Interview with Chris "Tatanka" Chavis
Lekisha F. Oliver
Lekisha: First off, I would like to thank you for doing this interview.
Chris: You re welcome.
LO: This is a big treat for my readers and myself, but lets get started. Most of the questions that I got off of my readers off the Internet were when are you returning and what caused the leave in 1996? Why everything? Big questions, why did you leave in 1996? What were your personal and professional reasons? What were they?
CC: Okay. At that time, of course I went to the WWF in 1991 and was there until 1996. I had an awesome five year run and got a lot of great records that came out of that, especially the two year undefeated streak. But the biggest thing that was happening in the World Wrestling Federation towards, basically, the last couple of years, everyone knew at that time Vince was going through a lot of court cases, a lot of things pertaining to the things of the past, like the steroid issues. The company was going through a lot of changes at the time. We all were doing very, very well, don't get me wrong, but we all were doing awesome, but we also agreed to help Vince out by agreeing to not be paid as much and other things.
LO: So you had to take a pay cut for the lawsuits?
CC: Well, it wasn't really a pay cut, but we knew were weren't getting what we should have got. All of us were getting paid very, very well, but we all stood behind Vince as a company. We all knew that the company needed to be there and Vince went through all these things. He promised that after he got through these things that things were going to change majorly, but what happened is Vince did get through all these things. We understood that it cost a lot of money, but afterwards, you know, things didn't change. During that time, it was really tough because it really wasn't fun to be there because things were so strict, and there was nothing wrong with that, but the locker room wasn't a happy scene. It seemed that every time we turned around, we were taking a drug test, which is fine, and there's nothing wrong with that, it was just becoming, you know, a major issue type of thing. So what was happening was that if you remember in 1996, maybe even the end of 1995, that the WWF business wasn't as great as it always been. A lot started happening at that time with a lot of people leaving the WWF.
LO: Namely Hall, Nash, and Hogan pretty much the majors.
CC: You got it. Mainly Hogan had left for the WCW, which was you know the company ICON had left for the WCW and then the next big shock being the Macho Man and that really did a big blow to the WWF to the company, and to Vince. They were viewed as corporate guys and that they wouldn't be anywhere else. You have Scott Hall and Kevin Nash leaving and telling me what they were doing and, ah Kid (X-Pac) and it felt like everyone was disappearing. We are talking about top talent that was there was all gone to the WCW and before you knew it, WCW had all the top talent. So at that time there were only a few top talent guys left at the WWF, me being one of them and Undertaker and Jeff Jarrett. There was only a few left at that time, so we had a lot of new talent coming in and not top talent to work with. It put us into the position of working with the new talent that was coming in and trying to help the new talent
LO: Trying to get them over?
CC: Trying to get them over and trying to teach them how to work. It was putting us in the position of trying to build talent, instead of letting us, top talent, do what we do, which was working with the top guys and doing the drawings. We were kind of being put in the position, which was not a good position at that time.
So the WWF was on a down and the WCW was on an up. And basically there wasn't anyone to work with, so for the first time in five years with the company in five different angles in the five years with all of them lasting a whole year. I was wondering what am I going to do with no top talent and the rest of the guys were lost in the woodwork. My contract was coming up for expiration and I didn't know what to do with no top talent there, and that's also when Eric Bischoff contacted me about coming to the WCW and being highlighted on their Monday night show. However, Vince wouldn't let me out of my contract right then, because he thought that I was going there too.
So I decided that I wasn't going to go there. I was going to spend time with my wife and start a family, and we did with a beautiful daughter. I've been smart with my money and invested my money. So money wasn't controlling my life and I could make a decision based on what I wanted to do and not on money. I had been on the road three hundred days out of a year for five years straight, so taking some time off was what I wanted to do there and focus on my family. That's the reasons for leaving and not going straight back into another company.
LO: That's what most of them were asking about.
CC: Probably another big thing at that time was the last year of my career was, of course, the heel turn. I went with Lex Luger. The heel turn was still written as of the top heel turns of all time and also the greatest heel turns ever seen. Because it was so shocking.
LO: True. Since you were the biggest face in the company and the turn made everything just go haywire.
CC: Right. What happened was at that time, I was working with Lex and I would have to say that it was one of the hottest times in recent years that Lex Luger was really hot because they really wanted to see him kick my butt. But it wasn't really that great, but it was a great angle. And it went fantastic. Everything was there and Lex and me were just tearing up the country. However, what happened was that they knew that Lex was unhappy and was being contacted by the WCW. They knew that he was going back. So instead of taking that angle and ending it at a WrestleMainia main event, which even the boys said that it should have went to a main event on a pay-per-view. They ended it on a Monday Night Raw in a cage match. Which made Lex hot and I was upset about it and the only reason was that they didn't want Lex to leave from a pay-per-view with all the heat coming off of the pay-per-view.
LO: And taking his fan base with him.
CC: Correct. Not because they wanted to, but because they knew how the companies were. They knew you were going someplace else, when putting a lot of fame behind him when they knew he was going to be hot for the other company. We both ended a bad note with the angle. And Lex was another one who went at that time.
So there were a lot of reasons for it, which I've mentioned. I just decided to take some time off. Since then, I have been contacted twice for WCW, once by Eric Bischoff and two others, but it was not the right timing to go to the WCW. For the past few years now, WCW has been on the downslide and messed up. I thank God that I didn't go because several of those guys are really unhappy, but more important, now that the company has been sold and Bischoff is coming in, there are going to be a lot of changes going on in that company. Some people who are in the company wont be there and several that ardent in the company will be. A lot of guys ardent sure about their career, because they were a part of last year and they lost eighty million dollars and a lot of guys were a part of that and are unsure about their future. I wouldn't want to be in that circumstance. The timing is great right now for a lot of different things.
LO: Yeah, because there is fixing to be a great transition to happen and there are a lot of people optimistic about the WCW, namely me, will come back into a competitive ratings war with the WWF and making the shows phenomenal. Do you see yourself actually going over there soon?
CC: I will tell you this, I am definitely in talks now, as we speak. I am very, very strong with my faith with God and he is in total control with everything in my career. But more important, I know right now, through talks with certain individuals, that I could be weeks away or a very few short months away from making a move back into the major companies. There is no doubt that it definitely will happen soon.
Now, I have been telling people this for years because I always knew I was going to go back. I am in great physical shape. I have been working the last two and a half years, almost three years, in the Indy circuit. I have been doing big shows. I was just picked as the wrestler of the Australian tour by Pro Wrestling Torch. A lot of those guys just came off of television, like Mr. Perfect, the Barbarian, Brutus The Barber Beefcake, who was the Disciple then. Many big names like L.O.D. and I was picked wrestler of the tour. So, I knew that I was going back, it was just a matter of timing, which is very important in wrestling. And as far as WCW is concerned, we all know that Bischoff is president and that they are planning on doing major changes. The finalization of the sale is not completely done, but it will be done within thirty days or forty-five days from now. You will start to see some major changes.
LO: That may be a good thing.
CC: Right. And when those major changes come to the forefront and being seen at the beginning of March, that's when there is an opportunity for someone with a name for anybody that might do big things with, that's when you are going to see the big things, at the beginning of March. Because that's when they are going to come back with their changed product. They are going to change things and shake things up. You're going to see some guys that are out there. You're going to see guys out there now, not being out there. There are going to be changes. You cant come back after losing eighty million dollars and present the exact same product and expect a total different response from the fans.
So there has got to be a shakeup, there has to be a facelift, there has to be some major changes. There has to be new talent coming in and is the WCW an option for me? Yes, it is, without a doubt. I have looked at that because the WCW is going to be brand new and have great potential. They are looking for people who have already done the job, people who have already put people in the seats, and people who have already made the big money and helped one of the major companies. They are looking for ticket sellers, not necessarily looking for young, new talent. And there is a lot of young talent, and nothing against the young talent, and I'm not that old myself, but there is a group in this business that isn't quite over yet. They are looking for people who are established in the business, who can get the job done and sell tickets to pay-per-view events and get people in the seats, and watching on the television. So, that's what they are looking for and there is major potential there.
Also, there is also some big major dealing cooking, that have been cooking for a long time and are ready to explode, but it is going to take one or two people to say, Okay, lets do it and do it. We are talking major networks and players that have money, big money, that could do major things. USA Network wants wrestling back on their network after having the ratings that Vince McMahon had. They are missing those ratings, as far as business, they want wrestling back on their programming again. So, there is a lot of big potential happening right now, like you said, there is a major transition happening. I see wrestling climbing to even greater heights.
LO: Which would be wonderful.
CC: Yeah. You need to have competition and not have one company rocking and rolling. Competition is good which will make Vince climb to bigger heights, that is the reason he did what he did. WCW took it and Vince wanted to be number one, which made him more competitive and made him strive to be number one. This was pushing him into greater things. Competition could also cause another company to come in and try to take the number one position.
LO: About the storylines and angles that Vince has going on right now, what do you see could actually make or break his company?
CC: What most people are saying right now is that Vince, who is very creative and knows how to keep people tuned in, with awesome talent, hard workers, a different setup than the WCW does, and incentive to make the guys work hard. Vince is paying them well to succeed. He kinda gives them the football and has them to continuously score in the wrestling world. And as long as they are scoring touchdowns for the WWF, Vince will continue to pass these individuals the ball and he pays them well for that. But as far as the way Vince has his programming set up now, the only thing that anyone is saying that could hurt him right now is the XFL.
With his interests focused too much on the XFL and taking his focus off of the wrestling. He must have thought long and hard about it and thought of how to make both companies successful at the same time. You know as far as seeing anything knock him off of his pedestal, I don't see anything definite that could knock him off, unless there was another company to come along and take the number one position away by doing your own thing. Fans love to see something new and exciting, its human nature. If someone comes along, be it WCW, USA network or another major player, whoever it may be, if they do the thing right, people will start following it, and that's all it takes. Eventually, if you keep doing what you are doing, they could take the number one spot away from Vince, it's not impossible, you just have to have the right moves.
LO: Do you see ECW coming back at all? From what the Internet rumors are saying, they are counting Paul E. down before he is actually out. Do you see them gaining more strength and coming back as one of the majors or being bumped into the minors?
CC: Right now, where they are at and hearing what I have heard, I see them coming down as a minor or not even being a player at all, because the thing about them is what happened. They have had a lot of bad things, the biggest things being Paul E. made some bad business decisions, his talent hasn't been getting paid in a long time. First of all, that's bad. You know guys cannot work in the kind of style they are doing, going out there fighting and killing each other, guys cannot go out there and do that for little money at all.
You got some guys who are foolish businessmen, but that's not going to do anything for them working that way. Somethings got to change. With the talent unhappy, and I have been around a lot of their talent, you know seeing them through the airports and they haven't been paid for weeks, or getting checks that are bouncing. So number one, that's no good. Hes been trying to get TV backers, but TV people know what kind of trouble he is in financially. So to come along with the right kind of player, then do TV, and say we are going to back you and take people from the minors and most people wont do that. Its more of a what I can do for you, what can you do for me type of thing in the companies.
Then they also have some lawsuits going on. Paul E. did a show without insurance and some stuff happened with Rob Van Dam and they have some lawsuits there and a lot of stuff happening that's causing that company to be messed up. I don't see them as being one of the the three companies. I see them falling by the wayside. I don't see them coming back up. I see them going to be a new thing whether it be WCW or WCW and another major player. Theres a lot of potential right now to that you will not only have WCW. Because its already been sold, its already been bought and Bischoff's there no matter what.
There is also a major name in the business, that if he doesn't go there, that he will be starting something of his own. Its true, you will have three major players out in the field competing and ECW wouldn't be able to compete. You cant compete with Vince right now, WCW has huge money backing, you wont be able to compete with them right now and the third player has the greatest money of all three.
So theres great potential out there now and I don't see them as part of the game anymore. Some of their talent has been talked about going to the WCW and Bischoff may look there for talent, but there are no promises in getting talent there.
LO: There have already been people who jumped from the ECW to the WWF and they were kind of a shock to some of us, but when you look at what has happened over the past years, its not really that big of a surprise.
CC: Hes losing talent, and when you lose talent, you have no money.
LO: You re pretty much up a creek without a paddle.
CC: Correct. If hes going to be able to do anything with any television sponsor, hes going to have to say this is what we have done and this is what I have, but if hes losing talent then when hes talking to TV people and they're asking who this person. There has to be a big money maker for the company to go on and then they say you have such and such. I can see that they would get a following. But they have mostly made wrong business moves, which is a shame. You know guys get up there and they're not planted on solid ground and when they get up there, they make the wrong moves, which causes the fall of the company. And that affects many people. And that's what happened to them.
LO: Earlier, you were talking about the XFL and all the stuff the WWF have been doing with the introduction of Tough Enough. What do you think the people will need to make it through the entire thing?
CC: I really don't know the full extent of the thing. What it basically is a tryout for the WWF and having a definite contract with the WWF and don't really know what they are going to make the people do to get there, because I really haven't followed it very closely. I assume that they will be doing something in the ring. I don't know exactly what they are doing. Are they doing that, Lekisha?
LO: Well, its similar to a tryout time period. Something similar to the Real World on MTV. Its taking twelve people, eight men and four women, and putting them in a house together. Its pretty much a big competition about who's going to make it and put them all in a house together and have competition together. It will make into an interesting television show.
CC: So they are following the guidelines of something successful. That's what Vince does. Hes doing this as something else to watch the WWF, another avenue to advertise the WWF. Vince sees ratings with the reality shows and he found a way to diversify and puts the WWF into it. Hes doing it to expose more people to the WWF and out into the public through the mainstream. As far as what they are going to be looking for, to make it in the world of wrestling, there are a lot of things you need.
Guys like Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson can stand in front of a person and see raw talent. They know what it takes to make it. If they see it, they can develop it more thoroughly. One thing that is very important in the wrestling world today is that you have to be able to talk. Be able to do interviews like this because if you become very, very famous, you have to be able to speak well in front of the cameras, wherever it may be or whatever questions it may be.
Also, you have to be able to work that mic. You have got to be about to cut an interview, and be in whatever character you are today. You have to be sharp on the mic and not stumble on your words. You have to have charisma. You have to have that charisma and have it show when you are on the mic. It must show during professional interviews, like this one, and when you are on the television. The person has to not be afraid to be in front of an audience. They can stand in front of 20,000 people, but know that you are also in from of millions and millions watching over a camera on a pay-per-view, but to be able to cut a clean pay-per-view and be able to get your point across, shape and quick on your feet.
Second, you have to be in shape. You have guys up there who are small, but are in shape not 250-260 pounds and not overweight. They are leaner and trimmer. For example, Edge, Christian and the Hardy Boys, not out of shape and can run around and do things. Body and cardiovascular wise also. You have to be able to out there and perform and not be sucking wind and worn out and tired. That's why they are going to have the Survivor type of series where they have tests over there to see who's in shape. That's a very important aspect of that also.
They will be looking at the overall presence of a person, also. You can see when a star walks into the room and they just light up the entire room. You can see something about them and you see a person walk through the curtain and WOW. Even though you can do any move imaginable, if you don't have that charisma, you wont make it. Its just something that is with you and you cant teach it. Its a gift. You cant teach it, you can perfect it.
LO: Out of all the performers in the sports entertainment industry today, whom would you like to face when you come back into the major promotions?
CC: You know there are some great wrestlers out there. The biggest thing I enjoy is going out and facing someone that wants to work that, you know, there are guys out there, not necessarily at the WWF because the work ethic there is if you work hard, you get rewarded for your work.
The biggest thing is going out there with someone who wants to work hard, because I work hard. So I want someone who wants to work and not short cutting it and I want someone who will move around and that is an over talent. Theres nothing better than having a match between two guys who are over with the crowd and you tell a story and you give the people a great finish. That's what its all about is working and doing the best you can do with the talents you have and know you are doing a good job for yourself, for the company and for the fans. Someone who when the 1-2-3 is done, the fans are WOAH. You will get a huge explosion. That's what I am looking for, and anyone with their head on right is looking for the same thing. There are a lot of guys that are working hard. Look at HHH, great worker and great wrestler. Then you have the Rock. I would love to wrestle him because he is out there telling a story. Hes out there selling and showing fire. HHH and Stone Cold also.
Not necessarily would I be up against these guys when I do come back, I am definitely going to fight as a face. Would I confront these guys? Nowadays its not uncommon to see two faces against each other. Those are some of the guys. Also, Chris Benoit is someone else who wants to work hard in the squared circle. Kurt Angle, another guy who works hard and tells a story. These are the types of guys I would like to wrestle. Bret Hart, another great wrestler, who was not only cut short, but talent that wasn't used properly.
As far as WCW, who there right now? Lex and I tore some buildings completely up. Because the storylines was laid down properly and we had some awesome matches. I would totally love to wrestle him again. Bam Bam Bigelow is another one Id love to wrestle again. Everywhere we went for about approximately a year, people asked whom he would like to wrestle again, and the person he choose was Tatanka. We tore down buildings everywhere we went all over the world. We were semi-main event and the main event couldn't keep up. Those are some of the people I want to work with.
Am I going to confront those guys again? Definitely. WCW has people there which I have had issues/angles with that were successful. I would like to go back and rekindle some of that. WCW knows about those angles and what potential is there. As far as where I am going right now, theres a short amount of time to see if its going to be here or there.
The WWF has always been an option. Once you do the job for Vince, you can always go back there. But its just something you have to pursue with them. I saw Pat Patterson recently and he wanted me to talk to him. As well as a few of their agents that have been here in Tampa and they wanted me to call Vince. But as soon as you make that decision, that's where you're going to be.
I know that there is always going to be things opening in the world of wrestling where it is new, because it only has one place to go and that's up. And I've said this many times with the WWF, Vince was completely down and out and he was getting ready to file bankruptcy, he turned it around and put the heat on a couple of guys, which were the Rock and Stone Cold. And they were nothing at the beginning. Steve had wrestled as Stunning Steve Austin as well as more personas for many years with little success. Vince had to climb and he decided that these two where some of the ones he was going to use. As people started to join in and he started to climb, Vince kept on putting it on them. As they got bigger, Vince continued to put more on them more and what it created was something new and something rising it didn't create superstars, he created mega-superstars. That's what the Rock and Stone Cold have become mega-superstars.
LO: Do you think that they have surpassed their predecessors?
CC: Yes, they did. They became mega-superstars. Because they were at the beginning of something that was down and Vince had decided what am I going to do and who I am going to put it on. If he wasn't decided, he saw where the fans were going and he saw his key in Steve and Rock and he kept putting it on hem and by the time they get to the top, they are so strong and continue to do the right things with them. And they become mega-superstars.
Theres great potential in a company that is rising. Others look at it differently and want to go to the company that is already great. Then you have to fight to make your spot at that company. You have to go through strong talent and or you're going to move certain people out of their positions that were established already. So you have a lot more work to do when you get there. A lot of the problem is that people don't want to wait.
They wanna do things tomorrow or today. Sometimes that's not the best way to do it. Patience and waiting for the right time is important, because when you want things right now, you're only thinking of me, myself and I. Theres nothing wrong with taking care of yourself, but if you want things right then, then theres something wrong with you. You should be able to wait which makes the gratification much greater. Like football player Trent Dilfer who went through many years of persecution in Tampa, now he has the Super Bowl ring. You know that Super Bowl ring means more to him. It wouldn't have meant as much to him if he had won it in his first year. It means a lot more if you do it the proper way.
LO: One more thing that my Editor likes, a word association type of thing. What's the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear these things.
LO: Vince McMahon.
CC: Marketing genius.
LO: Vince Russo.
CC: He overstepped his boundaries.
LO: Eric Bischoff.
CC: Another smart guy that took the number one spot.
CC: Great potential.
LO: The Rock.
CC: Awesome talent and mega-superstar.
LO: Lex Luger.
CC: Awesome Physique.
CC: Superstar of the WCW.
LO: Ric Flair.
CC: ICON. Known ICON.
CC: Time that came too soon and will be remembered.
CC: Stands for the truth and bringing a major change.
LO: I would like to thank you for doing this interview. Any comments?
CC: Look for major exciting changes and I'm going to be part of it. Young people look at your heroes and make sure that they are worthy. I own my own name now, which is hard to do in this business. And God helped me to do that. He wants anyone to acknowledge him and when you do, he will shock you. Check out my website at www.nativetatanka.com
LO: Thank you and you're welcome at any time.
CC: You're welcome.