By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Insight With Chris Van Vliet with guest Tony Chimel
Host: Chris Van Vliet
Podcast available via Podcasts.Apple.com
Video available at Chris Van Vliet’s YouTube Page
On being released from WWE after 38 years: “I never not wanted to work. I was willing to get on a plane from day one to do anything. But when COVID first hit, I was sitting at home and was like well this will be great if it lasts a couple of weeks and I get a pay check. Then they started running shows in Orlando and I said I would be willing to go. They said it would be laid back and I didn’t think much to it. A couple of months go by and I ask if I can still come and kept wanting to come in. They were letting the independent contractors work, not the employees. Then I got furloughed, couldn’t do anything.
“Then I got the call from Kevin Dunn, who said there was good news and bad news. The good news was that I was going to be getting my paycheck back. I’m like cool, because I got an email saying some are coming back in October, November or December, mine said I would be back in December. He was calling me in November and he said ‘You are going to get your paycheck because we are going to have to let you go.’ I said ‘Well the email says that I’m coming back in December. He asked me who sent it and I said human resources did. He wanted it forwarded, but he called me and said that’s it. I was getting my salary back because it was my severance, I was being let go.”
On where is he working now: “I figured out there is life after WWE, because you figure I started when I was 22-years old and now I’m 60. I found a job at Trader Joe’s, which I never really knew about. I had heard of Trader Joe’s, but I didn’t really know what it was. And when I first told my daughter that I was working at Trader Joe’s she was like ‘Oh dad, that’s great. You gotta get this and get that’ and I was like ‘what are you talking about?’. There’s a lot of similarities because at WWE they always wanted to put smiles on people’s faces and at Trader Joe’s all they want to do is wow the customer and make the customer feel happy.
“I’ve always been a big customer service guy and traveling for a living, you don’t get any of that crap from the airlines and you get crappy customer service from hotels. At Trader Joe’s, if you call the store they actually answer. If you’re in there and you’re looking for something, we’ll help you and we’ll walk you to where you want to go. And the customers there are like cult followers, I didn’t get it at first but now that I’ve been there for a year I’m one of them. A lot of people love it and they swear by the store. The people are great, the bosses are great, the manager is great. Everybody’s great there.”
The origin of his iconic “Rated R Superstar” introduction for Edge: “So here’s the thing about how that started. I used to travel around with Jimmy Korderas, the referee. We would talk and solve the world’s problems or whatever. If someone said something stupid, we would say something like ‘Wile E. Coyote, Super genius!’ So when the Mexicools came to WWE, I started introducing Super Crazy as [high pitched] Super Crazy. Then they left, and when Edge was The Rated R Superstar, I would introduce him as The Rated R [high pitched] Superstar! He loved it every time I did it. I was happy to do it. He would show up once in a while after retiring and he would say, ‘Hey Chimel, you got your suit? Because you are going to introduce me tonight.’ I’m like really? I didn’t know he was coming. But that was fun and a pleasure to do.”
What his relationship with Vince McMahon is like: “Vince was always good to me. He was just like a regular guy that owned the company. He knew me for so long, if he saw me in the hallway he was like ‘Chimel, you still working here? ’I’m like ‘Yeah I’m still here, Vince.’ Either that or I would say, ‘Yeah, I’m here, but I’m not working.’ He once came to bat for me big when I was ring announcing. I would get paid a certain amount to ring announce or time keep, and I was getting paid for both. After a couple of years of that, they said that they weren’t going to pay the timekeeper anymore, so I lost money. So I went to my boss and asked for more money for ring announcing so it evens out. He said to me ‘Chimel, where would you be working if you didn’t work for WWE?’ I said ‘Well I don’t know, but I am working for WWE.’
“My boss always told me ‘If you have a problem with what I am doing then you can go to Vince.’ So I did. I said, ‘Vince this is the deal. I’m doing both of these jobs, they took one away, I just want my money back through ring announcing. I will still ring the bell.’ And I told Vince what my boss said about not working here. Vince said ‘Please tell me he didn’t say that.’ I said he did. So I was tearing down the ring that night, my boss comes up and said we will talk about my pay on Monday. Vince must have pulled him aside and said to take care of him or whatever. I will never forget that Vince did that for me.”
Why he stopped ring announcing in WWE and moved behind the scenes: “At one point when you are there for 25-30 years, and I am teaching the Lilian Garcia or the Justin Roberts or whoever. Basically they are telling you that you are teaching them because they will be doing your job. That was why I wanted to do something else, I wanted to make myself valuable and do something else other than ring announcing. The ring announcing is the show, but what are you doing eight hours before or two hours after. There was a point where I didn’t want to be on the shows for 24 days a month and do all the house shows.
“There was a point where it was enough, my kids are teenagers and I didn’t get to see them grow up. It would be nice to be home fifteen days a month instead of seven. I was okay not ring announcing if I could do production or just do TV. The house shows were such a grind back then because they would run so many. Friday, Saturday Sunday, do TV Monday, fly home Tuesday and my kids hated me on Wednesday. You get all your shit in on Thursday, then you go on Friday and do it all again. Then they would run the overseas tours in Europe, where you are on the road for 17 days straight. It was a great living and great job, but after 25 years I was like I don’t mind, someone else can ring announce.”
His advice for up-and-coming ring announcers: “If you are going to be a ring announcer, try to get involved in something else other than ring announcing. They love it when you can do something else as well. I was given a microphone and grew with the job as the job grew. Another important thing is that you are not more important than the talent you are announcing. Put over the talent, not yourself.”
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