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QUICK QUOTES: Former WCW commentator Chad Damiani’s improbable entry into professional wrestling

Raven Effect with Wade Keller

Chad Damiani, AKA Busby on the Raven Effect podcast, told the story this week of how he landed a job as an announcer with WCW. Below is the full transcript of that recounting:

“I started by just writing reviews of (WCW Monday Nitro) because I had a good friend down there who was just helping me out. Then, the NWO happened, and it was this huge explosion. Because Bischoff wanted to create two separate brands, with merchandising and hopefully two shows and two sets of PPV’s eventually, he was in desperate need for people to create content. He had an idea. At the time, Gene Okerlund had a really successful hotline and they were making millions of dollars. I mean, this was back in ’96. People would call in, it was sex, psychics, and wrestling. Those were the three types of hotlines that made money. And he had this brilliant idea that Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Hulk Hogan would record messages once a week. Fans would call in to hear these ‘secret’ messages from the NWO because they weren’t allowed on the website or the TV show, so this was ‘the real scoop’ and he was going to make a ton of money. Of course, these guys never recorded the messages, because they didn’t care.

“So there was a backup plan put in place. Just in case these guys forgot, they didn’t want the message to roll over because if people called two days in a row and got the same message, they could ask for their money back. My friend, Dave, knowing that I was in theater, said ‘Hey, would you be willing to check this phone line at midnight and see if a new message has been recorded?’ And if the message had not been recorded, I would record my own message just to have something new on there.

“I came up with this character. My friends and I in college, we all watched wrestling and had names for each other like big, dumb goons. So I called myself ‘The Deli Boy’ just to make them laugh, because we used to do these dumb characters in college, and they said they would pay me $150 per message because they felt like it would be so rare that I would record one, because obviously, these guys were going to record these messages as promised, that they wanted to give me an incentive to check the message at midnight, since it was such a pain in the ass and these guys never recorded their messages.

“So I was doing messages every night, but I wasn’t on the inside, I didn’t know anyone in the business. The internet was in its infancy, so I didn’t have any information and I came up with this idea. I was living with my current writing partner, JP. I was like ‘I’ll do a couple bits of information, and then you and I will do, like, sketches. We’ll create fake wrestlers and I’ll interview them because it doesn’t seem like they care what I do.’

“So we had a bunch of characters. Some of my favorites were, Fit Finlay had just come over. So we had a guy called Unfit Finlay. He would cut a promo and then get exhausted in the middle of his promo. That was just a gag. We had Le Interrupter, that was a French tag team and their whole bit was they just would never let me ask a question.

“I was recording these messages and was making bank. I didn’t have to work any other jobs. What I didn’t know was because I was kind of making fun of the show, people down in Smyrna were also checking the messages in the morning to make sure I had done my job and these messages had become kind of popular in the office because they were so dumb. At one point, and this was completely unbeknownst to me, as many as twelve people would meet in a conference room with their coffee in the morning and they’d all listen to my ten-minute message, my sketch sort of thing I was doing. I thought no one was hearing these messages.

“They were sort of building out the online department and they have this brilliant idea. They’re going to do a pay-per-listen on the internet, that’s how long ago this was. It was just going to be an audio recording that you pay $6 for, with still images every five seconds. They approved Gene Okerlund and Mark Madden to fly to Boston and do this broadcast to see if they could monetize these sort of online-only pay-per-listens.

“They had so little money because they were flying people up. They asked me to take a train from New York to Boston just to run cable. I come up, I’m in jean shorts and just dressed to work. I’m just excited because the main event is Sting and Savage vs. the Outsiders in a cage and it’s in Boston Garden, and it’s sold out. Man, I would’ve taken the train on my own dime to see the show for free. I get up there, and I’ve worked jobs like this before. I was running cable to the ring, just helping out like any other guy in the back.

“About five minutes before the show starts, Scott Cunningham comes up to me and says ‘Crazy news. Gene got food poisoning at the Marriott. He had a bad chicken focaccia sandwich.’ I remember that very specifically. It was a bad chicken focaccia sandwich. I’m wrapping cable, just, like, finishing my job. And I’m like ‘Oh, that sucks for you guys,’ and he goes ‘No, you don’t understand. We have a bare bones crew. There’s no TV here. You’re the only person who has anything resembling announcing experience.‘ I still could not wrap my head around this. And they’re like ‘You have to call the show.’ Right? I’d never done anything like that before. I did not have a communications degree.

“They push me out of the curtain. It’s sold out. I’m walking the aisle at Boston Garden to get to the ring because we had the set up right at ringside. Jean shorts, construction boots, I looked like half-pirate, half-hobo. I can see them telling Mark, he’s like ‘What are you talking about?’ Mark looks at me, and I worked with him for years after this and he was like ‘Who the F are you?’ in that big, guttural Grinch voice and I couldn’t even retort. I was just, like, so scared and intimidated. I didn’t even know how to put the headset on right, I kind of fumbled with it. They’re counting me down to start this broadcast. I’d never done this before.

“This radio broadcast begins and I’m immediately stumbling over my words and Mark being Mark just runs me over and just starts saying ‘I’ll do it all myself.’ I was like ‘Ugh.’ I was just so embarrassed. I remember the first match, I don’t remember who he’s fighting, but it was Greg Valentine, who at that point, it was pretty late in his career. Mark’s just doing all the work, and I’m just sitting there feeling so stupid and so inept, and then it clicks in my head. ‘You know, you’re probably going to get fired from the hotline and never work here again. Just do what you do at home, which is make fun of everything, like an a**hole.’

“Greg Valentine had a hammer on the back of his naked colored trunks, like a claw hammer and I just went 100% in on that. Just like ‘What would possess a man to put a hammer on his butt crack and think that was an alpha move?’ Mark’s like ‘You’re an idiot,’ but he’s laughing. I just keep digging in. What I didn’t know is because it’s so bare bones backstage, there’s no catering, there’s no anything. It’s a house show. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash are just hanging out near the sound guy, they’re listening to me go on this tirade. They think it’s hilarious. All of the sudden, I hear ‘Hey yo, I’ll tell you another thing about Greg Valentine.’ Scott and Kevin are now coming in from the back. They were watching the house feed and they’re, like, riffing with me. Two guys I was just a fan of, I’d never met. Now all four of us are just, like, busting balls.

“Of course, the minute that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash came on and were into it, Mark Madden, who, I like the guy, but he is like the biggest spineless kiss a** in the world. Immediately, this was the best idea. This thing that he was just s**tting on, he was immediately on board and we’re all doing it. Just seconds before that he was like ‘You’re crazy, shut up.’

“So then, for the rest of the night, we’re just all busting balls on every one of these matches, and it’s like, with the Outsiders. Then, when they come out for the main event, they come over to me, they pat me on the shoulder, they get in the cage. I don’t remember how they won, but they decimate Sting and the Macho Man and the fans start throwing food and drinks at them. I can remember, someone threw curly fries in the ring, and Kevin Nash picked them up and fed them to me through the cage. At that time, that was, like, the greatest thing that had ever happened to me.

“I left Boston, jumped on a train the next morning. For me, it was like, what a great night for a wrestling fan. What a magical night. What I didn’t know was that Scott or Kevin said something to Eric like ‘Hey there’s this kid, he did this cool thing where he was sort of making fun of the product. That’s what the internet is. You’ve got to get this kid here.’ So they kind of went to bat for me and I had no idea. I don’t know if they even knew my name. I got a call, like, three days later, to fly out to a show because they wanted to meet with me. I wasn’t meeting with Eric. I was meeting with a guy named Jay Hassman because I was considered a low rung acquisition. But this all kind of snowballed into them wanting to work with me.

“I had one other bit of really good luck. Jeff Katz was a young kid doing a radio show at like fifteen years old. Smart kid. I still know Jeff, I love Jeff, but at the time he was brought in when they were renegotiating with Gene Okerlund, as if they were going to replace Gene with this young, snarky kid, and he was going to be the announcer on NWO PPV’s. I think they only had one, Souled Out, but he was the announcer on that PPV. Then they moved him to the online commentary team, pretty sure he was working with Lee Marshall. The problem with Jeff was, he’s a super smart, great talker, but he’s like sixteen years old. So, he would come to shows and they’d be like ‘Hey, did you watch Nitro this week?,’ and he’d be like ‘Nah, I didn’t watch it. I was too busy.’ Like, he was doing stuff you do in high school to be cool, and kind of not realizing he’s around all these heroes of his and he’s trying to play up his confidence, but in actuality ended up submarining himself because he was just too young. Then, he gets fired, and I just slip in the back door and end up on the online commentary team.”

Rush’s Analysis: Damiani had alluded to his backstory a few times in the past on the show. This was rewarded to listeners as a thank you for the Raven Effect exceeding 200 five-star reviews on Amazon, and it was a suitable payoff. I can still hear Jeremy Borash referring to “the Deli Boy, Chad Damiani” on old episodes of WCW Live. After rediscovering him on this show, I’d wondered what his story was, and it’s a good one. If you only catch this show now and again, this is one worth listening to.

The episode also includes Raven’s account of his departure from WCW. To check it out, visit The Raven Effect on PodcastOne.

Please credit PWPodcasts when using any part of this transcription.

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