Al Snow: exclusive interview with the wrestling legend

Earlier this week, RealSport got to speak with wrestling legend Al Snow following the launch of his new apparel brand COLLARxELBOW. While most fans likely remember Al Snow for the comedy his character provided during the Attitude Era and being the brunt of Mick Foley's jokes, he has made an indelible impact on the wrestling industry over his 35-year career.

The list of competitors he has trained or influences is nearly endless. Whether it was through Tough Enough, OVW, Impact Wrestling, the Al Snow Wrestling Academy, or any outlet, Snow's influence on the business goes much further than his own personal career. We discussed COLLARxELBOW, the Cauliflower Alley Club, the Al Snow Wrestling Academy, Tough Enough, WWE, ECW, TNA/Impact Wrestling, women's wrestling, and more!

On his new brand COLLARxELBOW

RealSport: Well, let’s start with Collar and Elbow. Tell us about Collar and Elbow.

Al Snow: Collar and Elbow is a wrestling apparel company, a brand, that I started. It’s by a wrestler for the wrestling fan in all of us. Whether you’re a wrestler, or just a fan, in all its forms from amateur wrestling to jiu jitsu to judo to MMA to UFC to professional wrestling, I decided to come up with a brand that I think represents all of those, and the love that we all have and the passion for wrestling.

RS: What was the spark that led you to create a wrestling apparel brand?

AS: Quite honestly, I just wanted to have something myself that I thought was cool to wear. If I can wear it out and in public and if I wasn’t necessarily going to a wrestling event, let’s say I’m just going out to dinner, I could have something that I thought was cool and meant something to me but didn’t scream “hey look at me I’m a wrestling fan.” It’s something that wrestlers and wrestling fans can share amongst themselves. 

RS: What is your long term goal in growing the brand and making it something special?

AS: One of the things that we do that is maybe a little unique is we have what are called sponsored athletes. Independent wrestlers who may not have per se a big enough name yet to where they could have their own say signature t-shirts or merchandise that they can take to the various shows and then try to market themselves and make extra money. We have a program where we build a relationship with the independent wrestler as a sponsored athlete. They sign on and hopefully, we can build the brand in such a way that they can now sell Collar and Elbow by using their discount code. 

That motivates people to want to use their specific code, and then they get 40% of the profit from these t-shirts. So they basically make $5 for every t-shirt they sell. Which, you know, doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but then when you break it down if they sell a hundred t-shirts they’ve made $500 by nothing more than just wearing a cool t-shirt and pushing out the code. Because I’ve been in that position when I first started wrestling where I literally made so little money, or no money, that I had to buy sandwiches from the gas station for fifty cents and then heat them up on my engine of my car with the boy scout method. 

RS: Where can fans find Collar and Elbow, and are you shipping internationally?

AS: Yeah, I have quite a few sponsored athletes internationally already in the UK and in Europe. Jazzy Gabert (Alpha Female) and John Klinger (Bad Bones) in Germany, and several more all over the UK. And we do ship internationally, and if anybody wants to find out more information it’s at

RS: On the Collar and Elbow website, you’ve got an option for donations to the Cauliflower Alley Club. For those who don’t know what it is, how would you describe the Cauliflower Alley Club and what are those donations going towards?

AS: We give the customer an option where they can round up their purchase. Say if it’s $20.95 for a piece of clothing, they can round it up to a round $21. Now, that extra five cents, which again maybe doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but when you multiply that over multiple purchases, it adds up to quite a good amount of money. We’ve gotten into a partnership with Cauliflower Alley Club. So, Cauliflower Alley Club has been in existence for decades. They have a reunion or convention every year out in Las Vegas, and Cauliflower Alley was basically established to be a charitable effort. It was a way for the wrestlers to contribute to something. It’s almost like an insurance policy for retirement for a lot of former wrestlers, and Cauliflower Alley does a lot of great things. 

They just recently helped a handicapped wrestler with the purchase of a handicap accessible van so that he could have transportation. I know that they have helped several boxers; it’s not just exclusively to wrestlers, it’s also for boxers. Where they’re at a point where they’re past their prime and no longer have a career and they’re in a situation where they need a little bit of assistance, Cauliflower Alley Club has been there to help them out with medical bills and other situations. So, it was a way for us to give back to wrestling and to contribute to Cauliflower Alley Club and this allows the fans to help a good cause. 

On working as a trainer in Tough Enough and throughout his career

RS: What do you enjoy most about being a trainer and a coach as opposed to an in-ring competitor?

AS: I love it because, quite honestly, it’s kind of the same thing back to Collar and Elbow. My relationship with my students is very synergistic. Their success is my success. When I broke into professional wrestling, it was very very difficult to become a professional wrestler because it was such a closed business. Because whoever trained you was held responsible for you. Even to this day, I’m 54 years old, I’ve been doing this for 35 years. The guy who trained me, I’m still referred to as his kid because he is responsible for me. 

So, if an older wrestler happens to see this interview and sees something that I said that they take exception to, they’ll call him, they won’t call me. Then he’ll call me, and ask me and I’ll have to explain to him because he’s still held accountable for everything I do in wrestling. And I feel the same way, I feel that I’m held accountable and am responsible for every person that I train and they carry my reputation around with them. 

Their success is mine, and the greatest enjoyment I get out of training students is watching them succeed. Becoming main event guys in WWE, enjoying a career that takes them around the world, and watching them develop and grow is almost like - kind of like when I wrestle a match and build a story in the match to create an emotional connection with the audience. 

It’s kind of the same thing with the students. It’s building them and shaping them and molding them, and watching them go out and succeed. It’s awesome. And it’s probably just as satisfying for me to do that as it is to personally wrestle myself in the ring. 

RS: When making Tough Enough, were there any major disagreements or clashes between the trainers and the television show crew on how to handle things?

AS: Nothing really major, but I’d say the one thing was John Hennigan (John Morrison/Johnny Mundo) had tried out for Tough Enough [Season] 2 and was turned down because of the fear that he was just there to be on TV and not really wanting to be a wrestler. And I remember kind of going to bat for John at that time. And then Tough Enough [Season] 3, John had went to a wrestling school on his own and then came back again for Tough Enough 3. He tried out again, and I had to have a meeting with at that time I think with the vice president or president of MTV. We sat down with producers, and I had to basically go to bat for John to get him on Tough Enough 3. 

That was probably the only thing I can think of, and that wasn’t really a major disagreement, just me vouching that I really felt and believed that John had a passion for wrestling and was there for the love of being a professional wrestler, not just for the chance to be on TV. And I think I’ve been proven right. And again, I couldn’t be prouder of him, I couldn’t be prouder of The Miz, I could go down the list, Cody Rhodes, guys that I’ve been fortunate enough to train and work with and help develop. 

On the international flavor of the Al Snow Wrestling Academy

RS: What made you decide to start a wrestling academy in London?

AS: The reason I started in London was, quite honestly, the access to the amount of experienced, and that’s the key, experienced teachers. I have Doug Williams, John Klinger, Alpha Female, Phil Powers, Joe Legend, Andreas Rossi, Luke Doulton. That’s the key is that they all have a tremendous amount of genuine real world experience in pursuing professional wrestling as a living, not as a side job or something that they just do on the weekends. It’s the way they pay their bills. That gives them an understanding of what it is that you really need to know as a student, what you really need to learn that’s important so that you can have the skills to take advantage of an opportunity whenever you get it in professional wrestling. That was, quite honestly, it was the location of having access to that many talented and experienced trainers that I could have there at the school at all times. 

RS: The website for the Al Snow Academy lists branches in Bulgaria, Romania, and Portugal...

AS: Also in Chile, Greece, and Denmark. 

RS: What led you to expand like that and do you have a long term plan to have even more international branches of the Al Snow Wrestling Academy?

AS: Actually, I do and my real vision and my hope is for that. I provide them a training syllabus and then I go personally every three to four months to each one of these academies and work with the trainers and their students. I’m not so much concerned about the actual physical techniques, because I’m hoping that each one will have their own particular style and approach physically, but what I’m hoping is that philosophically all of these academies will be on the same page

So, say for instance you’re training in Texas, let’s say I have an Al Snow Wrestling Academy in Texas, I don’t yet, but hopefully one day I’ll have an Al Snow Wrestling Academy in Texas. You, philosophically, are basically being taught the exact same way that one of the students is in Denmark. You reach a point where you plateau. You’ve learned as much as you can in Texas, so your trainer reaches out and speaks to the trainer in Denmark. He says, “hey, I’ve got this guy in Texas, great guy, you think he could come and spend some time in Denmark?” The academy in Denmark is running shows much like the one in Texas is. They say “yeah, sure, we’ll have him come over for a while.” 

So now you have a network of academies that you can go from Denmark to Romania to Bulgaria to Chile to Portugal to Greece, and you can learn different styles, approaches, techniques. You can get experience and the polish in front of different audiences, and develop through this network to where when you do get an opportunity, let’s say with WWE, you have a vast amount of experience you otherwise never would’ve gotten just by going to one particular school. 

RS: What do you think makes working in front of a UK crowd different than working in front of a US crowd?

AS: Well, you know as far as being different, they all vary from place to place like they do here in the United States. I think the one thing that’s different about the UK crowd is that they’re very boisterous. They sing along with entrance songs. They love to do chants. They’re a lot more vocal than in the United States where they just cheer and occasionally chant. The UK audience is honestly probably as much a part of the show as the show is. 

RS: How does that experience in front of different crowds benefit the students?

AS: As far as experience, WWE is an international product and international platform. When you perform in WWE, you’re not just performing for an audience here in the United States. You’re performing and marketing yourself to literally countries all over the world. I think they’re up to like 130 or 135 countries and to have that experience and that understanding of what works with different audiences is priceless. Again, it’s my hope that with the academy and the associations around the world that a student can get that kind of experience so that if they do get an opportunity on the international stage they can capitalize on it. 

On his time in Impact Wrestling/TNA Wrestling

RS: What brought you to Impact Wrestling back in 2008?

AS: Terry Taylor contacted me and asked me if I wanted to come in as an agent or producer for a trial of two weeks, and I had been there apparently since 2008. So, you know it was a wonderful, much longer run than I would have expected, and I was very happy to have the chance to be a part of it. 

RS: What was your favorite match during your time in Impact Wrestling?

AS: I’d have to say, there was a match one time - it was brilliant. I really wish I could’ve just kept these guys in that same mode. It was Frankie Kazarian vs AJ Styles, and they were both competing for the attention of Ric Flair at the time. So, Ric Flair was on the outside of the ring. And just, not just the athleticism, because they’re both incredible athletes, there’s no question about that, but the combination of the athleticism with the crystal clear characters of each guy and their motivations as to what they were doing and why they were doing it in the match. It was so much fun to watch, and that was the one that I always put out there anytime anybody asks me about a match from that time. 

RS: Do you feel like the ownership change with Anthem and the subsequent partnership with GFW will be a good thing for Impact?

AS: I’m cautiously optimistic. I mean, I’m really hopeful because the wrestling business desperately needs Impact Wrestling, GFW, Anthem, TNA, whatever you want to call it. It desperately needs as many places as possible, and I really am hopeful for their success. I really am, because the last thing that we need is to lose one more place for wrestlers to be able to work and make a living, for wrestling fans to be able to turn to an alternative and have a different vision and version of wrestling than just say WWE. There’s nothing wrong with WWE, but wrestling needs alternatives and needs competition to any degree in order to not just survive but thrive. I’m really hopeful that this will be the opportunity for Impact Wrestling to not just survive but thrive. 

RS: While you were with Impact Wrestling, what were some of the differences in working under Dixie Carter versus working under Jeff Jarrett?

AS: For me, it wasn’t much of a difference because it was still the same thing, which was working with the talent. And just so you know when I first started with Impact my primary job was to do the women’s division for several years, and I loved it. I loved working with the girls. But my focus, whether I’m working with the girls or the guys or with Jeff or Dixie, my job was to work with the talent. It was to make them understand what business was to be conducted with their particular segment, help lay out that segment to ensure that that particular business was done. 

To ensure that chapter of the story was told, or that character was exhibited, or that idea, thought, impression, or emotion was transmitted in that segment of television so that we can make as much use of that television time as possible and make it as effectively as possible. And that didn’t vary or change whether Jeff Jarrett was in charge or Dixie Carter was in charge. It was a great place to work, not just as a producer but as an artist, as a wrestler, because you’re given the freedom and the responsibility to do exactly what you’re supposed to do which is go out there and create and make it happen. 

RS: Having gotten to work with Josh Mathews all the way back on the first season of Tough Enough, what’s it been like to see the evolution of his career and work with him in Impact Wrestling?

AS: I couldn’t be prouder. Josh is one of my kids. You know, Josh was probably one of the most physically talented ones of Tough Enough [Season] 1, the show. Maven had the charisma. Chris Nowinski had the size, the look, and had that innate heel charisma, just something that made you not like him for some reason. And then Josh Mathews had the physical talent and ability, he just didn’t have the size. A lot of those guys at the time, I remember having the conversation with Josh, saying “listen, if you don’t win the contract, don't worry, the right thing will happen at the right time for the right reason here, and you’ll have a career.” 

You know, John Gaburick and I saw Josh when we were at Stamford, Connecticut. Josh kinda was joking around and did some color commentary one time when we were at the studio, and I could see he had a talent and so did John, and we got him an opportunity to be a commentator. He had an amazing career with WWE and was able to use that as a way to get an opportunity with Impact Wrestling, and you know he just keeps going forward. I could not be prouder of Josh. His success is my success. I’m thrilled by it. 

RS: If you had to choose one talent in Impact Wrestling that people should watch for over the next year, who would you pick?

AS: Trevor Lee. 

On the resurgence of women’s wrestling in recent years

RS: How do you feel about the revolution of women’s wrestling over the last few years, and what kind of a role do you think Impact’s Knockouts Division played in it?

AS: I think Impact’s Knockouts Division has played a very integral role. I think it showed women’s wrestling as not just a sideshow attraction but actually as a real attraction in and of itself. Even when I was running the developmental program for WWE in OVW, we had Beth Phoenix and Katie Lea Burchill and ODB and Maryse. I could go down the list, I don’t wanna forget names. 

There were so many times that those women saved the show, their matches quite honestly saved the show. And it was so much fun for me to write and book TV and events for those women because of how good they were. And we were the first, OVW was the first place to book Katie Lea Burchill and Beth Phoenix in the first women’s ladder match, and it was incredible. That had never been done in wrestling. 

I think that women’s wrestling should just be allowed to keep growing on its own. I know we went once in Japan through a similar boom of women’s professional wrestling in the late 80s, if I remember correctly, with Bull Nakano and others. They were as big of stars if not bigger at that time than the men. I think that’s the very same thing that’s happening again in the United States right now with all the incredibly talented women that are out there. 

RS: GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) has been back in the news lately thanks to the Netflix series of the same name. What is your opinion on the original series?

AS: At the time when it was on, I was just a fan of it who watched it and enjoyed it for what it was. I knew Dave McLane, but I only knew Dave briefly. I started wrestling in 1982 and I think at that time Dave was working with Dick ["the Bruiser"] Afflis, and I know he went on to be one of the founders of GLOW. 

I think that the television series has just been so entertaining and so awesome and so enjoyable. I don’t know if there’s a place for a formula like what they had back then to resurface now. It would probably have to change because of course your audience has changed, but with the resurgence of it with the Netflix show and the resurgence of women’s wrestling, this is an opportunity to have an actual wrestling show, another GLOW wrestling show. 

RS: WWE will be presenting the Mae Young Classic soon; how do you feel about Jazzy Gabert getting to be a part of that tournament?

AS: I think Jazzy is an incredible talent, and I think that she just is out there and she’s hustling and she’s looking for an opportunity. She has a tremendous amount of experience. She’s got a great look. She’s a bigger girl. She’s not small, she’s not dainty, but not unattractive. She’s just tall. I think that, given the right platform, I think Jazzy can be a star. 

On his history in WWE and ECW

RS: What was it like to be a part of the original invasion storyline between WWE and ECW back in 1997?

AS: Oh, back in ‘97. Yeah. At that time, I was pretty frustrated and had a pretty bad attitude and was pointing fingers at everybody else instead of pointing them at myself as far as my not taking advantage of opportunities that were presented to me. That invasion, I think probably saved my career because that partnership and cooperation between Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman allowed me to recreate myself. I tried to quit WWF at the time.

I had a contract and asked for my release, and kind of to teach me a lesson, I wasn’t allowed to have the release. But I was able to talk to Chris Candido, God rest his soul, and he talked to Paul Heyman, and Paul Heyman talked to Vince and got me put on loan to ECW. So I could take advantage of an opportunity to go somewhere else, recreate myself, and to get myself back over, make myself a brand or product that they would ask me to come back. And it worked, and I’m so grateful for that chance. 

RS: Do you think an inter-promotional event like that would be something WWE would or could do today?

AS: No, I don’t and the reason why is that it wouldn’t benefit WWE. It would just benefit the opposing promotion. There’s no promotion that is on WWE’s level, and that’s not a knock on anyone else, it’s just the fact. WWE is in its own place, it’s an iconic brand much like Harley Davidson or Band-Aid or Nabisco. It’s so far above everyone else that any other company that would it would just be giving the rub to any other company, and I wouldn’t see much purpose in business for that for Vince McMahon, except for whether or not he was in some way involved on some level business wise to see that brand elevated and succeed. 

RS: What was your favorite storyline or rivalry to be a part of in WWE?

AS: I did so many things, I don’t know. I loved working with Big Boss Man because he was such a wonderful person and so talented. And Steve Blackman, Bob Holly, man it would be tough to pick one. I loved every minute that I had there, I really did. 

RS: Who came up with the idea for Head?

AS: I did. When I went on loan to ECW, I was desperately trying to think of a new way to reinvent myself. And at the time I felt like I was trying to show that I had had a nervous breakdown and mental collapse. I was trying different things, and read a case study, because I was reading books on abnormal psychology, and read a case study about a woman who had paranoid schizophrenia with transference disorder, and she transferred this sickness onto the inanimate objects that she heard voices from. 

I found a styrofoam head backstage, and I remembered Mick Foley kinda jerking around in the car one night on a road trip with Sid Vicious and Bob Holly and myself, and he had a styrofoam head that he called Elaine where he kept his Mankind mask on it in his bag. He was just kind of making it like he was going to do dirty things to it or whatever, just jerking around.

And I thought, you know, I found a styrofoam head in the back where they used to make the Mummers Day Parade Floats in the ECW Arena, and thought, you know what, like that woman, this head’s talking to me but I think it’s crazy, not me. And that’s what I did, and it worked. 

RS: What was working with Steve Blackman in the team Head Cheese like? How did Blackman respond to doing the comedic stuff when he’d mostly had a very serious character?

AS: It was awesome. I wasn’t doing anything at the time and Steve Blackman wasn’t doing anything at the time, and I said “hey why don’t you put Steve with me and I’ll make him not having a personality a personality.” And he was the ultimate straight man. We had such a great chemistry out of the ring. In the ring we were kind of on two different pages, but out of the ring those vignettes that we did started becoming the highest rated segment on SmackDown. 

We almost had a show of our own within the show just doing those vignettes all the time. So it was awesome, and Steve’s such a wonderful guy. I mean he really is, he’s such a fantastic guy, it was so much fun to work with him because we’d come up with the weirdest wackiest ideas, and Steve would be like “well why wouldn’t I just knock him out.” And I’d be like, “well, because that’s not funny. You’d have to react, then we’ll make it look like you knocked him out, but you can’t really just knock him out.” 

RS: What is one of your favorite matches or moments throughout your career?

AS: A favorite moment would be in New Jersey for ECW and I got to do the entrance in Asbury Park [at Living Dangerously 1998]. That would be one of my most favorite moments. All the matches for WrestleMania would be up there, that was always incredible, but I’d have to say that moment at Asbury Park is probably one of the greatest.

On everything else

RS: Do you think wrestling is reaching another “golden age” similar to the mid-1990s where talents have more options on companies to work for and fans have a greater variety of wrestling to choose from? Today, there’s WWE, GFW, ROH, NJPW, Lucha Underground, and the list goes on.

AS: And I hope that the list continues to grow. We need every bit that we can get. Unfortunately, I think, as far as the “golden age of wrestling” and reaching another golden age of wrestling, we have all these different options, but a lot the professional wrestlers themselves, a lot of the talent themselves, perform in very much a similar manner with their approach to how they structure matches. Maybe not physically or moves, but the way they approach the structure of their matches doesn’t vary a whole lot from place to place, show to show, talent to talent. 

For us to truly have that real golden age of professional wrestling again, we need to get back to what the audience pays to see and believe in and what really makes professional wrestling great. The only thing an audience wants to pay to believe in and see is who you are and why you did what you did. That’s it. And the more we focus on that and the less we focus on what a talent does and more on who they are and why they did it, the more professional wrestling will grow and flourish.  

RS: If you could give one piece of advice to wrestling fans on how to better appreciate the business, what would it be?

AS: I think I’ve said it once before and that is, if you do know any insider information, try to forget it. Try to let go of it and just be a fan because you enjoyed wrestling before you knew anything about it. And I bet, if you were to let go of everything you know and go back to doing that, and behaving like you don’t know everything about wrestling, you’d enjoy it even more. Just have fun with it, because that’s what professional wrestling is. It’s just supposed to be fun. It’s a wonderful, awesome, amazing, incredible thing to be a fan of, and it’s probably the most amazing, awesome way for a grown adult man to make a living.

RS: What do you think is the most common incorrect assumption that fans make about the wrestling industry?

AS: That the physicality is not real. The only thing that’s fake about professional wrestling, truly, is that the outcome is predetermined. That’s it. I would have to say the big misnomer that it is fake, when none of it is fake. It’s entertaining. It’s an artform of physical storytelling that’s interactive with the audience on a level that no other medium of entertainment could possibly be.

RS: Who is the most underrated wrestler in WWE today?

AS: Not one of them, and here’s why I say that. Because you have to understand, underrated means they’re not given an opportunity. Every time they’re put on TV, too many wrestling fans, and I understand because they don’t understand, but wrestlers are a product. Okay, they are peanut butter. They’re a car. They’re a hair dryer. They’re a toaster. In order to sell these products, you have to have a commercial, correct? So, you’ve gotta buy television time because you want to advertise your product. You want to build your brand.

Thirty seconds of television time in WWE, I don’t know now what it is, but I know at one time it was $50,000 for thirty seconds. I know that in TNA it’s still $50,000 for thirty seconds of television time. So, I give you six minutes of television time. I’ve just invested $600,000 just in television time. Now whether you win or lose, how did I not value you and appreciate you by giving you that six minutes of television time and underutilized you?

You’re on TV. There’s no way that I can undervalue you or underutilize you. There’s no way, because I just invested $600,000 of my television time for you to perform whatever business I needed performed. Whether you win or lose doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’ve now risked that amount of money. I’m not gonna just risk it in anybody, so you’re not underutilized.

RS: If you had to choose one wrestler people should watch over the next year in WWE, who would it be?

AS: I’d have to say The Miz.

RS: Do you still struggle with the tragic loss of Pepper?

AS: Well, Pepper was near my heart until I had a bowel movement, and then I had to move on.

RS: What do you think you’ll be remembered for by wrestling fans?

AS: I hope it’s for my genuine and sincere love for wrestling. I think my biggest and most prominent legacy for professional wrestling will probably be the people that I trained. That’s what I really hope, is that my legacy, what I leave behind for professional wrestling are all the wrestlers that I’ve helped train and go on to have careers in professional wrestling.

RS: Will we ever get a Best of Al Snow tape?

AS: Probably not, haha. 

RS: Or maybe we could have a Best of Al Snow’s students?

AS: Yeah, now that would be awesome. That could be a really fun one, and a very long one too. 

RS: Lastly, where can fans find you and connect with you online?

AS: If anybody wants to follow me on social media, I’m @TheRealAlSnow because yes, there were fakers, and I would usually message them and go, “look if you’re gonna fake being a celebrity, why don’t you aim higher, for Christ's sake.” I had to come up with the account of TheRealAlSnow for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And please support Collar and Elbow, because by supporting Collar and Elbow you’ll help support wrestling and independent wrestlers as well.

Here's where to find Al Snow, COLLARxELBOW, and the Al Snow Wrestling Academy online!

What are your favorite memories of Al Snow's legendary career? Let us know in the comments below!

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