Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Interview with Inspire Pro's Justin Bissonnette

Biss says that Barbi Hayden's NWA Women's Championship is a big centerpiece for Inspire Pro
Photo Credit: Kelly Kyle/Texas Anarchy
Inspire Pro Wrestling has yet another stacked show planned for Sunday, August 31st, at 6 PM Central Daylight Time inside the Marchesa Hall and Theatre in Austin, Texas. You can get all the relevant information at or just check out my preview of the show later this week on this very website! *bask in the cheap pop*

So, if this isn’t a preview, what is it? Well, you clearly failed at reading comprehension when you didn’t look at the title of this column when you clicked on it. And if that is the case, I’m not sure anything you read here will matter. In the event that you just go around to random websites and click on links willy-nilly, well, welcome. Happy to have you. What you are about to read is an email interview with one of the men behind Inspire Pro, Justin “Biss” Bissonnette.

I would like to thank Biss for taking the time to answer the questions from a random stranger who finds the thing Biss runs to be his favorite non-wife-related thing in this world. (Well, my wife and corgis.) I didn’t have time to write this up all fancy, so you’ll simply get my questions and then his answers. The content is as he told me. And if you don’t believe that, I have two words for you, email copy. Yeah, I have the emails.

Without further ado:

(Please note that this is the first time I’ve ever interviewed someone.)

As a fan, when did you start watching wrestling? What was the moment (if there was a moment) that hooked you?

Wrestling was just something that was always around when I was growing up, my parents were not huge fans but when it was on they had it on the TV. This is the first time I’ve publicly talked about this, but my great-grandfather was in wrestling in the Dakotas and Michigan in the '20s through the late '30s, as well as two great uncles that worked in Georgia in the '50s. So I guess maybe that’s where the interest came from.

If I had to pin point a moment [that hooked me] I think it would be Jake "the Snake" [Roberts] and Randy Savage with the Cobra… I may have already been hooked by then but that’s the moment from my childhood that sticks out. Summer Slam '91 was my first wrestling PPV so by then I was a full fledged Hulkamaniac.

Do you know much about them [great-grandfather and uncles]? Were they popular? Did you ever get to meet them?

My great-grandfather, Curly Bissonnette, was very much a local wrestler, his greatest achievement was a shot at the Michigan State Title. My great-uncles were on the side of my family I don’t know much about.

When did you decide you wanted to work in the industry?

I think any fan has an interest in getting involved. For me it was late ‘99, early 2000 when I really started to think about what was going on behind the scenes and how matches were made and how stories were told. My next jump was in late 2006, I trained [to be a wrestler] for six weeks and realized I was going to be a horrible wrestler. At that point I had already been helping Stan with some of the Indywarz stuff so I decided to focus more on covering good wrestling than becoming a bad one.

Where did you get your start (and doing what)?

I was doing video interviews with IndywarzTV. Darin Childs and Jacob Ladder liked my work so Darin asked if I would like to come do the same kind of work for ACW. May 6th, 2007, at the Venue in San Antonio, I showed up and started filming backstage promos. Without the faith Darin showed in me then I would not be where I am today.

What was your time like in ACW? What was your role? How did you get started? Why did you leave?

For the most part my time in ACW was great. I got to meet a ton of awesome people like Jerry Lynn and Daffney and developed life-long friendships with guys like Showtime [Scot Summers], [Shawn] Vexx, ACH, Jeff Gant, Rachel Summerlyn… the list goes on. My role in ACW grew as need grew. I started just filming backstage promos, then started filming the hype reels and doing play by play. Later I took more of an office role and was booking the pre-show tryouts and organizing day of show operations. The last year I was there I was not very happy. I, personally, thought my play by play work had become stale, I didn’t like the overall direction of the company, and felt powerless to change it or make an impact on it. I just kinda felt I was just there to be there. I almost left in September but decided to stick it out till the new year and things just got worse. The [final] nail in the coffin for me was Rachel Summerlyn leaving. I felt that staying would have required a new focus and a lot of grunt work I was not sure the remaining office fully understood and I did not have the passion at the time for it.

What was the impetus to begin Inspire Pro? Was it difficult to get off the ground?

Inspire was originally going to be a show run in small oil towns around San Antonio in the summer of 2012, run by Josh Montgomery, that I was going to help out with, but it never got off the ground. The idea came back up in, I want to say February of 2013, and I told him there was no way I could travel to San Antonio for it. So, I consulted Max Meehan, who I became friends with watching Dragon Gate iPPVs with, and we started talking about what it would take to do it in Austin. Max also had a lot of ideas on the creative side I liked and he came on board and we formed the start of the office from there. Honestly, I had not really enjoyed my last year in wrestling and just wanted to do something fun… but a funny thing happened, people showed up and enjoyed it so on we march.

Start up was very difficult and I did not even believe it was happening until I picked up Chuck Taylor from the airport. Hell there are still moments I can’t believe it is happening.

How does the relationship with NWA work? Do they have a say in anything? Or just the matches involving any NWA Title?

The NWA had a great Interest in us and how we conducted ourselves, which really makes you feel awesome as a promoter. My main interest was giving the NWA Women’s Title a home base it could be showcased. Tony [Brooklyn] and Bruce [Tharpe] trust us to maintain the NWA standard of excellence and are for the most part hands off. On top of all that joining the NWA has put us in a great support group of like-minded promoters that we can learn from and lean on to improve Inspire and, honestly, vice versa.

Any chance of having NWA World or Tag Team Title defenses?

In time, those titles have spent a lot of time overseas [currently held in New Japan Pro Wrestling by Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan] since we joined. We want to do it right and make sure it makes sense and is not tossed together.

Being as Inspire Pro and Branded Outlaw are both under the NWA banner (and share many of the same talents), do you foresee any cross-promotional shenanigans?

Ton of respect for David and Jax [Dane] down there. Jax was a big part of bringing us into the NWA. With the rosters being so similar I don’t know if you will see the traditional cross-promotional stuff. I have no interest in invading San Antonio. There are other ways to compete though.

It's only been two shows with the XX Division being the focus, but it already feels like a promotion where the women are the top draw. Could be because it's rare to see the women as equals to the men. How do you feel about that?

In time I think the XX division will let XX wrestlers be seen as not just good women’s wrestlers but just good wrestlers period, while also giving younger girls a chance to grow to that point. Good wrestling is good wrestling.

Do you see the women ever competing against the men (I know Barbi was in that one battle royal) or do you intend to keep them separate? I go back and forth on what I would like to see, cause I think that's the easiest way to show they truly are equals (like you said, good wrestling is good wrestling, gender doesn't matter), but I also know that it can open yourself up to some pretty misogynistic story-telling (if you're lazy). Because you have people like Candice LaRae who have found lots of success competing with the men and even a lot of the women in ACW's history like Rachel Summerlyn and Portia Perez and Athena.

I think a few of the XXD girls could have success wrestling the guys tomorrow. I also feel the XX Division is a good place for the younger girls to grow in the mean time.

My wife has decided she will be going to wrestling school (Barbi Hayden is her hero and inspiration). Would you have any advice for her? Being a woman in wrestling can be difficult.

Train with Funaki or Paul London. Set your standard of how you wish to be treated and stick by it, you have to be willing to pass up opportunities if they are not right.

You've used Chuck Taylor, Robert Evans, Chris Hero, Watanabe, Tadasuke, Solo Darling, Veda Scott, Portia Perez, Leva Bates, Gary Jay, and Mia Yim (I may have missed some). How do you decide on who you want to try and bring in? Are there any you weren't able to get? Who would you like to see in the future? Personally, as a fellow Kentuckian, I would like to see Sweet Chuckie T return, and would love to see Candice LaRae (and I guess you can bring Joey Ryan, too) in an Inspire ring. Also, Davey Vega.

It’s a mix of factors, we really felt Chuck Taylor was someone people would come out to see, same with Hero, the others are folks I have meet over the years. There are tons of people we have tried to bring in or would like to bring in, it’s just kind of all about everything lining up.

How is it having to deal with so many egos? Or has it been relatively easy with Inspire Pro?

A good wrestler looks after himself as well as the overall quality of the show. One of my gifts is in the talent relations department, but being apart of ownership has tested that skill because I am human and still make mistakes. But overall we have a very professional locker room that is easy to work with even when we reach difficult situations.

Speaking of egos… Sammy Guevara... what the hell? If he ever gets his shit together, would he be welcomed back or is he just done for good?

It would take a lot of growing up, and I am very disappointed. I’m not sure who is in his ear but I wish there had been an apology to the family. At this point if we had continued to use him we would have supported that behavior. All we can do now is hope he learns on his own. Lots of questions, where was the mentorship, where was the guy to tell him you don’t do that, I’m just as guilty as anyone.

Final Thoughts: Final thoughts? Yeah, I have some thoughts about the interview after the fact, deal with it! There were a couple of extra questions that were more “in-character”, as in things that pertained to storylines, that I just did not feel worked with the other questions asked. But if you just HAVE TO KNOW what they were, I’m more than willing to fill you in.

For my end, maybe email interviews aren’t the best way to go. Not because this was bad, but it kind of hampers the follow-up questioning. Like, reading back over it now while editing, there were several instances where I wish I could have been able to delve deeper. But who’s to say you can’t do multiple interviews, right? Right. I will have to work on my social anxieties before I can tackle those, however. I’m SO bad at face-to-face interactions with people I’m not completely comfortable with (even with some people I actually calls friends, to be honest). But this isn’t about me and my quirks.

I hope that they can bring in a couple of old guys to be Biss’ uncles. They found out their nephew was running his own company and wanted in on the action!

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed that, as I do intend to do more interviews with Inspire Pro personnel and talent, and they may even be face to face and recorded and shit! Wouldn’t that just be grand? Or maybe in podcast form. I have no idea, but we shall see! Check in at some other point this week for the preview of Sunday’s RELENTLESS show.