Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gateway Interview: Tony Schiavone (Final - Part 7)

It's Sunday, so it's Tony Schiavone time on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, where we talk with Tony about his days as a fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling before he went to work for Jim Crockett Promotions. And this Sunday, sadly, is the final part of our discussion with the voice of World Championship Wrestling.

With the launch of his podcast "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) on the MLW Radio Network where Tony and Conrad Thompson will discuss Tony's career with Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW, we thought it would be fun as fans to hear Tony talk about his experiences before he got started in a career that would eventually lead to him becoming one of wrestling's most recognizable broadcasters. These are Tony's memories as a fan.

So now enjoy PART 7 of what we like to call "Sundays with Schiavone." And be sure to check out the earlier installments of David Chappell's interview with Tony: 
PART 1   PART 2    PART 3    PART 4   PART 5   PART 6

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David Chappell: It’s great to hear that you were into Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling memorabilia, even though your prized poster collection was stolen. Do you still have any Mid-Atlantic memorabilia? 

Tony Schiavone: I tell you what I have in my attic somewhere, and I need to look for them before the next Mid-Atlantic Fanfest convention…I have all my old ticket stubs from the Greensboro Coliseum!

Chappell: Wow!

Schiavone: That I know, because hell, I put them in frames!

Chappell: Nice deal! Did you get the Mid-Atlantic Magazines that were sold at the shows?

Schiavone: I may still have some of those, but I’m not sure. But the ticket stubs I do remember.

Chappell: Switching gears a bit, I just want to say how great it is to have you talking about the old Mid-Atlantic days. There was a significant gap in time when wrestling fans didn’t hear from Tony Schiavone. Then you appeared last August at Greg Price’s NWA Legends Fanfest in Charlotte, and in my humble opinion you stole the show!

Tony Schiavone during Q&A at the
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte

Schiavone: Thank you David, I appreciate that. A lot of people said that to me. I’ve always been a completely different person than I was on TV, you know. I always try to be funny, I try to be irreverent. I love to pick on people; I try to give people s#@t!

Chappell: (laughs) I think that’s what made your appearance at the NWA Legends Fanfest so enjoyable for the fans there. We had never seen that side of you before.

Schiavone: Yeah, Mike Tenay used to say, ‘You’re the best heel in the business, but nobody knows it!’

Chappell: (laughs) Yeah, you hid that side of yourself well on television! But now you can let the REAL Tony Schiavone out on your new podcast with Conrad Thompson, “What Happened When Monday.” Please tell us about this exciting new adventure.

Schiavone: Yeah, this is how it started. I work for IMG, the University of Georgia Radio Network. And basically what I do is I set up the equipment for basketball and football, I make sure we’re on the air, I make sure the announcers have all their readers and we log all their readers. So, I’m the producer also. But we hook into IMG, which is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and there’s always a producer on the other end in Winston-Salem that we’re talking to.

Chappell: Winston-Salem, another great Mid-Atlantic town. It always comes back to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Tony.

Schiavone: (laughs) Our producer is a kid that went to Wake Forest, and his name is Cabell Philpott…and he’s a big wrestling fan. And Cabell, not too long ago, told me that he needed to talk to me about something. He said, ‘Have you listened to Bruce Prichard’s podcast with Conrad Thompson?’ I told him I had not.

Chappell: (laughs) Tony! Shame on you!

Schiavone: (laughs) Cabell said that Conrad does a show with Bruce Prichard and he also does something with Flair and he said, ‘You ought to get in on that! I’m telling you, these things are big. I listen to them and I love them.’

Chappell: Wrestling podcasts have really taken off, and Conrad is tremendous in his role. Did Cabell peak your interest in this new medium?

Schiavone: (laughs) I went ‘Okay, yeah…I’ve got my f@#king four jobs. Thank you very much!’

Chappell: (laughing)

Schiavone: But as fate would have it, the very next week, Cabell and I talked on a Saturday, the very next week, it had to be on a Tuesday, I get this LONG email from Conrad…

Chappell: Great timing!

Schiavone: Isn’t it! He set up what he wanted to do, not necessarily how much money he thought we could make but that he thought we could make some money…and here’s what he would like to do and how much time it would take of me. So, I just thought that was kind of fate.

Chappell: Oh yeah, for sure!

Schiavone: So the very next week I connected to Winston-Salem and I said, ‘Cabell, you’ll never guess who I got an email from…CONRAD THOMPSON!’ He said, ‘You gotta be f@#king kidding me!’

Chappell: (laughing)

Schiavone: So I talked to Conrad back and forth. I’d stayed away from the business for a long, long time…so I thought why not, why not give it a shot.

Chappell: You made a lot of wrestling fans really happy with that decision.

Schiavone: Thank you David. So that’s how it kind of worked out.

Chappell: So how have you made the transition back into the world of professional wrestling?

Schiavone: Right after we agreed to do the podcast, I watched the Royal Rumble which was the first WWE event I’ve watched since I left.

Chappell: Really?

Schiavone: Yeah, and I watched it because I have to get on the WWE Network now because if Conrad asks me about some of these matches, I’ve got to be able to remember some of this s#@t! (laughs)

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: So oddly enough I was sitting at the computer downstairs in my office watching the Royal Rumble, and I sent a text to Conrad. Well, he’s there; he’s there in-person at the Royal Rumble.

Chappell: Oh, okay.

Schiavone: The reason that I sent him a text was I’m looking at a fan shot, and there’s a fan in the back with a giant caricature face of his…holding up a face poster of Conrad!

Chappell: Awesome!

Schiavone: I told him, ‘I just saw your face up there!’ He said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: I think he was actually backstage, but we were texting back and forth. I said, ‘I’m watching this stuff, and it’s your fault you son of a bitch that I’m watching this stuff again!’

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: I watched the A.J. Styles and John Cena match on that show…

Chappell: You know A.J. lost the title on that show, but he won it from Dean Ambrose in September at…the Richmond Coliseum!

Schiavone: Really?

Chappell: Yep!

Schiavone: That match between those two was really a great match; those two kids really performed. And I knew Arn Anderson had something to do with it.

Chappell: There you go, another name from the Mid-Atlantic days! But he’s an agent with WWE now, right?

Schiavone: Yeah, so I sent Arn a text and said, ‘Did you set that match up?’ And he texted me back and said he did! I said, ‘Dammit, that had you written all over it…I knew it was you!’ I knew it was him, and he confirmed that it was. You know, it takes two good workers and a damn good agent to be able to set that up.

Chappell: It’s great to still have those old school connections to connect the current product to. Another thing that has changed in the current wrestling landscape is the proliferation of social media. How have you adapted to that?

Schiavone: I immediately got a thousand new followers on Twitter when the podcast first started!

Chappell: Holy cow!

Schiavone: Yeah!

Chappell: The format of your podcast, which is much like the Bruce Prichard show, has four poll topics that go up on Twitter and the fans actually vote on the show’s topic for a particular week.

Schiavone: Yes, and that’s why I got the WWE Network. Our second show was Souled Out ’97 and I had to watch that on the Network, because it was supposedly the worst pay-per-view in history!

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: I was watching it on the Network, and I sent Conrad a text and I said, ‘Oh my God I’m seven minutes into this thing and I want to shoot myself in the head!’

Chappell: (laughs) That pay-per-view was memorable, but not necessarily in a good way!

Schiavone: So I had to watch the whole thing so I knew what I was talking about…

Chappell: That’s right, you didn’t do the commentary on that show.

Schiavone: Right, and when I knew we were going to talk about Souled Out ’97 on the podcast I called David Penzer…

Chappell: The long-time WCW ring announcer.

Schiavone: Yeah, I hadn’t really talked to David in a long time. And David said, ‘Probably the reason you don’t remember that show much is because you didn’t do the commentary.’ And David also reminded me that even though I did the commentary on Nitro and Thunder, my job during the course of the week was to produce WCW Saturday Night and WCW Worldwide, so I had to work on those shows.

Chappell: Your plate was full for sure.

Schiavone: So a lot of my attention wasn’t always on what was going on with Nitro and Thunder. I wasn’t always in the meetings for those; I was doing something else a lot of the time.

Chappell: It’s so great for us fans to hear your insight on these great Crockett and WCW events and angles. And the podcast drops every Monday morning, so you have that built-in Monday connection to all those great Monday Nitro events you were a big part of.

Schiavone: I hope the fans are enjoying it, and they really jog my memory and I enjoy giving them some stories that have stuck with me. It’s funny how your memory can be jogged loose! I hope we can continue this for quite a while, and I hope we don’t run out of things to talk about!

Chappell: I don’t think coming up with show topics will be an issue! Well, Tony, thank you so much for visiting with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway and sharing all the great memories of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. It’s been great talking with you! And continued success on the new podcast…it’s terrific.

Schiavone: Same here, David, it was a great talk. Let’s stay in contact and I’ll find those ticket stubs for you.

Chappell: Cant’ wait…you have a spot on the Gateway reserved that we’d probably call “Tony Shiavone’s Mid-Atlantic Memorabilia (that wasn’t stolen from the Crockett offices)”

Shiavone: (laughs) All right, thank you buddy.

Tony and David at the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte

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That concludes our discussion of 1970s Mid-Atlantic Wrestling with Tony Schiavone. Don't miss Tony's podcast this Monday with co-host Conrad Thompson. It's "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) and it drops every Monday on the MLW Radio Network and everywhere you get your podcasts.

Previous installments in this series: 
PART 1   PART 2    PART 3    PART 4   PART 5   PART 6

Follow Tony Schiavone at @tonyschiavone24
Follow Conrad Thompson at @heyheyitsconrad
Follow the MLW Radio Network at @MWL
Follow Tony's podcast at @WHWMonday