Brian Shields is the one guy who knows as much about WrestleMania as Vince McMahon. He’s also this week’s guest on Turnbuckle Weekly with Chuck Carroll.
You know the Super Bowl of professional wrestling? Yeah. So does New York Times best-selling author Brian Shields. And probably… nay, almost certainly better than you.
After Shields pitched a few ideas for books to WWE, the company countered with an idea of its own: 30 Years of WrestleMania.
To compile the year-by-year encyclopedia of the annual spectacle, the largest pro wrestling company in the world granted Shields unprecedented access to the biggest names in sports entertainment to find out how it all really happened.
He says he interviewed over 75 people for the book, ranging from Superstars to Hall of Fame members to front office staff and everyone in between. “Mr. WrestleMania” Shawn Michaels even wrote the forward.
Among the first to be interviewed was former WWE President and CEO Linda McMahon who clued in Shields on exactly how big of a financial gamble WrestleMania was during their two-hour conversation.
“You got the real sense of how much of a risk this was to get off the ground,” Shields said.
He said the interviews also afforded him the opportunity to learn about the real-life tensions that have existed backstage for 30 years.
Shields cited a beef between Roddy Piper and Mr. T during WrestleMania I and II as a prime example. So too was the “up and down” relationship between Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
He also said The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had a high professional respect for one another, but didn’t get along personally much of the time.
Most recently, it was a real life feud between The Rock and John Cena that captured mainstream media attention.
I caught up with Shields just after the release of the book. And naturally, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask his opinion on the three greatest WrestleManias of all time.
Without much hesitation, he said WrestleMania III and XVII needed to be on the list. After much thought, he concluded WrestleMania XXV should also be included because of the barnburner between the aforementioned Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. The rematch would send the latter into retirement a year later.
The full interview can be heard at the top of the page with a ton of backstage notes and never-before-told stories from WrestleMania.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @TheChuckCarroll.