Anyone who had the pleasure of wrestling in the Tennessee territory during the 1970’s through 1999 could appreciate The Rock’s comments on RAW recently. Rock wrestled there early in 1996 prior to coming to Stamford to ‘get ready’ and make his official WWE debut at Survivor Series that same year.
With RAW being in Nashville, it gave Rock a chance to reminisce about the days his dad wrestled in the 70’s as well as his own road stories from the 90’s.
Ah, the payoffs were special. But the territory was a place you could wrestle 6-7 nights a week and get experience, that’s for sure! Virtually every big name in the business went through Memphis and ‘The King’ Jerry Lawler is still considered a great talker whether it be promos or commentary.
There’s no denying the rich tradition and history of Memphis rasslin’.
That’s why it was good to see Dutch Mantell ( now known as Zeb Colter) return and appear along side Jack Swagger on the latest edition of RAW from Nashville.
I’ve known Dutch for over 20 years and he’s one of the funniest, entertaining story tellers I’ve ever met. He’s responsible for giving Stone Cold his last name as Steve was trying to find his path in Memphis. Dutch and Lawler had many classic battles and he was a mainstay in the area for years.
I made trips with Dutch while in Memphis and later when we were both in WWE. They were always fun and time passed quickly.
When Dutch (or “Uncle Zeb”) arrived in WWE, he was the manager of Jacob and Eli Blu (no “e”). He also had a young charge by the name of Bradshaw. Bradshaw would later become John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) and find his true calling in Sports Entertainment and the business world.
The time we were all together was when WWE wasn’t exactly doing stellar business. We three would travel together and ‘heel’ a room. That’s 3 to a room and split the costs of the road.
One night after a show in Pennsylvania (I believe it was Wilkes Barre, PA but honestly, I didn’t know where we were half the time back then) Airports, cities and buildings looked the same to me by this time. I usually got off the plane at our final destination, waited for Dutch and John, get the car and go wherever we were going…
Very rarely did I drive (but I DID drive) and Dutch hardly EVER drove, so it was John who did a lot of the driving. But on this fateful night after the show (which for this story I will just say we were in Wilkes Barre, on our way to Newark) I was elected to drive.
How or who suggested I drive is beyond me. I do remember we left after John’s match and it was a foggy night. And I mean F-O-G-G-Y!
The fog was so thick I couldn’t see anything in front of me. But being the expert wheel man that I am and wanting to get to Newark before the bar closed, I put the hammer down!
I must have been doing about 75-80 mph. I thought John and Dutch would be happy I was doing all I could to get us back to Newark and relax at the hotel. Dutch was in the back seat, ‘resting his eyes’, John was riding shot gun and turned to ask if I “could see anything?”
“No. You scared?”
“I’m BEYOND scared, I’m TERRIFIED!”
No sooner, I mean within 15 seconds of John’s reply, did I hit a friggin’ pot hole in the highway! Then, and only then did I slow down a little…
Here I was, doing just fine driving when Bradshaw had to mess with my groove. I was getting us to Newark with time to spare and the future JBL, stock mastermind, Fox TV personality, World Champion, Mountain climbing, Bermuda living, Rugby coach had to interrupt the mojo I had driving in the fog at 80 mph!!
It was about a minute or two after the pot hole that we heard and felt the tire bouncing. Yep. Flat tire in thick fog…. Luckily there was a rest area right ahead so I pulled in.
Please notice the timing here. We’re doing just fine until John asks me if I can see anything. When he does, all hell breaks loose and now we’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, in a rest area granted, with a flat tire! By this time Dutch had opened his eyes and showed some concern.
We got out and took our bags out of the trunk so I could get the jack. This is where it gets a little hazy. I got the jack and looked at the hubcap. Well, hell! I didn’t see a hubcap so I started turning the lug nuts and they were stripped! Dutch then tried and HE came back with the same news. The lug nuts were stripped and we were SOL…
Then John Bradshaw Layfield took a look. While John might have been the rookie in this bunch, he certainly wasn’t a green horn! I could hear him cussing as soon as he looked at the tire!
“You two Goddam idiots! You gotta take the hub cap OFF! What the F**K!”
Whaaat? The wheel didn’t have hub caps! Oh…you mean those…..
Yeah, I felt like a complete idiot. Dutch kind of snickered and asked John to “please don’t mention this to anyone, OK?”
“Sure, NO PROBLEM!” That lyin’ sonova…
John couldn’t wait to tell anybody and everybody he ran into that night and the next day about how stupid Dutch and I was for not removing the hubcap. Even more so, JBL was besmirching my driving capabilities! I couldn’t believe it! All the times I drove, got us there safely and way beyond ‘on time.’
He even wrote about this adventure in his book “Save More Money Now!” comparing my driving to a horrible financial matter!
Bradshaw says I ran off the road and into a ditch. I say it was a pot hole in one of the fine highways of Pennsylvania. If the fog was so thick that I couldn’t see and John couldn’t see…then who really knows??
OK, I’ll admit I might not be the best driver in the world. Riding with Dutch and JBL was a lot of fun. Dutch could tell a story, Bradshaw knew his politics and stocks and I enjoyed every minute of it. I had some good times on and off the road with both guys. It was great to watch Bradshaw become JBL, an extension of the real man himself. I also appreciated Dutch Mantell’s work in WWE and TNA. He gave me a call out of the blue to come in for a tryout as a backstage interviewer before I returned to coach WWE’s developmental in DSW.
Now both guys are back where they belong.
Adversity is part of life. Dutch (Zeb), JBL and I have dealt with it in our own way. I was happy when JBL came back for commentary. His wit and wisdom is something everyone on the roster can learn from. Now Zeb Colter has an opportunity to give Jack Swagger his knowledge, tell some stories and keep him awake on the road.
You might wanna drive, Jack. And watch out for pot holes…
Thanks for reading.