PETAWAWA, ON — There was more than just blowing snow and cold temperatures that swirled into the military town of Petawawa, Ontario this past Saturday.
Passersby must have looked on in wonderment at the line-up of bundled bodies braving frigid temperatures outside the newly opened Pizza Pizza/Chicken Chicken outlet. Could the food really be that good?
While a hot slice of pizza may have been just the thing to stay warm, something far more important was worth the wait inside for those brave souls.
It was World Wrestling Entertainment star, Mr. Ken Kennedy… Kennedy.
As was expected, Kennedy proudly introduced himself when he entered the autograph area, sending a surge of excitement through all those waiting inside to meet him. It’s more than understandable, it’s not like pro wrestling superstars of Kennedy’s stature come to this small community on a regular basis.
“I still don’t believe people want my autograph. It’s weird to me. I’m a normal guy, I put my pants on like everyone else,” said Kennedy (real name Ken Anderson,) who was kind enough to speak with SLAM! Wrestling before meeting his fans.
Normal is not a word you can use to describe the life of pro wrestling celebrity. Yet bearing in mind the potential Kennedy has to reach the stratosphere of sports entertainment stardom, he is getting a dosage of things to come.
Be assured, he is all too aware of the role the fans play in helping him realize a dream.
“These people out here that are standing out in the cold are the people who are paying my salary,” praised Kennedy. “It’s hard for me to believe that there are superstars out there, in this profession or other professions, who don’t want to take the time and meet the fans. Without them, I’d be absolutely nothing. I have no problem saying Hi or signing an autograph at any given time. It’s an honor.”
The magnetism that projects from Kennedy is more than evident — charm, size and that million-dollar smile alone make him someone that others can’t help but pay attention to. But as he sat down to sign photos of himself from those who waited so long to meet him, that bigger-than-life persona seen on television transformed into a friendly, patient and grateful guy.
Seeing Kennedy in action with his fans immediately brings to mind the fact that he is currently out of action, recuperating from a lat injury he suffered in December of 2005. Kennedy was happy to report that the healing process is coming along just fine.
“I actually don’t have any pain, every once in a while it gets a little achy, but for the most part I feel fine,” said Kennedy. “I’m actually supposed to still be in a sling, but the sling is a pain in the ass. I go back to the doctor on the 19th and he’ll tell me that I can start rehabbing the injury. They said it was going to take six months from the date of the surgery to actually get back in the ring, but the surgery went actually better than planned, so I’m praying they’re going to tell me that it’s only going to take three months.”
For those hooked on the drug called Mr. Ken Kennedy, his return to the ring can’t come soon enough. It was only in early 2005 that the former student of Washington High School in Two River, Wisconsin signed a development deal with WWE. He promptly reported to the company’s development promotion, Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), in March, based out of Louisville, Kentucky.
“When I first got signed in March I went to OVW and I was under the direction of Jim Cornette,” recalled Kennedy in telling of the origins of his trademark gimmick. “He (Cornette) really didn’t see anything in me. So I was basically sitting in the back and I’d have a match here or there.”
Fortunate for Kennedy there would be a changing of the guard, as Cornette was dismissed from his OVW duties and replaced by the former booker and owner of Exteme Championship Wrestling (ECW), Paul Heyman.
“When Paul Heyman came down, Paul said ‘You’re the next guy to go up to Smackdown or Raw. I’m going to do some much stuff with you that they’re going to be stupid not to see you and pull you up.'”
Heyman held true to his words and gave Kennedy the green light to take the mic and work his magic.
“One night, he (Heyman) said ‘Hey, I want you to go out there and announce yourself. I want you to go out and cut the announcer off. You’re going to announce your opponent, you’re going to announce yourself — be colorful, be yourself.'”
As it turned out, Heyman was right and the powers that be in WWE took note. Kennedy would become an active member of the Smackdown roster in August of 2005, performing his own ring announcing. It may seem like a simple act, but it’s how he delivers those intros that have some pegging Kennedy to be the next break out megastar not seen since the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin or The Rock.
Should that scenario come to pass, fans in the Great White North can take pride that there is a Canadian connection in the development of the Mr. Kennedy character.
“When I first got down to OVW, Lance Storm was the head trainer,” told Kennedy. “Every time I would walk by he would go ‘Mr. Anderson’, from The Matrix. As that kept happening, and more and more people started saying that, I started thinking to myself ‘Hey, maybe I have something there.'”
“One time, I was coming out to the ring at a house show for OVW and Maria (WWE Diva) announced me as Ken Anderson and I looked at her and said ‘Hey, that’s Mr. Anderson to you.’ Ever since then, everyone started calling me Mr. Anderson in my introductions.”
While the name changed, he would still be called Mister, and would see one further evolution, compliments of his past announcing exploits in high school.
“When I was in high school, I would announce basketball games,” said Kennedy. “I always did the last name twice. It got over and everybody liked it. So when I went out there and did the introduction that Paul Heyman told me to do, I did the last name twice and it’s just weird how the stupidest things get over.”
Fans who tune in to watch the antics of Mr. Ken Kennedy are now getting a sample of his articulation skills via his commentating stint on Smackdown.
“I enjoy it and it’s a chance for me to show that I can do something other than just wrestle,” noted Kennedy. “Heaven forbid that something would happen where I would get seriously injured where I could not wrestle at all, that’s something I could always fall back on.”
For now though, the plan is simple; heal, rehab and get back in the ring, and should he turn into the wrestling prophecy that some say he will become, then for those who had the privilege of meeting him in Petawawa, will be able to proudly tell of the day that Mr. Ken Kennedy… Kennedy came to town.