Chaunce Hayden interviews Andrew Zarian about the Mat Men podcast in the April edition of the magazine Met Nights.
How did you get your start in podcasting
This year will mark 10 years of doing this insanity! In 2009 I lost my I.T job due to the economic collapse. I was sitting at home and wanted to take a risk. I didn't want to live my life with regrets; constantly thinking “what if…”. I was 25, recently married with a tremendous mortgage that I could barely afford, and yet I felt as though if I was going to do something “crazy” this was the moment.
I've always been a huge fan of talk radio. Growing up in New York City, Howard Stern was God. No one did it better than him. Howard was a huge influence on my wanting to get into radio and podcasting. One day I decided to pull the trigger, I ordered a few microphones and the rest is history.
You're a pioneer in podcasting and have hosted many shows of various topics. Would you agree your Mat Men show has the most loyal and fanatical listeners?
Yea for sure. I would say that the Mat Men audience is the most dedicated that we have ever had. It's a real community. They have their own chatrooms, Facebook groups, and live chats during each show that we do. It’s almost become a show within a show at this point. I love the community we have.
How would you describe the stereotypical wrestling fan?
That's a great question. I think the stigma that goes with Pro Wrestling fans is true to an extent but it has changed a lot over the past few decades. Most of my friends in their 30’s, to some extent, still watch and follow what's happening in the world of professional wrestling. The Internet has made this much easier.
What's the attraction that keeps millions of fans around the world so drawn to it?
It’s a one of kind business. There is no other sport or entertainment product in the world that is comparable to Pro Wrestling. It is a constantly evolving business, and yet at the end of the day, somehow manages to stay the same. It's wild to think about how many different styles of pro wrestling exists and how many different types of fans there are out there. You don’t get that with the NFL or NBA.
What do wrestling fans care most about when it comes to Mat Men's content?
I believe it is our honesty, our reputation, and our consistency.
UFC vs WWE. Do both share the same fan base?
There definitely is a crossover, but I would say there are more Pro Wrestling fans who watch UFC compared to UFC/MMA fans who watch pro wrestling.
Has cage fighting had any impact on the WWE over the years? Does one play off the other or do both sports dilute the fan base?
100% WWE has evolved and we have seen the impact of Mixed Martial Arts in Pro Wrestling. “Tapping out” from a submission wasn’t “a thing” until MMA gained popularity. You also have to consider who the top draws are in WWE today. You have Brock Lesnar, who is considered one of the most talked about UFC fighters of all time and of course Ronda Rousey. She changed the sport for women, nearly overnight.
Obviously, your podcast is listened to around the world. Is it difficult to play to such a global listenership made up of so many cultures?
Sometimes. I think the internet has made it easier since everything is global now but I will say some things get lost in translation.
Your podcast content goes far beyond the WWE. Wrestling has grown to the point where local matches are now held to meet the demand to see live events. Do you get requests to talk about and promote the local matches and how do you keep up with it all?
I love independent wrestling. I try to go to a show whenever I get a chance. I'm currently the Executive Producer of Capitol Wrestling. They do their TV tapings out of Hoboken and Jersey City. It's amazing to see how well run the management is there. From the locker room to the fans everyone has such passion for what they are doing. We recently got TV in the New York Market and over in the UK. The stigma attached to independent pro wrestling promotion is becoming disappearing with companies like Capitol.
What's the biggest misconception about professional wrestling?
I think for a long time people thought that there was no money in Pro Wrestling unless you were under contract with the WWE, but that has changed over the past few years. There are many independent talents out there making a living on their own schedule.
Are female matches as popular as the men?
Women's wrestling has come a long way over the past decade. I wouldn’t say it is as popular, but this year we are going to see the women’s world title match possibly headline Wrestlemania in front of 78,000 people. I think that says a lot about where women’s wrestling is right now
WWE is so controlling of its brand. Are you considered a friend or foe by the WWE?
That depends on the day. There are days that I am on great terms and other days where I get a phone call chewing me out. Generally, we are on a good term with them until we say something that goes against their programming. We have a lot of friends up there and try to never break their trust when it comes to leaking information. We have to be really careful with the things we say, and when we say them.
We're just learning about the long term effects of the physical toll wrestling has on the human body. The movie “The Wrestler” comes to mind when addressing this topic. It's wrestling too brutal on the human body and is the risk vs reward worth it?
We have the expectation that there will be long term health effects with all physical sports. We hear so much now about CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in football players, Boxers, and in Pro Wrestlers. The excuse we have heard repeatedly has always been “We didn't know”…How do you not know getting hit in the head repeatedly can cause head trauma and long term damage? That excuse has always been severely flawed to me. With that said, I am glad that we are more aware and are making efforts to limit the amount of damage that is created. The WWE has made a very aggressive effort to limit shots to the head and has been very cautious about putting their talent out there after a concussion or other injuries.
Is there one podcast that stands out to you more than all the other's you've done?
It has to be Mat Men for sure. This was really a hobby that turned into something amazing. The community around the show is what makes it so special to me. I could do this show every single day and not get sick of it.
Tell us something about you that nobody would believe.
I think you know most of my deep dark secrets Chaunce, but one interesting thing I could share would be that Madonna lived in my house sometime in the early 1980s. The stories that I have been told from neighbors who lived here at that time are insane and probably should never be published.
Finally, if you could change anything about the wrestling as we know it today what would that be?
The real competition to the WWE would be what I would change or see in Pro Wrestling.
Pro Wrestling is in a renaissance era right now. There are so many promotions out there doing amazing things. If you are turned off to the WWE product you now have options. Over the next month or so we are going to see what All Elite Wrestling is all about. If they can land a strong TV deal and be aggressive with the content they are creating you can have a very serious and viable number two promotion in North America. This would be the first time in almost 20 years that we have a serious secondary promotion.
Where can people see your podcast?
We are everywhere podcasts are available. Obviously iTunes and Spotify and Google Music but you can also watch us do the show live every Thursday morning on Youtube if you search for Mat Men Podcast.