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In honor of Edge’s recent retirement, I decided to dust off an old interview I did with him for the WWE Championship book (buy it here). It was probably one of the shortest interviews The Rated-R Superstar gave me over the years–mainly because he was minutes away from competing–but it resulted in many memorable quotes. Of course, most of the interview ended up in the book, but here are some quotes from the cutting room floor. Enjoy:
How did you celebrate winning your first WWE Championship?
We had to drive from Albany to Hershey, which was about a 300-400 mile drive. I was starving, so I stopped at this tavern … it was the only thing that was open about halfway in between, and I only knew about it because of the GPS. I think I had chicken wings. But what I remember most is getting back to my room and sitting the title on the TV stand and thinking ‘wow, look at that thing.’ And I remember hating the design of it. It was horrible, but hey, it’s the WWE Championship.
Years later, do you ever regret the live sex celebration that followed?
No. That was part of my character. My job at that point was to push buttons and if people were offended by that, it meant that I did my job. And the ratings tell a story that it did push buttons and it did get people talking and that’s part of my job.
But it’s definitely a different feeling standing there in your Calvin Kleins than it is in your tights. People ask me if I was excited, I say ‘no, I was scared to death.’ If anything, ‘my boys’ were looking for someplace to go.
Compare how different it is–if at all–to be WWE Champion versus World Heavyweight Champion.
They both hold such a distinction. For me, the World Heavyweight Championship goes back through the lineage of the NWA Championship, which technically would have more history. But I also grow up being a fan of Hulkamania and all that it entailed, so I can’t put one over the other. When it comes to appearance, though, I’ll take the World Heavyweight Championship over the WWE Championship any day. I can’t stress that enough.
Who do you think was the greatest WWE Champion of all time?
Hogan and Bret for different reasons. Hogan was the one that turned me on to this industry. He was a larger than life being to me, as I’m sure Cena is to kids nowadays. But to me, Hogan was a real-life superhero. Then as I got older and started to understand the nuances to what this thing was, I always wanted to watch Bret’s matches. I think he along with Shawn Micahels ushered in a new era where a guy like myself or Jeff Hardy or Chris Jericho can actually make it to the top. We don’t have to be 6’7″ and 300 pounds.
While the recent 10-year anniversary of WWE’s purchase of WCW still fresh in my mind, I called a former WWE.com colleague of mine to recollect the shocking days that lead up to the historic Nitro-Raw simulcast. The intent of the call was to simply reconnect with an old friend, but several hours later, we found ourselves knee deep in a Monday Night Wars history wrestling.
After hanging up the phone, I recalled some conversations I had with Superstars on the topic. Many were on the record (and once I find the transcripts, I will post them here), but unfortunately some were off the record, which means I can’t post them here. But one conversation I have handy is the one I had with Sgt. Slaughter. We recently spoke while I was researching the WWE Championship book (buy it here), and the topic happened to come up. Here’s a brief highlight:
Sgt. Slaughter on the Monday Night Wars:
“The Wars were so good for the business because it made everybody work harder to defeat each other. It was hard for a while because Vince McMahon really had to fight and we were all in the trenches with him. And all the money that Turner had … but Vince was the general of his post and Turner wasn’t. He never showed his face. Vince was in the battle field with us. Anyplace he went, I went.
The only problem was when they waived the white flag … we didn’t want to see the white flag. We wanted to see it keep going, it was good for business. And it was good for the talents from each company. When we used to run into each other in airports we would hug each other and high five and say good job. It was good for everybody.
I was asked to go to WCW several times, but I backed off and wanted to fight with Vince McMahon.”
Apparently, yesterday’s post about Stone Cold Steve Austin unintentionally sparked an interesting debate over which Superstar was a better WWE Champion — Stone Cold or Hulk Hogan? Judging from my earlier post, you can probably tell I fall on Austin’s side of the fence for a variety of reasons, mainly his superior wrestling skills and spotless reputation amongst his peers. Hell, he’d put you over if he thought it was good for business … can’t say the same for the Hulkster. But I digress. The purpose of this post is to settle the score once and for all. So I ask you, the loyal reader(s) of KevinSullivanBooks.com, to decide:
While researching the WWE Championship book, I unfortunately ran into my fair share of people who didn’t care much for helping. Stone Cold Steve Austin was not one of those people. Unlike some, Stone Cold gave me several hours of his time to discuss his runs with sports-entertainment’s most coveted prize. And even more impressive–he called me several days after our initial interview to add even more information, especially his thoughts on which Superstar he thought was the greatest WWE Champion of all time. Now, I don’t need to tell you where Stone Cold sits on the list of all-time greats. So to have him not only give me so much time on during our initial interview, but to also call me days later to give me even more information, speaks volumes to what type of a person he truly is.
For your reading pleasure, here is what Stone Cold said during our second conversation when asked who he thought was the greatest WWE Champion of all time:
“There’s no way to name just one. In terms of drawing power and being a marquee name, I’m going to say it’s a tie between Stone Cold and Hogan. Hogan was the organization back in the ’80s, and I would say Stone Cold had the same appeal. Damn, I broke attendance records, pay-per-view records, merchandise records …
“As far as pure wrestlers go, there are too many bad ass wrestlers, but I would say it’s a tie between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Randy Savage was bad ass, too. But he was more of an IC Title guy. But Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels told some great stories. It’s a dead tie. They could work circles around Hogan, and also outwork me.
“I would say Ric Flair is the greatest World Champion that ever lived. But I don’t equate him with the WWE Title.”
Like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels spent an amazing amount of time with me while I was writing the WWE Championship book. Much of what he told me wound up in the book, but here are some portions of our conversation that did not make the final edit:
How did you celebrate your first WWE Championship win?
My parents were there. We briefly went to the WrestleMania party that’s held after the event. But to me, it’s the alone time. Fortunately and unfortunately I am way way way too deep about my job and performances, so the real celebration is the alone quiet time feeling accomplishment in the hotel. It’s a very quiet celebration. There’s no champagne, there’s no bubbly, there’s no jumping for joy and things like that. It’s very anti-climatic and it’s probably way too deep and way too unstable for wrestling, that’s for sure.
How did you handle the stresses that went along with your first reign? Was there ever a time went you thought you couldn’t handle it anymore?
Note: This question came after he told me about how difficult being champion was for him. That portion is not printed here, but can be found in the book.
There were plenty of times. But that all took place with me in the hotel room. Even that night, sitting there with the title in my hotel room, looking at it … taking the time to say “holy cow, you did it.” For me, those have always been the times—in my hotel room—where I got to feel the realness, and the joy and the sadness. The pressure always mounts when you walk in the locker room. But the real joy and emotional time (high and low) to me has always taken place long after I left the building, sitting there alone in my hotel room. Even now, the thrills are the performances … and now I get to share it with my family. But back when I had the title, all my moments of real times were back in my room.
What was it like to reclaim the title from Sid in your hometown at Royal Rumble 1997?
That one was fun from the hometown deal. I had a lot of friends from high school there. It was important to me because it was the first real dome show that we had done in a long time and it was important to me to have that place full … Of course it’s always fun to win the championship in your hometown, but I was more enamored doing it in front of my friends in a 60,000-seat dome.
Is it true that only you, Triple H and Vince McMahon knew about the Montreal Screwjob prior to the Survivor Series pay-per-view?
Somebody told me that Vince Russo wrote a book and said that they were talking about it Stamford a while before that. I didn’t know that at the time.
What was the day of the Montreal Screwjob like for you?
The most uncomfortable day ever … Bret and I had a lot of conversations … mending and breaking down, mending and breaking down. And that day we had another one. I never felt lower. We shook hands and I knew full well what was going on. At that time, I was angry so I could do it. I look back at it now and I feel like a scumbag.
Originally, you denied being involved in the screwjob, but later admitted to being involved all along. Why did you change your tune?
The TV show Confidential wanted to come down and interview me. And to be honest, it comes up in every interview I ever do. And this was after I had been saved … the change in my life, so I didn’t want to lie about it anymore. I made a call to the office trying to get a hold of Vince, but he wasn’t around. So I went ahead and admitted it in the interview and told them that they could air it or not air it, it was their choice, but I’m wasn’t going to lie about it anymore.
Have you talked to Bret since the Screwjob?
Note: This interview took place prior to Hart’s return to WWE.
Never seen him since. I was given his number a couple months ago. Everything I ever read is that he wouldn’t talk to me anyways, so I wasn’t sure what I should do.
There are rumors that he will be returning to WWE soon. So you may have a chance to talk to him again.
Life’s too short. If he wants me to take full blame for everything, I will. I have no axe to grind. I’ll say I’m sorry, extend my hand, and apologize. I’ve done it publicly. I guess if I was the one who was wronged, I would probably breathe death too. About him coming back, I said if he wants to do anything with me, tell him I’m on board. I mean it.
Growing up, which champion did you admire most?
Bob Backlund. You know, I was your very standard stereotypical wrestling fan, and he was the good guy. I liked that he was a wrestler. I liked that he was a good guy, but he did the piledriver.
While researching for the WWE Championship book, I was able to catch up with Chris Jericho via phone one Monday night. Much of what he told me wound up in the book; but here are portions of the interview that wound up on the cutting room floor. Enjoy:
You unofficially won the WWE Championship against Triple H on Raw. Unfortunately, you had it taken away immediately … and then you had to wait approximately a year and a half before officially winning the gold. During that time, did you ever question if a “real” reign would happen for you?
Not really. Things were a lot different back then. There was a certain level you had to get to before you could be in the title hunt. The fact that the company showed that confidence in me in April 2000, even if it was a gimmick for a show, lead me to believe I would win it again. I wasn’t sure when, I wasn’t sure how, but I believed I would win it again.
How did you celebrate the win?
I had to drive from San Diego back to Anaheim. I was the last person to leave the building and I got stuck in a traffic jam. There wasn’t really a chance to do a big celebration. It was one of those things where I got back to my room, sighed a relief, patted myself on the back and went to the next show. So it wasn’t really the confetti and champagne type of thing. It was more of a get your gear saddle up and get ready for the next show.
What was it like to square off against Rock and Stone Cold?
I’m all about match quality. I thought those matches against Rock and Austin were good, but having one of the best matches of the night against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania means a lot more to me than winning the title that night because those matches were good, but I’m all about what was the best match of the show. I’m not sure if those matches were the best on the show; they were pretty good. I worked for about 35 minutes total, back to back. It was a great time in my career. It was like winning an Oscar for the first time and getting that pat on the back that meant more than actually being able to brag about being the champion. It was more the principle of it than it was the process.
Your reign came at a pivotal time in the company. Did you find it stressful?
No, it was different then because there was only one champion. Because of this there was no coasting. And we had some of the biggest stars ever in Rock, Austin, Triple H, Undertaker, Mick Foley, and Kurt Angle. Just because you were champion didn’t mean you were the top guy in the company. You really had to work your tail off to stay at that level. Just because I had the title around my waist didn’t really mean much. You still had to put your nose to the grindstone. And once you win the title, there’s a target on your back … Everybody wants to cut you down … There’s a lot of things that happen behind the scenes when you become champion.
After losing the title, you went on to win the Intercontinental Championship. Did you see that as a step back or a demotion in any way?
Any time you win a title it’s a good thing, but once you’ve been the WWE Champion, you don’t really want to go back to the IC title because it is a step down. It is more of a title for up and coming guys. But you still never want to downplay it. You’re still a champion, but being WWE Champion is like you are THE champion.
Speaking of Y2J, I thought it would be funny to share a story from his MSG debut. I probably should’ve been fired that night … boy, how things would’ve changed if I got canned.
Anyway, it was shortly after Jericho’s TV debut in 1999. He wasn’t advertised to be at the Garden on this night, but was going to make a surprise appearance. This was back when the lights would go down in the arena during his entrance, then he would appear as if from nowhere doing his arms spread thingy.
So the lights went out as planned and the crowd started to buzz. No music was playing, so nobody in the crowd really knew what was going on … but they could tell something big was about to happen. With the lights out, the plan was for Y2J to sneak into the ring, then his music would hit and the lights would go on … unfortunately, that wasn’t what ended up happening (You know where this is going, right?).
I was working as a producer for WWE.com and standing at Gorilla Postition with our cameragirl when Jericho slyly made his way out from behind the curtain. At that moment, the girl (who wasn’t all that bright) grabbed me and said, “let’s follow him down the aisle with our camera and get a .com exclusive.” Naively, I said, “ok,” and grabbed our handheld mic to pick up crowd sound.
So there we are with Jericho sneaking down to the ring … back then we could get away with these things at house shows … not so much anymore (probably because of what happened next). About seven yards away from the ring, our cameragirl realizes she can’t see Jericho in her shot because it was so dark. She then decides to turn the camera light on and point it right at Y2J. All the way up to the ring, she had her light shining on Jericho. The whole arena saw it … we ruined the surprise.
Luckily, I realized this wasn’t going to end well, so I dropped the microphone and bolted back toward the locker room. I literally ran right through the curtain and past all the big wigs. Unfortunately for the cameragirl, she didn’t follow me, despite me telling her to do so. Instead, she just kept ruining the surprise. When she got back to the locker room, she was destroyed by certain unnamed, high-ranking WWE officials (Needless to say, she didn’t last too much longer).
The whole thing happened so fast that very few people actually noticed me fleeing from the scene (at least the important ones didn’t, which is all that matters). But because she was my responsibility at the time, I did receive a minor slap on the wrist. Amazingly, I went on to spend nine more years with WWE (sans a brief six-week hiatus … but that’s a whole other story).