I recently interviewed former WWE and TNA executive Bruce Prichard, whose podcast, Something to Wrestle, can be heard every Friday afternoon at MLW Radio. In part one of the interview below, Prichard discussed how he first started working for WWE, being Brother Love, scripted promos, coming up with The idea for The Undertaker, Vince McMahon's thoughts on Taker in WCW, Randy Savage's WWF departure and more.
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How did you first get on WWF's radar?
"I was first working in Houston, Texas for Paul Boesch, also for Bill Watts for what was then the UWF, and Eddie Gilbert was there. Eddie Gilbert and Missy Hyatt. Eddie was going up -- Eddie and Missy had a meeting with Vince [McMahon]. They were going up to meet with him and I was, I guess you could say frustrated at the time. And I asked Eddie to put in a word for me and he did, had me call Vince, and I pestered Vince until he finally took my call. And the rest as they say is history, but when I started there I kind of done it all at that point. I'd promoted, I'd been in front of the camera as a commentator, I had about three minutes of fame as a color commentator on Mid South Wrestling which was absolutely god awful.
"But I came up and I met with Vince, and we talked on the phone several times, and he essentially said 'ya you're hired, come up.' I didn't even know where the hell Stamford, Connecticut was. I was 24-years-old, I lived in Houston the majority of my life, and when I went up there he told me to take a look around, to work with the different departments, it wasn't generally the giant corporation that it is today. I went and worked with different people and went throughout the company, and I really enjoyed television and writing TV and producing the shows, so that's where I landed and that's where I stayed."
So how long were you there before the Brother Love character debut?
"Wow, probably about a year. I started in '87 right after Wrestlemania 3, and then Brother Love took shape the next -- about a year after that so around the summer of '88."
I remember when that character debuted because on your first episode, you didn't have a wrestler on or anything, you were just saying 'I love you.' I remember watching it and thinking, 'did I accidentally change the channel? What is this?'
"Yeah that was the point man, we wanted him to be different and I pitched the character. The funny thing is, I pitched the character to Vince and he looked at me and said he loved it and for me to find someone to do it. And I was like 'I'm gonna do it, I'm the guy, I'm gonna do it.' 'Ah you can't do it with that face pal, God damn.' I told him 'Nah, I'm gonna change the look, it won't look like me.' And I ended up going to his office while he was having a meeting with two other people in the office, and I walked in and slapped my hand down on the desk, I went in character, not with the red face or anything like that, went in and did the character for him then left and went back to the studio, then got the phone call. We did it in the studio a few days later, he wanted to see it on camera. And then the rest as they say is history, but the beautiful thing about it was three weeks after I debuted, Jim Bakker - who was the host of the 700 Club and a big religious program out of the Carolinas and probably the biggest televangelist on the air at the time - ended up sleeping with his secretary, got caught sleeping with his secretary Jessica Hahn in a hotel down in Florida, and I was made. Because everybody thought I was copying him, the majority of it was Robert Tillman out of Dallas. 'Success In Life.'"
You hear a lot about scripted promos these days, and the wrestlers not seeming genuine. They don't seem organic like they used to, but back then stuff was still a little scripted right?
"No not really, when you say scripted -- they were outlined. I mean I knew what the message was, I knew what the point was that we had to get across, but for the most part I was told 'here's what you're gonna talk about, here's what we need to get across' and went out and did it in my character but was also able to work with the talent I was working with and produce them and guys that could talk. It was great, you play off of each other and you can go out there and go all night with Jake 'The Snake', or Bobby Heenan, or [Hulk] Hogan. But then were the guys that couldn't talk that weren't' particularly great on the stick, don't mean to speak ill of the dead but guys like Dino Bravo, that you had to put words in their mouth. And you essentially had to do the whole thing for them, it's like 'what you mean to say Brother Dino is....' 'I know what you're saying' and just put the words in their mouth."
Are you surprised [promos have] taken such a turn on that front? As far as things that have changed, has it changed for the better in the sense of what's working and what's not?
"Well I think that a lot of the individuality, and the personality if you will of a lot of talent has taken a back seat. And guys aren't able to go out and experiment with what is inside of them. Now some guys have a hard time doing that, some guys are just better at 'give me a script, and let me go out and I'll do that to the best of my ability.' And then some guys are better at giving them bullet points 'okay what story do you want me to tell? Let me tell the story in my own way.' I was one of those guys. It changed at some point but I don't know if it's necessarily for the better, but everything changes and you gotta go with it and grow with it or die."
You had mentioned your character debuting during the Jim Bakker controversy? Was there controversy backstage because so many people thought that there was a religious mockery element to the character?
"There were a few. Andre didn't like Brother Love, he liked Bruce just fine. But he didn't like Brother Love at all. I think Hogan a little bit in the beginning, because Hulk was watching at home. Hulk wasn't around when I debuted, so he was watching it on TV and he was kind of like 'man, don't know if I wanna go there.' And when we finally got to do something together he came back and felt that it was great. And that was something I tell ya, sidebar, just being in the ring or having Hulk out there to feel that energy, that was unlike anything that I had ever felt in my life. The intensity and the audience was on fire, and there was absolutely nothing else like it."
When you did the show, at the end of your first run you had the guy in the wheelchair get up and walk, and the blind person to see, that episode seemed out of left field. Was that done to generate heat on Warrior to beat you up and write you off TV, or was that not the intent?
"That particular was never ever meant to air. That was done as a -- I just did it to kill time because, I don't know if we were changing tapes, or if rope broke or something, but Vince was looking for something to kill time, and I said 'hell I'll go out there and heal somebody.' 'You don't have a hair wad on your balls' (imitating Vince). There happened to be, I believe we were in Huntsville as this was pointed out to me last week, I believe we were in the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and there was a wheel chair right next to the exit backstage. And I took one of the ring crew guys, put him on a wheel chair, and said 'let's go, do what I tell you to do.' Put sunglasses on him and healed him. It was a miracle. It only aired on Primetime [Wrestling] as far as I know, and that was a mistake and the guy that was producing Primetime needed something, and it was exclusive footage. Cause it sure as hell didn't air on syndication, and it was never meant to air. [I] took a little heat on that."
So that wasn't the reason you got written off?
"That was 100% to entertain the crowd, and entertain the boys backstage."
Why did they decide to end [the gimmick]? Because it seemed like it was doing great.
"Well at the time -- I mean I had a three and a half year run, and it was a great run, and everybody needs a break. And that character needed a break, and at the time I was also producing and working behind the scenes. I was given the choice to go on the road full time as Undertaker's manager and continue the Brother Love character, or we can give up the Brother Love character and bring in Percy Pringle in as Paul Bearer and I would continue to do my stuff backstage, the choice was mine. And I chose behind the scenes, I loved producing and I chose that."
Did you know Taker before his WWF run?
"No I didn't. I was a big fan of his when he broke in in Dallas because he wrestled, and he moved, and he walked the ropes like the original Spoilers, Don Jardine. I just was a big fan of his, and I watched him from the time he broke in in Dallas all the way to WCW, and Paul Heyman called me when he was available and said 'hey this guys is looking to get out' and I said 'I'd love to have him.' And then came up with the Taker idea."
Who came up with that? Was that all Vince?
"The idea was, the original idea was mine. To basically have the black to my white. I saw it as the purest of pure, here is the driven snow and I want him to be black as night and evil as the day was long. And so he was gonna be the Yin to my Yang. So when he came in the original idea was that he would come in under the name 'Kane', the first man to ever commit murder 'Kane and Abel'. Kane murdered his brother Abel and that he would be Brother Love's -- the outfit that they drew up for him made him look like an old fashioned Undertaker. And so he was Kane the Undertaker. Then we dropped the Kane name after about two or three weeks and he just became The Undertaker."
Here it is today still going strong.
"Here it is today, that's hats off to Mark Callaway for basically evolving that character through the years and making him relevant every single year."
Is it true that Vince wasn't that high on him before the Undertaker gimmick came about?
"Well he wasn't high on Mark in WCW. He didn't watch a lot of the WCW product unless we prodded him 'hey take a look at this guy.' And I asked him to watch a pay-per-view, take a look at him, and we had a meeting set up, he was meeting Mean Mark working with Lex Luger. An Mark had dislocated his hip and he still worked the match because I said 'hey listen, Vince is watching. Time to put your working boots on.' And it wasn't like you were gonna get a great match out of Luger. Add to that a dislocated hip and it wasn't the greatest match in the world. And Vince just saw a tall, redheaded basketball player. So there wasn't a lot of interest but then finally when we got the two of them together were they could meet, hard not to fall in love with him."
Your podcast, I'm a big fan of on MLW Radio and anytime you're on a podcast, you just have the funnest stories. I remember you were talking about Randy Savage when he left WWF. That came as a surprise to Vince right?
"Yeah. I mean I would assume so, it sure as hell came as a surprise to me. We were on our way to Monday Night RAW and it was in the Northeast, in the vicinity where we could drive, and I remember waving in the car for Vince to come out and Vince finally came out and got in the car and said 'Randy Savage is now the proud property of Ted Turner and WCW.' And then not much was said for a little while. After that we just kind of let it sink in but, yeah that was a shocker."
I remember like years later when Savage was a free agent after his first WCW run and everyone online thought that he would end back up in WWF and he never did. Was Vince just done with him?
"At the time it was a shocker, but later on --- and to this day everybody has heard the rumors and what have you. I didn't hear the rumor of the alleged interaction with Stephanie McMahon until probably 2006 maybe, 2007. And when somebody told me that I was like 'get out of here.' I'd never heard that, I doubt it's validity at all, but again who knows? Stranger things have happened, but I doubt it. Only those two people would know, it's crazy."
Make sure to check back soon for the second and final part of the interview, where Prichard discussed his podcast, shooting down Hulk Hogan - DX rumors, Vince McMahon's thoughts on Goldberg in the 90s, his TNA run, the lack of competition for WWE today and more. You can listen to Prichard's podcast, Something to Wrestle, at MLW Radio with new episodes dropping every Friday. The MLW Radio Network features podcasts from the likes of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Eric Bischoff, Court Bauer, Kevin Sullivan, Mister Saint Laurent, Jim Cornette, MVP, Shelton Benjamin, Conrad Thompson, former WWE writers and many others. Visit MLWRadio.com to learn more and listen to shows.