MLW Radio (flagship) # 282: Tony Schiavone
- Highlights from Extreme Rules and Raw
- Tony Schiavone’s chat with Ted Turner after the end of WCW
- How What Happened When came about
- Tony being produced on commentary in WCW and the WWF
14:30 – Tony Schiavone
20:20 – Meeting wrestlers
25:10 – The art of commentating
27:50 – Being produced by WWF vs. WCW
34:35 – Dealing with Vince McMahon
38:15 – Different WCW administrations
46:35 – Ted Turner running WCW
MSL is running the show solo this week, as Court is still away working on a project (but he did tweet me and say he’ll be back soon!). Extreme Rules went down on Sunday and was representative of the recent “lull” in WWE. MSL didn’t love Bayley’s Steve Blackman reference, but did like the pairing of Rich Swann and Sasha Banks. He mentioned that his friend told him that black wrestlers are given one-dimensional characters that are “happy” like Rich Swann and Apollo Crews.
MSL wasn’t thrilled with how the cage match for the tag titles went down and didn’t understand why Matt wouldn’t have let Cesaro escape and follow him out of the cage for the win (interestingly enough Robert Karpeles and Alex Greenfield had a similar discussion about this match in Writer’s Room). MSL thinks that it made Matt Hardy look like a dummy. On the other hand, he thought the fatal five-way was fantastic and is eagerly anticipating Samoa Joe’s match with Brock for the Universal Title. Raw was more pushing Roman Reigns, but Joe cut a strong promo and the segment with Paul Heyman was great. MSL can’t remember the last time there was a WWE match that he was this excited about. He briefly mentions the ongoing Enzo & Cass angle, with Cass being laid out instead of Enzo this week. He loves “mystery” angles and harkens back to other instances in WWE history when they ran similar ones. He feels like WWE needs to reward fans with the conclusion of this angle and hopes that it will make sense.
14:30 – Tony Schiavone joins MSL to promote his hit podcast on MLW and live version in Dallas on Sunday, July 9th. MSL admits to Tony that he was a huge Nitro fan back in the day, especially the first hour with his former tag team partner Larry Zbyszko. He asks Tony how the relationship with Conrad Thompson, with whom he has developed an interesting chemistry, came about. When Conrad first e-mailed Tony he didn’t take it seriously, because he felt like no one wanted to hear what he had to say, but then decided to give it a try when he considered how Conrad had been working recently with Ric Flair and Bruce Pritchard. The live podcast will be a whole new venture for Tony, but he did spend a lot of time in his career in front of fans live. MSL asks Tony what fans should expect, and he says they’re working on some surprises, and that fans of the show will recognize some of the familiar themes. They’ll talk about the old days and be answering questions.
20:20 – MSL asks Tony if he has any stories about meeting wrestlers when he was a fan, and mentions how the business has changed with respect to giving fans many more opportunities to meet the talent in person. Tony met Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat his freshman year of college, at an event where he was able to interview Steamboat. Back then Schiavone and his friends would go to Roanoke, the Augusta Expo, Richmond Coliseum, and Greensboro going to wrestling shows, which is when he really became a big fan.
25:10 – MSL asks Tony what he wishes he knew when he was commentating that he knows now. Tony discovered over the years how terrible of a business wrestling could be, but it was really the television business that was the source of most problems. The business has changed so much from when he first started, which makes it a tough question to answer. His job at the time was simply to put talent over.
27:50 – The first time Tony Schiavone did a live show where someone was in his ear was SummerSlam in 1989 (when he first went to the WWF), where was being produced by Bruce Pritchard. When he moved back to WCW he would sometimes have three people in his ear at one time, most of all Terry Taylor. What ticked him off near the end was when the producer took the headset off temporarily and fed him a line he just said.
34;35 – Tony’s time in WWF. MSL references the myth that Vince McMahon tried to get Tony to get rid of his southern accent, but he says he never had a voice coach, that it was just an urban legend. Vince did want him to lose the accent, but he would go through Bruce Pritchard, who would come to Tony. When Vince had something good to say he would deliver the news himself, whereas “bad” things would come from an intermediary. Tony says he had worked hard on his voice before he went to WWF in 1989 and finds it amusing how Jim Ross became such a famous announcer for WWF despite his strong southern accent.
38:15 – Tony was in WCW for basically every WCW administration, as per MSL. He asks Tony to explain the differences in how different guys ran the company. Tony left WCW initially because he didn’t like Jim Herd’s management style. Vince called him around that time and he left to go to WWF, then later returned to WCW. Tony felt like Jim didn’t have a good handle on the business, had outrageous ideas, and was very argumentative, choosing to manage by chaos. He ignored Herd while was there, and tried his best to avoid him. When he left the WWF in April of 1990 he got to WCW and called Vince right back asking him to come back. Vince advised Tony to stay where he was and not to uproot his family again. So he ended up staying in WCW, but he was miserable and felt like he had screwed up his career. Kip Frey took over and brought Jesse Ventura in, which Tony enjoyed. He says Kip was a much better manager/communicator than Herd.
When Bill Watts took over, Tony didn’t think Bill liked him, but it turns out that he did appreciate hard workers. Tony says Bill was the first and only boss he had with a wrestling background that would tell him why he wanted a match to be called a certain way and wanted to make him a better play-by-play guy. Those days wrestling was more real and less of a show than it is today. Watts tried to make a different product than the WWF at the time, which was the way it should have been according to Tony. He tried to bring it “back to the ’80s” and did a lot of crazy things, but Tony enjoyed working with him and they became very good friends. Watts would ream Jim Ross out about his commentary, but JR never let it get to him. He talks about how the product has evolved, specifically how heel wrestlers used to have to break rules or use weapons to get heat.
46:35 – Ted Turner. Tony had no rapport with Ted, and no one saw him, other than one time around Christmas when they weren’t doing well (at the end of Jim Herd’s tenure). But in 2002, in the bowels of Turner Field, Tony was working for the Atlanta Braves’ radio network and he and Ted Turner were side-by-side at urinals in the restroom. He assumed Ted didn’t know who he was, and he introduced himself and told Ted that he did WCW and Monday Nitro, to which Turner responded to ranting about how Turner/Time Warner/AOL got rid of wrestling after he had spent so much time and money on the product. MSL wonders if anybody realizes how idiotic it was to shut the company down rather than trimming the fat and keeping it going on a smaller scale. Tony says that the decision makers at the time had no foresight to what the digital age would bring and how much money they could make on the WCW library alone. Even if they didn’t want to stay in the wrestling business on TV they could have held on to the WCW library and made a lot of money.
Rating – 7 out of 10. Still a good listen, but as I mentioned last week, the show suffers without Court. This show had a format more similar to Something to Wrestle With or What Happened When, which is cool, but it’s not what MLW fans tune into the flagship for. Once again, nothing against MSL, but we need The King!
About the Author:
Desman (@Desman6) has been an avid wrestling fan going back to the very first WrestleMania and has attended four WrestleManias during his tenure as a WWE Shop card-carrying member of the WWE Universe. A financial professional by day, he spends his nights and weekends with his wife, rescue dog, and 2 rescue cats, watching WWE programming and listening to a number of wrestling-related podcasts. His true passions are food, film, and fights and he is forever fascinated by the business of professional wrestling.
For more, check out last week’s recap of MLW Radio.