Last week, we had the opportunity to sit down with a wrestling hero, Al Snow. Here in London for the Film and Comic Convention, we found him to be thoughtful and engaging. He spoke to us about a range of topics from business to relationships, showcasing his forensic knowledge of the profession. We left, having been thoroughly schooled by the head-master.
You are an agent for TNA, what is your view on the current product and the six-sided ring debate - can it cause more injuries as Lance Storm suggested?
I think that TNA should never have abandoned the six-sided ring. It was a great identifier for the brand, something that set them apart. When a casual fan flips through the channels and sees that ring, it can catch their attention and might create a new audience member. I'm not sure it can cause more injuries. If there's a multitude of people out there, it's harder to track where everybody is at - your head is on a swivel a little bit - but the guys in general just need to slow down a little (which they should do anyway). So far as the product that's out there right now is concerned, I think they're making great strides. They're doing the right things and taking the right steps. They rush a little bit but they're just trying hard to make headway.
You're one of the most prolific trainers in the business. TNA has just announced that we'll be treated to British Boot Camp 2. What is your advice for wrestling hopefuls?
There's one key piece of advice about wrestling. You have to know, in your heart, that you want to be in it for the right reasons. So many people are trying their hand at it now in order to be a celebrity - they're enamoured with the idea of being famous and see notoriety as success. Fame isn't why people should be doing this and if they are, they will probably fail. Thousands upon thousands of people around the world all have the same aspirations but there are so few on that roster. Even once you're there in WWE or TNA, you're not going to be happy nor will you last. Ultimately, you're only as good as the last time you performed and you have to perform every single week at world-cup level and when you mess up, there's an army of people waiting to use it as a way to subvert others' confidence in you. It can all disappear in an instant. You have to be on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and succeed every week. In WWE, each week - and I emphasise, every week - they sit down and if your name makes it around the table you stay. If it doesn't, you're gone. That's 365 days of pressure a year and it never lets up. Ever. Ultimately, you are one of two things. You're either a thing that sells tickets and motivates people to buy or you're one of the things that helps that thing (selling tickets). There is no third option. You won't be kept around just because you're good. So if you are an aspiring wrestler, keep all of that in mind because you're not going to be happy unless you know going in, you want it for the right reasons.
You worked in the territories in the US, do you miss them and what's the implication of their absence for American professional wrestling?
Yes, I do miss them. The profession desperately needs something like the territory feeder system but not so much for the reasons you would think. Let me explain. Professional wrestling is an art with two sides to it. First, the talent's job is to sell tickets and be an attraction, nothing else. Second though and linked to the first, is the ability to tell a story through physical actions linked to a win or loss. That art form is going away - we press for and push it, but the talent aren't being taught it and are developing habits that are precisely counter to it. Why is it so important? Because the only one thing that's fake in professional wrestling is the outcome, everything else is quite real. If the outcome has no meaning, then everything physically that you've done to the other guy is just a series of athletic moves and now no longer has any reason or purpose. There's no consequence to the action and therefore no drama, no emotional connection and no heat - which is a desire to return to see the wrong righted. Guys focus too much on what they do, not when and why they did it. It's also about relating. People relate to soccer because they've played it. Before they've stepped into a ring, nobody's wrestled and so it's that much more important to have a character. If someone can't sell you to their friends and family in a sentence or less, you're wasting your time. It's only relating to a person that brings an audience in.
We have seen talent from across the companies released in recent months, what advice would you give those recently departed stars?
That's a natural order of the wrestling business. Even in the territory days, that happened constantly. One needs to understand that professional wrestlers are a brand, a product. For example, no matter how much you love peanut butter at some point in time you get tired of eating it and it's got to go away and find some other place to sell itself. You would be in Texas for eight months, Georgia for about four and Tennessee for a year and a half, whilst WWF at that time was always a place where everybody wanted to go because it made money. If you were doing well, you might get a call if they thought you could have a good run. Vince McMahon Senior would always tell you the date you would come in and leave, so you knew that was your window. He was one of the few guys that would do that, he might bring you back but he always kept to what he said and the dates he set, whatever you did in the run. Its not different now, WWE is a territory, TNA is a territory. You as a wrestler are a product and you have limited run. This idea that guys get to create a career in one place is absurd. The misnomer now that "such and such a talent was fired today..." you can't fire wrestlers! They're never hired. Even if he just goes away for a month, a year or longer, he's got to go away and then maybe he can be brought back. It's not the end of the career it's an opportunity. Wrestling on TV isn't ever a match, it's a commercial. If you effectively sell your product then it opens up opportunities for you to continue to make a living.
You've worked in so many promotions, what was the best rib played on you or that you played on someone else?
The best was years ago, someone had ribbed me, so I stole their room key. There was a petting zoo just down the road so I went down there and stole a baby goat, put it in the back seat of my car, drove back and snuck it through the lobby (which wasn't easy) and then unlocked the door to the room and let in in whilst that person was out. When they got back the goat had chewed up everything and had defecated everywhere! Another good rib - because of the stage it was on was when I was doing the pepper (the dog) angle. Vince Russo told me we needed to do a missing poster for the dog. I looked at Christian and said "well every poster needs a phone number" and he suggested Val Venus, which I thought was perfect. The first time they filmed it, was from a distance. When it aired, Val's phone rang and he said "I think you have the wrong number, I don't have a dog, I think you want my mum's number" (his mum was a dog breeder). He only got that one call but you could hardly see the number on the screen, so the next night in Boston I was live on Raw and Vince Russo asked me to do the poster again. I must have pointed to that number 12 or 15 times in a one minute segment. Let's just say Val didn't sound happy when he called me at 3am...he had been constantly harassed and had to change his number!
You have faced yourself in a match and you have had matches against head, do you think that kind of creativity has been lost from the business?
I think in general, creativity has gone. Its all too over-produced and thought out. It shouldn't be a formula whereby you perform that stupid seven-step thing rather you should just do things because you feel them. But it's so overproduced now and the talent themselves over-produced things and don't leave themselves room to be creative and imaginative. They're so afraid of making a mistake, that they never create nor want those moments anymore. Its sad because the beauty of it, is that as long as it's all linked to winning and losing, people will believe anything. They believe I knock out somebody with a plastic head, they believe the People's Elbow, they believe the Worm and those were all things that were just done on a whim. There was no forethought, there was no planning, it was just try it. If it works, great. If it doesn't, don't do it. Guys now are just terrified that if they make even the smallest mis-step that they'll be gone. It's stifling.
You were a European champion and famously came to the ring with different European insignia, what was the fan reaction to that?
What's funny is that when I was doing the European championship I even came out representing Hong Kong! Of course the British ruled Hong Kong, so it made sense to me. I felt so stupid doing that gimmick at the time but not only fans in the US but so many fans here in the UK have come up to me and told me how funny and entertaining they thought it was. You do things and at the time and think "this feels so stupid", but you don't realise how much it affects people.
Do you think that applies to Damien Sandow?
It depends on if he embraces it. Whenever I felt that I was going to be made to look like an ass, I decided I would make myself look like as big an ass as possible. You're not going to make a fool of me, I'll make a fool of me. If he's doing that then yeah, it'll probably get over and people will always remember it. If he's upset about it and it's getting to him then it's going to come across the wrong way.
What are your memories of Paul Heyman at ECW, does it surprise you he's still around?
I'm not at all surprised. He is a brilliant man and a brilliant worker in the true meaning of it, being a manipulator. I don't say that in a negative fashion. You know Paul E had a small company that was trying to compete with two much larger companies and he had to motivate the talent and the audience and he did that successfully by uniting everyone behind a common enemy. ECW was the little train that could. I think one problem for him was that he was trying to retain a roster whilst paying some of them six figure incomes on a house show schedule that didn't draw that kind of money. Another problem was that for all his brilliance and ideas and creativity, Paul E was never a live TV guy. He was a post-production guy which was where he could hide all the weaknesses and consolidate all the strengths - which he did masterfully - to the point that a lot of talent once they were hired to other places, couldn't survive because the shell that Paul E had created around them fell apart. Am I surprised he's still around? God no, not at all. Not for a guy that's so savvy.
Mick Foley is still trotting out Al Snow jibes, when will you start your own show and get revenge? Are you still in touch?
If I were to start a show, a comedy show, I would want it to be funny! Why would I talk about Mick! You know, when Mick first started telling everyone he wanted to be a stand-up comedian, well, we all laughed, and now he's a stand-up comedian and nobody's laughing! But, yes, we still see each other once in a while. We were in a Comic Con together in long Island recently where we hung out.
You've now worked in a number of films including many horror films, what is the allure of horror for you and what's next for Al Snow? We see you've got a crowd-funding campaign for a TV show amnesia.
So far as horrors are concerned, I don't know! It just seems to be that way. I don't only get approached for horror films, but I've done a lot of them, yeah. I've done a couple of other genres like a romantic comedy and an action-adventure film (Overtime) but I've no idea why so many horror films. It just seems to go that way. I have other films coming out, Alice D is out soon (a horror film but more a psychological thriller), Fat Chance (a comedy horror slasher flick), Lake Eerie (an out and out horror). I've done 5 or 6 but they just take so long to put together, Im amazed sometimes. It takes 1-2 months to film but up to 18 months to package it just right for release.
Finally, you're married to a fellow wrestler and have done films together, others have said it's very difficult when both partners are in the business. What's your secret to success?
It is tough period with a wrestler or someone else. The thing both parties have to do is understand the other side. It takes a lot of work, more work than the average relationship. I once met a guy at an Autoparts store who suggested to me that I was never home. When I asked him how often he worked, he told me six days a week and 12 hours a day. I said, "Im home more than you are". When I come home I'm really home but I don't think it's the same in those cases. I do go away but when I'm home I am trying consciously to make up for the time I'm away so I'm probably genuinely home more than that guy.
Whilst accepting that he will need to be home at some point, our view having met the man is that we want to see more of him. The question that leads his entrance theme is "What Does Everybody Want?" Perhaps the answer might be more Al Snow.