Ken Doane Interview talks wrestling new book more

Gary Mehaffy Interviews Ken Doane (formerly known as Kenny Dykstra)

Interview conducted Sunday, 17th February, 2013

You started wrestling in your mid-teens. What, or who, inspired you to get involved in the industry?

I started when I was 13. I went to Killer Kowalski’s school in Boston, Massachusetts. I was told find what you want to do and get paid to do it. I didn’t know anything else, so I was like “I love wrestling, so how do I get paid to do this?” I looked up WWE and stuff, and went to Stamford and asked for a job. They kind of laughed at me, because I was 13 at the time! I then went to train with Killer Kowalski when I was 13 years old.

You were still only in your late teens when WWE hired you. Obviously you were a fan, but how did you feel about getting that opportunity at such a young age?

I thought it was great! I knew that I had earned it, because I’d gone there and done dark matches for them when I was 16 and 17, and when I was 18 they signed me. I’d paid my dues – every weekend from I was 13 I’d wrestled – so I’d had five years (experience). Nowadays, if you look at some of the guys they hire, 5 years is like an eternity! They’re hiring people after two weeks!

You won the OVW TV title not long after your 19th birthday. Were you aware, even at this point in your career, that WWE had high hopes for you?

Yea, I kind of figured they did. I mean, they have high hopes for everybody – if they hire somebody, it’s an investment. Just the fact of being in OVW under contract – anybody who has been in developmental under contract, WWE has high hopes for.

Some people may not be aware of the full story, but what led to you becoming part of the Spirit Squad?

You know, I’m not sure! When I’d been in OVW they’d brought me on the road a bunch of times. I’d wrestled as Kenn Doane and got over really well with the crowd as a heel. One day they brought a bunch of us and said “We want to do the Spirit Squad.” I kind of like laughed and said “Are you serious?” Vince McMahon was like “Yes. That’s what I want.” To me, it didn’t really matter what I was doing – when you’re there, you’re there. It’s a team, you’re part of a team. If you’re on a team you might not like your position, but that’s what makes it successful. I always looked at WWE as a big team. There was competition out there, but we’re trying to be the best. If I need to be a male cheerleader to be the best for the team, then that’s what I’m going to do!

I interviewed Mondo in July 2012, and he was saying that he effectively got into the Spirit Squad when someone dropped out. Did the five of you hope that this would evolve into a long term heel unit or were you aware that it may have a short shelf life?

You know, I don’t think anybody thought about that. We took it one week at a time. We’re doing this, this is great, let’s keep going. We knew eventually, after 6 months, that it had to end – we never knew when it would end, but we knew it would end. We just didn’t know how. We thought maybe we could fight each other, maybe we could branch out, but unfortunately none of that happened.

You were viewed, rightly or wrongly, by the wrestling public as the leader of the group. Was there any animosity from the rest of the guys towards you because of that?

No, there never was. I knew, eventually, I knew that going forward that how I worked and how I did things that I would emerge as the leader. That was my plan the whole time. If there’s 5 people, somebody has to be the leader. WWE never said any of us would be the leader, but I designed things…..I had my own way of doing it. I had been wrestling longer than anybody in the entire Spirit Squad at that time, so I knew how to piece things together. I’d learnt that from Killer Kowalski. All the other guys there had just wrestled in OVW, so that’s what they knew. No discredit, but Killer Kowalski had given me the extra mentality of how to be different and how to stand out when you’re in a group, and that’s exactly what I did. But no, there wasn’t any animosity from the other guys, because I always stuck up for them. We were a group. Five of us made a decision, not one of us.

You were involved in a feud/program with DX in 2006. For someone who was still only 20 years old this must have been, as a WWE fan, an awesome experience for you.

It was a great experience. Just to think that a few years earlier I was watching Shawn Michaels and HHH fight each other at SummerSlam. I was watching it on Pay-Per-View, but then the next day I had to go to school. Now here I am, on the Pay-Per-View fighting those guys. It was cool, but again it wasn’t something that I knew I couldn’t do. It was something that I knew eventually would happen. That’s just the way that I viewed my wrestling career – I knew I would succeed no matter what. The fact that it (the DX feud) came when I was 20 was just a benefit in itself.

On a personal note you also had the opportunity to wrestle against Flair 1-on-1. How was that experience?

Ric Flair was awesome! He was probably one of the best guys that I’ve ever wrestled – probably in the top three. He has a whole different style of wrestling. He doesn’t talk at all! He just goes and does stuff and you have to react. You’ll see guys get in the ring with Flair and they look like crap, but that’s because he doesn’t talk to them. You just have to feel your way through it. I’d had that experience before, in my earlier career in the independents and with Kowalski, so it wasn’t that hard to adjust to Ric Flair. If anything, it was great to work with him.

There was an absolute burial of the Spirit Squad gimmick in November 2006, when you were figuratively shipped back to OVW. Were you disappointed in that or were you looking forward to your future opportunities outside of the group?

WWE does things all time, like inside jokes and stuff. It didn’t really matter, because the only people who got that were the 3% of wrestling fans that knew of OVW. 97% of wrestling fans have no idea what OVW is. They don’t even care. They want to watch WWE, they want to watch the guys that they know. They don’t care where they’re from. On the other hand, I was happy for OVW because it gave them all the publicity. It didn’t matter to me. Some of the other guys were a little upset, but I was like “Eh, whatever.” If that’s what they want to do to get a cheap rise out of themselves then that’s what they’re going to do. There’s nothing you can do about it.

You were released by the company in late 2008. How disappointed were you in that and were you given any reasons for it?

I wasn’t really disappointed. To me, things had run their course. It had got to the point where I was there just to make people look good and work with their younger talent – not younger, I was, like, the youngest – but on house shows I would wrestle Kofi Kingston and Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes, a bunch of these guys that were coming up. Eventually, they wanted me to work with them. If anything, it doesn’t matter what your spot is on the show as long as you’re on the show. That’s what they wanted me to do. They trusted me to have great matches with these new guys and to help them. I would talk to Jonny (Ace) afterwards and say “What do you think about this guy? How is he? Is he ready?”, stuff like that. So it felt good to know that they knew I had a lot of potential and a lot of skill, but the creative department, that’s a whole different ball game. If they don’t have nothing for you they have nothing for you! And half of that’s political. I’m not a politician – I just go to work!

Over the next year or two you wrestled for DGUSA and Evolve, but you also had a try-out for TNA. Was there much serious interest from them in you at that point?

Dragon Gate and Evolve was awesome. I worked hands on with Gabe Sapolsky – he’s a great guy and a great promoter. We got along great and it worked out great. TNA flew me down and were really interested. Then, they wanted me to fly myself down and all that – at this point in my career I’m not going to force them to give me a job! If they want me to be there they’ll hire me. And the money that they offered anyway was so minimum. I did the math out in front of them – “OK, you’re going to pay me X amount of dollars. After my rental car and my hotel and my food, I’m bringing home close to $0, I’m barely breaking even.” It wasn’t worth it for me. I told them politely “No thanks, I’m not really interested if that’s the money that you have to offer me.” I’m not trying to be mean, but it’s just not for me!

Also around that time, you did a dark match for WWE. How frustrating was that for you, given the time you had already spent in the company and they knew what you could do?

It didn’t matter to me. I was glad that I did a dark match. A lot of times with the dark match, fans are so educated now that they know the very first match of the night, no-one is going to see it on TV, so it doesn’t really matter to the fans anyways. The fact that they remembered me, and I got booed out of the building – and they hadn’t seen me in a few years – let me know that I was good at what I do, because these people still don’t like me. They still booed me when I came out. For me, it was reassuring for me to know that they (WWE) know what I can do.

Before we move on to your life away from the ring, is there anything from your time in WWE that you would change?

No. I think that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes things happen and people question it and go “I don’t understand why that happened!” I think powers to be work in crazy ways that later on in life you can learn from and make a situation better than it was before. That’s kind of where I’m at in my life. I don’t really watch the product, I don’t know what’s going on in wrestling. I still talk to some of the guys because they’re my friends, but we don’t really talk about wrestling at all. We just talk about life and what’s going on.

Last year you enrolled in college. Obviously you missed out on the opportunity to do this during your run with WWE. Was going back to study always something that you had planned to do?

Yea, it was always something that I had in mind. I always had two goals in life. One was to wrestle for WWE and one was to graduate college. I had different scholarships with different colleges to go and play football, but I had to turn them down because I signed with WWE instead. It was always in mind that at some point I wanted to go back and do what I wanted to do. Your body doesn’t last forever. Well, Ric Flair, he seems to last forever, I don’t know how! But the majority of people aren’t going to be a wrestler long term, so I always knew I was going to go back to school.

You have been playing football for your college. Were you always a natural athlete/sportsman, or was this just something that you wanted to try?

I was always a natural athlete. I played football my whole life, really. I played 12 years of football. I was on the first team to ever win the state championships in my High School, that was really cool. Our High School had been around for so many years and never won the championships. They’d lost, like, 8 championships, and then I was on the first team to actually win the “Superbowl” for our school. That was great. I was a linebacker. I knew I good at football, but I always thought I was good at basketball. People say I’m really good – maybe I don’t give myself enough credit! I can slam dunk, I can shoot 3 pointers pretty damn good. Maybe next year I’ll play college basketball too!

Only a couple of weeks ago you announced that you have written a children’s book, called ‘Billy’s Bully’. How did the idea for it come about?

The idea came about…….I wrote the book in 2009 actually. I was reading a book by Dr. Seuss. When he was alive, the books were amazing, but after he died I thought the books just sucked, they were horrible. I was like “You know what? I’m going to write a book.” I wrote it on bullying because it is such a topic nowadays, such a controversial topic. Back in the day there was no bullying, but now there’s bullying laws, there’s anti-bullying, and I think it’s great. So many kids get bullied and there have been cases where they’ve carried out huge massacres because they were bullied, and I thought this was a way I could reach out, because I know a lot of school teachers……’s not in the government to teach about bullying, but it is in the curriculum to teach about reading books. So if I wrote a children’s book on bullying then that would do both – it would teach them about bullying and it would help them read the books.

It’s funny you say that. I’m actually a primary school teacher – I teach 10 and 11 year olds – and we would spend some time looking at bullying and so on. But do you think that given you have spent time on TV on a worldwide basis that it will help open doors for you to talk to kids about the effect bullying can have on their lives?

Yea I think so. I think that especially in WWE I was a bad guy, I guess you could say I was a bully in WWE. But it’s to let them know that that is a show. Sometimes when they see stuff on TV they emulate it in real life, so to let them know I’m not the guy they saw on TV. In real life, I’m a nice person. I want to help you guys. My goal is to stop bullying and I think starting with this book is a good start.

What’s next for you after college? Would you like to get into wrestling again full time or is writing/talking to kids more of an appeal for you?

Wrestling is always there. I do a lot of stuff in Puerto Rico for Carlos Colon. That’s where I mainly do it now because he’s a great guy. What he has going on down there is awesome. There’s no politics, there’s nothing – it’s just come in, go to work and that’s it! Wrestling is never out of the question. I would like to have a lesser role. I don’t want to be a wrestler. I wouldn’t mind a behind the scenes stuff, or commentating or managing – that’s always an option. Although my college degree is sports management, so I might go and become and NFL agent. Who knows where I’m going to end up! Last year, if you said I was going to publish a book I’d have said “You’re crazy! I’ll never publish a book!”

You’re still a young guy. What goals do you have for yourself in the future?

I’m 26 right now – my plan is to retire when I’m about 30 or 31! I’m on the right track, that’s what I can tell you! (laughs) People think if you’re not in WWE you’re nothing, you don’t accomplish anything. I’ve actually accomplished a lot more out of WWE than when I was in WWE. My life outside is even better than my life in WWE, so going back to wrestling full time…..I don’t know if I would do it full time, but then again they don’t let you go part time, so maybe it’s not (an option). We’ll see!

Doing the book will give you the opportunity to talk to a lot of kids, and some of them will talk about wanting to become a wrestler and emulating what you’ve done. What advice would you give to them if they wanted to do that?

I’d say whatever you want to do, nothing is impossible. I’ve overcome many odds and obstacles in my life, and proven anything is possible, so if you want to become a professional wrestler then become a professional wrestler. Whatever you want to do, don’t ever look back and say “I Wish I’d tried this!” If you want to be an astronaut, be an astronaut. You can be whatever you want to be!

How can people get in touch with you via twitter etc.?

I’m on twitter - @kenndoane – and you can follow my facebook page – it’s – that’s the children’s book. The Facebook page gets people behind the scenes on how the book was made and the success and what not, and the contract signings. There is everything from contract signings to sketches that might not even make the book, and they can follow it right the whole way through to the finished product.

Do you have any words for the fans? Some look back on the Spirit Squad fondly, but they polarised the wrestling fans.

For fans, I say thank you for being there for wrestling. For the fans that are smart enough to get the show, thank you for understanding. There are fans that hate me no matter what, because I beat up Shawn Michaels or something (laughs), but it’s all good! If it wasn’t for the fans they wouldn’t have paid for my bills for a long time!

One last thing. With the football that you’re playing – do you have any injuries that have carried over that have hampered you?

At first my body was sore but I pushed through it. The last day of the year I tore my ACL. It wasnt football, it was wrestling actually! It was just a freak injury. I’ll be back next season, even better!

What do the coaches think of you wrestling as well as doing football?

I think they think that I’m crazy! But then they love it, because I have a passion for football. I have the same passion for football that I had for wrestling. They know I’m doing everything I can to win.

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