Court Bauer talks working WWE Creative, Rey Mysterio being buried as champ, Daniel Bryan, Triple H
I spoke to former WWE creative writer Court Bauer last week, who will be a part of WaleMania on Thursday, March 26th at Taste Nightclub in Santa Clara, CA during WrestleMania week. In part one of the interview below, Bauer talked about working with WWE, the decision to have Rey Mysterio win the title at WrestleMania, Vince McMahon having Rey squashed after winning the belt, Daniel Bryan's title reign and more. Make sure to check back later this week for the second and final part of the interview, where Bauer discussed this year's WrestleMania and his thoughts, if Roman Reigns should be in his current spot, if Brock Lesnar should retain at 'Mania, Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker, Sting vs. Triple H and more.
WaleMania is this Thursday, March 26th at Taste Nightclub in Santa Clara, CA. Tickets start at $15, while VIP tickets are $60 and include a special meet and greet with Rey Mysterio and friends as well as Don Julio Tequila. There will be a fan Q&A with Mysterio and the panel where fans can ask any and all questions. There will be a major after party featuring Rey and other wrestling luminaries after the live in-person MLW Radio session where Wale will perform songs from The Album About Nothing. The event begins at 6:30 and goes to the club's closing. You can purchase tickets for WaleMania at WaleMania.com.
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You'd previously worked with WWE. When did you start working with them?
I started working with WWE at WrestleMania 21, which saw John Cena win his first WWE title. Now here we are at WrestleMania 31, and he's the old grizzled veteran that just might have enough fight left in him to win the U.S. Title when he challenges Rusev. It's interesting to see him come of age, and be positioned where he's going. They've done a good job rebuilding the title with Rusev, and it's been a fun ride for him up until he tapped out and they gave us a strong visual that really hurts a monster.
You mentioned WrestleMania 21, did you start before, or was that your first event? Did you have any input in that event?
No, no. You're basically in that period where you're observing the operations. You get a little more hands on after that. For the first couple of weeks you're observing, you're asking questions. You're on this political tight rope because you don't know who your friends are or if you say something if it's going to impact someone. You have to be very careful, but not be a wallflower. You have to pick your spots. Just like at anything in life, you have to be very tactful, and for those first few weeks I was very tactful. You don't know how people are going to read you there. It's a hyperpolitical and hyperparanoid environment. Just a hyper environment.
How long were you with the company?
I started the summer of 2005, and finished up the summer of 2007. There was a point in which having the WWE on your resume at the height of the Benoit family tragedy wasn't something to have. It's such a great opportunity to do everything from live TV to branding to marketing to writing to character development, and licensing. You're thinking about things wildly different than anyone in a creative capacity would, but try to sell yourself to the outside world when the top story was The Chris Benoit tragedy. My appetite was full at that point and I needed to transition to something beyond wrestling at 27. There were a lot of fun moments and a lot of weird moments.
WrestleMania 22 would be the first that had your fingerprints on it. What was it like booking Triple H and coming up with ideas for his match as opposed to the other matches on the card?
I was primarily on Smackdown, so I didn't work too extensively on that. He's generally in the driver's seat for his stuff. He's kind of defining the road to his storylines, whereas a lot of the other guys you're a different level of engagement creatively. Hunter always had a very strong compass of where he saw his character going, and was very much an advocate for it. Some people say he was very political and it only benefitted him, and I think there is something to be said about that. At the same time imagine if other wrestlers were that aggressive. A lot of what we see on TV would be different. I understand there's a different political hierarchy, but until you push back, they'll keep pushing you and you won't have much creative input.
On the Smackdown side, there was talk of Mark Henry ending the streak. Who put the kibosh on that idea?
It was a very brief discussion. It's always healthy to have a very open discussion of where you can go and how you can do it, and exhaust that discussion. You might come up with something impactful, something that might create a big surge in your business. Other times you can tell that it's short sighted and doesn't really work for the big picture as a whole. It wasn't a very long discussion.
How soon ahead was the decision made for Rey Mysterio to win the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 22? It seemed at the time like Randy Orton winning was the way it was going to go.
I think everyone thought Orton winning was the way it was going to play out. It was a very compelling story. It was the best and worst of times in a way. We had just lost Eddie Guerrero and Vince McMahon was determined to find the heir apparent. There is no heir apparent to Eddie Guerrero, just like there's no heir apparent to Rey Mysterio. They're two prolific talents that are unique, but they're Mexican. That's a huge problem in 2015. They lost Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio within the span of 6-7 months and theres this Mexican mass exodus. Back then he was determined to have a major Latin star. He did exploit Eddie Guerrero's death way past the point of it being remotely tasteful. It was not something anyone was proud to be a part of, but at the same time Rey was given the opportunity to have the rocket strapped to his back and shot to the moon. That set the stage for his win at the Royal Rumble as the underdog. Originally it was going to be a bumpy road to WrestleMania, with him losing the right to compete for the title. Vince couldn't see the credibility in a champion that small, and there absolutely is. You just have to tell that story the right way. One of the most memorable stories of the early 1990's was the 1-2-3 Kid and Razor Ramon and the Million Dollar Man. This little guy upset two big, bad dudes and became a big star and a credible guy. Rey was booked to fail as champion and looking back you can say that was regrettable. Vince was so opposed to him being champion and was trying to prove us wrong by changing booking and Rey got ragdolled. Vince has a formula that's worked with his big man formula, and it's his comfort zone and what he gravitates towards.
Was the Rey squashes simply a Vince call, or were there others that felt the same way?
Heres a hypothetical: Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle. Rey's going to win and pull off this miraculous comeback. Well, the match would stay intact, but how it was laid out and the outcome would be radically different. It wold switch to him getting dominated the whole match, ragdolled and might win on a DQ technicality. The concept would mutate to such an extreme that the intent would be radically different.
It draws a lot of parallels to Daniel Bryan.
A lot of the time people think there's some evil political, Game of Thrones time of play going on with booking. 9 times out of 10, it's just incompetence. There aren't mad designs to screw with fans. Talent does get punished, but really it's just incompetence. It starts at the top with leadership, and Vince would say that. He has said that on shareholder calls.
What are your thoughts on how Rey Mysterio left WWE?
Well, he's free. There's nothing more frustrating then when you're in your prime years and you're not getting the call to appear at WrestleMania or at TV. You're just like "What's going on? Where's this heading?" After a while he was very frustrated and now he's able to do things on his own terms. Now his kids are at a certain age where he wanted to spend more time with them, and when you're under a WWE contract you can get a call to go anywhere, anytime to promote anything. To be able to make his own schedule is something that I think was appealing to him. I think they really missed the ball here. They had a guy that was a special attraction, someone that really connected. They were making a ton of money with his merchandise, and should have preserved the relationship and they just failed to do that. They've had strained relationships with several guys, and they failed to maintain those relationships. Whether it was CM Punk or Rey or Alberto Del Rio. That's something they have to get better at; finding a way to take a strained relationship. Whether it be to back off and try to develop something later on, or just making it work. There in a situation where a lot of stars are leaving them, you don't want your star quote so low. Rey was a part of the Latino demographic. Kaliso in NXT is a part of Lucha Dragons, but they don't feel like they're being groomed for anything of consequence. He's talented, but you don't see the plan for that guy to become the next big thing. I understand he's bilingual, from Chicago or hispanic descent, but he's not being used that way. He's being used the same way the Matadores are on the main roster: the slap your hands, babyface act. It's so ironic, they have two Puerto Ricans playing Mexicans on the roster. If you speak Spanish, it's a different dialect. You can tell they're from Puerto Rico. I look at Rey and I think he's forever young because of the mask. He could have been what Ric Flair was supposed to be in 08 as an ambassador, and for the Latin American community. They squandered that opportunity.
Were you surprised that WWE didn't release a statement about Rey's departure?
Oh, they had not been releasing any negative statements on their statements concerning most. They didn't on Bill DeMott. I don't think they want to do that right now. I think that's their strategy.
WaleMania is this Thursday and at the event, Rey will participate in a live MLW Radio. Konnan will be a part of the live MLW Radio at WaleMania too, right?
Yeah, everybody is. It's like the end of the podcast. We'll be opening it up to the fans to ask any questions they want, no holds barred. Konnan will be there, we'll have some surprise guests and we'll have MSL roaming the fans for questions. Whatever it is, we'll answer it. No question is off limits. MVP, Carlito Colon, Chris Masters, Roderick Strong, Noelle Foley, Matt Striker, Trina Michaels and others will be making cameos.
I'm looking forward to checking it out, and we encourage our readers to as well. Where can they get tickets?
MLWLive.com or Walemania.com. They start at $15 and go up to $60. There's a few VIP's left, but they're going fast. Definitely don't wait.
Make sure to check back later this week for the second and final part of the interview, where Bauer talks about this year's WrestleMania and his thoughts, if Roman Reigns should be in his current spot, if Brock Lesnar should retain at 'Mania, Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker, Sting vs. Triple H and more.
WaleMania is this Thursday, March 26th at Taste Nightclub in Santa Clara, CA. Tickets start at $15, while VIP tickets are $60 and include a special meet and greet with Rey Mysterio and friends as well as Don Julio Tequila. There will be a fan Q&A with Mysterio and the panel where fans can ask any and all questions. There will be a major after party featuring Rey and other wrestling luminaries after the live in-person MLW Radio session where Wale will perform songs from "The Album About Nothing". You can purchase tickets for WaleMania at WaleMania.com.