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An Interview With Scott Keith, February 9, 2003
Guest_TSMAdmin_*
post Mar 29 2003, 06:13 PM
Post #1





Guests






Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t deny the popularity of Scott Keith.

Every week, Scott provides his trademarked “Rants” on WWE RAW, Smackdown, and WWE Pay Per Views as part of “The' target='_blank'>The" target="_blank">The" target="_blank">http://www.411wrestling.com/smarks/">The SmarKs” at 411wrestling.com. For years now, Scott shared his opinions and views on North American Pro Wrestling, first on his own site “Rantsylvania” and later “The SmarKs”. In the process, Scott has amassed an enormous fan following.

With the release of his new book “Tonight in This Very Ring: A Fan's History of Professional Wrestling”, Scott stands to reach a whole new level of popularity, and audience.

Mr. Keith was kind enough to sit down and talk to The Smart Marks own Dave Dymond, and answer some questions recently.

Dave: Scott, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

Scott: No problem, Dave.

Dave: Before we get into talking about your book, why don’t we talk a bit about your personal history as a Wrestling fan. You’re from Alberta I believe, which as a fellow Canadian, I know is a hot bed of Pro Wrestling. Did you grow up on Stampede, or did you start off watching the WWF? How old were you when you started watching Pro Wrestling?

Scott: I actually grew up outside of Vancouver, so I never really got into Stampede until later on. I actually never liked wrestling as a kid – I didn’t start actively watching until I was 12, and even then it was the WWF. However, my dad was always watching, and thus I picked up a lot by osmosis when I was younger.

Dave: For me, one of the angles that hooked me in to Pro Wrestling for good, was the famous Roddy Piper/Jimmy Snuka coconut angle, and The Iron Shiek’s Iranian Strongman Club attack on Bob Backlund.

Was there a particular match or angle that made you say “That’s it…I’m a wrestling fan?”

Scott: Yes, definitely. After renting Wrestlemania 2 for my birthday party, I started watching Superstars (or whatever it was called back in 1986) for a few weeks, and following the Hogan-Orndorff team. I never really liked Hogan, he always struck me as being this conceited jerk who beat up on managers and then posed for the fans, and it was an enormous thrill when Orndorff turned on him and piledrove him after their tag match with Studd & Bundy. I was hooked from then on and never looked back.

Dave: How did your evolution into becoming a Pro Wrestling writer happen? Did you write before you were a fan, as a kid, or did you love Pro Wrestling so much that you felt compelled to write about it?

Scott: I’ve always been a writer. I won several contests for young authors during my school years and was always fairly confident I’d end up doing it professionally in some form, but never really had an outlet until the internet came along. It was a natural fit that I’d combine the two great loves of my life – writing and wrestling.

Dave: So once the online boom began, you became a regular at RSPW, and began to write your rants. What made you start this, and did you ever think they would take off the way they have?

Scott: Well, there was a four-year gap between those – I came online in 1992, and didn’t start doing reviews until 1996. Most of what I was doing in between was random thoughts posts. The popularity increases for my work have always been so gradual that it never really hit me at once how big they’ve become.

Dave: So how did the offer to write “The Buzz on Professional Wrestling” come about? Did somebody who was a fan of your rants contact you?

Scott: Actually, the editor for Goldberg’s autobiography was a fan of mine, and contacted me about doing some consulting work on that book, which actually landed me in the credits for the book.

From there, he told me about another friend of his who was editing a wrestling book where the originally contracted author had basically abandoned the project because he couldn’t handle it. I was asked to step in and write some of the book to ease the workload, and ended up doing the entire book in a little over a month. Because I wasn’t the original author, I was only paid a flat fee and thus didn’t make any royalties on the book.


Dave: So you were told specifically what to write about in “The Buzz”?

Scott: Specifically, no, but in general terms, yes. It was intended as an introductory book for newer fans, and thus I had to “dumb down” the insider terms and write it from a more objective viewpoint than I normally would have approached it. For instance, it was decided to go with a history piece on the AWA rather than ECW.

Dave: For a first effort, were you happy with “The Buzz”? If you could have changed anything about it, what would it have been?

Scott: I was happy with the initial draft, but I didn’t have any say in terms of editorial and layout changes, and thus my original design for what the book was going to be ended up getting drastically altered. Added to that was my apartment burning down around the time when editorial changes needed to be checked over, and the result was a book that was entirely out of my hands days after submitting my first draft. I thought it was great for what it was, but it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to say given the chance to write an entire book on wrestling.

Dave: So how quickly after the first book did you start working on the second? What changes did you make in your writing style between projects?

Scott: The first book was completed in October of 2000 and released in February, which was a remarkably rushed turnaround time, as I’ve since discovered.

We started shopping proposals for a WWF-only book about 6 months after that, hoping that the WCW purchase would keep interest in the product high enough to encourage a publisher to buy it. Unfortunately, the bottom fell out of the wrestling business and it took a long time to find a publisher willing to chance such a venture. We originally sold the book to ECW Press (the publisher of Missy Hyatt’s book), but got a better offer from Kensington Publishing soon after and that’s where it ended up. The writing style didn’t change so much as I just decided to cut loose and make the entire book opinion-based rather than trying to put forth an actual history of the promotion. So rather than just telling you that Montreal happened and why, I tell you what I think of Montreal and Vince McMahon for doing it.


Dave: As a writer myself, it often strikes me that one of the hardest things to do is consistently produce material every week. You manage to do a rant on both major WWE shows every week, plus monthly Pay Per Views, and other special shows. Did you find it hard to work on a book, yet at the same time keep up your normal writing schedule?

Scott: Not really, because I tended to write the book in insane bursts of inspiration at 2 in the morning until I dropped dead on the keyboard. Rants are usually done live (or at least at a decent hour) as I’m watching the show and on my own schedule. Having a set deadline for the book really helped my focus a lot.

Dave: What differences should readers look for between “Tonight…” and “The Buzz”? What can a fan buying this book expect?

Scott: In the most general terms, it’s the King Lear & Lazarus rants taken to their logical conclusion and enhanced with match reviews and much more opinion. I go over the WWF’s rise over WCW in 1997 and examine all the stupid stuff they did on the way down again and how they ended up becoming the very thing they spent millions destroying. And I make fun of HHH’s hair constantly.

Dave: How happy are you with the final product of “Tonight…In This Very Ring”? Did you say everything you wanted to say?

Scott: I’m completely happy with this book, and I had total control of everything from the text to the pictures to the layout. I’ve gone over it dozens of times and had other people checking to make sure it was exactly what I was aiming for, and I think the end result will be very fun to read for my fanbase.

Dave: The obvious question is, what’s next? Should we expect another book in the future?

Scott: Absolutely, although I’m still unsure on what my next project would be. I’ve had a book on the rise and fall of WCW on the backburner for a while, but it’s up to Kensington as to whether they want to go with that. Other than that, I’m always open to suggestions as to what can fill 100,000 words or so.

Dave: Do you have any plans to work on any non-wrestling related projects? What are the odds of you writing a fiction novel?

Scott: Writing anything longer than short stories has always been a challenge for me because of my limited attention span when I’m writing. Plus the agency I’m with doesn’t handle fiction writing. I’d like to try it, but who knows if I can pull it off.

Dave: I recently wrote a column for 411 entitled “I’m Mad As Hell, And I’m NOT Going To Watch This Anymore”, which outlines that although I have been a fan for 20 years, I recently stopped watching the WWE. Judging from ratings, Pay Per View buy rates and house show attendance, I’m not the only one.

How hard has it been for you to continue to watch the WWE’s creative slide? Are you ever tempted to throw your hands up in the air, and quit watching it?

Scott: I won’t say never, because RAW can really grate on your nerves sometimes, but for the most part it’s easy to find things to enjoy about the product and keep watching for them.

WCW drove me away completely in 2000, but experience and logic told me that there wasn’t going to be any miracle comeback for them, especially with Russo at the helm, so that was a different situation. As long as they keep guys I like in positions where they have time to work good matches, I’ll keep watching.


Dave: One interesting thing about you, is that you generally confine your commentary to the WWE product, for the most part. With the decline of the WWE product, have you ever considered branching out more into Puro, or the Indies such as ROH? I know you recently did a rant on a ROH show, and wondered if your readers can expect more of that.

Scott: More ROH is definitely coming, although I’m not a big fan of indies in general because I prefer the more polished style of TV wrestling such as the WWE and WCW. Frankly, I’ve never really connected with puro and lucha products like I have with North American wrestling, so it’s not something I’d feel comfortable sticking with as a regular thing.

Dave: Recently you did a review on the book “Brawl” by Eric Krauss. Have you become more interested in the Mixed Martial Arts recently? Do you think that the rise in popularity of leagues such as UFC and PRIDE poses any threat to the Pro Wrestling fan base in North America, like it has in Japan?

Scott: I’ve actually been following the UFC since the start, although I grew tired of all the rule changes around UFC 10 and stopped watching for a long time (along with lots of other people). Pride Grand Prix really started getting me into the MMA stuff again, and I’ve been watching Pride and UFC on a regular basis again for the past year or so. I don’t think they pose any threat, just because you can’t stage shows often enough to compete with worked events like the WWE, which can run two or three shows a DAY.

The volume of exposure for the WWE, even with the media backlash, is just too much to compete with.


Dave: As you know, after the Smarks departed for 411, a committee of the fans of the site and message board banded together and kept the site going under the new name of “The Smart Marks”. Have you been following the site, and if so, what do you think?

Scott: I haven’t been following it, but then I don’t follow very many sites outside of the major news ones.

I’m familiar with a lot of the writers and they’ll all good people, though.


Dave: What internet wrestling writers do you find yourself following, and trying to check out each week?

Scott: Again, most of my surfing is to sites like A1Wrestling.com that summarize all the big news sites, and I mostly stick to 411Wrestling.com column-wise. I’m a fan of Derek Burgan’s stuff over on the Torch, as far as non-Torch writers go, and I generally check out Joshua Grutman’s news updates on 411. Other than that, I check out a few messageboards and not much else.

Dave: If you have one regret about your writing career so far, what would it be?

Scott: Allowing my picture to be taken for a publicity shot in 2001 and thus erasing the air of mystery that had built up around me. And those damn pictures in Buzz.

Dave: Finally, for those fans interested in getting a copy of your book, what means would you recommend?

Scott: I’d recommend buying it via Amazon, so that I get royalties from both the publisher AND Amazon! Tonight in This Very Ring: A Fan's History of Professional Wrestling.

Dave: Scott, thanks for taking the time for this interview.

Scott: My pleasure, and I hope everyone enjoys the new book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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