A Drink at the Inn With: John Pollock

Credit: Post Wrestling

With so many choices for pro wrestling and combat sports news coverage available, it can be overwhelming. However, one site I always find myself going back to for the latest goings on in the pro wrestling world is POST Wrestling, which was co-founded in 2017 by journalist John Pollock and his long time friend and podcast co-host Wai Ting. Together the two have built a place that covers professional wrestling using a journalistic perspective and has built an exceptionally strong following and community.

I reached out to John and asked if he would be interested in chatting with us here at Wrestle Inn and he was gracious enough to answer a plethora of questions regarding his career, pro wrestling journalism, and thoughts on the some current state of professional wrestling.

I first discovered you when you were doing the “Bauer and Pollock” shows with Court Bauer and from there I started listening to you and your POST Wrestling co-founder Wai Ting on the Live Audio Wrestling (LAW) podcasts. How did you get started with LAW?
I was a listener of the program in high school and began doing volunteer work on the site around 2003. Later that year, they needed a call screener for the radio show and reached out to me and became my official start working on the program itself. 

Since POST Wrestling launched four years ago, what would you say has been the most rewarding thing for you in terms of running your own website?
There is a different level of satisfaction and accomplishment when it’s your own company. Wai and I started with few expectations other than a strong belief that we had a strong product and hopefully, people would support it. Fast-forward to today, I am incredibly proud of the community we have formed of listeners/readers that have seen us grow and have helped develop our own identity for POST Wrestling. I’m also very proud of the issues we have tackled over the past few years from the Speaking Out Movement, Black Lives Matter, the WWE shows in Saudi Arabia, and even the pandemic. These are issues I didn’t envision we would be covering in-depth but I’m happy we have done so and in a professional manner.

On the opposite side of that, what has been the most challenging thing?
It’s a lot of hours and a lot of juggling to accomplish what we do on a weekly basis. In our prior incarnation, there was always a lot of work, but we weren’t running the business side of things. For me personally, time management is always a work in progress because you can’t predict what each day will present. News doesn’t work on your schedule, you work on its schedule. I’m balancing a job where there is more weekly content to cover than ever before along with having two young children. I’ve always been very disciplined when it comes to carving out time and maintaining a schedule but these days, I have to be flexible and some times that means finding wacky hours of the day to get certain things done, mapping out my week regarding things I can control such as when I’ll watch this, when I’ll write about that, and usually the pieces come together.

One of the things I like the most about POST Wrestling is that you have podcasts that cover other topics other than just wrestling, like “MCU L8R” that covers the Marvel shows on Disney+ and “The Wellness Policy” that covers health and wellness issues. What was the idea behind starting those shows?
These are examples of shows that Wai Ting has taken the lead with. The Marvel shows are a perfect example of throwing something against the wall and running with it. Wai and I did a movie review early on and it not only got a great reaction, but we actually saw a jump in our numbers on Patreon, thus we continued doing them. Those Marvel reviews have now been spun off as its own series with Wai and WH Park and there has been a big crossover of our listeners with Marvel and other comics. The Wellness Policy is probably the most unique show on our network covering topics that are rarely discussed in this type of field with fans. Wai and Jordan Goodman run that show and it was an idea Jordan pitched. It’s opened my eyes to what our site is and where it can grow as wrestling is the key to the front door but inside there are many rooms, not every show has to be geared towards wrestling especially in this current climate where people are being more open and sharing their struggles and connecting with other like-minded people.

Credit: POST Wrestling/Jordan Goodman

What advice would you give to those who aspire to be in the wrestling/MMA journalism field?
Just start. Don’t wait for a big site to come calling, you have all the tools to start something today. I always tell people not to be discouraged by numbers when you’re trying to get started. If you put a YouTube video that generates 2 views, who cares? You’re gaining experience by just becoming comfortable in front of a microphone or finding your voice through writing. The other advice would be consistency – you want to write? Put something out every single Monday and make that your weekly goal, don’t miss a week, same with a podcast and find a schedule and rhythm and keep going. You probably won’t be great at the start and hopefully, you can find people that will provide constructive criticism to become better over time. Lastly, the financial side is important, but it can’t be the driving factor. I did many things in my career for free because if not, I wouldn’t have had that experience and saw a value rather than a price. If you’re launching a podcast or a blog, chances are it won’t be making any real money but hopefully, it can get your work out there and you can carve out a niche for yourself to either grow your own outlet or be hired by a larger one. 

How tough is it to separate truth from rumors in terms of reporting wrestling news accurately?
I have a pretty high bar I place on myself when it comes to reporting and it’s just experience in the field. Over the years, I’ve amassed contacts and can reach out to people for verification and with original reporting it’s having a trust in sources to get the accurate story. There is always going to be rumors that are not substantiated and that comes down to what I can personally verify. There are some excellent reporters in the field and it’s a tricky industry that has not always embraced the role of the media in covering it. It’s not about the being first with a story, it’s about being accurate, and my personal advice would be to not get caught up in the race to be first and if you can’t report something with confidence, don’t do it.

What have been some of your favorite things that you’ve covered in your career?
I’ve been lucky to travel to many places in my career that I never would have experienced without my job. Going to Russia in 2013 where I was the commentator for the World Combat Games was a personal highlight being outside of my comfort zone instructed to call many sports, I was less familiar with and working exceptionally hard to prepare for that trip. I’ve been very happy with the audio documentaries I have produced over the years including a 2019 doc on the late Owen Hart, which I received as much feedback as anything I’ve produced in my career. I like to get away from my daily routine and constantly push myself to try different things and it’s the blessing and curse of working for yourself where there is nothing stopping me from attempting anything I want to, but that’s also daunting and goes back to the struggle of balancing my time each day.

Moving on to some questions about the current state of pro wrestling. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on the pro wrestling business, especially at the independent level with companies having to either shut down completely or go on an extended hiatus. Do you think the independents (GCW, PWG, etc.) are still as strong as they were pre-pandemic?
Game Changer Wrestling is doing very well and the audiences they have drawn of late are indicative that they are as strong as ever and have carved out a sizable piece of the pie among independent wrestling fans. GCW and PWG are going to thrive by understanding their audiences and constantly searching for the next big thing in wrestling. GCW markets itself so well and comes up with concepts that just click with their crowd, they are very on the pulse of their fanbase. Some independents will struggle but there’s also a long list of recently released WWE talent that are suddenly available and that make for unique match pairings and attention they can bring to various Indies. The jury is still out on the overall health of the independent scene, but my assumption is that the scene will adjust and those that were successful before the pandemic will continue to thrive as audiences become more and more comfortable attending live events.

Speaking of the pandemic, one of the biggest news stories over the past year or so has been the rounds of WWE talent releases. With all that free agent talent out there right now, is there a point where the talent pool eventually becomes over-saturated and there’s not enough room for everyone?
I feel the talent that believes they were underserved in WWE and have something to prove have a great opportunity to showcase that ability with all the promotions on national television. Naturally, I cannot see AEW scooping up every last talent that was release this past year but it creates an opening for ROH, NJPW Strong, MLW, and IMPACT to expand their rosters and bring in the talents that fit their roster and can generate interest. It’s only better for the industry for more companies to thrive and have more full-time positions created, so that when a talent does enter the free agent market there are multiple suitors. On the other side of the coin is the next wave of big independent stars and whether there will be leverage on their side by WWE and AEW vying for the same talent or whether WWE dramatically reduces it’s aggressiveness towards the top independent talent in favor of their new direction on NXT 2.0.

Since you mentioned NXT 2.0, any thoughts or opinions on the overhaul of NXT?
Time will tell. The new format is better suited for the overall goal of creating performers that are main roster ready. NXT was a tremendous product that not only served in talent development but was a brand you could take on the road, run major arenas, and piggyback off major pay-per-view weekends with the TakeOver events that became can’t-miss events. This version of NXT is dramatically different but is more streamlined with the product seen on Raw and SmackDown, so you can understand the argument of adjusting even though it will leave a portion of your audience unsatisfied. If the WWE main roster has 3-4 viable stars in the next 18-24 months, then this will be looked at as an early success. It is difficult to serve two functions as a talent development system while also presenting a product for national television on a major cable network and trying to satisfy both.

Credit: WWE

With AEW now having the likes of CM Punk, Adam Cole, and Bryan Danielson, where do you possibly see them being in say six months to a year?
I think we’re seeing the escalation of the television base audience grow and it will be a test of seeing where their 18-49 numbers are six months from now. If they are consistently in the 0.45-0.50 range in six months, then I would be happy with that figure for Dynamite. They have been very aggressive in the Northeast market and I can see them upgrading to the top-tier arenas in certain parts of the country with the confidence they can fill these arenas. They have so many performers and match scenarios matched with a booker in Tony Khan, who has established himself as a solid force in that department that you have to be confident in the ability to manage this roster and peak at the right time while constantly building for the future.

What is one story in the world of pro wrestling that isn’t being talked about that you think that fans should pay attention to and why?
I will always advocate for talent to be properly compensated as they are the product. We are in an era with pro wrestling has never been more lucrative due to television and streaming rights at the forefront of revenue, yet talent don’t have a direct piece of that pie. More revenue can trickle down and increase pay but I hope there is a time that talent is guaranteed a percentage of that revenue. I feel a lot of today’s performers will look back at this era and believe they were due more. 

As fans we hear a lot of talk about WWE and AEW, but there are also other companies out there like Impact, Ring of Honor, and the NWA that don’t really get talked about as much in the news cycles. What’s one promotion that doesn’t get talked about a lot that you think should be on fans’ radar?
There has never been as strong a wrestling scene from quality in-ring content mixed with accessibility through streaming. ROH, specifically its Pure Division, is one of my favorite things to watch these days and they’re in a battle for fan’s attention. While the hours of wrestling content increase, a fan cannot create more hours in the day and therefore, have to pick-and-choose how much they can keep up with. Stardom is a company that has actually thrived during the pandemic in terms of garnering new fans and interest in their product and has some of the best wrestling in the world on a routine basis. 

One final fun question we like to ask everyone who does an interview with us. Let’s say you have a table at Wrestle Inn. What meal are you eating? What are you drinking? And who are you bringing for company?
I’d definitely be drinking a coffee regardless of the hour of the day and therefore, I’ll throw in a bagel as my wild meal choice. Company? I don’t venture too far away from Wai Ting, so he would be there. And naturally, we’d be having breakfast with Minoru Suzuki and Chris Charlton to translate.

Click here to follow John Pollock on Twitter @iamjohnpollock

Click here to follow POST Wrestling on Twitter @POSTwrestling

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