Five backstage heroes we’re thankful for
At WWE events around the globe, an unflagging army of crew members works nonstop to ensure that once the pyro erupts and the music hits, the WWE Universe is treated to the best entertainment possible. But the work doesn’t stop there.
Who are these tireless people who fuel, power and immortalize our iconic Superstars? WWE.com takes you behind the curtain to meet some of our WWE heroes who don’t wear kick pads and tights.
What’s more difficult than capturing the action in the ring? Trying to avoid Big Show’s massive fists or Sheamus’ wild kicks when intense battles spill out to ringside. Nevertheless, WWE’s cameramen are on the front lines each and every week, bringing high-stakes championship bouts and emotionally charged grudge matches to living rooms around the world.
“Anybody who steps into that environment as a camera person really needs to know the lay of the land,” camera operator and director Marty Miller told WWE.com. Miller has worked with WWE for nearly 18 years and vividly remembers his first night on the job at King of the Ring 1995 in Philadelphia.
“What makes WWE different from other types of sports or entertainment is that, at any point, a cameraman can become part of the show,” Miller said. “You have to know where to be, you know where to stand and you try to stay out of the Superstars’ way while effectively covering what they’re doing. It gets chaotic, but that’s part of the thrill of the job.”
Jen Hagopian — Dega Catering
You think planning Thanksgiving dinner for your extended family is stressful? Try preparing a meal for 100 hungry Superstars, Divas and crew members! It might be daunting to simultaneously provide vegan options for Daniel Bryan, refined delicacies for Damien Sandow and desserts for R-Truth (hey, Little Jimmy has a sweet tooth), but Dega Catering’s Jen Hagopian rises to the challenge each and every week.
“I could probably compare my job to being a three- or 10-ring circus leader,” said Hagopian, who has been on the road with WWE for six years. “We usually come to the arena between six and eight in the morning and leave right before the show ends. When the food arrives and the truck unloads, I direct the traffic to the kitchen and the dining room. We recreate the catering area from scratch every week. From there, we’re just constantly moving, and there are no breaks. We have to make sure everyone is satisfied and there is always food available. I actually eat my meals while I’m walking.”
As exhausting as it is attempting to sate Ryback’s appetite — an insurmountable task by our estimation — Hagopian and her team still find time for fun, especially when the odd food fight breaks out in the dining room. She won’t divulge the prime instigator in these stuffing-slinging shenanigans, but one backstage source hinted it’s a current titleholder who may or may not have a beard.
WWE’s IT team
Raw wouldn’t be the most interactive show on television without a crack information technology (IT) team working behind the scenes, transforming backstage areas at arenas into full-fledged production environments equipped with secure, high-speed internet.
“We provide and build communications for an office setting every day at every arena,” Kevin Clifford, WWE’s senior manager of communications and technology, explained. “We build four networks every day. The most demanding aspect is getting enough bandwidth at the arena to meet the show’s growing needs.”
Clifford and the rest of WWE’s IT crowd run a smooth ship, not only providing a technologically sound production infrastructure for Raw, SmackDown and pay-per-view events, but also ensuring the announce team at ringside has internet access at all times during live broadcasts. As a result, commentators can keep the WWE Universe up-to-date on breaking Superstar news from Twitter, Tout and WWE.com.
No job is without horror stories, though.
“During our trip to London back in April, the point of presence of British Telecom actually caught on fire, so the whole southern quadrant of London lost internet — including the 02 Arena [which hosted Raw],” Clifford explained. “Fortunately, we were able to get internet up through a different fiber path, and we were able to continue on with the technology needs of the show.”
Who do we have to thank for those amazing aerial shots of Sin Cara or those pine-splintering Tables Match pictorials? How about those scintillating Diva Focus galleries? All are courtesy of WWE’s stalwart team of still photographers, who artistically capture and immortalize the essence of our Superstars in the ring, backstage and at special events, such as Make-A-Wish meet-and-greets and be a STAR rallies.
“We often have to be in more than one place at one time,” WWE photographer Mike Marques said of the photo team’s fast pace. “To be a WWE photographer, you have to stay on top of things.”
The photographers don’t play favorites when it comes to the Superstars and Divas they work with, but Marques admitted a favorite Superstar of his is Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston who, like WWE’s photo team, doesn’t like to slow down.
“Kofi is really energetic and the WWE Universe loves him,” Marques said of “The Wildcat.” “He’s always going higher and higher or faster and faster. We also love photographing WWE fans that come to events, because they really are as much of the experience for us as the Superstars.”
A veteran photographer with WWE, Marques warmly recalls covering Ric Flair’s farewell bout against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando, Fla.
“I was shooting up on a really high platform, and when Shawn did the moonsault off the top rope onto Flair, one of my photos was the photo for that moment,” Marques said. “Even from that far away, you could see how high Shawn got and how far he went. Sometimes, video can’t capture that perspective as it happens, so still photos really come into play to capture the action in a different way.”
Jason Robinson — Production Designer
One of the most awe-inspiring aspects of any WWE event are Superstars’ larger-than-life entrances, which are made all the more amazing by the elaborate sets created by WWE’s veteran production designer, Jason Robinson.
Beginning his day before 8 a.m., Robinson leads a crew of more than 200 people, constructing a massive set that is housed on 14 trucks. He describes building the sets as being similar to ballet … but with a lot more pyro, naturally.
“We’re building trusses, we’ve got a group of riggers that go up into the ceiling and drop ropes in and pull up the motors, we’ve got set guys, we’ve got pyro guys who are putting all of their product in and we’ve got set carpenters who are building the stage at one end of the arena,” Robinson explained of the exhausting amount of work necessary to set the stage — literally — for WWE’s Superstars. “Once the lights are flown, the stage moves from one end of the arena to the other, ring guys are re-taping ropes and repainting poles, steaming the skirts out and changing the canvases out. Everything is happening at the same time.”
Phew! Fortunately, the digital aspects of the Raw, SmackDown and pay-per-view sets during broadcasts allow Robinson and his team to take a breather — physically, at least.
“Thanks to the LED technology, we can do digital scenery,” Robinson explained of the WWE sets that can immediately transport WWE Universe members’ imaginations to Alberto Del Rio’s palatial mansion during The Mexican Aristocrat’s entrance or Planet Funk whenever Brodus Clay and The Funkadactyls boogie down the ramp. “We still have the hard [physical] aspect of the set with the design and the lights, but with the click of a button, we can change the set and you know exactly who’s coming out.”
Robinson and his crew are also responsible for designing WrestleMania sets each year, including the palm-tree laden locale for John Cena and The Rock’s “Once in a Lifetime” clash at WrestleMania XXVIII in Miami.
“Each year’s WrestleMania is a unique challenge,” Robinson said. “We do a theme, and we work many, many months to give each WrestleMania a unique flavor that reflects the city we’re in. You’re watching something that’s 100 percent unique that we give everything to. We work on it so long, spend so many hours on it and take so many trips to the host city. Once it’s up and done, the night before the event, that’s the coolest thing.”
We can’t wait to see what’s in store for WrestleMania 29 on April 7, 2013. ( MORE WRESTLEMANIA)