Teddy Long

Teddy Long: Smackdown’s Best GM! One-on-One With The Undertaker, Buckle Up Teddy & More!

Teddy Long is a WWE Hall of Famer known for his tenure as Smackdown and ECW General Manager and as a referee in WWE. Big thank you to Chris Hughes from Appalachian Championship Wrestling for helping to make this interview happen! Teddy sits down with Chris Van Vliet in Indianapolis, IN to talk about this legendary career as a WWE personality, his role as the Smackdown GM, his iconic lines like “One on one with The Undertaker”, “Lemme holla at ya, playa” and being part of the “Buckle up Teddy” segment. He discusses how becoming friends with James Brown led to him working in wrestling, how he got hired by WWE, working as a referee before becoming an on-air personality, his dance moves, being chased by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on an ATV and much more!

Quote I’m thinking about: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” ― Winston S. Churchill

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On his upbringing:

“Just God is your blessing. You don’t ever know where they are. I never dreamed I’d be running SmackDown [and have] a Hall of Fame ring, beyond my wildest dream man. I never really thought about [what I wanted to be], the way I come up. I don’t have any parents. I come up in the street, I was a heroin addict man, you’re looking at a guy that shot heroin into his veins. Okay, I survived all that, God brought me out of all that. So that lets me know that there’s a plan or there’s something here from me, so that tells me that you need to straighten up, buddy, or are you gonna be gone? So like I said after heroin I guess I went back to work for Jamie in wrestling and I’ve just been going ever since.”

On previously working for James Brown:

“He [was] a character. He was used to me, but he’s really serious. Here’s a guy who had no education, none whatsoever. But he could play every instrument in that band. And he was so critical of, he was a perfectionist, and they’d be performing on stage I mean live performance and he’d hear somebody that hit a bad note. He’d hear that but he didn’t stop performing, he kept on dancing but then he let him know he heard it so he’s telling them this is gonna cost you 5, 10, he’s doing that to them while he’s performing. That’s right a lot of people don’t know that.”

On managing Mark Callous [The Undertaker]:

“Mark is one of the greatest guys you could ever meet. Me and him started way back in the day when he was Mean Mark Callous. I had a chance to ride with him and stuff, even before I even start managing. We just became friends. But Undertaker is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He’s a guy that don’t forget about where you come from, don’t forget about the young talent. Mark was always consistent. Whenever he got the TV he would always go to ringside and watch and sit down and observe. And always, if he saw something wrong out of some of the young talent, he would call them, take time to talk to them, and always want to try to help them. And there’s a lot of guys in this business who don’t give them time a day. But anyway, like I said, they don’t come any better than The Undertaker.”

On The Undertaker becoming a locker room leader:

“You started to see that when things were out of control, sometimes the locker room gets a bit out of control. You got some guy coming in with a big mouth, I’m gonna be the guy today. No, you’re not. Like when we were working for [John] Laurinaitis. I’ll speak for myself. I had this problem with John Laurinaitis with this racism. And so he told me one time, I went to him and I asked him why I did not have an action figure. He said to me, ‘Well, the reason you don’t have one is because we went and talked to the consumers and they said that they wouldn’t buy your doll.’ But I’m the General Manager of SmackDown. I’m the face of the company for nine years, but nobody will buy my doll? How can you tell somebody that? That got me so hot man, but I had to catch myself. Because you have to play the game here or you’ll expose yourself. So I just Okay, no problem. And I went straight to Taker. And I go you won’t believe what he just said to me. And I told that to Taker and I think Taker, I don’t know if Taker said anything to him. I’m gonna say it, because I don’t know. But anyway, I went to Taker with it and I just left it at that.”

On John Laurinaitis:

“I’m just saying the truth. And if the truth will get me in trouble, then I’m ready to go and get in trouble. Trouble sometimes can be good trouble. I’m just telling the truth. I got a lot of other people that I can speak out on, but I let it go. I’m done with it. That’s in the past. God has blessed me to make it, so I don’t have any reason to keep talking about all this mess that they’ve done back in the past. But to me to sit down and speak about this mistreatment, not because I’m not doing my job. I stayed in my position nine years. So Vince McMahon won’t have you on his TV as the face of his company for nine years if you’re not doing your job. But you fire me? He wouldn’t even give me my Legends deal. Nothing. Didn’t give me nothing.”

On Vince McMahon:

“I had a great relationship with Vince. Vince McMahon told me right to my face. He said Teddy, they wasted you down south. And the other thing he said to me that let me knew he was interested in me. He says I can’t believe I’ve had you read here under my nose all this time. That’s what he said to me. Those two things. So Vince McMahon, when he said those two things to me, that led me knew then my position. So that don’t mean go crazy. I don’t mean hey, look, I can do what I want to do. See, that’s the trick. You don’t do that. You still be the same guy, no matter what. Don’t let nothing go to your head. Then the other thing I found out, I went to Laurinaitis, I was trying to get a raise. He told me I didn’t qualify for a raise. Or somebody said to me, and then the next thing I knew, and he didn’t know one of the referees told me how much money he made. And he was making more money than me.”

On always telling people they would go one on one with The Undertaker:

““I’ll tell you how I put so much emphasis on that. One night we were in Madison Square Garden. Stephanie went out and she introduced somebody. She came back and Vince was talking to her. He said ‘Stephanie. I want to put emphasis on that when you introduce the guy.’ I was just standing back, so next time I did Undertaker [I said] ‘One on one with The Undertaker!’ That’s how I learned to do that. Well when they caught on to it and saw that it was catchy. People liked it then they always wrote it. They put it in there. I’m gonna do it anyway. Not that I’m going off, not doing what I’m supposed to do. But I know Vince didn’t mind, Vince gave me free rein to say what I wanted to say. But he knew I was gonna say nothing that would get the company in trouble. And I never really sat down, they’d write stuff. I just add my stuff to it.” 

On the origin of ‘Playa’:

“I had a golden retriever, his name was Boss. I got him as a puppy but as he got bigger and bigger and started getting in the way. So every time, I’m like ‘Come on Playa. Get out of the way Playa.’ I’m just talking to him and one night I went to TV I started using slang, calling people playa.”

On how the iconic dance started:

The way I got the dance, my grandson, he’s 19 now. Well when he was about 2 years old, we were trying to teach him how to walk. So we bought this walker that we put him in. At that time we were taping SmackDown on Tuesday night and then you could go back home on Friday. Every time we put him in this walker, all he would do was bop up and down like that. So I went to TV one night and I think they were playing my music but I was just thinking about him and having fun. So I was having fun and just started doing the dance. I get back home and we are getting ready to watch the show I say ‘Come here, look, I’m doing your dance!’ One night, I got ready to walk out, and just as I got to the curtain right there, Vince was standing up. He’s yelling ‘Do that dance!’ [I say] ‘What dance?’ And he starts doing it! And that’s how the dance started.”

Were you aware of the incidents alleged against John Laurinaitis:

“Not aware, but not surprised. I spoke to somebody, I remember a little bit, one of the girls one time came now I forget her name. Tiffany might have been a name. She was supposed to be my assistant. I was trying to help her as much as I could. Anybody they brought in, I don’t care what you do, you won’t be Teddy Long. Just that simple. I don’t care who you bring. They tried it, Palmer Cannon, you remember him? They stuck him there. Okay. All right. They brought in Santino Marello. He was my assistant at one time. Then it had been that when Johnny gave me the girl Tiffany or whatever, that she was my assistant at ECW. One day we were just talking she said Teddy. She said I thank you for all your help. But don’t ever mention this and I don’t care now, but Johnny brought me in to take your job.” 

On refereeing the match after Owen Hart’s fall at Over The Edge 1999:

“That night, Kansas City, Missouri. And on that day, it was me and Godfather and Owen.  Owen had been just pranking, he’s a prankster. And he was just pranking people all day. We just having fun. Just a fun day. And me and Owen and Godfather had been playing around all that day. And then finally, when the fall happened, I was standing there, and I was getting ready to go out. And I saw on they brought him back on this table. And he had his whole body like he had just turned white, like snow. And I don’t know whether he was dead or not. But it was just, I’ve never seen that colour before. But it was pretty rough.”

On refereeing the match between D-Lo Brown and Droz:

“This was a pure accident. D-Lo, I think he put a little bit too much oil on that night. A lot of guys did that, Tony Atlas, a lot of guys like that always oil up. And as I can remember, I think D-Lo went to pick Droz up like a Piledriver. But some kind of way Droz slipped right out of his hands. Like I said, I don’t know how it happened. Next thing I knew Droz was down and I never forget, I walked over because this is my first time witnessing an accident really actively happening. So I look over Droz and Droz looks up at me and he says Teddy, Teddy, I’m dying. I’m dying. I remember those words out of his mouth. I’m really scared now because I don’t know what to do. So they are on headsets, they’re talking to me and I give them a signal. Let them know that this was real. And I just like I said the first time I experienced that too. That was pretty shocking.”

On Buckle up Teddy:

“Taker brought that up. That was just his line. I remember the day we went over that. And this is another thing I have to say about Vince, that day as we leading up to all that. So that day before we talked about the coffin, putting me in the casket. And so Vince sent for me and Taker. So it’s just me and Taker in the room and Vince and we’re talking and I’m sitting here and the only thing I’m thinking about Wow, I’m sitting here with Undertaker and Vince that’s all the thing I’m thinking about, what a hell of a position on me. But I didn’t let it go to my head. So next thing you know we’re talking about the match. So I don’t say anything, because, you know like I’m saying I ain’t got business opening my mouth. Let me hear what y’all want me to do. Vince looks at me. ‘You gonna say anything? Goddamnit we’re going over the match here anything here you think you can add?’ I don’t know if I can add anything. I don’t know, I guess. So they started going over something man. And so I stepped in and I put Oh, the coffin. They were talking about breathing and all that, you know, and I’m like, I got it covered Vince. I say what I’ll do, when they start to roll me down. I’ll take one finger and I’ll ease that lid as much as I can so that you can’t see it but I get some air. [Vince said] ‘God damn it that’s good sh*t!’ That’s exactly how it went down. But my thing is, you ask me for input and that made me feel good. [Undertaker] just said that [line], that wasn’t written or none of that.”

Did you ever refuse to do anything?

“No. Do you know why? Because I learned that whatever Vince would ask me to do, he would do it. So how in the hell am I gonna do this man what I ain’t gonna do when he would do it? You’d watch Vince go out on TV and do stuff that he didn’t even really have to do, he’s the boss, the owner of the company. He got to go out and get in the ring and get beat up by CM Punk come back all bloodied, and he’s the owner of the company. So if this man can go out and do what needs to be [done], he let Rikishi sit as big ass right in his face. Vince don’t care, this is not real, it is a movie. You don’t want to do it, you don’t work here.” 

On a WWE return being unlikely:

“With the changes now, I think they’re going in another direction. You know that GM stuff is probably going to be played out a little bit. I don’t know. I just think I’m not gonna go. Somebody else may think of something else. I don’t know, but I just don’t think so. Unless there are some major changes there.”

What is Teddy Long grateful for?

“To be alive, to have the success I had and my wife.”

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