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The Big Break Interview:
David Sahadi
WWE’s promotions director

When people think of professional wrestling, many thinkjust about the physicality. But pro wrestling has evolved into something bigger than anyone could have ever imagined: sports entertainment. Watching a World Wrestling Entertainment program, it is easy to take for granted the amount of hard work and energy that goes into producing the show.

While the superstars are out in the ring giving their heart and soul to the fans, there are dozens of people behind the scenes that are working equally hard.

I had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing one of those people. David Sahadi is the Creative Director of On-Air Promotions for the WWE. If you have ever watched a WWE commercial (or “spot,” as it is known on the production side), chances are you have seen David’s work. David is in charge of producing all 12 of the WWE’s pay-per-view commercials, in addition to many other tasks.

I had an opportunity to sit down with David and gain some insight on how he has assisted in reinventing sports entertainment television.

BIGBreakNY: When you first came into the WWE, what did you do right away?
DAVID SAHADI: I introduced film to the WWE. I was hired on October 19, 1992, and I was in charge of the openings of Raw and Mania. I introduced quicker cuts and aggressive animations as well. I wanted to do things differently, including color treating video and giving everything an edgier look.

BBNY: What are your job responsibilities at the WWE?
DS: I manage a staff of seven. We produce dozens of spots each week, including various “rounds” of pay-per-view promos as well as those for live events. We produce three unique campaigns for pay-per-views each month. We produce episodic promos, which are storyline driven for all of our individual shows. My priorities are image-driven spots. I work on image campaigns for the WWE brand in general, and for shows such as Tough Enough. I also produce the monthly cold open for the pay-per-views. These cold opens set the tone for the show.

BBNY: What is the most fun part of your job?
DS: Creating spots and being anywhere and having an idea. You could be anywhere and just get an idea. Directing the spot is fun, but it’s actually the whole process—editing the spot and the completion of the process. The process and end result is gratifying.

BBNY: What’s your favorite part of your job?
DS: It has to be creation. Creating a powerful image piece that is going to touch someone on a deep and personal level.

In addition to that, I would also say working with the WWE superstars. I’ve worked with Leslie Nielson, Chuck Norris, Pamela Anderson, and other “Hollywood” celebrities, who can be quite difficult at times. Our superstars, however, will stay all day and night until the project is done. Some of my favorite to work with include The Undertaker (who is just awesome), Chris Jericho, Edge, Kurt Angle, and Kane. They understand that making a spot is a long process and by making it the best it can be, it makes them look better.

BBNY: What’s the most difficult part?
DS: Working with marketing, because we have separate agendas. In the creative end we like to do things that are different and “out there,” and marketing is more formulaic. They are more structured and limited.

Managing a staff is very difficult. When I am in creation mode, I am in a zone. I lock the door and am in the room for about 8 to 12 hours. The magic comes through another source. I lose all sense of time and I don’t think logically, I feel things. When I am managing people, I get distracted. It’s not a logical world, it’s intuition because you are creating something. We're creating a piece that is going to move people. We have a blank canvas and have to put the pictures there. If it’s done logically, it’s boring.

BBNY: What advice would you give to someone looking to make it in TV production?
DS: Find out what you want to do or be. Whether it’s directing, producing, or being on air. Set yourself at an entry-level position that gives you access to people who are where you want to be. Get your foot in the door. It’s all about growth. Picture yourself as a seed; you’ll want fertile soil that fosters you to grow. If you want to be announcer, surround yourself with announcers. It’s all about paying your dues.

BBNY: Where do you see sports entertainment going?
DS: We are constantly reinventing ourselves. I look back at things we did and I am embarrassed because I know they wouldn’t hold up today. We always want to challenge ourselves.

BBNY: What’s your favorite spot?
DS: Personally, it would have to be the “Legends” spot. It featured some WWF legends such as Freddie Blassie, Gorilla Monsoon, Killer Kowalski, Pat Patterson, and Ernie Ladd. It was right at the turning point for the WWE, where the era of “Attitude” was taking off. The premise of the commercial was to represent the passing of the torch from the older generation to the newer one.

The legends were sitting in seats at an empty arena. The copy was as follows: “I can still hear the echoes cheering my name; but today, I cheer for the younger guys.”

I remember playing the spot for Vince, and halfway through the spot he was saying, “Damn.” I had no idea whether he liked it or not. Vince actually left the room. I had asked Shane [McMahon] whether Vince liked it or not, and Shane said, “you got him.” I went outside to see tears in Vince’s eyes and he hugged and thanked me. Vince always had a soft spot in his heart for his dad and the legends. The spot meant so much to him that even a while later he was still visibly shaken by it.

That was my personal favorite, but the proudest spot as a company would have to be the Super Bowl spot. It was critically acclaimed and voted one of the top 5 spots by TV Guide and Adweek. We were the “Little Engine That Could,” conceptualizing, filming, and editing the spot ourselves. We were up against the giants of the advertising community. It was a daunting task, but we didn’t embarrass ourselves. The final spot showed people that we could be entertaining as we poked fun at ourselves.

BBNY: Where do you get all your creative ideas?
DS: Inspiration. Whatever is going on in my personal life, I use it. Musicians write when they are happy and sad; so do I. To me the biggest thing in any spot is emotion. I try to make people feel joy through comedy or really profound drama. It’s an outlook of my self expression.

It is apparent that David has done quite a lot to shape the way that we all look at WWE television. His vision and dedication have moved many of us in so many ways. It takes a special person to touch so many people through their work, and David Sahadi has definitely done that. Not only is he a great producer, but David is a great human being who puts his heart and soul into everything he does for the enjoyment of others.

Want to know more about David Sahadi? Click here for a profile!


© 2005 BIGBreakNY, LLC. No material may be reprinted without permission.