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The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever: Chapter 2

Foreword | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6
Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12
Afterword, Acknowledgements, About the Author

The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View EverThat Fake Stuff?

“We just don’t even say where we are. Nobody knows where Fisherville, Virginia, is, anyway, so we’re not losing anything there.”

I could say that this is where it all started going downhill, but we’d been going downhill from the start of the production meeting.

The whole situation was weird, which was the bigger problem. For starters, when we all sat around the table – the former WWE TV producer, Nelson Sweglar, Tully Blanchard, who was going to work the Gorilla position during the show, Hank Fawcett, the money man behind Awesome Wrestling Entertainment, and Marvin and I, the creative team – it was the first time we’d all been in the same room.

Up until about 9 a.m. the morning of Oct. 15, 2011, the Night of Legends, such as it was, was what Marvin and I had said it was.

The show had come into being in my living room about six months earlier. The original card, for what we were planning to be just a big house show, or what we hoped would be a big house show, was built around Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, The Rock ‘n Roll Express, and we were thinking of doing something with those guys, maybe Dusty Rhodes and Jerry Lawler, and whoever else we could scrounge up for a smallish talent fee and trans.

One night we were messing around on YouTube looking for videos featuring Ricky that we could play off of when we came across a shoot interview that he had done years earlier that had him doing his best to tear Kevin Nash a new one, the gist of his rants being that Nash, at the outset of the nWo era, had worked behind the scenes to rid the WCW roster of old school Jim Crockett guys, and guys like Morton and Gibson were among the casualties, and if given half the chance, Ricky would pop Kevin the next time he saw him.

The light bulb went off for each of us as we watched: Ricky vs. Kevin, in some capacity.

The trick would be getting the two to agree to work together, which turned out not to be hard at all.

So, we had a show name and theme, Night of Legends, and we had a main event, involving Nash and Morton. The show was, again, being booked as a house show, but as we rolled out the advertising in early June, the Night of Legends went, as they say, viral.

The AWE Facebook page would gain a couple of thousand new likes a day some days, which of course just absolutely blew us all away.

Including Hank, unbeknownst to Marvin and me, started quietly pursuing options to televise the event, eventually getting the attention of In Demand, the pay-per-view distributor. When he let us in on that idea, mid-July, he did so by asking me to do some research on what we’d need to hit in terms of numbers to make a go of it.

I found numbers on how TNA and ECW had done with their early pay-per-views, and the numbers seemed well out of reach from what we could do. TNA was pulling in the 10,000 to 12,000 range for its monthly pay-per-views at the time, and ECW at its height was getting in the 20,000 range.

Hank said, after reading my report, that he thought we had a shot of getting 25,000, which was the indication that 25,000 was what he felt we needed to hit to break even.

As our Facebook numbers grew, and we’d pass 100,000 by showtime, Hank would suggest that we had enough of a fan base. But what we didn’t have, Marvin and I argued, ad nauseam, was weekly TV, which both TNA and ECW had, and even they weren’t doing or hadn’t done what we’d need to do to not go bust.

That decision was, as I have said, above our pay grade, and despite our objections, it was full steam ahead to us all putting on our first live TV show.

First order of business there being: renegotiating contract terms with everyone that we’d lined up for the show, starting most importantly with Nash.

Everybody else – Morton, Gibson, Diamond Dallas Page, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Fit Finlay, Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer – fell in line with little drama.

Drama was the order of the day with Nash, though. I know, big surprise there, right? Waiting for his contract to come back played out for me while I was on vacation in the Outer Banks, and even getting it in hand wasn’t enough to calm our nerves.

“Were you just watching SummerSlam?”

This was Marvin, on the phone, and no, I wasn’t. This was pre-WWE Network era, and I wasn’t spending $49.95 every month for pay-per-views.

Nash, Marvin told me, had interfered in the main event, delivering a jackknife powerbomb to C.M. Punk after Punk had just won the WWE title from John Cena.

Alberto Del Rio then cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to take the belt off Punk.

Leading to a night of what the fuck just happened? soul searching on the part of the AWE creative team.

“So, you mean, Nash didn’t tell you this was happening?” I asked Marvin, knowing that of course he hadn’t, because, you know, wrestling.

I went to bed that night thinking our main event was off, that our pay-per-view was probably off, that, damn, maybe we wouldn’t even get the big house show that we’d started planning out of months of work.

Nash, to his credit, honored the contract, which led to some interesting maneuvering behind the scenes.

Part of the new contract had us doing our version of a go-home show about a month out from the pay-per-view in Woodstock, Virginia, a combination house show/TV taping to get footage to use for the TV broadcast in October.

We needed Nash there for an angle involving a contract signing with DDP and the Rock ‘n Rolls.

Thing was, WWE needed him in Buffalo, New York, the next night for its Night of Champions pay-per-view, to further the developing storyline with Punk.

WWE, being WWE, solved the problem by sending a corporate jet to the nearest airport, Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport, about an hour south of Woodstock, with our concession to the logistics being having the contract signing open our house show.

The angle went off without a hitch, and the night in Woodstock gave us what we needed in terms of TV footage.

We were so busy with these and various and sundry other details that it didn’t occur to me that the team that would put Night of Legends on as a live TV show hadn’t gotten together around a table or on a conference call – or even an email thread – to discuss particulars.

We all sort of did our own things in our own silos. Marvin and I were in Virginia doing what we did, writing and rewriting (and rewriting, and rewriting some more) the scripts for the show.

Hank, based in California, was arranging for the TV production, and also hiring PR folks to pitch stories about the show to national media outlets.

Marvin and I got acquainted with Nelson Sweglar on a day-long video shoot at a hotel near the Richmond airport that had us flying the stars of the show in for sit-down interviews for use on the live show, then flying them right back out.

Tully Blanchard was a surprise to me, which is to say, I didn’t know until I showed up at Augusta Expo, a 2,500-seat warehouse-style building in Fishersville, not Fisherville, as most of the people who’d flown in had taken to calling it, that he was going to be part of the production.

So there we all were, finally. Also at the table: Larry Zbyszko and Dutch Mantell, two-thirds of our broadcast commentary crew.

Chris Cruise, the play-by-play guy, was supposed to be there, but was running late.

There were about 20 people there in all, and I still don’t know who all the others were – I assume camera operators and tech guys.

The first thing that struck me: it was like Marvin and I weren’t even there.

Hank opened the meeting, then deferred to Nelson Sweglar, who told us how the show would proceed, from start to finish.

He started going into how each of the six matches would be laid out, and Marvin tried to get his attention.

Because we’d had eight matches scheduled for the show.

Nelson said we’d only have enough time for six, detailing how each match would run around 15 minutes, but you also had to account for entrances and exits, and once you did all of that, you were pushing past two and a half hours.

I did the math in my head as he laid out his case. OK, so what you’re saying is, there’s an hour of entrances and exits, basically 10 minutes per match?

And what about that other half-hour? Sure, we don’t want to use it all, because In Demand is giving us three hours total before they turn out the lights on us, but, seriously.

It seemed to me that they were trying to stretch things out on us when our thinking was they were putting things on the cutting-room floor before we started rolling the cameras.

For example, a segment that we had planned with Baby Doll and Amy Dumas was going to be pushed to the pre-show, which, OK, we’d been promoting Dumas, WWE’s Lita, heavily in our advertising.

We were also being told that the Dennis Condrey-Randy Mulkey match that we’d booked as a fun early-card showcase was being relegated to the pre-show.

This was all thrust upon us as a fait accompli, as in, this was the way it was going to be done, no questions asked.

Which was fine, except I had written show notes for the on-air commentary team that flowed from one match to the next, and we weren’t being given much time to do another rewrite, given what else had to be done between the morning meeting and the call time for the beginning of filming for the backstage segments at 4 p.m.

It struck me that Marvin wasn’t chiming in at all. I looked at him across the table a couple of times as our show was being ripped apart in front of us, and he seemed out of it, like he was having an out-of-body experience or something.

I would find out after the production meeting that overnight his mother had suffered some kind of medical episode and was in the hospital in the ICU.

We didn’t know then, but she wasn’t going to ever leave the hospital bed again.

His head was there at her bedside, and otherwise about as completely disengaged from the show as it could be.

My role in the company was hired hand, and Marvin had been the one to hire me, so I didn’t feel I could step up and defend the show that we had birthed from nothing, breathed into existence and fine-crafted over weeks of pitches, phone calls, texts and Facebook posts.

The only thing we managed to do to save anything was we decided to hold back one match that we had scheduled for the pre-show, with Short Sleeve Sampson and Abo Shongo, as a filler just in case something went wrong with the TV broadcast.

Which, yes, was to come, but more on that later.

Continue reading. Go to Chapter 3.

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