1. Sean Oliver a lot of wrestling fans may know who you are, and some may not. You want to give everyone an introduction to who you are and what you do?
I guess the official answer, however boring, is that I’m the co-owner and president of Kayfabe Commentaries, a production company that produces original, pro wrestling oriented, interview content. How’s that for convoluted, corporate bullshit? A more reasonable answer is that I help run a company that produces shoot-style wrestling interviews. I think we’re a rung above the “shoot interview” world so I don’t generally use the term. But I suppose the essence is the same. I’m also the “face” of the company, hosting almost all of our shows. So I’m on-camera talent as well. Actually, listening to all this I would like a raise.
2.Letâ€™s cut to the chase on your latest Breaking Kayfabe dvd you have Tammy Sytch, who fans may know as Sunny and she makes a comment that you seem to be a little shocked by, that she has never been honest in any shoot interview before that. As someone who interviewed her in the past, how did that comment make you feel? And after the interview did you guys talk about that?
Well I wasn’t shocked because I knew the answer prior to asking. But she isn’t the first or the last wrestler to try and “work” an interviewer. God, a lot of celebrities do this…embellish. This isn’t the courtroom, its entertainment. If the talent can’t make waves somehow, they’re a less valuable commodity for certain shows. It’s just reality. Having said that…the fact that we were able to reveal such a detail on “Breaking Kayfabe” shows some honesty on her part, as far as that show is concerned, right?
3. Like you going into this interview, I sort of talked to you and told you this and that. Before doing an interview do you talk to the subject and give them any advice or try to get them to open up?
Depends on the talent. Some, like a Jim Cornette or a Honky Tonk Man, need nothing. I may give them the pitch on the technical or format aspects of what we’re doing. But as for what’s expected, they know. A more reserved individual might need more prep work. As a case in point, before we start rolling on the “Timelines,” I’ll sit with the talent before we shoot and reinforce that the show really shines when they can be as detailed as possible, and also when they DON’T omit the little, seemingly insignificant details surrounding an event we’re discussing. Those little tidbits or throw-away conversations they had with others at the time they’re recalling, those are the moments that really make the fan feel like we’re inside with them. It helps to recreate the atmosphere realistically. Also, if we’re debuting a new series, or doing something so innovative and off-the-wall like “Being a Horseman,” then there needs to be a fair amount of discussion beforehand.
4. I was watching Wrestlingâ€™s mostâ€¦Botched, and you seem to do something that few people can do, you got Stevie Richards over. Did you ever listen back to it afterwards and think that maybe his comments while I really was a fan of the honesty that he may have been burning some bridges? You have got to get that man on YouShoot.
I like Michael. He’s very smart and he’s amassed a life for himself beyond wrestling, while still being able to keep a foot in it, pay tribute to it, and revere it. He didn’t get swallowed by it
5. If WWE called you up tomorrow morning, and said Vince McMahon is down to do a shoot interview, what would be the one question you would be dying to ask him?
I have played the Vince interview in my head a bit, lol. It has to be 10 hours long. The level of honesty I would seek would guarantee that it would never happen. Actually, now that I think about it, he has some balls. He might feel that it’s time to open up, who knows. I think myself and Kayfabe Commentaries would certainly be a great, objective platform on which he can tell his amazing story.
6. Letâ€™s talk about the Dixie Carter shoot interview, looking back at that interview which was a major deal for both your company and fans, are you happy with the end result? What would you do different if you could redo that interview now?
I don’t think anything was wrong with the interview, honestly. I think what was wrong with the event were fan expectations, which were very unrealistic. This is the head of a multi-million dollar company we’re talking about here, well educated, with an MBA. And fans were surprised she defended her company. That’s a CEO’s job! Internet fans wanted her to run away screaming and crying “the internet is right! I suck!” and when she stood her ground and defended the company, they were dumbfounded. We gave fans their evil dream…unedited, unabated access to Dixie Carter to say anything they want…and we’d make her sit and listen to everyone, and we put the most brutal of questions in that show. The trolls who say she was asked “softball questions” on that YouShoot LIVE have never seen the show. She had a fan sleeping because he said he was watching a TNA PPV, we put questions about TNA mirroring WCW in its dying days, and we even read the most scathing criticism from Bryan Alvarez about her and asked for her reaction. She had answers, defended her company, and did it with class. And the fans were frustrated by that. I think they felt they “lost” to Dixie.
Much of the facts she presented can’t be verified because they are a private company. If WWE makes a claim about their earnings overseas, it’s easy to verify by checking their annual 10-K. They’re a public company — everything is transparent. But TNA’s numbers are private. I’ve heard fans saying I should have challenged her. A.) I couldn’t for 90% of it, simply because I can’t see her figures and B.) Thatâ€™s not the premise of a YouShoot. The deal with that show is fans ask, stars answer. I get out of the way.
7. Dixie Carter, Sean you met the woman, you sat beside her. Do you think that woman is capable of running a wrestling company? Did you expect at any time during that shoot she would have called her creative to come up there and talk for her?
Haha, no way. Dixie is tough. She’s personable, we had a cocktail or two after the show, she’s very down to earth. She was never the problem. Her “people” tried to get in the way a few times, right up until that afternoon at 12 noon when I was yelling into the intercom during a conference call that they better get on a plane and stop the bullshit or they’d be in violation of a contract we have with them, giving us total control over all creative aspects of the show. She wanted to do this, THEY were getting nervous. That conference call is on video somewhere here, Anthony was smart enough to start running the camera figuring something juicy might happen. I fought very hard with TNA people to maintain the integrity of that show for the fans, to keep it legit, and I did that. I’m sorry some people didn’t like the answers an experienced business professional gave in defending her company.
As for the first part of your question, she should do, and I think IS doing, what any business owner should do upon entering a field in which they may not be familiar — surround oneself with experienced, knowledgeable people to run the day to day. Your job is to step back and let them do their job, be inspirational, make people feel good about working there, propose your new ideas to those managers of which I spoke, and make sure your company is headed in thee right direction.
8. Do you think shoot interviews have helped or hurt the industry, and why? And this is not an attack on you, I mean letâ€™s be honest, ECW used shoot style many times to get across a feud or character, and WWE has even lifted that curtain a little and even on their latest dvds have admitted that wrestling is fixed that the outcomes are predetermined months ahead of time.
Tough one. The drawing back of the curtain on pro wrestling has definitely ensured that the magic of the illusion and the secrecy of storylines is ruined forever. But I think that shoot-style programming is less to blame for that than Internet wrestling news sites and the immediacy of global information about the sport. But the world has changed, so the sport must change to adapt. If I knew that Piper was going to smash a coconut on Snuka’s head in three weeks after the taping in Allentown, it would not have had the impact on me when I saw it happen. The shock and horror the viewers had ensured that the gates would be massive at the house shows as the two of them made the loop. Nowadays I’m not sure what the draw would be to keep people watching something they’re supposed to be surprised by, when there are no surprises.
It’s a job I’d never want, that of the modern wrestling writer. You have to write hours of weekly TV, without a seasonal break, and keep many uninteresting athletes who only really want to use this as an entree to something else in entertainment (but never will), involved in storylines they can’t get over, because they have a contract and they have to be here for six more months. Ugh. Kill me.
9. This is what I will call Wicked Channel timeline. I will give you a wrestling event and you tell me your feelingsâ€¦
a. Bob Holly roughing up Matt on Tough Enough
I remember he went a little hard on him, but that’s Bob. I think the epilogue of Matt’s story has more to do with people’s reaction to that incident.
b. Shane Douglas throwing down the so called NWA title and holding up the ECW belt
Crowning moment for ECW and a shoot all the way. Shane chronicles that whole event, including the lead-up and aftermath with Coraluzzo in his Timeline: History of ECW 1994 disc, available at our site.
c. Jeff Jarrett laying down at Bash at the Beach for Hogan to pin him
More WCW silliness.
d. Nash taking over booking and has him going over on the undefeated Goldberg
Wasn’t Nash pretty over at the time? It might not be what I would have done, but little booking decisions don’t kill a company. Gross financial mismanagement does. And that, don’t fool yourself, is what killed WCW.
e. Paul Heyman going on TNN and publically begging them to throw him off the air and airing their personal issues with the network
Great shoot stuff. Paul knew where the world was going, where the business was going, and where fans were going before anyone else. And he had the balls to go there first.
f. The night that Vince McMahon bought WCW
Beginning of the one party system, lol. Would that model ever work?
10. Are you shocked that companies like TNA, and most importantly ROH and CZW are still around? Do you personally think any of them are profitable, and could even make an attempt at trying to compete with WWE, even combined?
The key to those guys and anyone really, including us, staying in business and competing with WWE is differentiating. They need to do, not only what WWE CAN’T do, but what they’d NEVER be able to do. They’d never take the risks that CZW does, too lawsuit friendly. That would make shareholders freak. They’d never focus so intently on the sport aspect of wrestling like ROH and Evolve because they’d lose mass appeal and the 11 year old girls. That would shrink market share and make shareholders nervous/angry. Try as they might, and they so have, they’ll never be able to replicate our level of shoot-style honesty because some of it would shine a negative light on their own company, and much of it would reveal information counter to the tale they’ve created about their own history for so long. fans go there to see explosions and The Rock. They come to us for the truth.
11. You are an old school wrestling fan just like I am, are you shocked that Bruno Samartino took the offer finally to go into the WWE Hall of Fame? And beside Macho Man, who the world wants in it..who do you think should be the next to go in?
I was close to that situation for a reason I can’t talk about yet, but I’m glad Bruno will be honored. Glad they got the money where it needed to be to make that happen, is a better way to put it. Happy for Bruno he can now enter a Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame where he can stand beside Koko B Ware and Edge who both preceded him into it.
I’m going to reserve my comment on who should go in next because we’re currently polling fans on “Wrestling’s Most Overlooked WWE H.O.F.er” for season 3 of “Wrestling’s Most.” Wouldn’t want to influence fans.
12. This is called who you think had a bigger impact on wrestling. I will give you a list of guys and you list in order of 1 being the most influential and biggest impact to six being the leastâ€¦Steve Austin, The Rock, Hogan, Bruno, Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon
1. Bruno Sammartino. He kept the gates heavy for more than a dozen years for the McMahon family, and basically handed them Madison Square Garden. That became their empire.
2. Vince McMahon. Every other name on that list might never have come to the public’s attention without him.
3. Hulk Hogan. There was nothing even close to the explosion that wrestling made in the 80s, and Vince and Hulk are responsible, in disputable percentages each.
Your other names are interchangeable, though I would say Heyman showed WWE the way to update the product.
13. Vince Russo, you have sat down with before as well when he was your guest booker. Letâ€™s be honest, when the man talks he talks a good game and can probably make Satan a Christian. Do you think the man deserves this huge hateful backlash he has got in the wrestling business? Do you think he is really to blame with the death of WCW and why TNA did not ignite in the middle stages?
I never understood all the vitriol towards a wrestling writer. His individual decision may have run the gamut, but Lord, whose wouldn’t? When you consider how much TV that guy was responsible for writing its mind boggling. My dealings with Vince have been great. There may be people in the business that were treated poorly by him on a personal level, but I don’t know about all that. I look at the ratings when he was writing, and that tells the tale. Now, having said that, I think he got carried away with himself stepping through the curtain, but did HE do that? Or did dirt sheets and Internet sites require him to do that by sending every signal in the world that he was the most talked about person in wrestling? Give em what they want, right?
14. One of the funniest segments you ever did on any shoot, and yes another plug was the X Pac shoot when the question came in if Chyna had a penis and how big was it. Do you ever sit there and feel for your guests when your fans and their fans ask them these questions that could be taken out of context and offend them? If so, has there ever been a guest who made you cut that part out and wanted to fight?
No. Every person we’ve worked with either knows about the level of professionalism we have, or they learn it 5 minutes into working with us. When they feel that safety net, they know I’ll never let them fall too far. No one has ever looked bad in our shows, unless THEY chose to do so. We always build our talent a cushiony playpen in which they can frolic with me on camera for a couple of hours. They love doing the YouShoots.
15. You know in terms of shoot interviews and distributing, you are not the only game in town though yours are heads and shoulders the best, but you are not alone. That being said, have you ever talked to any of your competition? If so, what are your thoughts about them?
Who’s our competition? Do you mean RF Video and Highspots? They are certified vendors of our material, selling lots of them in their superstores. I can’t really consider them competition entirely, though there’s an element of that. Who else is there? There a couple of small ones that fly around for a bit, then realize that daddy’s money gets spent really fast when you buy a nice camera but can’t write compelling programming or run a business in the competitive market of digital entertainment nowadays. Those guys are gone in a year. I ignore them. I never have to fire in their direction. Ineptitude gets them for me.
16. You have interviewed Missy Hyatt and also done a few others things with her for your company. Every guy you interview does not think so nice of Missy. What was your experience dealing with Missy Hyatt? Also, do you think she is as big of a ho as the wrestlers all seem to claim?
Missy has always been great with us. She’s a professional; she knows what she’s doing. She’s very smart. Are there some days it’s easier than others to deal with her? Indeed. But she and I always made it work on camera and at the Ring Roasts. I like Missy and wish her well.
17. Do you think people like David Sammartino and Lacey Von Erich have a place in wrestling? And what place would it be?
I don’t know David, but Lacey and I got along fine when we worked together, but I think her interests are elsewhere anyway. Even back then she was much more excited about the Playboy pictorial she had just shot than anything else.
18. TNA made a speech a few years ago that The Dudleyâ€™s oops I meant Team 3D are the best tag wrestlers of all time. They won like 24 titles all around the world, surpassing this and that. I personally will go on record to me the best tag team of all time is the Steinerâ€™s in their heyday. Who do you think is the best tag team of all time, and also do you agree with TNA thinking it should be the Dudley 3D Team?
You know, for any questions about “best” this or that…tag team…champ…whatever…you have to set the criteria. If I were Vince or Dixie or Jim Crockett, then the “best” anything is the one who drew and drew for the longest. That means a few things. Firstly it means they are a moneymaking product, so they are a love story for the business of wrestling. Secondly, it means that since fans are plunking down money to watch them wrestle, or wear their T-shirt, or buy their toys, it means those fans love them too. Or love to hate them. Roddy Piper and Ric Flair made a lot of dough being heels. So that’s really the answer. The “best” wrestlers live at the intersection of commerce and popularity. I hate to be a cynic but I don’t think work rate really factors into the equation. When the hell did “work rate” become a word anyway?
19. Beside McMahon, if you could conduct any shoot interview you wanted to, who would be your choice?
There are a few names I’d like to get on KC programs. I think that Pat Paterson, Dusty Rhodes, and Bill Watts need to be on Guest Booker for history’s sake. It’s been a bitch trying to make that happen. Hopefully one day it will. We finally just booked Jake The Snake Roberts for a program later this year. That was a hotly requested name that proved elusive for a long time. But I got the deal done through DDP recently and we’ll be shooting Jake this April. Bret Hart needs to be featured on “Timeline”. So there’s a lot of work left to do.
20. Do you think dirt sheets in this day and age of everyone knowing everything still have a reason to exist? Do you read the dirt sheets? I will be honest, two of the crumbs that run popular ones seem to always email me their scoops and want me to feature them on our website, esp. the one who said he talked to MVP and that he told them and took a picture of the contract he signed with WWE and was entering the Rumble this year.
Well, as I said earlier the dirt sheets may have killed kayfabe, but it was due to happen anyway. Entertainment, news, and society in general is cyclical. Reality TV killed the soaps. iTunes killed the record store. TMZ is about to kill the celebrity gossip mags. Mark my words; they’ll be gone very soon. People, InTouch and similar checkout stand favorites just reported a 14% decline in readership in ONE quarter last year. Those kinds of losses are debilitating. I cannot understand why People or the Enquirer has still not tried to get off the rack and into computers and smartphones. They would need to skew a little younger, but Jesus my mom has an iPod. Change or die. It’s Darwinian and it’s true in evolution as well as business.
As for my reading the dirt sheets I have to poke my head through the websites to keep up with business and our place in it. The guys here read that stuff religiously. They bring me the important stuff at the meetings and at the shoots. I usually look for our ads and our company name on their sites.
21. This was not so bad, Sean Oliver this is what I call plug and promote tell people how to reach you, and what you are up toâ€¦
We’re at http://www.kayfabecommentaries.com/ and @KayfabeComment on Twitter. We offer our programming on DVD, OnDemand, and very soon we’ll be on Roku, via the World Wrestling Network. We’re hard at work on all of our ongoing series “YouShoot”, “Guest Booker”, all of the “Timeline” franchises (WWE, ECW, and now WCW), “Breaking Kayfabe”, and “Wrestling’s Most.” We’ll continue to do those, as well as look for ways to push shoot programming into new and innovative directions as we’ve done for the past six years. We’ve seen our influence not only in our niche, but our programming has been emulated and outright taken by the major federations as well. It’s as complementary as it is frustrating.
Sean Oliver is a busy man and for him to take time out of his schedule and talk to us, was really cool and such an honor. I have reviewed a ton of Kayfabe dvd releases, and I have yet to see one that let me down in terms of just the guest having fun and Sean really letting you the fan interview the people no holds barred. If you are a wrestling fan, you should give them a chance they have a way for you to buy the dvd or a on demand page that you can watch whatever interview you want over and over again for one price. Again, thanks to Sean Oliver for taking the time to do it and the people at KC who really looked out for us and you the readers and viewers.