Disco Inferno

Disco Inferno’s Issues With Modern Wrestling, Keepin’ It 100, WCW’s Demise, Tony Khan

Glenn Gilbertti (@therealdisco) is a professional wrestler best known for his time in WCW and TNA Wrestling. He is also the co-host of the podcast “Keepin’ It 100 with Konnan & Disco”. He sits down with Chris Van Vliet at the Blue Wire Studios in Las Vegas to talk about how he got into wrestling, his six years in WCW, winning the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, Television Championship and Tag Team Championship, Jimmy Hart singing his entrance theme, the recent tweet Tony Khan sent calling him an “irrelevant parasite”, co-hosting K100 with Konnan, his job at Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club in Las Vegas and much more.

Quote I’m thinking about: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” — Nelson Mandela

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On being called an “irrelevant parasite” by Tony Khan:

“I do a podcast, fans mail in me mail me and letters, I answered the mail. And I review the shows. I mean, I’m not doing anything. [Fans only see online the negative things] Unless you’re a listener of our show. And you listen to our review, and we put over, we review Dynamite. Here’s the things we liked, here’s the things we didn’t like. What goes viral? Everything I didn’t like, right? Because there’s, there’s no positivity in promoting anything I say. Like SportsKeeda was funny. They would always take negative things I say, honestly, and put them up on their website, everybody thinks I’m just this big hater. I have an opinion of certain things. They’re pointed. I think they’re accurate. I just have opinions on things I don’t like.”

On getting heat on his podcast: 

“It is what it is. You know what, I think one of the reasons that I got more heat than I used to. When me and Konnan were doing the podcast before it started growing, I did a podcast with Vince [Russo] but that was on a paywall. So it never really went viral that much. But when I did that, I went back to Impact and I did like the Andy Kaufman thing. You know, the women’s wrestling stuff, they’re all that. People took me way too seriously. But I read the room in professional wrestling. Okay, these people are very easily offended. You know, wrestling fans these days, right? Plus social media is very polarising. So we’re the old-school guys. So we’re in that camp. And then there’s the new school, people choose sides. But I just embraced it, the women’s wrestling sucks. That was fine. Thank you to like, they can’t do as good as me. And just people, like when I walked out in Philly, the old ECW arena. Joe Feeney, he was an old-school ECW fan. He’d been a fan and has been in that arena a million times just ECW. He said, it’s like, I got like the second most heat of anybody that has ever seen in that building before. These people just hated me. [Who was ahead of you?] I think the night that they Shane Douglas with the neck brace thing that he did. But look, it was very well done, it looks real. So people think that like, I was like this guy, I hate women, misogynist. But it was so easy to do because it was so as I saw how easy it was to trigger the fans. I don’t know that’s like a skill, I don’t even want to call it a skill, an idea. If you just look, you know, what people get upset about? You see it on social media. Just embrace it. It’s what I want to do, you want to be a heel because ultimately it got Tessa Blanchard over pretty good the way we did it.”

On playing a character on his podcast:

“Not really. What’s the word I want to use here? It’s called ribbing on the square in professional wrestling, where you’re joking but you’re half serious. It’s a joke but there’s a good chunk of truth behind the joke. I had been very critical of some of, we would review the shows. See we’re watching these shows, some of the matches stink, in my opinion. I used to be an agent I used to wrestle. People criticise my work back in the day, so I’m very free to do it to what I see if that’s what people want to hear, right. So just some of the women’s matches I was watching. I don’t want to personally attack these people, but some of the matches were terrible. And I’m like, it’s fair to criticise the work collectively if everybody wants to be pro women’s wrestling, okay, that’s fine, I’m very for it, women draw good numbers. You can’t deny that that’s a recipe. They’re like, it’s a male audience, attractive women, they draw, the people don’t really change the channel? So my whole thing was like, what? I’m not allowed to critique a women’s match the same as a men’s match. That doesn’t seem very fair. Well, why are they like a protected group? There’s tonnes of them in the business. Back in the day, we had the Nitro girls and there weren’t that many women wrestlers on the card. Remember, like growing up what it was just Moolah and Wendy Richter. When it was just like two girls, and once every two, three months, they would be on TV for three or four weeks and they have a match, The Divas era changed that and all of a sudden, there’s a considerable amount of women on the show. My whole thing was like, I’m watching somebody who’s bad. So I have to watch all these shows, and I’d be critical to some of the work and people say, Oh, you’re just being a misogynist. So like, come on. I can stay true to my principles. If I think something’s not good I’ll tell you. If I like something, I will tell you I like that a lot. You know, so it’s just honest criticism.”

On the nature of the podcast:

“Honestly, when we do the show, it literally is, I’m not trying to do anything. Our show is we take mail, anybody can ask us a question, mail your questions, and we generate the discussions because usually the questions are about the topical stuff of the week, what happened and stuff. So we don’t really format the show. Like say, Hey, we’re going to talk about this. We know we’re going to get asked questions about stuff that happened to wrestling this week, right? We read every email. We read every word of every email, we read the insults and stuff, we read it out loud, we answer everything. Just our honest opinion. You know, Konnan has got skin in the game, because he’s the booker for AAA, he has a working relationship with Tony Khan. But yeah, but neither of us will compromise. Like if you’re telling me something, I’m like, did you like this match? I’m not gonna lie to you? If it’s like two guys, two friends of mine, I’m like I really didn’t like it. I’m just giving my honest opinions of what I’m seeing and then viewing it as a fan. Now the funny thing is, I get hated for having certain opinions because I’m not being a fan of the product enough. I’m not supporting it. Dude, I have no skin in the game. I go, my skin in the game literally is like when I talk about professional wrestling. I would love it, people don’t really think of it this way. I would love professional wrestling to get back to where it was as popular as it was. Because our shows would grow in popularity too. So that’s where my skin in the game is, is that if professional wrestling became more popular, we would have more fans.”

On AEW: 

“I love MJF, love Christian Cage. Jericho is my boy, love a lot of his stuff. The product, It’s different. Okay, because then this was my show, Guys like Cornette and they’re very polarising, too. But we all share the same basic philosophy, there’s a way to promote professional wrestling. And what we talked about is like, it’s very easy for the WWE to engage the fans. Tremendous video packages or like movie trailers with music sometimes if there’s just engaging fans. AEW does not do that at all. They’re constantly always trying to like to talk about the ratings, the demo number now. They talk about the ratings all the time, but they’re not drawing. And I’m like, sitting there looking at you guys. You’re not doing some of the basic things that you need to do to draw, which is if somebody’s tuning into your show, they’re completely confused. Like, there are guys on their show, Ring of Honor characters. I don’t watch Ring of Honor. And I don’t think a lot of people watch it and I think they’re only doing like 30,000 people on that subscription service they have. So they’ll take these guys and put them on the show. And I’m like who is this? I watch Dynamite every week. I don’t know who any of these people. And they’re acting amd announcing like I’m supposed to know. They booked their show basically for their fans. Okay, that’s fine. The guy’s a billionaire. Tony Khan is not going to run out of money Tony Khan has way more money than Vince McMahon. That’s what people don’t understand. Everything’s well they’re gonna go out of business. No they’re not. A guy that’s got $8 billion that’s investing $30 million here, let’s say he loses $30 million this year in a hobby that’s nothing like billionaires I think spend way more than that. But the thing they do, there’s basic principles to promote that they do not do and we don’t necessarily, me and Konnan are constantly critical of it’s like I don’t know the storylines. You got a storyline on here on Collision on Rampage. I’m just watching Dynamite. So when I’m watching Dynamite, you’re not filling me in on what happened on those other shows. That is very difficult for fans to engage with it. If I’m watching this I don’t know what’s going on. What’s he gonna do, you change the channel? I don’t know what’s going on, change the channel.” 

On AEW dropping the ball:

“I think the first month they dropped the ball. Okay, you can understand, nobody realises this. If you looked at the TV ratings as a stock, and like it was an IPO and they went public on October 2019. 1.4 million fans watch the show. So if that number represents a stock since that date, you’ve never been able to sell that stock and make a profit, that stock has been at a loss, they’ve never reached that first show that benchmark, they’ve never been back to that mark. And the whole first month, they lost say 400,000 fans during that first group, then they teetered between like 1 million to 900,000, that that number is pretty consistent for about a year until the pandemic hit, which screwed everybody. But yeah, I always say that was your mistake right there. Because they took basically independent wrestlers, and independent wrestling. And instead of putting it through the professionalism that the WWE does, which is incredible packages for the guys, outfits, just as branding of their characters stuff. They just threw them out there on TV, had them wrestle and had Dave Meltzer give his star ratings for the matches. And what great wrestling this was, what great matches this is like, I’m just sitting there watching going like, Okay, that’s great, guys. There’s been nine hours of wrestling on for 20,30 years. I’ve seen enough of wrestling matches, I go, that’s not what interests me in this product. I don’t think that’s what interests a lot of people this product. Are you interested in the matches or the storylines? Well, what’s the most important thing to you? If the storyline stinks, are you interested in the matches?”

On wrestling fans: 

“Well, if you look at the wrestling fan, they’re on like a bell curve right? In the middle, you have your basic fans that will they turn on the product, they get nothing else to do, they’re not going to change the channel, they just watch the show, right? Then on the extreme end, you have people that are watching it, on one extreme end you’re having people that hate watching. Okay, and then on the other extreme end, you have people that watch it with way too critical of an eye, which is not the way we want people to watch a product. I don’t want people like the Dave Meltzer fan base, okay, that have never wrestled before, they’ve never done this. And they’re just fans, you know, doing critical commentary over professional wrestlers work in the ring. And the thing is, like, a lot of these people don’t even really know what work is. When I grew up in like anybody from my era who trained to be professional wrestlers, you were taught how to do it to make it look as real as possible, while protecting yourself and your opponent. Okay. One company tries to do that. Okay, the other company if I told you that this, you watch some of the things he’s doing the shows like, these guys are going to get hurt. I’m scared watching some of this. For me, watching one his career, it’s uncomfortable for me watching Bryan Danielson out there wrestle now, because I know the guys had like a lot of concussions. I know he’s had like your issues and seizures and everything. And I want you to he’s still beating himself up out there. And I’m going like, why is he doing this?”

On the evolution of the modern style:

“And that I think is one of the problems okay. If you go back and watch, just pull up a Mr. Perfect versus Bret Hart on just a random YouTube clip, and you watch two minutes of these guys. You’re going this doesn’t look like wrestling today, okay? They’re not slapping their thighs, they’re not standing there letting the guy like you stand there and let me hit you and then you stand there and I’ll hit you back and you stand there in the middle of the match. Like when they shoot guys in and you’re trying to clothesline the guy, and the guy is ducking your clothesline, you look like you’re trying to take the guy’s head off. You’re diving out of the ring, the guys aren’t standing there looking right at you and then catching you. There’s a lot of basic things that make it look a lot faker than it used to. When we would lock up, punch sell, just like the basic ruggedness of professional wrestlers we had. Okay? Today it’s very choreographed and smooth and it doesn’t really look like combat a lot. But that’s what everybody’s doing, so it looks completely different than back in the day right? And like you said they raised the bar. Guys are trying to outdo the guy that when went before but they’re doing more risky versions of the exact same stuff. The original thing was back in Lucha Libre the suicide dive, which is basically just you run and dive through the second and third ropes. Even when we did that back in WCW had a Lucha guy, you would eat it. Like the guy would come like a missile. He would hit you, you would fall back but they try to have him fall on you. But it would look very violent, right? These days it’s like, you run you do the dive. The guy claps hands and lands on his feet like he just did a gymnastics move. I was like, that didn’t look like you’re trying to hurt the guy or anything. So now guys, since everyone just dives into the second third rope. Now we gotta run, now we gotta dive, off the top rope and we got to flip off the top rope. And now we have to dive, jump on the top have to turn yourself backwards to do moonsault off the top, all these different variations. Somebody’s gonna ever really hurt 1 time. I don’t want it to be, people don’t think about this right? With the way social media is, the mobs will just come after you right? If somebody gets seriously hurt like breaking their neck on a professional wrestling show. It’s like you don’t tell me that there’s gonna people coming out of the woodwork going like, like wanting to try to ban professional wrestling or you have to throw a wet blanket on professional wrestlers. Because that’s just a way things are these days and I’m seeing guys do this and like I think wrestling if you continue to do that very high-risk stuff. You’re looking down the road it may be these people coming after the professional wrestling business you know and I don’t want to see that happen because. I’ve dealt with the commissions these people are a joke. You know, these wrestling commissions come there and they act like wrestling is real. You know? I remember that we’d be in Baltimore these had these old school like gangster-looking guys, you know, maybe the guy was standing by the tables I know blood denied. If I catch it if you bleeding, he’s yelling at us. You don’t want the government coming in trying to regulate this again, which could happen if somebody gets seriously hurt.”

On WCW having issues:

“We would be at Nitro. Okay. And literally, me Konnan, Kidman, Benoit, we would find a TV and we would be watching Raw okay. The Rock and Stone Cold was there, it was just like entertaining and they were doing kind of cutting edge and they were doing the edgy stuff. And we were still, it was Hogan, Macho, Flair with him is still like just like all of our you know all those guys were still kind of on top there was a glass ceiling. We called it the we had what we called the top 12 by 12 stars.”

Why didn’t you go to WWE?

“I had done a stint in booking, right. So they put me on the I was on the booking committee for a while, like there was a nine-month period where it was near the end just wasn’t good. We didn’t have a boss kind of, you know, like Eric was kind of out of the picture but Eric would come back to the picture. But Brad Siegel was our boss. Okay, we be in the booking committee committee, asking, we had a question for the board. Hey, can we do this? You know, it’s like an edgy thing. Put in a call to the guy, wouldn’t return the call. So it’s like that. That’s when you knew like, and plus we were we were competing. I wouldn’t say competing, but they were like, butting heads with production. Just like one time, we wanted a limo at a show. And they brought like a Volkswagen Audi or, you know, just I don’t know. It was just like, we were asking for things. And they say like, it wasn’t in the budget. I was like, Well, how are you? I’m watching Raw and like, they look like they have like a ridiculous budget. You don’t like that they’re spending tonnes of money. We weren’t spending any money on production.” 

On not going to WWE after WCW ended:

“I was burned out. Because I was wrestling and booking. And it was just stressful. And I was in the first quarter of making $350,000 a year. My contract was 250, 300, 350. Okay, so when I was in the first quarter of collecting $350,000 is the most money I’ve ever made and what they did, they had a clause in your contract every quarter, they could terminate your contract. Okay, so I like started the first week of the 350. So I could have either forgone like $80,000 For three months for doing nothing. Okay, or just gone to WWE. And I was burned out and Nash was a good friend of mine. He was taking the money. A lot of the other top guys like Goldberg lay like guys were taking the money. Yeah, you know, and I was like, I’m just gonna take the money and hang out, me and Jeremy Borash and Kevin Nash would like, each day we’d come over like, they play video games, we’d watch TV, we go eat sushi separately, we just just just just go to the gym and stuff that we just kind of chilled. And after that happened when it was a kind of like maybe like time if I could have got a WWE, Johnny Ace was the guy, was the point man. Me and Johnny Ace didn’t get along.”

What is Disco Inferno grateful for?

“Health, my mom and still making decent money.”

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