Gorilla Position #39 – Interview w/Paul O’Brien (Sept. 30, 2015)

Gorilla Position – Episode 39
Hosts: James Delow and Rob Leigh
Guest: Author Paul O’Brien
Date: September 30, 2015


Recap By Tania Leong

Top News Items

Interview with wrestling author Paul O’Brien: James and O’Brien discussed how O’Brien transitioned from being a wrestling fan to being a writer of wrestling novels. O’Brien said that he didn’t marry his two interests until a few years ago and was surprised at the level of support he has received from current and retired wrestlers. He also provided his personal insights into the current state of the product in WWE and says that they have moved away from the fundamentals that had made wrestling great such as the babyface and heel dynamic and compelling storylines. He is also helping Jim Ross to write his autobiography.

MSG Network Special Preview: Both James and Rob are excited for this special but not so much about the main event match between Brock Lesnar and Big Show. They expect that the Tag Team Championship might change at this special and for the feud between the Dudleys and New Day to continue past this Saturday.

WrestleMania 32 speculations: James and Rob discussed what they think will happen at next year’s Wrestlemania in Dallas. Rob said that WWE relies heavily on part-timers and the matches on the card will be planned around certain part timers coming back such as Lesnar, The Undertaker, The Rock, and Triple H, and would also depend on whether Ronda Rousey would be available next year. Rob said that the biggest crowd drawing match would be The Shield Triple Threat but the biggest money draw would be The Undertaker vs. John Cena.

Disappointing episode of Raw: Both said that there were many issues with Monday’s episode of Raw, for example Kane and Seth Rollins being the main focal point of the show despite the crowd not being into the story. They said that this story is diminishing the World Heavyweight Championship. Both also had issues with the way in which the Divas are being portrayed and needs to be fixed.

Topics Discussed (with time stamps)

– Introduction – 0.00

– Introduction by James Delow

James thanked fans of the podcast for spreading very kind words about the show especially to talkSport and their campaign to have Gorilla Position on the radio – 01.35

James recalled the time when he was backstage at a Raw leading up to WrestleMania 30 in Chicago where Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar were standing nearby. James said that Lesnar is a very intimidating person, and is a legend – 02.54

James will be uploading more videos from his weekend at Summerslam onto his YouTube channel very soon – 04.00

This week’s competition is to win two tickets to one of Rey Mysterio’s shows in either London or Manchester – 04.50

James provides background about Paul O’Brien who is an Irish author who wrote novels about mafia and wrestling in the 1970s. Although O’Brien is not connected with the WWE, he does have a following within the company like Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Finn Balor, Becky Lynch and Sheamus. O’Brien is a lifelong wrestling fan and is helping Jim Ross with his autobiography. He also has a TV pilot in development in the USA – 05.13

– Interview with Paul O’Brien – 07.50

Paul O’Brien said that he has been a fan of wrestling since the late ’80s, but it was difficult to get hold of magazines or videos of wrestling because he lived in Ireland. When he was a child, he would travel to visit family in the UK and would go to toy stores to buy videos of the then WWF. He stayed a wrestling fan since then and now his teenage daughter is a WWE fan.

He was attracted to the big pompous style of WWF wrestling and wrestlers like Gorilla Monsoon, and was a big fan of WWF in the 1980s and 1990s. He has a connection with wrestling because it tells a story about a good guy versus a bad guy, and the good by always wins. However, he didn’t always want the good guy to win because he was never a Hulk Hogan fan.

O’Brien did say that the good guy and bad guy dynamic has changed and this was evident at Night of Champions where Seth Rollins was the biggest babyface of the night because everything was stacked against him and the AA that Cena gave to Rollins which a heel move. James mentioned that the landscape has changed a lot.

O’Brien said that the landscape is very confusing like The Authority switching between being a babyface and heel throughout one night. The writers make the ‘babyfaces lame and heels cool.’ He said that storyline is ‘the bread and butter’ of wrestling and that the wrestler can be the best wrestler but not have charisma to carry the storyline doesn’t make them stay on top. However, there are times where the lesser wrestlers with a lot of charisma can be the top guy such as Hulk Hogan.

O’Brien discussed the current state of women’s wrestling. He thinks that the ones from NXT are more talented, but once they go to the main roster, all women are portrayed as ‘secretly hat[ing] each other, [they] are secretly crazy and that we all want a chick fight.’ He said that it is a shame because ‘they are tearing it up at NXT but are cast with the same brush’ on the main roster. He uses this as an example to show the difference in storytelling as ‘NXT tells a difference story with the same cast of women but in WWE they are given a different perspective’ and it is obviously where ‘one tries to succeed and one is given a ‘meh’ response.’ James said that the babyface/heel dynamic and simply storytelling was on show during the Bayley vs. Sasha Banks match which was one of the best matches over the entire weekend. O’Brien said that he was at Raw after Summerslam and he noticed that the Divas match was not well received. He said that the name Diva needs to be changed and he was confused about how the new Divas were introduced to the main roster.

O’Brien recalls how he got into writing. When he was younger, he would watch a movie and then write the sequel to the movie himself. He didn’t combine his two interests together until a few years ago. He was a playwright before he became a novel writer. He was commissioned to write a new play in Ireland, he wanted to write a wrestling play but it didn’t fit in with the budget and production at that time. However, the story stayed with him and when he wasn’t working, he decided to write the novel about wrestling territories with mafia principles. He said the main motivation was Jim Ross’s story where he was at a NWA convention in the bathroom and overheard a promoter talking about killing a territory wrestler. He decided that he would write a crime novel set in the territories, so he wrote three novels set in Boston during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s respectively.

He had issues with publishers who wanted the wrestling element to be taken out of the novels, so he self-published the books. He did everything himself from designing the book cover to formatting but he hired two American line editors because he wanted the books to be authentic. Initially his first book didn’t sell well because it didn’t appeal to either wrestling or non-wrestling fans.

He tweeted Mick Foley that he would donate money to Mick’s charity if he would read two chapters of his novel, and about one year later, he sent Mick the novel he had written. Once Mick had read the novel, he endorsed the book ‘in every way possible’ and said that he wouldn’t write a wrestling novel because ‘the bar was set too high.’ Mick tweeted about the novel and the sells grew, so O’Brian donated a proportion of the sales to Mick’s charity.

He said that he was very surprised that individual wrestlers would endorse a non-WWE product like his novels. He is now a best seller in many countries although he is competing with other wrestling books like Chris Jericho’s autobiography.

James asked how he researched about wrestling for his novels. O’Brien said that he did a lot of the research before he decided to write a novel simply because he is a wrestling fan. He understood how the territories worked but he wanted to be very detailed and respectful so he researched about the differences in the territories in the different decades especially the in-ring work, how the product was presented and how the wrestlers looked. He said that William Regal told him that ‘he was in awe of the research.’

O’Brien’s first novel Red Blood Turns To Dollar Green is being developed into a television pilot in the U.S., but he is not directly involved. He is currently writing a new movie, has directed a movie and is help writing Jim Ross’s autobiography. With regards to the television pilot, he has had disagreements with the writing team because he wanted the script to be as respectful to the wrestling world as possible and he didn’t want any disrespectful jokes about the wrestlers. If the pilot ever makes it to the television screen, he wants it to be as ‘it was during that time.’ He wants the right version to be made for television and that he sits with the writing team at times to ensure that the terms used was correct and the way wrestlers acted was also correct, like babyfaces and heels were never seen in the same room.

He spoke about Jim Ross’s autobiography and that he was a guest on JR’s podcast. Once the guest spot was done, JR sent him a few chapters of his autobiography and he rewrote one chapter. Since then he has come onboard to assist in writing JR’s autobiography. He said there are stories about JR that the public doesn’t know about and that he has been there for the big events in the industry from territories to NWA to WWE, so his life journey is very interesting. The book will come out in 2016.

When asked about the current roster, O’Brien said that he is intrigued with Eva Maria because she is a natural heel and the arena changes when she is in the ring even though she is not a great wrestler. He also loves the ‘Irish trio’ in Finn Balor, Becky Lynch, and Sheamus.

He criticised the 50/50 booking of the WWE and how damaging it is to the wrestlers, and stifles their development. He also said that the current wrestlers are being silenced and not many are able to voice their opinion whereas this was different during the Attitude Era. He questioned the writing which doesn’t back up the wrestlers and doesn’t allow for the wrestlers’ own input. He said this is very different in NXT and the end product is much better.

Both ended by saying that despite how frustrated they get about the current product, they will always be fans and watch the product.

– Raw Review & MSG Network Special – 67.50

Both James and Rob are very interested in the MSG show, although it is a 1:00 a.m. start for the U.K.

Rob is not a fan of the current Kane and Seth Rollins storyline, and said that Raw focused too much on the mental well being of Kane. He liked the beat down of Kane but not the reemergence of ‘Demon Kane’ afterwards. Both agreed that Kane is a great actor and worker, but the crowd is not getting into the ‘over the top’ story.

They said that the World title is being diminished as the main event of Raw was Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt. They are concerned that there aren’t many contenders to the World title.

James mentioned that the day of Raw was ‘Heath Slater Appreciation Day,’ but he didn’t answer the U.S. Championship open challenge.

They said that the match between John Cena and Xavier Woods was a decent TV match. They were fine with the DQ finish because it was just part one of the bigger match – the six-man tag.

Dudleys vs. New Day is scheduled for the MSG Show, and Rob said that if any title was going to change, it would be the Tag Team Championship. But James would like to see the Dudleys’s chase for the Championship should last longer to build a proper storyline around becoming the 10 time Tag Team Champions, and the chase should carry until WrestleMania 32. Rob said that despite who wins, this feud would continue to Hell in the Cell at least.

James jokingly asked whether Randy Orton’s squash match was to get back at Bray Wyatt attacking him few weeks ago. James said that Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts was right to say that many of the current wrestlers don’t sell ‘a damn thing,’ as shown by Bo Dallas.

James questioned the direction Orton was heading. Rob said that he is always in the WHC contention but just not at the moment. Rob suggested that Orton would face Lesnar leading up to WrestleMania 32.

Rob doesn’t enjoy the Divas Revolution because he doesn’t want the Divas to be catty but to be wrestlers and athletes. Both didn’t understand the Divas segment which came across as ‘too whiny.’ James asked how to fix the division. Rob said that the Championship should be the focal point and the Divas should show more personality in order to connect to fans. Paige is a good example as she connects with all fans. James said that too many new Divas were introduced and now all are lost in the shuffle.

James enjoyed Paul Heyman’s promo and thought that Big Show was ‘on form.’ He liked that the history between Lesnar and Big Show was mentioned apart from the fact that Heyman turned on Lesnar at their last match. Rob questioned why Big Show is being pushed as a main eventer at this stage of his career. James said that it makes Big Show somewhat relevant. However it would have been better to elevate a younger star. Rob disagreed because he said that Lesnar is a big part leading to WrestleMania 32 therefore he needs to look strong and beating Big Show will achieve this.

James mentioned that it has been reported that Lesnar vs. Undertaker will end at the HIAC PPV, but Rob said to take these reports with a massive pinch of salt as those reporters always backtrack and it’s embarrassing when they do so. Rob said that as evident from past WrestleManias, it is dominated by part-timers, and that WWE plans around these part timers.

Rob said the key components of WrestleMania 32 are Ronda Rousey and Triple H. WWE really wants Rousey to be there and that Triple H has not missed a Wrestlemania as a performer. Rob is not sure about the Stephanie McMahon vs. Rousey match but could be a tag team match between Triple H and Stephanie vs. Rousey and The Rock maybe. If not, Rob said that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Triple H vs. Lesnar again. James said that the previous Triple H vs. Lesnar match was a letdown; Rob agreed and said that in kayfabe no one can beat Lesnar.

Both expect Triple H to be on the card next year. James said that he can see Triple H vs. Rollins but Rob said that this might happen at Royal Rumble instead.

Rob said that the biggest crowd drawing match would be The Shield Triple Threat because all three are the biggest stars with the younger generation of fans especially the female fans. James questioned if the part-timers were removed from the card, whether the current roster can sell-out Dallas. Rob said no as not many would be a money maker, and that the biggest money maker would be Undertaker vs. Cena.

James suggested that if WWE is already planning ahead, would Rousey play into the Divas Revolution storyline as she is the person who actually started the revolution.

Rob asked whether next year’s WrestleMania would be five hours long to make it more like an all-day festival event. James said that Summeslam is now four hours and WrestleMania is looked as a bigger event.

Back to Raw. James thought the Kevin Owens vs Rusev match was a ‘nothing match.’ He said that the IC Championship should be the focal point and that there should be Owens as Champion and a number of contenders like Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler and Rusev – ‘keep it simple, stupid’ and lose the romance storyline.

Rob expects the match between Owens and Chris Jericho to be very good and Owens to retain the IC Championship.

James explains that he was disappointed with Jericho being the mystery partner of Ambrose/Reigns at NOC because he is involved in too many things outside of wrestling and he has a habit of having surprise returns, put over a young star, and disappears again. Rob joked that he may get some heat from Jericho himself.

Rob said that he had fallen asleep before the main event of Raw and suspects that he didn’t miss much. James said that he is right although the match had some high points. Both expected Reigns vs. Wyatt at HIAC.

Rob said that King Barrett’s return was uneventful and that the Neville vs. Stardust match ended in a No Contest again. James said that he recently interviewed Barrett and that he had some interesting things to say about his character and future. Rob mentioned that Cody Rhodes and Goldust would be appearing at NXT Takeover: Respect.

Rob mentioned the interview that the Sting did with WWE’s website. Rob said that the interview was done in kayfabe in certain places such as Rollins mentioning that he used to dress up as Sting as a child and that he ‘put over’ Rollins. It was suggested that the second bucklebomb exacerbated his injuries suffered during the match. Rob suspects that this may be the last time we see Sting in the ring.

– Competition – 125.03

Chance to win two tickets to Rey Mysterio’s one-man show in either London or Manchester in October. You will need to look out for a special tweet on James’s twitter account with the Mysterio poster and retweet it. Winners must be over 18 and live in the U.K. The competition closes on 6 October 2015.

– Next week’s show will include the fallout from the MSG Network Special – 126.55

Score & Review

8 out 10: I really enjoyed the interview with Paul O’Brien as it is interesting to hear the opinions of other lifelong wrestling fans about the current state of the product. I found it very interesting that he was able to combine wrestling and crime into a three volume novel, and that he chose to set the stories in the territory days. The interview will help to sell the novels and gain much interest in the television show in development. Also, I thought many of his opinions about the current products echoes many other fans, such as the babyface vs heel dynamic and that NXT is the superior product because it stays with the fundamentals of wrestling that has worked for many years.

I thought that James and Rob were correct about the Divas Revolution failing as those involved are being portrayed as being catty and crazy, and not as the athletes that they are. I agree that too many women were introduced at one time and therefore has diluted the already thin storylines given to the division, and that the Divas Championship needs to be elevated by making it the focal point of the division and subsequent storylines.

Although James and Rob were excited about the MSG Network Special, I think the card is decent but the build up is not good at all. I think the main event is not as exciting as the WWE had anticipated.

I agree with Rob’s take on WrestleMania 32 and how WWE heavily relies on part-timers, and that the card will be determined depending on which part timer will be available for the event. I also agree that the Shield Triple Threat would a main event that would satisfy a large proportion of the fan base.

Overall, this episode was quite good and the interview with a non-wrestler provides a different perspective on the product and it was a nice change of pace, as I feel that a non-wrestler’s opinion can be more honest and I think O’Brien’s thoughts are echoed amongst many WWE fans.

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