Between all three companies that I’ve had the privilege to make a living over my 22 years in the wrestling business, I have literally worked with close to 1,000 personalities. Being that I still carry such a “youthful” look and demeanor, many don’t realize how long I’ve been around—and some of the greats I had the absolute HONOR to work with. Let me rattle of a few off the top of my head just to give you some idea; Savage, DiBiase, Flair, Rhodes, Steiners, Lugar, Moolah, Medusa, Elizabeth, Pillman, Big Boss Man, Sid, Backlund, Paul Bearer, Undertaker, Strongbow, Lanza, Jerry Brisco, Patterson, Owen, British Bulldog, Warrior, Heartbreak Kid, Goldberg, Austin, Rock, New Age Outlaws, Angle, Sting, Jarrett, Simmons, Bundy, Jericho, Konan, Yoko, Mr. Fuji, “The Captain” Lou Albano, Arquette, DDP, Nash, Hall, Waltman, Hulkster, Triple H, Bischoff, Bret, Lawler, Jake, LOD, Chyna, Sable, Vachon, Rooster, Booker, Mick, Mankind, Dude Love, Cactus Jack, Raven, Dreamer, Taz, Dudley Boys, Cornette, Mantel, Heenan, Tenay, JR, Zybysko, Steamboat, Duggan, Funk, Mystero, Guerrara—-the list goes on, and on, and on, and those are just off the top of my head!!!
(Whoever I excluded—please forgive—you are all LEGENDS in my mind).
There have been very few talents over the past 20 years that I never got the chance to produce. The two that I think I would have enjoyed the most would be Randy Orton and John Cena. Just last night I watched the two of them OWN the ring with a mike, like only the true masters do. There is no doubt that those two mega-talents produce themselves—nobody can own those lines the way they do.
Producing talent is perhaps THE most important element of any wrestling show. Yeah—the writing is crucial—but if the talent doesn’t pull it off in a convincing matter—then it wouldn’t matter if Shakespeare himself was writing their verbiage. And without question, it is the producing that gets the most trying and taxing at times—even more so than the actual writing of the show. You see, whether you believe it, or not—the talent doesn’t always cooperate.
In many cases, this is due to the talent thinking that they know more than you—the writer–and in some instances—they do. Just look at the facts—on any given wrestling show the writer/producer may have to worry about the verbiage and direction of up to–and over–25 performers, while the individual wrestler only has to be concerned with one–himself, or herself. So, at times, this will lead to a “character” knowing his “character” better than the writer does, however those times are few and far between.
You see many performers are congested with a disease I like to call—“not being able to see the forest through the trees.” This deadly disease means that they are only seeing what’s immediately in front of them in the here and now; or tonight’s show. They’re failing to see the “big picture”, or the entire “vision”, so they only concern themselves, or in some cases—nit-pick, with what they are doing that night when in reality, that night is a very small piece of the puzzle.
So hopefully with that explanation, you now have a better understanding of a thankless job–that many feel they can do better.
But, as with anything else in life—you take the BAD with the GOOD.
There are dozens, and dozens of personalities I enjoyed working with over the years; so many fond memories of such “unique” individuals that I learned from everyday. Every one of them was a “genius” in their own right—at best I was just there to guide, direct and contribute. And even if many of those that I’m about to mention really “didn’t” need my contributions because they were pros and such GIANTS as human beings, they made me feel as if I was needed any way.
Hence—my top 10 list of talents that were the easiest and most enjoyable talents to produce.
Starting at 10:
(NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN MONTHS BEFORE OUR LOSS OF THE WARRIOR. MAY HE FOREVER REST IN PEACE)
To this day, I still don’t know exactly what it was that “blessed” me in having a great relationship with the Warrior. And yes—you read that right—“BLESSED”.
Despite what you read about him, or what uneducated opinions you may have formed, Jim Hellwig was INDEED a GENIUS. This guy just lived in a galaxy that others couldn’t have survived in for a second!!! He was his own creature, in his own world, and that’s what made him UNIQUE. And, it was his uniqueness which caused others to get out the shovel and start burying him—because they simply didn’t understand. That’s what happens in wrestling. When you have a different mindset, and you’re on a different playing field, and you stay true to yourself—others will put more bullet holes in your back than even Sonny Corleone could have endured!!! You get labeled “a goof” because you’re just so much better than everybody else and that is their only way of justifying it.
In the short time I got to work with Warrior, let me make one thing clear—I NEVER PRODUCED HIM. NO ONE EVER PRODUCED HIM. You just asked him if he would please wind himself up and GO!!!! You couldn’t write for the Warrior—you wouldn’t even try. No one on this planet could communicate like him, or think like him, and that was his ULTIMATE gift. That is what put him so over with the fans. He was a polarizing figure, and still is to this day—regardless of how many DVDs the WWE put out trying o disparage his name. That is stupid—and cheap. There were only a handful of guys who made Vince McMahon more money than the Warrior—whether any one wants to admit that—or not.
9. PATTERSON & BRISCO
“BACK IN THE DAY”, I witnessed many epic individual battles involving Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson. Growing up on Long Island, of course I was more familiar with Pat Patterson and his run as the first ever WWWF IC Champion. What a monumental battle he won in Rio De Janerio on that magical and mysterious night when he captured that newly born title! But even being a thousand miles away, on a few occasions I had the privilege of experiencing the great Brisco Brothers; Jack and Jerry,two of the best God-Given wrestlers to ever grace a ring to this day. But, even with all those grappling accolades, nothing—I SAID NOTHING—compared to their acting chops while playing the part of Mr. McMahon’s cronies.
You know when somebody is SO GOOD that they don’t even realize HOW GOOD they are? That was Patterson and Brisco. These guys were comedic geniuses—PERIOD. Very few people in this business have brought me to tears when producing them—Eric Young comes to mind—but, I can’t tell you how many pre-tapes I was producing with Patterson and Brisco that I busted MYSELF because I was howling on the floor like a spastic hyena. To this day when I want to get out of my daily doldrums, I just go to the time and place where Patterson and Brisco were searching for the Undertaker in the bowels of some building—wearing mining helmets. That’s Abbott and Costello, people!!!
It was always the TRUE, TRUE veterans that just did what was written, and trusted you as the writer. It was a different generation—they were raised in a business where you didn’t ask any questions—you just did it. And, that was a huge part of the success of these ICONS after their ring careers—you wrote it—they did it—it was magic.
Side note—got to give 100% credit where credit is due. It was Vince McMahon who came up with one of the best lines I’ve ever heard in my career as a wrestling writer/producer”
“BRISCO BROTHER’S BODY SHOP—IT’S WORTH THE DRIVE!”
That is GOLD.
8. SHANE MCMAHON
Take nothing away from Vince at all here, if my list would have gone to 11—Vince would have made it, but his son Shane—a pure professional and joy to work with.
I can remember writing Shane’s very first promo—the first time he was ever on WWE TV. He was so nervous backstage, going over his lines with me to nausea. When I look back now I can really understand the pressure that he must have felt. Coming up in the shadow of his father, who has to rank as one of the greatest performers in the companies rich history. The whole time, however, I wasn’t the least bit concerned. Why? Because he was a McMahon and if you were around them long enough you knew that McMahons always deliver—ALWAYS.
On that memorable night—Shane just left me speechless—he was just THAT GOOD. It was just in his blood—plain and simple. He was about as “natural” as “natural” comes. I remember at that time we had so many great, great performers on our roster—and in my professional opinion—Shane was just as good as any of them, and I’m talking Vince, I’m talking Austin, I’m talking the Rock. Shane was a pro.
There is something to be said when the BOSSES SON goes out and says everything written on the format without asking a single question. The only time Shane got involved with the script—was when he had something better. To this day, the business misses Shane McMahon.
7. THE ROCK
No disrespect to anybody else, but there is one simple reason why The Rock is the biggest star in the history of professional wrestling—he’s simply smarter than everybody else. Rock knew how to “work” the “workers” without them having any idea they were being “worked”. He was just that brilliant.
While I worked with The Rock through his metamorphic rise, I never witnessed him even attempting to swim with the sharks—never. He wasn’t a politician, he didn’t have an agenda, he didn’t talk behind any bodies back, and he just concentrated on one thing—being the best he could possibly be.
I don’t even remember an instance where Rock ever raised his voice—not one. I don’t even remember the Rock saying he didn’t like something that I wrote—not once. What I do remember is the times Rock would call me over as a gentlemen and say, “Roody Poo—I love what you wrote—but what if we add this.” And I remember every time Rock being dead one—every time.
I’ve said this before—and I will say it again—we will NEVER see another one like him. He was just so “inhumanly” cool.
Just a true gentleman of the sport, Sting is one of the few that I dearly consider a friend.
If you know Steve Borden, you know that he just doesn’t have a mean, vicious, or vindictive bone in his body—not one. He is a true gentleman in every sense of the word, and that is exactly how he carries himself in every locker room that I’ve ever worked in with him. From a professional prospective, the thing I admire about Sting above all is his trust in you as a writer/producer to STILL take chances, to continue to reinvent himself even at this stage of his career.
Executing “Joker” Sting was pure brilliance on his part. He leaped out of his comfort zone, embraced the challenge, and put himself out there. He had everything to lose, and nothing to gain, but he trusted me in doing my job. If Steve felt that it was going to make TNA better by even 1/10 of a ratings point—then he was game.
A man’s man—a true ICON.