New York Times Bestseller and author of the WWE Encyclopedia and the new book ’30 Years of WrestleMania’ Brian Shields joined The Rack. In a nearly 70 minute interview, he discussed his new book ’30 Years of WrestleMania’, his favorite interview conducted while writing the book, his reaction to ‘The Streak’ ending at WrestleMania XXX, his thoughts on the WWE Network and how it helped his research, what it’s like working with the WWE on this book and having WWE Hall of Fames Shawn Michaels pen the foreword, his thoughts on the Shield Break-up, Bray Wyatt and the future of the WWE, what he feels the most underrated moment in WrestleMania history, what it was like going into the famous WWE Warehouse and so much more.
On his new book ‘The 30 Years of WrestleMania: “ ‘The 30 Years of WrestleMania’ is a concept that is really, really cool and it was great for me to be able to work with WWE and DK Publishing again. This is the history of each WrestleMania, really, from both sides of the ring ropes so to speak; we talk about the matches and we talk about what happened behind the scenes. We talk about the goal of the vision Vince McMahon had in just getting this event off the ground and the incredible risk the McMahon family took just to get the first WrestleMania off the ground. The other reason why the book is so great is it really shows the progression of the company and the progression of WrestleMania with each chapter, which I think people are really going to enjoy.”
Getting to speak with figures like Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan: “The cool part about working with WWE is that when you need something, they get it for you. When you’re writing a book with them and if need to talk with somebody, it’s made available and actually this first person that I interviewed for the book was around this time last year and that was Linda McMahon. I had the pleasure of actually going to her office in downtown Stamford, Connecticut and she spent almost two hours with me, which I just couldn’t believe. I met her and Mr. McMahon for the first time at WrestleMania 25, before the WrestleMania event when the first Encyclopedia came out. It was amazing to me that she remembered meeting me and it was just one of those kind of things that really; it’s amazing the attitude that the McMahon family has; when you’re working for them and when you’re doing work with them, they really feel like you’re part of their family and it’s remarkable
To be able to speak to incredible individuals, luminary superstars, divas, hall of famers, legends was just unreal. You’re speaking to people you’ve admired for as long as you’ve watched WWE, professional wrestling, sports entertainment, so it was amazing for me to be able to speak to so many people and their quotes are in the book. I mean, I interviewed; I don’t even know what the final count was of the people I interviewed, I should probably tally that up but it was really unbelievable. I mean, you’re getting direct access; thank to WWE, I was given access to backstage RAW and Smackdown, it was unbelievable; that’s probably the best way to say it.”
His favorite interview in doing the book: “I don’t know if I have a favorite, but there were so many that there were times I was like ‘Wow, I’m interviewing Bret Hart’ for now the fourth time for this book; that was unbelievable. When talking to the McMahons, when you’re talking to someone like Basil Davito, who has been for so many years been such a large part of WWE and the marketing and branding of WWE and WrestleMania; he was the first person hired to really head up WWE marketing a few months after the first WrestleMania in 1985. A lot of those conversations, it was just unbelievable to be able to speak to so many different people about so many different things yet they all found their way in the book.
One of the things I really like about the book is there are special tribute sections so there are beautiful layouts celebrating the Undertaker and his WrestleMania streak, celebrating Shawn Michaels, and the Hall of Fame. One of the coolest things is that the foreword of the book was actually written by Shawn Michaels and that’s something where, and this is going to be a stretch, but I’m going to try and get it to the point where we’re like tag-team partners, which I know will be ridiculous. Even something like that, when I got the call from WWE saying that Shawn would be writing the foreword for the book; they took something that couldn’t be any better and somehow raised it another level; it was really very special.
I think that’s the biggest thing with the book, in general, is 30 years of WrestleMania and the history of each event; you get the idea very quickly from every person at WWE, to the men and women in interviewed for the book, just how special this event is and that’s something where it really is such a big honor to say that I wrote the book and work with WWE and DK (Publishing).”
His feelings on ‘The Streak’ ending at WrestleMania XXX: “I was in complete shock and there’s part of me that still is in shock. I really didn’t think, as a fan, that was ever going to happen and maybe this is a little bit selfish on my part as a fan; I didn’t want it to end. But yeah, I was just in shock and clearly that was most people’s reactions, was utter shock and awe that that took place.
I think if you watch the event back, I would have said on TV but nowadays however you watch things, either the WWE Network or TV or a laptop, that that’s completely accurate; you had over 75,000 people pretty much just stunned and shocked. It’s funny, the way that that has been described is similar to how people have described when Bruno Sammartino lost the WWE Title to Ivan Koloff at Madison Square Garden for the first time; even though that was a smaller venue and not a WrestleMania, but just the comparisons of the shock and awe that consumed the building. People were, from what I was told back then, was complete shock; you could hear a pin drop, people were speechless and motionless and I think when you look back at WrestleMania XXX, I think that’s what people felt and I think you could tell even from the announcers; I think they were the ones who started the standing ovation. I think you could tell the emotion came over them as well. It’s something people will never, ever forget, that’s for sure.”
His views on the WWE Network and if he feels it’s successful: Oh god, I love it. I think it’s awesome; I think it’s so well done. I watch it through my AppleTV and just the user experience through my AppleTV and other shared devices are phenomenal. As far as the content that’s on it, I can’t talk about it enough; I love it. I love being able to watch so many different things and the new content, I think, is really cool. The Countdown shows, the specials; there’s going to be more of these documentary specials that are coming. So, as a fan, I think it’s awesome; I think that it’s just a great way to be able to watch not only sports entertainment and pro wrestling’s past but it’s present as well, which is really amazing, it really is.
I think a lot of people in the entertainment and television industries were and have been looking at it because of WWE’s success. I think it’s really impressive that within three months the network has close to like 700,000; I don’t know the exact numbers but almost 700,000 subscribers within a few months of launching. So, I just think it’s going to get better. I watch it every day, I mean there’s so much great content on the network and I also like how it’s set up and configured because I do thin, and perhaps this goes back to my days in the video game business, but the user experience is very important. We all know the cliché that ‘Content is king’ and it totally is and the content on there is phenomenal and I think it’s just going to get better because there’s just going to be more stuff added to it, but the user experience has to be there and for me, it’s been great and been a huge help for me in researching what I had to do, so selfishly the timing worked out for me so I might be a little biased when I say ‘Oh it was great when it came out when it did.’”
His thoughts on the Wyatt Family and their rise in popularity: “I think what they’re doing is awesome and I think it’s another one of those things, like the Shield, where to me it’s one of the best things WWE has done in a while and it’s only going to get better. I think during our discussion last time I used the comparison where Bray Wyatt had the presence and the eloquence, at the time, of Robert DeNiro’s character from Cape Fear. And, to me, they’re another example of they just get better every week and that build to WrestleMania (XXX) with Bray Wyatt and John Cena and that moment on RAW where the children’s choir came out and I was thinking to myself ‘He’s now eclipsed this’; there’s certain personalities, if you go back into wrestling history that were frightening and intimidating in a different way, as opposed to the 6’85 300-lb powerhouse. To me, I think classic Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts or classic Kevin Sullivan, whether it was in the NWA or Florida and all the great stuff he did with this eerie darkness and they were so great on the microphone; so to me, when the children’s choir came out, that was a turning point to me for the Wyatts and specifically Bray Wyatt in getting to another level; I think it was great. The matches they’re having I think have also been great and that really makes it all complete and I think when you’re talking about the success of the Shield and the continues success of the Wyatt is that it’s complete in terms of great presence, great skills on the microphone and then making it complete in terms of being able to tell great stories in the ring; I mean even their entrance, it’s just really well done.”
His favorite part about visiting the WWE Warehouse: “Oh, I mean, the front doors?! I mean, it was just remarkable; I don’t how else to say it. I was there several times thanks to WWE and the WWE Archivist and I mean it was one of those things where I made it almost awkward, like they had to kick me out almost like every single time that I was there because I wanted to be there, conveniently, all day and they were so great in allowing that. There was one of the cool things that I saw right way was there was a framed photo; it’s a huge, huge poster sized that Liberace signed for Vince and Linda McMahon, thanking them for WrestleMania, and when I saw that; that was one of the first things that I saw during my first trip. So, when I saw that; and I just thought it was really cool because Linda McMahon was my first interview, to get the interviews started, and now I’m back in Connecticut at the Warehouse and one of the first things I see would be in any museum, any Hall of Fame exhibit in entertainment and it’s the great Liberace signing something for Vince and Linda McMahon thanking them for WrestleMania and I thought ‘Wow, this is a great thing to see in my first 20 minutes here.’ And then, there’s part of me going, ‘Well, what else is here?’ So yeah, that would probably be the first thing that came to mind; I mean, they just have so many amazing things and the WWE Archivist just does an incredible job in not only cataloging and preserving but continuing to add to what they have there so it’s just incredible. It’s everything you’ve heard and more.”