- We play a game of Fact or Fiction with former WWE superstar Edge. A recap of Tables, Ladders, Chairs and what it could mean for the future of AJ Styles. Shaq has a few words about his Wrestlemania 33 appearance. Gabe Sapolsky explains what goes into booking EVOLVE. Eric Bischoff goes behind the scenes of the 1998 Starrcade. And much, much more.
SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
This edition includes a game of “Fact or Fiction” with Adam “Edge” Copeland, The Shoot from Gabe Sapolsky, the Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff, and Five Questions with TNA’s Jeremy Borash.
Fact or Fiction with Edge
WWE Hall of Famer Edge returned for the 900th episode of Smackdown before the Survivor Series, and he is preparing to reappear on the WWE Network for a second season of “The Edge and Christian Show”. Edge—whose name is Adam Copeland—has joined the popular show Bookaboo, which is now available on Amazon. Edge joins the likes of Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown and Paula Abdul as celebrities who have appeared on the original kids series.
Edge is also playing the role of Ketill Flatnose on season five of Vikings on the History Channel. He is married to former WWE women’s champion Beth Phoenix, and the couple has two daughters. He joins SI.com for a round of “Fact or Fiction,” and discusses a potential return to the ring, his thoughts on Jeff Hardy, and whether Vince McMahon and Triple H found “The Edge and Christian Show” amusing.
Fact or fiction: You had your next angle in mind if you were not forced to retire in 2011.
Edge: Fact. I had my next year mapped out in my brain and had been talking to everyone about it. I assumed I had at least a year left. That’s what I had on my contract, and I really, really wanted to see it through and work up until the last day of my contract. That’s just the way I was raised and the way I’m wired. I was champion and I wanted to pass this on to whomever it was eventually, so it really hit home when I was told, ‘We’re not going to allow you to compete anymore.’ We did have a tentative plan to go forward once [Alberto] Del Rio and I were through our program. Christian would have cost me the title to Del Rio, and then we would have moved on and done our thing – and I thought he would retire me at WrestleMania. That’s how I wanted to go out. I wanted to do the favor, drop the title, and then have Christian be the cause – then spend the final few months of my career wrestling my lifelong best friend, and really have him go off in a great heel direction once I retired.
Fact or fiction: Courtesy of your 19 years spent in wrestling, traveling will be forever synonymous with Adam Copeland. Fact or fiction, were you a voracious reader on airplanes?
Edge: Fact. That is an absolute fact. Reading and music were the two things that got me through the travel. You say to people that you’re tired of the travel, and it sounds so pretentious, but with that schedule, you never got to see anything. You never actually got to do anything. It was always plane, rental car, arena, gym, restaurant at one in the morning, hotel, and then do it all over again. The reading would always get me through the trip, and I would usually go through at least a book a week. I’m an old school guy—I’ve got to hold the book, I’ve got to crack it open. I like the feel of the binding and the pages. I am a passionate reader, so when I got asked by Bookaboo, it was a no-brainer. I was always that guy with my nose in a book or with my earbuds.
Fact or Fiction: Anyone can be a Bookaboo VIP.
Edge: Fact. Anyone can as long as you love reading. That’s the key. Also part of the reason I love doing this project is because it promotes reading, not only for kids. This also promotes parents reading to their kids. I just read that only one out of every three parents read to their kids under eight, and if that’s accurate, that really disappointed me. That number should be a lot higher. I make it a point to read to my girls every night, and that’s on our docket, no matter what. I think that this is amazing for that. It’s fun for kids to watch. It’s about a rock and roll dog that needs a book read to him. The dog is also a drummer, and drummers are always great, so this is really fun stuff. So as long as you love reading and rock and roll drumming dogs, then you can be a VIP on Bookaboo.
Fact or fiction: Your all-time favorite children’s book is The Giving Tree.
Edge: That’s fiction. The Giving Tree is up there, but I’m more of a fan of Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, which is fantastic. Another book is What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada. It’s such a good book, and he also wrote What Do You Do With A Problem?, which is right in the same ball park, as well as Oh, The Places You’ll Go.
Fact or fiction: It is nothing short of miraculous that Jeff Hardy is still wrestling.
Edge: Fact, that is an absolute fact. The fact that he is still able to move, at this point, is amazing. He’s made such a plaster scene. Even just his energy, he’s very loose. He’s an easy-going guy, and maybe that translated to his body being able to absorb all that punishment through the years. I don’t know, but he’s still going, and that’s a fact.
Fact or fiction: There will be another TLC match at WrestleMania.
Edge: Fiction. Only because the window for a TLC match for guys our age is closing, even if it’s Jeff Hardy. At some point you need to say, “OK, it’s not going to happen.” I could be completely wrong and it could happen next year. That’s the great thing about WWE—it could all change in one show.
Fact or fiction: Vince McMahon and Paul Levesque found “The Edge and Christian Show” amusing.
Edge: I would hazard a guess and say fiction. It’s a weird show, and it’s not for everyone. I don’t know if this is up their alley.
Fact or fiction: Even if you are a hardcore wrestling fan, you’ll still have your hands full keeping up with The Edge and Christian Show.
Edge: Fact. We knew going in that we were doing a sketch comedy show about wrestling, and there is a very niche market for that. But we had carte blanche. We had an absolute empty canvas to create whatever it is that we wanted to create, and we wanted to create a show that was very insider and specifically for wrestling fans. Even if you are a hardcore wrestling fan, some of our references may go over your head—so that is a fact. And then you have to go back and find out, “What are they talking about there?”, and we’re trying to spitball them out very quickly so you’re playing catch up and almost laughing after the fact. We just assumed, “Hey, you need the Network in order to watch this, so if you have the Network, you’re a big wrestling fan, so hopefully you’ll appreciate this.” We found our legs by about episode five, and that’s when we really started to hit our groove with the producers and the editors. That’s when everybody understood our strange vision for this show. By the end of it, we were really proud of what we put out there.
Fact or fiction: Vince McMahon is still frozen.
Edge: That is a fact. Vince remains frozen right now, and I’ll leave it on that front.
Fact or fiction: “The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness” will return to the WWE Network for a second season.
Edge: Fact. We want to do a season two, the Network wants to do a season two, so really it’s just been a matter of how and when can we do it. What we want to do this year is sit down and write the entire thing before we start. Last year, we had carte blanche. Nobody really knew what it was—the Network didn’t know what it was, we didn’t really know what it was until we really flushed it out. This year, we want to sit down—there are four of us, Jay [Christian], myself, my buddy Mike, and our buddy Tim—sit down here at my place in the mountains, get a bottle of wine, and spitball ridiculous ideas. I’d like to try and maybe bring Tommy Dreamer on this year. He has some ridiculous ideas, and he’s open to anything, as you can see from season one. Just so everyone knows, Tommy Dreamer naked with only a title belt was his idea and not ours. I’m tired of being blamed for that. So we want to write out the entire season, so it’s a matter of timing. I’m back and forth from Ireland filming ‘Vikings’, and I’m also a dad and a partner, so I need to make sure all the plates stay balanced and nothing falls to the ground. So we’re going to do it, it’s just a matter of when.
Fact or fiction: Christian is the most competitive person you know.
Edge: Fact, without a doubt. We’re so alike. We’re definitely more competitive with each other than we are with other people. I could do that “Chumpstain Challenge” with Tommy Dreamer or really anyone else, and it wouldn’t be the same. When Christian and I get going, we have to win. Maybe we’ve just known each other so long and we know that the winner is going to bust the loser’s chops constantly. He is very competitive.
Fact or fiction: If you ever received clearance for one more match, it would be at WrestleMania against Seth Rollins.
Edge: Fact from a storyline perspective, coming off what we did on Raw in December of 2014, but there is any number of people. If you put a heel “Rated R Superstar” with Sami Zayn as a babyface, that would be something I would like to do. Seth is already set and already in a position where he’s OK, but if I ever came back, I’d like to wrestle somebody that I feel deserves to be in a top spot and show why. Sami is a guy I look at and go, “Man, that guy is so super talented.” I’d love to get in there as a heel with Jeff Hardy. I loved wrestling Jeff in terms of his selling and all those things, or a match against Christian.
Fact or fiction: Have you placed a timeframe on a potential return to wrestling?
Edge: Fact. I put a window, for sure. To me, the window was 40. I was going to be done at 40 no matter what. I just thought that was the time. There is only so much abuse you can put your body through, and we really put our bodies through a lot with those ladder matches and TLC matches. For a bunch of years there on Smackdown, I was wrestling Undertaker one night, Kane the next night, then it was Big Show and then it was Batista. As a bumping heel champion, that’s a lot of bumps. I always capped my career at 40. I never wanted to be one of those guys where it was like, ‘Aw, he was great,’ or have guys look at the run sheet and go, ‘Ah , OK. I have to wrestle him tonight.’ I wanted a young guy like Dolph Ziggler to be excited to wrestle me at Royal Rumble [in 2011]. I was excited to wrestle the young guys and show them some stuff. I still wanted it to be at the point where they would listen, not at the point where I was past my prime. So 40 was my window.
News of the Week
Bret Hart is coming to Sports Illustrated.
Next Monday on SI.com, “The Hitman” is going to discuss pro wrestling, provide an update on his battle with cancer, and share stories from his lifetime in the business.
Hart requested the opportunity to reach out to wrestling fans, and we are very excited to see what the five-time WWE champion has in store for readers. The piece will be another installment of The Shoot, written by Hart.
“I’m really excited to write again,” said Hart. “This will be a great way to keep in touch with my fans, and I hope you are ready to read my story next week.”
Hart's account drops next Monday on SI.com.
Tables, Ladders, and Chairs served as a solid set-up to January’s Royal Rumble.
Alexa Bliss won the Smackdown women’s title over Becky Lynch , new tag team champions were crowned in Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton, and AJ Styles—with the help of James Ellsworth—defeated Dean Ambrose to retain the WWE championship.
Styles’ springboard 450 through a table was the highlight of the affair, but the finish was marred by interference from Ellsworth. Interference aside, the match was superb, and it is amazing that Styles and Ambrose only walked away with minor injuries after the sacrifices made to make that main event a match of the year candidate.
Clearly, Styles and Ambrose still have unfinished business, but the best decision for business is to put this feud on hiatus and let the two opponents work apart from each other.
The WWE needs star power for the Royal Rumble. Since “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels refuses to return, the next best choice for a must-see title match for Styles is The Undertaker.
‘Taker is only months away from 52nd birthday, but he knows how to make magic in a fifteen minute match. Styles is more than capable of handling all the heavy bumping (we won’t be seeing any Styles Clash in this encounter), and Ambrose will either have to re-insert himself into the finish or WWE could surprise its fan base with The Undertaker’s fifth run as WWE champion.
Now we’re onto the next pay per view, Road Block, in less than two weeks.
In other news…
• Shaquille O’Neal has a message for wrestling fans regarding WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, Florida. “I’ll be there,” O’Neal confirmed last week in-person at an event in Boston, though he was unwilling to discuss speculation on his opponent—who is assumed to be Big Show—storyline, or his debut. He did vow that he would not have Charles Barkley in his corner: “Forget Barkley, but I’ll be there.”
• With the exception of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, there is no better advocate or ambassador for the business of pro wrestling than John Cena, who was just announced as the host of Saturday Night Live this upcoming December 10. Cena has worked extremely hard to become successful and is extremely charitable with his time… but does his decision to pursue acting make him look like a fraud? If you recall, Cena repeatedly criticized The Rock for leaving wrestling and using WWE for his own self-promotional needs, while Cena championed himself as the one who would remain, through thick and thin, with the WWE. By no means am I criticizing Cena’s decision to go after his Hollywood dreams – and I hope he is successful – but this was literally the foundation of every single slight he made toward The Rock.
• Unlike this year, there will not be a large exodus of talent from New Japan Pro Wrestling to the WWE after Wrestle Kingdom on January 4. This past year saw AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows all defect, but neither Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, or Kazuchika Okada will be waiving the WWE banner in 2017. The WWE is, however, targeting the wildly talented 27-year-old Adam Cole, whose contract with Ring of Honor expires in April.
• There are two new world champions in wrestling: Shinsuke Nakamura in NXT and Kyle O’Reilly with Ring of Honor. Nakamura reclaimed the NXT title from Samoa Joe in Osaka, Japan, which renders their match at NXT Takeover: Toronto as far less significant, while O’Reilly finally captured the ROH title in a brutally vicious no-disqualification match this past Friday at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
• Bray Wyatt finally tasted WWE gold video this past Sunday at TLC, as he and Randy Orton defeated Heath Slater and Rhyno to win the tag titles. Orton picked up the victory after delivering an RKO to Rhyno, and the pair should have an entertaining feud with Chad Gable and Jason Jordan of American Alpha. I just revisited this video of Wyatt hitting Sister Abigail on Rey Mysterio, and the man has definitely paid his dues before this first title reign.
• On the subject of tag teams, the Hardys were the stars of Ring of Honor’s Final Battle pay per view this past Friday without even wrestling. After the Young Bucks successfully defended their titles against the Briscoes, the building went dark and “Broken” Matt Hardy appeared on the video screen, promising to “delete” the Bucks. I was there and the crowd exploded, and this was noteworthy for a few reasons: the Bucks and Hardys are scheduled to wrestle on April 1 during WrestleMania weekend, which means the Hardys are staying with TNA (the Bucks announced this past weekend that they have re-signed with Ring of Honor). Also, the short-term working agreement between Ring of Honor and TNA should allow the Bucks to appear on TNA’s “Nonstop Final Deletion” show centered around the Hardys on Thursday, December 15.
• Cody Rhodes will have the opportunity in 2017 to prove he is a headliner. The son of the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes turned heel in front of a fiery Ring of Honor crowd by kicking Jay Lethal beneath the waist and then flipping him off, and Rhodes will pursue Kyle O’Reilly’s ROH world title in the new year.
• The highlight of Ring of Honor’s Final Battle was the thriple-threat match for the World Television title between Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay, and Dragon Lee. British talents Ospreay, 23, and Scurll, 28, are two of the most exciting young wrestlers in the world, with Ospreay an aerial expert and Scurll a master of the mind who delivers a vicious chicken wing finishing maneuver.
• Former WWE interviewer Marc Blondin is posting rare promos he conducted throughout his time with the company in the 1980’s, and this particular interview—with the team of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Ricky Steamboat preparing for six-man battle against the Honky Tonk Man and Hart Foundation, with Andre the Giant in their corner—stood out for the rare nature of Steamboat, who will forever be intertwined with Ric Flair and the NWA, teaming with WWF hallmarks in Hogan and Savage, as well as a rare instance of teaming with a longtime foe in Savage.
• Coming attractions: In addition to Bret Hart’s piece on Sports Illustrated next Monday, Demolition’s Ax and Smash will discuss The New Day next Wednesday on SI.com in the Week in Wrestling.
The Shoot: Gabe Sapolsky
Gabe Sapolsky is the current World Wrestling Network Vice President of Talent Relations and oversees creative for WWN brands EVOLVE, Full Impact Pro and Style Battle. Sapolsky was Paul Heyman’s personal assistant in the original ECW and co-founded Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate USA.
Sapolsky’s willingness to embrace change in wrestling—in both style and storyline—has allowed his promotions to continually succeed. His EVOLVE promotion is live both Saturday and Sunday and available via live stream on FloSlam, which is an online streaming service and home to all of Sapolsky’s creativity.
Booking the Evolution
When I sat down to make the matches for this Saturday’s EVOLVE 74 in Queens, N.Y., and this Sunday’s EVOLVE 75 in Melrose, Mass., I had a rush of adrenaline. We are in the midst of change. In this transition, comes opportunity.
The last year has seen a mind-blowing relationship develop between EVOLVE and WWE/NXT. The progressive attitude of Triple H has led the way for one unprecedented happening after another. From EVOLVE footage being seen on WWE Network to WWN Seminars with NXT trainers and talent evaluators to WWE contracted talent like Sami Zayn, Jason Jordan, Chad Gable and Tommy End making appearances at EVOLVE—to Triple H himself coming to a live event to tweet a buzzworthy photo—this support has strengthened the independent undercurrent.
The opportunity culminated at the last EVOLVE event in Joppa, MD when William Regal surprised Tony Nese by presenting him with a full-time WWE contract. This was a special moment for all the fans in attendance and everyone involved—a highlight of any show I’ve been a part of over the past 23 years.
This has all created an exciting environment that is rarely seen in wrestling. You never know what is going to happen next. I wake up every day wondering what the next email or phone call will bring. It’s a roller coaster ride and I’m having the most fun of my career.
In the last couple of years we have seen WWE Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann, NXT Tag Team Champions Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, former WWE Cruiserweight Champion and Cruiserweight Classic winner TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, Tony Nese, Tommy End, Oney Lorcan, Roderick Strong and Kota Ibushi go from EVOLVE to a WWE or NXT ring. Drew Gulak continues to perform in both EVOLVE and WWE.
As each of those wrestlers bring their talent from EVOLVE to realize their dreams in WWE, it opens a spot on the card and a chance for a new wrestler to grow.
Johnny Gargano took us on a journey in two WWN promotions in Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE. He started in 2009 on the preshow, worked his way up to the main card, then into main events. Gargano became a champion and eventually was known as “The WWN Icon”. He worked harder, improved his craft, and rose to the occasion each step along the way. Now that he and the others on that list have moved on, it’s time to see who will take us on that journey next.
I sat down to write out this Saturday and Sunday’s EVOLVE events with that in mind. I live by some simple rules when it comes to booking out a card:
1) Make the card something I would enjoy as a pro wrestling fan.
2) Make sure we give value for the paying customer’s leisure time and money.
3) Be passionate and believe in what you are doing.
I believe in giving new talent an opportunity. That is what I am most passionate about. It is what I enjoy most about my job. Who will be the next Johnny Gargano and take our fans on a journey from the opening match to icon status?
As I sat down to make the matches, that objective was my first priority. Darby Allin only has 50 matches, but after just a few events he has already gained respect from the EVOLVE fans for his heart and unique personality. We give him a new challenge this weekend when he faces a monster in Brian Cage at EVOLVE 74.
Chris Dickinson and Jaka have been around the indie scene for a while. They are fed up and finished bouncing around in EVOLVE. Now they are clearly focused. They will get an opportunity this weekend to earn WWN contracts and solidify their spots when they wrestle Allin and Peter Kaasa at EVOLVE 75. In addition, they will have one-on-one matches with established EVOLVE stars at EVOLVE 74 (Dickinson vs. DUSTIN, Jaka vs. Drew Gulak).
EVOLVE Tag Team Champions Tracy Williams and Fred Yehi have both grown tremendously in EVOLVE over the past year. However, now they must break through to the next level.
We wanted to do something unique and different with the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles. The idea is that they will defend them against “Superteams.” We put together a duo that represents different eras of American stars for Japan’s Dragon Gate promotion. Ricochet made history in Dragon Gate and has taken his throne as one of the most elite talents in all of wrestling. Kaasa has spent the last several months in Dragon Gate and is now on the cusp of becoming their next American star. It will be Williams and Yehi defending the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles against this Dragon Gate Generations team at EVOLVE 74.
The spotlight will really be on Williams this weekend. At EVOLVE 75 he will compete against Catch Point teammate and mentor Drew Gulak. This acclaimed EVOLVE mini-documentary video perfectly explains this deep and layered issue.
Williams, Yehi, and Kaasa are all talents who have spent some time with us. This weekend gives them the opportunity to set up even bigger things in 2017. Dickinson, Jaka and Allin are all relatively new talents to EVOLVE. This Saturday and Sunday will give them the chance to solidify their spots for 2017. I am passionate about the opportunities these athletes are getting. I can check off that box when it comes to my “rules.”
Now, time to book out the rest of the card. It starts with former UFC fighter Matt Riddle, an athlete who has caught fire in the last year. Riddle, still considered a rookie in pro wrestling, is a stick of dynamite. I have never seen anyone rise to become so good, so connected to the fans, so fast. He is a star. It is always a priority to highlight him. We do that this weekend by putting him against the established star Ricochet at EVOLVE 75. They are two of the greatest pure athletes I have ever seen in pro wrestling. I have to admit I made this match because I want to see it.
EVOLVE 74 will see a debut I am highly anticipating. Former Olympian Jeff Cobb is finally coming to EVOLVE. I’ve wanted to bring Cobb to EVOLVE since I first saw him 2014. He and current EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher were both standouts in Northern California in 2014. We could only afford to bring one in. We went with Thatcher, who is out this weekend with injury. Now our WWE relationship has improved our standing to where we can also bring in Cobb. It will be Cobb vs. Riddle at EVOLVE 74 and Cobb vs. Fred Yehi at EVOLVE 75. Those matches will both bring physicality to add diversity to EVOLVE this weekend.
After all this, I go back to my rule of making sure we deliver value to our paying customer. We need some star power. We are lucky to have Cody return to EVOLVE this Saturday in Queens. He is a star in every sense of the word. He always looks to make everything he does buzzworthy and memorable, even if it means buying 70 pizzas so he could throw a pizza party for Johnny Gargano’s farewell like he did at EVOLVE 69. I’m sure he’ll give the fans something special this Saturday.
We add more star power and something unique by having Dick Togo in EVOLVE for the first time. The legendary Japanese star has been influential during his time in Michinoku Pro, ECW, and WWE. He will wrestle Chris Hero at EVOLVE 74 and Ethan Page at EVOLVE 75. Not only that, but he will help improve American wrestlers by holding a one-time-only WWN Seminar this Friday in NYC.
No one gives the fans more value for their money today than Chris Hero, who is the MVP of the indies of 2016 and had perhaps the best year of any wrestler in our industry. Every single time Hero steps into a ring, we see greatness. Hero vs. Togo is another match that I booked because I want to see it. DUSTIN, a true indie veteran, will have his biggest singles match in years versus Hero at EVOLVE 75. I look forward to see what he does with this bout.
Finally, I can already safely say that 2017 will be Ethan Page’s year. He is one of the best promos going today, he is always involved in compelling feuds and he understands the pro wrestling business. This weekend will be his toughest test in the ring. He has Cody this Saturday and Togo this Sunday. This is his time to shine.
There are a lot of moving pieces to booking pro wrestling cards. There are always several boxes to check. It’s like putting together a puzzle that constantly changes and expands. When I finished writing this weekend’s cards, I felt a rush of adrenaline. I know we are set to deliver an exciting ending to 2016 that will set the stage for a game-changing 2017. Join us on the journey.
The Nitro Files: Starrcade ’98
The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff will delve into a moment from WCW’s Monday Nitro era. Bischoff, who was the president of WCW during the company’s most successful years, hosts his weekly “Bischoff on Wrestling” podcast, as well as delivers a “Controversial Video of the Week” with 120 Sports’ Nick Hausman, and plans on proving every week in the Nitro Files that the “truth is out there.”
Second chances are rare, especially in the business of professional wrestling.
Given a second chance with the 1998 Starrcade, Eric Bischoff can pinpoint exactly what he would revise in the main event between WCW champion Bill Goldberg—who was advertised as undefeated at 173-0—and Kevin Nash.
“No one on the roster had more believability than Kevin Nash to defeat Bill Goldberg, so I wouldn’t change that,” said Bischoff. “The story arc would then see Goldberg systemically destroy the NWO and reclaim the world title. That was the story, and that gave Bill Goldberg motivation and a cause.”
Starrcade was WCW’s version of WrestleMania, and Bischoff admitted that he would have changed how he used outside interference in the match from Disco Inferno, Bam Bam Bigelow and Scott Hall, who cost Goldberg the match, as well as his undefeated streak and world title, after shocking him with a cattle prod.
“I would have done the Bam Bam interference a little differently, but the cattle prod?” asked Bischoff, whose voice still picks up when discussing critical moments from his tenure with WCW. “I got a little heat for that, but over the years in wrestling, and I might have done that a little differently. When you see the reaction, however, the audience got exactly what they wanted—and that’s the name of the game.
“There was a story behind Disco Inferno interfering. Disco was trying to impress the guys in the NWO because he really wanted to be in the group but wasn’t quite good enough in the storyline. Disco, Glenn Gilbertti, played the character so well, but going back now, I wouldn’t have had him involved.”
Bischoff explained that there was an inherent problem with Goldberg as the undefeated, unstoppable world champion.
“Necessity is the mother of all invention, and Bill’s lack of experience necessitated that he went out there and eat everybody that he went into the ring with, and it worked,” noted Bischoff. “Now that also created a challenge. At the beginning, Bill could run through part of the roster, but that grew more difficult when he moved his way up the roster. Bill was then wrestling at the top of the card, so that became much more challenging.
“Also, it’s never really healthy in the long term, unless you have a rare exception, to keep the belt on a babyface for an extended period of time. It’s much better to have the belt on a heel, and have the babyface chase that heel. The heel can lie, cheat, and steal to hold onto that belt until the babyface finally pulls it off. I don’t want to say the belt on a babyface is a transition spot, but it is a transition period. It’s all about the storytelling, and the anticipation works far better when the heel has the belt.”
Despite the fact that the match took place on WCW’s signature pay per view, Bischoff also stated that there was no possibility of Nash winning in a clean fashion.
“There had to be a story behind Bill losing, and there had to be something that made the audience believe that Bill was screwed and would get back into the ring to destroy the NWO with a different game plan,” said Bischoff. “I wouldn’t change the controversial finish.”
Ultimately, says Bischoff, the decision to crown Nash as champion gave a whole new purpose to Goldberg.
“This wasn’t a tough decision,” said Bischoff. “We had run out of rope creatively. We couldn’t sustain Bill Goldberg as the babyface champion who was the guy who could never get beat. We had to make him vulnerable, and Scott Hall had to use a cattle prod in order for Kevin Nash to get the win. Bam Bam Bigelow had to get in the ring, and Disco Inferno interfered, so the objective was for there to be some controversy so we could make a change.
“The audience dug Kevin Nash, although he was part of the NWO and we were writing for him as a heel character, and he was not a traditional heel. The crowd reacted with a babyface response when he wins that match. The audience was ready to see the change.”
Exclusive Lucha Underground clip
Something to Wrestle with Conrad Thompson
Conrad Thompson and Bruce Prichard are preparing to dissect and analyze the very last WCW Nitro on this Friday’s “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast this week after a scintillating podcast on the rise and fall of Tammy “Sunny” Sytch.
“It was important to me to not allow the show to become a bunch of rumor and innuendo,” explained Thompson. “We stuck to exactly what she said in her book. That was the most fair and accurate representation of what we could cover. I don’t know how we could have been any fairer to her.”
This Friday’s topic is the industry-changing last WCW Nitro from Panama City, which generated more interest than the other poll choices, which included “No Holds Barred,” covering Zeus’ entire run with the WWF; John Bradshaw Layfield’s run in WWE; and the evolution of Creative, detailing how the wrestling writing process has evolved over the past thirty years.
“The last Nitro has been seemingly covered from every angle, but people clearly want it to have the Bruce Prichard treatment, so that’s what they’ll get this Friday,” said Thompson. “Bruce was with Shane McMahon that night in Panama City, and he was able to give instructions to the talent.
“It is unique, especially when you look back in hindsight, that the guy with the most staying power with WWE is Billy Kidman. I don’t know when you look at that talent and circle them up, that Kidman is the guy who would go to WWE and never leave. Also, you have Scott Armstrong refereeing a match between Chavo Guerrero and Shane Helms. All three of those guys are now agents with three of the biggest promotions in the United States with WWE and Armstrong, TNA and Helms, and Lucha Underground and Guerrero – and all three of them were in the ring together at the same time.”
Five Questions with… Jeremy Borash
Jeremy Borash is the head of TNA creative. He joined the wrestling world in 1999 with WCW Live!, which was an online streaming audio program, eventually joining the writing team for Nitro and Thunder. Borash helped Jeff Jarrett launch TNA Wrestling in 2002, and has served as one of the driving forces behind the “Broken” Matt Hardy storyline that is building to Total Nonstop Deletion on Thursday, December 15 on Pop TV.
SI.com: You have literally done it all with TNA—interviews, ring announcing, media production, and commentary, just to name a few—but have you ever encountered anything, or anyone, like “Broken” Matt or Jeff Hardy?
Borash: You hang around long enough and you’ll be exposed to all types of personalities. TNA has had hundreds of talents come through over its history and Matt and Jeff are in a virtual tie for most uniquely gifted performers I’ve ever worked with. Jeff has always been a rock star. His creativity frightens me, like a Jim Morrison, Evel Knievel, and Andy Warhol lovechild. Matt’s “Broken Brilliance” only manifested this year and he has been called the most captivatingly innovative performer to come along in years. The combination of the two, a drone, a gardener, and an incredibly gifted wife and future king have turned the Hardys into television’s modern day Addams Family.
SI.com: What are your responsibilities as the Hardy Family Documentarian?
Borash: Technology prevented figures like Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and Mozart the ability to have their lives documented for historical purposes. If we are to believe the “Broken Brilliance” of Matt Hardy, his soul is now housed in the vessel of this professional wrestler who is on a path to change the world as we know it. Who am I to doubt him? What if he is right? After being invited to his home to document the now infamous contract signing, my services were retained to capture the events at the Hardy Compound in North Carolina in the most compelling way possible. My right hand man, Jimmy Long, and I have spent a lot of time at the Hardy Compound, and I would describe it as anything but ideal shooting conditions. Snakes, spiders, insects everywhere… are we shooting Planet Earth here? Over the course of time, the family has been very helpful in the television production. Señor Benjamin sets up all the pyro, and Vanguard 1 just agreed to provide all of the aerial shots of the Hardy Compound for the upcoming Total Nonstop Deletion special this December 15th on Pop TV. It is a real team effort.
I also am the documentarian and live event host for celebrity chef Robert Irvine. We just returned from a USO tour of the Middle East and Africa and shot amazing footage. He’s taken his live show to military bases all over the world in what have become life-changing experiences to be a part of. We spent last Christmas in Afghanistan with the troops. Completely different worlds, but I get to work alongside some amazingly talented people.
SI.com: You once described Total Nonstop Deletion as the “Crockett Cup on crack.” What is at stake? Who is involved? Did talent under contracts to other promotions request permission to appear? And are there rules and regulations to this unconventional affair?
Borash: The brilliance of this match is its simplicity. Tag Team Apocalypto is an Open Invitation Falls Count Anywhere Match. Open to any tag team through space and time that want to show up. The Hardys are the TNA World Tag Team Champions. Matt received a message from the Seven Deities saying that, if they didn’t prove that they were the greatest tag team of all time, the Hardy Compound, which is the Sacred Land of Deletion, would be destroyed in a series of apocalyptic natural disasters.
Tag Team Apocalypto will be the most amazing match ever presented on television. Bold statement. Different than anything you’ve ever seen. Wrestling as we know it needs to evolve with the rest of entertainment, and this will be looked back at someday as a game changer. Early screeners have left people stunned. Books may be written on this match. With the secluded nature of our shooting, there will be a number of talents showing up you would never expect. Going to reserve comment regarding any specific contractual agreements at this time.
SI.com: Can you confirm that the Vanguard 1 drone is yours and you own a Federal Aviation Administration license to operate it? Was this something that always interested you?
Borash: Vanguard 1 lives in private quarters on the Hardy Compound. He’s quite noisy so a wing was built away from King Maxel’s crib. And yes, I am registered and licensed with the FAA. It is quite a process with good reason. It also can be very expensive. Capturing an amazing overhead shot on a drone is one of the most exhilarating experiences anyone behind the lens could have.
SI.com: TNA Impact Wrestling has faced its share of high and low points in 2016. Why should wrestling fans continue to watch the product? The terms “must see” and “once in a lifetime” are fairly common hyperbole in pro wrestling, but what makes Total Nonstop Deletion so unique and special?
Borash: Bypass the hyperbole? Did I mention Tag Team Apocalypto will be the most amazing match ever presented on television? The buzz surrounding the “Final Deletion” landed Matt Hardy on every wrestler of the year award list. Promoting a show on his own compound and injecting guys like Lashley and Eddie Edwards into that unique world, not to mention any number of unexpected guests, Matt Hardy had a premonition that Total Nonstop Deletion will be his Citizen Kane.
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