In a lot of ways, Kevin Nash has built one of the greatest wrestling careers in history in the opposite fashion of pretty much everyone else that came before or after him.
While most of the current superstar wrestlers today built their name from the bottom up — starting on the independent circuit and later catching on with a major promotion — Nash’s first career match was in front of 10,000 people at WCW’s Clash of Champions in 1989. A short while later, he was in the WWE and found himself on the cusp of superstardom.
“Genetics,” Nash said of his quick rise. “I was big.”
It didn’t hurt that he was really good friends with one of the biggest tag teams in wrestling before breaking into the business. And that friendship with Rick and Scott Steiner led to his first big break.
“When the Road Warriors left WCW, I got thrown in as a replacement for them — not really a good idea,” Nash said. “But it got my foot in the door.”
Not only did Nash get his foot in the door, he smashed it down, taking the business over and becoming one of the biggest stars of all time. And he’s still at the top of his craft, currently wrestling for TNA as a headliner.
But on March 28, local wrestling fans will get the chance to not only see Nash in the ring, but meet the man himself. It all takes place at Bristol Central High School as Northeast Wrestling brings WrestleFest XIII back to the Mum City.
For the man formally known as Diesel, he’s looking forward to the more intimate atmosphere offered by NEW.
“These shows are more one-on-one,” Nash said. “In the WWE or WCW, there is no fan interaction. You just do your thing and get out. Here, I can spend some time with everyone.”
Nash will also be looking forward to making new friends and reconnecting with old ones at the event, including wrestling icon Ric Flair, who will be in Bristol as well.
“I really want to catch up with Ric,” Nash said. “Actually, as soon as I heard he was going to be there, I knew it was a good time to go. I love doing these things because it’s nice to sit around and talk with the guys. It’s a fraternity of brothers. It’s also eye-opening when you’ve been wrestling for 20 years and there are guys in the business that you’ve never met.”
At WrestleFest XIII, Nash will have plenty of company backstage. In addition to Flair making a special appearance, the card features Reid Flair (Ric’s son), Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart, former WWE tag team champion Paul London, TNA’s Velvet Sky, NEW champion Jason Blade, Ron Zombie and the retirement match of Bristol’s Kurt Adonis.
“There is a network of people in the business that talk about the shows these guys put on,” Nash said. “Wrestling for TNA, I’m lucky enough to be able to do this.”
About seven weeks ago, Nash developed a staph infection in his elbow that has put him completely out of action. He has been on antibiotics, but the injury has been slow to heal, which might keep him from any in-ring action come March 28 in Bristol. Right now, the ball where his elbow bends is no longer there — it’s just a big hole — so wrestling could be near impossible.
Still, Nash is holding out hope that he can wrestle at the event.
“It’s not healing as fast as I would like it too,” he said. “TNA called me and asked when I would be back and I told them I’d be back as soon as I can. I’m doing the best I can do. If I can’t wrestle, I’ll still show up and honor my commitments.”
Nash has had a long history of injuries, dating back to his time as a basketball player at the University of Tennessee, but don’t expect him to think about hanging up his wrestling boots forever after this latest set back.
“I’ve been operated on 27 times already,” Nash said. “Sure, there is a depression that sets in right away, but once you get through that, you just want to get back.”
ONE OF THE GREATS
While he may not be a technical marvel in the ring, there is no disputing that Kevin Nash was at the top of two different promotions during an era of immense wrestling popularity. While he may have been knocked by wrestling writers across the board, he was still one of the biggest draws of all time.
That is something Nash has tremendous pride in.
“As beat up as I was, I’m really proud of what I accomplished,” Nash said. “When I broke into wrestling I was half-crippled. I already had eight or nine knee surgeries. I did what I could do in the ring.”
“If you asked me if I could have the career of a critically-acclaimed actor or be Sylvester Stallone, I’m going with Stallone,” he added. “I want to be that guy that brings in the blockbuster money.”
While Nash says he isn’t bothered by what the critics say, he did take exception to a comment made in former WCW boss Eric Bischoff’s book (“Controversy Creates Ca$h”) that called him “Big Lazy.”
“When Bischoff called me lazy, I was 7-foot and 300 pounds,” Nash said. “When he gets to that size, he can let me know what lazy is.”
In addition to his time as Diesel in the WWE, he was also a leader of the New World Order in WCW, which was one of the most influential on-screen groups in wrestling history.
Nash debuted as Steel with WCW as one-half of the tag team Master Blasters. From there, the promotion created the persona Oz for him before they finally settled on the name Vinnie Vegas.
While none of those characters caught on with fans, it was that last persona that ended up drawing interest from one of the biggest wrestling stars of all-time and changed Nash’s wrestling career forever.
Shawn Michaels saw Nash on television and went to WWE owner Vince McMahon and said he should bring the big man aboard immediately.
“Shawn was a little guy and he saw me as the perfect complement to him because I was a gigantic big guy,” Nash said. “The combo of the two of us was pretty much unstoppable.”
Nash debuted in the WWE as Diesel and was Michael’s bodyguard that would interfere in matches on his behalf. While he didn’t find himself wrestling all that much in the early going, Nash still ended up getting one heck of an education.
“I ended up learning from the best ever” Nash said of Michaels. “It was on the job training.”
Nash soon skyrocketing to the top of the promotion and, after just a year and a half with the WWE, he won his first world championship with an eight-second victory over Bob Backlund.
While it was an exciting time for Nash, it was also a difficult time for everyone in the wrestling business, especially in the WWE. At the time, the federal government was cracking down on steroids and McMahon and his company became their target.
“We would have an afternoon show at The Spectrum in Philadelphia and they would test us,” Nash said. “We would then go to Hershey (Penn.) that night and they would test us again. After one year of killing the company, they finally got off us.”
Those unfortunate circumstances did give Nash a shot at being the face of the promotion.
“I was lucky,” Nash said. “I was the biggest guy that was clean. At that time, bigger was still better. I was in the right place at the right time.”
STEROIDS, STEROIDS, STEROIDS
Nash did use steroids in small doses before the government intervened, but he said it had nothing to do with people pushing the drug on him in the business.
“That was just the era and the look,” he said. “No promoter told us to take them. Vince never mentioned them. We did it to compete.
“Now, I don’t think it’s a big deal because it’s a different era. Look at Samoa Joe; nobody thinks he takes steroids. There’s always going to be a genetic freak, and people are going to question him, but steroid use is very small.”
Nash has strong opinions on steroids and the government’s subsequent involvement. “With our financial state in this country, do you think senators should be giving Roger Clemens the better part of a week to appear in front of them? Does he deserve it? But it’s all steroids, steroids, steroids. These senators need to worry about paying their taxes, not steroids.
“Honestly, cigarette smoke is just as bad. If cigarettes were developed today, the FDA would never approve it. But it’s entrenched. Maybe if there were steroid lobbyists things would be different.”
Anyone who followed wrestling closely back in the late 1990’s was aware of a group of wrestlers that collectively became known as “The Kliq” backstage in the WWE. The group consisted of Nash, Michaels, Scott Hall (Razor Ramon), Sean Waltman (X-Pac) and Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H).
At the time, wrestling was still driven by bad guys vs. good guys and that was supposed to be carried out at all times, including traveling together.
“To keep up appearances, the last thing you wanted to do was drive to a match with a guy you were feuding with,” Nash said. “But me, Shawn and Scott Hall decided we would drive with who we wanted to. We were on the road so much that we just decided to make it as enjoyable as possible. Sean and Hunter came in later and the five of us traveled everywhere for two years together.”
Nash said the controversial group was just a bunch of guys that loved the business.
“It was just a collaboration of guys that lived wrestling.”
LOVE OF THE BUSINESS
Whether or not Kevin Nash is able to wrestle in Bristol at WrestleFest XIII, you can still expect him to put on a show — and he’s going to love every minute of it.
“I love doing these things,” Nash said. “I’m going to have a good time. I’ve become very personable in my old age.”