Conrad Thompson was just like any other fan at the end of a wrestling-filled weekend following January’s WWE “Royal Rumble” pay-per-view in Phoenix.
He had to go to work on Monday morning.
Two flights and several hours later, Thompson was en route from Huntsville International Airport to his office at 1st Family Mortgage Company as a mortgage adviser. It’s a job he’s called home since 2001, long before his podcast fame, long before he married into a prestigious wrestling family, and long before he represented the voice of the wrestling fan.
Thompson has cemented his place as one of the predominant voices in the wrestling podcast space as co-host of four shows: “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard,” “83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff,” “What Happened When,” and “Grilling JR.” All four shows don’t shy away from nostalgia as Prichard, Bischoff, Tony Schiavone, and Jim Ross were all major players during wrestling’s heyday in the 1990s. His role on all of his podcasts is to ask the questions the hardcore wrestling fan would love to ask if presented with the opportunity.
Despite juggling his career and four podcasts a week, Thompson’s unique perspective of the wrestling industry led to his most ambitious project to date.
How Starrcast was born
Last Labor Day weekend, the wrestling world received a jolt when Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) co-promoted what was deemed “The Biggest Independent Wrestling Show Ever” in “ALL IN.” The pay-per-view was a success as more than 11,000 fans filled a sold-out Sears Centre outside of Chicago. In conjunction with “ALL IN,” Thompson was tackling his first event as a promoter — Starrcast — a wrestling convention with a twist.
The idea was born from Thompson attending the NWA Legends FanFest in Charlotte, North Carolina. When the promoter stopped hosting the annual festival, Thompson saw that as an opportunity to step in and do his own thing.
“So I thought will it be cool if we just did it again in that same spot,” Thompson told Yahoo Sports. “But what if we did it with wrestling podcasts and we can have Eric Bischoff, who at the time had a show called ‘Bischoff on Wrestling’ and I was doing a show with Ric Flair and one with Bruce Prichard and I'd recently befriended Tony Schiavone I thought I might do that one. So hey, this could be fun and we can invite other people.”
The idea didn’t come to fruition due to the hotel not being available that weekend, but Thompson saw even a bigger opportunity several months later.
“I saw the hype building for Cody and The Young Bucks who are doing their own thing in All IN,” Thompson said. “So I bumped into Cody at the airport in January of last year, we started exchanging DMs and then I pitched the idea and he loved it. So Starrcast was born.”
Wrestling conventions are a dime a dozen. And while Thompson provided some of the standard elements you would find at any convention with autograph signings and merchandise, what made Starrcast unique were the stage shows — ranging from live podcast tapings, panels and a very NSFW roast of longtime WWE employee Bruce Prichard.
“I thought it would be a one-off,” Thompson said. “It was the worst week of my life, I swore I'll never do it again.”
What should have been one of the best weeks of his life turned into a nightmare due to larger than anticipated crowds.
“I thought going into Starrcast, if I can sell 800 tickets, boy, I'd be good to go,” Thompson said. “We sold 10,929 tickets. I was not ready for that. I was not prepared for that. I spent a lot of time focusing on the stage shows and not nearly enough time focusing on logistics.”
Why Starrcast II will be different
While most of the chatter following the first Starrcast was positive, Thompson was aware of the mistakes he made the first time around and knew how he could improve if he decided to run a second convention. The plan was for Starrcast to be a one-time deal, but the wrestling landscape was changing once again.
All Elite Wrestling was formed in January and backed financially by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and his son, Tony. Several of the key players that took part in the “All IN” PPV signed with All Elite Wrestling, including Rhodes, The Young Bucks, longtime WWE wrestler Chris Jericho, and the highly-sought-after Kenny Omega. AEW — which announced last week a new television deal with TNT that begins this fall — is holding their first PPV, “Double or Nothing,” on May 25 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Rhodes reached out to Thompson to see if he wanted to partner up once again.
“I jumped at the chance because there was a list of things I wanted to try,” Thompson said. “I wanted to improve on some things I fell short on last year, but also had these ideas for new shows where I felt like we could really improve the quality. So, we're ready to put on one of the best wrestling conventions ever for Starrcast II.”
The major difference between Starrcast and Starrcast II is the convention space. Starrcast II will span two hotels — Caesars Palace and Tuscany Suites & Casino — and provide “five times the space,” eliminating the cramped quarters and hallways that took place in Chicago.
Thompson also failed to take advantage of everyone’s dependency of their cell phones.
“How do I disseminate that information in real time? I needed an app,” Thompson said. “So we went and created an app for thousands of dollars and now fans can get push notifications in real time whenever anything changes.
One of the major changes for Starrcast II took place earlier this week. “The Roast of Ric Flair” was postponed after Flair was hospitalized last week for an operation.
“I wanted to do it last year,” Thompson said. “Ric couldn’t make it. He had a commitment that he had to honor from when he was in the hospital the prior year.”
Candidly, it was the event Thompson was looking forward to the most. Before Thompson’s involvement with his four current podcasts, he was the co-host of The Ric Flair Show. The two went from drinking buddies to father and son-in-law as Thompson married Flair’s daughter, Megan, in 2018.
“The good news is that Ric’s surgery was successful and he will be OK,” Thompson said. “The bad news is that his doctor won’t allow him to fly to Las Vegas this weekend so the Roast is postponed to a future date yet to be determined. So you haven’t heard the last of the Roast of Ric Flair, stay tuned.”
Thompson could ride the wave as a podcaster — he reportedly brings in six figures annually — and part-time convention promoter, but the 37-year-old Alabama native will continue to show up Monday-Friday alongside his parents, sister, and cousins at the family business with the intent on helping people become homeowners.
“I'm never going to stop,” Thompson told Yahoo Sports. “I'm going to be involved in that industry forever.”
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