Empire has one of it’s biggest shows of the year, Crazy From The Heat, coming up on July 11th. The Shaun Tempers v. Ace Rockwell Blindfold match didn’t even seem like it was on the radar for the show as recently as a few weeks ago and then BAM!, you shoot an angle with the return of both guys, and now we are getting a payoff for something that started six months ago if not longer. How far in advance did you plan to have that particular match on the show?

Sometimes things fall into your lap and you’d be dumb not to run with them. Sometimes some stories are easier. Tempers and Rockwell have both the talent and history to where you can always come back to it and BOOM it’s a great story. You can make the stuff up, but it’s better when you don’t have to. Two guys grow up together, go to school together, break into the business together, team together, then have a bitter break-up and feud for the better part of the last decade. That’s great story. It’s easy. These guys went 45 minutes in a classic last year at Crazy From The Heat. Fast forward less than year and Shaun Tempers accidentally trips Ace Rockwell into lit candles. Ace Rockwell can’t see because of this act. During this time his new wife goes into labor early and Ace Rockwell has to hold his first child without being able to see him. Tempers could easily apologize, but his character (or lack thereof) will not allow him to do it. A hero has to right this wrong. The hero has to prove that these actions don’t get you ahead in life. When people expect a left, it’s great to throw the right. Was this match planned last minute? No. When the stars align though, you can’t ignore it. Did this start six months ago? Or did it start 10-15-20 years ago? No one knows for sure, but like you said we get the payoff on July 11th. Of course, you said we get the payoff on July 11th……..I didn’t.

Another big match on the show sees possibly the best wrestler in the region Kyle Matthews challenging Rush. I was at the Empire Arena for one of their previous matches together, and I was there for the angle that set up the Street Fight at Crazy From The Heat. Rush is a great heel, and has cut some great promos to build up this match. What made you decide to put these two guys together, and would you agree with my assessment that this match has a great chance to steal the show?

I absolutely agree with that statement. It will most likely steal the show. I can’t go into every thought that brought these two together, but there are a few reasons. Kyle is the best technical wrestler around. I could cheat and take the easy way out by booking him every show against Corey Hollis, Chip Day, Chrisjen Hayme, Anthony Henry, or even young guys like Chris Ganz or KT Hamill and they will have a match you could put on any card in the world. I know that. But that’s easy. That’s lazy.

These two guys couldn’t be more different. Rush is a great heel. He’s a guy that’s been around for years, but has really started coming into his own in the past year or so. He’s a classic bully and started the year mad about all the small guys getting breaks while he sort of floundered. This led to him facing and defeating Kyle at Tooth & Nail 4. He then felt he was the best wrestler because he had beaten the best wrestler. He got a few more wins over Kyle and his ego grew. He made it personal by not only bullying Kyle and simply beating him up time and time again, but also stating the Kyle wasn’t a mad and wouldn’t be able to look his unborn child in the eyes one day and say he use to be a wrestler.

The match doesn’t have the years of story that Tempers and Rockwell do, but there’s still a personal issue. You have one guy that is known for being a rough and tough fighter and another that most people see as a good wrestler. I know Kyle Matthews though. This guy’s a fighter. He won’t stop until he’s forced to stop. He never named himself the best wrestler in Georgia. His peers and his fans did. He wants to live up to the name though. I think the match will be awesome.

Probably the most controversial angle Empire has run recently involves The Hatetriots and The Youngbloodz. I know some people who have gone to Empire shows and been turned off by the angle which is essentially two open racists v. two talented black wrestlers. Others have argued that the storyline is going to work out in the end with the faces getting over on the racist heels. Without given away any plans, what would you say to those who have been uncomfortable with the storyline thus far?

The world is insanely overly sensitive now. Luckily for wrestling fans, I am not. I also don’t have countless sponsors or shareholders to answer to. Therefore, I’m not afraid of a little heat. Not heat as in the what the sun produces. We live in an age where EVERYONE is “smart”, but this is capable of getting under someone’s skin? It’s wrestling. I have a nagging suspicion that someway…..somehow The Young Bloodz may just find a way to overcome the evils of The Hateriots. Who, by the way, seem to not so much be racist as much as bitter, angry men that hate….everything about everyone. If they’re seen as racist they would need to be considered sexist, anti-Semitist, homophobic, and all of the other words used to describe a bigot. Bigots are real. They exist. Just like people that fight for what’s right. Just like people that think they are better than others for no apparent reason. Just like people that think they are the World’s Greatest Athlete, Freakin’ Stars, Seductive, deserve to be champions, Asians that feel mocked for their culture, wannabe rockstars, people that like to entertain people, and all of the other “characters” Empire has. That pro wrestling has. It would be a world of difference if Octavius Black and Spoony Mac were offended by this. Oh. Did I mention, it’s wrestling?

Empire is a promotion that generally books around solid local talent. That’s not to say you guys never bring in people from elsewhere, but the heart and soul of the promotion are guys that have grown and developed in the region. Perhaps as a result of this Empire has two really popular babyfaces right now, Gunner Miller, and the current champion, Logan Alvey, both of whom have real “hometown hero” vibes to them. It is possible that Crazy From The Heat will end with a match between these two, and even if it doesn’t it seems obvious that that match is coming eventually. What is like to have two babyfaces that are that over with the regular audience, and how does one decide who to run with as the champion?

We try to bring in as much “outside” talent as possible. Some guys are more available than others. This is done to not only have new faces, but to have more experienced guys work with the younger talent. One reason Empire was formed was to have a place where fans could actually see a quality show and guys could actually work for a quality show. So we have to give local guys a shot. It’s for them. Sometimes take advantage of this opportunity. Sometimes they don’t. We focus on the smart and driven ones. Guys like Logan Alvey and Gunner Miller. They are homegrown talent. Both trained by Ace Rockwell. Both have a similar style and look. Miller has been a star athlete his whole life and was a natural. In his first match, I said he’ll get signed. His second match was against then Empire Champion, Shaun Tempers. He could have easily been made champion at that moment and it would have been electric. It was a time something could have been hotshotted way too fast, but would’ve worked beautifully. It also would’ve meant rushing a story to get to the ending faster. The story wasn’t done being written, so it didn’t happen. Alvey’s story is a bit different. He trained, but definitely started in the sport prematurely. Most guys do. That’s no fault of his. He struggled, but he hung in there and improved. He wanted to learn. He was a fighter. His fight got him to the top.

He quickly learned as champion that everyone wants what you have. They’re friends. Not best friends, but friends none the less. I would actually prefer the match not happen because I know what this can do to a friendship. Will it happen at CFTH? Not if Bobby Hayes has something to say about it. But if it doesn’t happen sooner, it may very well happen later. It’s a big match. It’s huge. I don’t know how the crowd would react if forced to chose. It would be interesting to see. That’s for sure.

As far as who becomes champion. Sometimes people don’t need the championship to be seen as a huge star or “face of the company”. Sometimes someone in charge gets an idea in there head and nothing will change it. Usually one of those things or a combination of the two are huge factors.

We’ve discussed several of the matches already, but why don’t you let us know what the rest of the card for Crazy From The Heat looks like, and what else people should be looking out for from the show.

We want people to understand that one thing that makes these shows different are the pre shows. They feature world class video packages that can catch you up on what’s been going on incase you missed something. Again, something you don’t find at every other wrestling show. We also have a match on the pre show. Good matches. Not a couple of guys no one knows. This pre show will feature The Double Dragons, along with their new attitudes, defending the Tag Team Titles against TEAM IOU, Nick Iggy and Kerry Awful. Arguably the two most entertaining men I’ve seen in a long time and arguably the two best tag teams in the Southeast today. Videos have been teasing some sort of debut on 7-11. It seems like something else that shouldn’t be missed.

Of course Bobby Hayes will face Gunner Miller with the winner facing Logan Alvey for the Empire Championship. We’ve spoke about that situation, the Double Hangmen’s Match, the Blindfold Match, and the Street Fight. There are two other matches featured. The first being a 6-Man Grudge Match pitting The White Rose (Chip Day, Corey Hollis, and Ryan Vega) vs the team of Corey Coxx, Mr. Sports Entertainment, and a mystery partner. I have my suspicions about who the mystery partner may be. Either way, solving mysteries and six men that hate each other is always interesting. Plus the Junior Heavyweight Champion, Matt Fortune w/Steve Dave looks to prove he is indeed the best Junior Heavyweight by defending his title against Johnny Viper, Joey Lynch, The Baniac, and ANY Junior Heavyweight that would like a shot at his title. I added the last part because after all, shouldn’t the best be ready for anything thrown his way?

Earlier this year, Empire released Long Cold Winter on DVD. To my knowledge this DVD is only sold at the live shows. I picked up a copy myself back in May and really enjoyed it, in no small part due to the commentary of Dan Wilson who I think is the best commentator in the business today. Are there plans to release more of the big Empire events on DVD? I know most of the matches from Tooth and Nail are available on the TV portion of the Empire website. Is that method for distributing content something we could see more of in the future as well?

We are definitely trying to make the DVDs of the Mega Events available to everyone. Like I stated previously, staying focused on the future presentation makes it really hard to focus on the past events. We have an amazing production team, but it is a small team. People don’t understand the hours that go into editing a three hour plus event. Plus adding commentary and trying to add graphics. It’s very difficult, but hopefully one day all of these events, plus more, will be available. There’s also other DVD projects that I have in mind that I would love to see put out there for the world to see.

Last year you were named the GeorgiaWrestlingHistory.com booker of the year. It’s a little late to give an acceptance speech, but what was it like to win that award given the incredible number of active promotions in the state of Georgia?

It really was a great feeling. I mentioned earlier that I don’t really keep up with a lot of that stuff, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t cool to be recognized. Again, I would have rather that fact never be known. This is a thankless job and the only real satsifaction comes from when things go right and you get that sense of pride. This isn’t a business where guys line up to thank you or kiss your ass. It’s rare for anyone to say more than a quick thanks. So when people recognize your work, it feels good. It’s definitely appreciated.

One final question. The Scenic City Invitational is coming up on August 7th and 8th, and is emanating from the Empire Arena. How much involvement will you have with those shows, and how excited are you to have Empire involved in what is shaping up to be a huge event?

I am very excited that the tournament seems to be building some steam and creating a buzz. I hope it opens anyone’s eyes to our product and what we’re capable of doing. I truly hope it does great business and all the fans and people behind it are happy on August 9th. As far as my personal involvement, I have absolutely no involvement with the project whatsoever.

Thanks for your time Andrew.

Thank you. I’m truly humbled to even be in a position to be asked to share some thoughts, opinions, and memories. I hope I haven’t put your readers to sleep. Everyone support pro wrestling by any means possible. Guys and gals do a lot of a sacrificing to put on a good show for the fans.

Dylan Hales is the co-host of both The Wrestling Culture and The Trade Marks podcasts. He is also a semi-regular contributor to VoicesOfWrestling.com, an armchair anarchist, and an annoyance. Follow him on Twitter @DylanWaco.