He’s a wrestler, author, improv star, stand up comic, and just so happens to be the brother of former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Dolph Ziggler. Here is my interview with the witty and engaging Briley Pierce!
Alex Obert: What is your first memory of watching wrestling?
Briley Pierce: Oh man, I think way back with Jake “The Snake” Roberts. If I go a little bit ahead of that, it’s loving Repo Man. (laughs) Repo Man, for some reason, my younger brother and I thought was the coolest guy ever. But Jake The Snake man, I love just watching him dump Damien out in the ring and thinking, “Holy shit! This is the coolest!”
Alex Obert: When’s the moment you said you wanted to get into wrestling?
Briley Pierce: I don’t think there was any definite cool dramatic movie scene like when Spider Man gets bit or whatever, but it was definitely something that was kind of building in my mind for many years. Especially when I was living in Cincinnati when my older brother was training at OVW in Louisville. I’d get all my buddies and drag them down every Wednesday night and go see the TV tapings pretty regularly. And anytime they would do a house show in Cincinnati, I would always going. I remember being just mystified by thinking, “Okay, this, this is where it comes from. This is the closest thing to a territory that exists these days.” I still think back to OVW, that tiny little building, watching those shows, and thinking, “This is so much fun for me than being at a Smackdown taping or something.” For whatever reason, it seemed really raw. I guess throughout college, I really started thinking more about it. I would bring it up sometimes with my brother when they’d come to town. He went on the road and I was living in Chicago doing some comedy and we would meet up there and I would talk about like, “Hey, I think I wanna get into this. What’s your advice? I don’t wanna half-ass it. I don’t wanna offend those who are already involved with it by being some guy who goes Oh, I wanna wrestle now!” I kind of knew that was offensive to people. Now that I’ve wrestled and been involved with business-ship, I really understand how that’s affective to people. But he would give me advice and say, “Look, if you’re serious about it, find somewhere to learn in Chicago. I’ll ask Cabana, I’ll ask around.” He was advising me to go train with Lance Storm or go to OVW. I made my way there.
Alex Obert: Did you feel bad for Dolph when he was originally apart of the Spirit Squad upon his WWE debut?
Briley Pierce: No, I thought the Spirit Squad was awesome. I’m a huge fan of the Spirit Squad! (laughs) I love those guys! I thought they were perfect for the time period. It seemed like it was time for something like that to happen. I didn’t feel bad for him. He was on the road and traveling the world, a Tag Team Champion, and main eventing all these shows and wrestling on pay per views. I didn’t feel bad for him, no way!
Alex Obert: Getting into your career, who were your friends while training at NXT?
Briley Pierce: I guess you could say everyone and also no one. While I was there, of course the guys I tagged with. Mr. Sakamoto became a good friend of mine. Also, Jiro, another Japanese guy that was there for a while. He was a real good friend of mine who I spent a lot of time with outside of the ring. Brad Maddox, of course. I knew him from OVW and he was one of the first guys I befriended when I moved to Tampa. I was in touch with him the whole time I was in OVW. When I was trying to get signed, he was helpful too. Damien Sandow and Trent Baretta probably tied for my best buddies while in developmental, I think.
Alex Obert: Those that you’ve trained with, who do you feel is meant for the main roster?
Briley Pierce: A lot of them are already on there, actually. If you asked me a few months back, I would always say Luke Harper. And so I’m happy that he’s up there. But who knew that Eva Marie would be on every show always? (laughs) You never know! And then some people I thought were meant for the main roster don’t work there any more, so it’s a crapshoot, man.
Alex Obert: Are you following the news of Derrick Bateman in TNA?
Briley Pierce: Yes, I’m a huge fan of Derrick Bateman and also a huge fan of EC3. I love what’s going on there!
Alex Obert: What are your thoughts on TNA as a whole?
Briley Pierce: It’s a great company that’s trying to put out a good product. All the respect in the world for those guys. I have respect for any wrestling promotion that exists today that’s not WWE because it’s so hard to exist in this current world with that company if you’re not them. I applaud their competing efforts to exist for so long so far. I hope they get bigger and bigger because it’d be great to have some kind of competition at some point.
Alex Obert: Speaking of Derrick Bateman, will we see more work of yours on YouTube, like you were recently doing with him and Trent Baretta?
Briley Pierce: I hope so. I relocated to the West Coast, so I’m no longer as geographically close to those guys as I was. But I hope so. Whether people liked it or not, it was fun for us. I should see some of those guys sometime soon. I think in the coming weeks or months, I’ll see some or all of them, so I hope so.
Alex Obert: And also, you do stand up comedy?
Briley Pierce: Yeah. Prior to wrestling, I was doing improv/sketch comedy and writing and all that. Since I’ve moved out to the West Coast, I’ve gotten back involved pretty heavy with writing. I’ve touched my toe into the pond of stand up. That’s a whole different thing from what I’m used to from the improv, so we’ll see. But I love entertainment. I love being in front of a crowd. I love getting some kind of a reaction out of people. So whatever way I can do that, I will keep doing that.
Alex Obert: In the field of stand up and entertainment, who and how do you study?
Briley Pierce: With improv comedy, my heroes in that realm were the original Upright Citizens Brigade. I believe they were the best examples of four people coming from an improv background traveling around doing shows and getting a TV show and now opening two giant theaters in New York and LA. I think that’s awesome, when something comes from something so small like a four person improv group that now is training hundreds and hundreds of comedians every year, writers, performers, all that stuff. I figured out where they originally studied, which was in Chicago at the iO Theater. My first year in college I said, ” I wanna go to Chicago and study at that same theater.” And so I did. I moved out there, got a job at a bar throughout Summers. And I moved there after college too. Any chance I got, I was studying improv comedy in Chicago and I’d perform. I’d be at OVW on Wednesdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I was doing improv. As far as my whole life’s concerned, I’ve been performing and entertaining in some way, whether it was comedy or wrestling. Once I started training in wrestling, I got to mix physical athleticism with improvised performance.
Alex Obert: I want to get into your writing, what led you to wanting to write a book (I Can Make Out With Any Girl Here) in the first place?
Briley Pierce: I love reading. There’s certain books I liked more than others. There’s a book by Al Franken called Why Not Me? that I think my brother read, he let me borrow it, I just read it so many times. And I kind of just borrowed a bit of the format of that book for my own book. I mean I changed it enough, I’m not admitting to plagiarism in this interview if that’s what it sounded like. (laughs) I loved that book, it was so funny. It came across as truthful, absurd, and ludicrous. So I was in college and I was thinking, “I wanna write something for the school paper, but I don’t want it to be the typical annoying essay that someone writes that no one gives a shit about.” So I wanted to write something short and funny. I started making up these fake text message conversations and just doing them as if they were a cartoon, a four line conversation between two people over text and making them funny. I kept going with this for a few weeks. I put it in the paper and my friends were laughing and liked it. I thought, “What if this was something bigger? This little four panel thing each week, what if it went on and on and there was actually a story to it?” And I came up with this character, Donny, who epitomized the bumbling doofus nineteen year old college freshman who’s drunk all the time. He has good intentions, but he’s just makes really awful decisions. And so my book was based on him, text messages and voicemails and e-mails, all these different mediums. My goal is if someone doesn’t like to read books because it just looks like a lot of words on the page, this is not that, this is all these different things. I wanted a non-reader to be able to read my book and enjoy it and laugh. I guess it’s up to the readers to tell me if they enjoy it or not, but I’ll just be cocky and say I did a great job.
Alex Obert: Can we also get into your recent Kindle release, Life Advice For Your Life?
Briley Pierce: Yes, totally! That was written while I was in NXT, I guess it was FCW then. But I had a broken leg and I broke my leg during training. I was lacking in the creative department because I couldn’t wrestle, I couldn’t be part of any of the shows. So if you’re someone like me who has to constantly be producing creative content, otherwise you’ll go insane, you have to actively do something. So I thought, “Alright, I have this idea in my head. Let’s just see what happens.” So I typed a couple pages, wrote for a couple days. And then I said, “Okay, I can’t train, I can’t lift weights, I can’t wrestle. I’m sitting here pretty much in a cast.” And I have Damien Sandow nice enough to go get me groceries or pain pills, prescriptions, anything from the store. Otherwise, I’m helpless. I’m sitting here in front of the TV on the couch. So I would hop my way over to the computer, type, and within a few weeks, I had the first draft of what I thought would be a good book. I did it all while I had a broken leg and I kind of put it aside, I hid it for a while, and every once in a while, I would think about it. And just recently, a couple of months ago, I kind of went over and over and over it, making changes and thought, “Alright, I’m just gonna put this out there.” I know that any publishers I’d have spoken to would have wanted changes so much, that I would no longer feel comfortable with it being put out there. I was thinking things are so much easier nowadays, electronically, so I just threw it on Kindle. I designed a cover for it. I’ve gotten mostly good responses. EC3 likes it. (laughs) He’s an endorsement. My brother liked it, so that’s cool.
Alex Obert: Getting into music, what’s on your iPod?
Briley Pierce: I don’t really use an iPod. I have the oldest kind of iPod there is, I couldn’t even tell you what it is right now. But I’ll tell you what I’ve been listening to nonstop for like six months. The band Sleigh Bells. I am stupidly obsessed with them for some reason. I cannot stop listening to them. Sleigh Bells, particularly a song called Rill Rill and a song called Kids, those are my two favorite ones. The Lawrence Arms, a punk band from Chicago, I love them. Lady Gaga, I think is up there. Beastie Boys, I guess.
Alex Obert: Do you share your brother’s love for Steel Panther?
Briley Pierce: Steel Panther’s fine, I wouldn’t say I share the love though. (laughs)
Alex Obert: How did he get into them?
Briley Pierce: I don’t know how he gets into anything. I think if you cracked open his head and looked inside, you would probably be scared to death. I don’t know, he’s a weird guy. I think there’s a lot of surprises in there.
Alex Obert: He’s looking for them to do his entrance theme.
Briley Pierce: (laughs) Awesome! Perfect! That sounds just fine to me!
Alex Obert: Speaking of entrance themes, when did you use Paralyzer by Finger Eleven?
Briley Pierce: Paralyzer was at the beginning of OVW. That’s a funny story. Jim Cornette was writing TV while I was there. I had just kind of started my training there and was so new and clueless. Every Wednesday I saw him or whenever he would come in, a couple times a week actually, he would look at me and kind of squint his eyes. Everything he said, he yelled. He can’t speak at a normal volume. He’d look at me and he’d go, “Young Nemeth! When can I use you on TV? When are you going to be ready?” (Note: This is where Briley’s wrestling nickname, Hot Young, came from) Screaming at me! Nicely, when can I put you on TV, when can I use you, I wanna use you. I wouldn’t know the answer to that. “I don’t know. I’m not sure when.” So then he would say, “Well who’s in charge of you? Who should I ask?” And I saw Mike Mondo walk by, so I went, “Mondo, maybe?” So Mondo became that guy who would determine when I was ready. He was like the Gatekeeper of Nemeth. So when I did start wrestling on TV, Cornette came up to me and said “We got music for you and I don’t know who it is. My wife picked it out. It’s some band called Finger Bang.” Jim Cornette told me, in person, “My wife picked out a song for you by a band called Finger Bang.” I remember standing there and thinking, “This will be a memory that I’ll never forget ever because it’s so preposterous. Jim Cornette, who I was watching on TV as a little kid with a tennis racket, is telling me to my face that a band called Finger Bang, they’re gonna be my ring music.” I found out pretty quickly that they were called Finger Eleven. That’s how it happened. His wife chose it.
Alex Obert: I believe Finger Bang was the name of the band on South Park.
Briley Pierce: South Park, yeah. That’s right. And he must have gotten them mixed up.
Alex Obert: And Finger Eleven also did a theme for Kane.
Briley Pierce: I was not aware of that. Trivia I can add to my trivial pursuit card.
Alex Obert: They did a theme for him and it went for several years, actually. 2002-2008.
Briley Pierce: Oh, is it the one I’m thinking of? It’s playing in my head right now. I can imagine that. I didn’t know that was them. Wow.
Alex Obert: So what are some of your favorite entrance themes throughout the years?
Briley Pierce: (laughs) Probably the same ones everyone else likes. Stone Cold’s glass breaking one. Time To Play The Game, anything Motorhead ever does for him is awesome. I like the “Oooooh! Chavo!” Really one of my favorites. What do you like? Do any of those match your’s?
Alex Obert: Yeah, those are good. I like the ones that are made for the wrestler where it fits their gimmick. It’s funny because you know when Dolph Ziggler redebuted in 2008 where he would introduce himself to others? There was that song they used for his theme before I Am Perfection. I came across a song on my iTunes, Armed and Ready by The Michael Schenker Group (from 1980). That original theme Dolph had contained an extremely similar riff. I feel it was based off of that. It just blew my mind.
Briley Pierce: There was an Australian wrestler in FCW named Sonny Elliot. In one of his first matches in the Tampa Arena, they used that song. And I remember thinking, “Oh yeah! That’s my brother’s old song!” No one else at all recognized it. I used to tell my brother that song sounded like a bunch of robots in a time machine playing a rock song.
Alex Obert: When they do the “Woww! Woww!”
Briley Pierce: Yeah, that. And then there’s another bit. It chills out for a minute and then it goes boop boop boop bum bum bum! (laughs) It sounds like robots to me!
Alex Obert: I have to say one of the better new themes is Tyler Breeze’s on NXT.
Briley Pierce: I heard it once on his debut.
Alex Obert: Speaking of NXT, when you were on the tapings earlier this year, what’s a day of that like?
Briley Pierce: If you are not apart of the show, it is the worst day of the month probably. (laughs) I remember in between being an interviewer or a wrestler, there was the few tapings where I wasn’t even on the show. And it’s not fun, it sucks. It’s the longest day ever. It’s miserable, man. I guess I sound spoiled because I get paid to be there, it was my career and being around what I love, wrestling. But at the same time, you show up, build the ring in a college arena, otherwise you’re just sitting there being nervous and hoping you don’t make anybody mad because all of the 9,000 different bosses from FCW, NXT, Smackdown, RAW, they’re all there, everyone’s there. They’re looking for reasons to get mad at you and to put you in the doghouse. If you’re there and you’re wrestling, it’s cool because it’s all that bad stuff, but you get to be on TV and fight with your friends in the ring in front of a crowd. Or if you’re just doing promos or interviews, it’s cool. If you’re doing a photoshoot, it’s exciting. But if you’re just there doing nothing for fifteen hours and just being miserable thinking you could be doing any other thing right now, “How come I’m not on TV? How come I’m not booked? Am I not doing the right things to get noticed?” And then you’re just getting dirty looks from all these writers and producers. So it could be good or bad, I guess. Whenever I see on Twitter that they’re having the TV tapings, in my heart I’m feeling empathy, I remember it could either be the best day of the month or the worst day for you guys, I hope it’s the best. After those tapings, everyone would gather in the arena and Hunter’s gonna make some long speech and of course you have mixed feelings again because he was probably your hero when you were younger or Eva Marie, who’s never heard of him. The speeches were to tell you that you should be grateful that you have a job. It’s a mix, if you’re on the show, you’re doing something that’s awesome. If you’re not, it’s a really long day with a lot of headaches.
Alex Obert: Do you have any memorable run-ins with Johnny Curtis (Fandango) while he was apart of NXT?
Briley Pierce: Countless. Incalculable amount. Johnny Curtis was one of my favorite guys to have run-ins with. He, I think, deserves to be in a good spot in the WWE for as long as he wants. He’s extraordinarily hard working, he’s been at it for so long, and every category you can come up with, “Are you doing this right?”, checkmark, he’s done it, he’s doing it. So, I wish him all the best. Aside from that, I think outside of wrestling, he’s one of the most relaxed, easygoing, funniest people. I’ve always enjoyed him. Good guy.
Alex Obert: An exciting moment that happened this year in wrestling, what went through your head the first time you saw Dolph Ziggler cash in Money in the Bank?
Briley Pierce: I was in Cleveland at my Grandma’s house. I was visiting home, we were all at my Grandma’s house, and I said, “Hey, why don’t we put on RAW?” We put it on and it was the Del Rio match. Shortly after I put it on, he came out with the briefcase and the place went nuts. I’m thinking that it was pretty good timing to put RAW on! Just because I happened to remember it was on. When his music hit, I saw him with the briefcase and he was determinedly making his way to the ring. So exciting! I hadn’t felt something like that watching wrestling probably since I was like twelve or younger. The whole family is standing up behind me going nuts. It was cool, man. That was awesome. We replayed it of course, nine thousand times over the next few weeks.
Alex Obert: Are you currently watching WWE programming?
Briley Pierce: I’ll watch it, I’ll see what he’s doing. I like to see what Luke Harper’s up to. I don’t watch as religiously as when I worked there because it’s not exactly what I wanna watch at the moment. If you worked at a bank and loved working at that bank and have dreams about working at that bank forever, and then you don’t work there anymore, you might not go in there to hang out with the tellers. But if my roommate or whoever puts it on to see what’s going on, of course I’m curious. I love wrestling, so I’ll watch it. But definitely not as much as I used to.
Alex Obert: Have you caught NXT lately?
Briley Pierce: NXT, not even probably at all lately. Unless someone tweets or texts me something which sometimes they do, and I’ll watch it. But it’s such a hassle because it’s not televised. I didn’t really even watch it when I wrestled on the show. It was so hard to find to watch. I’m making it sound like you have to go through a maze and fight dragons to be able to watch a video clip.
Alex Obert: I read that you were talking about guest coaches that came to NXT. Who’s one that you wish would have came down that didn’t?
Briley Pierce: I’ll say someone that I did train with prior to being there who I wish would’ve come down. Rip Rogers, who I trained with in Louisville in OVW. I would have liked to train with him longer before I went to FCW and I think a lot of the talent there could stand to learn a lot of the basic fundamentals of the wrestling business from this guy. I think he would be a tremendous help to the NXT talent. Also, I would weirdly pick Andy Kaufman. You never saw that answer coming, I guarantee you. (laughs) If he’s still alive somewhere, secretly hiding, I’ll find him. And I will make that happen. I will make him guest coach me on the spot, at whatever donut shop they find him in. I would love to talk to that guy with no one else around. He would never tell me anything, but I would have loved him. That’s the answer, definitely him.
Alex Obert: In closing, what’s next for you?
Briley Pierce: What’s next is December 27th in Cleveland, I’m gonna wrestle in the Four Way Tag Team Title Match at AIW. If you’re in Cleveland, definitely go to that. I believe sometime in April or May, I will be doing a little tour in Australia, wrestling for Outback Championship Wrestling, OCW. So that will be April or May. I will tweet all about that. Other than that, I’m out on the West Coast trying to get some writing projects going and doing comedy and stuff. Follow my Twitter, @HotYoungBriley. Anything I ever do that you’re invited to will be on there for sure.
Alex Obert: Alright, I’d like to thank you for your time for a fun interview.
Briley Pierce: Alright. Great, man. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me, babe. I’m blushing! I’m turning red right now!