Interview: Ken Anderson

Written by: Mike Shaw

Ken Anderson, better known as TNA wrestler Mr. Anderson, is an interesting character.

Previously Mr. Kennedy in the WWE, he has more to say than many of his peers and has definitely suffered for being so outspoken, but there’s much more to him than wrestling fans realise. For example, did you know he is also a huge videogame nerd?

The Void spoke to him recently just after a match, and fortunately he was in the mood for a really good chat.

TNA's Mr. Anderson

Hi Ken, good match.
Thank you, it was fun. I’ve don’t think I’ve ever had a match where I’ve looked at it and said, ‘Oh my god, that was great’. There’s always room for improvement.

I think that if you get to the point where you know everything and everything’s perfect, then it’s time to stop. There are too many people in the business who think they know everything, and their characters get stale.

Where would you like your character to go?
It’s hard to say. I take things day by day. As I change as an individual, my character changes. As far as I’m concerned, I’m tired of hearing myself say my name. I’ve been tired of hearing myself say my name for a long time, but y’know, it’s something I’ve gotta do until it’s appropriate to stop doing it I guess. It works for now though, so I’ll keep doing it.

Who’s your favourite guy to work with at the moment?
There’s a bunch, actually. There are many guys I enjoy working with. I like working with Bully, I like working with AJ, I like working with Jeff Jarrett and Jeff Hardy. Everybody has a different style about them, so it’s nice to go in there and change things up and challenge yourself to meet their expectations and work their particular style.

There are guys that I don’t consider myself to have good chemistry with that I would like to improve upon.

Who don’t you feel you have chemistry with at the moment?
Ahhhh… well I’d rather not point them out because then everybody would say ‘Oh my God, I can see what he’s talking about!’ (laughs). Y’know whenever I’d go to a wrestling camp, the trainer would ask ‘Who’s your favourite wrestler?’ and a lot of people would say ‘The Ultimate Warrior!’ And I never realised how challenging it was for a lot of people to work with him until it was pointed out to me. I mean, it’s not like we get in there and shit the bed, but things don’t go as smoothly as I would like them to.

I guess, I have a harder time working with people who are bigger, because I’m at that size where I’m not a high flier, but I’m not a ‘big guy’ – a power guy – either. So I have a hard time figuring out ways of grounding guys that are bigger than me and making it believable.

Is there anyone from the past who you really didn’t like working with? When you found out you had a match with them, you just rolled your eyes?
(Takes a deep breath) Um… no, there really hasn’t been anybody like that where I think ‘Oh my God, I really don’t wanna work with this guy’. I always think that it’s a challenge. Even when it’s someone I don’t care to work with, I think ‘Okay, let’s make this the best match it possibly can be’.

There are some people who don’t look at it that way though, aren’t there? If someone comes up that they don’t like, they make it their business not to work with them.
And they’ll bury them behind the scenes… I’ve never been one to get involved in that kind of stuff. Everyone’s different and for some reason, in this business, if someone isn’t a good wrestler, people think they’re a bad person, and I think that’s ridiculous. Everyone has their own style and brings their own unique skills to the table and it’s about figuring out what those skills are and how to magnify positives and then mask their negatives. That, to me, is part of being a good performer and a good worker.

You mentioned previously that one of your favourite people to work with is Jeff Hardy. After his various issues and especially what happened at Victory Road in 2011, are some people reluctant to work with him?
As far as I go, no. I don’t have any reluctance. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I haven’t heard from anyone else. The thing, we all love Jeff and care about him, and he did what he did, but you know those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and we all live in glass houses. It just so happens that for most of us, our problems are well hidden, and his were displayed publicly therefore he gets all the heat for it. Jeff really has changed for the better though, and he’s really focused. I hate that people are so quick to pass judgement on him, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

What was the reaction in the locker room to what happened at Victory Road?
Shock. Everyone was shocked. Some people were saddened by it, others were mad, there were some others who were probably happy that a top guy screwed up because it might open up his spot. I just looked at it like, he screwed up, everyone screws up. He paid what he needed to pay, took the steps he needed to make, and now he’s back and doing well.

I’m encountering more and more people who are moving away from Raw and choosing to only watch Impact. Is there a feeling within TNA that things are changing?
Over there (WWE), you get a few guys who are determining exactly how their performers are going to perform and every aspect of their performance. Here you have people who allow us to perform and put our own spin on things. It’s hard for pro-wrestlers who are generally not the greatest actors in the world to play a character they are not comfortable playing. Whereas if you let them just be themselves, which is what acting really is – if you watch any great actor, they’re really just being themselves; Jack Nicholson is being himself, Brad Pitt is being himself, Vince Vaughn is definitely being himself – and that’s when you get good performances.

It’s often said that the most successful people in the business are guys whose characters are just versions of themselves.
That’s right, and it’s something I learned early on in the business when I listened to an interview with Steve Austin where he said ‘I’m just me with the volume turned up’.

Do you still watch WWE?
Very, very rarely. I try but… I’m a Fox News junkie and every once in a while I’ll try to switch to MSNBC or CNBC or CNN, and I watch for a couple of minutes but I can’t do it and turn back. I feel the same way about WWE.

So you haven’t seen any of the CM Punk stuff?
That I have seen, and there’s a case of letting a guy be himself and do his own thing, and he either sinks or swims of his own accord. I’m an old-school guy; if someone has an idea let them try it – if it works, great; if it doesn’t work, then you take them off TV. But you know, at that level, everyone’s good enough that they’re not going to go out there and just be awful. But you’re not really allowed to do that at WWE.

Over there, you have somebody literally sitting there telling you ‘Okay, you’re going to lock up with this guy, then you’re going to back him into the corner, you’re going to throw a punch, he’s gonna duck it, he’s gonna light you up and send you off, you reverse him but he’ll ditch you with a hip toss…’. Here it’s like, ‘Here you go guys, now go put your match together’, and then they will enhance it or add to it or say ‘Maybe you should do this instead?’ And that’s the difference and it’s very beneficial to the performer to work in an environment like that.

At TNA everyone is treated like an adult. You’re not an idiot, and you can think for yourself. At WWE, only certain guys are treated like that. Punk is one of them, Truth is another guy who seems to only be given bullet points as far as his promos go, and in my opinion, those guys are doing tremendous work.

You can tell when the other guys are reading it off a script, because they’re not actors. They’re trying to play actors and what’s on that paper is not necessarily what’s in their heart, and it comes across as hokey, phony, pre-planned BS.

Do you class John Cena under that category?
I’m not a huge fan.

Why not?
Besides some personal burials that have taken place… I’m just not a huge fan.

It sounds like the backstage politics are tough to negotiate.
It’s insane. If you do something wrong, no one will tell you you did something wrong. They’ll smile to your face and say everything’s fine, but… I’m an adult, if I did something wrong, come to me and tell me I did something wrong or am doing something wrong and I will work to change that, but I’m not a mind reader! But over there, it’s just a huge game and you’re constantly being mind-fucked.

The public perception is that you’ve been subjected to that more than most.
That’s because I put myself out there, publicly. I’m one of the only guys who said something publicly because most guys are worried about their spot or worried that, if they say something, they’re gonna get heat, and I really don’t give a fuck.

I just speak my mind and do my job. I guess if I didn’t feel confident in my abilities as a performer I’d shut my mouth. But I’m confident that I can say what I want and still go out there and perform better than somebody else.

One of the things that the fans believe you had to go through is Randy Orton being responsible for you leaving WWE.
(Sighs) I’ve never said that, I don’t know where it started, it’s the telephone game at its finest. He definitely was the final straw, but by no means did I say he was the reason for me getting fired. I’ve said it time and time again, I was to blame for me being fired. I made the mistakes, I did the things I shouldn’t have done, I said things I shouldn’t have said. And that’s it.

Randy Orton - responsible for Mr Kennedy's firing?I was injured a few times at the hands of others and rather than come back and bury those individuals and point fingers and say ‘He hurt me in a match,’ I just came back and said ‘You know what? This is wrestling, it’s not ballet, I got hurt. Period’. Meanwhile, when I was off rehabbing, people were saying I’m injury-prone.

If I take a sledgehammer to your knee, that doesn’t make you injury-prone. If I smash you in the face with a baseball bat, that doesn’t make you injury-prone. I just happened to be in a couple of situations like that, and wasn’t around to defend myself when those burials were taking place. And then – on top of that – I said the things that I said and I did the things that I did, and the final straw was when I supposedly dropped Randy on his head, and I think at that point Vince just said ‘I’ve had enough of it’.

There were certain guys, and there were three or four of them, that were lobbying for a long time [to get rid of me] and he finally gave into it and said enough’s enough.

But it all worked out for the best. It seems that your character and your work in the ring have both progressed massively.
It really has worked out for the best. As far as my work in the ring goes, I’ve always tried to look at things like what would happen in a real fight. In a real fight, if you get punched in the face, you don’t take a perfectly flat back bump. Wrestling purists don’t like it and say I’m not polished, but I’m intentionally unpolished.

I can go out there and be a ballerina but I choose not to. If everyone wrestled the same way, it would be boring and it would suck.

When you were with WWE, you did Behind Enemy Lines 2, and you recently worked on another film called Dogs Lie.
Yep, it’s a very small role. A very, very small role. I don’t believe I have speaking role in the movie, but it’s a role nevertheless. I actually auditioned for the lead but in the end it turned out I was too young for the role, so I ended up playing a bodyguard to a Russian mob guy.

I’ve also been auditioning for other things and taking acting classes. On my days off I’m not just sitting home playing video games like I would like to be.

What sort of video games are you into?

Have you played the latest Call of Duty?
Yep, I picked up the new Call of Duty, but I’m not a huge fan of shooters, I’m kinda over the shooter thing, and I’ll tell you why – I think they’re all the same. Every one is the same but with maybe a few different weapons and maybe the environment is a little different, but for everything else you’re just on a rail.

I like to problem solve, so prefer things like Fallout and Skyrim. Even though Uncharted is pretty much on a rail and you can only go in certain areas, I’m amazed by it – it’s like you’re playing a movie. I play just about everything there is to play, from games on my iPad and my iPod to the Nintendo DS… I even dipped into WoW for a while – much to the dismay of my wife.

I can actually see why people get fired from their jobs because of that game because it is so addictive. I once thought about committing one of my best friends because any time I talked to him, he was playing World of Warcraft, it was crazy.

Do you have a favourite game of all time?
Favourite game of all time… hmmm… wow…

(Laughs) You know what, that probably is up there! As silly as it sounds, I’m a huge Punch Out fan, and I’d say any of the Zelda games.

That’s interesting. I have a link to send you to an article on The Void called Why Every Zelda Is The Best Zelda.
(Laughing) I need to read that. You know, one of the things about video games is that there are way too many scoring nines and tens. Eights, nines and tens get given out way too freely in my opinion. You know, you play a game and you just think “How did this get an eight? Did the people who made this game actually play it?” Because there are some glaring, obvious annoyances that scream ‘Why did you not spend more time on this?’

One of the best games to come out in a long time is Batman: Arkham City. It’s so ridiculously polished, there’s so much to do, the controls are flawless and it’s just a fun game.

It’s interesting that you mention undeserving games getting high scores, because the latest Call of Duty recently fell foul of that on Metacritic.
The thing I’ve found about Metacritic is that they include everything – even the little kid sitting in his parent’s basement writing a blog gets credited on Metacritic.

There was a game that came out last year called Darksiders and it got a low rating and I played it and thought ‘this is awesome!’ And vice versa, sometimes games that gets nines and tens deserve a five or a six. Just recently Shadow of the Colossus was rereleased and the play controls are absolutely infuriating, I wanted to chuck my controller at the screen, but it got a nine!

I think a lot of these sites are in bed with the companies. They go and visit the studios and know the people who develop the games, and they’re afraid to give their true opinion, ‘I like the designer, so I’m gonna give the game a good score’.

There are some reviewers out there though who do a good job. There’s a reviewer who is a little bit too harsh and just buries pretty much everything, but if there’s a good game, he really, really puts it over. (Ken is talking about Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw of Zero Puncutation fame).

Mr Anderon with some lovely blue flames

I’m guessing you’re a big movie guy too?
Oh definitely.

What’s the best thing you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
I would say one of the best action movies I’ve seen this year was Captain America – I was surprised. I’m not a fan of CGI but I thought they did a remarkable job. Most of the time when I see CGI in a movie I’m disgusted by it because it looks like Roger Rabbit. Like Star Wars episodes 1-3, the whole thing took place in a cartoon world. Whereas movies like the first Transformers and Iron Man, did it really well.

Are action movies what you enjoy the most then?
Honestly, I watch everything. I watch a lot of chickflicks because of my wife, we just watched Water For Elephants which was a good movie (laughter in the background). It was! They’re all laughing in here right now, but they all saw it and they all liked it!

My all-time favourite movie though is True Romance. Love it. It’s pretty much a sleeper, not enough people know about it, but there are so many big name actors in it and the performances are phenomenal.

If it came out now it would be huge because of the Tarantino connection.
Oh yeah. My top three are all Tarantino movies: True Romance, Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction. And then you get into comedies and I have to say The Breakfast Club is in there. I’m a huge documentary fan too. I love, love, love documentaries. In fact, my favourite documentary of all time is Bigger, Stronger, Faster, which if you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out.

In fact, if I had to choose between watching a comedy, or an action film or a documentary, I would watch a documentary every time… as long as it wasn’t by Michael Moore!

TNA Impact Wrestling is broadcast every Sunday night at 9pm on Challenge, with monthly pay-per-view events airing on Wednesdays at 10pm.

Buy tickets for the 2012 UK TNA tour here.


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Author: Mike Shaw

Founder and editor of The Void, among other things. Interested in movies, tech, theatre, comics, WWE and UFC. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeshaw101 or check out his site

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Responses to Interview: Ken Anderson

  1. Awesome interview.

  2. Excellent article, love how in depth you go on this site. Your games articles are very very good too.

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