by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Wild Bill Brown first began watching wrestling as a child in the early 1980s. His fandom led to him becoming a wrestling photographer capturing the images of wrestling veterans such as Jimmy Snuka, Honky Tonk Man and Kevin Sullivan. Brown’s experience as a photographer opened the door for him to become further involved in wrestling. Brown has shot shows for a slew of independent promotions, hosted a public access show named New Pro Wrestling Alliance (NPWA Wrestling) and just recently started working as a manager for wrestler Rex Lethal at Wrestle Jam to name a few accomplishments. Some of the footage Brown has shot over the years can be found on the Wrestling Classic Clips YouTube channel and Brown can be found on Facebook here. This interview was completed on December 17, 2013. In this interview Brown and I discuss how working as a wrestling photographer worked as a gateway to get further involved in wrestling.
Daniel Johnson: To start off what is your earliest memory of being exposed to wrestling?
Wild Bill Brown: I was probably 7 years old, used to go to church with my older cousin and right after the Sunday Mass he was obsessed with watching WWF programs as they aired on Sunday mornings back then for the most part. I was hooked the first time I saw it. Don’t know why but I believed it to be real for years and it seemed so out of the ordinary every week to watch. Parents hated it but my cousin still made us watch which built me up as a fan the more I saw. This was about 1981.
Daniel Johnson: Were you mostly just a WWF fan early on or did you get exposed to other companies as well? If you were just a WWF fan then when did you find out about other companies? If you were into other companies early on then what were they?
Wild Bill Brown: All we got here was WWF. My cousin lived a town over and got TBS though but I never went over there on Saturdays to catch Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW). That’s all he talked about but I never knew until I went there once on a Saturday and saw people like Tommy Rich and Ric Flair saying they were champions and I couldn’t understand it. It was too much for me to get as a child so I never wanted to go there and see that show until I started going to the magazine stands and seeing pictures and reading stories of all these other groups. As I got a little older, some names became more recognizable from being in the WWF in the past like Don Muraco and Greg Valentine so I started getting the mags and finding out more, educating myself to what was going on. I still never got the TV shows, never saw anything but WWF until about 1984 when Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) became available on Sportschannel for me in weird time slots. They were fun to watch but I didn’t get into it, WWF was as simple as it got to follow storylines and I enjoyed that.
Daniel Johnson: Jumping ahead a bit do you remember the first wrestler you ever met and if so how did the experience come about?
Wild Bill Brown: As a kid in my hometown at a college there was a show called TWWF and I saw the flier with The Wild Samoans on it. The group spelled out was Trans World Wresting Federation and Afa was running the group but the main event was familiar faces of Ken Patera versus Ivan Putski. I walked to the show, it was close and got front row seats. Never in my life have I sat so close and seen these guys, I was used to the big arena and the nosebleeds holding my binoculars for real or on the floor as a short little kid rows back not seeing anything because I was too short so this was a dream come true like I hit the jackpot. But after the show I was determined to keep an eye out and get an autograph or something once anyone came out of the curtain. As one by one all these nobodies would walk out to their cars and I would chase them down with pen and paper. Last but not least was Ivan Putski and he kind of was in a jam because his wife was supposed to pick him up but she wasn’t there yet. I hounded him and asked him dumb questions for what seemed like forever and he was getting so irritated. I wouldn’t leave him alone. His wife finally showed up and he roid raged to her car slamming doors taking the wheel calling her any obscenity I’ve ever heard for being late and stormed off to the Boston Garden for his evening shot. It was probably me driving him nuts that led to him going bonkers but the fact that the good guy went absolutely wild after talking to me calling his wife a dumb effing bitch and everything else led me to believe that these wrestlers were a little crazy you know. But I now wanted to meet more to find out their personalities and was fascinated once again.
Daniel Johnson: You first got into working with wrestlers at least in part as a photographer. How did you first get into photography?
Wild Bill Brown: A local car dealership was friends with Tony Rumble and they made up a group called Century Wrestling Association (CWA). I had a friend that palled with the owner and did public access TV and shot their shows. I was right there to volunteer any service I could and had my camera so offered to shoot photos ringside for the dealer. He ran lots of shows, some in buildings too and got very familiar with picking the guys up and taking them around and being backstage taking photos in the dressing rooms and what not. Being 16 years old with no restrictions was unbelievable to say the least. This group started out names like Chris Candido, Tommy Dreamer and Tazmaniac but we always had some headliners like Honky Tonk Man, Jimmy Snuka, Paul Orndorff, Rick Rude, Kevin Sullivan and others so walking up to these name talents asking them to pose was the coolest and even more cooler was getting right up on the ring apron and shooting the action which the owner of the dealership liked a lot. It gave me starting credentials to shoot in other groups and I’d always then say I was a reporter for the Internet which got me into almost anything although I was becoming a familiar face after a short bit with the wrestlers. Every group always needed an extra hand with setting up and breaking down the ring so I would volunteer that just to hang around the wrestlers more.
Daniel Johnson: I was curious in your time as a photographer what are some photographs you took that stood out for you in particular?
Wild Bill Brown: Kevin Sullivan was a menacing character, always eerie to me being young so when I asked him to pose for me and he had that black X makeup over his nose and looked up in the ceiling with his eyes rolled back I kind of got creeped out. He kept kayfabe in back a little bit around me too, nobody else even tried, but this shook me a bit. Plus being at ringside during an Abdullah The Butcher match with blood all over the floor and me trying to get good shots in as he’d brawl across the building yet stay away when he started charging at you can freak out a kid who wasn’t let in on kayfabe with him. Some guys were just awe inspiring to me. My best photos though were years later when Bill Apter would use my photos for his magazines for WWF pay-per-view coverage when they were local to me and he couldn’t get access. I’d buy the best seats I could because he was grateful to reimburse me, pay any price to sit in the front rows and try my best to shoot for him and make his publications.
Daniel Johnson: This is kind of a broad question, but what do you think makes a good wrestling photographer?
Wild Bill Brown: What makes a good photographer is one that knows how to stay out of everyone’s way yet get in comfortably with the right tightest clearest shots when you can. Most take a ringpost, low under the bottom rope not to piss off any fans behind you the entire show, and watch out for others whether its other photographers, camera men or when the action hits the floor. There are so many ways to get hurt if you don’t have an awareness at all times as to what’s going on. There may be a run in during the match and if you are in the aisle with your back turned and not paying attention to things you could get pretty banged up accidentally.
Daniel Johnson: For other individuals looking to get their start in the wrestling industry through photography what advice would you give them?
Wild Bill Brown: Be prepared to do ring crew, be a handy helper to the promoter, make friends and have proper etiquette to everyone, push and promote the local show you are working for, do only as you are told and be patient because most groups have their photographers and enough helping hands to do things but when that opportunity happens is when you get to shine. Take advantage of it and good work and you being likeable and dependable will hopefully pay off.
Daniel Johnson: How long did you work as a photographer altogether and how did you transition into your next role in the industry?
Wild Bill Brown: Once I started getting video equipment I enjoyed that much more. I just thought the photo work wasn’t what I enjoyed anymore and I loved to shoot the action, keep it, edit it and produce a show for people to watch. Photography wasn’t paying much unless it was a big show for the mags, videos was my enjoyment and payed more and you could get people to buy them which I never got sales to others for any of my photos at that point other than the check for shooting from the magazines.
Daniel Johnson: How was the world of video different and what was the most memorable shoot you did?
Wild Bill Brown: Friends would get married I’d do their videos, I’d do birthday parties, concerts, comedy shows whatever I could. Once I got down to my public access cable studios and learned how to handle all their equipment and became a producer of my own local wrestling program, I started going everywhere to tape wrestling shows. I’d talk to the promoters or wrestlers prior to get an in and tell them I was shooting for my TV show which I was. Indie promoters love the exposure and television so I’d promote their shows (which you are not supposed to do on public access) and in turn tape, edit and bring them the finished video and we both had access to sell them any way we wished on either end. No shows were really more memorable than the other, what really made me feel good was when I decided to do a few shoot interviews and made them available to the world. It was easy yet a financial risk, just tape a deep conversation and ask anything I could to challenge for answers but to go two or three hours with a wrestler answering any question you ever wanted to know was great and then putting it on the market with people buying it and giving you compliments on your work made me feel like I was finally achieving. Kid Kash in 2004 who was in TNA at the time but ripped on the company and got really into it was probably my favorite produced work.
Daniel Johnson: Shifting gears, I was curious how did you meet Jason Knight and what were the three wrestling schools he opened that you were involved with?
Wild Bill Brown: Jason dated a friend of mine, he was friends too with Justin Credible who dated a friend of mine as well and I had known first. Peter Polaco lived near me and would come over my house with my friend, his girlfriend and watch the pay-per-views for WCW since he was only working for WWF. Jason lived near me too and we all became friends together doing the same things all the time and traveling to the shows. ECW was alive and well and those connections were awesome in that group, it was a family I could never describe to anyone. But when ECW and Jason parted ways in 2000, he immediately took his money and was determined to start his Jason Knight House of Pain Pro Wrestling Dojo for people to learn. He ran one building that was small but realized he needed a bigger place. The bigger place was better but a little further from the first and he couldn’t really get his gym equipment in there. So he closed up and opened a third back in Waterbury, Connecticut where the first one originated at and after a while that ran it’s course and another promoter started running the school and Jason sat out. There were high moments with students, lots of monthly shows for them to work on but there were also other schools now opening up to compete with Jason taking the new students away. But I had my TV show so I would tape training sessions, help out with their videos, try to find new buildings to run shows at, become accessible to everything, give ideas and input to whatever they asked and always run in the ring to ref the guys which then led to me becoming a referee for many smaller groups throughout the northeast.
Daniel Johnson: What are your memories of the wrestling schools? Did you meet any future big name stars in training and if so do you have any stories you can share about these experiences?
Wild Bill Brown: They always were a chill spot for me as I’d never train. I had no ambition to ever wrestler due to my full-time job so I never dreaded going there.I went there to keep company and help out while Jason and his trainers would just drill away and toughen the classes. They had to deal with the pain, I didn’t worry about that. I’d see a lot of new faces come in the door, some would never be seen again, others continued to come and got better each time. One day I got there this skinny blonde girl was there running the treadmill the whole class and Jason wouldn’t let he off. She was new and by the end of the class she was sick and puking. For months Jason trained her and she had a great working partner to pair with. Them two now are both Velvet Sky and Mercedes Martinez. Being at the school I always had my video camera handy. You never knew if Bob Backlund would pop in and run the guys ragged, Stevie Richards, Justin Credible, Kid Kash, Fred Curry Sr., Slyk Wagner Brown and April Hunter were local too so the students had some great trainers. We taped tryout videos for some names that we had faith in the classes and sent them to Stamford but we never heard anything. The business was and still is tough to break into.
Daniel Johnson: Speaking of future stars, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe arguably the most notable promotion you have worked with was ECW. You talked about this a little earlier, but I was wondering specifically how you first got involved with ECW?
Wild Bill Brown: I never actually worked with ECW in any capacity, I just became a friend of so many from ECW. ECW was like a vacation from life. Life prior to that was crappy WWF and WCW as in the mid 1990’s the product made me turn my back to it at times. But ECW was gritty and I became close with the guys in the same manner I did years ago when I broke into the business through the indies by just always being around and helping out. But I never worked for anyone in ECW believe it or not at any time.
Daniel Johnson: Getting back to your more general work in wrestling you have also worked as a ring announcer, commentator and manager. Could you give an overview of each of these three roles and which of these did you enjoy doing the most?
Wild Bill Brown: A ring announcer is fun, probably my favorite of the three. I transitioned from announcing where I pretty much trained myself through my public access TV show and onto the indies that needed me and did some work there. I didn’t enjoy it because with the indies if you don’t know the backgrounds, storylines or facts of the person you kind of feel uncomfortable in the role since you are the voice of the action. I always wanted to be excellent in that role, knowing moves and being funny isn’t enough for me if you don’t have all the knowledge and backgrounds of the wrestlers. So once I got to become a ring announcer, it was worlds better because I talked to everyone before their matches and just needed info for their introductions, that’s it. Easy work and not talking for three hours straight. Plus I like the crowd interaction and getting involved with things with the audience. You are the host, you explain everything and it’s so simple. Managing was something I got into this past year. My friend is a wrestler and told me to manage him a couple of times. Working a crowd is almost natural to me so I gave it a shot and loved it. Where it goes from here who knows but it was one of those things on my wrestling bucket list
Daniel Johnson: Awesome, what promotions have you worked for as a manager and would it be okay to say the friend you managed?
Wild Bill Brown: There is one promotion thus far where I can really say I was an official manager for a wrestler. The wrestler goes by the name of Rex Lethal and his story is that he was a wrestler that was making a comeback from ten years ago which he is and we have revenge planned against his most heated enemy who put him into retirement originally named Ron Zombie. The group I work for is Wrestle Jam and is run by promoter Michael Banks based in Connecticut.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, I have heard of Wrestle Jam before. Anyway, backing up a little bit you earlier mentioned that you even hosted your own public access TV show on wrestling. What are your memories of this show?
Wild Bill Brown: I had a time slot on Wednesday’s at 7:30 for almost 15 years immediately after high school. It was wrestling based but started off believe it or not as a backyard wrestling group that I created. I ran storylines, produced, did everything I could to make it appear as a legit wrestling show but it was all backyard action with us. I made nearly 300 episodes believe it or not in a half hour format putting way too much energy into it. That lasted a few years but then we grew out of it and I decided to promote the local shows and air their matches. It gave me good connections and lots of great feedback. All the local groups would be offered by me to shoot and air their stuff and I’d play various matches new every week. It was fun and I just wanted to share good wrestling with those who did or didn’t respect it to maybe gain a few newer fans who could appreciate and respect the work of these athletes that I was closely bonded to in the local limelight. There was never a reward and after a while with the indie scene in Connecticut slowing down I decided to not do the show anymore as I had my own editing studio by this point and could easily upload anything I wanted to on YouTube or something whenever I so desired.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, is there any one particular episode you did that stands out to you and is there anywhere some footage from these shows can be seen?
Wild Bill Brown: I always enjoyed our shows that featured Jason Knight’s Assault Championship Wrestling (ACW) group because I was involved with the wrestlers in many aspects. We’d have fun commentating on Sandman drinking six beers before his match or New Jack destroying the life out of somebody before our local rabid fans and because of my involvement and friendship with the group it always felt good to display everyone in the group out to the TV audience. One of the funniest shows we had though was when Bob Backlund was running for Congress and I was invited to videotape his media press rally ceremony. A few people also opened up a Lion’s Den Gym here and I was invited to tape their Lion’s Den tryouts to form Team Shamrock Connecticut and Ken Shamrock was there with us working through the people all day and we got to tape the whole event and air it which was cool. I still have the master footage, as for seeing it, well, it depends on my mood when I decide to release it. I work with a YouTube channel called Wrestling Classic Clips and I give them some footage from our shows once in a while.
Daniel Johnson: Is hosting a public access TV show on wrestling still something people interested in the industry still do or is it just not an option anymore? If it is still doable how would you say some interested individual could get the ball rolling on something like that?
Wild Bill Brown: There are a few shows out there but the rules of public access make it impossible to bother gaining anything from it. If you truly love presenting wrestling and have access to original footage or doing things on your own to show then yes public access is a cool tool to use to get your product out there. I just feel why work with restraints, public access is local and on cable which most people have different options of and may not even have access to get, the Internet can reach a worldwide audience.
Daniel Johnson: To wind down I had some shorter questions, but first had a couple more general ones. First, people always like to hear ribs and road stories. In your time being around the wrestling industry do you have any that you would be able to share?
Wild Bill Brown: Biggest booger pizza ever. Sandman was backstage at a show with us for Assault Championship Wrestling not wrestling but just hanging out in back drinking beer and picking his nose. He pulled out to this day the biggest, longest, nastiest hard booger that I have ever seen and he walked around with that sucker stuck on his finger pointing out. There was a little empty toothpick container or something and he managed to slide that thing off his finger and it angled up on its side from bottom to top and stood a good three inches long. Just huge and here they are showing it off in its container preserving it. It looked like a giant cinnamon stick just booger colored in a spice container or something. Anyways, Simply Luscious was so impressed with it and walked around showing us for like a half hour until her match was up. Sandman had enough of looking at it I guess and decided to put it somewhere. Sure enough pizzas are brought in back with us and you can guess where it was put onto. I can neither confirm or deny that Simply Luscious enjoyed her pizza after her match but I don’t remember anyone else touching it, lol.
Daniel Johnson: Haha, gross and cool. I was also curious outside of your previously mentioned experience as a manager what is your connection to the wrestling industry these days?
Wild Bill Brown: I guess it’s more of a you call me with what you want and I can help out if I choose. I’ve traveled a lot, did many tasks and have had the fondest memories that normal lives haven’t seen much of. These days after nearly 25 years of being there if needed I kind of have to pick and choose what is worth it to me. The rose has definitely bloomed in my eyes but its always fun with the right people, right circumstances and schedule working out to get involved in any of the things I have done before. I’ve been through a few generation changes now since being involved and the ones that started with me are few and far away at this point. I’m definitely not consumed with professional wrestling’s passion like I used to be but I love seeing the guys and girls that started with us make it in the business. I’m 40 years old now and its time for others, and there are many, to get just as involved to make it in their craft. Never have high expectations and when something good happens stay on with it or else you will be forgotten about. Managing is still fun, bumping is cool if I don’t get killed, but in the end I have to support myself financially and that is the priority at this point in my life. I watch, I read, I stay educated and can call my old friends in the business at any time so I’m good with that part of my life and sliding away a little more from the wrestling business.
Daniel Johnson: I also like to ask everyone five short non-wrestling related questions to make interviews a little more fun for readers. First, outside of wrestling, what television shows do you enjoy watching these days?
Wild Bill Brown: Bar Rescue. John Taffer on fire is classic to me, South Park is still producing good first run episodes after all these years and I laugh my ass off every time I see it. I’m also a Conan O’Brien fan, TBS gets turned on a lot in the evening to check out what he’s got to say on late night.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Wild Bill Brown: Fast and Furious 6 may be the best although I went out to see Bad Grandpa for some reason and liked it.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Wild Bill Brown: I had some scallops that I love but this time it was with polenta which I though was some type of cheese block or something next to it. Stuff was great.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
Wild Bill Brown: Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” strangely enough really seems to have stuck in my head a lot this summer so I guess overall he may get this.
Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Wild Bill Brown: It was a weird one on wrestling that I have had for a few years now by James Guttman titled World Wrestling Insanity that I finally polished off quickly. It’s pretty decent as far as story telling I guess.
Daniel Johnson: I wanted to end with four more short questions. First, what has been the weirdest part of being involved in the wrestling industry for you?
Wild Bill Brown: The personalities of these wrestlers. Some guys are your friends but sometimes you just never know if they are going to change on you. There is a short fuse and if things don’t go right or something bad happens or even if substances possibly get abused and you are around you never ever know how escalated a situation could become.
Daniel Johnson: Who is one wrestler today who is 25 or younger that you think readers should know about?
Wild Bill Brown: There are so many its tough to pick just one. When I was working for Connecticut Championship Wrestling (CCW) there were a few that really put their heart out in every match and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make it. Names are AJ Cruise, Dan De Man and Lucas Sharpe. For women, she is now in WWE developmental, Mercedes KV now known as Sasha Banks.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to promote?
Wild Bill Brown: I guess since we are talking about my past experiences in wrestling and some of the stories involved in it, a place where I send my footage would be on YouTube through a channel called Wrestling Classic Clips. I also can be found on Facebook as Wild Bill Brown and have lots of photos and you can see what’s next for us. And if you are looking for the best up to date wrestling news the best place to go with the most accurate facts would be my good friends at pwinsider.com. Those guys have put in years and years of hard work so I always try to show them support.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Wild Bill Brown: I just want to tell anyone out there that has a dream to get involved in professional wrestling to by all means follow it. You can achieve anything but be prepared to put the hardest work imaginable into it. Nothing in my life would have happened that I shared with you if I didn’t get involved so remember you only have one time in one life to accomplish your goals and the better you are are getting there the better they will result when you are there chasing your dreams. All things are attainable, never give up.
Check out some footage from the Wrestling Classic Clips YouTube channel! In a super rare find the McMahon family can be seen getting inducted into the Cauliflower Alley Club by Lou Thez in this video shot by Wild Bill Brown here. The channel also features matches including Fergal Devitt (Prince Devitt) wrestling Eddie Edwards for Defiant Pro Wrestling (DPW):