Known as Mr. Kennedy in WWE and Mr. Anderson in TNA, Ken Anderson is one of the most charismatic and engaging wrestlers of the past decade and looks to take on the world of acting. He’s a former world champion, Mr. Money in the Bank, United States Champion, and starred in Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia. I spoke with Ken about everything from wrestling to acting to music, and much more!
Alex Obert: What have you been up to this year outside of wrestling?
Ken Anderson: Well outside of the fact that my wife just had twins and we’re taking care of them, I’m always pursuing a career in acting. It’s just as hard to get into as wrestling. I take acting classes as regularly as I can, I study film, I audition for things, and I’ve gotten pretty close on a few things.
Alex Obert: In the early development of your wrestling character, Paul Heyman took you under his wing in OVW shortly before your WWE debut. What did he teach you about developing your character?
Ken Anderson: Well I think the one thing that Paul really stressed was to just go all out and turn the volume on your character. Wrestling is different than acting. With wrestling, we’re expected to be larger than life, sometimes I almost think “cartoony” kind of characters. And in acting, when you watch the great actors, they’re just very comfortable with being themselves in front of the camera. If you watch Denzel Washington in a movie and then you watch Denzel Washington doing an interview on David Letterman, there really isn’t much of a difference that you could discern, other than the circumstances that that person has been put under. So in that sense, Paul told me to really turn the volume up. Be myself, but turn that volume up all the way. I had a lot of fun doing that with Paul. But as I said, wrestling and acting are two completely different animals. I’ve always looked at wrestling as acting and I’ve always thought that I don’t see the difference. We’re more like theater, I guess, than anything else. We perform in front of a live audience. However, there is that TV aspect where the cameras are up really close and we tell stories of good versus evil. At the end of the day, that’s what every movie pretty much involves.
Alex Obert: Is your goal to get into acting with the Mr. Anderson persona or are you looking for a more serious role?
Ken Anderson: I would eventually like to do something more serious. But if my wrestling persona opens a door or bridges that gap, I’m okay with that also. You get any opportunity you can get, and then your talent will either shine through or it will not. I guess that’s the way I look at it.
Alex Obert: Would you ever consider getting into the world of podcasting?
Ken Anderson: It was something that I had considered for a while. And I think now, as far as wrestling podcasts, they’re a little bogged down. I mean you’ve got Cabana, you’ve got Austin, we’ve got Shane Helms, we’ve got Chris Jericho. It would be difficult then. But my take would be something completely different. I would shy away from wrestling. I have other interests outside of wrestling. Politics is something that interests me,. Religion and what people believe. That stuff really, really interests me. Movies. So maybe if I did, it would be something along the lines of having my fellow wrestlers on, but we wouldn’t talk about wrestling, we’d talk about other stuff.
Alex Obert: With a voice like yours, have you ever thought about singing in a band?
Ken Anderson: Negative. No. (laughs) It’s funny, my biological father is a musician and has played in a band and sang in a band for probably forty years. I think he’s fifty eight or fifty nine, something like that. He’s been in a band since he was seventeen. But no, I’m not very good at singing in the shower, so I wouldn’t be good at singing on a microphone.
Alex Obert: With the talk of music, which version of your WWE entrance theme, Turn Up The Trouble, was your favorite?
Ken Anderson: The one by Airbourne. I wanna say Avenged Sevenfold did something for me, but I never got a chance to hear it. That was something that I was asked about early on, “How do you feel about your music?” When I was on the indies, I always came out to Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard and I told WWE I wanted something like that. And they came back with Turn Up the Trouble, obviously Jim Johnston was the artist. I wasn’t particularly high on the vocals, the vocals sounded a lot to me like Sammy Hagar. While I respect what he does and all, I’m more of a David Lee Roth guy. And basically, I asked them to maybe make an attempt at something with sort of an AC/DC sound to it. And that’s when I came back with the stuff I ended up using on TV.
Alex Obert: You mention competing on the indies prior to making it to the big companies. During that time period, there was a backstage segment on Smackdown in 2003 with Brock Lesnar, and it featured you, Daivari, and CM Punk as extras in the background. How did that come about?
Ken Anderson: (laughs) Well I got into the business in ’99 and I started sending tapes by 2000. I sent them to all the companies at the time. It was WWF, WCW, ECW. And of course, all the independents in my area. And basically, anytime they would come within a five hundred mile radius of Green Bay, I would call and ask if I could go there and be an extra. If they needed somebody to get their butt whooped that night, I’d be that guy. Just so I could make some connections, learn from the best in the business, and I did several of those. So did Punk, so did Daivari, and Austin Aries, and ODB. We were all kind of a traveling crew and we would try and get booked on as many of those things as possible. There’s probably ten to twelve matches online of me wrestling as Ken Anderson on one of their secondary shows like Sunday Night Heat, Jakked, or Metal. And then I would also go on and try out for TNA. Every time that I would go, I would try to just learn as much as I possibly could, we’d be like sponges. We’d eat something as soon as we got there and get our ring gear on and get in and wrestle around. A lot of times, we would get embarrassed. And a lot of times, we would screw up or we’d do things wrong or get yelled at or we’d get ridiculed. But at the end of the day, there was always somebody there that would come up and say, “Hey, here’s what you could have done in that situation to make it better.” And I did that for six years. And then finally, I had done that enough and made enough connections and I had improved enough that I got noticed.
Alex Obert: Early in your television career, whose idea was it to lower the mic from the ceiling, as opposed to holding the traditional microphone?
Ken Anderson: That was actually Dave Lagana’s idea, at least Dave was the one who presented it to me. I loved it. I loved the idea that it was something unique that hadn’t been seen since the early days of boxing.
Alex Obert: Throughout your four years on the Impact Wrestling roster, who would you say are the locker room leaders?
Ken Anderson: I’d say Samoa Joe, Bully Ray, and AJ when he was there. The interesting thing about Impact Wrestling is that there are no egos that I can think of. My friends and I talk about this all the time, there are very few instances of ego. Everybody gets along and we’re all friends. At the end of the day, you’re all there to do a job and it’s a job that we all happen to love. So it doesn’t really seem like work. There aren’t any instances that I can think of where a locker room leader is needed. We all stick up for each other, we all pull for each other, we all try to help each other along as much as possible. We watch each other’s matches, we give each other advice. We’ll rib a guy and give him a hard time, but everybody screws up a little bit.
Alex Obert: With MVP debuting for the company this year, was that the first time you had contact with him since the days of WWE?
Ken Anderson: No, I always kept in contact with MVP. He’s a very good friend of mine. We’ve always talked, we’ve talked since I came to the company. We’d keep in touch every two months, we’d call each other and have an hour or two long discussion.
Alex Obert: And also, Ethan Carter III made his Impact Wrestling debut several months ago. Did you ever have any run-ins with him on the independent scene?
Ken Anderson: No, I didn’t. We’ve been in the business almost the same amount of time, but we just missed each other. When I was on my way out of WWE, he was on his way in for a brief moment. That guy has quickly become one of my favorite people to watch on TV. You can spend fifteen years on the indies, but you don’t start getting a real education until you start working with people that are better than you. When you’ve got Bully Ray and Kurt Angle and Sting and Al Snow and all these guys, you’ve got all these people that are watching you and tailoring you. They’re telling you, “Hey, here’s what you could do differently.” He has really, really improved. He was good when he got to TNA, but he’s really, really improved week after week after week. He’s funny as hell and entertaining. I hope that I get to square off with him someday.
Alex Obert: With all the matches you’ve had in WWE and Impact Wrestling, do you consider Jeff Hardy and Kurt Angle to be your signature opponents, in the way that Austin had The Rock?
Ken Anderson: I was also married to Batista and The Undertaker for a really long time. When I was working for WWE, anytime we’d go to TV, MVP and I would draw straws to see who got to wrestle The Undertaker and who got to wrestle Kane. And also, who got to take the chokeslam and who got to take the Tombstone. One’s a lot easier to take than the other one! (laughs) It’s easier on the body. And like I said, I often wrestled Batista. When I got to TNA, it was Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, and Bully Ray. Those are a couple of the ones that stand out to me, my most significant I guess.
Alex Obert: A few years ago, this was something you were involved with, what are your thoughts on Jeff Hardy’s heel run?
Ken Anderson: I like the fact that TNA’s willing to take chances. And I like the fact that they’re willing to take risks. And that was something that Jeff had wanted to do for a long time and was told, “No, no, no, no, no. You can’t do it.” That was something that he wanted to do. He wanted to try it. And just something like this Willow character, that’s something that he always felt very strongly about. And hey, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t work, we just write something else and the machine keeps rollin’. So do I think it was the greatest thing that ever happened? No. But it turned out that working Jeff Hardy as a babyface when he was supposed to be a heel didn’t necessarily work that way. You’re fighting an uphill battle basically, is what I’m trying to say. It’s tough when you’re in front of a crowd that’s as conditioned as much as they are and they love Jeff Hardy as much as they do, no matter what he does. He would have to do something really, really, really awful in order for people to start disliking him. He’s just such an endearing character, such a unique character. He’s so charismatic and there’s not a whole lot to dislike about the guy. He’s a great guy.
Alex Obert: Another one of your recent opponents was Sting, whose idea was it for you to dress up as early nineties Sting on Impact Wrestling?
Ken Anderson: That was actually my idea. I said in passing one day, “What about me dressing up as old Sting?” I mean, I had the blonde hair. And Sting actually loved it. Those outfits that I wore were actually Sting’s old gear. And he painted my face. A cool moment. Looking back on that, I would have to slide him into that group of most significant opponents that I’ve had.
Alex Obert: We discussed your entrance theme earlier, but getting into music, what’s on your iPod?
Ken Anderson: I’ve got Texas Hippie Coalition. Love ’em. Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em. They’re awesome. Good workout music. Also, a little less known, Rob Bailey and the Hustle Standard. I’ve got a short, little album that you purchase on iTunes, I think it’s like six bucks. Every song is awesome, just great workout music. Really motivational and inspirational. Black Label Society, Slayer, Lamb of God. I listen to just about everything. I’ve got Adele. I’ve got Rihanna. I’ve got No Doubt. I’ve got Coldplay. Johnny Cash. Nickelback. Cinderella. Elton John. Music has always been important to me and it’s a different song or genre for every different mood.
Alex Obert: You did this with WWE and with Impact Wrestling, what was it like being a contestant on Family Feud?
Ken Anderson: (laughs) That was fantastic, man! Really, a lifelong dream. I watched Family Feud with Richard Dawson when I was a little kid and watching him molest all those women. (laughs) Luckily I wasn’t molested by either one of the hosts when I was on. The one that I did for TNA with Steve Harvey was some of the funniest stuff that I can recall, his reactions to things that happened. One of the questions that Steve Harvey asked, Jay Lethal was squaring off with somebody and the question was, Name a fruit that men find sexy when women eat. And before he even got the words out of his mouth, Jay Lethal had hit that button and struck a pose and said, “BANANA!” They don’t show it on the show, they had to stop filming because we laughed for probably seven minutes straight. And what was the number one answer? Banana. Mick Foley was great on the show, but he was more comedic. His answers were over the top silly.
Alex Obert: So who would your dream team be on Family Feud? If you had to pick four other wrestlers.
Ken Anderson: Samoa Joe. Frankie Kazarian and Chris Daniels, those are two guys that are super, super smart. And Magnus is a really intelligent human being.
Alex Obert: You mentioned in another interview that The Breakfast Club is one of your all-time favorite films. When did you first see it? Did you see it at the movie theater?
Ken Anderson: When I was a kid, my dad did all the research and decided that Beta was better than VHS. At the time, Beta was a better product. So he bought a Beta machine while it turns out everybody else bought a VHS player because it’s cheaper. And it still was a decent product. The video store by us ran a huge sale and was trying to get rid of all their Beta. And so my dad ended up buying The Breakfast Club, Animal House, Risky Business, the first two Indiana Jones films, The Big Chill, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band The Movie, The Jerk, and a few others. I just remember, as a kid, watching those movies almost everyday. Over and over and over and over and over again. I loved them, I memorized them, front to back, back to front. I remember just thinkin’, “This is what I wanna do when I grow up. I wanna entertain.” When I was a really little kid, I wasn’t supposed to watch it. Every time they would leave for work, I’d pop one of those videos in.
Alex Obert: And you’re also big into video games, what do you consider your all-time favorite fighting series?
Ken Anderson: You know what? I hate fighters. I hate to say that, but I don’t like ’em. You have to memorize too many button combinations and I end up just mashing buttons anyways. I like a little more story to my game. With fighting, you fight a guy and in three rounds, you’re done. And then you fight another guy and fight another guy. There’s never any problem solving or anything like that. I’m more into those games, games like Tomb Raider and Fallout, stuff like that.
Alex Obert: The last question I’d like to ask, why do you feel it is important to be outspoken?
Ken Anderson: Well I don’t think that being outspoken is a virtue, necessarily. I guess I’ve always tried to speak from my heart. When somebody asks me a question, I tend to give them my honest opinion. It’s interesting, in this country, we give lip service to the idea that we like it when people are honest and we like it when people say what’s on their mind. But we really don’t. When somebody does say what’s on their mind, if it doesn’t conform with what you personally believe, it’s looked at as being intentionally confrontational. I know it’s gotten me in trouble a lot, speaking my mind, but at the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror.
Alex Obert: In closing, do you have any social media plugs?
Ken Anderson: I do. My Instagram is secondpower. My Twitter is @mrkenanderson. I do also have a Facebook fan page. I tend to stick to Twitter mostly. I Instagram thirty three percent of the time, and whenever I do Instagram, I post everything to Facebook and Twitter as well.
Alex Obert: And also TNA Sacrifice is coming up on April 27th.
Ken Anderson: Not quite sure what’s in store for me. But I’ll be there.
Alex Obert: Well I’d love to thank you so much for your time for and amazing interview.
Ken Anderson: Yeah, absolutely man!