Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast – Interview Friday
Release Date: November 10, 2017
Guest: Dave Lagana
Recap by: Jason “Mr. Wheenus” Darling
- Vince McMahon gave his blessings for the Jericho v. Omega match happening in NJPW.
- Dave wants everything “from the ropes out” in the NWA to be real, he would consider that a real win for them.
- Dave says Lio Rush should be getting some exposure on NXT or otherwise for his comments about Emma being let go.
- ECW is known as the zombie that won’t die, Dave says now he thinks it’s TNA.
- March will start a 6 month run at a studio for NWA.
- NWA will be testing an employment model with Tim Storm, having an exclusive contract with NWA but still showing up in other orgnizations.
- The Rock’s Promos were written out for him and that writer still works for him to this day.
- Dave considers NWA’s current heavyweight champion, Tim Storm, as important as Harley Race.
- “Our President is better at wrestling than wrestling people,” when it comes to generating heat on twitter according to Dave.
Wade goes on before the interview to plug the PWTorch Livecast series of Podcasts. He talks about current events and what is covered, most notably Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens being sent home from the UK tour and his thoughts.
Interview with Dave Lagana:
The interview starts with Wade telling his listeners to look up Tim Storm 10 pounds of Gold, episodes 1 and 2 which are available as the show is being recorded. Dave says Episode 3 will be available before the interview is made available to the public and tells us to go watch that episode as well. Episode 3 is actually about Billy Corgan and why he wanted to buy the company and what it means to him (I have watched all three and they are very well done). Dave says making podcasts is a lot harder than the 3-6 minute videos he is creating now for the NWA.
Wade asks if what NWA is trying to do is what WWE lacks, making you feel an actual connection to the wrestlers you are watching. Dave starts with WWE having a great beginning for Roderick Strong, but they ultimately failing in NXT with him. The connection is what they are hoping to go for, but it’s more because others AREN’T going for it. If WWE was writing the way he wants to write and create compelling stories and characters, then he would have no need to do it. Nobody is doing real emotion in wrestling anymore, that is what he wants to create.
Dave is creating a story between Nick Aldis and Tim Storm. They are polar opposites and when you watch the videos you wonder how exactly things are going to go. Tim is an older throwback that is just now getting his opportunity late in life. Whereas Nick was hand picked by Dixie and won a championship at a very young age. So it creates an interesting dynamic between them. With the videos they are producing, you get a glimpse at what all of this really means to them.
These “10 pounds of gold” videos were made with Dave just sitting down in Tim’s classroom for about 2 hours and just letting him talk. The “Top of the Mountain” line from the videos was all Tim. He came up with it on his own. When you see that you get a feeling as to what Tim is all about and have a connection. When he day he loses the title you will feel that pain. Dave goes on to compare it to WWE and says you don’t know why Brock Lesnar is champion, or what it means to him, or even with Jinder Mahal. The only thing you get from Jinder is that he might be representing 1.3 billion people, the “why” is missing.
Creating A Compelling Story:
Giving fans a story to believe in has always been something Wade has told anyone who will listen. Do not amplify what isn’t real, give them as much real as you can, and with the Tim Storm story you can really feel that. Give the fans a story they can believe in, it’s a fictional outcome sport but if you give them something real they believe it.
Dave says Tim Storm, right now, is the epitome of the NWA, he’s older, he’s exactly what you think of when you think of NWA as far as their champion should be. Tim was the champion when Billy bought the company. Dave asked how Tim felt about being the NWA champion that nobody really knows. Tim said he was pissed off about it, he’s the champion of one of the biggest brands when you think of what wrestling is and nobody knows who he is.
Dave turns the tables to WWE saying at the time of the interview Lio Rush not being showcased on 205 live right now is crazy to him (for those who don’t know, Lio Rush made some comments about the release of Emma that were unsavory). Given that he made a bad name for himself and could create some realism to their product is a huge miss. Wade tries to defend WWE in that regard, saying that would be rewarding talent for going into business for themselves. This would create unrest and could be seen as what they are looking for from talent, to make an outlandish remark and get noticed, then you move up. Dave says if it was his promotion that this happened in, he would most certainly exploit that but use it as tastefully as possible. Use the 72 hour news cycle and try to make some kind of marketable use out of the situation.
The other big thing that Dave brings up is that all of his comments boil down to making his talent as real as possible. Tim is exactly who he is, he isn’t being given a “character.” When you look at a Stone Cold Steve Austin, that is who he was, just turned up. He wouldn’t want to give anyone in his company a character they will struggle to portray.
NWA and their goals:
NWA is looking to produce a studio wrestling show, at least at first. Dave says with the invention of YouTube and iPPV’s you lose the studio feel with what companies are producing now. In order to put a star rating on the match you have to feel the match, not just put on a good match to create a good atmosphere. That can be captured a lot better in a studio produced atmosphere.
Fans are willing to be very honest with you about the product and about what you are presenting. NWA isn’t hiding behind the fact that Tim Storm is 52 years old, when he gets asked about his age they are very upfront about it. Another point made is that in WWEs world, Dave says with any given segment or storyline, you come away from it with three thought processes of what’s going to happen. First is what you want to happen, second is what you are sure will actually happen, and last is what you hope DOESN’T happen. Usually it’s always the second or third option, never the first, Dave would like to create a product where you get more of the first option of results that you would like to see happen.
The studio shows will be about an hour each, live, starting in March. On January 1st they are hoping to start producing more material for the other titles and other storylines so that come March they are ready to go. Doing a one hour show during the week, Dave is hoping to create interest and intrigue. If you have Tim Storm going out on Saturday and appearing in another capacity, maybe even in another promotion, and then showing up at the NWA show, it creates more intrigue. To relate it to WWE, Dave says most people watched Smackdown after the “Under Siege” angle to see if the Raw guys would show up or to see if there was some kind of fallout from that angle, and there wasn’t. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it would have created more intrigued to then be carried over to Raw the next Monday. Instead ,they waited a couple weeks and the buzz was gone and it didn’t work as well.
The idea for the studio, to Dave, is to create as much live content as possible in that one hour and leave the pre-taped stuff to be pushed during the week. That way they can fit as much in as possible and let the narrative be developed during the week. The format will be closer to old Memphis and WCW style which is match, promo, then conflict.
Dave starts to elaborate on the flexibility that they will have in the NWA. He brings up the Young Bucks and how they love to create their own content. It would be one less dollar that Dave has to put out. If they can work it into a business model beneficial to both of them, it’s a perfect match.
Wade starts to ask Dave a question about the format they are going to be following in NWA. He also says that the overproduced, neat and buttoned up vision that WWE creates is a bit non-authentic. The example is when Mick Foley was cutting a promo about Smackdown and he didn’t call it “Smackdown Live” Stephanie corrected him. Wade argues that there should have been some kind of rebellious type character that could be like, “You don’t tell me what to say” but you won’t get that in today’s WWE.
Working in WWE and TNA:
WWE just reported the biggest quarter ever making 20 million dollars and Dave won’t discredit Vince for that, his product works. But if you think about football teams, they all have their own head coach, they all run different plays and they all have what works and generates wins.
In TNA, Dave would hand a wrestler what he wrote and have them read it, if they liked it they could change up the wording or add their own spin to it. Kurt Angle is a robot and wants everything written for him, which in the words of Dave “It’s fine, that works for him.” Stone Cold was the opposite,he just liked the bullet points and added his own flair to it.
A lot of fans relate Bobby Lashley with Brock Lesnar, and to Dave, Bobby is the better promo guy. Brock has Paul Heyman next to him to deliver promos and that’s the way it works for them now, it’s all about actually listening to your wrestlers and figuring out what works with them. Brock can deliver a passionate and real promo but doesn’t have to right now because Paul is there. Bottom line is that it is all about transparency and being up front with wrestlers, let them know where you want to go and talk about the path to get there.
Wade asked how TNA altered Dave’s ideas and perception of the business. Using his WWE experience, he was able to walk into TNA and change how the product was presented. He was a hard worker and it was good for him to start in WWE and try to bring as much of that to TNA as possible. He uses an example of not only what he learned in WWE but his general business model by talking about Ali formerly “Cherry Bomb.” He was able to build a character with her around who she was and Ali was a much better character for her with better storylines. He was able to bring the best out of them by being compassionate and learning about who they are. Ali was only on TV for 4 months and was one of the top 5 most over talents they had, the storyline he was working on with her ended and unfortunately her momentum vanished.
What do fans want?
Pro wrestling fans are being given everything they want, according to Dave. He says there are less current fans than there use to be. If he could, Dave would travel everywhere and talk to former fans to see what they are missing. He feels that now it’s like going through tolls, WWE network has you paying for a subscription that you watch the product and are giving you what you want every so often, maybe at the big 4.
Furthermore, fans also want a story or characters to actually mean something. The anticipation of matches is gone as well, when was the last time something was anticipated in WWE? WrestleMania this year is going to be Reigns vs Lesnar and it’s not anticipated. Dave says that is Vince’s playbook and that’s fine because he will run his plays.
The 2 hour format for shows also seem to be a standard that Lucha Underground tried to change, unfortunately that did not change anything because they would go weeks at a time without any new content and the product would cool off. With the NWA product, they are able to change and adapt and find what works for them.
Wrestling will always have a value to TV networks, Dave correlates Mr Robot to Raw. Saying that USA has to spend millions of dollars to produce Mr Robot and it only goes for 13 weeks. WWE produces Raw and then USA showcases it, 52 weeks a year, with advertisers and a constantly running product that pulls significantly higher numbers.
WWE creative now is not taking as many chances as when Dave was there. He says look at John Cena, WWE is afraid to have him booed. But look back at WrestleMania 20 when everyone who now boos Cena was cheering him in the building. They still had their own shortcomings but overall they took different chances. Elaborating on that topic, there are story hooks that you use before commercials, a wrestler walking to the ring isn’t a hook.
Dave’s biggest gripe during his tenure in TNA was something had happened with Karen Jarrett and Jeff. He came out and said “You’ll have to wait until next week to see what I really think,” we have to wait an entire week? That is an extremely weak hook. Something done well recently to Dave was The Miz cutting a promo on Baron Corbin on Twitter the other day, it wasn’t a huge advancement to the storyline but it created some intrigue.
Wade asks what WWE could do to expand their fan base, according to Dave they are locked in at 1.5 million subscribers to the network. They need to find a way to connect with old fans and bring them back in. Another way is to lock down the free month and sharing accounts loophole they are currently stuck in. Eventually, WWE will need to move to a tiered system of pricing, and to also branch out from being just about wrestling.
Wade says his solution is to create a new star, have the fans get invested in him and want to go on the journey with him/her. Their focus is on the delivery system and it happens to be they are delivering pro wrestling, they need to start focusing on the story and stars they are trying to make. NXT is a perfect example of this, Dave said the first NXT Brooklyn show was the peak of its popularity. Fans were heavily invested in the talent and the storylines were there and you cared. Another factor is the character exposure, King Kong Bundy was a character that would work well for a year but not being used 52 weeks a year for years on end. The NWA company can succeed by being nimble and different and not locked into a corporate structure. WWE isn’t invested in the 4th segment of 205 live but fans are suppose to be. That is the disconnect currently.
The show was as a huge improvement from last week. I never found myself nodding off at the business aspect and what they talked about flowed really well. Wade asked great questions to generate intrigue to the product of the NWA. Dave gave great responses and really good insight into what they are hoping to provide fans. Also, the constructive conversation around what WWE is doing wrong, as opposed to just saying “Roman Reigns sucks” was great. I personally went from knowing nothing about the NWA to watching all of the videos they have produced and looking forward to all the future plans they have. If you are reading this and haven’t watched the “10 pounds of gold” video on YouTube, you NEED to go watch it immediately!
1:36 – Start of Show
9:04 – Start of Interview with Dave Lagana
24:32 – First Break
25:04 – Returns to Interview
49:10 – Second Break
49:35 – Final Portion of Interview
70:09 – Interview End
About the Author
Jason Darling is from Frederick, MD, where he has lived his entire life. His first vivid memory of wrestling was on his 15th birthday, the triumphant return of Triple H to then WWF television. Since that day he has been a fan and hasn’t missed a Raw or Smackdown. Follow him on any social media platform with the username @Wheenus