April 28, 2012
@GaryMehaffy on Twitter
An interview with Shawn Daivari
I assume, like a lot of guys in the business, you were a big fan of wrestling growing up?
Yea. Probably my two favourites were Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley, and that’s because they always seemed to have their opponents’ best matches. If you go down a list of all the others, all the really good talents or really good matches, they’re always the top two people – they’d have their best match against Shawn Michaels and they’d have their best match against Mick Foley – and I kind of noticed that, even at a young age before I really knew anything about wrestling. I always knew that those were the best matches the guys ever had. Now that I’m in the business, I see why, I know why. I know that what Shawn does, or what Mick does, is that they’re able to pull that little something special out of everybody they work with, so they’d pick up their best match.
Who trained you or broke you in?
I broke in with Eddie Sharkey in Minneapolis. Eddie Sharkey is a former AWA wrestler – pretty much anyone who came in through the state of Minnesota in the United States broke in with him. I went through him, Rick Steiner broke in with him, Jesse Ventura, the Road Warriors – pretty much anyone you’ve ever heard of (who broke in) through Minnesota came through Eddie Sharkey’s school, and that’s where I started. I followed that up with Sheik Adnan El Kassey, who was another AWA wrestler, who gave me a little more insight to what makes your character and then Dr. Tom Pritchard kind of polished me up before I signed with WWE.
Speaking of signing with WWE…..You signed for them when you were only 20. Looking back on it, do you think it was too early in your career to go there?
I don’t think it was too early in my career to go there, but I wish I had more knowledge of the business like I do now. There’s a lot of other guys that were in their twenties that fucked up big time, that got there – and I didn’t make any of the mistakes they did – and they always seemed to get a pass; “Oh they came in too young!” I don’t believe that was necessarily true. I was able to handle the responsibility and I was able to handle the job. Mentally, my business acumen wasn’t as sharp as it is now, because I’d only been in the job 5 years in 2004, whereas now in 2012 I’ve been on the job about 12 years. I just wish I’d had that extra several years of experience that most guys had so that I could be able to do my job to the best of my abilities like I’m able to do now.
You were paired from the start of your career there (WWE) with Mark Copani/Muhammad Hassan and that gimmick. How did you feel about that pairing?
It was awesome! I was really fortunate. Pretty much anyone I’ve ever worked with so far in my career, I’ve got along with personally. From my understanding, that’s what makes it very successful or very difficult to work with people. I’ve seen tons of people fail professionally because them and their partners couldn’t get along personally. I’ve been fortunate with Mark Henry, with Kurt Angle, with Muhammad (Hassan), with Great Khali – these were all people that I was lucky enough to get along with super, super well personally, and because of that friendship and because of that relationship we were able to do great stuff professionally.
Very quickly in your time there you were paired against Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan. The company obviously saw your pairing as a money heel unit. How did you feel being used in that position given your short time in the company?
You know, I was really thankful for it. Looking back on it now – at the time I didn’t know why it works or why they chose it, but now that I’ve had a little more time on the job, a little more business acumen, I understand how things work. It was a pretty big pat on the back, knowing what other marquee names they had available to them that they could have used in that position and they went with us, a) because the story fit character wise and b) because it made for an easy finish to put them over the new guys. Again, it was a really big pat on the back. They believed that we would be able to carry that kind of weight when you have a marquee name like Shawn Michaels or a huge marquee name in a returning Hulk Hogan. They could have put him with HH, they could have put him with Bradshaw, they could have put him with so many top heels at the time, but hey thought that we were best for the spot. I believe that we carried our end of the weight. In WWE you get paid (by) what you bring to the table. I remember how significant my pay cheque was, and I remember talking to Hulkster later on and he told me how significant his pay cheque was, so it was nice to know that they put their faith in us and I’m proud to say that. To ticket buying fans we delivered, because they bought the Pay-Per-View.
Obviously I’m phoning from the UK. There was the ill-fated injury angle with the Undertaker which coincided with the terrorist attacks in London that ended up getting edited off SmackDown over here. How did you feel doing that angle?
When we did the angle………In the United States, SmackDown is taped on a Tuesday, and I wanna say that the London bombings happened that Thursday morning – at least, that’s when it broadcast in the States – so when we did it (the angle), it just felt like another day at work. It didn’t seem like anything different or whatever. Actually, I wasn’t even aware of the London bombings happening – I was either asleep all day or just didn’t watch TV – and I remember tuning in to SmackDown that night and they had a little ticker on the bottom (of the screen) saying there was some content on the show that might be for mature audiences only, and I’m like “What the fuck is that about?” I then saw on the news, or read on the internet, about the London bombings. It just sucks for me, because as I felt like we were doing our jobs, we showed up to work and they said “This is what you’re doing tonight” and we did it, and unfortunately the backlash from a very, very small, small percentage of people convinced the network to influence WWE to pull the plug on the characters, at least at that time.
You were phased into the role of the heat drawing heel who was either beaten or who was used to get heat onto guys like Great Khali. Were you happy with that or were you hopeful of more of an individual push?
No, I was happy doing that, because as I said, it felt like a pat on the back to me. It was Vince more or less saying “Hey, we’re having a problem with Kurt Angle, people are cheering for him when he’s supposed to be the bad guy, so the we decided to rectify this is to put you two together.” It’s like when I worked with Mark Henry or Khali, it was the same thing, Vince was like “We need to rocket him right to the top, we don’t have time to build him, Mark Henry needs to be ready for WrestleMania in three months, we need to get some heat on him quickly so we’re going to put him with you.” It’s the same with Khali. “We don’t have time to build this guy, we need an opponent for ‘Taker now, we’re going to put him with you.” The thing that kind of sucked about the whole thing, if you look at it in retrospect, I almost had a one year program with Undertaker that me and him never got to pay off. Between the stuff with Muhammad, Kurt, Mark and Khali, me and Undertaker almost went like a year straight and unfortunately it just never got to the position where we got to cash in on that with just me and him. I think it would have been a very, very easy match, a very easy way to pull off, and I think it could have been a really, really big pay off for the audience, because he never really……..I took a couple of choke slams but no one ever saw him just fucking murder that Daivari character, that I feel like they wanted to see for the last year. When Vince and Bret had that match at WrestleMania, when Bret finally returned to the ring, it was pretty much him kicking Vince’s ass for thirty minutes straight, and it didn’t seem like the crowd got bored, they got really into it. That was something that the Vince McMahon, or Mr. McMahon, character was designed to do, and I felt that was something that the Daivari character was designed to do. We (Undertaker and I) could have had a first blood match or a Hell in a Cell match or something where I got put in a predicament and I got stuck in there with ‘Taker and he just absolutely fucking murdered me, much to the delight of the audience.
There’s still time! Maybe you can defeat the streak at next year’s WrestleMania!
(laughs) Yea, but now I’d have to start all over again!
Was there any specific reason given to you for your release in late 2007?
I was offered a three year extension. In 2007, I didn’t feel like I did anything worth a fuck. Then they offered me a three year extension and I was like “What have you got for me? Why do you guys want me around for another three years if you’ve got nothing for me right now?” They were like “We know we don’t have anything for you right now, but we know you’re a good talent and something may come up.” I wasn’t fully prepared for that. I was like “Look, if you’ve got nothing for me right now then I don’t know if you’ll have anything for me in the next three years.” In my ring boots I’m barely six feet tall, I’m barely 220lbs, I’m not the type of guy that can be mismanaged like a Mark Henry or like a Great Khali, where all he needs is three of four weeks of great TV to be built back up. If I’m mismanaged for too long I lose my value, not only in WWE but I lose my value everywhere, and I was smart enough to notice that. I see guys like Drew McIntyre right now who are in the same position I was in. He was in a really good spot for a couple of years and now he’s just done a whole lot of nothing. I don’t know if Drew McIntyre gets released tomorrow if he’s worth a penny to TNA. I don’t know if he’s worth a penny to any independent promoter. That was something that I had in the front of my mind – “If 2007 was like this, I don’t know if 2008 or 2009…….I know that right now people still remember some of the good stuff that I did, so if I walk now maybe TNA could find some value in me.” I got a job right away in All Japan and then six months later I was in TNA. My phone’s still ringing to this day with independent promoters booking me on shows, and I think that’s just because I never hung around for too long after they stopped using me. People completely forget what you did the first three years, they only remember what you did the last three. If the last three were shit, you’re worth noting to nobody.
When you went to TNA were you made any promises before you went, given they have a tendency to push ex-WWE wrestlers to the moon?
No, I wasn’t. I came in there, and Terry Taylor was in charge at the time, and the only thing he promised me was that he would give me a platform to show what I could do. He said “If you deliver we will have something for you.” I came in, pretty much, on a handshake deal with Jeff Jarrett and Terry Taylor. I did a World X Cup thing, and they were really happy with my performance, and then they offered me a one year contract. It wasn’t a super significant amount of money, but they were like……I had a bad thing. A bunch of WWE guys came in right before me that all just shit in the bed. The Basham Brothers came in and they didn’t do a good job, Test came in right before me and he didn’t do a very good job, Rikishi came in and he didn’t do a really good job……they had a really bad vibe wit hall the former WWE guys. They said the same thing (to me) – “Here’s a one year deal. The money’s not fantastic, but we’re gonna book you on everything”, which they did. I worked that whole year and I didn’t miss a show. I did all the house shows, all the TV’s, all the Pay-Per-Views. When the one year ran out it came time to renegotiate and they gave me the contract I really wanted, which was a really busy contract, but unfortunately it only three months! They got rid of Jeff Jarrett and (Vince) Russo took over the book and that was pretty much the demise of me there.
Before leaving TNA, and the answer may be no, but may I ask about the now infamous wrestler’s court given for your mid-air rib on Billy Gunn?
Oh, yea, that’s fine. It was a big, fun thing, it wasn’t………….it seemed so dramatic and serious, and I don’t know if people even got the punchline to the whole thing. I made a joke on an aeroplane. Billy is an older guy, and people know how much we all look up to him and are impressed by him. For a guy in his forties he looks better than half of the guys in heir twenties. We were on an aeroplane one time, and I had the flight attendant get on the P.A. and say “We’d like to wish a happy 65th birthday to Billy Gunn.” The whole aeroplane applauded and stuff, and we came back we had pretty much an excuse to fuck around at work! We all got in the trailer, Bubba (Ray) was the judge, D-Von was my defence attorney and stuff, and we pretty much played around all day. It gave us an excuse to kick all or the writers and agents out of the trailer and take over for a second. At the end of the day my punishment was to buy a case of beer for the locker room so we could have a drink after work. I went down to the liquor store and spent $300 on booze (laughs). We had a huge party for everybody. I actually built a bar in the locker room! I went to Wal-Mart and bought a table and put lights on the side, some neo lights. I built a little bar and some shelving – I put the bottles of booze on there – and the bar stayed there for at least a year and a half!
Your time in TNA came to an end, but they are affiliated with the Ring-Ka-King project. What led to you getting involved with that?
The same thing. If Jeff Jarrett never got pushed out of the creative in TNA then I would still be there today. When Ring Ka King came about, it was Jeff Jarrett’s show, and he said “Hey I want you to be a part of this.” I said “Hey, what about my little brother too, I’m trying to help him get his foot in the door and stuff?” I sent him some material of my little brother and he said “Yes. I’ll book you guys as a tag team.” Any project that Jeff Jarrett has ever been involved with he’s kinda had me on speed dial to work with him. Even All Wheels Wrestling, which was a TNA spin off, he called me to do the pilot for that and the press and promotion and whatever. It was the same thing for Ring Ka King. Anything that Jeff has planned with TNA, as long as I’m available, I think Jeff wants me to be a part of it. It’s just unfortunate they don’t run the creative!
How did you find the experience?
It was cool. It was another day at work. I’m a fairly good employee, I think. People pay me, I show up, they tell me what they need from me and I do it. It was a good crew of guys, I really liked the people I was with. There was a lot of guys from WWE or TNA that I hadn’t seen or worked together with, so every night we’d just go out and party. It was a group of guys that I hadn’t hung around with for a couple of years that I did for a couple of weeks, so it was really fun.
You’re obviously still young (27) and I know it’s your birthday next week. What do you see in your future?
I just take it day by day. People call me, they say “We need you” and I go. As long as my phone keeps ringing and people keep booking me I’ll keep wrestling. I guess when my phone stops ringing I’ll go work at Wal-Mart or something! (laughs)
Do you mind still playing the anti-American heel gimmick?
Like I said, I just show up and say “What do you guys need from me?” If they need it, I do it and of they don’t, I don’t. I‘m paid to do a job and I’m paid to do what my booker tells me!
Have you any advice for guys trying to break into the industry?
Yea – don’t! Go get a real job!
Any last words?
If you don’t mind plugging my website- www.shawndaivari.com – they can get a hold of my agent on there, for seminars or wrestling shows, autograph signings, all my agent’s details are on there. They can email him from that and it will trickle down to me if it’s a serious enquiry. I don’t have a Facebook or a Twitter, so if any promoters or anyone are trying to communicate with me through them, the chances are it’s going to some fucking kid pretending to be me on the internet!