Episode 208: Don Callis, WWE Top 5 Betrayals List, Austin Aries, Batista’s Return and more
Release Date: October 18, 2018
Recap by: James Hayes
From New York, Sam welcomes you to the show!
What a wonderful time to be a wrestling fan.
Smackdown 1000 has got Sam feeling kind of happy. He thought it was great. Sometimes you see something on television and it just puts you in a good mood. We will get into what made it so great during the State of Wrestling.
This week we have one-half of the powers that be at TNA. He is a color commentator on New Japan Pro Wrestling as well as Impact Wrestling. He also hosts a popular podcast called Killing The Town, with Lance Storm on The Jericho Network. However, Sam remembers him as part of The Truth Commission in the role of The Jackal, where he became a cult leader. This guy also was a member of the ECW commentary team, he went by the name of Cyrus the Virus. He’s basically done everything. Sam feels his influence and varied experience is why Impact has started to build some positive buzz.
He caught up with Don Callis a few days after Bound for Glory at an Impact taping.
How he ended up back in wrestling:
“I was here (Impact) in 03 and part of 04 as part of the talent, which from my perspective was very much a temporary thing. I had retired from wrestling and was basically looking for something to bridge me into the job market. I had just finished my MBA, and I was done with wrestling. My last match here, my only match, was with Eric Watts for control of what was then NWA/TNA Wrestling, which I won. I won control to run the company then quit a week later, then came back 17 years later to run the company. Life imitates art. When I said I was done with the business, I was done.”
“I wasn’t watching, and I was probably only talking to two guys in the business over the years. It’s a funny thing, you can be like best buds with someone than one person gets out and you don’t necessarily hear from them again. But when you do, you pick right up. So, its, for me it was kind of a phase thing. Jericho asked me to come into MSG for his 25th Anniversary show for Vince. My deal there was like me, Chris, Lance, Dr. Luthor Lenny Sinclair we all started out together. We just had a blast, we do Chris’s podcast. I think people were surprised that I could be entertaining on the microphone because it had been a while, people were like, “Oh, man he should have his own podcast.” So, when Chris started his own podcast network 6 months later he was like, “Well, I’m thinking of doing something with Lance. You and Lance together could be good. Do you want to do a podcast?”
Now, in my mind, again I had been out of wrestling for a long time running an organization and doing a lot of business overseas. I always had this thing in the back of my mind, that I have this wrestling experience, if there was a way for me to monetize it without actually having to get back in the wrestling business, because my memory of the business was so volatile, I didn’t like the lack of predictability of your career path. Then I thought the podcast is like an hour a week, then I thought, “Oh, I’ll start doing that.”
The Kenny Omega Connection:
”Then, at the same time through that podcast, Jericho did a podcast with me, and Kenny Omega, because we’re all from Winnipeg. I reconnected with Kenny. The background is Kenny’s uncle The Golden Sheik was my first manager and helped to train me. So, Kenny and I have almost a family relationship. So, when we ended up at Chris’s podcast that day around Christmas time in 2016, I jokingly said to Kenny, “Good luck at the Tokyo Dome. Get me booked, kid.” It was a joke. Kenny was like, in a deadpan way, “I already did.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” Then he said, “We need a color commentator and I think you’d be great.” I’m like, “Well, let me know.” I was not at all familiar with New Japan. I couldn’t have told you who Vince’s champion was. I was not following the business. I certainly did not know anything about TNA and New Japan. So, I got a call to go to New Japan. I had all this holiday time from work, that I never used, so I figured I’d go to Japan and see how it is. I had fun and then that kind of steamrolled a little bit. It was like, “Holy cow! This guy can do commentary.” A lot of people forgot I did that in ECW.”
Winnipeg Boys are taking over:
“In terms of Impact, I was kind of watching them from afar and became interested when Leonard Asper bought the company. Because he is from my hometown of Winnipeg also, so now you have Jericho, Omega, Don Callis doing our thing in New Japan and Leonard Asper owning a record company. My concern was,“You don’t know the wrestling business, we’re both from Winnipeg, the business school I got my MBA from is The Asper School of Business, so it’s named after his family, so I didn’t want a job, I just wanted to give him some advice, because I know how the business is, you can get swerved. We never ended up connecting. Meanwhile, I’m doing my New Japan thing. I end up putting together The Kenny Omega/Chris Jericho main event at The Tokyo Dome for New Japan, which made them a lot of money. It was kind of a big year and then Scott and I started talking that maybe we should do a meeting after Jeff had left, it was like, “Well, I’ll fly to Toronto for a meeting.” I was very candid about what I thought of the current product, positive and negative. I laid out my vision. I was like, “I’ve seen 4 of your shows, I know you’ve had some issues. This is what I would do if Scott and I were running it.” I just kind of pitched it. It’s always those situations, where you don’t need the gig that it works out. I hoped something would come from it, but I was fine if it didn’t.”
A New Vision for Impact:
“There was stuff going on and you are like, “Why would anyone do this? Let’s eliminate that stuff. Bad promo segments, let’s eliminate really over the top hokey stuff, let’s try to eliminate bad wrestling, let’s be cognizant of who we are putting belts on.” Things like that. I came out of a time capsule, in the sense that I hadn’t watched wrestling at all. Now I come back and there are people drawing all types of money without any storylines. Just a bunch of people doing flips and dives. So, how do we acknowledge the business is different than when I got out of it? I love all the athleticism but let’s work on it. Nobody will say the promo ability is better now than it was in the 90’s when I was in New York or ECW. How do I work with talent to do character development? To help them be better promos? That’s not all there is to the job. There’s also a corporate executive aspect. You are wearing a lot of hats.”
Doing commentary is like riding a bike:
“No, it’s not because I didn’t know anybody there. I certainly did not know any of the Japanese guys. I could not pronounce the names, had no idea of backgrounds. What I did have was a relationship with Kenny Omega. And I knew what he was doing.”
Standing on the shoulders of greats:
“My biggest influences were Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan. I’ve said this many times my favorite team ever was Jesse and Vince. I don’t think Vince was the best play by play guy ever. That’s probably Jim Ross. But Vince and Jesse had a dynamic. And I always liked dynamics. So, I try to make myself one part Jesse Ventura one part Bobby. I started doing the Bobby Heenan when he was managing Flair. I started doing that with Kenny, but instead of managing him I was sitting ringside for his matches I was able to tell a story. And as I kind of got to know the guys, and I did that by talking to them and watching, within I would say four months… The real breakthrough call for me, as an announcer, was the 60 minute Broadway with Kenny and Okada at Osaka, and that was the first one I was really proud of. By then I had gotten to know the undercard guys.”
Working as a Heel:
“For me, it’s never been about just calling. It’s about me as a… I always see myself as a heel character as a color commentator, and that’s the fine line with commentary, “Can you be a character, but not use the character to get yourself over, but use the character to get others over? Listen to commentary in New Japan and it’s very clear my character does not like Yano. Thinks he’s an idiot. My character hates Gedo, much in the same way that Bobby Heenan and Jesse Ventura hated Hulk Hogan, but it didn’t take away it actually added. So, by the time we hit that 4-month mark in New Japan I had developed those relationships and those understandings of Yano.”
Keep it interesting:
“When I produce a segment I always try to have something happening so like, if you watch stuff that Crist does, not just Sammi, Jake has this thing that he does, Dave Crist has his thing, Something happening for everyone. I learned that from Paul Heyman. So, they are trotting the old Tiger mask out for 6 man tags and largely comedy matches, but then I started noticing, like this old bugger when he’s in there with the young boys he stiffs the s**t out of them! He really was just mean. So, I started going, “Oh, I hope we get to see mean Tiger Mask tonight!” That just became a thing. Whenever he would unleash kicks, I would go, “Mean Tiger Mask!” I always try to find something, and then with Tanahashi, it’s like even though I’m a heel, and this is the other way heels can help get talent over, it’s like I’m a heel, but I’m putting over Tanahashi the ultimate babyface. That put over means more because I should hate him because I’m a heel.”
(This is sort of what Corey Graves does whenever Seth Rollins is performing.)
Lessons in WWE:
“I sent a tape to Chief Strongbow, a tape of promos. I remember Chief watched my thing and said, “You are the next Roddy Piper. I took your tape right to Vince and I said this guy’s the next Roddy Piper, listen to his promo it’s great.” I came in for my try out and I never did a promo. And Chief went to Bruce Prichard and he goes, “Did you guys watch his tape that I gave you? He’s incredible!” And I remember Bruce’s answer was, “We’ll be watching tonight.” Well, the problem was I wasn’t doing one that night. This is maybe a lesson for young wrestlers: Sometimes take a chance. The lesson I learned that night in ’96 is that what I should’ve done was grabbed the freaking mic from the announcer and cut a promo.”
“Two things would have happened if I had done (a promo) that night, they would have fired me as soon as I came through the curtain, which is like, “Who cares?” or, and don’t forget back then I was 6’2 210 lbs, which now would make me a pretty good sized guy, back then I was too skinny, so if I had done that I probably would’ve had a job there.”
For more of this interview, which includes the passive-aggressive way that Paul Heyman lets you know you are doing good, as well as a valuable lesson Don Callis learned in TNA, click the link at the top.
Don Callis cuts a promo on Kenny Omega
Sam is coming to this story very late. But his feelings are that WWE must move the PPV. Maybe they should go to Barclays? There is just too much risk going on right now. He mentioned all the awful coverage including an unflattering story on VICE, as well as John Oliver’s comments about WWE and their propaganda laced shows in Saudi Arabia.
Sam knows WWE has a backup plan and he believes they have to use it.
(Some WWE talents have mentioned this could help change things in Saudi Arabia. They think a WWE Network special can force Saudi Arabia to view women and journalist differently after decades of oppression?)
State of Wrestling
5. Impact Wrestling’s Bound for Glory
Sam thinks it was a good show. As he says in his interview with Don Callis, he feels the promotion is doing very well and he says they should all be proud of their work.
“It’s only going to get better. Impact, I feel is a company that is rebuilding its roots. They are trying to develop characters in interesting ways and I’m all for it.”
Sam gets into the Austin Aries issue. After taking the pin Austin no sells Johnny Impact’s finisher and starts throwing out middle fingers to everyone in sight.
Sam now makes a very interesting point. He went to a taping and never really brought up Austin Aries. He tells us that he is glad he does not consider himself a journalist. But he is the Last Professional Broadcaster.
(I’m not sure this makes sense. It doesn’t matter because Sam Scoops thinks the whole thing is a work anyway, and I agree.)
Raw has been criticized for being repetitive. Sam kind of agrees at least regarding the main event. He says they need to pick up the pace and get more 3 man teams involved with The Shield.
He also gets into Ronda Rousey, The Beall Twins, and Leo Rush.
3. Kevin Owens
The former Universal Champ will be out for more than 6 months. Sam says bring him back as a good guy and put him against a heel Bobby Lashley. (Agreed.)
2. Smackdown 1000
The big takeaway from this event was Evolution. Sam puts all 4 guys over but makes a point that the real excitement of this segment was teasing Batista vs Triple H.
1. WWE Top 5 Betrayals
5. Bella Twins attack Ronda Rousey (?)
4. Kevin Owens ruins Chris Jericho’s Festival of Friendship
3. Shawn Michaels throws Marty Jannetty through the Barbershop window
2. Evolution dumps Randy Orton
1. Seth Rollins betrays The Shield
5. Seth Rollins betrays The Shield.
4. Owen Hart betrays Bret Hart
3. The Megapowers explode.
2. Vince McMahon betrays Bret Hart (This was a shoot. They got lucky. Feels like a reach being on here.)
1. Shawn Michaels throws Marty Jannetty through the Barbershop window (Actually, Marty was reportedly trying to escape.)
Everyone forgot about Andre the Giant betraying Hulk Hogan. A legendary and beloved figure turns heel against the most popular wrestler in history. It all leads to Wrestlemania 3. The attendance at that event shattered records, a record that stood for over 12 years.
Not to mention that unprecedented body slam.
Ratings: 7.0 out of 10
There was a minor issue with the audio during the Don Callis interview. It seemed to go in and out. I listened on several devices and it definitely seems to be a production issue. The content was fascinating but poor audio can be distracting.
Outside of technical issues, I found this be a fine episode. I especially enjoyed Sam’s take on The Crown Jewel PPV.
See ya next week!