Former writer for the WWF/E Magazine for 22 years, Keith Elliot Greenberg appeared on Inside The Ropes on Thursday night to talk about the inner workings of the magazine and how much input the writers and wrestler had in the content. Here are some highlights:
How he got his first job at the WWF Magazine: “When I started out as a writer, I was trying to get some work with Us Weekly. I kept pestering the editor there. He said “You’re 22, what could you possibly write about that people might not know?” I told him professional wrestling. So I pitched a story about Bruno Sammartino and his son David, the angle there was that Bruno didn’t want his son to be a pro wrestler. Bruno suffered the injuries and time away from home. He wanted his children to go to college. I interviewed both of them and spoke about that conflict. At that point, I began writing more about professional wrestling. I was at the first WrestleMania, not as a member of WWF Magazine but as a member of the press core, thats when I met Edward Sheedy who was the editor at the time and he said “Why don’t you come and write for us? you seem to know so much about the business?” I remember the first time he brought me backstage. It was at Poughkeepsie, for the TV tapings and Vince McMahon saw me and looked a little un-nerved that I was back there, because he thought I was a member of the mainstream media and it was a closed world back then, nobody even admitted the matches were pre determined. But Ed vouched for me and said “he’s one of us” and that I’d protect the business.”
How much was writers were told about storylines for the magazine: “Occasionally I was. I would be told, OK this is going to be a big storyline. Other times, I felt like I was kept in the dark. I remember the night Bret Hart defeated Ric Flair for the title in Saskatoon. Steve Taylor, the photographer for the WWF at the time said, “Keith make sure you watch this match” Nobody had to tell me to watch that match, I wanted to see it. Steve said “you might want to take some notes” So they didn’t tell me the title was changing, but they gave me enough information that I knew something was going to happen and yes there were other times when I knew storylines were about to take place. I remember when Randy Savage turned into a fan favourite when The Hart Foundation held him, Honky Tonk Man hit him with the guitar and Elizabeth brought Hulk Hogan out, I was told that was going to happen.”
How much input did wrestlers have in answering fan questions or interviews etc?: “It changed. I can remember a period where I was making up everything. Then other times, some wrestlers would give me input and others would just tell me to make it up myself. But in the Attitude Era, Barry Warner was the editor of the magazine, he went onto be the sports editor of NBC Sports.com, Barry had the attitude that we were reporters covering sport. Even though he understood the business, he wanted us to establish relationships with the talent so we could call them up if an idea emerged. At that point we were getting pretty much all the quotes from the talent. There was also a period where the company was revealing, look this is entertainment, not sport in the traditional sense. We would sometimes interview the wrestlers out of character. I remember when The Dudleyz had done an angle with Mae Young where they put her through a table and in the magazine we spoke to Bubba Dudley, who described what it was like putting this elderly woman through a table and how he was afraid he’d killed her and she squeezed his hand to re-assure him that everything was alright. At that point we interviewed the wrestlers all the time.”
On Vince Russo joining the Magazine: “I consider Russo a friend. It’s not for anything he did in the wrestling business but just as a person. I remember when my first child was born, I spoke to Russo a lot about what it’s like to be a father, he’d talk about his own kids. Over the years, I’ve watched storylines that he’s had a large hand in. Some of them I enjoyed and some I didn’t like everyone else. I don’t know if Vince Russo spoke about this when he was on your show but (RAW Magazine) that was a Russo idea. His idea was that The WWF Magazine would be the more traditional magazine and RAW magazine would be edgier, more truth, the wrestlers would speak out of character. I remember Vince Russo wrote a column once and he said “I’m going to print three letters you thought you’d never see in this magazine…..WCW” So he acknowledged the rival company. That may have even preceeded the attitude era. That Vince Russo was bringing his own attitude through the magazines, to the company.”
To hear the full 60 minute chat where Keith talks about sharing a plane with Mark Callaway on the way to his meeting to be pitched The Undertaker character, funny stories from his 22 year tenure, co-writing Ric Flair’s book, helping write an Unreleased Iron Sheik autobiography and much more, head over to http://www.facebook.com/theinsidenetwork.