Freddie Prinze, Jr. is Actually Awesome: What Wrestling Fans Need to Know About the Former WWE Creative Writer
By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Since its debut in December 2013, I have listened to every episode of Chris Jericho's hit podcast, Talk is Jericho on PodcastOne. I'll set aside an hour or two every Wednesday and Friday to listen in, even to the non-wrestling interviews. Jericho has proven to be so exceptional as a host that I'm willing to check out all of his interviews because I know I'm going to be entertained.
On the two year anniversary of Talk is Jericho in early December 2015, I compiled a list of the top ten most must-listen wrestling interviews on the podcast in an article for Hidden Remote. I haven't found the time to go back and listen to any of those episodes since then, but there was one recent show I took the time to listen to twice, that being Ep. 212 with Freddie Prinze, Jr.
Anyone who isn't familiar with Freddie Prinze, Jr.'s background will likely assume that he was on Talk is Jericho to promote a project or to discuss his acting career. He did spend the first portion of the episode discussing his father and how he got into acting, all of which was interesting information, but what some people may not realize is that he worked as a WWE Creative Writer on two different occasions from 2008 through 2011.
Prinze may be best known for his role in 1997's I Know What You Did Last Summer and its 1998 sequel, but I only knew him as Fred Jones growing up. I was huge in Scooby Doo in elementary school, so I always liked Prinze for his involvement with those early 2000s films. But I gained a whole new respect for him when I discovered he was a wrestling fan, and a die-hard one at that.
Meanwhile, "the boys" in the locker room didn't have much respect for him when he was hired by WWE to be a Creative Writer in 2008. They assumed he was just another celebrity that got his foot in the door through his noterity, but what they later learned was the passion he had for the business. Apparently, he shared an apartment with Shane McMahon at one point. In addition to his name value, WWE figured he would be a great fit for the company when he was asked what he felt he could contribute. He said he didn't want to change the landscape but rather support the foundation, thus earning him the position.
One individual who slowly warmed up to Prinze was John Cena. He constantly called him Ashton Kutcher as a "rib," but after many of Prinze's pitches went over well with the fans and even Vince McMahon, he gave him his blessing in a way by saying he was "all right" in his book. The Undertaker was no different. Prinze worked closely with The Deadman during his time on SmackDown in 2008, helping him write his promos. If Undertaker is giving Prinze props, there is no reason why you shouldn't be, either.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the conversation between Prinze and Jericho came when the mutli-generational actor discussed working with Jeff Hardy. Prinze said how they immediately bonded because of their odd-ball personalities and how they agreed on many things philosophically. Prinze understood The Charismatic Enigma on a level few others did, making their chemistry that much stronger. Prinze vouched for Vince to put the WWE Championship on Hardy, and ultimately, he did. Prinze is modest in not taking credit for it, but just know he was the mastermind behind Hardy's rise in late 2008 and eventual title win.
His comments about CM Punk also piqued my interest. Jericho asked him whether there was anyone on the roster during his time there he thought WWE could have done more with, and he singled out CM Punk. The Straightedge Superstar was still a midcard guy at best by that point, even during his World Heavyweight Championship reign. Remember, this was years before Punk was the mega star he later became in 2011, and Prinze mentioned how he wished he could have been a part of that process. He followed him on the independent scene and knew what he was capable of.
Prinze's positive influence on WWE went far beyond his time as a Creative Writer. When the schedule grew to be too hectic for him and he came back to the company after having a child, he worked with the developmental students on their acting ability and promo skills, similar to what's in place today at the Performance Center. He would tell the wrestlers to reprise the character from their favorite movie and do exactly what they would do. It was easier for them to relate to something they knew instead of cutting generic wrestling promos. It was brilliant.
Later on in the podcast, Prinze made a fantastic point about WWE's Creative Writers and how they tend to receive flack from fans for poor storylines, but he stressed that wrestlers get hurt all the time, and when that happens, their amazing angle gets thrown out the window. He said he and the wrestlers could communicate about a sensational story and everyone being on board for it, except Vince. If the head honco doesn't approve, as you probably know, it gets nixed.
One idea he had in mind he brought up that I thought was tremendous involved Edge and Christian in early 2011. Christian had just returned from injury and they were building toward an Edge and Christian split that would play out with the two doing a comedy skit and Christian spelling out the word "spine" with a puppet before critically injuring Edge. We'll never know whether it was too dark to be done since Edge's legitimate injury prevented that from happening. But still, incredible idea, right?
Needless to say, it's a pretty great podcast, and he went in-depth with plenty of other topics including his interactions with Vince and Michael P.S. Hayes, the stressful schedule, the current PG rating and how it can hinder the product at times, a blow-away promo he wrote for Alberto Del Rio, and much more. In other words, Freddie Prinze, Jr. is actually awesome, and you'd be remiss not to check out his hilarious conversation with Chris Jericho on Talk is Jericho. You can check out the episode here.