Hack-Man Pro-Wrestling Tony Schiavone interview Page

Last updated 4 December 1999

Tony Schiavone interview

By Bob Ryder

Bob Ryder: You have worked in several different promotions...Jim Crockett's NWA, the WWF, and now WCW. How do you compare the three?

Tony Schiavone: Well, as far as production goes...when I worked for Jim Crockett Promotions, it was very small. We did alot of production, but we had very limited equipment and very limited manpower. I went to work for the WWF in 1989 and they had this immense facility, with alot of people and alot of equipment. At that time I thought we were overstaffed. So, I went from a very small time to a very big time promotion. Then when I came to TBS I found out we were a very large company...but as far as manpower and equipment we were still very small. Since that time we have grown, and I think right now we equal what I had with the WWF. That's on the production level. As far as the companies theories...I think basically they were all the same. They were all very aggressive as far as promotions. They all demanded a good work ethic from their employees.

Bob Ryder: You originally started out doing baseball for Jim Crockett, didn't you?

Tony Schiavone: Yes, I did. In fact that's how I first got into wrestling. I was an aspiring baseball announcer wanting to get into the major leagues, and had been doing minor league announcing for one year. In 1982 I was hired by the Charlotte O's, a AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. I took the job in Charlotte and worked it for a year. That franchise was owned by the Crockett family and was run by their sister, Frances. They started having me do some part time wrestling and it kinda balooned into a part time wrestling part time baseball thing...finally dropping baseball.

Bob Ryder: At that time was the promotion Mid Atlantic?

Tony Schiavone: Yes, it was. In 1984-85 they ceased to call themselves MidAtlantic. At that time they were in a war of sorts with Vince McMahon and Titan Sports. So, they changed their name from MidAtlantic to NWA...they wanted more of a nationwide image. By the time I had finished up there they had abandoned the MidAtlantic moniker and went with NWA.

Bob Ryder: You mention the 'war'. Even at that time there was controversy about talent raids as Titan tried to expand. You were actually part of the raids when you left to go to Titan. What was it like at the time...Titan could pretty much do no wrong at the time. Everything they did was successful.

Tony Schiavone: As a matter of fact...and this is personal opinion only...and I want it to be known that it is not an opinion that is shared by anybody with Turner Broadcasting, but just by Tony Schiavone...because I was there. When I look back on it, I think it is well documented, basically the things going on now in wrestling were going on then. The war was very heavy. Vince had much more than the Crocketts did. He was in the New York market, Crockett was located in Charlotte. The Crocketts number 1 force back then was TBS because they had their program on TBS. And, I'm sure that alot of things being done now were the same way things were done then. It was a pretty intense war back then too.

Bob Ryder: What do you think about what is going on now?

Tony Schiavone: In many cases I think it is good for wrestling. Our numbers have picked up...and I think right now more people are aware of wrestling because of Nitro than ever before. Television is a fight. It's a fight against your competitors. It's a fight for numbers. It's a fight every day in the office. So, you realize when you are in this business what you are in for. It's pretty intense right now, but I think it's the same thing that CBS, NBC and all those guys go through all the time.

Bob Ryder: What's a typical week look like for you?

Tony Schiavone: A typical week starts very early Monday morning when I either drive or go to the airport to go to NITRO. I get to the town and we usually have an 11am production meeting, sometimes 1pm depending on travel. I stay at the arena most of the day on Monday and work with Craig Leathers, who is kind of in charge of television under Eric Bischoff. I'm kind of under Craig. If we have any pretape interviews we do those during the day. We work in the building all that day. We do NITRO live that night. Immediately after NITRO we go back to the hotel. Then I wake up very early on Tuesday, because Tuesday is a very full day for me. Or, if I drive...I leave immediately after NITRO to go home. I will drive 3 hours to get home. We have alot of people in our company who like to spend the night and get started the next day...but I like to get in the office early on Tuesday. It really depends on where we are on NITRO. When we did the west coast NITRO/Clash in Vegas, I took the redeye and went straight to the office. On Tuesday I do the voice over for World Wide Wrestling...not the program to air that weekend, but for the following weekends show. I do the leadins for World Wide Wrestling, I produce and oversee the leads that are done for the Main Event program. I produce those with Bobby and Gene. I produce the Control Center with Gene, and help out in any supervising capacity as far as WCW Pro or Prime Wrestling that's done that day. Wednesday, I do some office work like formatting shows for the next week. Then we usually drive somewhere by the middle of the day for our weekly tapings for WCWSN. We usually tape at 7pm. Dusty and I do the commentary there. Thursday I am usually in an edit session doing the WCW Control center. Friday I edit the Main Event show. I'm only editing the Main Event and Control Center because we are still looking for a producer. I'm really in a supervisory producer capacity, which means I do more formatting and office work...but since we are still in the process of hiring a producer, I have to pick up some slack. Usually Saturday and Sunday I'm off...but I have a pager, and I'm on call. If something goes wrong on a TV show, I have to get down there and get it done. I do alot of overnight work. It's a very intense week. Alot of times we will do work all day Tuesday and because a wrestler is injured or leaves, or cards change...I have to redo everything on Wednesday. It happened this week. We had to redo everything on Wednesday.

Bob Ryder: What's it like to work with Bobby Heenan?

Tony Schiavone: Bobby is without a doubt, to be very honest, the very best color man I have ever had. Bobby and I have become very close over the years. I remember when I first came back, I wanted to bring Bobby with me. I had only worked with him a handful of times in the WWF...I was on a 3 man team on Challenge with he and Gorilla Monsoon, but then they pulled Bobby off the team. I really wanted to work with him.

Bob Ryder: How important is chemistry?

Tony Schiavone: It's very important. We have a good chemistry, because I know what my role is. I think that's my strong suit as an announcer. There are people who will say they have favorite announcers, and I'm not one of them...because I won't go into detail. I think that's the color guys job. I think my strong suit is letting the color guy...or color guys get their personality over. In working with Bobby and Dusty, I've been able to know when to step in and know when to step out and let them say their stuff...pick up some things and drive it home. Working with Bobby and Dusty has been wonderful.

Bob Ryder: You talked about making changes this week. How will those changes affect Uncensored? Can you tell us about the change in the lineup?

Tony Schiavone: I think what fans will find out when they tune in this weekend is that Johnny B Badd has left WCW, for reasons I'm not sure of. We will find that Diamond Dallas is going to have to wrestle the Booty Man because he did sign a contract to wrestle, he does have to wrestle in Uncensored, and he has to wrestle someone willing to take that contract. It will be the Booty Man, and should be a good matchup.

Bob Ryder: The last couple of NITRO's we saw Kimberly out at ringside with roses. Can we expect to see her with Booty Man?

Tony Schiavone: That's what we all think...because they are both dressed in white. But, who knows??? Not that Elizabeth and Randy are on the outs, she may be looking at Randy.

Bob Ryder: Over the years in all the federations, do you have a particular match or event that stands out for you?

Tony Schiavone: Yeah. Without a doubt, the greatest match I ever called in my life was Hulk Hogan vs The Big Bossman in Madison Square Garden, back in 1989. Here is why I say that. Keep in mind I had been with Jim Crockett all those years. And I had called matches in UIC Pavillion, Nassau Coliseum...but had never been in Madison Square Garden...and for someone who has been in wrestling for as many years as I have, Madison Square Garden...back at that time was the place to be. It was my first time there, and I was doing the show for the MSG Network, Lord Alfred Hayes was my color man...it was sold out. We had Hogan and Bossman in a cage. I had never called a Hogan match, and I had never been so excited to call a match in my life. I had only been with Titan for a month or so. We were sold out at Madison Square Garden, then we flew to Boston to do Boston Garden for the New England Sports Network. So, that was without a doubt as a wrestling announcer my greatest day.

Bob Ryder: Any other things since then that are comparable?

Tony Schiavone: Yeah, a couple of things stand out. I remember probably for me one of the more exciting moments of my career was back in 1993, I believe it was 93...may have been 94...you would probably know better than me...but I think beginning of 94. It was the return of Ric Flair at SuperBrawl. He had been with the WWF, and we had a SuperBrawl at Ashville, NC and he was making his return to WCW. It was an exciting day for two reasons. Number 1 because they had just named me to do Play by Play...and number 2 because Ric Flair was returning.

Bob Ryder: The WCWSN show has really rebounded, and has beaten RAW a few times lately. How big is the impact of NITRO on the other shows?

Tony Schiavone: Oh, NITRO has had a big impact on WCW in many ways. I think we are getting a new audience. We are bringing in more people to get interested in wrestling. I think they like what they see on Saturday. It has a tremendous impact on my work week. I never will forget last year when they got everybody together in production. They said, 'Oh great news, we are now gonna have a program every Monday night live on TNT.' Everybody was excited, and I thought to myself...Oh my goodness, here we go again. It has had a tremendous impact inside and outside of our lives. It's been great for us. Obviously the numbers on Saturday night show that. But, I think there are other reasons for the Saturday rebound. I think the matches have gotten better. When Center Stage went out of business that was the biggest blessing that ever happened. Center Stage was horrible. It was horrible from the word go. When we walked into that building when we had tapings, it was dark and dank and dirty. It was just horrible. We posted our commentary then, now we do it from the event. I think there are alot of things that go into the better number. The main reason, though, is we have a better product.

Bob Ryder: With the changes to the broadcast teams, and Lee Marshall coming in...some rumors have started that Bobby Heenan is leaving WCW. Can you clarify or dispel these rumors?

Tony Schiavone: Yes, I will clarify. It's an absolute lie. Those are rumors by people that like to start rumors on the Internet or on Hotlines. Heenan is going nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. I'm saying that as a close friend of his. He is not going anywhere.

Bob Ryder: What particular kind of match do you like to call? Do you like highflyers, mat wrestling, brawling?

Tony Schiavone: I can tell you my least favorite is brawling. I'll give you an example. SuperBrawl and Clash of Champions...Nasty Boys vs Public Enemy. There are some people who like diving through table, and the referee doing all he can to keep things in the ring. I hate that. It's confusing as an announcer. That's not a knock against those guys...because they are all fine wrestlers. But, it has no semblance of a wrestling match. I know there are people who think 'let's pick up a table or a frying pan and hit someone on the head with it...', but that's not wrestling. I don't like that. Highflyers are ok. I like good, solid mat wrestling. I still long for the days of the Ric Flair/Dusty Rhodes 60 minute matches. Of an Anderson Brothers tag team match. Matches where the fans got into what was going on...not because they saw a great dropkick...but because they saw great mat wrestling. The one wrestler that combines everything today for me is Eddy Guerrero. He's young, vibrant, exciting...he can mat wrestle, he can fly...he has it all. I love to watch Eddy wrestle.

Bob Ryder: What announcers have you tried to pattern your style after?

Tony Schiavone: It's funny...but there was one guy when I was young. He probably isn't well known...but he's Joe Tait. He is the voice of the Cleaveland Cavaliers and back years ago he did Cleaveland Indians baseball. I used to sit on the porch and listen to Joe Tait. I tried to pattern my baseball announcing after him, because he was the best.

Bob Ryder: So your early broadcast style was patterned after the guy you listened to on your porch calling baseball games?

Tony Schiavone: Yeah. I even wrote him a letter when I was in college. I told him I admired him and wanted to be a baseball announcer...you know, it was one of those letters that young college guys send. He never responded to my letter. Just about 3 years ago the Cavaliers were here playing the Hawks...and being with Turner, I had my ID...and I went over to see Joe Tait. We had a real nice talk...and his first question was 'How'd you get into wrestling?' I had to say, it was because I had a family, and it paid good money at the time...Minor league baseball, you have visions of the major leagues, but it is really a pretty horrible job. So, he is the one I really tried to pattern my style after.

Bob Ryder: Where do you see the company a year from now? Do you see any expansion beyond NITRO? Is this pretty much the look we will see?

Tony Schiavone: I think this is probably the look you will see. I think you will see more PPV's. Maybe one a month. We don't have one in January, April, or August now. I think you will see one a month. I think you will continue to see Pro and Worldwide from either Disney or Universal Studios. You will continue to see Saturday night from arenas, I hope. And NITRO will continue to be live. I think you will see Main Event change. There are alot of things we need to do to update that show, and I think you will like the changes.