Something To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard – Episode 88
Recap by: Jeff Rush
Air Date: 2/23/18
– Why Goldberg was kept off WrestleMania XIX and saved for the night after.
– What wrestler was instrumental in bringing Goldberg in.
– What led to a big argument between Bruce and the Rock.
– The network Bruce feels may land the new XFL.
– Bruce pays a compliment to Johnny Ace!
– Remembering Nathan Jones lactating nipples.
– Insight into the physical confrontation between Paul Heyman and Brian Gewirtz.
– How Bruce feels WWE could have gotten Raven over.
– Vince struggles with the phrase “Deez nuts.”
– How Johnny Ace hired the wrong one-legged wrestler.
– Bruce responds to a 15-year old Torch critique of his character.
– The problem Vince had with the Rock turning on the audience.
– Bruce discusses a current wrestling podcast heavyweight who listens to every episode of the show.
– How WWE intentionally portrayed Shawn Michaels in Montreal, five years after the Screwjob.
– When Bruce feels the Broken Matt Hardy character was really born.
– Who the Undertaker wanted to face one-on-one at WrestleMania XIX.
– Discussion of what WWE had originally planned for Steve Austin post-WMXIX.
No Way Out 2003 took place on Feb 23, 2003 at the Bell Center in Montreal. This was the same venue that hosted the infamous Montreal Screwjob just over five years earlier.
This show was viewed by over 500,000 on PPV and the lineup was stacked. Why was it so successful? Bruce feels it was a combination of things – the return of Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin, most notably.
Bruce points out the difference between No Way Out 1998 and this one, saying the 2003 version blows the former away. Conrad notes that most matches on this card could have main-evented a show a few years prior or after.
Goldberg was rumored to be arriving shortly at this time. He would eventually do so the night after WrestleMania XIX the following month. Conrad wonders if it would have been best to have him on the WrestleMania card. Bruce says they knew they had Goldberg for one year and wanted to build properly with him for the following year’s WrestleMania. They didn’t think it made sense to rush him into the biggest show of the year with a few weeks notice.
Conrad goes over some rumors at the time, including the Rock telling an extra on a movie set about his intention to wrestle Hogan at No Way Out, then Goldberg at WMXIX, then leave wrestling “until Hollywood doesn’t want him anymore.” Bruce calls BS on this rumor, to put it lightly. He does say the Rock was instrumental in bringing Goldberg into the company.
This was around the time that Bruce and the Rock had one of their first big fights about Rock’s Hollywood career. Bruce loved the story of Walking Tall and Buford Pusser’s story. Bruce is one of the biggest fans ever of the 1973 film. He was furious that Rock was involved in an updated version of the film and that they’d be f**king with perfection.
Triple H appeared to be left without an opponent at WMXIX as things began to come together. Austin was getting paired with the Rock, Hogan and Vince were doing their program and Goldberg wasn’t yet in the company. Furthermore, there was no interest in doing a third blow off match between Triple H and Scott Steiner. The two would face off at No Way Out and the company knew they weren’t headed to a WM match.
Conrad goes over a list of opponents Goldberg was rumored to be squaring off against once he joined the company. This included Hogan, Austin, and Kurt Angle to name a few, before ultimately facing the Rock at WMXX. My, how different things turned out. In regards to Goldberg’s supposed refusal to put over certain wrestlers, Bruce says a conversation of that nature with Vince McMahon is something that would just never happen.
Bruce says Vince felt he needed to reestablish the Goldberg character. He wanted him to work longer matches, to show more personality, work house shows, etc.
The Tough Enough finale took place around this time. Conrad segues into the memorable shoot incident between contestant Matt Cappotelli and Bob Holly. Holly was trying to carry out what he felt the role of the old veteran was and went into business for himself a bit knowing the cameras were rolling.
Bruce likens this to the way the Andersons used to make students run the steps in the Carolinas. Back in the day, trainers would make people run the ropes for an hour. This is all a part of protecting the business. Bruce feels it goes too far when unsuspecting people begin getting beaten as a part of the process. In this specific instance, he says Cappotelli knew the beating was coming and it was all done for the cameras.
Regarding Johnny Nitro, Bruce took notice of him and the Miz back when they were a team, shooting mini-videos in their own time in an attempt to get over. Vince wasn’t really aware of what they were doing initially, but when he learned of it and saw they were getting themselves over, he wanted to take over and shoot the videos in his vision. Bruce was placed in charge and, rather than forcing any sort of company vision onto the project, he let them carry it out as they had been doing.
Smackdown was running on UPN at the time. As it began looking like the end for the network, WWE was looking to make a move. Fox became a prominent name discussed as a future home for the show. Bruce says Fox was one of many companies they spoke with, but ultimately, Vince wanted to continue running on broadcast TV as opposed to network.
McMahon has maintained a “flirtatious” relationship with Fox over the years and Bruce feels the XFL could possibly find a home with them.
Conrad then goes over the details of the lawsuit stemming from Owen Hart’s death in 1999. A significant judgment was handed down. WWE felt the company that constructed the faulty equipment that was used during the fatal stunt bore more responsibility than they were held accountable for. Bruce says he was living in Houston at this time and wasn’t around this issue much. He’s thankful for that.
Johnny Ace appeared to have a bright future with Fusient Media as the company was set to purchase WCW in 2001. When the deal fell apart and the WWF swooped in, Ace was brought over and worked his way into talent relations and was gaining some stroke. Conrad comments that Ace had earned the confidence of Stephanie and Triple H and Bruce takes exception. He says Triple H was not a part of the office at this time and didn’t have any say in things other than his own programs. He then notes that Triple H was not a big fan of Laurinaitis at this time.
Jim Ross needed help in Talent Relations, and Ace had been working in that role for WCW. Bruce says running Talent Relations sucks, it’s the worst job one can hold in the company. Then, he acknowledges that he makes fun of Johnny Ace quite a bit on the show, but adds he feels Ace performed well in this position. Damn!
Nathan Jones was brought into the company around this time and was beginning to work house shows with Matt Hardy. Conrad goes over his background as a prisoner in Australia, his violent past and admitted history of steroid abuse, even citing a Torch report that Jones had a mammary gland removed because, as a side effect of the steroids, he was producing milk. As a longtime Torch subscriber, this is literally the primary thing that comes to mind when I think of Nathan Jones.
Bruce says Jones came to WWE from Rick Bassman in Los Angeles. Vince loved his look and his backstory.
Bruce recalls a developmental guy who had the same issue with milk production, but doesn’t remember his name. He says he never heard of Jones having this issue and then laughably states that perhaps Wade Keller experienced inadvertent lactation as a result of his own steroid abuse. This even generated a snicker from Conrad.
Vince felt about Jones the same way he did upon laying eyes on the Undertaker and Big Show for the first time.
We shift gears to the report of an altercation between Paul Heyman and Brian Gewirtz around this time. Bruce compares what happened between them to what a slap fight between “the main nerd” from Revenge of the Nerds (Robert Carradine?) and Booger would look like. It escalated from a verbal argument, Heyman charged Gewirtz, and Gewirtz didn’t back down. Bruce feels Heyman was in the wrong and concludes with an impression.
Torrie Wilson’s Playboy issue was released shortly before WMXIX. Bruce says hanging around the Playboy mansion was a great time.
Back to Johnny Ace, Conrad reads reports about him becoming “Stephanie’s guy” backstage. Bruce says they worked together closely because Stephanie was the head of Creative. This was a time when Bruce wasn’t around the office much, but could see how rumors would form.
Regarding WWE’s internet show, Byte This, Bruce says Vince had very little to do with the program.
On the February 3, 2003 episode of Raw, a vignette was shown where Eric Bischoff traveled to Texas in search of Steve Austin. Bruce has told this story on a previous episode, but says this was the first time Bischoff and Austin had met face-to-face since Bischoff fired Austin via FedEx in 1995.
The episode also included the seeds for what would become Evolution, the start of Goldust’s stuttering gimmick and Booker T’s renewed singles run.
This was around the time Raven was released by WWE. Bruce loved his original gimmick from ECW and thinks if he were permitted to use it in WWE, he would’ve gotten over. He notes, however, that Raven’s best days were behind him and that he didn’t want to evolve his one-dimensional character.
Johnny Ace attempted to bring Sting into WWE in 2003. Bruce says this was his attempt to show he could land a major star. Sting wasn’t looking to work a full-time schedule, and things broke down from there.
Hulk Hogan appeared on Byte This, apparently politicking for a WrestleMania match against Steve Austin. Bruce says he when into business for himself here and didn’t stick to what he was there to discuss. The plan was always Hulk-Vince and Austin-Rock for WM and this just distracted from that.
Hogan-Rock II would take place at No Way Out and Bruce says there was never a plan to have that rematch at WM instead. It was always intended to increase the buy rate for this PPV.
The plan all along was to get to Rock-Austin at WM, with the idea being Rock would finally get his win over Austin. While Hogan-Austin would’ve been one of the biggest matches in WrestleMania history, things just didn’t line up right for it.
On Smackdown in early February, the Big Show presented the Undertaker with a giant gift box. Inside was Brother Love. This marked Bruce’s last appearance on WWE TV until earlier this year at Raw 25. Bruce didn’t want to make the appearance, but agreed to do so. He says being hoisted in the box was terrifying, as he’s scared of heights.
John Cena was using the “Deez nuts” catchphrase as part of his rapper gimmick around this time. Bruce says Vince never got it, referring to the line as “these nuts,” and suggesting they use cashews and other types of nuts at different times.
Girls Gone Wild received a plug during a Stacy-Test segment on Raw. Bruce says Bischoff was the connection, as he had done some work with it’s creator, Joe Francis.
Zack Gowen, the famous one-legged wrestler was brought into the WWE in 2003. Paul Heyman brought in a tape of his performance in TNA. Vince loved the idea of using him. They told John Laurinaitis about him, describing him in detail – his age, hometown, phone number, etc, and asked him to bring Gowen to TV.
As they were flying to TV, Laurinaitis told them “I got the one-legged wrestler, but he’s not 19, he’s like 30-something.” He continued, telling them he wrestled with his prosthetic leg on, he was balding with a ponytail, and more. It began to occur to them that Laurinaitis had hired the wrong one-legged wrestler, Steve Chaimberlan. Johnny hadn’t used any of the info they provided him, instead doing his own research.
D-Lo Brown was released by WWE at this time. Bruce says Vince didn’t see a lot in him at this time. Bruce felt he could have contributed more and that he was a hell of a hand. Brown would head to TNA shortly after his release.
Jim Ross decided that all the long-haired wrestlers look the same and required them to get haircuts. In the end, they all looked the same with short hair. Bruce blew a gasket over this, thinking it took much longer to grow hair out than to cut it, and this could provide problems if they wanted someone with long hair for a given program. In the end, everyone in developmental looked exactly the same, with no individuality amongst them.
There were rumors that Triple H or the Undertaker were behind the haircut mandate, but Bruce says they were just as pissed as him.
During an angle on Raw, Eric Bischoff broke a cinder block over JR’s head. JR would get up from it shortly thereafter, and Bruce and Conrad discuss the ridiculousness behind it all. Bruce says Vince felt no one would believe “that karate bulls**t,” so it didn’t matter.
Paul Heyman was removed from creative around this time. Conrad reads reports from the Torch about the matter and we discuss the inaccuracies, such as Bruce working “under” Heyman, which Bruce thoroughly disputes.
Another snippet from the Torch catches readers of 2003 up on who Bruce Prichard is. As both a longtime Torch subscriber and a dedicated listener of Something To Wrestle With from the beginning, I found this excerpt to be fascinating. Here it is in its entirety:
“Bruce Prichard, other than one short time away from the company, has been with WWE dating back to the early ’90s when he hosted a weekly TV segment as the Brother Love character. He has scripted TV shows before and is regarded as especially reliable at fitting in the various segments proposed by Vince McMahon into a solid framework that is well-paced. He is also considered a consummate “yes-man” who attempts to be nothing more than an extension of McMahon who does McMahon’s dirty work and doesn’t challenge him, but instead reaffirms his ideas.”
Conrad points out a handful of inaccuracies and asks Bruce for his opinion on the comments. Bruce feels Vince McMahon “would answer in the negative” to that assertion. Bruce says he disagreed with Vince more than anybody, but supported his final decisions.
(Bruce gets taken to task often for his accounts of historical moments, accused of adding his own slants, or worse. Whether or not you believe each account, it doesn’t seem like he would have any reason to fabricate the details of his interactions with Vince over the years. Longtime listeners of the show have heard countless stories of the times they disagreed over creative and other issues.
Anyone with a Torch or Observer subscription for any length of time has heard about the “yes man” culture surrounding McMahon for many years. Prior to Something To Wrestle With, I’d always assumed Bruce was one of those yes men. If the goal of the show is to con everyone into believing Bruce had opinions that differed from McMahon’s and they argued about it, consider me conned.
I will say that the Bruce Prichard of 2016 would have gotten way more heated by hearing such a report. The kinder, gentler Bruce we have today provided a rather diplomatic response. Well, almost.)
“So this comes from Keller’s years of experience in the company?” Bruce would wryly conclude.
Edge was taken out of commission for a year, requiring neck surgery. Bruce says this hurt, as they were expecting big things out of him. Now, they didn’t know what they would have when he came back.
Austin was unhappy with the structure in WWE at this time, feeling that a creative committee was not needed. Bruce says the idea is the more people you have, the more ideas are in the creative pot.
Steve Blackman was forced to retire in the fall of 2002 due to recurring migraines and stomach issues. Bruce says it was unfortunate, but ultimately has positive things to say about Blackman.
On the go-home edition of Smackdown, the Undertaker is presented with more mystery boxes. Conrad wants to know where the box usage is coming from with Jim Cornette not with the company. Bruce says it was Paul Heyman’s idea, once again asserting that Heyman is just a New York version of Cornette.
During an in-ring promo, the Rock lobbed insults at Hogan and eventually spit in his face. It seemed, following the negative reaction Rock received during his first match with Hogan at WM18, that they were staying one step ahead of the audience, letting them know there was no question the Rock was a heel this time around.
Bruce says Rock was getting cheered no matter what, even while trying to be a heel at this point. He says Vince was pitched the idea of having Rock “s**t on the audience,” which led us to a classic Bruce impression in full-on Vince mode:
“The only g**damn problem is, he s**ts on the people, but he’s s**tting ice cream. And they love it!”
The opening match on No Way Out 2003 is Chris Jericho vs. Jeff Hardy. Conrad says it feels like a demotion for the former Unified Heavyweight Champion to be wrestling in the opening match. Bruce says they trusted him to start the night out. He mentions that Jericho is a huge fan of the show and listens to every episode.
Bruce discusses how they were back in Montreal. This was the first time Shawn Michaels appeared there since the Screwjob five years earlier. Having Michaels make a babyface save in the opening match was done by design and paid off in a huge pop.
William Regal and Lance Storm faced RVD and Kane. Bruce thought it was a hell of a match. He’s not always the biggest fan of Lance Storm’s promo ability, but loved his in-ring work.
The Hardy brothers did a backstage promo where Jeff slapped Matt. Bruce says, in his opinion, this was the start of the Broken Matt Hardy gimmick, pointing to the way he pronounced certain words.
Next up was Matt Hardy vs. Billy Kidman. Bruce felt they told a good story with Matt being larger than Kidman.
While discussing a switch in the commentary team between matches, we discuss the spelling of Tazz’s name. In regards to Taz the wrestler in ECW and Tazz the commentator in WWE, Conrad notes: “One Z Taz will tear your f**king head off, but two Z Tazz will make a pun.” Good stuff.
Undertaker defeated the Big Show via tap out. A-Train interfered in the end. Bruce says this was just done to progress the storyline and get them to WrestleMania.
Looking back at the Undertakers streak, WMXIX is one of those weird asterisks, as his match there was promoted as a tag team match with Taker and Nathan Jones facing Big Show and A-Train. It was booked as a handicap match, since by this point they realized Jones wasn’t ready to work on such a big stage. Bruce explains what actually happened:
The initial plan was for Taker and Nathan Jones to square off at Mania. Once they realized that wasn’t going to happen, they shifted to Big Show at No Way Out. Taker liked A-Train a lot and wanted to work a program with him, but they felt the only way that would seem like a challenge was to team A-Train and Big Show together to face him. You may recall, they did an angle at Mania where Jones was attacked backstage, which is how they wrote him out of the match. He would make an appearance at the very end.
Bruce says Taker and Big Show always got along. Show respected Taker and they worked well together.
Big Show was dealing with a back injury at this time. Bruce says this was a result of working a lengthy program with Brock Lesnar and bumping like crazy for him.
Speaking of which, Lesnar teamed with Chris Benoit against Team Angle next. Conrad feels this might be the most wrestling talent in the ring at one time ever. Bruce says this was the build to the Lesnar-Angle main event at WM, but you got lost in this match.
The final match between Triple H and Scott Steiner was next. This was a rematch from the Royal Rumble. At one point, the plan was for the two to square off at WM, but after the Rumble, they realized Steiner wasn’t up to the challenge and rushed the program to a close at No Way Out.
Bruce notes that this match “wasn’t that bad.” It wasn’t vintage Scott Steiner, but it was passable. He says “painting it up with gaga,” such as Evolution interference, made it watchable.
Eric Bischoff vs. Steve Austin is next. Austin wins in under five minutes with a couple Stunners. Bruce calls the match an ass-whooping, saying that was Bischoff’s only job here. This was Austin’s return match following a lengthy absence, and the crowd ate it up.
The last match of Austin’s career would take place the following month at WMXIX. Interestingly, Conrad asks what long-term plans the company had for Austin following Mania. Bruce says they were going to continue his program with Bischoff.
(This is a bit disappointing to hear. While Austin doing anything would be better than Austin’s career-ending prematurely, it’s unfortunate that he was likely looking at a redo of the famous Austin-McMahon feud, but with Bischoff inserted into the boss role. The company has been unable to move away from programming centered around a heel authority figure for 20 years now. Austin played a pivotal role in the initial storyline, but it’s sad to hear the only thing the company had planned for him five years later was to do it all over again.)
The Rock defeated Hulk Hogan in just over 12 minutes following interference from Vince McMahon. Bruce says the relationship between the two was good at this time. He feels the Rock looked at Hogan as more of a mentor the first time around. By now, with Rock’s Hollywood career taking off, Hogan looked at Rock as a bit of a younger version of himself.
It feels a little bit to Conrad like Hogan may have tried to politic for a win here, since he lost the first time around. Bruce says it’s easy to play to all those sorts of rumors, but the plan was always to go to Rock-Austin and Hulk-Vince the following month and it made no sense for the Rock to lose or for Hogan to win since he needed to be attempting to overcome something headed into his match with Vince.
Conrad reads an account by Hogan about his health at this time, and the terrible shape his back was in. Bruce says Hogan would’ve come to the ring in a wheelchair to face Vince at WM if need be. He wouldn’t have missed that match for anything.
A rundown of Bruce’s answers to Twitter questions:
– In regards to magnitude, No Way Out was a perfectly fitting setting for Rock-Hogan II.
– Vince didn’t get the Matt Hardy Version 1 gimmick
– Charlie Haas’s lack of promo skills prevented his career from flourishing.
– Hogan preferred the long tights and Jimi Hendrix-style theme song.
– William Regal had a bit of a stinger during the tag match.
– The roster was loaded at this time and only got bigger with the additions of Piper and Goldberg following Mania.
– Scott Steiner never impressed the locker room with his math skills.
– Undertaker’s choke submissions were a way of getting away from the Tombstone finish and adding something to his repertoire.
– “What a maneuver! Oh my! Haha!”
– At this point, they were resigned to having Scott Steiner as a tag wrestler.
– Triple H was not threatened by ECW wrestlers entering the company.
– In Bruce’s opinion, Triple H is at the same level as a wrestler as Steve Austin and the Rock.
– Vince likes using heavy metal and rock music as PPV themes.
– There was some discussion of moving Austin to Smackdown around the time of this show, but Vince was opposed to it.
– Vince liked Lance Storm’s in-ring work.
– Brue doesn’t think we’ll ever see another single inductee Hall of Fame ceremony.
– If Paul Bearer were still alive, Bruce thinks he should be the one to induct Undertaker into the Hall of Fame. Since he isn’t, Bruce says Vince should.
– Kane and RVD were not being buried here. They were telling a story in the lead up to Kane losing his mask.
– Austin had a lot of one-on-one talks backstage with various wrestlers after returning from his absence following his walk out in the summer of 2002.
Review: If you’ve ever wanted to hear Conrad read an inadvertently scathing review of Bruce Prichard’s resume as told by Wade Keller, followed by Bruce’s response, this is the episode for you!
It seems like we don’t get a lot of coverage of this period on the show. 1997 has practically been covered month-to-month, but there’s a lot to tap into in this weird transitional period between the Attitude era and the Cena years. Having attended WrestleMania XIX in Seattle, it’s an event I’ve wanted to hear covered for some time. This was as close as we’ve gotten and it was a fun ride.
We got an in-depth look at what was happening with both Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin as their respective in-ring careers were winding down. As this was during a period where John Laurinaitis joined the company, we were treated to a ton of Johnny Ace impressions. The highlight of the episode featured one of them, as we got the story of how WWE hired the wrong one-legged wrestler. From Nathan Jones to Matt Cappotelli and Bob Holly on Tough Enough to Goldust’s stuttering gimmick, Conrad and Bruce filled in a ton of the gaps from 2003. Rating: 8/10
8:18: Show begins/overview
12:03: Setting the stage
24:14: Tough Enough
32:18: Owen Hart wrongful death lawsuit
36:16: Johnny Ace
39:25: Nathan Jones
44:00: Heyman/Gewirtz altercation
46:50: Torrie Wilson in Playboy
49:11: Triple H injury
52:47: More Johnny Ace
55:09: Byte This
57:58: Bischoff/Austin vignette
1:08:29: Hogan goes into business for himself
1:13:08: Brother Love returns to TV
1:19:44: Deez nuts
1:21:50: Girls Gone Wild
1:24:35: Zack Gowen
1:29:24: D-Lo Brown
1:34:17: Haircut edict
1:44:34: Cinderblock on JR’s head
1:47:10: Heyman removed from creative
1:48:13: Who is Bruce Prichard?
1:50:25: Edge’s injury
1:51:25: Austin is disgruntled
1:53:31: Steve Blackman
1:55:52: Go home edition of Smackdown
2:00:11: The PPV broadcast
2:33:56: Twitter questions