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Can Chris Hero Save Wrestling? Recaps


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Hi there everyone, I am planning to do a recap for Can Chris Hero Save Wrestling? every week. This is for the first episode, which you can find here.

Hero opens the show by talking about how he loves pro wrestling, that he has since being 9 years old and he's 41 years old now. Conrad asks what's been going on in the past year with Hero. Conrad mentions Hero starting last year as a player/coach in NXT and NXT UK, and asks who came to him with the idea of that role.

Hero starts talking about Matt Bloom being the head coach when he returned to NXT in January 2017, and being in Terry Taylor's class, and talking about the tiers at the performance center. You have Shawn Michaels, Terry Taylor, Norman Smiley, Scotty Too Hottie, Steve Corino, Ace Steel, Sara del Rey, and how they filter everyone through different classes depending on what the company wants them to work on.

Hero talks about how he doesn't consider himself a player/coach, and how it's funny that it comes up a lot because someone said it before, maybe Dave Meltzer. He also says that maybe it's cause WWE came to his house to film a video and they might have mentioned him as a player/coach. "When I think of player/coach, I think of like Pete Rose, when he was a manager for the Cincinnati Reds and he was still playing." Hero says he was talent, that occasionally coached, and that he did not have a bump in pay from coaching, and didn't have benefits that a coach would have.

NXT coach Johnny Moss had some diaphragm issues, and Matt Bloom asked Hero if he could work with some of those guys. Hero had previously shadowed Brookside and helped before, so Hero ran a couple of classes for a couple of months since Moss was gone for a while. The guys Hero was working with weren't brand new people but just above that level, and after that was over, Hero went back to working with Taylor. Taylor was the finish guy, until Shawn Michaels came along.

Conrad asks for more details on how classes were broken down, and Hero says they were broken down by classes of 10 students, more or less. But the PC got so overflown by so many wrestlers that it eventually became 15 by the class, and people started getting less days at the PC. Examples of what was focused at during these classes: Smiley being very much into technique, Corino and Scotty Too Hotty being personality centric, Moss was into the basics, Shawn focused on TV wrestling and what they want out of the TV product, etc. Hero got to see the big differences between FCW and NXT/PC Center.

Conrad asks what places has Hero trained at, and Hero answers: garage in Middletown, Ohio, Les Thatcher's school, training camps with Dory Funk Jr., a week with Dave Taylor (also when he first met Regal and Finlay), with Jorge Rivera (aka Skayde), with Johnny Saint in England, the UPW school, the NJPW Dojo in Los Angeles, Scott D'Amore's school, and Lance Storm's Storm Wrestling Academy. Conrad asks if NXT has over complicated the process, and Hero says, "110%, once they went live week to week they started losing focus of what they wanted to do or what they wanted from the talent…” Hero asks outloud if they are trying to learn to wrestle to be WWE superstars or so that they can wrestle for NXT, because they are run by different people who want different things.

Hero talks about how he got involved for NXT UK. That as soon as he heard about the announcement of NXT UK, he talked to then NXT head writer Joe Balcastro, and he told him he would love to go over there and wrestle with those guys since he knows a lot of them, and he has a history of British wrestling. Along with that, he really wanted to have rounds matches. First opportunity they had, the company was able to slide in Hero to do some NXT UK tapings, which was Rumble weekend 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona, when he worked with WALTER at AXXESS. He did some more tapings during WrestleMania weekend during AXXESS and then started flying over to do shows. He called the NXT UK experience an awesome opportunity for him.

While talking about the atmosphere at NXT TakeOver, and NXT UK shows, Hero goes into detail about his philosophy and how he doesn't think there are bad crowds, just bad wrestlers. "The bad crowd is the one that doesn't buy a ticket." He says there are some difficult crowd and it's up to wrestlers to know that and plan accordingly. "That's what's cool about wrestling, we try to conjure up that energy from them and then kind of conduct it in the direction that we want it to go."

Hero was helping to build something strong in NXT UK, was hoping to draw interests in people familiar with his work but not familiar with the NXT UK. He talks about the idea behind his Wrestling Genius character, how he is a guy from the states who loves British wrestling, who idolized Finlay, Regal, and Johnny Saint, while the NXT UK guys idolize Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio and Bret Hart. How they do the superkick because of Shawn Michaels, not because of Chris Adams. How he’ll come and kick their ass doing British wrestling. He wanted to use that opportunity as a springboard to come back to NXT at some point and be a new fully formed heel that wrestles in a different way. That he was under no belief that he could go to the main roster at any time. That he figured what was happening during those first six months back at NXT, and how he was being used.

Hero talks about doing some announcing at NXT UK tapings. He mentions that Michael Cole was really nice to him and offered good advice. Hero would practice commentary at the performance center, and goes over when he previously did commentary during the Regal feud in his first NXT run. He did some dark matches on NXT UK, and something he hoped to do more in the future.

Conrad asks about the Wrestling Genius character, and Hero goes into more detail about the Wrestling Genius character, and how it was his idea. He talks about the way heels cut off babyfaces to go into the heat of a match, and how often a babyface gets cut off by the heel by doing something dumb, like turning their back, for example. One thing Hero would do during his Wrestling Genius matches was that when he would cut off a babyface, he would tried to do something underhanded that wouldn't hurt the babyface. Stuff like sliding his opponent's knee pad down, throwing his elbow pad off to cause a distraction, attacking his opponent when they are coming into the ring. Hero says he’s being crafty and wanted to do something different with this character and ring work.

He talks about working with Ridge Holland against Shane Thorne and Cal Bloom. Hero is high on Holland, and pitched for him to be his bodyguard. Hero said he was going to work a dark match with Finn Balor March of 2019 during the NXT UK tapings but he had a sore throat and the match didn't happen. Conrad asks about his time off, and Hero talks about watching the 1990 yearbook, 30 discs of pro wrestling, and how quickly time passed and before he realizes it, he's on disc 22. They briefly talk about Tracy Smothers, and how Hero created a GoFundMe and released a t-shirt to support his friend and mentor. Hero talks about how he was a true friend and mentor to him, and how supportive Tracy has been to him over the years. A one of a kind, an awesome guy, and someone who set the standard for the type of veteran that Hero wants to be. Someone who is positive, gives people the benefit of the doubt, and gives people constructive criticism. They'll cover more on next week's show.

Hero talks about creating this reddit, and the reason's behind that. When talking about the cuts of the spring of 2020, Hero mentions he wasn't entirely sure but he thought he was safe. They go over different people, and both Hero and Conrad are surprised at some of the cuts. When people were getting cut, Hero was sending messages to folks he was friends or acquaintances before.

Hero says around 5 PM, he got a call from Canyon Cemen, and he breaks the news to Hero that he was cut. Canyon mentions to Hero he has a future in the company as a coach. Hero says sometimes it feels like a backhanded compliment. In 2012, Canyon mentioned to Hero about how he might be better suited to be a coach. Hunter, Bloom have said that to Hero before, and while he appreciates that, he is not interested until he is done in the ring. Conrad asks if they were offering him a coaching position, and Hero says in not so many words, but that he wants to wrestle. Hero mentions that he got paid an additional month after he was cut.

Hero talks about Conrad mentioning people saying the knock on him has been his physique. He talks about times when he was in the best shape he's been in, and points to two matches with Brodie Lee. And he mentions that the next day he was taken to a room to rewatch the match, and was told he was not credible to be standing toe-to-toe with Luke Harper, and that if Vince saw the match, he would have a stroke. Hero says so much about wrestling is if someone likes you or doesn't like you, or if they choose you or don't choose you. Hero concludes this talk about his physique that life is too short to be torn down by this, and how you have to put value in other things than other people's opinion of you. He says he's at peace with it.

Hero says he hasn't watched any WWE, with the exception of the time he got curious with Retribution's first match. He has spent time watching so much other wrestling like Manami Toyota, Tracy Smothers, the yearbook he mentioned, a Terry Funk and Dory Funk tag match, Kikutaro, and so much other stuff.

Hero offers the young up and coming wrestlers with some words of wisdom. Saying "Less Is More" is bullshit. He understands the sentiment but he thinks a better message is "to get more out of less". To get the absolute most of their stuff.

Hero concluded the show by talking about Viro The Virus, how “Chris Is Awesome” came about, and recommending Viro’s song “Starlight”, mentioning it’s about the plight of a starving artist.

Anything else I missed or that y’all found interesting?

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This week’s episode will be a tribute to Tracy Smothers, Chris Hero’s close friend, mentor, and trainer. Hero opens up the show doing his best Tracy Smothers impression. They then talked about the feedback they received about the first episode. Hero says he did a lot of research to prepare for this episode. Hero says that with this podcast he wants to contribute something to the overall good of pro wrestling, something that people can look back on in five and ten years from now.

Conrad gives some bio details about Tracy Smothers, that he was born on Sept. 2nd, 1962 in Springfield, Tennessee, and about the THUGS. Hero: "T is for terrible, H is for hell, U is for ugly, and G is for jail, 'cos a thug can't spell!" Hero mentions how a lot of people know the THUGS from his days in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, but Hero says Tracy was quick to point out that the THUGS were a real thing in Springfield, and that they had a lot of cliques there. Other cliques were the South Town Rinky Dinks and The Goat Boys, who feuded with the Thugs. Hero says they were characters and country boys who played sports and got into fights. It was a big part of Tracy’s childhood, Hero said. Hero goes through the names of the Thugs, like Bow Wow, Jambo Stick, Blockhead, Wall Dog, and many more. One was named "Be No" because after he was born there would "Be No More".

Hero explains what the Carrs Creek Critter, which was apparently some half wolf, half dog, half fox type animal that would eat livestock in the Carrs Creek area. When Tracy signed his contract with WWF, he pitched the idea of being the Carrs Creek Critter. Hero says it was a funny thing from Tracy’s real life.

Conrad mentions that Tracy was the first person from Springfield to go to state in amateur wrestling. Hero says that Tracy pretty much played every sport and he got a scholarship to go to play for Carson-Newman, where he wrestled and was on the football team. Hero says Tracy wasn't doing too well with his grades and got some injuries, including a number of concussions. He transferred to Volunteer State, and then transitioned to pro wrestling. Conrad mentions that Tracy used to pick strawberries and tobacco for someone named Mr. Perry and that he would hop in Perry's pickup truck to go watch wrestling matches at the Fairgrounds in Nashville. Tracy's favorites were Bearcat Brown, Jackie Fargo, the Interns and Tojo Yamamoto. Hero mentions when Tracy got into wrestling that Tojo was his secondary trainer and gave him some beatings. Hero mentions that once Tracy went to a wrestling show without shoes. Tracy’s knowledge about wrestling was local since he didn’t get or read wrestling magazines.

He met the Fabulous Ones by working out at the local gym, and eventually started training with Steve and Stan. Hero wouldn’t call it a wrestling school, but Tracy started training with them. Hero talks about the King Kong Bundy bodyslam challenge. Tracy and some of the guys from Volunteer State went to a show and they had the King Kong Bundy bodyslam challenge. Someone from the crowd could come in and try to bodyslam Bundy. Hero says this might be when Tracy got his first taste of interacting with the crowd. Tracy couldn't get Bundy's foot off the ground when his turn came. Hero mentions how the next guy got Bundy up slightly a bit more than Tracy, and that Tracy didn't know at the time was that Bundy was working to get a reaction from the crowd. Hero says this night stayed with Tracy for the rest of his career.

Conrad asks Hero about Tracy wrestling bears, and Hero talks about Tracy being proud of wrestling 3 different bears. He wrestled one named Ginger, that was 750 lbs, and that was before he really got into pro wrestling. Hero tells another story of Tracy wrestling a 1500 lbs bear, how it started with Chavo Sr. and DJ Peterson busting his balls about Tracy knowing so much about wrestling a bear. While Tracy was hitting on a woman there, the guys had signed him up to wrestle the bear and it got really wild. The bear was pushing up against Tracy on the ropes, and Tracy headbutted the bear in the chest, which lead to the bear fighting back, eventually leading to Tracy shitting his pants. Y’all should hear Hero tell the story cause the writing doesn’t do it justice. The third bear is the one most people have seen on YouTube from Continental, with the wild leap frog.

Hero talks about Tracy's first match, and how Steve Keirn lent Tracy a singlet. The singlet straps kept falling to the side, and Tracy was ribbed to not let Lawler see him taking his straps down since that's his gimmick. His opponent was Conga The Barbarian, and Hero says that Tracy didn't know how to work yet at the time. Hero tells a funny story about Tracy working with Randy Savage in 1985. That up to this point, this was the match that Tracy felt was the best of his young career. After the match, Tracy thanks Savage for the match, and Savage responded with, "Don't ever thank a man that suplexed you on the floor."

Hero talks about how Tracy patterned himself after Jack Brisco and Dick Slater. He wanted to be like Jack cause he knew he could wrestle, and wanted to be like Slater because he knew he could fight. Hero does a good job describing and breaking down their styles and Tracy’s style. Conrad asks about Memphis and when Tracy got a fireball to the face. Hero says that after Lawler saw him take the fireball to the face, that he started to get more respect and get on the shows, including Lance Russell putting him over on the commentary. Hero points to this is when Tracy really learns how to work, both in the ring and on the promos. Hero: “This is where I think he starts to get that foundation under him to become the pro wrestler that he would become.”

Hero mentions Tracy going to Florida, and how the booker Kevin Sullivan was the one who thought of putting Tracy and Steve Armstrong together, calling them the wild-eyed southern boys and doing the rebel flag gimmick. That’s when they got their first opportunity to wrestle the Midnight Express, and that he got to be on shows with Bruiser Brody, Hero said.

Conrad asks when Tracy first appeared on Hero’s radar, and Hero says he didn’t start watching wrestling until 1989, so he first saw Tracy when he came to WCW with Steve as the Southern Boys. Hero talks about how Tracy got into NJPW thanks to Hiro Matsuda, and that's where he became good friends with Owen Hart. Hero references a match Tracy had with Antonio Inoki. Then meeting Vader in NJPW was how he got hooked up with UWA in Mexico. Hero mentions their names, Los Southern Boys, with the rebel flag masks, and how they were Southern Boy 1 and 2. Hero tells a story of Tracy working a match with Fishman, and the crowd was super rowdy. When Fishman returned ringside to get a necklace he left, he got into a big fight with the fans and Tracy went to go save him even though they were just wrestling against each other a little while earlier. Hero says "he was always ready to defend whoever," and that he would go to war with you in a heartbeat.

Hero thinks that Jim Cornette helped get him into WCW in 1990, and he talks about how popular the Southern Boys were feuding with the Midnight Express and Freebirds. Hero talks about how cool it was that Tracy crossed paths with Mick Foley in Continental, WCW, Japan, ECW, and WWF, where Tracy's first match on RAW was against Mankind. Hero starts talking about the famous Southern Boys vs Midnight Express match, and how the fans come into the match reacting one way, and after the karate spot, it turned the tide, and got the fans behind the Southern Boys. Hero says he recommends the match to current teams to watch, and he puts over the structure behind the match. Hero: “It was just the perfect storm… Something new and exciting for the fans. Just an awesome match.”

They talk a bit about the Young Pistols, and then go into talking about Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Hero says as soon as Cornette started SMW, that he had Tracy in mind. Hero: “If you look at his storied career, and he went so many different places and did so many things I think the purest Tracy Smothers work is in Smoky Mountain." Hero talks about how really cool it was to see the connection that Tracy had with the crowd, and the great interview that Tracy did at the start of his SMW run, where he explained the last few years of his career. Hero talks about the way Tracy was booked in SMW, including working a four-corners match, and how he eliminated all three guys. That Cornette thought the world of Tracy, and that you could tell by the way that Tracy was booked. Hero talks about Dirty White Boy and Ron Wright, and the famous moment where Wright got up from wheelchair. Hero also discusses when they burnt Tracy’s confederate flag, and how wild it is looking back at that, how it’s a capsule of the time.

They go over the Tracy vs Chris Candido ladder matches of 1994. Hero goes over this wild bump that Tracy took with a ladder on the corner, where Tracy and the ladder flipped over the rope into the arena floor. They had 8 ladder matches in the span of 12 days. Hero talks about the famous ladder match where the ladder buckled and Brian Hildebrand holding up the ladder while Tracy climbs it. Hero goes over the booking of battle royals in SMW to send fans home happy, and that Tracy won 26 battle royals.

Hero says Tracy was so well liked that he could go from WING to AJPW (thanks to Stan Hansen), and he wrestled all the pillars, and even Giant Baba. Then he went over to work with IWA Japan. He also later did tours for Big Japan and FMW. “He had such good relationships with people that he was able to do all of that.” Hero tells a wild story with Jason The Terrible. I won’t be able to do it justice, so go listen to the story, but basically that the promoter got Tracy to go shoot on Jason The Terrible, and Tracy did, smashing his arm with a chair a couple of times, but later he was very apologetic. They got some Korean BBQ later and Tracy apologized, and whenever Tracy would come back he would visit him and give him oatmeal, peanut better, and a batch of homemade cookies.

Hero goes over the Freddie Joe Floyd stint of Tracy’s WWF career. That WWF wanted to create their own enhancement talent, with guys who in theory had a bit more credibility, and Tracy was one of them. He was announced as being from Bowlegs, OK, near where Jack and Jerry Brisco came from. Hero tells the story about how the name was a rib on Jack Brisco. Hero says he was going back to watching these matches, and that Freddie Joe Floyd was surprisingly popular with the WWF crowd, and that he did a good job. Hero said this is a situation where you are a dealt a hand that is not wonderful, but that Tracy did the best with it. They go over Tracy's time in Memphis, where he joined the Nation of Domination, and went by Shaquille Ali.

Conrad moves the convo to Tracy in ECW and the FBI. Hero says the match that Tracy had with Taz earned him a job. The character and dance that Tracy developed here with FBI stayed with Tracy for the rest of his life. Conrad mentions how the ECW audience at this up so much. Hero mentions the “Where’s My Pizza” chants and the way he would dramatically unroll the Italian flag, with Tommy Rich’s face on it. Tracy apparently got the dance from Steve Armstrong in Mexico. Hero is putting over the fan cam matches that Tracy had strongly. “ECW changed Tracy’s life, it changed his career.” Hero said. That Tracy started training guys like Road Kill, Chetti, and local wrestlers. Hero talks about how everybody loved Tracy, that only he could have New Jack and Tommy Rich chain wrestling in the ring.

Hero remembers when he first met Tracy in 1999 at a show in Platville, Wisconsin. When Hero had his match and was leaving the ring, Tracy came out to Hero and helped him to the back. Hero was so taken a back by how cool and nice Tracy was. They would start working together a year in a half after this. When Hero saw him again, Tracy immediately remembered and started asking if Hero ever got his money for the show cause his check bounced. Hero: “He could not have been kinder to me.” Hero says he started with IWA in the Summer of 2000, and he remembers how helpful Tracy was there. That’s where Tracy picked Hero to be his second, during a match Tracy had with Little Guido. Hero said he was scared since he didn’t want to mess anything up. Hero being Tracy’s second became a regular thing after that. He calls Tracy his wrestling trainer and wrestling uncle. “Just a great locker room guy.” Hero said that when he thinks of pro wrestling veteran, it's Tracy Smothers. He's the guy who will bend over backwards to help you and that he's the guy that Hero aspires to be like.

Conrad asks about the infamous IWA Mid South riot. Another story that a brief write up won't do justice, go listen to Hero tell the story. Basically Tracy comes out after he sees Bobby Eaton is having a hard time, and starts attacking him to try to cover for what Bobby is going through at that moment. Leads to Tracy fighting everybody, and it becomes such a chaotic scene. It becomes a riot after Tracy grabs a woman by the arm, and Hero had heard she was pregnant, and she hits Tracy right in the face with the baseball bat. Then her boyfriend and another guy took their shirts off to be ready to fight. All hell breaks loose. Here is the video of the riot.

Conrad brings up the "Everybody dies" catchphrase, and Hero talks about how entertaining Tracy was during this part of his career. How he had a good way to get that good kind of heat, and also just being so entertaining to the fans who were in on it. Hero mentions that Tracy loved alliteration and rhyming during his promos. Hero goes through various fun bits Tracy used over the years. “I’m going to fight that baby!”

Conrad asks about Tracy the trainer, and Hero says his biggest strength was his demeanor and how much he cared. How he had nicknames and inside jokes with people. And how they just weren’t nicknames, he had relationships with people, and had funny reasons for those nicknames. He was good about making people feel good about themselves. Hero mentions how he coached a bit with developmental in the early 2000s, so he worked with Bryan Danielson, Spanky, Molly Holly, and that Spanky's Slice Bread finisher came from Tracy.

Conrad brings up the Tracy vs JBL incident at the ECW PPV. Hero says that some of the stuff afterwards was more of a worked shoot. Hero talks about a Freddie Joe Floyd vs Bradshaw match where Bradshaw kicked out of the finish, and what a shitty thing it was for him to do. Hero says knowing all the stories he knows, there is no question about who would win a fight between Tracy and JBL.

Conrad asks what's the craziest story he knows about Tracy, and Hero starts talking about another riot story where cops get called in, and the cops start fighting with both the crowds and the wrestlers. Tracy is showering and he grabs a towel, and he sees a police dog, and he’s ready to fight the police dog to defend a friend of his.

Hero says he found out online that Tracy had been sick and had cancer online. Hero says he reached out to Tracy, and got his blessing to do a GoFundMe and release a t-shirt to fundraise money for him. Hero says overall 15,000 was raised, and a couple extra thousand from the t-shirt. Hero said he never complained once in his last few months.

Hero talks about the last conversations he had with Tracy. He says the last time he talked with Tracy was when Tracy butt dialed him. Hero says one night Tracy sent him a text, "Call me crazy but someday I want to get back in the ring with you Superman lol." And Hero says, “It would have been my pleasure.” Conrad asks what does Hero think will be Tracy's legacy, and Hero says he was one of a kind, and that he left an imprint on every single person he crossed paths with in pro wrestling. The show ended with a tribute to people in the wrestling business who have passed away in the past year.

Incredible episode and a beautiful tribute to Tracy Smothers. This is just a brief recap of things talked about, highly recommend everyone check it out to get all the stories.

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