There were a few years, more than a few actually, that I didn’t follow pro-wrestling… sorry… “sports entertainment” as closely as I do now. I kept tabs, but I was far from a regular viewer. Then, I discovered podcasts.
I was working a crumby job doing over night shifts at a grocery and I had a lot of time. Just me and rows and rows of snacks til the sun came up. I wasn’t technically allowed to have an ear bud in while I was working, but there was nobody around that was going to care.
After exhausting most topics I have an interest in, I discovered that legendary WWE announcer and bbq sauce enthusiast Jim “good god almighty, they killed him!” Ross had a podcast.
I was hooked after the first episode.
Ross peeled back the curtain and shared a lifetime of knowledge, stories and connections to the wrestling business with me. He interviewed, he opinioned, he let me in just far enough that I got a taste for the secretive and exclusive world he and his peers lived in.
I moved on to Chris Jericho, who interviewed other celebrities and personalities along with his wrestling brothers and sisters. As a respected worker, Jericho’s wrestling convos were honest and laden with insider terms. I was getting closer.
I listened to Pro-wrestling torch analyst Wade Keller, who has followed the business for decades and new comer Sam Roberts.
I listened to Heated Conversations with five time, five time, five time, five time, five time, world champion, Booker T.
I gave spins to Xpac 1,2,360, Killing the Towns with Storm and Cyrus, The Steve Austin podcast, E&Cs Pod of Awesomeness, The Taz show and Vince Russos: The Brand.
The all revealed something. They all took me along for a journey to far off countries and shitty hotels. To old, filthy training rings and backstage areas. They let me sit in gorilla position (the area just on the other side of the entrance ramp) and listen to their conversations.
I was totally hooked.
Then I discovered Something to Wrestle with Bruce Pritchard, the boss level of wrestling podcasts.
Casual wrestling fans of the late 80s and 90s may know Pritchard as the red faced, Brother Love, but behind the scenes he is a man that worked closely with Vince McMahaon for over 20 years. He has stories and he does impressions,
A four hour conversation about the WWE career of Rob Van Dam? I’m in. Holy shit I’m in.
In each episode, Pritchard is led through an era, a character, event or topic by Conrad Thompson, a guy that is clearly a giant fan and loving every minute of it.
He’s also engaged to one of Ric Flairs daughters.
Thompson brings pages of notes packed with facts, questions, rumours and innuenedo to each episode. He and Pritchard discuss and argue the finer points of the WCW invasion angle, the Montreal Screw Job, the life of Owen Hart and everything and anything else.
Along the way, Pritchard brings his stories, stories that shed light on the backstage area of the WWE, to life with an assortment of impressions and characters that us marks know both on screen and off. His Vince McMahon is all bluster and “dammit pal” while his Paul Heyman begs for “another volley…sir” and his Michael Hayes “doot, doot, doots” his way from encounter to encounter.
Pritchard and Thompson have turned a conversation between a hard core mark and an insider into an empire. There are live shows, T-Shirts and the WWE network recently ran a season of the show on TV, Pritchards first work with the company since his second firing in 2008.
The podcast has been so successful that Thompson has spun his deep cut interview style into two other shows; What Happened When with former WCW announcer Tony Schivonne and 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff.
As the WWE, and thus the pro-wrestling industry that both feed and feeds of it, grows deeper and more complex roots into popular culture, the real life stories that live behind the larger than life personas of its characters become more and more accessible. The days of Kay-Fabe, the wrestlers code to not betray their worlds secrets, are long gone. What we have instead is a curtain pulled back further and further, inviting guys like me to sit beside the heroes, legends and personalities of the squared circle and hear them talk about the business we love. And nobody does this better than Bruce Pritchard and Conrad Thompson.
If you are a die hard fan, or someone who has never watched Monday Night Raw in your life, Something to Wrestle, with Bruce Pritchard is a window to a facisnating world full of colourful characters, larger than life personalities and the real life trials and tribulations of a family owned company growing, changing, evolving and staying on top.
Give it a listen and see for yourself.