Brian Gewirtz On WWE Creative Changes, Rock Vs Reigns, MJF & More — Exclusive Interview

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Brian Gewirtz's career as a WWE writer saw him penning promos from some of the top stars from the Attitude Era, the Ruthless Aggression Era, and into the PG and Reality eras. His unique style earned him the respect of a young wrestler named The Rock, who would later go on to become Hollywood superstar Dwayne Johnson, and after dovetailing his run as a writer for WWE, Gewirtz pivoted into the role of Senior Vice President for Johnson's production company, Seven Bucks Production. He currently works on notable projects like NBC's "Young Rock" and VICE TV's upcoming series "Tales From The Territories."

Now, for the first time, Gewirtz  candidly discusses his journey in his first book "There's Just One Problem ... True Tales From the Former, One-Time, 7th Most Powerful Person in WWE." In it, Gewirtz opens up about his time writing for the bombastic Vince McMahon, what it was like to bring characters like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to life, and much more.

"There's Just One Problem ... True Tales From the Former, One-Time, 7th Most Powerful Person in WWE" is now available for purchase.

'There's Just One Problem'

Why'd you feel it was time to write "There's Just One Problem?"

The short, funny answer is seeing Bruce Prichard steal all my Michael Hayes bits and monopolize them into his own merch section on Prowrestlingtees.com, and all his fanny packs and t-shirts and bandanas, I'm like, "Hey, that was my schtick." But the real answer, the serious answer, was just having now spent seven years out of the WWE completely and 10 years out full time, the landscape has changed a lot, as far as there's all these podcasts on the air, WWE is doing a lot of more behind the scenes documentaries now, you have Freddie Prinze, Jr. on WWE Rivals being labeled "former WWE writer." It's like, "Aha, they exist." They didn't exist for the longest time in WWE land until this time period.

And when I started the process — it was during the early stage of the pandemic — I wanted to take my mind off of everything that was going on, and it seemed like as good a time as any between WWE and the wrestling world being a little bit more lax as far as behind-the-scenes people, which you normally just read about online and not necessarily particularly accurate portrayals of people online, and finally being able to be like, "You know what? I think this is the right time, 2020, to hopefully come out in 2021 or 2022."

And I asked Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia, who are my bosses, the co-founders of Seven Bucks Productions, if they thought it was a good idea. And I was saying to myself, "As long as they're behind it and think that this is a good idea, then I might be onto something." And yeah, they did think it was a good idea. They were like, "Go for it. That's the perfect thing for you to do."

Burning The Curtain On His Time In WWE

You worked at WWE for 15 years, you were riding alongside Vince and The Rock, obviously, you guys have a very, very deep relationship. But when it comes time for you to write a book like this, what were you nervous about writing about? Was there anything that you were like, "I don't know how I'm going to approach this."? What were your concerns, I guess, when it comes to being very candid about your experience in pro wrestling at WWE?

Well, a lot of the stories I had told within my circle of friends for years, it was almost like a standup comedian set, they have them down pat. And a lot of the stuff I've never really talked about. I never — other than a really, really tight circle of people — ever really talked about my eventual leaving of WWE and that process from 2012 to 2015, and having it out verbally with Vince, which I get into in the final chapters, and never really written about that. And I wanted to be very careful as far as not coming across in any way as "this shall be the vehicle in which I bury the enemies." It's not that type of book. I don't want to burn bridges.

At Seven Bucks, we work with WWE on a number of projects in development that we're going to be taking out and pitching soon, and they've been nice enough to ask me to come to talk on the Ruthless Aggression series that they had. Obviously, Dwayne, pretty big part of WWE history ... and his daughter is at NXT, Simone, and this is just a long, long level of respect that we have for wrestling and WWE in general. So the last thing I wanted to do was p*ss anybody off or burn any bridges, but at the same time, I don't want to write anything that's not 100% truthful.

Because the truth of the matter is, a lot of great things did happen there when I was there that I experienced personally, but equally a lot of maddening, frustrating, literally, at one point, "make a hole in my wall in my apartment for throwing something after a conference call just out of pure frustration and anger" type moments, too. And then there was just a lot of crazy moments that only in this industry can stuff like this happen. So I wanted to really have that all in there, I wanted to thread the needle carefully. And fortunately for me, the truth was I had a great relationship with the McMahons for a long time. I had butted heads with Vince occasionally, it came to a head in 2012, I was offered the position to work part-time for WWE and part-time for Seven Bucks.

And then, as I get into the book, absence sometimes makes the heart grow fonder. Vince really responded to the feedback that I had on the shows, and then it culminated when I finally left with hugs, and genuine ones at that. So I was really pleased with how everything ended there. And so, even though I knew the tone of this book was going to be more in the Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, anecdotal, humorous, very self-deprecating type of form, I still wanted to be careful and be respectful of people. If I thought like, "Is this burying this person unnecessarily," then, if I'm asking myself that question, the answer is yes. So I wanted to take a look at that and make sure that it's done in the right way.

WWE's New Creative Direction

Obviously, Vince [McMahon] is a huge story right now in pro wrestling. What's it like for you, as somebody who was so ingrained in that system, and I know so many people thought this day would never actually come where Vince is stepping to the side and there's a new creative direction for WWE, what goes through your mind when you watch this all play out right now, Brian?

Well, the first thing that goes through my mind is like, "Oh, my God, I can't even imagine what it must be like in that company" ... From just a creative team standpoint, pitching to one particular person and having everything funneled through that one person [is] arguably one of the big advantages that WWE has had, in which you always know where the buck stopped, you always know, okay, this is the person in charge. I might not always agree with it, but if that's what we've decided on doing, we're going to make this as good as it could possibly be ,and now all of that is changed. It's not necessarily changed for the worse, but it's changed, and now you're pitching to somebody else.

But the advantage of it is, you're not pitching to someone like, "Hey, I'm the creator of some Netflix show and I've never watched wrestling before, so what do we got?" It's Triple H, who is as steeped into that culture and as big a fan of wrestling than anybody there, really. So, again, it's not necessarily better or worse, it is different, and I think, watching it, yeah, that's what my mind goes as a former member of the creative team. It's like, 'Wow, I wonder, is there a long three-hour gap of your waiting for a meeting to start, or are you just seeing that person right away, or are things signed off on much, much earlier and you could start writing the script much sooner? Is it reviewed before you actually get to TV?" In my day, sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn't.

So those are all the things that are going through my mind just from a creative team member thinking about how the process of the show goes. That's what goes through my head when I think of the upheaval.

Reports Of Torn Up WWE Scripts

I was heartened to see, I think it was a Fightful report last week that said that ... the last episode of SmackDown, the script was done by Thursday afternoon, and I was like, "That seems unusual to have this script completely set and done," I don't know. Do you see that as a benefit to be able to have that, not walking in the day of throwing all the papers there kind of thing?

Well, first of all, if you're live on Friday on "SmackDown," the script should be done by end of Thursday. It should probably be done earlier if possible. I always take those reports of script done here and Vince ripping up script here, I always take that with a tremendous grain of salt. No script was ever ripped in my presence when I was there. I remember in 2012, when I was able to take a part-time job at WWE, the process was far less dramatic than what some reports might have you believe.

There was this great line that was attributed to Vince screaming this upon my "dismissal," which is like, "I want results or I want resignations." And granted, that's an awesome line, bone-chilling line, he never said, it was never once uttered in a production meeting nor anywhere. It's a great line, though. But that's one of those things.

Yes, ideally, when it comes to ... "SmackDown" on Fridays and "Raw" on Mondays, some version of the script, and hopefully one that remains intact, is done before you show up to the arena, because it's all about time. From a writing perspective, it's all about time. The sooner the script is solidified, the faster the production meeting goes, the faster the production meeting is finished, and that leaves you just much, much more time then to get with the talent, get with the wrestlers, let them start to make the promo in their own words in some respects.

And other respects, if they have questions and want to change it, you have time to get those answers and give them the tools that they need to get the promo in their head and add to it, take out of it if need be. It's very difficult to do that if the script is being finalized hours, literally two hours before you're live on the air. So, in my opinion, the sooner these things are done, the better.

His WWE Creative Experience With Triple H

So what was your relationship like with Triple H? You were there 15 years, I would imagine your relationship went up and down at different points. But can you give me some examples of what your relationship like was with Hunter during your time at WWE?

My relationship with Hunter got much, much better as the years went by. I think there was a level of mutual respect, and then Triple H looking up going, "That guy's still here? Huh, I guess there must be something going on correct with him." But when I first started, I was admittedly intimidated by him, I didn't really work with him all that much. In fact, as far as I knew, no one writer was assigned to him, he would always go off and do his thing. Meanwhile, I was working with the people who were constantly insulting his character.

Granted, he was the heel, I was working with the babyfaces, whether it be Rock or Chris Jericho, and sometimes even the heel when it was Kurt Angle and the whole love triangle thing, and it was one of those deals where I always assumed, all right, Triple H, he's got it, right? Because he always just does his own thing. And then, I think Stephanie had a talk with me once, which is like, "Yeah, how come you never work with Triple H? He sees you working with all these guys, you never once approached him and asked if he wanted to work with you." And I'm like, "Oh, I just assumed he wanted to do his own thing."

And that's on me, that's my nervousness and my "Well, if it isn't broke, don't fix it." But over the years, you can't help but then work with someone, and I got to work with Triple H. and I got to, if not write out word-for-word promos, which was never anything I wanted to do anyway, at least work with him [on] the long-term storyline of Evolution and Batista, and that slow turn, which I thought worked really, super well. And then later on, being able to work with him, especially as he was taking a step back, it's always difficult when you're in the production meetings and part of the creative process but also a character on the show. It's a tough position to put yourself in because no matter how much you say, "Yeah, me, the character, they're completely different," it always rears its head, it can't not.

It's human nature to be like, "Well, how does this affect my angle and my storyline?" and that type of thing. But it evolves, no pun intended with Evolution or anything. And every time I see him backstage now like I did when "Raw" was at [Madision Square Garden], we're having a great time catching up, joking, it's really cool.

How A Changing WWE Landscape Affects His Thinking

So does Hunter being in charge of creative now ... Does it make you think at all, "Man, I was there and it was Vince's world and I was able to make that work for 15 years but there were still some stuff I wasn't allowed to do. I don't know, what would it be like to write for Hunter?" Does that entice you to go back to WWE in any creative way now that there has been this creative turnover?

I feel like I've done it already. No matter who's in charge, I've had that experience. And I love what I'm doing now, creating and pitching and developing television for Seven Bucks ... there's not a "Oh, well, Triple H is back, maybe I should dip my toe there." It's like, if and when Rock ever makes an appearance at WWE, I know I'll be able to go and get a taste of it and be able to pitch, in this case, to Triple H. And I think I'd be looking forward to that, I'd welcome it, I think that would be very cool. But it's not like I'm sitting there going, "Oh, man, all right, now's the time to dive back in."

Because the truth is, I love that he's getting some continuity with "NXT" talent into WWE and introducing them and/or reintroducing them in some cases, but I wasn't watching NXT, I'm not a regular viewer of it. So it'd be one thing maybe if I was (a) unemployed, and (b) a diehard "NXT" fan and be like, "Oh, my God, this is my opportunity to finally speak to that and have someone who's on that level as far as the NXT history of those talents." But for me, right now, it's just a matter of just enjoying it as a fan, and if the opportunity presents itself, to take advantage of it.

A Possible Collision Between The Rock And Roman Reigns

Hypothetically, if The Rock was to come back and do this big WrestleMania match with Roman Reigns, which has been much rumored, would you want to be involved with that creative to build and to pay off to all that? Would you like to have a hand in something massive like that going down?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. First of all, if Rock's doing anything, I've been lucky enough to go back with Rock. I think the last time, it was the premier "SmackDown" a few years ago, and I write about it a little bit. We met with Becky Lynch, it was a promo segment with Becky Lynch and Baron Corbin. We met with Becky the night before, we met with Becky and Baron the day of, we put the promo on its feet. I always loved going back when Rock would make occasional appearances like he did in Miami one year, we did this whole walk backstage. He did the same thing in Brooklyn once, he cut a promo with Rusev and Lana, and I was always there for all those things even though I had left the company. He's very inviting and giving in terms of like, "All right, we're going back to the show," that kind of thing.

So, yeah, if that match ever happened or any match of his ever happens, I'd fully expect to be brought along for the ride.

Young Rock's WWE WrestleMania Tease

Now, here's the pivot. The reason I bring this up is, I'd like to talk about "Young Rock," because you all created a bunch of buzz on news sites like WrestlingInc, you guys did what a lot of people interpreted as a tease for The Rock versus Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. There's a moment in the living room where a young Roman comes up and is trying to wrestle with Dwayne there. How much thought was put into that scene? What were you trying to do there, Brian, with that particular moment?

Well, look, I'll cop to it, I threw out that line. There were a lot of lines in there ... that did not have any WrestleMania implications going into it, but we also knew, hey, listen, it's a possibility, anything could happen. It's not like the WWE in 2022 or 2023 as it relates to WrestleMania is beholden to a single line on a sitcom between little Roman and 20-something Rock. It's not like, "Oh, well, it's said on the show, we have to do it." It was a cool, fun line that I knew that a lot of the wrestling community would take heed to and be buzzing about. And I remember running it by Dwayne and he is like, "Yeah, I don't know if the match is going to happen, maybe it does one day, maybe it doesn't."

But it's certainly a cool moment in the "Young Rock" universe to see little Joe running around and Uli as The Rock, as Dwayne, circa 1996, saying a match that big could only happen at WrestleMania. If it does happen, then you know that little clip's going to be in the big video package when they —

Of course, yes, yeah.

Either way. That's how I see it.

It would, I think, probably be, and correct me if I'm wrong, you and your family have a lot of history in television. I don't know, has a television sitcom ever been used in such a fashion to build to a wrestling match? I can't think, really, of a time that's ever happened before.

No, I certainly can't think. On a very, very weird tangent, the only reason I was able to attend WrestleMania 12 in LA with my friends in Anaheim is because my friend John Beck was a PA on "Boy Meets World" when Vader guest starred. And he expressed his fandom to Vader, and Vader got us seats in the nosebleeds at the pond, but I don't remember what Vader was doing on "Boy Meets World." I'm sure it had nothing to do with that year's WrestleMania, so —

No, it didn't. He was there, he was Frankie's dad, and he was probably there doing whatever the house show gimmick was. I don't recall that building to a match as much as I would've loved that to happen.

Probably not. I'm racking my brains trying to think, I can't think of one.

MJF Has Everyone Talking

What do you think of the MJF stuff right now? It's very different, I don't know. Do you think it's a work? A shoot? Do you just have opinions on it in general, I guess?

Well, MJF, that's as close to Kaufmanesque, to your point, that you could possibly get. I've never seen MJF out of character, he's locked in all the time. Every reply on social media, every interview, every post, whatever, and I enjoy it. And as far as what went down in AEW, I'm just like everybody else. You go like, "Oh, obviously it's a work because they wouldn't let him say that if it wasn't a work." But the jig will be up in a week or two, obviously, because he's one of the biggest stars and then it's like, wait a minute, they're not even mentioning him. They're not showing him, they're not acknowledging him and this has gone on for a while now to the point where it now makes you say, "Well, wait a second, maybe they didn't know everything, maybe he went off."

The point is, it's making you wonder and it's making the mind race in terms of just what the hell is going on. And I think that's a good thing, I think that's a great thing. I hope it's a work because I'd like to see him on TV again in a ring with a microphone. And if it's not a work, it's pretty fascinating. But either way, you're talking about it, and you're pretty absorbed by whatever the hell they're doing, it's having an effect on you.

MJF Could Be Going Hollywood

We've heard that there's interest from Hollywood in MJF. Has Seven Bucks Production reached out to MJF? Are you all interested in working together in any capacity?

Look, if the opportunity presented itself, I think he's immensely talented and I would love to work with MJF on something whether a TV show, movie, what have you. As a fellow Jewish kid from Long Island, yeah, that's my guy, I want to see him succeed. And I love that he's so committed to being a heel, and maybe that he is a heel, I don't know, but it's definitely very, very cool.

My question was if you guys had talked to each other, I didn't know if the two sides had made communication, but I'm not getting that impression, I don't know.

I'll say this, yeah, I think we touched base years ago, literally years ago, and I've been following his career ever since. So, there has been no active talks of like, "Hey, we got the MJF project in development that's why he's not on AEW," that is not happening. But if the opportunity presented itself, I would definitely love to explore it.

Finding The Lighter Dark Side

I saw the tease, I think, in the trailer for, let me make sure I get the right, "Tales From The Territories," the new Vice TV special you guys are working on here. So it looks like it's in the "Dark Side Of The Ring" universe, what could fans expect from this series?

So this is a really cool series that, as a fan, I'm just so super excited about just to be able to watch it, much less be able to produce it. So we're teaming with Vice TV and the creators of "Dark Side of the Ring," Evan Husney and Jason Eisener, and the concept ... What we wanted to do was like, yeah, we love "Dark Side," but we feel like there's been enough dark side shows in existence, not just from that perspective of the actual show "Dark Side," but just in general, there's been a lot of darkness as it relates to wrestling. Let's take the formula, tweak it, and show the crazy, wild, unbelievable tales that occurred in territories for decades all across the country and in other countries, too, and let's track down the people who lived them and were there.

So we got all these people who lived it, sitting around the table, telling these stories. In the case of the Memphis episode, Jeff Jarrett, Jerry Jarrett, Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, they're there, they're telling stories. And then, using that "Dark Side" sweet spot, we went and filmed the recreation of the stories. We got the stories first and then, after that, we shot the recreations, and now we're editing them and putting them together. So it's not a round table show, you'll see the participants there but then, as they tell the stories, we're able to go back and forth between what they're saying and having it play out in front of us. So every episode is a different territory. Like you said, Andy, Jerry's story is going to be represented, it's really super cool, I'm very excited about it.

Has The Dark Side Become Too Dark?

So what did you think of "Dark Side of the Ring," or what do you think of "Dark Side of the Ring," because I believe it still exists. Do you feel they've maybe gotten too gritty? I know that there was, obviously, I don't want to say controversy or something, there was a whole lot made of that "plane ride from hell" episode. Do you think that they've maybe poked the bear too hard at this point? What do you think of that series?

I'm a big fan of the series, I liked it. Some of the episodes are hard to watch because of the subject matter. Some episodes, when you're talking about the Brawl for All episode or something, that's a little more lighthearted, and some of the stuff is like, yeah, it's really well done, it does definitely shine a certain ... Well, I guess not a light on the dark side, but it goes there, and it tells those stories, and it tells them in full. And yeah, as a fan of wrestling and just good documentaries in general, I was a fan of that show. As a producer, it's not a show I wanted to make or be a part of from a production standpoint. I love the formula, I love the stylistic in the way they shot it, but for me, I wanted to consume that as a viewer, not as a producer.

So that's why we met with them and pivoted and came up with this new concept. So, listen, if down the road, there's another "Dark Side of the Ring" series, of course I'll watch it just like I watched all the other ones.

All Elite Promo Help

In another interview, you had said you were working with some AEW talents and helped give them promo advice ... Who at AEW have you given advice to when it comes to promos?

There were just a handful of times where friends of mine who worked there said, "Hey, I got a promo with so-and-so, do you have a good line for this?" and that's really all it was. It wasn't like some AEW TED talk or anything like that.

Was it Jericho? Is Jericho up in your texts? Is he like, "Come on, give me a good little zinger here to wrap this one up?"

There's a talk with Jericho coming up that maybe an answer like that may or may not be revealed, but Chris is someone I'm friends with. But I'm always open, whether it's WWE or someone who works at AEW. If I know them, if they ever want to bounce an idea or looking for a line like, "What would I say to this person?" It might not always be used, but I'm always there to, hopefully, help out and throw something out.

Writing Sports Entertainment

Do you regret anything you wrote for WWE?

Yeah, there's plenty of terrible stuff that I look back on and go, "Ugh, that didn't go over at all very well like I thought."

Anything stand out? Anything where you're like, "Mmm, no, that didn't go."

There's multiple chapters about a lot of them in the book.

Fair enough. Read the book, that's a good answer.

Yeah.

What's the best idea you feel you had that got shot down by Vince McMahon?

In the course of WWE, there's always people you want to see go over who didn't go over or main events that you thought should be last as the main event but they weren't, there's all that type of stuff. I don't remember a specific ... Of course, I would love to have seen what heel John Cena, circa 2007, 2008, would've resulted in, and it was something that I was a pretty big advocate for a period of time just from a standpoint of, the show is feeling a little monotonous right now with John coming out and getting his a** kicked, making his comeback, it reminded me of Hogan in the '80s. So that's definitely something that I wanted to explore.

And I think, if we had done it, I'm not saying it would've been better, I don't know if it would've cost the company money but it certainly would've been fun to write to and write for. And like I've said in the past, John is game pretty much for anything, anytime, anywhere, so I know that's something that he would've sunk his teeth into and had a blast with.

Showing Appreciation For The Kind Words

Brian, I want to thank you so much for giving me the time you did here today ... The book is out now, "There's Just One Problem, True Tales from the Former One-Time Seventh Most Powerful Person at WWE." Anything you want to say that you want us to include or put out there, Brian, before we wrap up today?

No, I'm just appreciative of all the ... It's very odd for me, all of a sudden, having any form of attention outside of my just private life. So, I'm getting a lot of great feedback on the book and people are "putting it over" on Twitter and social media, and I'm so grateful for that. And like you said, it's available in bookstores and Amazon and all the websites and all that. But really, it's not to put a book out just to scratch an itch and try something, I really did want to bring fans in who were fans of that era because so much stuff has been written and documented on the attitude era up until '99, let's say.

But it's been two decades since the Attitude Era, pretty much, and not a lot has been written about it. And I was like, "Well, shoot, if I could tell from my POV these stories and invite fans into this world and hopefully they get to experience something," it's scary to hear and I've heard this a lot. Like, "Oh, I grew up watching the shows that you wrote on," and I'm like, "Oh my God, I feel Yodaesque right now," but it's true. So, it feels good and I'm really appreciative of everybody who's bought the book and has enjoyed it.

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