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JIM VARSALLONE

By Renaissance wrestler

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 22, 2001


South Florida native Konnan is one of the best overall talents in pro wrestling.

Currently working for WCW, Konnan can wrestle, cut a promo, manage, do color commentary, book matches, evaluate talent, edit shows and produce video packages.

"Creativity, that's my strong point," Konnan said. "I went into the TV studio and learned how to edit and produce. I also learned how to book. I lived and breathed wrestling 24 hours a day. That's what you have to give to something like wrestling. You have to be very passionate about it."

Konnan, a 1982 Miami Southwest High School graduate, lives in San Diego and misses Florida. He has family here and visits a couple of times a year.

Konnan led the Filthy Animals (Rey Misterio Jr., Billy Kidman, Tygress) against Team Canada (Lance Storm, Mike Awesome, Elix Skipper, Major Gunns) during the WCW pay-per-view SIN last Sunday.

"Of course, I can't say enough about Rey and Kidman. Then, you got Elix Skipper. . . . I don't think there is anyone in either promotion who is more athletically talented than him. He does some incredible stuff that I've never seen before."

Konnan says he respects Tygress.

"Tygress is also a consummate professional," he said. "She is the type of girl who would go out in a gorilla suit, if you told her to. She respects the business and loves it.

"We make it look so easy so then the bookers think anyone can do it. When you see Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, any of the girls or celebrities like Karl Malone or Dennis Rodman, they all stink up the place. After, they will go, he or she did good for their first time. Who gives a damn. They still looked horrible."

Fusient Media Ventures has entered into an agreement with Turner Broadcasting System to acquire WCW.

Following the acquisition, TBS will retain a minority interest in WCW and long-term programming rights. The proposed acquisition marks the return of Classic Sports Network founders Brian Bedol and Stephen Greenberg to the cable arena and the return of former WCW president Eric Bischoff to the world of professional wrestling.

"Eric Bischoff, without a doubt, is one of the smartest guys I've met in my life," Konnan said.

Konnan evaluated his career thus far in WCW. "I'm a little disappointed," Konnan said. "Without getting into specifics, I've been under-utilized. Rey Misterio Jr., Billy Kidman, Lance Storm and others have fallen into that category. You get lost in the shuffle through politics. That's not sour grapes. Bottom line, I've been a victim of circumstance and a victim of politics.

"The fans know where I was two years ago and where I could have taken off from there with the wrestling and the music. I could have had a record album out. I should have been a guy who would be a representative for all the Latinos and minorities because of my street lingo and street attire, so urban and easily identifiable."

In the early 1990s, Konnan made a name for himself in Mexico. Pro wrestling fame in Mexico means mainstream celebrity status -- soap operas, commercials, records.

Konnan became one of the biggest draws in Los Angeles, setting records as a headliner at the Sports Arena with crowds of more than 17,000 for the Mexican promotion AAA in 1994. He soon ventured into WCW, battling to reach the top level.

Konnan, a.k.a. Charlie Ashenoff, has come a long way from his days in Carol City. He spent much of his childhood bouncing from elementary school to elementary school. Trained in karate and boxing, he had his share of fights.

Finally settling down, Konnan played basketball and graduated from high school. He joined the Navy in 1983 and made its boxing team. He became a pretty good amateur boxer, winning the California Middleweight Title, but a shoulder injury ended his boxing stint. The injury opened the door to a career in pro wrestling.

"I was trying to rehabilitate my shoulder, going to the gym a lot," Konnan said. "I wanted to get strong and started to get into body building."

One day he went to see wrestling in Tijuana.

"I was mesmerized by the capes, the spectacular style, the flips, the dives," Konnan said.

On Jan. 6, 1988, Konnan celebrated his birthday by making his wrestling debut in an eight-man tag team match for the UWA.

"I was just a big body builder type (something rare in Mexican wrestling circles) who didn't know how to wrestle," Konnan said. "I had charisma, and people liked me. I was selling out shows night after night after night on the border near El Paso, Texas. . . . The promoters in Mexico found out about that and put me on TV. People were just so taken aback by my physique. They didn't care how I wrestled."

Later, Konnan received some expert instruction. Rey Misterio Sr. (the uncle of Rey Misterio Jr.), Super Astro and Negro Casas helped train Konnan in Mexico. Eddie Guerrero (also a current star in WCW) and his father the great Gory Guerrero worked with Konnan in Texas. Konnan also watched a lot of wrestling films and made friends with some of the legends of Mexican wrestling.

-- Pro wrestling columnist Jim Varsallone can be reached at wrestling@tampabay.com.

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