The Lost Art of the Interview, Part II
August 7, 2004 by Sebastien Ferland

After having read Martin Prevost's column about "The Lost Art Of Interview", I feel compelled to continue his article and shed some light on a long unnoticed subject: the Interview in professional wrestling.

From the day that Stone Cold Steve Austin won the King of The Ring in 1996 against Jake the Snake, and let his infamous comment "Austin 3:16 says I just whoopped your ass!", the art of being interviewed has been slowly let go in favor of a different kind of entertainement: the Art of Shocking.

Back in the old days of wrestling, when wrestling became a national phenomenon, or say a "novelty" to the masses, interviewing was mandatory. I can recall watching Saturday Superstars and anticipating interviews from the likes of Hulk Hogan (Y'know som'thin' brother...), Randy "The Macho Man" Savage (Oooo yyeah!!), Ted DiBiase (Everybody's got a price for the Million Dollar Man Wahahahah!), even guys like Jimmy "The Mouth Of The South" Hart, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, and guys from the breakout time of WWF. On Saturday morning, I would stay riveted to the television set, probably damaging my eyes from being so close to the big 27" screen, and I would just wait for those interviews.

When I went out to play with my friends, we didn't wrestle -- our parents didn't want us fighting (except for when we went swimming). So what did we do" We memorized all those great lines they came out with. Guys like Bret Hart, Ricky Steamboat, and the Honky Tonk Man (god, did I hate him as a kid)... that's what gave the "entertainement" appeal to this program. Wrestling and fighting was always the biggest part of it, but if it had only been fighting, I don't think any of us would have stayed glued to the TV like we did. WWF would never have become a popular program, and certainly we would not have been privy to the Monday Night Wars, and the Attitude era. We would not have seen guys like The Rock, Steve Austin, Triple H and Shawn Michaels become so popular.

Part of this appeal is, I believe, the fact that we always knew that there couldn't possibly be these guys that just come on TV every weekend, and beat each other up. I mean, didn't they have families" Friends" Didn't they go shopping like us" Part of this appeal was just that: the fact that through these interviews, we could at least understand WHY they were fighting each other, and the more ridiculous the reason, the better. "I got bigger arms than you", or "I'm so much stronger than you" made us really get into it, even though it seems so devoid of meaning when you say it like that. It all just made them larger than life. That's why they call them Superstars.

After the beginning of the "Attitude" era, where D-Generation X are rampaging throughout WWF, and becoming more and more "shocking", and where guys like Undertaker, Mankind, The Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin are getting involved into more intense matches and more bloody feuds every week, we saw an increase in the popularity and appeal on television. I think this is due to the fact that the feud between WCW of old and WWF was necessary, if only for survival of the genre. Guys like Ted Turner want to take Vince McMahon out of business, simply because they can, and guys like Vince McMahon are resilient. So their fight escalated, and the overall "Shock Value" of these programs was blown out of proportion. The more shocking it got, the more ratings they got, simply because people wanted to know what was gonna happen next.

As this shock value went sky high, the value of a good, solid "I'm gonna kick your teeth in" went out of style. The more popular "reality show" format slowly replaced the interviews, and few guys, such as The Rock, were able to keep this sort of interview alive. But the more we went forward, the more tv segments were aired.

Right after the purchase of WCW, things need to be kept up. I remember being shocked when I saw stuff like ECW and WCW wrestlers getting ready to fight, but instead shaking hands and forming an alliance, which was soon to be led by one Stone Cold Steve Austin. I remember seeing more and more matches of the "extreme" type, and part of this was, I think, due to the fact that ECW wrestlers that made it to the WWE were bringing their fanbase with them. Guys like the Hardys, the Dudleys, Chris Jericho, Edge & Christian, and Mankind, made it all very bloody and extreme. As good as those matches were, they will never replace really good, stand-up fights. Matches like Austin vs. Hart and Wrestlemania 13 were, in my opinion, what wrestling is all about. But that's beside the point.

I'm not saying extreme wrestling and tv spots aren't good -- I enjoy them as much as the next guy. But after all this transformation the industry has gone through, what can they do to top all that" Take an example on a guy like Billy Kidman. Billy is a great wrestler, no doubt about it, and he's certainly a very good worker, has experience, and can definitely help out greener guys. But as far as an interview, I simply don't know -- he's never had one! I know nothing about him except the fact that he doesn't talk, and that he was in WCW before, in their cruiserweight division. It's a shame too, because those things can be developed, and become great talents.

A guy like Shawn Michaels, for example, never use to have interviews, until the Rockers became more and more popular. At that point, he started talking, and bad mouthing, and eventually, became confident enough that he was able to create D-X, and became a notoriously amazing entertainer. God, he even sings his own theme song!!

Smackdown and Raw, nowadays, well... They do have some good interviews, and I won't bash what they do because I'm totally hooked on both. But I think they should slowly introduce the newer characters to us -- not through releasing their life story on DVD, but by interviewing them. Live, on the spot, right after a match, right before one, a week before SummerSlam, y'know, like in the good ol'days.

And make guys like Josh Mathews and Johnathan Coachman EARN their paychecks! Jerry Gerardi is right: Mean Gene is sorely missed!! Bring back the "on the spot" reporter, make them write articles about wrestlers on the internet and read them on TV.

Maybe that'll bring back memories of great lines like "Whatcha gonna do, Brother, when these pythons run wild on you""

by Sebastien Ferland..

Jerry Gerardi wrote:
Great column. Thank you for acknowledging me :) Anyway, new WWE on-air talent Todd Grisham needs to go to the Mean Gene Okerlund School of Interviewing. He is works stiff!!! as in life-less, unemotional, and downright BORING!!! Worst yet, He actually gets paid doing it... There is hope. I actually like Johnathan Coachman-always had; His interviews with the Rock will always be priceless gems, because there was always a chance of him breaking out in laughter. But they're all light years away from Gene Okerlund from his facial reactions to his range of emotions depending on the situation, He is/will be the measuring stick of which all other interviewers are judged.

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