Interview - Kenny Herzog

Interview: Kenny Herzog, Writer, Long Island Press: 18th December 2003

What makes a great entertainment promoter?

Someone who understands atmosphere as well as the entertainment they're booking. To sort of answer your next question as part of this one, a venue like the Warsaw, which is a few minutes away from my apartment, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, hosts terrific rock bands from Grandaddy to Joan Jett, but picked a great location that's out of the way for posers, but easy to find for diehard fans, and there's a terrific soundsystem, easy access bars and bathrooms, and even a separate room where you can buy food and get some breathing room.

What are your favourite entertainment venues in New York, and why?

Well, they come and go, so that would really have to include venues that have since closed down. Besides Warsaw, the Bowery Ballroom, which has a great lounge room downstairs with couches, tables and a large, circular bar and bathrooms, and the steps up to the concert area lead you directly in front of the stage. I also love the well-calculated intimacy of Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey. It's become a haven for bigger bands who want a more personal experience in between larger area venues.

What was your favourite Madison Square Garden match, and why?

Oh boy. It's more of a sentimental choice. I don't even recall who they were facing, but it was 1988 or so, and it was the first time I saw Shawn Michaels and the Rockers, and they completely dazzled me and hinted at the future of wrestling.

What wrestlers were or are, also great wrestling promoters?

You have to love guys like Frank Goodman of USA Pro Wrestling, who keeps the independent scene alive and puts his blood sweat and tears into the business. Paul Heyman always gets underrated in my mind for how he helped create the sport as we see it today because he's such an unlikable guy in many ways and so many of his wrestlers were on drugs or in porn films, etc. But ECW was truly a revolutionary movement and sort of forced Vince McMahon to readapt his style. But Vince, being Vince, like any good entertainer, took that influence and molded into his own massive and distinct phenomenon.

What should a good wrestling card consist of?

Basically, in this day and age, it needs to be entertaining first and foremost throughout. To pretend like most people still crave some old-fashioned "rassling" is unrealistic and bad business. I will admit: The moment some young guy in non-descript shorts with no gimmick hits the ring, I change the channel. The way WWE brought the soap opera and rivalry element to a new level in the late '90s with D-X, Nation of Domination, etc., combined with ECW's exploration into extreme violence, really changed the definition of what professional wrestling was, so it can't really even be talked about in the same terms as it might have been in Vince Sr.'s day.

Why has the wrestling media, let alone the traditional media, been so critical of Vince McMahon over the years?

I think part of the problem is people identified too strongly with both the character of Vince McMahon and the Vince McMahon who was vilified during the Hulk Hogan trial. It was impossible not to make a direct connection between this one man and what many viewed as vulgar, reprehensible programming. That, and most people can't stand someone who's as successful and high-profile as Vince. And certainly, there was some old-school animosity about how he may or may not have tarnished the reputation of what his father created.

What is Jim Barnett doing these days?

Good question.

What was WCW's biggest mistake?

Probably what one of WWE's biggest mistakes is currently: Relying on the nostalgic cache of old superstars on one end, and the spunk of up and comers on the other, even if they have little magnetism or charisma in the ring.

What else, if anything, can wrestling promoters do to protect there wrestlers from themselves, when it comes to issues like drug abuse in wrestling?

Well, there's only so much you can do to protect a grown man or woman outside of mandatory testing and appropriate disciplinary measures. But like any good management, let your employees know you're there for them and help them talk through and find solutions to any problems their having before they spiral out of control.

Why is it important to acknowledge and keep alive wrestling's glorious past?

With any passion, you have to understand the past to realize how the present fully came to be. It's simply ignorant of pretend something like wrestling began and ended with Monday Night Raw and guys like The Rock. Understanding their influences and inspirations is tremendously important in truly understanding the sport of wrestling and not just being a passive observer.

What is NWATNA doing that is making them so successful?

I think they're just signing the right talent, taking advantage of the overflow in WWE and resentment of the way that company is going that is sending so many of its superstars looking for other work. And without WCW in the picture, they have branded a reputation as the next most high-profile stop on the circuit.

What approach do you take to writing an article about professional wrestling?

Well, you basically want to be foremost concerned about the people who still don't take it very seriously. Make them understand it is, in fact, very real in so many ways. Bring them into the ring and these peoples' personal lives to see and feel the blood, sweat, tears, triumph, tragedy.

How do you relax after a big day in the media business?

A cold beer and two aspirin.


Editors note: educational, interesting and insightful. When it comes to sports entertainment, Kenny Herzog really knows his stuff.



Interview - 19th November 2003


Long Island Press


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