Something to Wrestle With Bruce Prichard has taken the podcasting world by storm over the last half year and it seems like not a week goes by without it winning some kind of award or garnering significant praise. The podcast, for those of you living under a rock, involves host Conrad Thompson of The Ric Flair Show fame sitting down with Bruce Prichard, a wrestling legend who performed just about every on-camera and behind-the-scenes role for the WWF/E over the course of three decades.
Each week the two dissect a new topic, sometimes out of circumstance and other times as a result of a fan vote, going deep on a particular event, happening or character. The character episodes have always been my favorite, as it causes the podcast to sort of move like a story. The character in question (except if it’s Vince Russo) is generally the protagonist, or Gatsby in this analogy while Bruce acts as the Nick Carraway, narrating the story and giving what he felt the main character felt about things in addition to Vince McMahon himself, which has been key to the success of the podcast. Prichard had long been a confidant of McMahon and until Vince writes a book (if he ever does), Something to Wrestle With is about as close as fans will get to his actual thoughts and opinions. Even then, who’s to say how accurate a book about McMahon by McMahon would really be?
The Prichard Show is a truly remarkable podcast, so much so I deemed it necessary to field a list of the top 10 episodes of the year.
10. Vince Russo
Bro…. bro…. bro. If seeing the Vince Russo episode on this list surprises you due to his lack of longevity and legitimate accomplishments in the WWF, please hear me out. The entire episode largely consists of Conrad reading excerpts from Russo’s 2005 book, Forgiven, while Bruce quickly shoots 90% of them down as being completely false. This time Russo’s own words acted as a primary source rather than Dave Meltzer’s newsletters, which despite what Bruce says, I believe he was a source for once upon a time. But that’s an editorial for another time. Nevertheless, Bruce is ruthless in this episode, refuting passage after passage, including my favorite, when Russo claims he created a scenario where McMahon had to choose whether to keep Prichard on the creative staff or bring Russo on and reassign Prichard to talent relations. Bruce, you’re out! Russo’s in!
9. Jeff Jarrett
That’s J, E, Double-F, J, A, Double-R, E, Double-T. An early meme of Something to Wrestle With involved Bruce breaking into song, singing Jeff Jarrett’s “hit single” With My Baby Tonight. Here, we get a full look at Jarrett’s WWE run, what the company saw in him initially and an incredible story behind the filming of his debut vignettes, in addition to an equally incredible story about how McMahon “yelled” at Jerry Jarrett for Jarrett’s pushing of Jarrett on a tertiary show coming off as potential nepotism. Many questions have been asked over the years regarding the real story behind Jarrett holding the company up for money. In this episode, we get answers to this question and many more. Upon completion, you will have a full understanding of why Jarrett never returned to the company and why he is not currently with the WWE.
8. Summerslam ‘02
Conrad and Bruce do great justice to one of my favorite wrestling shows of all time, Summerslam 2002. It’s not so much that there’s a ton of dirt to be shared, but Bruce does provide an inside look at the circumstances surrounding Shawn Michaels’ return to the ring and how his legendary match with Triple H was only meant to be a one-off. Of course, it ended up spawning a second chapter in the career of one of the greatest performers to ever lace ‘em up. The episode is more or less a lovefest of Bruce and Conrad reminiscing on each match, from Mysterio-Angle to Jericho-Flair to Guerrero-Edge to Benoit-RVD and eventually, to Rock-Brock and how a negative reaction from the fans in the Nassau Coliseum legitimately angered The Rock, fueling his heel run when he came back in 2003.
Bruce and Conrad are in fine form when talking about the clown show that was the WWE’s revival of ECW. It provides the listeners a little bit of all of the “want to know” information regarding the ECW revival. Why were Kurt Angle and Rob Van Dam made ECW’s top two “draft picks” and did they see it as a demotion? The episode also features Bruce scratching the surface on the genesis of CM Punk’s WWE persona and how Bruce grandfathered the vignettes that introduced “straight edge” to the WWE audience. The Rise of CM Punk episode, however, only covers Punk up until Bruce’s departure (most of the really good stuff with Punk’s run came later) while this episode goes deep on Paul Heyman being sent home and the disastrous December to Dismember, considered by many to be the worst pay-per-view in company history.
6. Bret Hart’s ‘96-97
Between Bruce appearing for Kayfabe Commentaries in their “Screwing Bret” Guest Booker edition, and all the episodes that cross reference the Montreal Screwjob (i.e. Owen Hart, Love to Know, etc.), it feels like listeners have had their fill of Bruce talking about the Montreal Screwjob. But while much of the Bret Hart ‘96-97 episode deals with the infamous happening at Survivor Series 1997, there is plenty of other good stuff to take away from it, so much so that it has to be considered among the best episodes of the year. Bruce talks about the fact and fiction behind Hart’s relationship with Shawn Michaels at the time of their Wrestlemania XXII Iron Man match, the reality behind WCW’s keen interest in the Hitman and his loyalty to the WWF taking on a whole new life. The best part? Through Bruce’s stories and wisdom, if you close your eyes you can slowly start to see the Hart-Michaels relationship begin to fray before reaching a fever pitch during their infamous bathroom brawl. It truly is a “can’t miss” episode.
Edge’s episode is one of the show’s most recent, but it goes in depth for over five hours talking about someone who is perhaps the most intriguing wrestler of the mid-late 2000s. The length of the episode is warranted, as Edge spent nearly 15 years with the WWF/E, but both ideas that add to his fascination are addressed: the lengthy amount of time it took him to get over as main event singles attraction and the war chest of injuries he accrued over his career. Seriously, you will be stunned to find the actual severity of Edge’s neck injury and if you hadn’t known already, it will become quickly apparent to you why he had to retire. The Edge-Lita-Matt Hardy love triangle is mostly addressed in its own episode, one of the show’s first, but Bruce does dish on some good stories in this installment, including the story behind when Edge and Christian wrestled Michael Hayes in 1999.
4. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
The Bobby “The Brain” Heenan episode was (at the time) one of the longer Something to Wrestle With episodes at the time, largely in part to Heenan’s long-standing relationship with Bruce. This episode didn’t even see the light of day until a couple weeks after Heenan’s death this year, as Bruce had still been pretty broken up about it. However, I did happen to catch Bruce and Conrad’s live show at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles the week of Heenan’s passing and Bruce had some funny stories to share, like the time he smoked Heenan up for the first time while also going into detail on “The Brain’s” controversial AWA exit, his disdain for working with Tony Schiavone and the time Heenan got shot at back in 1975. There’s not much to dissect from the episode, but it’s a wonderful tribute that has both Bruce and Conrad in fine form to honor the late great.
3. Paul Heyman
Bruce always likes to say that Paul Heyman is a more sophisticated Jim Cornette and Jim Cornette is a more southernized version of Paul Heyman. Both guys have their quirks and Bruce pulls no punches when talking about Heyman’s time in the WWE, perhaps to a fault. One of the more interesting storylines in the episode involves Bruce tearing down the idea of “Paul Heyman’s Smackdown,” suggesting that Heyman, although the head writer of the show at the time, had very little to do with the week-to-week creation of the show, almost sounding like he had a bit of an axe to grind with Paul E. In any case, this episode is worth the listen, if only for Bruce claiming that Heyman once said to Taz, his ECW Champion at one point in time, “Mr. Senerchia, don’t make me come over there and beat your ass!”
(Also, Bruce’s Heyman impression sounds like Gilbert Gottfried. You’ve gotta hear it to believe it!)
2. Jim Cornette
God dayyyuuuum. The best part about Bruce’s impressions is that not all are going to sound like the real McCoy. Others are going to be based on pure exaggeration, and that’s exactly how his Jim Cornette impression goes. He sounds more like a nine-year-old at the grocery store with his mother than the actual Jim Cornette, but the podcast goes a lot deeper into Cornette’s time with the company. Cornette, a big proponent for guys like Steve Austin and the Rock, hated living in the northeast and Bruce has some great stories about Cornette’s bachelor party and his pet rat, “George.” You read that right.
1. Ted DiBiase
The crown jewel of Something to Wrestle With episodes is the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase episode, and for good reason. Perhaps the main premise of the show is to get a look inside the mind of McMahon himself, and Bruce sets that up perfectly with a story of how Vince paid off a man on an airplane to put his cigarette out to which Bruce responded to, “You really are the Million Dollar Man.” The episode answers all questions about the Million Dollar Man, such as why he didn’t get a big run with the world title and how the Million Dollar Championship came to be, plus, the revelation that DiBiase borrowed Vince McMahon’s “personal cape” for a segment inside a Greenwich jewelry store.