Former Smackdown lead writer Alex Greenfield recently spoke with Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com about working with WWE, his thoughts on 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 more. Here is part two of the interview.
Click here for part one, where Greenfield talks about how he got the job with WWE, his thoughts on Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, backstage rituals, almost getting into a fist-fight with Michael Hayes and much more.
Twitter users, please spread word of the interview by following us at twitter.com/WrestlingInc and re-tweeting this post by clicking the "Tweet" button below:
Facebook users, please spread word of the interview by clicking the "Recommend" button below:
WrestlingINC: You started out in the early summer of 2005. One thing that really disgusted me that happened later that year was after Eddie Guerrero passed away and when the company was exploiting his death. What were the thoughts on the creative team being told to come up with ideas for using his death?
Greenfield: It was awkward, and this is true universally for the writing team. Every single week on both shows, we were, like, 'Isn't this too much? Come on. Isn't this too much?' Vince's reaction was, 'God damn. Eddie would want this. This is what we're doing and this is where we're going with it.' Every single time -- from Rey (Mysterio) dedicating his victory at the Royal Rumble and competing at WrestleMania, the Randy (Orton) promo, running him down for No Way Out -- all of those things are things that Vince said Eddie would want. He truly believes this. I don't think it was just for business because he certainly heard from all of us 'isn't this too much' a lot.
WrestlingINC: What finally made him stop?
Greenfield: Time, I guess? I think after Rey won the title? No, because we kept the program going with the Chavo (Guerrero)/Rey stuff after that. In my time there, he didn't stop I guess. [laughs] That's the best way to say it. By the time I left, right before the beginning of 2007, I guess we were still using it.
WrestlingINC: That was another weird thing. With Rey winning the title, he was jobbing every week.
Greenfield: It was awful. [laughs] My biggest regret from my time writing and my time as head writer is the way we treated Rey. Vince had this image in his head of Rey being a very much, underneath guy. 'Gosh, I'm so lucky to be champion' guy. He decided that and we -- and I -- tried to do my best to give Vince what he wanted but try to keep it on Rey and I wish I had worked harder on it.
I knew at the time that this wasn't going to work. You can't make a champion out of a guy that thinks he's won the lotto and that made Rey so weak. Don't get me wrong. I loved working with King Booker and working on that angle. I thought it was fantastic. We just wanted to do that much later in the year at, like, Survivor Series and it felt rushed. It felt like it didn't do a good service to Rey and it's one of the few things I worked on there -- even some of the pretty bad things -- that I regret not working harder on and fighting for Rey to get a better run.
WrestlingINC: You also produced the Trish Stratus/Mickie James segments, correct?
Greenfield: Yes, I did. That's the flip-side of this. Of all the stuff I contributed to, it's one of the things I'm -- by far -- the most proud of there. They're both extraordinarily talented women. Brian (Gewirtz), who co-wrote a lot of those sequences with me, was on top of his game. We did some stuff that still lives on my demo reel. The 'Temple To Trish' deal with Mickie in her locker room had been all done up as a temple to Trish Stratus. It's still one of my favorite things.
WrestlingINC: I almost feel like that was the last memorable divas feud. It was really well done from all aspects. From the writing to their matches. It was really memorable.
Greenfield: ... I think the 'Pinup Strong' thing that Beth (Phoenix) and Natalya were doing was so freaking good, and then they split them up and do the stupid fart thing. But I really felt like there was something there and that you could turn either one of them and have another great program. But, you know, that didn't happen. I believe that whether it's knockouts or divas -- or Shimmers especially -- women's wrestling can draw. What we did with the Mickie and Trish program absolutely proves that.
We were getting show opener's and mid-point cross over segments. We were doing great in the ratings. We were drawing money throughout that program. You'd think the lesson would be -- here, we can tie this in to a Triple H thing. You would think that the lesson would be, 'Oh, women can draw. Let's keep the women's division strong. We can continue to draw.' Or, you can take the approach of one of the things that Hunter said, which was, 'Giving them all this time; doesn't that take away from the men?'
You're just like, 'You douche. You are a part of the same company. It's your own business, for crying out loud!'
WrestlingINC: Why do you think they aren't pushing the divas? Is it that mentality or do you think Vince just hasn't found someone that connects like Trish Stratus did? It doesn't seem like people are given a chance.
Greenfield: Well, I mean, therein lays the problem. Vince doesn't think anybody can be Trish and Lita right now. I'm not saying that's the case, I have no idea. Therefore, he de-elevates the division so that it's nothing but eye-candy. Then he says, 'God damn. Why don't I have a Trish? I can't push anything until I have one of them.'
You've got to let them build. Beth and Natalya and Kharma, when she gets back, and I even think Tamina and AJ and a few of the other women could really be strong workers. And for God's sake, I'm begging him to watch a Shimmer show to show (him) how some awesome story telling can lead to some really good matches that audiences are completely into. Or just go back and watch the Mickie/Trish angle.
They could be doing so much more with that division and it's incredibly frustrating as a fan of women's wrestling to see how they just drop the ball again and again and again.
WrestlingINC: Yeah. It just seems like the booking for the women's division has been the same for the last several years. The same women are just tag teaming week in and week out. No real storyline and it doesn't really go anywhere. I agree about Pinup Strong. I thought that could go somewhere. It seems like as soon as they came up with the name for their group, one of them was losing every week.
Greenfield: I can't figure it out for the life of me. There were like three weeks there where they were basically just killing the so-called pretty girl divas. It felt like this was going to take off. It'd get really good audience reactions and you'd start seeing signs. Then, they turned Natalya into a farting jobber for no readily apparent reason.
Then, Beth wasn't on TV for three or four weeks in favor of the Eve story, which is going to continue until WrestleMania for God knows why.
WrestlingINC: It can be kind of frustrating. What were some of your other favorite angles that you worked on while you were there?
Greenfield: I really loved doing Palmer Cannon and the new talent initiative when we changed networks (to UPN). Palmer Cannon was this network executive who came in. It really was Brian (Mailhot) and he was really fun to work with. The network had decided that it had control of the show and it was going to make Teddy (Long) go through the show and do a new talent initiative.
We brought in The Boogeyman and all of these Mexican minis. It was absolute chaos and super-duper fun and ended much too soon, I say. It was really the two or three segments a week that were related to that. We had this outside character that could order anything -- we could just do the craziest s--t for no reason whatsoever. It was fantastic.
WrestlingINC: When Smackdown started, it seemed like there was a real concerted effort to keep the brands equal in terms of star power and with big segments. Then, around the time that Brock Lesnar left, it seemed like they made a deliberate push to make Smackdown the B brand.
Greenfield: If you were to ask Vince or Steph right now, they would probably give you the same answer they gave us at the time. Both Dave Lagana and I at times when they raided us for talent, would say, 'We're always going to be the B show if you treat us like the farm team. Don't you want us to pull more eye balls?' And I think, to some degree, that's not the case.
I think they do, for whatever weird reason -- several times back when I was there, Smackdown drew bigger audiences. Bigger live audiences than Raw drew. Almost immediately when that happens, all of a sudden, talent gets raided and it really does feel like you're working for the triple A team for Raw. You build a guy, you get him over and then he goes to Raw.
WrestlingINC: It makes no sense. Because of that, they couldn't do the separate brand pay-per-views anymore. The adverse effects of doing that...
Greenfield: I don't think there should be two brands and what I recommended when I was there -- and I caught a wrath of s--t for this -- I recommended that Kevin Dunn not be the executive producer of Smackdown and get one of our directors to do it. This way it would really feel like a different show and you don't have guys popping up on each others show without it really mattering.
It seems like such a simple thing to me but they've never quite gotten how to have two brands right. They get nervous if their rating drops half a point for Raw and then half the guys from Smackdown have to come on (to Raw).
WrestlingINC: Does it seem odd to you to still have two world champions and an Intercontinental and a U.S. champion? There not really separate brands anymore. They have guys showing up on Smackdown for no real reason.
Greenfield: Why was Chris Jericho there on Friday? I enjoyed that match a lot. I don't understand why he was there.
WrestlingINC: Right. It just doesn't seem like it's worth trying to put on this face of still trying to do a brand extension.
Greenfield: I believe it has to do with the house show financial model that allows you to have Smackdown-branded shows and Raw-branded shows simultaneously in different cities. We argued for unification of the championships when I was there and I would assume that every generation with some new kid that isn't aware of the situation would say the obvious. 'Why do we have two championships? Doesn't that minimize both?' And I'm sure Vince says, 'No, God damn it. Two brands. Two champions.'
WrestlingINC: Even with new fans watching, it can be confusing trying to explain that to them. Especially with both champions appearing on the same show.
Greenfield: Look, I can watch Daniel Bryan and C.M. Punk go for many more matches. I want an Iron Man match, damn it. Yeah, but two world champions facing each other three weeks in a row seems to be throwing away good money.
WrestlingINC: It just shows were titles are at nowadays. Because that would have been a pay-per-view main event ten years ago.
Greenfield: Were it me -- and we're just totally in the fantasy booking phase. In the period where there was Mark Henry and C.M. Punk as champions -- and I'm not taking anything away from Daniel Bryan -- it really felt like a real parody of championships. Mark had such a dominating run and we were so behind Punk. Think just in terms of alternative booking. I could totally imagine a scenario where they could have been doing a unification match at WrestleMania. Or, wait until SummerSlam.
I think that's a match that would have drawn but it would have to be booked right. with two, dominant, good champions. [laughs] That would have been awesome.
WrestlingINC: Now, Mark Henry's back to losing all the time.
Greenfield: Yeah, it really bugs me. I kind of have the feeling that I suspect Punk will retain at WrestleMania and I would not be at all surprised if Mark Henry would be a long-term presence. Because they did a little taste of the match back in November. You could see in terms of the big-man-little-man dynamic, they could do just an awesome man vs. monster match. So, I'm hoping they're going to rebuild Henry and get him there.
WrestlingINC: I think one of the problems that we hear about a lot from readers on the site is that they'll start getting behind somebody like Mark Henry or so many other guys that have been pushed in the past and then the wrestler's legs are pulled out from under him. It makes it hard to believe when someone's given a push it seems like it's almost always taken away right away.
Greenfield: From what I understand, Mark got hurt so they needed to take the title off of him because he needed time to recover. Then let him go and take time to recover. Don't have him going out every week and being beaten to get guys over.
Mark had just gotten over as the unstoppable monster as it was. He got through the program with Orton and then he got hurt. You could have easily got him out and had him come back like a house of fire at WrestleMania. You could have done any number of things. But, no. You had to go completely tear the guy down and now -- if you are rebuilding him -- you're starting from a much lower place then if he just lost the title to Daniel Bryan, disappeared for three months and now he's back and killing people.
I just think they've done a terrible disservice to a guy who drew almost half a million new viewers to Smackdown! during a traditionally down period in the fall.
WrestlingINC: It was interesting seeing how much ratings jumped he was champion.
Greenfield: Yeah. In a very demonstrative, measurable way. There was nothing else going on.
WrestlingINC: Were you ever told not to pitch ideas in regards to Randy Savage?
Greenfield: I actually did (pitch Randy Savage ideas). I was never told [not to do that] in so many words. I had no clue. I've heard all the same stories, none of which I will repeat. I have no clue and I know there are a ton of mutually exclusive stories which makes me think. Urban legend. But, when we were talking about Hall of Fame for WrestleMania 22, we were all asked to write lists and I absolutely put Savage on that list.
Nobody said anything about it but it was surely made plain, 'No.' It was just a flat no. Then, I can't remember who it was, maybe it was Hayes. He said, 'Yeah. Next year, don't do that.'
WrestlingINC: When you became head writer for Smackdown, you said that you didn't last that long because you basically wanted out.
Greenfield: Yeah. At the end of the day, for me, it came down to a life's-too-short kind of deal. I was fighting with Vince over creative every single day. We would literally be having arguments on the phone at two in the morning. Went away on my honeymoon. Had a great, great time with my wife, breathing in fresh air and not stressing about work.
I mean, thinking about it now, I had another gig at the time. Would I have quit if I didn't have another gig? That's a funny question because I can't really honestly answer it. It was just time for me to go. I just got to saying life's too short to just feel stressed every single day.
WrestlingINC: We had heard at the time that the McMahon's weren't happy with you leaving. Is that accurate?
Greenfield: They're pretty used to the ones that say "future endeavored'. To their credit, they would have loved to have changed my mind but my mind was pretty well made up. My best two weeks working with Vince were my last two weeks after I'd given notice. [laughs]
Then he was showing me what life would be like if I stayed, still wanting me to change my mind. He approved everything. He thought everything I was writing was golden. Granted, everything had changed by the pay-per-view, No Mercy. What are you going to do?
WrestlingINC: So, what have you been doing since leaving WWE?
Greenfield: I've wrote that movie for SpikeTV; Street Warrior. I've written a bunch of TV movies. I did a mini-series for NBC called Meteor. A movie for the Hallmark channel called Jack's Family Adventure. I've sort of been all over the place.
More recently, I did a movie for Amazon Studios, for Amazon.com's new movie division that they funded. My writing partner and I have a new script that we're in pre-production on. A little independent horror movie that I think people are going to pretty much dig. And, I Tweet about wrestling a lot. [laughs] @AlexDGreenfield.
WrestlingINC: I've noticed that. It's interesting because most of the former creative writers want nothing to do with the product anymore but it seems like you stay on top of it.
Greenfield: I'm a huge wrestling fan, man. It's funny because I wasn't for about two years after I left the company because I was so burned out on it. But, starting with the Nexus thing, I started to get more and more into it. I've been, more or less, a weekly viewer since Punk did the amazing promo over the summer. It's hit or miss, but the Twitter experience itself -- just exchanging witty barbs about the product with other fans is pretty fun.
WrestlingINC: I agree. Being on Twitter, just communicating during the show makes it a lot of fun.
Greenfield: It's like there's a whole second layer to the experience. So, it's kind of cool.
WrestlingINC: Awesome. So, anything you'd like to plug.
Greenfield: Not really. Unless you know anyone at Warner Bros. where I'm pitching a product, I got nothing for you. [laughs]
WrestlingINC: [laughs] Thanks a lot, Alex. I really appreciate it.
Greenfield: Not a problem, Raj. It was fun.
Click here for part one of our interview with Greenfield, where Greenfield talks about how he got the job with WWE, his thoughts on Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, backstage rituals, almost getting into a fist-fight with Michael Hayes and much more.