This interview was filmed on September 23rd, 2005
The Interview was conducted by Sean “The Mic” McCaffrey
Disc One runs at one hour and fifty-seven minutes long
Growing up, Kelly said that he was a huge wrestling fan. He grew up watching the WWWF in New York then moved down to Florida when he was about nine years old and watched Championship Wrestling from Florida.
Kelly puts over Graham for being the greatest booker ever and how he could develop characters and long-term storylines that lead him to sellout an 11,000 seat arena in Orlando for 82 weeks in a row.
His all-time favorite angle was when Ole Anderson coerced Dusty Rhodes to trust him to go up against the Russians when they were in Georgia. Kelly said that he got TBS back on TV too.
Back to Florida, Kelly said that he loved the babyface intensity of Mike Graham. He also liked the Brisco Brothers and said that Jos Leduc legitimately frightened him as a child.
Kelly said that he graduated from Florida State University in 1990. After graduation, he worked at a local radio station and they were doing a county fair that involved wrestling. Kelly said that he was looking to get into the business at the time and volunteered to be the ring announcer. The wrestler was a guy named Cliff Anderson, who looked like Arn Anderson, and he booked Kelly for some shows after that. This was in the beginning of 1991.
He then talks about how the wrestling industry was in a transition period in the early 1990’s. Kelly says that the Florida Championship Wrestling office was barely around and a lot of shady independent bookers used false advertisement to sell tickets and that made it tough to sell any tickets afterwards.
Kelly was the announcer for the International Wrestling Federation, which filmed at Universal Studios. Kelly said that he was terrible as a ring announcer at first, constantly relying on announcing caches and not being able to tell a story in the ring. Kelly said that they filmed about 40 episodes before the promotion went under. He then said that Rob Van Dam, The Smoking Gunns, and Mondo Kleen (Damien Demento) all started out there.
He then said talks about how he got into the WWF. In 1994, he sent in a tape of himself to Bruce Prichard but never heard anything and also never bothered to update his phone number for Prichard to reach him. Kelly said that he was friends with Billy Gunn and kept in touch with him and one day, while contemplating leaving the wrestling business due to not making money and his first child on the way, he called Gunn. Also at this time, he got a call from a guy he knew to warm up the crowds at MGM Studios before WCW shows. While at the studios during his audition, Kelly’s pager went off and it was Gunn, who told him that Prichard saw his tape and been trying to contact him for the past several months to be an announcer. He called Prichard and told him he was at a WCW Show. Prichard asked him if he signed a contract and Kelly had not so he went to the WWF. Kelly thought he bombed in his audition.
He talks about how Kevin Dunn hated him and how they did not get along. He said that a month after he got there, JJ Dillon quit then Jim Ross took over for talent relations.
About office politics, Kelly said he stayed by himself and would pick the agents brains so he could learn. He does talk about Vince constantly having closed door meetings with Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and the Ultimate Warrior.
Kelly talked about how he used to drive around Mae Young and Fabulous Moolah and how he learned a lot from them and they were hysterical. Kelly said that he really liked Chyna, who was never the same once she broke up with HHH.
When asked about Bret, Kelly said that he made a lot of money off of the “Montreal Incident.” He also said that Bret had an inferiority complex as he was always the second choice as he was never as big as Hogan, not as charismatic as Shawn, and not as good as Curt Hennig in he ring. Kelly puts over Hennig for working with a herniated disk at SummerSlam to wrestle a twenty-two minute match with Bret. Kelly does say he feels sorry for Bret and the dysfunction in his family.
About the Kliq, Kelly said that Kevin Nash & Scott Hall just left before he came into the WWF. Kelly said that Vince was hurt when they left and Kelly told him that he was loyal. He mentions how HHH was originally going to win the “King of the Ring” tournament if not for the “Curtain Call” incident at Madison Square Garden. Kelly also talks about producers and TV people saying that the Kliq were all assholes back then and treated them and especially Chris Candido and Sunny all like shit and how they made it difficult for the backstage crew to come into work day after day as they were all treated terribly by them. He adds that the only redeeming quality about Kevin Nash was that he was tall when asked about his run as Champion.
On the creative process when he first started with the company, Kelly said that the writers would all meet at Vince’s home. Back then they filmed four weeks worth of shows in a night for the RAW tapings then another four weeks worth at the Superstars tapings. At the time, it was Jim Cornette and Bruce Prichard who met with Vince.
Kelly was asked about the Pillman/Austin angle with the gun (Kelly is wearing a Pillman t-shirt) and Kelly said that he thought it was wild and great. The interviewer brings up how Al Isaacs from the Scoops hated it as Kelly said the whole angle was groundbreaking and opened up the creative envelope. Kelly really liked Pillman but knew he was in a lot of pain and knew that is time was short and the pain would never go away. The interviewer brings up the Canadian Stampede ten-man tag match as Kelly calls it the perfect main event PPV match.
He talks about how Shawn Michaels was a dick back then and was always fucked up on pills but today he has changed completely. Kelly truly believes that Shawn finding religion saved his life and he is easy to deal with today.
When asked about 1996 Survivor Series, Kelly said that it was a terrible show. They built up Rocky Maivia for several weeks through vignettes and Shawn was in a very dark place at that show and flipped off the fans at one point.
On the 1997 Royal Rumble, Kelly talks about how they had to run out and get him Pedialyte because he was vomiting non-stop and calls it an awesome performance.
Kelly talks about how WCW had the nWo and they had the Godwinns and The Stalker and other garbage but still had Undertaker, Shawn, Bret, and Stone Cold.
Regarding the Undertaker, Kelly said that he demands respect out of everyone and how all of the backstage workers would go up and shake his hands and say hello to him. He said you get what you give with the Undertaker and he is generally respectful to people.
He is asked about Sid main-eventing WrestleMania 13 because of Shawn “losing his smile.”. Kelly said that no one was going to follow Bret/Austin anyway. The interviewer asks about the possibility of Bret going in as the champion with Austin winning the belt and Kelly said that would have been way too soon as they still needed the babyface on the chase and the turn had to happen so the chase for the belt became Austin vs. The Establishment.
When asked about the “Monday Night War” at that time, Kelly said that it was a massacre as WCW was kicking their ass. He talks about in February 1997, they called a meeting and the room was silent until Vince Russo stood up. The interviewer then stops Kelly and said that he will get back to this question later.
Now, Kelly is asked about the “Montreal Incident.” Kelly tells the story and how he was there covering the story with AOL. Russo was working with Vince for TV that week and told Kelly what was going on at the show and that Bret was leaving and balking at every idea they gave him. Apparently, Vince McMahon had Russo pick up the receiver at the other end when he was speaking with Bret over the phone. Kelly said he went to Stamford the day after the show and missed the TV taping the following day. Kelly then said it had to happen though.
He is asked about Shawn bringing out the mini Bret Hart. Kelly then talks about how he loves midgets then talks about how Vader kept bitching about the mini Vader as Goldust and Mick Foley loved the mini versions of themselves and would be taking pictures with them. This leads to Kelly talking about Vader was a miserable bastard while in the WWF.
Kelly talks about how rich Vince is and how he never goes to gas stations and has a service that comes to his house to fill the tank in his car.
About the Rock, Kelly said that the fans shitting on him and the “Die Rocky Die” chants really bothered him. This leads to a discussion of Rock ragging on him in his promos and how he called him “Hermie” and Kelly felt that was an insult aimed at him by writer Brian Gewirtz, who he calls a “comic book guys” and someone who he does not respect because they see wrestlers as beneath them.
Kelly tells a story of working in Florida with the Rocky Johnson (The Rock’s dad) at a show in a flea market in Florida. The Rock, who played for the University of Miami at the time, came to the show with his dad and made the save. Kelly added that he always jokes with the Rock that he can always get him booked at that flea market if he needs work.
When asked, Kelly said that Rock was better at promos than Austin. Kelly then talks about how Brian Lee came up with a lot of Austin’s material for promos and that was how he got his stuff. Kelly said that Rock also took stuff like “rudypoo” from Iceman King Parsons in Memphis then adds about how most people get their best stuff from others. Kelly also thinks that Austin was never comfortable on the mic.
When asked about the WrestleMania 15 main event, Kelly thought that Mick Foley should have been involved as part of a three-way with Austin and Rock. Kelly said how Shawn Michaels was around at the time and Austin went to him and said that he didn’t want Mick in the main event then Shawn went to Vince and said it should be Austin vs. Rock as the main event. Kelly said when the decision was made, Mick’s wife Collette was at the TV taping and she was crying as Mick got screwed out of a huge payday. Kelly talks about Austin being a different guy at that time and was becoming paranoid and as a result became political. When asked if he was as bad as Shawn in regards to the backstage politics, Kelly said that he was. Kelly said it was because he was getting on that “G” (GHB I assume) and how that was big in the locker room and that it changes you.
Kelly said that he was not that close to Owen Hart as they did not want the office guys to mingle with the wrestlers. He was watching the show on a camera and knew he fell once they cut to the crowd. He then talks about how he had to go on next and interview Debra McMichael and Jeff Jarrett for the match as Debra was sobbing with he and Jeff almost in tears as they did not know he was dead until a half-hour later and no one knew he died once he hit the ring. When they found out Owen was dead, they were getting ready for the main event. He said that the tribute RAW for Owen was done perfectly then talks about how it was hard for Austin to honor him with the beer at the show because once you crossed him, he would never forgive you. Kelly talks about how Austin never forgave Jarrett for treating him like shit in Memphis and would never work a program with him as a result.
He is asked about HHH rising to the top of the WWF. Kelly said that his evolution was interesting and that he had a lot of injury problems in the beginning of his career and that he underwent an experimental knee surgery from James Andrews that worked. He then said that he became who he was from the lessons he learned by hanging around with his friends in the company.
Kelly said that he came up with the idea for the wedding chapel payoff for the HHH/Stephanie/Test love triangle. He said that he was in bed with his wife one night and came up with the idea. Kelly said that his wife followed the shows and that they were both huge soap opera fans to begin with, calling it his favorite element in wrestling. He then sent the idea in an email to Vince who replied in all capital letters “GREAT SHIT.”
On Billy Gunn, Kelly said that he was the best natural athlete he has ever seen in wrestling and puts over how he saw him beat guys in races with his wrestling boots. When asked why he did not get over as a singles star, Kelly said he was never comfortable on the mic.
Kelly said that he has tremendous respect for Mick Foley because he was never Vince’s idea of what a great wrestler should be and that Jim Ross was why he even got into the WWF to begin with. Kelly then talks about how one night on RAW, Mick came backstage after his segment and Vince gave him a hug and told Mick that no matter what, he is part of the family.
On HHH as the heel entering and leaving WrestleMania 2000 as the champion, Kelly thought it was the right decision as it was getting formulaic with the face always winning the belt at Mania.
He is asked about Kurt Angle. Kelly puts him over for picking up the business as quick as anyone else he has ever seen.
Kelly is then asked about Taz debuting in at the Royal Rumble. He said they dropped the ball as it was a great moment but they knew he was going to get buried because of his height. He also said that guys like Bradshaw made sure he never had a chance.
He is asked about a few other workers. Kelly said that he was backstage after the Acolytes faced Public Enemy. He said that PE went over and shook the hands of the Acolytes after the match and there was no ill-will between them. He did say that Bradshaw always had a chip on his shoulder and that deep down inside he thinks he is a good person but can be a narrow-minded bully.
Kelly briefly talks about Heyman and how he was on the WWF payroll as far back as 1996, making $1,000 a week. He said he was not shocked when ECW went under as they all knew it was going to happen.
On WCW closing, Kelly does not believe that Russo killed WCW. When asked about Russo needing to be filtered by Vince McMahon in the WWF, Kelly said that Vince is a lousy writer but the greatest editor as he can turn a great idea in gold and a terrible idea into something.
He talks about Jim Ross and says that while he was a great announcer, he was a rotten boss. Kelly said that he was always cranky and could not make the people that worked for him better. Kelly does attribute some of that to how hard Ross was working at the time.
Kelly was not on the road at the time but from all of the reports he heard all of the WCW guys were looked down upon when they entered the WWF.
When asked about Wrestlemania X-7, Kelly said that the next night began the downward spiral as Austin turned heel and the Rock left the company to go to Hollywood and the company lost their two top babyfaces on the same night. Kelly also said that Austin should have turned a year sooner.
Now, Kelly talks about how the WCW guys were used when they came in and said they should have let them be who they were in WCW and since they owned the footage, they could have shown the fans clips and highlights of them to get familiarized with them. Kelly also would have had DDP as a face.
Kelly said he never thought that RVD would ever work for the WWF and still does not think that he fits in with the company. Kelly then said that if they let RVD be himself, he could become a superstar.
He then speaks about all of the belts in the company when they bought out WCW and how they never bothered to get them over and said that they would combine them to pop a rating for a show then talks about how the short-sighted booking has the product where it is today.
Final Thoughts: This was good stuff. My only problems were with the interviewer. Although knowledgeable, he was difficult to understand a majority of the time. It was like he was talking with marbles in his mouth. For Howard Stern fans, he sounded like a quieter version of JD Harmeyer.
However, Kelly was an awesome guest. He was willing to talk and not afraid to hold back. Seeing as how he said in the interview that he would never go back to the WWE, he told it like it is instead of trying to get his job back. Kelly also provided great insight into the backstage happenings during the hottest period in the history of wrestling.
Disc Two will be posted tomorrow.
Here is my schedule for the next several days
Friday: DOI Shoot Interview with Kevin Kelly, Disc Two
Friday: WWF Wrestling Challenge 10/19/86
Saturday: RoH Final Battle 12/28/02
Sunday: WWF Houston Summit House Show 10/19/86
Tuesday: WWF Superstars of Wrestling 10/25/86
Thursday: Shoot Interview TBD
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