Matt Striker spoke with the Don’t Try This At Home Radio team over WrestleMania weekend, and spoke about his tenure in WWE. Striker said there’s been plenty said about Vince McMahon and the way he produces commentary on WWE TV, but he had a rather positive experience during his tenure:
“A lot of people take what they read as gospel. For me, the only person I really had in my headset was the executive producer of television. He was just doing television things like counting in and out to commercials, graphics, and bumpers. If Mr. McMahon ever wants to chime in, he’s got a button he can press. There’s a two-second delay of static before he speaks, so anytime I heard that I put half my brain onto that side while I was talking with the other half. That’s still unbelievable to me.
Eight times out of ten, he’s really going to offer something to help enhance the product. I became so in tune with what my boss wanted that he would start a sentence and I would just finish it before he could. To me, it was almost natural, but I’m a God faith guy so I think that the supernatural was blessing me.”
Striker said that while he heard other partners getting berated on the headset by Vince, it was more of a case of Vince being passionate and less about the talent getting reprimanded:
“Oh, I’ve heard it! People sitting next to me, I could hear Vince coming through their headset. All I’m saying is that, whoever that person is, they’re not necessarily getting yelled at. Vince can become very passionate. He has millions of dollars on the line. One thing is that you want the person sitting next to you to be calm and comfortable. Anytime that I would hear Vince, I would always put my hand on them as if to say “Hey man, we’re here together. You’re not getting harsh direction, we are.”
I think that’s so important to do. If you’re working with someone, you want to lift them up, you don’t want to keep them down. If they’re down and you’re the only one who’s up, you’re gonna look around and you’re going to be all by yourself.”
Striker also added that when he was on commentary, he liked adding references in that spoke to his native New Yorkers, but also people around the world. He said that while he needed to learn some finer aspects in the art of marketing in WWE, he was successful in getting people to believe his character’s ‘smarter than you’ gimmick:
“I was speaking to us [New Yorkers], I was speaking to the people from Queens. Not just Queens, people from around the world. I grew up listening to a ton of hip hop. I also grew up listening to a ton of rock and roll. I know there are people out there who can connect. So, if I can sneak something in, quoting Christopher Wallace instead of Biggie, you perk up and feel that I’m speaking to you. It was a way to extend my real life experience onto the screen.”
“It took me a while to understand. In WWE world, in Vince’s mind, no one is paying for a shirt that says Dragon Suplex. No one is paying for an elbow, but they are paying for The People’s Elbow. He is able to market and brand and monetize things so that they’re his. I was coming from a different place. I’m the guy that watched New Japan, All Japan, Ring of Honor, all these places. So, when I did see Cattle Mutilation, I called it until Vince pulled me aside and said “I get what you’re doing, but our fans don’t know what Cattle Mutilation is. At some point, we might want to make a shirt with The Yes Lock.” Things like that, it’s all about marketing.
There’s a flip to it too because there’s a lot of people out there that hate my guts. They’ve never met me before, all they know is the character that comes through the screen. ‘He used a big word, he tried to say he knew who King Kong Bundy was.’ You just bought into the last thing that wrestling has left, and that’s the art of the kayfabe. To believe that Matt Striker thinks he’s smarter than you, to believe that Matt Striker knows more about wrestling than you, you sit there and you have this emotion. I’ve created an emotion instead of you just sitting there on your hands.”