Conrad Thompson is one of the most successful podcasters in the world. He is the host of six different weekly wrestling talk shows with legendary names in the business, and just added a seventh that starts May 4th. We spoke to him about finding your niche.
His shows are Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard, What Happened When with Tony Schiavone, 83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff, Grilling JR (announcer Jim Ross), ARN (4 Horseman member Arn Anderson), the Kurt Angle Show, and starting on May 4th, My World with Jeff Jarrett. Premium listeners can join Conrad’s Patreon at AdFreeShows.com where currently 3,326 patrons pay between $9 and $49 dollars a month for bonus content at the lower tiers and the ability to sit in on Q and A’s at the highest level. He was originally a mortgage guy and still runs that business at SaveWithConrad.com out of Alabama, and runs ads for it on every show except for the episodes on Patreon where you can listen without ads.
PBJ: Do you have any advice for anyone who would want to start their own interview-style show?
Conrad Thompson: I think you have to decide what your goal is for the show. I do my shows to promote my mortgage company and turn it into a business. I have a lot of friends who make them for fun. What are we trying to accomplish? Are we having fun or what’s a good business model?
PBJ: Had you listened to podcasts before you were in one with Ric Flair?
Conrad Thompson: I started listening to Stone Cold’s podcast and JR’s podcast and Chris Jericho. I was fascinated that I could hear from the biggest stars in the world and hear stories that I had never heard and it wasn’t a “shoot” interview that I had to pay $20 for.
PBJ: In my research, it shows you did two shows with Ric Flair but I could only find one.
Conrad Thompson: CBS had a platform called Wooooo! Nation and we took the show private and called it The Ric Flair Show but eventually he lost interest but along the way I got to meet a lot of the folks I do podcasts with now. We had Jim Ross on, Eric Bischoff, Kurt Angle, everybody but Arn Anderson who we were saving for a special occasion that didn’t happen.
PBJ: On the Ric Flair Show you already sounded polished. Had you done podcasts earlier or perhaps commercials for your mortgage company?
Conrad Thompson: I don’t think I have a radio voice. I think I have a hilbilly redneck voice but if you do something often enough people will start to refer to you as that. In 2009 I started advertising pretty heavily here in Alabama and Tennessee and I was a frequent call in to live radio and did recorded spots and tv. So I wasn’t new per se, but I had never hosted a show. I tried really hard and a key to the success of our show is we try to be relatable to the listener and people will do business with you once they know like and trust you and I feel we’ve done a good job of that.
PBJ: Walk me through how you were feeling when you first did the show with Ric.
Conrad Thompson: We met in 2013. He was doing a convention in Georgia and we met and hit it off and he was in a rough spot having lost a son and he was looking for a drinking buddy and that’s probably not what he needed, but that’s what he got. We both stayed at a hotel nearby and one morning he asked me what a podcast was because CBS wanted him to do a podcast. “Can I make any money doing that?”, he asked me. I told him he could make a lot of money. Then after he had the deal he called me and suggested I ask him fan questions because he felt like he would do better than if he was just talking to a microphone. “We’re friends and you know a lot about wrestling,” he told me. The original plan was for me to do just one episode but everybody loved it and I became an accidental podcaster and I would go to the studio once a week and eventually started doing them from my house in Huntsville.
PBJ: Were you pretty nervous doing a national broadcast so to speak or not as much because you were already friends with Ric?
Conrad Thompson: I was nervous about not doing a good job for him and I didn’t want his podcast to be a flop and have it be my fault. They said you need to treat this like a radio show so whenever you get a chance, reset. Eventually, we threw the rulebook out and I think that’s what made the show start to grow more. But originally I did everything but read the weather, and hell, I’m just a mortgage guy, and if the people in the studio say that’s what I have to do that’s what I’m supposed to do. I didn’t realize at the time that podcasting is really more like the Wild West, you do what you want.
PBJ: When you first started with Bruce Prichard how did you settle on that format of using the Dave Meltzer wrestling reviews as a sounding board to get the questions started?
Conrad Thompson: I felt for a long time we fans had only heard one side of the story and that was whatever Dave wrote and I thought it would be good radio to format if it was like a political or sports talk show. I live in Alabama and everyone here wonders what Alabama football is going to look like next season well if there’s a host and a cohost and one guy says “I don’t think anybody can beat Alabama and here’s why” and if the cohost says “I agree we’ll be back after these words”, that’s not entertaining. I have to have a point-counterpoint or in politics, a left-wing and a right-wing type deal and I felt like we needed something like that. It used to be if a wrestler had a new book out you would hear him on Stone Cold, then JR next week, and Jericho and he’s going to tell the exact same story three times and I saw as a fan downloading if I heard him once I might say “well I’ve already heard that is there anything else?” and that’s when I realized wait a minute let’s not talk about current stuff. I don’t care about the current stuff If I’m listening to it after the event has passed because its old now but if I talk about Summerslam from 20 years ago that’s not old, so I realized the money is in nostalgia and the lesson I learned is that it’s really hard to get 52 guests a year. One week you have Kurt Angle and the next you have Conrad Thompson. It’s an Olympic hero one week and a fat hillbilly from Alabama next, and we would get great guests on the Ric Flair show, and downloads would die so I realized we needed fresh and fresh was what was old and in this industry, they call it evergreen and I hate that word but we made evergreen content.
PBJ: Why do you think everyone was content to do the same old thing?
Conrad Thompson: Well I think once you have something that works you keep doing it and that’s kind of what I do once I figured out my format and we were off to the races. I started to realize that other celebrity wrestlers had an attitude of “if you build it they will come” and I get that on some level but they don’t necessarily need 18 people to break down last week’s Summerslam. I would rather be the one guy talking about it from 20 years ago and if you’re trying to grow a business I needed a unique concept. I wasn’t sure that I could be better than the big names, but I knew I could be different.
PBJ: An article I saw from 2017 said you had 3 million downloads a month.
Conrad Thompson: I haven’t checked in a while but that number included legacy content but the Bruce Prichard show is still number one (for wrestling podcasts) and I think two is neck and neck with JR and Bischoff and Kurt Angle is new and I think he’s neck and neck with Tony Schiavone. Arn is probably the most niche show because we’re coming at it from the agent perspective and Arn is starting to loosen up and you could tell early on he wasn’t quite sure about it, but he’s having fun now.
PBJ: What was something you were the most surprised to learn about the podcasting business?
Conrad Thompson: Growing up as a fan you have an excitement about what you’re doing and now I’m hanging out with them and doing business and eventually I get comfortable with them and it becomes part of a routine and it’s just business and that has been a process. I’ll never forget the first time I did a podcast with Jim Ross. He was a big part of my childhood and now we’re friends. With any new relationship whether it’s romantic or business and eventually it’s like an old pair of comfortable house shoes that you’re not gonna throw out.