Interview: Al Laiman, Author of “In Laiman’s Terms”

It wasn’t until Christmas 2000 when I was 16 years old that I finally got my first PC. Over the course of the next few months, I discovered the online card game, “WWF With Authority” and that eventually led to the wonderful world of e-feds. In case you haven’t heard of an e-fed, they are fantasy wrestling promotions ran through a website, where members can join as their character and win matches based on their promo writing ability. While some are simplistic, the better e-feds can be very elaborate, attempting to simulate every aspect of the business. In 2008, while running an e-fed titled, “Evolution Pro Wrestling”, I met a guy named Alex Goodlive or as some know him, Al Laiman.

While in EPW, Alex wrote as the character that has been the basis for his book series, “Lantlas Anduril”. It was only a few short months and I admittedly don’t remember having too many conversations with him, but I can say that he was an excellent writer and easily one of the top in the group. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I caught up with Alex again as I found out that he was writing books as the character and wanted to use the artwork I created for him on the cover. This even lead to me producing a new piece of artwork for his book, The Elven Warrior Returns.
In recent years, I have gotten to know Alex better by keeping up with his creative endeavors. First, it was the video show in which he poked fun at outlandish TV commercials titled Jaded Hope and then it was his weekly column on Lords of Pain, In Laiman’s Terms, where he gives his thoughts on WWE Raw. Al also co-hosts the Inciting Incident podcast with Brian and Heather, where the trio talks about important social issues and pop culture.

There are many more projects that Alex Goodlive is involved in and you can learn more about all of them by visiting his personal website.

As you will see in this interview, Alex is a very eclectic individual with a great passion for his work. I personally learned a lot from speaking with him and now realize how much the two of us truly do have in common.

What is your earliest memory of wrestling growing up?

That depends on whether or not we’re talking about comprehending what I was seeing. One of the earliest memories I have is of my father having wrestling on when I was about five, and I remember him telling me that the guys in the blue shirts (the refs in the early 90s) were the bad guys. But similarly, the first memory of catching wrestling on television and wondering what it was? Seeing my father watching it and being captured by something that I couldn’t explain, then remarking that I thought it would be so cool to see this in person. Honestly, it was mostly an attempt to bond with my father at an age for me where that barely happened, and it didn’t happen that time either. The first time I truly became a wrestling fan though was the first time I saw Kane’s full old school entrance. I was instantly a fan, and Kane was instantly my favorite wrestler, hands down. Being from Cleveland, that ended up being an ironic choice for many years; a combination of close calls and complete embarrassments.

I know that you actually wrestled a few matches in the past and even wrote a book about your experiences in the business a few years ago. Which wrestlers did you draw inspiration from and what was the gimmick you wrestled under?

On the indies, when you’re working a different small town, there’s very little chance of crossover fanbases. I wrestled under almost as many different names as I had matches, ranging from the Dark Warrior to Alex Reed. One time I played a wrestler who carried a big sword and thought it was sentient.

As far as inspiration? Low-ki was always someone I wanted to be like as far as being a devastating striker and someone who looked like they could legitimately fight. Sterling James Keenan had the smooth mic skills and the ability to make a crowd react at his whim. But the one who inspired me the most hated the fact that he inspired me to do anything in wrestling, and that was my late friend Larry Sweeney. He warned me against getting in the business at all, and though I didn’t listen, I get what he was talking about in hindsight.

Speaking of writing books, what first got you interested in writing and who are some of your favorite authors?

I’ve been writing since I was four-years-old, no exaggeration. I started writing little stories on the computer because back in 1989, it was a big deal to have a computer at all. I spent a lot of time in the equivalent of Word Documents just typing. For a very long time, I just recalled stories I heard and tried to recreate them, but the first original story I wrote was in sixth grade. I wrote chapters starring my friends on the bus, and they tore through the pages like it held some great significance on their lives and then demanding a new chapter every time. I’ve been chasing that reaction ever since in pretty much everything I’ve created. I’ve aspired to many different professions and endeavors, but writing has always been my first and truest passion.

I have sort of an eclectic taste when it comes to most art, and writers are no exception. I read a ton of non-fiction, especially comedian books, biographies, and history books. Burke Davis writes great Civil War narratives, I’ll read anything by George Carlin and Patton Oswalt, and books about how movies were made amuse me, my favorite being “The Disaster Artist” by Greg Sestero. I own all of Mick Foley’s books too. I read Terry Pluto and Bud Shaw’s sports columns. My favorite novel is “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, and I also like Margaret Atwood, William S. Burroughs, Christopher Buckley, and of course JRR Tolkien and George RR Martin. I have a ton of books though, my living room is a small library. Every time I go to a used book store, I have an arm full.

Which of your books was the most enjoyable to write? Do you have any plans to publish another book in the near future?

Writing “Taking Bumps” was by far my favorite experience, because it was describing something that I did and was proud of. I planned it in my head for months before I created it, and started posting it chapter-by-chapter on the LOP forums (remember what I said about chasing that reaction?). That work got me promoted to the LOP main page, and I published the book once I had the audience to do so. A close second is one I never published, and that was the fictional account of a comedic wrestler named Nacho Grande who worked part-time at Taco Bell while wrestling, hung out with his two friends Quesa Dilla and Beef Supreme, and slowly decided he wanted to be taken seriously.

I may write another book in the future, but with as much time as I spend writing columns, papers for school, and podcasting, not to mention screenplays for school and hopefully future development, writing books has taken a bit of a backseat.

What first got you interested in writing wrestling columns and how did you find your way onto Lords of Pain?

I realize I already answered that, but that was the third attempt I made to make the main page at LOP. I tried back in 2002 because I read Wrath of Tito and wanted to do the same thing with my own unique twist. I have a weird sense of humor, but I hadn’t quite found my voice at that time. Once I got promoted to the main page of LOP the third time around, my readers seemed to enjoy my experience motivating my commentary, as well as my strange sense of humor and constant references to pop culture.

I’ve always had a lot of opinions about wrestling, but now more than my group of friends pay attention to them. It’s still humbling when people all over the world contact me about my stupid little wrestling thoughts.

I know that one of your favorite things about wrestling is the hammy performances. Who throughout wrestling history would you induct into a Hall of Ham?

One of my favorite things about every art is HAM, and I’m pretty much connected to the gimmick in the eyes of my readers at this point. But let’s be honest, wrestling is full of over-the-top enjoyable silliness, and that’s one of the best things about it. I’ve given out many HAMs over the years, but the all-time king of HAM has to be the Ultimate Warrior. My improvised Warrior rants have a bit of notoriety of their own. Other inductees would have to include Damien Sandow, the New Day, Daniel Bryan, Kurt Angle, The Hurricane, DX, and The Rock, who had consistently HAMmy performances over the years.

What is it about the current WWE product that you find enjoyable? Where would you rank this era amongst previous ones?

I’m not sure what the eras are considered anymore. It kind of blends together anymore. The best thing about the current product in my eyes seems to be that they’ve finally gotten over making everyone learn one specific style, and they’ve begun treating the product like a more legitimate show again. There are so many talented wrestlers on the roster right now, and they even started using the word “wrestling” again. I see a great deal of potential in finally transitioning from faded memories of the Attitude Era. I’d definitely place this year above terrible years in the recent past.

I was recently a guest on your podcast, “Inciting Incident”. How did the creation of that show come about and how did you, Brian and Heather first meet?

My sister introduced me to skeptic podcasts on a long road trip this past holiday, and I was immediately addicted to both listening to them, and overcome with the desire to create one. I did YouTube for many years but got burnt out in the ugliness of humanity that is trying to make content on that site.

Brian and I have been best friends for 20 years, and we’ve always balanced each other out well from a personality and humor standpoint. The show started basically so we could analyze movie tropes and address things we got tired of hearing from the viewing community. But it was when we started talking about more serious things that people seemed to really begin listening, so we now do two a week, generally saving the serious stuff for Friday and having fun with movies and HAM for Sunday.

Heather was a guest on one of our earliest episodes, and we had such a connection that we invited her to become a permanent co-host with the show. We met her for the first time at a convention in Pittsburgh this past April, and she’s a truly amazing and strong human being.

In all of your creative endeavors, what do you consider your biggest success or something you are most proud of?

There’s a few at the top of this list, but the undisputed champion are the times that something I’ve written have saved a life. More than once, I’ve received a letter from a fan saying that something I wrote stopped them from committing suicide somehow. I’ve never ceased to be humbled that some silly thing I wrote on the Internet meant that much to even one person out there somewhere, but it has.

The other really cool thing was on LOP, I’d get a lot of emails from service-members, because my column somehow kept them connected to the mainland and made them feel close to home. I’ve even met a few of them at this point, and they’ve sent me things from their stations. That’s been an amazing compliment, and I don’t know how it even happens, to be honest. With the show and column reaching so many people, especially recently, I can’t help but just wonder how things I do affect so many other people when I just feel like some schmuck in a kitchen making movie jokes.

With your writing, podcasting, and filming hobbies, where do you see this taking you? Is this something that you want to turn into a career or are you happy just having fun expressing yourself through all of these mediums?

I definitely want to be self-sufficient on my work. I’m a weird, somewhat introverted individual who doesn’t care much for working with customer service, large groups of people with whom I have to interact from a service point of view, or a normal job with set schedules, co-workers, and corporations. When I’m freelancing, or doing videography/photography jobs, podcasting, writing, hosting, entertaining, making appearances, panels, or even driving, that’s when I’m in my element. If I’m doing something that my heart isn’t in, I check out rather quickly, and I felt dead for many years doing stupid retail jobs. Now that I’m a senior at UPenn, I’m hoping those very expensive pieces of paper keep that from ever happening again. Truly though, through great sites like Patreon, I’m finally able to make a few pennies on my own work, and that’s what I want more than anything; to be able to make a living on my own work, rather than putting on a name-tag, a polo-shirt, and a jaded smile while selling my soul for a small pittance while I think terrible things about everyone around me. It wasn’t good for me, my mental health, or my back, though to be honest, the latter probably wasn’t helped by professional wrestling!

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Gary Liebler

My name is Gary and I am the founder of ADuelGet.com. Since 2001, I have been creating websites, graphics, games, videos, podcasts and more on the internet. Most people know me from my ADuelGet! YouTube channel or Pro Wrestling Nexus.

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