He was a lifelong professional wrestling fan who created one of the first ever wrestling newsletters. He soon worked on wrestling radio shows, hotlines and soon became a play by play voice in the business. Today on the blog, we ask:’Whatever Happened to‘ Mike Tenay?
Mike Tenay was a pro wrestling fan as long as he could remember. He was born and raised in the Los Angeles, California area and watched a lot of pro wrestling from the Olympic Auditorium in L.A. in the 1960’s and 70’s. Before the invention of the VCR, Tenay would often record the audio of the matches from his tape recorder and sell the audio tapes to fans who couldn’t see the shows. At just 11 years old, Mike Tenay started one of the very first pro wrestling newsletters in the country called “Mat News.”
Mat News was successful because it often broke kayfabe and gave real news and stories about the business, unlike the wrestling magazines that stayed in kayfabe. Dave Meltzer of ‘The Wrestling Observer’ newsletter fame was one of Tenay’s subscribers to Mat News. Tenay ran the newsletter from 1966 to 1973. After graduating high school, Tenay went to work for his father Bill Tenay selling heating and air conditioning equipment in Los Angeles. Eventually though, Tenay would get himself back to the business he loved in pro wrestling.
Mike Tenay would be a part of a late night radio talk show that discussed wrestling from 1991 until around 1995. Despite being on late at night, the radio show would become a hit and Tenay started getting to interview actual wrestlers on the show. Those interviews led to connections that got him a gig working on the WCW hotline. The job wasn’t full time, but it opened even more doors for Tenay who would befriend Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan.
According to Tenay, Heenan was a huge supporter of his and helped him get several opportunities in WCW that he felt he couldn’t get on his own. The biggest opportunity came in 1994, when WCW was working with AAA wrestling in Mexico on a pay per view called ‘When Worlds Collide.’ None of the main announcers wanted any part of working the show including Tony Schiavone who had no knowledge of lucha libre wrestling. Luckily, Bobby Heenan knew a guy who grew up watching hours upon hours of Mexican wrestling and Mike Tenay got the gig to do announce work for the pay per view alongside Chris Cruise.
Tenay proved his worth with his vast knowledge of the luchadors and of the actual names of the moves they performed. The show led Eric Bischoff to introduce more luchadors to his programming and he hired Tenay as a “special guest announcer” whenever they wrestled on Nitro to help get that talent over. Tenay had become so well received, he eventually got a permanent spot on the WCW Nitro announce team and a lead announcer on WCW’s secondary show Thunder. He even began putting his input into the creative side of the company.
Tenay was heavily credited as the mastermind behind Bill Goldberg’s infamous undefeated streak gimmick. Mike Tenay remained with World Championship Wrestling until it was bought out by WWE in 2001. He was not offered a contract with WWE and was out of the wrestling business. That is until 2002, when Jeff Jarrett offered him the lead announcing duties for his upstart promotion Total Non Stop Action aka TNA wrestling. Not only was ‘The Professor’ Mike Tenay doing announcing, he was also became involved in booking for TNA.
After Jeff Jarrett sold off a majority of his company, TNA management attempted to start phasing out Mike as the voice of TNA for a younger voice. They briefly brought in Todd Keneley but longtime TNA fans demanded Tenay be placed back as the lead voice. Ultimately, when TNA switched television channels in 2014, former WWE announcer Josh Mathews was made the lead announcer. Tenay was reduced to backstage interviews and hosting secondary programming. Mike Tenay was quietly phased out of TNA Impact permanently in 2015.
So, whatever happened to ‘The Professor’ Mike Tenay? Mike Tenay says that he is officially retired from professional wrestling and started his own podcast about sports betting, titled ‘Professor Vegas.’ The podcast would last a little less than a year. Mike Tenay is happily retired and resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with his wife Karen.
You can read all previous ‘Whatever Happened to’ pieces here.