Former Smackdown lead writer Alex Greenfield recently spoke with Raj Giri of about working with WWE, his thoughts on Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, backstage rituals, almost fighting Michael Hayes and more. Here is part one of the interview.

Click here for part two of the interview, where Greenfield talks about WWE exploiting Eddie Guerrero's death, Rey Mysterio being buried during his first run as champion, producing the Trish Stratus - Mickie James feud, pitching ideas involving Randy Savage and much more.

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WrestlingINC: You started with WWE in 2005. What was your background before that?

Greenfield: I moved out to Hollywood right after my wife and I graduated from college with the idea that I'd be walking down red carpets and cashing million dollar checks. [laughs] Screen writer dream. I worked in the basic Hollywood jobs. I worked as an assistant. I'd even gotten a job as a junior manager. Then, I ended up getting some gigs in advertisement, doing a lot of ad copy for on-air promotions for MSNBC and CNBC. Did that for a while and then, finally, booked my first gig as a screen writer for a low budget horror movie. I did a couple of those.

The night after WrestleMania 21, WWE ran a show at the Staples Center and I went. It was the first time I'd been to a live wrestling event in years. I was like, "Oh, this is awesome." I was checking it out on the internet the next day -- and this is the lamest, "I got hired by WWE" story I've ever heard -- WWE had an ad on the internet looking for creative writers and I sent them my resume. It really was just an online job ad. But, I'd been a wrestling fans since I was 11-years-old and I was like, "Oh, that'd be a super-awesome gig," and it ended up becoming the next two years of my life.

WrestlingINC: Did being a wrestling fan hurt your chances at all?

Greenfield: I don't think so. One thing people got to understand is that the mandate for what they're looking for in terms of writers changes from time to time. For me, I wasn't what you would decisively call the "smart mark." I didn't read the dirt sheets before I found out I'd gotten hired and then I sort of started digging deeper. I didn't know anything about the language of kayfabe. I just enjoyed wrestling purely as a fan. Purely with the forward-facing story lines. Yet, I had a background in entertainment. So, I was a ground-level fan who'd done some creative writing in produced stock and that seemed to be just the ideal mix for what they were looking for at that point.

I got hired around the same stage as a few people from Hollywood who sort of came and went during my time there then continued to come in after. I just feel like, for whatever reason, I was what the flavor of the week was the week that they hired me. [laughs] I got pretty lucky.

WrestlingINC: Walk us through your first day. What was that like?

Greenfield: It was thoroughly bizarre. Skipping past the interview, the first day I show up for work in Stamford -- because I came up to interview with Stephanie (McMahon) and their human resource department before that and had a little bit of experience. I knew where the building was. They fly me out there and they put me up in a hotel for my first month in the company. So, I'm literally staying at this f--king Holiday Inn. They hadn't gotten me a rental car when I got there. So, literally, my first day of work at WWE, I come walking out of the doors of my hotel at 8:30 in the morning to find a gorgeous Lincoln Town Car -- the guy came out and opened the back door for me.

Just the most surreal experience I'd ever had. 'Cause my first day at WWE, I went in a limo. [I found out] how to build heat immediately. [laughs] Of course, everybody goes through that, but I just felt completely self-conscious at the time.

I show up at the building. The first thing I do is go to human resources because they give you this ID because there are security passes at every door and all of that. I get my picture taken. I finally get up to the writer's room and nobody is f--king there. Not a soul. Nobody was in Steph's office. So, I'm just sort of wandering the floor at WWE headquarters completely lost when I walk into the writer's room where the only dude who's in there is another writer who has on headphones and he's watching a match is a guy named Rudy Fischmann. He looks over at me and, literally, the first words out of his mouth are, "Dude, they must not have told you. You're not supposed to wear jeans."

Here's the thing; I show up in what is sort of the Hollywood writer's uniform. Nice jeans, flip-flops and a dress shirt. You had business-casual at WWE and coming out of Hollywood, business-casual was the most insane thing I'd ever heard of. I don't think I own any khakis. What are you talking about? But that was my first day at WWE and then as the morning wore on, I ended up meeting everyone. It was the day of the Raw meeting which I sat in on even though I was a Smackdown guy. But it was sort of overwhelming.

Fortunately, I had been talking to Court Bauer. He had been hired a couple of weeks before me and he had been very kind. Showing me talents from development I had never heard of -- because I was a very casual fans. Telling me what the dirt sheets and why to read them and he was a big help. But, boy, until the first couple of days on the road, it's such a whirl-wind that it's almost hard to remember because you're meeting all these people from the team. [Guys] like Ted DiBiase and Michael Hayes, who I had been fans of growing up and here they are as individuals and colleagues. Meeting Vince for the first time. It was a real whirl-wind.

WrestlingINC: What was it like when you met Vince for the first time? Someone that is so larger-than-life.

Greenfield: I made the very conscious decision of -- look, on the inside, I was clearly star-struck by a few of the people I met. When I first met (Ric) Flair, inside my head -- I grew up in Atlanta going to the Omni (Theater) and watching Flair in his prime with his Four Horseman days. When he was the champion in his NWA days. So, when I first met him, inside, I'm like a 12-year-old kid. Outside, I'm a professional and I'm, "Hey, I'm a professional. I'm working with you. You've got to do this promo." You know? I can't act like a total tool bag marking out. Honestly, that's kind of like what it was with Vince.

The first time I met him, he went up there and Stephanie (McMahon) sort of gave me the high-sign to sort of stand up, introduce myself, shake his hand and all that. I'm like, "Hey there, Vince. How you doin'? Thanks for having me aboard." Never even f--king made eye contact with me. He was like, "Yup. Nice. See ya. Goddamn it. Brian, where are we?" [laughs] Completely ignored me.

I don't think he knew I was there until I spoke up in an agent's meeting right after the Great American Bash. He was like, "Who's this guy and why is he in my room?"

WrestlingINC: Were you able to contribute right away? It seems like there are a lot of unspoken rules that you have to learn when you're a writer with WWE. You can't talk about doing anything physical, etc.

Greenfield: Oh, God. Man. Look, you guys write about careers literally being crippled by this. Shaking everyone's hand every night when you see them even when it's a successive four nights in a row. It felt so awkward because it's like, "Why am I meeting everyone the first time every time I'm meeting them?" I didn't know about the history of the hand shake and the sort of trust it gets and all of that. But there were all of these accoutrements of these sort of 19th century, carnival rules that -- especially coming out of entertainment -- I sort of recoiled against.

[Then] when it comes to, "Don't pitch Vince things for the first few months. Let him get used to you." I came pretty strong at them on the creative side from a pretty early point. I think that's one of the reasons I advanced kind of quickly. It was a sort of big confluence of events but I feel like I earned -- especially -- Stephanie's trust very quickly. So, I was actually backstage writing and producing backstage talent in backstage vignettes from my second week in the company on.

WrestlingINC: You became the head writer of the Smackdown! writing team pretty quickly.

Greenfield: Yeah. Just in a little bit less than a year. The flip-side of that is I got so frustrated with the process after I was promoted. I was only the head writer for 19 weeks. It was not a long run at the top before I gave my notice. [laughs]

WrestlingINC: So, what was the experience of being the head writer?

Greenfield: Abso-f--king-lutely miserable. [laughs]

WrestlingINC: That's pretty much all we hear from anyone in creative about their experiences.

Greenfield: Yeah. I had a lot more fun working with Court and Dusty (Rhodes) and our team, under Dave Lagana when I wasn't running the thing. Because there's no buffer between you and Vince at that point. At the end of the day, it's his money and he can do whatever he wants with the show. But, Court and others will tell you, I was literally in screaming fights with Vince every day we were back at the office. About half the time when we were at TVs.

My wife and I were on our honeymoon and I called and gave my notice the day we got back. That one, 10-day taste of freedom was, "Oh. This is what my life would be like if I wasn't fighting with a megalomaniacal billionaire every day."

WrestlingINC: At that time, we had heard you were leaving for projects you had started earlier in Hollywood.

Greenfield: You could sort of say that. That was sort of over-blown when a few of the dirt sheets wrote it. The reality is that I set up a project with a company called RHI Entertainment while I was at WWE. But, it was always clear that I could take outside projects provided WWE was my first priority. So, I was doing that project anyway and it's great that I had money coming in at the point when I quit WWE. But one thing didn't have anything to do with the other. It was about sanity and freedom. [laughs]

Lord knows, I was making really good money at WWE. So, there were never any complaints there. So, that never had anything to do with it.

WrestlingINC: I know Michael Hayes was on your team and a lot of guys butt heads with him. How was working with him?

Greenfield: Michael and I almost got into a fist fight one day. It was hilarious. Dusty Rhodes and Court Bauer had to pull us apart. [laughs] It was absurd. The thing is that I actually liked working with Michael 80% of the time. As much of a bad rap as he gets, it's every bit as much my fault because I'm sort of opinionated and not particularly respectful of the traditional side of things. But, we butted heads almost literally. [laughs] To be fair, just to correct you a little bit, he was on the Raw team and I was on Smackdown! so it was limited to sort of cross-over stuff and in more general discussion. We never worked directly together. He was actually my replacement when I quit.

I wouldn't say there's any heat but we can both be pretty difficult guys to work with. [laughs]

WrestlingINC: What happened the time you guys almost butted heads?

Greenfield: Dude. It's the worst story in the world because it has nothing to do with an angle or story or whatever.

Court Bauer and his wife had just had their first baby and he was just on his first or second week on the road, back with us. We got done with a Smackdown taping and the group of writers was so big that you couldn't fit everybody on to the corporate plane. Some people had to stay over night and take the commercial flight the next morning. Chris DeJoseph, who was the assistant on Raw was asked if he would be willing to stay and let Court fly back so he could get back to his family sooner and DJ said, 'Sure.' Off we flew and all of that.

I get into work the next morning and Team Raw is infuriated with me because. I guess, they had a meeting and they were just horribly pissed off that I had taken their writer's assistant off the plane in exchange for Court. This all escalates until I basically tell Michael Hayes, 'God, I can't wait until I'm f--king out of here.' I storm out of the Raw office and he follows me and starts yelling at me in the Smackdown! office. I jump up in his face and we're just jawing in each others face with Dusty and Court pulling us apart.

Of course, let's not forget that Michael Hayes would have just absolutely beaten my ass. Let's make no mistake about that but it was a huge fight about absolutely nothing. That's what most of the biggest conflicts at WWE come from. Vince loves the culture of competition and to instill that culture, he really encourages pissing contests throughout all of his minions. To me, it's really counter-productive to a working environment. But, apparently it works because the guy's a billionaire. [laughs]

WrestlingINC: It does seem like the product has been on a decline for some time and a lot of that can be blamed on how things work over there.

Greenfield: Obviously, I'm not involved in any way and I don't have the inside track on the day-to-day creative process is these days. Time and again over the last few years -- the Nexus run, C.M. Punk dropping that nuclear bomb of a promo and the immediate few weeks after that. Those really felt like they could be some revolutionary moments and I swear to God, I could feel Vince cutting the cord and taking it in a wrong direction because he gets freaked out by the feeling of change. Maybe, I don't know.

This was true then and just watching the product as a fan, now, it seems even more the case. I think he's calcified in his thinking and I just don't think he's got the same creative sense of daring and sense of play that it felt like he had even in my time. Or obviously during the years of the Monday night wars. As you mentioned with the C.M. Punk thing. It seems like they were really onto something there and now he's just booked like any other top baby face.

Greenfield: Yeah. I don't know, maybe you didn't share the same feeling, but I, and most of my friends, felt it made new wrestling fans from that period of Money In The Bank through SummerSlam. It really felt like it was capturing the culture in a way that it hasn't in a very long time. Then, (Kevin) Nash and wondering if he's teaming with Triple H -- it just seemed like bizarre decisions almost undercut what they had the possibility of by design.

WrestlingINC: It was bizarre. Just watching as a fan, after watching wrestling for a long time, I kind of assumed that they were going to drop the ball but I was hoping that they'd follow through. It definitely felt like it was bringing back a lot of fans that are no longer in to the product or watch it very casually. It seemed like the first interesting thing to happen in a while. After Triple H beat Punk, he's been booked as any other babyface that everyone else has been. What do you think the main reasons are for that? Do you think it's just Vince changing his mind all the time?

Greenfield: Oh, that's apart of it. I think one of the reasons Vince came down so hard on me and we fought all the time was because on some level he's amused by that. He likes people fighting him. On the flipside, he does a pretty good job of breaking writers and making them more concerned with telling Vince what Vince already has in his mind and what he wants to hear rather then their most engaging and creative ideas. So, it sort of becomes this self-perpetuating echo-chamber more concerned with Vince's sense of humor and various capricious ideas. Presenting the best possible product to the audience is not the primary concern. It's making sure that the emperor who's wearing no clothes is happy.

That's not a good process to be in. When the emperor's taste are exactly what the people's tastes are then that's great. When they're not and [the writers] are concerned with whatever crazy thing [Vince is] concerned with, then it doesn't help the audience at all.

WrestlingINC: What was it like working with Stephanie McMahon?

Greenfield: If you read various interviews with writers from my generation, I'm sort of the solo oasis, here. I really dug working with Steph. I thought she was creative as hell and funny. I've said for a really long time that I think she has better creative instincts than Vince. I know for sure that she has better creative instincts than her husband (Triple H). For a long time, I've been a person who says that the day Stephanie takes over -- if that's what happens -- everyone's in for a real treat. Especially after she immediately fires Kevin Dunn about two seconds after she takes over. [laughs]

When people like Court or Andrew Goldstein do interviews where they talk about all of the terrible stuff Steph did, they're not wrong. I think that everything I'm saying is absolutely true but nothing they're saying is wrong. I think that one of the things about Steph is working with her gives each individuals who's working with her a very unique experience. I have nothing but good things to say. I thought she was fantastic to work with, but a lot of people disagree with that. [laughs] They're not wrong in anything they say.

WrestlingINC: What are your thoughts on Triple H?

Greenfield: I did not get a lot with Hunter too well. Look, he's a guy who is very sure of himself because -- to some degree -- he's earned that. He's the -- whatever he calls himself now -- the 29 time world champion and he's certainly built himself a legacy that is not spoken of by his actual level of talent from my perspective as a fan. What are you going to say?

But, I found him backstage to be manipulative and self-serving. Not a great joy and pleasure to work with in any respect. [laughs]

WrestlingINC: When the time does comes for Triple H and Stephanie to take over from Vince, will that be a good thing or a bad thing?

Greenfield: It's tough to say. This is a reality of being on the outside. Certainly it's portrayed publicly that Triple H is going to be 'the guy'. I think that would be terrible for the company. If the reality is that Steph is going to be in the position that Vince is in now, I think it'll be a great thing.

This is something, I think, people should understand. [This] happened at least when I was there at the company; she's perfectly capable of disagreeing with and vetoing Hunter. At least that was the case at that point. It's sort of a common meme or whatever that they're in lock-step and speak with one voice. At least in my time with the company, that certainly wasn't the case. They both had their own ideas and Stephanie's were usually about a bagillion times better. [laughs]

Click here for part two of the interview, where Greenfield talks about WWE exploiting Eddie Guerrero's death, Rey Mysterio being buried during his first run as champion, producing the Trish Stratus - Mickie James feud, pitching ideas involving Randy Savage and much more.

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