His heyday as Brother Love has long passed, but Bruce Prichard still cherishes working in pro wrestling.
After spending almost a quarter-century with WWE, Prichard has joined Impact Wrestling as its vice president of talent relations. Prichard’s multi-faceted executive role is similar to the one he held backstage with WWE as a close confidant of company owner Vince McMahon.
Prichard is responsible for signing performers and helping them mesh with Impact’s creative-writing team. Prichard also offers company management feedback on Impact’s on-air product that includes monthly pay-per-view shows and weekly Thursday-night telecasts on Spike TV.
In promoting Prichard to replace the outgoing Terry Taylor, Impact brass hopes that his experience and keen eye for talent will help fortify the company’s roster. Prichard helped WWE unearth and/or develop such stars as The Undertaker, Dave Batista, John Cena and current Impact mainstay Kurt Angle before leaving the company in 2008.
“The first thing I look for is that intangible ‘It’ factor and uniqueness because I hate copycats,” Prichard said. “A lot of times, you can tell right off the bat whether that person has ‘It’ or not.
“You also can watch somebody do all the greatest moves, but it comes down to heart and desire. I like to get inside the talents’ head and try to find out why they really want to be here. Is it money, fame or is it because this is their passion?”
Prichard’s passion for pro wrestling began in his childhood. He had already started doing odd jobs for legendary Houston-area promoter Paul Boesch at the age of 10. By 18, Prichard was promoting his own shows and venturing into announcing before joining WWE in the late 1980s.
That’s where Prichard made his on-air claim to fame as Brother Love, a heel manager and interview host inspired by televangelists like Jim Bakker and Robert Tilton who were grabbing headlines for blasphemous actions and money scams. With his face painted ridiculously red through makeup, Prichard donned a white suit and berated WWE’s babyfaces and fans through his gospel-style shtick and exaggerated Southern-sounding delivery. Unless he was receiving his comeuppance, Prichard ended every appearance with a disingenuous “I love you!” that is still remembered today among longtime fans.
Prichard, though, almost didn’t get the opportunity to share that “love.”
“I told Vince that the hottest heel in the business could be a guy who was a preacher that talked at you and not to you,” Prichard said. “He would use ‘Love’ instead of ‘God’ and hold the ‘Book of Love’ instead of the Bible. It was a great idea, but he wouldn’t let me do it. He told me to find someone to do it. I convinced him otherwise.”
Prichard said the Brother Love character received a major boost from the fallout of Bakker’s being caught in a well-publicized sex scandal with a church secretary (Jessica Hahn).
“After that, I was made,” a laughing Prichard said. “Timing was everything. I’m a natural heel in real life. I’m really easy to hate — trust me. It was fun to go out there. I loved that (crowd) heat and fed off it.”
Prichard, 48, will reflect upon some of those moments and share behind-the-scene anecdotes in a book of short stories he is writing. It is tentatively titled Something to Wrestle With. Prichard hopes to soon pitch the book to publishers once a first draft is completed.
“I’ve had a lot of fun and different experiences in this business, like being told (by WWE management) on a Thursday that I needed to have a ring set up on Wall Street on Wednesday and trying to get it done,” said Prichard, referring to a well-known WWE publicity stunt. “I’ve also found that the wrestling business is probably more honest than other businesses in the world. We tell you we’re entertainment up front and then we entertain you.”
One of Prichard’s goals is to help make Impact more entertaining. Since debuting nine years ago, Impact has yet to develop a homegrown performer who achieved name recognition among casual wrestling fans.
And as Prichard was reminded last weekend when attending two cards in Texas, Impact also struggles to marry the exciting action generated at its high-energy live events with its weekly television shows that are usually mired in interviews and ill-conceived storylines.
“I want to help bring every single aspect of Impact from television production to live events to (scriptwriting) to marketing all together,” Prichard said.
“Individually, they’re strong in their own ways, but a lot of times they work independent of each other. Bringing them together would make us stronger.
“I wouldn’t be here if didn’t think I could make a difference.”
Alex Marvez takes a ringside look at the latest in professional wrestling in LIFE on Thursday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.