Former WWE Superstar Stevie Richards recently took some time to participate in an exclusive in-depth interview with PWMania.com. Richards has been wrestling for over 20 years and currently competes for Extreme Rising and is their first World Champion. In addition to wrestling, Richards also runs a technology website called The T4 Show. Here is our complete interview with Richards:
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with PWMania. How did you decide to become a professional wrestler?
Well, that’s kinda where the “I’ll Show You, You’ll See” catchphrase came from. When I was 13, one of my classmates told me I would never become a professional wrestler. So, by my spiteful nature, here I am. On a more serious note though, I’ve always been a fan of wrestling. It’s so great to have a business where you can create a character, people come to see you and then you make money and people still remember you after you’re gone.
So how did you get in touch with Mike Sharpe?
I actually go back before that, I wasn’t trained by Mike Sharpe himself, although I did attend his wrestling school where I learned a great deal in the early part of my career. I actually got my start in Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, which was the precursor to ECW before it was even known as Eastern Championship Wrestling. I was taught by guys like Jimmy Jannetty , whom I had my first match against on February 25, 1992. Sandman was also there too. Back then, he had that surfer gimmick, but he would always work hard; he’s a hell of a worker.
But anyway, after I had my first match in Eastern Championship Wrestling, I knew I wasn’t ready, I knew I didn’t have a good body and I didn’t know what I was doing. So I just went to any indy without TV at the time to beg to work for free and most of the time they said “No.” After about 2-3 years, I started to get booked on indies that I could make it to and then got back to ECW in late spring 1994. I brought my bags and told Paul every day “I’m here if you need me.” Pretty much my whole career in ECW was showing up and telling them I was available. Like that old saying goes, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” As long as you show up, you got a shot.
What was your experience like in ECW?
Every match, every experience, not just ECW, is just another way to gain experience. In ECW, not only did I have to mature in the ring, get seasoned, learn how to work and deal with the politics. I also had to grow as a young man. It was difficult, but it made me the person I am today and I’m pretty happy about that.
What were your favorite ECW moments?
In ECW, I was in a company where everybody wanted to be a shoot fighter. Or everybody was mad or hardcore. But the BWO (Blue World Order) was the entertainment part of the show. Personally, my body would not be able to handle the risks of being strictly a hardcore wrestler. The way you learn how to work is you learn how to entertain along with taking the physicality aspect of it; finding the balance instead of being one end of the spectrum or another.
Moving on to WWE and the Right to Censor gimmick, how was that experience?
I think it was great. It was a perfect heel group, especially if you want to protect the roster because it was going so far with the crash TV and hardcore stuff. Guys were getting hurt. Vince metaphorically gave the PTC the middle finger with our gimmick of the RTC. Also, it’s a great way to put the heel in somebody and that way people hate me for scaling back the violence. All you have to do is be yourself, because otherwise the parody doesn’t translate. For example, there were some parts of the WWF product at the time that I thought weren’t necessary and I was able to voice that through my character in my own creative way.
I look at it like this: You’re in wrestling and you’re getting paid to pretend you’re a character, so you might as well embrace it and put your heart into it. Especially considering you’re doing this on TV.
What was your working relationship with Vince McMahon like?
It’s tough to say, because it’s one of those things where he would call you in to give you the usual critique and say “You should have done this or you should have done that.” But the fact is, he’s so busy, that if he does take the time to pull you aside and talk to you, it’s usually not a very good thing. So I didn’t get that too many times, but I did everything to the best of my ability. Vince did pull me aside for good things. But most of the time, for bosses in general, if you do a good job, it’s not going to get the boss’ attention as much as if you really screwed up a plan that he or she has. The bottom line is this: I was contracted to do a job. When that contract ended, they didn’t owe me any money and I didn’t owe them any labor. That was it. Nobody stays in WWE forever. Everyone’s contract ends at some point. Sure they might come back, but nobody is there for 20-30 years. I think that’s a good thing because it keeps you sharp, it keeps you hungry and hopefully it will motivate you to save your money, because sooner or later, that money runs out.
How was your experience with Dixie Carter during your tenure in TNA?
I never had too many dealings with Dixie. One of the few times I met with her was when she told me I was old and broken down, back when I was in the EV 2.0 faction. And I told her that she motivated me and that I would go to the gym and do some cardio work.
In general, how did you feel about your run in WWF/E?
I’m one of those guys where as long as you tell me what you want in a match, I’m cool with that. When I was in WWF, the agents used to come up and tell me “We need Val Venis over in 8 minutes, do it however you want.” And to me, that’s very complimentary that they can trust me. That’s a very good stamp of approval to have from the office. They knew I was talented, but I think there was a point where someone said “This guy doesn’t draw enough money, let’s bring somebody else in who can bring something to the table.” But that doesn’t matter, because to me, the money looks the same. When I go to cash my check, the bank’s not going to tell me, “Oh you’re only making such and such dollars and you’re a jobber, we’re not going to cash your check.” One of things I wish I would have done was had the work ethic of Diamond Dallas Page, who’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. And I wish I was business savvy like Kevin Nash. Now, I know that may not sound popular, but I think Kevin has a good perspective on business and he’s a really decent guy to be around. Now, I feel like I’ve learned from both DDP and Nash; it may be late, but I still learned.
What were your feelings on WWE’s ECW brand?
It didn’t matter what opinion I had on it, because they were going to go with whatever they wanted to do. The legacy of the original ECW and The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD made the brand one of the most profitable of the three. I look at it this way: If WWE wanted to use the ECW brand as a way to make CM Punk a top guy, then they succeeded in that aspect.
You are a regular for Extreme Rising and are the first Extreme Rising Champion. How did you decide to work for them?
I was asked to participate in Extreme Reunion. Any time I get a chance to compete and work, I will do it as long as I physically look the part, can stay in shape and not worry about embarrassing myself. The way the tournament went and that promo where I talked about Raven and Shane Douglas, it got a lot of views. At first, I thought it was ridiculous and that they were going to change their mind about me being on the show. But it turned out to be the best thing. Plus the matches I had with the younger guys were getting good reviews. And the company knew that I would show up. They knew I didn’t have a drug problem or any kind of issue like that.
As far as the decision to have me go over and become the first champion, I think that has to do with the fact that I’ve always been labeled as a fellow young talent, even though I’m a 23 year veteran. And it’s also because I don’t have that attitude of “Oh, I’m a veteran, so I deserve more.” As far as that’s concerned, I have come across some wrestlers who are veterans and they have that attitude. But the weird thing is that more often than not, I’ve seen some young guys that act like they’re superstars more than anyone else. When you’ve been there and done that, it humbles you and makes you work harder. But then you get some kid that has a really good match and the internet raves over it and then that gets to the kid’s head and he starts thinking “Oh I’m great because the internet thinks I’m great.” It’s just a part of being young, I guess, because it happens in life too. People get excited about something and then make themselves out to be more than they actually are.
The thing about the business is it does not have too much wiggle room or understanding. So when you are associated with being a cocky prick, it could take forever to shake that label and it could cost you work. It’s a very thin line to tread. So, I tell the young guys (not anyone in particular) to keep their mouth shut and not get heat because it won’t work out for them in the long run if they start to cop an attitude now.
What was it like returning to the ECW Arena?
I live right in the moment and I don’t get nostalgic. But I loved the production of the show with the curtain, the smoke, the entrance-way, the lighting, etc. And I loved the crowd, because even after all this time, they’re still passionate and they want to participate in the show.
You know there’s a little trick in wrestling that I don’t see a lot of promotions doing and I think that they should: If you lighten the arena too much, it shows the crowd and they feel like they are being watched. But when you darken the arena, they think they can get away with chanting and saying whatever they want. It’s a psychological thing that I learned a long time ago from Terry Taylor. People will make more noise because they feel anonymous.
Would you ever return to WWE or TNA again?
That’s a tough question. It would have to be financially worth it to go back to either company. I have a bunch of other stuff going on like DDP Yoga and my T4 website. If I went back to WWE, I would have to give that up because there would be no time for it. And I’m not sure how long I would be there, because a contract in wrestling is not really a contract. You can get cut at any time for any reason, so I don’t know if I’d be willing to make that leap of faith again.
In TNA, the schedule is not as hectic, but again, I’d have to be making money. I really enjoy my life now as it is because I get to do other things in addition to wrestling. Also when you think about it, when you’re a wrestler for WWE or any other company, it’s a short part of your life. In any sports or entertainment profession, when someone retires, most of the time they have no idea what to do with themselves. And it’s because of lack of planning on their part. I think that these younger wrestlers, in addition to wrestling, should also be working towards their post-wrestling life, because it’ll be here before they know it and if they don’t prepare, they’ll have all this free time on their hands and won’t know what to do with it.
Also, no matter where I wrestle, I always want to be in the best shape possible so I can get in the ring and still go as if I’m 22 even though I’m 42. Basically, there were two doors open for me when I was younger: It was video games or drugs. And I chose video games. Most of the guys who go the other route do not turn out too well.
What are some of your favorite video games?
My favorite wrestling video game is Fire Pro Wrestling. It’s better than any 2K wrestling or SmackDown vs Raw games. Other than that, I like Madden and NBA2K and other sports games. And Batman Arkham City. That’s the only game I’ve ever beaten.
But speaking of WWE games, I worked on the motion capture for Smackdown vs Raw two years in a row. So for characters like Undertaker and Kane, I did their move sets and entrances. That’s actually what I wanted my next career to be; in video game design, because that’s a lot of fun.
Now, regarding my own character in the games, it’s a funny thing. I did not create my character. Somebody else actually worked on that while I was there helping with motion capturing. They messed up my entrance! They put the motion of my hand going up as I came out instead of doing it in the ring. I was like “Gee, thanks for not watching my matches. Not that I blame you, but thanks for not watching.”
Plus if I was working on my character, I would have wrecked Triple H’s character with his own sledgehammer.
You mentioned you have a Batman game. Is Batman your favorite superhero and whom do you think portrayed him the best?
I love Batman. Sometimes I think it’s strange though because the origin story of his parents getting killed and messing him up is what’s scary about it and makes you think why everyone loves it so much. But I love Batman, regardless.
My favorite actors that played Batman are Christian Bale and Michael Keaton. I think they captured the true essence of the character. I don’t know how I feel about the upcoming Batman vs Superman movie, though. It’s like whoever’s making the movies is sitting around and saying “Alright, let’s figure out a way to mess this up.” I think they talked about putting tattoos on Lex Luthor and putting one or two more roles in it. I think they should just call the movie Look at Us and Not the Avengers. Speaking of the Avengers, wrestling can learn a lot from Marvel. The way that they do the scenes after the credits helps plant the seeds for the next one. It heightens the anticipation. Everything ties in and it’s amazing how it’s done.
You started the T4 Show back in 2007. How did that get started?
It stands for Tech Today Tech Tomorrow. It covers mobile devices, computers, tutorials, that sorta thing. All the stuff that’s popular.
I started this because in WWE, I didn’t have much of a creative outlet, which is something I want because I am a creative person. I would just get on the show and put people over for 3-5 minutes and go home. To me, that didn’t satisfy my creativity.
I love technology and always wanted to do something with it. I originally wanted to put the T4 show on WWE.com back when I worked for them but they didn’t have the same vision that I did, so I just did it all on my own.
When I started the T4 Show, I used my real name Michael Manna. I didn’t want the Stevie Richards character to have anything to do with it or to use it as a crutch or to attract negative attention from wrestling fans. There are companies to this day that send me products that do not know that I wrestle. And I love that. They just know that Michael Manna is a trusted tech reviewer and I’m a down to earth kind of person.
But nowadays on the site, I do put up some wrestling-related stuff because I know wrestling fans visit the site as well. I just like to be able to live my life as Michael Manna and not just Stevie Richards.
How did you get interested in DDP Yoga?
Well, at first I wasn’t interested in it. I thought “I’m a guy, why do I want to do yoga?” But after a while, especially in the business that I’m in, your back starts to hurt, your cardio’s down, you feel like you’re not flexible. So I started doing it and Page (DDP) kept telling me every time I do the workout that I would get better. And he was right. After about 3 months or so, I was completely pain free. I don’t have that cracking feeling anymore and it’s pretty amazing. It incorporates dynamic resistance and allows you to burn fat and calories; and the byproduct of all of that is you gain flexibility.
I used to have this work out where I would jump rope, work with the resistance bands and run around before a match. Most of the time, it tired me out. But with DDP Yoga, I feel better after I do it. It’s a 20-30 minute workout and it makes you feel great. Also, DDP is very motivational. When I’m around him, I want to be positive and I want to get better. It’s contagious. Once you get going with DDP Yoga, you’ll love it. Not only will your body feel good, but your mind will feel great as well.
What’s next for Stevie Richards?
The fans can expect me to try my hardest and to give them their money’s worth. I love wrestling and I’m blessed for everything that’s given to me. I’m thankful to still be benefiting from wrestling.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I wish you luck in all that you do.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
You can follow Stevie Richards on Twitter @MichaelManna and for more information on T4, visit their website at www.t4show.com.
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