On August 5, 2016 the world of wrestling podcasting was turned upside down with the premiere of Something to Wrestle…with Bruce Prichard. The podcast, featuring former WWE employee Bruce Prichard, has become a huge success and developed a loyal following of fans. With the success of Something to Wrestle, another wrestling podcast was born. What Happened When premiered on January 30, 2017 with former WCW personality Tony Schiavone. Both podcasts took veterans from the wrestling industry and gave them a platform to tell their stories. The common thread between these two podcasts, aside from wrestling, is co-host Conrad Thompson. Conrad has gone from wrestling fan to king of the wrestling podcast hill, and it has certainly been an interesting path.
It All Started with VHS and eBay
Conrad’s life as a wrestling fan started at a young age. “I guess the first time I remember seeing wrestling was a double VHS of Wrestlemania 4,” Conrad recalls while talking about his introduction to the (then) WWF. Like many wrestling fans, Conrad eventually started to lose interest. For about four years Conrad was disconnected from the wrestling world until the fall of 1996 when he came across an image that caused him to stop his channel surfing. The image was Hulk Hogan standing in a ring wearing all black with a black beard. A quick internet search at the time opened up Conrad’s eyes to the world of dirt sheets and the “rumor and innuendo” which now serve as the research for so many of the podcasts today.
Conrad’s fandom lasted for another ten years until he took another hiatus in 2006. He got back into wrestling around 2011 where he “slowly but surely…got all the way in.” This last foray into wrestling would end up changing Conrad’s life. During this time Conrad decided to purchase a Ric Flair robe on eBay, a decision which kicked off a truly serendipitous turn of events. While figuring out how to display the robe, Conrad looked into getting a replica belt to display with it. This led him to Memphis belt maker Dave Millican. The relationship with Millican eventually led to an introduction to Jim Cornette, then to former Flair sidekick JJ Dillon, and so on until he was introduced to Flair right around the time Flair’s son, Reid, passed away in 2013. “I had the opportunity to meet the Nature Boy. We trade numbers, it goes well…he was looking for a friend to go the bar and watch sports with and laugh and cut up, and I was willing to do that.” Flair and Conrad’s friendship grew and in 2015 CBS asked Flair to record a podcast and this opened the podcasting door for Conrad.
Advertising and Fan Mail
Long before Conrad entered the podcast world he got into his day job, mortgages. Conrad has been in the mortgage business since 2001 and currently owns his own mortgage company in Huntsville, AL. It was through his day job that he first got into radio. A sports radio host invited Conrad to do a live call-in advertisement for the business. “The first time I was on air talking about mortgages, our phone lines blew up, so I started to just double down on my advertising…Now I find myself recording commercials and doing live spots every single day.”
Conrad’s radio exposure came in handy when CBS first approached Flair about doing a podcast. At the time Flair didn’t know what a podcast really was, so he turned to his friend for some guidance. The conversation led to Flair inviting Conrad on the podcast to read fan mail and eventually cohost with various guests. Through the Flair podcast, and by virtue of being friends with Flair, Conrad was able to meet a lot of people involved in the wrestling business. Two of those people were Bruce Prichard and Tony Schiavone.
What happened when…Conrad pitched an idea to do a podcast to Bruce Prichard
“You’re gonna laugh, but the whole idea was to sell mortgages.” This was the initial thought when Conrad first talked to Bruce about doing the podcast. “I saw what type of growth we had on the Ric Flair podcast and thought, ‘this is an opportunity’.” The opportunity was certainly there and Bruce, who has a t-shirt store, saw an opportunity to promote his t-shirts. The idea didn’t stop at just mortgages and t-shirts though. Conrad wanted to be a part of a podcast which catered to wrestling fans. He had heard many of Bruce’s stories and saw the value of sharing those stories with the fans while also giving fans an opportunity to interact with the show’s star. Fans who order t-shirts from Bruce’s site get a “thank you” phone call from Bruce. The weekly content of the podcast is decided by fans via Facebook and Twitter polls. “It was a way to set ourselves apart and really offer more value…Before you know it, we started to have a bigger and bigger audience.”
The initial response to Something to Wrestle was positive and continued to gain more downloads each week. The moment Conrad first realized the show was taking off was after “Episode 8: The Radicalz jump from WCW to WWE”. Bruce and Conrad had been watching episodes of Halt and Catch Fire AT Conrad’s home when the “internet was acting wonky and then I hit refresh and the number (of downloads) came up I said ‘hey you (Bruce) need to check this on your phone…” They both looked at the downloads for that episode, then looked at each other, and it was then that they realized that this was a thing.
The podcast was not only resonating with wrestling fans, but folks within in the industry as well. They have received tweets and calls from fans who are also current wrestlers and others in the business, like Zach Ryder and Corey Graves. T-shirts from the show pop up regularly now at WWE events. The response isn’t always welcoming, however. This was evident after their episode about Sunny (Episode 18: “Sunny in the WWF”) when they received complaints and unpleasant calls from people seemingly close to Shawn Michaels and/or the WWE. Conrad has even found himself on the receiving end of a few Twitter blocks from some of the biggest names in wrestling history, including Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. Conrad chalks up the issue with Stone Cold to a misunderstanding over cover art for an episode which was tweeted to Austin. On the block from Hogan, Conrad isn’t so sure of the reason. “I have no idea what I did to Hulk Hogan, but he did unblock and now he follows me. So, maybe he just wanted to block me so he could bring me down, then he wanted to hulk up and have the miraculous comeback.”
“That’s the best compliment we could ever receive.”
The real draw of the show is that Conrad, along with Bruce on Something to Wrestle and Tony on What Happened When, peels back the curtain on the wrestling business. Throughout the shows we’ve heard about some of the most influential moments in wrestling history like the story of Stone Cold getting his 1996 King of the Ring push (and subsequent birth of Austin 3:16) because of Triple H bucking authority and Scott Hall walking through the crowd on WCW Monday Nitro. We’ve heard hilarious stories like the genesis of Million Dollar Man’s “everybody’s got a price” line and, of course, “she pooted”. The shows truly appeal to any wrestling fan, and some of these stories even bring in non-wrestling fans. “When we go to the live shows, we ask people, and it’s surprising to me how many people don’t watch the current product…but now, they’re back into it in a big way and they’re back into it because of our podcast. That’s the best compliment we could ever receive.”
Ultimately what makes the podcast successful is the fan approach by Conrad. Conrad brings an air of reality which is important when it comes to a podcast about wrestling. Wrestling fans are typically used to most things being part of the show so it’s hard to cut through what is real and what isn’t. There are many times on both shows when Bruce or Tony seem to slip back into “work” mode and Conrad usually jumps on them pretty quick when he suspects some b.s., often using his trademark line “is that a rib?”. The clearest example of this is during “Episode 50: Austin Walks Out” when he challenges Bruce’s argument about using Scott Hall, who at the time was battling issues with alchol, in a segment where beer is poured on him. Conrad represents the fan perspective, and that perspective resonates with the podcast audience.
“I can’t watch wrestling now the way I did back then”
One of the most intriguing aspects of Something to Wrestle and What Happened When is how the shows peel back the curtain so that fans can see how the industry works behind the camera. It’s interesting to see how the behind the scenes operation works with bookers, agents, and the creative team. Some have not been quick to embrace the curtain being pulled back. Wrestler Al Snow recently tweeted his disdain for fans who dislike wrestling because they’ve been smartened up to different aspects of it. Conrad recognizes the issue, but acknowledges the issue goes beyond wrestling. “When I was a kid I watched the NFL through a totally different lens than I do now. Now people watch and there’s concern about concussion protocol and CTE…and people are discussing the political side of sports like Colin Kaepernick. I can’t watch sports now the way I did back then, and I can’t watch wrestling now the way I did back then…for the 36 year old version of me, I’ve got to have a little more.”
Fans have certainly gotten the “little more” through the podcasts. In covering both the WWE/F and WCW Conrad has been able to discuss some of the most influential moments in wrestling history with the people who were a part of it. The two biggest influential moments in the industry, in his opinion, were when WWE bought WCW and when the WWE became a publicly traded company. Bruce was there for both and Tony was there for the buyout. What’s really cool about the podcast is that you can listen to the topics then go back and rewatch the events through the WWE Network and look for the moments they talk about, such as the last WCW Nitro and other events.
Even though the watching wrestling has changed for Conrad, he still sees a bit of his old fandom when he sees his daughter’s wrestling fandom. “Now my daughter, she watches wrestling now like I did as a kid, and she loves it.”
“All good things must come to an end.”
Things are going pretty well for Conrad Thompson in the podcast world. Both of his shows have spawned live events which happen in cities with scheduled WWE events (hey WWE, book a pay-per-view in Louisville so these guys will come). One podcast has already beaten the likes of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Pardon My Take, and The Ringer NBA Show for an award. A large part of that success goes to Conrad who, on top of his regular day job of running a mortgage business, manages to spend easily at least 10+ extra hours a week doing research, watching event topics, and then recording the actual podcast. The combined runtime of last week’s two podcasts alone was six hours, nineteen minutes. That doesn’t even include the extra stuff that got edited out. Despite all the extra work and travel that comes with being part of the podcast, Conrad loves both shows and that’s evident when listening to the podcasts.
As much fun as Conrad is having though, he knows that at some point the ride will likely come to an end. “I would like to say we’re gonna keep doing our thing forever, but all good things must come to an end. Eventually I do believe there will be some opportunity that floats down the line for both Tony and Bruce, and they’ll ride off into the sunset and do something for professional wrestling.” If and when this happens it will be sad for fans (though I’d be excited to see either one back in professional wrestling), but I wouldn’t expect that to be last we hear from Conrad Thompson. When asked if there are other podcasts he would want to do he was quick to name several people he’d love to podcast with in a perfect world, including Brian Gewirtz, Michael Hayes, and Jeff Jarrett. Conrad is a big Alabama football fan and New England Patriots fan so if those wrestling podcasts don’t work out he could probably carve out a niche in sports talk radio, where he got his initial radio start. In case you’re wondering, Conrad is hoping for a Bama-Georgia SEC football championship because Tony has spent the summer “talking about how good Georgia is going to be, so it’d be nice to see [Alabama] come into that new stadium and do their thing.” Hopefully it will be Kentucky there instead of Georgia and hopefully these two podcasts don’t slow down anytime soon.
You can check out Something to Wrestle and What Happened When on iTunes and Google Play and just about every other podcast site as well as mlwradio.com. Conrad is on Twitter @heyheyitsconrad and the two shows are @prichardshow and @whwmonday.