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Meet the Bettors: Chris ‘The Bear’ Fallica, FOX Sports

“I think the goal is to try and give you information that’s palpable and that people can digest and absorb.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Photo of Chris Fallica courtesy: FOX Sports

Chris Fallica has been tracking line movement and placing bets for a long time. Well before ESPN viewers knew him as ‘The Bear,’ Chris was a kid on Long Island going over parlay cards with his dad and visiting Suffolk Downs. When he got to the University of Miami in the early 90s, he was visiting an on-campus bookmaker that managed to somehow never pay him.

For casual sports fans, Chris has become one of the best known faces amongst network sports betting talent. The guy that used to show up occasionally on College GameDay as a fact checker or statistician popping in with an obscure fact, grew into someone plenty of gamblers around the country refused to make a move without hearing from. That’s what made him valuable enough for FOX to lure him away from The World Wide Leader.

These days, the audience counts on him for advice on more than just college football. Sure, he has made the transition to FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff, but Fallica is also a key part of the network’s horse racing coverage. Last summer, bettors could also get his picks for matches in the Women’s World Cup. 

We launch a new series today with our friends at Point to Point Marketing. Our goal with these series has always been to give you inside access, to let you see behind the curtain on how decision makers grow an audience, revenue, and their own careers. In the past, we have focused on market managers and podcasters. Today, we take the same approach with some of the best known and most influential names in the sports betting space and where better to start than with Fallica?

In our conversation, he reflects on the headaches talking about gambling on ESPN used to cause versus where the subject stands now. We also dive into the feedback he hears on social media, why player and coach gambling scandals are actually signs of progress and more. Enjoy!

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DR: Do you think there is still room for networks to expand the amount of gambling content they’re using day to day? 

CF: Yeah, I think there is. Right now, it almost feels like some people are doing it just for the sake of doing it and really haven’t figured out how to do it best. I think there can be smarter ways within pre-game shows and even within the telecast.           

I know we have, for a long time, had the Al Michaels “and he goes over the goal line for the touchdown,” and you knew what it meant. Or Brent [Musburger] with the “the interesting thing to note is…”. I’d be curious to see with how maybe some of the spring football leagues and some of these other startups incorporate it within the game. I think there’s room to grow just within the telecasting game or even on the opening graphics of a game, where you can throw up just what the point spread is. I think within some of the studio shows or shoulder programing at some of the networks, just kind of incorporating just a little bit more of fantasy as well as some prop bets.           

There is still room to grow. I think the important thing is going to be not flooding the audience. It can’t be too much, but like I said, it also can’t be just like, “oh, we’re just going to do it for the sake of doing it.” You have to strike the balance.           

With so many content creators out there and so many people out in the space right now, you almost have to go through and just kind of figure out who is worth following and who is just kind of like an accumulator.

I try and pick my spots on social media. My background is research. That’s how I got into it with College GameDay. For the longest time I was an information guy, I was a numbers guy, I was a researcher. So, I kind of try to incorporate some historical information that says, “Look, I’m not saying that this is a reason to bet on a game,” but like I put something out earlier last week about how you go back over the last few years, one-seeds have been terrible in the Sweet 16 [of the NCAA Men’s Tournament]. It’s not to make you say, “Okay, I’m betting against all the ones each year,” but at the same time, if you’re looking at a one seed, laying a short number like Carolina did and like Houston did, maybe it does give you a little bit of pause to be like, “Okay, maybe I want to be a little bit careful here with these one seeds, because it’s not necessarily as easy as it looks.”

Sometimes though, I’m just throwing out an interesting, historical type note that maybe has nothing to do with gambling. I think people can just kind of take it at face value. I struggle with that from time to time, and I gotta bite my lip with people who think every single thing that I put out there is gambling related, because I still like the historical part of all this. 

DR: I want to jump into that because one of the things that I have wondered, especially as bigger states have come online and gambling has become this unavoidable part of sports content, it almost sounds like you are saying that making gambling information palatable to non-gamblers is irrelevant, because people are coming in with preconceived notions anyway. 

CF: I think they are better, but I think the goal is to try and give you information that’s palpable and that people can digest and absorb. Maybe gambling Twitter can be an absolute sewer or a cesspool. And you’re not going to change everybody’s mind.

Maybe I’m different. I’m in the minority and maybe looking at it the wrong way, but I try and take as much information as I possibly can, even if it’s from a side of a game that I disagree with or a bit of information that I’m kind of like “I don’t know if that makes sense, but I got it. Alright well, why do they like this? Why are they saying this? How did they come up with this? Could I see a game going this way?” 

I’m going to incorporate this more into horse racing as well because that’s a betting industry where the data and the information is not free. It’s a very expensive sport to handicap…it’s almost impossible to beat and it’s hard to get into. The first thing I do after losing a race, if there’s a horse that won that I didn’t think figured, I’ll try and go back and figure out, “Okay, what did I do wrong? What was I looking at here or wasn’t looking at but maybe should have?”

I think if more bettors did that, maybe in the sports realm, like, “Okay, what happened here? What did it I see? Was this just a situation where maybe I had right side, wrong result, or did I just read this game completely incorrectly?” That kind of learning from your mistakes and learning from your loss, I think can only make you better and a better follow in the long run. 

DR: What was the reaction that you saw, before gambling started spreading across the country? What was the reaction to College GameDay giving out lines, or hell, your entire segment from the power conference commissioners in college football? 

CF: It was great. When we first started and went like no holds barred, “we’ll be first, we’re doing this moving forward,” I think in the mainstream media, there were some critics who were like, “Alright, they’re going all in on this. Let’s see how this goes.” The general bettor and gambling universe were like, “This is great that finally they’re treating the topic like that.”

I think Chris Fowler, and Rece [Davis], but it was Chris hosting at the time, for not trying to be naive like, we thought people weren’t betting on games. We would throw some things out there like, going back to like 2013 or 14, “Hey, Mark Dantonio and Michigan State, when they’ve been a double-digit underdog it’s very dangerous.” We wouldn’t necessarily give specific “They’re 11-1 ATS with nine outright wins.” We wouldn’t go that far, but we would give veiled hints.

When we first started doing the board, that’s when I would get kind of no holds barred and just give information like, “This is one of the worst, if you look at expected points or defensive efficiencies” and like “why is this number only six?” or, “Mississippi State’s a massive favorite over UMass today. Last week they got the big win. Next week they’ve got Alabama. This is a total sandwich game. I don’t know if I’d want to be interested in laying 31 points today.” I think people really appreciated that and valued that.

Some of the fans and some of the bettors that especially appreciated it, I can speak from experience with feedback, is when I would put on the board on GameDay, MAC games with Eastern Michigan. I would put UMass, I would put UT-S[an] A[ntonio], and I would put the focus on a lot of these smaller conferences that only hardcore fans and maybe bettors knew about. I think that kind of gained some traction, maybe a little bit of respect within the community that I follow these games and knew these games and knew the teams in these spots. At the same time, there was an equal benefit for maybe the mainstream college football fan who maybe didn’t know about Eastern Michigan and [head coach] Chris Creighton or didn’t know about UTSA and they’re kind of learning a little something. “These teams might be pretty good. I’m not going to bet the game but let me check out the score at the end of the day” and you see an Eastern Michigan beat Illinois, or you see a UTSA hanging around and playing well and maybe win in a conference title.

So, I think even if you weren’t a bettor, I think you did get something out of a conversation and learning about some of these teams and the numbers. And I could give one of these conferences a little bit more of a spotlight. 

DR: It’s strange to see the number of scandals popping up involving people inside the games, like Alabama baseball a few years ago with the head coach or NBA players placing bets on games. What is your reaction and what do you do in times like this? How much pushback do you hear from the average person? 

CF: There really hasn’t been that much pushback. I mean, every now and then you’ll get the tweet about “Why are you doing it? This is the problem!”. But for the most part, the people that I interact with, are bettors or are sports fans who understand the big picture and I think they understand that one of the reasons these things are coming to light is because of the legalized nature of things now. Back in the day, there wasn’t as big of a of a spotlight on it and maybe you could get away with a bookie in the underworld and fans wouldn’t necessarily know what was going on, but now you have such a microscope on everything.

You brought up the Alabama bit. If you walk into a sports book at the Great American Ballpark, whoever it was in Cincinnati, and you try and get down the amount of money on a college baseball game, someone’s lights are going to go off. I mean, it set off alarms and they got caught.      

Who knows what’s going to happen with the Ohtani thing or the Toronto Raptors player? The player prop market especially, like a public prop you’re betting 50 bucks, maybe 100 bucks and just kind of watching the game. If you’re looking to get down serious on a player prop, it’s clear you’ve got some pretty significant information to weigh, whether it’s an injury or something. That’s going to raise suspicions. The same thing with Temple, a line going from like 2 to 8 and a half in a matter of an hour and a half or so, that’s going to bring up suspicions.

That’s a good thing. It’s much better this than CCNY or the Arizona State stuff before people really caught on to what was going on. I mean, we don’t want anything to not be on the up and up. Everything should be on the square, but if something isn’t, we have a much better chance of nipping it in the bud right now than we did in years past. 

DR: So, it’s not just networks putting out gambling content, but plenty of websites and all these books and mobile apps on people’s phones. They’re creating content on their own as well. Is there any way to better police problem gambling by the apps and the networks? Or do people sounding that alarm have to accept that this is one of those things where everybody that participates has to understand that it requires some serious self-policing?

CF: I think a majority of it is self-policing. And obviously, if you’re a problem gambler and you’re draining your bank account, you obviously have some issues that need to be taken care of. At the same time, I do think the sportsbooks and your financial institutions can step in and be like “Hey, you’ve dipped below, or you’ve withdrawn a certain amount from your bank account in the last three days. We’ve put a hold on your account” or one of the sportsbook apps has noticed you’ve lost $25,000 in two days and reaches out to say, “We just want to make sure everything’s okay. We’re going to put a 24-hour hold” or whatever.

I’m sure people would be upset by that. Maybe you don’t want it to be that extreme, but I know the sports books right now, I know my VIP hosts at DraftKings and FanDuel however often they need to, just do kind of a check in. “Are you aware of the assistance programs that we have or the controls where you have to go through a list of questions and check ins.” I mean, they are trying.

Now, I think there are people out there who are trying to say, “Why are they going to try? They’re businesses and they just want your money.” I mean, there are a lot of people out there that feel the books are the enemy regardless of what they do. “There’s certainly nothing that is going to be able to help you if you’re a loser. They see that as an addition to their bottom line.”

I think there are people within the sportsbook industry that can target people and then people are going bankrupt and losing marriages and whatever like that. That doesn’t paint the industry in a good light. So, it benefits everyone for everybody to kind of be aware and give it a helping hand if there are issues out there. 

DR: As a content creator, are you comfortable with where, the relationships between the leagues and books are, or do you feel held back at all?

CF: No, I haven’t really experienced any issues with that. I can remember back when we were building graphics at ESPN and with the NFL you cannot use team names. You cannot use team logos, so you had to put like a color swatch with the Cleveland Browns or if you had the Giants you would have like a blue and red color patch. You certainly couldn’t put like “Giants” or “Browns.”

The fact that now you’ve got the league, who obviously has sponsorships and business relationships with some of these apps, and books and sportsbooks near and in stadiums, it’s clear that they see the benefit to their bottom line with fans being more interested in having a stake in the game.

I haven’t had any issues with kind of being limited now in terms of what I can say or what I can do. You see the NCAA wanting to limit player props and such but I mean, in terms of me tweeting out a note or giving a note on the air, maybe there were times in the past, actually it was right after mass legalization, where conferences would be like, “No, we don’t want odds talk or gambling talk on a college network,” whether it be like the SEC Network or the ACC Network and that’s fine.

“That’s their prerogative and you have to work around it, but the last few years I think has made it very, very widely known, with these leagues now, it would be a little bit hypocritical to say, “no, you can’t mention that North Carolina is a four-and-a-half-point favorite over Alabama or whatever it was.”

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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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

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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.”

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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.”

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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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