The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever: Chapter 3

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 Ever

Making sausage

One other role that I got to play day of the show had me on the air as a backstage interviewer. In the planning, it seemed like a no big deal kind of thing. We had also written Marvin into the show, first as a competitor, and then when he pulled out of getting into the ring on the show, as an ally of Kevin Nash and Diamond Dallas Page aligned against The Rock ‘n Roll Express in the main event.

The thinking being, damn, how many times are we ever going to get to write a TV show in our lives, so we’d better write ourselves in, even basically as extras.

In retrospect, yeah, if you ever get the chance to write a TV show, don’t write yourself in, unless you otherwise have absolutely nothing to do with the production of the show.

Because, damn, it was already a day with 10 million things going on at 500 mph in 3,000 different directions, with the big production meeting, the quick post-meeting meeting with the commentary crew to go over storylines, needing to be on hand to meet and greet the talent as they arrived at the venue to go over what they were doing, and then on top of that, the details of the house show part of the day, making sure people were in place to take tickets, checking in with security, the ring crew, the venue folks …

There was not going to be enough time even without needing to get into a tux and makeup to record my interviews.

We had two backstage interviewers – the other mic went to the legendary writer and broadcaster Bill Apter, who I came to absolutely adore. He is the same walking encyclopedia of wrestling history that he seems to be on TV and on his podcasts, and also the incredibly gentle soul that comes across in his media appearances.

Naturally, we made Bill the babyface interviewer, meaning he got camera time with Kevin Nash, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Fit Finlay, Terry Funk, all, as it turns out, big guys.

I’m a big guy myself. Back in 2011, I was tipping the scales at a stocky 265 pounds on my 6’1” frame.

I say stocky because it wasn’t all muscle, but I was benching 400+ and squatting 650 at the gym, so … maybe Samoa Joe?

As the heel interviewer, then, consider who I was paired with backstage. The Rock ‘n Roll Express, under 6 feet each, both around 200-210 on the scales. Jamin Olivencia, maybe 5’10”, maybe 195. A guy named Alex Silva that we had been building up to be our Randy Orton in the making. Alex is taller, maybe 6’3”, but came in that night a trim 215-ish.

Basically, I was towering over or otherwise dwarfing our heels, while Bill, who can’t be more than 5’7”, was in need of a stool to even look eye to belly with Nash and Duggan.

In my mind, my job was to ask questions and hold the mic, in essence be like a referee, there but not noticed. The producer, Nelson Sweglar, had other ideas. His direction to me was that I should ask my questions, and then when the heel would do his heelish best to avoid answering the question, then launch into a diatribe blasting the face, I should consciously look angry, to make it clear that I didn’t approve of what the heel had to say.

As he did many times that day, Nelson would punctuate what he had to say by saying some version of, This is how Vince would do it.

So, now, this is how Vince would do it, except that I’m bigger than the heels that I’m interviewing, and now I need to glare at them while they talk to me.

I had a sense as we were filming that this wasn’t going to go well, and now years later watching the video, yeah. You have a backstage interviewer who looks like an indy wrestler interviewing a parade of small heels with a look on his face like he wants to kick each and every one of their sorry asses, and this is somehow supposed to make sense.

My guess is that, no, this isn’t how Vince would do it, but that’s another story for another day.

The sort of odd timing of the day was that we started filming at 4, but we still hadn’t had our final all hands on deck talent meeting to lay out the show from start to finish. Our approach was a lot less hands-on than the way Vince would do it, going more old school, telling the guys in each match what the finish was going to be, who was going to go over, to use the backstage terminology, and how much time they had.

From there, the guys were left to work out how they got there. The WWE approach is more hands-on in the sense that not only do the guys get the finish and the time, but for TV matches they have a producer who helps them script the match move for move from start to finish.

The benefit to that approach is that, yes, there are still going to be mistakes, but when you know where you’re going to go from start to finish, you’re not going to have as many, and you even get a chance to actually work them out in the ring without lights and cameras and thousands of fans before you go out on the stage, as it were.

The disadvantage: yeah, it can come across as stale, when you have guys in there who can get lost in trying to remember what they’re supposed to be doing as opposed to getting into a flow and letting that dictate how you get from one move to the next.

The approach we were using isn’t necessarily entirely spontaneous. For example, our opening match, Sonjay Dutt and Jamin Olivencia, two smaller guys with ground and aerial games who like to work a fast pace. We gave them their finish and their time, and then they went to a corner of the dressing room and started working out every move, no bumps, but arms and legs flailing, in essence pantomiming what we were about to see live on TV in a couple of hours.

The key to us was that they were their own producers, and we had this be the case up and down the card. Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer didn’t need us to tell them how to get to their finish in 20 minutes. Hacksaw was matched up with a young guy named Mohamad Ali Vaez, and we had another veteran-youngster matchup with Fit Finlay and Alex Silva. In both of those, the vet laid out the framework of the match to the rookie at the outset, and then the two would work out their spots, offense and such, from there together.

In time, it was quite the scene, with each group of guys in a different part of the dressing room doing the same thing that Sonjay and Jamin had started, working out their moves, bounding around each other like they were each wrestling their opponent in a phone booth.

One way I thought of it then and think of it now years later was that it was like watching the entire show play out all at once in fast forward.

So, yeah, that was all neat to see, and it was intentional, the thinking being that we’d get a better end product by empowering the talent to unleash their creativity to get us from Point A, the ring entrance and introductions, to Point B, the winner’s hand being raised.

The disadvantage to this approach would become clear later, when the first in a series of clusterfuck moments sent things into a tornadic spiral.

Continue reading. Go to Chapter 4.