In part 2 of our conversation with Conrad Thompson, we continue to dive into the incredible Patreon, Ad Free Shows and the range of content it has available for fans in addition to the interactive experiences, such as “the definitive Jim Crockett interview” and On The Road Again with JR and Tony Schiavone. Also, we discuss how COVID has helped Ad Free Shows growth, developing a relationship with Arn Anderson, Kurt Angle, and Humza and Conrad have a small rapid-fire round about their favourite year in pro wrestling, 1997. All of this, and more, is in this jam-packed second part. Enjoy!
What have you found has been the most successful piece of content you’ve created for Ad Free Shows, whether it’s the fan chats or perhaps the Q&A’s with the wives, what for you has been the most successful, and what’s been the surprise hit?
“The interactive events are what people really look for. You know, I can’t believe they did this, but Dax from FTR watching old tag matches with Arn Anderson was unbelievable. You know, Arn Anderson had said on our podcast that his favourite tag match that he saw in the WWF(E) was American Alpha vs. The Revival. So when they got to go back and watch that together and breakdown the psychology of what they’re doing, and there’s just multi-generation tag team greatness there that’s universally respected, that was pretty cool.
“I’ve got something else pretty slick that I’m working on right now, which I hope I will have in the next week or so that involves JR and Tony Schiavone calling an old match, and I don’t want to say more than that. But it was like, “This is a home run.” And I really enjoyed On The Road Again. We’ve finished season 1, and we’re going to work on season 2. Just being a fly on the wall when JR and Tony Schiavone are going up and down the roads, as they say in the wrestling business, that’s so cool. They used to say, you learn in the car, and business is done at the bar.
“My favourite thing that we have done, though, I guess, is two things. It’s the long-form sit-down interviews. We did one with Jim Herd that’s been posted, and we’re about to post part one with Jim Crockett. But I’ve got five hours of Jim Crockett content. I think it’s the definitive Jim Crockett interview, and you know, if things go this differently, we’re talking to Vince McMahon, not Jim Crockett. It’s such fantastic history, and I’m looking forward to shining a light on it, and that was part of the strategy for this year. We’ve done some stuff with David, and we’re going to continue to grow that. But we’re watching old 1986 Jim Crockett Promotions, and at first, a whole lot of fans sort of turned on the idea, and they were pretty vocal about it. Then they tried it, and they loved it, and that’s what wrestling’s about to me, is trying new things, experiencing new things, and sharing it with your wrestling friends. All of that has really been fun with Ad Free Shows.
“Me being a belt nerd, the new series we did, called Title Chase, where we go long-form on a single belt and talk about how it’s made and what the process was. What significant matches or moments it had. Dude, that just gets me excited. The long-form interviews, and the ride alongs with JR and Tony Schiavone, and the little belt documentary things, those are just my personal favourites. But what’s the most well-received? It’s Dax and Arn, and that’s not even close.”
I should have guessed that one to be fair (laughs). Going back to the wives segment, a) how did you get them to agree to that? And b) I find that perspective is quite fascinating, and I recall talking to Evan Husney from Dark Side of the Ring, and he mentioned that the perspective of the family members is sometimes the best part.
“It is the best perspective, especially to a casual or non-fan because they can identify with someone, you know because wrestling is such a weird sub-culture. There is all these weird sort of unspoken rules and things like that, and the idea that none of that has to exist with an outsider from the industry, that creates a real connection with the audience at home. But yeah, we got the request, would Lois ever do an ask Lois anything? I thought that’s great, but I don’t want to start with her because I knew that if I started with her, I might have to sell it. But if I started with somebody who I knew would say yes, then it would be easy to go and say, well, so and so did it.
“So I knew Loree Bischoff would say yes. I knew my wife would say yes, so once we did those, it was kind of easy to say, “Hey, we’ve been doing this thing, would you do it?” That way, even if I got shut down, my retort would be, she did it, she did it, and she did it. Then it almost feels like, okay, I gotta. Then, once they do it, and I know Lois was nervous about it, but when we were doing it, she was like, “That was easy. That was fun.” I was sort of guiding the questions, and I know Lois, and I’m comfortable with Lois, and I knew how to make her comfortable, and she was. I’m not trying to put somebody on the hot seat, and that’s what they’re all nervous about, that I’m going to try and make them look bad. Nobody wants to look bad, but I’m not aiming to do that, this is my buddy’s wife.”
Your chemistry with all the different co-hosts is excellent, and also what’s great is there is a different chemistry with all the guests. Obviously, Bruce Prichard is a much different character than Arn Anderson, and all of them have great personalities. But I wanted to know how do you approach building the chemistry with these guys?
“Well, it’s easier when you get to hang out with them in real life. You know, by the time Bruce and I clicked record, we had spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours together. Tony Schiavone and I have hung out enough, podcasted enough, and travelled enough that if these podcasts ended tomorrow, we’d still be great friends. Then I got to do the European tour with JR, and we really bonded on that, and we did some live shows. Sort of the same thing with Eric and Eric has actually been to my house now, four times, I think. So we’re friendly and familiar and comfortable. He knows my mum and dad and all that stuff.
“I’m still getting there with Arn and Kurt. You know, I have a great relationship with Arn. I’ve been to his house, and he has been to mine. We consider each other friends. But we haven’t spent nearly the amount of time together as I have with the others. A lot of that is because of COVID. We probably would have been doing live shows this last year, and I know we’ve had a lot of interest to do some European stuff. But it’s not like anybody was doing that last year, so we’ll see. And I just started the Kurt Angle one, so we’re not there yet, but we’ll get there.
“It’s one of those deals where, with repetition, you become more and more familiar and trusting, and if you go back and listen to early Bruce shows, or Arn or Tony shows, everybody loosens up. They get comfortable, and they realise, “Hey, wait a minute, he’s going to take care of me. We want the same thing here, and we’ll have a better show for it.” So we’re getting there with Arn and Kurt.”
I mean, I feel like you’re there with Arn, and that’s just from my perspective, I guess. It feels like the others. It’s smooth and everything flows.
“I think when you go back and listen to the first ones, it wasn’t there. But I think it’s definitely getting better, and I think it will continue to get better. You know, we’re not yet to the point where we’re finishing each other’s sentences, but when we get there, I know that we’re there. I can look at Bruce and know what he’s thinking, and Tony can just give me a grin, and I know where we are going. And Eric will get like a look in his eye, and I know what that means. I’m not there yet with Arn, but again, I think that’s just repetition. Those are my two newest ones, but the other ones, I got those down pat.”
When you introduced Arn, that felt like a real game-changer to me. He was someone we had not heard from as much, and his storytelling ability is second to none. It’s the podcast that’s hooked me the most, I’d say. You even said his arrival could be a game-changer. So how big has his influence been on you and your podcasts?
“Well, it was really more of a big feather in my cap because this was a guy who was kayfabe through and through. He wrote a book, which was all pretty much in character, and even when he would do shoot interviews, it was all in character. He’s not going to give you much of a peek behind the curtain, but it was a guy that had some territory days. Was there through all the prime of Jim Crockett Promotions and then had the entire WCW run with the exception of one year. And then I think this is really what we’ve doubled down on more because it was different from everyone else, is we can talk about modern WWE. I mean, he was there for so long as an agent, and I couldn’t really talk about modern WWE with anyone because JR was home, Bruce was home, but Arn was there. And Arn is not shy about giving his opinion, and that has been something new for us, and he has had fun with it, so we’ll keep doing it.”
Going back to COVID a little, we know that it’s halted some of your plans, but it does seem like, similar to when your mortgage business boomed in 2008 when others folded, it feels like the same thing has happened with the podcast business. While others are falling, Ad Free Shows is rising because of all the extra Zoom content, which might not have happened had it not been for COVID and people becoming available.
“Yeah, you’re exactly right. My motto in business is you have got to adapt or die. You know, you gotta evolve or die. The same thing that worked in ’97 won’t work today, and we’re nostalgic wrestling fans, and we want to believe that, but you go back and watch some of that stuff, and you’re like, “I don’t think they could do that today.” I think that’s true in business, too. So when life threw us a curveball, we tried to make the best of it, and (knocks on the table), I think we have the biggest subscriber count on wrestling Patreons. So we’re doing something, I think we’re in the top fifty Patreons, in all categories. So we’ve been at it almost a year now, and we’re pretty proud of where we are, but I got some big stuff coming.”
Was there ever any hesitancy or concern on your part because a lot of people have struggled financially because of COVID?
“No, I wasn’t concerned. I know a lot of people’s finances were impacted greatly, and I totally get that. But I also know that there are a lot of folks that cannot leave the house now, and they need something to do. Because they cannot leave the house, they cannot go out to dinner, and they cannot travel, you know, a lot of car manufacturers and car dealerships had their best years last year. I shouldn’t say, manufacturers. I know a lot of dealers who had their best year ever last year. But we couldn’t travel, so why is that? It’s because they couldn’t go do their vacations and they weren’t going out to dinner or nightclubs. So they were not spending money the way they might do normally, and they had all of this extra cash, and all of a sudden, interest rates were lower than ever, and their money would go further, so why not get a bigger car at a better interest rate right now? So a lot of people did that, and I think they did it with Ad Free Shows as well. They can’t go to wrestling shows, so let’s find a new thing to do in the wrestling space, and here we were.”
That’s true, and now, we have Kurt Angle. What can we expect from this podcast?
“Well, Kurt has got great wrestling stories, but the best part of the Kurt thing will be the human element. The personal stories of overcoming a broken neck in the Olympics or a divorce or a drug addiction, I mean, there are so many success stories that he can share personally. I just think it’s going to be different from all of my other shows, but in a good way.”
And can we expect anything else? I mean, six weekly podcasts, and you have even added a Chris Hero podcast to the Ad Free Shows content. Is there anything else you can do (laughs)?
“Well, there’s seven days a week, so stay tuned.”
(Laughs) fair enough. So if we were to look back at your years as a podcaster, what are the highlights for you? Are there any specific stories or moments that stand out?
“I mean, I know that you’re probably thinking on-air, but my two favourite things about the podcasts that we’ve been able to do so far are Bruce being back with WWE, working with Vince, and Tony Schiavone being back on TNT calling wrestling. Everything else after that, to me, is just conversation. I’ve had a great time with all my guys, and we’ve told some fun stories. But what really matters to me is those guys are both back where they belong, and in a weird way, these podcasts helped make it happen, so that’s pretty cool.”
If you had no restrictions and could do one show with any wrestling-related guest, who would it be and what would the topic be?
“Vince McMahon and the expansion to go national.”
Do you have any desire to explore the wrestling-film crossover that we’re seeing? In recent years we’ve seen an increase in wrestling focused films, and, of course, wrestlers have gone into acting.
“It’ll probably be three years before anything comes to light, but I got an idea. So, we’ll see.”
I’ll stay tuned. Finally, you’ve said one thing I really relate to, and that’s the fact that 1997 is your favourite year in wrestling, and I couldn’t agree more. So I have a few rapid-fire questions on 1997. What’s your favourite match from 1997?
“Well, my top three are Halloween Havoc, Rey and Eddie. Badd Blood, Hell in a Cell. Taker-Shawn. But my number one is WrestleMania 13, the submission match with Bret and Austin. That’s the best one.”
Agreed. Bret Hart in 1997 or Shawn Michaels in 1997?
“Uh, Shawn. Shawn’s swagger was another level when he started to do the DX stuff. I would say from like June through to the end of the year, I mean all the way into March, it’s such an incredible run. But I thought Bret did his best work, too, in 1997. But I just think, in-ring work, Shawn was hard to touch that year.”
DDP vs. Macho Man or Stone Cold vs. Bret Hart?
“Steve Austin-Bret Hart. Not close.”
Wow. I mean, I always have a debate with people about that, and I believe Dallas and Macho got rivalry of the year in ’97, which surprises me.
“The double turn, and it leading to the birth of, in my opinion, the best version of The Hart Foundation, I don’t think it can be beat.”
Kane debuting at Hell in a Cell or Sting beating Hulk Hogan at Starrcade?
“Sting beating Hulk Hogan.”
If you had to recommend one moment from 1997 to a fan that has never seen anything from that era, what would it be?
“That WrestleMania 13 match with Bret and Austin is pretty hard to beat, and I always say, if you want to show wrestling to a non-fan, and they’re like, “I don’t get why you’re an adult, and you watch wrestling,” show them, Rey and Eddie, at Halloween Havoc ’97, and then when you get done, pick their jaw up off the floor and they’ll get it.”
Finally, if you had to pick one wrestler from 1997 and put them against someone today, what would the match be?
“Oh, man, that’s hard. Hmmm… Shawn Michaels from 1997 vs. AJ Styles today would be pretty f*****g phenomenal.”
To read part of 1 of our interview with Conrad Thompson, click here!
To stay up to date with Conrad, his various podcasts, and Ad Free Shows, you can follow the following social media channels: @HeyHeyItsConrad, @adfreeshows, @PrichardShow, @83Weeks, @JrGrilling, @TheArnShow, @WHWMonday, @TheAnglePod.
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