Everyone loved wrestling as a kid. It was like a different universe seeing these larger-than-life characters in trunks/tights battle in a ring. It gave you action, drama, and comedy all in a two to three-hour show. Although there weren’t a lot of wrestlers who looked like me that were able to see major success other than The Rock, Booker T, or Mark Henry, I still was able to enjoy the product because I was a kid. I still enjoy it to this day. However, as my friends got older and started realizing wrestling wasn’t real anymore, it wasn’t cool to talk about it. In my high school and college years, it was difficult finding people who looked like me that loved wrestling as much as me. So I decided to dive into social media to voice my opinions on what I love. That’s around the same time I found two amazing creatives who would, later on, become the co-hosts of the A Show podcast: Justin Davis and Jameel “Meelz” Raeburn.
Justin and Meelz are prominent figures in the Black wrestling community. What started off as a podcast back in November 2017 for Justin’s media conglomerate, RNC Radio, transformed into its own entity. The A Show is more than just a podcast; it’s a brand filled with numerous wrestling podcasts created by Black people and/or people of color. From the War Report to Rewriters Room, there’s so much content for everyone who enjoys professional wrestling. What these two have done on a weekly basis for Black wrestling fans should never be understated. Justin and Meelz are at the forefront of Black content creators in the wrestling industry.
I talk to the A Show co-hosts about their beginnings as wrestlings fans, their interview with Bianca Belair, representation in professional wrestling, and much more.
When did you two first get into wrestling?
Justin: I got into wrestling through my stepfather. I was about five or six years old and he watched it a lot. He was actually into ECW because he was from Philadelphia, so I was actually into WCW and ECW first and WWF came after that. I was watching Shawn Michaels and stuff like that so it was a passed down thing that I caught onto.
Meelz: I started watching wrestling in 3rd grade because everyone in school was watching it. Also, my neighbors and their grandkids were big fans of it. My neighbors would take me to so many WCW events. I watched WCW before WWF which was weird as hell because I’m from New York. As time went on, I just continued watching it and I rarely miss any show weekly.
You guys were a part of the original WrassleRap crew with Kaz, Emilio, Ernest, and many others. Was that the first time you two met each other? Also, what was your experience like being a part of that?
Meelz: WrassleRap was the first time Justin and I interacted with one another. I’ve seen him on the internet beforehand and I felt like I wasn’t going to like him. However, I ended up liking him most out of anyone there and I’m pretty sure it was mutual.
Justin: Meelz, to me, is a soft subject because I saw him when he was trying to get on as a writer. It was starting to come together for him. I believe your major in college was different.
Meelz: When I met you, I wasn’t in college anymore. I had already decided I wanted to write and I liked it way more than my major.
Justin: Right. I like to say that I see things in people and that’s why we have the collective that we have now. I see something in Meelz, Marc, Cyrus, and everyone else in our group. I always believed in teaching what’s taught. There are people who I would call my big brothers or close friends to me who took me under their wing and said, “This is the path.” I saw Meelz and I believed he was way smarter than all these people here. He has a great mind and he could be bigger than all of us. I still feel that way. Meelz is going to be better than me in three or four years. He just has this work ethic that is unparalleled. When I met him in WrassleRap, we started out talking and I started editing some of his posts. We were writing and it turned out that it would only be Meelz and myself doing any work for WrassleRap. Everyone was caught up in their childish arguments and that’s its own story. However, me and Meelz just stuck to ourselves and we blew it up on our own.
After that, you two had branched out and in 2017 you guys created The A Show Podcast. Was there a moment before the podcast when you guys knew you wanted the other as a cohost?
Justin: No, this podcast is by chance and it comes out of the real true love I have for Meelz. I wouldn’t want to do this show with anyone else. I tried to do a wrestling show so many times. I did one with my friend A Plus for a while and he got too busy to do it. I did one by myself and it had become tough. I needed someone to have my back and to back me up and I knew it had to be Meelz. I told him that we should do it and he always acted like he didn’t have time for it. I always tell him, “Nigga, you not Diddy.” I feel like saying that to him was the worst thing that could’ve happened because he works as hard as Diddy now.
Meelz: I was doing another podcast at the time and other stuff, so I didn’t have time to do another wrestling podcast. Plus, everyone was doing it and I didn’t want to. It probably ended up being the best thing to ever happen to me. Talking about wrestling every week ended up being the release that I kinda needed.
How would you guys describe the journey since then?
Justin: People always say, “a lot of ups and downs.” I can say it’s been a lot of hard work and restructuring of how we do things. If you listen to the show in the beginning and you listen to it now, it’s a completely different show. I don’t think I and Meelz had an actual fight on the show. When you talk to someone for over 200 weeks, every week, you usually have that. However, we have learned together on this journey so doing this show helped me learn stuff outside of the show. Things such as time management, how to host, how to keep things concise, etc. I’ve learned more from this show than I’ve probably learned from anything.
Meelz: I would agree. We’ve never had an ups and downs kind of period. We’ve been solely progressing in a forward direction. We don’t want to stay stagnant in anything. We want to grow and establish ourselves as a voice in the Black wrestling community and the entire wrestling community. We built a great fanbase and we want to continue to evolve the show. It took us 180-something episodes to get one of our dream guests. We put in the time and work even when we were told it would be impossible.
Justin: Here’s the thing: There was a stretch of 15–20 episodes where we stopped cussing because we were told that was the only way these companies would look at us. After a while, we just stopped doing that because it wasn’t working.
Meelz: I would rather be reached out for who we are instead of trying to pretend to be something. Accept us for who we are. That makes us amazing at what we do.
Justin: Everything happens in due time and for a reason. I think when we became our most free was when we started Patreon. We went into business for ourselves and the floodgates started opening. I was glad that Meelz was able to connect that dot that got us Miz because it wouldn’t have meant as much if I did the interview. Meelz, more than anything, was the one to say, “When is this going to break?” He put in the work and got to see the benefits of that. I just sat back and let him be the host because I knew how bad he wanted it. I’m glad he got to see that this shit is possible and it does work.
What is y’all favorite A-Show moment?
Meelz: It’s a toss-up between Miz and Bianca for me. The Miz interview was special because we got it and I was like, “Wow, I can’t believe we did it.” I couldn’t believe it was happening. I texted J5 (Justin) and all that. I still wasn’t sure if it was happening until it happened. I didn’t think it would happen an hour before the interview. However, when it did, it was amazing. The Bianca interview we had for episode 200 was amazing as well. We weren’t even supposed to have her on initially, but it happened and it was magic. That’s an interview that connected us to a lot more people who never heard of us. It was incredible.
Justin: My favorite moment is the moments when people reach out to us and say, “Man, I haven’t been a fan for years and I came across this podcast.” Or when people tweet us, “I’ve been listening to these white dudes so much and they’re so negative. I just want to hear something that makes me laugh and it’s dope.” Those are the moments I enjoy the most because it shows that we’re connecting. I never thought we would ever connect with people.
Meelz: It’s tough believe it or not.
Justin: We’re having conversations that I don’t even hear to this day when it comes to diversity, holding people accountable, etc.
It seems like wrestling journalism has been critiqued a lot in recent years due to wrongful statements, biased statements, racist comments, lack of respect for women, and much more. Why has this been such an issue for this long and how have you guys been able to find a balance when it comes to reporting/talking about wrestling?
Meelz: I wish the controversies surrounding it would be a little bit more mainstream, so they can feel what happens when you report something wrong and millions of people tune into it. Wrestlers aren’t top-tier celebrities. They’re not Drake in the sense where if you say something wrong about them, they can come back and refute it. For us, we don’t necessarily report. We react which is much different than reporting.
Justin: And that’s a fair way to go about it. I can easily report this stuff with what I know and who I know. However, I don’t want to. I’m a big reality TV watcher and there’s a lot of sites that report on reality TV. I look at wrestling that same way. Unless there’s a huge crime, there isn’t much news to be called from. What should we be reporting about contracts for? That’s just something you react to. There’s very little unbiasedness and ethics in wrestling journalism because it’s not “real.” I saw someone report that Bianca said, “I was upset about how I lost at Summerslam,” but if you read the report, it says that she was seemingly in character. Do you think she’s mad?! She’s doing a promo for a homecoming in her hometown to promote a show in the storyline that she’s in! What blurs the line? You can’t say on the record, ethically, that she was seemingly in character. You have to say either she was or she wasn’t. They introduced her as Bianca Belair, not her real name, so she’s in character always!
What’s frustrating is that that’s the reason you don’t get fair reporting on a lot of stuff. People don’t know how to blur the line between “I want to keep this source” or “I want to make this fanbase happy.” That’s why it’s better to react to stuff because we can’t meaningfully report all this. It’s all hearsay. I hear stuff on my DM’s and text messages all the time, but that’s not real reporting.
Speaking of journalism, you two interviewed with the former Smackdown Women’s Champion: Bianca Belair on your 200th episode of the A Show. Talk to me about how important that interview was for you two.
Justin: It was beyond important. The timing was a huge part of it. The fact that I and Meelz had about two and a half days to come up with this stuff was great in itself. A lot of it was very conversational, but y’all wouldn’t have known that. We told ourselves that this was the biggest guest we ever had and we told her that she could be a gateway to a lot of people coming back to this business who look like us. So we showed her respect and let people know that’s she down for us. It was important to talk about how important she was. It was important to ask her about what music she listens to because a lot of people wanted to know that.
Meelz: I even got the chance to do her impression. We got a chance to hear her sing “Schoolin’ Life” by Beyonce. It was just amazing. That interview was a perfect culmination of what we’re all about. We wanted to make this an experience because we wanted all of our listeners to feel involved in a sense. We wanted people to take something away from this interview and remember it.
We’ve seen Black wrestlers like Bianca Belair, The New Day, The Street Profits, Bobby Lashley, Sasha Banks, Hit-Row, and many more displayed on TV every single week. Why do you two believe it is important for people like us to be represented in professional wrestling?
Justin: It goes to just a general sentiment in the United States right now. I’m not trying to overshadow or look over the wrongs the WWE and pro wrestling have done to Black people for years. However, the progress should be saluted. This is the one time they’re picking up on this early in the game. If you go, Black, Latino, or anything right now, you’re going to get viewers and win. When you put us on TV, we’re going to watch and support. You see all the #BlackWrestlingDraws and all these other hashtags and it’s because we are rabid, supportive, and want to see us on TV. When you see a Black man precede another Black man as the champion which is our fourth in the last two years, that’s a big moment. People always talking about the demo and things like that, but look how much social media chatter that caused. That’s the real win right there, so there is a push for diversity everywhere.
Meelz: I look at it as: What does this mean for the future, for America, and what effect it could have seeing these people and experiences while standing on equal footing as white wrestlers or white people in general. I don’t know if this is the complete fix, but it’s a step in the right direction. Black kids are going to look at this and feel like they’re capable of doing anything. Also, white kids who will see this won’t look down on other people because they’re just as capable as we are. At the end of the day, we are all amazing people and we shouldn’t downplay someone because of their skin color. We should all uplift each other. I’m always looking towards the future on this one.
Justin: Additionally, white kids will see that success just doesn’t look white. That is the important part. Success is not just white. It is Black, Asian, Latino, and all of that. The fact that they’re showing these people prominently in positions of success does a lot psychologically. It does a lot for kids because we’re not just seeing one thing being position to them on TV. I always look at that as being the most American/Shaksperian art that you could which is being good against evil. To see a Black person be as silly, tongue and cheek, and cool just win the title from a serious Black guy is a great feeling. No disrespect to Bobby Lashley because I love him, but he’s always been the archetype. Now, we see a different type of Black champion that shows you success isn’t just one thing.
You guys are leading the wave for Black content creators in the wrestling industry. The community is increasing by the day. How does it feel to be a part of something like that?
Justin: Can I be spicy? I don’t think people put us in that conversation enough. Meelz and I had a conversation about how we feel like we’re the black sheep, but the most popular fandom in Black Wrestling Twitter and that’s true. People don’t like to say our names when it comes down to it. They don’t give us our props even though we technically do a lot more and started a lot more trends than these shows have. I’ll take the arrows for saying this because I believe we do more work than a lot of these people.
Meelz: Yeah, it’s pretty much the same. We’re recognized in this space based on the consistency that we have, the work that we do, and the names we both have. We have become notable names in the Black wrestling community, but I don’t believe we get the actual credit as an entity for doing what we do. We’re not included in those spaces which is fine. Everyone has their personal feelings on us and everyone is going to like who they like.
From my experience, the only Black person who was talking about wrestling on podcasts was Stat Guy Greg. Besides him, I didn’t see many people who looked like me talk about wrestling on that scale until you guys came along. Afterward, a lot of Black wrestling podcasts started coming out.
Justin: That’s the same story for a lot of people, but they won’t admit it. I think it’s funny because the best part about us is we don’t get caught up in any cliques. We’ve built such an awesome community on our own. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t support any of these shows. I love Black Announce Table! They’re so great and I’m so gracious for them having us on their show. I support Black Wrasslin’ Podcast. Shout out to Khal. Stat Guy Greg is someone who has always advocated for us since the beginning. I’m honestly fine if we don’t get the credit because we’re going to keep doing what we do.
What is next for The A Show not only as a podcast but as a brand?
Justin: Right now, we’re focused on RNC as a collective and bringing that up to speed. The A Show is in a good place right now. I can’t say there’s anything we want more than what we have right now other than doing a live show. Me and Meelz finally getting together to do a live show would be the goal for me.
Meelz: I’ve always seen us as like First Take. I would like to take a wrestling platform completely independent of WWE and promote it on a mainstream level where we’re talking about wrestling like we talk about other sports. I’ve been on a visual aspect and I think what we have is the benefit of talking about all things wrestling. I want to use that to our advantage as much as we can because I know a lot of people think Justin is “shucking for a check.”
Justin: I never understood that. I’ve had way cooler jobs than WWE. Trust me, I would never want to work there.
Meelz: Yeah, so I just want to build towards that. You’ve seen Wrestling Observer who’ve been doing it for God knows how long. You’ve seen Fightful do their thing and they’re amazing at it. However, I want to take it to the next level and I want it to be just as poppin’ and powerful as everything else we got going on.
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