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D’Lo Brown Coaching Talent to Stardom in Impact’s ‘Slammiversary’

The former longtime pro wrestler is embracing his behind-the-scenes role for Impact Wrestling ahead of Sunday’s pay-per-view.

Even if he won’t be on camera, D’Lo Brown will play an important role for Impact Wrestling at the Slammiversary pay-per-view on Sunday.

Slammiversary has the potential to be a significant show for the company. The card features Josh Alexander defending the title against Eric Young in the main event, and there is also an Ultimate X match, a Queen of the Mountain match for the Knockouts title and a hard-hitting tag title match pitting the Briscoes against the Good Brothers.

Following a career that spanned two decades, including a star-making run in WWE during its famed “Attitude Era”, Brown is working with the roster in Impact as the head of talent relations and will work as an agent during the show, helping produce the matches.

“Normally, I can look at a card and tell you which match is going to steal the show,” said Brown. “But I looked at the Slammiversary card and it’s extremely hard to do that. There is a Monster’s Ball match between Moose and Sami Callihan that is going to be great, and that’s not even getting talked about with everything else that’s on this card. It’s stacked.”

Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Brown discussed his role during Slammiversary and the card, as well as parts of his career that relate to his current role.

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Sports Illustrated: You’ll be off camera during the pay-per-view working as a producer. I know we have an idea of what you do in that role, but what does that job entail?

D’Lo Brown: A producer helps the talent put together their match during the day. It’s a lot of checks and balances, making sure certain ideas work. During the show, I’ll communicate with the production truck and our director, Dave Sahadi, to capture the match in the best way possible–to give the best imagery to the fans at home. During the matches, I’m on headset communicating with the truck.

SI: Which matches are you producing?

Brown: I’m not going to say, only because it’s not about me, it’s about the talent. If I put my name on a match, I’m getting credit for someone else’s work. It’s not about me–it’s all about the people in the ring doing the work.

SI: If Scott D’Amore, who is Impact’s executive vice president, plays the role of head coach during a pay-per-view, does that make the producers more like the coordinators?

Brown: Yes, we’re the offensive coordinators. Scott’s the head coach and he oversees everything, and we’re the coordinators delivering that message and making sure it’s run the right way. And I’m here to coach the very best out of our talent. That’s my role. You can’t create talent, but you can help put them in a position to succeed.

SI: Impact features a lot of depth on the roster, and you’re led by champions in Josh Alexander on the men’s side and Tasha Steelz for the women. Before we discuss the Queen of the Mountain match, what makes Alexander’s title bout against Eric Young so compelling?

Brown: They both have a lot to prove. It’s also part of the redemption story of Eric Young, who’s coming back from losing the world title and knee surgery. Eric is driven, he’s passionate, and nothing is going to stand in his way in the way he’s carving out his place in the history of this business. And Josh Alexander is cementing himself as champion. Our roster is very deep, and it’s important to have the right people up front. That’s where Josh stands, and he is the best of a stacked locker room. That’s a hard spot to keep. He’s fought his way back from a number of things, including a broken neck. We’ll see who steps up and takes this match.

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SI: The Queen of the Mountain match will also be appointment viewing. In addition to Tasha Steelz, it also includes Jordynne Grace, Chelsea Green, Deonna Purrazzo and Mia Yim.

Brown: Impact Wrestling was and still is a trailblazer when it comes to women’s wrestling. This match should be incredible, and this is the next step in the evolution. We are proud to be part of that lineage and have these ladies take their place in the history of this company.

SI: You offer such dynamic perspective from your career, which had all sorts of lows to incredible highs in WWE. Did you ever envision this type of longevity for the D’Lo Brown character?

Brown: No, not at all. I never thought I had connectability with the audience. Then everything in my career changed forever when Ron Simmons gave me a piece of advice. He said it doesn’t matter if all you’re getting is 30 seconds on camera, but you need to find a way to steal that moment. To steal a line from Tupac, I made sure all eyes were on me, no matter who was out there with me. That’s how I got noticed, and then I learned that one of the hardest aspects of the business is longevity. But I had great mentors and role models, which played a big part of my success.

SI: And you never know what will connect with an audience. That head shake is still instantly recognizable. How did it start?

Brown: Back in ’97, portable DVD players were just starting to come out. You’d have sleeves of DVDs kind of like you’d have sleeves of CDs. The movie Friday was part of the regular rotation on our road trips. The Rock and I finished a match on a Sunday and we were back at the hotel watching Friday, and there’s a scene where Deebo knocks out a guy and Chris Tucker yells, ‘You just got knocked the f--- out!’ The next night at Raw, we’re getting ready to go to commercial break, and the spot is that Rocky is going to clothesline Ken Shamrock out of the ring and onto the floor, and then we’d go to the commercial. But I knew, if I had that 30 seconds, I was stealing it. So when Ken was knocked out of the ring. I ran up to the ropes, and screamed, ‘You just got knocked the f--- out!’ and I’m shaking my head. That’s when it dawned on me that I’d swore on TV. I figured Vince [McMahon] was going to be furious.

Vince had two looks. One was when he looked at you and gave a thumbs up. That was good. The other was when he looked up, pulled his glasses down, and waved a finger over to him. That’s what I got that night. And he looked at me and said, ‘That thing you’re doing with your head? Keep doing it.’ So I didn’t get fined for swearing and I did something that piqued Vince’s curiosity. Then I turned the volume up on the head shake, and people still tell me stories to this day about doing it in hallway or to their mom. It’s incredible.

SI: Who else were influences for you in WWE?

Brown: I learned a lot from Jack Lanza and Gerald Brisco. They were the caretakers of the talent and helped navigate us through matches. I owe a lot to them, and really Ron and Godfather. I’m especially grateful for them and all they taught me. They were always in my ear helping my improve.

SI: And, of course, you had the chance to work closely with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. This was well before his rise to fame in Hollywood, but he was showing signs of brilliance when you worked together in the Nation of Dominance.

Brown: You could see the blueprint of his success. He was constantly trying to reinvent himself and stay fresh. He was studying all the time. We’d be in the car, he’d try things out. ‘Hey D’Lo, what do you think of that guy over there?’ Then he’d say, ‘It doesn’t matter what you think!’ A few weeks later, it’s on TV.

SI: Why should fans invest the time and money into Slammiversary?

Brown: We’re going to show you some of the best athletes in the industry. Minute for minute, this is the best wrestling show on television. Slammiversary will be three hours of entertainment. If you purchase it, you’ll be a fan of Impact Wrestling by the end of the show–that’s my promise.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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