Tony Schiavone is one of the voices of wrestling, dating back to his early years in the business in the 1980s in Jim Crockett Jr.’s Mid-Atlantic territory.
Now Schiavone, an Augusta County native and James Madison University alum, has a new challenge in the wrestling business: trying to keep the talent in All Elite Wrestling happy.
AEW president Tony Khan announced earlier this month that Schiavone, an on-air talent on AEW’s weekly TV shows, “Dynamite” and “Rampage,” will add the roles of senior producer for “Rampage” and special advisor to talent on the talent relations team.
The senior producer role will have Schiavone assisting with voiceovers and continuity on “Rampage,” which most weeks is taped following the live “Dynamite” on Wednesdays to then air on Fridays.
That’s something that Schiavone has been doing in his work in the broadcast world for much of the past 40 years.
The talent relations job is the something new for Schiavone – and given the headlines the past few days out of AEW, which according to the dirtsheets is riven by internal strife, apparently all the way up to the top, with the current AEW world champ, CM Punk, among those upset with the direction of creative, Schiavone’s job here won’t be easy.
“I do know throughout the years in pro wrestling, there have been a lot of people treated like shit. Oh, yeah. And we want to change that dynamic, we really, really do,” Schiavone said last week on the “AEW Unrestricted” podcast.
The job in talent relations is to be a liaison between talent and management, which in the case of Khan, the company president, also means creative, since Khan heads things up there as well.
The talent relations team has a hand in creative, Schiavone said, mainly “as a sounding board for Tony on his creative ideas.”
The hard part with creative in a pro wrestling promotion is that “you can’t please everybody,” Schiavone said.
“Everybody wants to know what their creative is and what their vision is, and there’s so much to gather up that sometimes you just cannot give each individual person the attention he or she needs for where they’re going, where is the character going, what they’re going to do next,” Schiavone said.
“Now I’m put in the position to help Tony out with that and let them know, Hey, we care about you. Here’s where you are, you’re a big part of this, or, you know what, you’re not a big part of this right now, and here’s your role, and to just communicate, that’s all, communicate,” Schiavone said.
Already on the job there, Schiavone said his Wednesdays involve “a lot of running.”
“Basically, what I do is walk around during the day and ask people how they’re doing, and ask them if there’s if they’re happy, if there’s anything we can do to make it better. And that’s very, very important. I think we’re really making good strides. I really do. But I can tell you this, it’s slow process,” Schiavone said.
For what it’s worth, I’m of the opinion that the dirtsheet reports on the tension backstage at AEW is a work being fed to the bloggers to add a dose of reality to the AEW product.
That said, I did work, briefly – very briefly – in a startup wrestling company that had a flash in the pan on TV, and from that experience, I know that there are plenty of real-life tensions backstage, and that running interference is not an easy job at all.
“Things can get crazy, as we talked about, backstage, and a lot of times, things can get crazy, in a negative way. That’s the way it happens in wrestling,” Schiavone said. “But now we have the now we have the tools in place, the staff in place, to try to remedy that before it breaks bad. And we’re not going to be perfect at it, but I think we’re going to make it make it a better place to work, which, it has always already been a great place to work. But I think a lot of times, making a great place to work is being organized. And if your employees look at you and say, Man, they’re organized, it becomes a better workplace. They feel more confident about the company. And I think we can all say that right now.”