Welcome back wrestling fans to another stupendous interview here on KayfabeKickout.com. For this interview I had the pleasure to speak with Bryan Alvarez, Editor of the Figure Four Weekly Newsletter and Co-Host of Wrestling Observer Radio with Dave Meltzer, which can be heard on F4WOnline.com.
Bryan has been involved in the professional wrestling business for nearly two decades, both as a former professional wrestler and as one of the leading authorities in the behind the scenes aspects of pro wrestling.
Bryan's professional wrestling career started in 1998, and he is well known throughout the pacific northwest, wrestling for various promotions in that area.
Bryan is credited in training former TNA & Indy Superstar Jack Evans, and is currently semi-retired from professional wrestling. Shifting his focus from performing in the ring, to covering the world of pro wrestling Bryan stared Figure Four Online in 2005, which he hosts several pod-casts daily, talking pro wrestling and mixed martial arts. In 2008 Figure Four Online merged with The Wrestling Observer Website, which is headed by one of pro wrestling's most well known media figures Dave Meltzer and became F4WOnline - WrestlingObserver.com, one of professional wrestling top wrestling news websites. In 2005 Bryan co-wrote The Death of WCW with RD Reynolds, which was a critically acclaimed story of how and why one of pro wrestling's most successful promotions folded in 2001.
I spoke with Bryan on various aspects of professional wrestling, including the WWE's Wellness Policy, Aces & Eight's in TNA, he shares his thoughts on Vince Russo, the return of Brock Lesnar to the WWE in 2012 and much more!
Richard: For some wrestling fans who may not be familiar with your career in wrestling and as the co-host of F4WOnline.com can you tell us how you got your start in the wrestling business and how you transitioned to radio?
Bryan: I started my own print newsletter back in 1995. At the time, the best source of audio for pro-wrestling updates was 900 number hotlines. After I had built up a bit of a readership I launched one and had some success for awhile. Unfortunately, long story short, in the end it didn't work out, and after I shut down the hotline I faxed (yes, faxed) Dave Meltzer and asked if he wanted someone to work on his hotline. He said yes, and I started doing updates several times per week. Later, when he got hooked up with Eyada for the first Wrestling Observer Live, he had me come on at the start of the show to run down news with him, and ultimately that led to a permanent co-host spot.
Richard: You and I have one thing in common; we are both individuals of a smaller stature. Do you think smaller wrestlers can be just as over with wrestling fans as past and present wrestlers of larger statures such as Hulk Hogan, John Cena and others?
Bryan: It's always going to be easier if you're big, because at the end of the day, superstar wrestlers are larger-than-life characters. Obviously small guys have gotten over in that role, but it's much easier to be larger than life when you're actually physically larger than most people in life.
Richard: Shortly after the word went out about the Chris Benoit Murder – Suicide you shared your thoughts on the WWE’s Wellness Policy in the June 27th, 2007 edition of Figure Four Daily. Have your opinions on the WWE’s Wellness Policy changed since then and do you think the WWE has made any positive progress since the Benoit tragedy?
Bryan: They've made tons of progress. The system isn't perfect, but it's evolved into a pretty effective system, especially when you consider what the policy was pre-Wellness (basically no policy). It's actually better than the UFC policy, given UFC has athletic commission testing on a predetermined day and you have to be pretty stupid to fail, and WWE pays to have an outside agency test their wrestlers at random. Obviously it's not perfect, but no drug-testing program is anywhere, including in the Olympics, and all things considered it's turned out to be fairly effective. Obviously there will always be people able to beat the system, but I think there are less people beating it now than even five years ago.
Richard: The return of Brock Lesnar to the WWE was indeed one of the biggest, if not the biggest pro wrestling moment of 2012, do you think Lesnar can be a good long-term draw for the WWE?
Bryan: If used sparingly and with the right build and opponent, he should be able to draw as a special attraction for at least a few more years.
Richard: In addition to your training as a pro wrestler, you have extensive training in Shudokan Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Do you think that professional wrestling could benefit from cross promotion by various MMA promotions such as the UFC?
Bryan: Depends on what you mean by cross-promotion. WWE is never going to promote UFC PPVs and vice versa. It certainly would be a terrible idea to send WWE wrestlers to fight in the UFC. In the next year or two we'll see how effective sending fighters to pro-wrestling will be since TNA is doing it with King Mo. But it's not the first time TNA has used fighters and its never meant anything for them. I think in the next decade you will see a few fighters go from UFC to WWE. Obviously it worked huge for Brock Lesnar but he was also a former WWE
star returning as well. Time will tell but historically, except for short periods of time where is has been briefly successful, MMA/wrestling crossovers has never been something that has worked big over the long haul.
Richard: The general consensus by most wrestling fans and people in the business about Vince Russo is that he is one of the key players who were responsible for the death of WCW. What are your thoughts on Russo?
Bryan: Maybe not the sole reason, but if you want to understand why wrestling has been in a trough the last twelve years, he's your man. Only now just starting to climb out of it.
Richard: Did you ever envision yourself working for WCW or the WWE (WWF) when your career started in the late 1990’s?
Bryan: I did until I started writing about it and investigating it in 1995. At that point I realized it was the last thing I'd want to do. God know I could be dead by now if I had made it a goal to go to WWF or WCW in the mid-90s.
Richard: Can you tell us how you and Dave Meltzer crossed paths and eventually became co-hosts of F4WOnline.com / WrestlingObserver.com?
Bryan: Basically explained it earlier on. Once we started the radio show we were contacted by a company that wanted us to do a website together. This was around 2000. It was a gigantic, epic, unmitigated failure. At that point, Dave had it set in his mind that he'd never do a website again. In about 2005 my newsletter wasn't doing so well, so I decided to take it online as an email newsletter and save on postage costs. My brother-in-law suggested we do a website instead, and so we did, and it absolutely took off. In 2008, Dave agreed to go back online and merge with our website. It's been a giant success. But there was a three-year period between when I started the site and when he came on board, so I think he was still spooked by what happened in 2000, and once he saw that our site had worked and grown for three years, he realized that this was something that could now work. 2008 was right place, right time. 2000 was wrong place, wrong time.
Richard: I wanted to get your thoughts on the current Aces & Eight’s Storyline in TNA, who do you think is behind the creation of this lacklustre re-creation of the nWo?
Bryan: It's all Eric Bischoff. And it pretty much sucks. It's not over with the fans, the ratings have dropped since they introduced it, they've booked it totally wrong (invaders lose all the time, worst invasion since the WCW/WWE invasion of 2001), and it's hurting what has otherwise been a pretty good TV show of late.
Richard: If you were given 200 million dollars and asked to create a new ECW or WCW, how would you do it and would you do things differently from guys like Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff?
Bryan: I wouldn't do it. I know that sounds like a lame answer, but it's true. I'm very happy with what I'm doing in life and don't want the stress. You asked earlier if I ever had aspirations of going to WWF or WCW. I said no. Well, I did become a wrestler and did wrestle all over the place, but what I never did and never will do is become a
promoter. That's a far worse job than wrestler, far more stressful, and far less fulfilling, at least in my opinion. Unless, I guess, you make yourself the champion.
- Fans can follow Bryan Alvarez on Twitter @bryanalvarez, and on Facebook. Fans can also follow F4WOnline.com on Twitter @WONF4W and on Facebook and the Official Website of F4WOnline.com
I want to personally thank Bryan Alvarez for taking the time to speak with me here on KayfabeKickout.com.