Shad Gaspard On Bringing ‘Pinfall’ To Hollywood, Three Key Figures Who Helped Him Navigate The Wrestling Business

Graphic: Shad Gaspard

Shad Gaspard was the special guest of Booker T on his Hall Of Fame show yesterday and the former WWE star shared details about his new TV pilot, Pinfall.

Before Shad got into what fans can expect from the potential TV series, Shad gave some insight on the impression he first left in Hollywood as a professional wrestler transitioning from the ring to the silver screen.

“You know what? It’s one of those things where I remember when I first got out here, that a lot of the boys laughed at me for doing it and they look at professional wrestlers in a certain way. They see us as just big and dumb, not being intelligent and the status quo around town was that pro wrestling was ‘low entertainment,’ you know what I’m saying? But I feel like over the past actually, I wanna try ten years that I look on that pro wrestling has fully changed. I walk into more and more board rooms where people are die-hard wrestling fans and they’re like, ‘yeah I know who you are.’ It’s amazing how professional wrestling has transcended in pop culture.

Shad initially had the knack for writing but was encouraged by colleagues including The Rock to take a jab at jumping in front of the camera. Soon that primary impression of just ‘being the wrestler’ faded away.

“When I started auditioning cause like DJ was actually one of the guys that told me that I should act instead of just doing my—just writing. I remember going into the room and I was always the wrestler: ‘Oh, you’re the guy from WWE, you’re the guy from WWE,’ and really over the last like three or four years I haven’t been that anymore. Now it’s more, ‘Oh, you’re Shad. You’re the actor.’ And a lot of casting directors, the newer ones, like, they don’t know me for nothing in pro wrestling at all.

Booker went on to divulge that he does live vicariously through Gaspard as he makes his way in Hollywood and asked him about how he found his way about handling himself in the wrestling business as an African American. Shad credits three main individuals who helped him know how to play the game.

“I always took cues from you, from Ernie Ladd, from Rocky Johnson, especially between you and Rocky cause when I got into OVW, Rocky was the first one to pull me aside and talk to me about the business and what it means to be a black man in professional wrestling and the things that I was going to have to deal with and how I was going to overcome them.”

He then gives big credit to Booker after the two had a long four-hour conversation during a stint at Six Flags years back (Shad also adds that he’s “seen Booker T beat up one or two people” in his day)

“You were the one who sat me aside who said these are the mental and physical things I’m going to have to overcome as a black man in this business and I always appreciated that,” Gaspard said.

When asked about Pinfall, Shad talks about what motivated him to get scribing on such a script and the launching point from some simple advice:

“They always say write what you know and what I know is that I love this business and I never want to write a book bashing the business. I never wanted to do podcasts doubting the business because I love what I came into, but I always felt that the story that was never told was the story from the boys and the women.”

He feels the story behind the curtain and outside the arena is one that fans haven’t been as attuned to as the product they’re seeing on their weekly television screen, and that aforementioned game is a story worth sharing.

“People always think the hardest part of wrestling is the physicality because they think that we have no emotional inside, you know what I mean? And so what I do in Pinfall is that I tell the story of eight key people in pro wrestling for one organization and you see the ups and downs they have to go through in playing the game, and the game, as you know as well as I do and most fans, they only hear whispers of the game, it’s a life long thing. You have to constantly be on. Like you said, changing those levels. You know what I’m saying?”

Shad shares an example from his experience behind-the-scenes in WWE and how he hopes to play that out in Pinfall.

“One minute after you’re talking to Stephanie and I don’t know which Stephanie I’m talking to, you know? I might be talking to Stephanie McMahon, I might be talking to Stephanie Levesque or I might be talking to Stephanie who’s my homegirl who loves hip-hop as much as I do, you know what I’m saying? But I gotta find out when I say hi to her, which Stephanie I’m talking to. Same thing goes for Paul [Levesque], same thing goes for Vince [McMahon], you know? And I gotta change my levels and my inflections and my ideas based on that to get my push and get my ideas across so that I can make it on TV. And it’s a constant manipulation between me being, what’s it called, a player in the game at work, being a player in the game in my own household with my wife, my kid, when I go to the gym, when I talk with sponsors, all that stuff. So that’s what the whole show is basically encompassing is what we go through on a daily basis just to be alive in this business.”

(Transcription credit should go to @DominicDeAngelo of WrestleZone)

We at WrestleZone wrote a full-length review of Pinfall earlier this summer giving the rundown of the pilot and the intriguing characters stemming from Shad’s script.

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You can hear Booker’s whole conversation with Shad below: