RF Video Shoot Interview with Tony Schiavone

This was filmed on August 13th, 2017

Rob Feinstein is the host

It runs at three hours and five minutes long

 

Tony talks about growing up in Craigsville, VA and how he would watch Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with his uncle as a kid. He also went to events  and even kept the ticket stubs which he still has today.

 

He got a job in 1981 announcing for the Greensboro Hornets, the New York Yankees Single A affiliate. A year later, Frances Crockett interviewed him for a job as Tony told her how much he loved wrestling, something they had no idea at the time of the interview. One day, Frances asked him to do an interview with Ric Flair over at Flair’s house. They were impressed then Tony did interviews for the local markets and tells a story of how when he did this, Gene Anderson took him where the filming would take place and how it killed kayfabe for him as he saw Ricky Steamboat with his arm around Flair. He was splitting the interviews with Bill Ward every Wednesday but Ward was older and soon pushed out as Tony did it all himself. He said the tapings went from about 9am to as late as 8pm at night. In 1984, Tony did his first “Worldwide Wrestling” show with Tully Blanchard and recalls how he went backstage where Steamboat said he was great.

 

Tony talks about announcing baseball and wrestling at the same time. He went with the baseball team on the road then in 1985 he became a full-time wrestling announcer by replacing Gordon Solie. Schiavone said it was tough to do and he received a lot of negative fan mail about how they missed Solie and a lot of them also ripped on David Crockett too. Tony wishes they would have allowed him to say something on the air.

 

He talks about Dusty pulling him aside a few times to tell him what to say on air. Tony recalls Dusty telling him to really put over The Gladiators on commentary so when the Mulkey Brothers won it would make it seem like an unbelievable upset. Tony also said he rode along with many wrestlers, managers, and referees to learn more about wrestling and to get their respect.

 

On working with David Crockett, Tony said he was fun to work with but was not really an announcer. Dusty liked using David and said he was “raw” because he was genuinely excited about the product. Tony got along well with David and says he has a special place in his heart for being allowed to borrow money interest fee for a down payment on his house. Tony said he gave his youngest child the middle name “David” as a result of him being a great person.

 

When working at Starrcade ’83, Tony recalls seeing Dusty in the locker room and how it was his test-run as a booker. He also talks about Kevin Sullivan blading Scott McGhee and how it was brutal as McGhee gushed blood.

 

Tony thought Dusty had fantastic ideas as a booker but that he made a lot of enemies by putting himself in the main storylines. Tony then said he learned bookers did this to make sure their storylines got over but years later found out that its better if the people behind the creative process are not on camera.

 

He tells a story about how he laughed on air. Larry Zbyszko would always bring like ten shirts with him to the shows when announcing and kept asking Mike Tenay and Tony if they looked fine. They told him yes then on one episode of “Thunder,” The Outsiders asked Larry if he got a bowl of soup with that shirt, delivered similarly as Rodney Dangerfield’s line to Ted Knight’s character  in “Caddyshack.” Tony laughed then Eric Bischoff was pissed at him then later on in the show they had an interview where Kevin Nash threatened to beat down Tony if he ever laughed at another one of his jokes.

 

On the Four Horsemen, Tony said he did party with them when he first started. He recalls Tully bringing him home one night when he was drunk and Tony’s wife would not let him into the house. Tony said he threw up many of nights after partying with them and says Flair would tell Tony let him speak to his wife and to he will be safe but Tony declined. Tony said he stopped partying with them after he returned from the WWF. Tony thought they could have made a lot more money with the Horsemen if they marketed them better.

 

He talks about Jim Ross taking over for play-by-play on the big shows and not caring that much because he was still getting the same paycheck. Tony said that one day Ross told him he thought he was the best in wrestling and for Tony to think the same thing of himself as if you do not then you shouldn’t be doing the job. Tony says Ross was probably the best and credits him for getting his first big contract.

 

Tony is now asked about several talents. He thought Sting was a good worker but weak on promos. He also said no one thought he’d ever become a star when they got him from UWF. Tony said that Jim Cornette would become upset whenever someone put their hand on him and says one time in San Francisco a kid in the front row put his hand on Cornette, who went nuts and even told Tony he’d hit him with a chair when Tony told him he was just a kid. He liked Rick Rude and said he was a pro but that Manny Fernandez was all over the place. He always got the impression that they disliked each other. When Luger started out, Tony never thought he could work or talk but did have a great presence. He also said Luger was arrogant towards the other wrestlers. Tony thought Michael Hayes was one of the most talented individuals ever and said Missy Hyatt was great at playing the dumb blonde gimmick. Tony tells a story about Missy wanting to meet some of the Atlanta Hawks basketball players and had Tony call Stan Kasten, who told Tony he did not have time to pimp for Missy and hung up the phone. He said Barry Windham was one of the best workers ever and always tried to get him drunk and tells a story about how they took a bunch of shots then ate at Whataburger. They got back to the hotel and the next morning Tony woke up with a burger stuck to his head as Windham threw it at his head before he went into his room to pass out. After that, Tony said he never went out with Windham again because he loved to get him drunk.

 

On the Bunkhouse Stampede PPV, Tony said Dusty going over was the wrong call as it should have been Lex Luger. He recalls being in a limo with the Horsemen and Tully was pissed off over Dusty going over and saying this company needs to come down to Dusty vs. Dusty so Dusty can go over.

 

Tony said he knew Crockett Promotions was in trouble after Starrcade ’87 lost a ton of money. He hated when Turner Broadcasting purchased Crockett Promotions and left because he did not want to work for them. Tony said he thought Turner was terrible because they did not know how to do live TV, something the Crocketts did a lot better. He did not think the Crockett Family could save the family because they did not have the money to compete with Vince and ended up overextending themselves in the process.

 

He thought Jim Herd was a guy who talked big and thought he knew everything. Tony also thought Turner was going to hire Jim Crockett for that position instead and they should have as he knew wrestling, something Herd did not.

 

On how he got to the WWF, JJ Dillon called him up and said Vince wanted to speak with him. Tony said Vince offered him more money over the phone and he took the offer. Tony said it was intimidating to meet Vince and said he became a producer for “Coliseum Home Video” and had a fully staffed crew as he puts over how the WWF ran things a lot more professionally than Turner. Tony said Vince beat everyone by investing his money into production where others did so with the talent.

 

Tony loved working with Jesse Ventura and Gene Okerlund as he watched them on “Saturday Night’s Main Event.” He is asked if Vince was in his ear while doing commentary on PPV’s as Tony said it was not Vince but rather Bruce Prichard, who Tony said was easy to work with. Bruce would tell him things to say or the direction they were heading in at the time. Tony also worked with Lord Alfred doing commentary for matches on “Prime Time Wrestling.” He said Bobby Heenan was one of the most talented people he has ever worked with and when asked if Heenan was ever noticeably intoxicated on air during his time in WCW, Tony said it seemed like he was during the ’96 Hog Wild show but they never saw him take a drink during the broadcast but when he listened back again recently it did not seem that Heenan was noticeably tanked.

 

On Heenan’s accusations that Tony hid finishes from him in WCW because he craved having knowledge over Tenay and himself, Tony said that was all “bullshit” and he never hid finishes from him and he did not know as much about what was going on than what Heenan believed. Tony said Heenan’s anger came after he was fired as Tony admitted he handled the situation wrong. Tony also said he was never angry at Heenan for paying tribute to Gorilla Monsoon but was in charge of the announcers and asked Heenan if Bischoff knew about the tribute. Heenan told Tony no and that he did not give a shit. Tony said that Gorilla was great to him during his time in the WWF. Tony said he saw Heenan in 2003 to voiceover a video game for Acclaim and was only paid about $200. They ended up talking in the office as Heenan told him why he was upset as Tony said he was wrong in handling the firing then they hugged and Heenan said he was fine. Heenan told Tony to call him but that never happened as Tony thinks he might still be mad at him now as Heenan always wanted to stay in touch with people.

 

Tony said he left the WWF due to a high cost of living in Connecticut and that WCW offered more money and thought they could afford a house in Georgia. He had five kids and his wife wanted to move. Tony said he could not get ahead in the WWF and did not think Vince liked him as an announcer but that he did like producing more than being an announcer. Tony also said that Herd told him if he put in three years of work he would do all that he could to get him to work for the Atlanta Braves. Tony said he went for it and looking back regrets leaving the WWF to the point when he first walked into the production meeting after re-joining WCW he knew it was a mistake then called Vince’s secretary asking to come back. A few days later she called Tony back with what Vince had said and it was since Tony has moved his family three times in one year it would be too much to move back to Connecticut and make it work where he is now. Tony said he recalls crying in his family room due to thinking it was a huge mistake.

 

He said Ric Flair leaving for WWF was horrible and never should have happened as he blames Jim Herd for wanting Flair to change his look. He was relieved when Herd got removed from his position and he got along with his replacement, Kip Frey.

 

He is asked about more talents from the early 90’s. Tony said Paul Heyman is one of the greatest talkers of all-time and how his Slamboree promo against Madusa was incredible. He said you could easily see the potential in Steve Austin and how WCW did not have a clue what to do with him.

 

When Bischoff came into power, Schiavone said he had ideas and knew how to present it to the people at Turner. He does recall one meeting before a show at the Target Center when WCW was beating WWF in the ratings where Bischoff said he would not rest until he drove a stake through Vince McMahon’s heart. Tony also said Bischoff offered Hulk Hogan creative control and knew Vince would never agree to give that as a way to lure stars into WCW.

 

On the nWo angle, Tony said they were never able to replicate it again because they watered down the group with too many performers.

 

Tony talks about how WCW became disorganized and the shows would not be written by the time they made it to air. He also discovered during the “Ready to Rumble” film when they were on Nitro how the movie industry also featured constant re-writes and saw they were disorganized too.

 

He thought Mark Madden was a great heel and pissed off a lot of people. Tony said he had a lot of fun with Scott Hudson, who was a huge fan of the business. He recalls finding out when Hudson first started in WCW he was not getting paid and told Hudson working for free devalues what they are doing and made sure he was getting checks as Hudson did not care because he was a huge fan and made decent money at his full-time job. Tony said Mike Tenay was an intelligent guy and put him over for how he talked about the luchadores, a style of wrestling that Tony disliked. Tony gave Tenay the “professor” name due to Pete Van Wieren being called that on Braves games. Tony is also asked about Steve McMichael and said he just disappeared one night and was never seen again.

 

On the time he told fans on Nitro that Mick Foley was going to win the WWF Title, Tony said he was told by someone backstage that Bischoff wanted him to make light of it on commentary. Tony said he did not want to do it but came up with what he said on his own, even hinting that it was possible someone told him to do this in an attempt at sabotage (In Eric Bischoff’s shoot interview, he said it was his own idea and called it one of the dumbest things he ever did. Read Bischoff’s shoot interview here). He then addresses the fallout and is honored fans think he had that much stroke to change the business. Tony also felt sorry for what he said and talked to Foley after it happened and apologized.

 

Tony said the saw the end of WCW approaching and became angry at Turner and the business, which in turn effected his work. He also said the company presented some really shitty stuff he had to put over too.

 

He then talks about how he was sick of being on all the shows then was told right before an episode of “Thunder” that they wanted him to do play-by-play, which Tenay was doing at the time. Tony said he had to tell this to Tenay right before they went to air and how it looked like he politicked to get his job. When asked, Tony said he never went to management to lessen his load.

 

Tony said that Vince Russo came in organized and had meetings like you would see in the WWF but that the downfall was that WCW turned into a cheap imitation of the WWF.

 

On David Arquette becoming WCW Champion, Tony said they were in a meeting and Vince kept grilling him then asked if he wanted Arquette to be champion. Tony just said if it happened they could get a lot of press but that he did not come up with the idea to make Arquette Champion.

 

Tony talks about how he called up Vince McMahon when rumblings of Turner wanting to get rid of wrestling came up and how Vince said he couldn’t tell him anything was happening. Tony also slams Jamie Kellner for being a terrible businessman who sold the WCW tape library for peanuts.

 

He wanted to go back to WWF when WCW went under but they never returned his phone calls. Tony thinks it was due to the fact his work was poor at the end of WCW and that Vince was initially angry when he left to go back to WCW. Tony said he stopped watching wrestling until this past year’s Royal Rumble.

 

Tony was asked to work for TNA through Vince Russo but said it wasn’t for him as he was no longer interested in wrestling.

 

At this time, he’d love to do something on the WWE Network with older footage and tried to contact Triple H a couple of years ago but did not hear back. Mark Carano called him and said Vince and Triple H wanted to know how he was doing. Tony wanted to be a producer on the Network and never heard anything until Kevin Dunn finally called him up and said they have enough announcers but Tony told him he just wanted to be a producer on the Network and had zero interest announcing as he wonders if the WWE guys even communicated with each other. Dunn said they would get back to them and it never happened.

 

He said his best work was with Jim Ross. Today, Tony is a fan of Tom Phillips and Matt Stryker on commentary and that Kevin Owens and AJ Styles are great performers but feels that the magic is gone from wrestling.

 

On any misconceptions people have about himself, Tony said there is some based off of what Heenan said. He still loves the wrestling business too.

 

Tony tells us a story about Curt Hennig. It was Slamboree 2000 and earlier in the day, Bischoff brought out the roster and told them all the spot where Chris Kanyon would fall through the entrance way and how it was gimmicked and not to do anything nearby as it would fuck up the night. In his match, Hennig teased doing a back body drop that would have fucked up the Kanyon spot then dropped down and acted hurt instead.

 

His one regret was leaving the WWF. Tony tells a story of how his mother passed away in July of 1990 and one month later he got a package in the mail and it was a leather-bound thing from the Catholic Church that said they were praying for her mother daily. He also tells us when he left the WWE, Vince asked him if he thought the people at Turner Broadcasting would take care of him like he did and Tony said no but that he had to give it a shot.

 

Tony said he loves talking to his fans then says his response to people saying he should be in the Hall of Fame is that he would feel embarrassed to get in before Bob Caudle or Lance Russell.

 

Final Thoughts: For the most part I felt that Tony was candid. However, he never went into specifics as to what he did when Heenan got fired other than saying he was at fault (according to Heenan, he was replaced after calling out sick with strep throat and you can read his shoot interview here

Tony growing up as a fan his whole life was cool and based off of the interview, really loves the wrestling business. It was also interesting to hear just how much he loved being a producer in the WWF. Tony was really laid back here too and did not have any sort of ax to grind. It was refreshing to hear why his work was poor at the end of WCW and how much he enjoys talking to fans and his podcast. He seems like a decent guy.

Overall, a good interview. He makes for an easy listen, which is one reason why his podcast is a success, and he has a lot of insight and some entertaining stories too. I recommend this for those seeking out a recent shoot interview release.

You can buy this on DVD for $20 or download a Digital Copy for $15.99