Mike Tyson stars in THQ’s hard-hitting “WWE 13” video game, but would the “Baddest Man on the Planet” and former undisputed heavyweight champ ever want to step foot in a WWE ring for real and wrestle in his first actual match?
“Yeah, definitely,” Tyson tells me over the phone as we talk video games and wrestling.
Tyson served as a special enforcer in the main event of Wrestlemania XIV, and even punched Shawn Michaels to end the show, but it sounds like Tyson actually wants a shot at a full-fledged match, and it’s something he’s been dreaming about since he was a kid addicted to the style and showmanship of everyone from The Ultimate Warrior to Superstar Billy Graham.
“If I’m healthy, and I am, I think, I would do it,” he said. “You have to be in shape. You can’t just come off the street and do this stuff. I did a little wrestling before in there during rehearsal, and you have to be in top shape. You gotta work out. You’re going to get hurt, so you have to be in shape that way you can make sure you limit the damage.
“Before boxing, I was a WWF fan. It’s like a soap opera for men. That’s what poor, inner-city kids did, we watched these guys wrestle and we fantasized about being them and that glory and that fighting.”
ESPN Playbook: What do you think about being in “WWE 13” as a playable character, where you’re not only the special enforcer in story mode, but I can use you to knock out The Rock?
Mike Tyson: Man, I’m so happy. I’m so ecstatic.
Have you beaten anybody up in the game yet?
I don’t look at myself as a professional wrestler. I look at myself as a WWE Hall of Famer, but I don’t think about beating these guys or hurting these guys or any of that stuff. I just think about all the stuff that I’ve seen from Moondog Mayne and Nikolai Volkoff and those guys, and now I’m a part of that stuff.
Athletically, how do you think professional wrestlers stack up against boxers or professional athletes from other sports?
They are athletes. They’re top of the world class athletes. They’re the biggest athletes in the world. They’re agile, and the way they move ... guys like the Big Show, you can’t believe how agile he is.
What did you think about the match between Big Show and Floyd Mayweather?
I was so mad when they did that s---. Floyd can’t beat no [expletive] Big Show. That’s bulls---. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I forgot I was doing an interview, but he was fighting one of my boys.
Were you disappointed that the WWE only wanted you as a special enforcer and that you never got your match against Stone Cold Steve Austin?
No, no way. Anything they gave me, I was just very grateful to be a part of. I’m just very grateful to be a part of that stuff, but I used to like Big Show, and Floyd can’t beat Big Show in a fight, and that doesn’t make boxing look good, you know what I mean? It doesn’t make wrestling look good. They should’ve had Big Show choke Floyd out or something. Gorilla Monsoon slammed Muhammad Ali, and you’re telling me Floyd, who is 140 pounds, that he’s going to beat a 500-pound guy like that? C’mon man. When you step into their field, you have to let them be kings in their field. Gorilla Monsoon slammed Muhammad Ali. Andre The Giant kicked Chuck Wepner’s butt, right? So don’t bring guys into their field and make them look bad on their own mat. I don’t like that. From a fan’s perspective, I didn’t like that.
One of the best episodes of "Monday Night Raw" was when you came out to the ring, Stone Cold flipped you off, and the crazy melee ensued. What do you remember most about that chaotic night?
I didn’t want it to ever stop. I was living the lifestyle. I was living the dream. You’re talking crap to the bad guys and doing whatever you want. I never wanted it to stop. That’s why when you’re on top, like Tony Atlas and them, you gotta go to drugs. How do you get back to that high? All the cocaine, LSD in the world can’t get you that high back. How do you get that high back? You can’t get that high with cocaine and heroin like you think you could. You can’t get it. This is the only natural high that can supersede drugs.
Are you talking about the crowd reaction?
That excitement from the WWE. You see, most of these guys when they finish, they can’t control it, they can’t handle it. You think this stuff is easy to handle when you have people screaming at you? You might not be in a good mood, so you say, “To hell with you.” They scream at these guys. After Vince McMahon makes these guys big stars, they go one way, and the wrestlers go another way. So now they have to handle that. Vince can’t protect these guys when they’re out living their life like that. They create these huge personalities, these massive superstars, but there’s no way to protect these guys. It’s impossible. They must be miserable because they can’t go out.
Obviously, “WWE 13” isn’t your first appearance in a video game. Are you surprised how many people still come up to you and want to talk about “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out”?
All the time. They bring up the cartridge for me to sign all the time.
Were you good enough at Punch-Out to ever beat yourself in the game?
I never even played “Punch-Out.” I started late. In 2006, I got into the PlayStation games.
What do you play now? Are you into “Call of Duty” and those types of games?
Yeah, I play “Black Ops” because I like the zombies. I love to shoot zombies. I play “God of War,” I play “Assassin’s Creed.” I like stuff like that.
Do you play “Uncharted”?
I play “Uncharted,” but that game’s tough. It’s too complicated for me. It’s tough because everyone and everything is coming out of everywhere. At least in “Black Ops” you can see where the zombies are coming from. In “Uncharted,” you can’t see where these guys are coming from.
How about your real boxing opponents from back in the day, does anyone remind you of a character from “Punch-Out”? Who is the Glass Joe of fighters?
[laughs] Golly, I’ll go with Bruce Seldon. I didn’t even hit him, I think the wind knocked him out.
Juan Manuel Marquez's one-punch knockout of Manny Pacquiao got people talking boxing again. What do you think the sport needs in order to bounce back, or is UFC just going to kill the sport off?
It’s going to kill it off, but the fight between Pacquiao and Marquez, the last one, that’s enough to at least get people talking, but we need some great heavyweight fights. The little guys are holding their own, so we can’t say boxing collectively as a whole is dead. The heavyweight division is not shining. The heavyweight champion is a great champion, but it’s just not a glamorous division right now. The little guys are off the hook. There are some great fighters out there.
Outside the ring, you’ve done some hilarious stuff, from the Bobby Brown music video to “The Hangover.” Were you always a funny guy behind the scenes or is this something new to your personality?
If a comedian made fun of me on a show, I’d look for him and want to fight him, hit him, and do something stupid. I was too sensitive to be funny. I took myself too serious. Then you realize you are a joke, so live life accordingly.
Now you’re killing it with comedy. When that Bobby Brown video came out, I couldn’t stop watching it.
I like to do satire, and I’d like to do satire with R. Kelly. He’s really talented. You ever watch “Trapped in the Closet”? I’d love to do something with him, something crazy. I’d love to do some comedy with him. He’s just a talented individual. I think it would be awesome. I think me and him together would have awesome chemistry from a show business perspective.
When you look back at your boxing career, do you have a favorite moment inside the ring that stands out?
You know, I don’t think about boxing, but it’s probably the first time I won the title for my trainer. That was the best time in boxing, the rest is a blur.
Do you ever go back and watch any of your old fights?
No, I watch other fights and fighters. I watch [Roberto] Duran and [Marvin] Hagler. I’m watching Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. Those are the fights I’m watching.
I’m firing up my Xbox 360 right now and I’m going to put you in the ring against Stone Cold, maybe put you in Hell in a Cell.
Yeah! Yeah! I wish you could put me in there with the Junkyard Dog and George Steele. Hey, wasn’t The Ultimate Warrior the awesomest wrestler there ever was, though? In real life, he was off the hook. When he’d go in the dressing room, he wouldn’t even sit with the other wrestlers, he’d sit by himself. That guy was a trip. The other wrestlers weren’t sure if this guy was cool or not. He was awesome looking. He just looked like an incredible individual, a freak of nature. I go way back, back when Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko were huge.
Do you still watch WWE now?
Yeah, I watch it all the time.
What do you think of The Shield?
I like them, but it’s tough getting used to all the new guys. Back in the day, these guys were around for 20 years, but now, they just don’t have long careers like they used to have. As far as entertainment, nobody beats Mick Foley. He must’ve broke every bone in his body. I saw him and Terry Funk fight one time and they should’ve died. They should’ve been dead. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They must be some hard-core guys.
Another guy I like is Randy Orton. He’s so different than his dad. Cowboy Bob Orton with the belly and the big old hat. Randy has the Superman physique, but his dad was that big-bellied guy who had a broken arm for like 10 years [laughs]. Times change, you gotta change with the times.
It’s like comparing Dusty Rhodes to his son Cody.
These are some entertaining guys. Nobody is more flamboyant than Dusty. Nobody has his talk, nobody has his rap. None of the black guys can talk the s--- that he talks. You thought Dusty was from the ghetto somewhere the way he was talking. During my Hall of Fame speech, I looked at John Cena, the guy who was doing all the gangster signs, and I said: You think you’re part black with all your signs, and Booker T. is over there ducking and stuff, but Dusty Rhodes, he’s black exploitation black from the '70s like, hey blood, hey brother. [Laughs] These guys are athletes, like I said, but they are also some very entertaining people. If Dusty Rhodes would’ve came out now, he would have his own reality show, his own talk show. He just has the biggest personality of anyone around.
Besides watching wrestling, you also have a one-man show that’s about to tour the country. What should people expect?
Everything: Happiness, sadness, confusion, disappointment. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. Drug addict stuff, divorce stuff, cheating on your wife stuff, catching venereal diseases, going to prison for rape and s--- that I didn’t do … there’s a whole bunch of stuff.