Mr. Kennedy RAW! E-mail

Mr. KennedyWisconsin wrestler comes home for WWE's Monday Night Raw

 

By Mike Thiel 

He’s brash, confident and charismatic. He’s also competitive, a Wisconsinite and a superstar. 

Ken Anderson, better known by his World Wrestling Entertainment alias “Mr. Kennedy,” returns to the squared circle after willowing on the WWE’s inactive roster since last August. He’s only reached his hometown crowd once in the last four years while working for Vince McMahon’s booming entertainment machine, but his ratio will positively increase on June 22 when WWE’s Monday Night Raw invades the Resch Center.  

A long list of injuries has kept the loud-mouthed superstar on the sidelines for the bulk of his career, but fans can bet their bottom dollar that our native grappler will be back to his old ways, wreaking verbal and physical havoc on his opponents.   

My interview, however, reveals a calm, comedic Kennedy, a mere quarter-turn from his in-ring persona, still exhibiting a kindred jolliness and swag. However, the 33-year-old stays close to his roots on a personal level and even with his alias, naming his finisher maneuver the Green Bay Plunge and still noticeably spitting out his words with a Wisconsin accent. But nonetheless, it’s been a humbling experience for Kennedy; from piledrivers to riding the pine, this Wisconsin wrassler continues to wear his heart on his, um, spandex. 

MT: Now your introduction says Green Bay, but I heard you're actually from Two Rivers.  

MR. KENNEDY: I was raised until I was about five-years-old in Adams-Friendship. I was born in Wisconsin Rapids and then my family, my mother and I, moved to Two Rivers when I was about five-years-old; she met my dad. But then after I graduated from high school, I ended up moving up to Green Bay and I was actually living in Green Bay when I got signed by the WWE. 

MT: For you, is it Two Rivers or Trivers? 

KENNEDY: It's Two Rivers. (laughs) Some people call it Carp Town. It's got a bunch of different nicknames I guess. 

MT: So you were born Ken Anderson and actually wrestled as “Mr. Anderson” in your WWE debut, correct? 

KENNEDY: That is correct. 

MT: So why the name switch to Mr. Kennedy? 

KENNEDY: Because Vince (McMahon) wasn't sure if I was gonna be successful or not. I think he didn't know a whole lot about me. He was kind of taking a chance. There were so many other Andersons that have come before me in the business that were very successful that I don't think he wanted me to be attached to those guys and possibly tarnish their name; and at the same time, he wanted me to stand out on my own…He doesn't want people to think that I was related to Arn and Ole and Gene and somehow I rode their coattails to get where I was today. He just wanted me to be my own separate entity. 

So he asked me to come up with a name and we just sat and brainstormed for a couple hours…During the break I called a guy who was very instrumental in getting me where I am today and one of the greatest minds in the business; I called Paul Heyman. I wanted to keep my name KK…I wanted to keep something from my indie days as Kamikaze Ken, so (Heyman) said "What about Kennedy? " He said "Kennedy is Vince’s middle name; I think it’s even better if you pick something that's kind of near and dear to his heart, so give that a shot."

So I ended up going into the meeting and when I suggested it, he kind of raised an eyebrow as if he kind of knew where it had come from ‘cause he knew that I had talked to Paul and he liked it. And he just said, "Well do you like it?," and I said, "Well actually I like Anderson, but you can call me Mr. Dickhead if you want to. I don't care as long as you're...you know, I’m here to work for ya." And then he just looked at Kevin Dunn, who's our executive producer, and said, "Well, make sure that his Titantron tonight says Kennedy on it," and that was it.   

MT: Mr. Kennedy exhibits a pretty brash, in-your-face style; is that really you or is that part of the act? 

KENNEDY: I say that I get to do and say all the things that people really wanna do and say in real life but would get in trouble for it. So in a way, it's kind of an outlet. I would say that the way I am in the ring, the way that I am when I’m beatin' somebody up or gettin' in somebody's face or arguing with somebody, that's really the way that I am.   

I was at a friend's house one day; this was back when I had just started wrestling. I was maybe six months, maybe a year into the business, and I was really trying to figure out like who Kamikaze Ken was, who I was as a character. I was playing around with different things and messing around with different promos and things like that and finally what happened was: I was in the living room at my buddy's house, two of my buddies were there with me, and they were kind of sitting on the couch and I had just received word that one of my old, good friends was hanging out with my girlfriend who I had just broken up with and I wasn't real pleased about it.

So I ended up calling him and I talked to him for about 30 minutes straight and I just reamed him, cut a promo on him, and I was sayin' stuff just like, off his backside and on his front, and just gave him a verbal assault for about 30 minutes straight. My buddies were rollin' around on the floor laughin' and when I got off the phone they said, if you ever have a question or a doubt as to who you are as a character, remember this moment right here. That's what you need to do every time you go out there and cut a promo and from that day it just kind of clicked. So I would say that it is me; it's me with the volume turned up. 

MT: Are you a face or a heel right now? 

KENNEDY: I'm a baby face right now. I would say I'm a fan favorite right now, but who knows? Who knows what happens? 

MT: You remind me a little bit of The Rock or even Kurt Angle in their heel days based on the fact that you're a jerk but you're funny, so hordes of people, even though they want to see you get your ass kicked, still like you. 

KENNEDY: Yeah, you know I think that nowadays it's really hard to get people to really hate ya. People know what's goin' on. People know that what we do is entertainment and you know a lot of times I think they want to play along, and so yeah they'll boo ya, but they really like ya. And you know with today's day and age, the bad guys get all the covers anyways. You watch the news, those are the only people who get press anymore...Austin was a heel really; he just never cheated. His attitude was that of a heel, which is why I think it worked, and one thing that people had always told me was when you go from being a heel, make sure that when you turn baby face that you never change the way you do things; just stop cheating. Keep your mannerisms the same ‘cause that's what got you to the point where you are right now and people like you. So never lose that. 

MT: Is there a latest trend in wrestling right now? Are fans going crazy for something in particular? 

KENNEDY: I think nowadays we have a cross between realism and gimmick. Back in the ‘80s, early ‘90s, you had a lot of gimmicks. You had The Repo Man and The Goon, a hockey player and an IRS agent and stuff like that. Cowboys and Indians, you name it, we had it…Nowadays people have characters and persona, but we try to keep it a little more realistic and not go over the top and not be a cartoon. I think the latest trend is to make it seem as realistic as possible. When you put your matches together you think, what would I do in a real-life situation?   It used to be in the old days when guys would get punched, they would throw their head back and they'd put their head right back for the guy to punch it again. When, in reality, you don't do that. You'd cover up! (laughs) If you watch old school tapes, you'll see a guy, sitting in the corner, getting’ punched and kicked and he never, ever covers up or tries to block any of those punches and kicks. He just sits there, whereas nowadays, guys cover up.   

MT: Now you have some pretty incredible promos including the one I saw where you say "Myspace.com is for Losers..." 

KENNEDY: (laughs) 

MT: Are those promos planned out or do you have some wiggle room when the camera turns on? 

KENNEDY: I think we always have wiggle room whenever we cut promos and that's the thing: you have to be able to adapt, react, you have to be able to change things on the fly in our business to be successful because if you go out there and you have A, B, C, D, E all mapped out and you go out there and you give them A, B and they don't react to it, you need to come up with something else. Or you're just gonna be another jabroni up there reciting something off a piece of paper. You need to be able to react and speak from the heart and make it personal. I think that's the key. 

MT: What's the best promo you think you've ever cut? 

KENNEDY: (pauses) If I could pick...I can't exactly remember the date but I was sitting in a room with a black background, I had a black shirt on...I was actually talking about the Undertaker. I had just started feuding with the Undertaker and I believe it’s on one of the DVD's from two years ago...it was before a first blood match with me and Undertaker, and I think that was probably my best promo in the WWE. Other than that, I would say that there was some stuff I did in OVW under the direction of Paul Heyman. A lot of stuff you can get on the Internet. There's actually one...one of my favorites was where I become Mr. Kennedy actually, and you can YouTube it right now. It's, um, "Mr. Anderson becomes Mr. Kennedy" or something like that. To me, that was fun. I was able to just go out there and just call things on the fly and I just had fun with it. 

MT: What's the worst promo you've ever done? 

KENNEDY: (laughs) It was the first time I ever got drafted over to Raw. I think I was just coming back from an injury at the time. I go out, cut the promo, and I remember struttin' up the ramp like, ‘Yeah! I nailed that one, yeah! Follow that guys!’  And I walked through the curtain and nobody said a word to me and everybody actually started doing the (looks around and whistles). Everybody's looking around and right away I knew I was in trouble ‘cause usually when you come back and you've done something good, everybody'll be like 'Yeah, good job, good job!' They’ll pat you on the back or there'll be a little applause or somethin' like that. Nobody said a word to me. I could hear a church mouse pissin' on cotton.   And all of the sudden Vince took the headset off and he goes “come here” and I walked over by him and he goes “that was the worst promo I’ve ever seen you cut.  What were you thinkin'?" (chuckles) He just proceeded to chew me out and explained some stuff to me that, um, you know...I was wrong, so that was probably the worst one I ever cut. 

MT: You remembered that one a lot quicker than your best one.   

KENNEDY: (laughs) For some reason I seem to remember that kind of stuff.  

MT: You obviously have great announcing skills, Did you do that kind of thing growing up or is that again just part of the gimmick. Is that something that just popped up one day? You told me about the phone call... 

KENNEDY: It's funny ‘cause when I was in high school I took a mass media class and in the class we had to use three different types of media to sell a fictitious product. We divided up into groups of three or four. I think and one of the guys that was in our group was this guy who was always getting picked on and people would always give him grundies, give him grundy rides you know? And he must've lost...100 pairs of underwear throughout his school career from all the wedgies that he got and people would pull on 'em so hard and they'd rip the band off and everything so we decided to come up with this product called Invincible Underwear.  

I remember I drew up a poster, we did a radio ad and we did a TV commercial, and during the radio ad, I put on my best radio voice, and I remember handing it in and after the teacher listened to it, she said, “You know I think you could have a career in some kind of announcing or broadcasting or radio or something.” And she said, “Would you be interested in announcing basketball games?” So she went and talked to the assistant principal who was also the athletic director, who hated me because I always made fun of him...But he agreed to it. 

So I think my sophomore year of high school, I started announcing all the basketball games. I would do the JV and the Varsity, girls and boys basketball games and somewhere along the line somebody was like, you know you should do it like the old boxing announcers and say their last name twice. So I started doing that, and then after I graduated high school I pretty much forgot about that stuff. I didn't even think about it until about four years ago; I was down in OVW and Paul Heyman one night just looked at me and said, “Hey tonight cut the ring announcer off and announce yourself. You can do a better job at it. So I said alright; I just went out there and last minute I just kind of remembered and I said my last name twice. I came back through the curtain and everybody was like that was awesome when you said your last name twice. But again, sometimes it's the stupidest little things that will get you noticed or get you over.   

MT: That is awesome when you wait a while and say "Kennedy." That is so funny for some reason. 

KENNEDY: But who would've ever thought...I really didn't change a whole lot. I really didn’t and then five weeks later I was on TV. And here I am today four years later talking to you and, it's crazy how things work out sometimes. 

MT: You've been a champion in the WWE.You've held the U.S. Championship belt and you won Mr. Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania 23. It seems like you're always on the cusp of breaking into the next level and then you get injured. 

KENNEDY: Uh huh. 

MT: And it seems like you get ripped out of the storylines, including right now; how long have you been out with your current injury? 

KENNEDY: 10 months. I've been gone since early August of last year. 

MT: What's the exact injury you have? 

KENNEDY: It's my shoulder. I was in a match, miscommunication. Shelton Benjamin hit me with his finisher. I don't know if you're familiar with it but he jumps up, hooks the guy's head and you fall back towards the mat.  

MT: Right. 

KENNEDY: Well my arm got caught between my body and his body so when I landed my arm was across my chest. I went from standing to on my stomach in the snap of a finger and it just popped my shoulder right out of the socket and it slid up behind my shoulder. And when I got back to the locker room I remember just howling with pain. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to go through in my life.   

I went back and I laid down on the table and I remember the doc coming over and it was, it was out, it had slid up so far behind my shoulder in my back. He started pulling on it and he just looked at me and said, “We're not going to be able to do this. We're gonna have to take you to the hospital, sedate you and then we're gonna have to do it.” And I just looked at him and I said, “Doc I’m not gonna wait that long. Do whatever you have to do, please. Just hold me down. Just do it right now.” So he had one guy hold me around the waist, another guy grabbed onto my other shoulder and (the doctor) just grabbed my arm and key locked it and just pulled with everything that he had and all of the sudden it just went pop, pop. It slid back into place and my pain went from a 10 to a zero instantly. I started laughing ‘cause I was so relieved. It was ridiculous how quickly the pain went away. And then of course the pain came back.   

But anyways, I went in for an MRI and I tore my labrum, which is the muscle that basically holds your humorous in its socket, and that was torn halfway off the bone. They said normally when a labrum tears they use one or two tacks and it's a quick, little surgery. Four or five months you're back in the ring or back doin' whatever you were. This one was torn almost half way off so they had to use seven staples or seven anchors and it's been a really long, long, tough process. 

MT: With you being hurt here obviously, are there any serious moves that are just off limits these days for some wrestlers with all the neck injuries? I remember Stone Cold Steve Austin getting temporarily paralyzed from Owen Hart at that one pay-per-view (SummerSlam 1997). Are there any moves that are just no-no’s for some superstars? 

KENNEDY: Well, the piledriver is pretty much off limits. In fact, it was my third pay-per-view and it was with The Undertaker and we...during the middle of the match he just looked at me and he goes give me a piledriver I’m like uh, ok. I thought I was gonna hook 'em for it and he was gonna back drop me out of it or something and I hooked him and I’m kind of working it a little bit and he goes give it to me!, and I just gave him a piledriver. And when I came back to the locker room he was like I never let anybody do that. He goes I’ve let two people in my life do that: Bret and Shawn were the only two people that ever gave me a piledriver so I was kind of honored by that. And I went up to Vince and Vince just kinda gave me the little finger come here and I went over there leaned in and he goes Undertaker was very giving tonight, and I said yeah he was he was.  He goes I think Maybe a little too giving. I don't ever want to see you do a piledriver again. Did he call that? I said yeah. He goes all right, that's fine. Don’t ever do it again. I don't care who calls it. Never again. I only let two people do that in this company: that's Undertaker and Kane. That's their moves, so pretty much any move like that is off-limits. 

MT: Now is there any particular reason you're getting injured? Is it just because you're pushing your body, going 100 miles an hour or are you just soft Ken? 

KENNEDY: (laughs) No, I make sure that I stay in tip-top shape. I stretch before every single match. I warm up before every match. To be honest with you, it's just been some freak things...so whatever, people can say what they want. They can call you injury prone or whatever but I don't see it that way. I just see it as, this is very physical business...guys are gonna get hurt.  A lot of guys get hurt. 

MT: I'll go through a couple of these pretty quick here. I remember HHH in a WWE video release a few years ago and I'm paraphrasing here, but something along the likes of guys in the WWE, when they get injured, they want to get back in the ring fast because it's so completive that they fear of losing their spot. Is that a statement that you agree with? 

KENNEDY: Oh yeah, definitely.This is the entertainment industry. It will always be here and if you're not there some people are gonna find something to be entertained by. Steve Austin said it on a documentary a couple years ago: WWE is a machine and you're just a cog in that machine, and if you get injured, they just pull your cog out and they replace it with something else. Well that somebody else, who knows? He might catch on more than you did or whatever. You never know, but the bottom line is everybody wants to get back, not only because of the fact that they're afraid of losin' their spot but because they love what they do. I mean I wanna get back. I’m not worried about losing my spot, I miss wrestling, I watch it every week on TV. I'm a wrestling fan so it sucks for me to have to sit home and watch and not be a part of it.   

MT: But you'll be back for the Monday Night Raw show in Green Bay? 

KENNEDY: Yes. Correct. 

MT: What's it going to be like to be wrestling back in your home state? 

KENNEDY: You know, it's a weird thing. I've been injured or in trouble almost every time we've come to Green Bay, so I wasn't able to perform and I performed there one time with the WWE and that was the last time we were there. I believe it was a house show. 

MT: Yeah, I was actually at that. 

KENNEDY: I had a blast. I worked with William Regal and just had a blast. And the crowd was just great. It's always fun wrestling in front of a crowd like that, that responds to anything. You do a reversal out of the corner and they cheer for it, you know, that's when you know your night's gonna be easy. It's kind of a night off. Those are the times that we live for.   And I'm so proud of being from Wisconsin, being from that area, having the great football team that we do, just the people and I always, I love going back to Green Bay and it's been really, really hard in the past when I wasn't able to perform there. It was almost like, they took Christmas away from me. 

MT: Do you have any other family in the wrestling biz? 

KENNEDY: No, I don't. No absolutely not. 

PUBLICIST: Hey guys we really gotta cut if it off now, but Ken if you want to just finish up answering the question, not a problem. 

MT: Did you have time for one quick one? 

KENNEDY: One quick one. 

MT: A lot of people say wrestling is fake. I know all the injuries you've had and there was that one SmackDown with Batista when you got like 20 stitches in your head...what is your response to people who say wrestling is fake? 

KENNEDY: Well, of course wrestling's fake; it's entertainment. I don't understand why people can't get past that. Yes it's pre-determined. Yes we know who's gonna win and who's gonna lose, but its very physical. Obviously you can tell from my very long, long list of injuries, and I got stitches and bumps and bruises and scrapes you name it, but to that I say, you know what? When you watch Terminator 2 and you see a guy drive off of a 30 story building on a motorcycle and latch onto a helicopter and then another guy turns into liquid metal and morphs through a cockpit window and into the seat and turns into a cop, I mean that's fake to but people just go oh that's cool. That's movies. I don't understand what the difference is. We are only out there to entertain people and unfortunately we do it physically with our bodies and we do get very, very injured all the time. We're always injured.