Curt Hennig Interview Transcript

Curt Hennig interviewThe following is an interview with WWE Hall of Fame wrestler, former AWA world champion and WWE Intercontinental champion, the late “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. Curt talks about training Brock Lesnar, wrestling Bret Hart, WCW, and more. The interview was taped November 22, 2000 and was broadcast on Pro Wrestling Radio.

Eric Gargiulo: What are you doing with yourself these days?

Curt Hennig: Well, I always keep myself in shape, that’s kind of like a family tradition in the Hennig family, is to stay in shape. I’m just enjoying myself. I play a lot of golf and been doing a lot of hunting and fishing with my buddies that I’ve missed out on for the last fifteen years or so. So, I’m having a good time.

Eric: Talk about your upcoming match on pay per view against Dennis Rodman?

Curt: I think it’s going to be one of the most exciting pay per views. I know that the WWF and WCW, they got their things out there, but the deal with Dennis Rodman here coming from the basketball scene. I don’t think people realize what a great athlete this guy really is. I know he played with the Bulls all these years, the leading rebounder, he’s got his hands full in Down Under In Australia. I can’t wait to see this thing and I know the people are all waiting for it, the calls I have been getting have been unbelievable.

Eric: What was Dennis Rodman’s work ethic like?

Curt: I didn’t have a problem with anything he does. He’s a basketball player, I don’t know if he wants to earn his living in wrestling or what he’s trying to do, or if it’s part of his bad boy image, but if that’s basketball’s bad boy, they better call me. That’s all I got to say. Hey, but I am not taking anything away from this guy, I’m telling you what. He’s tall, lanky, he’s a great athlete and that’s pretty much what a lot of the wrestlers are. He’s a street fighter, you know?

Eric: Do you still keep up with the Monday night shows?

Curt: Once in a while yeah. I just got home ten days hunting up around the Canadian border and I got two celebrity hunts coming up, I was down at NASCAR in Atlanta this last week, I got down in the pits with my buddy, the Big Bossman, I have been covering a lot of ground and doing a lot of things that I haven’t done in a long time.

Eric: What happened when you originally left the WWF to go to WCW?

Curt:Nothing, they wanted me to go back into the wrestling scene, Vince wanted me to wrestle for him, he made an offer for me, the WCW beat that to death. Maybe I made a mistake, maybe I didn’t? At that time I did the right thing, I’m not going to second guess myself.

Eric: Is the bridge burnt with Vince McMahon and the WWF?

Curt: No, not at all. It’ll never be burnt. I have the most respect for Vince McMahon and his whole family. I left there with a handshake.

Eric: Do you regret making the jump at that time?

Curt: No, not at the time. Right now maybe, if I look at the big picture, where would I have been? Maybe in a wheelchair or maybe I’m coming back. It’s a two headed coin you know? I have always lived my life like that anyway, I freebird everywhere. (laughs) Gun for hire.

Eric: You shot an angle with Steve Austin in the fall of 1996. Were you supposed to work with him at Survivor Series, if Bret had not come back?

Curt: Yeah, well there is a little truth to it, but I don’t know much to dwell on that much. Yeah, I think. The reaction from when I was at the announce table with Vince and Austin was in the ring and we had words back and forth, I know that the eruption was unbelievable, so. I could just see Vince going (imitating Vince and laughs) ah-ha-ha, he’s getting his fingers into something here, because the character Mr. Perfect and the Austin character, that would have been a clash and it still might be. Who knows? Austin is, man I’ll tell you what. That guy came in there and he was bound and determined and he’s a man of his word, and he got an opportunity, and he took it.

Eric: Are you surprised at Triple H’s success?

Curt: Oh yeah, he’s doing great isn’t he? I’m happy for him. I’m not surprised at all, because he’s a student of the game and I guess it’s an honor to me that he used to take my tapes and study them. Not just watch them, but study them. That was the first time that anybody had ever come to me in the business and said “hey, I’m watching Mr. Perfect tapes.” “Hey, wow,” you know. (laughs) It dumbfounded me a little bit, but. Now I find out a couple years later that all the Scott Halls, all the Diamond Dallas Pages, and all of these guys, Shawn Michaels. There is a little bit of ingredients of Curt Hennig in all of them and that makes me feel pretty good that I have left that much of a mark, that much of an impression on their brains.

Eric: On Curt Hennig in the WWF bringing an emphasis on athleticism into the game during a “muscleman era”?

Curt: Yeah, I can still do that. I think it’s going around again like that. I think that, you know the guys that were all bulked up and had all the muscle mass, I was taught a long time ago in this business, learn the business first and then you work out, you know what I mean? I mean you work out during it, but it takes a while to learn this business, these guys that jump in right from the gym with their bodies all maxed out already, they only have one direction to go and that’s down with the body. I feel as good as I have ever felt right now. I’m on the way to the University Of Minnesota with this Brock Lensar, who Vince McMahon has signed, he works in Louisville, in the developmental. I’m going to work out with him right now, and he might be the next bull of the woods, this kid.

Eric: How do you think Brock Lensar will do?

Curt: I think he’s going to do great. We train him here at Brad Rhenigans school in Hamil, Minnesota, he’s got a great attitude, he’s a stud, he learns fast and he’s had popularity here in Minnesota. He’s the first national champion in fifty years as a heavyweight, so it’s a big deal here in Minnesota. He’s got recognition around here, he’s got the right frame of mind set to be a major star and a force in the WWF. No doubt.

Eric: What do you attribute the rise and fall of the New World Order gimmick?

Curt: People not having enough experience how to control characters in the business. I mean, I think maybe they were just thinking “us guys just go out here and wrestle and all the sudden we are a star.” That takes time and preparation, and developing that character and I don’t think they took the time to do that. Goldberg though, has developed from that company, but he’s the only one. Other guys came in off Vince McMahon’s ride there, you know? I mean, he’s the one that developed the Macho Man, the Hogans, and everything, but they came in, they rode those coat tails, but sooner or later they didn’t know what to do with them. Which I see that company turning around here real quick soon. You know maybe more than I do maybe. (laughs) I have been trying not to follow them. I have enough headache. I have been hit in the head too many times already. I comment that after fifteen years you probably need a break.

Curt:I’ve had a break. For the last three years I’ve had a break. I’m ready to go. (Laughs) If I’m going to wrestle the amateur wrestlers at the University Of Minnesota, I’m wanting to go.

Eric: Compare working for Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo the last few years in WCW?

Curt: Well I just turn the channel in my brain. One guy gave me a deal and the other guy knows what I can do. So, you know? I don’t know where to go with that. It’s a tug-of-war. I just flip the channel in my brain and I just hunt and seen my buddies, and hung out, and went fishing and did what I like to do, golf and you know. Let it all settle and if there is room after that, which I know there is, we’ll see what happens.

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Eric: How did Scott Hall and Kevin Nash change from working with them in the WWF?

Curt: Well, you know Scott Hall was with me in 86, 87, somewhere in there, so he’s got the Hennigism in him you know? I don’t know what happened there, I stay in contact with him, but not what I used to. So I don’t know what really happened there. They had it going and I don’t know who the booker was. You could ask me who my boss was and I couldn’t have told you. I mean, I have never worked for a company like that in my whole life. I’ve never really worked Independents, I’ve always worked for Verne Gagne or Don Owens out in Portland I worked, and then finally I went to WCW. Otherwise I worked for Vince’s dad, Vince, and Verne. I’ve never had to do this, what do they call, independent stuff. I’ve never really cared to that much, but this pay per view on December 1, this was something that I had chose to do because I thought I’d represent wrestling against basketball there a little bit. We’ll see how athletic Rodman is, it’s the talk around here, everywhere I go people are asking me about it. It was on the CNN news or something like that, so they’re talking about it. December 1, is the day that it is going on air. It’s got a great undercard with the Road Warriors on all on it. It’s going to be a good show.

Eric: Did you vote for Jesse Ventura?

Curt: You kidding me, I’m the one that told him to do it. (laughing)

Eric: Can you believe how successful he has become as a media star?

Curt: Well, you know what I believe it, but it’s hard to believe, you’re right. He’s doing the most with what he’s got and that’s when you got to do things. When you got the exposure, you have to use it, and when you don’t, you are just another dumb wrestler. He’s using his exposure and more power to him. Now he’s announcing for the XFL, I see a deal. People here in Minnesota, some are for it and some are against it wishing they could be Governor. It’s the same old fight, wrestling and politics. I guess they go together, more than I thought.

I comment that when I had Tom Zenk on the show that Tom did not vote for Jesse?

Curt: I graduated from high school with Tom Zenk, I haven’t seen him in three or four years. He’s got some big ones that kid. He’s a Robinsdale boy. He graduated the same year as me. I used to help out with the guys that used to beat up on him. I used to slap the guys off of him. He was a hundred and thirty-five pounds, I couldn’t believe it was the same guy, Tom Zenk. I went away and started in wrestling and then all of the sudden he was, man he changed. He tried to steal my gimmick (on Tom Zenk calling himself “Mr. Minnesota”)

Eric: What was Verne Gagne like to work for?

Curt: He was pretty strict. He was by the book, well I guess that doesn’t make any sense to the new fans today. He was a back bone fixture of this business. He was a “promoter” back the. I have heard him called a lot of names and a lot of them weren’t nice. I can’t complain about anything, because he broke me in the business. He gave me opportunity and I did good here. He was very strict though and abiding by the rules of the business at that time. He was never a match for my dad, and that bothered him too. They went to the same high school also. There used to be the West Texas boys, then it was the Florida boys, then the Minnesota boys. Some people tried to do away with the Minnesota boys, but we’re still alive and kicking.

Eric: Why was the “Rap Is Crap” gimmick killed so quickly?

Curt: Do you think it was great? I thought it was great. Well, you know what? They didn’t realize I could sing that good. (laughs) All I could tell you is this. That somebody with blonde hair came up to me and said “I can’t follow that” and that was the last I had seen of it, and we had a good group of guys, God bless them. Bobby Duncam, while we are on that subject Rick Rude. Because Rude and I went to Robinsdale, with Zenk together, we all graduated in the same year, and Brady Boone. That was all in the same year and in one class, and Brady Boone you know of, and Rick Rude, they both died in the same year, and Bobby Duncam. But that West Texas Redneck thing, Curt Hennig and the West Texas Rednecks, you know I just went out and did an interview to dog out the rap a little bit, not that I hate rap music, it’s just that I thought someone had to go against it. I said “rap is crap,” and it caught on, and I’m telling you it was a hot deal and it was fun to do. I mean, I had never seen anything like it. The signs came out of the wood work, and they were singing the song. Every one of the boys in the locker room used to go by, even the Mexicans (starts singing the song), they had it you know? There was a reason for that. Maybe that’s what I ought to do, come back and put the real band back together.

Eric: What are some of your memorable and favorite matches?

Curt: I definitely have to say Bret Hart. I mean, I had some great matches with Scott Hall and Bret Hart. Bret Hart is probably the stand out, of course Hogan. You can’t leave him off the thing or Flair. One guy I never got to wrestle was Macho Man, but I tell you. out of all the matches I’d have to say my best match would probably have to be with Bret Hart. Pretty much same chemistry, same age almost, same background, same thinking way in the business you know? I went into that match, that’s when I had lost the Intercontinental belt. I was already done for two months, my back was so bad I could hardly drink my third beer, but I went out and did it. I will have a good thing with Bret Hart forever. In fact, someone told me that he put my name and a little quote of me in his book, but he wanted to charge me to get one of them. (laughs) I’m just kidding.

Curt asks me if I read Dallas Page”s book and I answer yes.

Curt: You’re the only one that did, anyway. I’m just kidding. I can’t help but be me. Page was always nice to everyone before he got a break. Maybe they are just jealous, I don’t know. I didn’t read it anyway, but I got an autographed one because he autographed a book for me. In fact, I think I got it here in my car right now. I heard the Dynamite Kid mentioned me in his book also. I don’t know where to get those books from, I haven’t talked to Dynamite in so many years. You know, he was the first guy that I had ever really had the wars with. He used to beat the hell out of everybody. He was physically fit like a Chris Benoit. I should say Chris Benoit is a style of Dynamite. This guy was way ahead of his time and I had nothing else to do but fight for my life. I guess he respected that.

Eric: Are you disappointed that you never had a major run with Hulk Hogan in the WWF?

Curt: Yeah, well we had a program that lasted six, seven months at longest, but it wasn’t like it could have been is what you are saying I guess. I don’t know, I just. During that time, you are working so hard, you’re hitting that weight room, you don’t realize what is really going on around you sometimes. It’s a road thing.

Eric: Do you think the business is on an up or a downswing?

Curt: Well, compared to ten years ago it’s on a major upswing. Even a two rating they are making a lot of money. Maybe the guys don’t know that, maybe I shouldn’t be telling them all of that. A two rating they are still making money and it’s a good business. I think, if you’re talking from six months ago it is on a downswing. I think the guys themselves, it’s like a two headed dinosaur. They bite their own heads off. Something happened there along the way, it’s coming back where people don’t even care what it is, they just want to watch the show. As long as you got something that’s interesting and you got the characters there, they just want to see two people go at it. I’m watching this thing on this Court TV, some kid slammed a little baby because he saw it on wrestling, what a bunch of BS. There is a western on TV everyday, of somebody shooting somebody you know? Vince is a G-rating compared to that.

Eric: How much longer do you want to wrestle for?

Curt: I want to go until the wheels fall off. I’ve been taking it so easy for the last couple years, now I’m in probably better shape than I was ten years ago.

I comment that Vince would get more longevity by letting you go to WCW and signing you back.

Curt: Vince would be really, really double smart. We all know that, wouldn’t that be something? I can’t believe how good I feel, I guess the rest did me good. If I would have stayed there (WWF) I probably would have been in a wheelchair.

Eric: Memories of your series with Kerry Von Erich?

Curt: Oh, what a tremendous athlete, I mean that whole family. What a tragedy, you know you can’t say a bad word about Kerry Von Erich because he’s just a likable guy, and such a great athlete. Geez, what a gift he had, I mean bodywise, lookwise. They were good matches, I mean he was a little bit crazy, but I guess we all are a little bit.

Listen to the Curt Hennig interview in its entirety on Pro Wrestling Radio.

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