Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Jim Cornette’s Q&A at the NWA Legends Convention

This was filmed in 2009.

Jim Cornette is wearing an AC/DC shirt which immediately warms my heart.

Chris Cruise is hosting this Q&A.

Corny riffs on Cruise’s age, so Cruise rips on Corny’s t-shirt and workout pants combo.

TNA is praised by one of the fans and Cornette explains how 150 people are making money in the business nowadays compared to back in the day when 1000 guys used to be able to survive off being a wrestler.

The wrestlers today could be as good as the stars of the past but the promotions don’t allow them to learn and improv like in the past.

The WWE would send Jim notes every week for OVW TV despite the WWE not paying for the TV time. They constantly sent down green guys and bad gimmick ideas and made Corny work them into his kayfabe world.

The Boogeyman was played up as a mentally defective fan who wanted to become a wrestler in OVW in an effort to make sense of such a goofy gimmick. Santino Marrella was part of the OVW rookies who were suppose to run in fear but Santino remained sitting down. Cornette ran to the audience and screamed for them to run because Boogeyman is dangerous. Corny exerted himself so much in doing so that he shit himself a little bit. So when the show’s over Cornette is fuming and demands Santino be sent to him. He explains the Boogeyman is big and scary so RUN. While exasperatingly screaming he also slapped Santino demonstrably several times and that is what ultimately got him fired from the WWE.

Santino was trained in real martial arts and felt he should be able to no sell other guys moves since he was “real”.

Santino got a comedy niche in the WWE and was part of the sideshow that is harming the business in the modern era.

TNA is employing Cornette at the time of the interview and he admits that it is a laid back atmosphere since Vince McMahon isn’t there to intentionally humiliate the employees under him on screen and in the back.

TNA is fostering a young batch of talent who aren’t getting rich but they have a good team around them to learn from.

Cornette explains how guys used to work for how much they drew but the job was fun, flexible, and you made your own breaks and so guys endured.

The territories would rotate talent keeping things fresh and the guys worked hard to earn their pushes. Now in the time of gaurenteed contracts the rosters are stale and top guys can rely on getting big money despite how many fans are in the stands.

In a moment that would never happen today, Corny talks of working side by side in TNA with Vince Russo in harmony since Vince McMahon created the atmosphere that caused Russo and him to become abrasive.

Corny hates airplanes and chose to drive almost 900 miles one way every time he had to attend a TNA tapings.

Jim isn’t a tech guy either. He just learned how to use email in 2009.

Bill Watts is a genius. He scooped up Corny, Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey and the Rock and Roll Express among others in trade with Memphis. Corny was making 50 dollars a night working Memphis B-towns and Watts promised them a giant push and a six figure salary.

Ole Anderson ended up as the first promoter to fire Cornette since Corny was part of an promotional expansion effort that went sour.

Watts gave Cornette a lot of promo time and this allowed Jim to get over for the first time in a real money making way.

The Mid-South area had a habit of giving heels mega heat and Corny had to learn to fight as the fans caused near riots frequently.

The Midnight Express was picked on a bunch by the fans since Watts’ heels were usually a lot larger than Corny and his charges.

Brock Lesnar’s UFC career is covered as Corny explains how MMA does wrestling better than pro wrestling does. He wishes Brock could show off his natural asshole side in a scripted environment.

The days of guys being able to show their own personality is long gone and the current set up ruins wrestlers gimmicks since the guys are spewing words that aren’t coming from their own selves.

The storylines are often convoluted nowadays and the fans can’t connect with why the guys have heat and as such they don’t want to spend money to see blow offs.

In May 1986 Ernie Ladd attempted to recruit the Midnight Express and Cornette for the WWF. They set up a meeting with Vince and McMahon didn’t talk about money or angles or matches and instead talked opportunity. He also spent a long time talking about making toys and other gimmicks with the team. The two parties were on totally different pages.

Corny feels they would have hated the WWF since JCP gave them mic time, ring time, a short trip home and a push. WWF may have made them more money in a short term but being lost in the shuffle was a definite concern.

Cornette and company made 100K in 1984 with Mid-South and doubled that in 1985 with JCP.

Vince never watched WCW or ECW. When the Rock and Roll Express worked a few shots in the WWF in 1993 Vince didn’t even know their names.

We get the standard Jim Herd rant about how Crockett being sold turned WCW from a southern wrasslin’ blood and guts promotion to a corporate mess that had a steady flow of hapless leaders. Corny goes on a tirade over all the Wrestlecrap Herd came up with over his several year run as WCW head.

Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee had legit heat with one another and they would play it up in public, even when they were tag partners, in order to build realism and eventually make money when they feuded again.

The Mulkeys drew a big house in their home town one time against the Midnight Express meanwhile the Rock and Roll Express and Midnights once drew 100 fans to a nothing show in the dirt fields of Texas – proving drawing is a combination of a lot of things.

Dusty Rhodes overused some finishes in the same towns over the years, but in the long run Rhodes booked a successful territory for years before things went sour. Others convinced Jim Crockett that he needed to buy tons of TV time in order to draw and sell ads nationally. The ad revenue never came to fruition and the WWF blocked JCP’s PPVs and suddenly the funding went kaput. Now buying the TV time, airplanes, big contracts, territories etc etc all came back to haunt them.

Rhodes had to make himself a top guy to ensure at least one player would be over, wouldn’t jump to a new promotion or screw up the booking plans.

Corny was shy as a kid but he started cutting promos with his childhood friend Kenny Bolin would mimic Lawler and others promos while working in Memphis as a teen taking pictures and setting up the gimmick tables. Eventually people in the biz caught on and he got his break.

Mama Cornette was short tempered like Jim is and liked to sleep with a gun.

The business means a lot to Corny, so when he goes off on his tirades, it’s only because he is so passionate about seeing how a great thing is now a pile of dung thanks to the modern views of those in control of the biz.

The way a ref should act and those who were best at their craft are discussed. Tommy Young recieves high praise of course.

Vince used to be confused when fans constantly screamed “Midnight Express!” at Corny while Jim was managing Owen Hart, the Bulldog, Yokozuna and Vader in the WWF. Ultimately Vince took this as a sign that he should create a new Midnight Express, so Bob Holly and Bart Gunn were given the gimmick. The WWF buried them quickly and Jim Cornette told Jim Ross he was retiring from being an on-screen manager.

Bill Watts’ overall excellence is gone over.

Kevin Dunn, Vince’s long-time producer, is discussed. Corny explains how Dunn felt Terry Funk and Cactus Jack wouldn’t be known by the WWF audience when they were brought in 1997 as new characters.

The Patriot in 1997 was well liked by Cornette. Kevin Dunn wanted to de-push him and Corny argued that he had a good gimmick, great body and was a fresh face on TV and as such, shouldn’t get beat. Dunn told Corny he found Jim’s constant questioning of his direction to be tiresome and Jim went off on a verbal tirade on Dunn in response. Corny brought up Dunn’s buck teeth and so Dunn went to Vince and made him go to Jim and order him to apologize. Dunn started to cry when Corny delivered his fake apology days later.  Of course I can’t do Corny’s vitriol justice in the written form but the fire he displays in retelling this is great.

Everyone in the WWE hates Dunn except Vince. He has a habit of eating snacks while talking to the announcers during shows, so all you hear is his lips smacking while trying to give orders.

Final thoughts: I listen to 90 minutes of Cornette ranting on MLW radio each week, and I have watched a ton of shoots by him but his schtick never grows old to me. So I enjoyed this two hours of old stories and bitching but your mileage may vary.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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