On April 15, Karl Anderson was at home when he received a phone call from a WWE talent relations executive. Earlier that day, news began trickling out about wrestlers who were being released from the company, attributed to the impending financial strain the burgeoning coronavirus pandemic would put on the WWE. Minutes later, Anderson's longtime tag team partner, Luke Gallows, received a phone call from the same exec.
Since that time, the duo, who have been together as a tag team since 2013, relaunched their dormant podcast "Talk 'N Shop," signed with Impact Wrestling and, on Saturday, their first wrestling show, "Talk 'N Shop A Mania" will hit pay-per-view airwaves.
Gallows and Anderson, who go by the collective name of the "Good Brothers," came up with the idea for "Talk 'N Shop A Mania" almost immediately after receiving the calls from WWE.
"Literally five minutes after we got released unceremoniously by WWE, Gallows called me and said, 'Buddy we are putting up a ring in my backyard and we are running a worldwide PPV based on our podcasts, hope you're ready," Anderson told ESPN by email.
The 90-minute event will air on pay-per-view in America and on digital sports streaming site FITE globally.
The event is an extension of Gallows and Anderson's podcast and was originally created in 2013 with fellow wrestler Rocky Romero while all three performed for New Japan Pro Wrestling. It was disbanded and discontinued in 2016, due to a contractual disagreement with WWE's podcast network.
"Talk 'N Shop A Mania" is meant to be a spoof of professional wrestling, as Gallows and Anderson aim to capitalize on the silly elements of the industry. Borrowing heavily from late-era WCW, there will be a "Contract on a tree" match. Fans will witness the first social distancing battle royal where all participants in the ring will don facemasks and somehow eliminate one another despite standing six feet apart. The main event pits Gallows' and Anderson's alter egos, Sex Ferguson and Chad 2 Badd, respectively, against each other in a parody on the "Boneyard" match between Styles and The Undertaker at WrestleMania.
"We would be doing ourselves an injustice, and wrestling fans an injustice, if we did not spoof that," Gallows told ESPN by phone.
The show will also feature appearances from former WWE wrestlers Rhyno, Teddy Long, Chavo Guerrero, Curt Hawkins, Enzo Amore, Heath Slater, D'Lo Brown and The Rock 'n' Roll Express. The tapings took place between July 6 and July 8 on Gallows' seven-acre property outside of Atlanta, and they averaged 14 hours each day.
We still can't believe what went down in the #BoneyardMatch last night...— WWE (@WWE) April 5, 2020
One can only wonder what this means for @JohnCena vs. #TheFiend @WWEBrayWyatt in a #FireflyFunHouseMatch TONIGHT! #WrestleMania pic.twitter.com/KfEy8AWMDs
There was a skeleton crew of about five people working behind the scenes. Due to one cameraman being sidelined because of heat exhaustion in the process, the same person who sang Gallows' entrance song was later holding a camera for a different match.
Gallows, Anderson and Romero, who was also heavily involved, had to wear multiple hats for the production. Aside from wrestling in the main event, Gallows and Anderson wrote, edited, produced and directed the show while also booking talent and sitting at the commentary desk for spells. They split the responsibilities evenly, more or less.
"Gallows maybe did a little more work [because] he forced us into this," Anderson said.
The duo say they've come out of their own pocket for the endeavor to the tune of an estimated $20,000. Gallows says he spent $2,500 on a hearse the pair used in the main event. Gallows and Anderson also said the wrestlers appeared in this event at a heavily discounted rate.
"But that was a lot of our friends working for way cheaper than they normally would because they wanted to be a part of something fun," Gallows said.
Even with the lighthearted nature of what they were putting on the screen, Gallows and Anderson called the entire experience of creating the event exhausting. There was also the added stress of running a wrestling event in the middle of a pandemic, particularly in a state, Georgia, that has seen a rise in positive coronavirus cases over the last month.
A COVID-19 station was set up by Gallows' wife, Bethany Hankinson, who is an emergency room trauma nurse. "My poor wife was a saint through all of it," Gallows said.
Talent participating in "Talk 'N Shop A Mania" were required to fill out COVID-19 questionnaires, have their temperatures taken, and wear masks when not performing, battle royals aside. The event was filmed in shifts as to not have too many people in one area at the same time.
The concept of creating one's own wrestling pay-per-view is not new. FITE will air dozens of independent shows between now and November. In 2018, wrestlers Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks, Matt and Nick Jackson, organized their own PPV, "All In," which morphed into All Elite Wrestling, a direct competitor to WWE that airs weekly shows on TNT.
But Gallows doesn't plan to -- in wrestling parlance -- play with the big dogs. Though he runs a small promotion in Georgia, Lariato Pro Wrestling Guild, which will be joining the Impact Plus online streaming platform, "Talk 'N Shop A Mania" will not be a precursor to a new wrestling promotion to compete with the likes of AEW or WWE.
"Once you see the model of what 'Talk N Shop A Mania' is, it's not to compete with anything, it's different than any wrestling product you'll ever see. It is a parody, it is comedy wrapped around professional wrestling. It's not the same thing," said Gallows, who wouldn't rule out a sequel if the fan response warrants it.
Anderson, on the other hand, has different plans. "Yep! Already in the works," he said when asked about one day starting his own promotion. "Count on it actually."
"Talk 'N Shop A Mania" was an opportunity for Gallows and Anderson to showcase their creativity -- something they don't feel they were able to do during their time in WWE, which they illustrated during a live taping of their podcast earlier this month. They both believe the event will give fans a unique wrestling experience unlike they've ever seen before.
"This is like no other wrestling pay-per-view you've ever seen before in your entire life," Gallows said. "It is TV-MA. I wouldn't let the small kids watch with you. There's colorful language. There's adult references. If you listen to the podcast you probably understand a bit of our sense of humor, and we did our best to capture that on film."
Added Anderson: "It's fun. Don't take it seriously. Too many times in professional wrestling people are trying to sell it as a legit fight. And trust me, I know how much pro wrestling hurts, I've done it for 20 years. But this is a chance for people to sit back, crack a beer and just laugh with us. And if you hate it, I bet somewhere, somehow you'll still laugh."