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Interview Update: David Sahadi
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INTERVIEW UPDATE: DAVID SAHADI

When we I first interviewed Mr. Sahadi, TNA Wrestling was close to celebrating its third anniversary. At the same time the promotion’s TV program Impact was ending its run on Fox Sports Net. Since the interview was well received by fans and a certain business in
Connecticut
I decided to do a follow up interview. It will cover some issues we didn’t address about his former employer the WWE and recent one pertaining to his current one TNA Wrestling. I hope you like it.

Alan Wojcik: Both of us got some praise and heat from people after our first interview. Did you receive any heat from people in the town of
Stamford, Connecticut?

 

David Sahadi: Heat? It was more like The Big Chill! As in absolute silence. Which is sad. I found out from some friends who recently left that company that some of the powers that be were angry at some of the content that was revealed in that interview. Well, what was revealed was only the truth. Their anger can only lie with themselves, for they saw in those words a reflection of who they are and the unfortunate things they did. By the way, I am not the only one being treated this way. On a larger picture, there a few new additions to TNA who were close to several people up there before joining this company and are now experiencing the same silent treatment. And on an even larger picture, this is just wrestling, and by that I mean just television, and by that I mean just entertainment. We are not dealing with issues of life and death. We are not saving the world. We are not two countries at war. You look at all the horrible tragedies and atrocities that are playing out all over the world today - and in this very country right now - and it really puts everything in perspective. So for anyone who puts business, which is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, ahead of friendship, well, I no longer have any respect for those people. Their priorities are grossly misplaced. I am no longer angry at them, nor hurt by their actions. Fortunately I have learned that to forgive someone is to set a prisoner free, and then realize that prisoner, all along, was you.

 

Alan Wojcik: For those that didn’t read our first conversation, we talked about some of your work in WWF involving the on air spots/promos. You gave Vince Russo credit for aiding you in the super bowl spot. How much day to day interaction did you have with Russo and his colleague Ed Ferrera and what did you think of their moves that eventually led WWF into the “Attitude” era?

 

David Sahadi: Let me say right off that the impact Vince Russo had on the wrestling world back then was tremendous and cannot be overstated. I know Vince has a lot of critics, but he thought outside the box when others were clinging to old, tired formulas; he pushed the envelope when others were too timid and clung fearfully to safety. And we all fed off it. That was all of us at the WWF at the time. Talent, production and TV. The product became edgy; the storylines were very real and believable; the shows, from beginning to end, felt like a train wreck waiting to happen. And that was so exciting because the line was blurred between what was real and what was contrived. I believe the "Attitude" Era saved the WWE from bankruptcy because at the time we were in dire financial straits. To answer your question, I did not influence Vince Russo, Ed Ferrara or Bill Banks on a booking level. Vince Russo and I spoke on a weekly basis, but mainly it was for the sole purposes of being sounding boards for each other's ideas.

 

Alan Wojcik: At any point during the long fabled “Monday Night War” were you ever contacted to join WCW, especially after Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera left?

 

David Sahadi: Not once. Nor would I have considered it, no matter how much money I was offered. At the time I felt very loyal to Vince McMahon and WWE. Vince treated me well and taught me well, too. And contrary to what some people might think, since history has a way of re-writing itself over time, I want to remind everyone that I did not leave WWE for TNA. I left for personal reasons, to take a sabbatical and escape the grind of work and the glorification of material wealth and temporal possessions. I jumped back into life and found a far greater purpose for living. It wasn't until over a year had passed that TNA found me. And the spirit of those involved with this company, on every level, is simply amazing and is in positive alignment with my soul's calling right now. Something special is unfolding. There is a lot of love and we have a lot of fun. That's why I'm still here.

 

Alan Wojcik: In the latter pat of the Monday Night War, the McMahon family and Titan Sports nearly killed itself with the XFL football concept. Tell the people your role in the product and did you know of anyone in WWE/Titan sports that tried to talk McMahon out of the idea.

 

David Sahadi: The XFL was a brilliant idea. It was innovative, aggressive, fan-friendly and had so much potential. I give Vince McMahon great props for that bold endeavor. The problem (and here hindsight is 20-20) is that the XFL was foolishly rushed. The initial plan was to broadcast XFL games for a couple of years on local stations or small networks in order to work out the logistics and technical kinks in a determined process of refinement. Then NBC came along, and the opportunity - Saturday nights in primetime on a major network - was too good to pass up. Or so we thought. In hindsight, the NBC deal killed us before we even broadcast our very first game. We created an awesome hype for the launch (which had an amazing 10.4 rating) with killer commercials produced by "NBA: The Agency" as well as the great spin from WWF's well-oiled marketing machine. But unfortunately, on that very first night, we delivered a horrible game. The quality of football that first night was beyond amateurish. Initial viewers lost interest immediately, and there was no way of ever getting them back. That is the inherent danger with creating a great buzz and not being able to deliver on the hype. And how could the game not have been horrible, considering the circumstances? Here we had players that never played with each other before and they were simply placed on teams with very few practice sessions. And there was no exhibition season for them to get into a rhythm and finesse their game. Even NFL pre-season games - where most of the players have played with each other before for several years - are awful to watch in the beginning. Finally, resorting to silly lampoons and cheap stunts, and bringing WWF stars like The Rock out on the field at the opening of a game to bash the NFL - when they are the very same fans we needed to embrace us - just reeked of desperation. The sad thing is that by the end of the season the quality of football in the XFL was really good, but no one was watching.

 

 

Alan Wojcik: Describe the creation of an advertising package or a cold opening for a PPV from concept to air. For example the WWE 2003 Royal Rumble with the revolutionary war soldiers or the upcoming TNA Unbreakable event.

 

David Sahadi: The challenge with creating an advertising package for a PPV is that cable and satellite providers need :30 spots nearly three months in advance. With deadlines that far out, it is difficult to focus on a specific match or storyline. Therefore, the spots tend to be very generic. I usually wrap an advertising campaign around a certain theme, or sometimes even the name of the event itself. But often I think the most effective strategy is simply to produce a very entertaining spot that is going to connect with a broad audience and get them to feel some emotion. These :30 spots that air outside of wrestling programming don't drive wrestling fans to buy PPV’s. Matches or a good storyline do that. So I like to focus on the larger audience, the casual or non-fans, when I produce these spots. I also firmly believe that it's impossible to sell someone who doesn't have an emotional investment in the product to buy a wrestling event within the confines of a :30 spot. But by creating funny, image-driven spots, you can at least entertain these viewers and hopefully leave them with a lasting, positive impression about your product. As far as cold opens are concerned, which are my favorite things to produce because there are no limitations on time or creativity; I have no rhyme or reason for ideas that develop. People have already purchased the shows, so I don't feel you need to focus on the storylines of the top one or two matches and be so black-and-white. That becomes "ho-hum". Rather, I like to entertain the viewers with a dramatic or comedic piece that taps into some overall vibe of the event. Hopefully, they are emotional and get someone to think, feel...or to chuckle. This Sunday's cold open lends itself to the comedic side. We were fortunate to have a recognizable sports celebrity, who has departed this earthly plane, do the narration for us. He obviously is a TNA fan, and for that we are grateful.

 

Alan Wojcik: What are some of your favorite image-driven PPV campaigns you produced for WWF/E?

 

David Sahadi: The Royal Rumble spot where the farmer builds a ring in a cornfield, hoping to attract WWE superstars, and instead a battle erupts between the Amish and Little People; the No Mercy baseball spot where Kane hits a dribbler to the pitcher and all the WWE stars do run-ons and take out the baseball players who are trying, in vain, to make a play; and the No Mercy spot the following year where Pete Rose is verbally abusing little treat-or-treaters who come to his house dressed as WWE superstars on Halloween...until Kane shows up and choke slams him! Those are three that initially come to mind. Obviously, I like to use comedy in those types of image spots.

 

Alan Wojcik: Now let’s talk about when a PPV promo package goes wrong. Specifically the Vengeance 2001 PPV when HHH was used to promote the event. On his DVD released in 2002(believe me it’s a good DVD), he brought it up being asked months earlier if he would be ready and his doctors telling him no way. If the office knew he wasn’t anywhere close to 100% why did they use him?

 

David Sahadi: That was one of those situations I mentioned earlier where the spots and advertising pieces are produced and distributed months in advance. The WWE was not trying to mislead anyone in that particular instance. Once spots are sent out to the television providers we no longer maintain control of them. Occasionally, WWE does "updated" PPV spots that are match-specific, but these are only for the satellite providers, not the cable systems, and they reach less than 25 % of the audience.

 

Alan Wojcik: With your love for the business did you ever want to be involving with the writing aspect of wrestling?

 

David Sahadi: Hell no! Way too political. And it's a job with a very short expiration date. Plus I don't think I would be very good at it. It's not my forte. My writing talents are best suited for promos, cold opens and packages where I can write emotional pieces that touch people and resonate deep within then have a good announcer with a resounding voice make these words come to life. Speaking of emotion, which I have continuously mentioned in this interview, I will never forget my first day on the job at WWE. It was in October of '92 and we were taping TV in Regina, Canada. Vince McMahon sat me down in his office and said, "David, I just want to you to know that what we do here is all about one thing: emotion." I never forgot that. For those words alone I am indebted to Vince. He was so right. And whether he was aware of the deeper meaning of his statement or not, those words transcend wrestling, promos, the business and TV. Emotion is the very essence of our humanity. It embraces all those we love and all those things we love in Life. If you don't feel emotion, you're not fully living.

 

Alan Wojcik: People that watch Impact/Xplosion and the PPV might notice you use motion picture film during your video packages and cold openings. What made you choose to film in that format and what are the benefits?

 

David Sahadi: Film is art. It enhances colors and beauty like no other source and adds an air of fancy to the images it captures. Most obviously, it brings production value to everything. That's why movies are still shot on film. So are all the great commercials you see. Video is an inferior medium, but it is a necessity for live TV. One of the first film shoots we did at TNA was ID shots of all the talent. By using that film footage in packages, opens and promos, the production values of the entire show were immediately enhanced. It will be too technical and boring to clarify why film is a superior medium. Perhaps a fair analogy would be that a full-color photo always looks much better when it is printed in a slick, glossy magazine as compared to a newspaper.

 

Alan Wojcik: I asked this question about WWE talent and now I will focus it towards TNA talent. Is there someone who you consider a favorite to use in you shoots?

 

David Sahadi: I have favorites as individuals, but at the risk of sounding like a homer, I will say that everyone in the TNA locker room is great to work with because they "get it". Most are young, hungry and eager, and they are willing to do anything to help their own image as well as that of TNA. Even the older stars that have been in other promotions seem reborn when they come to TNA. Their passion is rekindled. They feed off of the passion and energy of the younger guys. They once again seemingly embrace the joys of their youth. As I said before, when I do a film shoot backstage at TNA, every single talent wants to be a part of it, and they will wait hours to do so. That is testament to their heart, their soul, their caring and their desire to realize their dreams.

 

Alan Wojcik: You were part of the negotiations for a proposed TV deal with Superstation WGN of Chicago. If you can, please explain to the readers why the deal fell apart.

 

David Sahadi: With all due respect to WGN, they had no idea what they were getting into when it came to professional wrestling. Ultimately, I think that's what scared them away. Plus there were some issues with regards to the promotion of PPV on a Superstation, and we could not relent on that. Our storylines are written to be resolved on PPV. The proposed timeslot, by the way, was 8-10 pm on Monday nights. It would have gotten fans excited. And both TNA and WWE would have benefited, for it would have inspired them to improve their product and definitely would have increased viewership for both companies. In reality, though, I don't think we would have been ready to go head-to-head in prime time back then - from a production standpoint. From a wrestling perspective, we would have blown the roof off and completely entranced a whole new audience. Our in-ring action has always been far superior; our production has not. But that's all changing now and changing quickly! We've added some top production people behind the scenes in many different areas and we are doing some really innovative, cutting-edge stuff that will be unveiled soon. I'm excited about the future, especially our debut on Spike TV October 1st.

 

Alan Wojcik: You went there so let’s address it. You were also part of the successful dealings with Spike TV, the soon to be former home of WWE. What made this deal better then the one almost made with WGN?

 

David Sahadi: Words cannot describe how elated we are to be associated with Spike TV. First, they know what professional wrestling is all about. Secondly, they are, after all, "the first network for men" and match our demographic perfectly. Thirdly, they are a partner with us, not just an outlet for our programming. Simply put, without going into the details of our favorable deal, our success means Spike's success. They have a great financial interest to see us succeed, and it is also in our interests to succeed on Spike. We have yet to air on their network, yet already we have established a great, personal and working relationship. They are promoting us, producing campaigns with us, attending meetings and conducting focus groups with us. There is a sense of unity and camaraderie. They are even giving us sound input on many aspects of our product, which we are grateful. They know the vast potential that is there and they want to help nurture and grow it. 

 

Alan Wojcik: Most people know TNA was able to sign with Spike because WWE signed with USA Network. USA Network is owned by NBC/Universal. Do you fear that WWE will bully NBC/Universal into forcing TNA out of Soundstage 21?

 

David Sahadi: No. Despite what they may think, WWE is not that big or that powerful and does not have that kind of clout. Sorry to burst any bubbles up there in Connecticut, but it is true. However, if they ever did come by to watch one of our shows at Soundstage 21, we would be gracious hosts and welcome them once again with cookies and balloons. We could even arrange a meet-and-greet with some of our superstars, too, in case they wanted some autographs!

 

Alan Wojcik: What that last question still in your mind. When I attended the TV taping after Sacrifice there was rumors going around Vince McMahon had visited Universal Studios and looked at the soundstage that holds the Nickelodeon kids show.

 

David Sahadi: I haven't heard about the Vince rumor. Are you sure it wasn't Tim Welch reprising the role of Vinnie McDaddy?!?

 

Alan Wojcik: With TNA moving to Spike can you give the fans any clues to what we can expect from your area of expertise like the opening or graphics?

 

David Sahadi: The entire look of the show will be changing. We are currently in production of a new opening for iMPACT! which will be aggressive, violent and fresh. We are redesigning all of the graphics and bumpers for the show. We are producing short packages and vignettes to introduce our stars to a whole new audience who might not be familiar with our talent roster. We are debuting new music and a new voice-over announcer in addition to our main "Darth Vader" announcer. And we have a new marketing campaign that will soon be implemented across the board. The show will feel like a 60-minute adrenaline rush. TNA will come out of the gate sprinting and never slow down.

 

Alan Wojcik: After the Slammiversary event you introduced me to your former WWE colleague Kevin Sullivan (not the wrestler). He recently joined TNA. For anyone that’s not aware of your history, what made your partnership so successful?

 

David Sahadi: Kevin is an extremely talented producer and a huge acquisition for TNA. His expertise is promotion, post-production and graphics, and he is already involved in the whole redesign of Impact. Kevin worked with me for five years at WWE so he knows the product and he knows the business. It wasn't easy getting him to join, being that he just got married and was living in LA, but Jeff Jarrett, true to his nature, was both persuasive and relentless. Kevin will also be involved in the day-to-day managerial operations of TNA, something I have no desire to get involved with. I love working two weeks a month. And I give it my all. But I also love spending time in the mountains, hiking by day and meeting the locals at night. It uplifts and expands me. Hopefully, I help uplift and expand the many people I meet, too. 

 

Alan Wojcik: When you worked for WWE you had a decent sized staff and in TNA you are the staff. With the Spike TV deal, is there a chance you will be able to expand your team?

 

David Sahadi: My promo staff at WWE totaled nine when I left. Now it's in the teens. Kevin Sullivan was the first expansion to the TNA team since the Spike deal. And there will be a lot more as we continue our evolution. There are a lot of talented people we want to bring into the fold and many more who want to join. The next few months should be very interesting.

Alan Wojcik: While I was attending Monday Night Raw in Tampa, Spike debuted TNA Impact commercials during the event. What did you think when WWE made a huge stink about this move by Spike?

 

David Sahadi: I laughed. What hypocrisy, I thought. I could understand if the ads mocked or embarrassed them, but the spots were harmless and merely alerted the audience to a new brand of wrestling that is coming to Spike TV in October. When I was at WWE we advertised in WCW programming. Heck, we even tried to "raid" WCW programming by showing up at their live shows with talent dressed in camouflage and fatigues. We even "visited" their corporate headquarters at CNN and made quite a scene. And when we launched the XFL, we tried to buy time in NFL broadcasts. So it's so funny that they are upset when the proverbial shoe is on the other foot. They truly act like a bully. They claim "freedom of speech" and hide behind the banner of the First Amendment when someone criticizes one of their offensive angles, yet they are the first to cry wolf when someone embraces any ideal that is counter to their own. It's like the story of David and Goliath. But we all know how that story ended... 

 

Alan Wojcik: In our first interview we spoke about your dad. After re-reading Mick Foley’s “Foley Is Good” I figured out your dad was the ghost writer WWE gave Foley to aid in writing the first book. Have you read the book and if you did what were your thoughts on Foley’s view of your dad?

 

David Sahadi: I didn't read the book, but I do know of the allusion Mick made to my dad. All I can say is I love my Dad dearly. And I deeply respect Mick. I don't feel it was Mick's intent to hurt my Dad - and to me intention is everything - so I have no ill feelings towards Mick. Actually, as a fellow author, I understand Mick's desire to want to tell his own story in his own words. I would want to do the same. And I wish Mick well in his return to WWE. We could have done some great things together if he came to TNA, but that's another story for another day. Hopefully, he'll do some more great things up there and continue the legacy. I wish him well. And Mr. Socko, too!

 

Alan Wojcik: Speaking of authors over the years you have written some books. What are they about and where can people buy them if they aren’t available in stores?

 

David Sahadi: My books are part of my new purpose in life. Eventually, I will segue out of television production and head to the mountains for good, expressing myself through the written word. You asked what kind of books I write, but they elude classification. If you had to give them some label, it would be along the lines of "spiritual fiction". My latest novel, "Last Call of the Gods", is very inspirational and uplifting. It employs humor, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, baseball, beer, and a very special cameo (and some might say heroic role) by Classy Freddie Blassie as a veil to impart some deep, profound, universal messages. It is currently at a publisher in Canada and hopefully will be out in print by the end of the year. And my next undertaking, I feel, is going to be pretty powerful. Compassion, empathy, the gift of giving, these are all values I fully embrace at this stage of my life and try to impart on those I care about. Helping people, making them feel, think and enjoy, touching them as well as being touched by them, is what inspires me today. Hopefully my books will do that, too.