By Jeff Rush
Bruce Prichard’s “Something To Wrestle With” launched in August of 2016. Each week, historical events that shaped professional wrestling in the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s are scrutinized and analyzed by host Conrad Thompson and Bruce Prichard, a man who worked side-by-side with Vince McMahon for over two of the most significant decades in modern professional wrestling. It began as a simple idea. Now, with tireless preparation by Thompson and the seemingly photographic memory and exceptional storytelling style of Prichard, millions of fans tune in to hear the Mortgage Guy and Brother Love take us behind the scenes of history.
Join me each week, as we take a closer look at this fascinating show, from Prichard’s hilarious spot-on impressions to the indisputable chemistry shared by Thompson and his permanent guest. If you’re a regular listener, we hope this column will enhance your experience. If you’ve yet to check out an episode, you’ll quickly see why you need to start.
Top Impressions: There are no shortage of these each week, from perennial favorites like Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson to the less frequently busted out Terry Funk and André the Giant.
I Don’t Know When We’ll Talk About Them Again: A sentiment commonly expressed by Thompson when discussing some of the more obscure participants in wrestling history. We’ll let you know what unexpected names pop up in each episode.
Rumor and Innuendo: The term used by the STWW duo to address scuttlebutt that exists online and elsewhere pertaining to topical matters. They acknowledge this term is not quite applied properly, but it’s permeated the show’s vernacular and it isn’t going anywhere.
Conrad Pop: Our host is frequently enchanted by Bruce’s stories, but once or twice an episode, he’ll get hit with a serious spit-take. We’ll let you know what gets pop of the night.
White Hot Heat: While Thompson and Prichard share a tremendous chemistry, there’s a segment in each show where it seriously sounds like we’re listening to a friendship disintegrate. They are professionals, however, so these always prove to be little more than bumps in the road. But damn if these arguments aren’t entertaining as hell.
F**k Dave Meltzer: Reports from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter are used as the backbone of the timeline referenced by Thompson each week. He’s a long-time subscriber and supporter of the Observer’s iconic founder, Dave Meltzer. Prichard, on the other hand, is no fan of Meltzer’s work and will be the first to tell you that. He does so every week.
I Used To Be Over Award: Goes to the person who was over at one point, but through a series of events and actions, comes out of the week’s story looking less than stellar.
Jerry Jarrett’s Chicken Salad Recipe Award: Given to the person who you expected the least (if anything) out of on a given episode, but who’s story turned out to be, you know, a highlight.
No Yob Award: Goes to the person who comes out of each episode looking like a million dollars – not applicable to the title character/individual.
Following the apparent retirement of The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33, we spend this week dissecting the earliest years of The Phenom’s career in the WWF: 1993-94, along with some introductory material from the previous three years. From his earliest appearance on The Brother Love Show to the fallout from the climax of this installment, the famed Undertaker vs. Undertaker match at SummerSlam ’94, we get into all the details surrounding one of the most legendary performers to ever step foot in a WWE ring, during their salad days.
This week’s episode was also highlighted by some fascinating insight into the mentality behind decisions that are often made in WWE. Though it isn’t spelled out specifically, listening to this week’s show could help listeners better understand the pattern the company has been locked into with Roman Reigns for the past several years.
In addition, we learned:
– Bruce’s interesting take on whether or not he feels the Undertaker’s career is really over.
– Who first contacted the WWF in 1990 in hopes of landing the Undertaker a job.
– Where the idea for the classic Undertaker sit up move came from.
– What Undertaker did that led to Bruce once telling him he probably just ruined his career.
– What inspired Vince McMahon to label the mid-90’s WWF as the New Generation.
– The very first time Vince debuted the evil Mr. McMahon character.
– Bruce Prichard’s favorite celebrity he’s ever worked with.
– The worst thing that can happen when you’re filming a vignette in a cemetery in the middle of the afternoon.
…and much, much more. For all those details, please read the “Something To Wrestle With” recap featured on this website.
Now, let’s jump into our favorite part of this show. Everything else!
Bruce’s Best Impressions:
9. Vince McMahon admires Diesel.
8. We drop in on Vince at the gym in 1990 saying he’ll make the Undertaker a babyface one day, when the time is right.
7. André the Giant is happy for The Undertaker’s success.
6. Ultimate Warrior recommends, in fine detail, a company for all your mortgage needs. “There’s no way anyone fast forwards through these f***ing commercials.” Damn right, Conrad.
5. Jerry Jarrett sells t-shirts.
4. Jim Cornette shops for a casket.
3. Vince McMahon describes the intensity of an airtight casket.
2. Paul Heyman pitches the WCW booker on putting “Mean” Mark Callous over Flyin’ Brian Pillman in 1990 (“if you’d like it to be 10 seconds, I don’t have a problem with that, either”). He then prophesies Brock Lesnar defeating The Undertaker 25 years later. Top notch.
1. Paul Bearer buys flowers for The Undertaker as a retirement gift, and later recalls the time he sent flowers to Jerry Jarrett.
I Don’t Know When We’ll Talk About Him Again:
Damien Demento. Not one of the more memorable personalities from early-’90s WWF, Demento is perhaps more remembered by longtime fans for his hometown (“The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind”) than for any of his accomplishments in wrestling. The highlight of his brief WWF run came when he squared off in a losing effort to The Undertaker in the main event of the very first episode of Monday Night Raw. As Bruce recalls, Demento was active on the independent scene in the northeastern US when he first learned of him. Though his intense persona was similar to the person playing the role, Damien’s problem was that he could not maintain his reputation when it came to actually wrestling.
Nailz. Kevin Wacholz spent the first part of his career wrestling in the AWA. First, as a mid-card white meat babyface who went by the name Kevin Kelly. Later, he would become an upper-level heel known as Kevin The Magnificent. Crazy that as late as 1987, Verne Gagne appeared to be positioning Wacholz in a role similar to Hulk Hogan’s Thunderlips in Rocky III. Was the long-term plan for Kevin The Magnificent to become a top face and lead the charge of Kevinmania? Well, the AWA folded and, alas, we shall never know. What we do know is that Wacholz was brought into the WWF in 1991 as Nailz, an ex-convict bent on destroying a recently turned babyface Big Bossman. He held this grudge because the Bossman unfairly assaulted him while he was a prisoner – a rich accusation considering the manner in which Wacholz would soon depart WWF. Anyway, the convict gimmick didn’t prove to have legs beyond a feud with a prison guard. As luck would have it, Wacholz soon found himself disgruntled over a SummerSlam payout. One thing led to another, and soon thereafter, Nailz was a memory. A bad memory.
Walker, Texas Ranger. Chuck Norris guards the aisles during Survivor Series ’94 to prevent the heels from interfering and beating down the Undertaker like they did during that year’s Royal Rumble. He gets a huge pop, but then delivers a weak-looking kick to Jeff Jarrett. “Mother f***er, that’s Chuck Norris giving a sidekick. Any other mortal human being would not survive.” So, in a way, Double J goes over huge.
ICOPRO. This line of bodybuilding supplements formed the cornerstone of the ill-fated early ’90s WBF. Go back and watch early episodes of Raw on the WWE Network and you’ll see banners for this product everywhere. ICOPRO. It’s a word now synonymous with embarrassment and failure by those who lived through those days. Bruce recalls that they had supplement drops that tasted like licorice. Bruce says “licorice” in a way that makes Conrad happy.
Rumor and Innuendo:
Running a show in Memphis in August 1992, then unknown-on-a-national-stage Jeff Jarrett was seated in the second row throwing out challenges to WWF contracted wrestlers. CONFIRMED.
The long-term plan behind the Dual Undertaker angle leading into SummerSlam ’94 was for the fake Taker, played by Brian Lee, to eventually turn on manager Ted Dibiase and form a team with The Undertaker. DENIED
The Undertaker and Brian Lee were in some way related. DENIED
Our host jokingly wonders had the Undertaker ever teamed with Irwin R. Schyster, if they would’ve named the team Death And Taxes. Bruce immediately confirms that such a plan was once pitched. Belly laughs abound.
A sentence you may have thought you’d never hear was born from this episode: “Undertaker-Papa Shango strip club stories.” It arises during a conversation regarding Taker’s “bars” of choice. The word “connoisseur” is mentioned, and we have our pop of the night.
White Hot Heat:
The guys actually got along pretty damn well this week. Maybe a WrestleMania weekend together combined with hosting their first live show has formed an impenetrable bond between the two and we can expect each episode to be harmonious going forward. We had our doubts, and when the subject of Tuesday In Texas came up, things got a little tight for a minute. But again, everyone played relatively nice this week.
F**k Dave Meltzer
A typically loaded category that was looking like a bit of a let down this week. Coming on the heels of a photo that surfaced during WrestleMania weekend of Dave and Bruce posing together, it seemed as though perhaps the hatchet had finally been buried.
First up, Dave is not kind towards Giant Gonzalez and his matches with the Undertaker. Bruce notes that he agrees, but regarding Meltzer, “f**k him anyway.” Heh. Ok. Some gentle ribbing, I’ll be damned. Seems like all is well in Dave & Bruce-ville.
Next up, regarding the “Underfaker” angle from the summer of ’94, Bruce gets a little lit. Says Bruce: “Meltzer gets a report from someone who was at a show, and prints it, and all of the sudden its fact.” A little harsh. That’s why Bruce gets so mad when he hears Meltzer’s name. He gets mad at the mere mention of Dave Meltzer’s name. Ouch.
Bruce feels that more people were fooled by the dual-Undertaker angle than what Dave reports. This is an angle that Prichard came up with, so he’s going to take such criticism a little personal. I think we’re still all friends.
Regarding The Observer’s claim that the dual Undertaker angle was originally planned to develop further before being cut short because it wasn’t working out, Bruce calls bullsh**. “It was always the plan to do one match, one attraction, one time.”
The Observer concludes that Undertaker vs. Undertaker is “the worst main event in PPV history.” “F**k Dave Meltzer” says Bruce.
We’re done? Oh no, just getting started, actually. Take it away, Bruce:
“It’s real easy to sit behind your computer or typewriter and judge when you’ve never taken a bump, you’ve never been in the ring and you’ve never put your own balls on the line to promote something or actually produce something… f**k him and his god d**n opinion.”
Further articulation follows, none of it flattering to David Allen Meltzer:
“B***h Boy”, “Nostraf***ingMeltzer”, “Dips**t”. Well, there’s no taking this stuff back, right?
“I hugged Dave Meltzer twice, one night”, says Bruce, referring to the previous weekend. He continues “I don’t hate Dave Meltzer… but f**k him.”
And this is why I love Bruce. And this is why I love this show.
Jerry Jarrett’s Chicken Salad Recipe Recipient:
Runner-up: Brian Christopher. Jerry Lawler’s son once resided as a top guy in the USWA, even facing off against The Undertaker in the main event for the Southern Championship in a match that would go to a double DQ back in 1993. According to Bruce, Vince was not pleased with that situation. More importantly, Conrad pushed for a fun story on Christopher and was rewarded with a tale of the time the future member of Too Cool attempted to argue his way out of possession charges by claiming it could not have been his drugs. You see, as he explained, he’d done them already.
Winner: Nailz. A segment about a guy who basically did one angle, then imploded and was never heard from again is not one you’d expect much out of. Even knowing the controversy surrounding his departure (erratically and inexplicably claiming he’d been sexually assaulted by Vince McMahon), you’re ready for this segment to end as it’s beginning. Then Bruce double-entendre’s “Earl Hebner witnessed it through the door. It was heated and loud”, followed by Conrad mock-screaming “He touched my d**k! He touched my d**k!”. Oh yeah. Didn’t see this part of the show leaving a lasting mark, but damned if it didn’t.
I Used To Be Over Recipient:
The Ultimate Warrior. We’ll refrain from speaking unfairly ill of the dead here, but do remember WWE one released and heavily promoted a DVD titled The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior. That smear campaign of a release somehow made it through all the proper channels and still found it’s way onto a shelf at Best Buy. It was filled with silly impressions and derogatory stories of the man who passed through WWF numerous times while arguing over payouts and refusing to put various wrestlers over. In other words, it was a pretty on-point release. To hear it from Bruce: “You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that ever said they really enjoyed working with Warrior…stiff…sloppy.” Conrad concludes: “How appropriate that we’re burying a guy when we’re covering a topic based on a character named The Undertaker.” To borrow a dated line from Funaki, indeed.
No Yob Recipient:
Second Runner Up: Jack Lanza. During a pivotal point in a 1991 angle between the Undertaker and the Ultimate Warrior, the Warrior is locked inside an airtight casket and requires the help of numerous backstage agents to free him from his torturous confines. Leave it to WWE Hall Of Famer and longtime agent, Blackjack Lanza to have some fun at the peril of a bothersome talent by repeatedly smashing the side of the casket with a sledgehammer, knowingly rattling the Ultimate Warrior over and over… all in the name of being his rescuing hero.
First Runner Up: Road Warrior Hawk. Bruce doesn’t recall exactly why the Warrior didn’t show up to be fitted for a casket for the aforementioned scene, but he assumes he simply could not be bothered (“eating chicken breast and plain pasta or something”). Anyway, leave it to our man Hawk who was roughly the same size as Warrior to take one for the team and make sure that casket fit Warrior perfectly. Later on, we find out Hawk was also the guy responsible for pitching the name of Taker’s manager.
Winner: Paul Bearer. The clear MVP of this episode is the man who unknowingly rolled into an interview to be hired as whatever kind of manager by the company. He didn’t know they needed a mouthpiece for a wrestler who digs graves and then happens to mention “oh, well, I’m a licensed mortician.” Aside from his on-camera presence, Bearer’s connections in the business of death provided WWF with a discount on bulk purchases of body bags and his license scored them access to caskets they would’ve otherwise had one hell of a time securing. I feel it’s safe to say while Mark Calloway could have taken this character a long ways on his own, it would not have gone as far as it did without Paul Bearer.