With such a glut of options when it comes to professional wrestling podcasts, there is one man who stands in front of the rest, Conrad Thompson (@HeyHeyItsConrad). With his southern drawl, infectious personality, and immense wrestling knowledge, he is at the top of the wrestling podcast mountain with everyone else chasing just to be number two.
You may know him from the vastly popular Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard, What Happened When? with Tony Schiavone, or from the Ric Flair Show which ended its run in January of this year. A 15-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.
Recently, a friend of our site, Nick McDaniel from the highly recommended Tapped Out Wrestling Podcast Network, caught up with Conrad. They covered an array of topics including the story of how Conrad first got into podcasting with Ric Flair and how it led to the two current shows that are 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.
It is our absolute pleasure to bring to you this interview with Conrad Thompson.
NICK MCDANIEL: Today I bring to 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 kind of 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 just 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 just 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.’ And 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 kind of 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?’ And 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. And the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. That’s what I think is fun. And 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 kind of 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?
What does Conrad Thompson Subscribe to for Wrestling InformationConrad Thompson (@HeyHeyItsConrad)?
CONRAD THOMPSON: I started subscribing to The Observer in 1997. I’m 35 now and I’ve been subscribing since I was 15.
NICK MCDANIEL: I heard the story about 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. But 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 even 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 kind of 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 that 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?
CONRAD THOMPSON: I subscribed to The Torch for a little while. I’m still a subscriber now but I subscribe now to read my friend Bruce Mitchell‘s work. 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 his 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. But 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. And 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, like you said, is considered pretty much the top guy. I was just 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. And 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 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 really 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. And 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 kind of 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 that 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 seeing 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 really 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. Like [a few weeks ago] for the Hulk Hogan show, I probably had about twelve hours, and that’s before we click 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 as far as the formats, but they just feel so different. Obviously, one is from a WCW side and one is from the WWF/E side. 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. So 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 kind of 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. With Bruce, though, Bruce is a natural 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 just can’t do, and not just with the knowledge, but just the way he weaves a story. And I think that’s the bigger difference between the two is just in their personalities, the way they would approach any broadcast. One is 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 go back to Ric’s podcast. Was there anybody that you wanted to get on the show that you just 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, and then ultimately passed away. So those are the two that got away.
“To have a voicemail from Hulk Hogan is pretty damn cool as a wrestling fan.”
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 amongst your favorite guests, or were there others you really enjoyed having on the show?
CONRAD THOMPSON: It was a thrill to have Hulk Hogan on and to, you know when we were setting 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 damn 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’m really an asshole who wants to grill people. Nobody knew that Bischoff was going to be doing a podcast, so when I’m 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.’ And he followed my lead and we did. And to my surprise, a lot of times when people do a two-parter, they just talk for a really 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 I.
NICK MCDANIEL: I agree. I do you remember those. 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. And to meet all these guys and 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, literally, 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 of the 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 really a thing ten years ago and it probably won’t really 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 fucking cool.
NICK MCDANIEL: Do you have any of those cool on the road with those guys stories?
“[Ric and I have] 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.”
CONRAD THOMPSON: Oh yeah. Probably the greatest story of all time for me was the last SummerSlam that was 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.’ So we get a cab and it doesn’t go exactly as it should and Ric cut a 1985 promo and there was violence threatened and guns threatened and 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 just 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: I mean, 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. Makes everyone feel like they’re special. Gives them a lot of time. Shakes their hand, makes eye contact, 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 just 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 really respectful approach at the right time of day.
NICK MCDANIEL: He’s an old guard compared to 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 and I’ve just 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 just going to leave it at he’s a very nice man. (laughs)
NICK MCDANIEL: Before we get you out of here, let readers know where they can find you, where they can find the shows, etc.
CONRAD THOMPSON: I’m on Twitter @HeyHeyItsConrad. Of course, you can check us out on the MLWRadio.com, every Friday at noon Eastern for Something to Wrestle with Bruce Pritchard (@PrichardShow) and What Happened When? Monday with Tony Schiavone (@WHWMonday) is on Mondays at 6:00 a.m. Both of those are Eastern Time. One is all WWF and the other is all Jim Crockett, NWA, and WCW, so you get a little bit of North versus South going on to book into your weekend. You can get both of those podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher, TuneIn, on Spotify, anywhere you enjoy podcasts, but of course, MLWRadio.com is our home. We’d love to see you in a t-shirt, as well. We both have Pro Wrestling Tees stores set up (Official Merchandise Page for Something to Wrestle / Official Merchandise Page for What Happened When?). We are actually also doing a little bit of a world tour so if you’d like to come to see us, we would love to see you. You can get ticket information and all that jazz from our Twitter accounts, @HeyHeyItsConrad, @bruceprichard and @tonyschiavone24.
NICK: Well again, I want to thank you. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
CONRAD: Man, 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 went on to talk 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 on 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. While we’re at it, be sure to give the Tapped Out guys a follow on Twitter @tappedoutpod,. Tell them Pro Wrestling Stories sent you!