Yesterday afternoon, I received a call to do some red-carpet interviews at WWE’s “Superstars For Hope” charity event for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. WWE fans know that the company does a lot of work with this outstanding charity. John Cena makes a lot of appearances for Make-A-Wish and as much as I dislike his character, it’s awesome to see how happy he makes children with life-threatening medical conditions. Most of the talent I spoke with put Cena’s charity work over in a major way, which is completely deserved. While I was mostly stuck with scripted questions, I did have some fun off-camera chats with some WWE Superstars and Divas. Here are some random notes and photos from the event.
I’ve interviewed Hunter a few times, with my first interview being at E3 ’98 (I think) when he was European Champion. He’s always been good to chat with, but was usually very serious about his character and the WWE business. This time around I got goofy Hunter — the Triple H from Degeneration-X. While many fans know him for his intense pro-wrestling character or as a serious behind-the-scenes worker, it seems like time and fatherhood has mellowed him out. For example, one of the questions in my script was, “What makes Summer Slam different from other WWE events?” His answer caught me by surprise:
“Well, it’s in August. None of our other pay-per-views are in August. That’s different.”
He did follow up with a more serious answer, equating Summer Slam and WrestleMania to the All-Star Game and World Series, respectively. Still, that deadpan opener made me laugh. It was goofy and I love goofy humor.
This one was a lot of fun for me as a longtime Bryan Danielson fan. He told me a story from his indie days, about sleeping in his car on Wilshire Boulevard in order to save money. He was parked in a restaurant parking lot and the police told him to move. He didn’t want any trouble, so he drove to a residential area and slept in his car’s trunk. Going from that to the main event of Summer Slam has been quite the journey. I’m really thrilled for his success.
That said, it has come at a price. While he’s an amazing wrestler, red-carpet walks and press-conference speeches are relatively new things to him. The jacket-and-tie combo was definitely not his thing. His outfit was put together by his girlfriend, WWE Diva Brie Bella. She was proud of the ensemble she put together. When I asked Danielson if he had to buy all of it or if he had any parts of the outfit already in his closet, he looked at his clothes and said, “Just the cords. I’ve had these cords for a long time.” The cords were, of course, the scraggliest part of the ensemble.
Lastly, we chatted a bit about Austin Aries (the best wrestler in TNA and the greatest man that ever lived). The two worked together for years on the independent circuit. Thanks to going to Aries’ shows, I was exposed to awesome wrestlers that are making it big in the WWE. It was fun watching wrestlers like CM Punk, Claudio Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro), and Danielson perform in bingo halls and high-school gyms. It’s a testament to their talent, hard work, and perseverance that they are where they are today. Hopefully Danielson wins the WWE Championship at Summer Slam and Aries captures the TNA belt soon. That would make the world a better place.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
It’s always awesome seeing a pro-wrestling legend. For many people, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin represents the pinnacle of the WWE. I’ve been watching this guy for a long time, back from when he was “Stunning” Steve Austin. When he was part of the Hollywood Blonds with Brian Pillman and when he feuded with Ricky Steamboat, I always thought, “This guy should be way better. Why isn’t he a star yet?!?” As you know, he went on to become one of the biggest stars in WWE history.
Austin seems happy doing movies and television. With his Hollywood experiences, he was easily the smoothest red-carpet interview of the night and it’s clear that this is his world now. I do wonder if working with Sylvester Stallone has influenced him. I don’t know if Austin has had plastic surgery, but it sure looks like it. His skin appears remarkably taught for a man his age and he has the telltale sign of limited mouth movement. I get that it’s part of Hollywood and everyone does it out here, but it kind of takes away from his completely kick-ass character from the WWE Attitude Era. Can you imagine the guy that beat the crap out of his boss with a bedpan getting Botox and collagen injections? Ha!
Then again, Austin has made it clear that he loved his time in the WWE and has moved onto other things. Oh well, at least his (supposed) plastic surgery makes more sense than Garry Shandling’s.
The Uso brothers are really chill and fun. Hopefully they get to show this side of their personalities in their characters in the future…. Nattie Neidhart is really charming in real life. I dig her sense of humor. I remember laughing at her use of the phrase, “You better settle your tea kettle,” when I interviewed her in 2010…. Funkadactyl Cameron is super-cute in person…. CM Punk is so polished now. He’s gotten so good at these types of interviews — very different from the guy that posed with my Pokemon toys in 2008…. Interviews I was bummed to miss: Mick Foley, Dolph Ziggler, and Brodus Clay…. I love shaking hands with the Big Show. It’s like sticking your hand in a turkey…. Hornswaggle is one helluva gamer. We had a nice chat about PlayStation 4 vs. Xbox One…. Speaking of which, it seems like most of the WWE gamers are going with Xbox One over PS4…. I was sad that Fandango didn’t correct my pronunciation of his name….