Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast
Release Date: March 1, 2018
Guest: David Bixenspan
Recap By: Matthew Wilkinson
- Sam still doesn’t believe wrestling journalism is a thing.
- David thinks WWE needs to provide better access.
- Sam doesn’t think there are enough real stories to cover.
- Sam does not think now is the time to take Johnny Gargano out of NXT.
- Sam doesn’t believe Lesnar no-showed Raw.
- Sam doesn’t want to see Kurt Angle wrestle.
Subjects Covered (with timestamps)
00:00- Sponsor Ads
10:00-David Bixenspan Interview
11:30-Bix’s Writing Career
17:40-Booker T/Corey Graves
25:00-What Is Wrestling Journalism?
34:00-WWE Framing Narratives
1:19:00-State of Wrestling/Johnny Gargano
1:55:00-Ronda Rousey’s First Impression
David Bixenspan Interview/His Writing Career
Sam Roberts mentioned that he gave his opinion last week on how he didn’t think wrestling journalism existed. Sam, noted he had spoken to people such as Wade Keller, but saw an article on Deadspin named “WWE Announcers Don’t Think Journalism Exists,” that was by David Bixenspan, who is this week’s guest. Sam asked about his writing past.
David said that he started with Slam Wrestling, then around the same time he was running CageSideSeats, from there he went to Bleacher Report and did some freelance stuff and non-wrestling things.
He got a lot of attention in bigger media circles for his coverage of Hogan/Gawker and then after Gawker got sold he ended up covering wrestling at Deadspin.
Sam mentioned he had a little history with Deadspin, they reported on his website, LonelyVirgil.net where they did one article and then they did all this Virgil stuff and never gave his site any credit for anything.
Sam asked if he grew up as a big fan and then noticed he could write and thought he could make a living out of the situation.
David said that is kind of how it happened, he got handed CageSideSeats when it first started when SBNation was starting out, but at the time he thought “let’s try this.”
As it was booming when the online wrestling interest started around the CM Punk pipe bomb that is when he got the Bleacher Report offer and got more money and it became a steadier thing.
Booker T/Corey Graves
Sam said this whole thing started with Booker T and Corey Graves and in his conversation with Booker added fuel to the fire.
What happened between them it was just two guys goofing around. He doesn’t discredit people for believing it, they were lying to you.
Dave Meltzer didn’t speak about it and has found himself in a place where he represents wrestling journalism on a whole, but many of the dirt sheets where reporting and is that fair to Meltzer, no.
David said there has always been the Meltzer said it thing in wrestling news. There are a few things that need to be stressed, Booker said it on his non-wrestling show, if someone wanted to run with that he thinks it’s fair to run that.
Having said that, he didn’t see a lot of coverage as like ‘oh my god’ this is real other than people saying maybe after Corey Graves replying.
Sam said he saw a lot of people, even now them saying it’s a work is a work because WWE is coming down on them. This is prevalent through the world.
One thing David did want to say, the thing that rankled him is that Corey Graves said nobody reached to him for comment. If you reach out to WWE they won’t connect you with a wrestler directly, if you want to connect to them directly, Corey has no direct contact available and Booker has PR people.
Unless they are friendly enough with someone to act as an intermediary it isn’t going to happen anyway. With WWE unless it is something nuclear like the Roman Reigns steroid deal, they won’t give you a specific statement.
Sam said he doesn’t hate the community of it and this wasn’t an intention to degrade the world, to him when you look up journalism it’s someone who writes for a newspaper which Isn’t really to him what a journalist is.
Sam doesn’t think gossip columnists should be painted with the same brush as news journalists. Should there be a scenario where there is information that wouldn’t be given to us, the press is there to get that.
Sam thinks you can be an expert on this stuff without being in the business, if you watch it for years you won’t have the same awareness of someone in the business, he would consider himself an expert.
What Is Wrestling Journalism?
David asked is one of the distinctions Sam is making is that he doesn’t see reporting on where storylines are going as journalism?
Sam said that’s a 100%, when you start reporting on storylines and what Vince thinks and who is getting pushed, even when there is an article about something non-storyline related where they go ‘Vince’s favorite is Roman Reigns.’
A journalist can’t say that Roman is his favorite, we don’t know, he is a crazy guy we don’t know what’s going on in his mind and we don’t know who is in charge of SmackDown.
David said in that specific case, Road Dogg does put himself out there as the guy who runs SmackDown on Twitter, but in general that is being overly narrow about it.
If you are only looking at wrestling journalism as that, it is small stuff. To see it as just storylines and where it is going is too limiting.
Sam thinks wrestling historians are real, and maybe there was a time where you could be a wrestling journalist. He knows there was a time when WWE was open to journalists but they are doing what most companies do now, they keep information to themselves, Disney doesn’t tell you everything.
Bix noted that WWE has its own space, if someone was an entertainment reporter they would not be constantly be covering WWE. The Vince McMahon sexual assault stuff, is that not journalism?
Sam mentioned that’s not a wrestling story, it is one that involves someone who works in wrestling. If whoever is in charge of the NBA gets busted for that isn’t a NBA story.
David thinks he knows where Sam is going with this, so he doesn’t think wrestling journalism exists, but there are journalists who cover wrestling but wrestling journalism doesn’t have its own specialty because things that are specific to wrestling are covered journalistically.
Sam doesn’t think that there is enough news, there isn’t enough stories to tell for someone to say they cover wrestling journalism.
Wrestling journalists tend to be people who are highly critical of WWE, probably because they are upset at the fact they don’t get access to WWE.
The article he read about WWE announcers don’t think journalism is real, it started as an outcry that it is a thing but devolved into why journalists don’t get more access.
WWE Framing Narratives
David’s point is that WWE tries to frame and shape a narrative that there are no journalists to discredit him. Sam has a major podcast and are connected with Sirius so of course he will get WWE guests.
Sam said the implication is that he is fed WWE guests because he is co-opted media and WWE knows that he will put the message out.
He has gotten heat for interviews, a lot that he has done haven’t gone through WWE as he knows these people. Sam can call them or they come to him.
Because there is a lot of people in wrestling journalism trying to catch them out and make a headline. If Sam was a wrestler he wouldn’t want to do the interviews because so many are negative.
David noted that depends on where, he gets the feeling they don’t feel like they can set ground rules on interviews, there are specific ground rules about the Triple H conference calls and it always goes fine.
When interviews go through sponsors and go through websites or are at wrestling events they will be more open, there are never any issues. Obviously, don’t go to people who are going to ask Gotcha questions.
Sam admitted he understands that there is a desire to hear WWE personalities do independent press, but if you put yourself in the position of WWE, can you see why they maintain control?
David thinks it’s more of an issue over how much control. The example about sponsors, SummerSlam 2016 week they were doing a thing with Grumpy Cat and he did a phone interview, they didn’t put a PR person on the line, it went great.
He gets that in terms of prioritizing media time, WWE is going to be doing local media to promote their shows, in terms of time investment, but they are a little too hostile.
Sam said that another thing that David said is that people paint this white brush that people want to work for WWE and really some of you just want to cover sports.
Does that help or hurt, when Sam goes to his Twitter and search for his own name and sees David being sh***y when Sam is on TV, what reason would there be other than ‘f*ck him I should be on?’
David said, honestly, he thinks Sam is a great radio personality that’s not that great on TV. People like the pre-shows and post-shows until they started getting a little too much attention and Sam comes across a little nervous on TV.
Sam said asked if coming off as nervous ruins Talking Smack. He does think that on one end he is saying wrestling journalists don’t want to be on TV, yet Mike Johnson is not posting sh***y stuff about him and Rosenberg.
Sam thinks if WWE called David he would be there on the pre-show, he said it hurts his argument saying he just wants to cover sports but then acts like that on Twitter.
David said his Twitter is not the same, maybe that’s just the people who he hangs out with in real life and doesn’t see his Twitter as the same thing as his work.
Sam said it’s a representation of him, he is a snarky dude, these are two directly opposing things, you can’t say you are a journalist and you should treat me with respect and then on the other side s**t on people on Twitter.
Let’s say he is granted access, even though you didn’t say something in your journalist world you post something on Twitter they will be like ‘oh, you’re that guy.’
Bix said that happens in the reporting and entertainment world all the time. He thinks his attitude at least towards WWE it’s more feeling like it doesn’t matter.
Sam still kind of firmly believe that there isn’t a huge number of real stories. It isn’t something you can cover weekly or monthly for the most part that you can treat in a journalistic way.
David said there was the Cass story about him being kicked off the bus about being a Trump supporter that wasn’t true, but the Enzo stuff was true.
Sam countered saying the number of stories he read about different locker room incidents, based on what he heard when he goes to shows and people say they hate Baron Corbin and see him getting along with everyone. Those are the stories that pop up day to day and how they make their money.
David said the whole thing that governs wrestling is that it is weird and you are less likely to get on the record quotes and the analogy he used, you treat it like national security reporting.
Sam still feels whilst there are few and far between stories that people who cover wrestling would have a better grip on, the idea of being a wrestling journalist still feels like it doesn’t exist.
He likes gossip and rumors but when you are dealing with rumors everyone has to be clear, and often in this business people don’t make it clear about it being a rumor.
David would agree but it goes back to sourcing and attribution, he thinks this is where a lot of complaints lie.
State of Wrestling – Johnny Gargano
Unfortunately, a pretty big story did not get in because we got pretty complicated as the week went along, specifically after Raw and SmackDown as the portrait of WrestleMania started to get painted. The story that didn’t make the top five was the Johnny Gargano losing and leaving NXT story from last week.
NXT is always tough to cover on the podcast as they could cover it in real time or they could cover it when it comes out on TV. Sam finds it easier to cover when it comes on the Network, otherwise it goes back to what they were talking about with wrestling journalism as you rely on spoilers.
Whilst it’s more reliable than most wrestling journalism as it is first-hand accounts of what happened in the arena it is not the same as watching it.
Sam was surprised to see him sign the paper and leave NXT. In normal circumstance he would say this would not stand and still thinks that might be the case because there is so much left for him to do in NXT.
There is a pretty major NXT Championship run inside him and fans want to see him as NXT Champion so moving him to 205 Live would be a downgrade.
Sam would rather see him have a top of the card run than on the main roster, also we haven’t seen the Ciampa match because he has been injured.
All logic would have you believe he is not done in NXT at all. The only thing that stops Sam saying that is NXT doesn’t normally do stuff like that, you don’t see the title be thrown around and the idea of a superstar leaving their career. When something happens there is usually a heaviness about it.
We have been conditioned to believe what we see in NXT, so it would be breaking from the tradition if this is all just a build to a match at Takeover New Orleans, and it is a mistake.
It would be a mistake to lead people to believe he is leaving when he’s not and a mistake to not have that Ciampa match, Sam deson’t understand why now would be the time for him to leave NXT.
The type of popularity he has is when you run a show in an arena and the entire place is going crazy for you, where they are talking about him being in the match of the year.
Most people who watch Raw don’t watch NXT, but when you put him in a headline match the building goes nuts for him and there aren’t that many people who can do that.
Let’s go to story number five, it’s the Elimination Chamber, of course the PPV itself. Sam found to be a good solid show, it went quickly, it was an exciting show.
The women’s match was well done, the story between Sasha and Bayley was well done and adds to the fact there absolutely needs to be a grudge match between them at WrestleMania.
It is hard to imagine anybody other than Sasha being a heel but Bayley did avoid the tag, hopefully they pull the trigger on it soon. Sasha Banks needs to screw Bayley over.
She has all the right to not be friends with her, she eliminated Bayley from the Rumble and turned on her on the Chamber. Sam doesn’t see why they wouldn’t pull the trigger, it’s a very easy story to tell. You allow Sasha to be her best, which is a bad guy and Bayley to be a sympathetic babyface.
It lets them just go into the ring and have a great match and try to top what they have already done. The Takeover match is being slept on because they haven’t been in the best spot, Sasha has had an amazing last month or two in terms of reminding people what she is capable of.
Her and Charlotte trading the title didn’t do much for her as nobody believed she would hold on to it and since then not much has happened with her. This is what Bayley needs to remind everyone that she was one of the most popular women on the roster.
That Alexa Bliss promo was just perfect, part of him saw it coming and part of couldn’t believe it was coming. On the build she looked like a teammate of the roster, so when she started crying and talking about how it was a dream, Sam was like ‘yes’ when she played it off perfectly.
The result of the match was predictable, though when he was watching the final Sam’s hoop dream was to have Sasha vs. Bayley with nothing hanging over their heads.
But what about if Sasha won the title, Asuka who hasn’t declared chooses Charlotte, Alexa can get a rematch on Raw then we get a title match between Banks and Bayley.
You had the tag match which was a strong outing for Titus Worldwide but Sam doesn’t think anybody was shocked that The Bar won. Nia vs. Asuka, nothing shocking there, Asuka wins but Nia destroys Asuka.
There is a little fatigue setting in with Asuka but there is no choice. You can’t change up what you do with her before WrestleMania but after is when you blow off this undefeated streak and start making her a normal competitor because she is still the best woman on the roster.
Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt, Sam’s feel bad for Wyatt, so much potential at one point and it is what it is, they will continue on with that but he wouldn’t imagine they will get a match at ‘Mania, but if they do Sam doesn’t know what they can do to get people interested.
Then you have the men’s Chamber match where it did a few things, obviously Strowman looked amazing. They are going out of their way to also make Finn Balor look strong.
Sam loves what they are doing with John Cena. Strowman was a beast and it is almost like they just keep flirting with this thing, you have to be careful that they show him as unbeatable except when it really matters.
At some point that is something people will grow weary of and very soon he needs to have the Universal Championship. Here is the thing, he has the ability to be what Brock Lesnar is now every night.
Maybe not quite the mainstream appeal but an outside can look at him and be impressed. He is all upside but you can’t keep having him lose, which brings me to Roman winning.
Sam doesn’t think anybody was surprised by it, but almost in a disappointed way, the plan has always been for him to face Lesnar at WrestleMania but he doesn’t think WWE realized the roster they would have in front of them. It is a lucky mistake where you have all the stars coming together at once.
You have a Chamber full of talent like you have never had before. Sheamus and Cesaro are doing the best work they have ever done and the Tag Title is the best spot for them because there is a lot of people doing the best stuff they have ever done.
Sam found Roman’s win to be predictable, good work was done on Monday, but overall the PPV was a fun, great watch with fairly predictable results.
That brings Sam on to story number four which is the first wild card for this WrestleMania and that is John Cena. His performance over the last several months has been really interesting, it has been a nice long slow play of a story.
After Survivor Series, Sam and Wade Keller discussed what he would be doing and at the time it seemed like they were wasting John Cena but now it seems like one puzzle piece in a story you can now believe because he is not the young guy anymore. He is not a full time guy anymore whether it’s because the roster is more talented. Super Cena is not the guy we are looking at.
His character, you saw him talking about having to do things unconventional, hinting towards a heel turn, it was hinted at the Rumble within the match as he was in the last portion, he was not working like a good guy works.
That was what Sam heard from him coming off Elimination Chamber, his promo on Raw was interesting because it was a frustrated John Cena, the match he wants for some reason can’t happen.
Sam is still not convinced it isn’t happening but he has a Fastlane match but now it’s like a Chamber without the Chamber but SmackDown was much better this week.
Sam can’t imagine he is going to win the 6-pack challenge, it would be interesting but there is one match that the fans have been clamoring for which is AJ Styles vs. Nakamura.
If he does not win then he has been afforded more opportunities than anybody on the roster, so where does he go now.
Sam thinks one of the websites is reporting he will wrestle Rey Mysterio. That doesn’t strike him as super exciting as he would rather see them with young guys, or if he will be with an older guy it should be Undertaker.
Number three is Brock Lesnar and what on earth is going on with him. On the night of Elimination Chamber, Dana White tweeted a photo of him and Brock with Lesnar in a UFC shirt. Brock doesn’t live in Vegas, he didn’t make it to the PPV and wasn’t on Raw, he either wasn’t at it or no showed it.
Sam would have to believe he wasn’t in Vegas, but he doesn’t know why he would be there and then no show it. It could easily be Dana drumming up publicity, if he goes back to UFC, WWE is in the best position possible.
Last time he was flirting with leaving, WWE needed his star power. Now, they don’t need Brock Lesnar anymore. It’s never a bad thing to have a Brock Lesnar around but WWE no longer needs him.
It may be a really good thing if he leaves because it would give a chance for these guys in front of us to be stars. It is hard to become stars when there is someone as big as Lesnar hanging about even though they are never around.
He does get eyes on the product and makes people look better, he isn’t a waste of time but should he go back to UFC Sam doesn’t think WWE is losing anything. If anyone can handle UFC at his age it is Lesnar, but Sam doesn’t know if he can.
Sam also doesn’t know why Dana White is taking a photo with a guy who embarrassed him last time he fought because he might have been on steroids.
Sam thinks it was him elbowing the rib of Vince a little bit, and on the women’s side of things we have Ronda Rousey. Once they have her and Brock on a show once, you don’t need to do it again, you have that star power, she is as big of a star as there is.
On the other end you have Strowman, Cena, Reigns. You have spent a year building The Miz and Finn Balor, Seth Rollins has become a somebody to contend with.
If getting Lesnar back to UFC means there is more opportunities for them three, that is an upside. So, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, and if Lashley comes back and Brock isn’t around, he can go on a run that Batista did.
He is interested in Lashley against AJ Styles, there is plenty of matches, the SmackDown roster, you have a whole roster of guys. When you can get a six-pack challenge going and a triple threat for the United States, it isn’t hurting for talent.
Let’s move on to story number two, a nice segue into Roman Reigns, apparently Lesnar didn’t show up. Some places are reporting this was a no show, it is hard to believe that was the case, the promo that Reigns did was approved.
It is now part of the story that leads us into Lesnar vs. Reigns and his promo on Raw. Go back and watch, the audience reaction was confusion.
We want to boo him but we love him at the moment, we don’t like him as he is being shoved down our throats, but it is like food being shoved down your throat but it is chocolate ice cream. It isn’t what you asked for, but it’s amazing.
He felt truthful and his points could not be invalidated, go back to the last time he was on this podcast and Sam spoke about the match he had with Lesnar a few years ago at WrestleMania.
If you watch the start, they are beating the crap out of each other for real, he is not afraid to go hand to hand with Brock Lesnar, IRL.
Sam has high expectations for this match, the build reminds me of the Cena/Rock match, it feels real, the promo he did is the type of promo he wants to play for his buddies who haven’t watched since the Attitude Era.
Sam doesn’t know how anyone could say WrestleMania is a dud this year. We have Lesnar vs Reigns which might not be what you wanted but is going to be a spectacle, step out of your prejudice and watch the promo, the seeds that were planted are the seeds towards a match to care about.
You have the match you want, AJ Styles vs Nakamura, you can’t complain about that if you are GTFO. Styles vs Nakamura is for us, you have Asuka in a title match, Charlotte in a title match, the Ronda Rousey match which is going to be fun.
Sam doesn’t see how you could already say that it is going to be a dud, we have only got two matches confirmed and at worst it is 50/50, you are mad about one and not the other. How can you say it’s a dud show when the matches haven’t been announced yet?
But the promo on Raw was brilliant and exactly what Roman needed to do and Sam is anxious to see how Heyman and Lesnar respond. When Heyman has logic on his side he can talk circles around anybody, but if Reigns sticks to that how are you going to go wrong?
There are WrestleManias you have no expectations for. WrestleMania 31, people went into that with 0 expectations, what you left with is one of the best moments in the history of WrestleMania with Seth Rollins cashing in, it had some of the better moments in any WrestleMania.
Ronda Rousey’s First Impression
Story number one, is Ronda Rousey’s first impression. Technically the first was at the Royal Rumble and a lot of people were a little critical, some people think that she wasn’t a good actress or let Stephanie off the hook.
Her being a bad actress applies to what she was doing before this week, Sam didn’t mind her mad faces. If you watch UFC you are used to watching her stare down someone until the bell rings.
She got an apology from Stephanie McMahon, which deserves credit as she doesn’t apologize to anyone and that lent credibility to how tough she was.
If you are going to do a tag match, you don’t want Ronda to touch Stephanie because then when they are in the ring people are excited.
Sam doesn’t think she is perfect, and post WrestleMania it will be interesting to see how she fits on the roster, but Sam doesn’t have any problem with how she is being portrayed.
What he does have a problem with is the match itself, any of us would sit and say we are looking at Kurt Angle and Rousey against Stephanie and Triple H and Sam is not thrilled by that to tell the truth.
He is a huge Kurt Angle fan but, number one, if Kurt is so worried about his job why did he get Tourette’s at the PPV? It made no sense that happened, there is no explanation.
We have all seen it, he is not the same Kurt Angle that he used to be and after seeing the two matches he has done, he doesn’t think there is that much of a clamoring to see him in the ring again.
We have seen what we wanted to, Sam would prefer her to team with Rollins or Braun Strowman. We have had no pay off for the Survivor Series ending, it finished in a really awkward way and there has been nothing between them.
Why not have Strowman unless you believe the rumors that people are worried Lesnar won’t show up to ‘Mania so Strowman may replace him.
Sam doesn’t believe that for one second, the rain of s**t that would fall down on the head of Brock Lesnar if he didn’t show up after a year of build at WrestleMania, he can’t imagine it happening.
But why not put Strowman in that match? Have him spend the next five weeks establishing he has a problem with authority, allow him to get his hands on Triple H.
Then Rousey comes in and tears Stephanie’s arm out, Strowman would save the match, he doesn’t think Angle has the power that he did when he first signed on a year ago. He doesn’t move his neck that well, the meme has been everywhere of him looking into the clouds before Triple H punches him in the face.
This was a very different episode of the podcast, largely due to the interview segment which this week was a debate. It was an interesting topic regarding whether wrestling journalism is a real thing and both men presented their cases well, leaving the answer mainly up to the listener to decide.
About the Writer
Matthew Wilkinson is from Bradford, England. He’s been a fan since the late 90’s with the Attitude Era and was then heavily invested again through the rise of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. He can be found on Twitter at @MC_Wilkinson1