I got the opportunity to catch up with Conrad Thompson before he and Hall Of Famer, Jim Ross, get set to show up in Jacksonville, FL this Friday night (tickets still available) for the first of three live and in-person “Grilling JR” shows.
In the first part of this exclusive interview, Conrad delves into how his fandom and how attending the once known NWA Legends Fan Fest in Charlotte, NC (aka: “Flair Country”) got a great deal of the gears turning for creating a different type of wrestling podcast than what was being churned out a few years back. Conrad also talks about just being a fan doing get-togethers and how one of those NWA Fan Fest meet-ups ended with him discovering that Tony Schiavone was a very different and very funny individual behind the microphone. Quotes and audio of the full interview are below:
Conrad Thompson on why he chose “Flair Country” as a great fit for doing a “Grilling JR” live show, his history with the venue & how he first discovered Tony Schiavone was funny behind the microphone:
“I thought ‘Man, that would be the perfect spot to do a live show.’ I mean Jim Cornette used to do those there, and I’ve seen Jim Ross do his thing there and that’s actually where I first discovered that Tony Schiavone was a funny dude way back in the day.He had sort of been exiled from wrestling or so it felt like and then he popped up at this and Jim Valley was on stage with him from the [Pro Wrestling] Torch site at the time. They were just talking about old wrestling stuff and to hear Tony Schiavone talk like Bob Saget, I was like, ‘This guys is gold.’ So when I saw they were coming back and I jumped at the chance to go and I pitched JR on: ‘Hey man, this is before AEW is on TV, this is before the Sooners kick off, let’s go spend a Saturday in Charlotte,’ and he agreed. So tickets are on sale now, if you want to go to The Gathering you can pick up your tickets for the whole convention – they’ve even got a wrestling show.
“This is the first time you can really hear Jim sort of ‘out from under the WWE umbrella’ and I’m really excited about that. Tickets are at JRandConrad.com and if you’ve heard a few of the episodes you can tell that he’s pulling no punches with WWE and that makes for an entertaining show.”
On just being a fan before his podcast stardom took off and what exactly got the gears turning about doing a wrestling podcast that made his different from the rest of the pack:
“I got way back into wrestling I guess in late 2012 so about 2013 I was pretty well into it. So in 2013, I went to my first Fan Fest and just met a group of guys that I had been conversing with through like message boards and social media and we’d just go to like a bit of a get-together and we just sort of held court in the bar and it was super fun and of course if you’re in the bar, eventually wrestlers are going to wander over there and one-by-one we’d buy some of the boys a beer and hear a funny story or two that we hadn’t heard before and it started to get my wheels turning about, ‘Hey man, this would make a good podcast. Just two guys shooting the shit and not really focused on a guest format or things like that. Now I don’t know that I really envisioned that I would be someone who was doing a podcast, but in this era where we all grown up – everyone my age sort of grew up on shoot interviews. It was refreshing that these guys could even take it further than a shoot interview because there was no camera around. They could just be themselves and we would sort of just pick their brain and it was good time and eventually it all came together.”
On how his mortgage and sales background benefited him with balancing all these well-known and different wrestling personalities in the podcast format:
“Shoot from the hip and see how it goes. I was able to do that because, you mentioned mortgages, well mortgage at the root of it is a sales job, and so I’ve been a salesman my whole life and as you said you meet a lot of people in that position so everybody comes into the mortgage office with a different spot in life. They’re a different age or they have a different set of goals or a different set of past experiences. So you’ve kind of sort of be a chameleon and sort of figure out: ‘hey, what are they looking for, and what do they need and how can I best support them?’ That’s what I think a great sales person does and so I really just applied that to podcasting. So with Ric, I just tried to be who Ric needed me to be and with Bruce I tried to be who Bruce needed me to be and not just in the best interest of them, but in the best interest of the show. And I think I am uniquely qualified from a wrestling standpoint, to know what a wrestling fan wants to hear, because I’m a wrestling fan.
“There was never really a fan and a wrestler where it was almost equal footing. Now that’s not to say that I think I’m some wrestling savant and I have the same level of experience as an Eric Bischoff or the credentials of a Bruce Prichard, none of that. I just mean as far as guiding the show along, I’m providing more than a laugh track, which is really all that Ric Flair needed for The Ric Flair Show is a laugh track. Someone to keep him on the track and just laugh and keep it moving whereas the other shows we wanted to have a different dynamic and so I’ve tried to make each show a little different, but that’s not based on what I think I want to do, it’s based on how I think I best support my co-host and as a result, create the best show possible.”
(Transcription credit should go to Dominic DeAngelo at WrestleZone)
More transcriptions to come, but you can listen to our entire conversation below: