What Does Everybody Want? What Does Everybody Need? What Does Everybody Love: An Interview with Wrestling Legend Al Snow, Of Course!
Al Snow has been involved in the wrestling business since 1982. He’s been a wrestler, commentator, road agent, coach, trainer, and author. In 2015, he started a training academy named the Al Snow Wrestling Academy, a place where people who want to get into any aspect of the wrestling business could go to learn everything from performing in the ring to writing, to putting together live and televised shows. Recently, Al applied to the Kentucky Department of Education to have his school in that state accredited. He was successful in that attempt, and now the Al Snow Wrestling Academy in Louisville offers a two-year, 60-credit-hour program.
I had a chance to sit down with Al Snow and talk about his career in the wrestling business, how he came to love wrestling, and what it took to get his schools up and running. If you’re interested at all in the wrestling business, this interview is a fantastic read and an in-depth look at one of the most versatile, entertaining performers in wrestling history.
Scott (GNN): So, first of all, before we really begin, congrats on getting the Al Snow Wrestling Academy accreditation in the state of Kentucky! That happened recently, right?
Al Snow (AS): Yes. We’re the only ones in the world. We’re the first and only one in the world that’s actually a state-accredited school.
GNN: Fantastic. And I’ve got some questions about that later on in the interview, but right now I’d like for folks to get to know you better. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember exactly when I became a wrestling fan, but I remember when I used to go to New Jersey to visit my grandparents and my grandpa used to sit down and watch WWF wrestling and man, he got into it. My grandma had her soap operas and my grandpa watched his wrestling. When did you first get interested in wrestling?
AS: Well, much like you, I can’t remember the exact date and time, but it would have probably been probably the late ’60s, early ’70s when the original Sheik, Ed Farhat. He owned the territory of pretty much all of Michigan. Ohio. He had a little bit of Western Pennsylvania. He actually started to go down into a little bit into West Virginia and Kentucky at one point. And that was what we got on our local TV station. At the time, it was big-time wrestling and as a kid, that was awesome. Just to see all the personalities and the characters. It was a much simpler approach to production because it was a much simpler audience. But when it fell off, the territory went out of business. Ed went out of business. Then, I think probably ’77, maybe ’78, somewhere in there we got cable television. We got the whole dial. We actually…because televisions had dials at that time…got all 13 channels. That was mind-blowing for us to have access to that. And we had TBS and with the advent of getting TBS, we were able to get Georgia Championship Wrestling. And that was it. It didn’t matter what was going on on a Saturday night, at 6:05 to 8:05, I was right there in front of that TV every single week.
GNN: And where in your timeline was that? Was that in high school or elementary school or middle school?
AS: High school, yeah. I was around 14 years old. That was when I made the decision that I was going to be a professional wrestler and that was it. That was it. I was done.
GNN: So you watched it on the TV and it just drew you in?
AS: I still remember the first night I tuned it in. I kind of caught it halfway through the program, because they would show things that happened at the armory. The show they had done with the armory at that time. In school. I remember it. One storyline I remember, once I found out a little more detail behind it, it made it even better, was a bit tag match with Tommy Rich and Wahoo McDaniels against Ole Anderson and Ivan Koloff and Dusty Rhodes was supposed to be the special referee and they apparently had jumped Dusty. The angle was they had jumped him in the parking lot and then Dusty came through the crowd with the white t-shirt that was torn and he’s got color, he’s bleeding, and the reason he came through the crowd was he literally got lost and came in the wrong way in the building but coming through the crowd like that made the angel even better. He’s fighting his way through the crowd to still come in and be the referee for the match and man, it was awesome. I mean, I was hooked right from that moment forward. There was nothing else that I cared about.
GNN: I’m going to jump forward a little bit based on what you just said. Do you miss simpler storylines like that or is the evolution of it where there are guys running over…well, I guess guys running over the car’s really just kind of a bigger extension of that. Is it that different?
AS: Oh, it’s no different than when they had Dusty out in the parking lot and The Four Horsemen took his car door and broke his arm. Eddie Gilbert, (Laughs)…so I laugh because any other entertainment industry, which is all it is, any other entertainment industry like if it had been in the movies or a regular television show, it would be weeks of preparation, planning, a stunt man. They’d draw it out on paper; they’d rehearse. Eddie Gilbert goes, “Hey, I got this great idea. You’re walking out of the TV station and what if I run up and hit you with a car? Now, listen, I’m going to go real slow and then just as I get right up to you I’ll speed up a little bit. You just jump up on the hood, roll-off,” and Jerry Lawler’s like, “Yeah. Sure. What could go wrong?” and then, basically, he breaks his hip. And it’s like only in wrestling when two human beings even have this conversation and then just go, “Oh, let’s go do it. It should be fine.” I mean, it’s just like…
GNN: Yeah. Well, yeah, like you said what could go wrong?
AS: What could go wrong? I mean, yeah, we’re only going to hit a human being with an automobile but, nah, it’ll be fine! (Laughs)
GNN: Oh my God.
AS: I’m sorry. I digress again, but the best story, and this I swear to you it actually happened because I can back it up. There’s a commissioner, an inspector by the name of Tim Gonnerman, a good friend of mine. He can back up the story. I need someone to back it up because when I tell this story, people are like, “There’s no way. That did not happen.” There was a promoter here; I won’t say who. He was here and he was doing a lot of these deathmatches and things like that and he had a partner, it was his brother. He did an angle where they had a feud, so they had a match. I wish I had been able to sit in on this conversation and listen to these.
GNN: Oh boy.
AS: This brain trust (Laughs) comes up with this. One of them, they have one start to beat the other one up. The one who’s getting beat up leaves the ring goes to the back and disappears into the locker room. He erupts out of the locker room, holding in his hand, of all things, just take a guess what would he have?
GNN: I mean, I swear I hope you’re not going to say a gun.
AS: Yes, he does. He has a .22-caliber handgun and he begins to chase the other person around the ring and around the building with people there. He chases him out into the parking lot, and then, as the person being chased is trying to get into the car shoots him in the leg because the idea was he was just going to graze him in the leg with the gun at an angle. What are you going to do from there? Where does it go? You shot him.
GNN: Yeah. You’ve got a point. You’ve basically taken a road as far as you can conceivably take that road.
AS: To go any further… there’s nothing worse you can do to him. You shot him with a gun. That’s just brilliant. That’s why I love this business because there’s nowhere else this stuff would ever happen. They had the conversation of, “You know what would be good? I’ll tell you, this would really be good. Nobody will see this coming. What if I were you to chase you off with a gun and then wing you with a bullet?” And the other person literally goes, “You know what? Yeah. That would work.”
GNN: I’m trying to figure out who’s worse in that scenario, the guy who came up with it or the…
AS: Or the other guy that goes, “Huh, you know what? That’s a hell of an idea. Let’s do it.” You got to love it, man. You got to love it.
GNN: Over the years, I’ve truly enjoyed wrestling. I don’t watch as much as I should, but I have the WWE Network and I watch a lot of the old stuff. But, let’s go back to your fandom. So, you’re a big fan of wrestling, you’re watching it, you’re 14, what’s the next step? I mean, my friends and I wanted to be wrestlers, but that didn’t go anywhere. For you, was it just a chance encounter that started you off, or did you actually pursue it?
AS: I actually pursued it. There weren’t a plethora of wrestling schools like there are now when I was taught. It was a very closed, very secular business. I say this all the time when these questions come up, to make people understand, and I’m not exaggerating, it was easier to be a main man in the Mafia than it was to become a professional wrestler because that was how you protected the business; you didn’t just allow anyone to get into it. And we didn’t have the internet back then. I’m really dating myself, but I started when I was 14 literally walking to the public library because they had phone books for every major city in the United States, and I would get the old Apter mags, the Apter wrestling magazines and they would list where the offices were– the promotional offices were, for Crockett promotions, AWA in Tampa, Eddy Graham, Bill Watts, so they listed the cities so I just went and got the phone book for that particular city. Looked up UWS, AWA offices, and then once a month, I would call them and basically asked them to train me. And they would just laugh and hang up the phone. It got to the point where they recognized my voice every month, and we had a little conversation and they’d hang up. And then by the time I was just starting to turn 18, I was just about to graduate high school. I think I was 17 at the time. I got hold of just, by chance, Gene Anderson. He’s like, “Hey, this was in the spring,” and he’s like, “We’re going to have a tryout in October down here in Charlotte.” And I’m like, “Oh, great.” He’s like, “$500.” And I’m like thinking to myself, “Oh, God.” $500 back then was like five million today. So, I said, “Okay, I’ll see you then.” And it just so happened that, well, my high school, they had run a fundraiser with Dick the Bruiser, Dick’s company out of Indianapolis and for their distribution education club. And the guy that finally did train me, his name was Jim Lancaster. His real name is Jim Painter. He was on that show and he was trying to start his own promotion. He was a journeyman wrestler, had been in for probably 15 years at that time. He was starting to go into semi-retirement and wanted to settle down and get off the road and do his own promotion. And I met him at a McDonald’s, and he basically just shut me down. He had no interest in training me, wasn’t going to do it. And I told him about the thing in October. He’s like, “Well, good luck. Tell him I said hi,” because he had worked in Charlotte for the Crocketts. And so, come October, I went down there and basically just got my ass kicked, beaten to death and then sent home, and then met back up with Jim. He was running shows and at the time he was very popular babyface in the Midwest. A guy by the name of Spike Huber, which was Dick the Bruiser son-in-law, hadn’t booked on the show, and Dick pulled him at the last minute to send him to St. Louis. He didn’t inform Jim. So, Jim didn’t like that. He wanted his own crew of guys that he could control. So, he agreed to train me and three other guys so that he could have talent that he knew he could count on. And that’s how I got trained. Had my first match May 22nd of 1982, and just been fooling everybody ever since.
GNN: You could have gotten into wrestling a lot sooner if when they asked you the gun question you said, “Yes, I’ll take a bullet.” That was on the application, right?
AS: Listen, I was such a zealot back then that if you have said, “Hey, in order to get in, you got to take a bullet to the leg.” I’d been like, “Well, shoot me. I got to do what I got to do.”
GNN: Below the neck, not near the heart. You have to have at least a couple of parameters.
AS: It’s in a leg? It’s a leg? Go for it. Go right for it. What if I don’t get to wrestle? I don’t care.
GNN: So, that match in 1982, that was your very first match?
AS: It was my very first match. And it was a 20-man, two-ring, over the top battle royal. There were a lot of big-name guys in that match.
GNN: How long did you last in the match?
AS: Well, surprisingly, I lasted pretty long in the first ring. And then the second one, I basically we over the top rope to the second ring and I went out my way fast in the second ring. So, it was just in and out. But the first one stayed in there a little while. I was like, “Hey, I’m doing pretty good. No, here we go. We’re done.” (Laughs)
GNN: So, you were talking about getting your ass kicked early on. Was there a time where you like, okay, maybe this isn’t for me? You also said you were a zealot, so maybe the ass-kickings weren’t so bad?
AS: Well, a large part of that, too, was because I didn’t have a definable personality. I spent probably, geez, 10, 11 years and I was like you know what, I was really starting to get frustrated and I was like you know what? I’m just about ready to give this up and just go bowling. Become a professional bowler. And I suck at bowling, so…
But I had developed a reputation, which was, I mean, it’s a compliment for a while. But as being the best-kept secret in wrestling, I was like, well, let’s start telling the secret, okay guys? (Laughs) I’m tired of being just a whisper. Let’s start getting us out there. And a large part of it was, again, I was very adept mechanically, physically. I could do any style. I could work with anybody. But I didn’t have a definable personality. I didn’t have my voice yet, as I describe it. And as a result, you couldn’t turn to someone and say, hey, there’s this guy Al Snow and he’s A, B, C, D. It doesn’t matter how physically good you are. It doesn’t matter what you do in the ring. It really doesn’t matter because if they can’t relate to you by being able to understand who you are, they then can’t understand or relate to why you do it. And if they can’t do that, then your name on a poster has no value. It doesn’t motivate anyone to buy a ticket to watch you. So, for a booker or a writer or I guess whatever you want to call them these days, they can’t figure out who you are to be able to utilize you to tell a story. So that held me back for a long time.
GNN: Yeah, in the 80s and 90s, you always had something. The best villains to me had a hook, there was the rich one like Ted DiBiase, or the arrogant one like Curt Hennig, or the huge one like Andre the Giant…
AS: Well, it’s always something that you can turn and go, “Hey, you guys have got to watch this show. There’s a guy who is A, B, C, D, E.” If I say, “Beer-drinking, ass-kicking redneck that flips off his boss,” we all know who exactly I’m talking about, and Steve Austin went through the exact same thing. He was a very talented, very adept performer, but until he developed that portion of his personality, which really is: Steve Austin is Steve Austin, and that’s what makes it work.
AS: It’s not a character for wrestlers. They’re not actors. It quite honestly, it’s an aspect of their personality that is turned way up and that’s why it works.
GNN: Yeah, going back, watching Steve Austin as one of the Hollywood blonds, it’s like, “You’ve got to be kidding.” What a bad gimmick they tried to shoehorn him into when you see what he ended up being. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he was relatively successful as “Stunning” Steve Austin, but, man, to see him and even listen to him talk, you’re like, “This is not a guy from Hollywood.” He’s got the gruff, kind of southern-y voice, and now I can’t even– I’m like, “I can’t believe they even did that!” The thing, you know, hindsight’s always 20/20, but you see him now like you said, it’s just an amped-up version of how he is, so.
AS: And that’s the thing for wrestlers that sometimes takes the longest for them to develop, and it’s the most important. It’s the most valuable thing that they have. That’s the thing that will take years. One is developing that persona and then, two, understanding what makes it work, why it works, and then how to utilize it in the ring.
GNN: And that’s funny you say that. What is one thing you didn’t realize was important to become successful? Was what you said there, developing a persona, was that something you learned back then or did it take a lot longer to think that through? Was there something back then, you’re like, “Oh, I knew I had to be in good shape.” I mean, everyone knows you’ve got to be in good shape. You’ve got to have good cardio. You’ve got to be mobile. Was there something back then you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t even think of that and I really need to develop that skill.”?
AS: Really when that hit me, quite honestly, was when I was made the lead trainer in OVW for WWE when they were having a developmental relationship with OVW, and I came down and I started instructing the younger talent and I started going, “Oh, shit. That’s where I screwed up. Oh, damn. That’s where I didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. Oh, that’s where I should have gone right instead of left. And that’s where I should have said, “no,” and that’s where I should have been more selfish.” And it wasn’t about having a great match or being a great wrestler. It was about using that platform to make myself an attraction and sell tickets, and I focused on the wrong things and, as a result, I missed opportunities that I could have exploited to a much greater degree. Because regardless of what people think, I mean, I was on TV every single week for years, and I was on TV in both RAW and SmackDown and Sunday Night Heat, and then when they started doing the Saturday night whatever, I forget what that one was, for Smackdown, their secondary show, I was on that one.
I mean, I was on TV a lot and I was always doing something and they were always doing something with me. And I had so many opportunities to have a completely different career, even though I had a great career. I haven’t done as much as some, but I’ve done and accomplished a lot more than many. And I definitely survived a lot longer than most.
GNN: Oh, yeah. Again, I watched you back in the day. I also did a little catching up and I was watching WWE Network and I’m searching for your matches. I tell you, the WrestleMania match you had with Billy Gunn and Bob Holly was really good…very entertaining. It wasn’t some eight-hour-long technical showcase, but it was really good. Was that your first big-stage match?
AS: That’s difficult to say. I mean everybody equates now like WrestleMania is the thing. But for me, I always get the question, who’s your favorite or what was your favorite match? Or what was the biggest match? And like, quite honestly, it’s different now I know that. But when I got into the wrestling business, my aspirations weren’t to work for a particular company. It wasn’t like today all a wrestler cares about is, “I want to get with WWE.” Or All of the talent, all they care about is they want to get signed with a company; that that’s the big thing…if they can just get signed. And they have no idea. That means nothing. But to them, and especially, “Oh my God, if I get with WWE. Oh.” They’ve romanticized this idea. And for me, it was just I want to wrestle and I still to this day. I could be in front of 10 people, I could be in front of 10,000, I could be in front of 100,000, it’s really, quite honestly, it’s the getting to be out there in front of that audience and doing the thing that I love to do that is what makes me want it… it drives me to do it. It doesn’t matter the format or the platform, even though the platform, the bigger they are…the largest platforms can be WWE and of course, that gives you a chance to sell your product, which is you to a broader audience and then creates more opportunities and make more money. And I certainly, can’t downplay that. But it was always just the chance to get to do it. Nothing makes me feel more alive than just being able to walk out there and get in that ring. Even when I go once in a while now like, this weekend I got to go up to Minneapolis and work on an independent show, but I don’t care. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a chance to go out there and do what I love to do.
GNN: That’s a good point. I mean, the ECW matches. I mean, we’re in a very intimate venue. I mean, as I think about it, as someone who really loves the craft and to do it in front of people, the ECW was an intimate arena. What would you say, 80% of the time that the action was right in the crowd those people loved being there.
AS: Yeah, they were as much a part of the show as we were, and listen, the real challenge of the art of wrestling, okay, because the art of wrestling is twofold. And that’s kind of gotten lost. One is: my job is to make you believe a lie. All right? That’s what the term “work,” to work an audience really means, is to make you believe a lie. And the only lie in wrestling is that we know who’s going to win before we go out there; that win and loss don’t have any real gravity or consequence as far as a prizefighter is concerned, and you’re paying to get swept up in and believe that’s where the emotion comes from. So, the real challenge of the art is one, for me to go out there in any condition, in any situation, and make you believe the lie. The second is that I have to use that belief of the lie to now manipulate your emotions to a peak, to a point where you pop. The term is to pop your nut, basically, emotionally, or an orgasm, and telling that story within a competitive situation and to elicit that response. Now in front of 60,000 people, that becomes immensely much easier. I’m not downplaying it because it’s still a challenge, but in front of a larger crowd and a bigger event, people are more primed, and I call it the psychology of anonymity. The more anonymous and audience is, the easier it is to manipulate them because they’re not self-conscious. When you go in front of an audience in a well-lit building where they can look across and see their neighbor, then they know that the neighbor can look across and see them, now that’s a challenge, to get them to forget and get wrapped up and get to where they care about what you’re doing. That’s why they make movie theaters pitch black because you can forget and live in that world. And in a well-lit building with a couple of hundred people, that’s a much more difficult challenge to perform than it is in a half-darkened arena with thousands because the more that are there, the more anonymous they become.
GNN: I got to tell you, I could ask about 1,000 questions about your early career, but we’ll jump ahead a little. I searched the WWE network and found one of your early WWE matches and you came out as Steve Moore and you were going up against The Undertaker. I have to know where that came from. Did you make it up or did someone just tell you that you were Steve Moore?
AS: No. No. What had happened was… and that was during the time where I was kind of going, “You know what? Screw it.” And I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t making headway. I was working pretty frequently, but just not enough where I felt satisfied. And they would come through Michigan with a TV loop and there was an opportunity to go up there and work, and I thought, “You know what? I’ll do it, but I’m not using my regular name. I’m just going to make up a name because I don’t want to damage it.”
GNN: Right. That makes sense.
AS: I gave them the name Steve Moore and I worked with Marty Jannetty. We had a really good match, worked with The Smoking Gunns, did really well, and they really talk about– they really were happy to have me there, but nothing came of it probably because at this time I’ve been working for probably– and I mean on a regular basis– for probably 12 or 13 years. So, they would talk over the match or something. I’d go, “All right. Let’s do this,” and I took control of it because I’ve always been a heel. So as a heel, you lead the match. Your job as a heel is to get the babyface over, so I call spots for the guys, and I think they probably thought, “Who the f*** is this? Who’s this guy? Who does he think he is to come in here and tell us what to do?” But I was basically telling them stuff that put them over, made them look good.
GNN: Yeah, I would think they’d want to look good…why would they care?
AS: Well, you’re not a wrestler. You’re not a wrestler. We are a very egocentric, self-centered, narcissistic, needy, insecure group of people. (Laughs) We’re very broken. We’re a mess, and we will complain about everything. I mean, think about it. I mean, we have grown men basically getting paid to fake fight other grown men in our underwear for money. I mean, we’re not doing anything earth-shattering that changes the world’s social or economic situations. And we’re doing nothing but sitting around in a locker room, complaining about the fact that we’re doing the very thing that we love to do and what we wanted at one time to kill anyone. If you’d have told us that you needed to off your wife, I’d say, “Just tell me what grocery store and the good days so she can’t move the grocery cart too fast, and I’ll run her over for an opportunity to be a wrestler.” Now I’m a wrestler, and I’m sitting in the back, complaining all the time. We’re insane. You can pay us one million dollars a year and have us wrestle one night a year, and we’ll find something to complain about, either, “I wrestled not enough,” or, “I’m wrestling too much,” or, “The flight was too long,” or, “I got to win,” or, “I got to lose,” or, “I only get 10 minutes,” or, “Oh, I’m going to get more than 10 minutes.” Jesus, shut up.
GNN: I would like to say I might take umbrage with the fact that you don’t have an effect on people socially. I mean, in this day and age, I mean, wrestlers are like superheroes.
AS: Well, true. I mean, I’m always flattered every time around this time of year that I get pictures on social media of people that still to this day dress up as me for Halloween, so.
GNN: See, there you go!
AS: I don’t know if I should take that as a compliment or kind of a slap in the face like, “Hey, you make a great Halloween monster!” (Laughs) I’ve had women come up and go, “You know what? You’re much more handsome than you are on TV,” and I’m like, “Well, thank God for that. Thanks. That was a real backhanded compliment.” Like, “You kind of half put me over and at the same time kicked me in the groin.” I’m not quite sure how to respond to that. “You’re much better-looking than you are on TV.” Oh, well. Or my favorite, “You’re a lot bigger than you are on TV,” and I’m like, “Well, that depends on the size of your screen, so.”
GNN: Right. Well, it also depends on perspective. They had an NBA commercial the other day where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s standing next to an NBA player and The Terminator looks tiny. I mean, one of the matches I watched was you and Albert, and I was like, “Well, yeah. Of course, you don’t look tall.” I mean, Albert is humongous.
AS: I’m 6’2, and I’m standing next to a grizzly bear. What do you expect? Right next to a human grizzly, and it’s like, “Well, you look kind of small.” Well, duh. Go figure, you know?
GNN: So, like you said, you moved around a bit, and you became more of a fixture in WWE around ’95, right?
AS: That’s right. I went to Smoky Mountains because of Jim Cornette. He gave me an opportunity there, and that’s where the personality came in because Cornette and I had known each other for years and he always had a respect for what I could do, but he was in operation with Smoky Mountain, I think, since 1990, and he never had an interest or anything. And then, just by chance, I had trained Dan Severn for USC 4 and was in his corner, and we had won the second fight, because back then it was like a tournament, so you had to win basically three fights to win the whole thing. The interviewer was coming over and he was interviewing Dan and he was trying to get Dan to say something to put over the guy he was going to face next, and for whatever reason it just pissed me off because I could see what he was going for, and Dan, you love him, but at that time, man, he was just like a brick. And the guy’s going, “Well, what are you going to do next?” And I’m thinking to myself, “What do you think he’s going to do?” So, that’s what I said. “What do you think he’s going to do? He’s going to go back and have sex.” I mean, what a stupid question. So, the guy immediately jerked the mic and that was the end of that interview and Cornette was watching it and thought it was hilarious that I was such a smartass, and Eddie Gilbert at the time was in the territory as Kane, who was Unabomb at the time, his partner, and he left to be the booker in Puerto Rico, where he passed away, unfortunately, and that gave me the opportunity to come in, and I was basically this smartass heel that had the muscle behind me to protect me, Kane, Glenn Jacobs. So, that got me noticed by Jim Ross and by Cornette and gave me an opportunity with WWF. I went and met with Vince and then started in October of ’95 with WWF.
GNN: And you went through a few personas in WWE…
AS: Again, if I knew then what I know now, I could have taken more advantage of those opportunities, but the problem was that for years I’d been a heel. Now, all of a sudden, I’d just come off a run, a very successful run, as a smartass chicken heel, you know what I mean? Now I’m going to be going up, and I’ve developed a style where I do a lot of aerial stuff off the top rope, do a lot of springboard stuff. A lot of things that a lot of people take for granted. And I could stand on the center of the ring apron, spring up to the top rope, turn in mid-air, do a 180 in mid-air, and land on the top rope and moonsault into the ring. But I get to WWF, and that time, nobody did anything off the top rope, very rarely, because the ring was so stiff and the ropes, they used real rope, and they weren’t very tight and they would get stretched out throughout the show. And so all of the stuff that I could do physically in Smoky Mountain I could no longer really do very well in WWF. And so I get a character that Vince is trying to capitalize on, the Mortal Kombat, Power Rangers kind of craze at the time, and but I can’t do physically a lot of the stuff that I could have done that I did before. As a result, it didn’t work and now it’s not me. It’s a character. It’s not who I really am and I don’t know how, at that time, to really adapt it and to make it work and so it kind of floundered. And then, I got put with Marty [Jannetty] as part of the New Rockers thing and then Marty, of course, and rightfully so, never really had his heart into it because he felt it kind of disrespected or downplayed what he and Shawn had done and it had its run and Marty left and went to WCW and I was just left back where I started from.
At that time, I was pointing the finger at a lot of other people. I was not pointing it at the one person that really had control over it, which was me. Because once I went in the ring, there was nothing anyone could do to stop me. Vince’ll let you do whatever you need to do out there. He really will, but you got to make it work and I was so frustrated. I had such a bad attitude and I tried to, I tell the story all the time, I tried to quit because I knew if I stayed there I was going to be in that spot going forward. I had to go someplace else and reinvent myself and get myself back over and it just so happened there was a relationship with ECW with Paul Heyman and Chris Candido, God bless him and rest his soul. He was a great friend of mine and he went to Paul on my behalf one day and Paul went to Bruce Prichard and I was put on loan to ECW for the remaining year of my contract and that’s where that frustration drove me to find and create the Head gimmick, and the reason it got over was because it was really who I was. I made smartass sarcastic comments through the head and vented a lot of that frustration through those interviews and those promos and that was what connected with people.
GNN: I definitely want to ask a couple about the Head gimmick, but for someone who’s reading this, they gave you the Avatar gimmick and the Leif Cassidy gimmick in the WWE. Let’s say someone wants to become a wrestler and they’re going to go to a school and, “Oh. I’ve got this great idea for a character.” Should they be ready to be like, “Well, you know, somebody might look at you and say, ‘Hey, you might be good for this character we have.’”? Or, is it something where if they’ve developed it and they kind of own it, do you think they would get to keep it?
AS: It’s not a character. You’re not playing a character because you’re not an actor unless you suck as an actor. Look in the mirror and say, “I suck as an actor,” because you’re not an actor. Wrestlers are not actors. They are reactors. They react to the situation. In order for it to work, in order for it to really connect with an audience, it has to be who you are and people have to believe it and they have to feel it and it has to come through because it has to be real. Steve Austin, if he was not really Steve Austin that never would have worked. The Undertaker really is the Undertaker. He’s not dead, but… (Laughs)
GNN: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa…he’s not dead?
AS: But he’s that guy. Okay? He’s that guy. He’s very laid back, but that’s why it works. Every incarnation of the Undertaker, where he’s kind of changed and developed, it’s still who he is. Right? Triple H is Triple H. The Rock was The Rock. He’s taken aspects of other things, but that’s what makes it work. It’s really who they are. I can’t state that enough. Because that’s what happens with a lot of the younger talent these days who’re being brought up through the developmental system is if they give them the character. And then it just flounders, because it’s not them. You know? It’s something that they’re playing, they’re acting. Well, it’s just not going to work. And sometimes it takes, for some people, like they come right out and boom! It clicks. Like when Marty Wright, the Boogeyman thing. It all just fell into place for him. Because that’s Marty. That’s why it works.
And that’s why you see a lot of these…I’m not dissing anyone, by any means. I went through it myself. But, like Fandango, the big craze about Fandango, he had that entrance, and everybody sang along with it. And then it just kind of went away. Well, because the problem is, and this is the issue, okay? You’ve got to always think of what you’re selling, all right? So ultimately, the one thing we’re always selling is the belief that the guy or girl is a prizefighter. No different than a boxer, an MMA fighter. If they don’t win, they don’t get paid. Okay? That’s the concept. Now, we’re going to sell who you are. If you’re that person backstage and you’re that person on your entrance and you’re that person on the exit, but the minute the bell rings, you start wrestling like everybody else, just another person in a pair of trunks, well, for the audience, there’s a disconnect. And I’m not getting what I paid for, because you sold me…I always use the analogy, on TV, you saw, you loved toast. I mean, who doesn’t? I mean it’s the greatest food in the entire world.
GNN: Well, absolutely.
AS: You can toast up grilled cheese, peanut butter, and put syrup on the toast, it’s amazing. So, you love toast. So you see an all-chrome toaster with 16 slices with a bagel gimmick in the center, and it has 22 settings. And you go to the store, and there in the box, on the box, same picture, 16 slices, bagel center, and 22 settings. You buy it, you take it home, you open it, it’s all black, it only has four slices, no bagel thing in the center, and 16 settings. You’re disappointed. You didn’t get what you paid for. It’s the same thing with a wrestler. The wrestler backstage is this guy. The wrestler on the promo is this guy. The wrestler on his entrance is this guy. The bell rings, he doesn’t wrestle like f***ing Fandango; excuse my language. He doesn’t wrestle like Fandango. You understand?
GNN: No, absolutely. That makes sense.
AS: It doesn’t work. Steve Austin, another example. Steve Austin is Steve Austin when he walks to the ring; he’s Steve Austin when he’s winning; he’s Steve Austin when he’s losing; he’s Steve Austin when he’s kicking ass; he’s Steven Austin when he gets his ass kicked; he’s Steve Austin leaving the ring; he’s Steve Austin in promos and vignettes. You never don’t get what you paid for.
GNN: You’re right. It’s funny, now that you say that, as a fan, I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about the behind-the-scenes stuff…
GNN: But, now that I think about it, guys like Kurt Angle, at first he was a little bland. He had the wrestling background, but you’re right. Kurt Angle was Kurt Angle no matter what. It was incredible. Those are the guys that have the staying power, guys that stay.
AS: Well, those are the guys that make money. You know what I mean? They’re the guys that are successful because you can describe them and what they sold you because we never sell the what. Okay? As wrestlers, that’s not what you’re buying the ticket for. And to be quite honest, they never sell the what, even in real sports. It’s always the who and the why. You watch professional football. They’re not selling you the game. They’re not selling you the team. They’re selling you one player versus the other player and why and what’s at stake, why it’s important for that one player to beat the other player.
GNN: I’m a basketball fan, and that’s all that is these days, one player versus another player.
AS: And where do you think they got all that? Where do you think they got it from? They got it from wrestling.
It’s Always the who and the why. It’s the reason you buy a ticket to watch a movie. It’s the reason you watch a TV show. It’s the reason you’d read a book. It drives everything. That’s what we in wrestling called “heat,” a want, a need, a desire that needs to be fulfilled, so yeah.
GNN: Sure. Yeah. Makes sense. And again, some of the folks that are reading started watching wrestling and only know WWE or AEW. Earlier, you mentioned ECW. And, again, for readers, ECW, Extreme Championship Wrestling. If you have to describe for those that don’t have a WWE Network and can’t get a match on there and they just are like, “Okay, what’s this?” explain the difference again. I kind of get this but explain the difference between ECW and WWE.
AS: Well, ECW was a little edgier than WWE was or WWF, I should say, at that time. And we’re kind of going through the same thing now. It was very homogenized, and people were… everything has a shelf life, and the wrestling fans, the really intense, what you would call hardcore, wrestling fans, well, they didn’t care what kind of wrestling there was. They were going to find it, and they were going to watch it. Those fans were getting tired of WWF. It was becoming kind of stale. And that opened the door because it was a great mix for Paul. It was the right time, the right place, with the right talent. Paul had access to a very strong roster of wrestlers who had 10, 12, 13 years of experience in wrestling, polished and performing and knowing who they were, but they had no national exposure. But conversely, they had an audience. They had a following that was already established because back then, there was no internet. They traded VHS tapes. A young man, Rob Feinstein, has been able to make a career and a business, a very successful one, for years. He started selling VHS tapes of matches and shows from Japan and up and down the northeast and independent shows and throughout the Midwest, where they would trade or sell tapes to people through the mail. And that allowed, much like the old Apter magazines, it allowed exposure on a national level, instead of a regional one, of a lot of wrestlers who had no other exposure but had a ton of experience. Now, you had this audience that was already there and was anticipating looking forward to seeing those wrestlers live. People were kind of wanting something different. And ECW came along, and Paul was very masterful in how he manipulated not only the roster but the fans themselves to make it feel like it was the little guy versus the big guy and this was our promotion and we were going to beat the other two, type of thing.
GNN: Yeah. And for those reading, again you keep mentioning Paul, and a lot of people who are wrestling fans now would know him, Paul Heyman, as the advocate for Brock Lesnar. In addition to that, you also mentioned two other things: VHS tapes and the mail…we might have to explain those, too!
AS: I’m not just talking about the male species. I mean the actual U.S. mail, m-a-i-l.
GNN: Right. What’s that?
AS: Instead of email, it was U.S. mail, where you actually walked down to a metal box and you stuck–
GNN: Wait! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa…a metal box?
AS: Yeah, you put a package in it in hopes somehow magically would be transported to somewhere else and arrive in their mailbox and they’d pull it out.
GNN: All right, all kidding aside, I will say, my buddy brought me to a couple of ECW events back in the day, and as you said, the crowds at ECW events, were in small venues and the crowds were rabid. Like you said, part of the event, it spilled out, Rob Van Dam is jumping out into the crowd and it was a blast.
AS: Quite honestly, any wrestling event that you can go to live, I mean, they are unlike anything else. Watching it on TV’s one thing, but going and experiencing it live, in any promotion is really a different experience.
GNN: All right. If anyone does a search on you, on the WWE Network, they going to find Al Snow and Head. And you’ve mentioned it where you brought a mannequin head out to the ring and you conversed with it. I remember Michael Cole said something funny about how it was out there for emotional support. Explain how that came to be, and for people who don’t know and haven’t heard of you, what was that all about?
AS: It was just… at the time I was frustrated and felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown because I was letting it become who I was, not what I did. And that’s a big mistake by a lot of athletes, and not just wrestling, but in any pursuit…football, basketball, baseball, where they let it become who they are, not what they do. And it’ll break you. I mean, it’ll eat you alive, and they came close to doing that to me. I was trying to exhibit the fact that I was having that issue and was trying to show different ways that I was crazy. I would pick at my clothes. I would talk to myself, which all that did was look like I was talking to the other guy while I was wrestling, which didn’t do anything. Then, I was reading books on abnormal psychology and I read a case study about a woman who had paranoid schizophrenia with a transference disorder, meaning she heard voices from inanimate objects, but she transferred the illness on to them, saying that they were crazy, not her. I thought that was fascinating. So, I started carrying a Styrofoam head to the ring and interacting with it. But I knew as I went along, that I had to find one that had a little face. So I would buy these mannequin heads that had a thin, plastic face on them. I’d carry them into the ring. I’d argue and fight with them and talk to them like they were telling me things during the match. And then if I lost, I’d beat them up. But I’d crack the face because it was really thin.
So one night, in New Britain, Connecticut, Spike Dudley and Mikey Whipwreck found, in a barrel, a beautician’s mannequin head. And they’re like, “Hey, here you go.” And I was like, “Perfect.” I wrote, “Help me,” on it backwards and I took it, Head, to the ring with me. I always referred to Head in an asexual manner and then always referred to it as Head because they had multiple personalities. And if you name one, you got to name them all. And that’s a pain the ass.
Then, in my theme song, “What does everybody want? What does everybody need?” was a double entendre, but quite honestly, I was shooting an angle. And my mistake was, I’d never really explained it to Vince what I was doing. Because if you pay attention, when I say it I’m starting to get angrier as I say it every time. And the reason I was is because I was getting jealous of the head. Because here, I want to be successful, but the thing that everybody wants, needs, loves, is the head. So, I was going to eventually turn on the head and basically have an entire angle where I was going to treat it like it was a real person like it was an opponent. That’s why I would, at the beginning of every match, “What does everybody want? What does everybody need? What does everybody love?” If you watch, I get more agitated every time I do it. And that’s because it’s not me you want or need or love, it’s this head. And that was pissing me off, so…
GNN: In your time in wrestling, was there anybody that when you got in there, everything clicked?
AS: Oh, yeah, yeah. We call that a night off, and that’s happened with a lot of guys and that’s what keeps you going. It’s that feeling when you get in there and you don’t need to even really communicate much verbally, just physically, and the guy’s right when you need him to be when he needs to be doing the thing you need. You guys just do what you do and it happens so fluid and effortlessly. And your audience is right where you want them to be, when you want them to be, the way you want them to be, to the degree you want them to be without pushing or trying. Oh my god, I mean it’s it is the most amazing feeling. I mean, even physically, you don’t hurt. It just happens and it’s effortless. And then you want to make that happen every night and that’s what hooks you. And now you’re always looking for that again and certain guys, I mean, you would just go out and it just works. And then there are other guys that we call it pulling teeth because it’s just as physically painful and just as difficult.
GNN: And is it always that difficult? I mean, are there guys where, with time, you’re like, “All right, we’re improving. At first we were kind of bad, but now we’re better,” or are there certain guys, that no matter what it’s not going to work?
AS: Yeah, you’re just not good. For an audience, it’s not going to know. But for you, you can just feel. And you’re like, “God I can’t wait until this run’s over so I can get rid of this guy.”
GNN: So, during the attitude era when the hardcore division was at its peak, you took part in some crazy matches. What was the worst injury you’ve suffered in a match?
AS: Well, jeez. Well, I mean one time after about a 13- or 14-day run working with 2 Cold Scorpio, Flash Funk. He was doing a moonsault and he’s not light. He’s probably 250, 260. And when he lands on you, I mean a lot of people argue that stuff’s fake. But you know what? They actually do land on you. I got home and I’d lean my body to the left and you could hear my heart click against the inside of my chest. So, what had happened was a rib had been displaced and then the sack around the heart had swollen from being landed on and then when I would lean over it would kind of flop and lean against that rib and give you a click against that. I cracked my tailbone. That was fun. I went to drop an elbow, the guy had his hand out. He broke his hand, cracked my tailbone, kept working because of the adrenaline. We got back into the shower. I literally dropped the soap and then got stuck run over naked and, of course, the boys came in, peed on my feet. There’s no mercy. They don’t care. I couldn’t stand up until they finally helped pull me up, standing upright. And then you had to keep wrestling. You didn’t have a choice. Because if you took time off, you didn’t get paid.
GNN: Oh, man. Well, now let’s switch to a good thing. Let’s say that tomorrow you get word that you’re getting in the WWE Hall of Fame. Who’s inducting you?
AS: Well, that’s probably not going to happen.
GNN: Come on, man! I Listen, no offense, no offense meant, but Koko B. Ware is in the hall of fame. I watched him during his whole career. And I watched you during your WWE tenure at that one point. Come on, man. You deserve to be in as much as anybody. I mean, put on some frigging phenomenal matches. I mean, even when the Undertaker was beating you up…nothing is worse than seeing a guy getting punched in the face and just kind of standing there or not exactly looking like that’s the result. You were making Undertaker look like an actual dead man fighting someone.
AS: I appreciate that. Thank you. Well, I don’t know. I don’t know who would induct me, I really don’t.
GNN: Mick Foley?
AS: Sure, because let’s give him one more chance to verbally assault me. I mean, why not. I mean, quite honestly, I have never seen anyone be so obsessed with another human being like he is with me, and to the point where the only assumption you can come to is that he must have some sexual proclivity toward me. Otherwise, why be so focused on me all the time. Good, God! beating a dead horse and the only thing I say about Mick is back in the day when in the locker room he’d be telling everybody how he was going to be a standup comedian and everybody laughed and now he’s a standup comedian and no one’s laughing, so.
GNN: No. I know. He came to Tampa [Florida] and one thing I will say, the man has impeccable taste in clothes.
AS: Oh. Sure. I mean, if you ever wanted to do a runway model that looked like a homeless person, absolutely! He literally, looks like he just traveled in a boxcar on the train with the rest of the hobos and he came into town.
GNN: Okay, this is always something I wanted to know from someone who fits the criteria. You’ve been in video games. You’ve got action figures. How picky are you when you see your likeness out there? Are you picky about it or do you just like, “Eh, whatever” or are you like, “Holy s***. There’s an Al Snow action figure!” or, “Wow! I’m in a friggin’ video game and this is cool as hell?”
AS: I’m more, “Holy s***, like, wow!” Because every time is so awesome because, one, they can never take it away from me. Two, it’s a piece of immortality and to have an action figure made of you, to be in a video game, I mean, you can’t describe it. I mean, it is so awesome to have those things and for fans to come up and, “Ah, man, I used to play you as the character in the game and then Head would come in, and…,” I mean, I can’t even describe it. I mean, I wish I could. I wish honestly, wish I could put it in words and hey, let’s face it, I’m still number five on the top 23 things that Walmart won’t sell because of the threat to society, so…
GNN: I read that story that some woman thinks that you carry around the head that you’re promoting decapitation…
AS: Yeah. She was not the first either. When ECW had taken a promo photo where I was holding the base in front of me and by my chest with both hands and making a crazy look on my face and woman’s group had protested the show because they said that I was inciting violence against women because I was choking the head and I’m like, “You idiot.” Hey, it’s great that we have, as a society, moved beyond the confines of the Salem witch trials where we can go expound an opinion in public and then everybody jumps on board without actually doing any real homework about the topic.
GNN: Yeah. I mean, if you named it Sharon and said it was your ex-wife’s head, I could understand…
AS: Yeah, I named it Head and it’s not decapitated. And two weeks later, the movie Sleepy Hollow came out and they had in the package two actual decapitated heads. Nobody said a word. My story was a national news event for like two weeks. They did a story about it in Time magazine. I’ve still got those magazines, so. I mean, how ridiculous is that? I mean it’s just absurd. The lady even said, and I quote, “The action figure or doll,” she referred to it as, “is actually a training manual for future spousal abusers.” Now, I just want to point out. I did contact JAKKS. I’m like, that’s a great marketing idea. Why don’t we include a book with the doll. And they’re like, no. You can’t do that.
GNN: Okay, one of the articles I did for this website is, I did a Mount Rushmore of who made me the nerd I am today. Which four people, living or dead, wrestler, promoter, or manager, would be on Al Snow’s Mount Rushmore of wrestling?
AS: God. Austin Idol. Oh man. A lot of what you see the Rock do and his mannerisms and the way he delivers his delivery is Austin Idol. Very much an influence on him. Let me see. Austin Idol, I would say Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, and Terry Funk. I was told a story that Terry Funk was so good he could put himself in holds and nobody would even know it. And I thought, you know what? That’s being good. So I worked at, and still can, have guys put me in holds that didn’t even know they were doing the hold, so.
GNN: Great picks! Now, best fans interaction? I’m sure over the years there are fan interactions that stick out to you.
AS: Two things. One, and it’s not just one singular fan reactions, I mean these are every time I meet people who will come up and express a memory of and how it affected them, a match, or a promo, or where they say how entertained they were. And how much they believed in what I was doing and who I was. That’s probably one of the greatest compliments I could get. And then, every time I meet any special needs fans. For them, it’s the world, and you truly are a superhero to them and the genuineness and the appreciation and you know that what you’ve done really does mean so much more to them in so many more ways. And to have that opportunity to go to St. Jude’s Hospital, and to see those kids and knowing that doing something as silly as, again, going out and fighting another man in your underwear for money. But to them, it’s a moment that they get to forget about whatever they’re dealing with, and they get to live vicariously through you. I mean, that’s the greatest blessing you can get.
I mean, and we, even in OVW we’ve got fans like them. We have a little girl who has mitochondrial disease and it means so much that she has become a fan, she never misses a Tuesday; when we tape TV she’s there every week. For that whole family because they struggle with that and then her father has, he’s in remission now, but he had some ocular cancer, some type of very rare ocular cancer in his eye, and for them to be able to come, even if it’s just for that night, you know, to let it all go. That mean’s everything.
GNN: See? You said earlier that you don’t do something important. Yes, you do! You’re important to those kids!
AS: Well, we’re not like brain surgeons or rocket scientists, you know what I mean? We’re not altering socioeconomic situations, we’re just entertaining people, and then that’s why I take it so seriously. Especially when I teach people; I always tell them because young wrestlers and come and they’ll, “Well, give me some advice.” And I tell them straight-up, “Invest time, money, and effort in yourself, because you’re asking not just the promotor, which is very important to invest his time, money, and effort in you, but you’re asking that audience to invest their time, money, and effort to come watch you. And, no matter what it is that they’re paying, you need to make sure that it’s worth every penny that they paid to see you, because if it’s not, then you let them down, and that’s unacceptable.”
GNN: That’s a fantastic message. It’s good advice. I always ask anyone who does anything like you that creates some kind of content, for advice. And that’s good, sound advice. So, based on that, let’s go to the school, Al Snow Wrestling Academy. How did the school get started?
AS: Well, actually the very first one was called BodySlammers because I didn’t have a name of my own, and then that was in Ohio. I had that for quite a few years, from ’90 until the late ’90s. We trained a lot of people out of there that went onto have successful careers. Steve Austin came there when he wanted to knock off some ring rust and work on a match that he was going to have with Bret Hart. D’Lo Brown spent some time with me there. Kane came in for a little while. Dan Severn I trained from the ground up. Blue Meanie, Truth Martini, quite a few other guys, they all went on and had very good careers. And I spent my time in Tough Enough for three seasons on the air and then I came down here to be the head trainer for WWE, when they had their developmental program in association with OVW. Then I opened up the first Al Snow Wrestling Academy in England. I think I now have five or six in the UK. There’s one in Romania, one in Demark, one in Hungary, one in Greece, two in Chile. So, have a network of academies around the world.
And I created a syllabus that they all use. I’m not a big proponent, as far as style or technique; those vary from school to school. But philosophically, they’re all the same. And they train the same way. I’m very much about teaching the basics and the fundamentals. I treat teaching how to wrestle much like the way you learn to read. You first have to learn the alphabet, which are the moves, the basic moves. But what you’re really learning is a concept. So you’re going to learn the alphabet. Then you’re going to learn how to take those letters, put them together to make simple words, cat, tree, run, Fred. And then you’re going to put those words together to make simple sentences that communicate an idea. “See the cat run up the tree.” And then you’re going to start putting those sentences together to make very simple paragraphs. And then you’re going to start to make more complex paragraphs to communicate more complex ideas and thoughts. And then you’re going to be able to put those paragraphs together to start constructing a chapter, which is going to start beginning to be able to tell characters and stories. Then you’re putting those chapters together to tell a complete story from start to finish, within the context of a competitive situation.
In this day and age, it’s more of a challenge because there’s a plethora of schools out there that won’t take that time and effort to, quite honestly, teach the proper ideas and communicate the precepts of what the art is these days. They just bring people in. They focus on the physical. They teach them how to fall correctly, which is not what they’re really supposed to be teaching. They’re supposed to be teaching them how to control themselves physically in the air so they land correctly the same way every time. And then they teach them a couple of wrestling moves. And then they start to teach them to hit the ropes. And then they teach them how to do what we call high spots. And then about a month later, they’re in wrestling matches in front of an audience.
And that’s really not how it’s supposed to happen. There’s a lot more involved in it as far as the in-ring process is concerned. And more understanding of what it is you’re really attempting to do. And that’s been lost. That’s not being communicated. So, I’ve always approached it, the in-ring training of that part, in trying to be as thorough as possible, because back in the day, like I said, it was very difficult to get in the wrestling business. And the reason for that was because you were held accountable and that’s been gone now for the last couple decades. You were held accountable directly for everything that whoever you trained did. And if they did anything that adversely affected another person’s business, it adversely affected you, because it could easily get you blackballed from the business and you would not be able to make a living anymore. So, guys weren’t very willing to put their name on you unless they were confident that you were going to make a good showing, make a good accounting for them because it carried their reputation around. So if you were bad, they were bad.
GNN: Right. That makes sense.
AS: I still believe in that very much. If you’re going to go in with my reputation, then I’m going to make sure that you’re not going to be doing anything that makes me look bad. I’m going to over-prepare you, as much as I can.
But the most important thing that a professional wrestler needs to have is a passion for what they want to do, because this isn’t a normal life by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a very challenging life, and there’s something like 900,000 wrestlers worldwide, okay? There are more than 111,000 wrestlers in the United States alone. In the state of Kentucky, we have 1,100 licensed wrestlers. In job opportunities, there are for New Japan, 98 slots on their roster. In MLW, 58. In AEW, there are 90. In WWE, now this is on-air, off-air, executive, administrative, total jobs available, 673. As far as AEW, on-air, off-air, executive, administrative, total jobs, 90. MLW, same thing, 58. New Japan, total jobs, 98. Impact Wrestling, 90. WOW Wrestling, 49. The total number of high-level jobs, on-air, off-air, executive, administrative, the total jobs available in wrestling are 1,016. We have 900,000 wrestlers worldwide.
Why in the world would you want to go to just any old wrestling school? And this is not an ad for me. I could care less where you go. Okay? But why would you just go anywhere and just get any kind of training when the odds are so stacked against you? And we always hold in high esteem the NFL and how elite those players are. For the NBA or for major league baseball, I’m sorry. You have a better chance of being on the NFL or major league baseball or the NBA than it does you being a successful professional wrestler, you know?
GNN: How many wrestling schools are there now? I mean, obviously I don’t expect you to know the exact number, but is it dozens, hundreds?
AS: Thousands now. There are literally thousands. And it’s gotten to the point to where… and I’m not knocking anybody. Okay? I’m stating a fact. It’s gotten to a point where a lot of these wrestling schools offer it like it’s a workout. You go and you pay per visit. And it’s always been my belief that a wrestling school is no different than a university. It’s a place of higher learning. You’re not going there like MMA or boxing, to learn a physical skill. You’re going there to learn skills to pursue a trade, to pursue a vocation, to have a career, and to make a living. That’s what you’re really supposed to be being taught. And as such, it should be treated like the same.
We live in a day and an age of information. And that means, unfortunately, everybody thinks, “Well, everybody has an opinion. They’re entitled to it.” You’re absolutely right. And you’re entitled to keep it to yourself. Because opinion is the lowest form of human knowledge. It takes little or no information to conjugate one and then you go around espousing it in public like you’re a professional or an expert on a topic like you have real knowledge. And I hate to break it to you, but the fact of the matter is that in order to have real knowledge about any topic, you have to have information and a commensurate amount of experience with that information to have a real understanding of the topic, to then be a rational expert. And to prove it, you go to medical school for anywhere from 8 to 12 years, depending on your specialty, but once you graduate medical school, you’re still not a licensed physician, you’re not a doctor until you finish a residency, which means supervised experience, which allows you to now have knowledge with the information because of the experience. Now you become a doctor. It’s the same with everything else. I can go to Lowe’s today, but that don’t make me a plumber [laughter]. You know what I mean? I can get faucet and replace it on my sink this weekend, but that doesn’t make me a plumber. I can wire a lamp but that doesn’t make me an electrician, you know?
GNN: So hold on, if I play Guitar Hero, that doesn’t make me a musician?
AS: You’re not Van Halen. You’re not Eddie Van Halen, no.
GNN: So, you mentioned that in other schools, you learn the in-ring stuff. I’m sure you learn that at your school, as well, but what other subjects do you teach? What does a degree entail?
AS: Well, this is how it all got started. First, there are no real standards, period. We’re in a commission ruled state, and I’m not knocking the Kentucky State Wrestling Commission because they actually are doing a lot of very good things to try to improve the state of wrestling and to improve the conditions for the athletes themselves to protect them. But, there’s a commission in Oklahoma, there’s a commission in Maryland, there’s a commission in New York, there’s a commission in Pennsylvania, there’s a commission in Kentucky, one in South Carolina, Louisiana. Any place there’s a commission, the standards are this, for you to become a professional wrestler, and I find it abhorrent and I find it insulting, okay? And I’ll explain why. You just need to pay your money and get a physical and TA DA you’re a professional wrestler. Now, my lovely wife is a licensed masseuse, and anywhere in the state, anywhere in the United States, if you want to be a massage therapist, if you want to be a mortician, you want to be a beautician, a barber, you have to go to a state-accredited school. You have to be taught by a state-accredited teacher. You have to complete a number of state-approved hours of training. You have to complete a number of state-approved residency hours, and then you get to go take a test to be a licensed vocation, okay?
These people, be aware, these people, one is working on dead people. The others are simply cutting hair. One is rubbing, massaging. I’m not downplaying what they’re doing, but the physical risk that is in professional wrestling, that’s inherent in professional wrestling doesn’t exist in these other vocations. So, now you have people that are in no physical condition to be in the ring, and they haven’t been properly trained and they can suffer life-altering injuries and death in some cases that are happening on a grand scale throughout the United States. There was a young man in Oklahoma who was poorly trained, went in the ring, took a spine buster, hit the back of his head, and his brain swelled. He was in a coma for three days and they had to pull the plug on him.
So, I went and appeal to the commission to set standards to create a training license to set a certain number of hours that they had to be trained. I had no interest in this other than to better the professional wrestling business. And then they would have state-required– have a state-approved school, have state-required hours they had to complete before they would ever possibly get a license and get in the ring in front of an audience. Of course, that was rejected. And then I met my business partner and we determined that we were going to do it ourselves. So [former referee and wrestler] Danny Davis was retiring at the time and we got together and decided we were going to do on our own. It has taken us more than a year, almost a year and a half of a process to get approved as a state-accredited trade school for professional wrestling, sports, entertainment, and broadcasting. So, what that means is we had to submit an application that was over 600 pages to the State Office of Proprietary Education that oversees trade schools and universities. We’re not just some fly-by-night or a, “Well, I wrestled for three years and now I’m going to open a building and start training people.” Can’t do it. We have to follow certain standards. And I felt like for young men and women, no matter how talented they are, no matter how good they are, again, look at the odds, there’s over 900,000 wrestlers in the world, okay? There are over 100,000 just in the United States alone, and there are only 1,000 jobs worldwide. That’s not roster jobs. That’s not in-ring performer jobs. That’s counting backstage and everything. So, you’ve got those kinds of odds. Also, when your career comes to an end, for whatever reason, you’re in-ring career is going to come to an end. I want to give these young men and women other skills so they can still pursue some kind of career within the business. It may not be in the ring anymore, but now they can do it backstage, so we’re not just teaching them the in-ring portion of wrestling. We’re also teaching them how to operate a camera, lighting, sound, how to write a press release, how to manage finances, how to do live event management, how to produce a television show, creative writing, how to write a television show, how to direct, how to produce a vignette, a live event, social media management. We’re giving them as many aspects of the business as possible. We have a partnership with Republic Bank. The banks are required by the FDIC to do what is called Community Reinvestment. We had a meeting with them just a couple of days ago. They’re going to teach the financial aspects of personal financial management, which is so important, and they’re going to teach business financial management. So, these people will learn how to get a business loan, not just a personal loan, but a business loan, and what a profit and loss sheet is, and an ROI, return on investment, things like that. Skills that they need.
So, it’s a two-year program, it’s 60, what we call contact hours, not credit hours. And it’s an actual accredited trade school. They become certified as professional wrestling, sports entertainment and broadcasting, and broadcasting.
GNN: That’s incredible. You hear so many sad stories about people in other sports, these basketball players that are in the league two or three years and they get all this money and it would be nice if there were some education for them down the road, “What do you do at this point? Okay, you want to be a coach. Okay, you want to be behind the camera.” These guys they throw on television, sometimes they’re not that great on camera, but if there were some sort of school they can go to…
AS: So that then, at the end, because at some point, you’re not going to be able to play anymore. And then wrestling, that doesn’t always mean just physically, at some point, you as a product…because you’re nothing more than a jar of peanut butter, and no matter how much people love eating peanut butter, at some time you get tired of eating peanut butter. So, for a wrestler, you’re going to need to find something else to do, “Well, hey. I know how to direct. I know how to produce. I know how to write TV. I can work a camera. I can do sound. I can be a commentator. I can be a host.” There are multiple things that you can do, that if you’ve never been taught even the most rudimentary skills, then they’re going to throw you in the deep end, and you’re going to get one opportunity and you either sink or you swim, and most likely, you’re probably going to sink. Aside from that, the whole OVW/ASWA experience is quite unique, because even if you just wanted to be a professional wrestler, there is nowhere else that you can go and get the experience of being on a live television show that’s being produced on a weekly basis anywhere else. There’s nowhere else that you can do that. The only place you can do that is either for AEW or for one of WWE’s brands, and that basically means that when you walk through that curtain, it’s sink or swim, and that’s the first time you’ve ever been on live television. That’s not where you want to start figuring that out, you know what I mean? What to do and when to do it. That’s your chance to either live or die, and a place like OVW is one of the last places that you can actually get the experience.
We produce a live television show every Tuesday night. We have over a thousand consecutively run episodes. Last night was 1,054 consecutive broadcasts with an operation territory. We would run live events every week, so.
GNN: So, people are checking at your Al Snow Wrestling Academy website. It’s a big hulking, musclebound guy or girl or someone who’s saying to himself, “Oh, I do backyard wrestling. I’m perfect for this.” What’s one piece of advice? What’s one thing they should or shouldn’t do before considering coming to your school?
AS: Be prepared to, one, you’re going to work really hard. And, two, you’re going to be physically very sore. It’s always fascinating to me to watch young men and women or even older ones when reality meets the fantasy. And I tell everyone this all the time. And most aren’t going to get it because we’re all conditioned to live a certain life, of the 9 to 5. Dad goes to work, comes home every day, and we all live for the weekends, and we will live for that two-week vacation. But we all want to live a life that others don’t live. And in order to live that life that others don’t live, you’ve got to be willing to do things that others won’t do. And if you’re not willing to do things that others won’t do, you will never… I cannot emphasize that word enough… never live a life that others won’t live. Period.
GNN: You’re exactly right. That is absolutely fantastic advice. To learn more about the school, there’s a Facebook page, the Al Snow Wrestling Academy Facebook page, correct?
AS: True. And you can go to the Al Snow Wrestling Academy website. You can also go to the OVW Wrestling webpage. Or to the Gladiator Sports Network webpage. Any of those you can access each and every other one so you can get more information. And by all means, ask any questions. We’re at a recruitment drive. We have open enrollment every quarter. So winter quarter will be coming up in January and we’ll have open enrollment for that. And then we’ll have spring quarter. We go all year round. We take a week off or two weeks off between each quarter. It’s basically a two-year program. I know that you can go down the road, and you can become a professional wrestler in two or three months, but I’m about trying to teach people to quite honestly to be a professional wrestler and to increase the odds in their favor of trying to be that one person that stands out in the hundred and whatever thousand there are in the United States alone. I want to give young men and women every possible skill and opportunity to take advantage of any chance they have of securing one of those spots.
GNN: That’s an awesome goal, I mean, and it can only make the product at the end better.
AS: Absolutely. And listen. I’ve always said this, and it’s not a magnanimous thing. I’m not the Mother Teresa of wrestling. The more successful every one of my students is, the more successful I am and that’s more of a legacy that I leave behind. And I realized a long time ago the legacy that I’m going to leave behind is all the people that I’ve brought into the business. And OVW has a lengthy list of alumni that has been in WWE on the main roster and has been in the main event of Wrestle Mania. I can go down the list in there, Impact Wrestling. WWE, I mean, Japan, there are people that I have had a direct relationship with and trained and affected all through the business.
GNN: Come on, man. Don’t be humble. You belong in the WWE Hall of Fame. You know you do!
AS: Well, somebody’s Hall of Fame, probably my own…in my house. I already have an altar there with all my action figures around and I regularly worship myself constantly.
GNN: So, if people want to know more about Al Snow, in addition to going to WWE Network and searching Al Snow you can find a plethora of Al Snow matches and vignettes and such. Where are you active on social media? Facebook? Twitter?
AS: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s @therealalsnow because, yes, there are some imposters. By the way, when you’re an imposter, I’ll message you and tell you that if you’re going to be a celebrity, I would aim higher. You know what I mean? I honestly have sent that message several times. I’m like, “Look, man, I’m not upset. I’m just disappointed in you because you really did not bother setting the bar high at all. So if you’re going to do it, you’re going to make the effort, why don’t you at least pick someone else…
GNNL: Yeah, like Mick Foley!
AS: I don’t even know if I would go that far, but aim higher. Go for the gold. I mean, be Neil Armstrong. He was the first man on the moon! And you chose to be Al Snow? Way to go kid. It’s like, “Oh, what do you want to do when you grow up?” I want to work at Burger King. It’s the same thing!
GNN: Oh, you’re not the Burger King of wrestling. You’re at least Five Guys.
AS: Maybe Five Guys, they’re not bad. Smash Burger’s pretty good too. So.
GNN: Well, Al, on that note, we’ll wrap it up. Thank you very much for taking the time.
AS: Thank you.