June 18, 2003
Kevin Kelly on his WWE years
By BRIAN FRITZ -- SLAM! Wrestling
"It brings a smile to my face as I sit here and think about all the young guys that I saw from their first days that they stepped into a ring or when their professional careers really got underway. Going back to January 2003 of the Royal Rumble, two of the last four guys in the Rumble match were OVW products: Brock Lesnar and Batista. That made me feel very proud. What Charlie Haas does with Shelton Benjamin is amazing. They have great chemistry."
Now that Kelly is no longer with WWE, he is able to sit back and really be able to notice what he believes are some problems with the company right now. He thinks that Vince McMahon needs to do the same thing: step back.
"I think they care too much. I think they are so immersed with the product, I think Vince is so immersed with the product, he never gives himself an opportunity to step back and look at things to see from an outsider's perspective. I don't think he has a great support staff around him that really has the ability or the desire to give Vince some hard facts."
Kelly believes those hard facts are to dump some of the older, higher salary people and to rebuild with youth. But regardless of that, he believes there is only one place to begin looking when discussing the problems with the company. "It all starts at the top down. So, Triple H is the top dog on Raw, which he is as the World Heavyweight Champion, you have to point the finger at him. If he's not making everyone around him better, then he has to be the blame."
He believes that many others, especially on the Raw brand, deserve to be given a bigger opportunity but were not able to get the big win against Triple H, beginning with the current tag-team champions. "The fact that neither Rob Van Dam or Kane were able to beat Triple H in the latter part of 2002 spelled doom for both of those guys because their promo skills and their personalities are not strong enough to where they could turn right around and either get their heat back or get their juice back going again. They needed to win. They needed the belt. They didn't get the belt and because of that, they fell down."
At the same time, Kelly has been amazed at the work that Shawn Michaels has been able to produce after his four-year absence and believes he knows why he has does so well in his return. "I think he matured. I think he blossomed under his own and here he is now at 38 with a surgically-repaired back having had some of the best matches of his career. There's a common theme. Kevin Nash's best matches were with Shawn Michaels. Mick Foley said his best match in the WWE was with Shawn Michaels. The best match Triple H had in 2002 was Shawn Michaels. Do you see a theme here?"
One theme that wrestling fans have seen a lot of lately is the main event push of Kevin Nash and Kelly, for one, is surprised to even see the big man back with the company. "I would have never brought him back. It has nothing to do with being injury prone or not being injury prone. It has to do with just making everyone around you better."
The return, much less the push, of Nash is not the only thing that has Kelly puzzled either. "There needs to be some harsh financial realities to this company now. Guess what? There isn't any more competition. I don't know why you're signing all of these old guys to all this big money. There are a lot of young, hungry guys who will do it for a hell of a lot less. They may not do it better but with the right touches, the right teaching, the right producing, they can be better."
Many of the wrestling fans will look at various WWE writers as to blame for what they perceive has been below average television as of late. Kelly has never been in a meeting, but says that he has heard of horror stories from people that have been in one with the pressure that is thrust upon them. In the end, it's Vince McMahon calling the shots, but Kelly doesn't think that the writers should have the total blame on them. "He doesn't have the right mix of people. Some sector of fans or people in the industry want to knock Brian Gerwitz and Dave Lagana and those that have come from Hollywood and have taken on the burden of writing a wrestling show. There's no way that you can prepare to the weekly challenges of writing a two-hour live television show and a once-a-month, three-hour PPV."
One guy that was a huge contributor to the Smackdown! brand was Paul Heyman. Several months ago, Paul Heyman was removed as the head writer for the program and has since been demoted to a consultant for the company. "It is a corporate environment and perhaps Paul did not play nice with others as he tends to do. Perhaps that caught up with him. Every time I saw or worked with Paul, it was a pleasure. But again with the good comes the bad with Paul. His critics would say there is a lot of bad that goes with that good. So, perhaps that's what caused him coming out of that position."
However, it's not all gloom and doom for WWE. Kelly definitely sees some positives with the company, including an incredible staff of behind-the-scenes workers that help but on the extravagant show that the company produces. "To be able to do what they do, it's so good. Seeing it week to week and stepping away and seeing other independent groups put their television together you realize there is a reason why WWE is on top and it's because of the production. It's because of what they're able to do behind the scenes."
As for the future of the wrestling business. Kelly believes it is very strong and hopes to give back to it as much as possible, especially to young talent on the independent scene. "These are young guys on their way up and I want to see them before they hit. They put the time, effort and energy, the training, the preparation the same way that major stars in Hollywood do. But there is not that same level of training for wrestlers on the local level and that's what I'm hoping to give back and hopefully get these you guys to improve so that they can put on a better presentation for the fans, in their towns and in turn, you'll watch the houses go up."
Brian Fritz is the host of the Between The Ropes wrestling radio show out of Orlando, Florida. The show can be heard every Wednesday night from 10pm - 12am Eastern on WQTM Sports Radio 740 AM and live on the Internet at www.betweentheropes.com.