In his new memoir, Sean Oliver doesn’t answer how big is Batista’s dick.
But he does talk about everything else.
“Kayfabe: Stories You’re Not Supposed to Hear from a Pro Wrestling Production Company Owner” is the first shoot-and-tell book, a delicious recollection of all the larger-than-life characters that Oliver has come across since 2007. ECW founder Tod Gordon spends the forward praising Oliver’s strength as the straight man, but over the next 241 pages, Oliver is full of color and personality, sharing one hilarious anecdote after another.
From having his balls pinched by Harley Race to obliging Larry Zbyszko’s shysteresque request for advance pay, Oliver has plenty of scars from infiltrating one of the most secretive societies on Earth. Of course, he’s also befriended the true good guys in the business, gushing over the professionalism and passion of Jim Cornette as well as the honor and loyalty of Bruno Sammartino.
Like his best YouShoot guests, Oliver holds nothing back, revealing his elaborate pitch to TNA that was never followed up on, bemoaning how young guys released from WWE are too afraid to burn bridges and putting Konnan and Colt Cabana on blast for screwing him over.
It’s the perfect capstone to 10 years of Kayfabe Commentaries’ productions, all of which are discussed in length from their inspiration to their execution to their success or lack thereof. Oliver recounts how he and his partner Anthony Lucignano revolutionized the shoot interview format, shining a brand new light on a worn-out concept. Kayfabe Commandos will appreciate how their fearless leader delves into the logistics, scheduling and monetary negotiations, touching on every step in the production process.
Oliver’s story resonates with me in a couple ways: My uncle Jim Connors conducted one of, if not the first shoot interview with Bruiser Brody in 1987. He was a weekend sports anchor/weekday reporter for a small NBC affiliate in southern West Virginia, and Brody was scheduled to compete at the Brushfork Armory. Within the first three minutes of the interview, Brody revealed his real name, Frank Goodish, and that he used to produce the World Class Championship Wrestling television show.
This was sacrilege at the time, still two years before Vince McMahon went in front of the New Jersey Senate and confirmed suspicions that pro wrestling was more entertainment than legitimate sporting event. Brody’s shocking revelations came only because he assumed the camera wasn’t filming yet. As my late uncle tells it, he honored the legend’s wishes by never showing that part on the air. Somehow, though, the raw footage leaked onto Youtube. (And I can guarantee it wasn’t from my anti-Internet uncle.)
Oliver’s story also resonates with me because he achieved what I and many other wrestling fans-turned-writers/broadcasters/reporters/website owners dream of – acceptance into the industry. He’s a Jersey kid who grew up during Sammartino and “Superstar” Billy Graham’s heyday, addicted to the grandeur and bloodlust. An outsider like us, he managed to find a way closer to the stars than by just sitting front row.
When Lucignano pitched this idea of having wrestlers provide director’s cut commentary over their past matches – the initial idea behind Kayfabe Commentaries – Oliver called up a booking agent while walking the halls of his day job at an investment bank. It’s that entrepreneurial spirit, juggling something that pays the bills with the long-term project, the dream job that only you believe will become reality, that I admire.
I’ve been doing it for years: sneaking out of class to do interviews in an empty room or a janitor’s closet, trekking through a blizzard to Jackson, New Jersey because Gary Michael Cappetta offered an in-person interview at his home, staying up 37 hours straight to work an overnight shift, cover an Extreme Reunion meet-and-greet and then head back to work.
As Oliver describes, you accommodate the talent by any means necessary. You navigate egos and doubters. You make the sacrifices. Why? Because the end always justifies the means.
Oliver did whatever he had to do make guarded strangers open up like they’ve never had before. It’s proven to be a successful formula that fans can’t get enough of. So it’s only fair that now he has opened up like never before, giving stories behind the stories we’ve loved for over a decade.
Oliver’s book is available here.