Hack-Man Pro-Wrestling Interview Page

Last updated 16 February 2007

Terri Runnels

from The Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter #844

Terri Runnels has many stories to tell. She played two female roles which each were a break from the typical ditsy blond role most beautiful women played in wrestling. As Alexandra York, a laptop carrying genius who had no time for sexual inuendo, she was a stark contrast to Missy Hyatt, Sunshine, and Precious who preceeded her in ringside roles. Then, as the mysterious Marlena, the partner of Goldust, she smoked cigars and played word games and mind games with opponents and fans. The third stage of her on-camera career was as Terri, a more typical sex-symbol female character. In this three-hour "Torch Talk" interview, she discusses all three roles, what each meant to her, and how each evolved. She also talks about her marriage to Dustin Runnels, how she handled being a woman in a male-dominated industry, her thoughts on the evolution of wrestling over the past 15 years, and provides insight into a lot of the major names she has gotten to know over the years. This interview was conducted on October 14, 2004.

Wade Keller:How did you originally get started in pro wrestling?

Terri Runnels: I got started back in I think '85 which is scary in itself. I was a make-up artist for Ted Turner's network and on the weekends - that was back when (Jim) Crockett (Jr.) owned the promotion - and every Saturday and Sunday they came to TechWood Studios there in Atlanta to tape wrestling. It was kind of my duty to do make-up for wrestling. It totally, accidentally happened where after I was doing the make-up with them - it was actually Ole Anderson who was in charge at the time - he said, "Hey, you think you might want to be a character?" So he kind of gave me the idea of what he had in mind. I came up with the name Alexandra York. It went from there. That started my career.

Wade Keller:In the '80s when you were doing the make-up on weekends, what were you doing otherwise full-time?

Terri Runnels: I was doing make-up full-time, but that fell under my umbrella as far as the people I had to take care of because not only was it anchors and celebrities going on CNN, but they also came in with this massive influx of big, burly men and all these crazy fans. It was amazing to me, especially on Sunday mornings, because here I am, a Christian woman, and I guess I knew how we dressed and how we behaved on Sundays. I guess I looked to Sunday as a sabbath day and so I would see these chicks come in sequins and boobs hanging out and I was thinking, "Whoa, this ain't right on a Sunday." It was pretty funny.

Wade Keller:Had you watched much wrestling or been a fan before you experienced this first-hand?

Terri Runnels: No. I can remember seeing it once or twice with my father. I would do anything I could to be near my father. He was the kind of man who didn't have time for his kids, so if it meant me sitting there watching something that I really didn't want to watch just to be able to be near him, I would do that. As sad as that sounds. So I can remember seeing it once or twice as he would go through the channels. The people I remember seeing - there were four people I remember as a young girl watching with my father just two or three times. I remember Dusty Rhodes, I remember Wahoo McDaniel, and I remember Gerry and Jack Brisco. Those are the faces and names that I remember. I wasn't a fan.

Wade Keller:From having seen glimpses here and there, was it just like the last world you ever thought you'd be involved in?

Terri Runnels: Yeah. (laughs). Yeah.

Wade Keller:Who did you apply make-up to specifically?

Terri Runnels: Back in the beginning it was Patrick Greenlaw. He was the first anchor I ever put make-up on. Molly McCoy, Bobbi Batista, and a husband and wife duo. I liked them, but I can't think of their names. Then I went to Larry King and did every celebrity under the sun, politicians, presidents, princes, porn stars, I did everyone.

Wade Keller:Who was the biggest jerk you dealt with in terms of celebrities?

Terri Runnels: Ralph Nader was one. He is pro-environment and fought so many battles on that front, and in business and everything else, so imagine him coming in for make-up. Make-up was evil. It was killing animals. There was animal testing. He didn't want make-up. "Why do I need make-up? I don't want that on me. Don't put that on me." So he just kind of had that way about him. He's not a warm and fuzzy kind of guy. It wasn't directed at me. Shirley MacLaine was kind of off-putting in her personality. I was never, ever, ever intimidated. I made it a rule in my make-up room that no one would come in to get autographs, no one in the building was allowed to come into my make-up room to get autographs. My make-up room was inside of the green room, where you would go to wait before you went on the show. That was another room. I wanted it to be a sanctuary away from the chaos, so I never took a picture with anyone, I never got one autograph, I never did any of that. The only person - and I still don't know to this day why it affected me like this - but the only person that I got completely nervous and completely swooning over this man was Tom Sellick. His presence was something. He was really tall and he was just sexy as hell. He got me. And he was absolutely wonderful.

Wade Keller:Were any celebrities disrespectful toward you?

Terri Runnels: I think they appreciated that they felt they were in a place that was a sanctuary. I tried to make it as comfortable and nice so they were away from everything.

Wade Keller:Which wrestling personalities did you apply make-up to?

Terri Runnels: Occasionally some of the boys who painted their faces, or it'd be Tony Schiavone or Jim Ross or whoever needed it.

Wade Keller:The male wrestlers didn't wear make-up, though?

Terri Runnels: No, no, no.

Wade Keller:Of the wrestlers who wore facepaint, did some apply it themselves and at other times yoy would? Did you do a better job?

Terri Runnels: Some of them had to do it themselves a whole lot on the road, so they got used to it. I'm trying to remember if I did Sting's face? I'm not sure. He was constantly painting. One Man Gang, I did make-up for him.

Wade Keller:What was your initial reaction to Ole Anderson inviting you to be on the wrestling show? Did you think you didn't want to be on TV or did you think it might be fun?

Terri Runnels: My initial reaction was, what are you talking about when it comes to money? Let's talk money. That was what I said. (laughs)

Wade Keller:Did you have to negotiate to get what you wanted?

Terri Runnels: No, the offer was good.

Wade Keller:How did you come up with the name Alexandra York and the whole gimmick?

Terri Runnels: They came up with the concept of what she would be - the whole computerized woman. I came up with the name because it sounded snooty to me. She was supposed to be this untouchable, holier than thou wench.

Wade Keller:Was it hard to portray that?

Terri Runnels: No.

Wade Keller:Was it an aspiration of yours to some day be on TV in some form or fashion, or was your career make-up with no desire to get fame?

Terri Runnels: Yeah, but never in wrestling. That had never been my idea of what I wanted to do.

Wade Keller:When you first got on the air, did you love the rush of being in front of the crowd and being on television? Did you think it might be a path out of wrestling and into something else?

Terri Runnels: I'm like a lot of other people who go on and they eventually want to act and do something grand and get out of wrestling. I never really wanted to do that. A lot of it was I knew if something like that happened, then I'm away from my child a whole heck of a lot. I could have been so much further along in my career as I sit there talking to you today had I compromised her like others have compromised their kids. I did it enough to get by. I only would do TVs and PPVs. I would not do house shows. It was simply because of her. I wanted to protect that quality time that we had together. I've spoken to others privately. There was another one who would leave her kid 17, 18 days at a time and no big deal for her, but I can't respect that.

Wade Keller:How did the fans react to your role?

Terri Runnels: I just remember thinking, wow, there's some really nasty people out there. This was like the beginnings of laptops. It was huge and clunky and bulky. You can imagine. You remember back in the day. Well, I would sit there and the funny thing was, I would get back from being in the ring and we would die laughing over everything I would type because I would type things on the computer to respond to whatever people were yelling out at me. So, instead of turning around and cursing back at them, I would type all this fun stuff. It was my retort via the computer.

Wade Keller:Did you work closely with the wrestlers you managed and represented or did you have your thing and they did their thing?

Terri Runnels: There were people where we did our own thing and there were some where it was definitely a group effort. We got together and discussed ideas. It was different for each person I managed.

Wade Keller:Who were all of the wrestlers you managed as Alexandra York?

Terri Runnels: The fans remember so much more than I remember. In fact, people will ask me different questions and I'll go, "Oh my gosh, I had totally forgotten that. I didn't remember that." So I will probably leave someone out. One of my favorite was Perry Saturn. He was awesome to work with.

Wade Keller:Looking back at the character, it was pretty unique to have a strong woman character in that type of role who was sexy but not uninhibited. Were you happy with the potential it reached in WCW or do you think some other things could have been done to really enhance it?

Terri Runnels: It should have gone really far. What happened was, there was some backstage stuff where I decided, I'm out of here. I'm not doing this. So I just kind of one night looked at Dusty and said, "Tonight will be my last night." And that was it.

Wade Keller:In general, even before the other issues came about, what could have been different with the character?

Terri Runnels: I think the evolution of her is what would have been interesting. We never got to see her evolve and come out of the stuffy persona. She didn't evolve. Part of that is my fault because I said, "I'm done." Another part of it was just it was what I was dealing with and I didn't want to go through that. I bowed my head and exited gracefully and that was that.

Wade Keller:How were you treated by this male-dominated locker room in this male-dominated industry?

Terri Runnels: In the beginning I learned a whole lot of lessons. I went in as this little small town - I thought if I was honest, everyone's honest. Well, not! It was a great lesson for me. I learned a whole heck of a lot. I learned that you can't just prance around and be cutesy tootsy and the whole world stops and pays attention. I made some really bad mistakes as far as men. It's really hard because when you're around those guys all the time and that's your world, you end up dating them. That was some stuff that I'd love to say didn't happen, but did. But I will say this. I never dated anyone I didn't truly care about, so it wasn't like - I didn't do the one-night stand gimmick, let's put it that way. I really cared about the people that I dated.

Wade Keller:You ended up dating and marrying Dustin Rhodes.

Terri Runnels: That I did.

Wade Keller:How did that start?

Terri Runnels: I honestly don't know how. Literally we were in Phoenix, Arizona, I was sitting out on the patio of the Hilton, it was at dusk, the sunset was behind the mountains, it was a glorious sunset, we were having some drinks, and all of a sudden Dustin pulls up in a cab. He had been playing golf. It was like little birds sang and fireworks went off. It was a weird thing. He is a very charming man. He continues to be. Dustin is fun to be around. He just kind of snookered me. What can I say! (pause) It was one of those things where you can't say he did this and he did that, and when he did that, I fell in love with him. It was like kind of out of a weird movie. How did I all of a sudden start caring for him? I don't know.

Wade Keller:How long were you guys married?

Terri Runnels: We dated for two years, then married, and then we were together for another six. So eight years all together.

Wade Keller:Were there people in wrestling, when it was clear you two were serious, saying the wrestling business would ruin it and you shouldn't marry inside the industry? Is that an attitude within wrestling?

Terri Runnels: No, I think this is a guy thing. I think a lot of guys that I had not necessarily - I'm not saying I'm some incredibly desired female, but I am saying there were some guys who wanted to go out with me. I didn't or wouldn't, and therefore it pissed them off when I started dating Dustin. I think they gave him a really hard time. I didn't dis someone. I would like to think I handled things diplomatically and like a lady in saying "no." But then for someone else, and he's young and new in the business, it might have messed with some egos. Not a big deal.

Wade Keller:Were you fearful, as much as you loved Dustin, about being in a relationship with a wrestler given what you had learned about the lifestyle?

Terri Runnels: (laughs) I should have been, but I wasn't. You know, I was in love and very trusting and that was that.

Wade Keller:After you had said to Dusty that you were done and out of WCW, did you think there was a chance you'd end up back on TV in wrestling some day?

Terri Runnels: I didn't really think about it. It was not like it was a major issue to me. Then I found myself missing so much. Once it's in your blood, it's there. It's in your brains. It's coursing through your blood and you can't get it out.

Wade Keller:Then, what did you do after leaving wrestling? Were you still doing make-up?

Terri Runnels: Yes, I was still at CNN doing make-up.

Wade Keller:How did the Marlena/Goldust idea come about that brought you back onto TV?

Terri Runnels: I was lying in a tanning bed and Dustin was on the road somewhere. Dakota is like a year-and-a-half old. I was just lying there and I realized I had seen this new Barbie. I think it was called Sun Goddess or something like that. Everything in the costume was gold on this Barbie. It reminded me of Dustin's character. I was lying there thinking, "God, the one thing that Vince doesn't have right now is this glamour." He had Scary Sherri, which was scary. He had Sunny, which was a cheerleader gimmick. But there hadn't been any elegant, sexual character. I thought it'd be cool since Dustin was, like, this supposed Hollywood character, so wouldn't it be great to have this old Hollywood glamour. Dustin was supposed to be androgenous. I was thinking of a female version of Dustin and being this androgenous female. It reminded me of - remember Marlena Deitrich. She was one of the first women in Hollywood to wear pants. There was talk and whispers of her being a lesbian and all that kind of stuff. I thought it would be cool to have that kind of thing. Then I came up with the idea of smoking cigars. That whole name and concept and everything was mine. I called Dustin from the tanning bed and told him. He said it sounded great. I asked him to call Vince. He told me to call Vince. I was like, "Oh, crud." So I called Vince and left a message. Pat Patterson called me back. He was gracious, but kind of gave me the polite blow-off.?"Well, thank you for that idea, but we're not interested right now, but as soon as we are, we'll let you know. Have a nice day." So I kind of chalked it off to, "Oh well, no big deal." Then a month or two later, Dustin called me. I was at my grandparents. It was near Christmas. He told me to pack my bags because they wanted to fly me up and do my idea. Then it was a fun time.

Wade Keller:How long was Goldust on the air before Marlena joined him?

Terri Runnels: My debut was at the Royal Rumble in '96. His debut was about a year earlier, give or take. Dustin has the greatest memory. He's so wonderful in that way. You can ask him, Where were you when you wrestled so-and-so. He could tell you the date and what he wore. I couldn't tell you - I've never had a great memory. Every building we would go to, I could not picture it except for Madison Square Garden and maybe a couple others that stood out in my mind. Otherwise, every building we'd drive up to, I'd go, "Oh, yeah, I remember this building." But I'd never remember how to get there or what it looked like before I got there, yet I had been there tons of times. Ray Traylor - Big Bosssman - we'd travel together. This was when Dustin was not working for WWF at the time. We were horrible at getting lost. We'd call Dustin and tell him we were lost on such-and-such a highway and we're trying to get to this arena. What do we do? And he would literally from his house say, "You need to get on this highway, then take this exit." He has an amazing mind and memory for locations and navigating.

Wade Keller:How into the creation of the original Goldust character were you and Dustin? Was this purely a Vince McMahon idea?

Terri Runnels: It was purely Vince and Dustin. He would run stuff past me, but it was to his credit and Vince's.

Wade Keller:Were you aware of the evolution of it? Did it change between conception and making it onto TV?

Terri Runnels: Vince had it in his mind that he wanted it to be this off-the-wall, androgenous being.

Wade Keller:How do you feel looking back at the potential of the Goldust and Marlena characters compared to how it was utilized on TV?

Terri Runnels: Probably everyone could say this with the exception of Duane Johnson and a couple of others. Everyone could say it would have been bigger had they done this or had they done that. I think there was so much stuff they could have done that we didn't. Even in the end after Dustin and I were divorced. I think there is always intrigue when you know two characters are really involved in real life. Of course, we remained involved because of our daughter. So I think that always bared underlying intrigue and layers of intrigue that you don't have with other people, so I kind of thought they could have played with that more. Vince thought the Goldust character had been exploited as much as he could and that was that. I think there was tons of stuff that could have been done.

Wade Keller:Were there any specific variations of it that were planned that ended up getting nixed?

Terri Runnels: That one major one with Brian Pillman. Here again, I'm sure fans probably remember what show and the details of the dates and everything. I couldn't tell you. We had the match where Pillman challenged him where if he won, he won he for 30 days. If Dustin won, he would leave wrestling forever and ever. So Pillman won me for 30 days. He would take me to the ring and Dustin would try to steal me back. It was a cool little story. At the end of the 30 days, what was supposed to happen, and I even had this dress made for this pay-per-view for part of the angle. We were supposed to renew our wedding vows and kind of have another wedding ceremony in the ring. When it comes to the point when the minister says, "Is there anyone who says no to this marriage," Pillman was going to come down and say he opposed it. At that point, he and Dustin would have become very physical and we'd have a little color (blood) flying around. The image of how it would end up on the pay-per-view would have been so powerful because Pillman and Dustin are brawling. There's blood everywhere. I'm in a wedding dress. This gold wedding dress that I had done. I would have ended up jumping in between the two and basically cuddling Pillman to my breasts and holding him with blood all over me from him saying, "Don't hurt him, I'm in love with him." So, in other words, after the 30 days with him, something had happened and I had fallen in love with him as opposed to Dustin. I couldn't go through with whatever with Dustin. That was going to cause me to go with Pillman and that would have been a cool little angle to run for a while. But of course we know the tragic end and the way it turned out. We ended up doing the Luna thing. That was my idea to bring Luna in. I had met her at some indy show for, I think, Afa. I just through she was kind of off the wall and wild. I thought it would be so cool to have Dustin go with this character that's like totally unlike him. That's how that happened.

Wade Keller:When the whole Goldust character first started, was there concern about how controversial it was and whether there would be heat that was too intense?

Terri Runnels: Yes, there was some concern. But I think it's not the first time Vince has done stuff that was controversial. I think initially they thought we could handle it. Then it got a little overwhelming and they got scared and they pulled back. When they pulled back, it was like even though this sounds like a joke, it was castrating the character. Not that the character ever had a whole lot of testicles, but basically if you have a guy who painted like that and it's over the wall, but you make him non- androgenous and make him masculine, that just doesn't fly. So to me that ruined the character. I think Dustin would agree with you. He really hated that since he wanted to do an "all or nothing" kind of thing.

Wade Keller:What was the concern in terms of the reaction?

Terri Runnels: I'm not absolutely sure, but I think it was with some religious groups. I think it was with our commercial accounts that said something. Imagine Coca-Cola or someone who spends bazillions of dollars advertising with us and then they said, "You know what, if you have this Goldust character on the air, we're not going to advertise with you anymore." Then you start thinking dollars and that gets your attention. It came down to money. But again, that's me saying I think.

Wade Keller:What did you think of dealing with Vince McMahon himself. This was a larger-than-life icon in the industry. You had been around WCW and others in power. When you finally had a chance to be around him and see his creative process and the way he operated, were you impressed? Was it a level different than anything you had experienced?

Terri Runnels: No, because you have to understand, I'm used to being around incredibly even more mainstream celebrities and icons in the world, not just in the wrestling world. So it's not like I was blow away by that. What blew me away about Vince is just his genius. He's just an absolute genius. He is so smart in the way he operates. He has an incredible ability to separate personal emotions from business decisions which, golly, I would find so hard. I have a soft heart, and it would break my heart to have to fire someone because the money wasn't coming in if I truly liked that person. At the same time, it would be very hard for me if someone had done something dastardly to me or that was not cool to me personally, to then give them a job. He was so able to separate himself from "I hate this person" or "I'm pissed at this person" or whatever, and then to realize they could make him money. And he could put his personal feelings aside and do that also. That takes an incredible person to be able to do both of those things and maybe somewhat of a hard person. But at the same time, he has given so much to so many people who wouldn't have had diddly if he did not give them the opportunity. The way it used to be back in the day, you sign a contract with him for this much money - and this was when WCW was paying out the wazoo for contracts - Vince says, "You come on board with me, I don't guarantee you anything. You get what you earn." I like that philosophy. Because then everyone wants to work hard. They don't sit back and say, "I'm gonna make this anyway, so screw it." Everyone works hard for the product, so that was a great idea that he used to implement. I always enjoyed conversations with him, being around him. I respect him like crazy. He's an awesome person.

Wade Keller:How did the Marlena character come to an end?

Terri Runnels: It was after Dustin left me. Dustin left me for Luna. I was on air saying how happy I was to be back with my family. I said we had grown so much together and it was tough to be away. Then in the middle of the interview, Dustin said, "I can't do this!" He throws our wedding ring on the floor. He says, "I've found someone else. While you were being intimate with Brian Pillman, I fell in love, too." So then I went away for seven or eight months, then came back under the covers with Val Venis as Terri Runnels to get back at Dustin.

Wade Keller:When you were gone for that period off several months, did you expect you'd be back?

Terri Runnels: Oh yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

Wade Keller:When you came back under your name with a new persona, did that open the creative floodgates for you? Was this an opportunity to do something completely different for the third time?

Terri Runnels: Yes. It was fun. It was great. The only adjustment I had to make was I was so used to in public if people ever said my name - if I was at an airport and I heard "Terri," I turned around and knew that person knew me as opposed to Alexandra or Marlena. I knew if I heard, "Hey, Marlena, it was a fan that I was turning around to see." But in the initial phrase of me changing from Marlena to the supposed real Terri Runnels, which of course it still a character, because that Terri Runnels was not me, I would turn around thinking it was someone I knew and it would be a fan. That took me a while to realize that. I was out in the open and I didn't have a barrier anymore or protective sheet around me.

Wade Keller:Do you have a most memorable angle, moment, or match as Marlena with the Goldust character?

Terri Runnels: I loved the stuff that I did with Joanie, Chyna, when she first came in. That was one of those times when such a simple thing of her shaking me around like a ragdoll and the next day I couldn't move. That was fun. I think the WrestleMania in Chicago was a blast. It was so cute because Dakota would call Joanie "Mystic Joanie." That came from her own little mind. And she loved Joanie so much. I remember that night after the pay-per-view, she was all showered and her little hair was wet and she had on her heart PJs and she wanted so badly to go see Mystic Joanie. So I called Joanie and Paul (Levesque, a/k/a Triple H) - that was when of course they were together - and I said, "Are you guys really, really busy?" They said no. I said someone wanted to tell them good night. We ran up to their room with wet hair and PJs on and got big hugs. Just stuff like that was when it was so much fun. My family was together. The characters - Marlena and Goldust - were as they should be. That was one of the most fun times ever, was when we were on top and really hated and the gimmick was getting over.

Wade Keller:Did being married in the business take a toll on the marriage in a way?

Terri Runnels: No, I think it helped. Honestly, to do what we do, it's so hard. Unless you've done it, you don't know. You really do not know the stresses, the pressures, the hardships of the business and of the road. To have someone who is your partner who knows exactly what you're going through because they're going through it also is only a help. I don't agree with people who say it hinders. A lot of the guys keep their wives out of it and away from it and to each his own. It's everyone's own business. But I think if you know what your partner is going through, you can only be there for them and help them and support them that much more. So I think that was a good thing.

Wade Keller:It probably depends on the relationship whether the time away from one another would be healthy.

Terri Runnels: Even so, Dustin and I had time apart because I didn't do house shows. So he was on the road without me for part of the week. I'm just saying to you that me being in the business and there for part of the week with him was only a help, not a hindrance, as far as our marriage went.

Wade Keller:When you were in WWE as an on-air character and on the road enough to be considered part of the gang, so to speak, were you treated differently as a woman in WWE than you were in WCW?

Terri Runnels: Oh Lord yes. First of all, you have to remember at that point in time in WWE I'm now an old fart on the road. I'm not some young tart that's bouncing in with no knowledge, no respect. Not to say that I didn't come into wrestling as Alexandra York with respect, but I think I came in with a major amount of ignorance to the business. And so fast-forward and now I'm in WWE and people know my history and they know what I've done. I think I was looked at as the mommy diva, kind of like? not that I was mommy to everyone, but so many people came to me with their problems and what should I do about this and how can I resolve that and my girlfriend is saying this so what should I do about that. I mean, I heard a whole lot of problems. It made me feel good if I could help someone. I think a lot of that is what spawned the column in Raw magazine.

Wade Keller:How did you end up becoming the advice columnist in Raw Magazine? Was that your idea?

Terri Runnels: They came to me from the magazine and asked if I would do a column. I've wanted to do an advice column, and it was kind of a mutual thing.

Wade Keller:Was that something you really enjoyed?

Terri Runnels: That's why I've incorporated that into my new website (www.therealterrirunnels.com). It took me a lot of time because I really took the time to read the person's problem and think it through, think of all the different possibilities, think of all the implications of what my advice would be, and while I added some humor and a little bit of smarty pants here and there, my advice was very sincere. So I didn't pass it off like it was just all fun and games. Even though the columns would have some sense of sexiness and sauciness and humor, there was also information. I didn't want the humor to be misread as me not caring. I really did care about what the problems were. It was so many people, I could only fit three or four answers per month in the magazine. There were so many hundreds of people who would write in, but never got their questions answered. The company would take narrow it down from the hundreds of questions that came in and narrow it down to their favorites, then send me about 20 questions and let me choose from those. Then I chose those I wanted to answer. If someone's question was redundant, it got tossed. The sad thing is, if that person took the time to ask the question wanted an answer. So the cool thing is now, if you want an answer, you get one. You don't have to wonder if you're going to make it in. Also, the answers are confidential. It's not published, so if you have some Jerry Springer situation where you're in love with your cousin, then it will be private.

Wade Keller:How did your Terri Runnels evolve into the diva concept where women were featured differently than in the past?

Terri Runnels: I have always been a big supporter of women in our business. I won't say who this person was, but a while back when Dustin and I were together, I was lobbying for a more intricate and interesting and intriguing role with Dustin. I was told I was there just as a sideline cute little thing to look at, not there to be a story. That wasn't super-high management, but high enough. And I went, "Okay then." Interestingly enough, now Vince knows what women do for his ratings. As I've said before, I think the women in wrestling, it's like cake with icing. If you have cake with no icing, and the women are the icing, it's a pretty boring cake. If you have a cake with too much icing, too thick of a layer, it's not real good, either. But if you have a really nice cake and this nice thin layer of icing, it's just phenomenal. I don't think women should take a major role in wrestling. I am very much for men being men and I think wrestling is a men's sport. I don't like to see women wrestle that much. But I do love the stories. When you think about it, every human being in life has had probably the most meaningful or traumatic or just amazing emotions come from the opposite sex or someone you're attracted to. If you're homosexual, it's whomever you're attracted to. That's where you either want to cry, you want to scream. That's where you become the most emotional. So when you're talking about that, it's stories like that that can really grip you and make you go, "God, I remember when Suzy did that to me." You relate to that in your own life. So when you can take the women in wrestling, yeah, you need to have something to look good. So when we look incredible and on top of that you can weave this cool story in there that's a real life story, that makes it real viable.

Wade Keller:Talk about the transition from a manager character into other areas.

Terri Runnels: What was really interesting to me was - all of the other shoots they did of the divas way back when it was only three or four of us, they did it in the studio or backstage with some gray backdrop. It was just boring stuff. So it was my idea to do this shoot in Santa Fe. I lobbied really, really hard for them to come to Santa Fe and shoot me. So we did this photo shoot in Santa Fe. It came out incredible. So after that, guess what happened? They started doing on location photo shoots. That is where - and I'm not saying I am solely responsible for every year the annual diva photo shoots - but that is the beginning. From then on they were on location. I think it's vital, it's important, I think you have to remember that everyone can appreciate aesthetics. You and I and the world would be pretty miserable if we didn't see anything that was appealing visually. It's fun to be able to look at pretty people. I think that again with the women being added and my character, I think I was one of those characters where there was some intellect with my characters always. I never came out completely ditzy blonde, which I liked. But at the same time, I always understood and knew I'm here because of the visual effect.

Wade Keller:Were there women in WWE who didn't want to admit that?

Terri Runnels: Oh sure, there still are. I remember having very heated conversations with them, saying, "Sweetheart, this is not you. You are getting as confused as the fans are in thinking that this character is you. When people say, "How could you do this on air if you say this is who you are in real life?" Well, how can Tom Cruise play a murderer in the movies? He's not. Yes, that's his face and his body that's pretending to carry out this act of murdering someone, but guess what? It's all an act. I would try to say this to them. "You have to understand that what you're doing is not a reflection on who you are as a human being. You are playing this character." So I think that was kind of hard. I remember girls saying, "My character wouldn't do this." I'd say, "Shut up, yeah it would." (laughs)

Wade Keller:At some point you moved into working actual matches. How did that evolve?

Terri Runnels: (laughs) Begrudgingly so. I remember coming to work and Vince (McMahon) saying, "Tonight I've got you in a paddle on a pole bikini match." What?! For the rest of the day I would be sick to my stomach and be nauseated and saying, "No! Find a happy place." But, I had people who were gracious enough to get out there. With each match I did, I would learn another couple of moves. My whole goal, and I told Vince this so many times, "I'm not a wrestler, I don't want to be a wrestler, but if you're making me do this tonight, I don't want to embarrass you and I don't want to embarrass me and I don't want to make it look bad on anyone." So I wanted to do the best I could. But I always begged him. He was so encouraging. He'd say, "People know you're not a wrestler. You did great. You pulled it off. Somehow you pull it off." He kept sending me out there. While I hated having a match and actual wrestling, nothing made me happier than when I got to the building and learned I was taking a big-ass bump. If they told me, "Okay, so-and-so is going to pick you up and throw you from the ring into row number three and the fans are going to catch you," I loved hearing that. I loved taking big bumps. The bigger the better. I was never scared of that kind of thing.

Wade Keller:Did you ever get hurt?

Terri Runnels: Yes, but that to me was fun. While I respected the female wrestlers and the whole wrestling process and was in awe of that, I never wanted to be it. When I was thrown into that position of working matches I hated it. It wasn't that I hated the physicality or the fear that I was going to get hurt. Because, like I said, if they asked me if I was okay taking a bump, I'd say bring it on. I loved that part of it.

Wade Keller:You ended up shifting into being an interviewer. How did that transition take place?

Terri Runnels: Well, I went from that to - remember I hosted Excess with Coach. That was a show where you asked, "Who is home on Saturday night?" If you're anybody, you're out having fun. So I don't think any show like that is going to do well on Saturday night. But, it was like, that was one of the most fun things I did. A lot of it was ad-libbed and spontaneous and we flew by the seat of our pants. That was the most fun as far as being any kind of host you could have. We kind of had the bullet points for what we were saying, but there was no anal retentive soul saying, "You must say these words." So it allowed my personality to come out. That was a blast. I loved working with Coach. Then when the whole Raw and Smackdown separation thing happened, then I went to Raw and that's where I started doing the interviewing. That was less fun than hosting. While I was seen by more people, it was less fun because we had a set of writers who, if you added any of your personality, they freaked out. The line was this, and you said that! Lighten up, dude! That was a bum gig. I really started feeling stagnant. I'm not being myself. I can't interject my personality. I must read these words they are telling me and it wasn't as much fun.

Wade Keller:You ended up involved in some angles, even after becoming an interviewer.

Terri Runnels: Yes, I won the Hardcore Title while I was interviewing. Molly Holly beat the hell out of me. This is another classic example of me loving the big bumps. It was my idea for her to bodyslam me onto the metal grates up at the top of the ramp. Mid-way through the interview she doesn't like what I say, and of course she decks me, and we go from there. It ends up where she pulls me out onto the stage at the top of the ramp on Raw. It was my idea - and I didn't necessarily tell a whole lot of people because I didn't want them to tell me I couldn't do that, but that killed me for a while. My lower back hurt. I thought immediately that was a bad move. But I loved doing that kind of stuff.

Wade Keller:Did who you hang out with change based on what you were doing on TV? For instance, when you were more of an announcer than a diva, so-to-speak, did you end up hanging out with production people instead of on-air talent?

Terri Runnels: No. I hung out with the people I hung out with. That was it. The only thing that changed in terms of the people I hung out with was when Ray (Traylor, a/k/a Big Bossman) left the road. That was traumatic for me because he was just - it's like having your best buddy on the road day in and day out and suddenly they?re not there. That was hard.

Wade Keller:It wasn't long ago that we all heard the sad news that he died. How did you find out and what were your thoughts?

Terri Runnels: I had gotten back from taking Dakota to school and of course I was just getting ready to launch my new website, so I was doing a lot of stuff online and working with my developers as far as my website went. I came home and had my laptop on my bed and plopped down to log in and see what point they were at in the process. There was a fan who I've known for years. I remember he and his mom way back. His name is Richie. There are very few people who have my private numbers and my private emails and whatever, but he is one of those people who over the years hasn't been well and I gave them my private number and email and said if he ever needed me, please call me. I've done that with several kids. Some are still here today and some aren't, sad to say, but he is one of those just awesome people who I love and I love his family. To their credit they've never abused having my phone number or email. I had just received an email from them two or three days prior that I had not responded to, but they don't email me that often, so I thought it was really odd that I saw their email address. To the right of it for the subject matter it said, "So very sorry." The first thing I thought of was something had happened to Richie. So I panicked and clicked on it and feared the worst about him. The first line was, "We're so sorry to hear about Ray. We know how close you were." I'm reading wondering what's going on. I kept reading and then I read the words, "He passed away." I just screamed. I clicked out of that email and clicked back onto the whole list of people and the very last email I had - the most recent - was from Ray. His email address. I thought it was a mistake because Ray just sent me an email. So I clicked on that and it said, "This is so-and-so and Angie wanted me to email you and let you know that Ray passed away." I clicked out of it and just started screaming. I became a zombie and screamed, "No! No! No!" Ray was such - even if you were just an acquaintance, he was so dynamic, much less being my best friend, my big brother, he was everything. At his funeral I spoke and said, "Ray would probably kill me right now, but I'm going to say it anyway, Ray was my best girlfriend." I could tell him anything and he heard everything. It was so hard.

Wade Keller:There are so many people of his generation who have died in recent years.

Terri Runnels: Ray's wife Angie and I just spoke probably an hour before you and I spoke. We were just kind of again going over everything, laughing about some stuff. She was just saying how protective he was of me. I always felt, whether I was with him or away from him, I felt these really super-protective arms around me. It was priceless.

Wade Keller:Were there any warning signs with him that indicated he might be at risk?

Terri Runnels: Angie said he had had such a good day that day. They were moving back to the lake house. He had moved furniture and they were on the deck laughing and having a great time. Either his sister or his sister-in-law was there for a while. She went to put the girls to bed and came back downstairs. He was slumped down in the chair.

Wade Keller:How did you're WWE stint come to an official end? All that came out was what WWE.com put out, which is a mutual parting of the ways.

Terri Runnels: And that's all I'm allowed to say.

Wade Keller:So there is an agreement not to talk about the circumstances?

Terri Runnels: Yeah.

Wade Keller:Do you feel there is an open door to return some day or do you feel completely done?

Terri Runnels: The door is open. They are my family and will always be my family. Absolutely.

Wade Keller:Can you say enough to confirm that you left on good terms?

Terri Runnels: Absolutely. With much respect I left.

Wade Keller:Is part of the reason you're not with WWE now is you wanted to be at home more with your family? Or is that just a side benefit of how things went down?

Terri Runnels: That's part of it, yeah.

Wade Keller:Besides there being an open door, would you like to go back?

Terri Runnels: Not right now. Eighteen years. I love the business. I think I love it so much that if I'm not involved in it on such a high level I can't even watch it. I have not watched it since I left. I could not tell you what in God's name is going on. It's one of those things where if I'm not involved, I don't want to see it. But at the same time, I don't want to go back. So explain that one to me. Eighteen years of doing one thing is a long time. I really just want to play with options. As corny and hokey and silly as this sounds, I feel like I have so much to give and I love helping people. I love being in the spotlight. I love the whole celebrity part. I also love helping people. That I get off on. I just do. Whether it's a terminal child or someone just down on their luck or whatever, I love to either put a smile on their face or help them resolve a problem or take something they've had as a dream but never acted upon it and motivate them to do that thing they've always wanted to do but never had the guts to do. That to me is the coolest thing ever. I feel there is so much I can do. I just want to play with that. My website is the beginning. Every month I will have a different child that I highlight in there that is sick. The cool thing is that you learn about the kids, you learn what the illness is, you learn how it affects them every day, but you also learn about the good stuff - what they love, their favorite foods, their favorite color, whatever. There is a link to either email the kid and say, "Hey, I read about you on Terri's site and kudos to you. Feel better! I'm thinking about you. Hang in there. Whatever you feel like saying." There is also a link to whatever organization that has helped with their disease or helped their family, whether it's Ronald McDonald House or other. This month it's a kid named Josh Friedo. Josh has something called Sanconi Anemia. His favorite wrestler is Stone Cold. I met Josh back at our restaurant in Times Square years ago. And I got Josh out to Seattle to WrestleMania two years ago and made sure that Steve met Josh. Steve ended up giving Josh his very last vest he wore when he wrestled. On every vest that Steve wears he has three letters that stands for something different. The vest that Josh has that was assigned to him says OMR. Nobody at home would know what that means. It means One More Run. So, that is something that Josh has. The sad part is that Josh left WrestleMania that night and the first thing he said to his mom after he - I actually took the vest up to Josh in the hotel room and surprised him with it; that picture of me giving it to him is on the website - when I gave it to him, he was just so moved by it. He told his mom later when I was gone, "I want to be buried in this." The sad part is that the kid has to think about that. Most kids don't think in terms of what they want to be buried in. The sad part is this kid, while having this wonderful thing, had to think in terms of wanting to be buried in this. He and Steve are buddies to this day. Steve calls him. It's just a cool thing. I feel blessed that I was a catalyst for them getting together. That's the kind of stuff that beats everything. So, mushy and corny as it sounds, that's what I want to do.

Wade Keller:What else are you doing now? Obviously there is a big chunk of your time that isn't occupied with wrestling. What else are you doing to fill your time?

Terri Runnels: I am in talks with a couple of different networks to do a TV show. That's in the works. A lot of stuff that is not to the point where you talk about it. I'm dabbling in this and that.

Wade Keller:And being a mom.

Terri Runnels: And being a mom, yes. (laughs)

Wade Keller:Is there ever a point where the way women are portrayed on wrestling - an industry targeted largely toward young men - where the T&A goes too far and it becomes disrespectful and stereotypes women? Or is that almost impossible to do because nobody takes it seriously since it's pro wrestling?

Terri Runnels: Here again, I have to tell you, I absolutely hate when guys are disrespectful to women and I think you're a punk and pretty small if you do. It takes a big man to be disrespectful to a guy, but it takes a small man to be disrespectful to a female. I really believe in that. At the same time, I'm really old fashioned and Southern in that I revere men and I love the man being the stronger sex. I don't see men and women as equals. I'm sorry for all of those feminists out there, sorry to disappoint us. I really see men as the stronger sex. This may sound wrong, but I love being under a man. Underneath. But in order for me to feel great about being underneath him, he has to be a really incredible, strong character gentleman. Then he can rule me all the day long. In saying all of that, I guess I'm almost like a man in that yeah, if you're going to be on wrestling, I want you to look good. Yeah, you better kind of either look great or you better look really horrible and be a heel. (laughs) I think that to have people stomp their feet and say, "Women should be viewed as non-sexual entities on wrestling," shut up. No. If you want to see that, go to MENSA. As intellectual as I would like to see myself, I understand that my role in wrestling is not that of an intellectual. Bottom line.

Wade Keller:There have been characters who have broken from that mold. Chyna, for instance. Molly Holly. They were not there for the T&A element. Is it good to have that diversity in the mix?

Terri Runnels: If you think back, when Chyna was a heel, it was before her massive plastic surgery. When Chyna did all of that plastic surgery is when she became more or less the loved female. Molly Holly is, what? Heel or face? Heel. There again, you better be gorgeous and if you're not, you're pretty much going to be a heel.

Wade Keller:Trish Stratus has really taken off as a T&A character who's a heel and a pretty respected wrestler.

Terri Runnels: I'm proud of her. She, honestly, I have to tell you, there was a point in time where she came in and she'll tell you this - I told her this straight off - I said, "Don't come in and pretend we're best buddies because we're not. When I get to know you, if I like you, great. If I don't, so be it." I was hard-ass with her when she first came in. She respected it and I respect the fact that she came in with probably not the best attitude, but she quickly righted her wrong and she realized, geez, this is pretty incredible place to be and very few people get this opportunity. Instead of just kind of looking down on it, it was very respected. I am so proud of her that not only did she progress in that respect, but she progressed immensely from a wrestling standpoint. I loved that literally from week to week to week she got better and better and better. I give her major kudos for that.

Wade Keller:She came in not really knowing what to expect from wrestling.

Terri Runnels: She was a very physical girl. She had always been an athletic female, but she didn't know what she was doing. She ended up really catching on quickly and realizing what she had to do and she did it.

Wade Keller:She caught the wrestling bug, and that might have surprised her.

Terri Runnels: Yeah, absolutely.

Wade Keller:Was it that she had a chip on her shoulder at first?

Terri Runnels: Not really that. It was almost that she didn't understand the massive door she had opened - that it was a door very people get to walk through. I think she opened the door and walked through like it was no big deal, thinking, I'm blond and I'm going to turn you people on your ear. Then she realized, wow, it's really hard to get here, and here I am, and in order to stay here I've got to bust my ass. I think she realized it and, credit to her, she did what she had to do. Again, I am so proud of her.

Wade Keller:Fit Finlay had a lot to do with instilling a different level of respect for the women's division. Talk about how that changed the evolution of the women's division in WWE.

Terri Runnels: Yes. First of all, Fit is respected by everyone, not just the women. He's been revered for years as far as the talent and abilities go. I think the reason he didn't become more of a star on air because in order to be a superstar you have to have not only the wrestling ability, but also the pizzazz that goes along with it to be this break out human being. That wasn't him. He's just a tough ass, incredible wrestler. He's one of those I used to ask Dustin about. I used to ask, "Right now, in the business, in a shoot fight, who goes over?" And Fit Finlay and Haku (a/k/a Meng) were always at the top. Those two are not two people if you walking i the mall and saw them, you wouldn't go, "Holy sh--! They would kick my ass." It's interesting to see all the different guys in the business and to know those were two of the guys everyone knew could take you down. So in giving him massive respect from both the male and female side, I think he also had a sense of humor in dealing with women, he had this sense of respect. Instead of pooh-poohing it off like, "You silly women, you're trying to be in our business," he took a great amount of respect in saying, "Okay, if this is what you're going to do, dammit, we're going to do it great." And the women felt that and knew they could count on him. They knew they could whisper insecurities to him. They knew they could say, "I'm worried about this," or "I can't do that," or "Help me do this" and he wouldn't run off and giggle about it or laugh with others about it. He would help them.

Wade Keller:To the point that they didn't want to let him down.

Terri Runnels: Yes, and that's true with any leader. Any leader who is at the pinnacle like that where respect is concerned, absolutely, you bust your ass that much harder for them.

Wade Keller:Did you find that there were some women who did not respond to that because they wanted to be T&A. They didn't want to have to work that hard to move their craft up to another level?

Terri Runnels: Let me first tell you this. In a certain respect, that was me. Not that I wanted to be a flippant T&A type of person, but the point was, as I told Vince always, I'm not a wrestler, I don't want to be a wrestler. If there's something you don't want to do, you're not going to excel. The kind of personality I have, I'm an all or nothing kind of person. Either I want to be the best or I don't want to be involved. When Vince put me in the crappy position of saying, "You're wrestling," that's not what I wanted to do. But at the same time, I realized, "Oh, crap, either I do it to the best of my ability or I don't do it at all." Well, I just finally waved my hands enough and said, "Look, let me do what I do and what I excel at. You've got too many people who want to wrestle, who have trained years to do this. Don't keep them down and put me in a spot that I don't want to be in. So that was me to a certain extent. If I had to wrestle, I would, and I would take every ounce of tutoring from anyone who would give it to me and give it my all. Off hand, I'm not sure if you're speaking of someone specifically who didn't want to take his advice and become the best wrestler they could be, I don't know. I know that I didn't want to do it, and that didn't mean when he had me out there in the ring that I ignored what he was saying or took lightly what he was saying. I absolutely wanted to make him proud of me. I wanted to make Vince McMahon proud of me first and foremost. When I came back to that curtain so many times, Vince would hug me and say, "Awesome job. I'm proud of you." Well, Vince is not real demonstrative in that kind of thing. So when he would give me a hug or say it was awesome, whoo, I would be floating for a while. And again, Fit came in toward the end of my career, but absolutely you want to make those people proud who give so much and care so much.

Wade Keller:What is the limit of women's wrestling in this country? Could it reach the point with someone like Trish Stratus who has the bug, the charisma, the skill, the drive, where it could be semi-main event regularly on house shows and PPVs, or is there a mid-card slot where it fulfills a certain purpose, but it shouldn't be considered a failure if it doesn't get higher than that?

Terri Runnels: I think it's past mid-card already. Again, I guess I have enough old fashioned whatever in me that I don't want to see women take over wrestling. I don't want to see women's wrestling. Yeah, I'd love to see a match because they bust their butts and do great, but don't let me see more than one. So, again, it's the cake and the icing. Don't have too much. It's just like if you live on a beach every day and you have Miguel or Ralph bring you three frozen drinks a day and cracked lobster and that's your life, then you really don't appreciate and it's not that great. But if you do that once a year, then it's one of those things where you go, "Wow! This is great. I love this." But if it's every day, it's commonplace. It's the same thing with women and the cake and icing analogy. If you have nothing but icing, and you just scoop hunks of icing every day, bleeeck! But if you have your cake with a thin layer of icing, that's the way it's supposed to be.

Wade Keller:Was there ever pressure that you noticed for women who did not want to do certain things sexually or revealing skin where there was pressure to go a level they didn't feel comfortable with? If so, did you come down on either side of those situations?

Terri Runnels: It's happened to me before. It's happened to me where I was thinking in terms of, "I know this is not me, I know this is a different character." The only time I had a real problem was the whole thing with D-Lo and the whole miscarriage and everything. Dakota was getting old enough. All I could think about is some kid goes to school and said, "You're mommy had a miscarriage. You're mommy was pregnant." Even though I have a smart kid and I can sit down with her and say that's just a storyline, sweethart, and not real life, it was one of those things that I thought was a little bit cheap. I didn't like it. That was one time I really fought Vince. He won. Then again, I will say to this day, I have massive respect for Vince McMahon. That doesn't mean I haven't disagreed with him. I certainly have. But I respect the man.

Wade Keller:Do you think if you are a woman in pro wrestling that you need to know your place and know why you're there and just do whatever the bosses tell you? Or is there a certain stand that women can take?

Terri Runnels: I think there is probably a happy medium to what you just said. Again, Vince knows that right now if he took all of the women off of his programming that would be really foolish. At the same time, I think women will always have a diminutive role as compared to men and I think as well they should. I am sorry, but I do.

Wade Keller:Were you surprised or upset or pleased when Rena Mero was brought back after all of the things she had said about the company after she left?

Terri Runnels: I was disappointed. I - and I've said this to her before, so it's not me going behind her back and being a cowardly soul in saying it - I really disrespect her whole attitude. She was given a whole lot and had no respect for the business. She just really mistreated the business and the people in the business. That's a classic example of me saying to you. Vince is one of these people who has this incredible ability to take when people do things against him and hurt him to make themselves money, and then disregard it if it's good for business. Kudos to him because I'll be damned. I would not have had anything to do with her after all of that. You know what, I have to tell you this. This is maybe going out on a limb here, but she did it, so I'll say it. Back before she and Marc (Mero) left, don't ask me why, because still to this day I do not understand why the woman did it, we have a female dressing room. Well, we're all female in there, right? We all pretty much have the same things. Unless you've got some third boob or something weird, we'll all the same, so get over it. She would go into a bathroom stall to change her clothes. She would never, ever be naked in front of anyone. It's not that anyone is standing around to be naked. It's where we dress. That's just what you do. So I found that really strange. So when she came back, I will never forget, I'm sitting at one of the first PPVs when she was back and it was the first time I was in the same dressing room with her and all of a sudden I hear this slapping noise. I wondered, What is that? I look over and if I'm lying, I'm dying, the woman was as naked as a jaybird, bent over so her ass and everything god gave her was faced toward me. She was putting on self tanner and she was slapping it onto her skin. I just remember thinking, What in the hell happened between the last run and this one? First of all, while we're there to dress and I've got what you've got, you know, I've got boobies, you've got boobies, who cares? It's not like I care either way as far as being a female is concerned. But I just remember thinking - and I'm not modest in the girl's locker room, I'll dress and undress in front of everyone - at the same time I don't know that I'm going to bend over so my (*cough*) everything is out there as I'm putting on self-tanner. So I just found that really one extreme to the other and I kind of scratched my head at that one.

Wade Keller:Were there other things that were very different about her personality-wise other than that when she returned to WWE?

Terri Runnels: She had always had this very holier than thou attitude which I think sucks. This I have not said to her, and this will be a first, but I'll say it and she can call me and argue with me if she wants to, but I think she's just "white trash, made it good." I'm basically the same, but I'll admit to you that I'm a little country girl and I love the world I'm in. She will come across as if she's blue blood, and trust me, she's far from it. So I think she opens herself up to a lot of ridicule because she comes across that way. Wow! I just got on a soap box there.

Wade Keller:Do you ever see women in wrestling or women outside the ring who were treated poorly by male wrestlers while partying on the road? Did you ever feel the need to step in when things were going in a bad direction? Did you ever pull another woman aside and chat with her?

Terri Runnels: No, and here's the deal. Because I had been on the road so long, I learned that I had private parties. I didn't party in public, so therefore I wasn't in public to see their misbehavior to even say, wow, you need to do this or make sure you don't do that, or whatever. You gain enough wisdom to know that your public outings have to be few and far between. When you do have public outings, you have to realize that it's all going to come out, whether it's your fellow wrestler or Joe Blow Fan reporting it to Wade Keller. You just have to know that it's all going to come out.

Wade Keller:You talked about how well Trish adapted to wrestling, and how some others haven't as well as she did. What do you think of the diva competition where they brought in a bunch of women and awarded the winner $250,000?

Terri Runnels: I talked to a couple of the wives of wrestlers and they were, like, livid about it. I think, again, if they gave them a little downplayed stint, that's one thing. But when you take these people and mix them with people who have given their life's savings to train to be a wrestler and they climbed that hard hill and done all of this stuff and been in the business for years, and then you have again this little tart who walks in and doesn't understand nor respect what she's been given or the business in general, that's hard to swallow for anyone. I can only imagine how tough it is for everyone to see. I mean, you have to understand this is basically Tough Enough reward without any of the physical brutality. Even with that, think about the hard time that all of the Tough Enough people got because they were supposedly given this great thing. But here these girls are and they get the same thing, but they don't even go through the physicality. That's tough to accept.

Wade Keller:Is it just business, though? If Vince thinks it will draw ratings and bring in new fans and maybe find a new talent...

Terri Runnels: First of all, I was going to say it's Vince McMahon's company. It's not anymore. It's a public company. I own stock. I still to this day refuse to let my broker sell my WWE stock and it's simply from a sentimental place that I refuse to sell it. So it's my company right now in more ways in one, not just because I still feel it's family, but because I own part of it. I think that, yeah, in the end, you're not going to make everyone happy all the time, but at the same time, if you take this one little thing and you say you boosted ratings by point-one-percent and we spent this much money and everyone in the locker room is pissed off and disgruntled, eeee! You might want to refigure (laughs).

Wade Keller:Do you think there's even a chance that the winner, in this case Christy, can conduct herself in a way that is so gracious and so appreciative and so almost apologetic for the circumstances that she won't be resented? Or is it almost guaranteed she's going to have a real tough hill to climb?

Terri Runnels: Hmmm. Absolutely, she can make a way for herself that will be very respect, but it will take a long time. If you take someone who behaves respectably for a year or longer and handles all of the criticism and teasing and ribbing and everything that comes and they still handle it with respect - it's a fine line because you don't want to look like a total mush and wuss where you get ribbed and you cower underneath it, but you don't want to come across as a pompous ass - it's a very special person who can walk that line and give part respect and humbleness and part, "Okay, you can only screw with me to a certain point and I'll stand up." Because if you stand up too soon you're going to get smacked down and you're not going to make it. But also if you don't ever stand up for yourself, you're not going to make it. It's a real tough call.

Wade Keller:What do you think of Stephanie McMahon?

Terri Runnels: The first thing that came to my mind was saucy. She has taken?and I'm going to take that one word, saucy, and then I'm going to expound on it?she has her dad's confidence with that little female spark. She has really blossomed.

Wade Keller:Do you think that for someone who was born on third base?and she had to work very hard to get home, of course?that she realizes she knew she had an advantage? She knew if she worked hard, there would be a pretty great reward. There was going to be some resentment and some level of respect. How has she handled all of that?

Terri Runnels: I think so. I think she learns as she goes just as we all do. I think sometimes she's probably gotten too big for her britches and been pulled back by other people around her or her family or the fans or whatever, and I think sometimes she has been so gracious and shown such an incredible heart. I will tell you a story about her really quickly. One of the little guys I gave my private phone number to, his name is Cory Walter. He passed away. He was just one of those kids who grabbed my heart and I couldn't let go of. Wrestling was his life. He lived it, breathed it, that was his life. And Cory never made it to six years old. On his dying day his father called me and said, "Terri, I don't think it's going to be much longer. I'll never forget, it was a Tuesday. I had just flown home and was on my stairmaster at home huffing away, stepping, stepping, and I got that phone call and I didn't know what to do. I called Stephanie on her cell. She had met this little kid before. I said, "Steph, if you don't mind, he's dying. He's got all of his little wrestling buddies around him, the characters, the little dolls and actions figures. He has all of the ring entrance music playing as he is lying there on his death bed. If you or Vince could just call him and say something to him, I would be so thankful." Well, it happened to be the day that most of the big guys were flying to Seattle to do a press conference for that WrestleMania. She called and she passed her phone around, so it was Stephanie, Hunter, Booker T, Rock, Kane, a lot of his idols got on the phone and spoke to him. He died like an hour later. That was one of those things where I called her back and said, "I'm not his parent, but you don't know what you did for me by doing what you did." Everyone who was there in the room talked to him. As the kid is dying, he spoke to all of his favorites. She didn't have to do it. She could have said, "Terri, I'm so sorry but we're in doing this press conference, and gosh, give him my best." Her heart is huge and big and I'm thankful for a ton of stuff they've done for people.

Wade Keller:And a lot of it doesn't get publicity.

Terri Runnels: Yeah, who would have heard of that.

Wade Keller:What do you think of Shane McMahon?

Terri Runnels: Gosh, bless his heart. Stephanie has gotten his cahones somehow and he's gotten lost in the sauce somewhere. I think when he does try to step up and be this manly man that he ends up looking silly. I think his best place is to just be a great father and a great husband. I think he is a phenomenal husband. I think his wife is blessed to have him as a husband and a father of her child. I love her, too. Marisa is wonderful. She's great. I think that he has proven himself from a physical standpoint because of the bumps he has taken, but I think that has been almost his way of screaming, "I am tough, dammit! I can do this!" I don't think he necessarily had to. I respect him for trying to do that. I think he's a super?intelligent person and can guide and be strong without necessarily being a force on TV.

Wade Keller:How about the dynamic between Steph and Shane? People always looked at Shane years ago and assumed he'd take over for Vince when he was 120 years old or whatever. Now people look and see Stephanie taking on more of a proactive role, and now that she's married to Hunter, who is as dedicated to the business as everybody, how has that affected the dynamic between brother and sister?

Terri Runnels: First of all, I think they will never speak of that. Just total guestimation and me guessing on my end knowing what I know, I don't think they will ever speak of that. It's something that they know but they will never acknowledge that they know that Stephanie will be the one to take over. I think she's much more passionate about it than Shane. But I think at the same time, they love each other and respect each other so much. Forget everything else. As brother and sister, they are very protective of each other and love each other immensely. What better relationship can you have? Who wants to be pitted against their brother or sister anyway? Who wants that? I wouldn't want it.

Wade Keller:Do you think there might even be a sense of relief on Shane's part that the whole burden doesn't fall on him to be the next generation to run WWE?

Terri Runnels: Maybe. I don't know. I'm not saying he's some kind of yellow?bellied guy. He's a very strong person. I'm just saying that for whatever reason and whatever dynamic in their life, it seems that Stephanie is more well?suited to deal with the pressures of running things. She's just much more like her father.

Wade Keller:I've heard people compare Shane to Linda and compare Stephanie a lot to Vince.

Terri Runnels: Absolutely.

Wade Keller:As the First Family of Wrestling, those who follow the industry are going to be fascinated to watch this dynamic play out in coming years.

Terri Runnels: Here's another thing, and I've even said this to them. I don't understand how they do it. Think about all of the pressures that they deal with 24/7. As a wrestler, yeah, you deal with it when you're not on the road because you're thinking about eating right, training, did I get this costume made, you're constantly thinking about making your character better. But you're not thinking in terms of the whole company all the time. And you're not hearing from this international aspect and that sales department and home video and that PPV company and dealing with this network. They have to be overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility and stuff on their plate. I'll tell you a little story that helped me understand how Vince McMahon is as powerful and is what he is. This is such a small little tiny side note barely worth noting, but it's still an insight into the kind of people they are and the kind of person Vince is. A while back I threw out the idea of me doing a show that would either lead into Raw or lead out of Raw. This was back when they were on USA. He loved the idea. Then he started that damn football thing, and then we went to TNN, and we kept talking, but it didn't happen. The basic thing was he wanted me to throw him ideas when I thought of him for this show that I wanted to do. It was basically an interview show, an advice show, kind of like I did on the magazine. But interviewing people and dealing with their problems on air. So one morning, 2:30 or 3 o'clock in the morning, I have some epiphany and I send him an email. I sent him a couple ideas I had in an email. I guess it was over the weekend that I sent him the email. Monday, we're not at showtime, and I am standing at the Gorilla position?in our company, that is right before you walk through the curtain and see you on TV or in the audience, it's the heart and the guts of the live show, it's where Vince sits and where anyone who is timing anything out or talking to the talent or whatever sits. So Vince is sitting there, and he's always there for the show. I literally was 30 seconds away from walking through the damn curtain. Of course, you have butterflies and your mind is on what you're going to do and he does this finger wave to call me over there. I walk over there and wonder what it is. He said, "What on earth were you doing awake at 2:30 in the morning?" I just laughed. I looked at him and said, "Don't you have more on your plate than to pay attention to the time that I send you email?" But it let me know that nothing escapes him. His response to that email was one sentence long, but at the same time, all the dynamics of that email he took in. That just tells you a ton about the human being. Isn't that crazy? I don't pay attention to the time that someone sends me an email.

Wade Keller:What do you think of Linda McMahon and the contributions she's made to the company?

Terri Runnels: An incredible brain. I think she just has this incredible business sense about her and Vince is a very lucky man to have her as a wife. Had he not had her, I don't think that he would be where he is today. She has taken on all the responsibilities of the business where he's been able to deal with the creative and TV aspects and it's freed him up of a lot of the other responsibilities. I'm sure it's just a blessing.

Wade Keller:How about Pat Patterson?

Terri Runnels: Oblivious and yet hyper-focused at the same time; don't ask me how the two mesh. The man can be where we think he's totally not taking in anything, but he is.

Wade Keller:His role had been reduced in recent years, but someone described to me that he had kind of had his own world backstage and you could enter it or ignore it. But watching him walk through a match with someone was almost as entertaining as the match itself because he'd get so animated.

Terri Runnels: Yep. That's him. (laughs)

Wade Keller:How about Triple H?

Terri Runnels: I have always liked him. I was in the business long before he was and I watched him come in excited to be in the business and wanted to learn everything he could about the business and I think he's done just that. He has not been given anything, I think he has earned everything. I think because he has lived it and breathed it and that's been his life, he has created and earned everything he has.

Wade Keller:Is he as absorbed, obsessed, into who he is as a wrestler in the wrestling industry as one could possibly be? Or does he have a lot of other interests that people don't know about? It comes across to me and others that he is so focused on his career and company.

Terri Runnels: Here's what I have to say about that. I think that when you have all of the ins that he has, such as having Vince's ear for all these years, now being married into the family, all these different things, I think that a lot of people think he should be futher along, in other words a bigger star, a Dwayne Johnson, a this or that - that he should have burst out and been a bigger star, even in wrestling, than he is. He is great in the match, he's great at what he does. Honestly, I think it comes down to his interviews end up being too calculated. Instead of coming off as a very realistic kind of guy who you can sink your teeth into, he comes across as this very calculated interview kind of guy so you almost see it from an interview standpoint - his interviews and his responses don't flow like his wrestling does.

Wade Keller:Yet when DX first took off...

Terri Runnels: Oh! It was totally different then. I don't know what happened. He went back into this whole wrestler interview kind of mentality where it comes off as unreal.

Wade Keller:I've heard this explanation. As DX, there was the conflict of being cheered and popular with fans as a heel, or turning babyface. He had a sense of humor and this wit which the fans liked. At one point he sat down and decided to become a heel who the fans don't cheer, a heel who draws the traditional way who draws from being disliked and hated. At that point, the feeling is, he eliminated an element of his personality that actually was very charismatic and spontaneous and funny because he was so determined not to have anybody cheer him or like him. In the long run it made him an effective heel, but it also took something away from the natural talent he had behind the microphone.

Terri Runnels: I don't know if he sat down and said, "I want to be this person who gets it the hard way." I believe that in becoming the character, he lost the sense of spontaneity. He is so quick-witted and so funny and so sarcastic. That's what intrigued me about him, that's what's enjoyable about him, that's what's fun to be around when you're backstage. Now he does this very calculated, old-school wrestler interview, and he tries to put a modern twist on it, but yet it's not working either way, he's losing out all the way around. He and I are not close enough for me to tell you what he actually intended or intends right now to be portraying, but I can only say it comes across as non-believable.

Wade Keller:What comes to mind when I bring up The Rock.

Terri Runnels: A star. I remember walking past him before he and Dustin (Rhodes) ever had that match in the Garden where he was put over like crazy, as well he should have been. Back when he lived on Strawberry Hill where all the up-and-comers lived in Connecticut where Vince put them up. That was the address. I remember looking at him one day and going, "You're going to be awesome." I just thought he was so cute. From a married female, I would flirt with him. And that's not to say I was going outside of my marriage. I'd do it in front of Dustin, an innocent flirtation. I just thought he was so precious. A lot of times when people make it big, people want to equate themselves in some way with that person, but I'm not equating myself in any way to Dwayne or saying I am a part of his career, success, or anything else. I'm the opposite. I'm not a part of his career, his success, but a funny story about him was we were flying somewhere and I don't remember the circumstance, but it was him and me, we were the only ones on this flight. I was in first class and he was in coach. I said, "Why don't you upgrade?" He said, "What are you talking about?" I said, "Have you ever upgraded before?" He said, "No. I don't know what that is." So I took him over to the service counter at Delta and I paid for his upgrade. It was like a 40 dollar upgrade. I said, "You need to be up here with me." As far as I know, that was the first upgrade the guy ever had. How silly is that now. He could buy the planes that I paid 40 bucks to upgrade him on. It's kind of funny to think about that now.

Wade Keller:Did he change at all as he got more successful?

Terri Runnels: You know what, I'm gonna tell you something. There is no way that you can achieve what he's achieved and experience what he's experienced with the pressures and the stress and the magnitude of what he's experienced and not change. But I will say this to you. I don't think it's a bad change. I still enjoy being around him. I don't think he's a snotty ass. I think he's very aware of where he is, but I don't think he is demeaning to anyone around him because of it.

Wade Keller:Steve Austin?

Terri Runnels: Awwww. My great friend who I loved dearly and speak to often. I love Steve. I think Steve's had some bad events take place that he can only blame himself for because he put those people in his life. I think the current situation, the sh-- he's been involved in recently, I saw coming a mile away. But again, he has to make that decision for himself, you know? But I love him and respect him and he will always be one of my favorites.

Wade Keller:Mick Foley?

Terri Runnels: Silly and another one who seems, like, oblivious to so much, but that is just highly intelligent and kind of making his own rules. Who else on the face of the planet can dress like a flippin' skid row bum and function in such intellectual circles? Tell me. Tell me. Mick Foley is the only one.

Wade Keller:How about Ric Flair?

Terri Runnels: Dynamic. Some of these words seem cliche, but they're truly what these people are. I love him to pieces and I love him forever. In the Crockett days I knew him. He and I go back 18 years. I love him, love being around him. He's one of the most gracious men you'll ever meet. He'll give to any and everyone, whether it's in the wrestling ring or in private life, he will give. He's just a very good soul.

Wade Keller:Should he still be wrestling at his age?

Terri Runnels: No. And I say that because it's like with anyone, I just recently - my hero in my childhood or adolescence was Cher. I loved her. I would get out of the shower and try to make my towel in some way look like a Bob Mackee costume and my mother would say, "The top half of you isn't covered." And I would say, "Yeah, but look at the bottom. Doesn't this look like a Cher costume." (laughs) I loved her. But recently I went to one of her concerts. I actually took my mother, my sister, and my daughter. We had three generations of Cher people there; it was funny. But, anyway, I realized as there was a close-up of her in one of her costumes, and she was in these lower heels - because she's my mother's age, and I looked over at mom and said, "Hey, would you wear that? Hey, would yo move like that? Hey, what's wrong with you, Mom?" (laughs) I realized there was one outfit she wore and her arms looked horrible, and in every other outfit she wore, she had her arms covered. I realized, alright already, it's time. That doesn't mean it wasn't a great concert, but I did realize at a certain point you have to say graciously, "Thanks, it's been great."

Wade Keller:Yet, in Ric Flair's case, he doesn't know what else to do with himself.

Terri Runnels: There again, he was flippin' awesomely handsome in a suit, by god, and has a great mind. Be in a suit and look like a frickin' sex god at your age and work it from there.

Wade Keller:Hulk Hogan.

Terri Runnels: You know what, I don't know very much about him first-hand. I respect him on a personal standpoint. I like him, I like his family, I like his wife and daughter. As a wrestler, I don't respect him at all. Because I think he hasn't loved the business like some of the others have.

Wade Keller:Kurt Angle?

Terri Runnels: I have always respected him. I don't have a whole lot of respect for his wife. There are very few wrestlers that I will say that about.

Wade Keller:I've heard that about her. Others have said similar things. What is it about her that makes people so apt to speak like that about her?

Terri Runnels: She just seems very insecure and jealous. I have always respected him as a friend and a human being. In the business, if someone gets hurt, you call and you check on them. It's an unwritten thing if they're someone you respect and they have an injury or a surgery and they're out, you call and you check on them. You just say, "Hey, I wanted to check on you." That's it. In doing that to him, I had to deal with her thinking that I am calling him for some other reasons. Get over yourself, chick. I'm sorry. It almost distracts from him being such an incredible human being that I perceive him to be and always have thought of him as. We've certainly had plenty of conversations on airplanes and backstage and everything else and I've always respected him. He's never been anything but a gentleman. He's never made me feel like I had to protect myself because he would try something. He's always been so respectful and respectable. So it almost makes her look silly and foolish to be worried about such.

Wade Keller:Can you blame anybody who's off the road when their spouse is on the road seeing what you've seen?

Terri Runnels: Yeah, and I'll tell you why. Here's what it comes down to. It comes down to this, and this is for any human being. I've said this so many times in my column; it's not just about wrestlers and wrestlers' wives, but any human being. Whether their husband goes to work at IBM and they have a secretary or whether their husband's a wrestler, if you sit home and you are insecure and don't trust your husband, then that's only going to lead to bad news. If you don't trust them, confront it, deal with it, either stay with them or don't.

Wade Keller:So it's a self-fulfilling prophesy?

Terri Runnels: If you sit at home and you constantly accuse your husband of cheating or your say, "I think you're gonna," or "I'm worried about this," or "Where were you? Who were you out with? Who did you talk to?" Jesus Christ, if they're going to screw around on you, they're gonna. All that insecurity is not going to help and it might just hurt. Either you trust someone or you don't. In my life, either I trust you or I don't. If I don't trust you, then I don't really want to be with you. If I do trust you, then great. I'm with someone now and he's so wonderful because in the business I'm in, I have to be around men all the time. I never hear when I have to go out and have a business dinner with someone, and it's a male, I never hear, "Where'd you go? What'd you do?" If I get in at two o'clock in the morning, I don't hear, "Why are you in so late?" We had dinner and then we went out to this club. That's what I say, and by god that's what happens. I think it's kind of a positive snowball because I do what I do, he's not jealous, he's respectful, which makes me all the more in love with him, which makes me all the more committed to him, which makes a positive snowball. If it's the opposite, it makes a negative snowball.

Wade Keller:How about Jerry Lawler?

Terri Runnels: Oh golly. Sick and twisted, but wonderful fun to be around. I've ridden with Jerry quite a few times and literally just was wheezing by the time I got to the building from laughing so hard. I laughed my butt off. He's fun to be around.

Wade Keller:What fans hear on the air is what he is. That's the real Jerry.

Terri Runnels: Pretty much. Jerry does have, when it comes down to it, a heart and soul. There is a mature human being in there, but yeah so much of him is just this silly, crazy, everything ties in with something sexual.

Wade Keller:How about J.R.?

Terri Runnels: I?ve known J.R. forever and he's just good ol' J.R. What more can I say?

Wade Keller:Were you around Michael Cole much?

Terri Runnels: No, I wasn't around him much. From everything I know about Michael, he's a good guy, but I don't know that much about him.

Wade Keller:Any thoughts on Tazz?

Terri Runnels: (laughs) Again, because we were on different brands and haven't been around each other other than a few appearances together, not much, but I've had fun with him and laughed with him. I love that he makes me laugh because on air he's this kind of smart-mouthed, regurgitating at the mouth constantly, but he's very respectful of his wife. I think that's cool.

Wade Keller:Coach?

Terri Runnels: Like Ray Traylor was my big brother, Coach is like my baby brother. Annoying and you want to just smack him, but I love him to pieces. You know what I'm saying.

Wade Keller:Did he come in not quite knowing how to conduct himself and then adjust over time?

Terri Runnels: He learned the hard way, too, which is why he gives people such a hard time when they come in. He's one of those people who will just put people through the wringer, but he went through it himself so he's allowed to.

Wade Keller:Stacy Keibler?

Terri Runnels: Initially, I remember saying to her, "Okay, shut up or get out of the locker room." I mean, I just remember wanting to pinch her head off. I've said this to her. She came in very oblivious. But, again, to her credit, while she has not achieved the level of physical prowess that Trish has nor will she ever because of how her body is so tall and lean - it's just like asking a basketball star to become a wrestler, it just doesn't quite work. But I'm very proud of the way she learned that, yes, I am blessed and this is what I've been given and, wow, this is such a great place to be and this is what I have to do to stay here. So I'm very proud of her for that and I love her to pieces. She is again one of my favorites. I think she's done well.

Wade Keller:Ivory?

Terri Runnels: Oh my god! Ivory is (stammers) one of my favorite people ever, but you can tell her, "Ivory, shut up" and she won't take any offense and will shut up for about 30 seconds and then she'll start again. You want to yell at her to shut up again. But at the same time, what you see is what you get. She is the person that she projects.

Wade Keller:Debra?

Terri Runnels: I don't know, I guess I feel sorry for Debra. She has made some bad choices because she's been weak, and then she's kind of wondered why and done the "poor me" thing. You kind of have to at some point go, "Okay, it's because of this choice that I'm at this place."

Wade Keller:Chyna?

Terri Runnels: Disappointed. Disappointed in where she could have gone and where she has chosen to go.

Wade Keller:Sean Waltman?

Terri Runnels: I always loved him and always loved being around him. I'm sorry for the demons he fights. I don't know all that they are. I know some of them. I guess once again a little bit disappointed. He had it all in his back pocket and kind of took off the jeans he was wearing.

Wade Keller:How about Brock Lesnar?

Terri Runnels: Ewwww! You know what, I'll tell you something because this is something I've never told before, but I'll go ahead and rat on him. I have no respect for him whatsoever. The reason being - and maybe this is because he was young and dumb, and we've all had our young and dumb moments. When he was first in the business, I will never forget we were at a pay-per-view in England, and the girls' dressing room and some other little room were right next door to each other. Dustin was in this other room watching a monitor and beside Dustin was Brock. He was in the middle. To the right of Brock was Curt Hennig. And I walked next door to say something to Dustin. I forget what. And Brock was sitting there in a towel and Brock opened the towel and exposed himself. And, boy was that a little red penis. I have never seen something so red. I didn't know skin could be pink like a mouse. I just didn't understand that could happen. But it was this pink thing. I remember thinking, number one, well, why would you want to show that? Number two, I remember thinking how disrespectful it was. I carry myself as a lady and have for many years. I've earned my respect in the business. You young, dumb punk to assume that I want to see you naked. That's the kind of stuff that if it happened in IBM, there's a massive lawsuit. Dustin knew about it because he was there to witness it. But I would never - and especially in this business I've seen too much at CNN and too much in wrestling, you don't go and raise a ruckus. I basically ignored and have ignored it, so this is the first that that has gotten out. I think he's a punk. Not that I want to see anybody do poorly, but I think in seeing that he's not done well in football, it kind of like is karma. What goes around comes around. You get what you give out. So there you go. Dustin Rhodes and Terri Runnels (a/k/a Goldust and Marlena) It's sad to me. Dustin and I talked about it. It would be one thing if I was some young, flirtatious soul and I flirted with him and it was going back and forth. I've told Dustin that story. We were around someone the other day who had this redish, pink skin and I told him what it reminded me of and we laughed. It was pretty disgusting. I wonder what kind of crap I'll get for telling that story. I never, ever stir the pot. I keep a lot of stuff and I still keep a lot of stuff to myself and don't share it, but I've just recently read some stuff about Brock and I thought, you know what, you get what you give, and he's getting it. Not that I would want anything bad to happen to him as a person, but I don't sit back and say, "Oh, bless his heart, he didn't make it into football." I don't feel bad. I think that Brock and Rena probably deserve each other. That day that she said to me, "I'll do whatever it takes to make it in the business," I went, "Okay, then."

Wade Keller:That is not different from what other people have told me about them.

Terri Runnels: I've never told that story before. It's kind of funny. What a cathartic experience this is today! I'm baring my soul. You're getting some scoops, Wade Keller. You better be careful what you ask next because there's no telling what I'm going to say at this point.

Wade Keller:What about Undertaker?

Terri Runnels: Old school, hard working, and probably tired.

Wade Keller:Randy Orton?

Terri Runnels: (laughter) Young, smarty pants that has it all in his body and he can be and will be incredible. I think he's probably had a little bit more disrespect in the beginning than he should have and not enough appreciation for things. Not that he has not busted his ass and not that he doesn't work hard, but I think he's one of those again, even though his father is who he is, he's not quite as appreciative as he should be. Same with his buddy, (Mark) Jindrak. I love Jindrak, but I'm forever getting on his case about being more humble. You only make yourself look stupid otherwise. This very wise friend of mine once said to me, whose family literally has palaces in Casablanca, in Camloon, in Paris, this very wealthy family. To let you know how wealthy the family is, his great grandmother was never allowed to walk on the ground; the servants carried her. This is an African family, but the husband, his great grandfather, thought that his wife was so respected and revered that she was to be carried. That should tell you what kind of person I'm talking about - massive wealth. This person said to me, "Terri, it doesn't matter how weak you are, there is always someone weaker. It doesn't matter how strong you are, there is always someone stronger. It doesn't matter how wealthy you are, there is always someone wealthier. It doesn't matter how poor you are, there is always someone poorer. You must be appreciative of where you are in life." And that is such a wonderful, prophetic saying and it's so true. That's kind of like, if you're a smart ass and you proclaim yourself as Billy Badsass and nobody's badder than you, then it's that much more embarrassing when someone one-ups you. Whereas, if you're humble and you're a Billy Badass, then you don't look bad at all.

Wade Keller:How about Big Show?

Terri Runnels: Someone who again early in his career was a bit of a punk, but then realized, "Oh, sh--, I'm being stupid." And he has worked really hard to be great in this business and wants to be great in this business. He's one of those people who when he puts his arm around you and picks you up, as big as he is, he's just a kid. He's smart in business. He's made some very smart moves business-wise, but he's still this big teddy bear kid. His wife, I love her to pieces, too. Bess is phenomenal. I think if I could have someone's body, I would have her body. If I could write in an order, I would order her body. Her body is tall and lean and muscular, yet very female. It ticks me off that God didn't give me that one.

Wade Keller:Maven?

Terri Runnels: Maven is precious. I don't know that much about him. I don't know his whole private life, his whole story, but everything I've known about him has been he wants to work hard to do well. He wants to do well. He is very much a gentleman. I like him from everything I know.

Wade Keller:Matt Hardy?

Terri Runnels: Loves the business. Is committed to the business. I respect him because of that.

Wade Keller:Lita?

Terri Runnels: Same thing, but a little less so. I think she came into the business and I respected her because she came in with her mouth shut. I think, as far as her wrestling ability, it's not quite what she necessarily thinks it is. I think one move doesn't a wrestler make necessarily. Yeah, it might make your career, but it doesn't necessarily make you a great wrestler. Just like Dwayne Johnson's elbow doesn't necessarily make him a great wrestler. But, yet, that's a move that has made him. He's charismatic in so many other ways I can't put it to just that move. But I'm just saying, she and I always had a great time together. I think people like Molly Holly, she's one of those people where you'd never look at her and go, "Gosh, she's a phenomenal athlete," but damned if she's not. She is great in the ring. In the ring she is wonderful. She's been so gracious with me in matches and taught me stuff. I'll never forget one night I was doing something and it was either Crash Holly or Scotty (2 Hotty). I was going to do a flying crossbody and they were going to move, and I did the basically splat landing. I came back from the ring having cracked my sternum on that. I came back from the ring and she says, "Oh my gosh, I've always wanted to do one of those and I've been too scared to do it." I literally gasped. "I just did something that you're too scared to do! What was I thinking!" It was so funny. I said that to her and she just laughed at me. Of course, I'm in pain because I cracked my sternum and I'm thinking, how stupid am I? That was funny.

Wade Keller:Edge?

Terri Runnels: Same thing. My daughter married him when she was five in Memphis at a pay-per-view. When I said, "Honey, what kind of birthday present do you want?" - she had heard the term the wedding party before because she had been to so many weddings before - so she said she wanted a wedding a party. I said, "Okay, who do you want to marry?" She said Edge. So Edge showed up for the wedding. I had my seamstress make Dakota a wedding dress. Everyone came. There were bubbles. I spent like I don't know how many hundreds of dollars on a wedding cake. It was crazy. But now, it's so funny because she says now, "Mom, that was so stupid!" (laughs) But he'll always be special to me because he married my child.

Wade Keller:Christian?

Terri Runnels: I don't know that much about him, but everything I know about him is great.

Wade Keller:Shawn Michaels?

Terri Runnels: I don't really know him anymore. I knew him for a long time and even though he was the party animal and not what he should be from his perspective and from a Christian standpoint, he would lay on the floor of my dressing room and play Polly Pockets with my child and he was just so gracious with my daughter, so I loved him because of that. But as far as now, it's kind of like - I almost get the feeling, like, again, I've been in this business for years. I don't want to be with ya'. I'm a female, but just because you're a male and in this business, I don't necessarily want to be with ya'. I almost felt when he came back after his Christian epiphany that if he spoke to you and you were female that was going against his wife or his religion. I'm not saying he didn't speak to me. We've done appearances and stuff, but it's almost like he has this guard up. He's not as enjoyable to be around. I am so proud of him for becoming a better human being, but I think you can be a Christian and be a human being and not kind of be this robotic person if that makes sense.

Wade Keller:How about Chris Jericho?

Terri Runnels: Chris is one of those people who when he was at work, he was pretty much work. He didn't get into private life a whole lot. He was a pretty private, protective person. A lot of us let down our hair when we're backstage. I'm not saying he was Mr. Calculating. He was not that way. He and Trish were very close, but he didn't let a whole lot of people in.

Wade Keller:Chris Benoit?

Terri Runnels: I love him, I love his wife, I love his family. Chris Benoit is one of those people who if everyone in the world is nay-saying someone, but Chris likes him, he doesn't give a sh-- who looks at him funny, he will go put his arm around that person. I so respect that in him. And at the same time, if everyone loves you and Chris disrespects you, screw you. Chris Benoit is one of the most true human beings I've ever known.

Wade Keller:Test?

Terri Runnels: (laughs) Test, when you get him alone and in private, he's wonderful, but that little pompous arrogant attitude in public makes you want to smack him. That's not the relationship I share with him. The relationship I share is I like him; it's just when I see him around other people that he doesn't know that well, he comes across as pompous.

Wade Keller:If you could change one thing about the industry to improve its health in the long run, what would that be? What would enhance everyone's experience involved or the fans enjoyment of it?

Terri Runnels: I would say two things. One thing would be to go back to more old school storylines. I'm sorry, the stories back in the day were some cool stories. They didn't have to be so, I don't know. They were life stories we've all dealt with and can relate to. Nobody that I know has ever screwed a dead person so therefore necrophilia you can't really buy into nor do you want to. And so that kind of crap you want to go, "Stop it!" So I would say a little more old school storylines. As far as the actual wrestlers themselves, it needs to go back to a day where it was more of a family and you had to earn your way. Bottom line, if you didn't earn your way, you didn't get there. Vince told you that you were going to be a star, but he was going to at least make you take six months, even if it's only six months, and make you earn your way. Most people spent years and years earning their way with hardships and everything else. I guess I'm a little bit old school where that is concerned.

Wade Keller:Would you do anything to change or prevent the drug deaths or the drug problems that have either killed or derailed so many lives and careers?

Terri Runnels: There is nothing from my perspective that can be done unless you give wrestlers a whole lot more money and a whole lot less time on the road. When you do weekly shows, PPVs, and house shows, you can't do it. What my philosophy is is our sport is different from any other. Everything else has a season and they get time off and they get down time for mental health. Just time with your family, time to decompress, time to chill out and do what you want to do, not be in the grind. If you have many weaknesses, then it's going to get you. If you are a stronger person with less weakness, then you're going to fare better and you're going to have a longer stint in the business and you're not going to die. For those who have died of natural causes, that's not referring to them. But as far as the drug deaths and that sort of thing, the overdoses and stupid stuff like that, my whole thing is where you have weakness, it will eat you alive. And so it's sad, but that's the nature of the beast.

Wade Keller:Given the reality that there are going to be some people with weaknesses, is there validity to the notion that Vince McMahon could or should try to weed out those people or identify them and figure out a way to help them, or do you think this latest generation is kind of helping themselves after seeing what happened to the previous generation?

Terri Runnels:No, I don't think it's Vince McMahon's responsibility. I think he's been pretty gracious in sending people to rehab and different things like that. That's not his responsibility. He's not their daddy. If he gives you an opportunity to be in this business and make a success of yourself, and somewhere along the way your weakness, because it's a demanding industry, eats you up, that's not his fault. Now, if you were to say, okay, then he should give them more time off, well, there again, not many people want a lot of time off, because when you take time off, the fans forget about you. When the fans forget about you, the money dries up. So you have to understand the whole dynamic from the wrestlers' standpoint and from Vince's standpoint. Yeah, everyone bitches and complains about needing time off, but when you take it, you have nerves playing a part in it. You kind of almost have this anxiety that goes on when you're off.

Wade Keller:What if everyone were required to take time off and it was rotated so they still ran you around, but it was every few months?

Terri Runnels: Then it would be a different story. But here again, when someone's hot - you strike when the iron's hot. You can't predict that kind of thing. If someone is supposed to have time off for six weeks here, but they're on fire, why are you going to give them time off. That's stupid. So from a business standpoint, in wrestling it doesn't make sense. It sounds good on paper, but it doesn't quite translate in the actual business world to be that way.

Wade Keller:In a perfect world, if you allowed there to be accommodations for exceptions when someone was clearly the reason people were buying tickets and you kept them on the road during the hot runs, do you think it would be practical to say that for three or four weeks, twice a year, everybody takes time off. The fans wouldn't necessarily even notice because a few wrestlers at a time would be off for a few weeks. You could run injury angles or whatever, but you'd always have enough guys in rotation to fill cards and fill TV and then, perhaps, in theory, the wrestlers who do have the weaknesses and don't see their run ever ending would say to themselves, "I've got that time off coming"?

Terri Runnels: I think you have to think of this, too. Three or four weeks a year is not going to fix all problems. I remember Jeff Hardy was begging for time off. Begging for it. Finally he just started acting up and not showing up when they wouldn't give him time off, but he was hot and so they were thinking they knew better than he in trying to think of him as not having huge career goals, so we're going to have them for him and now's the time for him and now's the time for us through him and so no he can't take time off right now. But in all reality, a smart thing to do - because he was basically imploding - was to say, go, take six weeks and clear your brain, clear your plate, chill out, do whatever you want to do, and we'll see you in a while. Yeah, that was one of those situations where you saw it coming with giant neon signs.

Wade Keller:Thank you so much for your generous time, stories, and opinions.

Terri Runnels: It's been cathartic. It's been wonderful to say some things I've never said before and get them off my shoulders. You're certainly respected in the business, so it's nice to be able to talk like this to you.

This interview originally appeared at http://www.pwtorch.com

back to my home page