Corey Graves caught up with “Road Dogg” Brian James on After The Bell where he opened up about his road to sobriety that is going into almost 10 years. He talked about how he had to convince people at WWE that he was on the path to sobriety and how he got to work with Triple H and WWE.
“Well, I started in ’95 at In Your House that’s that’s what’s crazy,” Road Dogg reflected. “That’s what comes full circle for me personally, and there was a bit of time in-between where I was roaming down the yellow brick road, but as soon as I got sober, my brother Scott kept pitching to Hunter. Hey, he’s doing well. He’s doing well. He’s doing well, and that’s what you hear about recovering drug addicts right before they relapse. About a year after I got sober, I went to Atlanta for my father’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, and I got a chance to look people in the eye for the first time sober and a little more mature than I was I left the last time.
“So I got a chance to look at Vince himself, and Kevin, and Taker, and Rock and some of these people that I feel like I had done a little wrong. So I got a chance to make some amends and look people in the eye and kind of let them know in person, hey, I’m doing well, but like any recovering addict or alcoholic knows, you’re just you have a daily reprieve a day. That day, I was doing well, and so about a month after that Hunter called and said, hey remember how we used to do DX backstages and skits.
“Back in the day, me and him, and I’ll give Chyna a lot of credit too, would literally sit there and spit ball scenarios, and maybe Vince Russo would write us into a setting or something like that and have a rough outline. We would always take it and make it our own. It was kind of me and him working out of that. Thanks. So he called he said, hey remember we used to do that? I was like, yeah. He said, you want to do that again? I was like, hell, yeah I want to do that. That was some of the best times of my life.”
He said that it was his knowledge of television that led to him gaining a larger backstage role. He said that people like Vince and Triple H saw that he was not afraid to voice his opinion in meetings.
“It was an opportunity to come back on the road, and I came back on as just an agent, just putting together matches,” Road Dogg said. “And I think Vince saw that I did have some television knowledge about, and I had a vision because look, I wasn’t a good wrestler. I think I was a decent character, but it was just me times five. So what I do bring to the table today, and it sounds braggadocious, but it’s a knowledge of television and a vision. And I’m not scared to try to tell you that vision.
“So I’m just not scared to say my idea out loud, and a lot of people are especially in that environment. It’s pretty cutthroat in that producer’s room, that writers room. I got a chance. I think Vince saw that. I think Hunter saw that. I think some people saw that and said, hey, maybe he should be on the creative side and not just a producer. The rest is history.”
Road Dogg shared a story of when he was on his first conference call with Vince. He said that he regretted calling out Vince for being late for the call and realized that he should have been in the meeting room for the call to fully read the room.
“But the first creative conference call I was on with Vince, we waited a really long time for him to hop on the phone,” Road Dogg revealed. “So I was at my daughter’s softball game, and it took so long for him to get on. He finally hopped on. I wasn’t in the room. I was on the phone and preoccupied, and he finally came in the room.
“And he goes, ‘ha ha, right on time.’ And I was like, ‘yeah, right on time if you’re three hours late.’ Not a peep was made on the other end of my phone call, and I knew right then OK, I shouldn’t have said that. I immediately regret saying that, but then I said, you know what I need to be there. I can’t be on the phone for these calls. I need to be in the room.”
Road Dogg admitted that he enjoys his current backstage role more than his time as a wrestler. He talks about the rewarding experience of seeing his work on shows like SmackDown being shown rather than just going out and doing a quick match.
“I do feel like I am better behind the scenes than I was in front of the camera,” Road Dogg admitted. “I really do. I love that. It was such a liberating feeling to not have the stress of the performance on your shoulders, but you do have the stress of the the execution of the show. For me, like holy mackerel, to write a a weekly two-hour television show, so much harder than I ever imagined or I ever gave any of the writers credit for but so rewarding at the end of that two hours if it all came off as planned.
“I have a way in my mind that I think everything should be executed. I feel like you if you guys just do it this way, nine times out of ten that doesn’t work because I can’t mind-meld my vision into their vision, but I can try to be as explicit as I can in my vision, and you probably caught wind of that. I would even tell the producers, look I think you should come this side. I think you should stand up on the apron, you know walk them through every beat of my vision because I know my vision is going to work. I know you have a vision about wrestling too and chances are your vision will work too, but I’m not 100 percent on that. So I loved it.
“I loved how hands-on I could be with everything from SmackDown to RAW to WrestleMania. I was in those meetings putting together who’s coming out first, who’s music should hit here. So every aspect of that huge conglomerate that is WrestleMania. I had my fingerprints. Every year, at the end of that night, was rewarding man. It was a lot more rewarding than if I had made an entrance and wrestled eight minutes and got beat, chances are I’m not that good, and then come back. It was so rewarding, and to this day, I still love it man. I still got my fingers on the pulse down there at NXT and just a 50-year-old living his dream. It’s really is more fun than wrestling to me.”
Graves brought up the complaint that many fans have that talent are micromanaged. Road Dogg addressed that talking about how there are some talent that can be relied upon for their own promos and others are not.
“One of my faults and attributes is that I listen to other people, and I sometimes think if their idea is better than mine, I will always go with their idea,” Road Dogg revealed. “And that’s actually something I learned from Vince McMahon. He said, even if their ideas aren’t as good as yours but it gets you to the same place, let them have their way because it empowers them, and that’s a people lesson thing like Vince’s has taught me so much about stuff like that.
“Look, I would love to come up with the story or the angle and let the talent fill in the blanks, but there’s very few talent, I’m not saying there was more back then, I didn’t know about this part back then. I didn’t know the part where they either let you go and give you some rope, and you either zip line to the other side or you hang yourself. So I didn’t know about all that, but there are some talent nowadays that you can trust to fill in the blanks, and there’s definitely some talent that you cannot trust. So as far as the micromanaging goes, I was guilty of that for sure.
“People up the ladder for me are too, but it’s because of that. There’s so few that you can just go, yeah, I can let him go, and he’s not going to say the wrong thing, and he’s not going to do the wrong thing. It’s actually better if I let him be him, if I let her be her.”
Graves and Road Dogg brought up how big WWE was. Road Dogg talked more about how there are a lot of factors that fans don’t pay attention to.
“No, and they shouldn’t be able to because they can’t fathom the intricacies that go into it, like we got to keep the lights on. We’re trying to pay the power bill,” Road Dogg noted. “It’s big picture stuff, and so again, we have a way we shoot TV. We have a way the promos are cut, and it’s and it’s to rise above that rasslin’ that old school we talked before we came on about USWA. And look, I learned how to wrestle there, and I loved it. It was my breeding ground, and I really did love it, but that’s how a lot of people in the world still view wrestling.
“For somebody to try to take it out of that and make it something more, I don’t think is a bad thing. I think it’s a brilliant business decision to be quite honest, but they can’t fathom like OK, this guy, he’s a loose cannon. He might say a cuss word or something. He might say something, so we script his promo, and you have to do it word for word now because we don’t trust you. And if we see over a period of time that we’re wrong and we can trust you, hen you will be brought in.”
Road Dogg said that talents like John Cena are spending time with writers to discuss what they’re doing. He says it is not the fault of the writers or Vince if a talent is not putting in the effort to do what they can for their character.
“And nowadays, they do this a lot more anyway, bring in the talent to the writers room, and the writer just has his balancing act of making sure you get the message across and not only the message that is written, the message that we as a company want to send the message,” Road Dogg noted. “The message that we as a company are comfortable with telling and how far you go and how far you not go and then use the talents words, help me with these words. What would come out of your mouth if this is the message. A lot more lately, especially with the promos, they are including talent.
“John Cena would fit, if he had a one segment promo, he would sit in that writers room for eight hours, and I mean he would go use the bathroom and come back and he would say, hey, what do you think about this? His promos for gold right? Because he spent the time. A lot of wrestlers will get their promo and go OK, cool, yeah I like this. OK, well, it’s your character.
“If I’m going to put my my product on the shelf, I dang sure want the label facing the viewer, facing the shopper. I want to present it the best way I can, so if you’re a wrestler and you have a 10-minute segment where it’s a promo and a match and you don’t take the time to make sure that’s the best it could possibly be, hey that ain’t on the writer, that ain’t on Vince McMahon as much as you’d like to put it there so you could be talent friendly. That’s on the talent.”
If you use any quotes from this article please credit, After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.