The first week of Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling has passed and viewers are now familiar with the respective teams. Team Nasty member Erin Murphy, the former child star of Bewitched, understands how people have questioned her appearance on the show, but she couldn’t turn down the opportunity, particularly when the bigwigs thought she was a great fit.
Murphy chopped it up with SLAM! Wrestling to talk about her experiences and how the show enlightened her perception on wrestling and wrestlers.
“Hulk Hogan is one the reasons I immediately said ‘Yes’ to the show,” said Murphy from her home in southern California. “Because this is how it was presented to me: ‘It’s very much like Dancing with the Stars.’ I thought, ‘Okay, that sounds good.’ And then they said: ‘But it’s wrestling.’ And I thought ‘Okay…’ And then they said: ‘It’s Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Wrestling.’ So just having Hulk Hogan attached to it where he’s above the title, it’s his show as well; it gives it a certain amount of credibility to it. I knew the people involved with the show were very involved with wrestling and that they were going to take it seriously.”
One thing that must be taken seriously is her resume for getting things done. Besides being no stranger to the cameras and lights, the married 44-year-old blonde is quite active, taking on everything she does with a cheerful brio. She’s been a casting director, sportscaster, motivational speaker, and a stunt double among other things. Hosting is one of her favorite jobs and can be seen on several shows including Identity on NBC and was even featured as a “Celebrity with a Cause” on CNN Headline News. She has been featured on Oprah, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and Entertainment Tonight, and is the on-air spokesperson for the Allergan Medical company. Not satisfied with the adulation as a beloved child star, she is a respected figure in the business and A&E worlds.
Murphy plays it off with a charming self-effacing wit, indirectly revealing her inner confidence of a champion.
Perhaps, a CCW champion.
“I went into the show with the respect for the artform and I certainly wanted wrestling fans to appreciate that I tried as hard as a person of my ability could try. I went into the show thinking: ‘I want to leave this show being the best wrestler I can,’ and, ‘I want to win this show.’ I’m one of maybe four people who went into it, not only for the money really, but really, truly wanting to win the show,” she said earnestly.
Murphy acknowledged the questions surrounding her quirky placement on the sitcom, and the unusual show pre-amble. “It’s one of those things where I didn’t submit myself for the show; I didn’t try get on the show. I got a call that [co-producer] Jason Hervey absolutely wanted me to be on the show. I laughed for ten minutes and then I automatically said ‘Yes.’
“I don’t think that the guys on the show, Jason [Hervey] or Eric Bischoff or any of the men involved thought of me right away,” she continued. “But supposedly the network (CMT) was really excited about me and behind the idea of me being on the show. I thought I was kind of an unusual choice to be honest. I was the only girl on the show who wasn’t in Playboy, I wasn’t out there. I don’t think people really think of me as an athlete. It kind of came from left field, but I’m happy it did.
“There were no meetings in advance. They didn’t want to see me, they didn’t want to talk to me, they called and said, ‘We want you to be on the show,’ and I did the show, so I didn’t meet any of them until the actual first day on set, which was kind of unusual.
“The first day of the show, none of us knew in advance who the other celebrities were. They kept it really secret. In my head, I had myself totally psyched out. I was thinking, ‘Okay, it’s going to be all the female professional athletes and things like that. I didn’t know what to expect going in. I thought “Oh, great. They’re all going to be like 20-year-old supermodels or they’re all going to be Olympic athletes, and then there’s me,” she laughed.
“I was delighted that I wasn’t picked last.”
Although her background in wrestling was virtually non-existent, she came armed with a wealth of reality show experience, and it played a big part in her game plan to stay on the show. “My two older sons have been to wrestling matches with my husband, but I honestly had no experience with wrestling at all. So the minute I found out I was doing it, I was kind of researching things: ‘Okay, I’m going to watch wrestling on TV; I’m going to watch wrestling on YouTube.’ But truly, there was so little time from the time I was cast to when I was there that I didn’t know Eric Bischoff or Jimmy Hart was involved. I wasn’t able to really research the players. I didn’t know that Knobs or Beefcake were there until the very first day. So my research was very limited.
“I think I went about it differently than a lot of people. I have a background in reality television. I’ve done a lot of work for a network here in the States called the Fox Reality channel where I do a recap and we talk about the week in reality television. It’s kind of a roundtable thing where we talk about what’s good in reality, what’s bad, what works, and what doesn’t and all of that we do about every reality show.
“The first week my goal was to have memorable soundbites,” she revealed. “To say things that are funny. It’s reality television; it’s all about talking in soundbites. So if you can kind of formulate your ideas in one quick funny sentence that they’ll put on TV, that makes compelling TV for the producers,” she reasoned. “So I thought ‘Okay, if I at least have good soundbites, they’ll keep me around for another week. So that was my goal the first week: Make good television and they’ll keep me around until I learn how to wrestle.
“Because I’m telling you right away, I was absolutely the long shot. I think I probably should have been voted off the first week.”
She certainly produced in the soundbite department, commenting on teammate Nikki Zeiring’s aversion to being distracted like a small animal. “I didn’t remember making that comment on TV. Hopefully she won’t take it the wrong way because we’re really good friends,” she said regretfully. “I’m one of those people where I say what I think. That was part of my ‘I’ll say funny things,’ and I truly told everyone the negative things I said.”
The topic briefly turned to the second episode and Murphy sketched a preview of her involvement. “If you watch the next episode, my whole next episode is fighting with people. From the beginning, the first day of the show, I knew I was going to pick a fight with [fellow competitor] Danny [Bonaduce].’ Danny needed someone to fight with on my team, not just on his team. I thought, ‘That’ll keep me on longer.’
“Danny knows a lot about reality television. We used to work together on his last show (Celebrity Judge on host Bonaduce I Know My Kid’s a Star). My concept with Danny was he needs someone on my team to fight with. He was trying to pick a fight with my team. Dennis Rodman — he didn’t get involved with the backstage drama. He was there, he wrestled, he took it seriously, he was very helpful in the training. He’s not going to fight with Danny Bonaduce. Dustin [Diamond] already had kind of a negative reputation (The Celebrity Fit Club reality show), so his thing was he was going to take things seriously which he really did. Dustin is absolutely a wrestling fan, nothing but respect for the work that he did on our team. But he wasn’t going to fight with Danny. Nikki’s not going to fight with anybody! She’s putting on lip gloss, she’s not going to fight and Frank Stallone was too busy shadowboxing, so when I saw that Danny was going to fight with our team I thought, ‘Cool, I can be the one he fights with and that will keep me on the show longer.'”
Murphy is one of the more diminutive members of the team. “I’m 5’4″, 115. So I’m definitely a petite girl. Nikki is maybe 5’7″. I think Tiffany and I are the same height. I think Danny’s right around my height too,” she laughed in acknowledgement.
She mentioned on the show her longtime kinship with Bonaduce. “His very first acting job in the business was to be a guest at my birthday party. That was his introduction into television,” she chuckled.
She also broke down some misconceptions on the preparation and the training the members had for the show. “The thing I don’t think people get because I’ve read some of the things people have written on message boards. Everyone is convinced that we have a lot more training than you see on TV. Not true. We got there one day. The first day of the show was us choosing teams. They did a whole fitness evaluation, which didn’t end up airing. The first day was truly just choosing teams and kind of introductions in the ring. The second day they showed us the moves in the ring, they taught us the moves for maybe and hour and a half, two hours, and the next day was the match.
“So there is no training that goes on besides what you see. There was no training before the show. We truly have such limited time because besides learning the wrestling, we’re also producing a TV show. Every night we had to do ‘diary rooms’ where it’s each person talking to the camera. There’s so much time involved with putting out a TV show, that there’s a really limited amount of time to learn the wrestling moves. We learned a lot in a very short period of time. And I’m telling you, taking a bump is not an easy thing to do.”
Murphy has received a lot of support, particularly from Canada and from female fans with positive words. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback: ‘Good for you’ or, ‘We’re proud of you for doing this,’ because it’s a scary concept. You don’t usually take a middle-aged housewife and try to train her to become a professional wrestler,” she said.
“I’m truly surprised by how many female fans there are. I had done a charity event in Pennsylvania right before the show came out. I would say it was 50-50 men to women who knew the show was coming out and were excited and they were wrestling fans. That surprised me a little bit.”
She shared her opinion of her teammates: “I was happy with my team. I didn’t really know that much about anyone. I did meet Frank Stallone and Dustin Diamond before, but these weren’t people that I knew well. But I was happy with my team. At the fitness stuff beforehand, Dennis Rodman is obviously an amazing athlete and Frank Stallone is really really athletic and in great shape. I thought Nikki’s probably the cutest girl there, so I thought it can’t hurt to have the cutest girl on your team. I had different opinions as we went on, but I started out with good opinions of everyone,” she laughed once again.
When it came to the overall experience, it was clear that Murphy developed an appreciation for the artform of performing. “Dennis is the one who told me, ‘Wait until you get in front of the crowd; Wait until you perform before the crowd. It’s like nothing you’ve ever done,'” she started. “And I was never nervous any of the times we were in the ring. But I have to say, when you’re out there, it’s truly adrenalin flowing. You don’t feel anything; I actually took a bump in that match, they edited the matches so you don’t see everything. They have to; I mean timewise they edit the matches a little bit. I took a bump, I didn’t feel it. It goes so fast and it’s so exciting, that it’s amazing.
“People keep saying, ‘Is wrestling fake?’ I’ve never had more respect for anyone than professional wrestlers. It is truly the toughest thing ever. It is choreographed; there’s nothing fake about it. It’s an amazing sport.”
Considering she has reared six boys, it is a statement to think about.
“I’m still training; I’m still obsessed with it, kind of,” she confessed. “When the show ended, everyone involved with it is kind of invested in it. I think some of the celebrities took it more seriously than the others. It was a job, it was a paycheque; they were happy when they were eliminated. People had different opinions of it. With me, at the end of the show, Eric Bischoff was very serious with me and said, ‘We want to take this on the road; we want this to be a promotion.’ He’s very excited about it, and I’m very excited about it too. I thought, ‘Hey, if they take us on the road, I want to be able to wrestle and have fans at wrestling watch and respect me. I’m not making fun of the business; I appreciate the sport and the artform. I’m taking this seriously.’
“I think I look kind of silly in the first match but hopefully I’ll get better and people will be proud of me.”
- Mar. 3, 2009: Actor Todd Bridges makes a good showing in pro debut
- Oct. 31, 2008: Fighting, not reality TV, comes easy to Butterbean
- Oct. 18, 2008: Reality ‘n’ wrestling collide in new Hulk Hogan reality show
- Oct. 10, 2008: Celebrity Championship Wrestling a debacle and then some