Taz was a hot commodity of both WWE and WCW in 1999 as he was one of ECW's biggest stars at the time. He ended up signing with WWE although that process was not an easy one with many people involved.
One of those people was Vince Russo who was a part of WWE's Creative Team at the time but not a member of Talent Relations. Russo reaching out to Taz ruffled some feathers in WWE as Bruce Prichard explained on his Something to Wrestle podcast.
"It is a convoluted story and kind of a convoluted deal. Vince Russo had contacted Taz unbeknown to Jim Ross and me and Jim Ross was the Head of Talent Relations. Jim was pissed that Russo was contacting talent and agreeing to terms and deals and things that were Jim Ross's job and informing JR after the fact," said Prichard. "Here, Jim is he has to deal with the contracts and the budgets and managing the department and this guy is over here making side deals, so that was Taz.
"That was the side deal and we were just kind of told to make the deal with Taz because it became problematic at times because Russo had no idea what he was doing with contract negotiations. He would just say yeah, yeah, and the guys would take that as a done deal, but it is not a done deal until you get a contract. Vince McMahon and Jim Ross were deciding at the time who is getting paid what and what the contract terms were so I also had to deal with Taz's agent and attorney who was not one of my favorite people.
"I've got a relationship with Paul Heyman so no one told me that hey, we're talking to an ECW talent Taz, and Paul is getting blindsided by this. Paul is calling me thinking, hey, you're talking to my talent directly, I thought we had an agreement? I said that I wasn't talking to anybody directly and if I was, I would have called you first as I had with everyone else where I would call Paul first. If we were interested in talent, I would call him and say, hey, what is the deal with this guy? So, when I did get involved with it, it was after the fact and the deal had already been made so there wasn't a whole lot to talk about. Paul Heyman had insisted that Taz was under contract and Taz insisted that he was not. But I said to produce a contract and we will have our lawyers look at it. I don't know what we can or cannot do. I don't know if a contract was ever presented because there was a deal done with Taz and everybody moved on."
While that is Prichard's view on things, Russo remembers them quite differently and said Taz reached out to him. Russo then passed that information onto Vince McMahon as he said in a tweet.
4 record @bruceprichard when I worked at @WWE-@Taz-who I never met-called me about possible interest in him. I passed the information 2 my boss-@VinceMcMahon. So that equates 2 me "going behind @JRsBBQ 's back"? Bro-I'd worry more about my S*** TV show than spinning lies about me— Vince Russo (@THEVinceRusso) October 15, 2019
Taz only spent about one year in a WWE ring before injuries forced him to transition into commentary which wasn't planned. Prichard talked about WWE finding something unexpectedly whenever Taz auditioned for the broadcast booth.
"Every time you are out in front of the audience it is an audition. It was to put Taz in that position, he is holding it on his own and leave him out there for a while, he is entertaining," stated Prichard. "Listening to it, it's like, son of a b**h! Looking at the longevity of your career, how many more years did he have in the ring and how many years did he have behind the desk? Longevity is on your side if you can make that work versus going out and taking bumps all of the time so it was a happy accident. He went out for the segment, did a good job, leave him out there and s**t we may have another color commentator on our hands."
After nearly a decade with WWE and seven years as a full-time color commentator, Taz left WWE in 2009 and ended up in TNA shortly thereafter. Prichard talked about Taz wanting a change of scenery at that point in his career.
"I think it was just a contractual deal where Taz wanted more money and less work but I can't tell you for sure because I never talked to him about it other than it was a time to make a move and that happens at times. Nine years is a long time to be somewhere. I think he was ready for the move and ready to do something else. That to me solidified him as a color commentator - being able to go out do it elsewhere," said Prichard.
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Something to Wrestle w/Bruce Prichard with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.