Terry Taylor Interview
I think this is a great interview. The credit for this interview goes to wrestlemag.com
Hard Justice is in the record books, and TNA are now looking forward to their 3rd anniversary show - Slammiversary. How are you enjoying your time with TNA?
At this stage of my life and career, I am having a blast at TNA! We have so many young hungry athletes that are in it for the love of the game – instead of for the money. I believe that makes a difference across the board. We also have some guys with seasoning that are excited to be here. Our management team is being assembled, as is our creative – so we’re all encouraged. It’s a great time to be at TNA.
There's a lot of talk regarding a television deal, and the general concensus is that TV followed by house shows are what the company need. Can you see TNA being able to compete with WWE in terms of roster and reach, if not financially?
Honestly, I don’t believe anyone can compete with WWE in reach and size. With that being said, I believe TNA can compete with WWE for the wrestling audience. So many people want an alternative to what WWE is offering right now. For whatever reason, there seems to be a movement from the fans demanding something other than WWE. WWE sees this and is sponsoring the ECW PPV 6/12/05. Shane Douglas is running an ECW inspired show two days before WWE’s show. Why shouldn’t TNA try and give the audience a choice? Ultimately, the fan chooses.
Going back to when you broke into the business. You broke in at a time when territories were strong, and plied your trade in Florida and the Mid South. What are your memories of the early days in your career?
Wow, it was so much different in 1980. Wrestling had 28 territories in the US alone and it was such a protected close knit fraternity. One couldn’t just pay $2,000.00 to get trained and then call himself a wrestler. A talent wasn’t offered any guarantees – period. He had to learn his craft, be patient, and then when opportunity presented itself, they had to make the most of it.
I think a lot of knowledge was passed down from the veterans to rookies in the car making the trips. That no longer happens. Wrestlers fly from where ever they live to a few shows a week and then fly home. We wrestled nine times per week and drove 2,500 to 3,000 miles per week. What wrestling/sports entertainment was, is gone. The wrestling of today is completely different. I’m grateful to have broken in when I did, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Much has been made about your WWF debut, and that Vince McMahon originally had the 'Mr Perfect' gimmick lined up for yourself rather than the late Curt Hennig. What led to Hennig getting it over you?
There may a misconception in this question. A few years back when asked about what I thought the Rooster character did to my career. I asked the interviewer if he knew that Mr. Perfect debuted the same day as I did as the Rooster. I then asked, “What would have happened to Curt’s career and my career if the gimmicks had been switched?” It was a rhetorical question because no one could have been Mr. Perfect except Curt Hennig.
The Red Rooster: Although you did a great job trying to get the gimmick over, just how much did you dislike the gimmick?
I didn’t hate it...I didn’t get it! You have to understand I had been a serious wrestler for nine years. When Vince McMahon was explaining what he wanted the Rooster to be, I didn’t understand. My pride got in the way. Vince was my employer and so he should have gotten from me what he wanted. If I didn’t want to do it, I had a choice: quit. I needed to be humbled because I was very prideful. I thought Terry Taylor was enough. How arrogant is that?
After a while, I started to enjoy the Rooster character. The interviews were easy (if not cheesy; "egg-cited" etc.) and people actually got with it. Here’s a way to illustrate that: I was the Rooster for 14 months – 16 YEARS AGO - and more people know me as the Rooster than knew for the other 15 years I wrestled as Terry Taylor.
Was Vince McMahon wrong, after all?
After any kind of push you had came to an end in WWF around late 89/early 90, you were basically used to put guys over before returning to NWA.
Was there any ill feeling at the time on your part or on Vince McMahon's part that you knew of?
I was a little upset that I wasn’t featured more in WWF and because of that, I quit. That was my immaturity and selfishness. Why should they have used me any better when I was only thinking of myself? I wasn’t a team player. I wanted the WWF to use me because I felt I had talent, but in a huge company that is the best at what they do - that isn’t always enough.
How many times have we seen a talented player in any sport that never reached his full potential? The athlete has to have a team mentality no matter what the sport. I didn’t have that and I don’t believe I mattered enough to Vince for there to be any ill will from him. That is not a knock on Vince; he just had a lot more important things to worry about other than a selfish jerk.
Back over in NWA, what were your memories of the early 90's? You'd been repackaged as The Taylor Made Man (early '92?) and had a run with Greg Valentine as WCW US Tag Champs. Were you happy at the time?
I believe a level of frustration was starting to develop in me. My big break in the WWF - the one I’d wanted my whole life - was a bust. At the time, I couldn’t see that it was my fault. I was the reason I failed in the WWF, and that feeling continued in the NWA. I channelled a lot of my anger and frustration into my wrestling as a heel. It was easy for me to conjure up rage and deliver it as part of my heel persona. I had a wonderful opportunity to re-establish my value as a wrestler and I‘m not sure I did that.
After another short spell in WWF, and then with WCW before returning to WCW again in 1996 as a writer for Monday Nitro. Prior to the nWo angle, did you have any idea of how hot the Monday Night Wars were to get?
Did anyone? I don’t think anyone could have predicted what a wild ride the wrestling business and wrestling fans would take on the Monday night wars. The other side of that is that we were so busy with so much work that we didn’t have time to realize the enormity of what was going on.
Eric Bischoff kept a lot of secrets from the creative department and there times when I found out things at the same time the audience did. Eric knew there were leaks in the office and that the internet was so prevalent, that sometimes the only way for something to not get out was to not tell anyone. I have had the privilege to be a part of some pretty important eras in wrestling history from the UWF to the now. Only now does it sink in as to how big things really were.
It was reported that backstage politics were partly to blame, but what were the full circumstances that led to your jump back to WWF in 1999?
The stress working in WCW was intense. When a group of people work in that pressure cooker for extended periods of time – emotions can take over. Also, personality conflicts can happen. Without casting blame on anyone – Eric and I had a relationship that wasn’t good for either of us. He had his reasons and I have mine, but on 1/8/99 I’d had enough. I quit without even calling the WWF to see if they would take me. I was just so frustrated I had to go. I didn’t know I could call Human Resources and file a complaint, that Turner Broadcasting was a huge conglomerate, and they handle employee/employer disputes.
After I quit, I called Vince McMahon and he hired me on the spot.
He's had his critics, and his fans. Personally speaking I felt he added a great deal to the product and is given a rough ride at times by some people. In your opinion, what was Vince Russo like to work with?
The first time I met Russo was the day after I had quit WCW. Vince McMahon, Russo, and Ed Ferrara met at Vince McMahon’s home every other Tuesday to talk about what they wanted to do on next week’s Monday Night Raw. Remember, at this time there was no Smackdown!.
Russo walked in and when he saw me, the look of betrayal, anger, and hostility were mind numbing - VKM hadn’t told anyone he had hired me! This was at the height of the Monday night wars. It was total all out warfare, and I was the enemy. As is Russo’s nature, once we talked, he was great. We remain best friends.
Why were so many in WWF against you bringing in Public Enemy?
This is a multifaceted question. As is so often the case, there was so much more going on than was visible on the surface. All I knew was that The Public Enemy were one of the hottest acts in ECW, then WCW, and there was no reason to think it would be any different in the WWF. Or so I thought.
How was anyone to know the heat they had from a decision they made 10 years before? At that time, WWF had offered them a standard WWF contract that guaranteed $150.00 per match with ten matches per year. So, this meant if Public Enemy had signed that contract, all the WWF had to give them is ten matches at $150.00 for the entire year! At the same time, WCW offered them $85,000 a year for three years. Public Enemy chose the WCW contract. What would we have done in the same situation?
When I offered them a contract in the WWF in 1999, I didn’t know any of this. McMahon wasn’t upset that they had made the best business decision they could at the time (taking the previous WCW contract). VKM understands business. But not everyone that works for him has that same understanding, though. Some kept a grudge and used the illusion of a WWF push to set Public Enemy up to fail.
The Acolytes took liberties with them on a televised match and beat them up without Public Enemy fighting back thinking this was an initiation. It ended up being their first and last match in the WWF. So much for the WWF slogan, “We don’t offer guarantees to anyone, but we offer opportunity to EVERYONE!”!
At the height of the 'Attitude' era in WWF, how bad were politics?
Politics will always be a part of any work environment. Was it worse during the “Attitude” era? I don’t think so. Politics have always existed and it stems from certain people trying to advance their own agenda or career. These individuals don’t do what’s best for business; they selfishly seek power and money. Hopefully, some day their inability to do the job will be exposed and someone who can do the job will be hired.
You jumped back to WCW the following year and were involved in the writing team with Russo, Ed Ferrera and others. Did you get the impression WCW was a sinking ship when you returned?
There were a lot of rumors that WCW was in bad shape, but so many of us wanted and believed we could turn it around. Most of us thought we could rally WCW and still give fans a choice, but it wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes when we want something so much, we don’t see it for what it really is. WCW was a sick patient and no matter what doctors were brought in, it was too late. WCW – RIP.
When WCW was bought by Vince McMahon, was there any discussion about you returning to WWE?
In a word, no.
After a spell as a road agent with WWE in 2002-2003, you started work with TNA. When you first started with the company, did you feel they'd still be in business today?
Yes, I never thought TNA wouldn't be in business. I may be naïve, but I stopped worrying about stuff like that a long time ago. I used to read the “insider sheets”, read the internet, and watch everything related to wrestling. Not any more. So much energy is wasted on ‘what if’ and that could be better used improving the wrestling business.
TNA has certainly experienced some growing pains, but these have served to make TNA stronger and we may be on the brink of something that will make wrestling history. By the time this interview is published, TNA may have a good television clearance and may be giving wrestling fans an alternative to WWE.
What makes TNA a good alternative to WWE?
The talent makes TNA a great alternative. We have some of the best young talent in the world. They can deliver in the ring and it’s up to the promotion to market, promote, and advertise these fine athletes to the world. Some of these wrestlers are the best kept secrets except to the hardcore and most devoted fans. The wrestling business will always have it’s core audience. When the casual fan perceives wrestling to be ‘cool’ like with the nWo, Austin vs Mr. McMahon, and the Monday Night Wars – then the business grows exponentially.
Another aspect that will make TNA a viable alternative is that only the most hungry, driven, and passionate people will work there. When a company has a bare bones budget and people who want it to succeed, ‘politicians’ will be weeded out and only employees who produce will remain.
The final thing that will make TNA an alternative is the ownership. The Carter's are wonderful human beings. I have just gotten to know them in the recent months and am impressed with their compassion and integrity. The Jarrett's have run successful promotions and have a personal stake in TNA’s well being. There are no guarantees in life, but all these factors contribute to the possibility of TNA’s success.
Are there any guys that WWE have released over the past year that you feel TNA would benefit from bringing in?
Yes, I’m sure there are a lot of former WWE wrestlers out there that TNA is interested in hiring. There are good reasons for that. One of the main things wrestlers learn in WWE is how to do wrestling television. That sounds simple, but there is so much more to it than people realize. One has to work to the camera instead of what they’ve been taught their whole lives, which is to work to the crowd. Also, a talent cannot be weak in any aspect of the business from in-ring work, to interview skills, to personal appearance.
Additionally, there is an ‘it’ factor which is hard to clarify. It’s a star quality that means something different for each talent, but is still necessary to become a star in this business. WWE is the biggest wrestling company in the world and there is competition for roster spots. This competition dictates competence for advancement. On a different note, I don’t believe it would be fair to name anyone in particular because it may alter the negotiations between the talent and TNA. When a comment could impact a wrestler’s life or career – it's better left unsaid.
You're still active on the Indy circuit. Where can we see you in the near future?
The best way to see where I’ll be is to visit my website www.terrytaylor.info!
Finally, what does the future hold for TNA and Terry Taylor?
I am very excited about the future of TNA. Over the past year I have watched TNA grow and really want to be a part of TNA’s future success. That’s not for my own betterment, but for the betterment of TNA, its wrestlers, its owners, and its fans. This is a very exciting time in our business. If a competitive situation develops – it’ll be fun for the audience.
Maybe we can relive the Monday Night Wars. This time in the new millennium!