A recent episode of The Ross Report w/ Jim Ross features PART TWO of a TWO PART interview with the former “Taskmaster” of professional wrestling, Kevin Sullivan.
They begin in 1993—Jim Ross left World Championship Wrestling in 1993, whereas Kevin Sullivan was performing in Japan. Sullivan says that he almost came to blows with Jim Herd and opted to leave the company until matters were resolved. He returned in late 1994, but Jim Ross was gone. Ross says, “There was a time up until a certain cocktail where Jim was actually a decent guy. But then he’d get one more gin—because he drank gin—than he needed, and he’d start analyzing the wrestling business.” They discuss Herd’s outlandish ideas including the Hunchback tag team—a duo of physically impaired wrestlers who could not be pinned. Jim also says that Jim Herd had a notorious rocky marriage, and—from experience—says, “If you get home on a Friday night, and you have leave on Sunday night—there’s an emotional crash that’s going to occur.” He says that he’s not defending Herd, but does believe he was “cast in role by higher ups who didn’t do enough due-diligence.”
They begin to discuss the current state of professional wrestling. Jim Ross begins by saying the lack of territories is akin to “no college football for the NFL to draft from.” Jim says that this is the first generation that’s made up almost entirely of guys without any territory experience. Kevin says that while the WWE Performance Center might be a phenomenal training facility, it’s a single location that teaches one style. They agree that five years in five different territories would be preferable to five years in WWE Developmental, as it would better prepare talent for the road ahead. Jim asks Kevin how he would book Brock Lesnar from today through WrestleMania. Kevin says that Brock Lesnar got over on the same thing as Goldberg, Rhonda Rousey, and Kurt Angle—legitimacy. He says that Brock Lesnar needs to be set on a dominant path where nobody on the main roster is able to defeat him. Then after a long-enough build, the win should go to an NXT competitor. Kevin says the WWE needs fresh matches, and asks how many more times Brock can wrestle John Cena, the Undertaker, and Triple H? “As good as Brock is,” Kevin continues, “There isn’t anyone left for him to beat that’s NEW.” JR jokes that Kevin must have used “black magic” to arrive at that answer, and adds, “I don’t know what you spooks do.”
Jim asks Kevin to put himself in the position of a “Roger Goodell of Wrestling”—meaning the commissioner of the overall sport. He asks Kevin for a bullet pointed list of things he’d like to change and/or implement during the reign of his regime. Kevin lists a number of fundamental things he’d like to see in pro wrestling. He says that while he doesn’t enjoy the third hour of Monday Night Raw, it’s necessary from a business perspective and isn’t something that is going to go away any time soon. Jim Ross says that eliminating the third hour would be similar to “putting a million dollars in a trash barrel and lighting it on fire.” Kevin stresses the importance of pacing a storyline and says that he doesn’t want to see two guys “leave it in the ring” after their first match. Both JR and Kevin Sullivan agree that wrestling needs a defined set of rules so that heels have something to work against to gain heat. Kevin recommends a match to the listening audience—Bobby Shane versus Jack Briscoe—as a prime example of both genuine heel heat, and a storyline that’s been built over time.
They move into a discussion revolving around the late Flyin’ Brian Pillman. JR says that it’s been just over 18 years since Pillman’s untimely passing in Cincinnati, and wants to get Sullivan’s take on a performer with whom he spent so much time. Kevin Sullivan suggests that there would never have been a “Stone Cold” Steve Austin without a Loose Cannon Brian Pillman. Kevin says that he would love to take credit for his program against Pillman, but credits Brian with the entire idea. He says Kevin Nash once told him that he ordered a WCW pay per view just to see Brian Pillman versus Kevin Sullivan. Kevin says that Brian’s passing was unfortunate from a business standpoint, adding that a Pillman/Austin feud in the WWE for the world championship could have gone down as one of the greatest rivalries of all time. JR says that when Brian went under the knife and had his ankle fused, the idea was to transition Pillman into a fulltime announcer, ala Jesse Venture or the Macho Man. Both JR and Kevin remember receiving phone calls at 2:30 in the morning from Brian Pillman—who was merely looking to “shoot the breeze” about various ideas.
JR approaches the final topic with a bit of necessary trepidation and says, “You’ve had such a colorful career, you’ve created a lot of cool things, and booked a lot of interesting angles. How do you deal with—in some people’s mind—being more so associated with the Benoit tragedy than anything else?” JR says that Kevin booked Chris Benoit alongside Kevin’s then-wife Nancy AKA Woman. Kevin and Nancy’s relationship ended, and that storyline “went from make-believe to real-life.” According to JR, there are still people in-and-out of the wrestling business who blame Kevin for introducing the two in the first place. Kevin remembers back to their final year as a married couple; Nancy and Kevin were living in separate houses, both owned by Sullivan in Florida. “It’s something that still baffles me,” he says, “I’ve had tragedies in my life, but Nancy’s family—who I still talk to on occasion—lost everything. Nancy’s sister can’t have children, so not only did [her parents] lose their daughter, they lost the only grandchild they’re ever going to have.” JR was asked by Vince McMahon to attend the funeral for Nancy and Daniel Benoit. JR agreed and asked only one question: “Should I wear my hat?” Vince said yes.
JR says that Sullivan has been accused of playing a part in an overall conspiracy revolving around the murder/suicide committed by Chris Benoit, which both men dismiss as lunacy. JR says that Kevin played his part as a “Devil Worshipping Psychopath” so well that people truly believed he played a role in murdering his ex-wife. Kevin says that it’s something that bothered him for a long time, until both Nancy’s mother and sister assured Kevin that the mere notion was utterly preposterous. Kevin tells JR that Chris was a “really great guy” at one point, which is why Kevin opted to put the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on him. Kevin says everybody disagreed with the decision, including WCW higher ups like JJ Dillon, Bill Bush, and Mike Graham. Chris defeated Sid Vicious for the heavyweight title using the “Crippler Crossface.” When Kevin gave Sid and Chris the finish, Sid said, “I wouldn’t do it for anyone else but you Kevin,” he looked at Benoit and then back at Sullivan, “I think you’re wrong. But I’ll do it for you.” He finally adds, “He won the title and the next day he left.”
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