Guest: Shawn Michaels and Rory Karpf
Release Date: February 21st, 2018
Recap by: Sean McGraw
Interview with Rory Karpf
X-Pac is joined by Jimbo, Denise, TK and Rory Karpf in studio. Shawn Michaels will join the show on the phone.
X-Pac starts off the show by announcing that the show will now be a part of the Jericho Network and Westwood One.
Rory has many films based on sports and sports figures and he has won five Emmy Awards for his work. He has been a fan of wrestling since watching it on Saturday mornings as a child. He wanted to do a documentary on wrestling for his ESPN 30 for 30 and picked Ric Flair because Flair was the best. It was an interesting question for Rory to define the “best” in professional wrestling because of the results being pre-determined.
Karpf says that Flair was the best because he was good in the ring and outside the ring and he really lived the gimmick. He found it interesting that when everyone else was playing a character, Ric was authentic and Karpf thought that it would be an interesting subject for the film. X-Pac confirms that Flair really did live the gimmick 24-7 and enjoyed every minute of it.
X-Pac asks Rory what the biggest challenge was in making the documentary. Karpf says that it was getting trust. He gives his interview with Shawn Michaels for the documentary as an example. They had been interviewing Shawn for about an hour and Rory could tell that Shawn was holding back a little. He was answering truthfully, but not giving the whole truth. He seemed to be playing it somewhat safe. It wasn’t until they had taken a break and Rory saw Shawn interacting with his son. He noticed how loving of a family that Shawn had and mentioned to Shawn that Ric had said that his number one love was wrestling. That really struck Shawn like, “more than your kids, huh?” He then asked Rory if they really wanted to get into this and Shawn became a really open book for the next hour, giving hard truths that you would give to a friend.
X-Pac touches on how other parts of the documentary really resonated with him, such as Ric not being the best father in the world and the part with the death of Reid. Karpf says that when he’s working on a project he tries to look for those things that will be relatable to an audience, things that will resonate with them. Rory says that if he can convey those types of things that will get an audience to identify with the project in some way that he is really doing his job.
TK asks if Rory showed the film to Ric before it aired. Yes he did. The first person that actually got to see the completed film was Triple H. He was a great person to show it to not only because he’s a WWE executive and Ric’s friend, but he is also a wrestling fan in general – especially of that era. His approval meant a lot to Rory. Karpf first showed the film to Ric in a hotel room at the San Diego Comic Con. He says that it was surreal to be watching the film and have someone on the screen call Ric and alcoholic while Ric himself had a drink in hand. He wasn’t sure how Ric would react. Ric was cool though, and gave him a hug at the end. Rory says that he just wanted to be genuine. He didn’t want to white wash anything and he didn’t want to take cheap shots either. A lot of things that come out on wrestling are about the underbelly and the negatives. Karpf wanted to also show the joy of wrestling – why people like it.
Denise asks how the bond was developed between Rory and Ric since they spent so much time together throughout the process of making this film. Rory tries to develop a bond with all of his subjects to build trust so that he can reach a place of genuineness. He wanted to get to be a little closer of a friend to Flair because everyone is Ric’s friend and Ric can sometimes put on a “shtick.” They became very close when Rory went to visit Ric in the hospital when Flair almost died. The most surprising thing that Rory learned about Ric during the making of the documentary was the 10,000 women claim. He can’t get over it. Rory said that Ric called him the next day and said that he may have been adding a couple extra thousand and that it was probably closer to 8,000.
X-Pac wants to know if Rory had seen any of the criticisms of the film – like the glorification of Ric’s promiscuity. Karpf has seen some things and thinks that that’s a valid criticism. What he tries to do is show some of the comedic aspects of the outlandish character that is Ric Flair, but also tone it down a bit within the documentary itself. He says that he sees David Flair seriously asking why anybody would want to live like that as being that criticism. Rory wants to show different points of view. Ric has his own truth and others have their truths. Rory doesn’t want to glorify that behavior especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
X-Pac asks how does he not acknowledge that within the film. Rory says that Ric tells his stories with a smile on his face, but the film shows that Ric payed the price. Ric lost his son, because his son couldn’t mimic Ric’s lifestyle and ended up succumbing to addictions. X-Pac says it was obvious that the film showed that Ric payed the ultimate price.
Jimbo asks about a controversial blading scene that wasn’t in the movie. Why wasn’t it in the film? Ric loves to cut himself. He’s proud of it. Rory wanted to shoot some abstract things not knowing exactly what they were going to use the footage for at the time. They used a shot of him looking introspectively in the mirror, but shied away from using some of the more graphic things. X-Pac asks if anything changed about Ric after cutting himself. Rory says that it was just getting in the ring itself that got something to change for Ric. He’s a completely different person when he sets foot in the ring.
X-Pac wants to talk about Coach Snoop. It’s an interesting story of how Snoop Dogg started a youth football league and coached one of the teams. Rory sees it as giving a voice to a disenfranchised section of the population that is growing up without much money, not two parents in the household, etc. They have opinions and are humans too.
Rory tells a funny story about getting one of Snoop Dogg’s chains as a gift. He was in a jewelry store looking for a watch for his son and had the chain appraised out of curiosity. Karpf thought that it would be worth big money and was surprised when the jeweler appraised it at $100. Apparently it was gold plated and had cubic zirconia’s. When Rory mentioned it to Snoop, Snoop was like, “What are you doing getting that appraised? You don’t get a gift appraised, that’s terrible!” and then said “Of course I don’t wear real jewelry, I don’t want to get jacked for that stuff! “
Interview with Shawn Michaels
X-Pac asks Shawn if he had decided to move to Florida before or after Triple H asked him to be a coach at the performance center. Michaels had checked out the facility while he was on vacation. He had time to get a feel for what was going on and it was infectious. The time away from wrestling was good for HBK, but he was wondering if he still had a place in the business after his retirement. He wanted to make sure that he had time to spend time with his family so he didn’t want to take a job that wouldn’t allow that. Working at the performance center allows him to be home every day. It was hard not to take advantage of that situation.
X-Pac asks if there was anything that Shawn saw that the PC was missing that Shawn could specifically add? Shawn says it’s such a complete facility. It tries to bring as many different attributes from the territory days, different coaches, different styles and nationalities. The only thing that Triple H said was lacking is that they didn’t have a whole lot of people that have been at the top of the business. Triple H was looking for Shawn’s unique perspective. Shawn’s been through a lot of experiences – good, bad, and otherwise. There’s a value to that.
Denise asks Shawn how he was able to showcase the abilities of guys like Kevin Nash and Sid in their matches. Working with big guys was so easy because the story was so simple. It was visually easy to tell the David and Goliath story. It has worked since the beginning and it continues to work today. “As long as you ran fast around those guys then let them knock your block off, it was usually pretty darn easy and fun to do because it was a simple story that people could easily understand.” A lot of the work is done in figuring out the psychology of the match. In the “David and Goliath” stories, that part was already built in so now it’s a matter of figuring out how you want to go about doing it. You get to spend the rest of your time thinking about how you can do that in a way that’s different than you’ve done it before.
Rory asks if Shawn preferred being babyface or heel. Shawn would be hard pressed to find anybody that doesn’t like being a bad guy better than a good guy. Creatively, people feel more at ease being a bad guy. You feel as if you can do anything. Shawn says that’s key to being in the business. “Feeling free enough with yourself, secure enough with yourself to understand that you can do just about anything and have it add to the match and to the character.” As a good guy that’s a lot more challenging especially these days because that good guy persona, depending on how you play it, it’s a lot tougher line to walk now. Kissing babies and hugging gals only goes so far and then people turn on it. Time and tenure help. Nostalgia carries over a lot of things fans may or may not like.
X-Pac says these days it may not be a good idea to introduce anyone as a babyface, it takes that tenure and familiarity and that emotional equity. That takes time to develop with the crowd. Shawn offers up Johnny Gargano and Daniel Bryan as guys that can get away with being babyface because of their smaller sizes, but he agrees with X-Pac’s statement.
Jimbo asks if Shawn had any idea how far Daniel Bryan would go when Bryan first came to Shawn’s school. You can’t have any sort of idea where somebody’s going to go right away but Bryan worked too hard to not have some success. Shawn told him that one thing that was going to work against Bryan was his size. It’s just the nature of the business. Although Shawn couldn’t predict just how successful Bryan would be, but once it started happening, Shawn wasn’t surprised.
X-Pac wants to revisit the Gargano vs. Almas match from TakeOver. Did Shawn produce it? X-Pac says it has Shawn written all over it. Shawn gets to do the Pat Patterson thing where he floats from match to match. The guys that are in Shawn’s class don’t have his name attached to their match as “producer.” They had the match laid out and he just threw things in here and there. The wrestlers put together phenomenal matches already. Shawn’s goal is to help them build that into a phenomenal story with some psychology behind it. He says that he learned a lot from Pat Patterson. A lot of times the matches would have all of the components and Pat would rearrange them to tell a more effective story. That’s what Shawn enjoys doing most.
Denise wants to know where the inspiration of “HBK” came from and how did Sensational Sherri fit in to the picture? Shawn was unsure at first until Pat Patterson pulled him aside and said, “Look, Sherri has been with two guys – DiBiase and Savage. She is going to raise your stock.” That’s when it clicked for Shawn. Shawn says that he and Sherri were friends since the AWA days and she was a wonderful woman. She was willing to do whatever Shawn wanted to do to make it work. They wanted to give off that “Cougar/Boy toy” vibe. Shawn wasn’t thrilled about the “Heartbreak Kid” moniker at first because he didn’t want to come off as just a pretty boy, but when he said it in a promo it just felt right and it took care of itself from there.
Jimbo wants to know what Shawn’s opinion of The Young Bucks is and has he had any interaction with them? Shawn says the only time he interacted with them was when they had a TV tryout. It was a pretty brief encounter however. He’s heard a lot of great things about them and Kenny Omega as being phenomenal workers. Shawn says that he understands people not wanting to be in the WWE, but Shawn says that he hopes those guys will one day be in the WWE on the big stage. He says he feels that would be the best opportunity for guys to really make the most of their careers – regardless of what they make on the indies. That’s not taking anything away from anybody else – but you can create a brand for yourself with WWE that will last long after you’re done wrestling. As far as them doing the super kick, Shawn thinks that it’s cool.
Rory asks if Shawn has had any interaction with Ric Flair since the documentary and the health scare. Shawn says he has. Shawn is worried about the actual man. You don’t need to forsake everything in your life for the business. If you try to convince somebody that if they don’t do that that they’re not worthy of doing the job is simply not true and at its very least unbelievably unfair and manipulative. One can be dedicated to the business without compromising their wellbeing or their values. X-Pac says that it’s good that that mentality and that part of the business is dying – it has to. Shawn says that Rory did a good job with the documentary. It was fair and it painted a good picture and he hopes Ric was happy with it too.
Shawn is asked why he had his retirement match against the Undertaker instead of Triple H? So much of Shawn’s career wasn’t planned. It turned out that Taker and Shawn had the phenomenal match in Houston and on the way home he told his family that that may have been the one to end it all. He could walk away and be completely satisfied and he missed spending time with the family. Everything from there started falling into place after that. Shawn tries to go where he’s led – where he feels like he’s being called.
Jimbo wants to know what Shawn’s thoughts were on the night after WrestleMania 14 seeing X-Pac take his place in DX. Pac says nobody take’s Shawn Michaels’ place in DX, Pac had his own spot. Shawn thought it was phenomenal. He had no insight as to what they were going to do or how they were going to do it. Shawn thought they did a great job of seamlessly picking it up where it had been left off. To Shawn, the version of DX without him was the best version of DX – they were so incredibly entertaining (Having been re-watching 97-98-99 era WWE myself, I agree with this statement 100%).
I feel like this episode was really a 2 for 1 double interview type deal. It was nearly two hours, but didn’t feel that way while listening to it. I really enjoyed the 30 for 30 on Ric Flair so I found the first interview with Rory Karpf to be a fascinating look into the making of the documentary. What I found really interesting was hearing Karpf’s mindset when working on a project and how he tries to relate the story he wants to tell while also remaining fair and objective. I thought Michaels also gave a great interview. He comes off as a very authentic person. Unlike Pac’s previous conversation with Hall where I thought it suffered from their familiarity with each other, I feel like the opposite happened here. I got the feeling that Michaels let his guard down a bit because he was talking to X-Pac. It was interesting to hear that Shawn thought that the version of DX after he left was better (I never would have guessed that). I am also fascinated by his work in NXT now. I think that getting Shawn in there as a coach was quite the coup for WWE. I am extremely excited to see what he can come up with in the future working with the amount of talent they have in developmental right now. Like I’ve said before, the best episodes of this podcast are the ones that make me excited to be a fan and inspired by the art form. I feel like this episode has done that.
00:00 – 48:00 Intro and Interview with Rory Karpf
48:52 – 1:54:34 Interview with Shawn Michaels
1:54:35 – 1:57:32 – 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.