Jericho welcomes Kevin Kelly to the show.
Kelly informs that he left WWE in 2003 and he struggled to find more wrestling work. He decided to get into sales and learned a lot about how to sell things, which wasn’t all that different than his previous work in the wrestling business. He notes that a play-by-play man’s job is to always “keep the boat going straight”, and to give fans a reason why each match is happening.
He learned that from Jim Ross, who was actually present when Kelly auditioned to work for WWE in 1995. He called a match with Ross during his audition and he thought he did terrible, but later he got a call to come back in and meet Vince McMahon. He has no recollection of what he said to McMahon because he was so nervous, joking that he probably threw up on him, but he does recall telling McMahon that he’d be loyal to him, and he got the job.
Kelly points out that people don’t really know the type of guy that Vince McMahon is. He points out that McMahon was very loyal to a lot of older talent who were working as road agents during the mid-90s. He had no idea why some of those people were even there because some of them weren’t doing anything, but he realized that McMahon was very loyal to them and they were going to have a job for life.
He recalls one specific time where a talent ran into former WWE talent, Mr. Fuji, who was in poor health and working at a movie theatre. They approached McMahon with this and McMahon put $10,000 cash into an envelope and told them to bring the money to Mr. Fuji. Jericho points out that McMahon is not a fire-breathing tyrant like some fans think.
Kelly notes that McMahon never screamed in his ear on commentary either. There were a couple of times where McMahon would feed him lines and he’d refuse to say it because the moment had passed, and McMahon would calmly say, “Say it”. McMahon was mostly always calm and professional on the headset.
Kelly informs that after his one year contract expired Kevin Dunn wanted to let him go as Dunn never liked him to begin with for some reason. Head Writer at the time, Vince Russo, pushed to have Kelly join him on the writing team and McMahon approved. Soon after WWE switched to a three-man booth, and Kelly was back on commentary but he still continued his work on the WWE Magazine.
Kelly feels that WWE’s poor fortunes started to change when they switched the look and feel of their programming. RAW is WAR brought a new energy to WWE and the attitude era ushered in a new magazine, the half-shoot “RAW Magazine”. This was Vince Russo’s idea and McMahon loved it, but McMahon would sometimes get furious about the content of the magazine.
Kelly recalls McMahon flipping out about a specific issue and he wanted the issue pulled. The magazines were already distributed and it was too late so they couldn’t do anything about it, and luckily McMahon forgot about it and never mentioned it again.
Kelly talks about working with The Rock. He recalls Rock calling him Hermie (short for hermaphrodite) during backstage interviews, and notes that it was always their goal to make those interviews comical. Jericho points out that Kelly and Jonathan Coachman were characters on the show back in those days, and their backstage interviews were always entertaining.
Kelly says he never had any issues with taping live, except for the night they taped the iconic angle featuring Steve Austin and Brian Pillman at Pillman’s house. He blanked on air and couldn’t come up with the word, “gunshots”. WWE got into a lot of trouble for that angle because they didn’t tell USA Network their plans. The network was not happy with the gun use.
Kelly informs that his departure from WWE came about due to budget cuts, and it was just a numbers game that he was on the losing end of. He notes that WWE gave him a nice severance package on his way out and there were no hard feelings whatsoever.
He began working for NJPW a couple of years ago through his connection with ROH. He notes that NJPW has grown considerably over the last 10 years, and it’s been great to be a part of that growth. He had to really work to memorize a lot of details about each performer so he could just rhyme that content off the top of his head during matches. He informs that he knows the finishes of matches prior to calling them, and he likes it that way. He feels that it gives him an advantage in terms of storytelling.
That sums up today’s episode of Talk is Jericho. You can listen to the show yourself anytime here, and I’ll catch ya next week for another recap!