As previously noted, former WWE Head Writer and current Senior Vice President of Development for Seven Bucks Productions Brian Gewirtz was a guest on E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness. Among other things, Gewirtz talked about filming at the Cena residence with Edge, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon calling the footage the worst WWE has ever produced, the lauded angle between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels, and the untold, sad 'Ballad Of Little Dave Bautista'.
On the subject of visiting the Cena house to get content for the outstanding Edge/John Cena feud, Gewirtz suggested that John Cena's father, John Cena, Sr., was going into business for himself during the shoot.
"I think John gave us a little warning before we went over there too. He had a [comment like], 'oh, Johnny Fab, huh? Good luck with that.' And then, so me and Bruce Prichard, we were the co-producers of this. We liked teaming up together because, if there was heat, at least it would be split. Yeah, [split between the two] we could at least handle it together. So [Edge] and [Lita], we went to the Cena house, yeah, and the idea was [Edge] would go in, make fun of his upbringing, make fun of his house, and eventually get into it with his dad and everything."
Gewirtz continued, "but what we didn't know was Mr. Cena is a bit of a performance artist in his own right. Yes, so and the line was just 'Edge berates John Cena's dad and storms off,' so then, [Edge] would berate him, and he goes, 'well, let me tell you something, I'm going to put you over the edge!' And then, he looks into the camera. We're like, 'what the f--k? What? Hey, Mr. Cena, in this particular set of circumstances, you are just going to stand there and kind of get berated. We're going to get sympathy for you and your character and everything.' [Imitating Cena, Sr.] 'Oh, got it. Okay.' So then, [Lita] cuts her promo and it's like, 'let me tell you something chicky-poo, you're nothing! And I'm going to make sure you're both put over the edge!' He kept going back to that for some reason. He was doubling down on the 'over the edge' and [Edge] had to do [his] best to stop from laughing at everything. [Imitating Cena, Sr.] 'I don't care if you do it till the cows come home! Hahaha! See, because that's how it works around here in West Newbury, Massachusetts!' I'm like, 'what is happening?' He couldn't help himself and Cena warned us about it."
Apparently, McMahon told Gewirtz that the footage was probably the worst WWE has ever recorded. Gewirtz was unfazed by the suggestion, as he was accused of producing the worst thing WWE has ever made "at least a dozen times" in his estimation.
"Then we get the call from Vince [McMahon], Bruce and I, and he goes, 'guys, that might have been the worst thing we ever recorded in the history of this business. I'm extremely disappointed.' And then, Vince said the greatest thing in the world, which I should apologize to Bruce, but I can't. But he goes, 'it's unusable, it was unprofessional, it was terrible - Bruce, I'm really disappointed in you.' And I'm just like, 'yes, I agree with that! Bruce, I am, too, disappointed. I was trying to learn from you!'"
According to Gewirtz, he is most proud of the classic Chris Jericho / Shawn Michaels angle from his prolific run with WWE.
"To be able to have that Rock/Hogan promo segment in Chicago [Illinois], which, that is, again, I don't know if anyone really remembers the actual words that were used in the promo segment, but just to be associated with that. It's the same thing with, again, it's like, 'well, it would take a really talented writer to screw this up,' the Shawn [Michaels]/Bret [Hart] reunion in, I think it was Dayton, Ohio, when Shawn and Bret were back in the ring. I mean, I was the 'writer' tied to that. And, for me, personally, and I've said this before, I always took pride in the Shawn Michaels/Chris Jericho angle that we did for many, many months, because I was not… I mean, I always respected Shawn Michaels, but as growing up and everything, I always rooted for Bret Hart against him. I wasn't like The Kliq fanboy or anything like that even though my friends and I followed him to a hospital once in Syracuse [New York], War Memorial, house show when we were in college and they asked my friends directions to the hospital and then, we followed them there and we got kicked out in the waiting room."
Gewirtz suggested that the blood feud between Michaels and Jericho allowed the former comedy writer to get outside of his wheelhouse. The angle enabled Gewirtz to get to know 'HBK' and it demonstrates that engrossing long-term storytelling is possible in modern pro wrestling.
"That Shawn/Jericho thing, which wasn't supposed to be more than a couple-week angle that eventually went on from December into SummerSlam into WrestleMania. That was completely devoid of humor and it was completely serious. That I think I took the most pride in because I didn't want to when I first started working there, it was always trying to look for the, I don't want to say, 'do just comedy' and stuff like that, but that kind of… I was a comedy writer in L.A. [California]. That was completely serious. It was an honest-to-goodness, I believe, money-drawing huge angle. I got to know Shawn better and work with him, which was really rewarding. And then, I think it's something the fans look back on pretty fondly as a storyline/angle, so I'd probably say that one."
With respect to the sad 'Ballad Of Little Dave Bautista', essentially, McMahon had the idea to create backstories for his WWE Superstars and Gewirtz reworked the lyrics of Batista's entrance song, in true E&C fashion, to reflect the backstory McMahon envisioned for 'The Animal'. Notably, McMahon pitched the idea of making Batista a product of the foster care system.
"Everything is done for the right reasons. It's just not executed the right way sometimes. So one day, we were in the writers room and Vince told us, 'dammit, characters need backstories. We don't know anything about these guys when they come in. We need nuanced, layered backstories.' I'm like, 'okay.' [Imitating McMahon] 'So, with that in mind…' We're like, 'oh boy, here it comes.' [Imitating McMahon] 'What if Dave Bautista was a foster child?' I'm like, 'what?' He's like, 'no, it's why he has a chip on his shoulder and that's why Ric [Flair], because he's in Evolution at the time, Ric is kind of his father figure,' so all that kind of makes sense. Okay, he's a foster child. That's why when someone attacks Ric, he gets all worked up because he has this real life respect for Ric and his father figure. Great! So Vince kind of lays out this promo for Flair where it's this very nuanced, interesting story about how Dave was abandoned as a kid and bounced around from foster home to foster home and grew a chip on his shoulder. And so, okay, it's my job to take that and kind of, not rewrite it completely, but get it formed in form where it makes sense for television and everything and a little less rough."
Gewirtz thought he was working on a paradigm shifting monologue; however, his reworked Flair foster child promo fell flat in a production meeting and the writer's efforts amounted to a throwaway line in a prematch promo. Moreover, McMahon's concept of giving characters backstories also amounted to a throwaway line in a prematch promo.
"As I'm writing this promo, I am thinking, 'this is it, this is what changes people's perspective on professional wrestling because it's that good.' So in the production meeting, I'm reading this promo. Ric has pulled Dave aside. He's like, 'alright now, big man, listen. I know why the pain inside of you feels like it's growing every day and because of your history of being a foster child' and all this type of stuff. As I'm reading it in the production meeting, I see Vince take his, peripheral vision, he doesn't like it when I do this, but I see this giant X being formed over this precious promo that I've spent all weekend working on because he's like, 'God, it's so boring! You're putting me to sleep!' I'm like, 'but you wrote most of it!'"
Gewirtz recalled, "this is what actually aired. This is the whole vignette, his whole backstory, 'we need backstories': it's Ric warming up Dave and going, 'alright, big man, tonight, you're going to walk down that aisle, woo, because you're an animal! You're the man! You're also a foster child. Now, later tonight…' That's the whole thing, one little throwaway [line]! Yeah, and never mentioned again ever."
Ca-Caw! if you use any of the quotations that appear in this article, please credit E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness with an H/T to WrestlingINC for the transcription.
Source: E&C's Pod Of Awesomeness