Legendary wrestling journalist Keith Elliot Greenberg on writing a book about the COVID-19 era, wrestling with Ric Flair, WWE Magazine, more

Legendary wrestling journalist Keith Elliot Greenberg on writing a book about the COVID-19 era, wrestling with Ric Flair, WWE Magazine, more

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Show: Wrestling Epicenter
Guest: Keith Elliot Greenberg
Date: 16-09-2022
Your host: James Walsh

A nice chat with the man who literally wrote the book on professional wrestling – Keith Elliot Greenberg. Keith has worked with the WWE on WWF Magazine and several wrestling-related books, including the autobiographies of Ric Flair, Billy Grahm, and Freddie Blassie, as well as the Encyclopedia of WWE. Today he is here to promote Follow the Buzzards: Pro Wrestling in the era of COVID-19

A nice chat with a great guy. The book is now available and must be read! Highlights from our conversation can be read below. But check out the MP3 and YouTube link to hear the chat as we discuss much more than is covered here, including Ric Flair’s reluctant approach to writing his autobiography, his love for the legendary wrestlers of the 70’s and much more. !

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KEITH ELLIOT GREENBERG

On how the idea arose to write a book about the pandemic period of wrestling:
“Well, it actually came about by accident. I had written a book that came out in 2020, in the midst of COVID, called “Too Sweet, Inside the Indy Wrestling Revolution”. That book ended with the first episode of AEW Dynamite. It followed at that time 4 indy wrestlers – Jungle Boy, Joey Janela, Marko Stunt and Orange Cassidy who worked an indy show, GCW, in Asbury Park, New Jersey and then got into a car and went to Washington DC for the first time reason Dynamite. And then I said, “There’s got to be a sequel to this. How will this turn out? What does this mean for India? What does this mean for NXT? That’s what I thought the book would be! It would be “2020! The best year to to be a wrestling fan!” India thrived, WE finally had competition, and who knew where it might go? I thought it would be a great sequel to see how it all turned out. But by the time it was finished, by the time the epilogue was completed, COVID happened. I had already signed a contract to do a sequel. But I had decided, and my executive editor Michael Holmes agreed, that this would be a book about the COVID era of the professional wrestling.”

On balancing politics with the story of COVID in wrestling:
“That was something I was very sensitive to. Some think I made a lot of potshots at Donald Trump. But I also feel like I made a lot of potshots with the Democrats. The first chapter of the book is about politics, because at that time it was so hard to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. Politics had become clownish – not only in the US but also in the UK – I am talking about Brexit. But I didn’t feel like I could write a book about the COVID era of wrestling without talking about everything that was going on because everything that was going on informed wrestling, starting with the limitations, but expanding to the Black Lives Matter movement and even the speaking Out movement. ”

On the awkwardness of wrestling without a crowd:
“I remember watching AEW Dynamite with my daughter and Lance Archer coming to the ring and kicking the guardrail. My daughter is now 18, so she would have been almost 16 at this point. She said, “What is he doing? You’re doing it to scare the fans! But there are no fans!” I was like, “Everyone’s in the same boat. They’re trying to figure it out along the way. There’s no president for this!”

On whether WWF/WWE wrestlers were ever aggressive about being featured in WWE Magazine:
“That happened all the time. Some were extremely aggressive with the question, “Why didn’t you write about me?” Or, “What about this angle?” Some handled it differently. Rico Constantino – He was so happy with us that we wanted to write about him! (laughs) In the 80’s I had a close relationship with Lanny Poffo! I remember writing about how Lanny was improving his repertoire in the ring. But that’s how some guys were included. They approached the writers with ideas we could write about.”

On the writing of “Classy” Freddie Blassie’s autobiography:
“Freddie Blassie was arguably my favorite wrestler growing up. Well, that was a sensation. But the fact that Freddie wanted me to write his autobiography because we’d known each other for a long time was even more satisfying. Freddie knew he didn’t have much left of the world. And he actually died just a few weeks after the book came out. But the book was an opportunity for Freddie to tell his story and his story went all the way back to the 1930s! That’s such an important part of the professional wrestling story, because there was no history of professional wrestling back then! Despite all the criticism of Vince McMahon, from Vince McMahon opening that door and letting people in, professional wrestling could have a viable history just like any other sport. This was an opportunity to tell that story of someone who was there and someone who lived through it. And in the making of the book, I not only had the opportunity to interview Freddie Blassie, but also some of Freddie Blassie’s colleagues whose voices feature in the book. That includes Killer Kowalski, John Tolos, Fabulous Moolah and Arnold Arnold Skaland. And they’re all gone now. I’m just so thankful that I was the one to bring all those interviews together in one place.”

On why Superstar Billy Graham complimented Bruno Sammartino in the book but insulted him on the book tour:
‘I don’t know why he did that. Billy knew I was a big fan of Bruno, but he also knew that I would separate my fan base from my professionalism. He was very complimentary to Bruno in the book. However, I did not interview Bruno for the book. I did interview Bruno for other things, but not for this book. Bruno and Vince McMahon were enemies for years – decades, even to when I think it was Triple H who bridged that relationship. But Billy Graham said, ‘I don’t care what the company’s position is with regard to Bruno. I revere Bruno and I intend to make that clear in the book.” I didn’t interview Bruno for that book – I was lucky enough to interview Bruno at other times. But Bruno held Billy in high regard. He chose to give him the title!”

On why the Iron Sheik book was shelved:
“I made two versions of the Iron Sheik book. I did one for Simon and Schuster for WWE. At the time, the Iron Sheik had a bit of a drug problem. WWE was like, “There’s no way we can release this. Are we going to send this guy on a book tour? (laughs) But I stayed close to the Iron Sheik. We knew each other from back in the day. He kicks drugs and I wrote a piece in Playboy Magazine about how he kicks drugs. And I appeared in an Iron Sheik documentary that came out. From there, the book is now on ECW Press, the same people who “Follow the Buzzards: Pro Wrestling in the Age of COVID-19 But with WWE I heard someone very high up, not Vince but someone very high up, say, “How does this help our brand?” (laughs) “How does this help our brand if the book is about smuggling drugs into different countries? , getting arrested with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper with crushed pills and everything else.” So the book never came out! Regularly people say, “Can I see the book?” And I’m like, “No, WWE owns that book.” But I’ve found that paperback copies of the book as review ex copies have been sent and I have never seen one! But when my last book came out, someone told me they bought a review copy of that unreleased book for $700 and sold theirs for $1,400! (laughs)””

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