Recently the Shining Wizards spoke with Johnny Mundo aka John Hennigan. Here are some highlights:
Recently the Shining Wizards spoke with Johnny Mundo aka John Hennigan. Here are some highlights:
On his time with OMEGA: It was great. I had met The Hardy Boys in 1996 when we were all just job guys in the WWF and me and Matt hit it off right away and he had told me his plan for OMEGA and I wanted to be a part of it. Myself and Joey Mercury and Christian York would drive down there and be a part of it. It was crazy because we didn't know what was going on, but we were just guys who loved wrestling, and wanted to be something different. Years later people would be like, “wow this is something good.” His “elimination” from the WWE's light heavyweight title tournament: I was in the original bracket for like a week, and then I was replaced. Because at the time they were doing the qualifying matches on like Shotgun Saturday Night , and this was like before Scott (Taylor) was Scotty Too Hotty, and Brian Christopher was just Brian Christopher from Memphis, and it was just this big thing to put the title on Taka (Michinoku). So you would win a match on Shotgun or Superstars and "qualify" for the tournament. My chance to qualify was in Atlantic City in 1997 and I was wrestling Jimmy Cicero, and we ended up getting bumped off the show because The Iron Sheik & Tiger Ali Singh went way too long. I was angry for like a year at Tiger Ali Singh, but now he's one of my better friends. So they ended up scrapping my match and in return, they sent me to Memphis to USWA for the last few weeks before the company closed. On his start with ECW & The $100 Toehold Challenge with Tommy Dreamer: I was back on the indies for about a year before I started with ECW. I was working with Nova a lot leading to a big cage match and Dreamer was there, and he liked my anti hardcore thing, and eventually there was an opportunity for a guy to come in (to ECW). And Nova told Paul, "I know you want Reckless Youth, but I think Steve Corino would be a perfect fit." We both got tryouts and I ended up getting a job. And then I was just an opening match jobber for guys like Chetti & Nova for like the first 3 months, and then we were in Trenton, NJ and Dreamer said he would work with me that night. He asked me if I was good on the mic, and I said I was alright. He told me to come up with something funny, and I came up with the whole $100 challenge and we ended up having a 22 minute match and 11 minutes was on the microphone during the match. On promos being scripted: It's the evolution of wrestling. The WWE is such a television show. They call it sports entertainment, and it's very much like your Law & Order or Modern Family. They follow a script. Would I personally love it to be more of a Curb Your Enthusiasm where you get to improv some stuff? Absolutely. And I think a lot of times the talent is a little more comfortable with that. On a personal level, give me an idea of what you want and I'll just go with the flow. It always worked for me in ECW. Paul would give me an outline and I would fill in the blanks. Did TNN sabotage ECW? Everybody was so excited about going on TNN, and I remember the first Television taping- I thought it went all wrong. Why were we doing TV in Dayton, Ohio when we were a Philadelphia company or a Queens, NY company? Why aren't we putting our best crowd in there? Not that Dayton was a bad city, but why are we going to a big arena trying to tape TV when we were this alternative blood and guts, smoky arena type of company? I knew right from there that Paul (Heyman) wasn't happy. I think the first taping got scratched and we had to do a second one. And Paul didn't do himself any favors, because instead of being corporate Paul, he was, you know, Paul Heyman. He created "The Network" to crap on the network we were on. On Ring Of Honor through the years: It's so different. I think that people tend to forget how different it is. ROH is not Gabe (Sapolsky), Doug (Gentry) or Rob Feinstein's ROH anymore. It's a television product for Sinclair Broadcasting. It's basically their brand for their Television stations and I think it's on in 88 different markets, but it's really become a television product. Some of the loyal fans from 2002-2010 say we've lost what we were going for and they just have to realize that it's a different product. Gabe, Doug, and Rob's vision was awesome and so was Cary (Silkin) and Adam Pearce's and now with corporate backing it and with Hunter Johnston as the booker, it's still great, it's just a little bit different. It's a different world. Does Sinclair have any say in on-air product for Ring of Honor? I'm sure, but I don't know that. It's very quiet about how things work in the office. It's a “don't ask, don't tell" thing also, and things are good, so why poke the bear if we don't need to? On Matt Hardy in ROH: A lot of people don't understand why Matt Hardy was brought in, but they have to understand the television business side of it. Matt Hardy, for a lot of years, was on the WWE and they were in front of 3-5 million people a week. People know who Matt Hardy is and if you can get an extra 10% of those people watching your show (ROH) just because Matt Hardy is on there – it's not that Matt Hardy is being featured, it 's just that fan that says he only watches WWE and who do does Ring Of Honor have, and you say "Michael Elgin, Kevin Steen, Steve Corino, and Nigel Mcguinness," and they've never heard of them, but then you say you have Matt Hardy. They'll say they remember Matt Hardy and his brother Jeff and they watch the show and see Matt. But then they see these guys like the Adam Coles, Michael Elgins, Jay Lethals, and Tommaso Ciampas and Kevin Steens, and they say, "Wow this is what we want to watch." I think that's part of the influence. On Daniel Bryan: We over-think sometimes as fans. I watch Raw and Smackdown as a fan. I never try to over-analyze and say they're doing this or that wrong. There is no doubt that Daniel Bryan is so over, right? But, you don't think WWE knows this? You don't think a money making machine like WWE doesn't see what's going on? I think us as wrestling fans want Daniel Bryan to be in that main event spot right now, whereas the WWE says we're making money off this guy right now. Let's string it along and see how far we can go because we're going to need a main event for Wrestlemania 31. Stone Cold Steve Austin was over at King Of The Ring 1996, but go back and see how long it took him, as they strung him along, and people wanted to cheer, and they were cheering him at Survivor Series 1996 with Bret (Hart). They were cheering him in every match, and finally they did the turn and put the rocket up his ass a little bit after WrestleMania 13 and he didn't get the belt until the next WrestleMania, so you have a year and a half where they knew he was over and he was going to make big money for them and they just took their time, and I think that's what they're doing here with Daniel. They know he's over and he's not going anywhere. Think about how genius it was putting him with The Wyatt family for 3 weeks. They literally turn him heel and the crowd said no way. The fans feel like Bryan is one of them and he is doing everything they would do if they were wrestlers. I think it's great. To me, if I'm Vince McMahon or Triple H or Stephanie McMahon, I have it in my mind how Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk is my main event for WrestleMania 31.
On letting WWE induct Randy Savage into the Hall of Fame against Randy's wishes, and the general lack of respect shown to him:
It occurred to me that I decided "what a minute, I'm not going to be put in the middle of all this." The thing is the WWE did not ask my permission to run the parody of the Huckster and the Nacho Man, and I don't have a battery of lawyers on retainer, so my belief is, do what you want. You want to honor him? Go ahead. This is the same company that didn't send its condolences to my mother who is going to be 87 in January. Now I know they made a nice video tribute, but don't you understand that that's just PR. Just like when they fire you, they wish you luck on your future endeavors? That's PR, they have a public relations department. So naturally, when somebody dies, and everybody always has, you know, because it's either suicide or an overdose. In Randy's case it was one of the few honorable deaths they've had. His toxicology report was crystal clear. Clean. And that meant a lot to me. Well, name a wrestler that died and they've all got something wrong with their toxicology report… Remember the Huckster and the Nacho Man? Everyone says "What's the matter? Can't you take a joke?" Well, some of those jokes were a little bit… like they accused Hulk Hogan of doing Elizabeth. Remember that one, when they did the Larry King one? And I thought that was- they said "How was Elizabeth?" "Not too good." The guy imitating Hulk Hogan and Randy looked at each other. And they made fun of his balding, and that was a little bit of lack of respect. So I said wait a minute, it's true that Randy wanted the Poffos to go in as a family but you can't make them do that. So I figured, rather than put myself in the middle for the rest of my life, I said hey, go ahead and do whatever you want. I only have two requests. Leave me out of it- don't invite me- and please don't pay me, because I don't need the thirty pieces of silver. That was the amount Judas Iscariot took to betray Jesus…
On whether he was an innovator:
I like to consider myself just a guy that was in the right time and at the right place. Everybody says I invented the moonsault. Well, the truth is I invented it like moments after I saw video of Tiger Mask doing it to the Dynamite Kid. I thought, wow, I think I can do that. I don't know if he innovated it. And then people say "you mind if I do the moonsault?" I said hey, I stole it, too. Just don't get hurt and don't hurt anyone, because those are possibilities. I don't know if I innovated anything, except I can honestly say that every poem you ever heard me recite, I wrote on my own. I don't consider plagiarism to be a joke.
On owing his career to Randy and becoming the Genius:
Let's get something straight. Anything good that happened to me was indirectly or directly because of my brother. If I weren't the brother of the "Macho Man" Randy Savage, you wouldn't know who the hell I was. He opened doors for me. We were in the car discussing gimmicks. And he was always on my team trying to help me. We came up with this Genius thing and he was a stickler for details. He presented it, he got it done. I tried to follow through with it and did the very best I could to try to recreate myself. To reshuffle the deck and try to make the people forget that was ever "Leaping" Lanny by changing my personality. And I did my very best to entertain the people; it is sports entertainment… one of the people I really stole from was Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther… It was a one-joke movie. "I knew that, you idiot. I was only testing you." I thought the Genius would be a good character if he was not that smart, just thought he was. Because if I was really that smart, I would have to be a babyface. But if I'm a heel I would like to be a buffoon genius- to be something hilarious in a business that was very serious at the time. Now they've got other comedians sometimes I've noticed, but I was like the only one. I have to say, God bless Bobby Heenan, you know he's a cancer survivor and I hope he's doing well. He didn't raise any objection to me being the Genius. After all, he was already the Brain. But what was I going to do? Point to my arms? I have garden-hose arms compared to Hercules Hernandez, the Warlord, the Barbarian, Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, "Macho Man" Randy Savage. My arms are just as long, but much thinner. I couldn't point to my arms… I had to point to my head because I didn't have what they call a body in wrestling.
The circumstances of Randy's death:
First of all, he didn't die from an automobile accident; he had ventricular fibrillation… the heart is divided into the left and right atrium and left and right ventricle. That's four chambers. And the bottom chamber, which is v-shaped, fibrillated, which means it quivered, which meant he wasn't getting enough oxygen into his blood; the blood wasn't going everywhere, and he said "I think I'm going to pass out." And that was his last words… And his wife, she was the hero because when he passed out at the wheel, his foot was on he accelerator, and she grabbed the wheel of the Jeep Wrangler and steered it into a tree, because they would've hit a motorcyclist and behind that was a bus. So when they're going the wrong way going about 35-40 miles per hour- and that's just what happened. When you have a heart problem, it would be nice if you're not driving at the time, but that's what they were doing, and Lynn was the hero.
On Randy leaving for WCW and his relationship with Slim Jim:
Randy wanted to work with Shawn Michaels. He wanted to have a two-year program with him. They said they were having a youth movement, and that's why he quit. He said "I think I'll get a second opinion on that." He would've lost the match to Shawn Michaels, at WrestleMania, but his goal, and one of the things that bothered him the most, was that he was never able to have a match as good as the one he had with Ricky Steamboat. He felt, even his his advanced years, I guess he was 41, that he could have a Ricky Steamboat-caliber match with Shawn Michaels. I don't know if he could or if he couldn't any more that if, you know, if he was already too old or whatever, but wouldn't you love to see him try? He would've put him over, in the middle of the ring, and retired to the announce booth… but instead he went to the WCW and guess what he brought with him? Snap into a Slim Jim. And Vince doesn't like to lose even one round. You know the difference between WWF and Slim Jim? Slim Jim sent to me and my mom and Randy's widow? A beautiful bouquet of flowers, and best wishes, and condolences. And we didn't get anything from the WWE. The only condolences I got are from two guys. They are Howard Finkel, and last month I got a call from Steve Lombardi. Now in these two cases, this is not management, this is labor. So there's a little bit of a difference there. If I embarrass anybody then so be it. You know what? I'm gonna be 59 years old December 28th… and I'm gonna say exactly what's on my mind all the time.
Why wrestling is better now:
First of all, I don't watch it now. But there's two reasons why wrestling is better now than then. Number one, we didn't have iPhones back then, so, you know, that Google Maps? I really love my Google Maps. Before, I couldn't find my ass with two hands. Now I don't have to worry about "turn left, stupid." The other one is I really didn't like when I wrestled, that all the fans were allowed to smoke cigarettes and whatever, and we had to breathe in all that second-hand smoke. Now almost all the venues are non-smoking. I wish they had been that way when I was breathing in all that smoke.
For more with Lanny Poffo, including his beginnings in the wrestling business, his healthy lifestyle, the man with the orange peepee, whether he would have had a main event shot today as the Genius, if he's appreciative to Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon, stories from the road, becoming an Amazon bestseller, the promoters snubbing Angelo Poffo for a legends battle royal, the Von Erich family, searching for a new place to live, and more, go to www.shiningwizards.com and listen to Episode 119, Wrestling with Rhyme. The Shining Wizards Podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, AudioBoo, Geek Life Radio, Clutch and Wiggle Entertainment, and the Shining Wizards Network.