean. A couple months later I came back up and he introduced me to Skinner and he asked me if I had seen the movie Deliverance? So I said yes and I loved that movie and he said he wanted me to be one of “those guys” and I’m sitting here thinking Burt Reynolds and when I asked if he wanted me to get a vest, Vince said no and that I had the wrong guy. He wanted me to be like the two guys in the woods with Ned Beatty. It was tremendous and the most fun I ever had being Skinner. My interviews went from zero to one hundred and on a regular interview I couldn’t put two words together but when I was Skinner (laughing) I brought the red-neck out from the Everglades and that was a piece of cake.”

Changing his ring style to adapt to Skinner:

“I worked the first few matches and Vince pulled me aside to say that I can’t be doing a go-behind take-down. You are supposed to be from the Everglades and wrestling Alligators and to tone my wrestling down. He said I was out wrestling everybody so I had to taper down my style a little bit but it didn’t matter to me, just pay me (laughing).”

Creating the look of Skinner with the nasty “chaw” all over his face:

“I had to add a few things and I added that part myself and that was licorice. What happened was is that I realized how divided the country was. In the Northeast part of the United States from Detroit on there isn’t a babyface fan and you couldn’t buy a babyface fan. All the fans are heel fans. When I’d come out as Skinner they cheered me in Boston Garden and they would stand up and even if I was wrestling Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat or Kerry Von Erich and they would chant, “Skinner, Skinner, Skinner” so I would have to turn them and since I wasn’t getting paid to get cheered I’d let the licorice run out of my mouth and I’d spit on them when I walked by them. It would be a little bit of a turn but we also had people showing up dressed like me. It was okay every place else and it was easy to be a heel anyplace but like Philly is a rough crowd and I’d give anything for them to boo me.”

Helping launch WWE’s FCW Developmental territory:

“Bill Demott had the territory for the developmental in Georgia and it was called Deep South Sports and then there was the one on Louisville (OVW). I parlayed all that because they closed Bill down and took everything away from Danny (Davis) and put everything right in my lap.”

“I had to something here it so I ran it and I ran FCW the same way they ran it back in the old days. I hunted for anyplace that would let us start and we started in Flea Markets and bars and in some of the worst places guys could ever wrestle in but it was in front of a live audience and that is where you get your real education.”

The humble beginnings of some of today’s top stars working live and teaching them to work:

“My main concern was having them on TV here so they have the option of learning a little bit about TV and having live events. You had to be there, you had to perform in front of audiences that had no idea who they were and that was guys like Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler. They stepped out at flea markets and at High Schools all over the state and with maybe twenty people there. We weren’t allowed to use the WWE logo so I am not only trying to tell people that this is what wrestling is about right now but I am also trying to say that it is not WWE but they are headed that way. It kind of became that it was Steve Keirn’s reputation.”

How did FCW all of a sudden become NXT:

“You never really know how certain things happen. You are only limited to so much information but what my belief was is they saw what we had done (not see the beginning) and they saw after it had been a five year build up.”

“I think they saw that this could be bigger if they begin to back it and dump money into it. I think Triple H had a vision after visiting a professional football camp. But he envisioned more of the WWE having something like that than the old style territory. The change of command in the WWE went from John Laurinaitis in the Talent Relations area over to more Triple H and when you change coaches, you change teams also. When it came down to me they asked what did I want to do and they were very courteous and very respectful to me (which I appreciated). The idea of the transformation from FCW to NXT was to make it bigger and make it more important but that puzzled me because it lost the concept of being new.”

What led to him leaving WWE:

“I started seeing less guys with passion and more guys with different situations and not that there is anything wrong with it, that just makes it harder to teach somebody that doesn’t love it. When it came time for me and I had a contract that went from December to December and when the time went from less years to less years they ended up wanting to make changes and they wanted to cut my pay because I am not doing everything and that is fine, they want me to move to Orlando and I said I can’t do that. I’m in my sixties and live in Tampa and I am Mr. Florida and know the best place to live and Tampa is where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I didn’t want to move eighty miles East into a tourist trap when I need to be in my home more. When the end came I said this is great and I’m glad it is over and now it is time for me to step back and when they said they weren’t renewing my contract I hugged them and said THANKS! I’ve been waiting for the end because I was told one time to not ever quit, make them pay you to the end.”

For the full interview, check out The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast.

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