The Rag Mag, Volume #19: An OOC Interview with Gates

Welcome to a very special edition of the Rag Mag.

Quick disclaimer:

As many of you are aware — and have likely been annoyed by at some point — I rarely break from my “Sahara” character on anything EWA related, including feedback, social media posts, etc., and she often even bleeds through in these Rag Mag articles. Yes, I’m well aware I do this, and I realize it was daunting at first. And no, I’m not actually crazy … but with the EWA blending past and present technologies such as Facebook with more traditional “e-fed” forums, I figured why not go all-in and do things differently from everyone else as a way to get my character noticed?

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s do something different once again — and hopefully this will get noticed and garner some eyeballs, because my guest for this edition of the Rag Mag deserves it.

Today, I’m going to break character and interview Ross Gates, the stranger from Indiana that resurrected the EWA — and with it — helped rekindle my lost love of professional wrestling. Along the way, he somehow brought together a group of strangers and old acquaintances that may have lost touch over the years and created something of a community of creative writers and characters … and dare I even say it, but facilitated the creation of actual friendships.

To some, what we do here is silly. But to those of us that understand; it’s television. It’s video games. It’s movies. It’s creative. In the end, it’s a group of people bouncing ideas off one another and creating something that somehow finds a way to entertain and surprise. It may not mean much to most, but there are those of us here that love it, and can’t wait to see what happens next.

To the man behind it all, who spends countless hours writing, collaborating, communicating and putting these shows together, it can often come across as a thankless job, so I figured I wanted to take a few minutes and thank our “fed head” for all the work he does with the EWA.

So thank you, it’s been a hell of an entertaining ride.

Q: I don’t know the full history of the EWA, as I wasn’t around for it. From what I understand, it once existed under a different name, and has since evolved into what we see today. In 2015, you were somehow convinced into bringing the EWA back to life — how did that conversation go, and what was your initial reaction to the suggestion?

A: So essentially, I started the EWA back in like…1997? As a 15 year old self-entitled little shit of a teenager. I was a pretty big asshole and it’s amazing we lasted as long as we did (a couple of years, I believe). That being said, the fed did have a reputation as being one of the two “premier” feds in our little sliver of the internet, along with Corey Collins’ NYSWF.

Credit for the idea of bringing the EWA back, although he’s long gone at this point, has to go to Michael Jones. He approached me with the idea in mid-2015, and I laughed at him. He kept approaching me, and I kept laughing…and then somewhere along the way I started to wonder if it’d actually work. My initial thought was we wouldn’t make it three shows, which obviously was wrong. We went through various incarnations of what it would be like, but I insisted on no drama and on “angle-based” instead of judging RPs, which in my opinion is an outdated form of telling stories, given that everything’s subjective to whomever happens to be judging/reading at that particular time.

Q: Upon first approaching some of your old buddies about doing this again, what was their initial reaction?

A: Honestly, Jones did a lot of the initial talking with people, recruiting, etc. It’s never been my favorite aspect of it, and I’d lost touch with so many people from that time – you’re talking nearly two decades. I knew that in a perfect world I’d bring in Michael Draven to rekindle my feud with Alexander Haven, because that was my favorite “program” as a handler that I’d ever ran. So I looked up Darren on Facebook, and pitched the idea. He proceeded to laugh at me, and then go laugh to Corey Collins and Brandon Pope about it. And then a month or so went by and he messaged me saying he was in. Now his kids sometimes call me Uncle Ross. It’s a strange world we live in. Hahaha.

My Thoughts: It was Jones that recruited me into the EWA fold, in his attempt to resurrect The Hierarchy. I was reluctant at first, and eventually talked into the idea, but of course the angle was hotshot for maximum impact, only to have no follow up because the load was blown all on one show. It didn’t help that the hot faction at the time with The Youth, and in comparison, the Hierarchy looked minor league. In hindsight, the way the EWA evolved, everything unfolded exactly as it should have. One regret I don’t have is having joined the EWA.

Q: When and how did you get connected with the “SHOOT Project” circle of friends and/or how did they get connected with you?

A: Again, this was mostly through Jones. He was sort of the conduit for the SHOOT universe, along with a couple of people who’d participated in both “circuits” (Sean Boden is the one who primarily comes to mind). I know the very first two people to join from that universe were Sig (Osbourne Kilminster) and Joyce (Sinnocence), and their feud really sparked the EWA in its initial few shows. I think we owe a great part of our early success to their work and storytelling abilities. From there, it was just a gradual process – word of mouth slowly brought others into the fray from that point.

Q: Thus far since recreating the EWA, what have been your top three favorite or most memorable moments?

A: This is a really, REALLY difficult question, and I feel like I’m inevitably going to leave things out. But I’m going to try.

1) Sinnocence’s initial title reign. I feel like she was booked to perfection as the first “megastar” (sorry, Mark) of the new EWA era. The fans sort of cheered her naturally and turned her face even though that wasn’t necessarily the handler’s intention, and I just think it worked really well overall.

2) The feud between HATE and The Youth. The storytelling that went into this, and hours of collaboration between like 8 different handlers made for this gripping, compelling story that was told on multiple levels with different angles to it. To me, that’s the hottest we’ve been as a federation so far – and on top of that, we had people outside that angle, like Dietrich, working little mini-angles within it to make it all the better. I can’t say enough about it.

3) I’m going to cheat here and give you two answers, but they sort of tie together, and those are the evolution of Grace Goeren and Sahara. Both started out as little more than ancillary characters, never meant to be a force on their own. Both developed into layered, fascinating characters who would go on to become World Champions and generally well-respected by their peers. Huge fan of the work that Harlan and Mark put into these two.

Q: Exactly how much work goes into planning and writing an event like the Warrior’s Trial? Walk us through the process. Do you write down entrance times or names? How do you keep track of all the eliminations and timing? How long would you say the entire process to conceive such an idea from beginning to end takes? And last but not least, how much thought goes into deciding who should win such an event? The reason for this question is I want people that read these shows to understand exactly what goes into their planning, and while the Rumble might be an extreme case, it highlights how much work this can actually take.

A: So the first thing I do is make a list of all the participants. I come up with some ideas for spots based on what feuds are going on, as well as a general idea of the finish. I’ll then create an entrance order by reordering that list and adding the time each participant will be in the ring, and make a second list for eliminations detailing who will eliminate the participant and a time range of two minutes. It’ll look a lot like this:

#1.) Lou
#2.) Indrid Calder (02:00)
#3.) Sahara (04:00)
#4.) Maggie McIntyre (06:00)
#5.) Jester Smiles (08:00)

Lou eliminated by Sahara (4:00-6:00)
Sahara eliminated by Maggie McIntyre (06:00-08:00)
Maggie eliminated by Calder (06:00-08:00)
Calder eliminated by Jester (10:00-12:00)

I generally work on that outline off and on over a period of a couple of days, fine tuning things as I write. I think once the actual writing process goes into effect, #4 took me four days (this is doing it at work, which means sporadic writing, followed by work, followed by sporadic writing, and so on).

In terms of how much thought goes into deciding a winner? It depends. #1 was Ozzy winning the title, and that was debated back and forth between myself and Jones up until the day before. It was either going to be Ozzy, Jada, or (shudder) Caleb Storm. #2 was Laura Seton, and that wasn’t decided until 2 days before the Trial…we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-7 candidates for that. #3 and #4 were Calder and Draven, and both of those were known well in advance, before the event itself was announced. So it really depends on the situation and what exactly is going on within the EWA itself at the time of the event.

My Thoughts: You could have used anyone else in your example to eliminate Sahara above. Thanks for picking Maggie McIntyre. Ass.

Q: What is the hardest decision you’ve had to make concerning the EWA?

A: Honestly, and this is a copout of an answer, but the hardest decisions, other than reopening it in the first place, are usually what most people would consider the minor ones. Should I delay this show or not, should I put the title on this person over this person, is this the right time for this person to lose, and so on. There’s not really one particular decision that stands out in my mind as being harder than any other, though.

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the more important things a writer can do in order to make their character more viable in the EWA?

A: Lots of things, really. I think the important thing, first off, is knowing your character, but also not being afraid to step out of any preset boundaries you may have. If you would’ve told me I’d have Michael Draven in romantic relationships when I first brought him back I would’ve laughed at you. So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

I would also encourage people to talk to their fellow handlers. Collaboration is really what the foundation of the EWA is built on – when there’s a lot of it going on, we’re at our finest. I think we have a friendly group of cool people here who are always willing to work with one another – it just takes reaching out and making that first step.

Also, ask questions. If you’re newer and don’t know about a character, ask. There’s plenty of us well-versed in the characters, locations, etc that can answer these. The site was a very good resource for this but fell by the wayside while I worked to get the RP archive for the wrestler pages done. I’ll be working now on getting that back up to date, and hopefully that’ll help.

My Thoughts: Couldn’t agree with this more. Until I decided to start bothering people with Sahara, trying to get her involved in anything and everything I could, she didn’t really catch on, and she never would have had I not tried. Just talk to people if you feel your character cannot gain any traction … and trust me, it’ll happen. Fan Questions from the Facebook Machine:

I’ll be using shortened names here in case the persons in question did not want their real names used.

Q: From “Jer”: Which character from a Stephen King book do you think would be successful in the EWA?

A: There’s so many to choose from! My initial thought was going to be Leland Gaunt, and then I realized that I sort of see a bit of him in the Stranger, in the way that he has that tantalizing ability to give people exactly what they need, but at a price, of course. So at the risk of sounding somewhat cliche, I’m going to give a face and a heel – and those would be Roland Deschain and Randall Flagg.

Although…Brady Hartsfield could be a LOT of fun in this environment.

Q: From “Jer”: Which is more fun to write, face or heel?

A: This is actually a tougher question than I expected. It’s 100% without a doubt easier to write as a heel, and that would normally be my preference and what I would consider more fun. Face Michael Draven, however, is really only possible when he has a stabilizing force in his life – in other words, Maggie McIntyre. Maggie makes it incredibly easy and natural to write him as a face, and writing with Joyce has really helped me expand him as a character in ways I never thought were possible before. It’s also opened up new layers in his feuds with Haven, Maggie herself, and Calder. This really isn’t an answer at all, I guess, but if you pulled a gun to my head and forced me to answer, I’d probably say heel. But I really am at the point where I enjoy both.

Q: From “Deadline Darren”: Once you realize your ultimate goal of finding me and infiltrating my life, why did you continue with the EWA?

A: Because confusion + life happens = Yep!

My Thoughts: Ahh, insider jokes I don’t get. 😉

Q: From “WW”: What was your favorite and least favorite feud that you weren’t involved with?

A: Great question.

Favorite feud that I wasn’t involved with would have to be Grace Goeren and Azrael Goeren. Mark did a fucking amazing job of telling this layered story where each RP would reveal new aspects of these characters. I was hooked and legitimately marked out every single time a RP would go up. Storytelling at its absolute finest.

Least favorite is actually very easy, and it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. In, I think it was late winter of 2016, I had two people who didn’t have a feud, and were sort of treading water. Neither one had had anyone approach them (surprisingly, since they were both good writers), and so I just sort of threw Shinya Nakamura and Philip Donovan into a feud together. And…it was a disaster. Hahaha. There was no real chemistry with the characters, no communication, and it just didn’t work. It’s no fault of Drew or Mel, really…there just wasn’t anything there, and I tried to force it through to disastrous results.

Q: From “WW”: Why did you pretend like you weren’t Tyler Morris?

A: I think this was meant as a joke, but I actually am glad this was asked.

So Tyler Morris came into creation early on in the EWA when I was (in my opinion) doing just absolutely dreadful work with Michael Draven. I didn’t have anyone to work with (this was right before Chris Kage debuted), and I was just treading water because I’d had no real plan for him if Haven didn’t come in (and at that point he hadn’t yet). So I decided to create a new character. That being said, I was really meh on the work I’d done with Draven and so I wanted to run a new character independent of both any prejudgment of it being from Draven’s handler, or it being from me, the EWA runner-guy.

So Jon Moxley was born.

That being said, it originally was intended to be my main character as I’d phase Draven out. But then Haven signed up and the Maggie thing happened and now Draven’s still kicking. So I had good intentions with Tyler’s secrecy initially, and finally just dropped it when I realized it didn’t matter. Was it a success? I’d say you couldn’t say so, but you also couldn’t call it a failure.

My Thoughts: Ross seems hellbent on trying to phase out one of the most over characters on the roster. That being Michael Draven. It seems that after every major occurrence in the EWA, he thinks about phasing out Michael Draven. As one of your biggest fans, don’t phase out your most over character. That is all.

Q: From “B”: I’d be interested to see your thoughts on how many male run female characters are overtly sexualized and vamped up to an almost cartoon like level?

A: They’re the same as my thoughts on Isaac Entragian being murdered by Sahara, Elizabeth Gaunt, and Lucy Blaylock, only to rise from a swampy grave and start a new reign of terror. Or the same as Indrid Calder snapping Michael Draven’s leg on live television (and him returning from said injury four and a half months later). Or three wrestlers openly engaging in a polygamous marriage on national television. I could go on, but you get my point.

The EWA Background page linked from the history section implies (but doesn’t outwardly state, and that’s something I’ll fix) that the EWA takes place in an alternate reality…a sort of slightly dystopian version of society, where maybe things are a little more risque, a little more promiscuous, etc. Think of the Attitude Era on speed. I don’t think this necessarily would work, however, at the same time that you have some admittedly at-times-outlandish things going on, you also have your more traditional pure wrestling characters in the fed as well. Martin Robertson is a fantastic example of this, as is Buck Dresden. The important point to take away from this is, as Jeremy recently said on the FB group, there’s literally something for everyone here. There’s been a couple of over-the-top characters that I myself wasn’t a fan of, but I tried not to let that show in how they were booked and it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the fed as a whole.

Also, an important distinction that I hold to is that the truly “outlandish” things don’t generally happen on the shows themselves. Nobody’s having sex or getting killed at Battlelines. Those things are saved for RPs and character development.

I suppose this could be viewed as giving a dodgy answer, so to circle back around to the initial question – I don’t know that any character currently on the roster is “sexualized/vamped up to an almost cartoon like level”. There absolutely are characters who ARE sexualized and vamped up, but I’ve found in the instances that we currently have that those are vital parts of the character itself, and that serve more of a purpose to who that character truly is than a stereotypical Mary Sue writing clinic might.

In other words, nobody here is Tanya Black. Because….fuck a Tanya Black.

My Thoughts: I agree with Ross’s points here. We often forget to keep wrestling in context when we talk about female characters, and we even tend to do this in real life with the WWE or GFW, etc. Yes, we want to bring you complex female characters, but they’re still wrestlers, and as such, have to fit in that world. This is a sport in which half naked, sweaty men prance around and show off their adonis like bodies and the crowds cheer for it, so when the women do it, I don’t find it overtly sexualized, I just see it as part of the game.

Q: From “Deadline Darren”: What was your favorite EWA moment or drama that occurred off card?

A: Oh, where to begin? Is it Jon McMahon calling MIchael a racist for virtually no discernable reason? Maybe SmirtDogg’s handler fuming about handlers writing their own matches? Jon yelling at me for making a reference to “NEED MORE PROTEIN!!!” Heinrich von Henderson? A handler trying to backdoor themselves into a World Title run at the expense of others who’d stayed the course and been working hard all along?

Nope. It’s definitely Tanya Black.

Fuck a Tanya Black.

Q: From “B”: First, how nuts is it I work here? Also, aside from match writers/RPers, what aspect of the EWA do you feel is the most vital piece of the puzzle?

A: It’s bucking nuts, man. Bucking nuts.

Collaboration. I don’t know if that falls into the category of writers/RPers, but collaboration is absolutely, 100% it. Without it, we’re nothing, really. Collaboration breeds interesting stories. Not all of us are like Boden or Mark and can come up with amazeballs stories on our own. I sure as hell can’t, anyway. The more people collaborate on angles and work together, the more exciting this place is.

If that’s not an acceptable answer I’ll also add prompt meeting of deadlines. I’ve always, ALWAYS prided myself on never having a LATE show. (Emphasis on the word late, not delayed.) I find when you start putting things up late, there’s only so much of that people will tolerate before losing interest altogether.

Q: From “B”: Name one dream talent to come here that you’ve never worked or have barely worked with long term but wanted to see what all the fuss was about?

A: I’ll do you one better, and give you two names from each “circuit”.

EWA/NYSWF – Sean Sanders (I’ve tried relentlessly to get Steve to come back, I never got to work with him a great deal but I think the Colonel would be a really unique character in the EWA landscape) and Spiral (formerly of the NYSWF, a very unique character…the one I would compare him to most is a more deranged Indrid Calder).

SHOOT – Two names that I’ve heard an absolute ton about but never seen anything from – Diamond Del Carver and Adrian Corazon.

Q: From “Kris”: What is the most challenging part of being a fed head, and what’s the most rewarding?

A: The most challenging part, by far, is dealing with procrastination. I try to be as absolutely understanding as humanly possible. Shit happens, and this should never overshadow things that need to be done in “your real life”. But when everything is at the absolute last minute every single time, it can definitely wear on you, especially because inevitably that just makes things harder on my end. So that’s definitely the most challenging.

The most rewarding? Getting feedback for shows. Reading what everyone thought, what went right, what didn’t go as well. Seeing the excitement in others as they go through another cycle. That’s why I push so hard for feedback. I don’t need a blow-by-blow recount of the show to count as good quality feedback. Just a quick post of likes and dislikes. Hearing that stuff? That’s absolutely the most rewarding part, because it tells me that running this place isn’t for naught – that people are engaged and eager and participating.

My Thoughts: I’d like to see more feedback participation on the shows. Ross does an astounding amount of planning and work on the shows, and the feedback not only helps him, but others.

Closing Thoughts: On behalf of everyone in the EWA, I’d like to thank Ross for his time and dedication to the EWA, as well as others, such as Corey (both of them), Joyce, Darren, and the countless others that make this possible.