By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Insight With Chris Van Vliet with guest Jonathan Coachman
Host: Chris Van Vliet
Podcast available via Podcasts.Apple.com
On never wanting to go back to WWE: “So I went back in 2017. And I kind of instantly knew. This is not really where I need to be where I want to be. But it was a nice bridge between ESPN and what the next full-time thing was going to be. So in my personal life, I was moving to California. So I didn’t really know what I was going to do next. And so I went back, and it was it was fun. But the people I worked with on the shows, I don’t know what it was, but didn’t really want me to be there. So when I got switched to the pre-show, that was fun, because that was just once a month, I had to show up. And that was cool. But then I missed and part of the reason this is so Vince, when they called me and they said, hey, we’d love for you to come back. I said, I’m already doing golf. So I had five events already booked. And I said I’m missing the shows that week. They went Oh, no problem, no problem until it was a problem.
“And so I missed one show in 10 years. In my first run. I missed five shows in the first seven months of my second run. But I think everybody would agree and the schedule has changed now they were running people into the ground. Nobody should be working 52 weeks a year, nobody. They shouldn’t be having new shows 52 weeks a year, let’s be honest. And everybody inside WWE says it. They just don’t want to admit it. But no company should work that way. But for me what it was, I’ll just be honest with you, Chris, is they came to me and they said XFL 2020. And Vince needs somebody there that he trusts that can do it the right way. So I was flying from California to New York every week to do the pre-show. And because they hired a lot of people who never worked for him before. So I trust Vince, implicitly, like I’ve done so much for him with him. Everybody knows that. And so you turn in invoices, right? Well, I didn’t turn mine in right away. Because I’d worked for him for 20 years. He had always paid me, right?
“So COVID happens. And I have a fairly large check. And I hold on to it for a couple of days. I go put in the bank. It bounces. And so I called or texted a high executive there. And I got a response. Oh, that’s a lot of money. I said, I agree. I agree. I said can you just call Vince let’s take care of this quietly, no big deal. Yeah. And ghosted me, absolutely ghosted me. And, you know, Vince has the amount of money in his back pocket. You know what I mean? And it really hit me hard. And it wasn’t the money. It was the process. You know what I mean? That and I sit there I’ll never forget, Chris. I sat there one day and I said man, they really bounced a check to me. Oh, I did get a second text. It was like, oh, that’s another company. I don’t think there’s anything we can do. So basically telling me, people I’ve worked with for 20 years, Oh, that’s the XFL. It’s not the WWE… But the same guy owns the two. Yeah, right. And he, I mean, everything was a crossover. So that to me was a complete slap in the face. And but some people there just don’t care. And I’m not gonna name names. It’s not my style. But even to this day, and anybody who watches this interview will agree with me because it’s true.
“There are certain people, and they’re usually the ones that get the biggest bonuses that do not care what happens below them. And I had literally done everything I had ever been asked to do. And this is how you’re going to treat me? And literally, they didn’t care. They did not care. And I even gave it months because they were going through remember there was no there were no shows. The company’s losing money, I felt for all of that. But then eight months later when you start advertising the biggest year we’ve ever had financially making all this money, and then you can’t make things right?
“So again, that’s why I’ve never really talked about it. I’ve mentioned it in a couple of interviews, but I can’t at this point in my life. I can’t work for people like that. I cannot work for people who do not care about human beings to the point that in a spot where you really need it. Because we all are lost our jobs during COVID. And that’s when you’re going to decide to now let’s just turn our back on a guy who’s been loyal for 20 years, like to a point, the things that I’ve done for that company really bad, you know, would blow your mind would blow your mind. I was 100 percent loyal, but they were not loyal to me. And that’s it.”
On never wanting to be a wrestler: “But it’s usually people that their lives are wrestling, you know what I mean? That’s what they aspire to be. That’s not who I aspired to be, I got lucky. And then there were things that happened in the last five years that make me not want to go back, you know, I was 100 percent loyal to that company and to Vince. So when things happen, sometimes you got to draw a line in the sand and say, I can’t be treated that way, and still go back and be loyal to that company. It’s not like they need me anyway, they’re not crying over spilt milk. But I like to think I treat people a certain way. And I want to be treated that way.
“So yeah, I would never go back. So I reflect now. And when I think about the cool things that people have done for me when I was in the WWE, whether it’s fans, wrestlers, whatever, that might still be the coolest thing. And it was my very first night on the air. I’d already been there for a few months, but the first time for him to do that was still such a cool thing. And I have people that will send it to me every now and then on Instagram or whatever but completely unselfish. Which a lot of people I hate when people say oh, The Rock was selfish back then. Everybody had to be selfish back then. People don’t understand they look at what it is now. You hear it all the time the best time of wrestling was the Attitude Era was 2000 to 2004. Because you had Imagine having 15 LeBron James, and then your NBA finals or your Super Bowl is only two guys. And you got 15 guys that can be in that spot. Well, that’s what you aspire to be.
“You’re talking about a million-dollar bonus to be in the main event at WrestleMania would you be unselfish or I mean would you be selfish? 100% You would be. So when I hear that narrative about The Rock was selfish back in the day, you had to be. Stone Cold was selfish. Triple H was selfish. Undertaker was selfish. Shawn Michaels was selfish. Mick Foley was selfish. They had to be because everybody fought to get in that spot. If more people in wrestlers thought today to get in that spot, I think we’d have better storylines, we’d have more competition, we’d have better promos we’d have quicker, whatever. I really believe that.”
What Vince McMahon was telling him over the headsets: “A lot, a lot. The more he trusts you, the more he’s going to lay out. But in the height of when I was doing it, because they moved me around, I did Sunday Night Heat then I did Monday Night Raw., and, you know, and obviously, JR [Jim Ross] is the greatest. And he would still scream at JR and I got it so good. Because Vince would say something. And if you didn’t say it, because he wanted you to say it, then not wait for JR to get done not wait for King to get done. I want you to say now. So after a while, I was like I don’t care if JR and King are mad at me, I don’t want to get screamed at by Vince anymore. So he’d be he’d say something and I was so good at regurgitating it that I would say it within a second.
“Probably I could talk as he was talking in my ear. That’s how good we got together. But there’d be sometimes if you said you didn’t tell the story the way he wanted you to tell the story. Because this business is all about stories as we’ve talked about and you just ruined his character. You just killed him. You just ruined it. Like that’s the kind of stuff you’d scream at you if you told a story the wrong way, which is why it was so paramount. The show’s going on. It’s at a big spot in the match and he’s screaming at you and you’re trying to get back on track. And it was paramount to meet with the agents and the superstars who are wrestling We had to, you’d go round during the day and meet with all of them, because you had to know the story they were telling. And the really great ones can have a match and tell a great story. And if you’re just watching it like, Man, this is amazing. But the commentary adds to it.”