Friday, February 10, 2017

Podcast Deep Dive: Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard, Ep. 25

Pritchard's show looks at the only tie in Rumble history
Photo Credit:
Show: Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard
Episode: 25
Run Time: 1:57:57

Oh, I'm sorry - are you all Royal Rumble'd out? Almost two weeks after the Rumble, and you're saying you don't want to hear about any Royal Rumbles until at least late December this year? TOO BAD. We've got Royal Rumble 1994 to deal with.

And it's being dealt with by a guy who helped produce the show: Bruce Prichard. Acting as Vince McMahon's "right hand man" for over 20 years (and Wikipedia told me that, so it's the gospel truth), Prichard was at least somewhat involved or knowledgeable of just about every significant thing that happened in WWE from 1988 to 2008. His show Something to Wrestle is a relatively new venture with his co-host Conrad Thompson, former co-host of The Ric Flair Show. The main concept of this show seems to be taking a certain topic (Dusty Rhodes's WWF run, the nWo in WWE, etc.) and getting the in-depth backstage perspective.

On this episode, Prichard and Thompson go through Royal Rumble 1994, a show famous for two things: the Rumble match ending in a tie, and The Undertaker ascending to Heaven. It is a somewhat crappy yet highly memorable show that needs to be deeply analyzed. I will admit that I am mainly writing about this episode because that Undertaker bit is one of my favorite things to ever happen in wrestling, and anytime I get to write about it or listen to someone talk about it, I am a happy guy.

As he did on The Ric Flair Show, Thompson sets the table and leads the proceedings, allowing for Prichard to follow his lead and fill in the blanks for details. Thompson does this by reading from January 1994 issues of The Wrestling Observer. No surprise that Prichard generally hates Dave Meltzer and says he's full of shit. Meltzer wrote at the time about how the WWF was claiming that the Providence Civic Center was sold out for this show, but that tickets were still available. Prichard spends a long time slamming Meltzer for telling a stupid lie, and it's one of the biggest dismissals of Meltzer I've ever heard. One gets the sense that maaaybe Meltzer got a lot of accurate leaks from Prichard's co-workers, and Prichard is still salty about it, but hey, let's not make rash judgments here.

Maybe the third most famous part of the '94 Rumble is the moment when Owen officially turned on Bret, by kicking his leg out from under him. Of course, Owen flubbed his line in the ensuing promo by saying, "And THAT'S why I kicked your leg outta your...leg." I have always felt so bad for Owen in this moment, and I assumed that he got yelled at backstage, but Prichard says no one said a thing to Owen about it. That is such a relief to me. As I always have to say, bless Owen and his sweet soul.

Thompson then broaches the subject of the Undertaker/Yokozuna match with bemusement, as if everyone understands that this supernatural Undertaker angle was an unforgivably goofy moment. But Prichard, bless him too, doesn't give in to this presumption. Prichard says it was a good way to get The Undertaker off TV for a while, since he had asked for a vacation to heal a back injury and help his wife with a new baby. The craziness of the story, with Taker speaking to the crowd on video from inside the casket and then exploding and then soaring to the sky, was not that far out of line from previous Undertaker stories. And dammit, it produced some of the coolest visuals we've ever seen in wrestling. The only bummer is when Prichard tells us that it was not Marty Jannetty in the role of The Undertaker's body double. I really wish that had been true, if only to imagine Marty Jannetty saying to himself, "No, I'm not on the show at all tonight, but at least I get to put on a hat and get lifted to the ceiling."

Finally, they discuss the Royal Rumble match itself, which saw Bret Hart and Lex Luger tie. As it appeared to play out on TV, Prichard admits that the finish was designed to test crowd reaction in order to see which guy would be headlining Wrestlemania 10. The crowd got it right when they cheered Bret noticeably louder than Luger. Why it took Vince and his team this much effort to realize that Luger sucked and Bret was the best, we'll never know, but at least they ultimately went the right route.

Something to Wrestle has its drawbacks: Thompson is still too much of a slow-paced good ol' boy, Prichard has his obvious grudges, and they have a TON of commercials (including one for a lawyer who helps people with mesothelioma, which makes me feel like I'm watching a weekday morning episode of Maury). But the biggest selling point for this show is the simple fact that Bruce Prichard spent more time with Vince McMahon than almost anyone on the planet, and that automatically makes him a fascinating person to listen to. Vince is one of the strangest people to have ever lived, and if I can listen to a guy tell stories about working with that guy for two decades, how am I supposed to not do that?