Guest: Brian James (Road Dogg)
Release Date: June 7, 2017
Recap by: Christopher Gaspare
Top Newsworthy Items
-Vince didn’t want James to return due to his drug history, but HHH vouched for him
-James has attempted to make amends to The Rock and The Undertaker for his past actions
-James was proudest of Alexa Bliss and The Miz from his time running Smackdown so far
00:00: Show introduction and reactions to Extreme Rules
11:49: The weekly news segment features Thea Trinidad’s signing and Ryback’s “India” comment
22:12: Sponsor Ad
22:43: Road Dogg on how he joined WWF in the ‘90s
27:29: Road Dogg and X-Pac discuss addiction, recovery, and in-ring work under the influence
40:46: Road Dogg on how he came back to WWE after recovery, making amends, and being an agent
54:44: Road Dogg on Smackdown’s two-hour format, what he’s proudest of, and the Women’s MITB
1:04:28: Road Dogg on writing television, critics on social media, and Owen Hart and The Rock
1:21:53: Road Dogg on who he might want from NXT
1:33:05: Road Dogg on X-Pac’s dropped methadone case and his parents
Show introduction and reactions to Extreme Rules
X-Pac is joined this week by Jimbo and a returning TK Trinidad, who hopefully is much better this week. They discussed Extreme Rules and started with the main event won by Samoa Joe, making him the number one contender to Brock Lesnar’s title. X-Pac wasn’t surprised that Joe won. He thought “everyone looked great” in the match, but that Finn looked the best. X-Pac believes Balor demonstrated that “he could compete with anyone in that match.” X-Pac stated that he’s known Samoa Joe since his days in the Inoki Dojo and cannot think of anyone without a legitimate MMA background that has more “credibility” to face Lesnar.
Jimbo brought up how fans were “upset” by the Bayley and Alexa Bliss match, which X-Pac had not seen because Bayley didn’t use the kendo stick on Alexa. X-Pac also hadn’t seen the cruiserweight submission match between Neville and Austin Aries. Jimbo said he thought they “made it work” but worried about Aries losing this first major feud. X-Pac said he believes it could be “what they do” which is an “attitude check” of sorts when someone first comes in. He added, “Vince likes him.” He questioned the idea of a submission match for cruiserweight wrestlers, but didn’t see the match and didn’t comment much on it. Everyone seemed glad that The Miz won the Intercontinental Title from Dean Ambrose. X-Pac said he had been talking to Sylvester Stallone, who is someone who shows “admiration for what [wrestlers] do,” the night before, and even Stallone had brought up Miz.
The weekly news segment features Thea Trinidad’s signing and Ryback’s “India” comment
The first news item was about the passing of Judy Poffo, wife to Angelo Poffo and mother to Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo. X-Pac offered his condolences and said the women of that generation are “the unsung heroes.” Next, TK brings up Thea Trinidad, Austin Aries’ current girlfriend, being signed and reporting to the Performance Center. X-Pac said he “really likes” Trinidad and had been told by Stephanie McMahon that “it would happen eventually.” X-Pac said she “rocked it out of the park” when she played AJ Lee for the upcoming Paige biopic a few months ago. The last news item was about Ryback’s comment that he was “excited” to see Jinder Mahal win the WWE Championship, but didn’t see any money in India. X-Pac said that he thought it was a “misguided” comment. He said it’s easy to think India is a place with “a lot of poverty,” but he said, like Mexico, there is also a lot of money. He told a story also about when he was in India, and the boys saw a billboard advertising Bret Hart jeans. The guy on the billboard looked like Hart, but it was actually a German “tribute” performer named Franz Bret Hart Schumann who had licensed blue jeans in India.
Road Dogg on how he joined WWF in the ‘90s
James had his first matches shortly after coming back from serving in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He had been wrestling and performing in a band calling Living Insanity with fellow wrestler Maxx Payne, known as Man Mountain Rock in WWF. He had a tryout in Lowell, Massachusetts where he had an in-ring match. He didn’t have a finisher at the time because he had only been used as enhancement talent by WCW, so “The Brooklyn Brawler” Steve Lombardi suggested that he used his brother’s finisher, a flying dropkick. James said that he never used that again because it hurt too much. Also during the tryout, he and Payne performed an acoustic version of the 4 Non Blondes song, “What’s Up” for Vince McMahon, Pat Patterson, and Bruce Pritchard, which he thinks helped get him in the door. X-Pac remembered that James wasn’t happy with his tryout match to which James joked he was young and didn’t know anything: “I didn’t know until about seven minutes ago how to work.”
Road Dogg and X-Pac discuss addiction, recovery, and in-ring work under the influence
James’ dogs started barking during the interview, and he joked they were probably mad because they were in their kennels, but that it was okay because they sleep on Vera Wang blankets. X-Pac noted that life seems good in the James household. James mentioned that he gets a lot of flak from people on Twitter for following the company line, but from his perspective, this company put him through rehab, gave him a second chance, and pays him a salary, so “[w]hy wouldn’t I tow the company line?” he mused. Ultimately, he said that as much as he loves sports entertainment, it is “superficial” compared to friends and family. His addiction to alcohol, pills, and marijuana left him broken for a while. Beyond bills and taxes piling up, he had hurt his wife, his children, and his parents, and he wondered how he could kill himself without hurting them even more.
Ultimately, he “got sick and tired of being sick and tired” and the addiction became “hard work.” He went to rehab and still participates in a 12-step program. At first, it was simply about abstaining from those substances, but now it’s about being a better person and reflecting on why he felt the need to use substances in the first place. Most of those reasons were “fear-based,” he said. For instance, he had nerves about walking through the curtain every night, so he would use. He thanked God for being gifted enough to the point where he could afford to be a “screw-up.” Nowadays, he looks back on some of the matches and segments he was in, and he doesn’t remember them. “How high was I?” he wonders. X-Pac and he discussed how despite their use, they oddly still had “impeccable timing.” James agreed and recalled a segment where The Undertaker was coming to the ring to fight DX, and how seamless their timing was even though he and X-Pac were using. However, he didn’t want to make that seem like bragging. X-Pac retorted that it’s “not bragging if it’s fact.” James joked, “Under all this perfection, I’m a bit humble.”
He also credited not knowing psychology, despite being a multiple time tag team champion by that point, until he worked with X-Pac. He recalled a time where they were tagging against Kane and another opponent, and James whipped Kane into the ropes, and X-Pac asked him why he did it. James could only respond, “That’s the spot.” X-Pac, he said, taught him logic in the ring, and X-Pac said that that’s a big problem in today’s wrestling is that most are “mentally lazy.” For instance, someone will get a hot tag and come in and clothesline everybody, which is stale. James said he talked to Charlotte the other day about this. He advised that she use chops on a hot tag but to also figure out a way to do the chop differently to each opponent. A comeback, he described, is “rhythmic” and when the crowd gets into that rhythm they will sound “like an African drum” that keeps increasing in sound. X-Pac understood and offered that a half-step could throw that rhythm off, and James said that a crowd can “feel” that missed step even if they can’t articulate it.
Road Dogg on how he came back to WWE after recovery, making amends, and being an agent
Initially, HHH asked Vince to hire James, but Vince refused because James had been an addict. HHH asked three times, and on the third time, Vince relented but put the entire onus on him for the decision. He said it took a while but he’s “gained Vince’s trust.” He had started trying to establish that trust during his the weekend his father was inducting into the Hall of Fame. He apologized to The Rock to whom he had done “horrible stuff in front of everybody” and The Undertaker who had tried to help him but he had rejected. X-Pac noted that The Rock did “appropriate” the “Do you smell what The Rock is cooking” line from James during his time in Memphis. James said that didn’t matter: “That’s yours if you put it on the national stage.” He later made amends with Vince as well.
After he came back, he started putting together matches and helping Hunter with entrances. He recalled Blackjack Lanza and Chief Jay Strongbow doing the same with him years ago. He said they “gave [him] more lessons about life” that he didn’t follow such as saving money and paying taxes, which he didn’t and ended up owing $200,000 dollars. He was young and making money, so he thought they didn’t know what they were talking about. Today, agents are working more with the talent on their matches and the television aspects of wrestling. He doesn’t really have any matches that he holds “near and dear” to him because he doesn’t remember them as he said before. He recently watched a hardcore match with DX against The Nation and didn’t remember any of it even though they were “beating the crap” out of each other. He does remember throwing up after Rikishi gave him a stinkface, and X-Pac recalled a story about guys getting Rikishi held down and Pat Patterson giving him a stinkface with stained underwear on.
Road Dogg on Smackdown’s two-hour format, what he’s proudest of, and the Women’s MITB
James was asked about the women’s Money in the Bank match and whether any more females would be on the roster soon. He said that at first there was some worry about what “if one of these girls gets hurt,” so he talked to them and they were all “game.” He thinks he will get a couple new women over the summer, but if he does, that means one of the main roster women will get less air time and “that don’t feel good.” Right now, he said, “there’s not enough landscape” for the women to each have their own time, so that is why they are all being put together in matches so that they can all be on the show. In general, he thinks all the wrestlers “have talent” but he wanted “the right human beings” for the Smackdown brand, ones that could come together as a team and get the product over. He thinks he has that, especially in the women’s division.
The discussion turned to the length of the show, and James insisted that it’s easier to watch and write a two show. He said no one understands “the monumental task” of writing three hours per week, but thinks RAW has a fresh start and look now after the shake-up that is helping. “Do I wish I could get a two hour and twenty-minute show? Sure, because I could get the Luke Harpers and Tye Dillingers on,” he admitted. “I don’t want a third hour, but I’d love to have an extra fifteen minutes.” X-Pac admitted he wasn’t a fan of the brand split years ago, he is this time around. James joked that he didn’t understand it the first time mainly because he was high, but he thinks the split gives people “opportunity” to shine. He is proudest of Alexa Bliss seizing the opportunity given to her. Additionally, he is proud of The Miz who stepped in to help fill a void with John Cena away. The Miz, he claims, is one of the best employees in the company along with Cena. He is always reliable and has ideas of his own that he’ll work with writers on. He gives input and suggestions on his promos as does Dean Ambrose.
Road Dogg on writing television, critics on social media, and Owen Hart and The Rock
X-Pac brought up that many fans want to see the “outlaw spirit” return to wrestling, but that he would “rather have [his] friends alive. James, in a mocking voice, said, “The Attitude Era was the best, PG Era sucks, blah, blah, blah.” He argued that fans were “less jaded” when they were younger and that the product is great for kids in general. He thinks critics need to “grow up” and realize “it’s a corporation” now, and a corporation can’t promote drinking, nudity, and violence. He continued on, “Everyone is so hypersensitive yet insensitive at the same time.” He gave an example of a social media post about President Trump, and how people will talk horribly to each other simply because they disagree. He feels like people watch the show only to go online and “bury the crap out of it.”
He mentioned that when he responds on social media, he “makes the dirtsheets” for towing the company line. “They’re just trolls, I guess, and I bite.” He said that nobody knows what it takes to write so much television and how hard and long the writing staff works. They only criticize without acknowledging anything good. It’s particularly hard when broadcasting while running a live event with an audience at the same time. “It’s incredible what we do.”
In the middle of his thoughts about the critics, he was inexplicably asked about the night after Owen Hart’s death. He and the Godfather were supposed to wrestle, but WWF gave everyone leeway with what they did that night, so they decided to not have the match and instead they agreed to go “light one up” and tell stories about Owen. X-Pac and James agreed that Owen was a guy who was trying to do things the right way. He saved money, didn’t cheat on his wife, didn’t use pills, and didn’t drink too much. James recalled Owen ribbing him by having his music played mid-match, and X-Pac said that Owen did the same thing to Ahmed Johnson during Ahmed’s tryout.
James also recalled a time that he thinks Owen and Davey Boy Smith drugged him while drinking and painted his face. X-Pac said they did the same thing to him and also painted his toenails pink. James said it was all “good-hearted stuff.” The Rock was brought up again, and James said that he was professionally and personally jealous of The Rock, working in Memphis on the WWF’s dime as Flex Kavana while James was making little money at the time. Once, he and Bill Dundee were going to ride with The Rock, but he told them that he didn’t allow smoking in his car, and they didn’t ride with him. James realizes now that The Rock was just trying to live right and doesn’t hold anything against him.
Road Dogg on who he might want from NXT
When asked who he would want from NXT, James said that of course he would want Asuka who could be a “huger star” than she already is. He would like Bobby Roode and the Authors of Pain, who are “willing to learn and willing to perform,” as well. He is also glad he kept A.J. Styles on Smackdown and was able to get Tye Dillinger. When asked if there was anybody from when he worked in TNA that he would like to see in WWE, he said that everybody with the exception of James Storm and Abyss is already in WWE and that Storm had the opportunity last year. When asked specifically about Abyss, he said “A lot of people are loyal to a fault” although he admits he doesn’t want to judge and “maybe it’s not a fault.”
Road Dogg on X-Pac’s dropped methadone case and his parents
X-Pac asked James what he thought about his case from last month, and James said he believed X-Pac as he had always been “very forthcoming” about his past. He was asked about his mother. James said that she never expected all her boys to go into wrestling. She was “the rock that raised them all” and was “the ideal role model.” His father, former wrestler and booker “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, watches Smackdown every week and now that he’s higher in the business they can talk about it on the “next level.”
Score and Review (6/10)
The Extreme Rules recap was hindered a bit by X-Pac having not watched all the matches, and the news items didn’t add much but at least were short. The interview with Road Dogg was a mixed bag. James’s story about overcoming addiction and getting a second chance with the company was the most interesting material out of the interview where he appeared jovial, humble, and sincere as were some of his comments about his proudest accomplishments on Smackdown. Given his status in the company right now, most fans would be more interested in what he had to say about the current product, which unfortunately wasn’t much. James has developed a politic way of responding where he spoke a lot, but said little. Beyond that, he also seemed incapable of acknowledging any middle ground when he came to critics, and he wasn’t questioned any further much by X-Pac, Jimbo, or TK about those topics. Given that he readily admits he “tows the company line,” maybe it would be better to stick to his past in any future interviews than attempt to discuss the current product with him.
Chris Gaspare is teacher from Maryland who has been watching wrestling since 1989 when he saw his first WCW Saturday Night episode and quickly rented as many NWA and WWF VHS tapes he could find in local stores. He also attended Tri-State Wrestling Alliance and early ECW shows in Philadelphia, which really kicked his fandom into high gear. He lapsed in the mid-2000s, but returned to the wrestling fold a few years ago.
For more, check out last week’s recap of X-Pac 1,2,360 with Jeff Cobb.