The Way Too Long Review of Pro Wrestling Diary: Tommy “Tiny” Lister Shoot Interview

Once again, I dive into the niche market that is shoot interviews.  Pro Wrestling Diary is a fairly new company that handles these, but they have a unique mission statement in that they want to feature wrestlers who are untapped for these videos.  Instead of rehashing the same guys over and over again with the same tired questions, they are seeking out guys who have little to no history of shooting from the hip.  In this case, we get Tom “Tiny” Lister, who was better known as Zeus during his run in the WWE in 1989, and more recently known as a character actor who had parts in the Friday movies, plus as the prisoner who refuses to blow up a ferry full of innocents in The Dark Knight.  Therefore, no matter what hatred smarks want to shower on him for his lack of wrestling ability, you have to remember that at the end of the day he was in the Dark Knight and thus that makes him better then you.

Before I get to the feature, I simply have to comment on the packaging for this set.  Unlike most shoot companies, PWDiary’s DVDs are professionally produced.  These are not DVD-Rs.  These are legitimately manufactured discs packaged in a professional, sealed DVD.  That alone tells you that Pro Wrestling Diary is out to make a name for themselves.  Hell, they charge LESS for their professionally produced shoots them most companies charge for DVD-Rs or even VHS tapes packaged in cheap cardboard sleeves with hand-written labels.  The cover art is very well done too.  I ordered two sets from PWDiary: this one and the Sgt. Slaughter two-disc shoot (review coming) and was shocked by how well the artwork was done.  These are DVDs that look like they belong on the same shelf as your WWE sets.  Very, very impressive.

Of course, professional production only gets you so far, so let’s move onto the actual feature.  The Lister shoot runs approximately an hour and forty minutes and is hosted by PWD owner Andrew Khellah.  Right out of the gate, I am going to let everyone know that this is NOT your average wrestling shoot interview.  Since very little of Tiny Lister’s life has to do with wrestling (one might say a tiny amount, ha the wit), this feels more like an episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio.  Wrestling doesn’t really become a topic until a third of the interview is over with, and actually very little is really discussed about the subject.  Now, if you are into rap music that won’t be much of an issue, since rap dominates the opening thirty minutes or so of the shoot, but if you’re like me and have no clue about anything related to that crap, this might not be your first choice when it comes time to shop for your DVDs.  Khellah was clearly interested though, and Lister is more then happy to talk about his experiences with rap stars.  And of course we get discussion about Lister’s acting career.  Now even though wrestling isn’t exactly a main focus of the set, I found Lister’s life story to be actually quite fascinating.  He really does have a sense about him of being humbled by how good his life turned out, and it makes the non-wrestling discussions worth listening to.

Where was Lister born? In Compton, CA, the ‘murder capital of America’ says Zeus.  Five seconds of research on my part and I discover that as of 2008, Compton is one of the twenty most dangerous cities in the US.  Lister goes over his childhood and his love of track and field.  This goes onto a discussion of the N.W.A. (that would be Niggaz With Attitude, not the National Wrestling Alliance) and his relationship with them.

Did Lister avoid the gang life? Indeed he did.  He never wanted to be a follower and ended up focusing on athletics more.  He shows off the ring he won by being the 1982 NCAA Division II National Shot Put Champion.  He talks about his history of weight lifting.

Did other kids find him intimidating? Gee, ya think?  But Lister is deeply religious and goes into discussion about that.  Listening to him talk, I suddenly wonder if he wouldn’t have been just as good (possibly better) then Michael Clark Duncan in the Green Mile.  Frankly, I think Duncan’s Oscar nomination for that flick was a joke, but the only criteria for being nominated for an Oscar for acting if you’re a male is to be large and cry.  As long as you’re over 300lbs and can leak from your eye sockets, you lock in your nomination.  And hey, if you’re over 300lbs, can cry on cue, AND you play a homosexual, you might as well clear shelf space for the statuette because that fucker is yours.

Was Lister shocked that Easy E died of AIDS? Wait, Eric Bischoff died of AIDS?  Oh, excuse me, Eazy-E… the rapper dude.  Well, I know nothing about rap so I just take it in, but Lister is very good at explaining what life in Compton is like and how nothing shocks him anymore.  This goes into a discussion about Compton’s Most Wanted, another rap group, and controversies regarding rap.  If you’re into this type of stuff, you will enjoy this discussion.  It goes over my head.  These days, Lister mostly listens to jazz and gospel music, but he is also an Eminem fan.  He ends up talking about integrity, which somehow means he can’t do acting rolls involving homosexuality.  Right, because those filthy queers can’t be trusted.  Whatever.  He doesn’t smoke or drink either and is big on education.  He goes over bits of his acting career, then talks about how honored he was to work with the biggest stars in fields: Hulk Hogan in wrestling, Chris Nolan in movies, Tupac in music, and now all that’s left is for him to rub shoulders with Obama and he’s officially hung out with all the greats.  He talks about how he was the REAL first black president (his role in Fifth Element).  He goes on to talk about how he’s fun loving guy, then he goes back to talking about education.

Did he grow up around Suge Knight? He did, and we get a brief story about it.

What was his inspiration to get into acting? He grew up watching westerns and we hear about how he wasn’t into drugs (even weed, which he elaborates on) and thus television was his thing.  We get some more discussion on his life and friends in Compton.  Lister is all over the place in this interview and he jumps from one topic to another.  Andrew Khellah isn’t really conducting the interview as much as he’s surviving it.  Though I must say that Khellah’s “Holy shit, what have I gotten myself into with this guy?” look is quite priceless and really one of the biggest selling points for this set.

He talks about his first few movies. Runaway Train and Beverly Hills Cop II and how he was cast in those.  He can’t believe he got to work with Marlon Brando and John Candy, who he enjoyed working with the most.  Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to do the Kevin Bacon game with Lister.  I ended up linking him in four.  Now, it turns out you can link him in TWO.  Can anyone here do such without cheating?

How did he get the nickname “Tiny?” He points to his crotch and says “take a wild guess.”  Just kidding.  It was basically a running gag as a kid, where his friends would tell the handicapped kids in his school that his name was Tiny, which got a rise out of him.  He enjoyed the handicapped kids in school though, and they reminded him that being blind in his right eye wasn’t so bad.

Has his eye been blind since birth? It has been, but he says that it was his signature that god gave him.  Over the last five years or so, I’ve gradually lost vision in my own right eye, and adjusting to that sucks.  I imagine it is way better to be born that way.  On the plus side, I’ll never have to pay an extra $10 for a movie ticket just to see the crap in 3-D.

Talk about Zeus. I think “finally” but actually he goes back to talking about rap and Ice T.  Ugh.

Is there any actor he hasn’t worked with that he wants to? Sean Connery is his first choice.  Khellah wanted to know why not Denzel Washington?  Lister gives props to Denzel.  More actors are discussed.  By the way, he worked with Marlon Brando.

How did he get cast for No Holds Barred? He had the same agent that Hulk Hogan had, which helped.  He discusses how he dressed himself and how Vince sized him up with Hogan.

First impressions on Vince McMahon? “One of the smartest people I’ve ever been in a room with.”  He puts over Vince’s ability to promote, then talks about how you can measure someone’s success by their longevity and their ability to reinvent themselves.

How did he feel about being the villain against Hulk Hogan? Considering Hulk Hogan is the biggest star in wrestling history, he was very flattered.  Once again, he can’t believe that he worked with the three biggest stars in three different fields (Tupac for music, Hogan for wrestling, and Brando for acting), and he did it in his first fifty years on Earth.  “God is good.”  Khellah notes that he looks good for his age.  He says it is no drinking or smoking, though he notes he smoked a couple cigars.

Does he have any close friends that died from drugs or drinking? He talks about how his family had issues with it.  He says that being holy is cool, not drugs… or wearing your pants on the ground.  This goes into a discussion of how he was going to wrestle in the main event of Wrestlemania VI.

Was No Holds Barred his big break? It was, and then he goes back to being in awe about working with Marlon Brando.

He made his WWE debut in a steel cage match featuring Hogan and the Big Bossman. He discusses how there weren’t any “big black actors” back in 1989, like Michael Clark Duncan or Ving Rhames.  Again, Khellah is trying to steer him onto wrestling, but Lister isn’t biting.  It’s a bit annoying, but Lister is so entertaining as he rambles without any direction from random topic to random topic that it still proves entertaining.

Was he a fan of wrestling? He was, and talks about who his favorite stars were.  And he got a new respect for how difficult it is to go out there and perform in front of 30,000, even for just ten minutes.  He was very much a fish out of water, but Hogan worked with him to help him be as presentable as possible.  And again, he’s humble about how blessed he was.  He gives a story about how he was on an airplane when a white kid spotted him and drew a picture of him pinning Hulk Hogan, which made him tear up because he realized that kids don’t see color anymore.  Lister was very humbled by it.  And he knows that he got big, because other promoters started calling him, including some boxing stuff.  And of course, marks would take the stuff seriously and thus he received death threats.

How real was the Zeus character? He had to stay in character and tried to not sign autographs, which was tough because he likes to be the type of celebrity that people can just talk to, as long as they don’t bug him eating.  And I do get that impression that he’s a very accommodating, talkative guy.  Just don’t bring up Marlon Brando to him.  For the love of all that is holy, don’t.

What does he think of Randy Savage? Like Hogan, Savage took care of him.  So did Brutus Beefcake and Sensational Sherri.  All total professionals who worked with him and wanted him to look good.  Then again, the only guys who say people like Hogan sabotaged them are guys who were stars only in their own head (cough, Rude, hack) or jealous that they never were able to work on top.  Truthfully, most guys say they loved working with Hulk.  The matches were simple but the payoffs were huge, as Lister notes.  Contrast Hogan, the unquestioned biggest star in wrestling history, with the Undertaker, a guy who went out of his way to destroy careers during the WCW Invasion, and it makes you wonder why Hogan is public enemy number one in the IWC.

Did the other wrestlers resent him? “Hell yes!”  He elaborates on that.  He then says that the only way you could make big bucks in wrestling is to work with Hulk Hogan, and he got ahead of a lot of guys who had been in line to do it for years.

Related to but not discussed here is the fact that Rick Rude was apparently VERY pissed that Lister bumped him out of his ‘spot’ in the main event of Wrestlemania VI.  For whatever reason, Rude thought Wrestlemania VI was his birthright and openly bitched about how Hogan was holding him back.  Never mind the fact that Rude was a horrible regional draw who went on to be a horrible national draw in the WWE.  But Rude held a grudge on Lister, and on Hogan, and on the Warrior.  Of course, his heart held a grudge on Rude and they ended up going their separate ways.

Did Zeus get a lot of heat for not selling? Well hell, it’s not like he did it by choice.  It was how he was booked.  That would be like bitching at Harrison Ford for Indiana Jones no-selling an atomic explosion by hiding in a fridge.  Lister then talks about how Vince had sold him to the tabloids as a gang member with a body count and that turned out to be a bit of a cock blocker.  Funny stuff.

At this point, someone else in the room starts to talk, which sets of Lister who starts to get into character.

Did anyone pull ribs on him? He gives a fairly funny story about Jake Roberts pulling one on him.  Pretty funny story, but Lister doesn’t elaborate any further.  I would LOVE to have a DVD that’s nothing but ribs.  Get a panel of old time wrestlers and talk about the ribs they pulled on each other.  That would be a DVD I want.

Were there any cruel ones directed at him on the grounds that he didn’t pay his dues? Sure, but he explains how he was trained as an actor and paid his dues that way.

What is more cut throat: wrestling or acting? He basically ducks the question.

What’s the difference between a live crowd and a movie set? Well obviously you get as many takes as you need in acting, but in wrestling you can feed off the live crowd.  We find out how much he made for each major show in the WWE.

Why was he knocked out of the Wrestlemania VI main event?
He had heard at some point that he was penciled in for the main event and would get $500,000 for it, but that’s all he knows.  Well, from my perspective the obvious answer is he wasn’t a good enough performer to do it.  It has nothing to do with Zeus as a draw.  The idea that the Zeus/Hogan feud didn’t earn money is absurd.  At the time of it’s release, No Holds Barred became the highest grossing movie on pay-per-view, and that wasn’t for the movie itself.  The WWE packaged the movie with three matches when it aired on PPV, with Hogan/Beefcake vs. Savage/Zeus in a cage match being the main one.  You can’t argue with the results, as No Holds Barred earned more money then any other feature film did on pay-per-view, a record that stood until Jurassic Park hit the format in 1994.  Granted, No Holds Barred cost more money to order then most feature films did because it was packaged as a movie and wrestling event, but still, it earned a lot of money.

Anyway, he’s not too upset by it.  With or without the main event of Wrestlemania on his résumé he’s had a successful career on both fronts.  He notes that there are not many people who can say they reached the levels he did in both acting and wrestling.  Hulk, the Rock, and maybe Roddy Piper.  And he pays his respects to all those he worked with.  He was always watched over, whether he was wrestling or acting.

Assuming he did main event Wrestlemania VI, would that have jump-started the Zeus character? Lister is very frank about how ignorant he was to the business, but notes that there were still talks of putting the championship belt on him.  I’ll confirm this isn’t hyperbole or empty bragging on his part either.  The WWE knew Hogan was going to split for a while following Wrestlemania VI and many wrestlers were pitched back and forth as possible champions to fill the gap, including Zeus.  Lister notes that the Zeus character was actually fairly popular among inner-city blacks as well.  I don’t personally know the demographics but given the success of No Holds Barred as a pay-per-view event (and I firmly believe it was successful based on the matches, not the feature) it’s a no-brainer that he was at least given consideration.  That all said, wrestling fans in general really dodged a bullet when they chose the Ultimate Warrior.  Imagine a Summerslam ’90 main event of Zeus vs. The Ultimate Warrior for the belt.  Because if they had gone ahead with Zeus as the champ, that’s likely where they would have ended up.  And that match would have been so bad it might have ripped apart the fabric of space-time and destroyed the entire universe.  I’m sure it wasn’t given THAT serious of consideration, but the fact that they even talked about it is kind of scary.

And this leads back into Lister talking about his tough life in Compton.  I’m enjoying the interview so far but Lister really does have an issue with staying on point.  Khellah is doing his best trying to steer him on topic, but it’s difficult.  Lister discusses a few more tough moments related to wrestling fans issuing death threats on him, but doesn’t elaborate too much, and nearly tears up talking about how it affected his girlfriend.

Who brought him into WCW? Hulk did.  “You want to make some money?”  “Can Michael Jordan slam dunk?”  He had other stuff going on at the time, but he learned how to multitask from Hulk Hogan, who helped him learn to operate like a businessman.

How did he feel about the name Z-Gangsta? He hated it.  Hey Tiny, at least they didn’t call you the Ultimate Solution.  “But Z-Gangsta got me a paycheck!”  Very funny.  By the way, nobody got in his face in WCW or anywhere else.  But then he remembers an incident with Andre the Giant and we hear about it, and it sounds very Andre-like.

Talk about Deebo. I have to admit, I’m a big fat lame-O who had no clue what the fuck they were talking about this whole time when they mentioned Deebo and bicycles.  Well as it turns out, that was his character in the very successful Friday films that everyone saw.  Everyone but myself, apparently.  Thankfully the character was popular enough that I found a few Youtube tributes and could get a quick look.  Funny stuff.  I must say, it’s funny how wrestling fans associate Lister with No Holds Barred and the horrible wrestling matches that followed.  I actually think Lister is a pretty decent actor, and I laughed out loud while watching this collection of his scenes from Friday.

It’s a shame that he couldn’t play that character in the WWE.  Anything would have been better then the Zeus character.  Lister discusses how he came up with the character and the mannerisms for him.  And he spends some time messing with Khellah.  He talks about Ice Cube and how classy he is.  On Chris Tucker, he’s still friends with him and he talks about their relationship, and how he thinks that the Deebo character helped Tucker’s career.

Why wasn’t he in the third Friday movie? He’s not sure, you have to ask Ice Cube.  He notes that it’s tough to know if people are pissed at you and he’s not sure if Cube was offended at him over something.  He notes that Friday was a good franchise but if Cube wants to be a douche, joke’s on him, because Lister was one of the key people during the climatic scenes of Dark Knight, which at the time of this interview was the #2 movie of all time.

Did he work with Heath Ledger? Well kind of a silly question by Khellah considering they were never actually in a scene together.  But he loved working with Chris Nolan and prays that he gets to work with him again.  He keeps going nuts.  “Can you believe I’m in Dark Knight?”

At this point someone talks in the background and Lister goes into full character.  Very funny.  He goes back into begging for an invite to the White House.

What does he think of Barack Obama? He likes him a lot.  He then rants on the Dallas Cowboys, still in character, and bitches about Terrell Owens getting cut and slamming Tony Romo.  This whole segment is hilarious.  Incredibly off topic, but still hilarious.

Who is his favorite team? He doesn’t root for teams, he roots for people.  He discusses various other football players… then actors.  I’m beginning to think Tommy Lister might have attention deficit disorder.  He jumps back to sports and we talk about his favorite basketball players.  Like everyone else, he’s a big Lebron James fan.  And then more begging to be invited to the White House.

Does he feel typecast? He doesn’t care.  He’s on TV.  That’s like winning the lottery.  He gets to work with big stars.  And then he goes back to threatening Khellah.


Dustin Hoffman: Loves him.

Denzel: Loves him.

Jamie Foxx: Owes him for watching his back.

Bernie Mac: Loved him.  Regrets that he’s gone.

Samuel L. Jackson: Loves him.  He was at his wedding.

50 Cent: Loves him.

Tupac: Best in the world at what he did.

What got him into preaching? It was a meeting with Deion Sanders.  He discusses his history of spreading the gospel.  He also pitches his upcoming book and reality shows.

What was up with him acting like an ass on Celebrity Rehab? He was told they wanted someone to come in and shake the place up.  He said that it got the attention they wanted and the ratings went up for it.

Does he speak in churches and schools? He does, and he talks about where he’s spoken.  People still associate him with bikes and thus he might do something along the lines of a bike endorsement deal, plus his agent is talking about an animation thing (I’m guessing that would be the long rumored Friday animated series).  Lister puts over Jesus Christ a bit more.

Care to bust the rumor that he played in the NBA? But before Khellah can get the question out, Lister goes back into Deebo.  He did play briefly in a football minor league.  I think Khellah might have been legitimately intimidated, so he waits for the piss to dry before he asks his next question, but Lister has places to be and thus it’s almost time to wrap things up.  He goes fully crazy.  “That Red Bull kicks in.”

What are your future plans? “…”

Any final words? He enjoyed his time in the WWE and puts over everyone he worked with.  He’s proud that he can say he worked with the greatest wrestler of all time, Hulk Hogan.  He’s been blessed, and he can’t wait to do more stuff in Hollywood.  And that’s it.

Well, this should be an interesting verdict on my part.

BOTTOM LINE: I don’t even know where to begin.  One of the problems is I’m a wrestling critic (picture the word “wrestling” in fifty-foot tall letters), but this interview has about as much to do with wrestling as your average episode of TNA Impact (which is to say, not a whole lot).  On the other hand, I actually was quite entertained by this in a train wreck sort of way.  I actually left this with an incredibly favorable impression of Tiny Lister.  He seems like he would be a cool guy to be around.  Truthfully I was really amused here.  I certainly would not recommend this particular disc over any of the others offered by Pro Wrestling Diary, but if you want to just sit back and listen to the bipolar ramblings of a guy who has led a fairly fascinating life, I would totally recommend giving this a go.  Considering that offers various ways to bundle this set with their more… how shall I say it… traditional shoots, I would say if you plan on making a purchase from them and can bundle this with, say, their Sgt. Slaughter interview, by all means go for it.  I’m giving it a mild thumbs up.

When Pro Wrestling Diary caught wind that I was a critic and the DVDs I received would be subjected to Way Too Long Reviews, I was challenged by them directly to compare their offerings to those of other companies.  And I must say, so far I like what I’m seeing.  Especially in terms of production values.   Among other things, these feel more like a legitimate production then something shot using a $200 Wal-Mart camcorder.  And in terms of their packaging, nobody else compares, to the point where everyone else is going to have to go with legitimate manufacturing as opposed to burning copies on their PC tower just to compete.  Pro Wrestling Diary sets the new standard in shoot interview production.

PWDiary is a start-up that wants to make a name for itself.  Even with a DVD that went dangerously off-topic on several occasions, the freshness of the whole experience was still worth watching.  But you don’t make a name for yourself if you don’t put your money where your mouth is, and thus they’re making an offer to all of you: if you want to give them a chance, you can save 20% off your next order from PWDiary by entering the code pulse20 when you check out, with no minimum order needed.  This offer is good until May 10th and can be used to preorder their upcoming King Kong Bundy shoot.

You can use that code at

Coming up here in my Way Too Long Reviews…

-Shawn Michaels: My Journey

-Hart & Soul: The Hart Family Anthology

-Pro Wrestling Diary: Sgt. Slaughter Shoot Interview

-Kayfabe Commentaries: The History of the WWE: 1977-1978 As Told by Superstar Billy Graham

Tags: , , , , , ,