An Interview With A Madman

TJR Wrestling

You all likely remember my interview with Mikey Zeroe, contestant on The Amazing Race. If you don’t recall then never fear, it’s right here.

Mikey Zeroe’s yearly local show, Battleground VII, happens this Saturday May 2nd. To preface this, let me just say that I see Mike once or twice every week. We usually get together on Monday nights and watch Raw and then we head over to a buddy’s house where we play Five Nights at Freddy’s on his Twitch channel and all sorts of strangers laugh hysterically as three grown men scream in terror/rage. I have not seen Mike this week, nor will I until Saturday night at the show. (For the record, I’ll live Tweet that bad boy @JakobDraper from backstage for anyone who wants to see what an MCPW show is all about.)

The point is, everyone knows that we don’t talk to Mike unless it’s about business for the 1-2 weeks leading up to his events. He’s a madman on the edge of snapping, killing your family, drinking their blood, and burning down your home…usually in an order that might surprise you. There isn’t a team of hundreds of people, but instead it’s Mike with two others who might help him with storylines. That’s it. The entire shebang is the work of one man who pours his entire life into doing something that he loves for everyone.

You’ll notice that there was no Smackdown review last week. Now, before you break out the pitchforks and hunt me down, hear me out. I have a valid excuse. I, being one of the very few people Mike trusts to help on his promotion, got to help him film a promo. You see these almost every week when you watch WWE. For instance, they do them a lot for Brock Lesnar. They sit him in front of a camera and just have him cut a promo, then they edit it and make it a little production for all of us to see. The following is a real life* account of the events on the night that I sat down with Mikey Zeroe to film his in-character promo.

*very dramatized

It’s a warm, stormy night. I’m driving through the backwoods of northern Michigan. Out here, there is no phone signal. The population is scarce, and the people you do find are usually some sort of mutated hillbilly that wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to cannibalize you in order to feed themselves for just one more lonely night in the woods. This isn’t a place for the weak or the slow, this is Kalkaska, Michigan; where even the manliest of manly men find themselves searching the darkness for any ounce of courage.

It’s a typical drive for me, a veteran of the horrors that this land holds. So what makes this night different? I have to use my brain. This isn’t my typical drive into the unknown to watch Raw with my friend, or to throw food into the pond behind his house. No, this is a night of serious business, where we sit down and hammer out the evolution of Mikey Zeroe in one single promo that explains how and why the titular character has found himself where he is.

The issue with Mikey Zeroe as a performer is his moniker of “The Most Hated Man in Northern Michigan.” That’s right, the lovable Mike Dombrowski from The Amazing Race has spent the majority of his professional wrestling career as a heel. I, in fact, sat at his sound booth as he broke his father’s leg in a match. A legitimate injury that was obviously an accident, but in subsequent interviews, Mikey Zeroe showed no remorse for his heinous actions.

People don’t realize the subtleties of writing. Mikey Zeroe is almost involuntarily thrust into the role of the babyface in this show, in which he finds himself taking on his own former tag team partner for the MCPW Heavyweight Championship. At the last show before Mike’s stint on The Race, Zeroe was a viscous heel who reveled in the scornful cries of the fans at ringside. Now he finds himself as the main attraction and one of the most important non-televised professional wrestlers in the U.S. The option to remain the villain in this scenario has gone out the window, and now we have the monumental task of turning Mikey from the bad guy into a man the fans can get behind. With no other shows to do this turn slowly, we have only this promo.

Mikey Zeroe isn’t going to suddenly change who he is because he needs us to cheer for him. Rather, it is the tall task of explaining what has changed inside of Zeroe that made him suddenly accept the cheers, rather than work to turn them against himself. If The Dark Knight Rises had been filmed with The Joker suddenly fighting alongside Batman, wouldn’t that be a tad out of character? Wouldn’t you be confused? This promo, essentially, has to be us transforming The Joker into Batman without letting you forget that he’s still The Joker at heart.

Going into this promo, I see what we have to accomplish. I see that the best thing to do is play off of the idea that this villain experienced the world and had his eyes opened to the beauty that it holds. This monstrous man has found himself humbled by a world full of wonder and joy.

Walking in his door, only lanterns light his humble cabin buried deep within the bosom of the world, far beyond where any type of wi-fi or cable can run. The lights flicker as I see the silhouette of a bearded man scurry before me. Is it a werewolf? No. It’s Mikey Zeroe, in the flesh, eating the bones of the werewolf that had earlier tried to gain access to his home. With wolf blood dripping from his beard, he greets me with a smile. “Hello, Jake,” he says calmly, “And welcome to my home.” My soul screams to run, that this is not the Mike Dombrowski I knew from the previous week, but I felt compelled to stay through some crazy sense of duty (ha, duty).

I set up the lights for our video, clearing a corner of various cobwebs and bones of some unknown wildlife in order to create a clean atmosphere for the promo. Mike sits down in the chair as I set up the camera. I hand him a towel to clean the blood from his face. As he does so, he shows me the secret to any great wrestling promo. The elixir of Gods: Fireball whisky. He takes sip. By “sip” I mean he drinks enough to kill a horse in a single gulp. Dragons are not fictional, but merely men like Mikey Zeroe who have put away too much Fireball and become a flame-spewing spawn of Hell in the process.

We both know what must be done, and it begins with me asking him questions about his previous, morally questionable actions. We do not wish to ignore the history of Zeroe, but instead remind the fans what this man is capable of. In the editing process, we will take my voice out and leave only Zeroe to talk about the things he has accomplished, the places he visited, and the many terrible things he did in order to find himself in this chair before me.

Of course, as the whisky continues to flow, things take a turn for the insane. Slurred words will have to be cut away, outtakes will have to be saved for a later time, and even a full 30 second advertisement for Fireball found its way onto the memory card of my camera. The real, true kicker comes when I no longer find myself talking to Mikey Zeroe, but instead the reincarnation of Randy “Macho Man” Savage cutting a promo about his upcoming match with Hulk Hogan.

The previous paragraph is not at all fictitious, and after the show has passed it is my promise that the footage of these things will be available for the world. In the spirit of kayfabe, however, they must remain hidden for the time being.

Over an hour of footage later, buried between the nonsense, I have a sit-down promo from Mikey Zeroe. The task of editing this footage and making it worth his fans’ time to sit down and watch is a far less interesting story that I can sum up with, “So I sat in front of a computer screen for three days, eyes red and watering, hoping I have a stroke and can kill the monotony soon.”

A lot of work goes into every aspect of every wrestling show. The sheer amount of man power behind one episode of Raw is almost staggering. I had only this one task, and it took nearly two weeks to be completed in its entirety. That video, in case any of you were wondering, can be found here:

Follow me on Twitter @JakobDraper. I will be at Battleground VII on Saturday night. I know most of you won’t be able to make a drive to Michigan to see it live, so I promise to do my best to show all of you what it’s like to be at one of these small, independent events.