For more on Johnny Curtis' past and the Fandango character, read our feature article "Hitting the Floor with Fandango, WWE's Latest Craze-Inducing Sensation."
Correct me if I'm wrong: One of the main sources that got you into wrestling as a child was World Championship Wrestling, right?
Yeah, I was a huge WCW fan. I was a huge fan of the lucha libre, the lightweight division, the Cruiserweights. Juventud Guerrera, at the time Chris Jericho but we all know how that worked out, Chavo Guerrero, Dean Malenko, the whole Cruiserweight division.
Was there any one match, feud or wrestler in particular that caught your eye in the first place to get you hooked on it?
I think for me obviously, being 14, 15 in 1997, '98 was a great time because that's when the Monday Night Wars were really starting to get really hot. At 14, 15, as a young man, you're really into the NWO and you're switching over to USA to see the New Age Outlaws and Stone Cold and stuff like that. For me, though, like you just mentioned, I was really into the high flying. The Rey Mysterio and Dean Malenko matches really hooked me into WCW. On the other side, it was more the story lines that got me into the WWF or WWE.
I was listening to your episode of Colt Cabana's The Art of Wrestling podcast and I really enjoyed the part where you talked about your connection to MTV's True Life and setting up rings at 14 or 15 in 1998 or so.
Yeah, I'm living in Maine right now actually. Yeah, there was actually MTV True Life, 'I Want To Be a Professional Wrestler.' You've seen the show.
With Tony Atlas.
Yeah, Tony Atlas. That came out in '98, '99. I was very eager to get into the business. At that time, I couldn't watch enough wrestling. [I'd watch] anything that came across TV. I went out and bought a satellite dish to get MSG Network to watch ECW and old IWF. At the time, my friends and I couldn't get enough wrestling. We saw that show [True Life] and were like, 'Wow, there's local wrestling that's not WWF?' So we sought out the EWA, which was Eastern Wrestling Alliance at the time that Tony was running with a guy named James St. Jean up here in Jay, Maine. I kind of weaseled my way in. 'Hey, can I just be a part of the show somehow in any capacity?' [Gruff voice] 'Alright, yeah, you can set up the ring, set up the chairs.' A couple of friends and myself kind of just followed the company around New England while we were 14, 15, 16, setting up tables. Started refereeing and then eventually getting trained and starting to have matches.
I'm going to fast-forward ahead to when you finally got on the main roster in WWE after NXT. When you were doing the idioms gimmick with the spilled milk before Fandango came along, where'd you think your career in WWE was going?
I wasn't really exactly sure where they were going with those vignettes. I was willing to do anything to get on TV. Obviously, I wouldn't disagree or argue with any verbiage they're going to give me for talking. Wasn't exactly sure where that was going to go. I don't if necessarily that was the way they wanted the vignettes to go. Obviously, they scratched it, and then I went back on the shelf for a little while [until] the Fandango thing.
Before you actually appeared on-screen as Fandango, there was a very early vignette that showed you in silhouette and had your name misspelled as “Fandangoo.” What was the story behind that? Was that a weird typo or something?
Yeah, yeah. Sometimes, when people debut, it takes about a day to really change the idea they had. I remember when Big Show debuted. He debuted in 1998 at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre [Note: He's thinking of 1999]. His first name was the Big Nasty. I remember the next night on Raw they switched it. Sometimes, they see something—the writing on the wall—and they don't like the way it looks so they kind of change it up. I remember seeing that [vignette] as well, and I totally forgot about it until you mentioned it. I think it was supposed to be a play off the way I say my name. It definitely looked like “Fandangoo,” which would be confusing.
The huge story with you nowadays is the phenomenon of everybody singing the theme music. What was your initial thoughts when it first happened when you were in the ring on that post-WrestleMania Raw in early April?
I almost started smiling when they were doing it just because that Monday Night Raw was unbelievable. For me being a wrestling fan, that was one of those crowds that kind of reminds me of the old ECW [Extreme Championship Wrestling] arena where the fans became part of the show. Anyone that got to go out there that Monday night after 'Mania got to enjoy that crowd. First thought in my head was, 'Oh, can we make some money off of this?' That's all I thought about honestly. We did the Europe tour right after that. The Raw after 'Mania we went to Europe for two weeks on tour, and just the crowd reaction over there was unbelievable, so maybe I'm like the new Hasselhoff where I'm just big over in Europe. [Laughs]