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WWE executive Kevin Dunn: Profiling the maligned, but fairly paid VP

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Entertainment industry website has posted a list of "media moguls" who receive reasonable compensation as a follow-up to a previous story about those who are overpaid.  Number three on the reasonable list is the notorious WWE Executive Vice President of Television Production and Vince McMahon's right hand man, Kevin Dunn.  With WWE stock down 7.5%, his salary went down 9.8% to $1.8 million, consisting of $746,154 salary, $680,400 stock awards, $351,000 cash equity, and $8,000 in "other compensation."  At one and a half times the average salary of the other four top WWE executives, Deadline feels that he's paid fairly.  By comparison, Verizon's Ivan Seidenberg is at the bottom of the list for making three times the other four highest paid Verizon employees, and Entercom's David Field tops the overpaid list with a salary that's 25.4 times the average salary of the company's other four top paid executives.

As legend has it, Vince McMahon promised his father that he'd take care of of a variety of specific people who had ties to the the company for their entire lives, and Kevin Dunn is one of them.  Dunn's father, Dennis Dunn, was Executive Producer of Intermedia Productions, which produced and syndicated (W)WWF television from 1972 through some point in the early '80s.  The elder Dunn had endeared himself to the McMahons by risking his life for the company.  One night, after a TV taping in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, he was driving home with the tapes of the show in his trunk when the car caught fire.  Dennis made sure to retrieve the tapes from the trunk, as losing weeks of TV shows could have seriously disrupted everything in the promotion.

Kevin was hired as an associate producer when the company's national expansion started in 1984 (when Video One was producing the company's shows) , promoted to Line Producer in 1987 when the company moved production completely in-house to a new $10 million studio, promoted to Producer of Domestic Television in 1989, and finally moved out of the heavy-duty production work in 1991 when he was made Supervising Producer of Domestic Television.  In 1993 he was promoted to Executive Producer of all WWF programming, with the official promotion to his current title coming a decade later.  He joined the company's board of directors in 2008.  In the late '80s, when he was still involved in the day to day editing process, he was occasionally featured on WWF shows and home videos when the production studio or staff was featured or needed to represented in same form.  You can see two of those segments on YouTube: 1 and 2.

Over the years, Dunn has become a controversial figure among hardcore wrestling fans, in large part because he's generally being considered to be right there with Vince McMahon as far as the bizarre, self-loathing "What we do isn't professional wrestling" stuff goes and is not a fan of historical wrestling references on WWE programming.  Perhaps his most vocal critic is Jim Cornette, who worked with Dunn when worked as a color commentator and member of the creative team.  Cornette has noted that when William Regal first came to the WWF as "The Real Man's Man" Steven Regal in 1998, Dunn reprimanded him for comparing Regal to legendary British wrestlers Billy Robinson and Dynamite Kid while on commentary.  According to Dunn, "nobody would know who they were."

A few years ago, when Jerry Lawler was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame, he was asked who he wanted to induct him.  Lawler immediately chose Lance Russell, the legendary announcer of Memphis Wrestling for decades who was the Howard Cosell to his Mohammed Ali.  Russell has known Lawler since was a teenager and Russell brought him on TV to show off his detailed drawings of the previous week's major house show matches.  Dunn reportedly freaked out because "nobody knows who he is" and Lawler ended up being inducted by William Shatner.  Why William Shatner?  He did a forgettably bad angle with Lawler in 1995 on Raw to promote "Tekwar," a USA series he created that quickly bombed.  As is always the train of though when Dunn, McMahon, et al make these decisions, they were hoping people who aren't wrestling fans would tune in; because people who don't like wrestling are SO easily swayed by celebrity appearances...right?

Since leaving WWE, Dunn has been a favorite target of Cornette in interviews.  From an interview with the UK-based Powerslam Magazine:

Did you often clash with other members of WWF management?

Constantly with some people, but not with others. Jim Ross and I have always got along. He's helped me a lot: he's taught me a lot about announcing and the wrestling business in general. Gerry Brisco, Jack Lanza: guys like that. Great. I love (working with them). But guys like Kevin Dunn, who's the biggest enemy professional wrestling fans have, and the non-wrestling people who are taught from day one that WWE isn't wrestling: it's sports entertainment, and it's got to be hokey or whatever. No.

It's not really their fault because that's what they're taught by WWE. But, at the same time, they're so obnoxious about it (laughs). Kevin Dunn hates wrestling! He refuses to allow you to call it professional wrestling while you're in the room with him. He will argue with you about it! He makes a million dollars a year as the executive producer of a show that he doesn't even like!

Dunn, WWE's Executive Vice President of Television Production, dislikes what he does for a living?

No. He likes what he does; he just doesn't like wrestling. WWE has succeeded in fulfilling the prophecy: they always said they weren't wrestling. Now, they aren't. But the problem is, they've killed the business for the rest of us who want to be.

When (the WWF/WWE) was wrestling, Kevin Dunn would fight and argue with you. He would say: "We're not wrestling! No, we're not, God damn it!" Finally, he's right: WWE is not. But it's still frustrating when you're trying to work for the success of a company, and people won't even admit what they're doing.

Vince McMahon created sports entertainment as a way to fool the fucking advertisers into thinking they weren't buying time on good, old-fashioned wrestling. That's it. There's no such thing, really, as sports entertainment. Have you ever heard a fan say. "Did you see the sports entertainment last night?" Have you ever heard anyone say, "Did you get your sports entertainment tickets?" Have you ever heard anyone ask, "Have you ordered the sports entertainment pay-per-view?"

I don't think so.

No! Don't disrespect me when you hire me to be a part of your company and tell me that I don't know what we're doing.

At one time, the WWF/WWE was describing Raw as an "action adventure programme".

They're delusional! Kevin Dunn wants to win an Emmy one day for being a real TV guy. All the rest of them owe everything they have to wrestling, and the last thing they want to admit is they're in wrestling!

I'm proud of being in professional wrestling all these years and of what I accomplished in it. Instead of being a crummy flop at anything else in the real world, I was the best at what I did in this world. WWE would rather be crummy flops as football promoters, bodybuilding federation promoters or fucking restaurant owners than admit they do wrestling.

So, to answer your question: Yes, I clashed constantly with some people because they would fight with me about the business we were working in. All I wanted was the respect from them that I knew what was going on.

All that conflict sounds like such a waste of time and effort - time and effort that could have been devoted to something constructive.

It was a constant waste of time. We would spend 30 minutes in production meetings, talking about ways Sable would wear a T-shirt. Who gives a shit? It was frustrating. Being around that atmosphere was the most frustrating period of my life. I'm not good at regular compromise. But their compromise was, "Say whatever you think Vince will like to hear". Compromise in the WWF was: agree with Vince.

Cornette's arguments with Dunn got so repetitive that in a someone infamous story, Dunn lashed out at the notoriously short-tempered Cornette, who then responded by tearing into him much more intensely.  According to Cornette (as told during an episode of his podcast), they were in a production meeting for an episode of Raw taped in Canada during the USA vs Canada feud, with Steve Austin and others representing the USA and the Hart Foundation representing Canada.  The Patriot (Del Wilkes in a masked gimmick he had been using successfully for several years) had recently started with the company on the USA side and hadn't gotten over to the degree they needed him at yet.  Since the show was in Canada, Cornette spoke out to say he felt that they needed to make sure not to improperly position him by having him booed by the Canadian fans.  Dunn suddenly interrupted the booking discussion to bring up where Sable (Rena Lesnar, then Rena Mero) should stand during the segment where she modeled a new T-shirt that they were selling.

When Cornette went back to asking why they were mishandling The Patriot so badly, Dunn interjected to say "Corny, I find you somewhat tiresome."  Cornette, feeling that this was yet another shot at the wrestling business he loved so much in addition to being a personal insult, desired to fire back by going for the jugular.  He stood up and said "You know what?  I find your f--king bucky beaver teeth tiresome, you Bugs Bunny looking mothe f--ker, and I'm going to pull you over this desk and beat the f--k out of you right now."  Everyone else in the room was nervously laughing, except for Jim Ross, who knew Cornette best and knew Cornette might very well physically attack Dunn.  Cornette decided to tell everyone they could go on without him while he watched some curling on TV.

For the next two weeks, Cornette was left out of the production meetings.  He ended up having a discussing with Vince McMahon about the situation at the latter's house.  Vince explained that Dunn was uncomfortable with Cornette being in the meetings and he needed to apologize to him, saying "In business, you're going to have to learn to eat sh-- and like the taste of it."  When they were brought together, Cornette apologized to Dunn and said he went too far.  Dunn, in tears, explained that Cornette's remark had gotten to him so much because he had been bullied about his teeth throughout his childhood.  While Cornette was in the wrong, he was very confused about to why someone as wealthy as Dunn would never get his teeth capped if they bothered him so much, and while he didn't say anything else, he found himself angry again because Dunn got rich off something he's so embarrassed by and disdainful towards.

Obviously there's nothing wrong with Dunn being emotionally scarred by childhood bullying.  It seemingly haunts him to this day, as he is the only WWE executive whose profile page on the company's corporate website is not accompanied by a photograph.  That said, with all of this baggage. you would think would make him respectful about how other people's appearances, but he's notoriously vocal about how the performers (especially the women) should look.   During a shoot interview video Cornette did with Percy Pringle III/Paul Bearer (William Moody) for Ring of Honor, they talked about Dunn.  Pringle noted that Dunn was one of the few people he had heat with in wrestling, and started to say something (before getting sidetracked) about how it's a miracle that he hasn't been sued over comments he made in the production truck about women while talking to the announcers via their headsets.

That brings us to Dunn's pet project for years, which was the WWE Diva Search.  After a contest on in 2003 where the winner only got a photo shoot and not a contract, it was moved to Raw the following year with a variety of professional models involved.  While Dunn went on about the classiness of the women and the contest, by far the most memorable segment from any of the Diva Searches, much less that year's, was "Diss The Diva."  They made the mistake of giving a live microphone to a bunch of women who had grown to hate fellow contestant Carmella DeCesare (a former Playboy Playmate of the Year who seemed like the contestant WWE wanted to win the contest, which was decided by fan votes).

The segment started with the elimination of Maria Kanellis (who was subsequently hired and became one of the most popular women in the company before being fired for wanting control over her non-wrestling projects).  She hugged all of the contestants except for DeCesare, who she flipped off.  That set the tone for the rest of the segment.  Carmella was told that "Having a c--k in your mouth has nothing to do with wrestling" by Amy Weber and Christy Hemme (who Carmella decided against insulting, saying she hoped Christy wins) called her "a c-m sucking gutter sl-t."  Yup.  For whatever reason, the only video I can find of it is on Bulgarian video site VBox7.  A transcript is available here.  Subsequent attempts to...umm...recapture the magic of the segment failed.

What's the better legacy: Being in charge of TV production for a company whose TV production quality is always well-regarded, even if it's a wrestling promotion, or being the brains behind what F4WOnline's Bryan Alvarez dubbed "The C-m Sucking Gutter Sl-t Challenge"?