With his southern drawl, infectious personality, and immense wrestling knowledge, Conrad Thompson has been among the top of the wrestling podcast mountain since 2013. Learn the surprising story behind his success!
Conrad Thompson – On Top of the Wrestling Podcast Mountain
You may know him from the vastly popular Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard, What Happened When? with Tony Schiavone, or the Ric Flair Show/To Be The Man podcast.
Perhaps you know him from Starrcast, a yearly professional wrestling fan convention he created in 2018.
You may, too, recognize his voice on Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett, Arn Anderson, Jim Ross, and Eric Bischoff’s podcasts (amongst multiple more available on AdFreeShows.com).
A 20-plus-year veteran of the mortgage business and lifelong fan of professional wrestling, Conrad Thompson brings the best out of each legend through his no-nonsense questioning, thorough research, and overall down-to-earth nature. Roll Tide.
They covered various topics, including how Conrad first got into podcasting with Ric Flair and how it led to his shows dominating the charts.
They also talked about what it’s like to go out on the town with Ric Flair, his first WrestleMania experience, whether he was starstruck when meeting the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, the differences between Something to Wrestle and What Happened When?, his thoughts on the “newsletters,” marking out when Hulk Hogan left him a voice message, and so much more.
An Interview with Conrad Thompson
NICK MCDANIEL: Today, I bring you someone I consider the hottest name in the wrestling podcast world today, The Alabama Dream himself, Conrad Thompson. Conrad, how’s it going, buddy?
CONRAD THOMPSON: Well, you’re too kind. I’m going to have to disagree. I don’t think I’m the hottest name in podcasts, but it’s a nice thing to hear. I appreciate the compliment.
NICK MCDANIEL: There might be one or two guys who you might call a bigger name, but I think everything it seems like you touch turns to gold when it comes to the podcast world.
CONRAD THOMPSON: Man, that’s nice of you to say, but I’ve got to tell you, there’s no sort of magic sauce- It’s just hard work, dude. I’m just really trying to focus on it and give people what they want to hear, or at least do my best to. And at the end of the day, I’m not a wrestling insider. I’m not in the business.
I’ve never made a living in the wrestling industry. And I’ve never taken a bump. I’m just trying to give the wrestling fans what they want to hear. And that’s kind of easy for me because I’m a wrestling fan. I know what I would want to hear.
NICK MCDANIEL: Let’s talk about the podcasts. You guys rock n roll over there. You and Bruce rank 32 in Sports & Recreation content. Wrap your mind around that! That’s Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons – big dogs, and you guys are still crushing it every week with Something to Wrestle. That’s obviously the big one.
But before we get started, let’s give people a wrap-up of how you even got into the podcasting world.
CONRAD THOMPSON: Well, it was just kind of a happy accident.
I have been advertising my mortgage company on the radio and television here in Huntsville, Alabama, and Tennessee since 2009. In 2013, I had the opportunity to befriend ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair, and we hit it off and became fast friends.
We’ve grown to be really, really good friends.
He had an opportunity in 2015 to do a podcast and he reached out to me and asked if I would come in and sit in with him and ask fan questions for his first episode while he got comfortable.
He felt like it might be a little awkward to sit in front of a microphone and talk on his own. He wanted to kind of bounce things off of somebody. So because of that, he invited me to come into the studio, and CBS was happy. He was happy.
He kept asking me to come back. Time goes on, and when you’re tight with Ric, you meet everybody in the wrestling business, and that includes Tony Schiavone and Bruce Prichard.
Eventually, I had the opportunity to get to know those guys, and I realized they have stories that should be shared.
I wanted to kind of upset the apple cart with the typical podcast formula, and we tried to do that with Ric’s second podcast, too.
We made that sound a little more like a radio show with guests but then also with a little bit of topical stuff with some old throwback segments and then some funny bits along the way. But more of a radio show-style feel.
Then with Bruce, I said, ‘Hey, let’s not talk about current wrestling at all. Let’s get away from the interview format. Let’s just tell your story.’
That came about from us just sitting on my couch in my den one day when I said, ‘Hey man, what happened when?’ and he finished the story for me. That was fascinating.
So an hour later, I said, ‘Dude, this as a podcast. This is what people really want to hear.’ And it worked out.
NICK MCDANIEL: That’s an understatement as far as working out. It’s one of those podcasts you can listen to when waking up, going to and from work, and while working out.
One of my favorite aspects of the show is, kind of like the show Crossfire, you guys go at it a lot. And that confrontation is one of the biggest draws in the podcast world. You guys just do it in such a supernatural way, obviously from your relationship.
CONRAD THOMPSON: Yeah, it was kind of a happy accident.
You know, we decided just to beat up what the newsletters have put out there for years that we as wrestling fans have kind of always just been led to believe was kind of the gospel, and then ask someone who was there, ‘What really happened?’‘
I’m not saying that what Bruce says every time is 100 percent accurate, but I’m also not silly enough to believe that everything that someone tells Dave [Meltzer] is 100 percent accurate, too.
In either case, you’ve got a testimony from someone, so there’s gotta be a little bit of a slant or an agenda or an end game in mind with either version of the story.
The truth is somewhere in the middle.
So we present in our show Dave Meltzer’s report, which is something [Dave] heard or was told, and then you get the report of someone else who was there. That’s what I think is fun.
When [Bruce and I] fight for our truth, I believe what Meltzer says a lot of the time, [Bruce] believes what he believes. Most of the time it is semantics. But when Bruce gets fired up about those little details, that makes for podcast gold.
NICK MCDANIEL: It’s a lesson I try to teach my kids. I have three daughters, and I always tell them exactly what you said. There are three sides to every story. There is your side, over there is her side, and the truth is somewhere in the middle.
[As a dad], you have to determine where that middle is. And it’s the same thing with you. You’re giving Meltzer’s opinion, and [Bruce] is giving his. The perception of the story is that is your side. You’re telling what you remember, and it’s always going to be slightly skewed.
Were you a big dirt sheet guy growing up?
CONRAD THOMPSON: I started subscribing to The Wrestling Observer in 1997. I’m 35 now, and I’ve been subscribing since I was 15.
NICK MCDANIEL: I heard how Meltzer and Bruce recently bumped into one another in Orlando. What is the dynamic of that relationship there?
CONRAD THOMPSON: Well, they don’t have a relationship. It started out as they were both friendly, I’m sure, when [Bruce] worked at the WWF at first.
I know when [Bruce] first heard of The Observer back when he was working with the Houston territory, it was one of those deals where you don’t, you know, he was brought in by the old school, so you don’t talk to the dirt sheets, you know?
What happens here stays here. You’re not supposed to be in the back or see the magic. You are not supposed to share any of that. And I know that that’s kind of the mentality he had.
There was a period early in Bruce’s tenure with WWF where McMahon wanted to try to play nice with the dirt sheets, and [Bruce] was tasked with being the liaison. So I think they got along just fine.
They were very friendly for a long time. Maybe not necessarily friends, but polite, cordial, and both realized they had a job to do. Maybe not going to go hang out and have a beer.
Well, then, in time, of course, you know whenever I challenge Bruce and use Dave’s information as the reason, Bruce is really upset with me and the way I’m presenting the information, more so than what Dave wrote.
But, it’s easier, at least in the moment, for him to say, ‘F Dave Meltzer!’ And I get it. But really and truly, he’s not upset, usually, with what Dave wrote. He’s upset with the way I’m presenting it.
NICK MCDANIEL: Wade [Keller] doesn’t come up a lot on your show. Is this because you subscribed to The Observer because that was kind of your history of what you were reading and not the other side?
I think Wade was, once upon a time, a very valuable resource in the wrestling business. He was always, at least to me, positioned as kind of the number two guy. His presentation and the formatting of his newsletter may be superior to [The Observer], but the content that you get and the detail from [Dave Meltzer], in my opinion, is unparalleled.
But I subscribed to both in the paper format long ago, and now I’m subscribed to both online.
In my mind, and this is not, you know, crapping on The Torch because I think a lot of Bruce Mitchell and consider him to be a very good friend, and I’m pretty friendly with Jim Valley, as well. Both those guys are over there. And I don’t know Wade, but to me, the pecking order is clear.
It’s Dave Meltzer as the ultimate source for news, and if you’re looking for old-school archives and stuff like that, Dave Meltzer’s word is above all others. And second is Mike Johnson.
I think as far as the current and present-day stuff, the stuff that’s happened over the last fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years, Mike Johnson is just as savvy as anybody else and is just as on top of it. But to me, it’s Dave Meltzer, and then it’s Mike Johnson, and then it’s everybody else.
I’m sure there are lots of people [reading] this who are big Torch fans, and I pay them money so I can’t say that I’m not a Torch fan, but Wade’s not my guy.
NICK MCDANIEL: I listen to Mike a lot on Tazz’s podcast. I like it when he’s on JR’s, as well. But Meltzer, as you said, is considered pretty much the top guy. I was curious as to why Meltzer was always the name and why we didn’t get Keller a lot.
“Dave Meltzer is the king of wrestling journalism and I don’t think that’s even debatable.”
CONRAD THOMPSON: Well, here’s a for instance, when was the last time you saw anybody online talk about what Wade Keller’s rating of a match was?
Everybody online talks about, ‘How many stars did Meltzer give it?’ You know? So when they say it was a four or five-star match, if you were to look up how many five-star matches there were in the last five years, not one site will return Wade Keller’s match rankings.
I’m not saying that to diminish his efforts or work, I’m just saying that was kind of Dave’s deal first and one of the things that were a hallmark and a cornerstone of his newsletter and now people know him for that.
Even when we talk about, ‘Oh, it’s a four-star match,’ even though that maybe was made up by Jim Cornette, or TV Guide, it’s really a Dave Meltzer thing and everybody else copies it and everybody else uses it, but it’s Dave’s.
So to me when it comes to wrestling journalism, if that’s the word you want to use for it, Meltzer is the brand. He’s like Kleenex. He’s like Band-Aid. He’s like Coca-Cola. He’s just the guy.
And so, if I’m going to present a podcast centered around one or the other, I’m going to go with Meltzer, the name that everybody knows instead of trying to, you know, bring 1994 back to life and talk about The Torch.
I’m not saying that The Torch sucks. It does. But I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying Bruce Mitchell is awesome, Jim Valley is okay, but Dave Meltzer is the king of wrestling journalism and I don’t think that’s even debatable.
NICK MCDANIEL: Well, he’s getting both of our money, so I probably have to agree with you there. I actually do not subscribe to The Torch anymore.
CONRAD THOMPSON: I’ll tell you, people are missing out if they don’t subscribe to The Torch because once upon a time, the thing that Wade did that separated himself from everybody else was really, really high-quality interviews. And so you would get a lot of good insight, and you didn’t ever get that from Dave Meltzer.
Dave might talk to somebody, and then he’d spit out, you know, the story, but he wouldn’t be quoting.
If you really want to get it in their own words, Keller was providing that. He still does. He did a phenomenal interview [in May] where he had Sean Waltman lay out exactly what happened in great detail with his arrest at the airport out in California.
You couldn’t have gotten that in the same format if it wasn’t a relationship Wade had built with those interviews more than twenty years ago with Sean. So that is a great reason in and of itself to enjoy The Torch and dig in through the old newsletters and just see how much the business has changed.
The Torch has a great website, but, you know, Dave Meltzer is the man.
NICK MCDANIEL: Another aspect of your podcasts that I enjoy is that there’s clearly a huge amount of research that you put in from week to week on both shows. How much time do you really put in? Because that’s one of the things I admire from the outside looking in, that I can tell you put a ton of work into it.
CONRAD THOMPSON: We haven’t ever gauged the amount of time that we put into a show, as far as prep goes, but I can kind of freestyle for you.
For the Hulk Hogan show, I probably had about twelve hours, and that’s before we clicked record. So then once we click record, you’ve got, you know, three hours or so. I’ve got fifteen hours in that week’s Hogan episode.
Now, by comparison, on the Tony Schiavone episode about Slamboree 2000, I watched the pay-per-view, so that’s three hours, and then I taped with him, and I did a little research. That’s probably six hours.
Now, a lot of that is not necessarily based on the level of detail that one host provides compared to another.
But Bruce does provide more detail because he had a different job description in the company, but it was about an entire year of Hulk Hogan’s career, 1988, so you’re talking about 365 days as compared to one single pay-per-view.
So, you know, I can cover one three-hour show and take two or three hours to talk about it, or I can cover 365 days and take three hours to talk about it. But I’m going to cover it as thoroughly as I think it needs to be covered.
NICK MCDANIEL: You have two shows that are very similar regarding the formats, but they feel so different. One is from the WCW side (Tony Schiavone), and one is from the WWF/E side (Bruce Prichard). What would you say are the biggest differences between the two shows?
CONRAD THOMPSON: You have Bruce, who was on the inside, so he was privy to business decisions and all of the booking decisions in the hiring and the firing, and he was in the inner circle of everything. He knew who handled what, when, where, why, and how.
Tony was doing more television production, and he did have some other roles, but by and large, it was mostly on the TV side. So he wouldn’t be as involved in all of the intricacies of marketing or promotion, etc.
Tony is a professional broadcaster, so that’s what his skill set leans towards. He’s supposed to be the guy driving, and on What Happened When? I’m kind of the guy driving, and he’s more color.
Bruce, though, is a naturally born color man. Bruce could sit down and do color for Impact and smash. And I know that nobody is clamoring for him to do that, but I’m just saying anytime I tease something up to him, he hits a home run with it.
He’s funny. He’s witty. He does great impressions. There’s lots of storytelling that he can do that others can’t do, and not just with the knowledge, but just the way he weaves a story.
I think that the bigger difference between the two is just in their personalities and the way they would approach any broadcast. One is a more play-by-play straight man, and one is more color.
Conrad Thompson on Who He’s Interviewed (and Who Got Away!)
NICK MCDANIEL: Let’s take a second and return to Ric’s podcast. Was there anybody that you wanted to get on the show that you didn’t get around to getting?
CONRAD THOMPSON: Dusty Rhodes and Roddy Piper both agreed to be on, and then for various reasons, had to cancel or reschedule, ultimately passing away. So those are the two that got away.
NICK MCDANIEL: I read somewhere that you were a Hogan guy growing up and then, later on, became a Ric guy. You had Hulk Hogan on the show and also Eric Bischoff, which was thrilling to listen to because of all the heat between [Eric and Ric] that we heard about from the past.
Were those two among your favorite guests, or were there others you enjoyed having on the show?
CONRAD THOMPSON: It was a thrill to have Hulk Hogan on and, you know, when we set it up, be texting with Hulk Hogan. As a little Hulkamaniac, missing a call from him – to have a voicemail from Hulk Hogan is pretty d*** cool as a wrestling fan.
As far as the actual wrestling nerd part of me and what we all enjoyed about the podcast, I don’t think you can beat those Bischoff episodes. I think you could go back and dig up those Bischoff episodes with me talking to him.
Back then, of course, nobody knew I was an a**hole who wanted to grill people. Nobody knew that Bischoff was going to be doing a podcast, so when I was hitting him with all of that, it was a lot of new stuff.
I was a little more delicate in the way I approached it. But I got all the good stuff out of him, and it was so good.
I wrote on a sheet of paper to Ric, so it didn’t come through on the mic, ‘We should stop and do a part two and keep this going and make this two weeks worth of content.’
He followed my lead, and we did.
And to my surprise, a lot of times when people do a two-parter, they talk for a long time one time and then cut it up. Eric let us call him back the next day. So we got nearly four hours of good stuff out of Eric. I think it’s some of the best stuff that’s ever happened on a podcast with Ric, Eric, and me.
NICK MCDANIEL: Do you ever get starstruck by meeting somebody?
CONRAD THOMPSON: All the time! WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans, I went with Ric. It was my first WrestleMania, and he took me backstage, and I got to meet Roddy Piper and The Rock and Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan.
To meet all these guys, get my picture with them, and have Ric Flair be the cameraman, that’s like some make-believe stuff as a wrestling fan. I mean, everybody was there from Harley Race on down the line. It was outstanding.
So as a wrestling fan, that’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do.
But it is cool now to go backstage and visit, and there’d be so many people in the business who come over to say hello and tell me that they dig the podcast.
That is so random to me that they know who I am. It’s a humbling experience because I’m just a fan, and it’s not lost on me that this isn’t going to be forever.
I’m not going to be a professional podcaster. I do mortgages. This is a fun hobby. But this wasn’t a thing ten years ago, and it probably won’t be a thing ten years from now.
But for right now, it’s pretty cool that in a business or in the entertainment genre that I grew up watching, now the performers know who I am. That’s kind of f***ing cool.
NICK MCDANIEL: Do you have any of those cool on the road with those guys’ stories?
CONRAD THOMPSON: Oh yeah. Probably the greatest story of all time for me was the SummerSlam in Los Angeles [back in 2014].
I went out to L.A. with Ric, and we decided that we were going to go to this Asian restaurant like 19 blocks down the street from where the company hotel was.
So we, of course, have been at the hotel bar, and we’re like, ‘Eh, let’s just get a cab.’
We got a cab, and it didn’t go exactly as it should. Ric cut a 1985 promo, and there was violence threatened.
We got out of the cab, but we weren’t asked to pay. Well, it was just something to see.
It was the wrong way down a one-way street. It was Jim Crockett Promotions 1985 all over again. And then, of course, we find our seat at the bar and order our food, and it’s business as usual.
NICK MCDANIEL: But that’s life with riding along with The Nature Boy, is that what you’re saying?
CONRAD THOMPSON: We’ve been in bars before where they didn’t have a liquor license, and that can only serve beer, but a hundred dollars later, here comes a bottle.
It’s just the level of fame and notoriety and access that Ric Flair gets. It is unlike anybody I’ve ever really known.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone like The Rock who’s not just like wrestling twenty years ago famous, but really famous. But just because of the silly access and falling all over themselves that people do for Ric, I can’t imagine what it would be for someone like The Rock.
NICK MCDANIEL: And one thing about The Rock is, of course, I never met the guy, but he comes off as one of the most humble guys you could meet. He’s been in our small town, believe it or not, just up the street working out at the gym, and he was as nice and as humble as can be to everybody.
CONRAD THOMPSON: The Rock is the coolest guy ever. Super polite. Super respectful. He makes everyone feel like they’re special. Gives them a lot of time. He shakes their hand, makes eye contact, and isn’t playing on his phone all dismissive. He’s very attentive. It’s no wonder that he’s as successful as he is.
Now, as for Ric, I’m going to say, well, if you’re a veteran, have a disability, are a beautiful woman, or what time of day it is…
NICK MCDANIEL: …then it will depend on his level of humbleness? (laughs)
CONRAD THOMPSON: Well, I’ll say if you look like me or you and make your approach and ask for a picture, you’re going to need a tag team partner to make that happen at the right time of day or a respectful approach at the right time of day!
NICK MCDANIEL: He’s an old guard compared to The Rock. He and Rock are from two different generations, so it’s okay. Do you have a Michael Hayes story buried in you somewhere?
CONRAD THOMPSON: I do, but I’m not going to tell them!
I have more Michael Hayes stories than I could ever share. Michael Hayes is the coolest dude that ever lived.
He gets a bad rap from wrestling fans. He’s hilarious; I’ve never had a bad time with him. However, he’s still actively employed with WWE and would probably like to keep it that way, so I’m going to leave it as he’s a very nice man. (laughs)
NICK: I want to thank you. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
CONRAD: Man, it was awesome to be here. I’m so privileged to be here. I can’t believe anybody wants to talk to me. I’m just a wrestling fan like you, and we all have this great hobby together, so let’s keep it going, and I’ll see you at the matches!
The above is a condensed version of the entertaining conversation between Nick and Conrad.
They talked further about the Women’s division in WWE, Roman Reigns, Randy Orton’s #Dive comments, Daniel Bryan, The Undertaker, Jinder Mahal’s title run, and so much more.
If you would like to hear the interview in full, and we can’t recommend it enough, be sure to browse over to TappedOutWrestlingPodcast.com and follow the links to subscribe to them on iTunes, Google Play, & Stitcher. Alternatively, you can find the interview in full below.
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