Charlie Haas On His New Look, Team Angle, Returning To Wrestling
Charlie Haas (@charliehaas) is an amateur wrestler and also a professional wrestler best known for his time in WWE. He joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about his new podcast called Wrestling's Greatest Podcast, how his love of watching pro wrestling as a kid led him to start amateur wrestling, forming a tag team with his brother Russ Haas, how Russ's death effected him, getting signed to WWE, becoming part of Team Angle with Shelton Benjamin and Kurt Angle, his marriage to Jackie Gayda and their recent divorce, his return to pro wrestling and new look and more!
For more info on Charlie's Haas's podcast called "Wrestling's Greatest Podcast" visit:
“So my podcast is called Wrestling’s Greatest Podcast. We are covering all aspects of wrestling. Everyone knows my background and how important amateur wrestling is to me and was to me. So what we are doing is covering all aspects, we go into amateur wrestling and interview the high school prospects across the country. We talk about their work ethic and what universities they are looking at, and where they want to be if they continue into college. Then we go out and we interview the top wrestling coaches in places like Penn State, Iowa State and Oklahoma State just to name a few. We will ask them what they look for in a top prospect and in a student athlete in general. They are building for 4 to 5 years, and they want to make sure they have the right people to be successful. Penn State right now has the perfect blueprint for it, although they did get beat by Iowa last year."
“It’s also really important for women as well. Women’s wrestling in amateur wrestling is starting to take off. Iowa just announced a women’s team for next year, there’s over 1,300 scholarships for women, but only like 1,100 women wrestling. We are trying to get as much notice out there for women to let them know that if you continue in the sport, you can get your college paid for. Amateur wrestling is great for women, it’s the kind of sport where you have different weight classes. Say you have a woman who is slightly bigger and wants to play center mid in soccer, but it’s impossible for her to play that. If you go to wrestling, you have a chance to wrestle girls at your own weight, your own experience and maybe win a state title. Even if they don’t win but they are successful, they have a chance to get a scholarship, and you are building something up right there. The skills they learn can help them in all aspects of life.”
“So I coach new programmers from kindergarten all the way up to high school. I look at what is the long term goal, which is to get a scholarship and hopefully get your education paid for. It is hard work and we want that work ethic. From there, it can go to winning a national title or becoming an All-American. We just have to keep the parents focused and say to them ‘Look. They might not be good right now, but in 5 or 6 years, they may become the person that is pinning everybody.’ The green light turns on at different times for everyone, but you have to stick with it and have fun.”
“Wrestling puts you in an uncomfortable position. You are on your back, getting your arms twisted behind you, and you have to learn how to get out of that. It taught me that if I can get out of these moves in amateur wrestling, and I apply that work ethic to life, I should be able to succeed and overcome adversity when it is thrown at me. My divorce with Jackie was very hard on the kids, but it taught me to stay focused and that things will work out in the long run and will be the best for you and the kids. It was the same when my dad and my brother died, you have to learn to overcome that. But I keep my head straight on and I will overcome and will figure out a way to get out of these uncomfortable positions. I won’t forget, but I can move on.”
“I was done and Robert Langdon brought me back in. They were honoring me to go into the Texoma Hall of Fame. They just wanted me to come out and take a look at the new talent, I didn’t really know what was going on. So they brought me into the ring and presented me with the Hall of Fame ring, which I didn’t even know about. While I was there James Beard said to me ‘Hey why don’t you get back into wrestling?’ I was like I am in no shape to do this, but my kids were like ‘Come on dad!’ They hadn’t seen me wrestle for a good 2 or 3 years so I didn’t even know where I would be at. We started throwing around at Texoma Pro, and I told James that my look wasn’t great but my cardio was fine for SWE. We went out to SWE and I tried the first match. Kevin Sullivan and Teddy Long were there and they said I had this different gear that they hadn’t seen there before. But I am a heel now and my style is a little bit different. I'm not worried about the moves, I concentrate on the work between the moves. I am bringing it up to a higher level and it is intense. It’s something that people haven’t seen in 4 years. I have a new look, a new attitude and I am healthy.”
“Yeah it was when I was going through all the divorce papers back and forth. I remember what the exact day was, I signed the papers and my son says ‘Hey dad, there is someone in the kitchen eating my cereal.’ I’m like what? And then he says ‘Yeah he is living here, get used to it.’ I’m thinking what is going on? I had no idea there was someone like that and boom he is living there, the kids had never met him. That was when I was like you know what, it is time to move on. Evidently she has moved on, the papers are signed, it’s time for me to move on, and that was it.”
“It’s easy to transition if you are a fan and if you grew up with it. It’s like if you are a fan of the UFC and you know all of the holds and all of the techniques that Joe Rogan is calling out in the middle of the UFC match. For me, when I heard Gordon Sully or Jim Ross call out the headlock takeovers, Irish whips, arm drags… It was easy because I knew everything that they were talking about. So when I started training, I knew some of the stuff because I was a fan. I knew some of the moves already, because I started practicing at my parents. We didn’t have a ring, but we destroyed a lot of king size bed frames. I could do dropkicks, suplexes and bodyslams, so it was an easier transition, especially when you add in the work ethic of an amateur wrestler.”
“It destroyed me. It was like the divorce from Jackie, they are your best friend. You grew up with them, he’s your little brother, then you find him dead and it’s like, man, is this really happening? It was tough, it really was. But then you have to call your mom and dad and tell them that you found your brother dead, that’s not good. I didn’t think I was going to be able to get out of that, I really didn’t. I didn’t know how to survive that and I didn’t know what WWE would do. They signed the Haas brothers, not Charlie Haas. But thank God that Jim Ross saw that we could still do this with Charlie and Shelton, and Arn Anderson said ‘Let me take Charlie and Shelton and let me see what I can do with them.’ We basically just travelled with Arn, he put us in the ring prior to the house show matches and in the dark matches, and he taught us everything he knew. His heart was into it as much as ours was, and that was when I knew that someone really cared, he really put everything into us. Shelton was a guy who I found as a partner just like my brother, he is my brother and it just worked. Shelton had the same goals as I did, and I am just very lucky.”
“It should have been longer. What people don’t understand is at the time that we were getting hot on Team Angle [on SmackDown], who was getting hot on Raw, and that was Evolution. But when they have 4 guys and you have 3, when they do the mixed pay-per-views, we are starting to get a better reaction than them. I don’t care what they say, you can ask Kurt that, Shelton may not say because he is with WWE now, but we were getting a better reaction than they were. And I think that had a lot to do with ok it’s time to split them, because they kept Evolution going. That’s just the way it is.”
“I’ll be honest with you man, I was lost. I was always a tag team wrestler, I was never a singles wrestler. Then all of a sudden, who is Charlie Haas? I had a really great match with RVD and a great match with Rico, and they put me with Rico, and we won the tag titles there. That was tough because I loved the character and I loved working with Rico, but other tag teams refused to work with us because they didn’t want to be in the ring with Rico because of the character. It hurt him a lot and I knew he was upset about that, and some of them took it out on him in the ring physically when they had to, it was uncalled for with some of the stuff that he went through. I think today he is suffering through concussions and all that stuff, he is having some mental issues right now. But we had a great tag team, we won the tag team titles, that was really cool.”
“But when they separated us, I went into singles. That was really tough, because I didn’t know who Charlie Haas was as a singles wrestler. [Chris mentions the impersonation gimmick] Yeah I think that was when they were really trying to get rid of me and find a way to get me out of there. But I looked at it as a chance to honor the people that I grew up watching and embrace it. I did the best that I could, I didn’t want people saying ‘He has a bad attitude, let’s get him out of there.’ It’s crazy, I get so many people coming up to me about me doing this character or that character. It’s part of my career that I look back at and I did it because I had to. I am not proud of it, it was not something that I wanted my career to be based on. But I guess a lot of people watched it, because I get more people coming up to me, I guess they liked it.”
“If you are honoring them and they enjoy it, then that’s good. The only one I didn’t like was when I had to do JR. I don’t know what was going on with JR and WWE at that time, but they wanted me to really make fun of him. He’s the guy that signed me to my WWE contract, and my feet were put to the fire with that. I wasn’t too happy about that. I apologised to him for it, and I wish I put my foot down and said I don’t want to do that. But I didn’t have the pull to say we were not going to go in that direction. It wasn’t fair to him and it was wrong.”
“My kids, my family and God.”