I know, for some it's probably old news. But i love this little blog so much, because it just reflects my personal distane for Kevin Dunn as a producer and as a human being and why he is far worse for the WWE, then Vince Mcmahon.
I don't like Kevin Dunn; KD doesn't like me.
This could easily become the most TL;dr post ever as I’d love nothing more than to expend several gallons of digital ink telling you how little I like Kevin Dunn, but I’ll endeavor to restrain myself. Here’s the long and the short of it: when I saw that KD was the “My Name Is” today, my heart leapt with mean schadenfreude joy. I’ve been reading CSS regularly since right after ‘Mania, but this morning I was compelled to sign up. I’m kind of glad that there was a delay before I could post. Instead of just launching into a stream of vitriol, I got to read other comments. Many of them. Interestingly, it’s the defenses of Dunn that I find most intriguing.
The unanimity with which people hate on KD would absolutely set off my skepticism spidey sense if I didn’t know the guy. It feels to me like a lot of the defense in these comments can be boiled down to, “We don’t know the guy and he can’t POSSIBLY be as bad as these people are saying.” I totally understand the instinct to say that. Here’s the thing: I worked closely with KD for a couple years at WWE when I was a writer/producer on the creative team, and he absolutely IS that bad.
One of the primary arguments in his defense is that WWE product looks good, and that this demonstrates that he is a talented television director/producer. I’ve worked on a number of sports projects over the years and I’m here to tell you that KD is not one lick more talented than the EP/director of a mid-market NBA team. Indeed, I argue that WWE television would be well served bringing in someone just like that to take over television production because they would be more creative and could get outside the box programming has been in since the early-‘00s.
WWE shows do look good, but they also look the same. There’s a homogeneity to the feel of the product that stems directly from Dunn. His creative instinct is fast food: if it works, don’t muddle with it and keep Vince convinced it is the only way to do things by any means necessary.
When I took over as the head writer of Smackdown in the summer of 2006, one of the first things we pitched was to replace Kevin Dunn as the executive producer and promote Tim Walbert to take over the position. Tim was one of our directors (something KD is actually no good at doing – he can’t actually direct a live show to save his life) and was more than qualified for the job. We wanted Smackdown to look and feel like a completely different television than product – think in terms of Nitro vs. Raw – and for a little while Vince was intrigued by the idea (and Stephanie supported it as well).
Kevin, naturally, cared more about his fiefdom than trying something different with a show. He started his whisper campaign with Vince the moment we got off the plane (I intentionally did the initial pitch of the idea in Kevin’s presence on a flight back from TV). He buried Tim, me, the idea of a different feel to the product as a whole. It’s not just what another commenter said – that KD doesn’t give a shit about wrestling and is all about sports/entertainment – it’s that he wants to create an entertainment product that’s like fast food. He wants his job to be easy.
That means neutralizing any threat. Stephanie took a shine to me pretty early in my time at WWE and started grooming me to take over a show. She was no fan of KD at that point and it was very clear to me that he and handful of Vince’s other stooges would be gone at the moment of she and Hunter’s coronation. There are plenty of writers out there who bury Steph at every opportunity, but I remain convinced that the company will be in better hands when she takes the reins.
Any rate, the faith Stephanie had in me did not go unnoticed by KD and he did not like that at all. He didn’t like Stephanie having someone ambitious working for her, and he didn’t like that I was clearly on her side. So he started burying me with bullshit. It got back to me that he’d told one of the segment producers that I’d been slipped a roofie and passed out in a hotel lobby.
This was not the case.
I got my heat back on him plenty, but it was a constant fight long before I was given the head writer nod. The more instructive part of the story is that Kevin did this with anyone he perceived as a threat. Vince is a bit capricious about who he lets in his ear. Whenever he got close with Bruce Prichard, KD would be right there the first time Bruce was out of earshot burying him. Same with Brian Gewritz. Same with JBL. Same with JR. Same with a long list of people, and this I personally observed. KD once tried to turn ME against another writer who was similarly ambitious. Anyone who posed a danger to Dunn’s position from any perspective – a producer at the studio, a talent, whoever – KD would bury them to the boss. This was true even when there wasn’t any real threat.
So yes, KD still has a job, but I think the way you treat people matters. There is certainly something to be said about being cutthroat in a corporate culture that rewards sociopathy. I was no kinda freaking angel to get ahead as quickly as I did. At the same time, WWE would be a better place to work that would present a better product if Kevin Dunn were gone.
Case in point, one of the big rubs on KD: he’s a misogynist influence on the product. I can tell you this is absolutely true and I learned it almost from jump street. One of the long term stories I’m most proud of from my time at WWE was being the principal producer on the Trish Stratus/Mickie James “Single White Female” story. There’s no humble in the brag when I say we grabbed the audience by the throat by a couple weeks into the angle and our quarter-hour ratings bore that out.
The first time we were given a crossover segment because the story was getting over, KD fought it tooth and nail. He fought us every week. Show was heavy? KD wanted to cut Trish/Mickie. “Temple of Trish” segment? KD argued that we needed more action and people would get bored. Lesbian kiss? “Trish has gotta like it!” Every single element, he wanted both protagonist and villain to be sexier and stupider.
Perhaps the following scene will be more instructive. You are on the WWE corporate jet. Imagine every rock star plane in any movie: four captain’s chairs facing each other in the front. Behind them, two benches facing each other across the aisle on which are crammed the writers. The captains? Vince, KD, Michael Hayes, HHH (Steph was on maternity leave, of Hayes would have been on the bench). We’re flying back from TV after taping one of the early WWECW shows. Kelly Kelly has just been introduced as the domestic [violence] partner of Mike Knox.
Hayes: She just feels cold, you know? She’s not connecting. Vince: Mm. She needs to find her sensuality.
KD hops up and down in seat with sniggering laughter in that “Hey, boss, pay attention to me” way. Vince turns to him.
KD: She NEEEEDS to find some TITS!
KD continues to snicker, eyes on Vince, begging for approval. Vince snorts. Conversation continues.
This kind of thing? The tendency to present women as only softcore objects? Those conversations came every single day, and KD was the WORST about pissing on any serious woman’s program.
Ugh. I’m now on pg. 3 of the word doc I’m typing this in, so I’ll wrap it up. [Yaaaaay!] In my opinion based on my personal experience, Kevin Dunn is a detriment to WWE programming from both a creative and a production perspective. It is fair to credit him with being a part of something we all enjoy, but at the end of the day the product would be better if he weren’t involved in it. When that day comes, WWE will be a better place to work for both talent and crew.
So yeah, their you have it. It's pretty much one of the reasons, why i still support the WWE, just in the hopes that it gets better, once Kevin Dunn leaves. Hunter and NXT say hi.
Also, Cheeseburger is the greatest.