You left WWE about five months ago. What have these past five months been like for you?
I don’t regret any steps that I take in life. This is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I really wanted to have some time off, without feeling any sort of commitment to be on a certain schedule. Now, I’m doing things my way, under my terms. I’m dictating my pace towards retirement. I’m not on the grind. I was constantly competing. This is a good thing for me. This is something that my wife and I thought would be best for my body and for myself. I get to be a husband and a father again. I get to enjoy time with my kids now. I was a workaholic for so many years. I’ve missed so many birthdays and anniversaries. Now that my kids are a bit older, I want to be around and I want to enjoy it. I want to send my kids off to college if that’s what they want to do. I want to do all the family things I’ve missed over the years.
Would you say that was the biggest reason you left WWE?
Family was the biggest reason. If anything, I’ll probably do appearances. I’m not trying to stay busy. I’m trying to enjoy my time at home and be around my kids. I want to vacation. I’m a big family guy. I want to do more with them. That was the primary reason that I stepped away. Opportunities are starting to arise. After 15 years, I didn’t know what was out there. I had been wrestling with WWE all that time and wasn’t focusing on anything outside of that. I’m realizing that there’s a lot of opportunities there. The question is just whether I want to take them.
For the last few months of your WWE run, it seemed to be somewhat of an open secret that you wanted to leave. Konnan, in particular, was very outspoken about them being hesitant to let you out of your contract. What’s your relationship like with WWE today?
There’s definitely no hard feelings with WWE. I’m very thankful to them for the opportunity that was given to me. The lifestyle I have now is due to the success that I had there. There’s one thing that I’ve always been is appreciative of the opportunities that are given to me. I’ve always left every company that I’ve been with on good terms; WWE is no exception. I have no negative comments or feelings towards WWE at all.
As far as Konnan’s part in all this, he got a little overexcited. I’ve been very close to Konnan for many years now. I thank him for much of my success in this industry. He opened the doors for me in AAA, ECW and WCW. I’m very thankful. Even though we don’t see each other as much, we do talk a lot. He would hear many times that I was tired and constantly on the grind. I would pour my heart out to him on many occasions. When my term was coming up and that I was thinking about not re-signing, I told him about it, and I think he was just excited for me.
Looking back on your WWE career, is there anything you wished you had accomplished?
No, I accomplished so much that I never thought I’d be able to accomplish. Of course, I won the World Heavyweight title. I enjoyed being there, and getting to wrestle the people that I wrestled. I cherish every moment that I was there. When I wrestled Shawn Michaels for the first time, my first match with The Undertaker – I never thought I’d be in that position. I’ve done more than I could have ever imagined. I’m blessed that I’ve had the career that I have.
You’ve been a part of so many iconic moments in wrestling – winning the world title, the Rumble win, your great matches in WCW with Eddie Guerrero – if you had to choose one as your all-time favorite, what would it be?
I’ve gotten this question a lot. At first, I was saying it was 1997, Halloween Havoc with Eddie Guerrero. I really thought about it, and then I changed my answer. I realized that my favorite match was the ladder match we had at SummerSlam 2005. The reason why is that it was the last time I was in the ring with Eddie. I enjoyed every moment of that match. On top of that, how many fathers get to bring their kids to work and be on TV with them? Throughout that whole feud, my son was traveling with me. We were road buddies, we went to all the shows together. When it was time to shoot a vignette, he’d go into a working mode, and then go back to playing with toys. I enjoyed all that, and then the payoff was my last match with Eddie. I’m very blessed by that.
What did you think of that feud? Some found it distasteful, others loved how personal it got.
I really enjoyed it. Eddie was coming up to me with ideas, and Bruce Prichard was helping out as well. For me, I was enjoying my moment in WWE. I was creating a name for myself. I had the opportunity to work with my sons and with one of the all-time greats in Eddie. I believe it was Eddie’s idea to start the feud with one another. It really just had a great premise, and we had so much chemistry. Storyline-wise? I don’t recall many stories being that deep and this emotional. It had its ups and downs, and at the end of the day, you gotta look at it as exciting TV. You have drama, you have excitement, you have all the mixed emotions involved in the feud. As a fan, you just have to look at it that way and enjoy the drama.
You were always close with Eddie. Following his death, how hard was it to get arguably the biggest push of your career, and reach possibly the pinnacle of your career, while having it so closely linked to that tragedy?
It was really, really hard. Me and Eddie would speak about going to Mexico and eventually selling out huge arenas with WWE, and how cool that would be. The opportunity for the title came to me way too soon in my opinion. I didn’t expect it to come after Eddie’s death. It was just so hard to absorb. At times, I think that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, because there was that one person missing that had to be there. It was hard for me not having him there to enjoy the run with me. Although I know he was with me and felt my emotion from heaven, it wasn’t the same.