This week I managed to sit down and chat with Heartland Wrestling Association wrestler and former member of the ECW ring crew Kliff Hanger. This is the first interview he has given to a UK website so we are more than delighted to hear what he had to say from what he saw happening at ECW from his tryout in the WWE and in to his wrestling character which most African-American wrestlers wouldn’t dare touch.
Hey Kliff Hanger how are you doing today?
I am great Adam, thank you for the interview time.
For all the UK fans out there who may not know about you, give us a little information on yourself and your character?
Well, my character is called Kliff Hanger. My gimmick is “The Black Redneck”. I play a so called “redneck” gimmick that no other African-American wrestler would dare touch. I am sure Britons know what a redneck is. I wear Confederate flags and everything.
Your first big job was as a member of the ECW ring crew how did you come about landing the job?
A friend of mine named Roger Cox from Dayton, Ohio was head of ECW’s Atlas Security firm. He wrestled for years before he went into the security business. He secured a wrestling tryout for myself and my old tag team partner. When spots are not available for TV, then ECW keeps you on ring crew till something opens up.
What were your thoughts on Paul Heyman and the people who worked alongside you in ECW?
I met Paul Heyman once, so I can’t say anything about him. As for the rest of the crew there, it was 50-50. I liked Nova, we were pretty good friends, Steve Corino, Tajiri (even though he speaks no English), C.W. Anderson, Redd Dogg (Rodney Mack), Jazz, and of course New Jack. I really did not like Angel from Da Baldies or Chris Chetti. They always wanted me to hook them up with my girlfriends for one night stands, but Chetti was expecting a child at the time and Angel was, for lack of a better term, a real live piece of shit.
Have you any stories you can divulge from your days there?
There are many wrestlers there I saw take drugs, as well a current Smackdown worker I personally saw use powder cocaine. But on the bright side, on my part my first “big” tryout match was for the boys only. James Costa and I did our schtick and the whole ECW locker room chanted “5 MORE MINUTES! 5 MORE MINUTES!” over and over again. Tajiri, through his interpreter, stated my partner and I could make a lot of money in Japan with our style. That is my favorite personal ECW story.
I believe you were involved in the last ECW title change on national TV, what exactly happened as we don’t get the American TV stations over here?
It was all by accident, really. Rhino was going for Kid Kash’s ECW Television title somewhere in Canada. I was at ringside and my job that night was to run like a scared little bitch whenever Rhino came by. There were about four of us. We were stooged off as “ring boys” or whatever. Anyways, Rhino came by and we took off. Unbeknownst to me, I was for some reason holding the Television title belt. Rhino yelled, “Gimme that f***ing belt, you motherf***er!!!” Of course, like any good motherfucker, I threw it to him. He blasted Kid Kash, won the match and the title. That was the last ECW title change of any kind on television. And no, Rhino was NOT the Smackdown star I was referring to.
Now you had been training and wrestling for some time before you landed this job so your goal was always to be a wrestler. You hear stories these days of wrestlers lacking respect for the business and having it easy compared to what it use to like do you think it would be valuable learning experience for upcoming wrestlers to do what you did and learn the trade of ring crew before stepping in the ring itself?
It was an experience of eating humble pie. Like, I know how good I am and how good I am not. I busted my ass for everybody on the ECW staff and other guys would walk in and get TV shots while I waited in the wings. But eventually ECW shut down before any of those guys got noticed, except TNA star Micheal Shane. As a student of 8 time NWA World Champion Harley Race, you will have respect for this business. If I can get Justin Credible coffee in Canada, get Dawn Marie hair curlers in downtown Buffalo, New York, help “smuggle” ECW T-shirts into Canada, and do the first nine months of this every weekend for absolutely no money, then you bet your ass I got a problem with lack of respect by anybody.
Now you were contacted by Terry Taylor in 1997 for tryout in the WWE how did all that come about?
This story sucks so I will keep it short. Terry Taylor called. Terry Taylor offered my tag partner and me a shot at a tryout camp if we gained 30 lbs. At the time we weighed about 170 lbs. Eleven days later Terry signed with WCW. Never heard from him again. I found out about it in The Wrestling Observer.
What was your mindset coming out of the tryout did it knock you back or make you more determined to make a career for yourself?
It was a mixed bag, to tell the truth. I can accept the fact that I will never go to the WWE, for whatever reason. Talent, look, size, who I know, who I won’t blow, etc., but at least unlike every other independent worker I know I can accept the fact that this is fun and I treat it as a fun venture that I take very seriously but will never make any money at. I have had many people, including Shark Boy (whose gimmick I absolutely would kill for!) who paid me a personal compliment in private and gave me advice on how to take my character to the next level, being NWA-TNA. I am currently putting myself through real estate school and getting a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) to be able to legally drive a truck. I am in two schools and wrestling. I don’t look at wrestling as a career choice anymore. I am only 28, but in wrestling, like gymnastics, your young years are your good years. So I am finding other ways to make a respectable, safe living while still enjoying professional wrestling.
With your New Southern Good Ol Boy character you have made a name for yourself on the Indy circuit and then touring all across North America which have been your favourite promotions to work for?
I obviously enjoyed working in HWA because of Les Thatcher and being under his experience. Also, Chad Collyer is there. He is the absolute top United States independent worker. Working for Harley Race and putting up his ring in World League Wrestling was great fun. I worked for Bill Behrens in NWA Wildside. I also worked for RWA in Canada, Big Time Wrestling in North Carolina, USWO for Tony Falk in Nashville, Metro Wrestling Alliance here in my home state of Kentucky, and of course Roger Cox’s UCW in Ohio. I particularly enjoyed Nashville because that is where I had a 30 minute conversation with “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton of the Midnight Express.
Because of the character you portray do people link you with Chris Hamrick who worked on a show put on by this website earlier this year?
Actually, no. That is the first time I ever heard that. Chris Hamrick, when I was in ECW, was the NICEST guy in the company. I like a lot of the boys there, but Hamrick was TOPS. Please print that. Chris Hamrick was and is a classy and down to earth individual. It would be an honor to be compared to Chris Hamrick. He’s wrestled for WWE and even did gimmicks on their Pay Per View. I haven’t. Case closed.
Now currently you are involved in a situation down at HWA (Heartland Wrestling Association) where you have requested to be taken off TV what’s happening?
HWA has been a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the brains there as well as they have the best locker room I have ever been around bar none. But the curse is that I have had the most absolute, God-awful, stink up the place matches in HWA. I am not blaming anyone but myself. Now, I may be putting a little bit of stank on it, but that is how I feel in my heart. The system there is so strict that it does not breed creativity. I am working a timed script, not given the opportunity to perfect my craft. So in late 2003 I requested to promoter Jason Meyers to remove me from TV so I can do dark matches only. He asked me why I wanted to do that and I explained that I want to get better and that can’t be accomplished with 4 and 5 minute matches.
These days it is becoming apparent that everyone is trying their hand at promoting shows thinking they have the next big brainwave, what are your thoughts on people promoting shows with no experience?
I have been wrestling since I was 19. I am 28 now. I will be 29 on April 30, 2004. I would not consider running a show until I was at least 15 years deep into the business. That is respect for my forefathers as well as the students. When I get at least 90% of my act together, then MAYBE I can consider that. Most U.S. wrestling promoters are just marks with rings. I know one wrestling promoter who was a security guard with no mat experience, one who sold t-shirts at other shows with no experience, and one who would only promote matches at picnics. The U.S. wrestling scene is a f***ing joke. Since 1994 I have almost seen it all, then something else shocks me.
After looking at your website it looks like you have a very moralistic and ethical approach to wrestling. So if I may ask what are your thoughts on drugs in wrestling?
Drugs and ANYTHING don’t mix. I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke cigarettes or drink or anything like that. I have never failed a drug test in my life and never would. I have a responsibility to myself, my two sons Eman and RJ, my wife Chay, and for the life God gave me. Drugs and ANYTHING don’t mix.
And Backyard wrestling?
I support backyard wrestling. Not hardcore stuff, but kids being kids. They are gonna do it, I did it, my dad did it, so let’s help the kids do it safe and fun. I would watch it. Comedians are not threatened by the funny kid at school. Professional wrestlers should not worry about backyard wrestlers. I would like to see some wrestlers get mad at a UFC competitor!
Would you ever like to come over and work in the UK and do you know much about the scene over here?
I would love to come to the U.K. I have never been on a plane before and the only foreign country I have visited was Canada. My friend Nigel McGuiness is from England and he is living in my city of Louisville, Kentucky now.
Thanks for your time Kliff any last comments?
Thank you. I appreciate the international courtesy. Cheerio, blokes! By the way, what the hell is a cockney? And I love UB40. Red, Red WINE!!! Just kidding, thanks, and visit my site at KliffHanger.8k.com