Callis loves new TNA character
JASON CLEVETT -- SLAM! Wrestling
Don Callis made his debut as "TNA Management Consultant" a few months
ago after disappearing from the wrestling scene for over a year. The
reason? He went back to school.
"For 11 months I was out of the business by my own choice to go to
school, so I wasn't accepting bookings. I had originally talked with TNA
when they first opened, but it was impossible for me to go down on
Wednesday nights even if they did want me to. I had two weeks of school
left and Scott D'Amore called me and said 'We'd like to get you down
here.' We threw some ideas around with Jeff Jarrett and Vince Russo and
we came up with the current storyline," says the Winnipeg native, whose
weekly columns can be read Sundays on
Thus was born his new character. There are some similarities to his
"Cyrus" character in ECW. Representing "The Network" TNN, Cyrus
controlled the program, caring strictly about ratings and not caring
about the wrestlers. He often went on diatribes against the edgy
programming ECW was famous for and the fans despised him. In TNA,
Callis' role is more talk-based rather than as a wrestler. Having
graduated in June with his MBA, he has taken that and used it in his
"My character is tied into reality because I did just graduate with my
Masters of Business Administration. I am being a management consultant,
which is very appropriate because upstart companies and high growth
companies like TNA would bring in outside consultants to analyze things.
We are playing on that, it has never been done before."
Some fans, however, have remarked that they dislike the character.
Callis responds to his critics.
"A lot critics don't get the character. They say, 'this guy comes in and
he is just pretending to have power and that is how he is going to get
it like George Costanza did on Seinfeld. This is goofy, he should
just have the power.' That is far too simplistic. It is much more
interesting when the character goes in and takes advantage of
situations. That is what I like about it. My father used to say,
'wherever you go, walk in like you own the place and you'll get whatever
Callis' argument is backed up with comparisons to a real story that was
turned into a film.
"It's like the movie Catch Me If You Can. The main character
walks in like he belongs and has authority to do things. Because he is
so gifted or deviant in his personality he is able to swerve people.
That is what my character does. People on the Internet who look at this
as a downside, these are guys who should stick to movies for people
under 13 because they don't get those either."
Most people who have been a part of the TNA environment have praised it,
and Callis agrees that it is a tremendous company to work for. He
credits the talent both on screen and behind the scenes as reasons why.
Especially important to him is the fact that TNA is very much a learning
environment for a lot of relatively new faces to the business.
"I think TNA has a lot of great young guys combined with a lot of great
vets like Raven,
Douglas and Jeff
Jarrett. These guys are willing to help if you go and ask them for
it, and I think that is great. There is a lot of that going on and that
is part of what makes TNA a special place to work."
Callis is quick to praise Jerry
Lynn, who often takes a teaching role both at TNA and on independent
shows like the POW
"Jerry Lynn is a great teacher, he was doing that during the Ex, when he
didn't have to do so. He is very unselfish in the ring and makes guys
look good. He made RVD in ECW, no doubt about it, and he helped make AJ
Callis also had high praise for the NWA-TNA champion. "AJ used to be
basically a big high spot guy a few years ago. He has now learned the
psychology, he is going to get better and better and be the best guy in
the entire business. Certainly athletically he already is."
Part of what makes TNA so attractive to many fans is the up and comers
whose exciting high flying style makes for thrilling matches. Each week,
guys like Chris
Sabin, Michael Shane and America's Most Wanted put on must-see
matches. Sometimes rookie mistakes happen that can disrupt the flow of a
match, but Callis is glad to see them get the opportunity to shine.
"It's a crapshoot because when you put two young guys in there and
sometimes if they miss a spot they get flustered and don't know what to
do. Being a vet, knowing how to not panic and control a crowd comes with
time. Clearly you are playing to each wrestler's strength. There are
high-flyers that if you told them to go out and wrestle a match based
purely on psychology, they may have some difficulty with that. They
haven't had the opportunity to learn psychology because of the lack of
territories. Being around the vets in TNA will allow them that
Callis feels that one of the biggest things lacking in wrestling is the
old territory system, where wrestlers could hone their craft and gain
insight that often is lacking in today's wrestling environment. Often
time's wrestlers put together more spotty matches with bumps that take
toil on their bodies. Callis thinks that wrestling is headed in a new
direction, back to the basics.
"That is what is happening to WWE right now. Smart fans will say that
working a more basic match 'sucks' or is an 'easy style.' That is the
hard style. To smash someone over the head with a chair takes no skill.
Wrestling without injuring people and you control the crowd with
wrestling holds; that is the art of wrestling. It's what Bret Hart did
and Jeff Jarrett does. This is the art form, but to do that you have to
really be skilled at it and know psychology."
During the week-long event, fans at the Saskatoon Exhibition witnessed
these displays in a number of matches. Wavell
Starr and Callis worked a series of lengthy tag matches against
opponents Jerry Lynn and Apocalypse as well as other teams during the
week. It was an example of how you can keep a crowd excited with little
things, rather than a series of random spots.
"During the week of the Ex we'd been able to work psychology well.
Wavell Starr is a tremendous talker and a great talent. When he cuts a
promo it means something. We had 30 and 40 minute matches that week
because we had the time. As you have the time, you pick up little
nuances about the business. That is what is missing because there isn't
the territory system for guys to work up through."
Part of TNA's strategy is to bring in wrestlers from the past like Vader
and Dusty Rhodes to get publicity and increase buy-rates. It has worked
to a degree, and if it means more people see the product, Callis
"Whatever works for the company. The name of the game right now is
exposure and PPV buy rates. A guy like Dusty Rhodes isn't a week-to-week
guy as a wrestler. As a talker, certainly he would be very good. You
bring in guys to hot shot stuff and see what happens. If it puts things
through the roof, you bring it back. That is what Hulk Hogan has been
used for in the WWE. That is fine, but you have to build around your
core. TNA has a core with a lot of great talent, you can build around
that and that is the direction they are going."
The future of his character is not set in stone, but Callis sees a lot
of potential in it as it develops. "I am not happy with my work yet. The
Cyrus character in ECW was a lot more interesting six months after I
started it than at the inception because neither myself or Paul Heyman
knew what the character was going to evolve into. As soon as I started
to interact with guys like Sabu, Rhyno,
and other ECW guys, the character grew and had layers added to it. I
just started with TNA, I've been out of action for two years and am
rusty on the microphone, but I think it is going to blossom."
He hopes that fans will continue to support the show and especially that
Canadians will watch the broadcast on Viewers Choice on Wednesday
"Go out and buy the TNA PPV. I don't just say that because I work for
the company I think it is a great product. The wrestling business was at
it's best and you need to sample it. There is some great Canadian talent
on there, like Don Callis, by God."
Cyrus / Don Callis story archive
Jason Clevett lives in Calgary, Alberta. To hear more from Don
Callis, check out his audio interview exclusively at Ringside
Manner. Jason can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.