I conducted a phone interview earlier this week with TNA on-air personality Jeremy Borash, a former WCW employee who has been with TNA since its inception in 2002. He discussed the possibility of Impact moving permanently to Mondays, Hulk Hogan’s presence in TNA, Vince Russo working with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff and more.
I know that TNA management and Spike TV executives were very happy with the rating Impact did on Jan. 4. What was the reaction from the locker room when the number came down?
The number came down on Tuesday right before the taping of our second show, and everyone was just ecstatic about it. Word spread really fast. It actually came in a little later than it usually did, so that made the anticipation go up a little more, but everybody was really happy with it. Personally, I think it was above expectations. We did much better head to head with [WWE] this time around than last time [Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007]. Going by those numbers from last time, I was pleasantly surprised.
You’ve been with TNA since Day One. Can you put into words what the night of Jan. 4 meant to the company, as far as how far it’s come in seven years?
I don’t know how many times over the years I’ve had to say that “this is our biggest show ever” but I’ve done it many, many times because we’ve just constantly grown and grown. I’ll use this comparison: Having Hulk Hogan come in and do what he did this time around versus when he came in that first year and did an angle with Jeff [Jarrett] and it looked like we were going to get Hogan then, now it seems like seven years allowed us to get ready for this step. I think waiting that long and having it develop as it has, it was much more thrilling to have him as part of the show this time around than it was last time, because we didn’t really know what we were in for. For me personally, Monday was the most rewarding night in the history of the company for sure.
Do you think moving to Mondays permanently is something that will happen and would be good for the company?
I can only speak personally – I think it would be great. The biggest disappointment this week is that we weren’t doing another live show. We had so much momentum coming off it, it was like, how do we keep that ball rolling? My perspective as someone having lived through the Monday Night Wars, I’m drooling at the idea of it. I just know how much fun it was. [Jan. 4] is the first sample I’ve had of what that was like in 10 years. It really brought me back to when we really cared what [WWE] was doing and when they really cared about what [WCW] was doing. That kind of competition is what brings out the best in everybody, and, ultimately, no matter what you say about the fourth of January, the fans won that night. I think you got a better show out of us and a better show out of Vince McMahon.
I think the biggest surprise of the Monday night show was Jeff Hardy’s appearance, because the belief was that he had an agreement to return to WWE. When did you know he was coming to TNA and how did that all come down?
Well, Kevin, I’m a little bit different of an animal, because having been in the trenches and seeing everything and being a part of every decision that the company’s made, now – and it’s happened a couple times – I purposely don’t want to know things, only for my own personal amusement as a fan. I’ve been doing it so long, so for me it’s to the point where my ego doesn’t need to know everything. I just trust that it’s going to be good, and as a fan, I want to be surprised just like the guy sitting in the front row. That’s how I’ve been able to keep being a fan through everything.
So did you have any inkling at all that there was a possibility that Hardy would be there?
I had heard things, but I’d also heard other things that didn’t happen. I have no problem saying it, but the first time I knew Ric Flair was in TNA was when he got out of the limo and it was me and 30 other people backstage. I’m going to remember that moment a lot more knowing that when I saw Ric Flair get out of the limo that was the first time and I was shocked rather than just hearing about it the day before. I put a lot of stock in being able to still feel that way and relate to a fan that way. I think a lot of the success we’re having at house shows is because a lot of us who went to WWE shows growing up may have forgotten what it’s like to be a fan and what the fans sit through when they go to house shows. For me, I just always wanted to be part of something and to meet a wrestler and be part of the show somehow, so we’ve really tried to integrate that.
Some critics – and I’ll put myself in there – have said that bringing in some of the older guys such as Scott Hall, Sean Waltman and The Nasty Boys may take away screen time and opportunities from guys such as Matt Morgan, D’Angelo Dinero, Beer Money and other guys who look like they’re ready to take that next step. What’s your take on it?
My take on it is that if there’s a good balance and everything is serving the bigger purpose, it’s great. As far as what happened on [Jan. 4], I think it’s all part of the bigger picture – Hulk Hogan comes to town and look who’s trying to get into the company now. I think that’s another story unto itself. If the story is compelling and the fans are into it, I don’t care who it is. The fans have always been the ones who dictated what they want to see. I think at the same time what you’re going to see with Ric Flair is that there is a deep value in using those established names to brand new stars. I think in the future you’re going to see a lot more of that and we’re going to become a lot better at that.
Did you sense any trepidation from some of the younger talent about Hogan and some of the other veterans coming in?
I would almost compare it to having a coaching change. Obviously everybody is afraid of change from time to time, but there are also guys who know that the bigger picture is what this actually does for the company. I can speak firsthand. Since that show I’ve had people that I know never watch wrestling come up to me and say they saw the show. I got stopped in the airport five times today and had people tell me they saw the show. That has never happened before. So I think anybody who was a little bit leery about things, once they saw the impact that it made and getting recognized all over the place now, it shut a lot of people up real fast who said, “Is this the right thing to do for TNA?” I think that question was answered pretty quickly.
Like you, I was there in WCW when Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo and Hulk Hogan were all working together, and it was tough for them to co-exist. If it didn’t work then, why do you think it will be different this time?
Whole different set of circumstances. First of all, I worked for WCW for a number of years and I could never tell you who I reported to. In this company I can tell you that I report to Dixie Carter and the buck stops there, no questions asked. To me it’s just a whole different environment. I think also, in knowing Vince as I do and getting to spend time with Eric again, I think they have both definitely evolved as human beings. I think you’re looking at guys who have grown up a little bit in terms of where the business is and where they’re at 10 years later. So far, everything has been remarkably done well as far as them working together. The common goal is the common goal and everybody sees that. There will always be creative differences, but how they’re handled and how they’re resolved is the difference between now and then.
Along with growing up and evolving as people, do you think they have learned from past mistakes?
I can’t speak for them but I certainly think I have a much better knowledge of the wrestling business from trial and error and from everything that’s happened in the last 10 years. I think you have a situation where they’ve been able to take a look back and see what worked and what didn’t. I think they definitely have a better perspective 10 years later than they did then.
I’ve been to the Impact Zone and I think it’s a fun atmosphere and a fun place to watch a show, but do you think the company needs to start doing Impact and pay-per-views at arenas on a regular basis?
I think we have always walked before we’ve run. When we’re ready to do arenas and we’re ready to fill those buildings and have a production that is ready to go on the road and can be funded that way, we’ll do it. But like anything, it’s always been: OK, are we ready to move to Thursday nights in prime time? Are we ready to go two hours? We’ve always taken our time and made sure it’s the right move, and I think that’s why we’re still around.
Personally, I think the Impact Zone has it charms, and the fans there always seem to be really enthusiastic.
It definitely has it charms. I was there for the ECW Arena shows and it had its own character, and I would almost compare the two in the sense that there are a lot of regular fans there and a lot of die-hard fans that show up from all over the country just to come see the shows when they’re vacationing in Orlando. So there is an energy there that’s contagious, and I think [Jan. 4] we had one of the best crowds we’ve ever had in there. Brooke Hogan herself said that she’s been going to see her dad all of her life and she’s never heard a crowd like that before, and the energy we had in the crowd. Of all the shows we’ve done in there, that was definitely the wildest. Hulk coming out was probably the loudest thing I’ve ever heard in that building. We’ve had some loud arrivals – Kurt Angle, Sting – but that was something like I’ve never heard and felt before.
Here’s a question that’s specific to the Baltimore-Washington market. Baltimore has historically been a good wrestling town and has shown that it will support more than one promotion. Are there any plans for TNA to come to this area?
I remember doing a couple WCW shows in Baltimore and I do remember that crowd specifically standing out as being something a little special because they were really loud and really into it. I would think it’s probably on the short list for doing a pay-per-view on the road sometime maybe in 2010. To me, that’s definitely a market we need to hit.
Fans see you on camera all the time in TNA, but you wear a lot of different hats in the company. For those who don’t know, what are some of your other duties in the company?
When we first started out we were a company of about five or six employees, so as we’ve grown, thankfully, my duties have become more narrowed and focused. So instead of being the media guy and video editing – I did everything – now I can just focus on being Director of Digital Media. I work a lot on the Web site. We’re starting a new WCW Live-type show for TNA on Thursday. So that’s been something I’ve been working on for a couple months now. That’s going to be very different than anything any wrestling company has ever done. It’s going to be very interactive – Twitter, Facebook, myspace, YouTube – all kinds of involvement with fans that’s never been done from a major wrestling company. That’s what’s eating up a lot of my time. This month I’m on the road 24 days. They keep me real busy. The good thing about doing the digital media is that I have a mobile office, basically. I can work out of a laptop and a broadband connection – I can pretty much do anything anywhere, so that’s kind of a cool gig to have not to be cooped up in an office somewhere.
I’m a big fan of the Spin Cycle show that you host on tnawrestling.com. Wasn’t there some talk at one point of making that a TV show?
Yeah, I think there was talk of it. As far as creating programming, I’m not sure it’s ready for cable television yet. I think it needs some fine-tuning. I also think it’s built more toward a Web audience. It’s a little more inside, and I think that’s what the TNA Live show is going to be. It’s going to definitely be that same kind of flavor. The Spin Cycle itself, though, I think we’re still going to do that once or twice a month.
If this wrestling gig doesn’t work out for you, have you ever thought of being a game show host?
[Laughs]. You know what, I’ve had to pass up some pretty decent offers.
Yeah, just things that come up, side stuff that I could do if I had the time, but there’s only 24 hours in a day. So, yeah, the offers have been there, but I just can’t see a better scenario for my life right now. They take good care of me. I’ve obviously been through the ups and downs, and now, thankfully, we’re on the side of the ups. I just can’t imagine a more fun gig to have. I mean, I work my [butt] off, don’t get me wrong, but getting to travel the world and doing this, I don’t think there are too many better jobs you could find for a lifelong wrestling fan.
You’ve done some really funny stuff on camera, specifically your interaction with Kurt Angle and Mick Foley. How much of those scenes are ad-libbed, and is there a favorite moment that you have?
Yeah, most of it’s ad-libbed. The good thing about it is, regardless of what people say is scripted and not scripted, I am given, at best, bullet points, and everything else is “just go with it.” I think that also depends on the talent sometimes. I don’t think The Rock needed too much direction in his promos, whereas somebody just starting out probably needs a little more help. For me, it’s just “let it go, let it fly and have fun with it.” I’ve really enjoyed working with Kurt and Mick, but I think my favorite thing was getting to do something with Funkhouser – Super Dave Osborne – on our show a couple weeks ago, just because I’m a huge “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fan. It was really fun because it was literally like being on the set of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” We had no direction, no script. He said “just go,” and we had a back-and-forth ad-lib exchange that went on for about a minute. That’s what one my favorite things that I’ve ever done. I feel more confident and I think I’ve improved by getting to work with guys like Kurt Angle and Mick Foley and Eric Bischoff. Working with [Bischoff] now as a talent, I kind of forgot how good he is. [Jim] Cornette really, really impressed me with the way he could talk and everything, but I was just literally in awe of Bischoff the other day, just how good he is at just nailing everything – there’s no two takes with him.
Any final thoughts before we wrap it up?
I just want to say that the Web show, TNA Live, is going to start pre- and post-show for Impact, so it’s going to bookend Impact every Thursday night. It’s going to be live and it’s going to be very interactive. It’s going to be myself, SoCal Val and Don West. I’m going to be live on location at different arenas across the country. I’ll be in Pennsylvania this Thursday, and I’ll be in London, England the next week. Technology is so advanced now that I can do this show from anywhere in the world literally and be on live video. It’s very cool and it’s just going to mean more access to the wrestlers for the fans.