Guest: Sam Roberts
Release Date: December 20, 2017
Recap by: Sean McGraw
X-Pac is joined by Jimbo, Denise, and TK. This week’s guest will be Sam Roberts. With all of the holiday stuff going on, X-Pac hasn’t been too up on what’s been going on this week. They start by discussing the big Twitter back and forth about the dropkick spot at Final Battle. Pac doesn’t disagree with the criticisms of the spot, he takes exception with the way it went down though.
They talk about Cody specifically getting hot at people and its brought up that maybe he wasn’t actually getting hot and maybe he’s just playing the heel part. X-Pac brings up an interesting point that its different now. It takes something different than it used to take. When you try to be a heel the way they used to be in the past, it doesn’t work. It’s a weird thing now. It’s just a different way of working the people.
A Wrestling Legend has passed away:
Tom Zenk passed away on December 9th in Minnesota. Zenk was only 59. Tom was controversial and had some heat for testifying against Vince at the steroid trial. He was one of the first to do the controversial “wrestling podcast.” Pac tells a story about Tom driving Scott Hall to TV back in the ’90s and being immediately kicked out of the building by Jack Lanza. Hall didn’t realize he had that much heat.
Women’s wrestling adds another first
Stephanie McMahon announces on Raw that there will be a Women’s Royal Rumble Match at the Royal Rumble PPV. There is a lot of speculation on who will be in the match. Possible Legends like Trish Stratus or Beth Phoenix and NXT ladies that wouldn’t be call ups and would go back down to NXT right away. Pac would like to have seen Maria Menounos but it doesn’t seem likely because of her brain tumor issues. X-Pac wonders if there is an appetite for two of these types of matches on one show. Everything is great on paper, but once you’re committed to watching it, are you going to be burned out by the time the start of the men’s rumble?
Was it really a Clash of the Champions?
It was a decent show but kind of a throwaway one. X-Pac watched some of it, but nothing stood out to him. The problem in the A.J. vs. Jinder match was that it is harder to do a match like that when the face isn’t chasing the belt. Is what Dolph Ziggler doing working? It seems like Dolph is unhappy and unfulfilled. It might be time for him to leave for his own sake. It can be scary to leave WWE because of the unknown. Dolph would be a great addition to the indy scene and the exposure that you get in WWE is priceless when you’re out there.
Interview with Sam Roberts
X-Pac remembers the early days of the network and how Sam was one of the panelists. Sam had been wanting to do something with WWE for years – almost since the beginning of his career in radio. Josh Mathews had introduced him to a few people and through those contacts they had asked him to do an interview to use for a bunch of different things. He was there for almost 5 hours because they found out that he knew a lot of obscure topics due to his lifelong fandom. He was able to talk about things that a lot of other people hadn’t known about. One thing that they were surprised that he knew well was Cryme Tyme. With the kickoff shows they had told him that it would be a one-time gig. Pac knew that they would keep asking him back.
The past several WrestleManias were great experiences for Sam and they keep getting topped. As a guest of X-Pac at WrestleMania 30, he remembers being in the same hotel as the boys and feeling a little star-struck. At one point he called his wife and told her he felt like he had to stay in his room because otherwise somebody might see him and realize that he’s not supposed to be there.
X-Pac puts over Sam’s job on the kickoff shows saying he does such a good job mainly because he’s not trying to put the Sam Roberts character over. Sam thanks Pac and says that’s important to him. He attributes his good work to putting himself in a fan’s mindset and thinking what about what the fans would want to see. He also says that he’s invited into the pro wrestling world so it’s not about him. Is he ever being produced by Vince? No, it will usually just be a producer in his ear. They are there more for getting the timing of the show right. None of the producers ever tell him how to react or what to say or think. They allow him to be himself.
Were there any surprises when he started working with WWE? There are not really any surprises. Everybody that works there is super focused on their task and what needs to get done. There is no good enough. If they can’t get things done correctly while they’re pre-taping, they’ll do it live and they always seem to hit it out of the park.
Has working with WWE changed Sam’s perspective as a fan of the business? Sam won’t allow himself not to. If it did change, he would have to rethink how he’s doing things. Being a fan is why he likes doing it. At TakeOver he was marking out over Andrade “Cien” Almas winning. It’s cool because everyone there is a fan so he’s not judged for doing it. When you have something that’s really good, even the guys on the show are going to say, “This is awesome.” Seeing “how the sausage is made” hasn’t changed his fandom. There is already so much out there. The only thing that’s really left a mystery is that behind the scenes, WWE is not nearly as bad as the internet makes it out to be. It’s easier for him to be a fan being in the building than if he were to read the internet as gospel. X-Pac agrees and says that what a lot of people think is going on behind the scenes isn’t happening because people are too busy doing their job.
What does Sam like outside of WWE? He watched Final Battle and loved that they put the title on Dalton Castle. He has high hopes for ROH. It’s good for them to have more believable talent to work with than just having it be “The Cody Rhodes Show.” It’s tough for him to watch a ROH show now and not critique the production. He says it’s probably the WWE rubbing off on him. X-Pac points out the lighting and the missed shots that specifically stick out to him and that they are little things that most people probably don’t even know they’re missing. It registers on a subconscious level. Those things are nitpicky though because he likes so much of the talent there.
Sam also really loves Naito. He feels about Naito now the way he felt about Nakamura when Nakamura was in NJPW. Pac says he thinks Naito is his favorite in NJPW right now too. He likes the fact that he’s speaking up about the “Screw this double main event stuff. We’re the main event.” It’s healthy for the talent. Sam says it’s a pretty tall task to make yourself seem cool and badass to an international audience and not be associated with Bullet Club. He applauds Naito for doing so. Sam loves when Naito goes tranquilo. Pac credits Naito for taking an overdone generic spot and making it his own. Sam compares it to how Kairi Sane has breathed new life into an elbow drop. “How anybody can breathe that kind of life into a move that’s as old and been done as many times as the elbow drop is incredible to me.”
Sam says that A.J. Styles it the best wrestler in world right now. He loved the story that A.J. and Jinder Mahal told at Clash of the Champions. They told this story of this guy A.J. Styles who, over time, has developed this skill set that is impenetrable. He has two or three moves that he can do with each part of his body. If you take something away from him he can adapt to it. Sam thought it was interesting when A.J. came in because A.J. was one of those guys that you thought would never get there. He ended up being real excited really quickly. He more so than anybody Sam had ever seen had latched on to being a WWE Superstar so wholeheartedly and made it his entire focused without changing his style. After six months nobody was talking about A.J. in TNA or NJPW. It was as if A.J. had been with the WWE his whole career.
Sam brings up that WWE has shifted business a bit and that they are a lot more cooperative than they used to be. They look at guys like Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode and saying we think it could be mutually beneficial to work together. That’s why you see guys keeping their names and gimmicks but they just become WWE Superstars. X-Pac says the mentality used to be that if an idea wasn’t created with WWE, then it wasn’t really any good and they’re not going to go with it too hard. He was talking with HHH recently about how that was the mentality until recently and how they are trying to change it. Sam Roberts thinks that Finn Balor and Kevin Owens are two guys that really made strides into helping that get going. He asks X-Pac who deserves the credit for that mentality shift. Pac says it was mainly the NXT guys and he thinks it’s a HHH thing.
X-Pac asks what Sam’s take is on the MMA guys going after the Young Bucks and Cody on Twitter over the dropkick spot. Sam thinks it’s stupid. He doesn’t see what the MMA guys stand to gain from discrediting pro wrestling. He says if he’s an MMA guy he wants pro wrestling to be healthy so that if there were ever a time where he gets super famous that he can go to pro wrestling and make big money with some matches. He also thinks it’s silly to take one spot out of context when the spot is kind of an inside joke between the fans and The Young Bucks. Overall, it’s nothing to get worked up over and it’s just trolling.
Should shoot fighters take to cutting promos on opponents to build their fights? Sam says yes. It’s such a basic tactic to build buzz and garner media attention. He talks about when Brock was making people mad and saying that Brock was disrespecting the sport. They’d say that they hope that someone gets in there and kicks his ass. Sam went “Bingo!” and X-Pac chuckles and chimes in with “You think someone would pay to see that?”
Sam is asked if he bought the new Virgil action figure and has Virgil thanked him for getting the figure made. He has bought it and interviewed the designer from Mattel. The action figure comes with Virgil’s convention sign and is basically a “Lonely Virgil” figure. Sam asked the Mattel guy if he knew that the “Lonely Virgil” website was Sam’s website. The Mattel guy was shocked and had no idea. The Mattel guy said that Sam is entirely responsible for that action figure being made.
X-Pac ends the interview by thanking Sam for being a friend and for helping him out during his troubles at the airport awhile back. Sam says that there is no need to thank him. He knows that X-Pac had cleaned himself up and that there was no truth to that story. He feels the need to protect guys that are former addicts that have cleaned themselves up because they’ve done the hardest thing by kicking the addiction.
The show proper ends with plugs and X-Pac thanks his panel for all of the hard work that they put in.
This was a really fun episode to listen to. I think Sam Roberts has a cool perspective having been a fan for so long as well as now getting to work with the WWE. It was nice to hear that actually working with the WWE hasn’t jaded him or his fandom and that he still has the ability to “mark out.” I thought that it was interesting that Sam pointed out that working with WWE isn’t as toxic as it the internet has made it out to be. The picture that I had painted in my head was not a pretty one based off of some of the things that I’ve read. I also really like Sam’s and X-Pac’s analysis of the non-WWE parts of the business. Sam can speak very intelligently about a wide array of topics within the industry and his fandom lets him take things for what they are. Both he and X-Pac don’t get overly analytical, which is a plus. I agree with both of them that what would be best for the wrestling business as a whole is more collaboration – or at least a willingness to put aside ego for the greater good of an idea. Hearing both of them confirm (from an “insider” perspective) that the WWE mindset is changing rapidly in that area is encouraging as a fan. I thought that it was hilarious to hear about the Virgil action figure as well. Overall very entertaining!
00:00 – 29:44 Intros and News Discussion
29:45 – 30:35 Ad Break
30:36 – 1:30:00 Interview with Sam Roberts
1:30:01 – 1:33:21 Show wrap up
Sean is a media professional from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sean’s earliest memory of wrestling is seeing Kane on WWF television in 1998. Sean watched primarily WWF in the Attitude Era and dropped off just before the initial brand split. Seeing recap promos of the Undertaker building up to WrestleMania 20, he became hooked and has been an avid fan ever since. Sean’s wrestling preferences currently lean more towards NJPW/ROH/NXT but he remains a fan of it all. In his spare time Sean enjoys cooking, baking, and going to the gym. You can follow Sean via Twitter @stmcgraw and Instagram @stmcgraw09.