Arn Anderson is one of the true legends of professional wrestling. Creator of the spinebuster, one quarter of arguably one of the industry’s greatest stables in the Four Horsemen, and a man The Undertaker recently described as the “greatest technical wrestler” he’s ever seen. Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy recently had the opportunity to catch up with Arn Anderson to chat all about the influence of The Undertaker, the legacy left by the Four Horsemen, and just how many spinebusters Arn Anderson has left in him!
Hello, everyone, welcome back to Inside the Ropes. where we’re joined by the legendary Arn Anderson. How’s it going today, Arn?
I’m very good, my friend. Very good. Yourself?
I am not too bad. The first thing we should really get into, we’ve just seen The Undertaker retire. Last week, there was a lot of Undertaker stuff flying about, he was doing a lot of interviews, a lot of media. He named his favorite technical wrestler that he’s ever seen and he named a certain Arn Anderson as the best technical wrestler he’s ever seen. What was your reaction to those comments?
Well, it floored me, as you could imagine. I mean, there was a couple of factors there. Number one, I don’t work for the company that he’s a lifetime employee of. That was the one shocker.
The fact that my name came out of his mouth, I can’t tell you how honoured and privileged I felt – and just shocked. I mean, of all the names, the Kurt Angles, you know, the Shawn Michaels – all the guys, you know, that have been in that company who are just tremendous performers. Himself! He could have said himself and no-one would have called him a liar. But it was one of those things that I was really honoured with and coming from a guy like that who’s so respected in the industry, which I’m sure you know.
He has set a precedent as far as work rate and all those positive things, you know, giving the fans what they want, making sure that if he’s there, whether he’s hurt or sick or whatever the case is, he’s going to go out and give you a tremendous performance. And he’s never failed to do that. He is so respected in that locker room. For him to share that on really his week, because it blew up pretty good for me. You know, I don’t get all that much play on the Internet – or what I don’t think is a whole lot, maybe it is – but for him to say that it’s something I’ll take to my grave. Really meant a lot to me.
It’s great, because it’s the kind of thing that people might not have expected your name to come out his mouth but, when it did no-one was arguing! No-one could say, “No. That’s definitely wrong. Arn Anderson ISN’T the greatest technical wrestler ever” – so that’s a testament to you. So, The Undertaker has just said his final farewell, Obviously, you’ve been around for quite a big part of his career. We’ve seen a lot more of Mark Calaway than we have in previously in this past week. What might we not know about Mark Calaway and the way he is backstage?
Well, he’s not a guy that’s said a lot of things that he didn’t mean. He wouldn’t volunteer anything, as far as advice, unless he thought a guy number one – wanted it, number two – deserved it, and number three- was going to do something with it.
For a guy like the Undertaker to pull you aside as a young kid and go, “Hey, you might want to change this. You might want to move that here. You might want to take that out.” That kind of advice is invaluable. You can’t buy it, nobody in a training school can give that to you. That’s advice that comes from years and years and years of perfecting a character that is not necessarily Mark Calaway. The Undertaker walks down the hall, people scatter. Mark Calaway’s sitting in his locker room getting dressed, he’s approachable. And it’s the gap between those two is really pretty wide, from who you get as a character coming through that curtain and who you talk to in the back.
He’s just one of those guys that, you name it – he has no weaknesses, he’s durable because, buddy, he beats his body up. A guy that size flying over the top rope, walking the top rope, all the things that he does to get his body battered. The guy keeps coming back every year and that’s miraculous. I know how that is and how hard it is when you only wrestle a few times a year and your body just gets out of ring shape, and it’s hard to go out and give a WrestleMania performance and, more times than not, he has really pulled it off.
There had been a lot of speculation of, if Undertaker is going to turn up and say farewell, maybe a younger talent might come in, ruin the celebration and set up one final match. For me, I think that’s a lot of pressure on someone being the person that retires the Undertaker and I’m glad they didn’t do it that way – but you were backstage a lot throughout Undertaker’s career.
Was there ever a names that came up of younger talent through the years where the Undertaker was like, “I would like that person to break the streak” or just someone he would like to have put over in some way? Was there ever a name that he was like, “They are the person”?
Well, I’m sure he did a lot of guys, you know, the Kurt Angles and the Brock Lesnars and the guys that that he did.
My opinion, and I’ve said this from day one… At about the the ten-year mark of the Undertaker, I started to see that that streak was the biggest thing at WrestleMania. It was bigger than the World Title, it was bigger than the Intercontinental Title, it was bigger than any issue that they might have, any personal issue. It got bigger than life and it became its own thing. And I said then, “This guy deserves to walk away from the business with the streak intact.” That one match that year, he was unbeatable. I could get behind that, you could get behind that, and you would never have to beat the guy on that day. I’m sure that that was discussed in a lot of closed door meetings.
Trust me, the night that it went down, I had already went up to where the talent viewing area was and the guys had their families and were having a few drinks, and that thing went down when the streak was broken and everybody looked at me like they wanted to kill me! This is the backstage inside story. Miz and Heath Slater and all these guys are looking at me and I’m like, “I didn’t do it! What are you mad at me about?” But they really was like… “What the hell was that all about?” And it didn’t matter who the opponent was, it shouldn’t have been anybody. I think a lot of talent feel that way.
Do you think Brock Lesnar needed that shot in the ass? I don’t. He’s Brock Lesnar, for God’s sakes. So, I mean, that’s my opinion on Taker. He was just he was just such a positive influence on the industry the last 30 years, I think he deserved that.
And we’re sticking with WrestleMania for the last Undertaker-related question, because you mentioned being up in the talent area when the streak was broken. A few years before that, a lot of people thought it might be broken. You were in the ring and delivering a spinebuster during an Undertaker match with Ric Flair. For me, that’s one of my favorite Arn Anderson memories, purely because of my age – but that moment, for me, that spinebuster, I was like, “Wow.” What are your memories from that?
Well, people ask me – what is my favorite spinebuster of all time? I don’t think there’s one that’s in second place. That was it.
How old would you have been? Do you recall?
Oh, I don’t even remember! It was WrestleMania X8, I believe… [I frantically Google the year of WrestleMania X8]
So you were a baby, right?
I was 12 years old!
That’s what I call a baby.
So, you were 100 percent an Undertaker fan, right?
You tell me, put yourself in a 12-year-old mind, I’ve asked a lot of people. I think the key was I got down there without being seen. it was like I just magically appear, “Boof!” I was there And the setup was so good and all the pieces of the puzzle were so good, referee’s down. The spinebuster looked pretty convincing, I think. When I rolled out and hit the floor, everybody in that building thought, “Oh, God, they’re going to pull this off!”
It was actually set up well enough that, “That’s it. That’s going to be it.” And when he kicked out, it was almost like a gasp, a sigh of relief, but that’s the thing that was so special about it, it was done in a way that the audience believes, “Oh, God, here it comes.” Your feelings. Did you think that was it?
Yes, I remember feeling that was it at that exact point. Being 12 years old, obviously, I knew about Arn Anderson but that was the moment that I think I remember going, “Oh, man, I need to go back and check out some of these guys’ stuff from when I was too young.” And then, of course, from there, I’ve obviously seen a lot of Ric Flair and Arn Anderson since but that was one of those moments that I think when anyone mentions Arn Anderson, that’s the first thing that comes to mind for me.
Obviously, are a few other things which we’ll get to as well but I want to talk a little bit about the podcast that you’re doing first, because if anyone’s got this far into this particular interview, then they obviously want to hear what Arn Anderson has to say. On The Arn Show, as part of Ad Free Shows, you talk about all things wrestling. A lot of wrestlers and a lot of legends in wrestling have podcasts nowadays. My favorite thing, is, when it’s someone like yourself, you’ve lived the business, you’ve been in wrestling a long time and have a lot of stories to tell. Why did you feel it was important to have a podcast? And what made you want to start doing it in the first place?
Well, I come from an era where bad guys were bad guys, good guys were good guys.
I wasn’t available for these type interviews – by design. Because you’ve got to be you. I won’t insult you by coming on your show and be Arn Anderson 100 percent without letting you see Marty Lundy, and it took me a long time to figure out because, all these years, 38 years I’ve been in the business, I was never available for autograph sessions by design.
I wasn’t wanting to be liked. I didn’t do shows, you know, back then it was radio shows, call-in radio. I wanted to keep that unless I could protect Arn Anderson the character, because I thought that’s what the audience was paying to see, that’s what they liked. You know, even though I was a real horse’s ass a lot of times, that’s what a lot of people liked. They like to see me go on an interview and cut a guy’s head off verbally. That’s what a lot of people appreciated.
So, when Conrad came to me and it was just a couple of days after I was released from WWE and he said, “I’ve got an idea for you, I’ve got a platform for you, how would you feel about doing a podcast?” And what I was prepared to do at that time, because I haven’t done any of those either, was some of these comic cons and personal appearances of that nature. I wanted to come to the UK. The fans are fantastic and, all these years, I’ve never had the opportunity to just say, “Hey, thank you for your support.” You know, “Thanks for all the years of just being great fans. We love coming over and performing for you.”
I’ve never had the opportunity to do that and I knew that this podcast would give me that opportunity. So it’s grading on the curve. I’m learning to not breathe in every other syllable, which is annoying when I go back a year. So, you know, it gave me a lot of opportunity just to say “thank you” to all the fans.
Yeah, that’s absolutely brilliant. You obviously have a lot of stories to tell but one of the things that people always want to hear about is the Four Horsemen. I don’t know if there was ever a more legendary faction in wrestling. Obviously, some people might debate that but I think it’s very difficult to argue against the Four Horsemen being the greatest ever. It’s something a lot of people have tried to replicate. People always say, “Who will be the next Four Horsemen? Here are the Four Horsewomen?” It’s always something that people go back to. What are your thoughts on people always trying to replicate the Four Horsemen?
Well, the one thing I think that is lost on a lot of people, and you go back and you watch it, we had a formula.
We would go on television and 100 percent of the time, just about, let’s say 99… It was a favourable outing for us. We would go thump somebody, we roll to the interview desk, we pick up a mic and we would become Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson, JJ. Those characters came to life.
I think a lot of these factions these days, they don’t realise that our sole purpose was to go on that TV, piss a lot of people off, go to the live events at night and just get our ass handed to us. That’s what the people paid to see in those days, because we had a lot of heat with people, they wanted us to be shut up. “Somebody shut these guys up.” A lot of the other factions are there, and I understand this, to get themselves over, push themselves and once they get to the live events at night, they’re not that gung ho about giving the fans what they want, which is Four Horsemen getting their ass kicked for 30 minutes.
And that’s always going to be the difference, how unselfish that group of guys were. Didn’t matter whether it was Dusty, the Road Warriors, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express… One week, we could be getting our ass handed to us by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, the next week it was the Road Warriors, the next week it was Dusty and somebody, and it was always the same – let the audience have what they want. And that’s the key to our faction. That’s the reason it has lasted the test of time.
I love to have a person your age come up to me and say, “Man, my grandmother hated your guts.” That’s the greatest compliment of all! So I think that’s the secret to our success – unselfishness, knowing our job description and going out and giving the paying customer what they want.
Yeah, most definitely. Obviously, people try to emulate that, much like the spinebuster. I think it’s one of those moves that hasn’t lost its effectiveness. You know, people will always compare Jake the Snake doing the DDT, you knew it was over. Do you think the plethora of people using the spinebuster has cheapened your use of it in any way – or do you think people always look at it and go, “Ah, it’s never going to be as good as an Arn Anderson spinebuster”?
Well, I hate to toot my own horn… This looks like a perfect chance to toot-toot.
A lot of people do excellent spinebusters today, a lot of people do variations. I’ve always looked at it as honouring the move, and me, to a degree. The funny thing is, since I’ve retired and I’ve only done a few scattered spinebusters, everyone has been so generous. They’ve went, “Now, THAT’s a spinebuster.”
And it’s almost like it returned because I did make up the move. It is my move. I introduced it, came up with it, and back in those days, no-one would have dreamed of doing another guy’s signature move. But now that I’ve retired, guys would ask me and, you know, out of respect, I say, “Sure, man, I’m done. You know, take it.”
I think the audience has been very generous in the fact that mine seems to have a little more impact even when it doesn’t have more impact – if that makes sense.
Well, whenever you see a spinebuster, sometimes the commentator says, “Arn Anderson.” Sometimes they won’t. Regardless, I still think, “Arn Anderson” and that speaks volumes for the for the legacy that you’ve left with the spinebuster.
Obviously, you mentioned that you’ve done a few spinebusters in recent years. We’ve seen a couple in AEW so I want to ask about a couple of names in AEW. I was recently on a media call where Cody Rhodes said the best thing about Arn Anderson being in AEW as that Arn Anderson isn’t playing a coach in AEW. Arn Anderson is a coach, it’s legitimate.
What do you see your role as in AEW? Are you there to help everyone along the way or is there a case of, “I might have one more match in me” – like DDP did?
Oh, no! Trust me, if you saw me sit down in this chair or walk across the room, you would not believe that. “He’s done!”
No. I’ll tell you, explicitly… Again, in this same time frame of being released from WWE, I got a call from Cody, and he said, “I would like you to come to TV. We’ve got something good here. I’d like for you to see it and just tell me what you think.”
I’ve been, explicitly, from day one, a guy that was brought in because when Cody first started with WWE, day one, I talked to Dusty and I said, “I will keep an eye on him and I’ll take care of him.” Now, that did not mean – and nor did Dusty believe it meant – that he was going to get any special treatment. It meant I was going to get in his ass – more so than anybody else – because I felt like I owed his father.
When I came to Crockett Promotions and started working with Dusty Rhodes, it elevated me about tenfold. I never forgot that. So I stayed on, I rode Cody and Ted DiBiase Jr harder than anybody else and I was very close to both of their dads – and still am – and I felt like I owed them. The respect is telling them when they stunk, and there was a few times they really stunk, and give them a pat on the ass when they did a pretty good job. And then when they had that rare occasion, as they were climbing the ranks, where they had an outstanding performance, I told them that.
I think he wanted that same honesty now that he’s a top player, because it’s easy to look from the outside in. But when you’re on the inside, looking out, sometimes you’ve got to change a few things – and that’s what I’m there for. I’m not a coach. They have a group of incredible coaches. I’m just there to advise Cody, of course.
Now, if a young talent comes up to me specifically and says, “Would you watch my match tonight and tell me what you think?” I’m honoured to do that. But that’s not my job. It’s not a regular thing. I’m just getting to know that list of talent. A lot of those guys, I don’t even know where they came from. A lot of talented guys, too. It’s like they just suddenly appeared, but it meant they had been on the indies and hadn’t worked for a big company yet. So they were brand-new, fresh talent.
I think the company is doing an incredible job. One year out, a one-year start up. Wow. Something to be proud of and I’m just glad to be a part of it.
And there’s another name, or names, that would be FTR…
Yeah, that was the next question I had to ask!
I will say, and I have said for probably a year and a half now, they’re the best team in the world! And they’ve done their homework, and I’m so flattered and honoured that they’ve said they patented themselves after Tully and I.
Well, I want – on record – to say as well, they’re much better than Tully and I. They’re just more athletic. They can do more things. You know, they’re just, you know, “Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.” Their cardio is just incredible and they work at a pace that’s different from when Tully and I were a team. I would say this – and I tell those guys and I think it pisses them off, you know, there’s always, “Who would win between you guys?” Well, if we leave it to the athletics, they’re going to win. I just don’t think they’re as nasty as we were. And I think that would be the deciding factor – so, when they see this, they’re going to be pissed.
But I feel like they are the best team in the world. And every team, the next morning, that has wrestled them are better for it.
Yeah, most definitely. And you already beat me to the FTR question because I HAD to ask about them next, so I’m going to ask you about one particular match instead.
Man, that FTR vs Young Bucks match that we saw just a couple of weeks ago at Full Gear. For me, the best thing about it was the storytelling because, oh, man, that had an incredible story all the way through. And then even the end, there was the flip from a team that notoriously hates flips.
What did you think of that match overall and what do you think of the complete contrast between FTR and the Young Bucks?
Well, you know, I loved it, and that’s the part that’s missing in the industry.
We can’t go backwards and take all the flip, flop and fly out of the business because it’s already been introduced to the industry. You guys have accepted it, you like it, we need to leave it in – but we also need to regulate that with what you said – and I’m so happy you said that, being an intelligent fan and knowing what you’re looking at – storytelling.
That’s the part that sells tickets, and I told those guys, all of them, before they had their match. “You only get to do this one time in your career. Firsts… You can only do a first match one time.” And that match had never happened, and so you had years, a decade, of building. You know, “I’d love to see this match with those guys, those four guys.” And when you saw it, it paid dividends and I think the key to it was both of them worked to each other’s strengths and the storytelling was incredible.
Yeah, most definitely. One other name that’s in AEW that I want to ask you about, but not about their time in AEW because I think that’s been a pretty good then people can see it for what it is. Jake Roberts, he’s a man who never won a championship while in WWE. How important do you think championships are? There’s a lot of names. It’s not just Jake Roberts, there a lot of names that haven’t won championships. How do you look at when people who say, “Oh, well, it’s annoying that that person didn’t win a championship”? How important are they?
This is my opinion – you can put a championship on anybody, it doesn’t make the man. The man makes the championship.
Take your hottest guy that’s the most over, and then you put the title on him, you don’t put the title on him hoping he will get over and be looked at as a champion. That’s my opinion, Jake was such a strong character, such a strong persona, he never needed to be champion, he just needed to be Jake The Snake.
Another note, Jake and I were never in the ring together until the AEW angle. I was so honoured to be in the ring and, you know, mixing barbs and promos together. Sitting across the table from him, for me, was an honour and a privilege because he was so good. And when he talks, people listen. And all those years, we were never together in the ring. So it was something special for me, for sure.
Yeah, most definitely. That was actually why I asked that question, because I saw that fact online and I was like, “Arn Anderson and Jake Roberts have never been in the same ring? That’s insane” But obviously, once I saw the fact, I couldn’t remember a time you had been that I could prove it wrong with because it was the first – which is absolutely amazing.
We spoke about him earlier and how you ended up in AEW, but I just want to ask your thoughts on Cody Rhodes right now as a performer and a businessman, and just everything he’s doing at this moment in time.
Well, he’s juggling quite a bit, you know, as is his wife, you know, and when you live in the same household, they got a lot of “face of the business” business that they have to take care of.
Cody is in the best shape of his life. I think he’s clear-headed. He is goal-oriented. He wants to be a leader of the company. I don’t think Cody looks at himself as the face of the company, even though he is – because he has such a rapport with the fans. I just think that the sky’s the limit for this guy.
And Tony Khan giving 100 percent support to all the talent in every way from keeping us safe during this pandemic to letting a person be himself and have some control over his own destiny. Cody has a lot of influence as far as his own character goes, and I think he’s having fun, everybody that works there is having fun and we’re just glad to still be operating and getting better each and every week.
Definitely. And my final question, Arn Anderson, you have been around wrestling for a long time. We mentioned the birth of the spinebuster and how a lot of people are using nowadays. Aside from Arn Anderson, who has the best spinebuster you’ve ever seen?
Wow. I don’t think I can narrow it down to one, but I can give you a few…
I think Triple H has a good one. I think Bobby Roode. I think Rhino. Rhino’s is very good. I don’t know about the rest, but those come to mind, off the top of my head.
They’ve got good whip, good elevation, all the things that you need. And again, I see them…virtually every week, somebody does one, so it’s an honour, it’s a privilege to me.
I’ve got maybe…two more than I’m going to spread out. Time will tell. We’ll see.