Many pro-wrestling insiders agree that Tom Zenk is an extraordinary talent, in all the departments necessary to be a major star.
So we've been puzzling for some time over a number of questions about Tom Zenk's wrestling career. In particular why Zenk received such an uneven push in WCW, where he spent late-1989 through to mid-1994. Much of that time was spent making other wrestlers look good - instead of fulfilling Zenk's own substantial talent.

We thought we'd put these questions to a number of experienced pro-wrestlers, beginning first up one half of the unforgettable Fabulous Ones, Steve Keirn.

We interviewed Keirn at his gym in Tampa, Florida, as Dean Malenko was training not far away. Keirn had some things to say about the current unhappy state of affairs at WCW ...... similar things that led to Tom Zenk's departure from that fed in 1994.

 

FACE TO FACE with..... STEVE KEIRN (1997)


Steve Keirn has more than 25 years experience in the pro-wrestling business, both as a wrestler and promoter. Diamond Dallas Page, attributes his understanding of ring psychology to Steve Keirn. Says Page, "It makes me laugh when people think that they know wrestling psychology. Until you have been in the ring, you don't know **** and believe me, Steve Keirn knows his ****"

Steve Keirn's first encounter with Tom Zenk was in the AWA in the mid 1980s - what was Tom like as a rookie?

"Tom was a funny, practical joker. He had a good sense of humor. I wouldn't say he was the guy everyone wanted to be in the car with, but he was a down to earth, nice guy".

Zenk and Martel? Martel has recently spoken some harsh words against Tom Zenk dating back to the split up of the Can-Am Connection in 1987. What was the situation there?

"Well I think Tom wanted to build a good reputation for wrestling. He was being put in a situation where he was very uncomfortable and was concerned that he could lose his reputation in the sport. Tom stood up for what he believed in, he walked out on money for integrity".

Zenk and Pillman?

"I don't know anything about that".


Zenk and Keirn?

"I haven't worked with him but wouldn't hesitate if the opportunity came up and would certainly put him over if asked, out of respect."

CANDOR
The picture you're painting of Tom Zenk is a guy with a lot of integrity and a big commitment to the sport - so why his uneven push, especially with WCW?

"Tom's performance was never a concern. He's a great talent but, like so many guys that come out of Minnesota , he can't help but express his opinion. And it's the truth .... but it kills him".


You mean he was penalized for saying what he thought?


"Yes, I agree, Tom was never pushed to his proper spot. I can only say that I feel it was never a question of ability.... like I said [more likely] his timing on speaking the truth about his feelings or opinion".


So, sometimes, in some federations, under some management, doing what you're told can count for more than wrestling ability?


"In Tom's case - he didn't play the game so he got shut out, downcarded. He didn't want to play the parts the promoters wanted him to, so they found someone who would. Tom had all the tools it takes, but he didn't like to be told what to do and when he wasn't happy it sometimes showed in his work. He would either mouth off, get an attitude or show it in his facial expressions. I refer back to his Minnesota mindset ....expressing his opinion no matter what it cost him".

GREEN EYED MONSTERS?
Keirn also believes personal and professional jealousies played a part in Zenk's uneven push in WCW -

"There are several variables that could have come into play.... such as, a jealously of Tom's appearance. His body and good looks might have been a threat to a top guy who had the ear of the booker or promoter. Its a cut-throat business and a lot of guys only want themselves to be pushed and will do more than push anyone who gets in their way. There are exceptions to this, like Zenk and Terry Taylor".

Headliners for WCW at the time, who had most to lose from Tom's success, included Ric Flair, Lex Luger and Sting but Steve didn't mention any names.

All of Tom Zenk's partners later turned heel (Martel, Pillman, Gunn, Bagwell). Can you suggest any reason whyTom stuck with face even when it was clearly working against him - I mean, for example, with the crowds in Philadelphia?


"He was told to stay a face. Promoters and bookers don't want your opinions about who to be. They want everyone to think it's their ideas that keep the show popular".


So the bookers effectively consigned Zenk's career to jobbing for incoming "hard men" - irrespective of his sizeable ring ability.


"Yes. You are only as good as the people in charge make you look."

MARKS IN CONTROL

This makes it sound like there's a pretty unprofessional management at WCW - what's your opinion of the situation there?


"Right now they have a mark in control of the WCW and until they smarten up and figure a way to get the same results without him, Tom will be over-looked. WCW is setting records because of one main reason and that is the man "Hulk" - no matter who else is claiming credit. Cut and dry, you can say what you want, but the bottom line is that Hogan is one of the best recognized figures in the world. Others such as Macho (Randy Savage) and Perfect (Curt Hennig) accent the show but most of the others who were in WCW for long periods, have had their chance to draw, and failed until the WWF crew relocated in the south. Two guys that stand out today as creative wrestlers are Hennig (he can wrestle differently every night) and Bobby Eaton (if they'd just let him)".

Some people have suggested that what WCW needs right now is someone like yourself (Keirn) in there - if a major fed rang, would you be available?


"I was approached to be a booker for WWF at one time but I turned it down. Meant moving to Connecticut, uprooting my family, and not knowing the future of the business. If WCW called, I'd turn it down at present. I could never work with Eric Bischoff! He's the worst thing to happen to WCW, he's a total mark! He has no idea how to treat employees or associates, he's just on a big ego trip. One day somebody will kick his butt so hard, so bad that he won't be doing this any more".

Do you think Tom Zenk can recover from the damage to his career at the hands of jealous headliners and inexperienced management?


"I still believe that Tom could be anything that most others are. But it's left in the hands of promoters and if you rub one guy wrong they will lie about you to kill you in the eyes of others".


MAKEOVER

If Tom did make a comeback it could hardly be as a face as things currently stand - can you think of any successful faces in the business now?

No babyfaces now! The people in the North East have a lack of respect for their fellow man, just giving people what they think they want. I mean, Cactus Jack is being portrayed as a babyface! He's not exactly GQ magazine material but this is their idea of a face.

What about the storylines today's feds are using?


"It's hard to create angles because there's not much talent writing them. They use storylines from talk shows or situation comedies on television today".


Well, how would you makeover Tom Zenk for a come-back?


"What would I do to change Tom? Turn him heel if baby (face) wasn't working. He would have heat, cause all the guys would be jealous!! ....Come in as a babyface, then turn heel. I would make Tom a babyface with an arrogant attitude. When he realizes he's not as good as he thinks he is, that's when he starts to turn. The crowd don't like him in this persona (as a babyface), so he turns to show just how big a heel he can be. Tom thinks this move will win him the fans' adoration. Since nobody likes him, he turns heel to play off of the dislike. This is sort of like the Jericho angle.


If Tom was interested in comeback, how would you see his future?


Tom would be making major money now. If he were pushed by the promoters, it'd be worth it for his career. But I think the work he's doing now is better than the headaches at WCW, less pressures, less money...but money isn't everything. There's no doubt in my mind that he has seen it all. No matter what position you put him in he could handle the ball. ...He has all the tools of a well experienced pro plus he's paid his dues... Actually he could be the main event for any company and draw money with the best of them. I personally feel, as a former promoter of Florida Championship Wrestling, I could have made Tom an icon here in Florida as a top wrestler, with very little effort. And I say this not only as an opinion but an opinion backed up with 25 years in this business".


THE MINNESOTA CONNECTION
Minnesota was the home of AWA and continues to support contemporary independents such as World Television Wrestling. Minnesota wrestlers include, in addition to TOM ZENK, in alphabetical order- Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, Wayne Bloom, Nick Bockwinkle, Jim Brunzell, Rick Flair, Da Crusher, Barry Darsow, Demoliton, Mike Enos, Greg Gagne, Verne Gagne, Scott Hall, Curt Hennig, Larry the Axe Hennig, John Nord (Berserker, Viking), Scott Norton, Steve Olsonoski, Ken Patera, Brad Rheingans, Roadwarriors (Hawk and Animal), Rick Rude, Syxx, Baron Von Raschke.... all from Minnesota or 'at home' there.


LINKS

Steve Keirn started off his 25 years career with pro-wrestling as one half of the "Fabulous Ones", which, throughout the mid-80s was one of the hottest tag teams in wrestling. He was also "Skinner" in the WWF and the second "Doink". He is co-owner of a Gold's Gym in Tampa, Florida with one of the Killer Bees, B. Brian Blair. Steve continues to wrestle occasionally between commitments to his gym and lobbying the US President and Congress for nomination of his father for a Congressional Medal of Honor. Steve's father was one of only two men in history to be a POW in two separate wars two decades apart. He was held captive in each war for a total of over 8 years. If you'd like to help with that petition contact Steve at SKEIRN@GTE.NET


Steve comments on the Z-Man Web Page
"The web site is cool but never use Tom's jobs as an option for viewing fans. Forget jobs ...It's true we all do a job but let's not refresh their memories. Wrestlers are not proud of this side of their career".