Much like part one of the history of wrestling radio, we continue with the evolution. We continue by focusing on its programming, shows, and heightened presence. We continue with the origins of wrestling radio here with part 2, The Later Years.
AWA, George Schire
Our jaunt with wrestling radio the later years begins with George Schire. At about the same time as Legends, I was also co-hosting a second weekly show with fellow wrestling historian George “Mr. AWA” Schire (The Wrestling Professors) 2003-2009. 100% wrestling conversation, however. George had co-hosted a Minneapolis-based terrestrial radio show with Wrestling Torch editor Wade Keller in the ’90s. He has hosted or co-hosted a ton of podcasts ever since near his longtime Minneapolis base. He’s also done everything from promoting, managing, announcing, timekeeping; you name it in the biz.
George and Tom Burke are perhaps the biz’ top living historians. They have been fans since the 1950’s running their fan clubs and newsletters in the ’60s and ’70s. Tom became my editor at Ring Wrestling Magazine (which initially arose from Ring Boxing magazine, which eventually had pro wrestling pieces in the back of each issue, finally creating its own dedicated full wrestling mag in the early ’70s. Tom’s take was fantastic when covering legit results and haps worldwide from wrestling in the UK and Austria to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. I’ll be doing another text piece on both the history of wrestling fan clubs and how at least I feel they lead to the birth of the sheets or newsletters like the Observer, Torch, Figure 4 Weekly (Bryan Alvarez) which I believe are all that’s left.
The Beginning of Wrestling Radio’s Later Years
In the past, we also had Chairshots and Arena, Pro Wrestling Spotlight, and several dedicated to nostalgia. John Arezzi’s newsletter complemented his radio show of the same name. For instance, we had Evan Ginzburg’s Wrestling Then and Now, Scott Teal’s Whatever Happened To?) as well as wrestling comedy newsletters such as Sheninomake Post, Pro Wrestling and Sushi, Rasslin’ Riot. There and even an audio “dirt sheet” sent to subscribers each month but on cassette tape in Jeff Ozborne’s Cassette Wrestling News. Evansville, Indiana Jeff, went on to become a successful MMA promoter and announcer.
And yes, my last newsletter series in the early to mid-’90s was called Wrestling Wreality. I had Abby doing his own “Dear Abby” advice column plus an initial to SMW managerial regular column from the great Father Jim Mitchell. As to the other wrestling radio shows, I’ve hosted WrestleTalk on Cable Radio Network 1997-2004. It, along with co-hosted like No Holds Barred for seven years on Sirius/XM, I’d instead focus on other shows and hosts since I’ve put myself over enough here.
THE LAW (Live Audio Wrestling) May 23rd, 1997 – October 30th, 2017
20 Years of Excellence
As we continue with part 2 of our wrestling radio history, we look at Live Audio Wrestling. One of the best wrestling (with MMA coverage) radio shows it debuted in 1997. It was first on ‘Net radio later on various terrestrial stations like The Fan 590 moving to rival CFYI Talk 640 and CJCL. Without crediting Arezzi, The Law certainly took the baton from PWS. It wasn’t based in New York, but in Toronto, Canada, as fans may know, is a great wrestling history town. Much like Montreal, St. Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Tokyo, and most Northeast cities, including New York City, fall under that category.
Live Audio Wrestling had syndication throughout Canada and later was the first wrestling radio show airing on SiriusXM satellite radio in the US on the Fight Channel. Like PWS, it was severe and had the best and most topical newsworthy guests. The best lineup was originally Dan “The Mouth” Lovranski, Jason Agnew and John Pollick. Trish Stratus was regularly with LAW (the show’s nickname was THE LAW, and that’s how the hosts referred to it) well before the former fitness model even started as a valet in WWF. The LAW’s liners, audio drops, audio bytes, and more were state of the art radio.
In 1999, Dave Meltzer began doing Observer Extra segments every Sunday afternoon for the LAW. This had to play havoc with him covering and commentating on live PPV’s with Bryan Alvarez when Dave was still doing radio. Coupled with real-time online text reporting and commentary, it had to be a challenge. I was on several times and lamented when The Fight Network on January 5th, 2005. Anthem Inc., which owns IMPACT Wrestling, purchased a majority percentage stake in airing on the AXS TV network. They bought the majority ownership, but later canceling LAW out of the blue. This mad several radio listeners upset.
Fight Network eventually distributed LAW nationally to cities like Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and more through their Fight Network Radio umbrella company.
I was hired by The Fight Network to be their full-time online supplier of wrestling, boxing, and MMA photos. It was since they primarily had their Canadian tv network of the same name, which aired tons of great wrestling tv shows for a time. Programming ranged from ECW, SMW, CZW, etc. on to various Japanese wrestling tv shows and bouts. I was paid the first year without incident, then strung along as they were well behind on future payments before they claimed one of their infamous faux “bankruptcies.” My brother is an attorney, and when contacted, their head and reported founder (also named Mike) admitted they owed me the money.
Wrestling Radio – The Later Years continued…
They were still contemplating possible bankruptcy and now claimed they couldn’t pay me or others, which was a lie because they never filed for bankruptcy. Instead grew revenue and again dumped a ton of money into the renamed AXS channel here in the US after reportedly also purchasing Impact from Dixie and Bob Carter and their conglomerate business entity. TV critics have reported AXS has few original shows that they create/produce. Most of their content is all old Dan Rather interviews, concerts, and apparent public domain films that are repeated ad nauseum daily.
Sadly, Cuban’s original brilliant creation in HDNet had so much great action, and the guy shows in production, every night but most importantly on Fridays “Fight Block.” From their MMA Weekly panel show to Voice Versus and more, when Bas Rutten ruled the channel. Now all of that is a distant memory, as are live-to-tape MMA big cards. They do have older Hispanic Combate Americas MMA cards. But it’s certainly not the same as all the groups used to air live major, non-UFC shows each Friday night.
According to Tommy Dreamer, at least the athletes at IMPACT Wrestling, even with a depleted roster due to #SpeakingOut, are allegedly keeping AXS afloat with its top ratings.
Busted Open Radio
Approximately 11 years old and still running on SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Our journey through wrestling radio in part two takes us to satellite radio. I know host and creator Dave LaGreca wisely choose as his Busted Open co-hosts, three name wrestlers (Bully Ray on the most times/week Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays). Tommy Dreamer is on Wednesdays often discussing behind-the-scenes booking in IMPACT and Mark Henry. Fridays with Dave and a co-host have called upon, but co-hosting with a guy better known for hosting several great MMA radio shows on S/XM, Ryan McKinnell on Saturdays) for what many regards as the biggest wrestling radio show currently on in America on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio.
Still, I believe it might be the biggest in terms of audience market share) since terrestrial (AM, FM) radio. For the most part, ir is dead or dying like print media (newspapers, magazines). Most everything now is a podcast, internet radio, or Facebook in terms of shows. When Busted Open tackles history like in our territories, it can be a fantastic radio broadcast. Bully might be the smartest wrestling radio person out there (since Taz) with Tommy, the most passionate, loving historian of wrestling history.
The show is lucky to get top guests from all the major companies. One of the best recent shows on 7/22/20 had Bully & Dreamer hosting, discussing history having Eric Young on who’d just returned to IMPACT Wrestling TV the night before. An hour later, Brian Cage since Bully has been a tad rough on Taz channeling of Heyman’s managerial style since it’s an easy comparison of AEW’s Cage to The Whiff’s Brock. Bully said Taz also saying his famous “survive if he lets you” came across perhaps more about Taz than him supposed to be pushing “his” monster Cage.
Or that when Taz gave Cage his classic FTW strap. Cage was seemingly nonchalant about receiving it as indirectly casually replying, “Thanks, Dude.” Instead of going nuts as he should’ve in thanking Taz for the recognition.Can’t wait to see if they discuss what Vickie Guerrero can add to an equalivant monster in Nyla Rose.
The Later Years | Podcast History
Soon, we’ll get into Wrestling Podcast History, which is vast. So many have them (who doesn’t)? And then there’s that Conrad Thompson podcast connection dominance. We’ll try to look at podcast history, but it’s all over the map. Nearly everyone has their podcast show now which makes it almost impossible for anyone to follow with some many millions of potential hours of audio content daily, weekly from everyone: Flair, Taz(since he left his CBS terrestrial & satellite gig), Jericho, Cornette, the Hart Family and some release far shorter “radio-like” content on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, etc.
Byline is also for folks wanting behind the scenes, non-w talk. Mark Henry discusses his fave restaurants he’s discovered around the country. He does this while traveling for WWF/E, along with his other passions. When Tommy Dreamer or Bully Ray/Buh Buh discuss wrestling psychology, booking 101, etc., it’s also great radio. Overall, Busted seems possibly more of a general casual-to-more-serious, mainstream wrestling fan base. They don’t appear to cater fully to WWE. Again, if they capture the interest of non-fans and bring them to wrestling, that’s fantastic.
In contrast, for maybe some of the more serious, 24/7 New Japan, etc. fans are any of the Wrestling Observer, Wrestling Torch Newsletter podcasts and shows. The Observer has tons of shows daily. All of them are new and from a variety of experts beyond Dave, Bryan, Mike Sempervive, Jim Valley, etc. This was the only break from a semi-serious discussion. It includes the breakdowns of everything globally in the business. Bryan at-times worked as a cranky character. Not sure if it’s an alter ego. Bryan is hilarious whenever he takes the first caller of the day. It’s always the same guy every time, usually asking a mark type question Bryan doesn’t like. Hilarious.
The Later Years of Wrestling Radio with Notable Names Today
Ala Howard Stern or Alex Bennett before him, Bryan often does the shock radio jock thing. He does so by either cutting the caller off, not even answering or responding to his question. This disgusts Bryan. One can get that with a modified Wrestling Observer/Figure 4 Weekly newsletter subscription. They can also gain access to the tons of other daily shows they put out.
Observer Live broadcast, we believe, on a tape-delay, daily on Ron Barr’s Sports Byline, which has been Dave’s broadcaster/syndicator since the late 80’s when I was a guest several times with Dave. Sundays are great because from 3-5 pm PDT, one can listen to Bryan and Mike S with that day’s or the day before’s Wrestling Observer Live show, usually followed by Valley’s presentation from the day before. Not sure if Jim is still doing our Cauliflower Alley Club podcast. As of right now, most all our board in flux after all the longtime ones left. If the Cauliflower Alley Club still have our podcast show, which appeared to be every few weeks when former CAC VP Morgan Dollars was one of the hosts doing it.
This again is not definitive on wrestling radio because, for example, Fred Blassie and Destroyer Dick Beyer said they’d been guests on what they thought might be a full-time wrestling radio show in Japan. I just never got confirmation it was a dedicated wrestling show instead of a general sports or art show. Nor were they sure. Although Dick spoke fluent Japanese and thought it emanated near the JR Subway Line Station in Shibuya. This is a shopping town within Tokyo & one would think I’d know from all my photographic magazine tours Japan.
Wrestling Radio – The Later Years – International Contributions
They just weren’t sure. They thought it was the mid 70’s when Dick was also hosting his massive variety tv show there, a first for any wrestler globally. My Shukan Gong Magazine editor Wally Yamaguchi claimed he’d done his show briefly but never provided details, and I can’t find any on that. We lost him last year, and it hit Meltzer & I very hard as he’d fought valiantly from a massive stroke that had hospitalized him for a long stretch.
His brother Shun-Ska was also a Gong photographer and acrylic artist for years with gallery showings. And more recently, he’s been a WWE tv & PPV commentator there for ages doing play by play with wrestling star Sho Funaki providing color commentary.
I’ve also heard rumors there may also have been right wrestling radio shows in Europe, Australia, and Mexico. One that Santo Sr allegedly might’ve been a regular on as well. Lord James Blears told me in an interview in 1993 that he thought someone had briefly in Honolulu during the tail end of Ed Francis’s incredible promotional run, but before Lia Maivia began promoting there. And I don’t want to cheat Dave Meltzer’s time with Ron Barr’s Sports Byline syndication machine, which started to I’m guessing about 1998.
The Later Years of Wrestling Radio | A Journey on Through Time
We conclude wrestling radio the later years on this note. It was either Dave Meltzer’s solo radio show or Wade Keller, who had his wrestling radio show on in the Minneapolis metro area at about the same time on WFAN (660AM, 101.9FM) which was a mighty 24/7 sports station overall. I know I’ll be adding to this and seek help from you guys. This primarily if you’re located outside ‘COVID-19 Central’ here in the still often-maskless-and-stupid Lower 48.
Please email me at [email protected] to add, correct anything. Thank you for reading wrestling radio part 2, the later years.