On this week’s episode of What Happened When, Tony Schiavone discussed the year he spent working for the WWF, beginning in 1989. He opened by detailing the circumstances behind his departure from WCW and how he was approached by the WWF, including who first put him in touch with the company:
“Jim Herd had offered me a six-figure contract to work for Turner Broadcasting. He told me during the meeting that I would be getting the same amount of money as Jim Ross. I was told later… that I would be getting much less than Jim Ross. Now, I didn’t mind that. I did not mind that. What I did mind was being lied to.”
Who specifically told you that you’d be getting the same amount of money?
“Jim Herd did.”
And who told you that you would not?
“It was a guy named Emerson Lawson who was in production. He said ‘So you’re going to go with Turner?’ I said ‘Yeah, they’ve offered me six figures, and they offered me the same amount of money as JR.’ He said ‘I don’t think that’s the case.’ And he knew. It was a very small front office, right? He said, ‘He’s getting offered this amount of money.’… I said ‘Really?’ And he said ‘Yeah, that’s true.’ So, again, I’m only concerned with what I’m making. I’m not concerned about what everyone else makes, but I am concerned when I’m lied to. That started the trend of me thinking that was not so good.”
Regarding how he was put in touch with the WWF:
“I got a call from JJ Dillon. And JJ said ‘I’m leaving. I’m going to work for Vince, and I asked Vince “Is there anybody working for Turner/Jim Crockett Promotions that you would like to talk to?” and he said “Yes, Tony Schiavone.” So JJ said ‘If you’ll talk to Vince, I’ll have him call you,’ and I said ‘Ok,’ and Vince called me.
“Oddly enough, I went over to Magnum T.A.’s house, and of course this was after Magnum had been hurt, and Magnum had a treadmill where he was trying to rehab. I was on the treadmill at his house, and we were watching Prime Time Wrestling on Monday night, and it was the episode where Bobby Heenan, rest in peace, brought out the Brooklyn Brawler to beat up the Red Rooster. I got back home, and the phone rang, and it was JJ Dillon. I can almost pinpoint the exact day, whenever that aired on Prime Time, which was obviously a Monday, to when that happened. JJ said ‘You want to talk to Vince?’ I said ‘Sure,’ and Vince ended up calling me the next day. That’s how it all started.”
(Note: A quick Google search reveals that the date was January 16, 1989.)
What was the next step?
“(Vince) said ‘Come up here and talk to me and Pat (Patterson) and Terry Garvin,’ and I said ‘Ok.’ He flies me up, doesn’t fly me first class, flies me into La Guardia. A car picked me up, drove me to Greenwich, to his house, and we sat in his living room and talked. I said to him ‘Am I signing a contract?’ He said ‘Do you want a contract?’ I said ‘Well, I’ve never really had one.’ I remember him saying specifically ‘We’ll get you a contract if you want one, but you understand that contracts are only worth the paper they’re printed on.’ I said ‘alright then, I don’t need one.’ He flew me back home. Jim Herd called me and says ‘Heard you were talking to Vince, heard you want to go up north.’ I said ‘Yeah.’ He said ‘Well, I’m pulling my offer to you then.’ I said ‘Ok, thank you very much,’ and hung up. Had I been the Tony Schiavone of 2017, I would’ve added a ‘Go f**k yourself’ to the end of that conversation as well.”
For the full episode, check out What Happened When at MLWRadio.com