Behind-the-scenes at WWE, Part Deux

Hello again, Scott
Since the first entry went so well, I figured I’d peddle along the rest of the information that the writing assistant on spilled in the rest of his topic.

My bank account thanks you.

On the interview process and pay:
“Pay was $13 an hour with time and a half for overtime, and there was lots and lots of overtime. I worked 50-60 hours every week.
Interviews were pretty typical. They asked me questions about past job experiences, why I wanted to work for WWE, and made sure I knew the high demands I was getting myself into. I don’t think a degree would be enough necessarily. The other writer’s assistants got in because they had a good amount of TV experience. One of them, the oldest, used to be Howard Stern’s personal assistant for a few years. Another worked on Maury. Another worked for ESPN. I had an internship at CNBC while in college, have a documentary that’s played around the world (rather not divulge it) and had some people put in a good word. Plus I was hired by a clueless dude as stated earlier. But a big part of interviews is also just being clean-cut, professional and charismatic and acting like someone that people would want to work with.”
On if he hid his WWE fandom when interviewed:
“No on the contrary. I wrote “Life-long WWE fan” on my resume and brought a picture of myself at age 10 dressed up as Kane to show the interviewers. I had three interviews, two of which were just normal HR corporate people who didn’t really know anything about the product and didn’t recognize Kane in the photo so they were just mildly amused. The third interview, and the guy who probably made the decision to hire me, was by a guy who was head of Creative or something at the time. However by the time I actually started working he had already been let go, and from what I heard from coworkers he was pretty much wildly incompetent and knew nothing about the product. So it was probably kind of a fluke that I got hired at all.”
On meeting Vince:
“Yes I met Vince on one occasion. I was leaving work for the evening and bumped into him at the elevators. I was sort of blindsided and blurted out “Hi Vince!” instead of Mr. McMahon but he didn’t seem to mind. I introduced myself as a new writer’s assistant and he shook my hand. We shared an elevator down and he said something like “Welcome aboard. You know we need a lot of smart minds in that writer’s room” and I said yes sir. I said that it was a dream come true to be working there and I was a fan since I was 6 years old. That made him smile and he said “Thank you.” He got off to leave and since then I only caught a few glimpses of him backstage at Survivor Series. Seeing him in the halls of the building is like seeing a Mewtwo.”
On Vince’s presence at shows:
“Vince goes to every TV taping and has for the last however many thousands of years. I remember a note coming in towards the end of my run there that Vince may start not going to every single show soon, and that was groundbreaking news. I’m not completely sure but I think Triple H travels with Vince every time.
Vince was very close to coming back on TV at one point around the Kevin Nash conspiracy text message crap, and even facing Punk in a match on RAW, but changed his mind and decided to remain off TV.”
On Triple H:
“Triple H gets a ton of undeserved heat. I’ve never heard of him changing feuds purposely to get more attention, or burying guys because of a vendetta against them. I don’t think he gives a crap. He has a day-to-day job at Titan Tower as head of Talent Development. He’s there every day in a suit and tie. His concerns these days are with developing FCW talent and bringing them up in the best way possible. And when Vince has a crazy idea, Triple H is often the voice of reason in the meetings. In my time there I got the impression that the storylines will make much more sense when Triple H inherits the reigns. The IWC should consider him a friend, not a foe.
The only thing is that Triple H vs. Undertaker at Wrestlemania 28 was locked in stone, and no one was gonna tell Vince or Triple H otherwise.”
On how the writers view wrestlers:
“The writers don’t usually have strong feelings for or against any particular guys. They’re just characters in the fiction that they’re writing. Although some guys have a reputation for being crappy ring workers, like Mason Ryan and Zeke Jackson. But on other people opinions are usually mixed. For example, I never gave a crap about Ted DiBiase, but one of the writers really liked him for some reason. Though ultimately it all just comes down to making a good show. They realize that they’re responsible to serve all the characters on their roster, with first priority being the talented ones who can work storylines and draw. So when Barrett was doing nothing for a while in early September, there came a point where they said “Alright, we’re not using Wade to his full potential.” The Barrett Barrage became a story, Wade got a win streak and was pushed back into the limelight for a time until his injury.”
On proposed angles that were rejected or dropped:
“Hm the first one that comes to mind was kind of a joke. With the tag division in pathetic shape, Brian Gewirtz suggested to throw Tyson Kidd and Heath Slater together as a tag team and call them The Rock and Roll Kids. We all kind of laughed about it but he even pitched it to Vince. Vince didn’t go for it.
There was brief discussion of some wilder ideas, like making Mason Ryan gay or giving Alex Riley a long-term storyline where he fakes having cancer to get sympathy from the crowd. Both of these never made it anywhere.
Kaitlyn was supposed to be the third heel diva to join Beth and Natalya in the Divas of Doom. They even went so far as to have her turn on AJ at Smackdown, but due to poor planning the segment was really poorly done. Kaitlyn, Beth and Natalya didn’t really know what to do and it didn’t look good so it was edited out of the show and planned to be re-done the following week. However some other Diva drama came up backstage or whatever, leading to the whole division being kind of in the doghouse in Vince’s mind. Vince ultimately decided there didn’t need to be a third heel diva at all, and broke up Divas of Doom soon after before deciding to push Tamina.
Ziggler and Swagger breaking up was teased at first, but Vince told us to drop it and keep them together.
There was talks for a long time of Layla returning with an eccentric fashion-centered gimmick in the style of Lady Gaga, but obviously that didn’t happen.
When Punk was feuding with Del Rio we had an idea of having Del Rio cutting a promo, when someone dressed up as a WWE ice cream bar comes out from the back. Del Rio assumes its Punk and beats him up, but then tears off the costume to reveal that its Ricardo tied up with tape over his mouth, and it was just a scheme by Punk to mess with Del Rio. It didn’t make much logical sense and never made it to air.
A few of us wanted Cody to go absolutely batshit psychotic after his mask was destroyed and be more of a loose canon character I guess like how Dean Ambrose is. Instead he went back to being regular heel Cody. I’m not sure why.
There were some plans to have Drew McIntyre feud with Sheamus by having Drew bully Sheamus with a picture of him as a little fat kid. There was also a lot of background with them because they wrestled together in the indys but it never got off the ground.
Hunico introduced Primo and Epico and Camacho and the initial plan was to form a stable, but Vince was concerned that it was too gang-like and racist and split them up pretty quick.
At the time I left, the idea was for Zeke’s losing streak to culminate in a heel turn, but that’s yet to happen.
There was an idea to having something that makes the Usos stand apart — one idea was that Jimmy could be really smart and Jey could be really stupid.
They were considering doing a relationship between a face Diva and a heel superstar. I believe the frontrunner was Kelly Kelly with Wade Barrett, but that never happened.”
On meeting Superstars and personalities:
“I had a brief interaction with John Morrison backstage at Survivor Series. I introduced myself awkwardly saying my name was John as well. It was right before he was planning to leave, while I (constantly) was afraid of getting fired any day now. So he said something like “One of us won’t be here anymore in a few weeks!” and I said “Maybe two of us” and he said “Nah you’ll be fine! You have a great name!”
I also saw Sin Cara without his mask backstage (spoilers: looks like a mexican guy). I speak spanish so I wished him good luck. That was the night his knee exploded >_>
I shook Mark Henry’s hand, which is an enormous mass of muscle.
I was ten feet away from The Rock cutting his (completely live btw) backstage promo at Survivor Series. There was a large crowd of crew watching him backstage completely in awe as he went through the whole thing. Backstage promos are usually pre-taped during the show, but Rock insisted on doing it live so he could interact with the crowd.
Personally from what I saw at Survivor Series Punk is kind of antisocial. He may very well be a decent guy too, but I wouldn’t call him approachable.
I saw Michael Hayes regularly. He’s funny as hell. I had John Laurinaitis call me into his office to clear something up with me. I saw John on a few occasions and he was always really nice. He would occasionally pop into the writer’s room just to say hello.
I think Undertaker was backstage at a Raw in Texas just to say hi to people. He was bald with a long grey sort of wizard beard, which I was really hoping he’d have at Wrestlemania but no dice. I didn’t see him as I didn’t travel, but I heard it from the writers who went.”
On being backstage at Survivor Series:
“You’re encouraged to introduce yourself and meet everybody, but everything was so hectic and everyone so busy that I was very hesitant to interrupt most people. I only approached guys who were standing around and not doing much at the time. I was told that even if you think no one is paying attention to you, it doesn’t go unnoticed when you fail to introduce yourself. That being said I did shake the hand of many of the agents including Dustin Runnels, Arn Anderson, and Bill DeMott who gave me the nicest warmest smile and greeting I could imagine. 
But yeah there’s a huge amount of people. If it was a RAW or better yet a Smackdown taping I would’ve been more willing to interrupt people, but it was a big 4 PPV. For christ’s sake, The Rock was walking around backstage. Tension was high.”
On the HHH/Awesome Truth conspiracy angle:
“You’re right, it was a mess and the writers knew it, but by that point they kind of had written themselves into a corner. There’s times where ideas take on a life of their own and you just kind of have to see them through and try to end them and forget them. This was definitely one of those times. I don’t really remember if there was more to it than what made it on TV.
However I thought Awesome Truth was really entertaining, and their run-in at Hell in a Cell was awesome. The walk-out on Triple H didn’t make much sense, but it made for captivating TV for two weeks. Sometimes that’s the only goal.”
On Cena’s work:
“Anybody who calls Cena lazy doesn’t know the first thing about him. The guy is a freakin workhorse and model employee. Him saying he’s not changing for anybody is just his character right now. It doesn’t mean he’ll never turn heel ever ever ever. As far as complaining about his cheesy promos, millions of people love them so the WWE doesn’t give a crap. And this is just speculation, but I believe he used to limit his moveset in the ring to limit the risk of injury — since losing Cena to injury would be a huge wrench in everything. However I think he’s been doing much better in the last couple of years than in the late 2000s.”
On other wrestlers who go the extra mile for WWE:
“I think Miz and Sheamus are two guys who are willing to do anything WWE asks of them, in the ring and out. You’ll notice whenever there’s a wrestler on a talk show or doing some kind of promotion, it’s usually one of them because they’re just good at it and willing to do it. Guys like Punk and Orton would never want to do these things.”
On the TV-PG direction:
“WWE is always looking to expand. They want to be a large media company, that makes movies, has a network, etc. This kind of expansion needs money. And making money is made harder when there’s a segment of the population that thinks you’re trash TV or not suitable for children. Children is how most media companies make money.”
On how the company views TNA:
“I don’t think anyone at WWE really thinks about TNA or has time to care about what they’re doing. They’re not real competition, and they have a very different approach to wrestling that WWE. WWE aspires to always be as sophisticated and professional as possible in their presentation. They want to be grandiose and mainstream, not appeal to a niche. Not to say there’s anything wrong with TNA’s approach, it’s just not what WWE is trying to do.”
On smarks:
“Smarks are seen as a minority that usually shouldn’t be listened to — which from a business standpoint is sort of true. Dirtsheets are sort of laughed at because they’re wrong all the time. Most of what’s on dirstheets is just news aggregated from press releases or superstar twitter accounts. A small portion is speculative stuff about backstage stuff and most of that is total BS. Dirtsheets are an ad-revenue based business so they do what they gotta do to get eyes on their sites – including making stuff up. I think if there were real insiders, surprises like Brodus’s debut or Brock’s would be spoiled well in advance.
I think the writers like to stick to their own ideas until the possibility to make money rears its head. Like when an entire arena is chanting YES YES YES — they go ahead and make a new t-shirt.
But like I said the writers are wrestling fans themselves. They love a great Tyson Kidd match as much as the next smark, but they also know that putting him on RAW against Heath Slater is gonna make the ratings nosedive for that segment.
As for the last question, as much as the writers may hate to admit it they are smarks themselves, so they get a kick out of some smarky things. For example Santino’s joke a few months ago about repealing the rule instated by Jack Tunney about not allowing reptiles at ringside. That came straight from Brian Gewirtz because he always thought that was a funny rule. Most non-smarks wouldn’t get that reference at all.”
On dirtsheet sources:
“No idea who the “sources” were. I wondered that a lot while I worked there. It certainly wasn’t anyone that I worked with on the writing team. Could possibly some dot com guys or crew people that got second hand knowledge of upcoming storylines. Most of what’s on the dirtsheets is made up bullcrap though. Very rarely does a true backstage story make it out. When you hear something like “The original plan was to have so and so win, but a last minute change…” that’s almost always completely wrong.”
On the writers’ reaction when a heel is cheered or face is booed:
“I think it’s just part of the business. Also the writers are well aware that there are smark cities and mark cities, so they have a good idea of the kind of reaction certain things will get in certain places. Occasionally they’re completely wrong though. Many of them expected Zack Ryder to get heavily booed at Survivor Series because “New Yorkers hate Long Islanders” but they couldn’t have been more wrong.”
On bad pitches:
“I don’t know about pitches really because I was never in the room for the Vince meetings where things were pitched to him. However if the writers thought it was a bad idea, it would never get pitched to Vince in the first place. The bad ideas that make it on TV are often coming from Vince himself.”
On the writers’ involvement with the WWE Network:
“I even brought that up one time like “Who exactly is going to write and work on all these shows on the new network?” and my coworkers didn’t really know. I assume the plan was/is to bring in new writers to work on those shows — specifically ones with lots of reality TV production experience. But to this day I have no real idea what part of the company was working on the network. There was a lot of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing at WWE.”
On any writers left over from the Attitude Era:
“Gewirtz and Ed Koskey. I’m not sure when Dave Kapoor started, but they’re the oldest. Everyone else has been around less than three years. Most less than one.”
“NXT is written every week by only two writers, and they pretty much have free reign to do whatever they want, so they had a lot of fun with the whole Maxin/Bateman/Curtis soap opera. I remember people questioning when the season would end. At one point the 100th episode in Las Vegas was supposed to be the end, with Bateman and Maxine getting married, but it kept going after that for some reason.
I don’t know much else, but the road team writer that worked on NXT was always praising Bateman, Maxine and Curtis for their talents and enthusiasm. They all loved working together. You gotta remember that although NXT and Superstars are just web shows in America, they do air on TV internationally and actually pull good ratings in some parts of the world.”
On the Divas:
“The biggest complainers are probably the Divas, and rightfully so. They always wish they were getting more TV time and longer matches and I can’t blame them. Daniel Bryan as I stated before complained a lot about the girlfriend story with AJ, but I bet he ain’t complaining now.
The divas all seem very nice and friendly. I only managed to introduce myself to AJ backstage at Survivor Series. She was sweet and introduced herself as April. Beth, Natalya and Alicia walked by me on a few occasions backstage and smiled or nodded professionally.”
On Kharma:
“By the time I started Kharma had already left for several months for her pregnancy, so I don’t know what they had in mind long term. They were probably playing it by ear and seeing what kind of reaction she got.
I remember hearing about her miscarriage way before it made it to the dirtsheets. Like months before. When we’d try to find out when she’d be back, the answer we’d get would basically be that she’s on an indefinite personal leave until further notice.”
On Randy Orton:
“Don’t know much about Orton. I get the impression that he too is a joker that messes around with people, but pretty reserved like his on screen character. The only thing I saw him do backstage at Survivor Series was take pictures with a family that was brought backstage for some reason. Also I heard a story from some random RAW/SD where Orton was waiting in gorilla to go out for his match up next, right behind the curtain. In gorilla is usually Vince, Triple H, the agent of the match, sometimes Stephanie and a writer or two if they’re not busy doing something else. Anyway Orton’s getting ready to go out, and he turns his back to everyone and starts peeing in a trash can in gorilla. Triple H is like “Randy what the hell are you doing?” and he just shrugs and says “I always get the urge to pee before I go out.”
On Jinder Mahal:
“Well I guess he was brought in for the Indian audiences, though his storyline with Khali and Ranjin Singh (played by Raw head writer Dave Kapoor) was kinda dropped. I guess Jinder is one of those guys that Vince saw something in. I remember we would get notes from meetings with him on the road that would say like
* From now on VKM wants Jinder to speak only in Punjabi
then a few weeks later he cuts a promo in english, then we’d get a note like
* VKM says Jinder should always speak in an indian accent 
and then that wouldn’t last very long either. 
*Jinder Mahal will start wearing a turban to the ring 
The last Jinder-related note I remember was
* VKM wants Jinder to put his turban in a glass case before his match. 
So these ideas all coming from Vince, I think it was safe to assume Vince saw a lot of potential in the Jinder character as an anti-american heel.”
On other random superstars that he was asked about:
“Christian- It’s acknowledged that he’s getting older and is probably best served to put over younger talent at this point in his career. He does have a rep for complaining when he feels he’s not being used right.
Curt Hawkins – Respected for being good at his position. He’s a good jobber because he bumps well and makes guys look good.
Evan Bourne- Evan Bourne was kind of a hush hush topic. The head writers didn’t really tell us much about what was going on with him until it was pretty public knowledge that he had f----- up twice. But lots of people f--- up twice. Evan just had the misfortune of breaking his ankle right as he was gearing up to come back.
The Great Khali- When Henry was champion there was a point where he was supposed to feud with Khali, but his injuries threw a wrench into the whole story and he dropped the belt. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Khali gets pushed again one day.
Hunico- I think it was at a Smackdown taping where there were a number of heels in the ring cutting a promo. During a commercial break, Vince told them via headset to give the mic to Hunico, just to see what he could do on the fly without warning. Hunico cut a good promo off the top of his head and that really impressed Vince. I think he’s been in Vince’s good graces ever since. 
Jack Swagger- Swagger is complicated. I got the impression that nobody had much faith in him on the mic, and though his character is obviously stale and has degenerated to jobber status, at the time that I was at WWE the roster was very thin. People kept getting injured and no new stars were coming in. So we kind of needed someone in Swagger’s position — a big guy who looks like a serious competitor but can be beaten to make someone else looks good. And like I said earlier, Vince had no intention of splitting up Ziggler and Swagger, so a face turn was not in the cards for the time being. Quick story about Swagger. On the Muppets episode of RAW after he lost to Santino, Swagger kicked the glass beaker out of frustration. It flew into the barricade and smashed on a little girl and her father. WWE took them backstage to check on them and apologize, they met a bunch of superstars and Swagger apologized personally. The father left extremely satisfied with the professionalism of the company and a potential lawsuit was avoided.
JTG- He’s a good jobber and makes guys look good. But I remember he got in big trouble for pulling Tamina’s hair during some random NXT promo. WWE doesn’t even want to think about man-on-woman violence on the program
Mark Henry- He was doing great and Smackdown ratings were up noticeably while he was champion, but he was working injured and then got even more injured to the point that they had to make him drop the title. One day the writers came back from the weekly meeting with Vince and said “Welp, Daniel Bryan is gonna cash in and win this Sunday”
The Miz- I got the impression they didn’t really know what to do with Miz a lot of the time. I don’t know much about his situation now. Maybe Vince is pissed at him. I’m sure the writers couldn’t care less and don’t have any vendetta. It’s a bummer though, because I’m personally a Miz fan.
Sin Cara- I think in general people like Hunico better than Sin Cara because Hunico came up through our own farming system and is very familiar with the WWE style. Sin Cara as has been brought up many times before had a lot of trouble adapting to the American style of wrestling. Also he was a bit of a puss, as he would often complain of some nagging injury. His neck or his shoulder or whatever. There was always something with him. But he’s a god in Mexico, and we just started going to Mexico a few times a year, so to have anyone else but Sin Cara play Sin Cara on a permanent basis would get them eaten alive. I think WWE still feels theres tons of money to be made off Sin Cara, but I’m a big Hunico fan personally.”
On feuds within the company:
“Not among wrestlers. I heard that Cena and Rock aren’t huge fans of each other, but they’re professional about it. Like I’ve stated before Gewirtz doesn’t like Paul Heyman because of some history they have. I hear the Divas all mostly hate each other and are very catty and competitive because Diva TV time is so sparse. Don’t know much else.”
On Vince’s treatment of Jim Ross:
“It’s clear that Vince has something against JR, but nobody knows why. Vince got a big kick out of any opportunity to embarrass JR on TV, but Jim is always a good sport about it. I remember nobody wanting to be the one that gets on the phone with JR because he’ll talk your ear off for two hours. I think some people think JR was a better EVP of Talent Relations that Laurinaitis is.”
On the reaction to the Cranky Vince twitter feed:
“Yes I first learned about it while working there and we would laugh about it all the time because Vince can be like that sometimes. He says “GODDAMMIT” a lot from what I hear. However the consensus is that it’s probably a former writer, because they know a lot of stuff only insiders would know but it doesn’t really match what’s currently happening in real time. So I think it’s just an ex-writer guessing.”
On anyone not on TV that the company is high up on:
“Good question, but no one really comes to mind. Of the FCW group, I know there’s high expectations for Husky Harris and Bo Rotundo as well as Richie Steamboat. One writer based out of Baltimore was friends with Calvin Raines so he’s been rooting for him. I think Seth Rollins is looked down on a bit as an indy darling, but it’s not serious. The Baltimore based writer also watched TNA pretty regularly, and often said he wished WWE raided them for talent. Specifically Bobby Roode and James Storm.”
On dark matches and house shows:
“The agents script house shows. Usually one of them is assigned to book and run the whole show. They used to send us reports via email after every house show. One of my favorites was — I think maybe from Arn Anderson — “Alex Riley went out for his match, slipped on the turnbuckle while going up for his taunt, and that was the best part of the match”
Dark matches seem to be reserved for developmental talent nowadays and matches on Superstars usually just comes down to who isn’t being used that night on RAW/SD.”
On if the writers dislike the gimmick PPV format:
“I’m sure some of them do, but its completely out of their hands. It’s ultimately (I’m assuming) a business decision. Giving each PPV a gimmick makes it special and gives you a reason to buy, unlike the generic ones where buyrates can vary wildly based on feuds. They probably want to create some sort of predictability in their business model. For example there’s already low expectations for any December PPV because people usually splurge on Survivor Series and then save their money for holiday shopping and the Royal Rumble.”
On the possibility of Slammy awards and fan polls being rigged:
“Online and TV polls are 100% real. They’re pretty honest with all that stuff. The viewer polls are real, and that glitch or mistake in the accounting system was real. I don’t think it’ll be a problem. The script will just say like “CHRISTIAN vs. [VIEWERS CHOICE]” or something like that. It’s not a big deal. They’ll probably decide on the fly who wins, or already have finishes planned for each of the possible opponents.”
On any ideas he had that were successful:
“My responsibilities were not really to be creative. I was welcome to throw in my 2 cents on discussions and brainstorms, but I didn’t write anything. I was mostly just the creative team’s bitch. However there are two things that made it to TV I can take credit for. When the Slammys were coming up and we were given the task to come up with names for the awards, I’m the one that threw out “Game Changer of the Year” which everybody liked and eventually made it to air.  For the montage for Pipebomb of the Year, an email was sent out asking us to reply with some of our favorite quotes from the past year and a couple of mine got in. The only one I remember is R-Truth saying “THE GRITS ARE GON HIT THE PAN!” 
Also on my last week working there, I suggested combining a Miz vs. Truth and Sheamus vs. Somebody match into one tag team match. Leading to Sheamus teaming up with R-Truth, which to my knowledge had never occurred before or since. Pretty minor things, I know.”
On any of his ideas that he wished were approved:
“Probably turning Swagger or Miz face. Or bringing up Brad Maddox. I pitched an idea for a love triangle between AJ, Zack Ryder and eventually AJ’s “old boyfriend” played by Brad Maddox. This was way before the AJ/Daniel Bryan storyline.”
On his favorite and least favorite memories during his tenure:
“Greatest memory was probably meeting Vince in the elevator, or some of the moments from Survivor Series. Watching the Rock cut his promo live. Standing around backstage with some of the superstars watching the matches on a big TV. Little things like at one point I was given the task to fetch Stephanie her iPad while she was in gorilla and she gave me a smile and a thank you when I handed it to her. 
Least favorite memory is probably several uncomfortable moments being reprimanded by my boss Brian Gewirtz, who is a genius but not much of a people person.”
On working there diminished his fandom:
“No. This was a concern of mine before I started. Like I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it anymore after looking behind the curtain, but it’s been quite the opposite. While I worked there I really enjoyed seeing how things I read in the script would translate to the screen, and how people would react to storylines, and playing dumb on the forum. Now that I’m not there anymore, whenever they’re backstage I look out for people I know or can just imagine how the stories and discussions came up. Or a joke from months ago like Nattie Neidfart will make it on screen and I’ll crack up. It’s fun and gave me a new appreciation for the business.”
On if he has anything left from his time at WWE:
“When I was released they took my ID Badge, Blackberry and laptop so I don’t really have anything from there besides free DVDs and action figures that anyone could have.”