I met Ali Stevens back in February, 2000, when Randy Hales, the founder, owner, and president of Power Pro Wrestling (PPW) invited the fans from the Memphis Wrestling Internet Mailing list to attend a TV taping at the WMC-TV studio, and to come backstage after the show and meet the wrestlers. He is not only one of the most talented wrestlers to come through the Memphis area, but also one of the most down-to-earth people you will ever meet. I got a chance to talk to Ali while he was at home recovering from an injury. We talked about a variety of subjects including his start in wrestling, Memphis Championship Wrestling (MCW) becoming one of the World Wrestling Federations developmental territories, and how he made it to the Big Time with World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
How did you get started?
I went to a family reunion and Sylvester Ritter was there ... and he gave me the names of some people running shows in ST. Louis. I was trained by those guys for about a year. Then I went on the road with a guy by the name of Bill AsheÉand from there that was it.
Back in St. Louis, did you work with any wrestlers that anyone would know now?
No, it was an independent circuit. King Kong Brody was one of the main guys that helped put the group together before he died. The only person who had actually made it out of one of the groups I worked in St. Louis was Kane (Glenn Jacobs) but like everyone else he had to go down to Memphis to make it.
How did you get to Memphis?
Now you have a story! I went down to Power Pro a year or so ago. Not long after they got started. On older tapes with Jackie on them, you can see me sitting in the audience. It was really weird because I came to meet [Jerry] Lawler and [Bill] Dundee, but I never got to meet Randy [Hales]. Dundee told me -- and this is after I had been working for Harley Race, Jake Roberts, Bill Ashe, and of course, Sylvester -- but Dundee told me I didnt have what it would take to make it in Memphis. He told me if I wanted to work for Power Pro, Id have attend his school, his training center, and pay him money to train there. So I ended up going to Dyersburg with those guys, and I was doing Atomic Dog gimmick. Then after Lawler and Dundee left, I went down [to Power Pro Wrestling] again and I got in touch with Brandon [Baxter], and I actually got to meet Randy this time and we talked to Jim Cornett, and we talked about a gimmick that had been kicked around up north for a while, and Brandon had a good idea as to how it should go, and Ali just came out of there.
What was it like working with the WWF guy when Power Pro had the development deal?
A lot of people have their different opinions on it, but to me, it was great. I saw it as an opportunity to meet people like Jim Ross, and Bruce Pritchard, and get an opportunity to work with Jim Cornett closely, and the talent -- I dont think you can get any better than [Steve Bradley] on the Indy scene -- and the same goes for some of the others. So, to me, it was a learning experience. When you get with guys like that, whove been around, whove been trained up North by people like Dory Funk -- it was great! I know there were a lot of rumors about problems. I think the guys that were not happy were not unhappy about being in [Power Pro,] but they were just not happy about being in Memphis period, you know? They wanted to be at home, like I am here [in Atlanta].
Do you keep in touch with the WWF guys who just got promoted?
Here and there. I talk to Viscera on a regular basis. I pretty much do emails with the guys up in Ohio Valley. I have not talked to Kurt [Angle], but if I see them at a show or at the airport well sit down and talk and grab a soda or something. We do that a lot. Ive run into a lot of those guys at the airport. Everybodys pretty cool, but we dont call each other just to shoot the shit a lot; its not that kind of situation. I thought me and Bradley would have kept in touch but they sent him to Puerto Rico. So I havent heard from him since
Yeah I miss him in Memphis --
[Laughter] I think everybody does, That was a talented dude. He knew all the aspects. I wish I knew why hes not on TV now.
Yeah Id like to know myself. How do you think this move, the WWF taking the development deal away from PPW affect it?
I think it was for the better. I read a lot on the Internet that a lot of the guys give Randy a hard time about Randy not running house shows. But see, what they dont understand is that regardless of what anybody has ever told you, house shows dont make money. If you dont pull 2,000-3,000 people, you dont make money. If you got a guy like Bill Dundee or somebody like myself coming from St. Louis, who youre paying 150-200 bucks or you have 5-6 guys youre paying 50 bucks, and 2-3 youre paying $150 or more, then youve got to pay for the building and the ring rental. If youve done any type of advertising youve got to pay for that. What people dont understand is just because youve put 300 people in a building doesnt mean youve made your money. If you only put 300 people at $8 a head its a good chance between all your rental stuff and paying your guys the set up the ring, and your concessions and everything else, youve probably lost money.
Randy right now is trying to make a little bit of money, so see if hes making money from the sponsorship hes actually making some money. Compared to how we were doing, its not that you cant make money on house shows but like I said, if youre not drawing nice numbers youre not making any money. So in my opinion when they took the deal from randy they took a lot of the pressure off. If you had been there the second week after it was done, it was a whole new locker room. We all had fun, nobody was bitchin, it was like a whole new set up. Ill admit I miss Jim Cornett being there, I miss the wrestlers, but I dont miss the politics. And of course, they are people who will say yea, he didnt miss it because it shot him up to the top. Wrong, because I was being shot up to the top anyway; but it really didnt matter.
But I think for Power Pro itself that was the best thing that could happen because no matter what anybody says -- Ive seen the sheets -- if you got look at the sheets of the ratings PPW has more than held their own against the WWF farm league who is using WWF TV talent, and thats pretty good if you ask me. Thats pretty good. I think without the pressure of having to put on house shows and that kind of stuff it just made for a better. We were all happy. If you had been backstage a couple of times it was horrible.
Speaking of sheets and all, what do you think of the Internet and its impact on wrestling?
I am not one of those guys who thinks the Internet has hurt wrestling, but I dont think it has made it any better. The widespread use of cable has made it what it is today. I do think that like what they call the smart marks. I think a smart mark is nothing but a person who has common sense. A person who is smart enough to know were not really out there to kill each other. Just like a person who likes soap operas is smart enough to know that a person didnt really die last week -- you know that type of shit. But I also think you got a lot of guys out there who couldnt make it in this business because theyre too lazy and they tell stuff that nobody should know. And its the same thing; I feel the same way about those TV shows, what are those shows? The Secrets of Pro Wrestling, about how we do stuff. See thats the same thing.
But I think the widespread Internet thing where you can look on here and see what happens on a show and you guys can give your opinions, so I think thats great. I think the wrestling boards are some of the biggest ones out there, right? I mean, I think its good because Im not going to lie; I get a lot of press. So I think its great. I do think the problem is not guys like you or guys like Chris Bell or things like that, I think its wrestlers who worked on Indy scenes and couldnt make it or they come down to places like the Power Plant and they couldnt make it and they get on there and they tell a bunch of crap or that type of stuff.
Speaking of the Power Plant, tell us how you got hooked up with WCW?
In all honesty, it was Jim Cornett [that helped me get to WCW.] I owe everything right now to Jim Cornett, Harley Race and Terry Taylor. Through Jim Cornett, I got to speak to Terry Taylor when he was leaving the WWF. And my situation with the WWF -- when they switched over -- it blew my situation with them. And Terry stayed in touch and Cornett stayed on top of Terry and from what I understand I was invited down to the Power Plant; Terry Taylor brought me -- you know everybody builds their groups -- so Terry came in and wanted to bring in as much good talent as he could and he wanted to do a lot with new talent and I was one of the first ones that he picked to bring in as one of his boys, so to speak.
Ive seen a few of specials on the Power Plant, saying how its so tough and how a bunch of people start in the class, and it ends with a few. Is it really that bad?
Well, let me tell you, the first day, I had to call home and my girlfriend had to talk me into staying -- thats how bad it was. The second day, I called her and she tried to talk me into staying and I about told her to kiss my ass. The first day I was like Man Im not doing this because when I came down Im thinking Ive been wrestling for seven years; I shouldnt have to go through this.
But let me tell you; at that time I turned into the same guys I just told you about. They come down, they come into places now and they talk about how bad WCW is right now, but when you look at whats happening now -- a lot of new faces, a lot of new hungry guys, a lot of new guys who are going to get in there and you know what? We will do whatever it takes. Will come off a 20 feet cage; you know what kind of stuff I would do in PPW, and they wouldnt even let me do half the stuff I wanted to do. So, you know were not making $1 million a year, yet. Stuff like that so, you can look for a lot of changes to happen and thats what they wanted. So when they run you through those drills theyre running you through those drills for one thing: number 1 stay. number 2 you have the drive, and thats what its about. Anybody can walk into a place -- you guys dont know enough about wrestling -- you could walk into a wrestling thing and get a job if you wanted. But does that make you a wrestler and will that make you a star? Hell, no. Youre just another guy on the card.
Whom have you worked with in the Power Plant?
Today, all the girls were down there, we see them on a regular basis. David Flair, on my web site there will be a picture of me and David Flair. Johnny The Bull as soon as he finishes up his rehab, he should be back [wrestling] soon. I talked to Scott Steiner a few days ago and showed me his new motorcycle. [Laughter]
Pretty much all of the new talent is on a deal where they have to come to the Power Plant at least once a month.
Ive been hearing rumors about you and a guy named Tony Norris.
Ahmed Johnson. I really cant answer that right now. For one, I really dont know what the game plan is; I understand there could be three different scenarios: theres a tag team situation of course, and I guess that might be that one that everybodys talking about. And in my opinion that would probably be my choice, because I know tagging with him, with our size and everything we would surely rocket to the top. Youre definitely talking about it Doom
with the way they did the Road Warriors I mean youre talking about; I mean that would be my first choice. But they theres this thing going on with the Power Plant guys, [The Natural Born Thrillers stable] and theyre missing a little color in that group, [laughter] so that could happen. Then of course theres the whole thing that when I first came in theres the possibility of Ali staying and doing the same character I was doing at PPW, so it could go 3 or 4 ways and it could go another way. I dont want to say anything and then it changes or switches and I look stupid...
Yeah, stuff could change at a moments notice--
[Laughter] thats the truth. That is the truth...
Tell me, how have you improved since you walked in the Power Plant?
Well, basically, I feel my improvement more in my attitude #1 because there are no superstars in this company anymore, they tell you that when you walk in the door -- not that I thought I was a superstar while I was in Memphis or nothing like that -- but you have to have a totally different attitude. Its more of a working attitude. Im here to work and have a great time you know and thats it.
Basically my style of wrestling has changed. Im sure you saw my last couple of matches in PPW they were a bit off. The one I had with Spellbinder was really off because if you notice at certain points I was getting ready to go into wrestling compared to the brawling style that I was doing before and that he does. At one point I think I even went into a Russian Suplex. I was getting ready to go into a hold and work some stuff and I had to catch myself and say wait a minute this aint right now. Basically now I consider myself more of a worker and if I get the opportunity to actually work a match on Memphis TV I would like that, but I mean I do a lot of stuff now like I do that Spring Elbow that Bradley used to do off the second turnbuckle out of a corner. I do that now. Summersault leg drop, I did get to do that on PPW before I left.
Ive got a new finisher which I think I got to do on that one kid but Spellbinder was coming in the ring that day, so there are a hand full of new moves that theyve put together for my character that way youre looking at a big guy, 275-280, who can wrestle and can also brawl. Compared to now most of WCW guys the big guys, theyre coming in and theyre brawling -- its the lets kill -- they look like finna come kill somebody. But to a wrestling fan like yourself, youre seeing 275 pound Rock and HHH wrestling so then when you see Brian Adams or Kronik yeah, they in there kicking ass but can they work? Dont get me wrong, now when youre talking about Brian Adams or Brian Clarke they can work their asses off. Thats the sense of how people talk about WCW talent; Kevin Nash doesnt do nothing; Hulk Hogan didnt do nothing; that type of stuff. So weve building the big guys who can work an arm drag if I have to. Thats pretty much they way that theyre making everybody in the power plant work now.
[TOMORROW: Older wrestlers, WCW and TV, and the problem with "Indies."
(You can e-mail James Haley at email@example.com