Tony Schiavone, the former voice of now-WWE owned WCW for many years, recently spoke with Raj Giri for an interview at WrestlingInc.com and detailed how he became the wrestling announcer that fans today know as one of the true legends in the field.
During the discussion, the longtime play-by-play announcer for the now defunct World Championship Wrestling (WCW) promotion, which he started with when the company was still part of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), broke down how he rose through the ranks as an announcer from calling minor league baseball games to transitioning to a pro wrestling announcing career.
“Yeah, that was back in the 80s. My first venture into wrestling was 1983. I was doing baseball for the Crockett Family, minor league baseball, their play-by-play announcer. And I had Frances Crockett, of the Crockett Family had run the baseball team, and I kept telling Frances that ‘if you guys ever need a wrestling announcer, I can do this stuff’ and they kind of hemmed and hawed and finally in ’83, because I had been a big fan of the NWA and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling growing up in Virginia, finally, ’83, they said, ‘okay, we’d like for you to go to Ric Flair’s house and do an interview with him for Starrcade ’83, ‘A Flair For The Gold’. And that really shocked me because I had known Ric Flair, and I knew who he was, and I was a big fan. It was a big moment and it kind of blossomed into doing interviews after that and eventually the play-by-play. And, of course, in ’85, Crockett started putting his product on TBS and that’s when David Crockett and I showed up in April of ’85 for the first time, so for about a two-year period there I just did interviews, and then, I started doing the play-by-play after that.”
As the conversation continued, Schiavone broke down how he first decided and ultimately completed his decision to transition from being a lead announcer in WCW to one of the new announcers brought in by then-known World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
“To be honest with you, when Jim Crockett Promotions sold to Turner Broadcasting, I didn’t want to work for Turner Broadcasting. I never was too impressed with their operation. Vince called me. JJ Dillon had just gone to the WWE. And JJ called me. He said, ‘Vince wants to talk to you.’ I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’ He said, ‘no, he wants to talk to you.’ So Vince called. Set up and I went to see him and, keep in mind, Raj, I had been working for a very small, family-run operation, and I went to the WWE and I saw that operation.
“It just blew my mind, so I naturally jumped thinking that I was going to stay in the WWE, really, for the rest of my career. But it didn’t turn out that way. But that’s why I jumped. Jim Herd had taken over WCW. I met with him and I didn’t really like him, not on a personal level. I had gone out with Jim Herd a couple of times since then and really enjoyed his company. But I just didn’t like Turner taking over wrestling. And I think, I was right, eventually! I just didn’t think they’d do a good job of promoting professional wrestling, and so I went with a wrestling company back then that I thought could do it, and, of course, they did.”
Schiavone then confessed that he may have made the wrong decision when he chose to make the jump from WWF back to WCW after such a short period of time in the New York-based promotion.
“They called me about a year later and offered me incredible money. And I had five kids and they were five very young kids at the time. It was ’89 or ’90, so my oldest was seven, and I had a daughter, five, a son, four, and twins, two. Very young family. We couldn’t afford, even though Vince was paying me a very good salary, we could not afford to live up there, as far as buying a house. It was just, the real estate up there was just incredible. And I was offered a lot more money to come back. My wife, she said it was my decision and she’s right. She didn’t force me to, but she always wanted to move back to the south, so I made that decision. And I agonized over that decision for a long, long time. I did one of those things where I wrote down on a piece of paper, on a tablet, the pros and cons and agonized on it for a long time before I finally made the decision to go back. It was purely financial and I really… I still regret that move, to be honest with you.”
Schiavone, who represented WCW opposite WWF’s Jim Ross during the infamous “Monday Night Wars” then admitted that his run with WWF, which didn’t last nearly as long as his gig with WCW and didn’t feature him in as high-profile a position, was still something he really enjoyed. Schiavone noted, “I really enjoyed working there. Yeah.”
Finally, Schiavone was asked to share his thoughts regarding what his experiences working for Vince McMahon in the WWF were like.
“He was great. He was demanding. He was tough. But he loved the business and you could tell. He cared about it. He ran very organized meetings. He and his wife, Linda, were very good to me and very good to my family. And I remember one of the things when I told him I was going back to WCW, he said, ‘do you think the people at WCW are going to care for your family like we have?’ I didn’t have an answer to that and the answer is ‘no’.
“They were good, so from what I’m telling you, you’re probably thinking, ‘man, that was a really dumb move.’ But we came back here to the south; we’ve had a great life here; kids have gone on to college here at the University of Georgia; I’ve made some great friends; I’ve made some inroads; I’ve got some great jobs I’m working on. So for the family life and everything, it was a great decision. Professionally, I probably should have stayed where I was. It was a good place to work.”