An article by Mike Mooneyham
Shawn Stasiak was looking forward to a promising career in the World Wrestling Federation until a practical joke backfired. Not only did it cost him his job, it left him wondering whether he had a future in professional wrestling.
Stasiak, the son of late wrestling great Stan “The Man” Stasiak, was getting somewhat of a push as a character known as “Meat” when the walls came tumbling down around him. He was caught taping a conversation between two other wrestlers last December and was abruptly released from the company.
Stasiak, though, has rebounded nicely since the WWF setback. He signed on with World Championship Wrestling earlier this year and now holds one half of the WCW tag-team title along with Chuck Palumbo. He says he paid a dear price for his mistake, but it’s an incident he’d just as soon put behind him.
“It’s water over the bridge, but basically it was one big misunderstanding,” Stasiak said recently. “I had been working on promos and different ideas and ways for interviewing purposes. I never carried the tape recorder to work, but for some reason I had it in my gym bag on this particular occasion. I hadn’t even planned on taking it with me to work.”
Stasiak, 29, while driving through Canada late last year, was recording the conversations of Davey Boy Smith and Steve Blackman as they argued over how to get to an arena. Stasiak claims it was just a rib and he was going to play the tape back later, but he never got the chance.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]“I had the tape recorder out and was playing it, and there were a couple of guys (Smith and Blackman) in the car I was traveling with, and I just thought I’d play a rib on them. We were in Montreal and all the signs were in French, and we were trying to figure out how to get to the arena. We were running late, the driver (Blackman) was hungry and irritable, everyone was arguing. I was recording them as a joke. My intentions were to play it back for them and say, ‘This is what you guys sound like.'”
Stasiak never got the chance. He was approached later at the airport by one of the passengers who asked if he had been recording them in the car, and Stasiak admits at that point he made a mistake. He denied recording them, put his recorder back in his bag and hoped the issue was dead.
It was only beginning.
The next day, a group of wrestlers went through his bag, removed the tape player and listened to the conversation that Stasiak had recorded. What started out as a joke had turned into a disaster for Stasiak.
“Where I went wrong was when one of them approached me. If I were really going to hide something, why would I have the tape player out? I would want to be discreet about it,” said Stasiak, who as a communications major at Boise State University often experimented with tape recorders and video cameras. “But they got to the tape before I could explain myself, and I looked like a real jerk because I denied I was taping them. The way they approached me, I realized they didn’t know me as a person, and I really didn’t know them personally. I figured at that point it wasn’t going to hurt them to not know, and I wasn’t going to have any need for it anyway, so I would have probably just erased over it.”
Stasiak says the word spread like wildfire in the WWF locker room that he was taping other wrestlers’ conversations for unknown purposes.
“It was no big deal. I wasn’t recording people’s conversations in the locker room. I was born and raised into this business. Why would I do that?”
Stasiak was fired two weeks later and given six weeks of severance pay. Jim Ross made the announcement that Stasiak had been released due to his unprofessional conduct that included taping conversations with other workers. He also broke the news to Stasiak.
“J.R. sounded like he felt bad about the whole thing. I explained everything I could. He said it was unfortunate that he had to carry out the orders of the owner of the company (Vince McMahon). J.R. even said that he was going to place a call down to WCW for me. He said if it had been up to him, this wouldn’t be happening. Apparently he recommended me to someone here.”
Stasiak claims that although he really never got the full scoop, he believes he knows who paved the way for his dismissal from the company.
“I heard rumors that one of the two guys who was in that car got in Vince’s ear and was yacking about how I was bad this and bad that. I’ll just say this. As a businessman, if I were running a wrestling company like Vince McMahon, I would look at the two – Davey Boy Smith Smith and Shawn Stasiak – and look at who’s been the most productive the last year. I think it was a poor business decision on his part. It’s not my loss.”
“The funny thing is that I apologized to both guys afterwards and explained everything, and they seemed to accept my apology. But at the same time, with one of them anyway, I was getting my throat cut. I was getting stabbed in the back. I was literally giving them rides to the arenas and hotels. We were traveling together.”
“I believe, like that saying goes, what comes around goes around. I don’t wish any harm on anybody. I’ve been praying for the guy because I think it’s pretty sad what’s going on. Things happen for a reason. A lot of that is water over the dam. This is a business, and if people can make money with you
How many people have supposedly burned bridges doing things 10 times worse than anything I ever did and have come back?”
It had been Stasiak’s dream to compete in the WWF and to be the first father-son team to hold world titles in that organization. His dad held the WWWF title for nine days after dethroning Pedro Morales at Madison Sqiuare Garden on Dec. 1, 1973. It was an era in which titles rarely changed – a fact exmplified by Bruno Sammartino’s eight and one-half year run as champion. The release initially crushed him.
“Looking back now, the thing that really discouraged me was that I thought it was little unprofessional on the WWF’s part that they couldn’t at least give me two minutes of their time to explain my side of the story. They never did.”
“I was very surprised, to be honest,” says Stasiak. “When Kurt Angle made his WWF debut, he wrestled me at Survivor Series. They showed a clipping of my dad, a little history piece, and I went and thanked them for doing it. I sincerely meant what I said, but at that point I also wanted to know what his plans for me were. I asked whether there were any certain things I should start developing or things that he would like me to start doing with my character. It sounded to me like he really had big plans for me down the road. I was told that by J.R. (Jim Ross), that they were looking at me as possibly one of the top guys for the future.”
“I just felt like they didn’t know what to do with me. But I’m very grateful and thankful for the opportunity that they gave me to train there and to get started with what I wanted to do. The only things were that I wished I could have had a better pattern of communication with them. I felt like I was walking on eggshells with them. I’ve learned a lot in the year since I’ve been down here. I see things differently.”
Stasiak had been an accomplished amateur wrestler who finished second in the Pac-10 championship two consecutive years at Boise State and was ranked in the top 12 of all Division 1 schools in the United States.
Stasiak got a tryout with the WWF in October 1997 and was invited back for an additional 10 months of training at camps run by Tom Prichard and Dory Funk Jr. where he worked out with other future WWF performers such as Edge, Christian and Val Venis. He was sent for further seasoning to Memphis where he roomed with Matt Bloom (Prince Albert) until the two were both called up to the big show.
Stasiak, whose chiseled physique on a 6-4, 240-pound frame has earned him the name of “PerfectShawn,” debuted for WCW earlier this year as a member of The New Blood and quickly launched a program with Curt Hennig, another second-generation star who perfected the “Mr. Perfect” gimmick in the WWF during the late ’80s.
Stasiak, whose real surname is Stipich, has a ring style in stark contrast to his dad’s bruising style.
“Other guys have used it. Ox Baker, The Undertaker when he was Mark Callous with WCW, Dustin Runnels in the WWF. But no one really got over with it like my dad. He was the originator of it. It’s something I may try to use soon.”
He’s enjoying his run in WCW.
“I’m very happy that they’re giving me the air time to develop a character.”
“Overall the atmosphere is pretty good. I get along with everybody. There’s been a little more tension lately because of the rumors about the company. It’s beyond my control, so I just try to do my best with what I’m given. I don’t feel job scared. At one point I might have, but not now.”
Stasiak says he feel eventually someone will have to take charge of the company.
“Someone who knows the wrestling business – someone who will write and be equal and fair to everybody, no matter if you’re 60 years old or 20 years old. It doesn’t matter. I just wish we could all get along.”
“If I think about it, I start getting stressed out about it,” says Stasiak.
Stasiak says Arn Anderson has helped him considerably since arriving in WCW. He also credits Johnny Ace and Fit Finlay with giving him advice.
“Everybody has been supportive. But you never know what’s legit and what isn’t. I take it all with a grain of salt. I have a pretty good eye for what things should look like, and I judge my performance from watching myself on tape and if I like it. I’m very self-critical. I’m far from where I where I plan on being, but it’s slowly getting there.”