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Solie's Tuesday Morning Report: EXTRA!

Friday Morning Edition

A Conversation with Al Isaacs: Part 3

Conducted by Jeremy Hartley for TWC Online
Transcribed by Earl Oliver

Volume 3, Issue 355 - September 3, 1998

A Conversation with Al Isaacs

Conducted by Jeremy Hartley for TWC Online
Transcribed by Earl Oliver

Here is the final installment of an interview conducted with the man behind one of the most popular wrestling web sites, Scoops.

Part 3

Jeremy Hartley: You know there's been a couple of incidents of that, dating all the way back, you know, certain stabbing incidents and so forth, but those were few and far between. You had Ole Anderson a couple of times, Ron Wright a couple of times. But those were guys who were just doing their job. You've talked with Ted Dibiasi and some of those guys who talk about the fact that they loved being a heel. And why did they love being heels? Be cause that was where the creative control was. You could be more creative because you had to incite people - you had to create the heat. To be a successful heel, at that point, you were the cream of the crop of your profession. I think now, even the "faces" (to use a "smartmark" term) - they can be heels as well. Guys like Steve Austin, I don't know if when I was growing up watching wrestling that I would cheer for somebody like that. Now they're rabid dogs. Steve Austin is one of the complete packages - one of the great workers of the modern era - he had a lot of people to draw from, Terry Funk, Dick Murdoch, there's Dusty Rhodes - now people get into the business and shave their heads trying to be just like Steve Austin - failing to realize that there is only one Steve Austin, just like there was only one Dusty Rhodes, one Terry Funk...

Al Isaacs: Yeah. I think that a big problem with a lot of these guys is that, maybe the best way to put it is that, instead of creating heat they are creating hate - they don't know how to work a mic correctly, and they cross the line too with the crowd. I mean, look at guys like (Jerry) Lawler, Roddy Piper who really knew how to get a crowd crazy but without, I don't know, getting obscene?

Jeremy Hartley: Right, they did it in a "scholarly" manner, the way I always put it, they were the scholarly performers, even though they didn't profess to be. Guys like Eddie Gilbert, and Brian Pillman was good at that. Other guys, Gino Hernandez from the Dallas area. All those guys were good at that, but you know what? I just named several people who are no longer with us and I think that makes a huge difference. I think we've suffered. Adrian Adonis was good at what he did and other guys no longer...Bruiser Brody, another guy who died young, So, we suffered a death of an era, I don't think there is any question about it. What do you think it's going to take for wrestling to get back to the more intellegent heels, the more intellegent angle...or do you think it ever will?

Al Isaacs: Okay. I'll draw the parallel once again to comedy. You know, when I started doing comedy, everyone was doing very observational stuff, you know, everyday living kind of thing. And then along came Andrew Dice Clay. And everyone wanted "f..." this and "f..." that every other word out of your mouth had to be that, everything had to be quick, quick, quick, one liners after one liner and as filthy as possible then get off. And then all of a sudden, along came Jerry Seinfeld. And in my opinion Seinfeld saved the industry for guys like me who liked to tell stories and liked to embellish.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah...

Al Isaacs: You know, here we are in a time when there is more wrestling on television right now then ever before. Between Nitro, Thunder, RAW - forget even the syndicated programs - if you have a PPV you're talking about ten hours of wrestling! And yet, so little of the substance that you used to have. When you have a PPV every month, instead of having one every other month or every third month - you have to set-up the next feud in thiry days. Everything has to be so amplified, you don't have the time to really build up yourself as a heel or as a face (to use the terms) - you have to do the one thing to either shock the people to say, "My God! Is he evil!" or vice versa - it's tough on everyone. It's tough on the talent that have to do this, it's tough on the bookers - My God! When you have two companies competing with each other you're fighting for that air time, you don't want to give a chance to the other guy, so you have to have like two top guys in the ring at all times - how many different combinations of those, say, top 16 guys, can you put on every week?

Jeremy Hartley: Right...

Al Isaacs: I think what it's going to take is for the companies to kind of take a step back and really look at thing because they're going to burn themnselves out. Put it this way: You couldn't have had a wrestling web site a few years ago. You couldn't do what Scoops does or what Micasa does or any of them. There were no "insiders" - they didn't let people back. You had all the kayfabe - it was highly protected - and I don't think that people were starving to know all of this stuff. You know, everyone wanted the big surprises. I mean, there were some great times, some great shocks the Royal Rumble, all of a sudden, Axe and Smash are number one and number two...

Jeremy Hartley: Exactly...

Al Isaacs: The shock value was great. And that was a big part of it. Now it's sad how hard these guys have to work to put as match over. I mean ECW has raised the bar of what people want to see and unfoortunately there are a lot of hospital bills that are the result.

Jeremy Hartley: A lot of hospital bills, a lot of short careers and a lot of guys that aren't going to be remembered.

Al Isaacs: When I was talking to Arn Anderson he was saying that you're not going to see any of these guys have a thirty year career. You know, someone like Sean Waltman, or any of these other guys who, in order to put a match over, are risking everything. That's a shame, that they have to be 110%. You remember when it used to be that Saturday morning, if you were watching, they were using it to promote the house show...

Jeremy Hartley: Sure. They had the little cut-ins, and the event centers, and the private interviews...

Al Isaacs: Which were great!

Jeremy Hartley: Yes , they were.

Al Isaacs: You got to know the wrestler...

Jeremy Hartley: Right...

Al Isaacs: ...and you got to understand the feuds, and you couldn't wait for these two guys to get it on. Now you see the same match four or five times with screwjob endings. And you watch not so much to see who wins and who loses because you know going in that either of them could win because this guys has a match coming up at this PPV - and that guy has a different feud going it will be a double count out, you know befoore hand - and that's a shame. Those days...the "ham and eggers" as Heenan used to say, the knew that Iron Mike Sharp was never going to win!

Jeremy Hartley: Right. But you knew he was going to try, and you knew that he was probably going to come up with something to screw it up.

Al Isaacs: It was so great to watch that and I do miss that about the sport.

Jeremy Hartley: You know, I used to go to TV tapings...there were a couple of them in my area...and it was always fun to watch. You know, they would tape programs for three or four weeks- and about the third or fourth time a jobber would come out they would be cheering him and giving him a standing ovation, and it was really funny. But you don't see that now. Houses...I haven't been to a house show in years, frankly because they don't really promote them like they used to. Especially in this area, the San Francisco Bay area, which used to be a hotbed of wrestling action, it was incredible. You had the Oakland Coliseaum and the San Francisco Cow Palace and a lot of other arenas where they used to pack 'em in every month. Now they have the San Jose Arena every three months and that's about it. Houses have changed, and I think a good example would be the Boston Brawl Internet PPV which was really a house show - but you didn't even have the house show caliber of matches that you used to have with the feuds. Lets say if you had Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage were going to get it on, they weren't in a six man tag match - they were in a steel cage, or a Texas Death match or something similar - you don't see that anymore at these house shows.

Al Isaacs: You used to have the progression. If Hogan was getting ready to fight, say, the Big Boss Man - Akeem would attack Hogan and then the Big Boss Man would attack. There would be the run-ins and you'd have the match itself and maybe, if there was a screwjob ending, then you knew that the steel cage match was next. There was a natural progression. But now it's thirty days - bing, bang, boom. You're in , you have the feud, you get out. And that's too bad because there were so many classic matches and longstanding feuds that would go on for eight and nine months...

Jeremy Hartley: Well, and even rival organizations. I always thought the funniest one, that had a lot of impact but most people don't even know about, when Chris Adams and Terry Taylor had a feud in another organization and then showed up in the World Class Championship Wrestling and renewed it there, then went to another promotion and took it there. When you got those two guys together...well, like Savage and Steamboat. When they were in a room together there was always this question...can they be trusted. Orndorff and Hogan - there was always these kinds of things...

Al Isaacs: Yeah, the two guys who you just knew that even if they weren't feuding at the time, that there was bad blood there. And unfortunately, you know what I think changed that was in the WWF when Earthquake feuded with Jake Roberts, and he sat on his snake, squished the snake, and then two weeks later Roberst turned heel and teamed with Earthquake! Now I don't care if I'm good or bad - you crushed my snake!! You know, what am I doing teaming with you?? And that kind of ruined it for me... I mean, I used to love it when someone would turn good or evil, and what we were talking about a moment ago - there were truely good and bad guys and now with the shades of gray - it's not as effective anymore. The most hated guys were the guys you loved the most! When Andre the Giant turned...Oh my God! How could he turn??

Jeremy Hartley: Yes. It shook the whole foundation, it shocked everybody...

Al Isaacs: And when you were the most hated and turned good...when Roddy Piper all of a sudden turned good and teamed with Hogan, the same thing, the effect was dynamic - and now it's not so much. Now it's, ...oh yeah, now he's going to fight so and so..." The ultimate example would be Ahmed Johnson. He went NOD - well, you know who cares...and then, rather then give him a chance to be put over as a heel and then turn back again - instead of him attacking NOD they had NOD kick him out! So why do I cheer for you, you're a good guy but you didn't even want to be a good guy...

Jeremy Hartley: Exactly! Ray Traylor too, a lot of wasted air time for us fans. But another thing. You've been making some parallels to the comedy aspect and so I just want to get into that a little bit. You are into stand-up comedy, as well as wrestling, and I think now wrestling has turned into something like stand-up comedy...but is there anywhere on the Scoops site where people can listen to some of your comedy material?

Al Isaacs: Nah...I more then ever kind of try to separate the two worlds. I mean I used to talk about when I was going to be somewhere, and I had a couple of scary incidents with people showing up with Scoops signs in the audience - I said, "You know what, this ain't a westling match..." and I put the signs down and said to myself, you know, if they know about it that's fine but I don't want to mix the two. You know, I never talk about wrestling on stage, so I'm not going to put my comedy on a wrestling site. I try to inject a little bit of humor into the news where it's applicable but the two different things I do are two different parts of my life.

Jeremy Hartley: Right...

Al Isaacs: I think one of the funniest things that happened was when I had a wrestler call me up and ask me for some lines. He said, "They have me picking a fight with a guy in the audience and he's a fat guy and I don't like what they've given me to work with, could you write me some jokes?" And I said, "My God! My two worlds have collided! I'm doing material for wrestling now!" And that was pretty funny. But they are two different things that I do and they don't necessarily mix well. I mean, I've seen a couple of times when things were very very funny that they have done in wrestling, but then stuff like, you know, when the Bushwackers had their own manager, and the Gobbledegooker - I mean I just groan...and say, "What are they thinking? Who wrote this??"

Jeremy Hartley: So you're from the New York area, where wrestling has been a very big deal. I mean that's Vince McMahon, Sr. country there. Is it still a big thing there? Or have a lot of the fans just said, "Forget it, we're going to watch the Yankees..?"

Al Isaacs: No...I mean, you're right it is WWF country, I grew up on the WWF. I very rarely was exposed to NWA and WCW. You know, the one or two times that they were able to sneak into the Coliseum or to the Paramount at Madison Square Garden, I was there, those were neat - but, I mean, right now they're trying to get Nitro into the Yankee Stadium, so hey, I mean, it's still big out here. They still have huge crowds in the Coliseum and I think even more so, families out here that I see a lot on television. A lot of times on TV you see, I guess, college age guys mostly, but out here you still see a lot of families going to it, which is great. You have the Coliseum, you have Madison Square Garden and you have the Meadowlands which isn't far away either, they still pack 'em in.

Jeremy Hartley: Wow! That's really interesting to know because you always hear these reports, saying, you know, "This house was down, this house was a failure..." but what I'm gathering from what you are saying is that - sure, the houses may be down but it is still considered somewhat of a staple.

Al Isaacs: I think so, I mean, I don't know if they could still do what they did a few years ago but they are literally here every month...

Jeremy Hartley: No, they don't have the talent, to be honest with you, the New York crowds and houses and the buildings don't deserve the type of talent that's being served up at this point...

Al Isaacs: It again goes back to comedy, where the downfall of that was cable television, because why should I leave the house and pay $15 at the door and $2 drink minimum to see comedy that was sub-par when I could sit at home and see it on TV for free? So the same thing applies. Why go to a house show when I have Nitro, RAW, Thunder, PPV's. Why get up and go and risk getting pelted in the head with a beer when I can sit here at home and my wife can pelt me with a beer...

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs)

Al Isaacs: But I think there's going to be a swing around again with that too because, as I tell people about comedy, "Try it" only because it is a completely different experience to be sitting there watching comedy or watching wrestling. When you're there, there is nothing like the energy of a packed Madison Square Garden during a main event, you will never feel...I took my wife to one of her first PPV's - WrestleMania X - and man oh man, when that main event went on that place just rocked, and there is nothing like it.

Jeremy Hartley is a longtime friend of Solie's and a regular contributer to the newsletter. His "EYE on Wrestling" columns can be found in the "Articles" section of the web site. His previous interviews with Bob Blackburn, Lou Thesz, Bob Ryder and Buddy Landel are currently to be found in the "Interviews" section. You can also hear any of these interviews in RealAudio by visiting Jeremy's web site, Up Close Wrestling

Thunder Report

The announcers are assuring us that the WCW team for War Games is going to look good.

Rick Fuller vs. Marty Jannetty - Jannetty gave us a great match against Konan on Nitro, lets see what he can do when he has a chance to win for a change. As the match gets under way he is clearly trying to help put Fuller over - letting the big guy strut his stuff. Fuller dominates the action throughout the early going but then rushes into the corner post shoulder first and gets caught in the Showstopper DDT. Jannetty gets the pin.

Stills of the end of the main event from Nitro. Bret Hart and Hollywood Hogan argue over the humiliation of Sting then the Warrior sticks his considerable (and painted) nose into things. Cut to commercial.

More scenes from Nitro - Saturn's interview with Mike Tenay concerning his integrity vs. Raven's followed by scenes from the tag match later in the program. Saturn is Lodi's reluctant partner.

Lenny Lane vs. Kaz Hayashi - Hayashi is over-rated at this stage in his career...but only by the announcers. Lane is a Chris Jericho wannabe without the talent. The match seems pretty even with perhaps a slight edge going to Hayashi. Lane makes up for it with a size advantage but he runs himself into the corner and lands on his head (looks like it hurt). Both men have youth and resilliance going for them. As the match progresses, Hayashi's superior technique starts to become apparent. They trade pinning combinations without success. Hayashi finally wins with the better aerial attack and a Senton Splash.

Another commercial for the latest 3 Ninja movie. Hulk Hogan is barely shown and isn't mentioned during the ad.

Scenes from Diamond Dallas Page vs Stevie Ray on Thunder last week. This incident led to tonight's main event pitting DDP/Konnan vs the Giant/Stevie Ray.

Disorderly Conduct vs. High Voltage - HV vs. the quintessential jobber tag team. Looks like a sure win for the boys from Anchorage (congrats in advance Troy!). Sure enough, High Voltage are looking good tonight. DC get a leg up through chicanary late in the match but they can't hold onto the advantage for any length of time. Tough Tom seals their fate by executing a flying tackle off the top rope on his own partner. It's all over in just moments after that. Cut to commercial.

Wrath vs. Barry Horowitz - not to sell Horowitz short, but Wrath could use some better competition. He should be facing guys like Meng, Duggan the Barbarian et al. Instead they keep putting him in with smaller jobbers. Horowitz doesn't have a prayer from the get-go and is put down by the "Melt Down" (pump handle-to-powerslam). Cut to commercial.

Interview with Saturn - the former Ranger talks straight from the heart about his current situation, about the importance of his word.

Meng vs. Raven (w/the Flock) - here's an interesting matchup...except that it probably won't happen. Raven will pull in a substitute sure as shootin'. Kanyon is the spokesman, says the match is under Raven's rules and that means a handicap match. Raven substitutes Riggs and Sick Boy. When they can't get it done, he adds Horace to the mix. Meng handles them all easily, of course. Lodi then sends Saturn in. Saturn actually starts to make a dent in the big guy but then Kanyon kicks him in the back of the head and gives Meng the win. Cut to commercial.

The second 3 Ninja commercial gets around to mentioning Hogan.

Kanyon (w/Lodi/Raven) vs. Saturn - Saturn is still in the ring recovering from Meng's death grip. Kanyon suplexes him out of his boots then holds up a couple of Lodi's signs. The theme for this match is "Who's better then Kanyon..?" Raven distacts Kanyon for a moment and almost costs him the match but Saturn is still largely out of it. Kanyon is show-boating too much for his own good. He tosses Saturn out to the floor so Raven can yell in his face then roll him back in. Kanyon is running roughshod over his opponent with one high-impact move after another but he can't put him away. His frustration starts to show. He becomes complacent and suffers a series of suplexes as Saturn re-asserts himself. He is about to win when Lodi jumps on the apron and says he wants to see a Flatliner. He orders Saturn to let Kanyon take him down. Saturn stands and takes the maneuver like a man and loses the match. Cut to commercial.

Brian Adams vs. Dean Malenko - apparently Vincent has the night off. Curt Hennig comes running from the back and blindsides Malenko before he can get to the ring. The referee is already down by the time we get there. Hennig continues his attack but is cocky and gets assaulted himself until Rude and Adams come in to administer the punking. Out on the floor, Hennig runs Malenko hard shoulder-first into the post. Back in the ring the three of them beat him down then Hennig grabs a mic and taunts him. There is a lot off talk about the Horsemen being finished (Gosh, I wonder where they are heading with that..?) He laughs at the idea of facing Malenko in a cage. Rude produces a piece of cyclone fencing and they drape it over his inert form then kick him while he's down. Officials attend to the injured Ice Man as the thugs swagger away. Cut to commercial.

Riggs vs. Norman Smiley - Riggs staggers to the ring, still suffereing from Mengs death grip earlier in the evening. It turns out to be a ruse as he comes alive suddenly and attacks by surprise. As we watch the match, Tony announces that there will be a cage match pitting Malenko vs. Hennig Monday on Nitro. In the ring, Smiley has recovered and is dominating the action. Riggs is bigger and gets away from time to time but Smiley appears to have his number. Finally Riggs tosses his opponent out of the ring and Smiley appears to injure his knee. Back in the ring he recovers sufficiently to cause the match to see-saw. Riggs comes back with a surfboard. The match see-saws some more then Riggs misses a knee drop. Smiley locks a submission hold on his opponent and gets the duke. Cut to commercial.

The Dancing Fools vs. the Jobber Brothers - I was wrong, the Armstrongs' are the quintessential jobber tag team. This match is basically an exhibition by the Fools. Hardly worth commenting on, let alone describing. The brothers use double teaming tactics to gain a momentary advantage but they start showboating and lose the initiative. Then Scott kicks Steve in the chest and really throws it away. Wright gets the pin after a neckbreaker. Cut to commercial.

The Giant/Stevie Ray vs. Konnan/Diamond Dallas Page - Giant and Stevie make their entrance before we cut to commercial.

Konnan and DDP enter as we return. Konnan starts against Stevie Ray. K-Dawg is the better wrestler but Stevie is very talented as well...and much bigger. Konnan manages to down his opponent then both sides trade partners. DDP wades right in with punches then gets clothelind to the mat. The Giant stands on his chest to further subdue him. DDP comes right back with a sunset flip and conmes close to toppling the big guy. But no cigar. The next exchange sees DDP sidewalk slammed in an odd sort of way. Both guys are down and DDP goes for a pin but is shoved off with authority. Konnan comes in ineffectively against the Giant then Stevie is tagged in. Stevie dominates the smaller man then distacts the referee and Page while the Giant pounds on Konnan in the corner. Konnan gets away moments later and gets the tag. After two exchanges, DDP hits the Diamond Cutter on Stevie but the Giant breaks that up, then the nWo thugs hit the ring and all order breaks down. Goldberg runs in and saves his bacon, clears the ring and then goes face to face with the Giant as we fade to black...


At least that's the way I see it...

Earl Oliver
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter

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This is the official web site of my friend Jeremy Hartley and the home of the "Up Close and Personal" RealAudio show. Jeremy has assembled all of his UCP interviews here and will also be featuring my "Time Machine" series which used to run on the TBR Wrestling Hotline. Jeremy has interviews with such wrestling personalities and Lou Thesz, Les Thatcher, Bob Blackburn, Buddy Landel and people associated with the Internet Wrestling Community such as Al Isaacs, Bob Ryder, Scot Teal, J. Michael Kenyon and even yours truely!

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