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Jim Cornette Shoot Interview (1993)
Posted by Brandon Truitt on Mar 1, 2004, 22:43
No intro tonight. I'm not sure what the next shoot will be, but there should be a new one next week.
As always, you can feel free to Drop me an e-mail, read the archives, buy me stuff, or buy yourself stuff at Highspots.com.
Jim Cornette Q&A Session (1993)
This is the first of three annual question and answer sessions held by Jim Cornette during his tenure as the booker of Smokey Mountain Wrestling.
Warning- This is a video made by an amateur cameraman, so there are a lot of problems with it including excessive shakiness, low volume, and bad positioning decisions (having Cornette in a dark room sitting in front of a lighted window creates to a silhouette that looks vaguely like Alfred Hitchcock’s).
When will he expand to all 50 states and Puerto Rico? He says that they’ve got a syndication network of 250 stations lined up, they’ll be bigger than WCW in six months and the WWF in a year, and that Bruiser Brody will be their booker. (This is an in-joke about many new promotions at that time, especially Herb Abrams’ UWF)
Will Jim Herd be added to your board of directors? “If we let you on it, we’ll let anyone one it.” (This is another in-joke, as Cornette HATED Herd while they were both in WCW and once quit WCW’s booking committee because he was going to gouge out Herd’s eyes if he had to listen to another line of crap about hunchbacks and Ding Dongs.)
The WCW 900 number- Someone from WCW management called him up one night while he was still working there and pitched him the idea of doing their 900 number. He went along with it, even though Jim Herd directly benefited from anything the number brought in and the only thing Cornette wanted to contribute to Herd “would be money for funeral expenses.” It was supposed to be a big-money deal but when he got his check two weeks later, it was for fourteen dollars. He says that he copied the check but never cashed it because it had Herd’s signature on it and “I wanted to fuck with his bookkeeping.” He talks about how Dave Meltzer’s own readers gave him a bunch of shit for being in on the 900 number because they feel he’ll talk up the shows of people he’s got monetary dealings with. He jokes that if Dave hated the previous night’s show that he’s got $14 in the pool that he could bribe him with to get a good review out of it.
Contracts- They’re bullshit in the wrestling business. He feels that he doesn’t need to sign anything because if he agrees to be someplace and he doesn’t show up, the guy who scheduled him just won’t use him again. If he does it to enough people, he’s out of the business. As for pay, he’ll do favors for guys he knows like Dennis Corralluzzo, who couldn’t name him an amount but said he’d pay him based off of the crowd they drew. He thinks that a lot of people in the WWF and WCW suck in the ring now because they believe they’re big stars because they’re on TV, even if they are horrible wrestlers.
What does he think about a certain radio station manager in Philadelphia who doesn’t want wrestling on his station, such as Mike Arrezzi’s radio show (which was financially supported by Vince Russo, then a New York City video-store owner)? He thinks he knows why, having seen Joel Goodhart’s TWA (the precursor to ECW). If the guy keeps canceling shows that people want to watch, like wrestling, and replaces it with a bunch of crap, people will move on elsewhere and he’ll no longer be working for the station… but will be hired as the new VP of WCW. He could see not picking wrestling over something else if the guy had a choice between two shows he could put on TV, but canceling something that has a following for no reason other than you not liking it is stupid.
Nearly beating up the sound guy in St. Louis one night- “You know how long it takes me to get mad about something” and it set him off when he came down to the ring one night and was about to talk on the mic when the union sound guy tried to take it away from him. He cussed the guy out and was trying to get him to take the first swing so that the fans would see that Cornette didn’t throw the first punch and, as such, limit his chances of getting sued.
What kind of deal did he have with Bill Watts in WCW before the rest of WCW screwed it up? Watts called him up about a talent exchange and Cornette agreed to it as long as Watts had total control over WCW, as Watts would keep his word while everyone else at WCW would change things up in a heartbeat. They came up with an invasion angle because Cornette knew that the only thing anyone still believed in wrestling was that all the promotions hate each other. The problem was that the angle wasn’t shown on TV as it was done in the studio and, as a result, Cornette bitched out Eric Bischoff at Superbrawl III when the angle was blown off. Cornette jokes that Bischoff was standing in a wind tunnel and that his clothes and skin were going in all directions but his hair stood completely still. Bischoff had tried to play off screwing up the angle by saying that people felt that his comments about WCW were too strong, etc. but Cornette came back by saying that it was a way to get the angle across because he didn’t work at WCW anymore and most of the fans knew that, so there would be a genuine interest in what was said and buy into the heat that Cornette and the Heavenly Bodies had with the Rock and Roll Express, “which might cause you to draw some money accidentally.”
The plan behind that angle was that they’d co-promote some more, such as sending some of their guys to work on WCW’s pay per views, recognize WCW’s champions as world champions, get WCW to recognize Smokey Mountain’s champions as regional champions, etc.
How did the deal with the WWF come around? They called him up and asked if he and the Heavenly Bodies wanted to work a few shows for them. They went and did some TV and Pay Per View shots for them and got to promote Smokey Mountain a bit. They also got him to start managing Yokozuna.
Getting WWF talent for their shows- They don’t get told that they have to take the Bushwhackers or anyone like that, as they can request people, give a date, and the WWF will see if they’re free. For example, they’d want the Steiner Brothers to appear in Smokey Mountain shortly after Summerslam 1993 to have a rematch with the Heavenly Bodies, which could be a big draw in the territory. It also had some meaning when he brought in Arn Anderson earlier in the year because he was working a match with the Rock and Roll Express, who he faced many times along with Tully Blachard, as well as Bobby Eaton, a good friend of his and a former tag partner.
Brian Clarke- When Paul Orndorff pitched the idea of bringing Clarke into Smokey Mountain, he was opposed to it at first because he remembered Clarke’s horrible run as the Nightstalker in WCW. Orndorff assured him that Clarke had gotten better, so Cornette teamed Clarke with Kevin Sullivan and used him in some angles but didn’t plan too much around him because he knew that the WWF or WCW would sign him eventually. As long as his guys give notice before they go, he’ll live with it.
The Ding-Dongs in WCW- He and Jim Ross weren’t happy to be calling the Ding-Dongs match for WCW Saturday Night, so Cornette started screwing around such as asking which one was Ding and which one was Dong, and that Dong was his favorite.
Jerry Lawler playing a face in Memphis while he’s a heel in the WWF against the same people- He couldn’t do the same thing as he feels that he can’t afford to hurt his business at a time when wrestling is doing badly everywhere.
Does he think Ted Turner knows what he’s doing in WCW? “Ted Turner don’t know he owns the company. Well, maybe he does because he had his picture taken with the big guy once.” Seriously, though, Turner owns a lot of companies and is a billionaire, so WCW losing $15 million in a year hurts him about as much as Jane Fonda going on a few shopping sprees. On top of that, no one wants to tell him the truth because it would come out as “Well, Ted, we bought that wrestling company four years ago and have lost about $25 million dollars because we fucked it all up. What should we do?”, which would end with the entire management crew getting fired. He says that the wrestlers get all the blame from management because it’s better for management’s job security. “Once we don’t have no wrestlers here, we’ll have a good wrestling promotion.”
What’s the #1 enemy of the wrestling business? The worst enemy of the business is WCW because they have Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Vader, and other tremendously talented wrestlers yet the shows are unwatchable. While Smokey Mountain working with the WWF would be seen as horrible a few years earlier, it’s the only way they can work with a top-level promotion now because being associated with WCW would hurt SMW tremendously.
The WCW Beach Blast 1993 mini movie- “OH JESUS that was horrible.” He contrasts that mini movie, which cost about $80,000 and pissed off a lot of fans because of the unbelievable nature of it (Sid and Vader, in flip-flops, challenging Sting and Davey-Boy Smith… then blowing up their boat with a bomb), while SMW did the Armstrong’s Army video to build up the Armstrong family’s flag match against Cornette’s hired guns such as Terry Funk for $50 and it drew a house for the match. He doesn’t know who’s responsible for it but they were probably on drugs.
The Cactus Jack amnesia skits- WCW has Cactus Jack over a barrel because his wife just had a baby and he’s trying to do whatever they ask of him but they’re making him look like a total idiot. They start discussing how it was dropped suddenly by the company and theorize that the amnesia was contagious and that everyone just forgot about the angle.
Scandals within the business hurting all of the companies in the business- Everyone gets a little hurt when someone in the business does something stupid but Cornette says that SMW is at least partially insulated from it because he doesn’t take steroids or fondle anyone’s feet. (This is a reference to both the WWF steroid investigations and the WWF sexual harassment investigations. The foot reference is specifically to WWF ring attendant Mel Phillips, whose fetishes were well-known within the company because of jokes about it. One specifically was “What’s Mel’s favorite kind of car? A toe-truck!”) “The only test most of our guys wouldn’t pass would be a cholestoral test and I’d be right at the top of the list.”
The area he promotes- The people in eastern Tennessee love brawling matches that look real, which is why the WWF stopped running shows in the area years ago, after they brought Hogan in and only drew 5000 people, and why the return of Ric Flair to WCW only drew 400 people compared to SMW drawing 1000 in the same arena the next week. The state also has a long memory when it comes to wrestling, as anyone in the state of Tennessee who is asked to name three wrestlers will name Jackie Fargo, Jerry Lawler, and either Jerry Jarrett or Tojo Yamamoto. Dave Meltzer pipes in at this point and says that the same thing goes on in California, as fans will talk to him about Pepper Gomez, Ray Stevens, and other long-time headliners in the area instead of wrestlers more famous on the national level.
Interviews- No one knows how to cut an interview anymore, as the babyfaces aren’t getting over why they hate the heels and the heels aren’t insulting the crowd and doing other things to get heat. Also, people need to be more relaxed in front of the camera, as people who are very at-ease in front of the camera like a Bobby Heenan get over much more easily than someone who sounds like they’re reading cue-cards.
Brian Christopher- Cornette feels he’s doing good, as he projects well while he’s in the ring.
Qualities of good announcers- The main thing is that they shouldn’t try to steal the show. Outside of that, they each have to find their own thing. Part of it is being credible to the people watching the show, which was partly why people such as Lance Russell in Memphis and Bill Watts in Mid-South were so good, as Watts could explain why someone sold a dropkick that missed by five feet in a way that would have you believing it. Another thing that needs to happen is that the color commentator and the play-by-play man need to at least pay some attention to the match instead of bickering with each other and ignoring the match completely.
The WWF and psychology- He’s watched more of it since he’s been on RAW and has seen that their psychology is a lot better than it used to be, but he’s not going to take it upon himself to make the WWF more like Smokey Mountain.
RAW- It’s a good show because they’re putting good matches on it and running angles.
Tammy Fitch (Sunny)- He sees a lot of potential in her because she’s really smart and dedicated, as opposed to the stereotype of a wrestler’s dumb girlfriend who gets into the business to carry their jacket around. “Even the rats who are smart down here hate her to death.” Cornette jokes that he used to get death threats all the time but now, some of the female fans come up to him and start talking about how much they hate Tammy.
Baby Doll- “If anyone should have pioneered the man vs. woman matches, by which I mean a real wrestler and not me, it would be her. She was a moose.” He wonders how Baby Doll ever got over considering that she was managing Tully Blanchard, who she was 6 inches taller than and outweighed by at least 20 pounds.
His wrestling videotape collection- He’s got way too many of them, most of which are still in boxes from the last time he moved. The good thing about them, though, is that there’s a lot of good stuff on there that you can steal and use because the seven-year statute of limitations on gimmick theft has expired. He’s gotten in touch with at least one guy from Florida who has a lot of original films and tapes of Nick Gulas’s Tennessee promotion as well as a lot of Championship Wrestling from Florida footage.
Japanese footage- He hasn’t had a chance to watch a bunch of it, although he has a lot of it. He used to eagerly get the tapes when it was stuff like Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Terry Funk or Dynamite Kid vs. Tiger Mask but his enthusiasm waned when the style changed and the matches became more full-speed-ahead rather than traditional storytelling.
Lucha Libre- He loves all the Mexican stuff he’s seen but the problem is that it’s hard for him to find moves that can be used in this country when he watches it. It’s a lot of fun to watch though.
Does he think that Lucha Libre style moves could get over in big cities which are more jaded to the business now? It would certainly get a lot of attention but it doesn’t get the kind of attention that will draw money. If you had guys who could do storytelling as well as doing those moves, it could draw though.
Regional differences- When Dirty White Boy was burning the Confederate flag to get heat, it really got over in Tennessee as a heel act while it would be seen as a babyface act in other areas. Whenever Tracy Smothers was wrestling DWB during that feud, Klansmen would come over to Tracy and tell him that they had his back if he needed it that night.
Is there any potential of talent exchanges with ECW or other promotions? “From what I read, we’re definitely going to be sending a lot of people up to ECW.” (This is a Wrestling Observer Newsletter joke that Cornette is making because Dave Meltzer’s in the room)
Brawling into the crowd- He won’t go out in the crowd because he knows someone will take a shot at him, but he knows that the crowd is too scared of someone like Kevin Sullivan. He couldn’t do it in some other territories either, as he and the Midnight Express found out shortly after they went to Mid-South. Bill Dundee had booked the Midnights vs. Magnum TA and Mr. Wrestling II in Houston and wanted them to brawl to the back of the Sam Houston arena, which excited the crowd to the point that Mexican fans in the balconies were jumping 12 feet down to get involved. Cornette ended up diving for the safety of the locker room and got to see Paul Boesch bitching out booker Bill Dundee over the mini-riot, but Dundee was vindicated the next time they came back because the house was up $15,000 from the previous show.
The differences in Johnson City, Tennessee, over the last ten years- In 1986, the Great American Bash drew $100,000 there. WCW could still draw $25,000 a show for a while there but they kept no-showing advertised talents and screwing around in other ways to the point that they were getting 400 people at shows. It didn’t help that WCW had actually lost their TV timeslot in that town.
Short-term and long-term goals of SMW- “Sell tickets.” He’d like to expand outwards towards West Virginia and the Carolinas, which would allow them to make a larger loop and have more shows on a regular basis. They also tend to get better fans the further east they go, as compared to going west to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The story he told in the Pro Wrestling Torch about a riot in Mid-South that ended with Bill Watts standing on someone’s head- The whole thing started because some guy got a running start and leaped out at him, busting his nose open. The cops then picked up the guy, who had a hold on Cornette, and started dragging him back to the locker room. Cornette was trying to gouge the guy’s eye out, Bobby Eaton was trying to hit him with Cornette’s tennis racket, Dennis Condrey was kicking him, and Buddy Landell came out to get involved with it. Cornette joked that the whole thing looked like a Tasmanian Devil making its way to the locker room. Once they got him into the locker room, Watts got the guy, threw him against the wall, and was about to hit him but the guy kept ducking down. He finally got Grizzly Smith to hold the guy up while he kicked the shit out of him, then threw him on the ground and stood on his head. He jokes about how times have changed, as they never heard anything about that guy after Watts beat the shit out of him but the guy that Cornette beat with a tennis racket recently tried to sue him.
Tulsa, Oklahoma- They always had riots whenever they worked Tulsa, but they worked it regularly because it was Bill Watts’ hometown. The particularly bad time they were there was when the Midnight Express was feuding with Watts and the Junkyard Dog, with a stipulation on the match that if the Midnights lost, Cornette had to wear a dress. Once Watts started selling, things started getting ugly, which was about the time Cornette was glad he was wearing a bulletproof vest, which he always did in Tulsa. (He explains that he didn’t wear it for bullets as much as knives that the fans were probably carrying. “If I got shot, I’d die of suffocation because I’d smother myself in shit.”) The match ended with both Eaton and Condrey getting busted open and pinned, then thrown out of the ring and carted to the back by the cops. After that, Watts and JYD pulled Cornette in the ring, kicked his ass, stripped him, and put him in the dress. Cornette figured he was safe after that but, when he rolled out of the ring, he was grabbed by three cops who yelled “RUN!” He lost all his cops by the halfway point to the locker room but was running as fast as he could, windmilling the tennis racket to clear the way. That’s about when he got to Watts’ Rolls Royce, which he’d driven into the arena because of the weather outside. Jim Ross was near the car yelling “GET AWAY FROM THE CAR! GET AWAY FROM THE CAR!” but Cornette was more concerned with survival and ran past the car to the dressing room. Cornette was dodging beer bottles and cups of ice by that point, so Watts’ car got all kinds of damage from it.
Galianno, Louisiana- Galianno was one of the worst places in Louisiana to wrestle, partially because the crowds were severely intoxicated and partially because they were coon-asses. At least one time, they got attacked on the way TO the ring instead of the way back from the ring. Jimmy Garvin was on that card as a heel against Chris Adams and refused to break any rules in the match because he didn’t want the crowd to kill him.
The bucket of money match in Memphis- He and Jimmy Hart were wrestling against Bobby Eaton in a match where, if they lost, they’d have to throw $5000 out to the crowd. Because they’d never won a handicap match before, everyone knew that they’d be throwing money out. The box of money had $172 in one-dollar bills made to look like a lot more than it was. The plan was for The Assassins to cost Bobby Eaton the match then for Eaton to knock everyone out and throw two handfuls of money to the crowd. When Eaton actually did it, the entire arena piled into the ring trying to get the money. Cornette doesn’t remember much more than that because someone punched him in the jaw right after that and knocked him out. That was the last time anyone had one of those matches that he knows of and he personally will NEVER have one of those matches.
The managerial highlight of his career- The Last Stampede matches with Bill Watts and Junkyard Dog in Mid-South, as they were the main draw on that card and set a lot of box office records in the territory.
Worst experience in the business- “Our famed angle with the New Breed (Chris Champion and Sean Royal)” for one, and most of 1989 before the Midnight Express finally turned heel on the Dynamic Dudes (Shane Douglas and WWE road agent Johnny Ace), as they’d continually face shitty teams like the Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes at that time), the Samoan SWAT Team (Samu and Fatu(Rikishi)), and the Skyscrapers (Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey).
Von Erich stories- They didn’t have many of them because the Von Erichs were getting the money while they were off in a corner with the Fantastics.
Halloween Havoc 1990-
Jim Ross had proposed a feud between the Midnight Express and the Southern Boys (Tracy Smothers and Steve Armstrong) to follow up on their classic match at Great American Bash 1990, so they went into Halloween Havoc 1990 thinking that things were going to be set up for it. Since the card had the Midnights vs. Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich and the Southern Boys vs. the Master Blasters (Kevin Nash and Tyler Mane, who was Sabretooth in X-Men), Cornette figured that the Midnights and the Southern Boys would both win because Morton and Rich was a fill-in team because Robert Gibson was hurt and the Master Blaster just plain sucked. However, Ole wanted to get Tommy Rich and Ricky Morton over, so they went over the Midnights. The Southern Boys were going to come out and distract the Midnights, leading to Morton and Rich getting the pin. Then, during the Southern Boys match, they were going to come out and the Southern Boys were going to stick a pumpkin on his head.
Once Cornette heard that, he figured it was WCW VP Jim Herd’s idea and told Ole that Jim Herd could stick that pumpkin up his ass. Cornette practically had a coronary over the whole thing and Ole countered his arguments by saying that the pumpkin bit was something that old-school Tennessee promoter Nick Gulas would have done. Cornette said “No, Nick Gulas would have drawn money”, which pissed Ole off to no end because Ole HATES Tennessee wrestling.
Cornette was already pissed about having to wear a Confederate general costume during the show and, since he was told to take care of it because it had to go back to the costume shop, he came up with the idea of the Southern Boys tearing it off of him instead of the whole pumpkin bit. The whole thing got over so well that the crowd actually felt SORRY for Cornette and booed the Southern Boys.
What would have happened if the WCW booking committee from 1989 had stayed in place? Not much in the way of differences because the company was screwed by virtue of being owned by Turner.
Who had a big influence on his interviews? Mainly Jerry Lawler and the other people he watched throughout his years in the business. You can also learn a lot from bad interviews because you can pick it apart and see exactly what’s done wrong. Some of the worst interviews tended to be from Thunderbolt Patterson, Dr. Death Steve Williams, Paul Jones, Sonny King, etc.
People knowing the business is a work- It’s good to have people who appreciate a good match even though they know it’s a work, but you always have to cater to people who think it’s real because there’s a lot more of them. If you ever start catering to people who know the business is fake and just want to see good matches, you’ll be out of business. (I’d say this covers my theory of booking wrestling… Don’t do something to intentionally insult someone’s intelligence because NO ONE likes having the fact that it’s not real shoved in their face.)
Wrestling terminology- A lot of it is Carny but a lot of it has also been created throughout the years of the territory system.
Kevin Sullivan makes an appearance at this point and the interview falls apart.
This interview is okay if you’ve got the perspective to know what they’re talking about in some cases, as there’s a lot of obscure references to things going on in 1993. The problem is that this interview doesn’t have anything significant that the 8-hour Cornette interview from 2000 doesn’t already have. Mildly recommended if you don’t have the 8-hour Cornette interview from 2000, recommendation to avoid otherwise.