Inside the Ropes magazine’s ‘Commentator of the Year 2020’, Tony Schiavone, was reportedly the subject of interest from WWE, prior to his signing with All Elite Wrestling.
On the latest edition of AEW’s Unrestricted podcast, which Schiavone usually hosts alongside referee Aubrey Edwards, the affable announcer had the microphone turned on him as he was the subject of the episode’s interview.
Within the discussion, Schiavone detailed his journey to AEW and how apparent interest from the WWE may have sparked Tony Khan and company into action:
During 2016, I did a NWA Fan Fest where I did a panel with Jim Valley. Conrad Thompson was in that, and he saw how funny I was, how irreverent I was [and] how I was, obviously, talking honestly. And he approached me in 2017 to do a podcast, and we started the podcast. That podcast led to us doing some crazy things online of which Tony Khan saw and liked, and I got to know Bruce Prichard because Bruce does a podcast with Conrad as well.
Bruce told me, at the beginning of 2019, he said, ‘I’m going to go back to work for Vince. You’ll give me a few months. I’ll contact you because I think you can come to work here.’ He did contact me on a Sunday in the summertime of that year, and he said, ‘Vince wants you to come back to work for us.’ And I said, ‘great, what are we talking about?’ He said, ‘We still don’t know yet, but we know we like for you to be a producer. We know you like to produce. We know you like to work behind the scenes. We’ll be back in touch.’ I said, ‘Got it’.
Schiavone, who had briefly worked for the-then WWF between 1989 and 1990, then noted how his initial decision to call What Happened When podcast co-host Conrad Thompson instead of his wife started a chain reaction that would ultimately see him alongside Jim Ross and Excalibur at the AEW announcer’s desk.
So you get a get an offer like that thinking, man, things may be on the way up. So do I call my wife? No, I call Conrad. I say, ‘I just got offered a job from the WWE,’ and he said, ‘That’s great.’ Hung up the phone. Two minutes later, I got a text from Cody. Conrad called him, and Cody says, ‘I don’t want you to go to work for the WWE.’ And I said, ‘Okay good.’ And that’s all I said, and then he said, ‘Will you accept a call from Tony Khan?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ Tony called me. We talked for over an hour because you know how you can go. So it was very interesting, and he said, ‘I might have you come down to Jacksonville.’
The former voice of WCW later described the concurrent conversations he was having with both promotions and what ultimately led him to All Elite:
Now during this time, the WWE kept talking to me, and I never told the WWE that Tony Khan had an interest in me. I would just listen to what they had to say. So they would call me, and they would say, ‘We don’t have our ducks in a row yet. We’ll be back in touch with you.’ Bruce called and said, ‘Vince is very much interested, really wants you to come here and end your career.’ I said, ‘Okay, well then make me an offer.’ So they had an HR person call me, and they said, ‘How much do you need?’ Well, I threw the ball way up in the air on that one, and they said, ‘Okay, we’ll be back in touch with you.’ Meanwhile, I go down and talk to Tony Khan, and I met with Tony.
It was an all-day meeting at the stadium, and I knew immediately I wanted to work there. And I also had my wife of mine, we’ve been married now 39 years, who told me, ‘If you take a job back with the WWE, I’m going to divorce your ass,’ but I didn’t play two sides against the middle. I didn’t, so I was just waiting and waiting to hear. Tony offered me something phenomenal, and I knew I wanted to work there, but I was going to listen to what the WWE had to say.
However, it transpires that after instigating the initial interest, WWE appeared to have a change of heart regarding the veteran announcer’s services:
I was talking to one of the HR ladies. ‘We’ll be back in touch with you right after SummerSlam.’ So the Monday after SummerSlam, I get a call first thing in the morning, and the lady from the WWE says, ‘Thank you for your interest Mr. Schiavone. We have nothing for you,’ and I went, ‘You guys contacted me.’ I immediately turned around and called Tony. I said, ‘I’m in.’ That’s how it happened.
Schiavone went on to become an integral element of AEW’s product, hosting Dynamite, Dark and the aforementioned AEW Unrestricted podcast, as well as acting as an on-screen interviewer.