Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2019/04/03/post-media-panel-covering-wrestlemania-week/
It is the busiest week on the calendar for the professional wrestling industry with countless shows making up WrestleMania Week in New York and New Jersey.
We decided to gather several wrestling reporters for another POST Media Panel to discuss WrestleMania Week, how they determine their coverage for the week and some larger discussion points about the presentation of WrestleMania itself.
Below are the panel members:
Josh Nason, editor, writer and podcaster for WrestlingObserver.com
Raj Giri, Owner of WrestlingINC.com
Sean Radican, Columnist at PWtorch.com
Brian Fritz, Host of Between the Ropes and contributor at Sporting News
Nick Hausman, Host of The WINCLY Podcast at Wrestling INC
How do you weigh the pros and cons of being a content provider and traveling to the host city of WrestleMania?
Josh Nason: I personally have never been to a WrestleMania, but for our website, it’s great to have both Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez there to meet and reconnect with subscribers and to re-establish contacts. It’s a bit different this year as Bryan is actually wrestling, but that also adds something for our fanbase that is there for the show.
Additionally, we have a lot of our part-time staff in the NY area this year, so it’s cool they get to meet each other and experience all that is happening.
For us, there’s not much of a con other than Dave being a little crunched on newsletter time but he always hits his deadline mark…unless someone tries to break his hand. I hope he avoids Marty Scurll and the iron grip of Jon Gresham.
Raj Giri: It’s automatic now that we go, but because of how chaotic it is on the site on WrestleMania Sunday, I always come back before Sunday.
Sean Radican: It just comes down to whether or not I can juggle going with my full-time job. Of course, the closer to where I live the better. Covering shows live for me is harder than watching them from home, but ultimately that’s not the deciding factor.
Brian Fritz: As a freelance contributor and not a full-employee for an outlet, it is something that weighs on me every year. The cons are the travel cost and trying to make accommodations that are affordable while in a central location. Plus, there are a lot of hoops to jump through when it comes to tickets for various shows and trying to lineup interviews and access to justify being there.
On the other hand, there is something to being on-site for what is the biggest week on the wrestling calendar. It’s not easy to properly put in words the excitement around the host city and seeing so much enjoyment for the wrestling business. I also look at it as a great opportunity to see various friends from around the world while also networking with various promotions and outlets. It can be cumbersome and frustrating at times with everything you want to accomplish and there only being so much time.
Still, this will be my 13th WrestleMania week and 12th in a row so it’s been a worthwhile experience so far. I know the day will come when I decide not to attend but that hasn’t happened yet.
Nick Hausman: Pros: The ability to hear and feel firsthand how fans feel about different promotions and wrestlers. There’s also a fair amount of “once a year” networking that goes on that sets up different projects and interviews for the rest of the year. Finally, gathering a variety of on-site interviews with talent and fans for week-of coverage.
Cons: As a pro wrestling news specific website we are traditionally given the lowest priority when it comes to WWE granting interviews. That’s always a bit of a headache since some of the best content always feels slightly out of reach. It can also be generally frustrating being away from my regular work desk and high-speed internet connection.
With the volume of shows this week, how do you decide what cards take precedence to your audience?
Josh Nason: This year, we reviewed the great schedule that POST Wrestling put out (cheap pop!) and discussed it among our daily editor team. We look at a) what group we usually post results from and b) if there’s a buzzworthy set of matches for those promotions we may not cover that much. Then, it’s a question of getting people freed up to cover all of them. Luckily, that hasn’t been an issue yet.
Raj Giri: We have many members of our staff that are out there this weekend, so it’s just a matter of assigning an event based on their strengths. For instance, a writer that normally does Impact Wrestling recaps will be assigned the Impact show, etc.
Sean Radican: I go by interest based on what people seem to enjoy the most, so the GCW shows will definitely be a priority to get to. There are also really good lineups for other events that fans really want to hear about. It might come down to a timing issue of what gets covered when. If I’m free at a certain time and not doing something else for the site and a show is on at a more convenient time, then that might be a factor. The ROH/NJPW show is a must and then I work my way down from there. We have a bunch of people working together to cover stuff, so that makes it easier rather than being one person responsible for everything.
Brian Fritz: I always go to the bigger shows such as NXT TakeOver and WrestleMania but beyond that, it’s based on talent and the buzz for a particular show. Plus, I also want to get to Axxess to see the scene and also watch some of the wrestling since there are matches and tapings there. It can be tough to figure out what shows I can make it to and how the schedules line up.
Nick Hausman: I try to choose the shows we cover based on the traffic the promotion hosting them traditionally gets on the site. I’m in the very fortunate position with Wrestling Inc of having a team of contributors this year at WrestleMania. We are trying to have someone on-site for as many of the major shows as possible. I just checked and we currently will have someone at 24 shows the weekend of WrestleMania.
As a wrestling media outlet, how has your experience been with WWE regarding coverage of WrestleMania-related events?
Josh Nason: Outside a quote about the John Oliver story, I haven’t had to be in contact with them this week. In the past, they have been responsive if a detail question comes up.
Raj Giri: It will never be how other sports organizations treat media outlets, but it is much better now than it was 10 years ago. They do credential us now, which they would not have 10 years ago.
Sean Radican: They’ve been accommodating in terms of giving us the ability to cover all the events live for several years now.
Brian Fritz: I’ve always had a good experience with WWE since I began working with them 20 years ago. I do push to try to get more access with talent which can easily fall on deaf ears considering all of the outlets they are trying to appease. Still, I have never had a problem with being credentialed for WrestleMania and Axxess and also receiving tickets to TakeOver.
Nick Hausman: I have no issues at all with how WWE has treated me over the years. The access to talent is still tight but they’ve always been good about getting me at least on-site. Their PR team is usually responsive to my inquiries about backstage stories that gain traction in the mainstream as well.
Tell us a bit about your coverage of WrestleMania and what your day is like when it comes to content production?
Josh Nason: A lot depends on Dave providing any insider news and notes throughout the day. We also keep abreast of news 24/7 and use our Slack channel to discuss what’s newsworthy and what’s not. For the day itself, we do our main live post and supporting news posts depending what’s happening on the show. Then, we’ll do our podcasts and let everything play out from there.
Raj Giri: It’s basically a 20-hour day. I am usually up at 4 am and make start handing out assignments, and make sure that technically everything is moving fine on the site since our traffic on that day is much greater than usual.
Sean Radican: It’s the busiest time of year in terms of watching shows, doing podcasts, and posting news. By the time I get to Sunday, I can usually just enjoy the show because my main focus is the indies and ROH. Sunday is definitely a day where I’m worn out usually from watching so many shows and usually playing catch-up and trying to finish up and cover things I missed.
Brian Fritz: I always try to arrive at WrestleMania at least an hour before the doors open to check out the tailgating fans in the parking lot. That includes me describing the scene on social media and including some video and photos. My idea is to show anyone who is not there what the atmosphere is like. Once I get inside, I’ll take some pictures of the setup and put that on social media and will probably do a quick video. Once the show begins, I am live blogging it from bell to bell. That is followed by a post-show video and podcast along with writing another post about the biggest takeaways from WrestleMania.
Nick Hausman: I’ll be in NY/NJ this year from Thursday – Wednesday. My days usually start around noon, I can’t start early due to the late nights, and then I just keep moving. If it’s a non-WWE event I’m usually at the venue about an hour before doors open to try and get interviews with talent. Then I take my seat for the show and keep in touch with whatever WInc editor is at their desk helping me to cover the show from home. If anything happens at the event that can’t be seen on-screen or isn’t streaming at all, I’m sending it back to be covered on the site. While I try to get as much content as possible A LOT of my time is spent networking. Everyone is busy and sometimes I find it more valuable to set up several interviews for a later date than trying to get 1-2 guys to sit down and give me 15 minutes. Free advice.
Of the non-WWE events happening, what group has done the most effective job differentiating themselves and is a must-see show?
Josh Nason: I think GCW has done an awesome job with these really unique events (Spring Break, Bloodsport, Orange Cassidy show) that stand out because they’re positioned differently than the others. Everything else feels like a typical Mania week big indie show. It’s great, but it feels like an avalanche at times. It’s a good problem to have, I guess?
Raj Giri: Definitely ROH by being able to book MSG this weekend.
Sean Radican: ROH and NJPW running MSG make that a must-see show. The presentation will be totally different from how a WWE show is presented. Joey Janela’s Spring Break is also a ton of fun and gets a lot of buzz, so those shows are a big priority as well.
Brian Fritz: It’s probably the easy choice but I’d have to say the G1 Supercard but it is a big deal to have ROH and NJPW teaming up for a big show at Madison Square Garden. I think both the RevPro show with the strength of its card and Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport with the uniqueness of the event have stood out as well.
Nick Hausman: Obviously ROH, NJPW, Impact, and MLW have a leg up because they have national television deals. They’ve fully created brands and have their own complete feel.
For me, GCW is the promotion that has really done the best job of differentiating themselves WrestleMania weekend. It’s hard to argue Joey Janela’s Spring Break and Bloodsport haven’t become their own major attractions. Bloodsport is probably the most original pro wrestling concept I’ve seen in a long time.
Which show or match are you are most interested in this week?
Josh Nason: Bloodsport and TakeOver, the former because of the uniqueness of the show and that I’m mainly an MMA fan, and the latter because, well, it’s TakeOver.
Raj Giri: NXT Takeover
Sean Radican: I’m most interested in the NJPW/ROH G1 Supercard. The show has a great lineup, but I’m most interested in seeing Jay White defend the IWGP Hvt. Championship against Kazuchika Okada.
Brian Fritz: NXT TakeOver has become the “must-see” show anytime one of them takes place. When it comes to other matches, there are a lot of them. I’m very intrigued by both the ROH and IWGP championship matches. Jeff Cobb vs. Will Ospreay at the G1 Supercard should be fantastic as well. At Mania, I’m curious to see the reception the triple threat women’s match gets considering how historic it is along with who leaves that show as the Universal champion. Others I’m more interested in includes Austin Theory vs. Kyle O’Reilly at EVOLVE, Will Ospreay vs. Bandido at the WrestleCon Supershow, and I think it would be cool to see The Rock ’N ’Roll Express vs. LAX match at Joey Janela’s Spring Break Night 2. I’m sure I could easily come up with 10-20 more matches.
Nick Hausman: ROH and NJPW’s G1 Supercard is probably the show I am most interested in. This is such an important time for both promotions. They are creating new foundations with a lot of young talent and this is their chance to make a big statement just before AEW launches. I know everyone on that card is going to give this show their all.
Honorable mentions to NXT Takeover, Bloodsport, Joey Janela’s Spring Break, and United We Stand.
Finally, I will be calling the action alongside Matt Taven at his Arm Wrestle Kingdom as part of ROH’s Festival of Honor on Friday, 2:30 pm, at MSG’s Hulu Theater. I’ll also be emceeing Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler’s Slobberknocker Sessions on Saturday, Noon, at Gotham Comedy Club. I’m looking forward to those shows in a much different way because I’ll be privileged to be a part of them. Come on out!
As the length of WrestleMania continues to extend, has the show reached a point where it could be viable as a two-day show?
Josh Nason: I recently thought about this very question and would say an emphatic yes. Major concert festivals do two or three days, so a two-day Mania (Sat-Sun) would be awesome. With so much talent and the attention span of people in the content era, why not do two killer four-hour shows instead of a one-day mega-event that has everyone feeling drained by the end?
Raj Giri: They definitely could, but I think inevitably one of the days would become considered the “B” day, ticket sales for that day would start falling and then it would move back to a one-day event anyway.
Sean Radican: I’d rather they cut it down a couple of hours. It’s way too long as it is and two days would be ridiculous.
Brian Fritz: I don’t think so because you’d almost being devaluing one of the nights of the event unless WWE could promote two huge main events with one per night. Even if each night was only 3-4 hours, I think it would be difficult to capture the same excitement as having Mania on one night.
Plus, it would have to be on Saturday and Sunday nights, and I don’t think WWE could then fit in a live SmackDown on Friday nights, TakeOver, and the Hall of Fame. They’re already looking at having either TakeOver or the HOF on Thursday and I can’t imagine them holding the other on a Wednesday if Mania was a two-night affair.
Nick Hausman: AB-SO-LUTELY. It’s probably the one time a year you could get away from giving each brand its own PPV. Imagining separate RAW and Smackdown cards this year, with some crossover, is an enticing idea to me. Bryan vs Kofi would be a PERFECT main event for the first night. Podcast for another day.
What changes do you envision or would like to see from the WWE next year once the Fox deal is in place for WrestleMania Week in Tampa?
Josh Nason: A real media area with a podcasters row is the only real big change I could see happening. I expect Fox to have a big presence in the year ahead and doing a lot of shoulder programming for Mania that could bleed into other big WWE weekends. How they fit Friday SmackDown, the Hall of Fame, TakeOver, and Mania Friday through Sunday is going to be a challenge.
I’d love to see them pare down the Hall of Fame to a two-hour Saturday afternoon event like UFC does. It would take the pressure off having to find people to put in there and would help solve a problem as to where to put it.
Raj Giri: It would be great if they could get friendlier with the wrestling media. But where I’d really like to see WWE change is creatively, and I really don’t see too many changes happening on that front as long as Vince is pulling the reigns.
Sean Radican: I think the booking is going to have to be better to sustain the ratings that Fox wants, so I’m just expecting a better all-around product next year in Tampa.
Brian Fritz: One thing I hope does not happen is SmackDown expanding to three hours, further watering down that show and the overall WWE product. That being said, I would like to see WWE further differentiate SmackDown from Raw, so they are two distinct shows. I don’t think we’ll see the end of the brand extension, but I think it would benefit both brands if there was only one set of champions that floated between the brands. That will also quell any possible issues between USA Network and Fox executives who would want certain talent on their show. I could see either Daniel Cormier or Rob Gronkowski joining the SmackDown broadcast team as well. It will be interesting to see what crossover will happen between WWE and the NFL on Fox.
Nick Hausman: I don’t envision much changing, but I would welcome media scrums with the talent like UFC does with theirs. I have heard FOX wants to go in a more “sports oriented” direction and I think that would be a smart idea for everyone involved.
Thanks very much to Josh Nason, Raj Giri, Sean Radican, Brian Fritz, and Nick Hausman for participating. Follow all their work this weekend at their respective outlets.