When Cyrus was last seen on television, he was an employee of TNN, helping destroy Extreme Championship Wrestling on behalf of “The Office.” His objective was the ultimate demise of ECW, which actually took place some time later, when the company filed for bankruptcy in earlier this year.
In reality, however, Don Callis was quite upset by the company’s folding. So much so that after the news broke, he took some time away to clear his mind and his heavy heart. “I went on a vacation for two weeks, totally incognito. I didn’t take the cell phone, left the laptop at home, didn’t know or hear anything about wrestling, which is what I needed at the time.”
While the news of the bankruptcy didn’t come as a complete surprise to Callis, it didn’t make that any easier for him to deal with it. “The pragmatic, cynical part of me knew before (the announcement). I held out hope, but the writing was on the wall. Still, a part of me held out right up until the end.”
When the end did come, Callis realized that he had to make some choices, involving both his career and his life. “After the Fusient deal (to buy WCW, prior to its purchase by the WWF) fell through, and it became apparent to me that I wouldn’t be able to work for neither ECW or the new WCW, I felt I had to make other plans. I started the process of going back to University to further my education. As well, I’ve been busy with my newspaper columns, my radio show, and promotion of some live events in Winnipeg, and doing booking for another promotion in Canada.”
Unlike many of ECW’s former roster, Cyrus doesn’t do much work for independent wrestling shows, despite his appearance at a recent Border City Wresting show, where SLAM! Wrestling caught up with him.
“I don’t do a lot of indies, because not a lot of independent promoters want to spend the money, fly me out from Winnipeg, and then have me not (wrestle). I’m past the point where I’m going to work somebody who might have had only two matches, and risk getting hurt, because I have other things I’m trying to prioritize right now.”
“Plus,” he adds jokingly, “most promoters know that having me wrestle isn’t going to draw big crowds. Not many people are going to pay to see me wrestle. Never forget that even at my peak, I was barely average as a worker.”
It is this characteristic that Callis says helped him make a name for himself in wrestling, thanks mostly to Vince McMahon. It was during his stint in the WWF as “Jackyl” that people really began to notice the man’s on-mic talents. “Vince McMahon really did me a favour, in that he evolved me into more of a manager. As a wrestler, you have that pride where you want to go out and take the bumps, ‘I want to wrestle, I don’t want to be a manger.’, that sort of thing. But Vince had it right. My talking was something that got me over. Vince focussed on that strength, and Paul continued that when I went to ECW.”
About his time in ECW, Callis has only positive things to say, especially about owner Paul Heyman. “It was a great place to work, and Paul was a great boss that gave me a lot of great opportunities to explore. He gave me something which is the most that you can ask for in the wrestling business — he let me go out and either succeed or fail based on my own merits.”
During the “TNN angle”, Cyrus was frequently used as a colour commentator, generally working Pay-Per-View events alongside Joey Styles. The same position in the WWF is currently filled by none other than Heyman, who jumped to the WWF after his company folded.
“I think Paul’s work in the WWF proves that I was only the second-best colour commentator in ECW. I was always a fan of Paul’s commentary, and I think the way the business has evolved, his type of commentator is a perfect fit. It’s the type of commentator I tried to be.”
While some people may harbour some resentment towards someone else taking away a potential job opportunity, Cyrus has no such ill-will towards Heyman. In fact, his sentiment towards his former boss is fully supportive. “Paul sacrificed more than anyone else for the company, for the guys. If there was any way for the company to be saved, if he had to cut off his right arm, he’d have done it. I wish him all the best in terms of success in the wrestling business and in his life.”
Still, should the opportunity arise, Callis would entertain any serious business propositions that came his way from the WWF or WCW. “I would go back, because I would like to go back having learned the lessons I learned while I was there before, having become a better performer with Paul Heyman’s tutelage. I’d like to go back and really show Vince that I can contribute and I can help the company in some way. I’m in a better position now to contribute on some level than maybe I was back in 1998 when I was there.”
The fact that he would return is surprising, considering the rumours that Callis had burnt his bridges with the company during his previous stint.
“Contrary to what some internet reporters will write about me having heat there, I had a tremendously positive experience in the World Wrestling Federation. It was my dream as a wrestler and a young man to get there, and I got there and had so many great experiences out there. I learned a great from guys like Jim Ross, from Vince, Jim Cornette, Pat Patterson, Jack Lanza. All those guys taught me a lot, and those are lessons I took over to ECW to make me a better performer. In many ways, it was the highlight of my career.”
As readers of Callis’ weekly column can attest, it’s a career chock full of interesting stories, voyages, and highlights, which could easily fill a book, should he choose to write one. At this point, Callis has no such plans.
“I have three years of newspaper articles archived, maybe I would put those together in a book, like an Allan Fotheringham type of thing. But there are a lot of books being written right now.”
“Besides, the apex of my success, if I had success in this business, was with ECW, and it wasn’t as a wrestler. I don’t think anyone would want to read about how I prepared myself to cut a big promo. A book? I don’t know. I mean, who really cares about Don Callis… other than Don Callis?”