This week, Danny talked with Sports Illustrated’s WWE Insider Justin Barraso

DANNY PICARD: How did you get involved in covering professional wrestling? Because it’s pretty cool. I grew up a diehard WWF fan. I went to WrestleMania 14 at the Fleet Center. Now, I look at what you do, and I read your stuff on, and it’s awesome. How did you get involved in this?


JUSTIN BARRASSO: In general, sports stars or pro sports players don’t mind the wrestling interviews, because, you’re not hurting a guy. You know what I mean? You can’t say the wrong thing. We just did a piece with Adam Jones of the Orioles and he was great. He made a connection between A-Rod and how he used to be Hulk Hogan, and then he turned into Hollywood Hogan. I have to tell you a quick WrestleMania 14 story though. Watching that show, who would have known that backstage, the Undertaker was taping up his knuckles. He threatened Shawn Michaels because Michaels was refusing to lose to Stone Cold Steve Austin that night. Michaels was an addict at the time, and admittedly so now. And ‘Taker told him, “If you don’t lose this match, I am going to kick your ass.” So, the behind-the-scenes of pro wrestling is so fascinating. It’s so different than anything else in sports entertainment, where sometimes the most exciting things happen behind-the-scenes. So, when I started this in 2011-2012, I really wanted to get stuff you could sink your teeth into, because I really truly believe that people would read the behind-the-scenes wrestling stories.


DP: You have a story right now on where the headline reads, “How Paul Levesque used the lessons he learned as a wrestler to build WWE’s new brands.” Paul Levesque is Triple-H. And you talked with Triple-H one-on-one. It’s a great piece. And you talk about how he uses a moment with “The Kliq” in 1996 at Madison Square Garden. We’ve all seen the video of Shawn Michaels, Triple-H (Hunter Hearst Helmsley), Diesel (Kevin Nash), and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) hugging in the ring and doing their “Too Sweet” sign. That was Hall and Nash’s last night in the WWE.


JB: So they go out, the match is over, they all go in the ring together, and they start hugging it out. What Triple-H said was, he heard the crowd light up. And it’s a Madison Square Garden house show in ’96. But he said that that crowd was the biggest pop of the night at the end of the show, after the match has ended. The crowd loved the fact that they could see this real moment. Nobody else liked it behind-the-scenes. But you can’t punish Shawn Michaels because he’s your World Champ. Diesel and Razor Ramon are off to WCW to revolutionize the business. So what do you do? They took it all out on Paul Levesque. Vince McMahon said to him, “You’re gonna learn to eat [expletive] and like the taste of it.” And Paul said, “That’s fine, I’ll do whatever you want. But I just need to know at the end of this, it’s over. Because if it’s not over, then I’m never going to be any good to you, I’m never going to be able to be myself here.” So Vince pulled “King of the Ring” from him. That then goes to Steve Austin, who beats Jake Roberts in the finals.


DP: And that’s Austin’s moment.


JB: That’s the, “You want to talk about John 3:16. Let’s talk about Austin 3:16 just kicked your ass.” That’s supposed to be Hunter Hearst Helmsley beating Jake Roberts. It’s strange to think, what if “The Kliq” didn’t have the “curtain call”? Well then Austin doesn’t have his moment. Do they ever give Austin a microphone? So the “curtain call” is definitely fascinating because it definitely changes the business. And it really is where we are now.


DP: Do you think CM Punk will ever return to the WWE?


JB: CM Punk will return to wrestling, except he’ll do it in Japan. He’ll wrestle for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) at Wrestle Kingdom, which is their WrestleMania. Every year it’s on Jan. 4. I think he’s stubborn, which makes him great. Punk will be back, but I don’t believe he will ever wrestle again in the WWE. Punk, I think, will be the one guy who never comes back. I think he gets one more UFC fight. And then when he wants to make money again, he’ll just go to Japan.


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