By Mike Mooneyham
Dec. 2, 2007
For a guy who’s destined for stardom, Ken Kennedy has had more than his share of ups and downs.
There’s no argument that the charismatic heel known as “Mr. Kennedy” is a top-tier player in WWE. But injuries and suspensions have come at the worst possible times for the 31-year-old Wisconsin native.
Some have even gone so far as to label it the “Kennedy curse.”
“John Bradshaw Layfield once told me that I have his (bad) luck,” said Kennedy, one of the featured performers on Monday night’s nationally televised Raw event at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Kennedy, whose real name is Ken Anderson and whose mat moniker was given to him by WWE owner Vincent Kennedy McMahon, has only been on the WWE’s main roster for two years. But his relatively short tenure has been marked by a strong push from management and a receptive fan base. The only thing missing is a long stretch minus the injuries and other distractions.
“I was building up some steam and momentum (in late 2005), and then I tore my lat (latissimus dorsi muscle) and was out for six months,” says Kennedy, who holds the dubious distinction of having the late Eddie Guerrero’s last match. “Then I came back and built up all sorts of steam and momentum, won the Money in the Bank at this year’s Wrestlemania and tore my triceps. They told me I was going to be out for seven months, but it turned out to be only a slight tear, and I was only out for a few months. But they took the Money in the Bank off me and put the title on Edge.”
His potentially biggest angle to date as the alleged illegitimate son of Vince McMahon was set to materialize earlier this year at a Raw in Green Bay. Shortly before the event, however, it was revealed that he had been suspended for 30 days for violating the company’s wellness policy. For storyline purposes, though, McMahon announced at the show that Kennedy had been suspended for impersonating a McMahon. The role of McMahon’s illegitimate son went to Hornswoggle.
What made the situation worse is that Kennedy had been very vocal defending the company in the aftermath of the Chris Benoit tragedy and the impending steroid scandal. Kennedy, who admitted taking steroids earlier in his career, had even told one media outlet that he quit taking the muscle-enhancing drug “because I knew that having a job with the WWE was way more important than the 10 pounds of extra muscle that the steroids gave me.”
Unbeknownst to Kennedy at the time, his name would later turn up on a list of clients of the Orlando-based Signature Pharmacy, a site that had been raided by law enforcement agencies in February for distributing steroids and other prescription drugs to clients who had not been examined by doctors. Between October 2006 and February 2007, according to documents, Anderson had received shipments of anastrozole, somatropin and testosterone.
Kennedy says he didn’t catch a lot of heat from the company when his name turned up on the list.
“I had a legitimate medical reason to have it,” he says. “How was I supposed to know my doctor’s a quack? I was injured and had a legitimate reason. I tore my lat in 2005. I had surgery, went home and had a staph infection that I almost died from. I lost about 45 pounds in about three days. I had a legitimate medical reason for having it, however my name turned up on that list. Vince and the company’s hands were tied. They had to suspend me.”
Kennedy says the incident was a learning experience for him.
“It’s one of those things. But stuff happens in this business. I’m going to learn from my mistakes. I’m not going to make that same mistake again. I’m just going to keep pushing on and moving forward.”
That being said, Kennedy agrees that stringent drug testing is a good thing.
“Change is always good in any business. This company has changed a lot since I got here. Things are a lot different in the locker room. The atmosphere is a lot different. It’s much different than it was 20 years ago.”
Kennedy claims the drug problem is not as prevalent as it was years ago in the wrestling business.
“I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this and it’s not the most popular answer with everybody, but a lot of the guys who have passed away come from that era when this business was a rock-star atmosphere. These guys lived like rock stars and they partied like rock stars. They did all the drugs. I’m not condoning drug use – anything in moderation is OK – but these guys went to the absolute extremes. It’s no wonder when you mix steroids with recreational drugs and alcohol … the combination of those three is a deadly cocktail. They’re experiencing heart problems and all kinds of other stuff. A lot of those guys are flat broke because of it.”
Kennedy, an avid Packers fan who grew up in a small fishing village in Wisconsin called Two Rivers, about 30 miles south of Green Bay, says he plans to take full advantage of his opportunity in WWE. The company loves his blue-collar work ethic, drive and passion for the business, and McMahon views him as a potential Wrestlemania headliner.
“I worked so hard to get here,” says Kennedy, noted for his unique gimmick of announcing his own ring introductions. “It wasn’t like I was an overnight success. I worked about 6 1/2 years on the independents and spent about six months down in Louisville for OVW. So I was in the business about seven years when I made my debut on WWE programming.”
Kennedy also feels like he belongs.
“I remember being younger in the business and thinking that when I get down to WWE I’m going to be so nervous, and that the first couple of years were going to be brutal. By the time I got here, I was so ready to be here and felt I deserved to be here, so it wasn’t a big shock to be here.”
Kennedy’s character in WWE, he says, is his actual personality with the volume turned up. His brash, arrogant ring demeanor is really just an extension of the person. He developed his mic skills while calling basketball games and starring in plays in high school.
“I always wanted to entertain people when I was a kid. I was kind of a class clown so it just kind of fit,” says Kennedy, who has a clown tattoo on his biceps, which he got at age 19 because he was voted class clown in high school and was always clowning around.”
He changed his name to Kennedy after a suggestion by Paul Heyman and a blessing from McMahon.
“When I sat down with Vince, he told me that he had no problem with the name Anderson, but there had been so many Andersons in the business. They were all legendary characters, and he didn’t want people to think I was related to them and riding their coattails. He wanted me to stand out and be my own entity.”
Kennedy initially wasn’t sold on the name change.
“I kind of thank him for doing that now, but at the time I was highly upset. My grandpa is a pretty old-fashioned guy, and it was a big deal that the Anderson name got to the WWE. But, in hindsight, it took me about three months to get used to calling myself Kennedy. Now I couldn’t imagine any other way.”
– Tickets for Monday Night Raw are $51, $41, $31, $26 and $21 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the North Charleston Coliseum box office, all Ticketmaster outlets or charge by phone at (843) 554-6060.
– Dave Sheldon, who wrestled during the ’80s in Texas as Angel of Death, was found dead in his apartment last weekend in Bedford, Texas. Sheldon, 43, also teamed with Jack Victory in WCW as The Russian Assassins and appeared as one of the many Black Scorpions in that company. He broke into the business in southern California with Steve Borden (later known as Sting) and Jim Hellwig (later known as The Ultimate Warrior).
– Former WCW performer Hardbody Harrison (Harrison Norris Jr.) recently was convicted of charges including conspiracy, witness tampering, aggravated sexual abuse, forced labor and sex trafficking involving eight women.
Norris, 41, who acted as his own attorney during the high-profile two-week Atlanta trial, faces the potential of life in prison. He was portrayed during the trial as a predator who used his wrestling business to lure poor and vulnerable women into prostitution and forced labor.
Witnesses testified that Norris, a former Army sergeant and veteran of the Persian Gulf War, imposed a strict military structure, with each of the women assigned to a squad overseen by an “enforcer.” One witness testified that Norris beat or threatened them to keep control and that he threatened to throw one through a hotel window when she would not engage in sex with two customers.
– Old School Championship Wrestling will hold a show Dec. 9 at Weekend’s Pub, 428 Red Bank Road, Goose Creek. Main event will be an elimination match for a chance at “King of the Ring.” Semifinal will be pit Josh Magnum against Roughhouse Matthews. Bell time is 6 p.m. Adult admission is $8 (kids 12 and under $5). For more information, call 743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com. X-Media Productions features wrestling commentary podcasts, including OSCW shows, at www.livefromthesunsetflip.com.