I had the chance to speak with MLW Radio host and former WWE creative writer Court Bauer this week about several topics, including TNA illegally contacting talents and their front office issues, WWE's original plans for the ECW revival, Ronda Rousey, and much more. Also, don't forget to read part one of our interview.
Also be sure to check out our full AAA TripleMania XXIII coverage.
You'd mentioned in an interview with us before that TNA illegally contacted ROH talents, and now the same thing has happened with a Lucha Underground talent in Hernandez. Why does this keep happening?
"TNA has made some very bad judgment calls for who they've hired on their executive team. They've had access to Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, and they've elected to go with people who are underqualified for the positions with significant responsibilities. John Gaburick never sat in on talent relations in any capacity. He was never in the department, never on the booking team, never sat in on a creative meeting or suggested a finish. He was kind of a second unit guy who would kind of coordinate the logistics the audio and camera guys and the ringleader of that stuff. Yet, he was able to convince TNA he had done that and he was qualified to lead those responsibilities as the head of talent relations and the head of their creative department, and the results speak for themselves.
"MVP is not to blame for the Hernandez situation. It's standard protocol any time you have a fresh talent off a run, that you ask for his termination letter, or you get to look at some sort of agreement so you know it's okay to talk to this talent. WWE has been doing this for decades. Every company I've been affiliated with has. Show me some kind of proof that I can talk to you and give me the green light and commence with cutting a deal. That process apparently did not occur. That's the responsibility of talent relations, as you can see they've had a lot of guys frustrated with their dealings with TNA.
"Samoa Joe should have been their guy, and they failed him creatively, they failed to retain him, and I understand a lot of losing him falls on John Gaburick. I know a lot more than I can really talk about on that, but a good talent relations guy can manage personalities, and get what the company needs and desires, retain talent, keep them happy. You're managing a lot of ego, talent, dealing with payroll. It's a very high pressure job.
" You look at Paul Heyman and Jim Ross, why wouldn't you go after those guys? Paul Heyman was available, Jim Ross is now. Jim Ross took WWE from the brink of bankruptcy to aggressively pursuing talent like Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Brock Lesnar and boomeranged that company back. Before Jim Ross, the roster was pretty sluggish, and the work ethic wasn't there. When Jim Ross changed, the locker room changed, it picked up. WCW was considered cutting edge, they had a lot of hands. Jim Ross changed that culture. JR would have done a great job handling TNA and was apparently open to it because he met with them at one time. I think it's everyone's loss, not just TNA's loss. Maybe they went with someone more affordable, and you get what you pay for."
Now there are weird things like Bram getting re-signed to three multi-year deals in a year.
"(laughs) Remember what I said about continuity."
It's hard to bury your head in the sand and pretend it's a coincidence that ten talents leave due to release, walking out, contracts expiring, cost-cutting or legal reasons. It creates a stain on the brand, and a lot of jaded people now.
" With a few changes, TNA would've, could've and still should be something so special. A lot of wrestling starts with leadership and it trickles down. If you don't have good leadership, the odds are against you. Wrestling is hard as it is. You want to have the most qualified people to give you that success. They've made a lot of decisions that have hindered them, but they still have a really passionate fan base. These fans get ridiculed for still watching, but they're so god damn loyal, and I feel so bad for them. They deserve more, they deserve better. I know you see it, they get nailed online. They want to believe, but TNA's not giving them much, or their own talents much."
Speaking of being jaded, it seems like a lot of people end up being that way after working with WWE. Was that the case for you?
"I think the best way to describe my frame of mind on wrestling was that my appetite was full, and I needed to try something else for a little bit. Until 2011, I had no involvement in wrestling. I just focused on non-wrestling ventures and entertainment. I think it was healthy to do that. At the time I was in my mid-to-late 20's, so that was a good time to diversify. It was doing the MLW podcast I do with Konnan that I found that mojo back and got excited, and got my appetite back for wrestling. I wasn't even looking to do a podcast, it was just something that happened and now we're at almost 200 episodes. I just think I needed to try something else.
"Things like UFC were blowing up and on fire. I've been doing jiujitsu since 2004, so I got time for rolling and training after WWE, because when you're there you don't have time for things like that. UFC was a nice bridge to something else, and that quenched my appetite. I still love UFC and MMA. I don't subscribe to the idea you only like one. I miss the crazy, really wrestling-centric days of PRIDE where you'd see the atomic butt drop from Mark Hunt, the amazing entrances and spectacle that nobody has replicated. Bellator is trying to conjure it, but it's not quite there."
"It's fun to see someone like Ronda Rousey. Going into her last fight, it sounded like the most quiet push, then the day of, everyone was in a frenzy. Then the deal for her movie, it's huge. She's really transcended. It used to be just dudes who watched UFC, then it was a date thing, now I think women are really down with her and her journey. It's all empowering. When she did the ESPN Body Issue, she didn't starve herself. She's sending the message that you don't have to be an anemic skeleton to be sexy. I think she's going to continue to impress us and will continue breaking down barriers. Remember when Dana White said there would never be women in the UFC?"
Oh yeah, definitely. It was just a few years ago.
"(laughs) It seems like a decade ago, right? Now it's like where would they be without a Ronda Rousey in the company? They'd be screwed. She's been a godsend for that company. She's broken through barriers her entire life. It's one of the great stories in sports."
It seems like Rousey has maybe motivated the WWE to pay a little more attention to their women's divison.
"I wish that when they introduced the amazing crop of women they have down in Orlando, they showcased them one by one, but they just kind of sloppily lumped them together. Instead of 'let's send one down and get her story over, let's make her kick ass, now here comes another one.' In spite of that lazy booking, I think they've done a good job of being effective. I think they're going to change the perception of the Divas division. Hopefully when they're done, they re-brand it the women's division, or something more appropriate. The divas divison seems dated, like a holdover from another era. Culturally, it seems like we should be in a different place. I'm sure Stephanie would agree, but you have Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn who love that term."
I don't think they realize how some of these terms seem. I know they want their talents to seem larger than life by calling them 'divas' and 'superstars,' but sometimes it makes them unrelatable. A friend who doesn't watch wrestling said to me that if someone came up and told them and said "I'm a diva/superstar," she'd say "No, you're a douchebag."
"(laughs) Could you imagine?"
You were around in 2006 when WWE was relaunching ECW. Was the plan always to put a WWE spin on it, or were they going to stay true to the ECW brand?
"A little bit of both. It was kind of going to be NXT in a way. They were going to run some of the smaller markets that WWE was too big to justify doing, with a little more of a grassroots approach. It'd have a smaller payroll and staff. You'd mix in a lot of young talent with some veterans, and try to take that ECW fanbase to something more commercial. At the end of the day, they probably had philosophical conflicts between Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman.
"The problem I saw from day one was that they started this venture, but didn't have a business plan. You're launching this thing, but you don't have a compass and don't know what you're charting. It jumped out of the gates and didn't have a finalized blueprint. It became problematic, but there may have been issues no matter what. Vince wanted a certain type of product. At the same time, what made ECW cool is that it was sexy and low-fi, and now it was hi-fi production. When you are a renegade property or movement, when you have a commercialized vibe, it's weird. They were in 20,000 seat venues, and it was never supposed to be taped the same night as Raw or Smackdown, it was supposed to be taped as a separate show. It lost its soul. They never could finish the damn business plan. They had One Night Stand, that was the trigger point, and everything was going to be figured out after that. Would it ever have worked? I don't know. Heyman probably would have probably had to have run it for what it was, but autonomy in a Vince McMahon-run company will never happen."
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."