When compiling the list of the worst enemies to professional wrestling, a lot of names are frequently mentioned. Former WCW head-honcho Jim Herd, the nefarious Vince Russo, Kenny Omega and his blow up doll, Joey Ryan and his nonsensical genitalia or Dixie Carter. Others say Mark Madden, Wade Keller or Vince McMahon himself. No, as bad as Jim Herd was, he only was around 3 years. As terrible as Dixie Carter was, she only had a 10 year reign of error. For all of McMahon’s faults, he has presented a great product time and time again. Joey Ryan and Kenny Omega are harmless as long as they keep their nonsense in Japan or the indy scene. No, the one name that truly despises pro wrestling and has made no bones about it is WWE television director Kevin Dunn.
If you don’t know who that is, that’s because he wants nothing to do with you. He’s the behind the scenes director of what you see on television, the internet and on blu-ray. He rarely puts his name on anything because in his mind, he’s not running a wrestling show. In fact, he hates wrestling so much he was able to eliminate it from WWE completely. Don’t believe me? Check this out.
Back in the 1980’s, the World Wrestling Federation had a variety of wrestling shows. In 1985 you had Prime Time WRESTLING on Monday nights. You had Championship WRESTLING, All-Star WRESTLING and All-American WRESTLING. Later Championship and All-Star were replaced by WRESTLING Challenge and Superstars of WRESTLING. As cartoony as WWF in the late 80’s were, at least it tried to pass itself off as wrestling. Then, Kevin Dunn came into the picture.
The story goes that Kevin’s father once saved a bunch of old WWF footage from the 60’s and 70’s from a fire so Vince gave Kevin a job for life. Well as soon as Dunn seized power with television production, he started making changes that Vince went along with. At first it started off harmless as Superstars of Wrestling was shortened to Superstars. Made sense to shorten the name, right? Well then guess what happened next? In 1993 Vince McMahon wanted to shift the focus away from the past and focus on a “new generation” featuring new talent that he had recently acquired such as Yokozuna, Lex Luger, Razor Ramon, Diesel, etc. which also meant a new generation of fans. Dunn stuck his nose in and said that if Vince wanted “sports entertainment”, he should eliminate wrestling altogether. Even the mere mention of it should be abolished.
Vince had a new Saturday morning show ready to air at 10:AM on January 9, 1993 and the 90 minute Prime Time Wrestling was going to be replaced by a live from New York one hour program from 9 to 10 PM beginning on January 11th. The Saturday morning show was called WWF Mania and hosted by a man named Todd Pettengill. Todd was a radio personality from New York that was actually pretty funny but wasn’t really a wrestling personality. Not only was Vince airing a show without wrestling in its title, it was to be hosted by a non-wrestling personality. If that wasn’t enough, the new prime time show was to be called WWF Monday Night Raw hosted by “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Vince himself and a man named Rob Bartlett. Rob was another radio host from New York who was more or less a Don Imus comedian. Once again he was non-wrestling personality hosting an important wrestling show. Eventually Rob left Raw and the show more or less carried on but Dunn was still whispering in Vince’s ear.
A year and a half later Dunn struck again. WWF All-American Wrestling had been on USA on Sunday mornings ever since 1993 but in late 1994, Vince decided to cancel it in favor of a new show that was more “hip” to the youngsters. The new show making its debut on October 23, 1994 was WWF Action Zone, hosted by Todd with a man named Charlie Minn doing the live action interviews. Charlie was another guy that knew absolutely nothing about wrestling and was so over the top he lasted mere months. Eventually Todd was given a co-host for Mania as the calendar turned to 1995, a woman named Stephanie Wiand. Another non-wrestling personality but at least she played her role as Todd’s sidekick. By 1995 you had Raw on Monday Nights, Mania on Saturday morning, Superstars on Saturday afternoon, Action Zone on Sunday morning and Wrestling Challenge on Sunday afternoon. Eventually Dunn got Challenge cancelled and they signed off on August 27, 1995. With Challenge went the last of any shows with “wrestling” in the title. After that, many shows came and went including Blast Off, Livewire, Shotgun Saturday Night, Sunday Night Heat, Jakked, Metal, Velocity, 205 live, Main Event, Saturday Morning Slam and Smackdown. None of which had wrestling in their titles. Also a production line of non-wrestling personalities replaced each other. When Todd Pettengill felt the strain of juggling his radio gig and wrestling, he left the WWF in August of 1997 and personally recommended Michael Cole as his replacement. Eventually you had Todd Grisham, Jonathan Coachman and American Gladiators announcer Mike Adamle as hosts for various shows, tapes, etc with varying degrees of success. I myself didn’t have a problem with Coachman but Adamle was a disgrace, not so much he himself but for Dunn and Vince’s idea to hire him. Don’t even get me started on the Raw “guest hosts” motif that stunk up the show for a year. All Dunn wanted to do was say he “directed” personalities such as Bob Barker and Ozzy Osbourne.
Then there was the time Jim Cornette almost assaulted him, remember that one? If not, let me tell you. In September of 1997, Bret Hart and his Hart Foundation group had orchestrated an actual interesting dichotomy where they were booed in America but cheered in Canada. Around this time the WWF was all set for The Patriot aka Del Wilkes to make his debut. The Patriot had previously worked in WCW and was a big star in Japan doing a masked American gimmick. For his debut, however, he was to get attacked by the Hart Foundation on Raw live in Canada. Rather than explain why this was a good idea, Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn focused more on what part of the show WWF valet Sable was going to come out and model a new t-shirt on its way. Cornette kept pressing on why Patriot was going to be buried his first night but he was ignored. Finally Cornette asked one more time about why Patriot was formatted to get his ass kicked in Canada and Dunn said “Mr Cornette, I find you tiresome.” Anyone that knows Jim knows when you insult him a keg is about to go off and sure enough Jim replied “You know what I find tiresome you bucky beaver mother(expletive), I’m sick of your (expletive)-damned teeth and I’m gonna pull you over this table and beat the piss out of you.” Everyone in the room went into the old high school “ho-ho-ho look at this” thinking Cornette was kidding except for Jim Ross. Ross had known Cornette and his disdain for Dunn long enough to know Jim was not kidding and really was about to beat up Kevin Dunn.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, think of all the possible good things that he had cancelled along the way. Remember the October 1997 WWF ppv Bad Blood had the in-ring tribute to St. Louis wrestling? Cornette and Jim Ross had this big tribute planned at the Kemper Arena by having Terry and Dory Funk, Jack Brisco, Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski and the late Sam Mushnick honored in the ring with video packages and voice-overs. When they got to the production meeting before the show, Ross and Cornette looked on the format and the tribute portion was gone. They went to Dunn and asked what’s going on and Dunn told them the tribute should be on the free pre-show “Free For All” (notice the name, still no wrestling) airing before the ppv. Cornette and Ross asked what sense would that make having all the legends come out on the pre-show and Dunn said nobody is going to know who they are. Think about that for a second. Even without their incredible legacies, Dory still worked the 1996 Royal Rumble, Terry had just worked the 1997 Rumble just 9 months earlier and Harley Race spent two years in the WWF from 1987-89. In Cornette’s own words “The six greatest living legends of wrestling and nobody knows who they are because they didn’t come to the ring with a (expletive) bird on their arm or leading a (expletive)-damned bulldog on a leash?” This time it was Ross that was going to pull Dunn over the table for such a heinous remark and thankfully, they got the tribute back on the real show. The legends were all given good ovations by the St. Louis crowd so here’s mud in your eye, Dunn. Here’s the sad part, that’s just one of the stories we know about. How many planned tributes, guest appearances or legends that were turned away or cancelled because of Dunn? Also, Ross and Cornette weren’t the only ones that couldn’t stand him. Vince had an idea of giving Percy Pringle aka Paul Bearer a more active role backstage given his decades of experience in wrestling. Vince wanted Percy to head to the production truck to see how things went down from the production side, but Dunn wouldn’t let him in the truck. After all, Percy knew and loved wrestling so Dunn figured he’d be damned letting a “wrestling” personality boss him around. Here’s one more proven fact to get your blood boiling before we wrap this up. When Jerry “The King” Lawler was going to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, he wanted his long time Memphis wrestling announcer Lance Russell to do it. Lance was more or less the Gordon Solie/Gorilla Monsoon of Memphis from the CWA days all the way to the USWA in 1997. Kevin Dunn said no, William Shatner is going to do it because nobody will know who Lance Russell is. Without Ross or Cornette to fight for it, Lawler had to sit back and watch William F’n Shatner induct him. To be fair to William, he didn’t do a bad job, but not only were younger fans robbed of a chance to get to know Lance but also the stories he must have had about Lawler after knowing him for nearly 40 years at that point. Again, this is just the stuff we know about.
So when you compile the list of the worst enemies of wrestling, take all this into consideration. As terrible as Jim Herd was, he only lasted 3 years. As moronic as Dixie Carter was, she came and went in about 10 years. As much of a stain on life Vince Russo is, he’s been out of mainstream wrestling for about 5 years now. Individual talents that have vile reputations such as Buck Zumhoffe, Fabulous Moolah, Ole Anderson, Grizzly Smith, and Terry Garvin have been gone for years. As ridiculous as Kenny Omega and Joey Ryan are, they’re small time (for now). For all of Vince McMahon’s faults, he still puts out a product that sells a lot of tickets and generates a lot of revenue. No, the worst enemy to pro wrestling is Kevin Dunn. He’s been a main player for WWE for nearly 30 years now and he still controls what you see and hear on television. He hates pro wrestling, hates its fans and hates anyone that prefers it over “sports entertainment.” Real wrestling personalities such as Ross, Cornette and Percy couldn’t stand him and maybe some day when Vince McMahon retires and Triple H takes over the business, the first priority on HHH’s list is to get rid of Kevin Dunn. Do us all a favor, Hunter….please.