Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Kevin Sullivan Shoot Interview

Kevin Sullivan explains how the NWO and WCW became successful despite Hulk Hogan controlling things backstage

Kevin Sullivan Timeline WCW 1996

Hosted by Sean Oliver 

Presented by Kayfabe Commentaries 

Eric Bischoff giving away the results of RAW was frowned on by Sullivan. Bischoff wanted to take down the WWF and let that mindset cloud his judgment. The ratings when WCW was winning were not far off from those that RAW was producing, so that telling the fans what the other guys were offering could easily backfire. This came to a head in 1999 when Mick Foley won the World title on a taped show and WCW revealed it on air. Nitro lost viewers by the bundle.

Sullivan did not bump around much despite being small because he knew he had to project an image as evil and larger than life. He mimicked other wild smaller men such as the Sheik.

Edge worked in as a WCW jobber. Sullivan saw his talent, but WCW was not in a position where they were developing talent at the time.

“ECW was just Florida Championship Wrestling amped up in a different city”

Ted Petty (Rocco Rock) was a good worker in the indies and in Japan, but he had no personality. When Paul Heyman put him in the Public Enemy, it proved to be a vehicle for his star to shine.

Sullivan would give Paul Heyman a six-week notice when poaching ECW talent. He didn’t have to do such, but did so out of his respect for Heyman.

Hulk Hogan made the call for Woman to come to WCW. She was married to Sullivan at the time and Kevin was not thrilled by the decision. Hogan wanted to set up having a bunch of women managers to feud with each other.

The Billionaire Ted skits served to tell the WWF fans that their old favorites were now in WCW and it caused the WWF fan base to erode. Sullivan enjoyed the bits for the parody they were, and ultimately WCW ran the n.W.o. Horsemen parody on their own show.

Linda Hogan wanted to get involved on the show. This somehow morphed into Elizabeth being brought in instead.

The Dungeon of Doom was created to give Hogan a group of heels to work with. The Horsemen were not going to be booed because they were established as being the coolest guys in the room, so Hogan needed monsters to slay to try and keep himself popular.

Steve Austin’s “Stone Cold” gimmick was heavily inspired by Brian Pillman’s “loose cannon” gimmick, in Sullivan’s opinion.

Pillman had a subversive mind. He wanted to chain himself to a goal post in the middle of a Bengals game in order to get over his gimmick. He later took part in the “gun incident” on RAW with Austin. With something that controversial, either guy could have vetoed the angle, but obviously they chose to not do so.

Lucha Libre had drawn good houses in several metropolitan American cities, so Sullivan decided to give them a shot in WCW. He admits a lot of WCW’s workers were plodding and prone to rest holds, and the Mexicans would bring excitement to the card. Kevin never intended to push them past a special attraction role, but some broke out as stars and could not be denied.

Loch Ness was huge and “looked like something that just crawled out of a cave.” Sullivan claims that Loch Ness popped the biggest rating on WCW Saturday Night in 1996. Sullivan speaks on Ness being able to take big bumps, but I don’t think he ever took any in WCW.

Pillman planned out the whole “loose cannon” angle and Sullivan let him run with it. Even the wrestlers were buying into the fact that Pillman was out of his mind, and some wanted Sullivan to shoot on Pillman to teach him a lesson.

Sullivan hated lying to the locker room about Pillman, but he loved and respected what Pillman was doing. Some guys didn’t even want to work with Brian because they thought he’d hurt them.

Randy Savage had demons. Despite being divorced, he and Liz still had love for one another. Elizabeth did an emotionally charged interview by a lake where she cried while talking about Savage. It made for great TV.

A manager should probably be someone who has been an in-ring worker in the past in order for them to appreciate the psychology and bumping involved.

The best worker is the guy who puts butts in seats. Hulk Hogan was bringing fans in and thus was protected. A group in the back formed that were anti-Hogan, and eventually the pressure caused Hogan to do two straight losses to Arn Anderson on national TV. Sullivan reminded Hogan that his gimmick was being a Superman, and the following week Hogan beat Sullivan and Anderson in a handicap match.

Hogan wanted WCW to move out of Center Stage Theater for WCW Saturday Night that they had used for many years because the small amount of fans in the building hurt his aura.

WCW began running house shows again in early 1996 as their business was ticking upward. Hogan brought new eyes to WCW and it got everyone over enough to sustain house show business again.

WCW had Flair, Sting and others for their fans. WWF fans had Hogan, Savage and others to root for and then WCW added Japanese and Mexican stars to the mix to draw from their bases too.

Sullivan pushed for angles to be done at house shows. They would be then shown on TV in clip form in order to put it over to the fans that important stuff happens at non-TV shows.

Brutus Beefcake and Hogan had been friends since 4th grade, so he was politically protected.

Vader, Sullivan, Hogan and Savage appeared on “Baywatch”. The real actors were annoyed that the wrestlers could hit their lines so quickly. David Hasselhoff refused to even appear on the episode. It took a week to film.

Johnny B. Badd left the company in March. Sullivan could not get behind him because Dusty Rhodes had given him the gimmick of a white guy playing a black guy and that was a political hot plate to try and maneuver around.

The “Doomsday” cage with the Mega Powers against an army of heels was the ultimate in absurdity. Sullivan was hoping that after being put over 8 guys in one match that Hogan would trust Kevin enough to book him in more serious angles than the goofy Dungeon stuff.

Hogan was then asked to do a stretcher job for Flair and other heels to set up his absence for filming a movie. Hogan instead beat everyone again, no sold chair shots from the Horsemen and popped up from a chokeslam from the Giant. He then left dominant. Sting and Lex Luger had been laid out by the Giant on the same show.

Arn Anderson had been in the role as lackey for too long to have a run with the World title.

The Giant was given the World title in April in order to start rebuilding him for more matches with Hogan when the Hulkster’s movie was finished. Sullivan knew Hogan would demand the title back ASAP.

DDP was friends with Bischoff, and Eric ordered Sullivan to push him. Thankfully Page worked his ass off , got better and became popular.

The “Lord of the Ring” award Page won at during Battle Bowl was not Sullivan’s idea. That is why it  faded out of storylines rather quickly.

Road Warrior Hawk was a great talent and, with a gimmick tweak, could have been a singles star. The Road Warriors’ no selling was problematic because Kevin already had Hogan eating up his heels on top and the Warriors would have done the same thing to other tag teams. It may have killed the n.W.o. dead fast if the Warriors started no selling Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.

The one hour Nitros went fast. The fans were overwhelmed with all the bells and whistles happening. Expanding to two hours took some of the magic out of the presentation and adding a third hour pretty much drained the fans.

The n.W.o. was booked to be incredibly strong because Sullivan loves strong heels. Even the WCW babyfaces complained because Vince McMahon’s guys were wrecking them.

The Rock and Roll Express came in and lost to upper card heels on their first night back. Sullivan wanted to make the point that the past is the past and the heels of today needed heat.

Shawn Michaels talked with WCW about jumping ship. Kevin would have let Michaels, Hall and Nash create their own angles (within reason).

Dick Murdoch was being groomed to be world champion in the late 70’s. He knew he was being scrutinized and still did his comedy bumps, which all but killed his chances off.

Sullivan and Chris Benoit had great matches and the fact that Benoit ran off with Kevin’s wife did not cause issues bell to bell.

Hogan slept in Sullivan’s guest bedroom the night before his heel turn in June of 1996 to keep people from talking him out of it. Hogan’s agent stayed over too, begging Hogan not to do it. Sullivan told him that Hogan was dying as a babyface and needed a change.

Ric Flair was given the U.S. title the same night as Hogan’s heel turn in order to show that he was not giving up on the Horsemen as top heels.

Randy Savage was worried about being laid out alongside a troupe of other babyfaces during a brawl with the n.W.o. He ended up leaping on a moving car and trying to attack the heels through a sunroof.

Hall and Nash were tasked with keeping Hogan calm and subtlety guiding him during the early n.W.o. promos. Sullivan didn’t want Hogan to do his “WHATCHA GONNA DO!” style of promo as a heel.

Bischoff loved his Harley Davidson. This led to WCW spending several years running shows in Sturgis for the annual motorcycle rally. Sullivan and many others hated it due to the remote location and lack of proper facilities.

Hall and Nash came up with the idea of spray painting the World title after Hogan won it.

Lanny Poffo was given a 3 or 4 year six-figure contract for WCW. Sullivan believes he worked one match during that whole time.

Juventud Guerrera once ran around a hotel naked and high on drugs screaming about being Jesus.

Sullivan wanted to keep the n.W.o. as just ex-WWF guys, but after Davey Boy Smith decided to resign with the WWF, the Giant was placed in the group in his slot.

The Horsemen were booked to get some comeuppance on the n.W.o. late in the summer, but Hogan vetoed the plan and 9 WCW stars were laid out instead.

In Ohio, a group of fans brawled in the stands over their alliances with WCW vs. the n.W.o.

The n.W.o. Sting and Virgil were added to the n.W.o. in September. Sullivan knew the golden goose was going to die if all these goofs were added to the group. Kevin is surprised Hogan didn’t veto having so many jabronis hanging out with him.

Sean Waltman had a good mind for the business and he could help steer his friends into better booking plans.

The n.W.o. were all at once the top heels and the top babyfaces in the company. Hogan and the others wanted to build up WCW to make some money matches, but Sullivan pointed out to them that anyone who got over seemed to jump to the n.W.o.

Scott Hall came up with the idea for Sting to be watching things unfold from the rafters. Hall knew that if the babyfaces were strong, then the heels and business in general would be strong.

JJ Dillon came over from the WWF where he had served in talent relations. That meant he knew what all the WWF guys were making and when many of their contracts were due.

Woman and Sullivan were already on the outs before Chris Benoit was booked to “steal” Woman from him in storyline.

Hogan did the job for Roddy Piper at Starrcade in an effort to ease Piper’s ill feelings towards Hogan regarding how their WWF feud finished off inconclusively.

Sullivan puts over HHH for losing to younger guys now that he is in his later years as a semi-active wrestler.

Final thoughts: This went over 2 hours, but it flew by as Sullivan is a focused and engaging speaker. There was not too much new info to mine from this, but hearing from the booker behind the scenes provides an entertaining element to this much beloved era.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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