An Exclusive Interview with AEW’s Alex Marvez (Part 1 of 2)
INSIDE MAN: From the NFL Sidelines to Behind the Scenes of All Elite Wrestling
All Elite Wrestling (AEW): Alex, you grew up in South Florida watching Championship Wrestling from Florida and listening to legendary commentator Gordon Solie. Who were some of the wrestlers that grabbed your attention? What were some of the feuds of the era that hooked you as a fan?
ALEX MARVEZ: Ahh, Gordon Solie – the dean of pro wrestling announcers whose spirit is well represented in the announcing style of our Jim Ross. Gordon was the voice of God for wrestling fans in Florida and remains a huge personal inspiration to this day.
The first feud I remember when I was seven-years-old was Ivan Putski versus Ivan Koloff circa 1978. I am only partially tongue-in-cheek when I say feuds like this in wrestling would help shape my future world views (wait – not all Russians speak like Nikita and Uncle Ivan???).
All the kids in my Miami elementary school were Dusty Rhodes fans. We’d be giving each other bionic elbows on the playground and trying to copy everything we saw off TV (which I do not recommend at home; I sprained my friend’s ankle while applying an Indian-death lock variation). Sweet Brown Sugar i.e. Skip Young really captured my attention as well. I had never seen a high-flier like Sugar before—it felt like he had springs in his legs—combined with the fire Skip displayed in the ring.
I’ll never forget when Jos LeDuc dropped Sugar on the barricade in front of my dad and me when we went to a show together at the Miami Beach Convention Center. I’m still traumatized but it cemented my love for wrestling and the excitement that seeing it live can provide.
There was Ron Bass humiliating Barry Windham by putting a saddle on him and “riding” him around the ring, leading to a disgraced Barry returning under a mask as The Yellow Dog. For two angles --Super Destroyer (Scott Irwin under a mask) throwing a cigar in the eye of Mr. Florida (ditto for Paul Jones) and Eddie Graham bleeding from the mouth while being brutalized by Kendo Nagasaki – I called the local TV affiliate to ask whether they had an update on the injured wrestlers.
The guy who answered sounded like he had given this answer 1,000 times before: “You’ll have to tune in next Saturday to find out.” As I get older, I realize how brilliant that response was.
AEW: You’ve had quite a bit of cross training in your career leading up to signing with All Elite Wrestling. You’re a former Pro Football Writers of America president, having covered the NFL for over 25 years now. You’ve been with SiriusXM for over a decade now, currently hosting the show Late Hits on the SiriusXM NFL Radio station. We’re just scratching the surface. In many ways your story is reminiscent of the movie Almost Famous, the semi-autobiographical tale about writer-director Cameron Crowe, who began covering rock as a teenager for Rolling Stone magazine. Your on-the-job training began when you were a junior in high school for the Miami Herald. What were the elements that brought you to that moment in your life, and what was that initial Herald experience like for you?
ALEX MARVEZ: As a teenager in the late 1980s, I was looking for something job-wise to sink my teeth into. I was a huge sports fan (grandfather’s influence) and I enjoyed writing and talking about them. I figured why not get paid trying to do both?
At a high school journalism convention during my junior year, I attended a seminar led by a Miami Herald high school sports writer named George Diaz. After the seminar, I approached George and told him there was a good story to be written about my high school football team – which was en route to a 27-game losing streak of which I was only partially responsible – being down to about 22 players because of kids quitting, a lack of the sport’s popularity in an overwhelmingly Hispanic high school and a pink-eye epidemic.
George liked the idea. He then said, “Hey, do you want a job? Call Bill Van Smith at the Miami Herald and tell him I sent you.” “BVS” hired me initially to cover high school football games – i.e. assemble three-to-five straight-to-the-point paragraphs summarizing the matchup and call it into the newspaper by 10:30 p.m. – and then brought me to work inside the Herald answering telephone calls, assembling agate (i.e. the small print that would appear inside a newspaper) and basically doing any gofer work needed.
I couldn’t get enough of it. The Herald became my second home basically. I had a beeper while in high school so the Herald could get a hold of me if I was needed to cover a sporting event after class dismissed. That time laid the foundation for all the things I would later experience in journalism.
AEW: It’s 1987, you’re attending a pro wrestling card at the Miami Beach Convention Center to see Bruiser Brody versus The Sheik. You thought you were going to see two of the all-time greatest brawlers in a match, but as it turns out, the event would play a pivotal role in your own narrative. It was on that day when someone told you about another writer, Dave Meltzer, and his highly respected coverage of the wrestling industry in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Back then, there was no social media, no smart phones, no Internet as we know it now. On a mainstream level, pro wrestling was not receiving the serious, analytical, thoughtful reporting that many fans craved. Was your introduction to Meltzer’s work what made you want to push your participation status as a fan and seek other ways to contribute to the sport? In particular, is that what led to your involvement with the Global Wrestling Alliance promotion, learning from seasoned wrestlers like Bob Roop?
ALEX MARVEZ: Two things I’ll never forget about February 25, 1987. The first was Brody and The Sheik brawling through the stands and concession area at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It blew my mind and was one of those legendary precursor matches to the “hardcore” style that would become en vogue down the road across wrestling.
This also was the night when I struck up a conversation while waiting to get inside the arena with someone who told me, “You’re obviously a big wrestling fan. I think you’d like this thing called the Wrestling Observer. Send a check for $6 for four issues to this address.” Despite some skepticism – and the fact $6 was a big deal at the time to 16-year-old Alex –I took the plunge.
What I received in return blew my mind. TV spoilers, wrestlers’ real names, territories I never knew existed … the more I learned about how things worked, the more I wanted to know. I began to tape trade and saw wrestling from places like Calgary, Oregon, and New/All Japan in particular that made me even more wrestling-crazed.
When I began writing about wrestling, I wanted to share that knowledge with the world because I personally experienced how much having some of that “dirt” made me an even bigger fan than I already was.
Dave’s straight-forward style, attention to detail, big-picture vision and fearlessness in what he wrote despite the fact so many people inside the business would be upset for a variety of reasons served as the backbone to my journalism career. It provided personal assurance that as long as I told the truth and reported to the best of my ability that I would be fine. And I was.
After Championship Wrestling from Florida shuttered its doors in late 1987, an upstart group called the Global Wrestling Association began that tried to take its place as a regional replacement. I had become friends with Howard Brody (long-time wrestling promoter and former NWA president among other things) and he allowed me to get a glimpse into how things worked behind the scenes. This is where I first met folks like Bob Roop, AEW senior producer and coach Dean Malenko, long-time ring announcer Dave Penzer (who was just getting involved in the business at the time as well; we used to hang show posters together), Norman Smiley and others who provided a hand-up for me along the way. GWA didn’t survive for very long but its impact in my life continues to this day.
AEW: Did you see that as an opportunity to break into the wrestling business, were you trying to gain a deeper understanding of the sport so as to inform your own style of writing, or was it a combination of things?
ALEX MARVEZ: Breaking into the wrestling business was never a goal. I never took a training class. I never applied for a job with a company. At the time with GWA, I was just a rabid fan who was able to get access because I helped provide an entrée into the pages of the Miami Herald with a small feature story or plug for an upcoming event (which was big in those days, especially considering pro wrestling’s underground standing at the time).
Later, I wanted to blaze my trail following in the footsteps of Dave Meltzer as someone who wrote about wrestling from a journalistic “real-life” standpoint as opposed to the newsstand magazines I grew up reading that were, umm, a little bit looser with the truth.
I did write a newsletter at one point called Three Count while in college in the early 1990s. I ultimately had to shelve it for a variety of reasons but that helped me build my name in the industry as well.
AEW: You pitch a pro wrestling column to the Miami Herald, it turns out to be massively popular, and the outlet brings tons of exposure to your name and reporting. Was that where Tony Khan first became familiar with you?
ALEX MARVEZ: I believe that to be the case with Tony. I do have to say that it was the Miami Herald that came to me in the summer of 1989 about the idea of a wrestling column. The sports editors there knew I was a big fan and the newspaper had done a survey asking readers what they wanted to read more about. Wrestling polled really well so they decided to let me give it a whirl on a bi-weekly basis – a roughly 400-500 word column that appeared every Sunday. It got such a strong response that we went weekly within the year.
The column, which was one of the few that covered the industry legitimately in a mainstream publication, generated enough buzz that it became syndicated. I took the column with me to the Dayton Daily News in 1995 and then the Rocky Mountain News in 1997 where I signed a deal with Scripps-Howard to have it syndicated through their news service.
AEW: Your column ran from 1989-2012. It was chiefly your decision to end it? What was the reasoning?
ALEX MARVEZ: So many factors, the biggest one being that I was no longer following the product as closely as I once did and felt disingenuous in continuing to write about it. Wrestling had largely become a one-stop industry and I didn’t want to shop at that store, if you catch my drift. Just writing the column for money – and trust me, it wasn’t much – didn’t appeal to me. I was far more focused on the NFL at the time as well as working for both FOX Sports and SiriusXM. It didn’t leave a lot of spare time. But had I enjoyed wrestling in the same way I once did and do now once again, I wouldn’t have become the “lapsed fan” that Tony knows exists out there.
AEW: For all intents and purposes, you were out of the pro wrestling business, from 2012 until earlier this year when you signed with AEW. What transpired there that eventually brought you back into the fold and working for AEW?
Continued in Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Alex Marvez, only on www.AllEliteWrestling.com!