Back when I was working in the entertainment industry, I interviewed a lot of wrestlers.
(And yes, it is entertainment. I’m sorry to break it to you, but… it’s not real.)
One of the first wrestlers I interviewed was the rather flamboyant veteran wrestler, Ric Flair.
(That’ll only mean something if you know of him.)
Ric was over in the UK promoting his Legends DVD and I had some interview time with him.
I met him in a plush hotel in Chelsea, but for some unfathomable reason, the interview started off oddly tense.
Almost as soon as he’d sat down, he was ranting.
“His biographer was f**king idiot… there was a load of lying sh*t on the internet… other wrestlers didn’t know what they were talking about…” That kind of stuff.
He was inexplicably bitter and angry… and it was only 10am.
It was going to be one of THOSE interviews.
There’s only one way to deal with this type of interviewee. Forget the chit chat, forget trying to open him up, just push through the questions and keep him on subject.
In other words, point the car in the right direction and hit the gas.
45 minutes in and I’d finally got him talking without collapsing into more diatribe.
I was in the home strait with only a few questions left.
Conversation was flowing.
He actually looked like he was enjoying the interview.
And the final few questions were from fans so he was SURE to love these…
Final question: “Do you prefer being a heel or face?”
(Which is wrestling terminology for: do you prefer being a bad guy or a hero?)
Suddenly, his demeanour changed.
His expression darkened.
Glaring at me, he spat through gritted teeth: “Who asked you that question?”
“Er… one of your fans…,” I replied.
He suddenly went to grab my notes off the table.
He was furious. He was ready to jump out of his seat to run round my side of the table to give me a damn good thrashing…
“Well, he’s a goddamn idiot. What gives HIM the right to use that language?”
After the interview, the PR looking after Ric said to me, “He was going to hit
you, wasn’t he?”
Now, no-one wants to get into an altercation with a senior.
There’s very little less dignified (and difficult to explain to a police officer) than wrastlin’ with a pensioner over the use of language… so I’m pretty glad it never came to that.
Turns out he had a MASSIVE chip on his professional shoulder.
From his point of view, the ‘magic’ of wrestling had been tarnished.
Fans knew it wasn’t real – if they ever had – and even started to use ‘insider’ language to discuss storylines online.
In hindsight, you could see why all his bile was reserved for those forums and commentators who’d built huge audiences of fans by giving them the ‘inside’ track on what was happening with their favourite wrestling stars.
From his perspective, they hadn’t ‘earned’ the right to use those terms. They would always be on the ‘outside’.
It’s guys like him – in your own profession or niche – that you WANT to p*ss off.
That veil fell a long time ago and credit to the WWE, they knew it. (Has it tarnished wrestling? Of course not, it’s never been more popular… or profitable.)
But in your own industry, which veils can you tear down? What icons can you smash? And what can you do to infuriate your niche’s ‘Ric Flairs’ to get the audience on your side?
Your audience needs to feel like you’ve just put your arm round their shoulders and whispered in their ear, “Look, there’s something I want to show you…”
Let ‘em inside your sector, industry or profession – lift the veil, if only for a sneak peak – and you’ll instantly build trust.
Oh, and if you can engineer a fight and see to be on your audience’s side against those who would keep them uninformed, disempowered and far from the success they deserve, all the better.
Maybe getting punched by Ric Flair wouldn’t have been such a bad thing after all…