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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Wade Keller:Talk about the transition from a manager character into
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
Wade Keller:At some point you moved into working actual matches. How did
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
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
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
Terri Runnels: And that's all I'm allowed to say.
Wade Keller:So there is an agreement not to talk about the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Wade Keller:Matt Hardy?
Terri Runnels: Loves the business. Is committed to the business. I respect
him because of that.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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