By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Insight With Chris Van Vliet with guest Ken Anderson
Host: Chris Van Vliet
Podcast available via Podcasts.Apple.com
Video available at Chris Van Vliet’s YouTube Page
On training Gable Steveson: “I’ve been getting in the ring a lot more and rolling around with some of my students. I have a couple of students right now that have WWE try-outs, one guy that is signed to WWE. [Chris asks who’s that?] That’s Gable Steveson, who’s been training with us. He’s local, he lives in the Twin Cities, and he’s been signed now to Raw for a year, and they really haven’t done much with him. So he just wanted to [try it], he reached out and said, ‘Hey, can I come in and like just hit the ropes and stuff? So we’ve been doing a couple times a week with him, and I’ve got some of my best students working with him. He’s got some amazing innate ability that you just can’t teach somebody. The first time I remember he came in and I said ‘What do you know how to do?’ and he goes ‘Nothing.’ Have you taken a bump yet, and he said ‘I’ve never taken a bump.’ Do you know how to run the ropes? And he knew how to run the ropes kind of. And so I told him how to take his first bump.
“And normally I go through this whole progression where I have people hold on to the rope, and then they take a fall back and then push them over somebody’s back. And I just said like, tuck your chin, you know, drive your, drive your hips up to the ceiling, and you want to land in your, in your upper shoulder area. And he went boom, and did it almost perfectly. And then I told him, you know, to get up, there’s a certain way we get up to our right. And he got up the wrong way. I didn’t even have to say anything, he remembered halfway through and he like, reversed himself back down and then got up the right way. And I feel like that happens all the time. He’s already kind of having matches with a couple of our guys. He’s gonna be great. I think he just needs to tap into his verbal skills. And the thing is, he’s super charismatic, and he can talk, he really can. It’s just getting him to sort of take it to 10. He’s just a chill guy, he’s kind of relaxed, not stressed about anything.”
On being one of the first Paul Heyman guys: “I don’t say this with great glee. But I will say that the best thing that ever happened to me in my career was Jim Cornette slapping, paint brushing Santino Marella backstage at OVW. Because, he did that and he got fired, and they brought Paul Heyman in. And I had done some stuff with Paul, he would come down every couple of months and he would do a promo day. And we would have to come up with an opponent in a two minute promo, we would go in and sit in a room with Paul and a camera, cut the promo, then he would give you some feedback and a few notes, and then you go home and fine tune it and come back the next day and cut it again. And I remember, I would come back and I would sit down, and he was always kind of like, not standoffish, but just professional, you know. And then I would come back on the second day, I would cut the promo, he would go ‘I love it! Great!’ I would say ‘Any notes or anything?’ [Heyman responded] ‘Nope, I love it. Thank you.’ And I was like this guy hates me, okay, that’s the worst.
“Sometimes when you’re trying to learn and you’re trying to get to that next level, that’s the worst thing is not hearing anything at all, not hearing any feedback, there’s got to be something that I can do better. And then when that happened, and Paul Heyman came in the first day to do TV at OVW. He pulled me into the office, and he said, ‘You’re the next guy out of here.’ He literally said those words. He said, ‘You’re the next guy out of here.’ He said ‘I’ve been a fan of yours since I saw you when you were an extra.’ Because I had been an extra one time and all the extras were in the ring. Like there had to be 10 of us, and we were just kind of tagging in and tagging out and you get in there and wrestle. And guys were getting in there and they would just chain wrestling. I remember Daivari, he had been hired at that time already and he pulled me aside. He was like ‘That’s not what they’re looking for. They don’t care if you can wrestle. They don’t want to see moves. They want to see character.’
“And so when I got in there, I made sure to show some character and stuff. And Jim Ross and Paul Heyman were sitting ringside. They were the only two people there because like everybody else was in a staff meeting or something. And I tagged out and Paul said ‘Come to me for a second.’ And I walked over to him, he was like ‘Who trained you?’ And I was like ‘I got trained by two guys in Green Bay. And then I got polished up and fine-tuned by Brad Rheingans.’ And his eyes lit up because Brad Rheingans trained Brock Lesnar. And he was like, he asked me a couple of questions. And from that point on, it was like, I think at the end of the day, he gave me his number. And he told me like, ‘Call my number next week, let’s talk.’ I was like, here we go.”
On the origin of the Mr. Kennedy name: “Like, I feel like he [Vince] did [get the middle name connection connection]. Because it was Paul that suggested it in the first place. Because I called Paul and I said ‘Hey, they want me to change my name? What do you think?’ And he was like ‘You know, you have to pick something that is near and dear to his heart.’ And he was like ‘His dog’s name is Ruckus, or Rumpus.’ I think he had two dogs at a time. ‘But what about Kenny Rumpus? Kenny Ruckus?’ I’m like no. And then I had, I was Kamikaze Ken when I started in the indies, and I had these like backwards K’s. And I wanted to sort of like keep that as my logo. And I was like something with a K and he was like ‘Kennedy is his middle name.’ And then I remember when we were in that room, and I said that they just pause for a minute it was [Vince saying] ‘Oh, I don’t think there’s ever been a Kennedy. Do you like it?’ And I was like ‘I liked Ken Anderson to be honest with you, but you call me Mr. Dickhead if you want to. It’s your company.’ And he just kind of smirked and then he looked at Kevin Dunn, and he goes, ‘Make sure he’s got Kennedy on his Titan Tron tonight.’ That was, that was the second week. That was the week that I did do it on SmackDown. So the first two weeks that I was there on TV I was Anderson.”
On losing the Money in the Bank briefcase: “Yeah, the idea was that I would cash it in next year’s WrestleMania. That was the plan, I announced it right away I believe, and that was the plan. And then a few months later, I feel like I only had it a month and a half, two months maybe, and they came to me. I was riding with Matt Hardy. We left the building early, which was unlike us, we usually stayed until the very end, but for whatever reason that day, we left early. And I got a call from Michael Hayes and he said ‘Where are you guys? I need you to come back. Vince needs to talk to you in his office.’ So I like scurried back to the building and I was walking into his office. And by the time we got back there, everybody had pretty much filed out, so it was an empty building. And I remember Batista coming out of Vince’s office, and we passed each other in the hall. And he just came up to me and he gave me a big hug. And he was like ‘You deserve it bro.’ And I you know, I played stupid, I was like, ‘What do you mean? What do you mean?’ He was like just, you know ‘Go in there, I want them to tell you.’ So I went in, it was Vince and Stephanie.
“And they said ‘Look, we had planned on having Taker as the champion for like, a really long time. Unfortunately, he’s injured and tore his biceps, I believe, and he needs to have surgery. So we’re going to next week…’ and he laid out the scenario, and he’s like, you’re gonna cash in your briefcase, we’re gonna have a new champion. And I remember him telling me that they were high on Batista at the time, that was their guy. And that, if Batista [was champion] you know, sometimes guys are better when they’re chasing the title. When they have it, they kind of like their ratings kind of dip. And they felt like the Batista needed to chase for a while and they said, you know ‘When we feel the time is right, we’re going to put it on Batista. But we don’t know how long that could be. It could be like a month or five months or six months, whatever.’ And I remember I just said, like, ‘Look, I appreciate you guys saying that. But this is business and I’ll do what’s necessary.’ And then the very next time I wrestled, I got clotheslined, and I hit the mat, and I felt something popping in my triceps. I rolled out to the floor, and I remember Finlay came over, he looked at me, he goes, ‘It doesn’t look good. And by the time I got downstairs it was already, my arm was swollen up. I couldn’t bend it. It was starting to change colors already, which is really weird because bruising normally takes like a week, like those deep bruises.
“And then I went to [hospital] I remember Hornswoggle drove me to the emergency room in Erie, Pennsylvania. I got an MRI. And then the next day Stephanie called me in my hotel room and she’s like, ‘Ken you tore your triceps off the bone. We’re gonna have to, we still need to get that title off of Taker though. So we’re sending this jet to pick you up. We’re gonna take you to Penn State, Edge is going to challenge you for the briefcase, and then he’s gonna go on and do what you’re supposed to do tomorrow night. Okay, and I remember thinking at the time like I got a year to cash this thing in isn’t there some other way that you can get it off him? But I didn’t say it. I sort of regret not saying it now. But. And then I went in, Edge called me a chicken. I said, ‘Nobody calls me chicken.’ And gave up the briefcase. The next day, I flew to Birmingham, Alabama, I’m sitting on Doc Andrews table, and he’s feeling my triceps and he was like, ‘That’s not a tear.’ And I was like ‘Excuse me?’ And he goes, ‘I don’t I don’t feel a tear.’ And there’s not a tear there, I’m pretty sure. So we did another MRI and sure enough, it was just a bruise. It was like a large bunch of blood vessels burst inside my triceps and he said you’ll be out for four or five weeks. And that was kind of a crazy.”
On being Eddie Guerrero’s last ever opponent: “I remember him telling me to calm down in the beginning, there was some, we did some chain wrestling. I remember I was scrambling to get to the ropes quickly to break. And I remember him telling me like, just calm down, like, you don’t have to go so quickly there. And then I remember, we were talking through the match, I’m supposed to hit him with the chair at the end, and I remember he’s like ‘Bring it. Hit me with it.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna hit you with it.’ And then I hit him with it. And we got backstage and he was like ‘Maybe a little too much.’ But then we went out to dinner that night, I was riding, I was actually writing with him and Benoit at the time, and we went to a steakhouse. And I remember they were talking because the next week after, it was like a super show in Minneapolis. It was Raw and SmackDown, I’m not sure if ECW was around at the time yet. But it was going to be a Raw SmackDown Super Show and then we were heading to the airport, we were going to fly out and doing my first international tour. They were like, you know, you’re gonna get [pranked] they’re gonna mess with you. They’re gonna shave your eyebrows while you’re sleeping. You know, stuff like that, get me all riled up. And then I remember, I pulled into the arena. And the guy that parks the cars that helps park all the vehicles told me, he’s like Eddie died. And I walked into the building. And it was just like this crazy, sick feeling that everybody had all day. Everybody was super sombre and sad. It was, it was a crazy, crazy day.”
Wow, a lot of compliments about Stevenson. Almost seems like he may have had some experience in wrestling before….