HARI: Your original intentions when going out to America was to attend Harley Race’s training school, but you went to OVW instead. Why did you want to go to Harley and why did plans change?
DAVE: Well Harley Race’s reputation is next to none, as a wrestler, a promoter, a tough guy, he is well respected. He has a very talented school and links to both American and Japanese companies.
I was originally planning to go by myself to America, which was fine by me, but before I was meant to leave I worked with Basham and Nick Dinsmore extensively when they were in the UK. I was working with them, training with them, speaking with them a lot and they said so many positive things about OVW. Just look at the talent pool created under Rip there.
Two of my friends were planning on going to OVW and I had the chance to spend twelve weeks there rather than a limited time at Race’s school, so I went to OVW.
HARI: You use two very straightforward but impactful finishers – the discuss lariat and the cannonball. This really sets you apart from the more fancy, complex suplexes or drivers or brainbusters you see a lot in wrestling. Was this a conscious decision?
DAVE: They both complement my build and add a level of believability to my act. All the things I do are quite simple, and I do them very very well. And they’re relatable to the average person. When they see a 19″ arm around someone’s jaw or a 21 stone guy throwing himself at you and crushing you in the corner, they can see what that does to someone. And it makes a great sound.
Some people have more complicated moves but the more intricate it looks, it confuses the people and then they can’t tell who’s doing what or which guy is getting hurt, it looks a mess.
The average person is there at a wrestling show for their kids, or is bored on a night out or at a holiday park where there’s a free show. The discuss lariat and the cannonball make you go “ooh that looked like it hurt.”
Wrestling fans might appreciate the complexity, but that’s because they’re wrestling fans. They will come back. But you only get one chance for those average viewers. Even if it’s just for your match, to make them think “oh this is crap, but that other guy, he really might have hit him.”
Plus there’s no instant replay, if it doesn’t convince you then it’s lost in translation forever.
HARI: During your time in OVW, did Al Snow, apart from supergluing people’s shoes or using cable grips to rib someone, did he reteach you your wrestling vocabulary?
DAVE: I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Al in the UK and in Louisville. He definitely had a significant influence on how I look at the business. But in terms of my wrestling vocabulary, I’d say I learned most of it from the older guys, the veterans on the British scene.
HARI: Like what?
DAVE: When people talk about “the business” and the “wrestling business”, we call it “the job.” And it’s not “the locker room” it’s “the dressing room.” Little things like that.
HARI: Particularly with Progress, you’ve done a lot of work with your promos in terms of building up feuds and matches. Did OVW help with that?
DAVE: It was a big part of training at OVW, the advance class and every time you go, you were expected to just talk for 60 seconds. You were trained to really time that promo, hitting the points you needed to hit. Coming back to the UK, I didn’t do it a lot because it was never really asked by promoters.
Plus, at that time, 2009/10, smart phones weren’t quite as advance. I had a crappy blackberry then and filming on things like that is tough. You can record on iPhones now. I know companies that use iPhone footage for television they film.
And with the switch camera, you can see how it is, how you’re positioned before you upload it. It’s become more accessible now and because it’s easier to film and easier to edit, there’s more possibilities to get them out there now. Over the last year, it’s something I’ve taken a conscious effort to improve on.
Preston City Wrestling, PCW, has their recording set up, with their green screen and interview areas. I can’t cut a five minute interview, I’m not Dusty Rhodes. But you can tell a good promo and you can tell a bad promo.
I’m more comfortable than ever with my character, I know how I sound, how much to talk. My promos will be 60 seconds to get the message across. I always try to include 1 or 2 lines that are cool, that they’ll remember and where I want to position those lines. I’ll spend 30 to 60 seconds to build up to that. To get what you need with those lines that sound killer.
All the other verbage, as long as it’s in the right tone or manner, and concise, it’s fine.
That’s how it suits me best. The second point, I was speaking to one of the lads, Charlie Garrett, about this: just think about peoples’ attention span. When they go on YouTube and check the length and go “Oh Jesus fucking Christ, 4 and a half minutes”. They don’t have that long on their lunch break or on the toilet, and the longer the video lasts, the more likely someone creeps on over and spots them, and then because they’re ashamed to admit that they’re a fan of professional wrestling, they just shut down.
People will want to watch Grado and Mad Man Manson for that long. Others, you’ll want something for 30 seconds. People don’t want to see me talk for 5 minutes, I’m not Dusty Rhodes and I don’t pretend to be. I need to promote myself and sell the match and to do that I need to be Dave Mastiff, the people need to have their expectations matched from the video when they see me live.
HARI: One of the best things I’ve seen this year, is the feud between you and Grado for Pro Wrestling ELITE. You were the perfect foil, to try and provide that counterpoint and legitimacy for the Grado character, in a similar vein to Mankind for HBK and Cactus Jack for HHH.
DAVE: With Grado, I remember it was an easy story to tell and just put my character into it and said the things he would say. For that reason I remember shooting that promo and then Adrian from ELITE made it look even better through editing.
HARI: And I feel like sometimes wrestlers criticise you for wanting to be emotionally invested even if you’re in the business, but that’s the part that I enjoy. The storyline, the characters, not necessarily the technical spectacle of the match.
DAVE: It’s the base of pro wrestling, it’s morality based. That’s the whole thing about Grado and that match. The people love him, you can’t walk down the street in Scotland without people saying hello and being recognised.
It was easy to show vitriol, to do what would anger the fans who saw me fight him. And that’s to act as a bastard. And you have to say things that will build him too. After that promo, I don’t think people thought that Grado couldn’t win. They felt like they wanted to see him kick my arse.
I had the easiest job ever. I absolutely beat the shit out of him for 15 minutes. And that would reach the wrestling fans, who try to look through it, to make them say “Oh shit. Mastiff is being a bit heavy handed” and they hated me. And when Grado won, they lost their shit.
And don’t forget, Adrian doesn’t run 20 shows a year. He makes them count.
HARI: I know you don’t want to discuss working with Vader, but people seem to have overlooked the other legends you’ve worked with. How was it working with The Million Dollar Man?
DAVE: Working with him was surreal, it was very cool. He’s a legend and absolute gentleman. He had a lot of time for me and Mad Man Manson, who was also involved with the match and he really wanted to be involved. It’s great to know there are veterans out there who love to be involved and help people out.
They way I look at it is like this – I took a picture with him so that I could show my parents, because they watched wrestling from the early 90s too. I said “Hey dad look at this” and he was chuffed, I showed my mum and she was really happy about it. And it was like they turned around with the feeling of “Okay, you obviously must be good at it then to be with Ted Debiase.”
Which is a kind of madness, but it was a big deal to my parents. Two years, before I had fought for the GHC Heavyweight Title [Pro Wrestling NOAH’s grandest championship] which has massive credibility, but meant nothing to my mum and dad. But the fact that Ted DeBiase was managing a show in Preston was a big deal.
HARI: It’s commonplace to hear in interviews, what were people’s favourite matches. Rather than that, was your favourite American and British wrestling storyline?
DAVE: Not including myself?
DAVE: That makes it a lot easier. I always remember, I think it was Survivor Series 1992, with Razor Ramon and Ric Flair versus Macho Man Randy Savage and Mr Perfect. They would build up to the show for weeks and weeks, talking about the fact Perfect was in Flair’s corner before and whether he would even show up. And then that moment when Mr Perfect finally shows up really sticks out. It just really reminds me of my childhood.
More recently, the invasion angle sticks out, particularly the shenanigans between Angle and Austin, and who loved Mr McMahon the most. That was really entertaining and showed another side to Steve Austin.
HARI: And your favourite storyline in British wrestling?
DAVE: In, IPW, around 2006/7, the run up to JC Thunder winning the title, I remember the atmosphere was just incredible in that building.
Also, there was a great build between Spud and ‘Charming’ Don Charles, who managed a lot of the heels It was a real underdog build up, similar to Austin vs. McMahon but more so with Spud because Austin was an arse kicker.
HARI: You talk highly of the TV training you were given in OVW and you’ve mentioned that you don’t see British wrestling going to television any time soon. But promotions recently have really stepped up their production value, with PCW, ICW, Progress and Triple X to name. What about going to television, or using YouTube, or having an On Demand service, or being picked up by someone like Netflix?
DAVE: For something to be worthy on television, I expect certain levels of production whilst YouTube has a bit of an amateur edge to it. On television, it looks like a big deal, it looks like a wrestling show.
As for being On Demand or on Netflix, it all centres around “how is it marketed?” People around the world want to watch products like ROH and EVOLVE, they have that audience. If they keep it going, it’s absolutely possible for British wrestling.
The iPPV audience already know about wrestling, they’ve already heard about it and go to it, they don’t go in expecting it to be RAW or Impact! They go in with open minds. The good quality wrestling is there and it depends on how it is packaged. The clincher though is whether it will make money for the promotion.
Would they forsake that for something On Demand where people have to tune in at 1am or a weird time to watch their show?
PCW have tremendous sales on DVDs. Who will be watching their On Demand shows? People in America or on the Continent. The turnaround time is so quick now for editing to DVD, that they would rather wait a week or however long it takes than tune in live at a weird time.
It can work, but what would it do for the company at the beginning? DVD sales are just too valuable. If it came to the point where it wasn’t, then I’m sure they would jump on it.
HARI: A lot of people talk about getting into wrestling, but once you’re there, how do you keep on the grind, how do you network and connect with people, or is it down to nepotism and luck?
DAVE: With wrestling, timing is pretty much everything. If you’re the best and most talented wrestler, but there’s someone’s doing the same thing as you, you might miss out and it means other people will miss out too. Always be prepared. If you’re a wrestler, be in the best physical state you can be in. And be in the best mental state you can be in. A lot of people are arseholes, you have to be mentally strong. And if you’re an arsehole, no one wants to be with you.
The best advice I was given was this: Never miss an opportunity to shut the fuck up.
Be prepared to listen. Even just listening in on a conversation. If you have a chance to learn, then don’t sit in the back seat of the fuckin’ car with your headphones in.
HARI: You sound like this is from personal experience?
DAVE: No it’s not happened to me, but to some of my friends when they’re driving.
There is something to be said about who your friends are. If you’re a likeable guy, people will want to be around you and use you because they want to spend time with you.
Be a genuine person. Be engaging, ask the right questions. If you do that, then they’ll spend time on you and go out or their way to help you. That’s for whether at a show, or out for a drink or a meal. I make time for people who are there because they want to be taught and to learn. They have a good attitude.
When you have the chance to share a locker room or a car – take it. People won’t mind, it’s pretty healthy in such a small locker room.
HARI: If you’re in there, the things that really get to me is that I try shake everyone’s hand and be respectful. But I don’t want to say anything stupid, so I’m very careful. I suppose it’s just a stupid feeling of anxiety of “what if I’m not on the card but backstage, sat there saying nothing, won’t they just think I’m weird or an idiot?” which sounds dumb when I say it out loud.
DAVE: If you’re in there people will try to engage you if you look open, not if you’re in the corner with your headphones on or looking at your phone the entire time.
In normal life, it can be a problem sometimes with different generations. But the age gap isn’t a barrier to the learning curve you have in this job. Having the right attitude counts for everything.
Help out with flyers and set up the ring. If you don’t want to help with the ring, then just ask yourself: has this guy done it who is on top and headlining the show? Probably has. Has this guy who is a veteran and coming down to the end of his career? He probably has.
And if you don’t want to put up the ring, but you just want to wrestle – well you’re not going to fucking wrestle without the ring set up are you.
Treat the job with respect. Because that’s what it is. A job. People rely on it for their livelihood, to put food on table, to put clothes on their children’s backs. The minute you don’t treat it with respect, you run the risk of putting another man’s job in jeopardy.
If you tear down another promotions poster, and no one turns up to the show, that’s 15 guys who you have just cost their earnings. Think about that every time you undercut someone to get on a show.
Earn your spot. Go back and earn it, so you’re worth the money that person was. Then you get better and will be at the same level. Then you become part of that upper echelon of wrestling.
If you try calling a venue to cancel someone’s show ir fabricate evidence that someone doesn’t have insurance, think about people’s jobs you have just cost. That’s your fellow professionals you’re doing that to. People in wrestling aren’t negative. They are first and foremost professional.
End of interview with Dave Mastiff.
Article originally published with Pyro & Ballyhoo HERE.
For more from Britain’s philosophising Bastard, follow him on Twitter @DaveMastiff
For more from Hari, follow me on Twitter @HotChocHari and visit http://www.hariramakrishnan.com