On location at the Smackdown! tapings, Kennedy spoke with NZPWI just 48 hours after being defeated by The Undertaker in a Last Ride match at WWE Armageddon 2006; an event that also saw Joey Mercury receive a massive facial injury in a Fatal Fourway ladder match.
A former Nuclear Power Plant Security Guard, Kennedy worked for the WWE back in 2001 as enhancement talent (often referred to as a “jobber”) before working dates for TNA in 2003, then again for the WWE in 2003 and 2004.
Kennedy’s dream finally came true in early 2005 when he was signed to a developmental deal with the WWE and began training at Ohio Valley Wrestling, wrestling under his real name, Ken Anderson.
Kennedy is perhaps best known for his ring introduction gimmick, introducing himself in matches and proclaiming “I am Mister Kennedy……..Kennedy”. A style he first used when announcing High School Basketball games.
In this interview which was targeted towards the Skywatch Magazine reading audience, Kennedy talks about his career, working with The Undertaker, the influence of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and gave advice to New Zealand professional wrestlers trying out with the WWE (the New Zealand tryouts have since been cancelled).
Dion McCracken: It’s very rare that any professional wrestler comes onto the scene and immediately makes a big impact. But I’m joined today by a man who has broken that very rule. Ever since joining the SmackDown roster, he has gone from strength to strength, and is now just days away from a World Heavyweight Championship shot at the Royal Rumble. He is Ken Kennedy.
Mr Kennedy: Dion!
Hey Ken, how ya going?
Excellent. How are you?
Good good. Well, congratulations on your great match with the Undertaker at Armageddon…
… what’s it like working with a legend like ‘Taker?
Words really can’t describe it. Just the fact that I’m still a fan – I’m still a fan of this business first and foremost, and seeing the Undertaker come out to the ring on TV, or from the crowd, is a spectacle in and of itself, let alone being in the ring when Undertaker comes to the ring, it’s a pretty amazing thing.
And to be able to be in a match with him, let alone, like I’ve been working with him now for three and a half months, is awesome. It’s a dream come true. He’s a legend.
Definitely, definitely. And I think this is true; you don’t get better by working people who are at your level or beneath you, you get better by working with people who are better than you. Or who have been around longer than you. You know, and he’s a guy who could just, he could do this in his sleep. And the problem is, is that he doesn’t do it in his sleep, he puts 100% effort into it. And when you’ve got somebody who’s that talented, putting forth all their effort, you get great things.
You must be happy with how over Mr. Kennedy has become yourself though?
Yeah, and relatively quickly… for the first three months, things were going very well, then I got injured for six months, and now it all seems to be back on track again.
But, over or not, if I hear people cheering or if I hear people booing from the crowd – if people are making noise, that’s all I want to hear. I don’t want to hear people sitting on their seats, or sitting on their hands.
Why do you think it is that fans have reacted so well to you?
I don’t know. I guess… heh, I really don’t know. It’s just me out there being me, I guess, and I’m not playing a character… I’ve always heard that the best gimmicks are those that are near and dear to your heart. Austin used to say that when he went out to the ring, it was just him with the volume turned up, and I feel the same way about me and about Mr. Kennedy. At the end of the day, hopefully there’s some people out there who can relate to that a little bit.
Is it a challenge to get fans to hate you, when you’ve got that ring introduction gimmick that they love so much?
It is, very… that’s probably the hardest thing, and sometimes I’ve actually had to… we were on a recent trip over to Europe, I actually had to stop my ring introduction, and not give it to the fans because – I said the first “Mr Kennedy” and then I went to do the second one and they were cheering so loud that I just stopped and handed the microphone back over to Chimel to get them to boo me.
How would you like to see your character progress in the coming years?
Um. I don’t know.
How would I like to see it progress?
Well, I’d like to see my character progress to the point that he becomes World Heavyweight Champion and main events WrestleMania. [laughs]
That would be nice, wouldn’t it…
Capturing that US Championship though, that must have been a big turning point in your career, is that sort of a moment where you think, “I’ve made it in this business” or “I’m going to make it in this business”?
Uh, well, the thing about this business, the only thing that is constant about this business is change. It’s consistently inconsistent. So I try to take it day by day. I don’t think that I’m at a level right now… you know, I’ve been here, I’ve been in some high profile matches, I won the US Championship, but to say that I’ve made it? I think I’m gonna hold off saying stuff like that until I’ve really made it. I think, tomorrow, something could happen. I could lose my job tomorrow, you never know, you know? So I’m not gonna, I think that’s bad karma, to predict stuff like that, I think it’s a little premature to say something like that.
You’ve beaten five former World Champions in the space of a year; that obviously goes to show how much faith WWE are putting into you?
Yeah. And one of the things I remember, sitting down with Vince a few months after I got here – actually a couple of weeks after I got here – and I remember he said “I’m sure you’ve said this to yourself for a long time, and I’ve been asking my agents and staff, but where the hell have you been?” And the funny thing was that I was practically beating the door down for five or six years before that.
Well, you’ve got your first Royal Rumble and your first WrestleMania coming up.
Which are you looking forward to more?
Definitely WrestleMania. I mean, I’m gonna take it one day at a time. So I’m focused on getting to the Royal Rumble first, but everybody wants to be in WrestleMania, I mean that’s where you become somewhat immortalized, you know? And I really am looking forward to being in that, and knock on wood, I hope that I don’t get injured from now until then. Last year I was expected to be in WrestleMania, and unfortunately got injured, but we’ll see what this year brings.
So what’s your favourite WrestleMania moment?
When Austin won the title from Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 14. It was my first WrestleMania that I ever watched. I had watched wrestling when I was a kid, but I had kind of like grew away from it for a while and then I came back to it.
But I remember, I was such a huge fan, I was so sucked into it, and when Austin hit the Stunner at the end there, and Mike Tyson counted one-two-three, it was just like – I remember just fuckin’ jumping for joy in my house. I had a bunch of buddies over and we were all drinking beers, having a good time. That was definitely a great moment.
I read that Stone Cold was a big reason you got into the business; have you had a chance to spend any time with him?
Yeah actually, last year at the – it was funny, because for those five or six years that I was coming here and doing matches, and trying to get here, trying to get in the door, I used to talk to him occasionally. I would ask him advice… I remember the first time I ever came here. Because he’s probably the biggest influence that I’ve had on my career, the guy that I looked up to the most. The person that made me want to be in this business. And the first time that I ever came to the WWE to do a tryout match, I was in catering and I was standing in the line behind him, and I remember just like internally… I was going crazy, I was like, this is my idol standing right here in front of me. And I kept that to myself, I was very professional and I didn’t say anything about it.
Fast forward to last year at the RAW Homecoming, when RAW switched from Spike back to USA Network, here in the States, I got an opportunity to talk to him. And I told him, I said – I pulled him off to the side and I said “Hey man, I just want you to know that you’ve been a huge inspiration to me. And you’re the reason why I’m in this business.” I’m sure he’s heard that from a lot of people, but I hope that he knows just how important that was to me.
And it was funny, last year at WrestleMania – I have a dog, and I named him Austin, and I had him at WrestleMania last year and I was talking to Steve – my girlfriend and my dog, were standing there talking to Steve – and Tommy Dreamer came up from behind Steve and he whispered into his ear: “Ask him what his dog’s name is.”
So he’s like “What’s your dog’s name?” and I said “Austin,” and he goes “Ha-ha-ha, that’s as good a name as any I guess,” so… it’s kind of a tribute to him.
How’s your lat? Does it give you any trouble?
It’s still, every once in a while it still gives me a – it’s tight. I have to really warm it up. But I don’t have any problems. I’m as strong as I ever was. It doesn’t bother me in the ring, I never feel any pain from it or anything like that. I don’t feel like I have to protect it, or baby it when I’m in the ring at all.
The doctor who put me back together did a real good job.
How’s Joey Mercury?
He’s doing well. I saw him today, he’s actually walking around here today, he’s in pretty good spirits. His face is really messed up. He’s really black and blue, his eyes are just slits. And he’s got a huge scar on his nose, and one underneath his eye, some stitches. But his nose looks straight, and it looks like he’s not going to need any plastic surgery or anything like that, so we’ll see how that goes
But it’s a sad, sad thing to see a guy who just came back from being gone for a couple of months, and you know, came back and is, you know, first couple of weeks back and he gets an injury like that. And hopefully it’s not going to take him a couple of months to recover from it, hopefully it’s just a couple of weeks.
Is something like that a bit of a wake-up call as to how dangerous this sport can be, or is that something that’s always on your mind?
No, I don’t think it’s a wake-up call at all, because it’s one of those things that like – we’re always injured. It’s one of those deals where, if you get injured, in this locker room, and you go around, you walk in the locker room and cry and complain about being hurt, you’re not gonna get sympathy from anybody. Because everybody always works hurt.
I’ve had people – I’ve worked with people who have had broken ribs, and still went out and had thirty minute matches, still did everything, just worked their butts off. And we did that eight days in a row, we had matches, ribs were broken… guys always work with some sort of pain and injury, so… when stuff like that happens, it’s unfortunate, but it’s just part of the business. This is a dangerous business, and it’s part of the territory, you know?
Comes with the job. Especially comes with the job if you’re on the road, working four house shows a week, or three house shows and a TV every week, and pay-per-views, you’re looking at two hundred and forty, two hundred and fifty shows a year. You’re bound to get injured at some point.
Especially guys like Chris Benoit. When he goes out there – not to say that anybody else pulls it, or phones it in ever – but he goes out there and he busts his ass every time, you know? He’s very physical, and he’s always giving 100%.
WWE are holding tryouts for New Zealand wrestlers when you come over for the SmackDown tour; as someone who’s gone through that process yourself, what advice can you offer those guys?
My advice is to do something different than what everybody else is doing. Something to stand out. I’ve been to a lot of these tryouts, and when we’ve been on the road, we were in Canada a few months ago, and they had tryouts, and everybody there just kinda looked the same, did the same thing… I think, when these guys get in the ring, they need to bring it. They need to go full tilt when they get in the ring and work with somebody, and not be hesitant.
Really, look – I think a lot of these guys are very comfortable when they’re at independent shows, when they’re with their own people, and then when they come here they’re very intimidated, and it is a very intimidating environment, you’re in front of all these guys and guys that are on TV, guys that basically hold… we’re where they want to be. And it’s very intimidating and I think that guys have to at least pretend and act like they’re not intimidated by it.
Well Ken, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, have a great Christmas and New Year, and we’ll see you down here in February.
All right man, pleasure was all yours.