by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: Aaron Miracle is the creator of the hilarious machinima, Somebody ran over Zandig’s car. The series was created using WWE ’13 and features protagonist, John Zandig, the famed Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) founder raising hell as he finds who is responsible. As for anyone who stands in his way? Jesus! They’re going to die! Miracle has followed CZW since it was owned by Zandig and has continued to follow the promotion since it has expanded and been purchased by DJ Hyde. Aside from CZW, Miracle enjoys other independent promotions including CHIKARA and his current favorite independent promotion, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG). Aside from wrestling Miracle enjoys playing music and has a few guitar videos up on his Strange Behavior YouTube channel, which also houses all of the Somebody ran over Zandig”s car videos. Aside from that he can also be found on Zandigfans.net where he is a regular user. This interview was completed on January 2, 2014. In this interview Miracle and I focus on his developing of the Somebody ran over Zandig’s car series.
Daniel Johnson: How did you first come up with the idea for Somebody ran over Zandig’s car?
Aaron Miracle: I was experimenting with a device that allows me to capture video from anything with A/V jacks, hooked up the Xbox and snagged a few clips from the WWE ’13 story creator. I post on the forum over at Zandigfans.net and thought it would be funny to throw together some clips using CZW and other independent talent since I already had the create-a-wrestlers. Of course I’m a huge fan of the classic Zandig is Crazy promo, so I used the audio from that for most of the first episode. As to why I chose to have someone run over the man’s car, I just thought the animation was hilarious, and a good opportunity to do something absurd and hopefully get a few laughs. Originally, I had no intention of making it an episodic tale, but the first video was so well received that I decided to follow through and build a story around the happenings in the first video.
Daniel Johnson: For those who haven’t had the chance to check out Somebody ran over Zandig’s car yet how would you sum up the series and what is one thing you could tell readers to get them to watch it?
Aaron Miracle: I would sum up the series as a whole by saying that it is an exercise in absurdity, starring all of your favorite indie wrestlers. If you enjoy wacky storytelling and John Zandig, then I’d imagine it’s the perfect series for you.
Daniel Johnson: Prior to creating your own work were you into any other machinima (using video games to create cinematic productions) and if so what were they?
Aaron Miracle: Honestly I can’t say that I’ve ever really checked out a lot of other machinima. I wasn’t really inspired by any particular videos online, to be honest. Before I started on the first episode, I was watching some videos online of people posting their created stories from WWE ’13. I remember watching some of those and thinking, “These are funny, but what if you could actually edit the scenes and manipulate them into doing exactly what you wanted?” That’s when I started trying to figure out a way to make that possible. I also had the conscious thought while watching the created stories, how much funnier they’d be with actually voice over audio, rather than just text.
Daniel Johnson: Likewise, another big part of the series is of course all the CZW references and CZW wrestlers featured. How did you first get into CZW and what are some of your favorite memories of the promotion?
Aaron Miracle: Originally, I discovered CZW back in 2000, I believe WOW Magazine did a big spread on them, covering one of the first Cage Of Death events. It was crazy, big glossy photos of complete deathmatch insanity. I was very curious about deathmatches by this point in my young life, but ECW was by far the most extreme form of wrestling I’d ever seen up until that point, and it fascinated me. I began searching online for CZW, and found their CZWFans message forum, and CZWrestling.de a German(?) website that featured tons of clips from various CZW shows. That’s what really got me hooked, seeing all of the bumps and bloodshed. I started posting on the message board and still post there to this day. Though it’s no longer CZWFans.com, it has gone through a few phases and is currently Zandigfans.net. Having never seen a CZW show live, most of my favorite memories come from watching the shows on VHS back in the day, or DVD and iPPV currently. I’ll never forget the first three Tournament of Deaths, and Nick Mondo taking the weed whacker in the first one, and him and Zandig going off the roof at Tournament of Death 2. Horrifying images that are forever etched in my psyche, haha.
Daniel Johnson: Do you still watch CZW regularly? If so what are your thoughts on the promotion currently?
Aaron Miracle: I do. I’m a huge wrestling fan, so I keep up with a lot of what’s going on in the wide, wide world of sports entertainment. I feel like the current incarnation of CZW is entertaining with a fantastic roster. A lot of the booking is questionable, with some head-scratching decisions made sometimes. I think that DEEJ does a pretty good job of running an interesting variety show, however. In my opinion, the current roster is the best one they’ve had in several years, and I think 2014 could be a big year for them. I though last month’s Cage Of Death was a really solid show, worth checking out for sure.
Daniel Johnson: Outside of your videos I was curious if you ever worked in the wrestling industry in some capacity or if you ever thought about working in the industry?
Aaron Miracle: I actually never have, but it is most certainly a dream of mine. I would love to be involved in the business in some way, but I’ve never actually went after it. I managed a friend of mine and did some commentary at a local show one time, and that was a lot of fun. I feel like I would have a lot to offer as a ring announcer, commentator, management, creative, etc. It’s entirely on me however, if that’s what I want to do then that’s what I should go for. I’ll make it happen eventually!
Daniel Johnson: Speaking of the wrestling industry have you gotten any responses from wrestlers or others in the industry about your videos?
Aaron Miracle: I have, actually! There was quite a buzz on Twitter about the videos initially, and a lot of the wrestlers and people involved in the industry were re-tweeting them and sharing. I’m actually not on Twitter, so I would have missed this had someone not posted about it on the forums. UltraMantis Black, as well as a few other CHIKARA mainstays seemed to really get a kick out of them. Robbie Mireno of BLK OUT actually hit me up and told me how much he enjoyed the videos, which actually inspired me to create a whole scene just for him and the BLK OUT faction (the limo scene in episode six).
Daniel Johnson: Looking at some more of the specifics of the episodes I was curious how long on average did it take for you to create an episode?
Aaron Miracle: Every episode was different. Some took longer than others. I spent just a couple of hours on the first video, and posted it the same night I started it. The others varied. The final episode took the longest to complete, of course it also has the longest duration of any of the videos. I worked on the videos on my free time, so there were points where I wouldn’t work on them for days. Though, that always allowed for me to come back to them with a fresh perspective. Also, I didn’t exactly put them all together in order that they were posted. For example, I was working on episodes three and four at the same time, and actually completed four before I even knew how I was going to end three. Did the same for episodes five and six. It really wasn’t intentional, I just had so many ideas, and it also kept me from getting bored with working on any particular episode. I’d say on average, each episode took a few days worth of nonstop editing to complete. Though, I was never able to devote that kind of time to them so it took much longer. However, a lot of great ideas popped up during those times when I took breaks from editing, so I feel that was the best route to go.
Daniel Johnson: What was the toughest part of producing an episode?
Aaron Miracle: Editing the audio. I do everything on a cheap laptop, and the speakers are shot. I have a nice set of studio headphones that I use, but it was a challenge to ensure that everything sounded the way I wanted when played through speakers. If you listen back, the first couple of episodes have some serious audio problems. It was all an experiment, and I switched up methods of capturing audio for the third video. But honestly that was the trickiest part, making sure that everything was audible and as consistent as possible. You can hear the improvements with each episode, haha.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, one of my favorite parts of the series is the dream sequence in episode three. How did you come up with that idea?
Aaron Miracle: Glad you enjoyed it! That scene was a big hit, and a lot of fun to make. Basically, I already had episode four pretty much completed, and I needed something to give episode three something defining. I wanted every episode to have a unique, stand out scene, and three didn’t have that without the dream sequence. I started thinking of ways to get Zandig to WWE, and that’s when I came up with the idea that he’d hear voices in his dreams telling him to go there. Once I established that that’s where I was headed creatively, my mind went wild with ideas. My dreams are always super weird, and I wanted to emulate that somehow. It was a window into Zandig’s subconscious. I also did a lot of foreshadowing in the dream sequence, as I knew I would eventually take the story to CHIKARA. The gorillas and alien are suppose to represent John’s idea of what CHIKARA is. Also, he has a head full of hair in his dreams. The vision of Zombie DEEJ came to me while re-watching episode two, and Dancing Joe Gacy was something that I thought would just be funny to do, and that ended up being a big hit as well.
Daniel Johnson: Kind of on a related note a big element that seems to help the series flow so well is the music used. Outside of the themes used to introduce a wrestler what made you decide to use some of the songs you used?
Aaron Miracle: Yeah man, music was a big part of it. I just tried to select tunes that would feel appropriate. “Mr. Sandman” just felt right for the dream sequence, and added a completely creepy element that it didn’t offer before. During the “trip out” scene in episode six, I thought playing “Magic Carpet Ride” would again, feel very appropriate and hopefully generate some laughs. I went with The Ultimate Warrior theme during the Drake Younger “ELIZABET” scene, which worked because he was in full on Warrior mode in that scene. I used a couple themes from Arnold [Schwarzenegger] movies in the finale (The Predator theme opens the video, the Terminator 2 theme during time travel). Went with the “High Noon” theme for the scene where Zandig travels to CHIKARA, because the song is hilarious and I thought it would be a great change of pace, and compliment that particular scene perfectly. “Hearts On Fire” was the obvious choice when I made the decision for a training montage, as a huge fan of Rocky IV.
Daniel Johnson: You talked about this a little bit earlier, but episode seven, the series finale is about twice as long as all your other episodes. Was this episode particularly tricky to make?
Aaron Miracle: Yes, actually! I knew I wanted the finale to be big, and wrap things up completely. Going into it, I knew it was going to be a “double episode” basically. What I did was actually separate the episode into three distinct sections. The first one being the CHIKARA/time travel sequences. The second being the training montage, and the third being the showdown between Zandig and Gacy. Splitting the episode up like that definitely helped me to keep everything fresh and focused. I wanted each of those three parts to feel very different from one another, in order to keep the viewer’s attention for the duration.
Daniel Johnson: Also, speaking about the finale, what made you decide to end the series?
Aaron Miracle: Well, when I decided I was going to make more than one episode, I knew that it would be a challenge to do any more than six or seven of these without getting repetitive. In sticking to wanting to make each episode feel unique, I felt like seven was the right number of episodes to end on. Episodes four and five are kind of like bonus episodes really, where it’s just Zandig in Twilight Zone WWE having interactions with everyone. Truthfully those episodes are just there because I wanted to have fun with crazed Zandig in WWE. The series could lose those two episodes, and still wrap up nicely with five videos total. Basically I didn’t want to run the series into the ground, or have it lose it’s luster by pumping out as many episodes as I could. I’m not saying you’ll never see another video from me similar to this series, but I’m pleased with how the series wrapped up. I wanted to give viewers a satisfying ending, as I love it when a series wraps up loose ends and leaves me feeling fulfilled.
Daniel Johnson: Are you currently working on any other machinima related projects or do you have plans for any?
Aaron Miracle: Currently working on, no. But I have a lot of plans, several ideas in mind that I would love to make happen. Who knows what the future holds? But I do plan on making more videos, it’s just that they may or may not be tethered to CZW or John Zandig. We shall see.
Daniel Johnson: Do you have any interest in using the newly released WWE 2K14 for any future projects down the line? If so what does WWE 2K14 feature that could really benefit your work?
Aaron Miracle: I’m not going to lie, I have not even played WWE 2K14! It looks awesome though, and I’d love to do some classic WWE moments with re-mixed audio, that’s an idea I’ve had while looking at the game online. I’ve heard great things, and I’m sure that if I picked the game up I’d be inspired to create a host of new videos, haha! I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. WWE ’13 really provided everything I needed for the series I created. The story creator mode was the basis for the entire thing. I’d love to see what 2K14 offers in that department!
Daniel Johnson: Kind of on a different note, but were there any deleted scenes for the project so to speak? Either parts you started work on, but didn’t finish or just ideas you had that you decided not to go with?
Aaron Miracle: Yes! There were several, in fact. There was a whole scene with Zandig and [Kenta] Kobashi, with dialogue and a brawl, I cut that, even though it really made me laugh. It just seemed to interrupt the flow of things. Originally, the entire fight scene with Zandig and Gacy in the finale was much different. Table bumps, back and forth action, but that all just seemed like too much. There was some more stuff with The Iron Sheik in episode four, and a couple of scenes where Zandig freaks and attacks someone. I ended up cutting quite a bit. There was another scene I had of Zandig in the future, looking really old and decrepit. Glad I cut that one, haha! Not sure what I was thinking.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, did you finish these scenes all the way and is there any chance you may upload them as deleted scenes or something of that sort sometime in the future?
Aaron Miracle: I have thought about doing a “deleted scenes” montage, just wasn’t sure if there would be a demand for something like that. I’d say there is about one or two minutes of cut footage total. If I did do something like that, I’d want to make sure it was worthwhile and not a letdown to fans of the series! That’s why I decided against it, originally. Though, that was certainly the plan.
Daniel Johnson: I like to close out interviews with a few non-wrestling related questions followed by a few more wrestling questions. First, outside of wrestling, what television shows do you enjoy watching these days?
Aaron Miracle: I loved Breaking Bad. That was my favorite series ever. I’m also an avid watcher of The Walking Dead, which also led me to check out TNT’s Mob City. Of course, with Netflix, it’s easy to just pick something like The Cleveland Show to watch for a quick laugh.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
Aaron Miracle: Django Unchained was released at the end of December last year, so that doesn’t count, even though it’s my favorite film I’ve seen in years. I actually just watched, and really enjoyed Out Of The Furnace, even though it was completely depressing, haha.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, what is your favorite food that you tried for the first time this year?
Aaron Miracle: Salami on a sandwich! I know that sounds very strange, but I had never eaten salami until this year, and I loved it!
Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Aaron Miracle: Chris Jericho’s Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, and yes I would recommend it! A good read, for sure.
Daniel Johnson: What is the weirdest part of creating machinima?
Aaron Miracle: Hahaha, visualizing something mentally, attempting to create it, and having it turn out radically different and even more hilarious than anticipated. The whole process is pretty weird, actually!
Daniel Johnson: In a few words what do you think the best wrestling company around today is and why?
Aaron Miracle: WWE is the biggest and the best, but my favorite promotion to watch is PWG. The atmosphere at those Reseda shows is just unbelievable!
Daniel Johnson: Who is one wrestler 25 or younger that you think readers should know about?
Aaron Miracle: Andrew Everett has been tearing it up in CZW, dude is a maniac! Everyone should check him out.
Daniel Johnson: Other than your videos is there anything else you would like to promote?
Aaron Miracle: Not really man. I have a few guitar videos up on my Strange Behavior YouTube page, but beyond that, come check us out at Zandigfans.net and get in on the fun! Haha.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, is there anything you would like to add?
Aaron Miracle: Thank you to anyone and everyone who watched my videos. I’m so happy they were received as well as they were, and for fans of the series, be on the lookout for similar machinima in the future! Thank you for all the support, it really means a lot. I made these videos during a dark time in my life, and the positive response from everyone helped me out more than anyone realizes. Thanks again!
The rest of the series can be viewed here. Also, if you’d like to see more CZW check out the match below where Homicide returns to CZW to take on Sami Callihan at CZW It’s Always Bloody in Philadelphia in 2010:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews