Former WWE and WCW Cruiserweight Champion Shane Helms was on a recent episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast where he and Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman chatted about Helms being an innovator in the wrestling world when it comes to media and social media. Helms joked that he was the one that got AEW star Matt Hardy hooked on social media and noted that he was always in that world since he has a degree in computer programming.
“It was me. Matt just did the s–t I did and keeps taking the credit,” Helms said.” When people mention it, he’ll go, ‘yeah, yeah.’ I actually helped Matt sign up for his Twitter account. He used to come over to my house and use my laptop whenever he couldn’t afford one of his own. Now, he’s addicted, and Reby, I apologize. That’s part of my doing, but it was just something new.
“I was in college for computer programming and stuff like that. So I was in that world more so than any of the other pro wrestlers that I knew, especially anybody in WWE or WCW. I always had the laptops and would spend stupid money on them when they cost stupid money back in the day. Just an interest I have.”
Helms recalled being called “an internet guy” by Triple H and not understanding what he meant by that. He also recalled getting into the message boards of the early internet days.
“I wouldn’t use the word geek, but I’m sure some of those guys did and that was still in an era where they didn’t trust the internet guys, and it was something I was referred to,” Helms revealed. “‘Hey you’re an internet guy.’ I remember Triple H saying that to me one time. I was like, ‘what does that even mean?’ I just knew what the internet was going to be. Well, at least I had an idea. We’re giving the entire world access to just an unlimited amount of information, access to each other.
“From day one of even message boards, before websites were a thing, I had this idea that this is just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger, and it was just something, like I said, I’ve always had an interest in. I think my website ShaneHelms.com predates actual websites. It used to be, like I said, it was message boards. Message boards, for you younger listeners, you used to have to dial up, and it would take five minutes to even make that connection. You type on these little message boards, and it would take forever.
“I always liked the connection with different people and stuff like that and meeting different people and especially in the infancy, everybody was really nice. You didn’t have the trolls back then, so everybody was just super cool, but yeah, I was the computer guy in the locker room, and like I said, I never was quite sure what that meant. I was just like, ‘so is going to college bad? Is that looked down upon in this industry?'”
With Helms’ knowledge of the social media game and his experience as a WWE producer, Hausman asked if anyone at WWE ever paid attention to fan criticism online. Helms said that looking at the discourse on social media can be difficult since one of the goals in professional wrestling is to make fans mad.
“I don’t know about frustration, and there is no real data on how large that number is in terms of social media. There’s a lot of overlap with different channels and different media in mediums and social media,” Helms noted. “So it’s really hard to tell how large that is. It does seem like the negative portion is just louder than the positive portion and that sometimes is what you have to deal with, but as an artist and a creator, you can’t ignore the criticism, but you can’t let it define yourself either. You have to accept that hey, sometimes there’s going to be people that just aren’t happy.
“I had a conversation, I’m not going to say the name because it’s an old timer, not an old older timer but just someone a little bit older than me that I value their opinion, but they weren’t a fan of the Savage-Steamboat match, and I was just blown away by that. I’m like, ‘How!? How can this be a thing?’ So if you can find somebody that doesn’t like that, you can find somebody that doesn’t like anything no matter what it is, but the most weirdest thing about pro wrestling as an industry compared to any other form of ticket-driven venue is one of our goals is to actively piss off the audience. That’s one of the goals.
“You can’t get heat if you don’t make them mad, and now because of social media, if you get good heat and you get mad it generates a negative traction. That’s a weird thing that the industry as a whole still hasn’t figured out how to navigate and no other industry has that. You don’t see the Rolling Stones getting up there and at the end of the concert going, ‘hey, f–k y’all’ and trying to get them mad just so they’ll come back and see them get their ass kicked next week. No other people even have to do that. No other industry has to do that.”
Helms continued noting that it can be difficult to differentiate real heat from “this sucks” heat. He also noted that pro wrestling is the only TV entity that has to deal with this challenge.
“Pro wrestling is very unique in that but now because of social media, so many people have a voice, and sometimes, it’s just heat. Now, sometimes, something sucks,” Helms acknowledged. “That’s just par for the course. No other television entity has the guidelines or the challenges of pro wrestling. Nothing else even comes close. So sometimes, it’s just going to suck sometimes. It’s going to be a bad night.
“That’s not heat, but I’m talking about even when you do get real heat, that’s intermixed with the heat of it just sucks, and it’s hard to tell sometimes. Does this person have a justified viewpoint, or do they just hate everything? That water gets really muddied sometimes.”
Hausman turned the conversation with Helms towards Bloodsport and it’s impact on the pro wrestling business the last few years. Helms pointed out that fans rarely saw that style from him because it didn’t fit the Hurricane character. He said his character was more closely related to The Undertaker and Kane but without the same kind of push and creative that they received.
“Well, you didn’t get to see a lot of that part of my my skill set when I was Gregory Helms because it didn’t fit the character, and that’s something that gets lost on so many of the experts that watch wrestling. They didn’t understand that I had to wrestle down to make The Hurricane work,” Helms explained. “I went from ‘Sugar’ Shane, who was one of the best light heavyweights in the world. Now, I’m doing this Hurricane character. ‘He doesn’t wrestle the same.’ Yeah, because I’m in a cape and a mask, and I need to make these people believe that I’m a superhero or that I think I’m a superhero.
“I can’t be out there German suplexing and doing all this really nifty wrestling because I would try that and the fans wouldn’t respond, but then I do the pose and the thumb and the chokeslam, and they go crazy. I’m like, ‘OK, this is just going to be different. So then, when I did that heel turn as Gregory Helms and I brought a lot of that back, even to the point where I had Arn Anderson come up to me. He’s like, ‘damn I forgot how good you were.’ I was like, ‘did I outwork all you guys? Did y’all not understand what I was doing?’ For me, I compare it to the same Tom Hanks that did ‘Big’ is the same Tom Hanks that did ‘Philadelphia’.
“It’s the same guy, but I just had to put out a different skill set to make The Hurricane work because it was a really difficult character to make work. The only thing I had to compare it to was The Undertaker and by default Kane, but they got a much different push than The Hurricane got, so I had all the challenges that they had with nowhere near the assistance from the creative side.”
Shane’s full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it’s released Monday – Friday afternoon by clicking here.