I had the chance to speak to former WWE creative writer Court Bauer about this weekend's huge TripleMania show, as well as his involvement in helping AAA with PPV. In part one of the interview Bauer touches on many subjects, including what company he considers number two in America. You can also see part two of our interview.
Also, don't forget to check out our AAA TripleMania XXIII coverage.
AAA has a really big PPV this week in TripleMania. What do you think motivated them to get back into American PPV after 21 years?
"They're trying to grow the company. It's called AAA Worldwide, and they're trying to take it to a larger space, while keeping it true to an authentic lucha libre organization. This is something they've been considering for a long time, and finally we had a phone call in early July where they said 'what do we need to do?' and I said "really!?" and then the last three weeks have happened. It came together pretty quickly. It's phase one of our efforts to take AAA to the English audience. I think Lucha Underground has shown there's an interest in this, and AAA did huge business in the States in the 90's and abroad. There's even been a TripleMania in Japan, in Chicago, and of course the When Worlds Collide show in 1994 that sold out the LA Arena with Konnan and Perro Aguayo and Rey Mysterio and the whole crew.
"The timing is perfect. In the past 18 months, AAA has acquired Myzteziz, who shattered box office records in 2006 for Arena Mexico. He went to WWE and I think you could say that was a snake bitten run, but he's back and has found a way to rejuvenate his career in AAA. You have Alberto El Patron and Rey Mysterio. In the past 18 months, you could say they've had the biggest free agents available. It sets the table for a really enticing product that I think can cross over. For people who want the big show feel, there's a big entrance, there's big pyro, Paramount Pictures is collaborating with us to have a Mission Impossible themed set. It's going to be a big show. 20,000 people in a state of the art arena."
We need that Triple H & Terminator vs. Rey Mysterio & Tom Cruise superfight.
"I think it's a great idea for a video game. I know Terminator's coming to the WWE video game. He's invading every promotion, from WWE to AAA."
Do you think New Japan's successful entry into the U.S. PPV market motivated AAA at all?
"We live in a time where within a few clicks you have access to things like England's Progress Wrestling to New Japan World, and now AAA that has their weekly show on Youtube. You have all these platforms, and all these places that want content. You combine that with star power, and the demographics of America and the surge of Hispanic-Americans, and it makes a lot of sense to take this on and bring it to a larger audience. I think it's great for the fans. Within a couple of clicks, you can watch the G1 tournament, you can buy TripleMania on PPV. You can have access to cool shows like NXT, and PWG, which is doing incredible things.
"It's a good time to be a wrestling fan because of all these options. We've all seen that scorched earth climate like right after WCW and ECW went under, and there was a lull. There's a lot of great product out there. Some will be great hits, and some will be big misses."
Lucha Underground has had excellent reception. How much of an effect do you think that has on AAA's decision to run PPV in America again?
"A lot of the talent does come from AAA. Fenix, Drago, Alberto. Alberto came into LU as AAA Mega Champion. Naturally, you see this environment where there's a demand for television, and even PPV with WWE changing their business model. So I think there's appeal. There's a lot of buzz about Lucha Underground. Unfortunately, not a lot of people have it right now. They do a great job with the production. It's a unique product with its own rules. The one trope they did bring in was the evil owner, and the guy who plays Dario Cueto is amazing. They shoot him well. He's been the first guy in a long time to be in that role to be entertaining and click. It had almost become a cliché, but he does a really good job. And he's a real actor."
Could you imagine if WWE auditioned 300 people like Lucha Underground, instead of just settling for Johnny Ace or Mike Adamle?
"It's funny, they do bring in outside people. The guy who played Dr. Shelby was an actor. I can tell you their casting process is very quick. There's maybe a local actor that they need in Cincinnati, they're going to see a few guys, pick them, and put them on TV in a few hours. Lucha Underground has time, and I think that's important. Whether you're looking for a guy from the indies or an actor, whether you're in the movies or wrestling—find the right guy. It looks so bad when you put a guy who's a terrible actor in there and we're subjected to him on a weekly basis."
Remember Rusev's lawyer?
"That was a hard one to watch. I remember Al Wilson. He was not going to win an emmy. Wrestling's the only scripted programming probably that if it's really bad for a long stretch of time, people keep watching. I don't know if they're rooting for a comeback, or if they're masochistic. They're waiting it out for that big boom to happen. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but look at things now: New Japan is on AXS, you can watch them on their streaming service, too. Then Lucha Underground and AAA. It's going to get easier as time goes on because you won't be a prisoner to your cable service, you'll be able to get it through your Roku, Xbox, Apple TV. Times are changing, just like when cable came into play and hurt territories, but helped Vince's business in a huge way. I think this emerging tech is going to help wrestling. But who's going to realize the potential first?"
When Lucha Underground first came on, I wasn't sure what to think of the segments, I was indifferent to it. Then I decided to be a little more open minded and really enjoyed how different it is.
"Right. You're conditioned. WWE's format on Raw has been the same for 20 years. Now it's just stretched out an extra hours. How the cut promos, when they go to break, why they go to break, trigger points for angles. If you follow UFC or NFL and how they tell stories or angles, WWE has not evolved. When you see something different, it's probably very jarring, but after a while you can enjoy it. Lucha Underground has its own set of rules, but they follow them. As long as you're consistent with your rules, people can buy in. When you start to get a little goofy with your stories, logic and rules, it's a house of cards."
What do you consider to be the number two promotion in America, all international deals aside?
"Can I count NXT? As far as drawing, they're killing it at the house show business, merchandise, and the Network. They're the hottest ticket outside of the WWE. You get to see all of the internet darlings from coast to coast and beyond in NXT. You see great production values, it's a phenomenal package and it's presented differently from WWE. That would be my technical number 2.
"There's such a drop off when it comes to TNA, and a lot of question marks when it comes to Destination America, that it's hard to get a grip on what they are and where they're going. I understand their TV deal is coming to a close, maybe soon. I haven't heard of any other TV deals, but you're going to want to market that you're going to another station. If you go dark, that's scary because if you start anew, you have no bridge to a new channel, and do you even find a channel? I want to see them find that success that's eluded them, but there's seemingly an expiration date on the product. There's a lot of people making a living off of TNA. You never want to see a company fail.
"ROH is still chugging along with their deal on Destination America, but it seems like DA hasn't really popped their business. DA moving them to 11 o'clock is concerning. At the end of the day, that deal is probably a zero sum gain. It doesn't really hurt their business to lose that. There's going to be a bit of a hangover, but I don't think it will really have a monumental impact on their business either way. I think their core audience will still come out. The biggest threat to ROH is NXT, because they have the internet darlings, superior production infrastructure, superior marketing, and they're aggressive in counter programming ROH. Now they have someone gunning for them, and when you have someone gunning for you, you're distracted. And now Jushin Liger is on NXT in August the same night that NJPW is collaborating with ROH. It gets to be a little bit of a circus, but I think they're going to be able to weather the storm. But there's a huge drop from number one and number two. You can't counter WWE at this point."
You mentioned Myzteziz and his snake-bitten WWE run. Do you think that would have been different if he had the benefit of NXT the way it is today?
"I think he would have benefitted from having more time in their rings. The ropes aren't the same, the ring itself is 20x20, the padding is a little softer than traditional lucha rings. He would have been able to get a better sense of the English language, which would have benefitted him on promos and maybe made him a little more appealing to Vince. They tried to push him, but they also put him in some really weird matches like Money in the Bank where he had freak injuries happen. Sometimes in sports, a guy goes to a new team and it just doesn't click. NXT probably would have helped, but would it have changed the big picture? Who knows?"
Going back to AAA really quick. Has Perro Aguayo Jr's death affected business in Mexico?
"No, it hasn't. It has really impacted Konnan and Rey Mysterio in particular because they were so close with him, along with Perros Del Mall. They have carried a burden to this day. It's a tough thing. I don't know when it gets better. I hope it does for them. Rey was Perro's first match in the business, and tragically his last. Konnan, one of his biggest feuds was with Perro Aguayo, and promised to always take care of Perro Jr. Unfortunately, there's nothing that could be done. It was a freak thing.
"I was with both guys a few days later in San Jose at WaleMania. I told them that people weren't going to be upset if they couldn't do this, people would understand, but they didn't want to let the fans down. We were going to offer refunds. In the end, I think it was good to be around fans, but I know it was a struggle. Konnan couldn't even do the podcast. It really hit him hard, he couldn't do it for 10-11 weeks after, and that's something he loves to do. He just didn't want to talk.
"It hasn't devastated business, but it's devastated these guys. I know it was on the drawing board this year to have Rey Mysterio Jr vs. Perro Aguayo Jr at TripleMania this year. That was going to be a big feud, big money. Perro Aguayo was such a great heel. He knew how to work that crowd and be the right kind of jerk. My biggest regret is that he didn't get to show that much in the States, but he was a king in Mexico. He owned Mexico. Thank God we have Youtube and access to all this great footage. He had a lot of time left. It's been a tough year, Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper, Buddy Landel, Tommy Rogers."
Where can fans follow you on social media? Also tell them about your MLW Podcast, which is great, by the way.
"You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at CourtBauer. Check us out at MLWRadio.com. Jim Cornette, Kevin Sullivan and the Bullet Club all have podcasts. We have a writer's room with a lot of former writers talking shop. We have an eclectic choice of programming. Konnan and I do a show every Sunday, it's a lot of fun."