Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Tenay redux

To celebrate the relaunch of - we'll be running several retro wrestling interviews that appeared on the site last year. First off, we give you the one... the only... Mike Tenay...

Tenay wants to reignite
the "Monday Night Wars"
By Jon Chattman, for 2006
TNA Impact! Wrestling Announcer Mike Tenay is called the "professor." Now, he may not be able to solve mathematical proofs, lead seminars on Archimedes, or lecture on the importance of fossil fuel, but when it comes to the world of pro-wrestling, he's an expert. The Las Vegas native has been in the biz for five decades - getting his start in the mid-to-late 1960s by starting his own wrestling newsletter and penning stories for various magazines. By 1991, he started up The Wrestling Insiders, a national wrestling radio show, and soon thereafter, became the voice of the World Championship Wrestling's (WCW) 900 hotline. A Lucha-Libre Pay-Per-View later, Tenay joined WCW television as a commentator, and by 1996, became a full-time wrestling personality.
When WCW went the way of the buffalo, Tenay found a new home with TNA Wrestling some three-and-a-half years ago. In recent months, TNA seems to be growing like a prepubescent boy, and in time, Tenay recently told thecheappop, he expects the company to compete against that other wrestling organization in Stamford.

JC. You've been with TNA since the beginning. You must be ecstatic on landing that Spike TV deal.

MT. It's a tremendous opportunity. There's that core group that have been with TNA from the start for the three-and-a-half years - when we were just on Pay-Per-View, and made the advancement to Fox Sports, and kind of had a rough time slot on Friday afternoons. Now, it's sort of the culmination of all that hard work that has really paid off.

JC: TNA's ratings have been doing very well thus far, but it seems people are still waiting for the company to land that one big star to give you guys a boost. Does that bother you?

MT: No, not in the least. I think what we have right now is a really good mix of recognizable talent along with the best group, without question, of young talented [wrestlers who] really have not been discovered by the mainstream media or the main stream wrestling fans at this point. The better that TNA gets recognized, the more established we get, the opportunities will be there for us to be in the running for negotiations with the top stars. Certainly, the recent negotiations that we had with Mick Foley - you know we actually had the agreement with Mick Foley before he resigned with WWE - is sort of an indicator that it's just a question of time. I think we've already done it. The signing of Team 3D was huge for us, and I just think many more windows are going to be open for us.

JC: Foley would've been huge...

MT: It would've been big without question, but if you got a chance to watch Taboo Tuesday, and saw Mick Foley, you might say, 'hmm, I wonder if Mick Foley made the right decision.' It was, to me, disappointing to see how Mick Foley was used in his first match in a year and a half at Taboo Tuesday. We found out probably two-plus months ago that he wasn't coming, and there was certainly one day in the office where everybody went 'damn, that would've been great to have Mick Foley on our first show.' After that one day, it's been full steam ahead. He isn't the be all, and he isn't the end all to any wrestling promotion. I don't think there's really that one quick fix where all of sudden your ratings are equivalent to WWE. I think the number of people that could have that kind of impact on ratings is very small. [There's] probably just a handful or less of people that are the household names.

JC: Like a Hulk Hogan, for example, landing in WCW...

MT: I don't think that really is going to be the scenario. What I see is acquisition of top levels names without question, and when people see the recognizable faces we have- the Jeff Jarretts, the Team 3Ds - the people they are familiar with through the years in watching, they then are exposed with the other younger talent we have like an AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels. That's when your overall product really becomes something that catches on with the public. I think back to those days in WCW, and to me, when WCW was really at its peak, and really going great guns, we had a lineup top to bottom that something for everybody. We had that dream match on top involving a Hulk Hogan and a Randy Savage. We had that next bubble match with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. We had a tag title match with the Steiner Brothers involved, and then underneath that, we had Chris Benoit fighting maybe for the US Title, and had a tremendous group fighting for the Cruiserweight Title with Eddie Guererro, and Juvetud Guerrera, and Rey Mysterio and that bunch. Then, we had people like the Luchadors, where you could start off the show with a six-man Lucha Libre tag. To me, overall, I think I'm more concerned with great depth on the roster to give people a great product. I think that one huge acquisition, it certainly can help, but you don't have to that.

JC: Still, there are a lot of free agents there...
MT: There are free agents, but are they free agents that you really want to commit to [that's] the question. Some yes. Some no. Some have contracts that are currently viable, [some] are just waiting for their contracts to expire and others whose contracts have expired and they're waiting for that 90-day non-compete window to expire. [There are] a lot options for TNA right now. The more established we are, the higher ratings that we get, the more viable of an alternative we become to the WWE for the talent that's out there.

JC: And, the more viable TNA becomes, the quality of wrestling gets better because of the competition...
MT: I think anyone who's followed wrestling for more than a couple years knows that when the Monday Night Wars were at their peak, you had not only the best possible wrestling on television because of the competitive spirit and competitive drive between the two companies to put on a better product, but also by far you had the largest viewing audience. It really is to the absolute betterment of the industry. I think the WWE product has become very stale. It's become very repetitive, and I've been a wrestling fan since 1962, so some of the time I was a kid watching wrestling, you always anticipated new faces coming into a territory. When wrestling went national, you were always looking for that guy to jump from the WWE to WCW or vice versa to freshen up the overall product to give people matches and rivalries that they hadn't up until that point been able to see.

JC: So, you watch the other product?
MT: Oh, are you kidding? Absolutely. Every minute that they put out, I watch. I watch every TV program... all Japan pro-wrestling... every WWE show ... in terms of Mexico, I watch two hours a week... every UFC program. If you're involved in the wrestling business, you have to watch the competition. If you're not, then you're not paying attention, and you're going to get passed by.

JC: When you're watching the other products, do you envision some of the talent in TNA?
MT: Absolutely. In addition to being a fan, that's the main reason that I'm watching all those other shows: to see the talent. Every time a TV wrestling show comes on it's, in essence, a scouting mission.

JC: WWE's Christian just quit... what's your feeling on TNA signing him or other available guys?

MT: I was at a Casino earlier today and immediately a person walked up to me and said 'have you signed Christian?' They didn't say 'hi, Mike.' They didn't say 'last night's two-hour special was great.' I kid you not. In terms of specific names, I can't talk about them, because legally, they still have that binding and have that contract with the WWE or other companies. But, I can tell you every time there's a free agent, we take a vote and decide.

JC: That sounds like a good process- something WCW didn't have. What in your mind was the downfall of WCW?

MT: It's difficult to say one thing led to the death of WCW. There were a number of negatives to the company. Poor management was definitely one of them but not the only one... Incredibly poor booking in the Vince Russo regime without question was another thing that drove people away by the millions. And, In certain instances, certain talent were given too much power and creative control...Without question, you'd have to be blind not to see the end of WCW was coming.

JC: Lastly, would you say the goal for TNA is to be on Monday nights where WCW once thrived?

MT: Wherever Spike TV decides to put us, I think we'll be thrilled to death. I think the ratings have already proven that we're an unqualified success on Saturday night at 11. I think you'll see many more specials coming. If we prove ourselves, if ratings are there, then I think they're going to move us into a position like that. In eventuality, I think Monday night head to head would be just great. Let's renew those Monday Night Wars. If you asked me even maybe a year and a half or two years ago, I probably would've said '[not] in my lifetime,' but you know what, I've changed my mind on that. I think we will see it. I don't know exactly when, but I think TNA's going to be up to the challenge and I think we'll provide real stiff competition for them.

Sudden death

Mike Tenay also took time out to answer some very silly questions.
JC: If youre the professor, who's Gilligan?
MT: Don West

JC: Does TNA really stand for Tenay Non-Stop Action?

MT: I have heard that a lot. I've seen that on signs. My favorite all-time wrestling sign was "La Parka is Mike Tenay."

JC: Have you ever stood at a urinal with La Parka?

MT: Boy, oh boy. Through the years - probably. I can't remember specifically but probably everybody else on the roster... if you knew how many times I was backstage in the dingiest arena or locker room...

JC: What'd you have for dinner last night?

MT: Not, very exciting. I was flying back from Nashville to Las Vegas, so I was forced to take a ham sandwich on the flight back, but I had a Fosters to go along with it...or two.

JC: What's the craziest thing to ever happen at a Nitro party?

MT: I was never at a Nitro party because I was always doing Nitro shows. Craziest? Probably something involving Bobby Heenan and it was probably something X-rated I cant get into.

JC: Did you cry when David Arquette was named WCW champ?

MT: I didn't care for it. I was definitely in the meeting when that was suggested by Tony Schiavone. So, you can blame Tony Schiavone to a certain extent for making the suggestion, but the person you have to blame for the decision is Vince Russo.

JC: Are you secretly a cruiserweight?
MT: I think I probably qualify.

JC: Did you ever frog splash Nicole Bass?
MT: I met her on several occasions. Frog splash her? [It's] never been on the top of my list?

JC: Did you ever stand next to her at urinal?
MT: I wouldn't want to be put in that situation.

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