Chris Cruise: “AEW is not setting the world on fire and will not succeed”

Nov 11, 2019 - by Steve Gerweck

Chris Cruise talks about McMahon losing touch, AEW’s potential to survive, and much more.
Former WCW announcer Chris Cruise was Ken Resnick’s guest on VOC Nation’s Wrestling with History podcast. Chris opened up about his thoughts on the current state of the business, his thoughts on AEW, his friendship with the Sammartino family, and much more. Here are some highlights:

On how he started in pro wrestling: “I was always a reporter; I was an army reporter and then I got out, started in the small markets and worked my way up. At first I was with WWE for Wrestlemania 1 working in media and public relations. From there, I went back to Maine, then down to Atlanta to CNN and then to WCW.”

On Whether he preferred to know the finishes prior to each match: “I was just a golden throated pitch man so I was just going to do whatever they told me. I was low on the totem pole so I didn’t feel like I could speak up. In those days, kayfabe was fading but it was still there. People wanted to protect the business somewhat, and announcers were treated as outsiders.”

On Jim Herd’s time in charge of WCW: “One of the mistakes I think he made was (being) overconfident and not listening to the people who were real experts. He made the mistake of thinking that he knew more than he did, and that the people around him didn’t know anything. Herd had the problem of knowing just enough to be dangerous; he had this surface knowledge of pro wrestling…it was clear very early on that he couldn’t handle (the business).”

On AEW: “AEW has millions of dollars from the son of a billionaire and is not setting the world on fire and will not succeed. It may last a long time, but will never be profitable. Somebody once said ‘if you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and buy an airline.’ It’s the same thing with a pro wrestling organization; it’s just going to bleed you dry. Not everything is guaranteed to last forever. It’s my convention that wrestling has seen better days.”

On the state of pro wrestling today: “Because you’re dealing with cable networks, broadcast networks, and advertisers, the edge has been taken out of pro wrestling. The WWE Performance Center is churning out these generic babyfaces and heels who are corporate and safe. You can’t tell the difference between them at all…instead of going out drinking after the match, they go back and play video games. They’re not really interesting, they’re vanilla. The challenge is, none of these guys are allowed to break free; if they do, the producers come down hard on them…you have to fit and stay in your lane. They overproduce them. Two million viewers is nothing to sneeze at but it’s just not what it used to be. People talk about the popularity of pro wrestling, but journalistically it’s not a sound argument”

On why WWE business is down: “Ultimately people want to see stars. Vince has always said ‘no they want to come see the WWE brand.’ But they’re not: House shows are down, ratings are down. It’s because people can’t see stars. People don’t just go to the movie theater to see a movie; they go to see Tom Cruise, or Kristen Stewart, or Schwarzenegger…it’s a star driven business, it’s the entertainment business, but McMahon wants it to be about the brand.”

On his work on the WCW All Nighter broadcasts: “They got a big hotel room and there were all these announcers: Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, Gordon Solie…I knew that I had to be something different. It’s interesting: 25 years later and that’s the thing that people ask me the most about today. I just tried to be different and stand out and have some fun with it.”

On Eric Bischoff: “I think like a lot of people he got into a position that he wasn’t fully qualified for and he made the best of it. With his most recent four month stint in WWE, he was probably exposed for not being a transformational visionary leader. When he was appointed head of WCW, he had this entire corporate structure under him. When he got to the WWE recently, it showed that the Emperor had no clothes. When he was forced to perform and do it on his own, it just wasn’t there.”

On his relationship with Bruno Sammartino: “I’m respectful but I’m also very blunt. He was surrounded by sycophants. I think the way that (our friendship) deepened is that I would speak bluntly and speak the truth, agree with him on some things and disagree on others. We just always got along. We had a relationship that went beyond pro wrestling. Shortly before he died, I taught a class on his life at the community college in Pittsburgh. The story that Bruno had – surviving the Nazis, surviving rheumatic fever – it’s quite an accomplishment. There were two times that a plane that he missed crashed and everyone aboard died.”

Wrestling with History featuring Ken Resnick and VOC Nation founder Bruce Wirt airs live on VOC Nation every Wednesday night at 9:30PM ET with legendary guests and listener calls.

The VOC Nation Radio Network was born out of AM Radio in Philadelphia, and has grown into one of the most successful independent Internet radio networks in the world. Aside from Ken Resnick, current VOC Nation podcast hosts include former WCW star The Maestro, former TNA star Wes Brisco, and Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Brady Hicks.

Featuring guests from wrestling personalities such as Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Joey Styles, Matt Hardy, and Mick Foley, to entertainers like Lou Ferrigno, The Insane Clown Posse, Roberta Flack, and Kristy Swanson, VOC Nation has given listeners insightful programming for nearly 10 years.

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