V Interesting

Inside the Ring with Bryan Alvarez, One Pill Too Far, Millennials Are Moving Up

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As conservative officials continue to restrict abortion access, Republican constituents are starting to put their foot down. V explains why, for many people, bans on the mifepristone pill have crossed a line and are making them question their party’s judgment. Also, V highlights new research showing that the financial health of millennials is looking… better than we thought? Then, a peek into V’s favorite sport and how it’s slated to change after a massive merger. Pro wrestler, journalist, and best-selling author Bryan Alvarez of Wrestling Observer joins V to explain the recent WWE-UFC deal valued at over $21 billion. The two talk about inclusivity and leadership within the sports entertainment industry and how it has a fighting chance at becoming an even bigger powerhouse.

For more wrestling updates, follow Bryan at @bryanalvarez on Twitter and at @f4wonline on Instagram, and check out his work on Wrestling Observer.

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V Spehar, Brian Alvarez

V Spehar  00:01

Hey friends, it’s Friday, April 21, 2023. Welcome to V INTERESTING, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V Spehar. And today, the reality of what it actually requires for someone to seek asylum in another country, because believe me, there’s plenty that the general public isn’t even close to understanding. Plus, we talk about the literal tons of trash circling in the Pacific Ocean, and the crustaceans that apparently love it. Then what’s up with the wrestling world, Brian Alvarez joins us to break down all the hullabaloo inside the ring. All that and more on today’s V INTERESTING from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. In 2012, President Obama took executive action to allow young adults who had been brought to the country illegally to apply for deportation relief and a work permit. And just last week, the Biden administration announced a plan to expand health care coverage for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act to DACA recipients. DACA is a shining example of humanitarianism and immigration, but the way we treat asylum seekers in this country can be downright cruel on the regular. Now, Biden’s done a lot for Afghan refugees who aided the US military, and he’s made great efforts for Ukrainian refugees to fast track their way into the United States. But those courtesies are not extended at the southern border. Trump used title 42 to almost totally stop crossing the southern border. Title 42 is a clause of the 1944 Public Health Services law that allows the government to prevent the introduction of individuals during certain public health emergencies. And Biden has kept that in place even as other COVID protocols have been wound down. Biden has also gone so far as to say don’t come to would be asylum seekers if they can’t come the right way. And now Biden is proposing a transit ban, which was originally thought up by notorious white nationalist Steve Miller, a close adviser to Donald Trump. This proposal would render migrants ineligible for asylum if they crossed the southern border illegally, after asking for humanitarian refuge in another country. So basically, let’s say you’re a Haitian migrant, and you ask Mexico for humanitarian refuge, and they say yes, as they often do. And then you try to cross the US Mexico border, you’re out for life. And for folks who are like, why wouldn’t folks who want to live in the United States just come straight to the US from their home countries? Have you all tried to buy a plane ticket from Haiti to the United States, Midas himself doesn’t have the cash to fund that flight. Biden’s plan which caters deeply to Republicans and right leaning centrists basically says, less than 30,000 people can come here a month, they have to go directly from their home country to the United States, they have to have a sponsor or a local contact in the States. And then they can apply for asylum. And if they’re applying for asylum at the southern border, they also need to use an app called CPP1. This app collects a ton of data on the prospective immigrant and is only available in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Russian. All right, so I’m an immigrant in a caravan who’s left everything I have. And you know, I’m just trying to get my family to a better life and find some work. And now you want me to have a smartphone with an international data plan. Brah. Come on. The United Nations Refugee administration is calling malarkey. And saying Biden please guy like don’t do this to us, right? Don’t do this. But he hasn’t backed off so far. And Biden is even kicking around the idea of reviving the practice of detaining families who crossed the border illegally. Now, he says he’s not going to separate the kids from the parents the way Trump did. But make no mistake, this is still putting kids in cages and further limits who qualifies for asylum. For decades, folks could seek asylum if they were coming from a country where they were at risk of political violence, or if there were massive violations of human rights happening. And Biden is now proposing plans to retrain the DHS agents to allow migrants into the United States only if they qualify under the International Convention Against Torture. That is an absurdly high bar. So you’d have to prove that you had been tortured in your home country to qualify if this new plan comes to be. And don’t forget, you still got to have the iPhone with the data plan. Come on, Joe. There is so much generational trauma being inflicted on these folks who are often coming from destabilize countries that got destabilized thanks in part to past United States international policies. And they deserve basic human kindness and Biden pandering to the extremists on immigration isn’t going to win in the White House again, okay, so I don’t know why he’s even doing this. We have to keep an eye on our leaders and hold them accountable, call them out when they’re wrong set standards for how we want to be seen on the global stage and put common sense principles of humanity back into the immigration discussion.

V Spehar  05:26

By now, we’ve heard this sentiment before, abortion restrictions in the United States have gone too far. But these days, we’re not just hearing it from the left, we’re also hearing it from the right. As elected officials and judges continue to restrict access to reproductive health care, they are losing the conservative support that they were banking on. To be clear, there are people who will probably always be anti-choice. They were there in 2022 applauding the Supreme Court when they overturned Roe v. Wade, and they were there this past weekend cheering on Ron DeSantis, as he signed a new ban on abortions after six weeks. But for others, these restrictions have recently crossed the line. People who previously weren’t paying any mind or thought they were personally anti-abortion have realized how extreme and harmful these rulings are. And as a Bloomberg article put it, this will likely alienate tons of these would be conservative voters. And you can see the shift in the general public. A survey from earlier this year found that almost two thirds of people in the US think that abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances. That’s most Americans in most circumstances, meaning a ton of people. Even just from this one survey, you can see that numerically, it’s not just Democrats who feel this way. Some Republican politicians are noticing the shift as well. South Carolina Rep Nancy Mace was on CNN recently claiming quote, we are getting it wrong on this issue. She even alluded to those surveys I mentioned saying that most Americans want abortion legalized, even the conservative Florida boomers are turning a corner. I was just on the phone with my mom the other day, and we were talking about all the wacko banana stuff that’s happening down in Florida. And she was like, you know, your dad is pretty mad that they’re talking about taking that pill away. And it was like which one and she said, Mifepristone, the pill which became available when the Boomers were a birthing age that induces abortion. My mom like so many other women who suffer a miscarriage know that pill as the one that helps stop the suffering, and has helped so many families move more swiftly and safely through an early stage abortion that happens either by choice or due to miscarriage. As of this recording the decision to uphold the Texas judge’s ruling to revoke FDA approval of the drug is on hold. Stay tuned on TikTok for updates. Because while it feels super scary right now, you got to know that there are so many organizations like our friends at abortion access front who are going to keep fighting for safe reproductive health care options, and I will be right there with you the whole way. Speaking of garbage, there’s a whole lot of it in the ocean, and a good amount of it has been swirling around and pushed into a giant floating mass in the Pacific Ocean, for size comparison, it used to be three times the size of France, it is now bigger than that, this monstrosity stretches 620,000 square miles. It contains an estimated 80,000 tons of accumulated trash for reasons beyond my comprehension. This nightmare is referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And there is nothing great about it if you asked me or if you asked literally anybody else. Now, what do we do when we find ourselves faced with a horrible bizarre, tragic situation? We normalize that of course, we just pretend it’s not happening. How do you think we got into this pollution situation in the first place? And it turns out the creatures of the ocean are not exempt from this defense mechanism. They too have started to adapt, though probably more for their actual survival unless out of shame and fear like us. Researchers recently discovered that ocean creatures have started inhabiting the debris in this garbage patch. They are not only surviving out of the shit ship, they are thriving and reproducing. We’re talking to sea anemones, crustaceans, mollusks, all creatures that in case you’re not familiar are supposed to be found on the coast. We are literally changing ecosystems and all because of a manmade trash-tanic. The reason this is possible is because plastic basically lasts for forever, unlike wood or other organic materials that might float out to sea and disintegrate plastic just sits there and only slowly breaks down. So it’s kind of the worst of both worlds. A material that’s virtually immortal and will choke turtles for eternity and tiny microplastics that slowly and perpetually flake off into the water and end up in the blood streams of living things is just floating out there like it’s Saturday for the boys. This is literal garbage. And it’s expected that by colonizing areas outside of their normal habitats, These crustaceans and mollusks will eventually be in direct competition with species that are actually native to open ocean areas. As if the problem wasn’t already big enough, three times the size of France big. Now, there is one problem that we thought was a big deal that might not actually be that big a deal, how much money Millennials have. This week, the Atlantic published an article hoping to update the assumptions that we’ve made about the millennial generation, my generation, because Millennials have not only been the butt of every joke, but we’ve also been told since young adulthood, that we will never live up to the financial heights of our parents. And listen, a lot of that is true. Like back in the early 2010s, there was a stark divide between what older generations were able to attain and what lay ahead for us, our income was low, and our job prospects were grim, especially for people without a college education. But the psychologist Jean Twenge started to see a different kind of story. She writes that, quote, millennials on the whole have made a breathtaking financial comeback. Nowadays, millennials on average, are making more money annually than older generations did at our age, even when you adjust for inflation, and all of that income has actually been rising since the late 1960s. And we are reaping the benefits of that. We did have a rough start for reasons beyond our control. But in recent years, we’ve recovered and I like to think that’s at least partially because of our grit, and maybe also our resentment towards old people who have been telling us that we’re spending too much money on coffee and avocado toast. Unfortunately, this increase in income isn’t an experience that all Millennials share, like sure, a rising tide may lift all ships. But when you live in a country that has racism baked into its foundation, those ships weren’t starting from the same place to begin with. Money is a huge way that this plays out with people of color making less on the dollar than white people do. But for millennials, the racial pay gap is closing. On average, black and Latino Millennials are making more than the share their counterparts did in older generations. And that is huge. All of this, of course, is a collection of averages. There are not only wide variations by race, but by gender and education status. Plus the millennial generation spans 15 years. So there’s a lot of variation even just among ages. So with all of this good news bear in mind, someone who is 26 is facing much worse options for their corresponding life stage than Pete Buttigieg. Speaking of millennials born in the 1980s, how about World Wrestling Entertainment? Yes, the WWE started in 1980 and has been bringing joy and excitement to the masses ever since. But as of earlier this month, it’s now officially part of the Ultimate Fighting Championship franchise. And folks have been left wondering what this merger might mean for the wrestling world. Fortunately, we’ve got a renowned expert as our guest today, journalist and wrestler Brian Alvarez is going to tell you everything you need to know to understand this mighty mega verse. We’ll have that right after the break.

V Spehar  13:18

Okay, friends, I am going to let you in on a little secret and that is that I am a total WWE nerd and I’ve been obsessed with wrestling ever since I can remember earliest memories or body slamming siblings hooking up with Hulk Hogan, and I bet good money that Hulkamania theme song true American is directly responsible for the bulk of my patriotic sentiments. If you don’t think I look like the average fan, then you are in for us surprise. Wrestling is a family friendly, inclusive sport that is embraced by people from different backgrounds of all shapes and sizes. There’s entertaining storylines of wrestlers, overcoming adversity or finding love, not to mention the camaraderie that goes on behind the scenes. I mean, those people are family. I could go on and on and on. But this episode isn’t just for the hardcore fans. It’s for anyone who wants to take a peek into the written because let me tell you, it is fascinating. So here’s what’s happening. World Wrestling Entertainment announced earlier this month that the WWE would merge with the Ultimate Fighting Championship or the UFC. The blockbuster merger would value WWE at about $9 billion. And the man behind the expansion over the last four decades is wrestling impresario CEO and chairman of the WWE Vince McMahon. We hate him right such a heel. McMahon had been ousted from the company last year due to alleged hush money payments he was making to former female employees. The Wall Street Journal found that McMahon paid these women to suppress allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity. After an investigation was conducted, McMahon came back to the WWE and rejoined the board. McMahon used his power as a majority shareholder to court buyers who were willing to reinstall him as chairman. During this time, rumors were circulating that the WWE might be interested in selling the organizations to another entertainment company. Well, now it’s actually happening, and he found those suitors in UFC owners endeavor group. This means that UFC and WWE have the opportunity to become an absolute powerhouse. But I had a lot of questions for starters, will UFC’s rival Bellator mixed martial arts attract more fighters? Or how will the other division of professional wrestling all elite wrestling fair in the steel? What’s the UFC president Dana White’s take on the merger? Here to help me comb through all of this is journalist, bestselling author and pro wrestler Brian Alvarez. What’s going through your mind right now hearing that the WWE sold to the UFC?

Brian Alvarez  15:50

Well, you know, I’ve been following WWE for decades. And I started watching when I was 11-12 years old. And through that entire time, I mean, it’s always been Vince McMahon’s company. And you know, he bought it from his father. And then he owned it the entire time that I was watching. And then, you know, late 90s, early 2000s, they ended up going public, but it was still Vince’s company. And through it all, he has always been in charge. And, you know, as you’re following it for decades, you start thinking, well, you know, this guy is not going to live forever. And you start thinking like what’s going to happen one of these days. And, you know, the day came when, you know, the scandals broke, and he stepped down, which was what they officially termed it, but, you know, he was, I don’t know if ousted is the right word. But anyway, he was gone. And, you know, it felt like because of what happened. And because they were a publicly traded company, there was this feeling that man, he’s gone, like, he can never come back from this. And you know, his son in law, Paul Levesque, who also was a wrestler, Triple H, Paul Levesque took over the creative aspects of the company. And it just kept rolling. And in fact, not only kept rolling without Vince, but it was actually like a glorious, eight month period. And it was kind of weird, because it was the biggest change, like ever in the history of WWE. But for whatever reason, it was maybe because of why it happened. And, you know, you don’t really want to talk about Vince if you don’t have to, and the fact that like it just kept going along better. It was sort of like, Alright, here we go. And then December came, and we start hearing rumors that he wants back in. And then he manages to finagle his way back in, and then he starts talking about a sale. And you know, we’d always thought there was a possibility that at some point WWE was going to be sold. But you know, it came about pretty quickly. And you know, to be specific about it, it wasn’t really a sale, it was a merger, it was an acquisition, but now it’s going to be owned by endeavour. And, you know, they’re claiming that it will be business as usual. And so my feelings are really, it’s just weird in the sense that it’s hard to believe he’s back. It’s depressing to hear that he is back and he is regaining all of his former control. But, you know, when he says it’s going to be business as usual, I mean, aside from the fact that there’s going to be a whole bunch of people fired here and there because offices are emerging and everything like that, it’s probably going to continue on exactly as it has always been. So I can’t really say that I feel like surprised or shocked or anything like that. Really the only surprise is he that he’s back in control. And when you really think about the history of Vince McMahon, I shouldn’t even be surprised.

V Spehar  19:03

I know, I gotta say there’s this term for folks who aren’t wrestling fans, as both of us are. There’s this term in wrestling with called kayfabe, which is where they’re kind of making up a story to like, perpetuate like character development. And the Vince McMahon comeback story is just not the one that we wanted. I didn’t really believe that the payments that he had made, allegedly to former female employees like he that was going to be the thing that took him down. It always felt like a little bit of a storyline to kind of like move him out of the way and let him have this like big, big money moment again. Do you believe the story that we’re being given that McMahon had a moment of humility, he stepped down he was trying to give his son in law this chance he was trying to show that other people could run the company, but they just can’t so he’s coming back now is million dollar Vince again.

Brian Alvarez  19:55

Well, you know, the story of him stepping down mean, he did a tweet and he said something like, you know, it’s time for me to retire. It was just like, that’s how he left it was it was just a tweet, just a random tweet. And he was gone. You know, there obviously had been a lot of pressure. And the key really to the whole thing was company money. It’s a publicly traded company. It wasn’t like he just used personal funds. I mean, there was an aspect of this of paying people extra through the company and that sort of thing. So, you know, there were SEC issues involved. And so you know, when he stepped down, that’s why, you know, a lot of us figured you can’t come back from something like this, because there will be lawsuits, and what’s the board going to say, and shareholders and there’s what you think. And then there’s like, what happens, because when he first stated that he wanted to return, the Board did not want him to return. And essentially, what he said was, there will not be a sale of this company, unless I am involved in all of these negotiations. And after he pretty much lay down the hammer that I will not approve of any sale unless I return. It’s like, all of a sudden, the board was okay with him returning. And those that were not okay, left the board. And it was just like, that was it, he just put his cards on the table, and he just boom, just got his way back in. And there were lawsuits. I mean, there are shareholders that have filed lawsuits, but at the end of the day, it’s like, it meant nothing. And it’s just kind of one of those depressing deals in life where somebody with a lot of money does something very bad. And you know, the rules don’t apply. Or if they do apply, you know, they apply for a little while they don’t apply anymore. And you know, we see it, it’s not just in wrestling, but it’s in all aspects of life. It’s like, you know, we thought when Vince left, however you want to term it, that well finally, you know, you can’t buy your way out every problem, eventually you’re gonna run into a problem you can’t buy your way out of. And then eight months later, he essentially kind of sort of bought his way out of the problem in the sense that, you know, you’re not selling this company without me. And then the people on the board that didn’t want him were gone and new people ended up on the board and he’s back.

V Spehar  22:20

He’s back. And endeavour CEO Ari Emanuel has been quoted as saying this is going to be UFC 2.0. And that had me thinking like, we’ve already started to see some UFC former stars infiltrate their way into the WWE either they retired from that, extremely like actually punching people’s lights out type fighting and getting into WWE, which is still incredibly difficult. We have folks like Ronda Rousey, we’ve seen even Logan Paul show up celebrities and whatnot. Do you think that we’ll see more jujitsu style, actual hard hits coming into the WWE? Or do you think they’ll keep those separate?

Brian Alvarez  22:56

I would be very surprised. I mean, I think WWE is going to continue to do wrestling the way they’ve always done wrestling. I mean, if you watch Ronda Rousey wrestled, I mean, she uses an armbar. But she doesn’t even use a jujitsu armbar. Like they made her change her armbar to this weird thing, where if you’ve ever trained Jiu Jitsu, like, it’s not even a real hold. You know, the idea behind jiu jitsu is if your arm bends this way, you want to hyperextend it the wrong way. So that’s what our armbar does. But in WWE, they wanted to make you think that the he broke the person’s arm. And so they gave me this arm bar where the arm bends, but it ends it bends the right way. So anyway, they change everything about her and she wrestles like a wrestler. She doesn’t go in there and do jujitsu, do MMA, she does a little bit. And like Shayna Bazer was an MMA fighter she has a little bit, but in general, they want you to wrestle like a WWE wrestler. And you know, throughout history, people who have gone in, particularly this is America. In Japan, it’s different. But in America, people who have gone from MMA to pro wrestling, it’s like the fans find it cool, but you don’t see like a whole bunch of MMA fans often going man, I gotta watch pro wrestling right now because I’m gonna see Ronda Rousey do some fake matches, but the pro wrestling fans, if you take a pro wrestling star, and you send them to UFC they are interested in that yes, because even though everybody knows it’s fake. They want to see man you know is Brock Lesnar kills everybody here like what can you really do? And so when he went and even you know, CM Punk when he fought in UFC briefly, I mean, his first fight did big numbers, because the pro wrestling fans wanted to see how could CM Punk do in MMA, and it turned out he couldn’t do very well. So there’s a lot of people with athletic backgrounds in WWE, but I don’t think we’re gonna see a lot of WWE wrestlers having UFC fights. I mean, it’s a totally different ballgame and the ones that could successfully transition, especially nowadays, because you just have to have so much skill in so many different areas. I don’t think you’re gonna see much, if any, from WWE to UFC. Now Conor McGregor coming and doing stuff with WWE. I would be surprised if it didn’t happen. You know, in some of the some of the bigger more charismatic stars, I can see them bringing them over, hey, you do a Wrestlemania match or whatever Vince wants wanted to do a Wrestlemania match with Dana White?

V Spehar  25:26

Well, I would actually love to see that I would put money on Vince McMahon going up against Dana White. I think that’d be a fascinating match. And Dana White is the UFC president. What do you think the relationship between these, like, Dana, of the UFC and Vince McMahon are going to be like trying to share a room? These are not guys that share power, especially well, or should the shareholders be concerned at all?

Brian Alvarez  25:47

Well, the you know, the end of the day, the idea is UFC is gonna be UFC, Dana runs it, and WVU is going to be W E and Vince runs it. So I don’t think there’s gonna be a lot of instances where, you know, they’re gonna have to make decisions. And you know, who’s going to, it’s going to be largely business as usual in terms of running the companies. I mean, Vince and Dana, you know, they’ve, they’ve had a long relationship. The whole reason in a lot of ways that UFC is where it is today is because in 2005-2006, the patinas, who ran UFC, they wanted to do this, they had this idea for a reality show. And they were gonna sign this television deal with Spike TV, but WWE was on Spike TV. And so as a result, Vince had an exclusive. And so the only way that they would be able to run the show is if Vince said, Yeah, sure, they can do it, you know? And he said, yes. And he could have very easily. In fact, it was surprising that he said, Yes, he could have said no. And if he would have said no, there would have been no Ultimate Fighter. And the real explosion of UFC was built off that Ultimate Fighter television show, which did huge numbers following Raw. So really, Dana owes a ton to Vince because of that. And he’s always been complimentary of Vince McMahon. But Vince is Vince and like, I think it was a UFC that Dana wanted tickets to, and he ended up getting these horrible seats from Vince McMahon. And then, you know, he had a he had an announcer, Mike Goldberg. And Vince had actually contacted Mike Goldberg. And he wanted Mike Goldberg to no show a UFC event and appear on Raw. He’s just gonna steal him from Dana. And you know, Mike Golberg didn’t end up doing it. But it’s like, Vince has no compunction of screwing with Dana White screwing with the UFC. I mean, he’s just, that’s the kind of guy he is, right? But Dana’s always, he’s still always liked to Vince. So I don’t know if he respects him like, man, you know, if I find the same position, I try that, but they’ve always got along. I think Dana likes Vince more than Vince likes Dana, but I’m sure Vince would say something different nowadays that they’ve had this merger, but I think they’ll be all right together because they’re not gonna have to be doing a lot together.

V Spehar  28:25

What I’m actually more concerned about is what they’re going to do to all elite wrestling, which is a different division of professional wrestling. That is not WWE is not UFC, it’s sort of this other company that was created by some former wrestlers are on the company, executive roster, but the cons own it. And they’re really scrappy. They’re kind of all elite reminds me of like what wrestling was when we were kids in the 80s and 90s, where the characters are a little bit more flamboyant. They’re smaller crowds, but they’re really growing. And I do have concern about what this UFC WWE merger is going to do financially to the growth of this competitor. How do you think all elite is going to fare in this deal?

Brian Alvarez  29:03

Anytime you think you know what’s going to happen? I mean, they’re just so many different things. And the thing with Aw, and WWE is, it’s really impossible to say what this is going to mean, for so many reasons. But I mean, in theory, in theory, when endeavor bought UFC, the fighters, they’re not here to lose money. I mean, we actually have a period now after endeavor, but UFC that there would be high paying fighters, that, you know, we want more money, and UFC to be like, go to Bellator. Like, beat it. And, you know, with WWE, I mean, they’ve been paying some people some big money of late, and there were a number of suitors, one of which was the Saudis. And you know, the idea was, they may offer you know, 10 billion whatever for the company. And if they buy UFC, then like I mean, they got whatever money they want to spend, like you want to buy off all the top guys from AW in their deals come up just off from 10 million, whatever that I feel would be a bigger issue for AW, with this endeavor merger going down here. We don’t know what this is going to mean for what they’re going to pay people. I mean, the days of, hey, you know, come on over here, we’ll give you 5 million a year, those days, maybe over, you know, Brock Lesnar makes like an impossible amount of money. And the next time his deal comes up, you know, Endeavor maybe like, we’re not paying that this time. And, you know, it is possible that this will benefit Aw, in the sense that they may have a lot more talent available to them. Now, if you’re in Aw, and you were hoping to have a bidding war, I mean, that may not be good for you in that sense. So, you know, for the wrestlers in both companies, ultimately, this might not be the best thing for Tony Khan and AW, and his desire to get top stars, you know for, this may be a benefit to him. And one thing is, if this endeavor thing, like if WWE gets hot, get a great television deal, do great numbers, I mean, things like that can help a competitor, where you know, you’re in the same business like we know that WWE is going to do. Number one on cable on Monday nights, and now a WC TV deal is coming through, you may have now four or five different networks bidding for them. And they may come out of this with a better deal because of the success of everything is going with endeavor. So my feeling is that it will probably be a positive for AW, and somewhat of a negative for the wrestlers. But again, it’s just it’s impossible to say, and

V Spehar  31:44

caught up in all of this is Cody Rhodes, who was at WWE, then went to all elite became like vice president of the company, and then came back to WWE. And I have to tell you, my heart broke when he didn’t win WrestleMania I really thought that they were gonna give him like the homecoming and the patriotic moment that we’d love to see in wrestling. And they were like, No, you’re absolutely not, you’re not gonna win this round. Do you think that Cody made a good choice leaving all elite at the time he did. He of course, couldn’t know that all this kind of stuff was going on. But from the wrestlers perspective, where does this leave somebody who has straddled both worlds?

Brian Alvarez  32:21

Well, it was the best decision for him. And it was the best decision for a lot of wrestlers, in the sense that he was, you know, he had done a storyline where he could no longer challenge for the AW title, he could no longer be the champion, he’d done that storyline. And aw is a place where if you do something like that, like we’re not going to screw the fans, we’re not going to go back on it. So he had pretty much he had kind of reached as far as he could go in a certain sense there. And, you know, his deal came due. And because he had been such a big star, and because he had been an executive vice president and a founder, like WWE was salivating because what had happened was, when a W first started for a lot of different reasons, tons of people went from double AW, it was all WWE, it was all going one way to have a web at WWE, AW, WWE. And of course WWE isn’t, doesn’t want that they don’t want this impression that, you know, everyone wants out of here, they want to go to this other company, gets people thinking the other company is hot. So, you know, WWE was just, they were so excited at the possibility of not just having somebody finally go the other way, but in MVP, one of the founders of the company, so I’m sure he got just like a preposterous amount of money to make the jump. And then, you know, once he made the jump, then there’s like a psychological issue at play, which is, if we take the Vice President, and we just beat him, and we make him look like a geek. What about other people that are going to have their contract? No one’s gonna want to come over here. So it is imperative that we take him that we pay him a lot of money, and that we make him a huge star. So now you’re MJF, Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Wardlow whoever from AW, your contract comes through and you go, man, look at what they do with Cody. So that’s what they did. He beat Seth Rollins, you know, three times in a row, you got hurt, came back won the Royal Rumble. Moving on to Wrestlemania. I thought he should win. I think most people did. But at the end of the day, their claim is that we have a long story here. And so you have to wait and then eventually he’s going to get his big win. But you know, for him, you know that one loss aside. I mean, it was the best decision possible for his career. It paid off huge, you know, it paid off financially. And, you know, for WWE. It was a great investment for a lot of reasons. I mean, this fall I mean, there was a lot of controversy because, you know, there were a lot of people in AWS that were publicly talking about how they wanted out, they wanted to go back. And the funny thing, of course, is it’s wrestling. And they were not allowed to go back. And they largely wanted to go back because Vince was gone. And had they gone back. Well, look who’s back now. So, you know, you got to be careful what you wish for in pro wrestling.

V Spehar  35:24

Are you hearing anything from the wrestlers themselves about this back and forth with Vince McMahon because I know a lot of folks were excited for this, like new breath of creativity, to get away from some of the really corny storylines that Vince cooks up. And so the weird, weird, weird stuff. He does like one of the last storylines that Vince had that I remember from right before, Bobby Lashley, and Lana, and he would like ruin that off. And it was so awkward. They had that shitty wedding. And it was just like, I almost there are times in my wrestling, watching career as many people have really like, I actually can’t even suspend my disbelief anymore. Because these stories are so bad. Like it’s they’re just sticking to it so hard. During that eight month period of time. Did you hear from wrestlers that they were getting better storylines, that they had more control? They were happier, like, tell us a little bit about what was going on for the for the wrestlers?

Brian Alvarez  36:16

Well, you know, the biggest issue to me wasn’t the storylines were goofy, because, you know, I’ve been watching forever, and we’ve had goofy storylines forever. The issue to me was that the storyline sucked. Because they weren’t, they weren’t even stories, it was like, okay, well, we’re gonna start this this week. And then you’re kind of into it, and they announced a match. And then the next week comes and also in the match does even happen. And, you know, they started this story, and then it just ended and you’re like, remember when, you know, so and so didn’t like, Whatever happened to that? And there’s no answer, like, the issue with Vince, when he was in creative was, he would show up every Monday and you just tear it all up, you know, these writers would spend a week putting a show together, he’d tear the whole thing up, they’d be rewriting the show on the air. And it was just, you know, you can’t do a show like that. So he left, and then Triple H took over. And the thing with Triple H, no matter what you want to say about the guy is that he he’s not the most exciting Booker. Like, you’re not gonna see Ilana storyline with a wedding and Bobby Lashley, and Rusev and all this stuff. I mean, they did have one weird thing with MS and Dexter, Loomis, and yada, yada, yada, but in general, it’s like, you’re gonna have slow building, maybe even mildly boring storylines, that build to a logical match, which nine times out of 10 has a logical conclusion. And he allows everybody to go in there to have great matches. And he doesn’t make him say weird words. You know, he lets them talk like normal people. And you know, what I heard during that eight months was like, people were so happy. I mean, they were so happy. Because, you know, they would tell you what you were going to do next week. And then you would actually do it the next week. So it’s kind of like a dream that everyone has woken up from. And we’re back to this this Vince McMahon reality again.

V Spehar  38:15

I think a lot of folks watch the show. And they think you know, these are superstars are traveling the world. They’re working incredibly hard. We’re seeing them sometimes twice a week, when you go to Wrestlemania. They’re doing the Sunday night show, and then they were right there on Monday night, the next night. And so you can’t you don’t even barely get any time to rest. Can you talk just a little bit about what being a professional wrestler is like, like the lifestyle behind this?

Brian Alvarez  38:39

Well, it’s a hard question to answer because the lifestyle has changed so much over the decades. I mean, the 90s, the 80s, late 80s, early 90s, because of the schedule that they worked, I mean, we had, you know, so many 40s, under 40s, slightly over 40s people dying, you know, heart attacks, drug overdoses. In the 80s it was steroids, because the schedule, you know, these wrestlers would be on the road, you know, 280 days a year. That’s your Hulk Hogan, he claimed like 370 days a year, because traveling these time zones, you get extra days or stuff like that, but they did work a lot. And so, you know, what they did was they took steroids, partially because it helped in your recovery. And partially because Vince like big giant dudes, and if you weren’t a big giant dude, you weren’t gonna make money. And so, you know, we had a lot of heart related deaths as a result of that. Then you had the 90s and the 90s, there was there was a lot of steroids, and then there was growth hormone on top of steroids, which is even worse for you. And then you add drugs, party drugs, I mean, coke parties, and I mean, it was the so many, so many drug overdose deaths in the 90s. And then it all culminated In 2005, 2006, 2007, were first Eddie Guerrero died. And he was like, everybody loved Eddie Guerrero. And he died. And it was an enlarged heart. And so all of a sudden, it’s kind of weird. for like three weeks of you watch the TV, a bunch of these big dudes, all of a sudden, were smaller, they just gotten cold turkey of everything, because they were scared straight. But then, you know, four or five weeks later, you know, you’re small. So you start taking this stuff again. So the big change was, you know, when Chris Benoit killed his family, and himself, and after Eddie Guerrero, they had started this wellness policy, this drug policy, drug and alcohol and et cetera. And, you know, Chris Benoit, died and he killed himself and his family, and they found boxes of steroids in his house. And it’s all over the media. And all of the media stories were you know, was it roid rage or whatever. So, they clamp down, and they really actually clamped down on drugs. And so you know, ever since then, if you watch the TV today, I mean, nobody’s fooling themselves, and nobody’s out anything. But what you have now is, everybody’s doing a lot less. And the recreational drugs, they’re obviously not gone. But they also drastically dropped off. And so really, it’s a much healthier business. But now, it’s just a different generation of people as well, I get all these wrestlers that grew up, and they read these stories. And so you have a lot more straightedge wrestlers, you have a lot more wrestlers that don’t drink and don’t do all of this. So now, it’s really just you’re living the life of an entertainer, you fly into a city, you know, you do your show, you drive to the next city, you drive to the next city, you drive to the next city, depending on what your schedule is, for live events, you fly home, you have, you know, three days at home, and then it’s right back on the road again. And they’re a lot better in terms of giving people time off, the guys nowadays, and you know, everyone’s on guaranteed deals. And so, you know, in the old days, if you didn’t wrestling and get paid, you were paid strictly so you were hurt, you would wrestle hurt, nothing like that anymore. They take better care of everybody in terms of head injuries, you have injuries, you know, they’ll freeze your contract while you’re out. But they’ll pay for everything, like you tear your pec, codeine and pay a dime of that they paid for everything. But they added eight months to his contract cuz he was out for eight months. But in general, like everybody is taken care of way better now than they’ve ever been. But you’re still living that nomadic life. You know, you see your family three days, and then your gone, come back home, you see him three days, and then you’re gone. And it’s like that, you know, it’s an easier schedule now. But it’s still it’s a tough thing. If you do a lot of traveling, like a lot of wrestlers will tell you, the travel is actually the worst part of the job, even more so than getting in there. And, you know, taking bumps every night. It’s that travel.

V Spehar  42:55

And we’ve seen that with some of the female wrestlers, talking about like Becky Lynch just had a baby. Luckily, it was with Seth Rollins, and they’re both on the same tour bus. So the baby comes along with but Lacey Evans had her second child and her husband and her daughter travel with them alongside the tour bus, in an RV so that they can be together. It’s a very unusual life. And the way that these wrestlers are expected to bounce back and be in this, like elite athletes shape is really still leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to the inclusive there.

Brian Alvarez  43:30

Yeah, it’s a carnival life. And you know, I will say, especially with really every other wrestling company in the world other than WWE, you’re judged based on your ability to do the job. You know, with WWE for decades, it was, well, it doesn’t matter if you can do the job. What do you look like. You know, and you know, I will say that with Triple H. I mean, they’re still going to gravitate towards the best looking people because it’s entertainment. Sure, but at the end of the day, that’s not what it’s all about anymore. I mean, if you connect with the fans, which is what this business is about, you will get your opportunity. I mean, Sami Zayn. I mean, his beard. I mean, it’s like, you know, just, and there’s, there’s something about Sami, where, you know, we’ve seen Sami Zayn with short hair, clean shaven, you know, nice looking fella, but for the character that he’s playing the long, scraggly beard, and the long hair, and you can only see like his sad eyes. I mean, it’s actually perfect for this character. But the in the old days, it’s like, if you’re looking like that, it ain’t happening dude. But now, you know, he got so over with the people that it doesn’t matter. You know, they even did that. that storyline like one week, it was like, Roman is gonna be here next week, Sami, you better clean up. And I was like, don’t even tell me they’re going to, you know, cut his hair and his beard. And what they did was they just kind of trimmed his beard a little bit, but it was like only for a week, and then it just grows on all scraggly again. So, you know, nowadays more than ever, it’s much more inclusive in WWE. And if you leave WWE, it’s like, you know, whatever, if you if you can get over I mean, you can be, you know, 110 pounds, whatever. Like, they’ll give you your opportunity, if you can get over with the fans.

V Spehar  45:32

And that’s something that I’ve really loved watching wrestling, especially over the last few years as you do see, see smaller guys like Gabe get his do, you see goofy guys like Sami get his butt there is such an inclusiveness to the crowd that I don’t think a lot of folks know. I mean, I don’t think a lot of folks probably would have expected that I was such a big WWE fan and that my wife is who is a cellist. I mean, that’s a very fancy instrument. And she’s a super fan.

Brian Alvarez  45:57

Well, actually, if I can say some real quick, what was really funny about the wrestling business is, if you have been a longtime fan, there have been so many stereotypes in wrestling. And I mean, they’re over the top stereotypes. And I won’t even mention them here on the show. But I mean, you can go back and I mean, a normal person would watch this, and it’d be like, man, this is this is flat out racist. And, you know, we got these Nazi characters, and you know, the things that they the way that they treat these, you know, these women characters, but the funny thing is, during these periods behind the scenes, these wrestlers were like, so inclusive, like they were all brothers, and they would be together. And you know, it’s just really, it’s really weird to look back in those days and just see, like, you know, this character, you know, I didn’t want to talk about some of the stuff that they actually did, but like behind the scenes, it was like, you know, they would eat together and they would, they were best friends and they would visit their families. It’s just interesting the way that the business was seen from the outside and the storylines and the things that they did, comparing it to the actual camaraderie of all of these different people on the inside, who are just one big family.

V Spehar  47:21

This is the Becky Lynch magic that we have recently with women’s wrestling. I mean, women’s wrestling has taken a big stage in the last 10 years, and they’ve had the spin off shows that go behind the scenes of their lives. But Becky Lynch has done something that I think is so incredible, which is the way that she branded out the man So Becky Lynch, female wrestler from Ireland comes in and she started calling herself the man. And if you go to any one of these matches to this day, even though she’s sort of changed, like what her slogan is, in some ways, you’ll see like, just throngs of men in Becky Lynch, female wrestler, the man T-shirts, rooting for her it’d be like Becky Lynch is the man Becky Lynch is the man and I think it’s just incredible for anyone who’s like ever thought, oh, I shouldn’t go to a wrestling thing or I’m not gonna have a good time there. It’s a bunch of like, misogynistic, awful guys. It isn’t friends, it is the most inclusive, the most fun you will have. It’s family friendly. People are rooting for every different wrestler, regardless of their gender or their background. they root for the bad guys even. And I just love what Becky Lynch has done with rebranding the man. I wanted to get your idea and who you think right now is just like absolutely nailing the wrestler persona and showing up in a great way.

Brian Alvarez  48:29

I mean, Sami Zayn has been absolutely incredible. I mean, he’s the real story of the last year is how big Sami Zayn got. And the funny thing is, I remember going to small, and actually, they weren’t even that small at the time, but independent shows and, you know, 2005-2006, and he was there as El Generico. But anyway, he was he was great. And I remember going to the shows, and my buddy that took me the show, he goes, watch this El Generico match. El Generico always has the best match on the show. And so I watched it in his best match on the show, and you start watching more El Generico. And he’s always having the best match on the show. And you know, at the time, it was exactly what we’re talking about, like a guy that looked like El Generico especially with that costume and everything like that, like he’s never gonna be a big WWE star. And, you know, it’s kind of the same thing with Kevin Owens, but you knew how talented they both were. And they kept going, and they became bigger stars, they end up getting signed by WWE. They still had kind of a ceiling, even in WWE, you know, Sami Zayn, they put him in developmental, which was ridiculous. He was, you know, probably one of the best guys out of the entire roster. And to see them finally end up on the main roster, then to see Sammy get one little opportunity. There was not supposed to be anything. But he showed how great he was as a babyface and a heel because he was both in the story and his ability to connect with the fans and all leading to main eventing that first night of WrestleMania. And you talk about inclusivity. I mean, the idea with WWE is they want to portray this equality where for Royal Rumble now we must have a man’s and we must have a women’s on every show. And so now that they have tonight’s WrestleMania the unwritten rule is men headline one night, women headline the other night. And you know, Sami and Kevin run the first night. And so there was a big decision that had to be made, like the big women’s match on this night is Charlotte and Rhea Ripley. And so should that go on last. And the decision was made that you know what, very important to do all of this, you know, we’re gonna have the two women’s the two men that the men’s and women’s, the men’s and women’s money in the bank. But you know what, on this night, we’re going to make a change here. Because really, the hottest program is Kevin and Sami versus the bloodline that’s going on last they Main Event at WrestleMania with a tag team title match. And just to see them out there in Los Angeles, which is where I went to see that first show in 2005-2006, when he was Generico. And just watching, you know, they were so happy, you could see him leave, and they just stopped on the ramp after everyone left. And they’re just looking out at everything like, holy shit.

V Spehar  51:19

It really gets you in the fields that particular match. I mean, men were like weeping openly, not just the friendship, but this like come from behind story, which is also why I thought Cody was gonna win because we had already taken out part of the […]

Brian Alvarez  51:33

Well, you got to save some for another day, they say but I guess probably should have win. Who knows.

V Spehar  51:38

So Brian, we all remember the first time that we watched wrestling on television or saw our first match for me, it was Razor Ramon, and I thought he was just the absolute definition of cool. And I remember trying to like put all of the gel that I had in my mother’s cabinet in my hair to look like Razor Ramon. When I would be sad as a kid, my dad would be like, okay, buddy, we got a Hulk up. And we would like Hulk up so that I could like find power in my eight year old body. For you. I’m interested to know what was your first experience with wrestling? Like what hooked you?

Brian Alvarez  52:08

So I have a younger sister. She’s two years younger. And when I was probably 11 or 12, she started watching wrestling. And she liked Hulk Hogan. And I hated wrestling. I hated Hulk Hogan. I hated this poster she had in a room of Hulk Hogan. And I just it was not my jam. Didn’t want to do it. I was I was into like, you know, I watched Karate Kid and Bloodsport I like you know, martial arts and that sort of thing. And then one day my grandmother moved in, and she was Mexican. And she spoke no English. And so after school, you know, we would come home and she would be there. And you know, we’d hang out with her a little bit. And one day she just said, Lucha, Lucha. And I said to my dad, what would it what is this mean? And he goes means wrestling? She wants to watch wrestling? Lucha. So I found a WWF show that was on. And you know, I would sit there and I would watch Lucha with her. And at first I was like, God, anything else? I’m like, I’m like a teenager, I’m hanging around with my 82 year old grandmother watching wrestling like what could be worse. But then I am watching them like, you know, this ultimate warriors. Pretty, pretty cool cat here. And so I don’t know what it was. But you know, watching it every day and seeing these characters and I was really into the Ultimate Warrior. Because at the time I was starting to get into working out. And this dude is jacked. And you know, people always go, Oh, these steroid up wrestlers are gonna, you know, they’re gonna make these kids do steroids. But as kids didn’t know what steroids were, so I thought I lift some weights, I’m gonna look like the warrior. So you know, I’d watch him wrestle. I’m like, oh, man, this guy’s crazy. And then I go out there and I, you know, lift weights and everything like that. And all sudden, next thing you know, I’m all in. And, you know, I watched at that point, it was all WWF for probably five, six years. And I watched it. And then I got my buddies together. We all did gymnastics at this place. And we talked them into letting us run shows there. We started our wrestling league. And then I went to the public access station, and we got a television show. And so we filmed shows, and I would edit them together. And I was I was all in on Wrestling from like, 91 on. And then, you know, after I got to high school and did a little bit of very little bit of college, it was like, dude, I just want to, I just want to do some with wrestling. And that’s how we started all of this started with a paper newsletter that was mailed to people with a stamp and transitioned into podcasts and online.

V Spehar  54:41

What was your ring name?

Brian Alvarez  54:44

At the beginning, I was the beast, which was Brian the beast, which was quite a stretch because I was about 125 pounds. And then you know once I got into actual wrestling and a ring, I started out as just Brian Alvarez very Exciting name. And then you know, I went to work for this other promoter. And because my last name was Alvarez, he goes, you’re gonna be Chico Alvarez. And I was like, I don’t want to be Chico Alvarez. Because at the time if you’re like a Mexican wrestler and in America like WWF and WCW treated you like garbage. So I didn’t want to be Chico, but I started going to chosen people would chant Chico, and nobody chants Brian, I guess until Daniel Bryan came along, but they chanted Chico and they really got into this Chico name. And so for like a decade, I was Chico Alvarez when I did wrestling, I dropped it again, even though it was over.

V Spehar  55:38

Thank you for sharing that. Tell folks where they can find you to keep up on the day to day here?

Brian Alvarez  55:48

Well, the best thing to do is go to wrestlingobserver.com. That is our website. And pretty much everything I do the information is up in wrestling observer.com. It’s a free website, but we have a subscription area. And I do two to three podcasts every day for subscribers. So if you really like wrestling, and you need something to listen to doing whatever you do, I not only do all of the new shows, but every show that we have done since 2005 is archived. So I’ve got 13,000 shows. If you want to try to go through and listen to 13,000 podcasts on pro wrestling, if you can handle such a thing that’s available for you at wrestlingobserver.com.

V Spehar  56:32

That is awesome. Is there anything you’re in particular looking forward to coming up out of wrestling right now?

Brian Alvarez  56:38

I just want to see where this goes. I mean, I know I kind of took a break from Wrestlemania after the New York show because it was like logistically a disaster. But about two months ago, I was like man, I gotta go Romania, and I got the tickets. I got the flights. I got the hotels, man, I had an awesome time. So I’m hoping that in some way things can continue in that direction for AW and WWE because I do like going to shows and you know they both companies. They got some potentially big things coming so I’m excited.


Man, I thought I knew about wrestling. But now I know about wrestling. Like I really know about wrestling the behind the scenes stuff, the good stuff. Maybe you’ll even feel encouraged to tune into a fight sometime soon. I don’t know see what you think. Whatever you decide, please be sure to check in on next Friday’s episode where we dig into the headlines you may have missed. Leave us a five star rating on whatever platform you’re listening on. Follow me at @underthedesknews on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. And guess what friends there is even more V INTERESTING with Lemonada Premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like spiritual coach Kevin Garcia on what the future of spirituality might be and why it should look like a crowded table. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.

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