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New York Times Bestseller and co-author of the “WWE Encyclopedia Updated and Expanded Edition” Brian Shields joined “2012 Award Winning Best New Show” the Rack Thursday Night. In a nearly 45 minute interview, he discussed his work on the WWE Encyclopedia with co-author Kevin Sullivan and why he did such a project, what it’s like working with WWE and DK Publishing on this project, how much research went into the books and how were they able to gather the information, how did the concept come about for the book, if there are plans for a third edition of the WWE Encyclopedia, if anyone was unhappy with the book or the space they got, the benefits or limits placed by only focusing on mostly WWE history, who was the one person he wanted to make sure made it in the encyclopedia, his personal WrestleMania experience from this past year, what are some of the things he’d like to see back in the WWE, who would he love to work on for one project and more.
On his working relationship with WWE and DK for this project: “One of the things that’s really nice about working with both WWE and DK is that these are both very collaborative environments. So Kevin and I, for the first edition especially, we were going through photo archives, we were giving feedback on the design layouts that the wonderful design team at DK were putting together, so it’s really unbelievable. You know, for me, the first book debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List and I feel like I haven’t even absorbed that full and now that’s like four years ago already. So, for me, to look at these books and to know that I was a part of them; it’s really just unbelievable. It’s unbelievable.”
How did the concept of the encyclopedia come about: “The original concept of the encyclopedia came from someone that used to work there named Dean Miller. Dean is a great writer in his own right and is a consumer products executive and has a lot of experience as well in the home entertainment/publishing industry. It was his idea, originally, to do something that was never done before with WWE and I was coming off my first book with Simon and Schuster, which was ‘Main Event: WWE in the Raging 80’s’ and we got a phone call from DK basically letting us know that this was something that was being put together and was going to begin work and would we like to be part of it. And that was one of those things where how many ways could you say ‘yes’? I remember I was traveling at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and I saw that I got a voice mail (from WWE) and I left a meeting that we were having to listen to the message and like, I left the show floor right away. It was a day I remember very, very well. It’s really one of those things where when you start, when you’re lucky enough to work with them (WWE) on something, you just want to keep going. I mean, it’s so exciting to work with them and this updated version of the encyclopedia is a great example of the fact that they don’t have an off season and I think a lot of times people take that for granted. I mean 52-weeks a year of live television, fresh content, live events, pay-per-views; it’s a publicly traded company. My career started out in sports marketing and I love entertainment as well; to tell someone in professional sports that they’re not going to have an off-season, or if you take whatever someone’s favorite television show is and tell the performers and all the people behind the scenes of that show ‘Ok, you’re going 52-weeks a year, and one of those shows ever week is live; I mean, it just doesn’t happen.”
How has the talent reacted to the Encyclopedia: “I have to tell you, the response from the talent has, thankfully, been fantastic. When you’re in an area where the people are working so hard to perfect their craft and to develop their characters and they just work so hard year round; you want to make sure you do right by them and not only them, but those that have come before them. And then, there’s the other practical part of it too; where when you are writing about people that are much bigger than you, you definitely want to make sure that they’re happy with how things are turning out, just for your own self-preservation. I mean, really, the response has been great and it’s inspiring for us to keep going. We always have a running list of ‘these are the updates we would want to make in the event there is another one’. Between meeting Vince and Linda McMahon, to Batista, the Miz, John Cena; I remember back in the day, Maria, Michelle McCool, Micke James, Kelly Kelly, Cryme Tyme. I mean, so many of the Superstars have really, really been very kind. The Hardy Boyz; I’m just thinking of all the names now that are coming to mind. But yeah, thankfully, people really like it, so it’s inspiring. ”
Who was someone that wanted more space in the book: “Well, thankfully, no one came up to me. One of the things, and I don’t know if this is true or not, but one of the things I remember hearing was when the first edition came out, I heard that the Big Show was disappointed that he was not on the cover. As far as the size of people’s entries, I think it helps in a lot of ways, it just helps frame the project, but this encyclopedia is within the realm of WWE and the talent’s career within the framework of WWE. So, that makes things, I guess it helps things be, a little bit more clear in terms of ‘Ok, we have to look at this person’s impact for this organization’, as opposed to if it was a general encyclopedia of all of wrestling.”
His attendance at WrestleMania and the WrestleMania experience: “I did get to go to the Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden which was just awesome, you know to grow up on Long Island and there were so many great things going on in the 80’s when I was a kin, from the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, Madison Square Garden in the city, the Meadowlands in New Jersey; it’s very difficult to even describe the excitement that was around this area at that time. And then you add in the advent of cable television, which was just insane. The Hall of Fame was awesome. Mick Foley, a Long Island guy; who I remember seeing him years ago in smaller promotions and independent promotions, so yeah, it was great. And to see Bruno (Sammartino), who I’ve work with on different projects and some of them non-WWE project; I’ve known Bruno since 2001 so for me to have the good fortune to be there live and see him go in was great and it was just a great weekend.”
What are some of the things he’d like to see back in WWE: “I mean, one of the things, and I talk about this a lot, I really miss managers; I really miss Tag Teams. If you go back in the histories of WWE or any other organization; whenever they have had real booms in their business, there’s always a dominant or long-reigning Champion, that’s another thing I miss. There’s always an incredible Tag Team division and there are always very interesting managerial-like personalities and I was very happy when Paul Heyman came back. I really feel like if it’s the right pairing of manager to Superstar, I do believe that in today’s environment, that could still be very entertaining as we are seeing with Paul Heyman and CM Punk. I mean, there have been some great mouthpieces, great promo guys that had managers: Ric Flair, ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude. I mean the list goes on and on. Steve Austin, when he was with Paul Heyman and the Dangerous Alliance in the very early 90’s and WCW. I think what Paul has done has been great and CM Punk, to me; every week he’s on TV, I think he just does great stuff.”
You can follow Brian through his Twitter (@MightyPen_Sword) or his website (http://mightypenandsword.com) for all the latest on his news and notes. You can pick up Brian’s new book “The WWE Encyclopedia Updated and Expanded Edition” co-authored by Kevin Sullivan, go to amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or visit your local book retailer for ordering information and availability of this and any of his other works.
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