Mainstream sports website Grantland has made a name for itself over the past year for featuring the best long form articles on pro wrestling anywhere on the web, most notably exposing how Ric Flair was in so much debt that he fairly recently faced home eviction. Once again they have come up trumps with a fascinating article on Kevin Nash, based on a surprisingly candid interview Big Sexy did with reporter Thomas Golianopoulos.
For those of you wondering why a middle aged multimillionaire with a dodgy heart and knackered knees, who has a blossoming acting career late in life, still works indy dates and is constantly angling for yet another WWE comeback, that's because the money offers keep on coming and he'll never have enough cash in his bank account to rest easy:
"I'm a Detroit kid who grew up with that assembly line mentality: You go to work to make money. My wife is like, 'Why do you still wrestle?' If you go to an ATM for a hundred dollars and it keeps spitting twenties, when would you walk away? When it wasn't spitting twenties no more. As long as you can take the money out, you'd stay there. That's what the wrestling business is like."
Money fears never go away for Nash, thanks to a combination of a humble working class background, a lifelong battle with insomnia, more recent anxiety attacks and the ever present fear that an injury could derail his earning ability or his fortune could be eroded by another stock market slump in the blink of an eye. He estimates that even when completely retired he'll still bank $525,000 a year, but he's still kept up all night worrying about whether that will be enough. Even though the average person doesn't make that in a decade. I wish I had such money "problems" to deal with in my life!
An interesting note from the discussion of his critically acclaimed performance as an aging male stripper in comedy-drama Magic Mike is that Nash pitched to lead actor Channing Tatum a wrestling movie called King Of The Road, likely based on the experiences at the peak of his career:
"The Wrestler was a good movie, but The Wrestler is the end of the run. There's never been a movie about the run. That's what people want to see."
Even with his connections I can't see that getting off the ground and with such a vague outline, I'm not sure that it should.
After the jump, more analysis of the most newsworthy things Nash had to say in the interview about his wrestling career.
Nash is startlingly honest about the reasons behind him winning the WWF title in November 1994. He outright says that Vince McMahon wanted a clean big man as champion at a time when the company was doing stringent steroid testing. However, though Nash does admit using steroids before playing Oz in 1991 and human growth hormone for several months in the late 1990s, both while working for WCW, it seemed like he was holding back on the full truth on this issue. After all, muscle tears are a common steroid injury, but it wouldn't be politically savvy to admit to using steroids while working for WWE.
Regarding backstage politics, which Nash is astonishingly frank about, you can understand why Shawn Michaels and Scott Hall formed The Kliq with Sean Waltman when he recalls this story of uneven Survivor Series 1994 payoffs for the three when they worked in the same match together:
"Nobody ever knew what payouts were based on. There was a Survivor Series where me and Scott Hall did 90 percent of the match, Shawn Michaels came in and kicked me on the chin. That was about the only thing he did the entire match but he got double what we did on the payout. There was no rhyme or reason to payouts. You got what you got until we started talking to each other about what we got and then they had to rectify it."
Obviously at the time Vince saw Shawn as a bigger star than either Nash or Hall, but the disparity in payoff would be galling when he did next to nothing in the match.
Nash claims he signed "a five-year deal worth approximately $9 million guaranteed" with WCW in spring 1996. He may have earned that much in the end thanks to the ridiculous favored nation clause Eric Bischoff agreed to put in his contract, but at the time the reports were he signed a three year deal for $750,000 a year.
Hulk Hogan also rewrites history to suggest that he and Kevin were always secretly best buds and used their perceived animosity to play their bosses like a fiddle (including Dixie Carter, which is a rather brazen, if unsurprising, revelation, given that she still pays Hulk's bills):
"As far as politics goes, Kevin and I worked pretty good together as good-cop, bad-cop when we really needed to get things done in the back. If we needed something done from Ted Turner or Eric Bischoff or Vince McMahon or Dixie Carter, we'd be like, 'Kevin won't be happy if he doesn't get this. Or, 'Hogan might flip out if he doesn't get this.' We were good at double-teaming the 'enemy' in a political situation. We were ruthless."
Though that was true much of the time in WCW, sometimes relations were a lot cooler between the two, even being at all out war with each other after Hogan got Nash's friend Waltman fired in March 1998, just to stick it to him. They eventually did patch things up with Nash becoming head WCW booker and being the guy to end Goldberg's streak in return for Hogan winning the title in the finger poke of doom nWo reformation angle, but unsurprisingly Nash doesn't remember things quite like that:
"He was red-hot, but I was red-hot too. I was probably the most over I ever was. They were chanting 'Goldberg Sucks' in buildings. They started pumping the Goldberg chant through the PA system. Hogan and the higher-ups were like, 'You gotta beat him.' I read in a book [The Death of WCW, by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez] that I masterminded this thing. So let me get this straight: I beat Goldberg, then a week later, I go to the Georgia Dome and lay down for Hogan. What did that do for me? I got nothing out of it."
The exact date upon which Nash officially became head booker is a bit hazy, but he and Hogan were the two most powerful people in the organization creatively at the time of Starrcade '98, and he was already booking his own segments by then, so pinning all the blame on Hogan and Bischoff seems more than a bit disingenuous.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Kevin Nash interview if he didn't stereotype all hardcore wrestling fans who ever criticized him as uncultured geeks:
"I'm never going to be an Internet darling. I could hit an 890 hurricanrana tomorrow and they'll say, 'Oh, his left knee hit before his right knee'. You're not supposed to be 7 feet tall, handsome, smart. You're a giant, you should look like a giant and fee-fi-fo-fum around. You shouldn't know anything about art. You shouldn't be well-rounded. Look at the core of the hard-core wrestling fans. What do we have in common? When they go to New York City, do they go to the modern art museum and can't believe that Picasso's early work is not cubism? Do they know that? Do they care? Have they ever spent a day at an art museum ever in their life? Do they go to Amsterdam to see Van Goghs, then go to a coffeehouse and then go see Van Goghs again? *laughs* They don't. Sorry, man."
Most of the criticism for Nash over the years wasn't out of jealousy for his good looks, but due to his shameless politicking that he admits to in this interview, which kept him on top at the expense of more hungry, harder worker young talent like Chris Benoit or Eddie Guerrero. He quite delusionally blamed them for the fall of WWE business when they were put on top:
"When Benoit and Guerrero hugged [at the end of WrestleMania XX], that was the end of the business. Has business been the same since that WrestleMania? Has it come close to the Austin era? Has it come close to the nWo or the Hogan era? You put two fucking guys that were great workers that were the same height as the fucking referees, and I'm sorry, man. Are you going to watch a porno movie with a guy with a three-inch dick? Even if you're not gay, you will not watch a porno movie with a guy with a three-inch dick. That's not the standard in porno films. So you put a 5-foot-7 guy as your world champion."
Actually business bottomed out after their championship reigns were long over in the autumn / winter of 2004, when the tall JBL became the worst drawing World champion in WWE history since Diesel and the muscular son-in-law Triple H wasn't doing much better, which just goes to show that you need much more than height and a nice head of hair to draw money in the business. Unsurprisingly, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan got the exact same knocks from Nash, which is full of juicy irony in the former case when Nash got completely punked out on the microphone by Phil Brooks in their aborted feud last year and has been lobbying hard on Twitter of late for Punk to recreate the nWo, just so he can get another WWE run.
Not only did he create the nWo, but Nash in his mind also created the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin phenomenon:
"Isn't it amazing that I dragged the belt to the ring, had the glass break? They took everything that worked, revved it up after I told them the basic premise of the future champion, and they gave it to Steve. He took it to heights that I couldn't take it to. He took what I blueprinted. Was there any difference between Diesel's entrance and Steve's? Same glass break."
Of course, it is true that Nash pushed Vince McMahon to take the WWF in an edgier direction in late 1995, but it's quite the stretch to say he was responsible for the Attitude era and Austin's character. I don't think even the self congratulating Paul Heyman would go that far, even though his ECW was pushing the envelope first, groomed Austin to play a much more hard nosed heel, and his top babyface star The Sandman had much more in common with what Stone Cold became than Diesel ever did.
Personally, I thought the most shocking revelation was that Nash apparently suffered two concussions in his last match with Triple H at the TLC pay-per-view last December. If that didn't convince him he should hang up the boots for good, then nothing will. Though part of the blame may fall at Vince's feet, who apparently told him after the match "I think we saved your best for last". Yeah right, if you honestly believed that, then you wouldn't ignore all Kev's phone calls trying to get back in.