Interview Recap: PTB Podcast 172: Kevin Kelly discusses WWF 1997, Part One

Much like with my shoot interview recaps, I have done the same with this episode of the Place to Be Podcast, where they have invited Kevin Kelly to specifically discuss 1997 WWF.

This was posted on June 1st, 2013

It is hosted by JT Rozzero & Scott Criscuolo

It runs for two hours and thirteen minutes long


The podcast starts with the guys talking about the storm that was happening as this was being recorded and that last until about the six-minute mark.


Scott then asks Kelly about Bret Hart leaving after losing at WrestleMania XII and if the rumors going around at that time strong of him not returning. Kelly said depending on who you talked to would depend on your answer as some thought he would never leave while others thought he would never return. He was still under contract to about July or August.


JT asks how bad it would have been to the WWF if Hart left for WCW in the Fall of 1996. Kelly said that they never would have had what happened in Montreal, meaning we never would have had the Vince McMahon character. Kelly said that when Hart went to WCW, he did not have many fans as a lot of the guys there were “Hogan” guys. Kelly thinks if he left quietly at that point he would have made good money but not as a top guy or with the hype.


Kelly is then asked about Shawn Michaels losing the title in 1996 to Sid Vicious and if it was an aborted heel turn as Michaels showed heel tendencies during the match. Kelly said that it was Michaels being a baby and getting upset over the New York crowd not cheering for him as they wanted a new champion. Kelly said the whole story of Shawn winning the 1997 Royal Rumble in his hometown was already in place at that point. Kelly talks about Michaels being a prick to a lot of people at that point but was not that bad to him personally. Kelly thinks the company could have gotten more mileage out of Vader if Michaels was willing to cooperate. Kelly also thinks Michaels liked working with Goldust and they had some good matches in Florida that Summer but for some reason it was stopped as Kelly thinks it had to do with the Ultimate Warrior coming back.


On the Royal Rumble and if the WWF made a mistake in booking the Alamo Dome, a larger venue. Kelly said the gate was poor but there was a good amount of people in the building.


Kelly said that Michaels was sick as a dog in his match against Sid and they were giving Pedialite backstage.


Scott asks Kelly about the “Losing My Smile” speech and why give the belt back to Sid. Kelly said they were probably thinking about WrestleMania XIII and who they wanted to win the title at the show so if they wanted Taker to get the title, Sid would be the best person for him to face.


Kelly talks about the Thursday Night RAW and how in the Gorilla position, Vince McMahon told Mick Foley that he was “part of the family.” JT asks him about Bret winning the Final Four and Sid winning the next night. Kelly said they needed Shawn to put Bret over at WrestleMania XIII and needed to make the change and probably thought Bret should go away for a bit.


JT asks Kelly about Vince’s partnership with ECW as Kelly thought Vince had a soft spot for Paul Heyman. Kelly also said a bit later that people were wondering why Vince gave Heyman a check on a weekly basis when he was in meetings saying they were losing money. When asked about Jerry Lawler and how he really felt about ECW, Kelly believes that Lawler dislikes Heyman from the time they worked together in Memphis. Kelly also says that Lawler can still do business with people he does not care for and he commends him for that.


On his thoughts of Ken Shamrock, Kelly said that he needed work on promos but still had the “it” factor. He talks about Dan Severn coming in and rubbing people the wrong way with his attitude while Shamrock was a good-natured guy.


Scott asks Kelly about the change of how RAW looked and the change to two hours. He thinks it came from the TV Studio then he talks about how the WWF always had a good relationship with the USA Network as both hosts discuss how the changes were for the better.


They talk about WrestleMania XIII and how besides the Austin vs. Hart classic and the main event, the show didn’t feel special. Kelly said that day the show felt liked a taped RAW and even told that to Michael Hayes. Kelly also said that the WWF was minimizing costs and the sets were scaled down and it did not give the show the big-event feel.


Kelly talks about Ahmed Johnson and how he tried hard, saying that Vince told him before an interview that if Ahmed stopped making sense to steer him back on topic. Ahmed proceeded to speak and barely make any sense then when it finished, Kelly saw Vince, who asked him what happened as Kelly told Vince he keep squeezing Ahmed’s arm but it had no effect as Vince told him not to worry about it as Ahmed was not stopping. When asked if Ahmed not having the kidney injury prevented him from going further, Kelly said that he was exactly where he was supposed to be at that time and did not think he would get past that level.


JT asks Kelly about the Hart Foundation storyline and if that was Bret’s idea. Kelly is not sure and he said that Vince focused on the top five guys while the others wrote for everyone else. He did say that it felt natural to put the Hart Foundation back together and from that discusses how wrestling works at its best when everyone is blended together to create matchups people will pay to see. Kelly said that the story felt more rich when they went back to Canada then talks about the time Jim Cornette called Kevin Dunn “Bucky Beaver motherfucker,” who Kelly said summarized the feelings many had for Dunn at that time.


Kelly is asked about Vince Russo and how he impressed Vince and got into the level of power that he did. Kelly said they had a meeting after the South Africa RAW that drew a 1.7 rating as Vince said he couldn’t stand it anymore and wanted some ideas. Russo stood up and suggested he use some of his ideas from RAW Magazine and use them on the actual show. Kelly notes how he fashioned a career by standing up in that meeting, which took balls. Kelly said that he drew “coal into the furnace” and that helped fuel a red-hot fire.


They talk about the changes such as the pieces on Goldust being Dusty Rhodes’ son and Mankind, with clips of him jumping off of the roof as a kid as Kelly said this is what they were doing with the magazine and puts over how much depth these pieces added to the Mankind character.


Kelly talks about the locker room fight between Bret and Shawn as he was doing an interview at the time and did not see anything. Kelly said that an element of that fight was about Sunny but does not know the major reasons.


On the Canadian Stampede PPV, Kelly said that he was not at the show as he had some contract problems so he watched it at home. He did talk about the Great Sasuke bringing him Taka Michinoku to put him over but it ended up with Taka shining and getting a job with the company instead of Sasuke.


They talk about the Light Heavyweight Tournament and run down the competitors. Scott brings up Scott Putski and how he shredded his knee at a In Your House PPV and if there big plans for him as Kelly said he thought he was alright.


Kelly thought the “Gang Wars” were fun to see. He said that everyone hated The Jackal (Don Callis) as he constantly brought “heat” on himself.


On the Attitude Era, Kelly said that it was a business hotshot that lasted a long time. He then said that they no longer have the fanbase that cares anymore as they have killed the golden goose.


Kelly said he does not believe there was any heat on Owen Hart due to injuring Steve Austin. Kelly did say that Austin never forgave Owen for what happened until he died, where he saluted his picture on RAW. Kelly said that the injury really effected everything and does not believe the injury helped his character as he would have gotten to that level anyway.


On the Undertaker’s title reign and if it was overshadowed by the other stuff going on in the promotion, Kelly said he was not only a transitional champion but also morphing from the “dead man” to the “American Badass” character.


Kelly said the WWF “screwed the pooch” with the One Night Only PPV for not having the British Bulldog retain the title.


On Michael Cole, Kelly said he was hired as his replacement but it backfired as Vince got him back on TV. Kelly said that Cole is a “cool dude” but can be miserable and a prick, which Kelly likes about him. He thinks that he does a good job as well, considering the circumstances.


Kelly talks about Brian Pillman’s death shocking everyone then says that he did not mind the Melanie Pillman interview as much as others before saying she was angling for a job with the company, even after this took place. Kelly then compares Melanie to Diana Hart in a sense that they both wanted to chase fame after their husband’s death and that does not mean they should get a job in the business. He then calls Vicki Guerrero an “evil and devious” woman who drained her husband Eddie’s bank accounted. Kelly said that they might have made up and Eddie was no saint himself but he has no interest in watching Vicki on screen.


The last twenty minutes are spent primarily with Kelly talking about RoH. Kelly then promises to get together soon for a second part of discussing 1997 WWF.


Final Thoughts: Fun podcast. Very relaxed and a breeze to listen to plus you get insight from someone involved during one of the best years in company history from an entertainment perspective. I highly recommend you give this a listen. I will post a recap of part two in the next couple of weeks.

You can listen for yourself by clicking on the link below