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Day Spent With: Direct Results

“It really has to make sense, and then we work with the stations to make them work.”

Derek Futterman



Day Spent With – Direct Results

As one of the country’s most storied transportation centers, Grand Central Terminal is an iconic New York City landmark that attracts millions of residents and visitors per year. Some people utilize the space as a means to catch a train or bus, while others go there to dine, shop and take in the picturesque surroundings. The team at Direct Results works in close proximity to the station, providing a facile means of access when they work in-person and are able to collaborate with one another. Media buying, per se, is a niche of the industry that requires preparation, nuance and dedication to the craft.

A quick elevator several floors up the building brings you to the Direct Results offices with a view of the facade of Grand Central Station with the shadows of the “Big Apple” in its background. Although there are not as many people in the building on this particular day, there is still plenty of communication between the team, which is dispersed all across the United States. Company president Jill Albert is involved in key decisions pertaining to accounts and other ventures, frequently collaborating with her colleagues and assisting with a variety of tasks. Since the business was established in 2007, it has achieved 495 successful campaigns creating $11.3 billion in sales.

While each of the media buyers and supervisors have specific focuses regarding accounts, potential future ventures and management, there is a palpable synergy that is evinced within their processes. Much of the day contains conversations and collaboration to ensure that the company is in a position to effectuate and execute business deals and related campaigns. As the associate media director of the firm, Linda Salzberg is responsible for overseeing the tasks of the media buyers while also working on her own accounts, serving as an integral professional in the aggregate operation.

“It’s really all about the partnership,” Salzberg said. “The idea is that we have with each other; the idea is that we have between the clients and what we hear back from the reps, so we try to not overschedule ourselves. We do have one day of the week where it’s pretty much a no-meeting day for everybody to catch up on paperwork. I definitely meet with a lot of people within our team because I’m training and working with everyone.”

Direct Results began the day of meetings by engaging with a sports radio station to discuss its advertising. The conversation commenced surrounding a discussion about a client and its second-quarter plans. In essence, Direct Results is serving as somewhat of an intermediary between media outlets and different clients, operating from an allocated budget with the expectation of delivering results. The company enjoys overdelivering for its clientele and works to build and maintain strong relationships leading to a favorable return on investment. Because of the intricacies and multifaceted nature of the job, however, there is ambiguity and a deluge of misconceptions surrounding what goes into the work itself.

“A lot of people just ask, ‘What is that? Buying air-time?,’ but I don’t think people realize the hard work and all of the different parts of the job that there are,” Salzberg said. “They might think that you just sit at a computer and put spots and dots and numbers and costs into a chart, and then you just make your decision, but it’s really about putting together strategic recommendations for the client and using your creativity and communication skills and resources to do your job.”

While conversing with the sales manager at the sports radio station, Direct Results staff asked about the trajectory of the client moving into the second fiscal quarter. This outlet wants to push their spend later in the year, specifically in the third quarter, but was curious if they should put together a proposal for the second quarter. In response, media buyer John Vitti informed the professional that holidays and sports sponsorships are good to have and could potentially move the needle. Direct Results is receptive to new business ideas, utilizing an advertising budget to purchase time to run messages on stations throughout the country.

The work pattern for the day changed when discovering a potential new business opportunity that they needed to assess by the next morning. This required determination and a willingness to commit time and focus to the craft. For Direct Results, the occurrence is not anything new and a means by which to benefit from a dynamic marketplace.

“We will never turn down a quick turnaround,” Vitti said. “We might say, ‘We might need a little bit more time,’ but we had things come in today that people want to hear back [on] right away, [and] we don’t just drop everything to do stuff because our other business is important, but we love new business and we love to come up with new and creative ideas and be bold.”

Later in the day, Vitti took a call with a sales representative from the same geographic area simply to catch up about non-work activities and investing time into learning more about its staff. While Vitti has only been in the role for three years, he has already created strong relationships and subsequent loyalty where he always checks with certain outlets in the area with opportunities he may have.

“Just doing calls once in a while [and] reaching out, even if it’s just checking in about, ‘Hey, how did your kid do at his hockey game?,’ or, ‘Heard it was your birthday last week. Hope you had a great week,’” Vitti outlined. “Doing things like that goes a long way to keep your partnership and work but also maintain a friendship level as well.”

Before working as a buyer concentrated in the audio format, Vitti questioned the viability of the radio medium as a whole. In essence, he was wondering whether people listen to the medium at all, a suspicion to which he quickly received an answer upon assimilating into the space. Through his work in the space, he has discovered that local radio and audio are among the highest advertising mediums. The outlet has thus been able to leverage purchasing power and discretionary income to drive profits and benefit its bottom line.

“[In] local radio buying, people can come up to you and say, ‘Why would we do that when you can be on other things,’” Vitti divulged. “Well it does work, and it has proven to be successful.”

During the course of the day, Salzberg and Vitti scrutinize stratified ratings data from Nielsen Media Research that provides quantitative information to guide their decision-making process. The software they utilize automatically loads the latest ratings data from across the country and allows them to create customized alignments to measure and compare data points.

Moreover, they look at accurate cost per thousand metrics (CPMs) and reach data while also receiving weekly post-logs to ensure the advertising spots ran at the appropriate times. The first step in evaluating a potential client is in comprehensive research to approach the managerial process with a bonafide strategy based on enumerated results.

“We have to understand our goals, what’s worked in the past, what hasn’t [and] why – then we pull all kinds of data,” Salzberg said. “We have a proprietary system here for Direct Results clients where we can look up CPLs by category so we can see which the highest performing stations are, [so] we just have a ton of historical [data] that just helps inform us.”

Although these quantitative results are an indispensable aspect of the paradigm, the company values qualitative observations based on accrued experience and expertise. These empirical measurements are usually not represented by a number or mathematical variable; rather, they are based on examining perceptions and prognosticating onto their future potential. For example, Salzberg and Vitti listened to several demos of on-air talent performing an advertising read for a client and shared their opinions in real time. They were ultimately trying to determine which person was the best fit for the company, along with their overall attitude to represent the brand with enthusiasm and alacrity.

Throughout the day, Direct Results was trying to gather both of these data to determine whether investing their clients with different brands across marketplaces was beneficial. Spreadsheets and pivot tables allow for data to be more effectively synthesized with aspects of comparative analysis and other schema. One of Salzberg’s meetings during the day was with Kirsten Tannen, an account manager with the brand who breaks down the data and tries to make shrewd, informed recommendations. She is involved in the process throughout preparing and accomplishing a buy, which is ultimately indicative of a resolution with the groundwork completed by Direct Results.

“It’s really like pieces of a puzzle making sure that everything makes sense from [us] looking at the right targetability [and] we’re looking at the right pricing information,” Salzberg said. “It’s a small piece – we’re not ranker buyers or the lowest-cost stations. It really has to make sense, and then we work with the stations to make them work.”

The process does not end once the buy is compiled, immediately moving to optimization to make sure that the enterprise proves to be successful. Direct Results consistently checks logs, reviews content and makes suggestions throughout. There are occasions where advertising does not air as scheduled, something that is usually quickly solved with an apology, a rerun of the missed spots along with bonus spots at the station’s discretion. Aside from reviewing data and making decisions on how to spend a budget, there are elements of other areas of media in the job that engender ingenuity and imagination.

“There’s so much content out there,” Salzberg said. “There are a lot of charts which may scare a lot of assistants when they get started, but it’s so much more than that. There is so much creativity. We also help write the copy, so especially now with programmatic buying being as big as it is, there are just certain things that can’t replace humans.”

Direct Results holds a weekly buyer status call to review the status of existing properties and strategize on how to approach future endeavors. In addition to the staff based in New York, buyers Martin Mihaly and Pearl Kim appear through teleconferencing software to contribute to the conversation. Mihaly and Kim are part of other discussions throughout the day as well outside of the regularly-scheduled meeting, firmly embedded in the systematic functionality of the firm. The company utilizes the Google Suite of platforms to communicate, meet and organize data, invariably facilitating rapport and synchronous conversation.

While various studies demonstrate that audio remains a powerful medium, it is competing with many other sources of content amid dwindling attention spans. Consumers ostensibly possess more choice than ever before to determine which content is worthy of their mindshare, leading brands to prioritize enthralling and dynamic content to satisfy this appetite.

Industry professionals frequently cite the conversational nature and intimacy of radio as an inherent advantage for the platform. At the same time though, stations have made the transition to implement visual elements to their programs, providing another means of interaction and engagement. Furthermore, consumers can stream audio using the internet and take part in the show through platforms such as social media applications and text lines.

“We have ways of finding them, so it’s really just transferring channels,” Salzberg expressed. “There are still listeners who listen on the old channels. It just gives you opportunities to overlay traditional radio with all kinds of extensions that we didn’t really have the opportunity to do before.”

ESPN New York will leave 98.7 FM on Aug. 31 of this year, declining to renew the frequency lease from Emmis Communications. The decision was made by Good Karma Brands, which operates ESPN New York under a local marketing agreement and owns the WEPN 1050 AM frequency as well. Data corroborating the decision, as revealed by founder and chief executive officer Craig Karmazin to the New York Post, was that 60% of listenership for the outlet takes place outside of radio. Additionally, within the 40% cohort of those who listen on traditional radio, eight out of 10 consumers are anticipated to be able to find the station on AM.

“I know that is in New York, which is the top market, so yeah, it’s definitely telling, but I do think ultimately we’re all going to evolve and pivot towards whatever it’s going to be, but I don’t know that it’s going to happen overnight,” Salzberg said. “We do so much with all size markets and small markets, and we’re doing a lot of emergency programming for smaller markets.”

Another meeting during the day with a sports radio brand is held to review the status of a campaign being carried out for a client. Following brief discourse about NFL free agency, the topic moved to potentially holding a Father’s Day campaign. Brainstorming in the meeting cultivates an idea that will implement talent and the client’s chief executive officer, something that will aim to heighten awareness and ultimately move the product.

Despite the momentum behind a buy often following a similar archetype, there are permutations in the final result. With a staff containing several different media buyers and other executives, institutional aptitude and accompanying input helps lead to a final result. The path to attain prosperity may be different, but Direct Results maintains a collective focus on benefitting both their clients and stations through a mutually beneficial partnership.

“There’s no right way to do a buy,” Salzberg said. “The three of us could do three completely different buys, and they might not all engage, but they could all look good on paper. What we really try to do is take all of the steps and put it together like a puzzle.”

As the sun begins to set over the New York metropolitan area, the staff at Direct Results continues to remain ready to help clients, meet with colleagues and look ahead to the future. Salzberg herself works late into the evening, finishing her managerial tasks before reviewing her active buys and considering new opportunities. She usually commutes into the office several days per week in addition to her other clients, a hybrid work structure that has worked well since its adoption.

In the end, Direct Results wants to gather optimal results for the clients and stations as the authority in audio advertising. The company is fueled by its current undertakings while remaining intrigued by possibilities in the modifications being made to content creation, dissemination and promulgation. Direct Results is looking to ensure the viability and long-term success of the audio medium, exhibiting a fervent zeal and steadfast commitment to generate remunerative and rewarding results. This is ultimately achieved through substantive, preeminent partnerships with an enduring impact that conveys the comprehension of nuances and esoterica within the evolution and efficacy of audio, along with the passion for the craft.

“You’re not just buying time; you’re really engaging customers in a really fun way, and with radio [and] audio, people are really loyal to their talent and they really trust them,” Salzberg said. “When it fits, it’s like a no-brainer.”

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Seeking Solutions at the NAB Show

“ My hope is that I’ll leave Las Vegas this week, smarter, inspired, and more confident in where we’re headed.”

Jason Barrett



Photo Credit: NAB Show 2024

I’m writing this while on a flight to Las Vegas for the NAB Show, where I’ll spend the next few days talking and listening to folks discuss the future of the media business. Curtis LeGeyt and his team do a fantastic job with this event. Technology will be on full display, relationships will be extended in hallways and restaurants, and ideas and insights will be shared on stage by many operating corporately, and in local markets.

I’ve always enjoyed attending and speaking at this show because I have access to more information than most. That doesn’t make my opinions or wisdom better, it just means it doesn’t come from one source. I’ll get to share some of my thoughts on Tuesday when I join Fred Jacobs, Mitch Rosen, Rod Lakin, John Mamola and Matt Nahigian for a session titled, “Changing The Game: Creating Unique Sports Radio Programming.” I’ll also be appearing with new RAB CEO Michael Hulvey on the ‘Radio on Main Street’ podcast.

I’m privileged to consult many brands across the country. Most of my focus is on radio, but that’s not the only space I’m in. There are groups I work with that you have no idea about. News is part of my mix too. My access to various companies allows me to stay educated and see things that others only read about.

Because I see and hear so much, and I study brands, content, and audience habits, it drives me crazy hearing folks preach the same things they did a decade ago. Some leaders view the industry through one company lens, and don’t take advantage of opportunities to attend and learn at places like the NAB Show. I’ve never understood that. Why stay the same when opportunities to get better exist? What you believe works and doesn’t isn’t often seen the same by others. This is especially true when comparing the big three (Audacy, Cumulus and iHeart) to smaller groups.

But this isn’t just an executive or corporate issue. It happens with programmers, talent and agents too. I hear a lot of the same complaints but don’t see a lot of proof of a better way forward. Whether it involves discovering talent, measurement, generating revenue, mastering social media, getting talent paid or using artificial intelligence, what are your solutions?

The media business is constantly evolving. Many new brands have emerged, and they see opportunity where traditional outlets don’t, especially in digital. Growing a brand and business requires more than playing the hits, chasing meters, and sharing posts on LinkedIn. It takes adding skills you don’t have, building programming for different platforms, growing revenue beyond traditional ways, and most importantly, getting out of your own way. If you don’t have all the answers, that’s ok. Acting like you do is a bigger issue.

We have never had more real estate to work with to connect audiences and advertisers. However, we don’t take full advantage of it because many aren’t masters of multiple spaces. We also create goals that sound good in conference rooms yet lack the strategy and insight to be executed. I hear this a lot when websites, podcasts, YouTube, social media and newsletters are mentioned.

Because I love this industry so much, I defend it frequently. Print outlets love to portray our business in a negative light. Even the trades prioritize coverage of revenue projections, stock prices, investments in technology, etc., things that matter less to listeners, viewers, content creators and programmers. With so much attention on the industry’s lack of growth, it often looks like we’re steering a ship towards a tsunami.

My hope is that I’ll leave the NAB Show, smarter, inspired, and more confident in where we’re headed. Optimism is sometimes hard to find in terrestrial outlets, but this is an exciting time for the media industry. Capitalizing requires new skills, a wider focus, creativity, and forward-thinking leaders. Let’s put our time and energy into identifying solutions rather than spewing the same old narratives.


Thumbs Up

University of Florida: State of the art equipment, tons of space, on-site operations for the SEC Network, a weather network to cover the entire state of Florida, ownership of Gainesville’s leading sports radio station (WRUF), excellent hands-on training, and students who want to learn, and possess passion and desire to make a mark on the business. It was great to see so many invested on campus in the future of the industry. It’s easy to see why Florida’s track record of developing successful broadcasters is stellar.

Chris Oliviero: Audacy New York’s top boss has always had a sharp programming mind, and when faced with making moves to guide his brands forward, he’s often passed the test with flying colors. He’s doing it again with the naming of WFAN’s new program director. The news becomes official at 9am ET today. Once the name is revealed, I’ll update this space to provide proper attribution. The bottom line, WFAN made a great hire.

Dave Portnoy: Betting on sports often produces losses but Portnoy lately has been on a hot streak. The Barstool Sports owner hit last week on the NCAA Championship game, and again this weekend with the Masters. Over the past four months he’s generated over 5 million dollars in winnings. What’s next, Dave?

Thumbs Down:

NCAA Championship Game Start Time: I understand that the game between UConn and Purdue took place in Arizona, but there’s no reason for a national championship game to start at 9:20pm ET. Given how much TV networks pay, and taking into account the viewing habits of sports fans, losing audience on a Monday night over a late start time makes little business sense. Hopefully this gets figured out in the future.

AEW: Airing behind the scenes footage of an incident involving CM Punk made sense eight months ago. Doing it last week was pointless. Any momentum gained is tied to a talent no longer in the company, and having an arena full of people chanting a former talent’s name does little for anyone on the current roster. Just a strange decision that provided little upside.

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Eavesdropping: Masters Radio on SiriusXM

“And then there is the very best in the business at doing this, who is an even better teammate, the voice of the Masters, Mike Tirico.”



Graphic for Eavesdropping feature with Masters Radio

A tradition unlike any other, indeed. It was yet another mesmerizing Masters tournament this past weekend when Scottie Scheffler took home his second green jacket. The weekend weather was perfect, and the golf was spectacular. I spent a lot of my weekend eavesdropping in on Masters Radio from SiriusXM.

Listening to golf on the radio is a bit sentimental for me. One of my best friends, Jay Randolph Jr., was a PGA Tour Radio broadcaster, and sadly we lost Jay to liver cancer in November 2022. He had worked with many of the voices I was listening to this weekend and in a weird way I felt very connected to him listening to the Masters on the radio versus hearing the audio from CBS.

I can’t say enough good things about the way the Masters is presented on radio. From tuning in early and hearing David Marr III setting the scene for the day along with Craig Stadler and Scott Simpson to hearing the starter introduce Tiger Woods to hearing the crew throughout the day as the leaders worked their way around the course, it was, in a word, masterful.

There are many voices you hear while listening and it’s obvious none of them would rather be anywhere else. That’s the overall feeling you walk away with when listening to the Masters Radio team – they love golf, they love this tournament, and they’re having the time of their lives painting the picture for the audience.

The knowledge of course, is off the charts. Whether it’s little nuggets of statistical information, historical facts or on-course reporters giving reads of a green, the Masters Radio team knows their golf and you walk away a smarter golf fan when listening to what they have to say.

As the players at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday began to tee off, around 2:15 p.m. CT, host Taylor Zarzour had a terrific introduction before turning things over to one of the best parts of Masters Radio, lead voice Mike Tirico.

As the Masters music played in the background, Zarzour said, “From the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, this is the Masters on SiriusXM. Why is it that we love this place so much? Maybe it’s because of its breathtaking beauty…maybe it’s the fellowship at Augusta National, without any electronic devices, you are your most present here. The conversation seems more meaningful. You are where your feet are.

“Or maybe, ‘YES SIR!’ the man that made that collection of words famous is Verne Lundquist, in one of his many calls we will never forget. Verne made it during what I think we love the most, the second nine on Sunday at Augusta. Today is his final assignment in an illustrious career. Wouldn’t it be fun if he had one more memorable call? If so, we will press play on it during this final round broadcast led by Jeremy Davis and his fabulous production team.

“On the air we have some Masters veterans as analysts. I wish you could see Johnson Wagner’s passion when an eagle was made. And if the Masters had an accent, Steve Melnyk would be speaking it. The best on-course commentators in golf are here with John Maginnes stationed at Amen Corner, Brian Katrek in the middle of holes 15 and 16, and the great Maureen Madill is headed over to 17.

“And then there is the very best in the business at doing this, who is an even better teammate, the voice of the Masters, Mike Tirico.”

I planned to write my own description, but I think Zarzour nailed it. Tirico did as well, saying, “Taylor, that’s awesome man, that sets the scene so perfectly and I think shapes the thoughts of so many of us as we drive into the property here on Sunday.”

While the broadcasters were all on their A-game, so too were the producers and sound engineers. As I said before, they don’t miss anything. Whether it be the sound of the club hitting the ball, the conversations between caddies and players, the atmosphere of the birds and the patrons, it is all blended exceptionally well. And when something big happens, the passion of the announcer’s voice along with the noise from the crowd is mixed perfectly.

The broadcasters gave every player at the top of the leaderboard their just do. The more you listened, the more you learned about Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Ludvig Aberg, Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau as they made their way around the course. You caught every step of their rounds with Maginnes, Katrek, Madill and Johnson Wagner walking the course with them. And nobody is better at giving you the storylines than Mike Tirico.

Tirico is one of those voices where if you hear it, you know the event is a big one. His voice leading the way on Masters Radio makes it sound even bigger than it is, if that is even possible. He not only gives exceptional commentary, but he is terrific bringing in the other broadcasters in and out of the conversation. And, as one can imagine, he is as prepared as possible, a virtual golf and Masters encyclopedia.

As the leaders got past ‘Amen Corner’ and the tournament started to reach its climax, you could feel the emotion through the microphones.

As Scottie Scheffler led by two and then hit his second shot on 14 to within two feet of the hole, Tirico had an excellent play-by-play call, followed by a very subtle response from Steve Melnyk, who simply said, “There’s a reason he’s No. 1.”

As Scheffler putted out and took a three-shot lead, Tirico added, “He’s that close to a second green jacket in three years.”

At that point in the broadcast, Zarzour took over and Tirico moved to a setup next to the 18th green and as he did Zarzour mentioned it was from there Tirico had called Tiger Woods’ win exactly five years prior.

As Tirico and Johnson Wagner take over the call from near the 18th green at around 5:25 CT, the leaders head to the 16th hole with Scheffler leading by three.

As analyst Steve Melnyk wrapped up his time in the booth, he praised Scheffler for his play and made a statement about second place finisher Ludvig Aberg saying, “Ludvig is the new young face of the golf world.”

Maureen Madill doubled down as she told Tirico that some of the younger golfers who challenged Scheffler this weekend were like a zoom call where they are waiting to come into a meeting. “I think Ludvig Aberg and Max Homa are in the major waiting room,” she said.

As Scheffler started to wrap up his second win at Augusta, Brian Katrek had the call of his putt on the 16th hole: “…On the way, up to the cup and in. There are no more questions, Scottie Scheffler can put one arm in the jacket right now. Birdie at 16, he is 11 under par and he leads by four.”

Tirico was bringing it all home as he described Scheffler and his caddie Ted Scott walking up the 18th fairway. “The crescendo builds as Scheffler gets close to the 18th green,” he said and then brilliantly went silent and let the crowd noise takeover.

As Scheffler pitched to within a few feet, Tirico said, “Scottie Scheffler’s gonna do it again.”

As Scheffler wrapped up his championship, Tirico said, “Scheffler, over the ball, shuffles the feet, Scottie Scheffler the putter back and in! Scottie, Scottie, he’s done it again. Scottie Scheffer, for the second time in three years is the Masters Champion.” He later added, “Only eighteen men now have won multiple Masters and the latest is Texan Scottie Scheffler.”

Golf on the radio is not easy. It’s made even more difficult when you are trying to blend together a number of voices and sounds to truly maximize the coverage. I can’t imagine it being done any better than the way Masters Radio on SiriusXM did it this weekend.

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Eavesdropping: Busted Open on SiriusXM

“If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers. But what you got because of Cody’s victory last night was tears.”



Graphic for Eavesdropping: Busted Open Radio

The day after the Super Bowl, it’s always fun to hear sports radio in the two towns which had teams in the game. In that same vein, I tuned into Busted Open on SiriusXM the day after WrestleMania weekend.

Host Dave LaGreca, who plays the role of the fan on the show, was joined live from WWE World by co-hosts Tommy Dreamer, Mark Henry and Bully Ray. The fan exhibit was not open to the public at the start of the show, but fans entered the picture after the first hour.

The first hour of this particular show went about as fast as a radio show can possibly move. As soon as the show started the hosts immediately got into making fun of Bully Ray, who had been a surprise guest-referee in a match during WrestleMania night two, for how he looked in the referee uniform.

“Allow me to be the very first to admit those stripes don’t look the best on me,” the WWE Hall of Famer replied to the jokes.

Mark Henry jumped in to say, “It was kind of just what WrestleMania needed. To have the ECW influence on the show, great representation for the brand and showing respect to Paul Heyman as well.” Heyman had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during the weekend and was celebrated not only for his WWE contributions but as the creator of ECW, which was based in Philadelphia, where he first worked with Bully Ray who was then known as Bubba Ray Dudley.

“I had people backstage in WWE telling me ‘We have never seen you smile that much in life ever,’ said Bully Ray “…I jumped at the opportunity. Too much fun.  Last night was the first WrestleMania that I got to appreciate…the level of stress that came with [when you are performing in the matches] you’re not able to take it all in…it’s really not fun because it’s so stressful.”

Bully Ray said he could feel the pop as he was introduced and really enjoyed getting to “smell the roses for the first time.”

LaGreca could no longer hold it in. He cut off the talk about his co-host participating in WrestleMania and moved on to the heart of the matter. In the main event the night before, Cody Rhodes had ended the run of Roman Reigns as the Undisputed Universal Champion after more than three and a half years. More importantly to the hosts and fans alike, the story of Cody Rhodes building to this moment was one they all agreed was one of the great moments in WrestleMania history.

Of course, WWE loves surprises and on the second night of this year’s WrestleMania, they had plenty in store. The Rock had already come back to be a part of the WrestleMania 40 storyline and then during the Sunday main event, John Cena and The Undertaker came out as surprises.

Bully Ray gave a great description of what he was doing as the main event was happening. He said he was with Damian Priest, who had earlier in the evening won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and while they didn’t plan to watch the main event live, when it started, they thought they needed to see it. “We ran through the halls and go out into the arena,” he said. “Guys, when the gong hit for The Undertaker, the both of us turned into 12-year-olds…we were jumping up and down…lost it, loved it.”

Mark Henry said, “We reacted the same way. I cannot imagine what that must’ve felt like in person.” Bully Ray replied, “When you can hear the pop in a stadium, you know the pop is big.”

LaGreca said, “There wasn’t a lot to get excited about with night number one, but night two was just hit, after hit, after hit. And that main event, with all the stories that played out and had a conclusion during that match…You couldn’t have played that out to a better conclusion than what we saw last night.”

The hosts then listened to an audio clip from the previous year, where the day after WrestleMania some fans, including LaGreca, were extremely disappointed that Cody Rhodes did not beat Roman Reigns and “finish his story” then. At the time, Bully Ray had said there was a bigger picture story WWE would build that would show Cody fighting hard times much like his father, ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes had gone through. Mark Henry agreed.

LaGreca said he was “eating some crow” but then admitted it’s all part of it where the emotion gets so high, and he pointed out that people were actually crying when the main event ended.  “If Cody would have won at WrestleMania 39 there would have been cheers.  But what you got because of Codys victory last night was tears,” LaGreca said. “This is an end of one story, but more importantly the beginning of a new story.”

LaGreca came back from a break and reverted immediately back to what the difference was in Rhodes winning the title in 2024 versus having done it in 2023. “It went from a great moment…to maybe one of the greatest WrestleMania moments of all time last night,” he said.

There was strong insight given out by all of the former wrestlers at different times during the show, and they also pointed to things a casual fan may not have picked up on. One of those happened when you heard ring announcer Samantha Irvin get genuinely emotional in announcing Rhodes as the new champion.

“We’re not used to hearing emotion in a ring announcer’s voice, so Samantha Irvin brought something special and extra to the table in that announcement,” said Bully Ray.

Tommy Dreamer added, “It was the most perfect imperfection ever and it made that moment even more real…it was something that will be remembered through the annals of time.”

As the hosts continued to talk about the emotion of the night, Henry said, “It felt like WE won.” This gave Bully Ray the chance to sum it all up as he said, “The key word that you just said, WE. Cody made you feel like you were a part of his struggle. You were a part of his story.”

Henry went on to say, “I felt like last night, for the first time, that I could almost cry for Cody. I honestly felt emotional seeing him become the face of this new era, the ‘Triple H’ era….Wrestling is a feel business and if you don’t feel it then it’s not worth really putting on television. I felt that [last night] and I know every fan felt that.”

The hosts continued to give insight as they discussed a gift given to Cody Rhodes by WWE executives backstage and a spot where a table broke before it was supposed to and how smoothly the performers pivoted. Having Henry, Dreamer and Bully Ray on the show allows for a lot of this type of discussion where they can give perspective from having been in the ring.

Later LeGreca is asked if he would rank this WrestleMania up there with WrestleMania 17, widely considered the best of all time. LeGreca said if night number two stood on its own he would say it was better, but perhaps not if you consider both nights. The panel as a whole agreed it was definitely up there as one of the best and Henry noted it will be the highest grossing, so that is one way to judge which was the best.

“There were very few holes in that show,” Dreamer said.

While the first hour was rapid fire and had a ton of great reaction to all of the highlights of the night before, the show took a bit of a turn in the second hour. As the crowd became a part of the show it seemed to change the demeanor of the hosts a bit, especially LaGreca who seemed to be playing to the crowd rather than the listening audience. He yelled out “We did it!” talking about Cody Rhodes winning and then led a “Cody! Cody! Cody!” chant that didn’t go over well to those not on site.

Then there was a very strange guest appearance by WWE superstar Liv Morgan which seemed to bring the show to a halt. Later, Kevin Owens was live on the show and his appearance made a lot more sense as he participated in WrestleMania and had thoughts to share about others who performed and the storylines which were created. Owens helped bring the energy of the show back up and you could tell as a listener how passionate he is about wrestling and what took place during WrestleMania 40.

The programmer in me would remind the hosts not to do the show for their hardcore fans only, as they have to assume people are coming in and out of the show. They had incredible content in the first hour with really strong opinions from their experts, but there was never any resetting or going back to what was talked about, which I thought was a bit of a miss.

With that said, if you are a wrestling fan and you didn’t feed off the energy and excitement the hosts had for what they had witnessed the night before, something is wrong with you. Busted Open Radio was an excellent listen as a follow up to what was a memorable WresleMania weekend.

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