411 Mania Interview: Former WWE Superstar Al Snow
Posted by Tony Farinella on 02.08.2013
411's Tony Farinella sits down with former ECW/WWE/Smokey Mountain and current TNA personality Al Snow for an exclusive interview about his work on the film Overtime, his wrestling career, his regrets, who he would wrestle if he could wrestle anyone, living or dead, and he also shares his worst independent wrestling story!
My first love before film was always professional wrestling. During the mid to late nineties, I was obsessed and could not get enough of professional wrestling. One of my favorites was Al Snow, who not only entertained me with his in ring work but also his entertaining and comical personality. I'll always remember 1998 and watching Extreme Championship Wrestling and how the crowd reacted to Al Snow and head. It was insane and I knew I had to attend an ECW event when they came to my hometown. So needless to say, interviewing Al Snow was a real treat for me, as we talked about his work in the movies now, his time in the wrestling business, his regrets, and so many more interesting topics. We chatted for over thirty minutes, and I'm incredibly proud of the interview. If you would like to see Al Snow in the film Overtime, you can either buy it at Walmart or off Amazon.com. You can also listen to the entire audio of the interview in a You Tube clip I have posted here as well.
TONY: We've seen a number of wrestlers try their hand in movies. In your opinion, who are some of the wrestlers who have done well in the movies and what do you think needs to be done for a wrestler to be successful in the movies?
Al Snow: I think really back in the day, it was Hard Boiled Haggerty, several wrestlers that had made a pretty successful career, transitioned out of wrestling into movies and TV: Terry Funk being one of them. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper has been pretty successful and of course the Rock, unquestionably. I think the thing that wrestlers need to remember is it is a natural transition from and an extension of what you've been doing as a wrestler, but it's a complete different world with completely different expectations and different rules.
Just like when wrestlers broke into the wrestling business, they had to get experience and they had to get exposure and learn their craft through doing it. It's so different with acting. I make it a point to take every opportunity I get to go out and act so that I can get that experience and a better understanding of what the expectations are and a better grasp of how things are different from what they were in wrestling and the performance changes and things like that. And then also making connections, meeting people and that increases your chance of getting other opportunities. Wrestlers really have to remember: They may have a marketable name and a marketable persona, but that doesn't just mean that you can walk in and pick it up and just do it. You gotta actually put the work in.
TONY: I see a very similar parallel between paying your dues in the wrestling business and paying your dues in the movie business. What has it been like for you to be back in that position where you're starting from a certain point and trying to get a certain point in the movie business?
Al Snow: It's exciting. It's a little daunting because I'm not getting any younger, that's for sure (laughs). It's exciting because it's something that I'm hoping will give me some kind of life after wrestling, that will allow me to pursue it and have something that I can pursue with as much passion as I did with the wrestling business. That's really ultimately what I was looking for. I'm not looking to be famous or anything like that. Granted, I don't have a problem with being famous. I've been famous. A lot of people know who I am around the world because I've been very fortunate because of the wrestling business. I want to do something that I enjoy, that I look forward to doing and being a part of, and the acting thing just seemed like a natural thing to do.
TONY: From watching Overtime and from talking to one of the directors yesterday, he was telling me how you and your co-star would change different things on set as it was going along. From watching you in different segments and from different interviews on wrestling, it seems like you brought a lot of yourself into this role. Brian said you aren't as frustrated as your character, but a lot of that smart ass personality is in this. How much of yourself and your own personality did you bring to this would you say?
Al Snow: A lot, I guess. What I tried to do as much as I can, just like in the wrestling business, I just try to believe that I'm actually living in that moment and just reacting like I would react if it were real to me. If I were in that situation, I were a family guy, and I had a wife that I was mad at me and I was going to do everything I could to make her happy and I was a hit man, how would I react? Well, I wouldn't be too bothered by blood or guts or killing people. I'd have a very flippant attitude about death, but I'd be worried about my wife, because the last thing I would want to do is be in trouble with her because that's really going to make my life miserable.
TONY: I used to watch your segments all the time in Chicago with Lisa Aprati on Channel Surfing with Lisa. I used to love those and watch them all the time. What do you remember about filming those segments and working with her?
Al Snow:Channel Surfing with Lisa was fantastic. We had so much fun. Lisa is such a terrific person and so talented. We had such a great time. I honestly think that, I really believe, that more people know me in and around the Chicago area because of doing that show with her than they did from WWE. Every time I showed up, we had so much fun. It was a blast to get to be a part of that.
TONY: You mentioned earlier how you want to plan ahead for life after wrestling. I know it's so hard to say when that time is and I'm sure you'll always be involved in the business in some capacity, but in terms of in ring work, do you have a certain time when you'd like to walk away and do you have certain plans beyond wrestling for what you'd like to do in the future?
Al Snow: I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, to be totally honest. I've been very fortunate that I've got a position with TNA where I can still be a part of the wrestling business and contribute in a creative fashion and with being the senior director of talent relations right now, I'm still involved. I handle and write and direct and produce the development TV and help train the young development talent. So that keeps me involved. At some point in time, I know that my time, whether it's in the ring or behind the scenes with wrestling, is probably going to come to an end. Everything does. And I really don't know. I'm hoping that I can build some kind of career and have steady employment with acting. I'd love to do that and just transition into that.
That's what I'm hoping to do with projects which I felt very lucky and very fortunate to get to be a part of: Overtime. You take on a lot of times these independent projects and it's kind of a hit-and-miss type of proposition, much like with even independent wrestling. Sometimes it's good, and sometimes it can be really, really, really bad. I was very fortunate this time to be involved with so many talented people like Brian, Matt, they were just incredible, every single person on that crew and the cast and especially John Wells. We had never met until that very first day we filmed and it was like we had known each other for years. That scene where we're walking out the front door of the house and he's breaking my balls about forgetting my son's birthday, that was the very first time we had ever interacted. We just hit it off. We both fell into what we were supposed to be. We were very fortunate and I'm very proud of that movie, Overtime.
I've gotten do some other projects like Witches of Oz and Penny Dreadful, which is going to come out soon. I just did Alice D. and a movie called Money Shot. Jessica Sonnebor, Kristina Hammond, and Lee Scott, they're wonderful people. I'm really proud of Overtime because I got to show more than just ‘Oh I get to be the big muscle guy.' I got to show a range of emotions and try to be a real person. Granted, it's a real person who kills people, but still, nonetheless, he kills zombie aliens. I had a wife and I had kids just like any other guy who goes to work and gets too involved with and pursues too much his career and at the same time tries to keep his wife happy and keep his kids from hating him.
TONY: I always like to ask wrestlers who do films, it seems like from being involved in wrestling, you know when you do something well, you hear it from the crowd right away. With the movies, you don't get that instant reaction until you see it on film later on or there with an audience. Was that daunting for you not to have that reaction from an audience after a scene?
Al Snow: Yeah, yeah. The challenges of working in film compared to a live audience are dramatic, for me, anyways. Because in wrestling, we're not actors, we're reactors more than we are actors and more improv than we are anything else. We're given certain talking points and certain ideas and things that we have to get across and then it's up to us however we want to get those thoughts and ideas across and tell our story and get our character across. It's up to us. We'll get direction but very loose direction. Back when I was doing it, we were certainly not given a script. I remember and I think about it and it just boggles my mind when I know now how much thirty seconds of television time costs on an international television show is insane. They literally gave me like ten or eleven minutes to do a eulogy for a deer head I had carried around that had gotten destroyed. The direction was, the writer came up to me, Vince Russo, I'll never forget this, in Florida and goes, ‘You're going to do a funeral for your deer head, Pierre.' I said, ‘What?' He goes, ‘Yeah, so get something together and you can do it.' I went, ‘Oh, OK.' As I showed up at the building, I had to put together a funeral for a deer head. That was it.
To go from that to going to where you have a script and you don't get that immediate feedback, not to mention, I'm so used to I've got one take because I'm doing it live and I've got anywhere from thirty seconds to two-three minutes and I've got one shot at this. There's no ‘Hey, we're going to go back and do this again' or ‘Hey, that was good, I really liked that take, but can you do it one more time?' It's one and done. That, still, to this day, kind of freaks me out. They'll be like, ‘Yeah, that was good. Could you do it again?' I'm like, ‘Well, if it was good, why do I need to do it again? I don't get it.' But I understand that way they can pick and choose and edit where you don't have that opportunity. Learning to actually work off a script and actually do what the director or the writer has written that took a little bit of time and a little bit of experience to adapt to that as well.
I tell you, the one thing that's really different, that's really great in comparison to wrestling is once you've told that story, once you've made that character and told that story and you get to watch it play out, it lives forever. I think to the people that are in Wizard of Oz, those actors and actresses know that at the time, it was just a movie or the Christmas Story-greatest movie in the history of moviemaking, Christmas Story . That was just a low budget, independent film and that thing has become a classic that's lived on for how many years since. It's a chance that if you really get something and you do it right, twenty years from now, thirty years from now, forty years from now, fifty years from now, you'll still be able to relive that story over and over again.
TONY: That sort of ties into my next question. I remember being a kid in 1998 and watching ECW and seeing you on there with the head and the crowd going crazy and you doing so many things creatively. What do you remember about that time in your career, creatively and professionally?
Al Snow: During that time, don't get me wrong, the entire time I've been in wrestling has been amazing, I've been really blessed to be able to do what I love to do for as long as I've gotten to do and the absurd idea that a grown man can make a living and sometimes an exceptional living basically fake fighting another man in his underwear around the world is insane. During that time in ECW, where I just started finding the head and doing that character, it was a release for me because at the time I was still on loan from WWE. I had been under contract with WWF for like two years and I had just come out of Smokey Mountain, a different wrestling company that was a small territorial company back before I went to WWF and I was creatively and ability wise, I was hitting on all cylinders. Then I go to WWF and it's just like bleh. I'm sitting in quicksand, both creatively and everything else and I got so frustrated but then in ECW, I had that freedom and just let it out. It was so much fun. There's nothing better, sex, drugs, nothing, nothing that could compare to what you experience when you're in those situations.
TONY: I find it very interesting, Al, from talking to you now and from following your career, it seems like you are one of those wrestlers who has really learned how to handle the business and handle your career. You seem very well adjusted. What have been the keys to not letting the wrestling business chew you up and spit you out and still be working and still be healthy and happy?
Al Snow: Really, truly, trying to listen has been one of the most important lessons I learned. Listening to older wrestler's advice. I'll never forget when I was in Smokey Mountain, I would ride in the car with Sandy Scott who was George Scott's brother and George Scott, and George and Sandy were both wrestlers for many years and Sandy and George both worked in the Mid Atlantic territory with the Crockett's in the office and George was very instrumental in Vince Jr.'s prominence back in the early eighties. Sandy always impressed upon me not to let what you do become who you are. There were times I let it become who I was and I would come close to letting it eat me alive. Finally, I woke up and I remembered what Sandy said and I went, ‘Whoa, I gotta take it for what it is. It's what I do, it's not who I am.' That goes with whether it's wrestling or acting or musician or you're a plumber. You gotta remember it's just what you do, it's not who you are. I started to get bitter, like a lot of wrestlers do or a lot of performers do, and I realized that the reason I was starting to get bitter was because I was jealous of what other people were still getting the opportunity to do because I loved it so much.
An older wrestler, Terry Taylor, wisely said that a performer, whether it's an athlete or an actor or whatever or even a musician, are unlike the average person because the average person has to come to grips only with their mortality once. They only have to come to grips with the mortality of their life where we have to come to grips with the mortality of our career and then once it dies, we now have to come to grips with dying again. Sometimes it's harder to have your career die because you have to live on past it. There's an emptiness, a void that you gotta find some way to fill. So, I take it and I enjoy it for everything I can and that's why I started pursuing the acting thing because I thought it would be something I would enjoy as much as I did wrestling for the last thirty one years.
And if I'm lucky enough to get to do to any degree acting for the next thirty years, I'd be thrilled. And I want to clear something up, too. I'm not an actor, OK? The reason I can say I'm not an actor is because I don't make a living acting. That would be like me saying I'm a plumber. I know how to do plumbing or I know a few things about plumbing, but I don't make a living being a plumber. I know a few things about acting, but I'm not master thespian, that's for sure. It's not even close. So I don't want anybody to read or listen to this interview and go, ‘Oh, he thinks he's an actor.' I'm not an actor. I don't get paid or do it often enough to say that I'm an actor. I can't even say I'm a bad actor because I don't get to do it.
TONY: I just saw a list on WWE.com of the top thirty ECW wrestlers. It really made me sad when I saw all the people that are no longer here from Chris Candido to Mike Awesome. How hard is that part of that business? Spending so much time with these people on the road traveling to different shows, how hard is that for you to see these people pass away and how do you not let it affect you, if you can?
Al Snow: Well, it always affects you, sometimes some of them more than others. It's always a shame and it's always an example to me and a reminder of not letting the business become who I am and always letting it stay what I do. So many of those guys, they were such wonderful, amazing, talented people and to lose them so early, it was just such a shame. The one that really broke my heart was Chris Candido. What a tragedy. He was just such a wonderful person. He'd showed up at a show and it didn't matter if it was a complete car wreck of a show, he'd show up and it just made things better, no matter what, because he was just such a great guy. He had his own demons and his own stuff to deal with, but he genuinely loved to perform. That's all he cared about. He just wanted to perform. It wasn't about being a star, it wasn't about being rich. It was about just loving the business and getting the chance to perform. It's a sad situation with losing so many of those guys, it really truly is.
TONY: On a lighter note, I always like to ask wrestlers who have been around a while, what is the worst story on the independent level or the worst experience you've had?
Al Snow: Worst experience, I don't know if I can be the right one to ask that anymore because I've taken on a new tact. Those horrible experiences are basically the main reason I love the wrestling business as much as I do because those ridiculous, absurd, horrible experiences that you just watch, you just go, ‘There's no way this could ever happen, only in the wrestling business,' makes it just, I don't even know how to explain it. I'll give you an example. I wrestled on a show the day after Christmas one year. I was booked on a show the day after Christmas, which is not unusual because back in the day when I first broke in, the biggest days of the year for us were Christmas Day and New Year's Day because people would open up the presents or whatever and have nothing to do and they'd want to go see something or do something.
Wrestling shows were very popular around Thanksgiving as well. So the day after Christmas was not that unusual for me to go and perform. Went to some bar, I watched and just so you understand, this was a rematch of a match that happened the year before of Santa Claus versus Jesus. So Our Lord and Savior, the day after His birthday, was going to take on Santa Claus who had just flown around the world. The year before, Jesus could not defeat Santa without the referee hitting Santa with a chair. I was like, ‘OK, this is where I need to step in.' I convinced Jesus to take a taser and basically taser Santa twice. Now, Jesus actually tasered Santa three times which made Santa wet himself a little bit and upset him and Santa kicked Jesus right in the yoo-hoo. I've got so many of those kinds of stories and now when I go out on the road, if I don't come back with some kind of ridiculous, absurd story that's occurred, I'm actually disappointed.
Another example, I'll give you the highlights. I was an announcer on all midget wrestling show in Oklahoma. I had to go three hours outside of Oklahoma City and had to ride back with all the midgets, just me and the midgets. So the highlights are: six midgets and myself, so it's Al Snow and six dwarfs, a lot of drinking by the midgets, midget fight. One midget wouldn't block, banned from IHop and a naked midget, and a near high-speed fatality of one of the midgets. That's just the highlights.
TONY: I think that would be a good idea for a movie.
Al Snow: That probably would be.
TONY: If you had the chance to wrestle one wrestler, living or dead, for one final match, who would it be and why?
Al Snow: Boy, that's tough. Harley Race. I'd love to wrestle Harley Race again. When I first broke into the wrestling business in 1982, I wrestled Harley Race and it was, I don't know how to explain it, but sometimes when you get into the ring, we call it the day off. It's physically, it takes no effort, and you do something and you'll do an action and the guy will react exactly the way he should to the degree that he should when he should. Then he will do an action and you will do it. It's all done by instinct and the crowd will stand up, sit down, cry, laugh, get excited, slow down, speed up, everything right on cue. You'll tell your story, you'll get the emotions and it's magic. You spend the rest of your career trying to recreate those times all the time I just remember back when I knew nothing having that experience with Harley Race and I'd love the opportunity to try to do it again and see if it could be even better.
TONY: You have said in previous interviews that you've been on vacation for all these years because you've enjoyed the business so much. With that said, do you have anything you wish you would have done differently or any sort of regrets?
Al Snow: Sure, my biggest regret is I wish I knew then what I know now so I could have taken more advantage of the opportunities I was given so that I could have fully understand and had the vision to see just what it was I had in front of me because I would have made a lot more money and I could have been a lot more prominent and then thus could have been a lot more marketable in a different vocation such as acting because at the end of the day, you can be the greatest thespian that has ever lived but if nobody will pay to see you, you won't get to act. No if's, and's, or but's about it. The same goes for wrestling. My job as a wrestler I always thought was to be a great wrestler. I was mistaken. It was to sell tickets. It was to motivate people to pay to see me, to be an attraction. The same goes for when you're an actor. Arnold Schwarzenegger, he's horrible as an actor, but he's an amazing attraction that people pay to see. As a result, he's got another movie out where he's the leading man in an action film and he's sixty something years old. That's ultimately the thing I wish that I truly understood back when I was in a position to where I could have done more with it. That would have been to have been able to understand it's not about the wrestling as much as it is about motivating the people to pay to see me.
TONY: Al, thank you so much for your time. It was really great talking to you. I've been a big fan of yours for years and this was a real pleasure for me. Thank you so much.
Al Snow: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it and thank you so much for helping get the word out about Overtime. Again, I'm really proud of this movie. I think it's just a fun movie. If people want to just have a good time and laugh and it's not going to change the world, it's not going to deliver any life alerting message, it's not going to suddenly create peace in the Middle East or raise your consciousness or trumpet a cause, it's just a good fun Men in Black meets Walking Dead or I always compared it to Big Trouble in Little China, the Kurt Russell film. It's just a fun movie.