Jeff Esiason interview with John Brown (Owner and C.E.O. of HCW Inc. on the eve of Hell’s Forecast 2009)
Esiason: Hi, this is Jeff Esiason, here on behalf of Hardcore Championship Wrestling, for the first edition of the Confessional, with the Promoter of HCW; John Brown. Thank you, Mr. Brown, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to issue your confession.
Brown: No Problem, it’s an honor.
Esiason: It is indeed, but of course the honor is all mine. First question, what inspired you to create the World Wide Wrestling Federation which would later become HCW?
Brown: Well, uh, first off, when I was a little bit younger at about the time the WWF was at its prime, I became inspired by what I watched to make a business of my own. I started going into backyard wrestling, as a performer prior to developing my own backyard wrestling organization that started out with a couple friends. It just grew from there, with a decent amount of people, and then, when Mickey jumped into the mix, I decided to take that next step and create the WWWF. After having to work hard, we made it into the independent circuit, and well, the rest is history.
Esiason: That it is, but we will revisit said “history” later. Um, before I move on to my next official preset question; here’s a follow up question to that, why was it that you chose to go into backyard wrestling, instead of just trying to get yourself into the independent circuit? What it easier to take the illegal route?
Brown: Well, in my eyes, I know it’s illegal, but like if you actually and really think about it, everybody kind of started out in backyard wrestling, in a way, and would just work their way up to “independent”. Like, not everybody, but a lot. For instance, a lot of my superstars, they were in backyard wrestling before they dove into the independent and professional realm. To fully answer that question, I just thought it would be fun, and also the independent and professional. To have some of my friends get trained by some of the big name stars, as a matter of fact; some of us were trained by Jake “the Snake” Roberts. It was pretty cool.
Esiason: Ok, so…uh, seeing how you went the backyard wrestling route initially, is that basically what would become – in a professional sense – the foundation of the HCW?
Brown: Uhhh, you can say that. We take the, obviously, hardcore route. We just go out there every Monday night, with what we got – you know, hardcore – on Mayhem, giving the people a show that they can respect and enjoy.
Esiason: Understandable, and seeing this backyard wrestling route that your promotion has taken, can it be said that this could have been inspired by the success of superstars such as Mick Foley and Freak of Nature?
Brown: Yeah, when I was younger, I admired how both of those men gave it their all, and despite the fact that they were “nuts”, they managed to give the fans the show of a lifetime. That inspired me to encourage the same effort from my superstars, and you can ask any of my stars about my visits with them in the back before they would go out, on the stage, where I would just get them ready to go out there and give it their all. Telling them to not hold back, to be innovative, and aim for success.
Esiason: Successful they have been. Moving on to the next question: what are your fondest memories that were and still are unknown by the mainstream?
Brown: There are so many to think about, um, I’d probably have to say, upon first developing the HCW, approximately eight years ago, we had a tournament that sort of resembled the one we held last year, which wasn’t exactly the same as we had this past summer, but a really hardcore tournament, which took place over a two to three week span of time. Scratchy would ultimately prevail as the champion, surviving over 100 combatants.
Esiason: So this took place shortly after the transition from the WWWF to the HCW?
Brown: Yeah, after the WWWF, I hired on some more talent, not as many as I had desired, but I signed as many as I could get my hands on. This was when we tried to go professional, but I wasn’t trying as hard as I should have, because I would’ve been there. I just wanted to have and give the fans who watched a show that they could remember. The fans that I still have today, a lot of them were with us back when we were independent. I actually see some of these familiar faces when I watch the show from my office. It’s pretty cool to see that.
Esiason: I could assume that one of your grandest moments is returning to the home of HCW.
Esiason: Following up on something I was going to touch on a moment ago, about the WWWF, was that acronym somewhat inspired by the USWA’s original name: the World Whacky Wrestling Federation?
Brown: (Chuckles) Uh, yeah. You can somewhat say that.
Esiason: Ok, during the marketing phase of your promotion, you chose to expand your fanbase by attempting to tap into the USWA’s. Was this helpful, in your opinion?
Brown: Yeah, it did help, in my opinion. In doing this, we even managed to attract some fans of the USWA to come to our shows.
Esiason: Did you come to establish a personal bond in some way with these new fans just as you had with the original, loyal fans you had, the regulars?
Brown: Yeah, we had a lot more people than you would think, at least about 300 to 400 fans showing up. Sometimes we would get even more than that. A couple thousand at times, but those numbers would only emerge at our PPVs, back in our monthly PPV schedule. I know you’ll probably ask why we moved to the bi-monthly schedule, to answer that question ahead of time; I think it provides the superstars more time to develop good stories. As I say to those who ask whether or not our promotion is “planned”; what you see is what you get. We just throw a bunch of people out their, hopefully feuds kick off. I know that can be a bit sketchy at times, or unconventional, but should a feud start, that’s awesome, it’s great, and two months just allows it to boil up to a point where the fans will just…go crazy and it will become the best PPV that you’ll watch.
Esiason: We’ll touch more on the present a little later, um, you mentioned the crowds of thousands who would attend PPVs that I assume were held at small venues, broadcast exclusively on the local PPVs in HCWs home region. Did these venues include high school gymnasiums?
Brown: Sometimes, but when we started to generate a considerable profit from our efforts, we’d even get small stadiums…
Esiason: Like Basketball Stadiums?
Brown: Yes, exactly. We would just plop the ring in the middle of it and jam pack the stadium with as many fans as we could fit, and just blow the top off the place.
Esiason: That sounds great; it sounds like the HCW I’ve come to love, um…describe your feud with Ric Venom; personal or business?
Brown: He’s just a dick.
Esiason: Care to elaborate?
Brown: He’s just a dick.
Esiason: Guess that’s a touchy issue then. On the eve of your involvement in the so-called “Allegiance War”, the USWA sent a number of top-notch athletes to interrupt your programming. You, of course, retaliating by send a number of your best, including: Brandon Lee, Sean Olson and Rhyno to return the favor. Do you feel that this was beneficial to your company’s success?
Brown: You can say, because before that, we didn’t get as much exposure to the mainstream of wrestling. To tell you the truth, I really don’t know why they decided to interfere with our proceedings. Though, at times, it did give us a boost with our fanbase.
Esiason: So, you were probably forced into a position where you had to move your shows from gymnasiums to small basketball venues on a regular basis, correct?
Brown: Well, there were times where we were thriving and other moments where we would have to revert back to the smaller venues. We even got permission from communities to hold shows in open basketball courts.
Esiason: So, the invasion of the USWA wasn’t something you and Mickey conjured up together and was actually unexpected?
Esiason: So, is it your belief that Mickey was just attempting to start a fight?
Brown: You could say that when Slammu comes in out of nowhere and beats the hell out of some of your superstars.
Esiason: That certainly painted a more violent picture of that period of time. It seems as if there were no “bumps” that were taken willingly.
Btown: Exactly, that night, things were a little sluggish, I think I was on stage when Slammu came out, at first I thought he was appearing as a special guest, but then the next thing you know, he and a few other guys entered the ring and started pummeling my talent. I was shocked, wondering what the hell was going on. Why was this happening?
Esiason: During that time frame, in the summer of 2001, the USWA’s storyline at brought Slammu to a position where he was a member of the Apocalyptic Corporation, which was their flagship stable at the time that was dominating everything. This led Slammu to capture the crown in that year’s “King of the Ring” at the expense of his best-friend Splinter in what Splinter now claims was a “true-to-life” screw job. If that honestly was reflective of Slammu’s true character, then it might be accurate to suggest that he was more than willing to invade another promotion to wreck everything. Cause he was rather reviled back then.
Brown: In my own opinion, I think that…(sigh)…I think that Slammu’s always been a good person. It’s just; he was doing his job in order to keep supporting his family. He might have done on free will, and he may have done it for the check, but I believe he was pushed into the situation.
Esiason: That’s certainly honorable of you to take a stand for a superstar who I suspect you admire a lot.
Brown: When I was in the Independent Circuit, he came through, and when I first seen him, this really awesome guy in the ring, I always had a dream to bring him into my promotion. Just to see how talented he was in the ring. It’s hard to explain, he really is talented. Not boost another promotion or anything, but he is one of the biggest legends…screw legends…ICONS of the wrestling world, and I respect him a lot.
Esiason: What are your thoughts on the inter-promotional conflict that then ensued and thusly resulted in the demise of the USWA and BFCW?
Brown: I didn’t really have anything to do with it. I merely put my stars out there, put them in the limelight, and everything that happened was completely out of my hands. If you remember, I really didn’t know what was going. I was actually pretty upset for what happened, because I still liked the promotion despite the fact that they had come in to my backyard and attempted to destroy what I had worked so hard to create. I was rather distraught with what happened, because although I favored the BFCW, I still liked the USWA, it’s just that I didn’t like who ran it.
Esiason: So, uh, it seems like you had a personal vendetta against Mickey back in those days.
Brown: If you remember, Lenny and I had a series of matches against Mickey and Venom. Yeah, you could say that I don’t like Mickey at all.
Esiason: It appears as if that hatred isn’t just on a business level, but on a personal one as well.
Brown: A little bit.
Esiason: In the wake of the war’s aftermath, there was a grace period prior to the introduction of the UWA, and thusly the beginning of the third era, do you feel that this had presented a positive opportunity for the HCW, or did your brand suffer from the lack of mainstream exposure?
Brown: It kind of went both ways. At first, we had a lot of people coming over to the HCW, but then there was a decline of fans for a while, it was kind of like a light-switch. No matter how much effort we put in, or even how much the fans seemed to enjoy the shows, the schedule was so erratic at the time – not to talk about the EWA – with periods that featured a show every two weeks, two in a week, or even one in a month and a half. It was so crazy, with superstars who had trouble showing up for all kinds of reasons; it can be said that we experienced both.
Esiason: That’s perfectly understandable. Basically, while you had the opportunity to capitalize on the absence of the USWA and BFCW, both of which hogged all of the airwaves, with the exception of the WCW – a company that would later revert to being called the ECW when Benny Mouse took over – you weren’t able to capitalize due to a lack of sufficient funds that would’ve enabled you capture that available mainstream exposure, then you would have had a way of ensuring that superstars would arrive on time as well as establishing a more consistent schedule.
Brown: You said it.
Esiason: What was the primary reason for the change of identity in the HCW? Has it achieved its objective?
Brown: First off, we didn’t want to be called the WWWF anymore, because of the World Whacky Wrestling Federation. It was our intent to make the name reflect our image.
Esiason: Your were basically cutting your ties to the USWA, and it seems kind of odd, perhaps somewhat coincidental, because it was around the time you chose to change your promotion’s identity, about a week or two before the invasion by the USWA. Do you believe that this somehow aggravated Mickey, fearing your alleviation from dependency upon him for mainstream exposure?
Brown: I don’t know his thought pattern, that may or may not have been the case, it may very well be coincidental; if I could tell you, I would.
Esiason: That’s all we can do is just speculate as to what his intentions were. On to the next question, which will conclude part one of this confession; as the UWA was building its roster in preparation for opening day in 2002; Mickey wasn’t satisfied with the talent he received in the unprecedented draft that had taken place. So, he turned to you. Exactly what did Mickey concede in exchange for the superstars he acquired from you?
Brown: He had put a lot of deals on the table, but I didn’t want too much. Though I wanted something in return, because I obviously still needed my superstars to make regular appearances at our shows, and some of them kind of got stuck up after a minute. Sean Olson kind of became a dick, after entering the mainstream. To answer your question, Mickey approached me and asked for a couple superstars, at which point I threw out some names of stars who would greatly benefit than other in the HCW from some limelight. For instance, to name a few; Rhyno, Olson and Lee, my best superstar and tag team. He offered a lot of money to completely buy out their contracts, it was quite a good deal, I pondered taken it, but they were far too valuable. So, I countered that offer with the suggestion of the temporary contracts that would require their participation on his shows for a while and then back to mine for a while. Though, I didn’t want to take too much of their time from the grand stage. It was kind of like a custody battle. He had also offered to pay their salaries in the HCW. He could afford it. It was kind of like paying 1 ½ contracts, because I was underground after all.
Esiason: So, in essence, he made it appealing for the established superstars who had made a name for themselves, during the second era and their involvement in the aforementioned “Allegiance War”, to remain in the HCW despite their dual contracts.
Esiason: And, this temporary contract deal was made for a little over a dozen superstars. Was this an attempt to attract more fans to your shows and to push the HCW into the mainstream by showcasing their talents on a regular basis in the UWA?
Brown: Yes, if you had come to our shows back then, you would have noticed that we had intentionally set them on different days than the UWA’s shows. This wasn’t due to a fear of competition, but rather to honor the deal with Mickey. Also, it was done in case the stars wanted to come back and wrestle a couple nights. Which, they did, though not as often as I had hoped. It did help to attract fans as they were exposed to my superstars who were in the big leagues now. Over time, more and more fans started to come. This actually helped me the second time that they (the UWA/USWA) went down, as I seemed to generate a loyal following over time.
Esiason: Basically, the deal you landed with Mickey was essential to building the empire you have today.
Brown: Yeah, it may not have been the reason, but was a big reason.
Esiason: On that note, I think people tend to forget that El Gigante originated in the WWWF. He should be credited as another key player in the construction of the monstrosity that is the HCW today.
Brown: He is a very big piece of the puzzle – no pun intended – that made the HCW what it is. Which brings me to another fond memory; during the tournament I mentioned earlier, he was actually on a role until a feud he got involved with a giant who we called the Giant of Giants – who had had some classic feuds with other stars like Colossus, Rhyno and the Hulk – that led to his injury. It was truly our best time, even better than what we have today.
Esiason: Thank you, this concludes part one of this confessional. I’ll see you tomorrow for part two.
Esiason: This marks the beginning of part two for what some may call an epic interview. Thank you, Mr. Brown, for joining me yet again for the second half of this confession. At the first World of Wrestling Award Show in early 2004, you were given the lifetime achievement award. Does this honor still possess meaning to you, and why?
Brown: Well, of course it does, despite the fact that it was five years ago. It still has its place on my trophy shelf at home. Everyday that I awake and glance at it, it serves as a constant reminder to me of just how much of an impact I’ve had on the wrestling world. Even though that hasn’t been as significant as, you know, Jeff Murrey Mickey or Benny Mouse, it still fills me with pride for what I’ve accomplished in this business.
Esiason: You feel as if the World of Wrestling felt your influence at what would serve as the halfway point of the third era was significant enough to bestow such an award upon you?
Brown: That goes without saying. It’s not as if they’d award to some random person, the W.O.W. obviously felt as though someone deserved it.
Esiason: During the short tenure of the Last Wrestling Federation, you developed a close working relationship with Jeff Murrey. Why was this?
Brown: Jeff and I have been friends a bit longer off-screen than what you think. I had agreed to permit his contracting of a good amount of my talent to get the LWF on its feet. This has roots that lead back to when I first introduced the WWWF. He helped me out a lot by giving me pointers on how to get my talent to go the direction I wanted them to and I took it to heart. In return, I tried to give him a show that he’d appreciate and be impressed by.
Esiason: You briefly mentioned Sean Olson last night. What are you thoughts on him personally and what he has done throughout the course of his career?
Brown: I believe that he has exceeded expectations. I always knew he was going to be a big superstar. To me, his peak was in the tag team division, but he has proven me wrong before. I’ve been watching some of his latest matches, and he never ceases to impress. When it comes to impressing me, it’s certainly no easy feat.
Esiason: He essentially dominated both the LWF and the UWA in the third era, and has definitely made a name for himself. You feel as though he rightfully deserves the appraisal he receives?
Brown: That and more.
Esiason: Any regrets regarding the exclusion of HCW from the third era with the exception of your limited mainstream exposure as emphasized on earlier?
Brown: I don’t really have any regrets. My arrangements were obviously what I wanted at the time, and I feel that we had a good reason to pursue them.
Esiason: Following up on that, when the third era came to an end, bringing with it the collapse of mainstream wrestling caused by the now downplayed troubles the Mouse Brothers had that led thereto – which included Mickey’s numerous scandals and Benny’s loss of interest in the business with early signs of his erratic booking that we’ve seen lately -, during the aftermath of which, with no mainstream promotion left in wrestling, let alone any professional wrestling on television, I’ve come to understand that several networks that had covered eras past had approached you. Doing so because of the HCW being the only wrestling promotion left with even slight exposure to the mainstream in the past. They had offered you a deal to finally give the HCW a spot on national television, at which point you agreed. What were things like during the HCW Era that followed the collapse of the Third Era?
Brown: At first, it was a bit awkward. It was a difficult adjustment for many of my talent, who – for a large part – had never performed on the big stage. Needless to say, they overworked themselves at times, making them prone to more frequent injuries. It may have been fun, but things really started to fall apart towards the end.
Esiason: Was there a lot more pressure being showcased on a national stage as opposed to being exclusively displayed on a local level?
Brown: Yeah, we weren’t particularly in our own backyard, you could say. Our grab for attention was now on a bigger scale than what we were used to before. We didn’t fully know what to do on that level, because we had become accustomed to our underground persona and recruiting fans by visiting bigger promotions in addition to being subjected to invasions by those same big promotions.
Esiason: You were basically overwhelmed by the responsibilities you had inherited. Were you surprised to be included in the proceeds of From Dusk Til Dawn, and was the performance of your promotion as well as the overall turnout of the spectacle satisfactory to you?
Brown: Yeah, I was approached with the idea of the HCW’s participation at From Dusk Til Dawn. It was an honor to step on such a grand stage with two wrestling geniuses. Although the HCW wasn’t the main attraction, it was amazing to be included. Once the arrangements were made, I contacted as many of my former talent as I could to get them involved in the show. There were a few who ended up participating that I would’ve took out if I had the option to at the time, but it was still fun. If I heard correctly, one of the HCW’s matches actually turned out to be amongst the top-rated segments of the show. The show’s conclusion, with the Massacre Six match and all, was satisfactory as well.
Esiason: What was it that boosted your confidence enough to drive you into participating in the draft that followed, and engaging Mickey and Benny in competition?
Brown: For a while before From Dusk til Dawn, there were a number of non-financial/ non-fan-based issues that I would rather not elaborate on at the moment, but rather personal business at home. I had lost my “spark” as it goes for operating a promotion in wrestling, but From Dusk til Dawn changed all that. Inspired by the unfolding events of that event, I realized that I missed it. After consulting Mickey and Benny and ensuring that they were fine with my partaking in the draft, and even though I didn’t get everyone I wanted, it was quite the experience.
Esiason: You wanted to test the mettle of the HCW that you had developed over the course of the HCW era, and despite the downfalls in an age where you dominated the scene alone, you still wanted to go toe to toe with the two best, but did you ever really expect to dominate in regular weekly broadcasts and PPVs?
Brown: To tell you the truth, I expected to remain at the bottom of the ratings war for at least the first half of 2008. We’re not quite what we used to be, at our best like back in the old era. Given that, I’m pleasantly surprised that we have dominated the likes of Benny and Mickey. It was my expectation that the UWA would take the helm initially in the midst of his never-ending battle with Benny with the HCW being reduced to the bystander. Our objective isn’t to get ratings, it’s to entertain the fans, and its showing.
Esiason: It must have come as a major surprise on June 30th, 2008, when you made history in achieving the first ratings victory ever for the HCW over a mainstream promotion.
Brown: Yes, I think that people were tuning in and finding a whole new way of doing things in this business. Once they started watching, and found themselves unable to look away they turned out to like it. When the news came in from Nielsen that we had won, I was speechless. It certainly was unexpected, even with Mickey’s unplanned and failed attempt at annexing the HCW into the UWA. As for that issue, Mickey’s efforts to revive our old arrangement wasn’t going to cut it because I had decided that we were beyond needing his help. Benny and I may have a small deal made behind closed doors, but it is in no way shape or form like what Mickey and I arranged in 2002. The EWA and the HCW aren’t trying to help each other, but rather ourselves. There have been limited trades made between us, and some superstars have left on their own volition, like Teo for instance. Benny begged me to release Teo from his contract. He tried so hard to keep that match from happening, and I was very reluctant to agree, because we had come to a point where it was finally going to take place, but in the HCW. Then Benny made an offer I couldn’t refuse, six good superstars for one great one. Who could pass that up? I was saddened by what transpired two weeks afterward when Attitude decided that he was going to abandon his contractual obligations by no-showing a card that caused me to go into damage control with a last minute modification to the schedule. He made his decision to defect to the EWA, and well, the rest is history.
Esiason: You brought the issue of problems with superstars, and you are certainly no stranger to that issue, because in the midst of the HCW era, there were a great deal of talent who had some difficulty adjusting to the HCW, which had become the only grand-stage exposure they could get at the time. One of these problematic stars was Dragonfly, and it has come to my understanding that his feud with Rhyno reached a new personal level that led Rhyno to try and lynch him. This resulted in Rhyno being sent to a mental institution on your orders. After that incident, how was your business relationship with Dragonfly?
Brown: That turned out to be another unplanned occurrence; their feud had escalated to a point where they were trying to put one another out of commission with the use of vehicles, with Dragonfly succeeding in shelving Rhyno therewith for a few months. Upon Rhyno’s return, the two were slated for a PPV showdown, and Rhyno was a changed man. Things got out of hand, just as Rhyno appeared to dominate; someone interfered with a chair, then Rhyno’s tag partner at the time, Raven, took it upon himself to take the interfering party out of the picture, at which point, Rhyno snapped. He knocked Dragonfly unconscious with a literally vicious weapon shot, the force of which actually cracked Dragonfly’s skull, from there, he took the lifeless Dragonfly to the second landing of our huge stage, tied a rope around his neck, and just launched him off. However, he did so in such a way that Dragonfly’s neck didn’t snap, instead, his body sort of swung and curbed what could have resulted in Dragonfly not being here today. When Dragonfly was finally released from the hospital six months later, which was shortly before everything went to hell. He didn’t want to walk in the building because he couldn’t stand being around me. He came to a point where he blamed the whole incident on me, as if I had something to do with it. I reminded him that it was a product of the direction they had taken their feud in.
Esiason: Sounds like it was a tough time in the HCW. Back to our present era, what went through your mind as the HCW swept the awards last year?
Brown: I was so surprised with every award that was given to the HCW, and there were even some awards that I didn’t think we deserved. Come on, best interviewer? Anthony? Are you serious? He may be funny, but he is far from being the best interview. Maybe the best one way conversation guy, but not interviewer.
Esiason: Overall, have you been satisfied with the HCW of the Fourth Era?
Brown: Obviously, that goes without question, really. Just look at what’s become of the HCW. We may be in a rough spot with the NWO, and one of my favorite superstars … Rhyno betraying me. It may go for good ratings, but it hurts at home.
Esiason: Do you think that some of what Rhyno has done has to do with your decision to send him to the mental institution?
Brown: No, I don’t thi … well when you think about it; it may have something to do with it. With Rhyno though, I think it’s a power thing. He has always relished the spotlight. (Sigh) But, for some reason, he’s playing second fiddle to Scott Nash. It just seems a little odd, what he’s doing right now. I’m very disappointed in him and it hurts to say that.
Esiason: That could all very well change soon, if Rhyno proves me right. Speaking of Hell’s Forecast, the fifth PPV of the HCW. The flagship PPV is Overkill in June, if Rhyno proves me right, and the N.W.O. begins to crumble, what are your expectations for the road to Overkill?
Brown: If Rhyno turns back, things will improve, bur have a similar feeling. Everything will return to a civilized hardcore environment. However, should Rhyno stay in the N.W.O., and gives the championship to Nash, considering his reluctant display of loyalty to him by lying down recently, in the event of such; we’re doomed. He may pursue the Extreme Championship afterward, and allow the rumored fifth member to tackle the Light Heavyweight Championship to secure complete dominance of the promotion. It’s all part of their plan to take over. Hopefully, Rhyno does the right thing. If he doesn’t (sigh) I don’t know.
Esiason: Judging by your response, Nash’s acquisition of the HCW Championship would prove to be the biggest tragedy in the history of this promotion. Do you feel as if he’ll disgrace the legacy of the World Championship?
Brown: Seeing that he’s sort of come to like it here, I don’t know. I hope that he doesn’t use that sudden power to destroy the image of the HCW and our championship.
Esiason: Thank you for taking your time to issue your confession.