As previously noted right here on Wrestling Inc., Vince Russo talked with Glenn Gilbertti, formerly known as the Disco Inferno, for Russo's Fanning the Flames series. In the exclusive interview, Gilbertti called professional wrestling a niche market and supported the use of steroids and PEDs in professional wrestling.
According to Gilbertti, WWE Monday Night RAW has too much actual wrestling on the show. Gilbertti claimed that professional wrestling is a niche market now and fans are more interested in seeing wrestling matches than story development.
"[WWE Monday Night] RAW on Monday [October 26, 2015] had over one hour of wrestling. One hour! One-third of the show [was] non-wrestling fans turning on the TV, channel surfing, seeing matches, and turning it off because wrestling was on. 33% of the show, okay? Not to mention, the rest of the content [WWE is] filling in is corny backstage conversations [or] long, drawn out, boring interviews." Gilbertti continued, "it [has] gotten to the point where fans of wrestling today are a cult, niche audience. All they care about is how good is the fake wrestling match to the point [where] they've lost the whole point."
Gilbertti argued that fans are so enamored with in-ring work now that they ignore simply professional wrestling psychology.
"Bro, everybody loves [current WWE Intercontinental Champion] Kevin Owens because he supposedly could work great [and] works great matches. Bro, they're forgetting the guy is supposed to be a heel. Okay? We're not supposed to like Kevin Owens. As a wrestling fan, we're not supposed to like the guy. We're not suppose to [say] 'we can't wait to see him because we know he's going to go out there and wrestle a good match'. We [are supposed to] want to see the guy get his ass kicked by somebody. We want to see the guy get beat up because he's disliked. That's lost!"
Russo made the point that WWE started listening to the IWC rather than casual fans at Royal Rumble 2015 by booking the battle royal so poorly that the fans in attendance booed Roman Reigns. Russo then asked Gilbertti why he thought WWE has started to cater to the IWC exclusively. Gilbertti replied that the IWC is the only audience left watching WWE. Gilbertti asserted that NXT is great proof that WWE has embraced its niche audience.
"[WWE] have gotten all of the Ring of Honor wrestlers, all the indy workers, all these guys who've been wrestling in front of 300 people. They put them down in NXT." Gilbertti added, "[WWE] are making NXT seem almost as important as the WWE show is. Bro, [WWE] are getting all of these NXT guys and you can't show me anything in the numbers that say they're bringing all these guys in and they're increasing the audience. Okay? They're losing audience."
On the subject of NXT, Gilbertti expressed strong skepticism over the brand's generally positive reception from pro wrestling fans and critics.
"Everybody blows up NXT like it's great. Bro, I watch it, see, they're green guys. These are like the rank amateurs of professional wrestling and they're blowing it up like it's the greatest thing and it's better than [WWE Monday Night] RAW."
Gilbertti said that the fan following of NXT is overblown, as NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn was attended by WWE fans who went to see WWE Summerslam the next evening.
"All the [NXT TakeOver] Brooklyn show did was take every NXT fan around the northeast [United States] and they flew in to Brooklyn [New York] and watched the show. The same people went and watched Summerslam the next night. The cult had a convention." Gilbertti continued, "the big shows in wrestling have basically become [WWE's] comic book conventions where all the fans show up. It doesn't do anything to increase your audience. It just gives something to the fans, like a big show to go to."
With respect to steroid and PED use in professional wrestling, Russo said that Owens and recent WWE main roster call up Tyler Breeze do not look like professional wrestlers most likely because WWE has clamped down on drug use to enhance its public perception as a publicly traded company.
"I swear to God, Glenn, [Breeze] looks like a 12 year old kid. He looks like a child! I mean, he looks like he wouldn't even be like an appetizer for King Kong Bundy. He looks like a kid! He looks like the furthest thing from a wrestling star that you could imagine. But lets face it, Glenn, all these guys coming from NXT do." Russo added, "if [WWE] were a mom and pop company, and guys were on steroids and guys were on PEDs, Vince McMahon would have the ability to sweep it under the rug, put a blanket over it, hide it, [and] nobody would ever know. You can't do that with a publicly traded company."
Gilbertti stated that PEDs should not be called performance enhancing drugs because they do not enhance the performance of professional wrestlers as much as they make them look better.
"People like looking at people that look larger than life. When you turn on the TV and see a guy with a potbelly and a t-shirt wrestling another guy without a tan that doesn't look good and everything and all that and they're on [TV] for 14 minutes wrestling each other, who are you selling that to?"
Also, Gilbertti indicated that drug use is probably not responsible for as many deaths in professional wrestling as the general physical toll taken on the human body from years of performing.
"People talk about the steroids and the drugs and everything and all that, 'professional wrestlers die to early', lets not forget you can't ignore the amount of physical stress a professional wrestler has gone under in his lifetime. 15 years of getting slammed down on hard surfaces for 15 years, 200 nights a year. I would suggest that probably has a lot more to do with the breaking down of a person's physical condition than abusing a steroid or drinking too much or something." Gilbertti continued, "you would think just based on what we've done for a living that, of course, professional wrestlers would die sooner than other people because of the stress. They can sit there and point out, 'well, he [has] done steroids. Well, he was drinking. He took pain pills.' Bro, that's all fine and dandy. You can argue that. I can also argue that that's just a small factor compared to what professional wrestlers do for a living, getting beat up."
During the interview Russo and Gilbertti addressed a number of topics including how to increase WWE's audience and why professional wrestling stopped being a male soap opera. You can watch the full interview in the video above. You can also download the episode directly by clicking here. If you want to subscribe to the Wrestling Inc. audio channel, you can do so through iTunes and Stitcher as well as our RSS feed, which you can use this to subscribe through any podcast app. If you're enjoying the show, please subscribe and rate us on iTunes!