For wrestling fans of a certain era, Bruce Prichard is best-known for portraying famed heel Brother Love -- a mock Southern preacher who had his own talk show as part of WWE's regular programming in the late 1980s and early '90s.
But that's only one facet of a pro wrestling career that has spanned more than 40 years. Prichard has worked at every level of the business, starting with selling posters for Paul Boesch's powerful Houston promotion when he was 10 years old and eventually culminating in a 22-year career with WWE that included working as Vince McMahon's right-hand man during the Monday Night War.
I recently spoke with Prichard about a variety of topics, including some spot-on advice from Stone Cold Steve Austin, his thoughts on managers and his experiences at TNA.
ESPN.com: What's the skinny on your podcast? How did it come about and what's the story behind its unique approach of not having guests?
Bruce Prichard: One night I told my co-host, Conrad Thompson, a story about when the Radicalz came into the WWE, and afterwards he said, "Man, that's a podcast. You should do a podcast." My response was I'm not going to do it, but after every story Conrad would say, "See, that's a podcast." After a while I said I'll do a podcast if you do it with me, but the thought of wrangling 52 guests a year [for a weekly podcast] was staggering to me. So we came up with the concept of no guests.
Share the story in which one of the biggest names in pro wrestling history suggested a calm and cool approach to achieving success in the podcast world.
Each week after the podcast started, I'd be anxious about the number of downloads, but on the advice of Steve Austin I stopped checking every Saturday to see what we did. Steve said, "I used to do that, but stop worrying about the numbers. If they are there, they are there; if they are not, they are not, but they will come. In the end, after six months, a year, they are going to be there because it's evergreen, they are going to go back and download them. And that's what counts."
He was right. When the podcast started the people at MLW Radio said if you get to 20,000 downloads on a show it will be really good. Our first show we did over 60,000 downloads. The TNA episode we did is approaching 700,000 downloads and we are averaging 270,000 downloads per episode. I never dreamed in a million years people would download these episodes the way that they are.
You certainly have a lot of stories to tell. How did you first get started in the business?
My brother and I were both fans growing up in Texas. We started working when we were kids. He was four years older than me, and he was able to take pictures at ringside working with promoter Paul Boesch in Houston. I started selling posters and things of that nature, and just kind of never looked back. When I was 12 years old I was the assistant director of a local television show. I was ring announcing when I was 14. By the time I was 16, I was refereeing and by the time I was 18, I was pretty much running the place. I was one of those kids who just hung around and did everything and anything that needed to be done.
Your most famous role was portraying faux evangelist Brother Love. How would you describe that character? Was he a manager, a heater, a mouthpiece or something else?
A personality. He was never intended to be a manager, as that was just something I wanted to do after I'd had a good run. He was meant to be a personality and was meant to enhance other talent and help get other guys over.
Why do you think the business got away from talents of that nature?
Economics. If you have someone who can talk, who has personality, but can also deliver in the ring and have matches and perform on a nightly basis, then why do you need to add something to that package in the form of a manager? The managers of yesteryear were there to enhance the talent that they managed and they were there to basically present a larger package. If someone wasn't as good on the microphone, you had a manager sell those tickets and the wrestler delivered in the ring. Now guys are taught interview skills, and getting comfortable in front of the camera, and being able to create and enhance their character.
It's said that wrestlers who come to the WWE from other wrestling organizations have to learn how to work a "WWE-style" match, even if they have a proven track record of knowing how to work. What's the main difference in wrestling a WWE-style match?
The bigger picture of the WWE style is that it is a more logical style. They focus on the story of a match versus how many stupid, crazy bumps you can do or how many tables you can break. The WWE style wants things to mean more, and therefore, they don't want you to do 9 million finishes in the first three minutes of the match. The WWE style tries to slow people down and tell a story and hopefully elongate a wrestler's career.
What was it like working for Vince McMahon?
If you had to use a one-word description, it would be intense. It's 24/7. He's a genius, and it's unique to be able to pick that genius brain in a formal and informal atmosphere for all those years.
There's an old saying that a wrestler should always stay in character. Do you think that should also apply to social media environments?
I think you should pick who you want to be on the outside the ring, and if you want to let people in [to see the real person behind the scenes], then let them in -- but you can't let them in one hour and kick them out the next.
[Former TNA owner] Dixie Carter would drive me nuts, because she would play a character on TV, and she would play a character on her Twitter account, but then on the same Twitter account in a span of minutes she would go back to being just regular Dixie. It's confusing to whomever it is you are speaking to at the time.
Did you ever draw white heat -- the kind of heat that is truly dangerous and makes fans want to actually hurt you personally versus wanting the wrestler to deliver the comeuppance?
Oh yeah. I was a heel referee long before heel referees were a thing. I've been in riots and been in situations where I did not know if I was going to get out of it alive and had to fight for my life.
In the early days of Brother Love, he was a very controversial and polarizing character. People didn't understand it, people thought I making fun of religion. I wanted those emotions, so I walked that line. Being in the ring with Hulk Hogan when he was red hot, yeah, there were some white-hot heat moments. As a heel, I loved that. I loved being able to bring an audience to the point that they want to kill you. That a rush, that's a high that's better than any drug there is.
Does the industry want white heat today? And should it want it?
The WWE has become so homogenized that white heat would be bad for them. That would be a negative. However, I do think that good old-fashioned "I hate you" heat was good for the business of selling tickets. I think it's an element that needs to be there, but I think now it's gone so far the other way in that aspect that it may be not able to come back.
Could a competing wrestling organization use red and white heat to build itself up to become a more viable promotion?
It depends on what business you want to be in. If you want the toy contracts, if you want movie deals, if you want to be on network television, then you need to go the family entertainment route, which is where the WWE goes. If you want to be real sport, you go the MMA route. If they want to do something else, there's not really something else out there. I don't even really know what TNA is trying to do.
Do you think TNA knows what it is trying to do?
No, they don't. For the three years I was there, I asked TNA's management one question: What business are we in? Are we in the television business? Are we in the wrestling business? Are we in the live promotion business? Tell me who your audience is and tell me who you are selling to. And they never could. You can be in all of those businesses, but you can't be in one business one day and another business the next. It doesn't work.