Brian Gewirtz on His New Book, Vince McMahon's Retirement and WWE Raw's Guest Host Era

Former WWE Head Writer Brian Gewirtz's new book, There's Just One Problem..., officially hits shelves today. The book recounts Gewirtz's entire time with WWE, including his involvement in some of the biggest WWE storylines of the 2000s & early 2010s, his unfortunate trip to Wrestler's Court and the countless hours he spent traveling on the road with Vince McMahon and numerous pro wrestling stars. Gewirtz sat down with ComicBook to discuss the book as well as Seven Bucks Production's new series recently announced by Vice, Tales From The Territories

Gewirtz started off by discussing the praise the book has already generated from his former coworkers — "It's been humbling because it's been really, really good and beyond even my modest expectations because you never know, it's like a promo. You never know whether or not, how it's going to be received. There have been promos that I've contributed to that I thought, this is going to get, people are going to absolutely love this and people were left kind of slackjawed and not for the right reasons. And then ones that got tremendous responses that you didn't necessarily know if they would or not. But for this, at the very least I knew that I had put everything into this. There was no awesome story that was going to be left unchecked. And so, man, I think this is pretty good. I think I have a lot of high hopes for it. But to get that validation, especially from people within the business and everything is really, really cool. So, I'm especially thrilled about that."

Check out the highlights from the interview with Gewirtz below!

What do you hope is the big takeaway from the book once wrestling fans get to read it?

I think it's just to be able to take a peak behind the curtain, it's not something that would've been possible when I first started at WWE in 1999. Certainly not to this extent, from this perspective, because you had Mick Foley's Have A Nice Day book. Both Mick Foley's books and Chris Jericho's books, I took a lot of guidance and lessons from those books because they were entertaining, they were raw and real without being just dirty laundry and that kind of thing. They talked about the highs and the lows and everything in between. Both Mick and Chris are incredibly self-deprecating and they're not afraid to make themselves look bad if that's the way the story unfolded. So I really wanted to take that mindset in going into it.

So, with anything, there's been so much, there was just a WWE Rivals episode on A&E about the Attitude Era just last week. And I was fortunate enough to kind of come in at the tail end of that in November of '99. But there really, outside of the WWE Ruthless Aggression series and all that, there really hasn't been all that much from a look back and take a peek inside perspective from the years 2002 to 2012. I had that perspective, being in the trenches and was able to provide that. There's never really been an in-depth essay about the Guest Host Era, and maybe for good reason. But the stories, whatever you say about the shows, the stories themselves are pretty incredible.

Regarding the Guest Host Era, you mentioned in the book that Raw started becoming like Saturday Night Live. When did that realization hit the writers' room and how did you guys eventually get out of it?

Raw was a very, very poor, nearly destitute man's version of Saturday Night Live. But it's one of those things where — and I've been reflecting on this a lot lately‚ if you took the greatest two weeks of the Guest Host Era and put it in a time capsule and aired it to people 100, 200 years in the future, they would go, "My goodness, how delightful is this?" Bob Barker and Shaquille O'Neal and Mike Tyson and Ozzy Osborne and even Peewee Herman.There were a lot of great individual moments. But the problem was it lasted a year and there was, it really, really wore out its welcome after a certain point.

I always cite... And that's when it finally came to Vince as well, when David Hasselhoff is making the main event of SummerSlam and having to memorize just a ridiculous amount of exposition in terms of matches and he has no idea who the people are. That's where there's a major disconnect with the audience where they're going like, "Okay, I don't know much, but I do know Cedric The Entertainer should not be deciding the fate of the Intercontinental Championship, I know that." And a lot of people do know that much. So, there was that fine line of being, it started as a way to take ourselves off of the standard heel authority figure.

And that was innocent enough to mix WWE legends with an occasional celebrity. And then it became all celebrity and then the celebrities were... It was such a challenge because you had to write the show at hand, then you also, I had to have separate phone calls with publicists and sometimes the celebrities themselves. And sometimes they were very much into it and that was fun, you just had to get it approved. Sometimes you would hear from their publicists that they want one thing and you pitch your heart out to make sure it's into the show and, "I got it in the show." And then you find out, "Oh yeah, the celebrity does not want to do that, I know them." "But that was what you guys said!"

So, it was a lot of stress and for what really, because it was a nice, fun little diversion, but it went on for way too long. But the good shows and the moments I write about with Bob Barker and becoming friends with Ken Jong after his experience and everything else, that to me, I don't know if I would say it makes the full year-plus of the Guest Host Era worth it, but it certainly was a nice silver lining at the end of it.

Where were you when Vince McMahon made his retirement announcement?

I was, like everyone else just minding my own business at home, scrolling through Twitter when I saw that announcement. And obviously, it was surprising. It's one of those things that you never believe until it happened and saw it. But it's also one of those things where, like anything that happens in WWE, because we've had plenty of things, not of course at that level and of what could be, but of like, "Okay, what are we going to do now?" And what's exciting is seeing the company now, how they proceed in the light of that news.

Because I was surprised, shocked, whatever you want to say. But I was also kind of curious as far as what was going to happen now, is everyone going to go into default Vince mode and think like, "Okay, this is how he would want it, let's do it." Would they be like, "Okay, this is an incredible opportunity to step up to the plate and show what we can do and we can't look back, we have to look forward." And it seems like that's been the case. It seems just like when a top talent goes down, whether it was Steve Austin in' 99, having to get surgery or The Rock leaving for Hollywood full-time in 2003.

Obviously, these situations are not on par and comparable to the real-life situations going on with Vince. But from a, "We have to write the show right now." perspective, there is a parallel in terms of, "Okay, the past is now in the past and what do we do now?" ...There's a certain walking on eggshells aspect, sometimes, depending on how the day is going, not always, but occasionally. Where hopefully going forward, it's just not seen as a, "Woe is me and that's never been the company mindset anyway." It's a, "All right. Now is my time to step up to the plate and shine." And I think based on the past few Raws and SmackDown and everything, definitely looks like it's going in that direction with an exciting twist. So, I'm kind of excited to see what happens next.

You have a history with Triple H that actually goes back to before your WWE days. Do you think he has a different approach when it comes to booking compared to Vince?

Well, the funny thing is, is that if you told the fans or even those in the locker room in 2002 and said that Triple H is going to be in charge of all creative right now, I think would be, it would be like those old monster movies, the blob with everyone screaming and running. But there's a major key difference. And it's not so much in Triple H's mindset in terms of how he approaches the business. But everything changes when you're no longer a talent on TV. And no matter how neutral and Triple H did a lot, he worked his off to get a lot of people over during that time. But he was also, every creative idea, was always (seen) through the prism of... "How does that affect me as a talent and my angles?" When you take yourself out of that position and are no longer a character on TV, that doesn't come into play.

0comments

And Triple H is an old-school guy, trained by Killer Kowalski. He loved watching the NWA and Flair in the '80s, but he also obviously got a taste of the entertainment aspect of it. Some of the stuff he did in DX, both vintage DX and 2006 DX 2.0, was extremely airing on the entertainment side, as opposed to the old-school wrestling side. And I think over the years, I can't speak for him obviously, this is just my perception, he appreciates the balance between being able to have matches, but not solely the matches because that's going to get old after a while. And if you have... Vince's mindset was always like, "You're going to have two guys have an incredible, 'Four-star match or five-star match.' But if you don't care about them and you don't know anything about them, then there's something that's going to be lacking in it. It could just go at such a level, you really need to know about them."

And I think you're seeing that now with packages on some of the former stars from NXT who are now on the main roster, like Ciampa, who is an incredible, incredible performer, but if he's just plopped in there without (build-up), you can't assume anybody watches NXT. I don't watch NXT, admittedly, I've got so many hours in the day. So, to be able to actually cultivate these characters and develop them, which seems like it's something that Triple H, just based on these few shows, sees a lot of value in and sees is very important while also maintaining that, knowing that you have to have storylines, knowing that you have to get the audience invested in these people, good or bad, heel or babyface. I think him sitting under the learning tree for as many years as he did, being a very sharp and intelligent guy to begin with, and just ultimately at the end of the day, being a huge fan of the business, that's something. Whereas 2002 versus 2022, night and day, as far as the approach and the reaction, I think.