October 18, 2008
Broadcasting next for Johnny Devine
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
Johnny Devine is a multi-talented wrestler -- a guy with skills, plenty of charisma and an appreciation for tradition.
He could have just cashed his TNA paycheque for another year, but he recently walked away, looking to branch out into another passion -- broadcasting. He's hoping to enroll in the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in Detroit.
"It's just something that's grown on me," says Devine. "I did acting before I got into wrestling. It's something that's always been a viable option."
It's not that the 34-year-old Devine is sour on wrestling, he still loves the sport he began watching in Calgary when he was four. But it was just time to make a change in his life.
"In the long run, I'll end up the better for it," he says. "I'm not going to regret leaving that way. I really enjoyed my time there, but I was at a point where I'd rather have somebody else in my spot. It was time to move on."
"The hard part to swallow is the difference in pay," says Devine. "Yes, they're legends. But the salaries aren't even remotely close. I don't want to get into specifics, but there's a big difference. Word travels fast in the locker room. There was frustration. But I'm not the squeaky wheel type. I threw my two cents in when I could and tried to expand what was being done with me (in TNA)."
Devine refutes reports that he made $30,000 a year and had to pay for his own airfare, hotels and car rentals with TNA.
"I made more than 30g's and flights were covered," he says.
To say it was all about money wouldn't be true. Devine is a guy with principles, a Canadian who worked his way to the big time. A career highlight, he says, was winning Stampede Wrestling's Commonwealth Mid Heavyweight championship ... "all my heroes held that one," says Devine, who has also spent plenty of time in Winnipeg over the years and now lives in Windsor, Ont.
"To me, it was never about title bouts," he says. "Your job is to make sure fans go home happy."
Devine's career took a big step back four years ago when he was stabbed in the stomach outside a Nashville bar. He had his gall bladder and a foot of intestine removed.
"That really set me back," says Devine. "Maybe the office looked at me and thought, "We can't trust this guy with the ball.' If there was anything I could do differently, I would have avoided that situation. I had two surgeries and it cost me a tag-team title run (with Eric Young).
Unlike many wrestlers, who crave the chance to be a heel, Devine says it's much tougher to be a babyface.
"Whether you're a babyface or a heel, you want to be the best," he says. "I'll always be able to draw heat because I'm a natural a--hole. Having people hate me is natural.
"People don't understand how hard it is to make people like you. It's way harder to be a good babyface than to be a big heel. Anybody can insult fans and make them hate you. So I'd prefer to do the harder job and be good."
So where does he go from here.
"I will never give up on the wrestling business," says Devine, who provides a helping hand at Scott D'Amore's Can-Am School in Windsor.
Devine made some WWE appearances prior to his TNA deal, basically becoming a punching bag for wrestlers the WWE juggernaut was trying to put over.
"What you're doing is a job," says Devine. "Maybe if I was 6-foot-10 and 300 lbs., I'd look at it differently. If you're looking to crack their roster, you have to be able to offer something different. But if you show them what they want and that requires being squashed for three minutes, then you do it."
Tim Baines is the Ottawa Sun Sports Editor and writes a weekly wrestling column for Sun Media. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.