Does Ken Anderson Have Regrets About His WWE Career?
Ken Anderson (@mrkenanderson) is an actor and professional wrestler known for his time in WWE when he went by "Mr. Kennedy" and in TNA Impact Wrestling where he was a 2-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion. He talks about his wrestling school called The Academy School of Pro Wrestling, how Paul Heyman helped to change the course of his career, how he came up with the name "Kennedy", his relationship with Vince McMahon, what winning the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 23 meant to him, the regrets he has about his time in WWE, working for TNA and his epic cage match with Kurt Angle, training Gable Steveson and much more!
For more information on The Academy School of Pro Wrestling visit: https://www.theacademysopw.com/ or call 507-722-2776
“I will say this, I do not regret being trained by some of the guys that went to the dance. Because the guys that trained me were awesome, even though they never quite made it to the scene. They knew the inner workings, but they also taught me that a lot of the mistakes that I had to make were my own. I had to wrestle on the independents for 6 years by the time I was hired by WWE, and that was my goal from day 1. I never said that to anybody, but internally I was like I want to go to WWE. When I started sending tapes and getting responses from Kevin Kelly, and then I got booked as an extra, then I was like ok, I can do this. All I have to do is get better every time and show improvement, and then I will get hired. But yeah, I do think that the reason why I opened my school in the first place is that I wanted to cut out a lot of the missteps that people have to make. I had to stumble and bumble my way about, and I am able to cut a lot of those corners for people.”
“When I was backstage at WWE or TNA, they need silence when those backstage interviews [take place]. A lot of times they are recorded during the day. There have been times where it seems like we record 50 times, and we would then get busted by somebody [saying]’ Cut! Cut! Gotta do it again!’ So I am kind of used to it.”
“There was a story when I first started that John Cena had been home one day out of 365 days. He had been on the road for [that long] because he would go from, you know, wrestling house shows, pay-per-views, and then he'd have appearances and things like that that he would have to do, and this was before he was doing movies. So that's just kind of, that's the way it goes. And I always looked at it, they would come to me and say, ‘Hey, we've got this appearance for you out in California. On your day off. Do you want to do it?’ And you know, it'd be sometimes, like unpaid, or we would do interviews with people when they would be unpaid. And some people would complain about that. I always looked at it as this free advertising for my business, you know. So I love doing it, I love doing it. And yeah, it was just kind of crazy.”
I don't say this with great glee. But I will say that the best thing that ever happened to me in my career was Jim Cornette slapping, paint brushing Santino Marella backstage at OVW. Because, he did that and he got fired, and they brought Paul Heyman in. And I had done some stuff with Paul, he would come down every couple of months and he would do a promo day. And we would have to come up with an opponent in a two minute promo, we would go in and sit in a room with Paul and a camera, cut the promo, then he would give you some feedback and a few notes, and then you go home and fine tune it and come back the next day and cut it again. And I remember, I would come back and I would sit down, and he was always kind of like, not standoffish, but just professional, you know. And then I would come back on the second day, I would cut the promo, he would go ‘I love it! Great! I would say ‘Any notes or anything?’ [Heyman responded] ‘Nope, I love it. Thank you.’ And I was like, this guy hates me, okay, that's the worst. Sometimes when you're trying to learn and you're trying to get to that next level, that's the worst thing is not hearing anything at all, not hearing any feedback, there's got to be something that I can do better. And then when that happened, and Paul Heyman came in the first day to do TV at OVW. He pulled me into the office, and he said, ‘You're the next guy out of here.’ He literally said those words. He said, ‘You're the next guy out of here.’ He said ‘I've been a fan of yours since I saw you when you were an extra.’ Because I had been an extra one time and all the extras were in the ring. Like there had to be 10 of us, and we were just kind of tagging in and tagging out and you get in there and wrestle. And guys were getting in there and they would just chain wrestling. I remember Daivari, he had been hired at that time already and he pulled me aside. He was like ‘That's not what they're looking for. They don't care if you can wrestle. They don't want to see moves. They want to see character.’ And so when I got in there I made sure to show some character and stuff. And Jim Ross and Paul Heyman were sitting ringside. They were the only two people there because like everybody else was in a staff meeting or something. And I tagged out and Paul said ‘Come to me for a second.’ And I walked over to him, he was like ‘Who trained you?’ And I was like ‘I got trained by two guys in Green Bay. And then I got polished up and fine tuned by Brad Rheingans.’ And his eyes lit up because Brad Rheingans trained Brock Lesnar. And he was like, he asked me a couple of questions. And from that point on, it was like, I think at the end of the day, he gave me his number. And he told me like, call my number next week, let's talk and I was like, here we go.”
“But I would call every week, he would never return my phone call. So you know, fastforward, we're in that office, and he says, ‘You're the next guy out of here. I've been a fan of yours since that day. And I've loved your promo work and stuff. And I'm going to do so much stuff with you on TV that they're going to have to take notice. And you'll get pulled up in that first night.’ OVW was in one hour programme, and I think I had 35 to 40 minutes on that first one hour programme that Paul Heyman did. And five weeks later, I got a call from Tommy Dreamer. He said, ‘Hey, they want you to come up. And they want to see you and they want you to do your gimmick.’ Because I had just started doing the, you know, the announcer thing, announcing my name and saying my last name twice, and then I went up. And this was crazy, because I was just supposed to do a dark match. It was supposed to be a dark match against Funaki, who was gonna win the match, and I was in Gorilla position. I'm warming up doing push ups, going over everything in my head. And Vince walks by and Vince would never come up and see the dark matches and stuff. He would sit down literally as the pyro was going off for SmackDown or Raw or whatever. And he came up and he nodded at me. And then, like two minutes later, Dave Lagonda came walking around the corner and he said, ‘Hey, there's been a change.’ And I immediately in my head, I was like, [sighs] I guess they're pulling my match. Okay, no big deal. And he said ‘We have to come up with a finish for you because you're going over, winning the match. And this is no longer going to be a dark match. This is going to be a televised match, welcome aboard.’ And he stuck out his hand and I was like, really? He's like, Yeah. Earlier in the day, I had gone in and done a promo, Brooklyn Brawler told me to. And he's like, Hey, come here and cut a promo. And I went in I just had something in my back pocket because I had cut so many in six years and I hit that promo. And I remember he said ‘I'm going to tell Vince that was awesome.’ And, and he did. So it was like all these things sort of merged all together. And, you know, I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”
“I just saw an interview. I think it was Vince McMahon on the Pat McAfee show, where he said, like, ‘I don't care about wrestling moves.’ And I keep trying to like, drill this into my students. And they're like ‘Hey, look at this new move that I came up with.’ Like, I don't want to be, I don't want to be a jerk, but like, I'm kinda like, that's cool, but you know, that doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. In the end, if you can do 75 cool moves, but you can't talk to a crowd or, you know, you can't tell a story with your actions. And there's a guy who can literally do like a clothesline, a hip toss and a body slam, and that's it, but he's got a great character, the WWE, you know, they have to hire somebody, they're gonna hire the person that can do that for them.”
“I remember thinking like, that was what I wanted to do when I grabbed it. And I start climbing the ladder and you can see I look up and I'm like, God, this isn't going to be a good shot. So I shifted a little ladder over directly underneath that briefcase. Yeah, definitely. You know, the crazy thing about that was I remember walking through the curtain and looking out and expecting to see this like, you know, it’s 83,000 people that's the most people had ever wrestled in front of and it didn't look like it. It looked just looked like a really jam packed, you know, 15,000 seat to 20,000 seat arena. [Chris - So just like a Raw or SmackDown] Yeah, and so then I went, I did my match and I showered and I went up to the boxes, because they had a luxury box up there for the family members. And that's when I got over to the window and I looked out and I saw this giant sea of people and this little tiny ring in the centre. And then it dawned on me what I had just done. It was kind of crazy.”
“So Vince asked me ‘Do you have any catchphrases?’ and I said ‘ Yeah, nice guys finish last thing good thing him an asshole.’ And he was like, We they had just gone PG. It was like, ‘No, I don't, we can't do that.’ And then Johnny was getting into it, it was like Johnny, Stephanie, Kevin Dunn, Vince, I think that's who was all in that room. And Johnny goes, ‘Hey, how about what if your name was like Adam Hole? And then you could say, “Nice guys finish last. Thank God I'm an A Hole.” And it would be...’ And I remember Vince, just, there was a silence in the room. And Vince just looked up at me and he goes, ‘What do you think of that?’ And I said ‘I like it. I think it's funny. But I feel like that would be sort of a flash in the pan, somebody that would be here for like two or three months and then be done. It sounds very gimmicky. And I've been here for a long time.’ And Vince looks at me like, almost as though we're a test.”
“Like, I feel like he did [get the connection]. Because it was Paul that suggested it in the first place. Because I called Paul and I said ‘Hey, they want me to change my name? What do you think?’ And he was like ‘You know, you have to pick something that is near and dear to his heart.’ And he was like ‘His dog's name is Ruckus, or Rumpus.’ I think he had two dogs at a time. ‘But what about Kenny Rumpus? Kenny Ruckus?’ I’m like no. And then I had, I was Kamikaze Ken when I started in the indies, and I had these like backwards K’s. And I wanted to sort of like keep that as my logo. And I was like something with a K and he was like ‘Kennedy is his middle name.’ And then I remember when we were in that room, and I said that they just pause for a minute it was [Vince saying] ‘Oh, I don't think there's ever been a Kennedy. Do you like it?’ And I was like ‘I liked Ken Anderson to be honest with you, but you call me Mr. Dickhead if you want to. It's your company.’ And he just kind of smirked and then he looked at Kevin Dunn, and he goes, ‘Make sure he's got Kennedy on his TitanTron tonight.’ That was, that was the second week. That was the week that I did do it on SmackDown. So the first two weeks that I was there on TV I was Anderson.”
Yeah, the idea was that I would cash it in next year's Wrestlemania. That was the plan, I announced it right away I believe, and that was the plan. And then a few months later, I feel like I only had it a month and a half, two months maybe, and they came to me. I was riding with Matt Hardy. We left the building early, which was unlike us, we usually stayed until the very end, for whatever reason that day, we left early. And I got a call from Michael Hayes. And he said ‘Where are you guys? I need you to come back. Vince needs to talk to you in his office. So I like scurried back to the building and I was walking into his office. And by the time we got back there, everybody had pretty much filed out, so it was an empty building. And I remember Batista coming out of Vince's office, and we passed each other in the hall. And he just came up to me and he gave me a big hug. And he was like ‘You deserve it bro.’ And I you know, I played stupid, I was like, what do you mean? What do you mean? He was like just, you know, go in there, I want them to tell you. So I went in, it was Vince and Stephanie. And they said, Look, we had planned on having Taker as the champion for like, a really long time. Unfortunately, he's injured and tore his biceps, I believe, and he needs to have surgery. So we're going to next week, and he laid out the scenario, and he's like, you're gonna cash in your briefcase, we're gonna have a new champion. And I remember him telling me that they were high on Batista at the time, that was their guy. And that, if Batista [was champion] you know, sometimes guys are better when they're chasing the title. When they have it, they kind of like their ratings kind of dip. And they felt like the Batista needed to chase for a while and they said, you know ‘When we feel the time is right, we're going to put it on Batista. But we don't know how long that could be. It could be like a month or five months or six months, whatever.’ And I remember I just said, like, ‘Look, I appreciate you guys saying that. But this is business and I'll do what's necessary.’ And then the very next time I wrestled, I got clotheslined, and I hit the mat, and I felt something popping in my triceps. I rolled out to the floor, and I remember Finlay came over, he looked at me, he goes, ‘It doesn't look good. And by the time I got downstairs it was already, my arm was swollen up. I couldn't bend it. It was starting to change colours already, which is really weird because bruising normally takes like a week, like those deep bruises. And then I went to [hospital] I remember Hornswoggle drove me to the emergency room in Erie, Pennsylvania. I got an MRI. And then the next day Stephanie called me in my hotel room and she's like, ‘Ken you tore your triceps off the bone. We're gonna have to, we still need to get that title off of Taker though. So we're sending this jet to pick you up. We're gonna take you to Penn State, Edge is going to challenge you for the briefcase, and then he's gonna go on and do what you're supposed to do tomorrow night. Okay, and I remember thinking at the time like I got a year to cash this thing in isn't there some other way that you can get it off him? But I didn't say it. I sort of regret not saying it now. But. And then I went in, Edge called me a chicken. I said, ‘Nobody calls me chicken.’ And gave up the briefcase. The next day, I flew to Birmingham, Alabama, I'm sitting on Doc Andrews table, and he's feeling my triceps and he was like, ‘That's not a tear.’ And I was like ‘Excuse me?’ And he goes, ‘I don't I don't feel a tear.’ And there's not a tear there, I'm pretty sure. So we did another MRI and sure enough, it was just a bruise. It was like a large bunch of blood vessels burst inside my triceps and he said you'll be out for four or five weeks. And that was kind of a crazy.”
“No, no, I think, you know, and that's nothing against TNA, but like they just were not the same. It wasn't the same and, but it's okay. Like, I'm not, you know, not crying in my oatmeal about it, like, it is what it is, we gotta move on. But yeah, I do have some regrets for sure.”
“I had heard from somebody in the office that Vince had said, I think he regretted pulling the trigger so quickly on firing me. And I probably should have, like, reached out at the time, but I had such a huge chip on my shoulder. I had a chip on my shoulder for years from, you know, the way that I left WWE and and you know, today I will say honestly, like, that was all my fault. Like I am, I am responsible, nobody did anything to me, I did it to myself. So you know, it was just the straw that broke the camel's back there at the end. But I heard that and then at some point, I cut a promo and I remember Randy Orton texting me and saying, like that was an awesome promo. But I believe he was being serious. I don't think it was him being sarcastic.”
“I remember him telling me to calm down in the beginning, there was some, we did some chain wrestling. I remember I was scrambling to get to the ropes quickly to break. And I remember him telling me like, just calm down, like, you don't have to go so quickly there. And then I remember, we were talking through the match, I'm supposed to hit him with the chair at the end, and I remember he’s like ‘Bring it. Hit me with it.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, I'm gonna hit you with it.’ And then I hit him with it. And we got backstage and he was like ‘Maybe a little too much.’ But then we went out to dinner that night, I was riding, I was actually writing with him and Benoit at the time, and we went to a steakhouse. And I remember they were talking because the next week after, it was like a super show in Minneapolis. It was Raw and SmackDown, I'm not sure if ECW was around at the time yet. But it was going to be a Raw SmackDown Super Show and then we were heading to the airport, we were going to fly out and doing my first international tour. They were like, you know, you're gonna get [pranked] they're gonna mess with you. They're gonna shave your eyebrows while you're sleeping. You know, stuff like that, get me all riled up. And then I remember, I pulled into the arena. And the guy that parks the cars that helps park all the vehicles told me, he's like Eddie died. And I walked into the building. And it was just like this crazy, sick feeling that everybody had all day. Everybody was super sombre and sad It was, it was a crazy, crazy day.”
“And one of my biggest regrets was WrestleMania 23. After I won that Money in the Bank briefcase, Michael Hayes came up to me, he goes, ‘They want you to cut a promo afterwards. And they want it to be an Austin 3:16 moment.’ And I was like, I'm gonna say it. And I'm gonna hit the line. ‘Nice guys. Thank God I am an asshole.’ And l walk off. And I remember, right, I better just ask [permission], And so I asked permission. And of course, at the time, there was no swearing, no cursing, but it was WrestleMania, I thought I could get away with it. And I would have gotten away with it too. But I asked permission and they said no. And so you know it's the worst thing like if you ask for permission, but they said no, you can't do it.”
“A partner that I have who supports me in everything I do, 2 awesome kids and I have had these experiences and can pass them on to other people."