Jerry: We have a special guest from New Generation Wrestling this week. Doc is going to love this.
Doc: Lana Star?!
Doc: Larry Legend?!
Jerry: Nope. It's Maryland's own Claude Baker.
Doc: Great! I love that guy.
Jerry: You would. NGW has already become a local success story...err...phenomenon is more like it. Their local ratings continue to grow and their shows have suddenly become the hottest ticket in the area. PWI recently gave the promotion a favorable write up and it seems like they are adding five new markets in syndication every time you turn around.
Doc: Good for them. It is a great promotion. I urge everybody in our listening audience to go catch a live show or at least watch in on television.
Jerry: For once we agree. Without further ado I give you New Generation Wrestling's Claude Baker.
Claude: Thanks for the warm welcome. Before I start I just want to compliment you on your show's theme song. I love the Crue, man!
Doc: I knew I liked you!
Claude: You're the man, Doc. But I never pegged you
as a fan of mine, McMoshenberg.
Jerry: I'm not! I feel sorry for JR! But I do enjoy NGW.
Claude: Please! I've been carrying the Okie From Muskogee since NGW started! Nah, JR is actually alright once you get to know him. A bit of a stick in the mud, no doubt. And he doesn't always get everything we're trying to do. But nobody is more trusted by the fans and nobody is better at calling a match. All those great Ric Flair matches wouldn't have been quite
so great without JR calling them. I'm just glad WCW and WWF were stupid enough to fire the best play by play man in the biz so I could get him in NGW.
Jerry: Well, let's cover your background. There is a lot casual fans don't know about you.
Claude: That's true, McMoshenberg. I'm not just the best color commentator in wrestling. I'm also the founder, producer, talent scout, finance guy and booker for NGW. I'm pulling Mel Brooks in History of the World: Part One
Doc: And you should win awards for your work in all those categories! I was just wondering, when and how did you initially conceive the idea for New Generation Wrestling?
Claude: Well, I've been a wrestling fan my entire life. I always wanted to get into the business but I knew I'd never make it as a wrestler because I'm just an average sized guy with average athletic ability. So I gravitated more towards the backstage side of things. Coming up with characters and storylines of my own has been a passion of mine since I first started to follow pro wrestling. Remember pogs?
Jerry & Doc: No.
Claude: No? Really? Pogs? They were huge a few years ago! Anyway, that was me. I invented Pogs. Yep. I made a lot of money in the Pog business and invested wisely. Blockbuster Video, Big Tobacco and the like. You know, good stable long-term investments that will have me rolling in the dough for years to come. I had enough money to live comfortably but I decided to follow my lifelong dream and start my own wrestling promotion. It's been a blast. I'm living the dream, man.
Jerry: You have a.....shall we say....unique vision on what pro wrestling should be.
Claude: Not really. I'm just taking the formula Vince McMahon popularized over a decade ago and turning it up to eleven. Vince is my greatest...and really my only influence as a promoter. He is...or at least was the best in the business.
Jerry: And you've attracted your fair share of critics in doing so.
Claude: Yes I have. The business changes. You get these old farts like Jim Cornette who want wrestling to be nothing more than two normal dudes in their underwear pretending to fight for the same tired reasons pro wrestlers have been fighting for over half a century. Then you have the dirtsheet nerds who want to pretend wrestling is a bah gawd real sport. The funniest one yet is when...I'm not going to use his real name because I don't want to give him any free publicity, but it rhymes with Wave Smeltzer. Anyway, this nobody out in California had the usual old fart complaints. Too many gimmicks. Not enough boring regular guys in boots and tights. Yada yada yada. And then he criticized our (airquotes) match quality. I had to laugh. It's nineteen ninety-five. Who the hell cares about (fake pompous voice) match quality. It's....absurd. Hogan/Andre is the biggest match of our lifetime and it sucked from a bitter old fart standpoint. Match quality
Give me a break! Anyway, I'd wager 99% of wrestling fans over the age of eight realize they're watching an entertainment program, and not a real sport. But the trick is to treat it as if it's 100% real. We treat everything we present as if it is the most important thing in the world. The fans pick up on it and they are more willing to go along with the story we're telling. This is essential and I think it's lost on some promoters. Mark my words. Irony will be the death of wrestling.
Pro Wrestling can, and should be so much more than a simulated fight. It can be the best form of entertainment there is. It's comedy. It's drama. It's science fiction. It's music. It's a cartoon. It's a mystery. It's romance. It's a morality play. It's also a regular play. And, yes, it is also a sport. But the sport aspect of wrestling is just one small piece of a greater pie. In my not-so-humble opinion some of the greatest athletes in the world, along with some of the greatest entertainers, are pro wrestlers. There is nothing better than pro wrestling done right. It's basically the world's best variety show, but way better, because variety shows suck.
Jerry: You make a lot of good points but what about people who say your product is too niche?
Claude: They couldn't be more wrong. We present the opposite of a niche product. In reality it's the people who call NGW a niche product that are the narrow minded ones. We offer something for everyone. We also bring in celebrities from all walks of life in an effort to bring new fans to our product. I mean what other promotion brings an opera singer in for cryin' out loud? An opera singer! In pro wrestling! But we made it work.
And I doubt you'll find a more eclectic group of people than our list of investors. The Famous Author and Gamesman, George Plimpton, was the first celebrity to get onboard. It was a major coup for us. The man has done it all. The Paris Review
. Sidd Finch. Intellivision pitchman. Football. Boxing. Baseball. Married With Children
. Fireworks commissioner of New York City. Invented participatory journalism. Et cetera. Et cetera. Come to think of it, The Curious Case of Sidd Finch
is as Pro Wrestling as it gets. So it's only natural he would want to get involved with wrestling at some point. I actually met him at an Intellivision convention a few years back. We got to talking. I found out he was a longtime wrestling fan. I told him he'd have a spot on my roster when I ran my own promotion some day. He chuckled and said that would be grand. I'm sure he thought I was just some goofy kid star-struck kid. Which, to be fair, I was. But lo and behold, the dream became a reality. Mister Plimpton was one of the first people I telephoned after conceiving the idea which would become NGW. And he remembered me! And had already devised a character he wanted to play. It's like he had been waiting for this moment. Mister Plimpton wanted to be the bad guy manager of a poetry spouting wrestler known as The Grecian Urn. I told him I already had a wrestling poet character in mind. That character would of course become The Genius. Mr. Plimpton was thrilled. But I had to break his heart. I turned down his offer to be a bad guy manager. He didn't take it well. I felt I had to explain myself. I said to Mr. Plimpton, nobody would ever boo you. I was right, of course. I mean who would boo Mr. Intellivision?! Now he is doing a great job as our fan friendly commissioner. I anxiously await the article on his pro wrestling experience. It's just a shame his old friend Marianne Moore is no longer with us because I'm sure we could have cooked up something wonderful between her and Lana Star.
One of my biggest regrets thus far is not letting Mr. Plimpton loose on the mic. Sometimes I can be too much of a control freak. Plus I was worried that his stuff would go over the heads of our lovely fanbase. Still, I have literary icon George Plimpton right there
am writing his lines?! Something is wrong here and that something is me. Mr. Plimpton has, of course, been a total gentleman about the whole thing, but I'm letting him loose from now on. No more 5th grade dialogue will be coming out of Mr. Plimpton mouth. No sir!
Anyway, Mr. Plimpton opened the door for more major stars to follow. Now we have a popular British actress, a Swedish Rock God, an infomercial self-help guru, and a charismatic NBA legend on our board of investors. I'm currently negotiating with yet another international music sensation to come onboard. Having all these celebrities involved helps our mainstream credibility. We want 70 year old grannies sitting alongside rowdy teenagers and in front of screaming young children. We want to be more than just another pro rasslin' promotion. We want to be mainstream huge. Kind of like WWF, but bigger and better.
Jerry: What about those critics who say nobody cares about a bunch of minor celebrities?
Claude: Minor! MINOR! Tell me you did not just say that. I got two words for you. George. Plimpton.
Jerry: Fair enough.
Doc: And your growing syndication deal is also helping to expand awareness of your product.
Claude: Exactly. Syndication is huge and it's only going to get bigger. It's the future, man. The most popular shows around the world aren't Friends
or whatever. Even though I do adore Seinfeld
. But it's syndicated programs like Baywatch
that are popular worldwide. Have you seen the initial syndication deal for Xena: Warrior Princess
? It's massive! We want to be in that mix. We want New Generation Wrestling on TV everywhere. I'm talking from Adelaide to Alaska....from Bangor to Bangkok....
Doc: Hehe. You said cock.
Jerry: Oh brother.
Claude: Haha! Good one, Doc! You never fail to make me laugh.
Jerry: Let's get back on track. How did you first become a wrestling fan?
Claude: Umm...by watching it?
Doc: Duh! What a stupid question, McMoshenberg!
Claude: Seriously though. I just fell in love with it from day one. It was....all those elements I just described a few minutes ago. The first moments that really stuck with me were the Hart Foundation beating the Bulldogs for the WWF tag titles and then Honkytonk Man taking the Intercontinental title from Ricky Steamboat. I was hooked. And then I ran around the house cheering like a maniac when Andre beat Hogan for the belt. Yeah, I always liked the bad guys
The great part is now I get to create my own characters and make memories for the next generation of fans. I truly believe NGW has the best roster, and certainly the best storytelling, of any promotion in the world.
Doc: No doubt!
Jerry: Wrestling as a whole is struggling right now. ECW and your NGW are the only US promotions to have experienced substantial growth in 1995.
Claude: That's because everybody else is stale. WWF and WCW have obviously seen better days. WWF has the right idea by making it more about characters than boring old guys in tights so there is some hope for the future. But WCW is still chock full of boring old guys wrestling each other in the same main event matches we've seen for a decade now. People want a change. That's one of the reasons I made the conscious decision not to bring in any established mainstream super duper stars. It's time to give new guys a shot on top, even if some of those new guys happen to be veterans. Still, it's not as if Paul Orndorff & Larry Zbyszko have been headlining for a decade straight. Nor had they worked with each other a million times before entering NGW. Now they probably SHOULD have been main eventing given the fact that they are two of the best, most underappreciated talents of the past decade and a half, but they weren't, and that makes them fresh to the audience. Jacques Rougeau is another fantastic veteran. I love that guy and sincerely (not Sal!) think he's the most underutilized talent of the past decade. Anyway, back on topic. WWF is better than ever in some ways but they're still pushing boring Johnny Bootandtight types like Bret Hart too hard. Bret Hart has never drawn well in the US and he never will. The kind of old school rasslin' USWA & SMW put on is rapidly dying out. I don't think either promotion has much time left. Nobody wants to see that stuff anymore in 1995. And the NWA is just a bad joke. As for ECW, who everybody calls our competition. While they're experiencing growth at the moment, it can only go so far. It's too niche. They appeal to that Faces of Death
crowd and little else. What, dirtsheet readers and a dozen nerds on the internet? Please. Dirtsheet readers and internet dwellers make up less than 1% of the total wrestling fanbase. They're at the fringe of the fringe. I won't bore you with all the demographic info, but only 14% of Americans are on the internet, and only a minuscule percentage of that
14% are wrestling fans. The number of dirtsheet readers is even smaller. It's great if those people want to get onboard the NGW bandwagon. The more the merrier. But they aren't our target audience. We've mostly ignored the dirtsheets and internet in favor of starting up a relationship with the good people over at the PWI family of magazines. And I'm still not sold on this whole internet thing anyway. I have a feeling it's going to turn out to be the pet rock or the hula hoop of the 90s.
Jerry: Aren't Pogs already the hula hoop of the '90s?
Claude: I hate you. Interview terminated.
Jerry & Doc: NO! DON'T GO!
Doc: Please stay. I'll keep McMoshenberg in line.
Claude: Fine. But I'm only staying for you, Doc. Back to ECW....well, look at the UFC. They had a little buzz for a minute there and now it's already being heavily regulated, if not outright banned in some places for being too barbaric. I imagine ECW, provided they ever make it big enough to garner any kind of mainstream attention at all, will be heavily regulated just like the UFC is. NGW, on the other hand, will never have to worry about that.
Jerry: Well, I suppose that makes sense.
Doc: Of course it does, McMoshenberg.
Claude: Another way I'm spreading the gospel of NGW is by striking deals with the video stores. Home video is a massive industry and I only expect to grow even more over the next ten to fifteen years. Hell, I got into old school NWA by renting tapes from my local video store every weekend. I want NGW tapes in every video store in the country so the casual fan who doesn't read the mags or get our show in syndication realizes there is more to wrestling than WWF or WCW. There is also NGW. We also have a deal with an enterprising young man named Rob Feinstein to sell NGW tapes through the Apter Mags. It has already proven to be yet another valuable source of income.
Jerry: Enough about the business side of things. Let's get back to the wrestling side. Who would you like to bring in to NGW?
Claude: What's this? A good question from McMoshenberg? Will wonders never cease? Well, I've thought about this a lot. Undertaker, Goldust and Lord Steven Regal top the list. Undertaker is tremendous. He is what pro wrestling is all about. I'd love to have him in New Generation Wrestling. But it's probably never going to happen. At least not any time soon. He has a good gig with Vince right now. More power to him.
The Goldust character is further proof of Vince's genius, fading though it may be. Dustin Rhodes was dull as dishwater in WCW. He was a guy who was there. Then he goes to WWF and voila! He instantly becomes one of the hottest, most talked about acts in wrestling. He is just killing it with this new character. It's fantastic. I didn't think the kid had it in him. He's great and I'd love to have him here in NGW.
Regal is similar to Jacques Rougeau. Just a great entertainer and villain who would be a perfect fit for the Foreign Fanatics. Man, I am drooling at the prospect of His Lordship in NGW.
Then you have Mister Bob Backlund. Man, how cool would that be? Mr. Backlund in NGW? Tremendous. Jarrett, Lawler, Muta, Hakushi, Sullivan & The Giant....There are so many guys I'd like to bring in. I just don't have the money and roster space to get them all. Though we are actually negotiating with a few folks at this very moment. I don't want to spoil anything for our fans so I'm not going to mention any other names.
Speaking of roster space.....If I made one mistake early on it was in bringing too many people in. I wanted to push too many guys at once and you only have so much room on the card. I'm not going to name any names but I mishandled some talent. OK, I will name one. Papa Shango. I dropped the ball with him and I'd love to have him back at some point in the future. There are actually quite a few guys I want to bring back at a later date. The door is always open here in NGW. I just didn't have anything for them at the moment.
Jerry: The bickering is heating up between ECW fans and NGW fans. The two promotions are only separated by 90 miles. They've taken shots at you on their broadcast while you've mostly ignored them. Any thoughts?
Claude: Well, first of all NGW is my baby, and I am extremely
protective of it. As for ECW, I just have one thought to share because I honestly don't think all that much about ECW. Sorry, Paul. Sorry, mutants. I have my own promotion to worry about. A bunch of Philly trash doesn't really concern me. But I will address one criticism that's been thrown my way. And that's my so-called misuse of ECW talent. Let's start with Dean Douglas. He has a winning character. He gets a good reaction as a bad guy. And he is the leader of a heavily featured stable. He was victorious at our first two major shows. So how the hell am I (airquotes) misusing him? Then they criticize me for bringing in JT Smith, El Puerto Ricano and Hack Myers only to job them out. Yes, I was criticized for BRINGING IN ECW talent by ECW fans. It boggles the mind. First they say (more airquotes) they're not the best ECW has to offer. Well, that's subjective. I happen to think all three of them are talented individuals. It's just that some guys have to lose and it so happens that the three ECW alumni have often found themselves looking up at the lights. It's not a personal vendetta I have against ECW. It's just something that happened. And hey! JT Smith is wrestling Hack & Ricano at the next show. So at least one ECW wrestler will be winning. I wonder how the mutants up in Philly are going to spin that?
Jerry: Despite our differences, it's obvious that you have a passion for your wrestlers and your product. Is there anything you're especially proud of?
Claude: Jeez, where to begin? I love almost all of our characters. Borga and the Foreign Fanatics....The New Rockers as Wayne and Garth....Mensa....The Texicans and Milkman as cult favorite good guys....Fire & Ice....Larry Legend....Mr. Wonderful and Gary Spivey....Now add the Spirit Squad and FBI to that list...The list goes on and on. But I'd say I'm most proud of the New Breed/Teddy Hart saga and the ongoing Lana Star/Patti Pizzazz/Reggie Bennett storyline. The stuff we're doing with Teddy and the New Breed is completely unique in the annals of wrestling history. And yes, Teddy Hart really is an insane genius. And the New Breed aren't too far behind him! Lana and Patti are fantastic personalities who play off one another amazingly well. Women's wrestling hasn't been pushed enough by the Big Two. Women comprise over half the population of this country. They're a gigantic demographic just waiting to be tapped into and we here at NGW plan on doing just that.
Doc: You're obviously a creative guy but do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
Claude: Never. I have enough ideas to last.....ten years. And that's just with the current roster I have! If anything, I need to learn to be more patient with the ideas I do have. I have, in the past, thrown too much stuff out there at once. I need to learn to slow down and pace things better. I never pretended to be perfect. In fact, I'm actually my biggest critic. Well, let me rephrase that. I'm my own biggest SANE critic. I've made some mistakes. Minor though they may be, they still bug me. But to answer your original question, nope. I never worry about running out of ideas.
Jerry: Well, we're running out of time, so we're going to have to wrap this up soon. Doc, anything you'd like to add?
Doc: Don't forget. New Generation Wrestling's next major event is next Saturday, October 28th at the DuBurns Arena in Baltimore, MD. You want to plug the card?
Claude: You know it! Fire & Ice will team with Reggie Bennett to do battle with the Spirit Squad, Lana Star and Patti Pizzazz in NGW's first ever War Games match. NGW champion Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff will be defending his title against Ludvig Borga and The Patriot in the first ever Triple Threat match. The New Breed will battle former friend Teddy Hart in a scaffold match which has the potential to steal this stacked show. The Quebecers will defend the NGW tag titles against the New Rockers with former NBA great Darryl Dawkins as special guest referee. The Texicans will battle the Mensa duo of Dean Douglas and The Genius in a clash of cultures. Ex-WWF champion Yokozuna takes on former NFL great Steve McMichael and Erik Watts in a handicap match. Maxx Payne collides with Mensa's Toru Yano. The FBI of JT Smith and Salvatore Sincere will do battle with JTs former charges Hack Myers and El Puerto Ricano, collectively known as The Extremists. And the opener features the legendary Larry Zbyszko against the hottest wrestler in NGW, Jake The Milkman Milliman. This is bound to be the show of the year. But don't take my word for it! Come down to the DuBurns Arena and witness the hottest wrestling promotion on the planet live and in person!
In closing I just want to reassure the good people of Maryland that this will always be our home. Yes, we have big plans. Yes, I'd love to run at least one show at the ECW Arena up in Philly. And yes, touring would be great. But Maryland will always remain our homebase no matter how big we may become in the future.
It's been a pleasure chatting with you guys. Yes, even you McMoshenberg. I'd love to be on again sometime. Maybe we can make this a monthly occurrence?
Jerry: Sounds good to me. Tune in next Saturday night from 8 to 10 on AM Talk 1360 for another informative installment of WrestleTalk America.
Doc: For Jerry Moshenberg and New Generation Wrestling's Claude Baker, this is The Devious Doctor Adam Cole signing off.
*Cue Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood
*And just for fun I am going to share a poorly edited commercial from 1983 for George Plimpton's Video Falconry
on the Colecovision