Former WWE writer Kazeem Famuyide was recently interviewed by Wrassle Rap podcast in which he discussed what it is like working for the creative writing team. A recap of his experience was transcribed by KN (Patti Mayonnaise) from Freakin' Awesome Network Forums.
– Kaz worked as a writer for 9 months. He was released early February.
– Kaz was the only black writer. Jed Pepperman was the only female writer, she’s the house mom, as up until recently when they hired a woman named Betsy who’s writing great stuff on SDL.
– He applied for another job and didn’t get it but they found his social media links on his application and saw he had a lot of followers. Once they found out he’s been watching since a kid they asked if he’d want to join creative so he applied for that and got the job.
– To his firing, he was putting together Raw and was called into an office by Dave Kapoor (now the SVP for creative) and a woman from HR. Kaz was like “oh, is this what that is?” and Dave was like “yeeeeeaaahhhhhh…” Kaz was mad for 20 seconds but then he’s ok with it and he said thanks for the opportunity. Kapoor gave him a big hug. Kaz loved the other head guys like Road Dogg, Ed Kosky and etc. Dave puts his ass on the line for everyone on creative. The next day he got a call from Uninterrupted so he’s working there now.
– He initially was on team SDL and his first job was working with the Riott Squad. His first 4 weeks involved doing things with the Riott Squad such as writing about them f***ing shit up backstage. He then was moved to Raw and was working with Strowman. He’s also been seen on screen a few times with Strowman and Drake Maverick with that whole pee backstage thing. Roode and Mojo were other guys he worked with.
– There’s 2 writing teams; hometeam and road team. Hometeam’s in charge of long-term baseline things. Ideas, pitches, long-term stuff, writing from “home.” Roadteam’s in charge of what’s on tv that night. Kaz was immediately on the roadteam and they usually don’t do that, usually you work up to that.
– He eventually started working on in-ring promos, live segments and getting on headset and calling things from Gorilla, that’s when he started working with New Day, Lio and Lashley. Working with New Day’s the most fun he’s had in the company. Lio and Bobby were fun with him too as they needed it the most. Lio trusted him to do what he needed to do. He thought the first few weeks of Lio and Lashley did well as people started rooting for Bobby. His inspiration for Lio was Mayweather or an urban Jimmy Hart. A few weeks later Vince felt it wasn’t working like he wanted so they did the heel turn which worked well and that’s when Lio started to be more confident talking.
– The writers’ room is the least stressful room.
– Wednesday the writers put 1 sheet together. Thursday they put the 16 segments together, Thursday morning/afternoon is the least stressful. The Thursday night meetings is where the two lead writers of both shows go in with what they wrote and pitch it to Vince. On the day of the show, that’s where Kaz and the other writers could pitch things to Vince and those production meetings were stressful.
– If you’re a life-long wrestling fan Kaz says walking into production meetings are a mindf***. You go into a room with all the writers, the producers, the commentary team (like Saxton, Graves, Renee, Phillips, Nigel) too. The producers were guys like Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko, Billy Kidman, Kidd, Devon Dudley, Road Dogg, guys like that. Next thing you know the doors swing open and then comes Hunter, Vince and Dunn and they sit at the head of the table. Once the meeting starts everyone stands up and Vince looks everyone in the eye and then Vince shakes everyone’s hand. The first day Kaz sat in the front row because he wanted to make a good impression and Vince shook his hand and went “oh hmmm, nice, welcome aboard” and kept it moving.
– Hunter’s cool, the higher ups are pretty cool. They’re straight shooters. Kaz hates to say it but basically he says if you act like a pussy they’ll treat you like one but if you’re a straight shooter, and aren’t scared of them then it’s good.
– He’s had nothing but positive experiences with Vince. As long as you’re not called into a room for f***ing up that means you’re doing a good job. Kaz got called into the room once. Like stated, if you’re not called into a room you’re good but if he calls you into a room it could be 2 things. 1, you really f***ed up or 2, you did a phenominal job. The one time he got called into Gorilla by Vince was when he was pretty new and he was working on a backstage segment with AoP. Kaz didn’t know that extras weren’t supposed to bump backstage so Kaz and Fit were planning it out. AoP were supposed to walk backstage and see some janitor-looking guy and and do a shoulder shrug type of thing. So what happened was AoP was walking, sees the guy and then knocks the guy into some stuff. Kaz thought “yeah AoP, these some bad motherf***ers f***ing up dudes for no reason” and then a few minutes later he’s called to Gorilla. Vince was cool with it but he was like “why am I calling you in? Who was the producer on that? I told you to go easy on the extras” and Kaz took responsibility. The cardinal sin with Vince is excuses. When you sit under the learning tree and he drops knowledge that’s the best version of Vince: Papa Vince (or Grandpa Vince). Vince enjoys giving knowledge to people and he loves when people take what he’s giving them and they use it well.
– Vince isn’t a maniac and he’s not crazy. If you get a laugh out of Vince you’re golden. Says Vince listens to everything.
– Vince didn’t wanna use the word “manager” when putting Lio with Lashley, felt the word was out of date, Vince wanted to use the word “handler” instead. Kaz was with Kevin Owens working on it and Owens didn’t like the word handler because there were some racial connotations with that phrase. Kaz and the lead writer of SDL John sat with Vince on it and Vince was like “what’s wrong with it, Hollywood actors have handlers all the time, what should we call it then?” and they suggested hypeman. Vince said “well goddamn he’s the hypeman then.” Kaz told Cole and that’s where the “Lio Rush is Lashley’s hypeman” thing that Cole said came from.
– The negative pre-conceived notions about Cole are wrong. Said he’s one of the hardest working guys there. Cole helped Kaz a lot with his work.
– As a writer the only people Kaz talked to on the headset are Vince, Dunn, the prop guys and the music guys. Things like “ok, 10 seconds until (insert name) comes out”, “we’re 4 minutes from going home”, “running heavy, send (insert name) out”, stuff like that. Everything that goes on the screen is a writer’s responsibility. Dialogue, music queues, where the wrestlers pic up the mic, if something f***s up related to anything like that on screen the writer’s going to be first person the brass get at. They’re first on the chopping block. Writers are replacable.
– Roman’s a guy who goes out of his way to make sure his writers are good. One day Kaz wrote for Roman and it was great. You can tell that Roman played football by how he is, he’s a leader. Most talent work well when writing for them.
– There’s 3 tiers of talent when it comes to writers:
Tier One – The “ok, I’ll take what you have written here and make it my own. I won’t change a single word, I’ll make it work.” Calls it the “Dean Ambrose Special.” You give Ambrose a copy and as long as it’s nothing wild or OD it works. Calls Ambrose one of the best guys to work with because he can make anything work.
Tier Two – “The “ok, this is cool but let’s tweak this, tweak that, lets make this better.” Didn’t give any examples.
Tier Three – Some guys you can’t write for because they’re so great. You can give them a great starting point and you just let them go. It’s more of a collaborative effort. Heyman, Owens and Zayn are some of those guys where you’re like “ok I wrote this thing” “ok, I like this I like this, let’s change this” and it’s more of a team effort until you both like the finished product.
– With Heyman he’s someone where you’re sitting under the learning tree with him. He won’t let you out of his sight, he’s there helping you. Kaz tells a story about how Heyman got him into green tea. Heyman’s respected by everyone. Kaz tells a story about the day where Roman announced he had leukemia. They’re putting Raw together and they hear Roman won’t be able to make it and no one knows what’s going on. The script just says “Roman Reigns promo 10 minutes.” Kaz has to write and produce Heyman’s promo about Roman’s announcement and Kaz’s script just says “Heyman reacts to Roman’s promo and leads into Lesnar-” and whatnot. Heyman’s like “Kaz you don’t know what’s going on? Ok, let’s go to Vince’s office” and they both head there. Kaz sits outside. Inside was Heyman, Hunter, HBK and Vince. Heyman comes out and he says “brother you’re covered, when I say ‘reigning, defending’ hit Strowman’s music, I got the rest” and that was it. Heyman just went out to the ring that night and spoke from his heart. Everyone was in Gorilla watching the announcement, they went from small tvs to the Gorilla tv after Reigns said “my name is Joe and I’ve been living with leukemia for-” people were in tears. Reigns is really the leader backstage to the talent.
– Kaz knew Roman was going to return to the company at the end of December.
– Kaz worked with Reigns during the Lashley feud. Reigns is a star and considering that they don’t have to be too delicate with him because he’s getting noise.
– The first promo Kaz did live without any backup was the 5-time celebration promo with Booker T. Kaz was thinking “ok I got New Day and Booker, how can I make this the blackest segment possible? How can I get away with New Day taking a knee on WWE television?” They made it a reagal celebration for the 5-timers club and in turn New Day got on a knee. He worked on it with SDL’s lead home writer. Says it’s an iconic black wrestling picture with Booker knighting “Kofi the Brave” especially with the KofiMania thing popping off now. Everyone in Gorllia was cracking up at the segment. Vince gave Kaz props for the segment.
– The last promo Kaz produced live was the New Day New Year’s party where Kaz snuck in the Steiner Math joke. Hunter came out of Gorilla cracking up saying “did this motherf***er say Steiner Math?” and Kaz knew that joke wasn’t going to get him in any hot water.
– The writers got a lot of heat from scripts leaking because they thought it was from the writers. Luckily it wasn’t, the scripts stopped being leaked so Kaz thinks they figured out where it came from.
– Entire shows had to be scrapped re-written last minute more often than Kaz liked especially towards the end of his run. With no Reigns, Cena, guys being injured, burning the candle on both ends too. There’s a lot of times where they’d work on a script for all week where writers and producers had feedback. They’d then leave the room for the next meeting and come back and the entire thing would be changed due to Hunter or Vince not liking it. If it’s something that had to be redone top to bottom they’d give bullet points as to what they’d need to do and then repitch it.
– There’s been a lot of times where Kaz was writing something thinking that it wasn’t going to work but it ended up being a smash. For example, he thought they had something with the “looks like money and smells like money” line for Lio and Lashley as Lashley was getting heat. Kaz got an email saying “nah, we’re not doing that anymore” and that was in the middle of them getting merch for Lashley. A week prior to that they got booed out of the building. Lashley wanted to be a heel and Lio’s a natural heel since he’s a shit-talker. Calls Lio a best case scenario Enzo. Anyway, Vince is like “we’re gonna have him show his ass to the crowd.” Kaz was like “ok we’ll make it work.” The first few weeks of the ass thing it was awkward but then they saw signs for the poses, when walking to the arena fans are saying “hit em with your favorite pose” to Lashley and Kaz was like “goddamn, this motherf***er Vince got em again.”
– Kaz wanted to work with Ricochet and wanted to work more with EC3. He worked a little bit by writing some things for EC3. Wanted to work with Dream and when it was time to pitch things for those guys Kaz was saying “Dream’s the guy” and he also says that Dream’s the golden child. Says he’s the next big thing. Kaz calls the NXT 6 the “Halftime Heat Crew.” He says they’re way more important to NXT than Raw. He says that Ricochet is the first guy in NXT’s history that when he was signed there was a surge in NXT ticket sales.
– People backstage thought Kaz was nuts because he was the only one in creative who didn’t have to work NXT and yet he was front row at every Takeover.
– He watches the shows in a different lens now. He notices the times, segments, pauses and etc. He initially watched in a totality but Heyman taught him to look at it differently. Raw’s 3 shows, SDL is 2 shows so that’s 5 shows. Notice when they put trademarks at the top of the hour? That’s for advertisers to see that there’s 3 segments, your commercial’s in there, this segment hit a particular time and such. Given there’s crossover segments it makes it more difficult. If they miss the times that’s thousands of dollars down the drain. As a writer they have to hit the crossover time and they have to make sure that when people are flipping through the channels at 9 they gotta see something on tv. If they cut to a commercial at 9, they’re f***ed. It’s a fireable offense. Basically he watches the show in segments.
– Wishes everyone had a chance of writing for the WWE. Everyone in creative has thought the same thing as each fan has pitched. Kaz stays on Twitter and says no idea is super original and they’re pitched, they’re turned down due to different factors such as injuries, other storylines needing certain things and etc.
– Says they can’t put NXT on Raw and make it a straight wrestling show. It wouldn’t be worth what it is today if it was. Says some people are great talents who don’t put butts in seats. Says creative f***s up at times too.
– Says all his live segments were fire. Anytime he did a New Day, Lashley and Lio, Owens, Elias, Heyman, all his stuff was fire. Kaz was the guy who wrote the Owens/Elias booing segment as well.
– One day the writers are sitting in the writers room and Bryan’s storming down the hallway and he kicks the door open and he says “HEY WE NEED A HOT YOUNG BABYFACE RIGHT NOW, THE YOUNGEST BABYFACE WE HAVE IS PUSHING 40 YEARS OLD HOW IS THIS GONNA WORK!?” Bryan’s joking but he was deadass and in a roundabout way that’s where Ali came into play. Ali was a pure whitemeat babyface who has emotion and agony. Vince is big on emotion. Vince understands the dynamics of good vs evil and yeah he might beat a babyface to a pulp one segment but if there’s one thing the WWE doesn’t miss on it’s the big huge babyface moments. Kaz says when people think about Bryan’s WM30 journey people remember the celebration but don’t really member the months Bryan was getting his ass kicked because the victory was that strong.
– Vince is the head coach, as a writer you’re offensive coordinator and Dunn is the defensive coordinator. You gotta call the plays but Vince has the playbook. If a show ends early they have a plan B where they’d call an audible where they send someone out, a backstage interview, just something that they can fill time.
– Writers and producers are working hand to hand in segments. If a segment has any physicality you need a producer.
– When it comes to working with Vince it depends. If he has an idea for a big named guy then the buck stops with him, what he says goes. If it’s a lower act guy he’ll likely run with your idea for as long as he can. It depends on the talent and the angles.
– He wanted to work with Sasha, Bayley and most of the women and it bothered him. He did work with Naomi, Asuka, Mandy, Sonya and the Riott Squad.