Source: Miami Herald
BY JIM VARSALLONE
It’s the principle of the thing.
So when TNA star Rhino discusses wearing sandals backstage at shows, the meaning is more important than the footwear.
When Johnny Ace replaced Jim Ross as director of talent relations for WWE, he implemented a dress code.
”WWE now told you how to dress,” Rhino said during a TNA conference call. “You can’t wear sandals. I didn’t like that. If I’m going on The Tonight Show, I’m going to dress up, of course.”
WWE chairman Vince McMahon likes to control everything. In February 2003, 13 months after neck surgery, Rhino returned to WWE.
”After my neck surgery, things were a lot different in WWE,” he said. “People were job scared. This is what you say and how you say it. This is how you dress. This is what you do in the ring.”
Rhino wasn’t happy but continued working for WWE. With WWE monopolizing the business, he didn’t have much choice.
In April 2005 during a post-WrestleMania 21 party at the Universal Sheraton in California, Rhino had a public argument with his wife — who he was in the process of divorcing — over custody of their daughter.
”I was going through a divorce, and that’s tough on anybody especially with a child,” said Rhino who grew up in inner city Detroit.
“The argument was my doing, and I am responsible for my actions. I’m not going to hit anybody and instead of punching the wall, I threw a potted plant. The incident got a lot of negative press.”
A few days later, Rhino was fired, felt miserable and contemplated retirement.
Rhino said: “WWE still pays you for 90 days before you can start for some other group.”
He made his final WWE appearance at the WWE-produced ECW reunion pay-per-view ECW One Night Stand on June 12, 2005, losing to Sabu.
He said: “I think things happen for a reason.”
Rhino began working for TNA in July 2005.
”TNA’s been great,” he said. “We’re not actors. We’re wrestlers.
“In TNA, you are not told what to do or how to do it. In TNA, you can speak from your heart.
“WWE has writers. We [TNA] don’t. In the old ECW, it was kind of like TNA. You do what you feel is right in your heart. You can express yourself.”
Rhino recently opted to re-sign with TNA rather than jump ship to WWE’s new version of ECW.
”WWE couldn’t legally offer me a deal because I was with TNA at the time,” he said, “but they wanted me to be with the new ECW.
‘I asked Paul [Heyman] if there was going to be a dress code. He said, `Yes.’ I weighed my options, and I felt I made the right decision.”
Rhino speaks to some of his former ECW stablemates.
“Guys who are former ECW wrestlers are just collecting a paycheck in WWE. They don’t care. They are glad to just be getting paid.
“[During the old days of ECW and currently in TNA], everybody showed up for work. It was positive, wanting to entertain fans.
“In WWE, everybody on the roster was told what to say and what to do. WWE says stop doing flips. Don’t do that move. Don’t do this because you’re going to show up the main event. Well, if the guys in the main event [stink], then don’t put them in the main event.”
Because of a lighter travel schedule in TNA, Rhino can be more of father to his daughter.
”I’ve got a house, a car and a boat,” he said. “I can start a little business and be home. What more do I need.”
Even though he is employed by TNA, Rhino watches WWE.
”I try to watch the competition just to see what they’re doing and doing wrong,” he said. “It’s important to do that. It also made me realize my decision to stay with TNA was the right decision.
“[WWE] is bad television. It’s writers. It’s bad writing and B-rated actors. In TNA, you’re wrestlers. You’re athletes, and when you speak, it comes from the heart.”
Rhino recently spoke from the heart in a very passionate speech when he tossed the ECW title in an oil drum and burned it.
When the original ECW ended, Rhino was the ECW heavyweight champ and ECW TV champ. For legal purposes, he could not show the belt on TNA television.
”The belt was not hanging on my wall in my house,” he said. “It was in my basement, and I did burn it.”
“Actually, a good friend of mine who wrestles, but I don’t want to mention his name, thought it was great. It was good television. WWE can’t do that because they have writers.”
Rhino would have done the same with the ECW TV title, but the belt was stolen during an ECW show at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale.
”Vince thinks of business and dollars rather than memories,” Rhino said. “He is making money off our hard work from years ago.
“Vince will suck it dry because he doesn’t want anything to be better than WWE.”
Well, TNA is doing a good job, and like his days in ECW, Rhino wears sandals to work and enjoys working in TNA.
â€¢ Rhino notes:
Jeff Hardy signing with WWE
“Good for Jeff Hardy, but WWE has a strict policy on being on time. I don’t think he will be there that long. If they try to change him, it will show up in the ring.
“Jeff is the type of guy who will show up an hour before the show, and you won’t see him until he is wrestling his match. A couple of times he didn’t even make it to the show. TNA was always just happy he made it to a show.
“I hope he is happy. I don’t know why he went back.”
Jim Ross and Mike Tenay
“Both have been good to me. I really like Jim Ross, and he is great calling matches.
“Mike Tenay, I just listen to the matches. He will tell you about everybody’s past. I learned so much about Chris Sabin listening to Mike, and I’ve know Chris for years.”
“It’s hard to write for everybody.”
“WWE writers think the fans are stupid. They acknowledge some things and ignore other things.”
Good times in WWE
“The invasion angle in WWE was a lot of fun.”
TNA’s heavyweight division
“I think the heavyweight division has come a long way. Abyss is so talented. What a monster in the ring. I think the division is the best it’s ever been.”
More on Abyss
“I see Abyss. How is this guy still alive?
“I would kick him so freaking hard, and he would say, `Oh, that hurt a little bit.”’
WWE Hardcore title
“The WWE Hardcore title was a joke, defending it 24-7. When I had it, I tried to bring credibility to it.”
“I like the whole thing with Kevin Nash going for the X-Division title. Chris [Sabin] will get his butt kicked.”
“I’d like to feud with Christian.”
Tag teams in TNA
“I like the tag team A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels. They deserve the belts. I think A.J. is incredible.”
Savio Vega’s IWA Puerto Rico
“It was fun working in IWA in Puerto Rico. The fans are intense, vocal and extreme, just the way I like it.”
“We definitely have the talent to go two hours. We should run a few specials to test the waters. The talent in TNA is 100 times better than WWE because it’s true. It’s real.
“There is talent in WWE, but they don’t know how to use it. I don’t want to hear a guy talk for 20 minutes on TV.”
His upcoming PPV match with Alpha Male Monty Brown and Samoa Joe
“I want to focus on my match and use it as a stepping stone. Still, you can’t overlook guys like Samoa Joe and Monty Brown.”
â€¢ TNA: iMPACT! can be seen 11 p.m. (ET/PT) Thursdays on Spike TV with encores 11 p.m. (ET/PT) Saturdays.
TNA: iMPACT! — in its Thursday night time slot — is averaging a 1.0 HH rating, with a 1.2 in Males 18-49, a 1.4 in Males 18-34. Its average audience is 1.2-million viewers.
â€¢ TNA’s Hard Justice pay-per-view is 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Sunday, Aug. 13 from Universal Studios Orlando.
Rhino and his ‘Gore’ vs. Alpha Male Monty Brown vs. Samoa Joe. NWA champ Jeff Jarrett vs. Sting. TNA tag champs A.J. Styles/Christopher Daniels vs. LAX. X-Division champ Senshi vs. Petey Williams. Kevin Nash vs. Chris Sabin. AMW vs. James Gang vs. Bentley/Kazarian vs. Naturals. Brother Runt vs. Abyss. Gail Kim vs. Sirelda.