Teddy Long began his WWE journey in 1998 as a referee. In the more than two decades that followed, Long went on to have a career that legitimized him as a WWE Hall of Famer, an honor he was bestowed in 2017.

Long’s early days in WWE saw him officiating big matches at arguably the height of the company’s popularity. Eventually, he started getting pulled into storylines, and even wrestled a 3-on-2 handicap match on the January 6, 2001 episode of "WWE Raw," aligning with The Rock and fellow referee Jack Doan in a winning effort against Kane and Rikishi. At that point, it had become obvious that Long had the personality to be more than just a referee, and shortly after, he was repacked as a manager, going on to second notable WWE names like D-Lo Brown, Chris Nowinski, Mark Henry, and others. None of his pairings as a manager were likely as memorable, however, as his partnership with Rodney Mack, when he’d often bark at fans to "Back The Mack!"

In January 2004, Long was announced as the "WWE SmackDown" general manager after Kurt Angle had been fired from the role. His lovable style and trademark lines, including "You’re going one-on-one with THE UNDERTAKER!" have gone on to become beloved by fans. In this exclusive interview with Wrestling Inc. Senior News Editor Nick Hausman, Long provides his perspective on some of the top pro wrestling news stories of the day. Holla holla, playa.

Time To Play The Game

The business is still changing so much, man. How do you feel where we’re at with WWE right now? The period where [Paul "Triple H" Levesque] has taken over and there was that glow, I feel like that has died down a bit. How do you feel about what we’re at right now?

Well, I think with the WWE, I’ve been watching it, and I think Hunter has his work cut out for him now. He’s got to try to change things. And I can see that Hunter understands this very well. He’s going back to the old school, back to the attitude era, the thing that hooked the people. And like I said, they had a match, I thought the main event last night on "Raw," it reminded me of the old school stuff. I think it’s going to take a while because you got a lot of young kids there that they have to learn how to adapt to the old school. Remember, the old school is what brought us to the dance, so you could never forget that. We may be entertainment right now, but when at the end of the day, it’s still professional wrestling, and that’s what people want to see. And so I think Hunter’s going to get back to that Attitude Era, and I think they’re going to be okay.

Do you like the constant people coming back, all these names we have? Mia Yim just two weeks ago. Do you think that’s a good strategy for them?

Well, I think what’s good about that, if somebody’s gone and they’ve been gone for a while, I think when you bring them back it’s brand new. They’re fresh, so people will want to see them right away. But don’t kill them. Don’t just bring them back and just put them all over everything, because that’s going to die real soon. So I think with somebody being gone that especially was a fan favorite, and they come back and the people can see them, I think that’s a good idea.

What do you think about Braun Strowman? … You worked with a lot of big men — Undertaker, Big Show, Kane. How does Braun stack up to these other big guys that you’ve worked with?

He’s a big guy. He done great there when he was in WWE, so I don’t know what the future holds for him, but I like to see him back. He was a tough guy in the ring, so to bring him back, I don’t think that it’s a bad mistake.

Earlier before we connected, you were telling me you liked the pairing of Corbin and JBL.

Yes, I do. And I think with Baron Corbin, I think they missed the boat with him. They put him in different storylines, and they didn’t seem to work. But I think now with him being with JBL, this thing is going to be great because he’s got somebody now that can teach him and show him the way as they communicate together. So JBL, what a great team, man. I don’t know whose idea that was, but that was fantastic.

What’d you think of the segment on "Raw" where they were playing drunk poker? That was straight out of ’98.

Well, that remind you about the old APA. You remember that they sat around the tables playing cards and drinking tequila. So that’s reality, and people want to see what’s going on. So reality is always going to come out.

The State Of Authority Figures In Pro Wrestling

As the WWE landscape’s changing, do you think that they should bring back an authority character?

Well, that’s left up to them. But I think that would be good, because the authority figure has been gone for a while. It’s been out, so people miss that. And like I said, right now, if they did the deal where everything’s out of control, guys are just going haywire and somebody needs to come back and put some law in order, I think that people would buy that now because they haven’t seen it. It’s been gone. But some of those guys, they think that, well, that general manager and all that stuff, that’s in the past. That ain’t going to draw. They don’t want that. So I don’t know whether they’ll ever bring that back or not.

It feels to me like the backstage guys have become the authority figures again, like Vince and Bischoff were. You got Triple H and Tony Khan on the other side, and you don’t see them making matches and stuff. But they’ve filled that role in a bit, haven’t they?

Well, why wouldn’t they do it? It’d be a perfect story … They feel like they’re being shoved out now, they’re being cast to the side by the young generation. And then those are the guys that made this, and now you got some guys just going to come in that didn’t pay no dues, and they’re just going to take over? No, we’re going to stop this. You got something right there. It just has to be good versus evil. It’s just that simple.

You’re saying that you want to see a wrestler step up to Triple H or Tony Khan and be like, "Hey, you guys can’t be running the show. You can’t just take over so quickly. I’m going to try to stand in your way from taking over this company." That’s an interesting idea.

Well, go back to the old deal. They use it now. They say when guys get too old, we can’t use you anymore. So hit them with that. "I don’t even know why you’re even still here in charge. You’re too old to be running this. Your ideas are old. We need the young generation. We got young ideas." That type of thing.

Well, Tony Khan would be different, right? Tony Khan is the authority figure for AEW, and he’s never had any wrestling history or anything like that. How do you feel about Tony being the authority figure for AEW?

Well, you know what they do with Tony, since with everybody knowing that he’s not really a wrestling guy, so you keep him right in that spotlight there. But now you have somebody come in, and maybe it’d be a girl, and start snuggling up to him. The thing that we did with me and Kristal and Aksana. Have a girl come in, but we know she ain’t no good. We know she’s up to no good, but Tony Khan doesn’t know she’s up to no good. And then that way, she’s running everything. She’s just calling the shots, and she’s really messing s*** up.

And then she can flip and be the authority figure, and he can stay off TV.

And let him come on TV and turn it over to her.

CM Punk Looks To Be All Out Of AEW

In AEW-land right now, CM Punk looks to be on the outs. How do you feel about what looks to be CM Punk leaving AEW?

Well, I had a chance to talk to Punk right after the interview, whatever, with the Young Bucks and all that, where he went off-script. But I did have a chance to talk to him. And the reason I talked to him was because me and him been friends for quite a while. Punk is just a guy… When they named him Straight Edge, that wasn’t just a character; that him. He’s a straight up guy, and if he feels that something is wrong, he’s just going to speak about it.

And what I’m proud of is, he’s a guy that can speak. A lot of guys can’t open their mouths and speak because they’re worried about their jobs. So Punk wasn’t worried about his job. He’s said if he doesn’t wrestle another day in his life, I think he’s pretty much set. So for him to be able to speak up and let the people in the company know just exactly what’s going and how he really feels, and there’s a lot of guys I know would like to express how they really feel, but they can’t. So I just respect him for that, and I admire him for that. And like I said, they ain’t going to hurt Punk, but there is a rumor saying he may return to WWE. Who knows?

When did you talk to Punk? Did you just give him a call?

About two weeks after. Right after the interview. No, it wasn’t that one. It was about a week after the interview. I got the text on my phone when I talked to him.

Did you text, or did you actually talk on the phone?

We text back and forth.

And did he seem upset? What was his vibe?

No, he was okay. He was the same old guy. He was glad to hear from me. I guess he was surprised to get my text, because I don’t worry guys. I only text some guys like him that I’m okay with. Only on holidays and stuff, I’ll text them and say stuff. But other than that, I don’t bother them. So I guess he was surprised to get that text from me. And I just told him, "Congratulations, man. You did it again."

So here’s the thing. The narrative out there with Punk is that, however it came about, he ostracized Colt Cabana, divided the locker room. Everybody turned against him, and now he’s out. Do you think that’s an unfair narrative?

Well, I don’t know. Everybody has their own opinion about it. If it were me, if I was one of the young guys and I felt that whatever he said about me was wrong… But I’d have to go think about it myself. "Let me see. Well, let me make sure he’s wrong. Let me see. Let me go back and go over what I did to make sure it was right or wrong." So I think Punk just calls it like it is. And so for them to oust him, I don’t think that’s fair. But like I said, man, everybody has their own opinion. So if the locker room there is against you, they’re going to go to the boss, and they’re going to get you out of there, because I don’t think the boss is going to let one man stop the show.

Possible Second City Saint Second Chance In WWE

So do you think Triple H would let bygones be bygones and vice versa? Do you think CM Punk could let bygones be bygones, and do you think he could actually wind up back in WWE in the end?

Well, I think with Hunter and Punk, these are two grown men, and I think that they can sit down and they can talk and they can settle their differences. This business is about money, and if Hunter sees that there’s money still in CM Punk, then Hunter will act on it. And I think CM Punk, like I said, ain’t a guy out here looking for a job. I think he just wants to be treated right, and whatever angle or push they’re going to give him, he just want to have them do it right. But I think if he decided to go back, I think him and Hunter could sit down, and I think they could bury the hatchet, and I think it would work.

In your experience working with Hunter, does he have a temperament where he’s a forgive and forget guy, in your opinion?

Well, I think that’s according to who you are. Yeah. I can’t see him walking around forgiving everybody that did something. I think it’s who you are. And like I said, you can think about that with Vince. I know there are a lot of guys that Vince didn’t really give a s*** about, but there was still money in them, and so he brought you back as long as you could draw money. That don’t mean you got to go sit down and eat dinner with him. Just come do your job and keep on moving.

Well, CM Punk and a AEW’s fallout is not even the big fallout of the moment. I would argue that the big fallout in the past week has been Nick Aldis, Billy Corgan, and the NWA. Now, I don’t know how much you’ve been keeping track of this, but that’s been pretty public, and I didn’t know if you had any thoughts on just the way that relationship seems to have fallen apart.

Well, I don’t know. I heard this. Me and Mac talked about this. We’ll be talking about it again on our show this Friday. Nick Aldis, super nice guy, great guy. No attitude problems or nothing. I had a chance to work with him. He come out to TSW out in Texas when I was running that, and we had him come out. And I talked to him about his finish, and whatever we asked him to do, we had no problem. "No problem, guys. Thank you." So I think Billy Corgan is making a big mistake. He doesn’t realize who he’s got there, man. You got a guy right there that people like, and plus, I believe he’s a draw. He can draw you money. So this may be a good thing for Nick Aldis. Maybe good things may happen, hopefully that WWE or AEW pick him up. You can’t go wrong with him.

Yeah, and there’s international stuff. It sounds like World of Sport over in the UK, there might be some interest in there. What does a Nick Aldis look like in New Japan? I think that’s an interesting proposition. I don’t know.

Well, like I said, when you got the business in the hands of people that are just wanting to own a company and not know anything about it, then that’s what happens.

Matt Riddle And His Bong

Matt Riddle is making all these weed jokes, Teddy, and I wanted to get your thoughts on them. Is Matt Riddle the stoner funny to you?

Yes, he is. And the thing about it, man, just to show you that the times have changed, man, because I knew a time that you couldn’t get on TV and make no weed jokes. You couldn’t be talking about that at all, because especially in professional wrestling, God damn, man, they’d be, "This is wrestling. What the hell are you doing?" But I’m glad to see that people have changed with the time. Yes, he is extremely funny. I love the weed jokes.

If you showed up, would you hit his bong? That seems to be what he’s asking everybody now these days.

Exactly. I would hit it. All he got to do is bring it to me.

Well, Teddy, I wanted to give people a taste of what they can expect. I’m not Mac Davis, but I just wanted to show people here a little taste of the wide variety of takes that you have. Because Teddy, we talked a lot of topical stuff here, but you’re a walking history textbook of professional wrestling, man. You’re one of those guys that just brings a really cool, unique perspective. And I always thank you for the time, man. I’m happy you’re going to be able to bring more of your thoughts to pro wrestling fans. That’s great, man.

Right. Well, I appreciate that, man.

Going One-On-One With Teddy Long

You have this new podcast over at Sportskeeda with Mac. Talk to me about this thing. What’s the show going to be about here, Teddy? What can we expect?

Well, kindly, if any of the people that have been keeping up with it, the original name was "After Hours Road Trip," but Sportskeeda, they wanted to change the name and do some other stuff. So now it’s going to be named "One on One."

Wow. Yeah, sure. If there’s anybody that knows anything about people going one on one, it’s you, Teddy.

Yeah, exactly man. So they’re going to name it that. And want give a big shout out to Mac Davis. Mac Davis is, I owe him all of this. He’s the one that thought about this. He started everything, and I’m just proud that he let me tag along with him. So Mac Davis is really the creator of this. But we are going to start this on, I think Mac told me that our first show will drop this Friday on Sportskeeda. We’re going to be there, and then I think our original show will still stay on the YouTube Network.

And let me say this too, Nick, I want to thank you and all the people at Wrestling Inc. You’ve always had my back, man. You’ll call me out of the blue and just want to see what I’m doing and so I can get it out to the fans. And a lot of people don’t do this. So like I said, man, thank you and all the staff at Wrestling Inc. for giving me a platform, man. And especially you, man; You’re always thinking about me, man, and I just want to say thank you very much and thank all the people over at Wrestling Inc.

No problem, man. So with this show, are you going to be talking news? You going to be looking back at old matches? What exactly can you expect?

Well, what we were doing is, the title was to "Ask Teddy." And so we talk about the WWE, we’ll talk AEW. We’ll talk about all the wrestling organizations, plus we’ll talk about some of the independent shows that are being ran … They liked the product. They saw what me and Mac were doing, and so they called him up. They got in touch with him, and so they wanted to be a part of it. So what we are talking about when we say "Ask Teddy," you can ask me any questions that you want to ask, maybe about my past, what I did in the past or stuff that I did, maybe in WCW and WWE, and I can answer those questions for you. So we’re just talking about a variety of things. It ain’t just got to be wrestling; it’s just whatever you’d like to talk about, that’s what we talk about.