The always outspoken Jim Cornette sat down for a wide-ranging interview with UK podcast The Indy Corner last week. In an hour-plus discussion, the veteran of performing and managing everywhere from Madison Square Garden to Bluefield, West Virginia answered questions about his time with Ring of Honor (ROH), and was his usual frank self on topics like El Generico (spoiler alert - now WWE's Sami Zayn), the rumored to be coming to WWE Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards, independent wrestling star Kevin Steen and ROH itself.
You can listen to the whole interview here, and it's worth it because Corny is a classic wrestling "character", full of great stories that may or may not be complete bullshit. Here are some highlights on topics of interest.
Working with El Generico:
On a number of occasions we went to him and said...'we are fixing to debut a television program on seventy-something television stations around the country, we like your work but, number one, you don't speak. We can not have a mute babyface...you need to learn how to present your gimmick verbally as well as physically'. And he resisted most of our overtures to do that and now of course for the WWF [sic] and for the right amount of money he takes the mask off, he talks.
Generico's relationship with Kevin Steen and what it was like working with them:
Steen takes up all of the wind in the room...and they were kind of joined at the hip also. Steen was pretty much Generico's agent. Gabe Sapoloksy, who was the previous booker, told Adam Pearce, who was the booker then, 'you will spend the majority of your time dealing with Kevin Steen and El Generico, and their various issues and ideas and problems and complaints...and Adam Pearce told me that that certainly had been true and he found that to be the case, and when...Delirious was installed as booker he confirmed to me that that was also the case as well.
I thought that Kevin Steen and El Generico's program of matches, while I thought that they were exciting and obviously of interest to the fans, often went too far in terms of what we were trying to do at the time, which was sell the company or get the company on mainstream television or sell the company to someone who could get it on mainstream television.
A large chunk of the interview is Cornette's side of his dealings with Steen, and he makes it sound about as attractive as looking at naked Kevin Steen probably would be:
I've come to find out that Kevin is not in the business to make money, Kevin is in the business to have his style of great match and be the center of attention. And that's fine, but we were trying to be in the business to make money.
What we wanted from Kevin was to take six months off, go home, get in the gym, lose some weight...We knew that he could work, we knew that he had trememdous dedication to the business and we knew that he could cut a great promo...we arranged with Cary Silken to put him on the payoff sheet for the Ring of Honor shows that he missed...come back 40 pounds lighter...with a lean, mean look and he would get a big push.
He came back about 25-30 pounds lighter - not 40 - but it was a start at least. We told him that since we were going on the air on television in September (with Sinclair Broadcasting) that rather than just have him come back then, not on television, and become just one of the boys that is introduced when the TV show is introduced that we would hold him off for a few months...and then when the television show went on the air he would be the first major talent that we introduced coming in and that we would tell his backstory so he would get a big TV push. And, of course, he went into a snit about this because he wanted to come back and play in his sandbox so he went back home and gained back all the weight that he'd lost.
The Ring of Honor fans knew him and loved him, the independent wrestling fans knew him and loved him, but for the wider audience on television who would see him for the first time, and they're looking at Davey Richards, and they're looking at Eddie Edwards, and they're looking at the Briscoes and they're looking at Jay Lethal and all these well conditioned professional athletes, and the World champion is that fat guy wearing bike shorts and a t-shirt.
He's not in the wrestling business to be in the big-time wrestling business, he's in the wrestling business to be the champion in front of 500 people in a rec center.
Unlike this writer, Jim is a big fan of Davey Richards in the ring, but is candid in addressing the perception of Richards the person:
Davey's a great athlete, he's a special performer...but he talks like a lot of people fart. You don't know when it's coming, you don't know what it's going to smell like, you don't know what it's going to consist of. Davey got a lot of chances to be a leader in the locker room, to be a champion outside of the ring...and succeeded with flying colors inside the ring and flunked with a capital 'F' outside of the ring.
It's not all negativity for the ROH roster. Cornette has nothing but glowing things to say about Eddie Edwards, as a person and a wrestler. It was discussing the differences between "Die Hard" and his American Wolves tag partner that brought up the topic of what fans need to know about the wrestling business:
You don't want to put them (wrestlers) in main event spots inside the ring because those also require main events spots outside of the ring. So they (fans) just look at what they see on television and go, "well why isn't this guy being used better?" Well, possibly because he's a pain in the ass.
The interview closes with some good stories that get to the problems with ROH today and their follies in trying to deliver internet pay-per-view (iPPV). Predictably, none of it is Corny's fault, and he names names. But he also makes some good points - particularly for fans wondering why Dragon Gate USA and the like are able to successfully offer iPPV when Ring of Honor isn't. That being because ROH was trying to do more than point a camera at a ring, and had a much higher volume of fans trying to stream their shows.
What do you Cagesiders make of Cornette's version of the last few years of ROH? Does any of that cause concern that Sami Zayn may meet the same fate that befell Kassius Ohno? Or that Edwards or Richards will even be signed by WWE?