NOTE: This is the second of a three-part series Jan wrote on the then hosts of Aftermath on The Score. Originally published in The Kingston Whig-Standard on Jan. 28, 2012. All rights reserved.
At one time, his Wikipedia entry read something like this: “Arda Ocal can eat an extra large pizza by himself.”
That pearl was courtesy of some of his University of Waterloo buddies. Yes, even in his post-secondary days, Ocal had a Wikipedia entry, perhaps a sign of the greatness he was destined for.
Nowadays, that Wikipedia entry reads like something out of a sports or sports entertainment almanac.
And I quote: “Arda Ocal is a Turkish Canadian TV personality, announcer and writer, currently with The Score Television Network. He was formerly a co-host of the daily lifestyle program Daytime on the Canadian channel Rogers Television in Mississauga, Ontario, before beginning to host and provide color commentary for their flagship Brampton Battalion OHL hockey broadcasts. Previously, he also served as editor-in- chief for Think Impact (a division of Impact, one of Canada’s largest entrepreneurial organizations).”
It goes on: “Ocal hosts Aftermath, which appears twice weekly on The Score Television Network, following the broadcasts of Monday Night Raw on Tuesday afternoon and Friday night Smackdown, as well as Aftermath Wrestling after WWE Monday Night Raw with his co-host, Jimmy Korderas. He is also a broadcaster with the Score Fighting Series, a Score created Canadian MMA weekly televised program. Ocal also provides MMA fight picks on the Score’s flagship application, ScoreMobile.”
I could go on, because Ocal’s entry sure does, but you get the picture.
The pizza days of Ocal’s Wikipedia entry are long gone, replaced by a number of accomplishments he has achieved in his still young career.
Most notable among them is Aftermath, Ocal’s brainchild and a one-of-a-kind post-WWE analysis show.
As for the Wikipedia entry, Ocal views it humbly.
“I’m blessed in the sense that I guess I have a lot of loyal viewers and listeners and fans who will update that for me,” he said over the phone this week between Aftermath programs.” I think it’s pretty cool.”
Long before he was interviewing his childhood wrestling heroes, Ocal was cutting his teeth elsewhere, namely in another industry altogether.
“I chose the media route the way many people in media would choose … I got a math degree,” he said with a pause, followed by a chuckle.
While attending Waterloo, Ocal spent much of his time at the school’s radio station, CKMS, which unlike typical campus stations was also heard in the surrounding community. It was while working at CKMS that Ocal would discover his love for media and would interview his first wrestling superstar.
“I paid my dues,” Ocal said of his time at the school station. “I worked my way up. I alphabetized CDs and tapes and I cut clips and whatever until I finally got my own show on Wednesday nights from 9 to 10 p.m. I called it OAK, the pre- Bomber show,” a reference to the campus bar The Bomber.
It was thanks to that gig that he would meet one Shane Helms, whom wrestling fans would well remember for his Hurricane gimmick during his time with World Wrestling Entertainment.
“I interviewed The Hurricane at a live event at the (Air Canada Centre),” Ocal said. “I brought my tape recorder with me. It was just a cool experience.”
Ocal worked at the school station and wrote for school paper as well.
Surprisingly, a full-time career in the media didn’t happen immediately after graduation.
“I worked in the corporate world for a couple of years,” Ocal revealed. “I worked at Dun and Bradstreet doing project management. I worked at a couple of tech companies … dot com sort of stuff.
While the corporate gig paid the bills, Ocal pursue his love on evenings and weekends, working at Rogers TV in Peel and in Mississauga whenever he wasn’t working his day job.
“I did everything I could there,” he said. “I hosted every show under the sun. I hosted shows like Swap Shop, which is like an eBaystyle garage sale show where people call in and sell their stuff. I hosted a show called Local Notes, which is like a bulletin program. And then one season, I did a whole season of a show called Daytime, which is kind of like Breakfast Television, but localized.”
Following the Daytime gig, Ocal made the jump to sports, where he covered Ontario Hockey League games, doing colour commentary and hosting for the Brampton Battalion and for the Mississauga Majors.
He also covered the Canadian Soccer League, IBL Baseball and Major Series Lacrosse.
“I’ve been doing sports for a very long time,” Ocal said.
From there, that experience carried Ocal to his present employer, The Score.
“I took an internship at The Score, on the Sirius Radio side back then,” he said. “An opening came up to produce a show called The Fight Show, which I did for a couple of years.”
So where, then, does Aftermath come into the equation?
“We got an e-mail from Greg Sansone, he’s the vice-president of television, and he’s really the reason the show exists — it’s really all him,” Ocal said. “He sent out an e-mail– and this was to everybody — and he said, ‘Listen, if anyone has any ideas for any sort of television programming, now is your time to speak up. Here’s a one-page form, fill it out.’
“So I took the one-page form and I thought, ‘You know what, much like football, much like NHL hockey, why isn’t there a post-game show for wrestling?’ And that was the idea.
“I just said, ‘You know what, I think it would be cool to do a post-game show for wrestling.’ I put my name down on it, I sent it back and then 20 minutes later, I was in his office talking about it.”
To say Aftermath was part of Ocal’s destiny might even be an understatement.
“I always knew that wrestling would be a part of my life in some capacity. In the mid-2000s, I was involved heavily in the independent scene,” he said, adding that he helped promote shows, book talent, as well as did ring announcing and commentary for a promotion called Blood Sweat and Ears, a.k.a. BSE.
“We had a lot of cool guys work with us,” he said. “Tommy Dreamer, who writes for you guys, worked with us a few times, and Rhyno and Robert Roode came a few times, and Traci Brooks and Gail Kim and Christian — a lot of guys who were with TNA at the time.
“It was great because we also had a school affiliated with us, called Squared Circle Training, so it allowed aspiring WWE superstars to get in front of a crowd and work. It was just really cool to be a part of that. Honestly, at the time, I thought that was going to be my involvement.”
Growing up, like many WWE fans, Ocal had dreams of working for the biggest wrestling promotion on Earth.
“Obviously, I always had dreams to be a broadcaster with the WWE,” he said. “That was my big dream as I was growing up.”
His dreams, though, didn’t involve slapping Sharpshooters or figure-four leglocks on opponents.
“My idols weren’t Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior,” said Ocal. “I enjoyed watching, but my idols were always the ones behind the microphones, Howard Finkel and Mean Gene were always the guys I looked up to because they did such an awesome job at creating interest for me and for everyone.”
But when that dream seemed distant, if impossible, Ocal was a peace with the role he had in the indy scene.
“I was like, ‘You know what, it’s cool that I’m a part of an independent organization like this, I’m travelling across Canada.’ It was a lot of fun and I thought that was going to be it.”
Little did he know that would be just the tip of the iceberg.
Aftermath, as it is now known, was launched as Right After Wrestling in December 2009. For Ocal, there has been no looking back.
“It’s been a fantastic ride,” he understated. “It has generated a lot of audience interest, which is awesome.”
Ocal sees his show as nothing more than a forum for fans to do what they would do anyway following a WWE broadcast.
“At the end of the day, people will be talking about what they just watched on Raw with their friends the way that we talk on the show. It really lends itself to that WWE universe because it just prolongs their enjoyment experience.”
The show has grown exponentially in just over two years.
“The look of the show has changed drastically,” Ocal admits. “At first, I was sitting in a corner on the AstroTurf, taking text messages from fans. I wasn’t really necessarily a part of the conversation at first. I was reading viewer responses, sifting through them and picking which ones should go on the air.
“Naturally, as time went on, I became more part of the conversation and then we changed the set to what it is right now and I got my own chair. The show has evolved.”
And Ocal couldn’t be more happy.
“What it is today, I’m very proud. I consider Aftermath to be my baby,” he said, pride evident in his voice. “I love the show, I love the brand and I love how we’ve branched off into radio and podcasts and also the blog now.
It should be noted that Aftermath is only part of Ocal’s gig at The Score, though a very important one. He also does broadcasting for the Score Fighting Series, hosts live updates and puts together features. In fact, Ocal declares himself a big fan of MMA sports in general.
“I just gravitate toward the WWE because I feel that that’s where my biggest knowledge base is,” he says “And I love talking with passionate, hardcore fans. I love people e-mailing in and giving me a thought or tweeting me on my Twitter account (@arda_ocal) and just having a great, healthy conversation. I think there are a lot of passionate wrestling fans in Canada and around the world.”
That Ocal is analyzing pro wrestling for a living is a bit of a surprise, given that he was forbidden from watching it or attending live events for the longest time.
“I got into it when I was three years old,” says Ocal, revealing that family friends he frequently visited with his parents had a daughter his age.
“She had a brother who was 10 years older than us. I looked up to this guy. This guy could do nothing wrong and there are two things that I still love today that he kind of passed down to me, and that’s professional wrestling and heavy metal. I’m still a huge fan of both.
“We would sit around and watch Saturday Night’s Main Event and Superstars and Maple Leaf Wrestling and all the awesome, fun shows. I was just enthralled by it.”
At home, such was not the case.
“My parents didn’t let me watch wrestling for a very long time, so that was the only time that I could watch it. I actually wasn’t allowed to go to any live shows until 1997,” he revealed, adding that he missed out on WrestleMania VI in Toronto.
“That’s fine,” he quickly added, covering ever so slightly for his folks. “That’s just the way that it was. My parents were strict and they just didn’t want me to go into these public places.
Mom and dad can take solace in knowing that what little Arda may have missed out on big Arda has more than made up for.
Ocal has become such an ardent supporter of wrestling that he won’t stand for detractors. Nor will he date one.
“A lot of people may be ashamed to admit they watch WWE,” he said. “I will never be ashamed. I will never be ashamed to admit that I’m a fan of the WWE. In fact, on every date that I go on, that’s one of the first things I mention because if a girl can’t accept that, I’m never going to be able to accept her.
“It’ll be time to move on, brother,” he said.
While Ocal is the brains behind Aftermath, he quickly credits his co-hosts for helping make the show what it is today.
One, in particular, longtime veteran referee Jimmy Korderas, has helped add to the show’s uniqueness.
“He’s invaluable,” Ocal said of Korderas. “I consider him one of my closest friends. He is absolutely invaluable and you can’t put a price tag on the sort of clout that he gives to our program. The best part is after 22- plus years, he still has an awesome attitude. The guy is just happy to be around and he’s so willing to chip in.
Ocal cites Korderas’s involvement recently as the pair took an in-depth look back at every Royal Rumble, 24 of them to be precise.
“(Korderas) not only did it, but he took time out of his schedule during the week to record these podcasts on dates he wouldn’t normally be at The Score. That speaks volumes. He’s a willing participant in all of this and it just enriches everything.”
Ocal remembers well the first time he met his future friend and co-host.
“I remember meeting Jimmy at an independent a few years and we just hit off,” Ocal said. “He’s a really cool dude. I think he’s very bald,” he said, getting a jab in at his follically challenged buddy.
Just as quickly, he heaps more praise on Korderas.
“Throughout the course of Jimmy’s career, his objective was not to think about himself. That’s the objective of a WWE superstar, to think of themselves first: How can I be put in the spotlight? How can I headline WrestleMania? How can I become champion? That wasn’t Jimmy’s job. Jimmy’s job was: How do I contribute to the team? How do I contribute to a match that I’m refereeing. He was always in the assisting role. You can really see that attitude when it comes to Aftermath because that’s the way he is on the program as well.”
And then there is Renee Paquette.
“When I think of Renee, I think of fart jokes and Doy doys,” Ocal quips. “That’s the first thought that comes to mind when I think of Renee,” he adds, before turning serious.
“Listen, Renee is an absolutely wonderful part of the team. A lot of people love to hear what she has to say, with good reason. Being a life-long wrestling fan, I just love seeing how she dove into this project headfirst. It’s been paying dividends. And we work very well as a team. I enjoy working with her a lot.
“Renee is very funny and charming. I absolutely could see her as the next Chelsea Handler and have a legacy in television like Joan Rivers.
“When you have on-air colleagues like Renee and Jimmy, and the team that we work with, too, behind the scenes, all the camera people, the producers, the directors … it’s a really cool team that we have. It’s very easy to work and you actually look forward to getting on set because it’s a lot of fun.”
As for his future, Ocal hopes it is much like his present. While there was a time when he saw himself working with the WWE, that’s not necessarily where he’s at professionally today.
“I had an audition with (WWE) before I started at The Score,” he revealed. “It didn’t go so well. I don’t think I was ready yet. It was quite the process. I think I was a little bit intimidated just because I was in the WWE offices. Here’s Joey Styles, and I have to interview him as he’s imitating different superstars … that was part of my audition process. I got caught off guard with a couple of things. At the time, of course you would take an opportunity like that.
“To be honest with you, though, The Score has kind of realized the dream as well. If I worked for The Score, doing Aftermath for the rest of my life, I think I’d be a happy guy. At the end of the day, I’m surrounded by WWE and I’m surrounded by pro wrestling. I still do cool things like MMA and sports features and whatnot. How can I not be happy with this situation?”
But can he still eat an extra large pizza by himself?
That’s for another column. Or Wikipedia entry.
– – –
Snippets from Arda Ocal on various personalities and subjects related to the WWE. Full version will appear on our website at www.thewhig.com along with this column.
Michael Cole: “I think that he is detracting from the product that we’re watching and I would rather see him one or two segments a show as opposed to commentating an entire show.”
Jim Ross: “He is the greatest commentator of all time, with all due respect to the late Gorilla Monsoon and the late Gordon Solie.” Hulk Hogan: “Hulk Hogan was the man who got me interested in professional wrestling, and a lot of people interested in professional wrestling.”
The Undertaker: “The Undertaker may have had the best career of any WWE superstar … I would love to ask him what he thought when he was originally given the idea that he would be a dead, zombie-like character in the WWE. That could have gone very wrong but it didn’t. It became one of the most storied careers in WWE history and you really have the man to thank for that.”
Attitude Era: “Watching all the Royal Rumbles back, and having watched all the WrestleManias back, the quality of the matches in the Attitude Era was actually low. There were less epic matches in the Attitude Era in terms of in-ring athleticism and competition than there were before or after. It’s very interesting if you look at it.” Austin 3:16: “That revolutionized professional wrestling … one of the most soldT-shirts of all time and a saying that will live on forever. What can you say?”
Bret Hart Montreal screwjob: “That was the moment that really opened the floodgates, you know. The fourth wall came crumbling down. Everyone had their suspicions. The Internet really broke that wide open.”
Sting: I would love to see Sting in one WWE match. I don’t think he necessarily needs it. I would love to see him in one match, one match at WrestleMania, that would be awesome.”
Shawn Michaels: “HBK, with all due respect to my favourite wrestler of all time, Mr. Perfect, is the most entertaining in-ring performer that ever lived.”
The Rock: “I’m on John Cena’s side. I’m going to leave it at that. He is one of the greatest superstars of all time. I absolutely love his mark on pro wrestling, but I agree with John Cena. He’s the guy who’s in the trenches. I can certainly appreciate The Rock’s career and I can also appreciate the rub and the clout that The Rock brings back to the WWE, but I side with John Cena.