The following extensive interview features former AWA, WCW, & WWE wrestler Tom Zenk. Zenk was one of the most outspoken guests in Pro Wrestling Radio history and talks about the current state of WCW, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Eric Bischoff, Brian Pillman, Hulk Hogan, Diamond Dallas Page, and more. The interview was taped January 06, 2001 and was broadcast on Pro Wrestling Radio.
Tom Zenk: Happy New Year Eric and thanks for having me back. At least you’ve got guts, you’re controversial, and you’re a loose cannon just like my partner Pillman was – that’s why I like you.
Eric – Are you surprised at the response you have gotten in the last few months over your interviews?
Tom – It’s not about the publicity, it’s all a work right? What do I know?
Eric – What are your thoughts on a recent statement [by Bob Ryder] that accused you of not being qualified to make the recent opinions you’ve made about WCW and their potential sale?
Well, I guess we could go down the Bob Barnett path – I think Barnett called Ryder, “‘A disgusting human being, a piece of garbage.” But, that really doesn’t seem fair does it Eric? I’ve never met the guy. I’d prefer to take the high road and take Goldberg’s line and NOT say Ryder is just ‘a fat, bald, goofy looking shill for Eric and DDP’. In fact, I’d like to take my direction from Sting and Buff Bagwell – all ‘born agains’ right? I want to FORGIVE Bob Ryder because, Bob Ryder doesn’t know me, and he certainly doesn’t know anything about my time in WCW. Where was Bob in those days? I heard he came in with Bischoff in 1997. They met on the Net and I know Bob is doing a great job as a stooge for DDP and Eric, and he’s got a right to collect a paycheck just like anyone.
Page got ten security guys to back him up before he picked a fight with Steiner … DDP you’re a woman.
Look at all the good work Ryder does – like last week, he was putting out fires for DDP, acting as a peacemaker for Page and Steiner. Page was fighting with Steiner and Steiner was getting over the top with all the publicity and making DDP look like the girl that he is. Page, oh gosh, he got ten security guys to back him up before he picked a fight with Steiner. And it took a full minute to get Scotty Steiner off him – even with ten security guards. My advice to Page is to jump off a building, go kill yourself, rather than fight with Scotty Steiner. He beat you up in a minute. You had ten guys and they couldn’t pull him off. Maybe have Kimberly fight your fights, DDP because you’re a woman. One good thing is that WCW got a good angle. They got a shoot match with Steiner and Page. Winner takes Kimberly, right? I’d buy the pay per view.
My guess is that Bob tried to trash me because I have been raising issues about the WCW sale to Bischoff. What do you think that the Securities Exchange Commission would find if they looked into that? A fire sale to the arsonist. Bob, I never met you and you have a right to your opinion just as I do ….. But Bob, answer the questions!! I asked 5 questions in my LAW interview. People … want you to answer those 5 simple questions.
I saw you gave Curt Hennig an interview?
Eric – I did.
Tom – He was pretty cool. I was a geek in high school, a big time geek. He gave me the answers to tests in class and if guys would pick on me, he’d say “Shut up, Zenk’s all right.” He just took a liking to me because I was always a nice guy. That’s what the wrestlers would tell you, if you got them one-on-one, was that I was a nice guy. I always treated them nice. You could always be a jerk, but I treated them nice. Curt said I’ve got big ones right? Yeah, well write this down Eric. Five questions and you could really blow this WCW deal apart. Let’s start the new year off with a bang! I cannot believe that the mainstream wrestling journalists are watching the WCW sale go through without raising any questions. They’re already accepting Bischoff’s deal as a done deal. These are the questions that Ryder didn’t answer. And the questions that wrestling journalists should be asking Time Warner and TBS
Is it OK to sell WCW at a depressed price to the guy that made WCW unprofitable in the first place?
Is there a conflict of interests in Bischoff being paid as an employee to negotiate the sale of a company to himself?
Just imagine if you had stock in the Time Warner, right?
You learn in your life to do the right thing? I’m no hypocrite – I did the wrong thing plenty of times -but I TRY to do the right thing. Especially for Ted Turner. (Johnny Ace and myself were invited to Turner’s Christmas party in 1990 to put a good spin on wrestling). I’m truly loyal to Ted Turner.
What about due diligence? Is TBS applying due diligence to the sale?
I mean, come on! Has anyone done a cost-benefit analysis of the implications of the AOL-Time Warner merger for its wrestling product? I mean, real money could be made selling wrestling product across all AOL-Time Warner media outlets. You could download wrestling, you could watch wrestling on demand via the net, etc. Vince would kill for all of their outlets world wide. Is Siegel that naive? …. I can’t believe Time Warner could be so stupid to give all this away to Bischoff for pennies.
Two crickets in a ring could draw …
Eric – Are you surprised that the sale of WCW has really only come down to two companies?
Tom – Well I’m not surprised that Vince didn’t want to buy it. I’ll bet you money Vince just wanted to get a look at their books. He wanted to get a look at their books and see how to manipulate the guys…….
I think that the Turner people are frustrated because they know they’ve been conned. I mean carnies, cons, and it took them 10 years to see through that?….. In the South it’s called the “watermelon con.” Dusty, you know he is just clever. The “Tennessee handshake,” the right hand out and the left hand with a shiv in the back stabbing you. That’s what they’ve got going on. (In Dusty’s voice) “Hey, Z baby, what you got going on?”
Eric – I tell a story about a recent Interview with the Hokytonk Man, where Honky said Dusty had promised that he would take a ton of guys to Turner with him and never returned anyone’s calls. p>Dusty used his hair, then his hat, to hide his scars from blading. In the ring he used white tape to exaggerate them. In real life, was Dusty ashamed of his ‘fat superman’ persona?
Tom – Yeah, he’s just a con, and he’s just a silly con now. It’s poetic justice isn’t it – a great irony that Dusty is still taking bumps? I heard a rumor once that he went bankrupt in Carolina. In Texas and Carolina. Dusty’s the guy who drove Crockett into the ground. And then he’s going to be in control of my life as WCW booker? Steamboat, told me, when wrestling’s hot, it’s hot and ‘two crickets in the ring could draw’. That’s how the second generation sons get into the business – and now Flair justifies it because Gagne did it, Watts did it, Rhodes did it and that’s ‘just the way it’s done’. Well, that’s not the smart way, that’s not the right way…… Greg Gagne? the guys used to like to slam him because he was light like a kite. He’d come up like nothing. He was fun to slam.
Eric – How did the locker room feel about Greg in the AWA days? Was there any animosity?
Tom – No, but Brad Rheingans told me a story one time and it’s kind of sad. He said to Verne, “We protect the business, we put guys through torture in training camp. I was your shooter in camp and trained them but I’ve had to defend your son Greg more than anyone. Anything you’ve ever stood for, a good amateur athletic background. Explain it to me.” (Imitating Verne Gagne) “What do you want me to do? He’s my son, he’s my son. My God!” OK, that’s the sad irony of it, but Greg could work. He put him in a tag team. He didn’t push him like Dusty pushed his son,” The Natural baby,” or Bill Watts put his son over.
Remember Arn Anderson and Doug Dillenger did that con in a gas station to put Erik over? Arn suggested it to Bill Watts, because his contract was up. He was trying to buy longevity or kiss ass to get another contract with easy money from the Turner people, putting the booker’s son over. That’s pretty gracious of Arn. He didn’t step forward and say that he could work a program for me. Neither did Flair but he was good enough to put on a great match with Russo. This is just my opinion. I’m not bitter – I have a better way. I know how to make the playing field level. A meritocracy. We’d have skill based incentives for the wrestlers and make it a team – but not like a Dusty team or clique….. All the bookers have had their chance in WCW. Kevin Sullivan, Terry Taylor, Kevin Nash, you name them. (Imitating Dusty’s voice) ‘Who was the genius baby?’ The only one that had success was Bischoff, because he stole talent from the WWF. Shane McMahon said it best, “My dad made them.”and he did. They made them on WWF TV and how much did the Time Warner shareholders lose when they had to pay off the court costs?
Bischoff and the new WCW will be bankrupt in a year!
Eric doesn’t know how to run anything. He’ll bankrupt those other guys. Give him a year, 18 months at the most. Remember when he wrote on the Internet about ‘Bischoff and the brand names’? Where are the brand names? Where are they now? They are sitting at home and collecting money. They can’t draw on pay per views. WCW PPV’s draw one-tenth of what WWF does!! Just another con, just trying to hang on. Eric’s just a guy that likes hanging around big guys. Hulk is his guy. Where has Hulk been? Is he still getting paid to sit home?
Eric – What is Hogan’s legacy?
Tom – Hulk Hogan had the best houses I’ve ever been on, when he was working with Paul Orndorff. Orndorff was a freak of nature and a great wrestler and aggressive. He had that big square mandible. He looked tough, he was IT. Great body, OK. Hulk Hogan drew but everyone fed Hulk Hogan. Hulk was king, but it was like Bockwinkel and Verne. They had a deal going on, and there was just one top guy. (I suppose now it’s Triple H or the Rock or Steve Austin). But back then, Hogan was the guy in WWF, and they had the biggest houses I’ve ever been on. I would get goosebumps sitting backstage. I couldn’t believe it. They were packed! OK, Today and Hogan’s legacy. What is it? What did Hogan give back? Why did he trash a guy like Kidman? A good looking kid like that- why didn’t he help him instead? ‘Feed the little fish’, whatever you want to call it. Feed him, bring him up, build the self esteem of the whole team. What’s Hogan’s legacy? He didn’t want to put anyone over. Look, I put Page over.and he’s a joke! I didn’t resist any finish, but now I’m going to speak my mind. I owe them that. I feel like I should tell them. The truth will set you free, right? I am not trying to rail on them. I know how wrestling works. So, people should just learn and try to enhance it. Let’s work this out together. We could have a good deal going on.
Eric – Your thoughts on the whole Mark Madden-DDP situation?
Tom – Yeah, Leatherface. Madden is Pillman’s boy, Pillman trained him. I like Madden, I’ve never met him but I like him. It’s like this – Page and Steiner that fight. Page left the building. OK, in the company that I work for, if one of my guys just leaves their post, they’re fired. End of story! No one, not Terry Taylor, nor Johnny Ace, nor anyone with any stroke has enough guts to say to Page, “OK you’re done, good bye.” Problem solved. Same for any of them! Bagwell, you want a release? Go! I think Bischoff should take all of the his brand names, the Millionaires Club and go! If I took over I’d run it a completely different way. I’d train all the young guys and go after the Y generation. I’d treat people like great employees and people from the WWF would be glad to come back down and get the benefits of being employees of AOL-Time Warner. We’d have stock options. We’d bring in Lawyers, Accountants, CPA’s, class people that were already wise to the con and I would smarten them up further. I’d caal a meeting with the lockerroom and Ted Turner and go “Here, are you guys proud of what you did to Ted Turner?” The best chance that wrestling ever had and you squandered it? You have places to go? Well bye DDP, I mean who wants DDP? Bagwell? This is a guy that has calf implants. I mean, come on! Where do you think you are going to go? Do you think Vince wants to use Sting? Sting covers up because he’s soft and mushy, he doesn’t diet, and he’s not a hard worker,
Eric – Has anyone that you’ve talked negative about, over the last few months, contacted you?
Tom – No, they don’t care. They don’t care, I’ve always talked this way. They know.
Eric – Jim Ross cared about what you had to say.
Tom – What’s Iceface going to say? It would be like reverse discrimination if I didn’t trash Iceface, right? Did you hear about the new doll they have in the WWF? This is just something I saw on the Internet. The story goes that H. Bomb, Jr. fell asleep in the snow and he woke up as Iceface. Yeah, and you can put a buck in his slot and he’ll say anything you want. He talks out of both sides of his mouth……
Eric – Were you surprised when he came out against your comments about WWF salaries?
Tom – Why would he be mad about the truth? Vince is spreading himself too thin with the XFL. So the XFL provides WCW with a great opportunity. If TBS hangs on to WCW it has a great chance of winning back it’s audience. Forget about the Monday night wars…. We’d start again with the young talent and use all of AOL-Time Warner outlets to push the product and win back audiences. At the moment, I’m sure Brad Siegel is like, “Oh my God, I’m faced with a $80 million deficit.” Bischoff could break the US Government! 80 million dollars in losses, right? But if Eric Bischoff buys WCW it’s going to be Kevin Sullivan, Dusty Rhodes, back as bookers plus Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, DDP, plus Jason Hervey on color commentary……
Eric – ….And the strap on Gary Coleman!!
Tom – How about David Arquette? That’s my point too. You mean to tell me that they all love the business and all the boys were backstage and David Arquette walked out as WCW Champ and nobody said a word? I would have gone in there and leg dove him and pinned him 1-2-3 and put myself over. I mean, it’s just so totally wrong. What’s going on? Doesn’t anybody realize this is going on? Don’t they get it? I mean, if Seigel wants wrestling product in 12 months time he would be insane to sign a noncompete clause with Bischoff’s group. TBS should reserve the right to produce it’s own wrestling product after the sale. We will rebuild it from scratch with a new product. A CEO with kahonies who doesn’t take crap from the talent. Downsize the contracts. No Millionaires Club. You don’t hear about that now. They must be pretty proud that they’re millionaires but they can’t draw! Game over, sorry. Retrain everyone in work rate skills, teach respect for the business. You pay your dues, you job on the way up and you job on the way down, OK? You know, it’s a southeast regional promotion there. You have to start over from scratch, build a young feeder territory where the guys can learn how to manipulate crowds, learn how to work. Do the thing, build confidence and you have guys like Eaton, maybe Harley Race to mentor young talent. Take care of their own kind. Bring back knowledgeable people that will do the right thing in teaching the new generation of talent. I mean, veterans like Flair and Arn even. Ricky Steamboat. What’s he doing running a gym? He loves the business. They all love the business. I love the business which is why I am talking about it. At the top you need a Bishop. The Bishop of the cult. Flair is the Bishop. Melzter is the high Priest and you (Eric) are like a Deacon of something like that, I don’t know how it all shakes out. And above all you build confidence in the young guys, because that’s what it is all about. Young guys are the life blood of the wrestling business.
I’m sure Scotty is just sick of the bull and all the politics.
Eric – If you could take one guy and put them in the WCW locker room as your authoritative figure, who would it be?
Tom – Well, I don’t know. Scotty Steiner and I, we were buddies. We’d go four wheeling. I like the Steiner boys. Scotty blew up on Flair because he just wants his own time. Scotty is a freak. He’s good you know? He’s not a goof ball or loose cannon. He called Page out but I’m sure that he’s just sick of the bull and all the politics….
I would have Scotty Steiner, Kevin Walchoz, and Scott Norton on the payroll. I would sit everyone down and tell them the way it was going to be and if they didn’t like it, go plead your case to them. I would give them a case of beer, whatever they wanted, fix them up with a lounge room, a big TV, eight hours a day they’re on the payroll. And if you want to talk crap, go and face them.
Eric – What do you think of the choice of Scott Steiner as world champion?
Tom – Real good, he’s jacking the ratings. They should do the best to enhance him. They should feed him people. They should run the guys through him like they did with Hogan. DDP should raise his hand to do a job for Scotty. What, egos? Everyone put DDP over. Like Chris Kanyon. I guess he was a friend. DDP is like Dusty. Dusty gave them all those [ring] names and ‘gave them their start in the business’. That’s the way they try to create loyalty – “Who gave you the start in the business baby?” That’s a simple con. Well, okay DDP, let’s strip those pants off you and get into shorts and let’s see those knee braces -The Forrest Gump of professional wrestling. He’s not going to draw money. Don’t they have rules at the WCW Power Plant? Page was 39, I think when they started training him years ago. Were there no young guys left to train? Do you think it’s a good investment of Ted Turner’s money to pay him that kind of money [$1.25 million a year]. It’s over for DDP and if anyone that doesn’t like me saying it – well trash me!
Dusty and Mike Graham were just laughing at Dallas Page
Eric – So, who in WCW would you build the company around currently?
Tom – Steiner, Goldberg, Mike Sanders… Flair would always have a job and so would Arn Anderson. WCW should be a southeast regional promotion. We need the Bishop (Flair) and we need Arn because they’re buddies. Everyone needs a buddy in wrestling. Arn’s a great talker. And we’re going to build self esteem, because I’m sure, at the moment, the guys have none. …. Bischoff, he’s nothing. He was a bad coffee boy. He was a camera man for the AWA. He was an announcer – and he wasn’t even a good announcer. I remember Dusty told DDP he was clever with all his cliches and stuff? But no. Mike Graham told me at the Ramada bar that they were just working Page. Why isn’t DDP an announcer or commentator? Because he can’t talk, and he can’t interview. Nobody has ever bragged about DDP’s interview skills, but Page bought it anyway! He put it in his book – how much Dusty regarded him.But they were laughing at him. That’s what a geek he is! He went up to see Vince, but Vince couldn’t see him. He didn’t have time. Page is the biggest expose of wrestling ever. Page is the biggest joke of all.
Eric – How much more time do you think Dallas will have in the business?
Tom – He doesn’t have long. But I guess that’s up to Eric. Eric and DDP, they’re buddies, they were neighbors. I don’t know if they belong to a Swingers Club? What do you think? Pillman used to stay over at his house. Do you think he was trying to get a shot at Kimberley? I know Brian, geez. Page was a mark for Pillman. Pillman didn’t like him. He harassed him on the Bruise Cruise. He was a joke. Give it up Page! He’s a geek. Look at Scotty Steiner. Steiner made a monkey out of him. Then Page had to do damage control, courtesy of Ryder. He’s a joke, he’s a laughing stock. Kevin Nash works him. Nash plays both sides of the fence and stirs the pot and picks up his check for nothing. It’s a great con!
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