Uncategorized

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER…OR IS IT?

Kevin Sullivan

Years ago I remember Kevin Sullivan telling me he wanted to wrestle into his 60’s, just like the Sheik.  The original Sheik, Ed Farhat.  Not The Iron Sheik!  I thought about that as well and have to admit it did sound like a great way to live out your “senior years.”  Traveling with your friends and still having fun doing what you loved the most; professional wrestling.

Freddy Blassie didn’t become a main event star until he reached his 40’s.  Eddie Graham (and other ‘old timers’) told young guys that they wouldn’t really earn the people’s respect until they got to be in their 30’s.  Back then I guess it made sense.  I can recall watching guys like Johnny Valentine, Wahoo McDaniel, Jose Lothario, Red Bastien, Bull Curry, Fritz Von Erich and many others who were seasoned veterans in the main events in Texas.  Dory Funk Sr.  had two grown sons wrestling and he was still competing himself, usually in the main event or pretty high on the card in West Texas!

Lou Thesz

I believe Lou Thesz won his first NWA world championship when he was 21 during a period in wrestling when you had to understand and know how to actually wrestle.  I saw Lou wrestle much later in his career and while he was considered a great wrestler by many, I never got what the appeal was until after doing some research and asking questions about his title runs.  In the 1900’s the wrestling business wanted “credibility” and Lou Thesz seemed to be the guy everyone had faith in to be a credible champion. And no doubt he was, otherwise the NWA board would have chose someone else to carry the title.
??I understood what Kevin meant.  The Sheik had a successful territory for years in Detroit and he remained the top guy.  But from my understanding the people got tired of seeing the same guy on top for over 20 years, doing the same thing every week.  Sheik would go out and have maybe a five minute brawl in the main event with blood and guts and shoot another angle the next week on TV only to repeat the same thing; short main event with blood and guts with no real rhyme or reason. 

???????

The Sheik

I’ve seen The Sheik along with guys like Abdullah the Butcher and Mark Lewin have some wild, bloody brawls but they lasted longer than five minutes and they had a solid story and compelling characters to back it up.  And while I did realize these guys might have been in their late 30’s to early 40’s, it didn’t matter because they always worked hard and produced quality, action packed matches.

Granted, the style was a lot different! There was selling, getting the most out of doing less… in other words if Mark Lewin gave Jose Lothario or Dusty Rhodes a piledriver, they didn’t pop right up as if nothing happened and made a “Herculean comeback” right away!  It was that very different time and place so very long ago…

There was no MMA to compare pro wrestling with.  There was boxing.  But boxing has always been suspect too.  We can’t put the genie back in the bottle and now tell everyone “OK, THIS is the entertainment portion of our show, but THIS RIGHT HERE, well THIS is the REAL DEAL!” What  people don’t know was there might have been more times than not that an actual conflict or struggle did occur in the ring.  A lot had to do with ignorance, inexperience or just plain pride.

I remember working in Houston for Paul Boesch in what was to be a three day tournament for a huge trophy Paul had made celebrating his fiftieth year in professional wrestling.  Paul brought in stars from all over the country including the AWA and WWWF.  Verne Gagne had been the AWA world champion forever and had to be in his 50’s at this time.  Nick Bockwinkel was the champ now but Nick was around 45.  Paul booked the Sam Houston Coliseum Friday, Saturday and the finals would be Sunday.  New as well as established stars would be featured from the various national promotions.

Paul was using the Southwest Championship Wrestling booking office out of San Antonio and Dick Slater was the booker.  I wrestled Slater quite a few times and never had a problem.  I knew my role and job.  But Verne Gagne had sent a young kid to start at the same time Paul’s tournament was happening. His name was Evan Johnson and was supposed to be a pretty good amateur wrestler from Minnesota.  In addition to being the booker, Slater was the Southwest heavyweight champion and the top heel.  So Dick booked himself against Evan Johnson the first night of the tournament.

Dick Slater

The dressing room was full of people from everywhere and while the boys are catching up the matches are going on.  I vividly remember talking with Manny Fernandez, Chavo Guerrero and Tiger Conway Jr. near the dressing room door when we saw Slater slam the door open.  It was apparent to everybody that Dickie was HOT!  We didn’t see the match but as soon as Evan walked through the door, Slater said “What the f**k was that out there?”  Evan’s reply was “You were trying to eat me up!”  That’s all it took.  Slater said ” You mother-f***er! I’m going to eat you up right here!” and he blasted Evan twice in the face, knocking him into the wall and into a confined dressing space (best I can describe) used for the Houston Areos hockey team at that time and looked like he was about to take his eye out! 

Manny, Chavo, Tiger and I grabbed Slater and pulled him off this ‘kid’ who now had an immediate shiner and blood running down his face.  The other boys took Evan to the opposite side of the room and into the showers.  At that time I was running with Manny, Chavo and Tiger.  They dubbed me their “rookie” and helped me out a lot.  I knew Dick Slater by reputation and working with him.  I was helping pull Slater off because we all knew if we didn’t it was going to be a bad scene.  It was already bad, but Evan had no clue what he was getting into.

Eventually Dick calmed down.  Evan got his stuff and left.  He didn’t shower or say goodbye.  Just got his stuff and left the building.  Verne would be in Saturday and everybody knew it would be handled then. 

It was a classic case of an amateur wrestler not being smartened up and understanding the business.  Verne and guys like Verne believed amateur wrestlers were great and added credibility to ‘their sport.’  The problem was Dick Slater was a fairly capable amateur wrestler himself but more importantly, Slater was a legitimate tough guy who didn’t mind kicking somebodies ass if they deserved it!  None of us saw the match that night and while Dick didn’t want to talk about it we all had an idea what happened..  When we saw it, it was obvious that Evan wasn’t smart and had no clue what he was there to do.  Even though it was explained to him before the match, this amateur wrestler couldn’t grasp what was going on.  Here was the booker and more important (in the people’s eyes) the Southwest heavyweight champion struggling with a guy who was obviously green and not in Slater’s league, trying for take downs and not selling or registering anything Dick is doing to him! So instead of twelve minutes, it’s cut to four.  Slater’s frustration is evident on the replay and the dressing room incident made even more sense.

The next night Verne came in and the powers that be (Slater, Evan, Verne, Paul and Joe Blanchard) had a meeting away from everyone.  I don’t know what was said but I do know Evan Johnson was gone after that weekend.  I believe he worked for Verne for a short time but eventually figured out this wasn’t for him. 

That wouldn’t be the last fight I witnessed in the dressing room.  But it probably will be the last time I witness the gathering of people who have been in professional wrestling for over 50 years, or celebrate their time in the ring by having another match!  I believe Lou Thesz had his last match at age 74.

74 years old.

  Lou wrestled Maso Chono in Japan at 74 years old and still took a few bumps and did his best in about a five minute exhibition match.  Only in Japan do I feel that the fans could even come close to appreciating that,  A: Lou Thesz was actually in the ring wrestling and B: They actually BOOKED Lou Thesz in the ring to wrestle! Granted it was against one of Lou’s last students Maso Chono, a former world champion and true pro so he was entrusted to someone he felt comfortable with.  But as great as Lou once was or might have been I don’t think this could have (or should have) been done anywhere else.

When I saw matches of the Sheik in even later years I often thought about what Kevin said about wanting to wrestle into his 60’s.  Then maybe his 70’s.  It’s been done obviously.  Fabulous Moolah won her last title at 76 years old!  They say age is just a number…

Harley Race won his first NWA world championship at 33.  There’s certain guys I wouldn’t mess with then or now and Harley’s one of them.  Bob Armstrong’s another.  Hell, I wouldn’t mess with any of the Armstrongs!  Well, except for Brad maybe…

Anybody who’s been wrestling for a while will have a lot of the same injuries.  Back and neck being the most common.  Looking back on it, the Sheik didn’t take a lot of bumps.  Neither did Kevin Sullivan for that matter!  I think Lou Thesz was more of a “mat technician” as well.  Maybe there’s something to that and wrestling at 74 years old!

I saw Jerry Lawler interviewed on RAW and he looked great!  But the King doesn’t know how to ‘dog it’ in the ring. He has too much pride and work ethic.  It’s going to take someone to convince him to cut back his schedule or at least learn to take better care of himself.  There’s a shortage of knowledgeable veterans out there.  The King needs to stick around for a while.  You can’t teach experience.  The King still wrestles better than a lot of the younger talent and  can cut a promo on any topic any time.  Age is just a number.  But you still need to take of yourself!

Pat O’Connor

I talked to Kevin Sullivan briefly last year.  He seems to be just fine and content relaxing between Washington state and the Florida Keys. One thing we can always count on is change.  Change in attitude, ways of thinking and sometimes overall life and surroundings.  I didn’t ask Kevin if he missed the business or still wishes he was working.  He sounded happy and that’s all that matters.

I heard from some old friends of mine who stumbled across this blog and made me realize we all loved the business for the same reason.  It was an escape and a great way to make a living.  As we get older some of us are looking for that fountain of youth.  At the same time we know it’s a young man’s sport and we can only help where needed.  The presentation and production may change in some way, shape or fashion but the fundamentals will still be the same.  If you don’t have a strong foundation to build on your house will crumble. 

Buddy Rogers

I always advise rookies to see who came before them.  Find out what they did and how it worked or didn’t.  You might find the way Pat O’Connor applying the arm bar to Buddy Rogers at Comiskey Park on the way to losing the NWA crown, a new and interesting way to do it and then people will be talking about how ‘unique’ and different you are. O’Connor threw a punch different than anyone else back then or now for that matter.  Watch the way Buddy Rogers moves, sells, reacts.  Watch O’Connor have the match won only to get beat.  Watch and study both men’s body language. The date was June 30,1961.  But you might be surprised at what you can pick up and learn. Then again you might get bored due to the lack of moonsaults, have-a-coronas or toupes’.

Thanks for reading.

PORTLAND OREGON, THE BOMBER, DON, BARRY, ELTON: I MISS THIS PLACE!!

Watching the matches at the Portland Sports Arena

Scott Ferris in (short trunks)

PNW Tag Champs. (Sandy Barr, ref)
Kicking Mean Mike Miller, Portland

THE KING, JERRY LAWLER

It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon, but I feel the need to at least comment on King Jerry Lawler and what happened Monday in Montreal. It was a tense night for those at home watching but I can only imagine the stress and anguish felt by those watching in person.

The King

I was watching along with everyone else when I got a phone call about an hour into the show.  I went outside to get better reception.  When I came back, I wasn’t hearing any commentating.  It was odd until Michael Cole did the on camera explaining what happened.  I missed the tag with King and Orton against Ziggler and Punk.  I record RAW every week just in case I do miss something and want to watch it the next day. 

Just like everyone else, I was in shock.  I could tell the tone in Michael’s voice that this was a real life situation and I was going to wait until the show was over and then watch what I missed.

Nothing seemed out of sorts or like anything was wrong with the King.  I did notice after the Kofi/R Truth VS. Cesaro/Miz match, Michael and King did an on camera and King coughed and sold his chest as though he had “heart burn.”  I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

Watching and listening to the replay I didn’t hear or see a man about to have a heart attack.  The King was his same upbeat, full of energy on commentary self.  He sure didn’t wrestle like a man getting ready to have a heart attack!  At 62, Jerry Lawler still wrestles better than half the roster!  He threw a drop kick, did his signature fist drop off the second rope and showed no signs of feeling ill.  That’s what made this even more disturbing as I was watching the replay.

I got all kinds of texts and I sent some texts asking what was going on.  Some of the boys I knew had their phones off while others got right back to me.  Everyone was concerned and it seemed like a chaotic scene.  I got texts throughout the night and at least one unexpected phone call that I greatly appreciated.

I’m not going to sit here and write about what great friends and best buddies the King and I are or were.  I worked for the Memphis office many times in my career.  I wrestled King in the Memphis territory, even tagged with him when his regular partner had a bad back and didn’t care to work against the Moondogs.  The Moondogs were doing hardcore matches before they were called hardcore matches.  They would consist of coming to the ring with chairs, trash cans and anything they could get their hands on.  Lawler took every shot full on (as did I) and gave it back without one complaint. 

Undisputed World Champion

He wasn’t always the most popular guy with some in the crew, but no boss ever is.  He led by example and worked hard if not harder than anybody on the card.  He wasn’t the top guy because he was part owner.  He was the top guy because he IS a top guy.  I and many others don’t call him Jerry.  He’s King.  I can’t remember calling him anything else.

On one of the handful occasions I traveled with him, I asked him to tell me the real story about him and Andy Kaufman on Letterman.  He didn’t want to talk about it but I finally prodded him until he went through how they came up with the scenario.  That’s one of the ingredients missing in the business today in my opinion.  The mystery, the ability to not let everyone in on your business and keep a secret.  Only the King, Kaufman and his agent knew what was going down that night on the David Letterman show. 

Andy Kaufman, The King, David Letterman

After that night, King got calls, telegrams and offers from promoters all over the country wanting to book him.  He told me he couldn’t “smarten them up” if he tried!  And it really didn’t matter in this smoke and mirrors game anyway.  The more that believed, the better!  That’s a lost art today and that’s why the King is still the go to guy when you want something real to get over.

I’ve always felt the greatest wrestlers were the ones who were fans growing up and understood how it felt when watching a match and getting caught up in the action in the ring.  Understanding what it felt like and just knowing in your heart “THAT wasn’t supposed to happen! THAT was REAL!” 

These days all too often, everybody thinks they’re “in the know.”  They’re “smart” and can tell you what’s real and what’s not.  Even when Memphis was known for doing some crazy, hokey stuff, The King would try to put some reality or at least doubt or mystery back into the viewer’s head.  I don’t know too many people who would volunteer to get hit by a car!  For those that don’t know what I’m taking about, I’m sure you can find Eddie Gilbert runs down Jerry Lawler on YouTube. (Check out the video below)

The King is the last guy I would think would have a heart attack.  Because he was so active and didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs.  He still wrestles like he’s in his 20’s!  But reality is we are all human and there comes a time we have to look at what we can, can’t or shouldn’t be doing.  Yes, age is just a number.  But as we get older it does matter what we eat, drink and do. 

I just turned 53.  Earlier this year somebody called me an old man.  He was joking around (I think) and meant no disrespect (again, I assume) but the hair on the back of my neck stood up.  I challenged this 30 year old “kid” to a one hour match!  Brilliant idea!  I’ve done one hour matches at developmental practices before as a teaching exercise, talking and slowing the “less experienced” talent down.  It had been a while since I’d been in the ring.  I have a bad back and neck.  We ALL have bad backs and necks!  It comes with the territory!  But once I made this stupid “challenge” in front of everybody, there was no backing out!

I had the match.  I even ended it with a moonsault off the top rope in front of a handful of developmental students.  Why?  I don’t have anything to prove.  But to be considered an “old man” and I can’t “go” anymore??  Right, wrong or indifferent, I felt the urge to test myself and prove I’m not an “old man.” 

The King of Memphis!

Well, if you don’t wrestle on a regular basis your body isn’t in “ring shape” and I felt every bump and shot I took.  There’s not that many left who are able to get in the ring and help young talent slow down and relax. That’s why Jerry The King Lawler was and is such a valuable part of WWE and developing young talent.  Timing, psychology and feeling are something that takes time to learn.  Having a guy like Jerry Lawler who has literally done it all was invaluable. 

I don’t think the King would take too kindly to being called an old man.  But human, yes.  The schedule he kept over his career is enough to wear down anyone.  Athlete or not, the body can only take so much.

I’m hoping along with King’s many friends and supporters that the fact he did stay so active will help in his recovery.  There is only one Jerry Lawler.  There is only ONE King.  That’s how I and many others address Jerry Lawler.  Make no mistake about it, he’s a tough guy.  He’s a smart guy. He’s been the “go to” guy more times than anyone can count.  I believe and hope that what’s kept him going all these years continues to help him fight this battle he’s facing now. 

???

MC holding up in a horrible situation

I can’t explain why some things affect me and others don’t.  I’m sure Michael Cole was shaken to his core and affected like none of us can grasp.  Kudos to him and everyone who handled themselves as best they could in a horrific situation. 

This has been on my mind since it happened. I know I’m not alone.  I have to believe  The King will pull through and come back.  It might take some time.  Timing is everything.  Thank goodness he was near qualified medical personnel when it happened.  I’m getting updates just like everyone else.  Not much news at this time.  I planned on writing about my time in Portland this week.  I’m sorry if I feel the need to do something else I can’t get off my mind. 

Sending good vibes and thoughts to the King.  Jerry Lawler.  Jerry “The King” Lawler. Get well and come back soon.

?

The ONE and ONLY King, Jerry Lawler

"IT AIN’T YESTERDAY NO MORE" (And there’s more where that came from!)

It’s amazing. I actually had an epiphany last night.

“It ain’t yesterday no more” sounds like a country song that’s already been written or just waiting to be wrote. Looking back on the last couple months and dealing with individuals who don’t have a clue or the first idea of what the foundation of professional wrestling is made me stop and think.  What does it really mean?  For that case, what does it really matter?

I never wanted to go on Twitter, Facebook, much less do a WEEKLY blog or write articles about relevant or interesting things concerning wrestling/sports entertainment.  I used to write and take pictures for various wrestling magazines growing up in Houston.  I sent pictures to Gong magazine in Japan and I enjoyed writing about the matches and the stars I watched back then.  It was a different time, place and attitude for the business.  These days it seems if you’re not connected somehow with social media, you don’t exist! Different time, different place, different attitude.

After working for the leader and standard bearer of the industry (WWE) for so long, I became accustomed to “here’s the job, your assignment, get it done.  Don’t stop until it’s done and done right.  If a mistake is made, fix it and move on.”  We all make mistakes.  We’re all human.  Nobody’s perfect.  But one of the  great things about WWE is the work ethic is second to none.  Everyone understands their role and pulls their weight.  If they need help, they ask and those around will oblige because everybody is working for the same goal. 

I believe I have a solid work ethic and if given a job or  project, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.  And if I feel like I need help or don’t understand how to accomplish the goal or final action, I’m going to ask someone for clarification.

I guess when I saw some of the independent “wrestlers” who claim to be working for X number of years I was shocked at what little they knew.  I shouldn’t be, I know.  But another shock was the total lack of wanting to learn as well as  the ability, desire or willingness to take constructive criticism.  And because some people who “play rassler” these days don’t realize there was actually wrestling before Hulk Hogan or John Cena, they look at anybody who came before that time period as ancient and out of touch.  I   understand that to a degree.  At the same time if someone has more experience than me and actually made a living as a “professional wrestler”  I would listen and at least pay them respect by paying attention to what they had to say. 

It might be the biggest load of crap you ever heard.  Then again, it might be something useful that makes sense and a different if not better way of having a match.  It is a new day and age and smart “veterans” understand you can’t have the same match style in 2012 as you did in 1984! But the fundamentals and foundation hasn’t changed.  We are still telling a story in a 20×20 ring with the ultimate goal to draw people to the event, make money and entertain those that came so they want to return.  It is about two wrestlers trying to win a match.  And there are many ways and scenarios to tell that story and have fun while allowing your audience to have fun right there with you.  Obviously the ring will vary in size and some use rope while others prefer cables.  There are tag matches, special stipulations and other elements you can introduce and use, but I think you get my point.

I am going to try and leave the guys who want to “play rassle” or do this as a hobby alone going forward.  I am really going to try.  But one thing that does irritate me is the lack of respect or knowledge by some “play rasslers” out there.  Recently I was made aware of a situation where a friend of mine (who’s been in this business over 30 years) was asked by a local promoter to help book his shows.  One of the first things this veteran had to do was make a decision who he was going to use and who he wasn’t.  He had a meeting with the crew and explained that he was going to cut the shows down to 6-8 matches and there would be a card made out prior to the day of the show.  The show would start on time and you will be given a time that they need to abide by and there will be no more friends, family, kids and those who were not working on the card that night allowed in the dressing room.  He told everyone to keep in touch with him and gave them all his phone number.  If they weren’t on the card that week, maybe he could use them the following week.  But that wasn’t good enough and they wanted to play by their rules!  Obviously the promoter was looking for guidance.  When he got it, it upset some of his friends and this “promoter” was caught off guard.  Therefore all the “rasslers” who had been there forever each and every week performing in front of momma, daddy and the rest of their families now had to tell those people they weren’t “rasslin’ this Thursday night because that mean old rassler don’t like us!”

That seems to be a re-occurring theme in a lot of places; 30 guys show up randomly or you never know who’s going to show up and the “promoter” doesn’t have a card already put together and it’s like a social get together or weekly softball game where they use all their friends. So they won’t start on time and they will have 16 matches with their buddies, their wives, kids, friends and god knows who running around in the dressing room.

So this veteran who was asked by the owner of this company to come in and make changes, goes ahead and makes changes.  Nobody just shows up and gets on the card.  There are only 6 or 8 matches at the most. And the guys on the card will understand their position and do as they are told.  If I’m running the show you can ask questions.  I welcome questions as well as suggestions.  I might use your idea and I might not.  Somebody has to make a decision and take responsibility.  Unless it’s your company and your money, do your job to the best of your ability.  Suggestions are welcome.  Questions need to be asked to understand the direction clearly.  But the night of the event is not the time to argue!  Especially on this level!

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the guys left off the card took to Facebook and proceeded to bitch and complain about “that old rassler” not booking us and he ain’t never done nuthin’ anyway!  They basically buried themselves by making such an ignorant statement  because any search will show what this guy has done, where he’s been and who he’s worked for through the years and consequently, he actually increased attendance and the quality of the shows.  Nobody knows all the answers but if you open your ears and have an open attitude as well you just might learn something.  It’s too bad there’s more that think they don’t have to learn anything new (or learn an old trick or two that might not have been seen in a while and used creatively could become new again) and they pout via Facebook or Twitter.

And I was guilty of airing my gripes and complaints as well.  I told everybody, and I mean EVERY and ANYBODY who kept telling me I had to do twitter and FB that I didn’t want to get caught up in that crap and start with the mundane “I’m eating some great sushi right now. Now I’m going to the bathroom.  Wow, what an AWESOME red light I just sat through.” 

I started this blog as a vehicle to help sell my curriculum and my second book (hopefully out by December) and this would also be a place to be reached for camps/seminars and appearances.  I have to have something to write about and I have some cool old school pictures, programs and stories that I need to save for my book and balance what I put out here and in there!  Sure I want to draw traffic to my site and sell merchandise.  I also want to write a weekly blog that people would read and keep coming back. 

3 time World Champ Dusty Rhodes

Unless there’s just something I can’t stop myself from commenting on, I will leave the “play rasslers” and “hobbyists” to do what ever it is they do.  That doesn’t mean I won’t call attention and call BS if I see it and they are disrespectful pieces of trash!  I’m not going to fold and let some jabroni get away with passing himself off as something he’s not, but I will do my best to keep a “civil discord” going forward.

The Dream and I

I had the pleasure and opportunity to work closely with Dusty Rhodes for nearly four years in FCW.  We had spirited discussions as well as a lot of fun and good times.  The American Dream gets a bad rap at times and has a reputation for being a master manipulator.  And he makes no bones about it.  The Dream is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in this business on so many levels.  Until you’ve walked in his shoes or watched him “work his magic” you cannot judge him.  I watched him work and do what he does best.  Dream has stayed relevant because he continues to make himself relevant.  Dusty Rhodes is not “playing a character.”  He is The American Dream.  I’ve heard some talk like he doesn’t know what he’s doing in this day and age and they couldn’t be more wrong.  Whether he knows it or not, I consider him a mentor and a teacher.  I learned a lot from The Dream.  I didn’t always apply what I learned and that’s my fault.  But to be where he is and to do what he’s done in his life is inspiring and a lesson in itself. 

There were days I drove Dream crazy!

It goes back to none of us should ever close our mind and stop learning.  We can learn from everyone we come in contact with every day.  Good and bad.  I would hope eventually the independent wrestlers out there working for some of the fly by night companies find their way to their own path of success.  It will take time and there will be struggles along the way.  If you want to go beyond the back yard or weekly “social gatherings” you will find a way.

Until then I will live and let live.  I hope.  I’m going to try.  I can’t promise I won’t come in contact with a character that is in dire need of being exposed for being a fraud and taking people’s money for nothing.  I know they’re out there. But hopefully they will get exposed before I meet them.

I was panning to write a blog about my time in Portland, Oregon.  I’ll save that for next week.  The summer of 1984 in Portland was a blast!  Pensacola, Birmingham, Portland along with SMW in Knoxville rate as my favorite territories. I found some pictures from Seattle and the old Portland Sports Arena that jogged some memories from the cobwebs of my brain.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.

Until then…

Thanks for reading

Brad Armstrong (and his "Dad" Neil), Luna and Killer…

Brad’s Dad?

Brad & Bob Armstrong

Luna

Luna at her towing job

TRYING TO PUT IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE. You just never know…

Wow. I really did it now…

All I planned to do was go to Mt. Carmel and Waynesboro, do a camp, come home, write a blog, get caught up and do it all over again. Things don’t always work out the way we plan them. Come to think of it, very rarely has anything turned out the way I planned.

I wrote a blog after my experience at a camp I did for promising hopefuls looking for direction or wanting to learn and given proper instruction. At least I was under the impression they came to learn something they might not know or could use when they went back to from where they came.
I named names. I responded to comments and emails. I heard everything from “thank you for exposing these hacks” to “that was a bit strong, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re a racist, bitter, angry, has been, that is smearing three upstanding people through the mud for no reason.” I won’t rehash the blog. You can read it yourself and make your own call.

After a couple days Tyger Smith emailed me and asked if we could speak. At least he wanted to get to the heart of the matter and straighten out any “misunderstandings” or mis-perceptions about what happened or was said over the weekend. I can appreciate that. Nobody else contacted me wanting to clear the air. I will tell you I talked personally with Tyger Smith and in the course of our conversation I told him the way to make things different and better for everyone in that area was to actually make things different and change things in that area! Lead by example. Prove and show people that you really do want to make a difference and you have passion for professional wrestling. Change the perception of what is out there right now. Because I got so many emails and hits on this blog alone it was mind boggling. 95% were thanking me and relaying their experiences with the guys I mentioned, but there was a small contingent of supporters that took me to task for what I wrote.

I was prepared to take the heat. I was prepared to be bombarded. I got over 8,000 hits from Tuesday night to Friday morning. I don’t know if that’s good or bad but it was definitely a hot topic for a lot of people. I was called unfair, bitter, out of touch, angry, jealous and a few things I really can’t print. And I did answer some in the comments section. I emailed some back. The blog did evoke emotion and passion from a lot of people. I had a feeling it would.

Some thought I was too harsh. Naming names, responding to trolls, “arguing” or even answering baseless comments. Others said I didn’t go far enough. You can’t (and never will) please everybody. I stopped trying to please everybody a long time ago. I’ve said it many times, “Show me a man who never had heat in this business and I’ll show you a man who’s never been in this business.” I put it out there, attached MY name to it and I better be able to take as well as give….

Independent wrestling is in pretty bad shape for the most part across the country. I would hope it gets better and that I helped shine a light on some of the scammers out there but I know better.

I would like to think if someone gives me their word, they will follow through. But again, I know better. I believe in second and even third chances. I think Tyger Smith genuinely reached out to straighten things out from his end and only time will tell. As I said, this problem is not exclusive to Rochester, Buffalo or New York state. There is an infestation of so called “rasslers” all over the country that don’t have a clue and the only way they should be let into a wrestling event is through the front door, buying a ticket!

There should be a way to tell the difference between a good school from a bad school, good trainer from bad trainer, but there’s really not. Until you train at a school or with someone for at least three months, you can’t tell what you’re going to get.

This week did make me somewhat introspective on the wrestling business from starting as a kid to the business it’s grown into.

When I first started I just wanted to be a wrestler. Now, it seems everybody wants to be a celebrity and be on TV. I would go to building where the toilet was in the middle of the dressing room. No stall or walls around it. Just a toilet in the middle of a small, cramped dressing room. Some buildings and towns were nicer than others but for the most part, it was show up, wrestle and go home or the next town 7 days a week. And yes, in Louisiana, we worked twice on Saturday and Sunday as well. That system no longer exists.

Vince McMahon took wrestling out of the “dark ages” and made it possible for everyone to make a bigger and better living. He called it what it was…”entertainment.”

Professional wrestling has always been about entertainment but you had the tough guy veterans, shooters, hookers and con men during that time as well, who would defend it to their death if you claimed it was anything but a true, legitimate sport or contest! The only difference is the world wasn’t as connected as it is now. That’s good and bad in my opinion.
??
?

Muhamid Farouk AKA The Iron Sheik 1978

Two incidents immediately came to mind. I was slapped by The Iron Sheik during training and Les Thorton after a match in Fort Worth, TX. I screwed up and potatoed Sheik and he slapped me down. I worked with Les in one of my first matches and was nervous as hell and screwed up the match. He came back to the dressing room and in showing me how to take his arm, he slapped the hell out of me I think partly as a receipt and partly because he was angry he was booked with a young, green punk!

My trainer/Coach Iron Sheik, 1977

??????I had my debut singles match against Les Thorton in my hometown of Houston, TX. I’d been wrestling a couple months and Paul Boesch didn’t want to book me too soon before heading to the west coast. Les Thorton was campaigning for a run with the NWA Jr. Heavyweight Championship and was in no mood to be in the opening match in Houston against a kid who had been the promoter’s assistant (gofer) and have to go 15 minutes with him to boot!

Me VS. Les Thorton, Houston 1980

I was nervous beyond belief and between that, Les’ English accent and my inexperience, it was the longest 15 minutes of my life! Les picked me apart in the dressing room after the match for a good 45 minutes! I wanted to be a wrestler my whole life and now here I was, going 15 minutes with the next World Jr. Heavyweight champion in my home town and he’s ripping everything I did apart in front of the entire locker room! He showed me the correct way to reverse a hold, when to relax, how to slow down, stressing TIMING was everything and there were a lot of four letter words uttered with telling frustration!
??

Danny McShain looks on as Les is begging me to relax!

?Sure, I had trained with the Iron Sheik and Nick Kozak. Sure, I worked with Les in Fort Worth and he had been over my mistakes before and I should have learned then. But I was green as grass and even though I’d trained, worked out and watched my whole life, I had a long way to go. That’s why it was advised if you wanted to get better and learn how to wrestle and learn the business of professional wrestling, you had to be willing to travel to different territories where you would learn different styles, work with different people and learn how to make a living on the road.
?
?????????

Wonder why Al was so mad all the time?

When I went to California I was put in a tag team with Al Madril. Al was ten years older than me and I watched him when he worked in Texas and won the NWA Jr. Heavyweight Championship from Nelson Royal. But my god! What a miserable guy! I couldn’t understand how he could be in such a bad mood ALL the time! We were the America’s tag team champions for goodness sake…..What a mark, what an IDIOT I was!!! Now I understand a little more about why Al was the way he was.

Houston Wrestling Office 1978

I was so fortunate to be able to sit ringside and be Paul Boesch’s assistant on Friday nights to watch, listen and learn the business up close and personal. Working in the wrestling office was an invaluable experience as I learned everything from answering the phone to selling tickets.

In Texas at that time they had official “seconds” who accompanied the wrestlers to and from the ring and took the jackets to the back. I was able to referee and learn and listen in the ring.

Paul & I ringside

That learning process doesn’t exist today. It’s not the young guy’s fault. The business has changed and continues to evolve. The problem is there are so many people out there who want to wrestle and be on TV so they can buy a ring, have a belt made, open their own company and run shows. They watch and try to mimic what they see on TV without knowing or understanding the reason or key to what’s happening. Therefore, we find the state of independent wrestling today filled with guys just “playing rassler” with no idea how or where to go to get better.
?

Jack Brisco’s second 1976

???

Paul’s assistant 1977

There are some good trainers out there. But you have to search and then investigate. Don’t just “settle” for something because it’s close or convenient if you believe in yourself. But you must be honest with yourself too. The odds are against you making it to developmental, much less a major company.
Professional wrestling is the entertainment business. It can be a self centered, cut throat, heart breaking, vicious, dog-eat-dog BUSINESS. Where do you fit in? Why would anyone pay to watch you perform?

To get better you have to find someone who’s better than you and knows more. There’s a small minority of people out there that understand how to teach the basics and fundamentals. But they are out there. If you can’t seek them out, then you will stay where you’re at. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting!

I’ve been accused of having a “negative attitude.” If trying to save you from driving your car (or company) off a cliff is having a “negative attitude” then I’m guilty.

To paraphrase former president Clinton; “It depends on what your definition of “negative” is.” Did I take pictures and posters off the wall and sling them to illustrate a point and demonstrate how absurd it is when someone wants to rip down a list of rules that have been up for years without asking why they’re up, I’m guilty! But everyone (OK, not everyone) but the majority of people there knew what I was doing; I was “performing” absurdity! It was a work and those that didn’t get it, never will.

But I will stand by my record of how I taught, mentored and helped anybody I trained in FCW or any place else I held a camp. Every coach has his style. Bobby Knight threw chairs… Was HE negative or passionate? I know we had a winning team while I coached and trained at FCW. When someone comes in and doesn’t have a clue about what I do or how the business works on a training level and tries to tell me how it needs to be run, I will do the best I can to follow through with their direction. That’s one reason I am so passionate about people who get in this business being trained properly and not abused or taken advantage of.

So, if exposing con men, cowards and people who have no idea what they’re doing is negative, I’m negative. If caring and teaching how absurd something is by demonstrating the absurdity of it all, I’m negative. But I’ve been around long enough to read the signs and see the writing on the wall. Independent wrestling is in big trouble and has been for a long time!

This is a dying art. And I can only imagine what it will look like in five years. I am not a negative person! I believe in positivity. I think it’s a positive thing if just one coward hung up his boots and tights this week due to my blog. That’s one less idiot anybody has to worry about getting hurt by.

Now, I hope we can all move on…

It’s been a helluva week. In addition to stirring up the Independent scene up north and getting the most hits ever so far on my blog, an event happened that put things into perspective.

Dutch Mantell

I’ve known Dutch Mantell and wife Cathy close to 30 years. I knew their daughter Amanda as a little girl. Dutch, John Layfield (JBL) and I travelled together when we were all in WWE and usually “heeled” a room together. I met Dutch during my first run in Memphis in the early ’80s. He was a great story teller and trips were never boring.

Amelia Keown

On Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 14) Dutch’s 16 year old granddaughter, Amelia Keown was hit head on by a man speeding trying to run from a state trooper. She was killed instantly. I heard the other driver lingered in critical condition before he passed away around 1AM.

In an instant, Dutch and his family’s lives changed forever. All the wrestling, indy crap and out and out BS that happens in this business means absolutely nothing in the end. It comes down to what’s most important to you. And I can’t imagine the sadness and grief Dutch and his family are experiencing at this time.

What do you say? How do you reach out? I don’t know. But I sent an email just to let them know I didn’t know what to say but I’m here if they need to vent, scream, cry or talk. Kind of made me think about all the times on the road and all I worried about was getting to the town and wrestling. It could have been my daughter. I don’t know how I would handle it.

There are a lot of people who love and support Dutch, Cathy, Amanda and Amelia’s little sister. There are some trying to help with donations and trying to put together a benefit show. If you want to help and have a paypal account you can send donations to dirtydutchmantell@gmail.com.
??

General Skandar Akbar

I also realized that two years ago on Aug. 19 we lost two other respected members of the wrestling community. I worked my first match in the Dallas Sportatorium against General Skandar Akbar. He passed away at age 75. The General was a good, kind man and explained what I did in a calmer manner than Les Thorton! I think you would be hard pressed to find any negative comments from anyone in the business about Ak.

Ted Allen

I worked with Ted Allen many times. He was getting ready to make a town to wrestle and was found not breathing on his bed after getting out of the shower. Ted was a solid worker and a great guy. He helped Arn Anderson early in his career and has helped a lot of the young guys when he was around. His most recent protege is a kid named Kyle Matthews who wrestles everywhere he can and goes to Japan for Noah thanks to Ted’s recommendation. Ted was also a partner of Danny Davis in the original incarnation of The Nightmares. He was talented and while he traveled extensively down south, Ted was happy being home around Georgia. He was 54.

I turned 53 Aug. 18.

Chris Candido, NWA Champ 1995
Hated the gimmick. Loved Chris.

One death affected me more than others was Chris Candido. At 33 years old, Chris wrestled a tag match for TNA at Lockdown in 2005. He broke his ankle on a freak bump from a drop kick. Four days later, he passed away from a blood clot. He flew from Orlando to New Jersey and apparently the altitude is what caused it. On April 28 I got a call from Tommy Dreamer telling me Chris had died. I was in shock. I had just talked to him Monday afternoon and he was on his way to the doctor and was going to call me when he got out. That was the last time I spoke to Chris. I cried for days and still think about him. He grew up in the business. His grandfather was Chuck “Popeye” Richards and Chris was incredibly talented. While I hated the Body Donna gimmick, I loved working with Chris. He was smart and made an insufferable gimmick a little more bearable.

After causing such a stir in some places last week and the events that happened, I got to thinking.

I wish there was a way to help make things better in the business. That was my goal when I wrote my blog. Believe it or not. By exposing those that need exposing, maybe that will change just a bit.

Dutch Mantell and his family suffered a tragedy I wouldn’t wish on anybody. It shows how fragile life is and how much your last words mean something. And none of us know exactly when we will utter our “last words.”

I wrote what I wrote and I’m passionate about the subject of con men, cowards and bullies.

I’m also aware that wrestling isn’t the most important thing in the world when it comes right down to it. I’ve met some good people in this business. And it hurts when they are hurting.

I hope there is some change in Rochester and Buffalo. Time will tell. I went on a rant and I stand by it until I’m shown it’s no longer the way I described. I know I affected some people because I got emails and comments and more pageviews than ever. If what I wrote makes a difference, great. I’m not so naive to think I will change the world. But getting rid of just one cancer is a good start!

At the same time, while trying to think of what to write about next, tragedy struck a good friend of mine. I can’t say I know exactly how he feels. I hope I never have to find out. After all is said and done, it’s just wrestling. Entertainment. Have fun with it, enjoy yourself and be safe. Protect you and your opponent. But don’t take yourself too seriously. It could all be over in an instant.

I am going to attempt to keep things in perspective going forward. I’ve been extremely fortunate and really do want to help. But right now, all I can think about is Dutch, Cathy and their family. There is nothing I can write or say to bring Amelia back. But I will be there if Dutch or Cathy need anything. They are in my thoughts and prayers.

Thanks for reading.

BOGUS WRESTLING SCHOOLS AND CON MEN; TYGER SMITH, SHAWN COOPER AND RIK MATRIX, AKA MATT HENRIE

I want to say right off the bat, I don’t know everything. I’m sure there are better trainers than me out there somewhere who know a lot more holds and possibly better storytelling.

I won’t post my resume, this being the Internet age you can look up what I’ve done in this business as far as my career, where and who I trained or helped train, if you care to. Best way to find out is ask. I was the first trainer/coach for WWE’s developmental system from 1996-2004. I was released and returned in 2007. I was released again in May 2012. The only constant in this business is change so being the head coach of any sport or organization is going to put you in the line of fire when any new administration or owner takes over. I am still confident I am qualified and know what I’m talking about as far as coaching and training someone to work in professional wrestling /sports entertainment.

My stats and reputation, as well as the list of people who trained with me speak for itself. I can be outspoken and opinionated. That didn’t always sit well with some. I am passionate about what I do. I’m not perfect by a long shot. I think I’ve been fair and tried to not only teach, coach and mentor people who trained with me but I believe I did my best to help them if they were going through a rough time, be it mentally or physically worn down.

Of course I know not everyone will see it that way. Everyone has an opinion and I know not everyone will agree or see things my way. This business and the approach to professional wrestling really comes down to someones opinion anyway.

And no doubt, I’m about to offend and upset some people in this column!

I did a camp this weekend (Aug. 10-12) in Mt. Carmel, Tn and Waynesville, NC. I came in for Southern States Wrestling (SSW) run by Beau James. I’ve know Beau since he was a teenager from my days working for Continental Wrestling in Alabama. He’s done everything in the business from street teams (putting up posters and fliers), setting up the ring, referee, wrestle, promote and run shows.

You can check out Beau Jame’s SSW TV Saturdays at 4 PM on Tri Cities CW 4, Online, youtube.com/kingofkingsportblip.tv/sswpowerhalfhour.

Beau became good friends and is considered family by a lot of the old school guys like Handsome Jimmy “The Boogie-Woogie Man” Valiant (and many others) due to his respect and love for the business. Beau has a Crusher Jerry Blackwell physique and was born about 20 years too late. By that I mean Beau never had ambitions of going to WWE or anywhere other than the southern territories like Memphis. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The Memphis territory was a stop for basically every major name in the business as it was a place to learn and develop.

You had better love the wrestling business if you were booked in Memphis because you sure weren’t going to make a lot of money! But if you could survive in Memphis, you could pretty much survive anywhere! Beau came to know and become friends with a lot of people in the business and earned respect by giving respect.

I’ve told people for years to shake hands with everyone as they walk in the dressing room or building. Treat everyone, from the guy (or gal) that sweeps the place, the office staff, TV people and camera crew, all the way up to the owner, with the same respect you want to be treated with. It’s not only common courtesy, but you don’t know who knows who or who might be related to the person who makes the decisions or signs your check! Give respect, earn respect and you will get respect!

Doing a camp for independent wrestlers is always interesting and challenging. I’ve done a lot of camps over the years and have come across novice, mid level and potential star quality workers. I hadn’t done one in a while, so I was really interested and anticipating the ability level I would see. We had 17 total with 9 coming from the northeast. I believe 2 came from Canada and the rest made two vans full from Rochester, NY. That’s a LONG drive to Mt. Carmel on Friday to do a live event and then drive another 80 miles to Waynesville to begin a camp with registration at 8:30 AM.
As I do with all my camps, I start out with the introductions and explain what we will be covering the next couple days. This particular camp had the caveat that if you came to the Friday show in Mt Carmel, Beau would put you on the card to work a match with one of his (SSW) guys for his TV show. So everyone worked the card Friday and drove to Waynesville that night.

Bright and early Saturday morning, after I do my introductions, I critique the rest of the matches from Friday. I’d talked to some already so I just had a few to follow up on. I went over and explained what was expected and how we would go over some basic drills and moves. Depending how that went, we would progress to the next step.

A basic lock up and footwork are two of the most important of fundamentals that any competent coach or trainer should know and teach. Balance. Without it, you have nothing!

There are certain “rules” to follow in the ring. If you’ve ever attended a credible school with a credible trainer, you understand what those “rules” are. One is if you apply a headlock, your feet are like they are on a railroad track, approximately shoulder width apart, knees bent where you have balance. Your opponent’s feet are facing you. You should be in a “T” formation. It’s easier to show than type.

Time after time, these guys were grabbing headlocks and the man applying the hold would turn toward his opponent, with his feet FACING him so that they are facing each other! What?? OK, I understand being green and not knowing. Even if you’ve been training 3 years, that probably means you haven’t had a lot of matches. So I just kept making the same corrections over and over. Until…

Someone asked “How is the correct way to stand in a headlock? Because we were taught to ‘mirror’ your opponent.” What? Explain what that means. “We were taught to grab a headlock and then face him with our feet facing his.”

Would anyone care to show me how that works? And then show me how you shoot your opponent to the ropes in that position. They showed me what they were taught and it made NO sense, any way you sliced it that it can work the way they were shown.

I went ballistic! I wanted to know then and there WHO taught and showed them that? Nobody wanted to say anything. I understood why later. But eventually, someone said, TIGER SMITH and SHAWN COOPER. And guys, I’m sure this is the most publicity you ever got or ever will get. If not, show me and prove me wrong! If you or your so called “Head Trainer” didn’t show them this way, get in touch with me and explain what you do when you train at your “school.”

Well, we had various degrees of experience levels from one year all the way up to a guy who said he had been doing this for 18 years and was just wanting a shot, just one break and…..wait a minute. 18 years and you never had an opportunity, sent in a DVD, made a phone call? Who trained you?? “Al Snow trained me 18 years ago.” Oh no, wrong thing to say to me… I just happened to know Al Snow.

I watched this so called “18 year veteran” trained by Al Snow go out and stink the joint out on Friday night against a talented cruiser weight named Kyle Matthews. This “vet” was 6’3″ 275 lbs. I would think he would know how to tell a story and have a credible match with a smaller guy. What does he do within the first 3 minutes of the match?? He POWER BOMBS a 175 lb kid and covers him for a 2 count! Kyle kicked out!!! Then this “vet” continues to do big moves that make no sense, out wrestles his smaller opponent with no rhyme or reason and gets beat with a school boy!

Saturday morning as I gave my thoughts on the match, he sat there like he wanted to cry. I explained how Kyle kicking out of all these big moves and him out wrestling a smaller guy made NO sense. I gave him a scenario I thought would have worked better he just shook his head but didn’t say a word. If someone tells me they have “18 years experience” and drops Al Snows’ name, I’m going to watch very close what they do and how they handle themselves. It didn’t take me long to figure out something wasn’t quite right here.

Saturday after practice, this 18 year veteran, trained by Al Snow wants to talk to me. His wrestling name is RIK MATRIX, real name MATT HENRIE. I ask all the usual questions of most guys that say they’ve been around for a while; “Why haven’t you tried to get with one of the major companies?” Come to find out, he did jobs for WCW, try out for TNA in 2007, hurt his knee and had to have surgery. They liked what they saw but there just wasn’t a spot right now for him, yada, yada, yada. Well, did you ever follow up with a phone call? “No.” Why? “I don’t know, I guess I’m just bad about that.” That’s not the ONLY thing you’re bad about, kid!

Well, Saturday night Beau put RIK MATRIX in the main event against a guy more his size to see if he can tell a better story or have a better match. I don’t know how much worse it could get but it was pretty bad. No rhyme or reason. No story. Here’s this big, bad “18 year veteran” who had no idea how to get from point A to point C. CLUELESS! Now I have a pretty good idea why he never got called back or made any calls.

Sunday was the last day and everyone worked hard the day before in a hot building. Last day of practice with an afternoon show and Mr. 18 year vet, RIK MATRIX is hurt. He hurt his sternum from the day before and wasn’t feeling good. Come to find out, he was laughing and drinking with everybody Saturday night in a room and nothing seemed wrong then!

I ran a drill and we finished up an hour before bell time. The entire card was made up of the guys from the camp. Both night the houses were horrible. But it was a great experience for these guys to say they worked in front of 6 then 11 people. That sucks but it should inspire you to want to get out and work in front of 6,000 and 11,000 people.

But the 18 year vet, RIK MATRIX sat by me during the show trying to see my critiques. I was going to review the matches after the show anyway so I didn’t care.

After the show I went to the back and thanked everyone for coming down and working hard. I was brutally honest with everyone, ESPECIALLY Mr. “18 year veteran” RIK MATRIX.

I told Rik he had no clue and couldn’t have a match with a small or big man. I said in front of everyone that he needed just as much if not more training than anyone here! I gave everyone my thoughts and critique and expressed how pissed and disgusted I am by people who run “Rasslin’ schools” and rip people off. I told the Rochester crew that TIGER SMITH and SHAWN COOPER don’t know SHIT if that’s what they taught them. I told them to deliver that message from me to them.

Well, I’m delivering the message myself. SHAWN COOPER and TIGER SMITH, I’m CALLING YOU OUT, BOYS. What are your credentials? Who trained you? Where have you ever worked and made a living in professional wrestling besides conning people, young kids and single parents with 3 kids to feed, out of their money when you don’t know a wrist watch from a wrist lock??? What have you EVER done, where have you EVER BEEN and who the F**K do you think you are???

Oh yeah, and this is the kicker. This is the icing on the cake. RIK MATRIX, AKA MATT HENRIE, THE “18 YEAR, I WAS TRAINED BY AL SNOW VET” IS SUPPOSEDLY THE TRAINER FOR THESE TWO JACK OFFS!!!!

There are so many con men and thieves out there everywhere that can buy a ring, say they got a “try out” with WWE in the afternoon before the show or did a TNA “gut check” and buy a ring and start “training” people! YOU ARE PATHETIC!

Don’t think for a minute I’m not going to tell Al Snow about my experience with you MATT HENRIE. I heard you invoke Brodie Lee and Colin Delaney’s name as people who came from your “school.” I know Delaney had a brief run in WWE but don’t know him personally. I know Brodie Lee. And after you showed him how to bump he was smart to your shit and got as far away from you as he could! Yes, I did check with Brodie and he did re-enforce that you all are con men and belong nowhere near the wrestling business! YOUR NAME IS MUD!

If I were you, RIK MATRIX AKA MATT HENRIE, TIGER SMITH AND SHAWN COOPER,
I WOULD QUIT NOW!!! I can’t stand people taking advantage of someone coming off the street chasing a dream being taken advantage of and being lied to and taught by people who don’t know what they’re doing, have never done anything in this business and never will!

And it’s not just in the northeast! It’s all over the country.

Some advice: If you are planning to go to a wrestling school, check them out. I mean REALLY check them out. Who are their trainers and coaches. What are their backgrounds. Who trained them. Do they have contacts with anybody that could help you get booked somewhere and help you accomplish your dream? Maybe it’s a pipe dream. Only you can make that call. This isn’t for everybody. But you don’t want someone telling you how “great you are” just so you keep coming back paying your hard earned cash just so they can pay THEIR bills!

They majority of wrestling schools out there are bogus rip offs. If you hear something that sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. If someone tells you they can make you a TV star in one or two weeks, RUN!!

Running a wrestling school is a hard job. You have to rent a building, keep the electricity on, pay rent, upkeep and never ending problems from somewhere. How can anybody keep it up without having students come in? They can’t so they have to resort to telling everybody how great they are and dangle the carrot as long as they can until that person smartens up and leaves. Some have potential and will find a way to make it happen. Others are living on a hope and a prayer.

When asked about credible and REAL wrestling schools in the country, there’s slim pickins’. My opinion is there are very few. OVW in Louisville Kentucky and FCW in Tampa, Florida. There are no guarantees in either place but at least you will be in a place visited by WWE and TNA officials. If you have something they’re looking for, the trainers there will let them know. They ARE connected. Lance Storm in Calgary has a good school from all reports I’ve heard. Kevin Knight used to have a great school in New Jersey that many WWE and former WWE talent visited and a few talent was signed from there due to Kevin’s professional demeanor and he reached out for help and advice on how to do things the right way. Darren Young is a product of the now defunct IWF as is a young Dante Dash, now training in FCW.

Harley Race still runs a school located in Eldon, Missouri. It’s in a small, sleepy town and you would have to find a job to live and support your wrestling habit. But Harley is respected by the wrestling community and major companies keep an eye on his talent because if Harley says they’re ready, chances are they’re ready!

Pat Buck is now running PWS in Rahway, NJ and can be found at www.bedofnailz.com/school.html. Pat trained with us at FCW and comes highly recommended and has a healthy respect for the business. He is in the northeast and you can get more information by going to the website. Google Pat Buck and find out what he’s done in this business and the connections he’s made.

I’m sure there are some more legit schools out there that are doing their best and aren’t complete rip offs. But before you give your money to anyone, find out what they’ve done, where they’ve been and what connections they have. Also know and understand what your goal is. Be realistic and know the odds of becoming a Superstar are not in your favor!

This weekend was an eye opener for me. What prompted me to write this was when one of the guys who worked hard came to me on Sunday after everything was over and said “I’m going to have to give this up. I have 3 kids and I can’t travel right now. That sonovabitch (MATRIX) has been taking my money and I haven’t learned shit. This weekend was an eye opener.”

I wondered why MATRIX left pretty quick after my post show meeting. He was exposed like a cockroach when the light comes on and he ran like a coward. He wouldn’t train the last day because I called him out and critiqued him in front of the people he trained. Now he looked like the goof and idiot he really is. A con man. The worst kind. He cried when he was told he did something wrong instead of manning up and trying to learn, he quit. Good.

If I were you, I’d pack up shop and stop now. I will do everything in my power to expose all 3 of you phonies and con men for what you are. You are the scum that somehow infiltrated the business I love and have been in most of my life. You give this business a bad name by just trying to attach yourself to it. I talked to other people you claim came from your school before I wrote this and I heard the same thing from every one of them: “Please expose those low life’s for what they are! They have given the Rochester wrestling area a BAD name!”

If you see or hear of any of these people RIK MATRIX AKA MATT HENRIE, TIGER SMITH OR SHAWN COOPER, DO NOT SUPPORT THEM! THEY ARE SCUM CON MEN THAT SHOULD BE RODE OUT OF TOWN ON A RAIL! They make me sick!

Any questions or comments, PLEASE email me at bookdrtom@aol.com.

Thanks for reading.

IF YOU’RE GONNA STEAL, STEAL FROM THE BEST! Or, Why I sound like Roddy Piper…

One thing I learned a long time ago is you can’t please everybody. I also learned if you’re going to be in the wrestling business, you better have thick skin and understand you have more “acquaintances” than real friends. I can count my friends on one hand.

I stopped wrestling full time for all intents and purposes in 1996. I started training people in the newly founded developmental system for WWE in Stamford CT in August, 1996. I still wrestled periodically here and there and went on the road to wrestle some of the new guys coming out of the system. But I considered myself semi active as opposed to full time or retired. I wrestled on and off through the years even while training prospects. I’ve wrestled one hour matches against developmental talent to demonstrate that even at my age, it can be done if you know what you’re doing.

This is a young man’s sport, no doubt. One of the hardest things to do in the ring is relax and be intense at the same time.

One of the first one hour matches I had against a student was in a hot, muggy warehouse in Tampa. I gave everyone an assignment; They were going to have to be able to wrestle one hour straight through, keep the action inside the ring, tell a story that made sense and learn how to relax, breathe and think on their feet. One student got hit in the eye and broke his orbital bone during a match prior to the hour long matches beginning. So he was out for about five weeks.

We were having two and three hour matches daily and it came this guy’s turn. He didn’t feel comfortable working with just anybody so I opened my big mouth and told him I’d wrestle him for one hour!

Once I said it, I knew I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) take it back. Anybody who’s been in this business longer than five years has back and neck issues. Some are worse than others. At this time I hadn’t wrestled a short match in years, much less one hour! But I made my mind up I was going to do it.

I have some significant back and neck issues. I shouldn’t have done it. But I had to. I had a plan. I was going to call it and I knew the story I was going to tell. I knew how to breathe and relax. He had to listen and relax. Not as easy as it sounds…

Anyway, 10 minutes into a 60 minute match, I call a backdrop. The guy didn’t want to do it. I demanded him to “backdrop me NOW, dammit!” and he did. I landed wrong on my ankle and just knew I broke it. I broke my ankle before and that’s what this felt like.

But I was damned if I was stopping the match, so we went the rest of the time leading up to the end where I had him catch me in a sleeper with 20 seconds left to go. As time ran out, he let me go and puked on the side of the ring. I was hurting but I wasn’t about to let anybody else know how bad. I was just happy I made the kid puke! It’s a great story for those who were there to witness it. I believe this kid will be a big star one day. He’s already on his way and he can tell the story if he wants. I’m leaving the name out to protect the innocent at this time.

The next day I made it to the school but as I went to get out of my car, I couldn’t stand. I went to the hospital and they put me in a walking cast. It wasn’t broke this time. It was just a real bad sprain. I made it through and it gave me a good story and bond with a talented kid who loves this business and has passion.

I remember when I was just starting out. There wasn’t a developmental system. There was the territory system. Young guys were initiated in battle royals, getting chopped or piled on or just ribbed because they were new and the veterans wanted to see if you could take it.

I had my first match October 20, 1979 in Bryan, TX. I wrestled some shots around Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi for the next couple months before Paul Boesch got me booked in Portland, Oregon.

The very next week, Gary Hart (who was booking the Dallas territory) told me he had me booked in Los Angeles for Mike LaBelle. When I told him I was booked in Portland he said, “yeah, you go to LA first and then you go to Portland.” I thought it was arranged with Paul and everybody knew what was going on. It wasn’t and they didn’t.

Anyway, I was going to the gym and working out with Mark Lewin at the time and he helped me book my flight to California. My start date was the beginning of January in Fresno.

So I packed two bags and got on a PSA flight to Fresno to begin my new adventure. I knew nobody out there really. I’d met Al Madril and knew him some when he was wrestling in Houston but I didn’t know if he would remember me or not. And I had no idea how I was going to get around! My dad was going to make a road trip and bring my car to me once I got settled in.

On Andre’s shoulders 1980

I arrived at the Fresno airport and took a cab to the building. I was early but one of the first guys I saw was Al Madril. He vaguely remembered me from Houston and we exchanged pleasantries and general conversation. I’d seen Andre the Giant at the airport as well and had briefly met him too but didn’t know him well enough to feel like he would want to share a cab to the building.

I was in a battle royal in Houston a couple weeks before and climbed on Andre’s shoulders. The photographer got a shot of that and it seemed to become one of Paul’s favorite pictures to use if I was going to be working in Houston.

Anyway, as I’m talking with Al in walks Roddy Piper. He puts his bag down, says hello and immediately walks back in the hall and confronts an office guy (wasn’t Jeff Walton but can’t remember his name) and started yelling “You left me stranded last night and I want my money! I’m not getting dressed until you get my money and I want it now!”

Well, this is great. My first night in the territory and I hear this loud confrontation between Roddy Piper and some office guy. They eventually worked it out and Piper got dressed and wrestled Andre that night.

I met Chavo Gurerrero, who was booking at the time, and his dad Gory who I watched as a kid. I caught a ride back to LA with Frank Hill (Later became Jules Strongbow and teamed with Jay in the WWWF) and the Twin Devils. The Devils dropped Frank and I off at the Milner Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The Milner Hotel was located at 8th and Flower St. It was about 50 years old then! But that’s where Chief stayed and it was cheap and convenient at the time. Los Angeles, The Olympic Auditorium and my Los Angeles experience is too extensive for just one blog. I’m mentioning it now as a point of reference.

This was the first time I met Roddy Piper face to face. He was an intense guy to say the least.

I later came in contact with Roddy around 1981-82 in Atlanta. He was doing color commentary with Gordon Solie as well as wrestling back and forth between the Atlanta and Charlotte offices. Ole Anderson was booking both places and Roddy was a top star. Jim Barnette made a trip to Texas earlier and I was offered a job in Atlanta.

My timing is impeccable. I was “dating” a girl in San Antonio and decided to get married two days before heading to Atlanta. The guys told me everybody stayed at a place in Hapeville, GA. called The Falcon’s Rest. Well, I completely screwed up, got married, went to Atlanta and lived in a separate place because I didn’t want my new wife exposed to what was going on at “The Rest.” I stayed a week there many nights though. I’m no longer married to her by the way…

Me with the Dean of Announcers

Atlanta was just getting rolling on the Superstation, TBS. Tommy Rich, Bob and Brad Armstrong, Super Destroyer, The Masked Superstar, Ole Anderson, Stan Hansen, Don Muraco, my trainer and mentor The Iron Sheik, Kevin Sullivan, Buzz Sawyer, The Freebirds and countless other major names were showing up almost daily to be a part of TBS and World Championship Wrestling.

Roddy was commentating with Gordon Solie along with wrestling. For some reason, about a month into my stay, Ole told me Mr. Barnette would like to have me do some commentating along side Gordon as well. It was nerve racking to say the least, but a great experience none the less.

Gordon Solie and Roddy Piper

I was lucky enough to ride and make frequent trips with Brad Armstrong, Tommy Rich, Nick Patrick and eventually Tommy’s cousin Johnny when he arrived from Alabama. When Piper was working the Atlanta side he would occasionally ride with us or at least stay in the same hotel and party with the crew. Tommy had a van we usually took so we could take at least half the guys.

It was that time in Atlanta where I got to know Roddy Piper for what Roddy Piper is. He was always a good guy to the young guys and rookies coming up. I’d known some bitter veterans and so called “Superstars” who were above talking to peons in the first four matches. But Roddy treated everyone with respect. That is if you treated him with respect. It was was give, earn, and get respect back in those days.

Roddy was gracious, caring and shared whatever he had. Never made a young rookie feel like he was worthless or beneath him. He was a class act and would fight anybody who tried to mess with his friends.

Hot Rod

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Roddy had his hard side if someone tried to steamroll over him. He would stand up for himself as well as someone being taken advantage of. He was a wild man and I admired his ability to ingest and consume more than almost anybody in the room and appear un-affected. I tried (many tried) but failed miserably. I kept up as much as I could but Piper could put everybody under the table…

There’s a story in Gary Hart’s book about Ric Flair having a party, inviting Roddy and Mark Lewin to his house to see who could out do who. Both had mythical reputations as being THE party animal elite and it was supposed to be a challenge of sorts to see who the “real deal” was. Gary leaves it as “I didn’t go because I was the boss and couldn’t be around that, so I don’t know what happened.”

Mark Lewin

I’ve indulged with both Mark Lewin and Roddy Piper. I thought I was going to get my ‘Keith Richards merit badge’ and worked hard to earn it! The ’80s was a fun time and a lot of guys didn’t make it out alive. I’m sure there are times Lewin and Piper wonder how they did it…

The thing I really admired about Roddy (besides his ability to consume mass quantities of whatever was put in front of him) was his demeanor and attitude toward everyone backstage. He didn’t have to be nice or offer advice to anyone. He shared whatever he had, never let you pick up the tab for drinks or dinner and was a genuine good guy. That’s my opinion and I’m sure you can find people who think otherwise. But remember, if you give respect, then earn respect, you will get respect back. In other words, don’t just talk the talk. Walk it too!

I’ve caught a lot of grief through the years for cutting promos and sounding like Roddy Piper. Yes, I copied Piper. Yes, I blatantly copied his style and mannerisms. It really came a little more natural once I did it the first time because I felt anger and passion when I was able to come off like such a prick. I had a lot of anger in my my life during my active wrestling days. But I also had the utmost respect for the business and the ones who came before me. Onstage, cutting a promo or in the ring was the only time I felt comfortable. I always felt out of place in a crowd, didn’t like people and just wanted to wrestle and be left alone.

Roddy Piper encapsulated everything I felt in his promos. His style, cadence, mannerisms, confidence, everything. Then backstage was such a contrast. I was able to let my emotions out and come back and have fun and relax in the dressing room. I have always worn my hair long and it became like my shield or my flag against society. I could hide with it and wearing shaded glasses, never smiling pretty much confirmed I was a flaming asshole!

I felt like a heel inside. I looked like a stoned freaked out hippie outside. I sounded like Roddy Piper and I knew it. I’ve heard people say I “had the personality of a dishrag so I had to steal Piper’s gimmick.” OK. What’s new? The ones who know, know who and what I am. That’s all who really matter. What’s that other saying? “Any press is good press. As long as they’re talking about you.”

My dad had a heart attack and wasn’t supposed to make it. He died twice on the table and the doctors brought him back. During this time I was working in Memphis and Dallas for the USWA Jerry Jarrett promotion. ESPN was airing the Dallas shows on weekdays at four. I was wrestling and doing color commentary at the time and of course, I sounded like Piper. Someone told me that a bunch of the WWF (hadn’t got the ‘F’ out yet) guys were watching the show one afternoon and Rick Rude got hot saying I was “just ripping off Piper!” Yeah and again, so?

I came home when my dad had his heart attack and one day the phone rang. I was the only one home and I answered. It was Roddy Piper checking on my dad. He and my brother Bruce (Brother Love) had become close and Roddy just wanted to see how everybody was doing. I gave him an update and before we hung up I said “Roddy, I know a lot of people have been saying I’m ripping you off and stealing your gimmick, but if I ever wanted to steal from anybody I wanted to steal from the best. I’ll stop and change everything man, I’m sorry.” To which Roddy replied “No, no, no. I heard it and think you’re doing a great job. Don’t listen to what a few assholes say. I consider it an honor and I have no problem with what you’re doing. Keep up the good work. I love you and your brother and I hope to see you soon.”

Now, surely Hot Rod is just saying that to make me feel good, ya know dad being in the hospital and all. Think what you want. I believe Roddy was being genuine. I was paying homage to a guy I admired and respected. I was never going to WWE anyway. I was content on working the territories that were left and carve out a living there.

Fate being what it is, I did wind up going to WWE. I surpassed anything I ever thought I would accomplish while I was there. I did the WM 10 free for all in Madison Square Garden and the WM 12 free for all where we won the World tag team Championship. We won them on the west coast in Los Angeles and lost them on the east in MSG.

Roddy and me backstage MSG, WM 10

Wait. I actually wrestled in Madison Square Garden! That wasn’t supposed to happen! I lost the WWF World Tag Team Championship in Madison Square Garden. OK, it’s not the same as ‘winning’ the titles there but we walked in the champions!

My point is I was horrible at playing the political games of life. I’ve learned a lot since then. Although I do have this sense of trying to help by demonstrating something absurd to get my point across that doesn’t always work. And I’ve taken risks and lost. Failure isn’t final. I will find success again. And for those that say what success, I say to those who know, you know. Those that don’t, never will and I don’t care!

Sure, I copied Roddy Piper.

Ever heard of Lord Lansdowne? Danny McShane? Ray Stevens? Buddy Rogers? Look ’em up. Then see who copied them. And who continues to look at who came before them and how this business evolved.

What determines success is the level of confidence, skill and just plain balls to go out and do it! Refuse to lose or take no for an answer. Roddy Piper and guys like him paved the way. Somebody mentored them and gave them a chance, then they kicked the door wide open and owned their opportunity. I made a lot of mistakes. That’s called experience.

Anytime I hear somebody say “He can’t teach you anything. He never drew a dime! I can teach you how to be a star!” I just sit back and say, “Go ahead. In fact show me your formula in how you are going to make this guy or girl a star.” Are you going to tell them how to maneuver in the ever changing political landscape? Check. Got that one. Are you going to show them how to connect with a crowd? Check. That’s the intangible “it factor” I believe. There’s not just one way to teach or do this business. There’s not a special formula or secret handshake that will make you a star. Hard work, preparation, understanding and adapting are good ways to start though.

Piper after a match with Kim Duk (Houston, TX 1975)

I’m proud to say I’ve known Roddy Piper since I was was a rookie in this business. I watched Roddy when he was a rookie in 1975 in Houston. I took this picture the night he wrestled Kim Duk and got his face kicked in. He was just a kid then.

One Friday night, the sound system went out in the building. The microphone worked but the system that played the national anthem wasn’t working. So Paul Boesch asked a young Roddy Piper to play the anthem on his bag pipes. This was in the Fonde Recreation center in Houston. Some confuse that story being in the coliseum. I was there and remember it vividly. He got an incredible ovation and was an instant babyface! Who knew Roddy Piper would go on to be one of the biggest icons ever in professional wrestling? Roddy did. He refused to take no for an answer and he refused to lose. You gotta admire that.

Me and Roddy WM 28, Miami, FL 2012

And I do. Every time I see Roddy he’s the same gracious, funny, positive person I’ve known for years. If I was going to steal or ‘borrow’ from anybody today, it would still be from the Hot Rod!

For those that don’t like it, say what you will. At least you’re talking about it.

Thanks for reading.

FREEBIRD FOREVER!

Not that Michael Hayes needs anyone to come to his defense for anything, he’s a big boy and can take care of himself. But last week I got some texts and calls about his latest video about his former partner Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy. I consider Michael a friend. I attended my first writer’s meeting with Michael in Vince McMahon’s office and somehow wound up sitting in on creative and writer’s meetings. I traveled with Michael on the road while I was on creative and we had a lot of fun. I experienced things with Michael that not too many people would believe. But I swear your honor, it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

I had my third professional wrestling match against Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy, AKA The Freebirds in Shreveport, LA in 1979. I can’t remember who my partner was, but I took their finish; Michael back dropped me into Terry’s waiting arms. Bamm Bamm gave me a piledriver and pinned me.

My second ever match was that same day against Lord Jonathan Boyd on the first set of tapings. I lost that one too. But Jon is another story for another time.

(Lord Michael Hayes, Percy Pringle, Terry Gordy)

Before the TV tapings that day, Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy did some pre taped promos in the studio that fed the monitor in the dressing room. Michael could talk his ass off! I just knew these guys had been around a lot longer than I had and they were certainly older! Come to find out, Michael was 20 (so was I) and Terry was a couple years younger. Wise beyond their years for sure. They had been wrestling a couple years around the southern end of Mississippi and Alabama but now they were starting for Bill Watts.

They both were cool and easy. I was nervous and green, but they took care of me in the ring. They called themselves The Freebirds and though they weren’t the first to come to the ring with music, they certainly were the first of this generation to want to come out to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird. For 1979, it was different.
I’ve known Michael over 30 years. And like I said earlier, I consider him a friend. He recently cut a song and video to honor Terry Gordy called “Freebird Road.” I got 4 texts the day it came out telling me I HAD to watch it. I did. I cried.

Jimmy Garvin, Buddy Roberts, Michael, Ray Gordy, Kevin Von Erich

Now wait. Let me explain, because I know what a lot of people are saying. The critics talk about the similarities between Michael’s song and Skynyrd’s “Brickyard Road” and how Michael ranged from cheesy to ridiculous to pandering. I cried because I knew how close Michael and Terry were and I can relate when someone you know and love in this business dies suddenly and way too young.

Pro wrestling is my life. It is who I am. I love rock and roll. My older brothers Ken and Chris are musicians and I have always been amazed and respect anyone who can play an instrument or sing. I can’t do either. My two favorite rock and roll front men of all time are David Lee Roth and Steven Tyler. I never was a Van Halen fan. I was a David Lee Roth fan. I love Tyler and Areosmith.

(Jimmy Garvin, Sir Oliver Humperdink, MIchael Hayes and Badstreet)

For me, Dave brought that rock and roll attitude on and off stage. I liked the fact he screamed and you couldn’t always understand the words. He wasn’t looking for perfect; he was looking for ‘right.’ If there was a story to be told, he didn’t let the facts get in the way, hell it’s rock and roll! Make it bigger, better, badder! In fact, make it up as you go along. Damn the facts! I’m sure DLR did his share of partying and playing but how much is myth, fact, or a little and a lot mixed in together? I’ve seen Dave in concert a few times and heard the same stories, catch phrases and intros including “impromptu” jabs at the crowd to get a reaction. Dave couldn’t really sing but he could perform and make you pay attention to him. With Van Halen, he helped sell out arenas. On his own, he played to half full (the optimist in me refuses to say half empty) buildings and smaller venues. He had the sizzle, VH had the steak.
An interview with DLR was full of quotable lines, my favorite being “You don’t get a poem from ice tea” and he knew people would talk about what he wore, said and how he acted on and off camera. He wouldn’t dress like a civilian if there was a chance to be noticed. He always had an answer or something interesting to say on interviews. Even if they might have stretched the truth just a bit.

Steven Tyler is the same kind of guy who likes to wrap himself in mystery and doesn’t like to be seen as normal (whatever that is). Both he and Dave had some cool moves and a good rap onstage, big difference was Steven Tyler can actually sing.

Michael in concert at the Dallas Sportatorium

I think Michael always wanted to be a rock star. He was a star, make no mistake about it. Ask anybody who witnessed the Freebird – Von Erich feud in the ’80s if Michael didn’t know how to connect emotionally with a crowd and understand psychology better than most during that era. The famous “Freebird hair cream” almost ended the career of The Junkyard Dog in Louisiana and I believe there was one particular incident in New Orleans that a fan actually pulled on gun on Michael! The New Orleans police were nobody to play with and I’m pretty sure that “fan” was ‘interregated’ to the fullest extent.

Michael wrote a song called “Badstreet” and put out an album. Michael, Terry Gordy and Buddy Jack Roberts made a music video as The Freebirds and made it clear they lived on the last house on the block! And everybody knows it “just got badder the further you walked down that street.” Classic stuff I’m sure you can find on YouTube. Some might call it cheesy. I’ll stick with classic.

Now, I like David Lee Roth’s singing. I’ve bought his CDs (except for the folk singing) and actually appreciate his rhymes, lyrics and stories. They’re not sophisticated. They’re entertaining. I’m not listening for the music as much as the story, sights and sounds. I didn’t get KISS or Alice Cooper until I started seeing what they were going for. It ain’t about the music kid! We got us a show goin’ on here!

And I can appreciate guys like Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Diamond Dave who are in their 60s or late 50’s still rockin’ and rollin’ and putting on a two hour performance with energy and passion that can’t be manufactured. I’ve seen Aerosmith four times live and in living color and was never disappointed. Those guys might be a lot older and not always getting along, but onstage with Steven Tyler out front, there was no denying they were having a party with thousands of close friends in attendance! Passion, feeling, emotional attachment.

Terry, Jimmy, Michael
Buddy, Terry, Michael

To me, Michael Hayes is the David Lee Roth of wrestling. Michael and Terry Gordy WERE the Freebirds. There were other members; Buddy ‘Jack’ Roberts, Jimmy ‘Jamm’ Garvin, for a brief period a masked Brad Armstrong as ‘Badstreet’ and there was even King Parsons as a ‘Black Bird.’ But when all said and done, it was Michael ‘PS’ Hayes and Terry ‘Bamm Bamm’ Gordy who were the Freebirds.

Without David Lee Roth Roth, Van Halen became Van Hagar. Sammy might have been a better singer, guitar player but nobody could match Dave in wits and bringing the party to life. Hell, DLR was the party! Van Halen might have played better music but they didn’t have the same attitude without Dave. I’ll take a great show over great music any day. But that’s just me.

Areosmith tried to keep rolling without Steven Tyler. Didn’t work out so well. There is only one Areosmith and only one guy who can be in front. Steven Tyler.

Without Michael, Terry found success. He was bound to. He had the size, look and talent. Terry teamed with Steve ‘Dr. Death’ Williams in Japan for years and they were unstoppable. But the problem sometimes with being unstoppable is you don’t have anyone there to say STOP!

(“Dr. Death” Steve Williams and Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy)

Terry and Doc were two of the greatest, big hearted men in the business. If you were their friend they would do anything in the world for you. Both liked to party. We all liked to party. With Michael, for all the crazy and insane things I’ve seen him do and done with him, he was a voice of reason and protection with Terry. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves and need to have someone who knows us better than we do to step in and say “Stop what you’re doing. I love you and you’re going to die if you keep doing what you’re doing. I care about you and I won’t let you die. Fight me if you want because you’re going to have to!”

Michael tried to do that with Terry. I remember when Terry came to WWE after he had experienced an overdose in Japan and wound up in a coma years before. He wasn’t the same Terry we all new but he was still a good person. Michael begged everyone to please not give Terry anything if he asked. He knew Terry wasn’t what he once was but he wanted to help and take care of him as best as he could. And sometimes it doesn’t matter what anybody does because we can be our own worse enemies.

Michael and Terry had each other’s back. It was their bond and they were brothers from different mothers. Michael and Terry made magic and created an aura and mystic to what the Freebirds were. Believe me, they lived their gimmick. There was no pretending or “acting” as a character. I have too many stories of walking into a bar or restaurant and all heads turning to see this long haired, loud mouthed, uncouth Southern rebel slide up to the bar and order rounds of Jack Daniels “for my friends!” On one occasion we just sat down, ordered drinks from the waitress and as soon as she left, Micheal head butted a hanging light over our table! It was funny and stupid, and the manager immediately came over and not-so-politely told us to “get out, NOW!” Michael tried to apologize but the guy would have none of it and we left and found a better place with a little less restrictions (and a lot more fun!)

There’s been many incarnations of the Freebirds but Michael and Terry were the originals. Michael has made some mistakes, said and done inappropriate things at times, but those without sin go get stoned and take the first hit….or something like that. I think you get what I’m trying to say. Nobody’s perfect. We all don’t get it right the first time! So show me a man who never got any heat in this business and I’ll show you a man who’s never been in this business!

I have a ton of Michael Hayes stories. Maybe not a ton, but a lot. I’ve been white water rafting with Michael, Terry, Brad Armstrong, Nick Patrick and Tommy Rich. That was a great adventure from start to finish. I rode with Michael when I was an producer. We’d go to dinner when he came to Stamford and then go back to his hotel room to write ideas down. Well, Michael had the ideas. I pretty much listened.

I’ve been to a few social events with Michael and there always seemed to be a story, lesson or adventure involved. It was never boring.

(Michael, Bruce, John Valdostri, Me, Sgt. Slaughter holding John’s bride Beth on their wedding day)

I’ve been to a couple weddings with Michael. One wedding in particular, Michael commandeered the microphone from the band’s singer and took over the wedding party! He was singing and dancing onstage and on the dance floor as the MC! Michael’s wife Lori was so pissed, she made him go to the room. The bride and groom loved it! The band was pissed but screw that, this happy couple just had Michael PS Hayes sing and perform an unforgettable moment at their most special moment in their lives! How many people can say that?
Yeah, how many people would ‘want’ to say that? I know….That’s why I say this ain’t for everybody!

One wedding Michael really affected was mine.

It was December 19, 2000. We were in Charlotte NC finishing taping Smack Down. The weather was bad. Cold, rainy and now they’re expecting snow in the mountains overnight.

I’m supposed to get married the next day in Pigeon Forge Tennessee in a romantic cabin in the Smoky Mountains. My soon to be wife lived in Knoxville at the time and didn’t want to get married in Vegas, so Pigeon Forge it was.

Michael, my brother Bruce and I had a flight out the next morning but the weather reports were getting worse by the minute. I said I would never get married after my first go round and it looked like hell had really froze over the day before number two!

As we left the building, Michael was driving and said “Look, Bruce wants me to bring you straight to a strip club for your bachelor party. I don’t feel good but I’m going to go for a little bit and you have to go or you’re a pussy.” What? OK. I had no problem going to a strip club in Charlotte in horrible weather. Sounds like lots of fun! Michael was feeling the flu or a cold coming on.

Anyway, at the club was Bruce, Sean Morley, Andrew Martin and some of the production crew. Uh, and some naked girls. Now I’m not a big liquor drinker but of course I had to do the shots they brought over. And get the obligatory bachelor lap dances. Michael stayed about 45 minutes and said he felt horrible and went back to the hotel.

I don’t remember what time we left, all I know is we got back to the hotel and went straight to the crew bus.

I don’t want to incriminate any innocents here so I will just say that I stayed on the bus until 5 AM. I then staggered into the hotel, got to my 12th floor room, jumped in the shower, packed my bags and went downstairs to meet Bruce and Micheal to hit the airport for a 7 AM flight to Knoxville.

Michael drove the car back to the rental return and I rode with Bruce. When we all got on the shuttle to the terminal, Michael looked at me, shook his head and started singing an Eric Clapton song. Yes, I’d been up all day and night. I looked and felt like HELL!

I couldn’t wait to get settled in my seat on the plane for a short trip to K-town, sleep, get up, get married and relax. Yeah, right….

Our flight was cancelled. ALL flights were cancelled! Uh oh… Before I knew it Michael was at the rental car counter, got a car and said “Let’s go!” Michael got behind the wheel and started driving.

I knew he wasn’t feeling good the night before and he wasn’t feeling much better that morning, although I’d bet he felt a lot better than I did! Bruce got in the back and I rode shot gun. I was still a little buzzed and one of my favorite, annoying things to do is point at somebody about an inch away from their face and say “I’m not touching you!” Childish, I know. But I messed with Michael for about 30 minutes until I crashed and burned.

Michael drove through the icy mountains of North Carolina to Knoxville Tennessee while Bruce and I slept. When we pulled into the Knoxville airport, Bruce and Micheal checked into their hotel, I rented another car and I drove to Pigeon Forge to try and get a couple hours of sleep.

That night we had an intimate gathering at a very nice cabin. It was cold but not as bad as the night before. A friend of mine made a Badstreet USA CD that I just happen to have with me. I played that after the wedding in honor of Michael risking his life to get me there. We drank cheap champagne and rock and rolled. Cheesy? I prefer classic. Who else can say they had Michael PS Hayes drive them through the ice and snow to get them to their wedding in Pigeon Forge Tennessee? Especially after I out partied his ass the night before!

Me. And that’s why I can understand Michael’s heart was in the right place when he made his tribute video to his best friend and brother, Terry Gordy. Michael Hayes is far from perfect. But show me someone who is. In this self promoting, self absorbed, selfish, pandering, ego driven business it’s easy to point fingers and criticize. I say walk a block in his shoes. Not a mile. A block will do. I don’t know too many people these days that could even turn the corner.

Thanks Michael. Not just for getting me to my wedding on time, but for your creativity, passion and imperfections. I don’t want perfect. I can’t always be right. But I appreciate loyalty and passion. There’s no denying you have both.

Naabs!

HARLEY RACE VS. JACK BRISCO: THE NIGHT BRISCO BECAME NWA WORLD CHAMPION

I don’t remember exactly when I started marking important dates down on my calendar, but I know there are things if I don’t write down I will surely forget. Birthdays, anniversaries, things like that. When I was wrestling, of course I put the town and pertinent information along with it.

July 20 is a special date for three reasons to me. I watched the first lunar landing in 1969 from our small apartment in Houston. I thought walking on the moon was just something we did. It wasn’t until later that I understood the importance and meaning behind man traveling through space and actually walking on a different planet.

July 20, 1973 Bruce Lee died. I was taking karate at the time and everybody knew Bruce Lee if not from the martial arts world, from The Green Hornet TV show where he played Kato. It baffles me that to this day that Bruce Lee is still one of the most famous martial artists in the world.

But on July 20, 1973 something much more important than anything else on that day up to then, happened. I witnessed history, and almost 40 years later a symbol of that history is still being used to represent a once strong and dominant organization.

On that fateful night of July 20, 1973 in the Sam Houston Coliseum, Jack Brisco defeated Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. And I was right there to witness the changing of the guard and a new championship belt presented to Harley during a pre-match in ring ceremony by then NWA president Sam Muchnick, only to leave dejected and empty handed at the end of the night.

There were reporters and photographers from all the magazines, newspapers and I don’t know where!I’d been trying to find a way in the business by taking pictures and writing stories for Japanese magazines through my friend Koichi Yoshizawa and I wrote some articles for Jim Melby and Norm Kietzer with Wrestling News, but I wasn’t about to even ask if I could be at ringside for this match! There were at least 8-10 photographers around ringside that night! More than I’d ever seen for a match in Houston! So I took my 12th row seat and watched the action with anticipation for the main event.

The match between Jack Brisco and Harley Race for the world title was originally supposed to be Jack Brisco VS. Dory Funk Jr. for the world title on March 2. On February 28, Dory was involved in an accident on his father’s Flying Mare ranch and suffered a separated shoulder, leaving him hospitalized and unable to wrestle Jack that Friday.

Much has been made of what happened with Dory’s accident almost 40 years ago. I had the opportunity to ask Dory as well as Harley’s side of the story. Dory said he rolled his truck into a ditch on the ranch and separated his shoulder. Harley said he wasn’t there but he didn’t care because he was going to take advantage of the situation regardless.

Jack Brisco had other thoughts. Jack and Dory had a chemistry in the ring that was magic. For that time and era they were the best, credible, on top of their game performers in the business. They traveled around the country to almost every NWA territory and had one hour time limit draws in major cities in front of capacity crowds. You can talk about how big the crowds are today, but I will attest to the fact that professional wrestling was doing healthy business in the 1970’s in Houston and various parts of the country. And Brisco VS. Funk was a guaranteed money drawing match.

They never had the same match twice. Whether they liked each other or not, there was no denying they respected each other and were professional enough to leave everything they had in the ring. But controversy seems to find its’ way into such high profile matches and egos. I can only imagine the political landscape and having to maneuver in that jungle as the NWA champion in those days.

Dory was one of the longest reigning champions in NWA history. Four years straight is a long time to defend the title sometime seven days a week, making your own travel arrangements, new town, new opponent, every town beginning to look just like the last one, going on last and having to follow god knows what every night and working with god knows who on most occasions! Sounded like a great gig to me!

Of course nothing lasts forever and Jack Brisco seemed like the obvious man next in line to be NWA champ. Jack would go from territory to territory to set up matches with their top guy. Maybe Jack would lose or be involved in some kind of controversy with the idea he would return to face his opposition as the new world champion. Students of the game who want to learn about the business would do themselves a huge favor by reading Jack Brisco, Harley Race and Terry Funk’s book. All talk about the accident on the ranch, what was involved with defending the NWA championship and give an overall view and education on how professional wrestling was handled back in the day. The more things change….

But I digress.

The March 2 match between Jack Brisco VS. Dory Funk Jr. turned into a Jack Brisco VS. Fritz Von Erich match in Houston. Jack won the match but was anything but happy. He knew there was little if anything he could do except bide his time. Jack would come back to Houston and wrestle the top guys from Wahoo McDaniel, Johnny Valentine and others but he couldn’t help but think Dory was avoiding him.

The newspapers covered wrestling so much more than they do today especially if the promoter was established in the community and bought ads on a regular basis which was exactly what Houston promoter Paul Boesch did. One day there was an article with the headline “Race is wrestling’s new NWA champ.” On May 24 in Kansas City, Harley Race was granted a world title match against Dory Funk Jr. and won. The move he beat him with? A suplex. Yes, a suplex. And the place went nuts. Partly because it was in Harley’s neck of the woods, but also because everyone just witnessed a world title change. That didn’t happen on a regular basis back then! Harley Race had ended the four year streak of Dory Funk Jr.

But what about Brisco? Why wasn’t he the first to get the title shot when Dory came back? Speculation abounds and I’m sure everyone involved had their reasons. But the landscape had now changed. Houston was promised a world title match and Paul Boesch was going to make sure he got it.

Paul brought Harley in for a couple title defenses but it was all geared to having a match with Brisco. Finally the deal was done. July 20, 1973 Harley Race was set to defend the NWA world championship against number one contender, Jack Brisco.

I think everyone in the coliseum felt the buzz that night. There were no TV cameras present so if you wanted to see this match you had to attend the show! There was a special commemorative 8×10 “autographed” picture of Jack and Harley. I cut out and saved all the newspaper clippings leading up to the match. The old NWA championship belt was going to be retired and president Sam Muchnick was making a special appearance to present the champion with a brand new $10,000 ten pounds of gold NWA championship belt.

There was no entrance music, pyro or special lighting. Before the main event, ring announcer Boyd Pierce introduced NWA president Sam Muchnick who came to the ring carrying a large case that obviously contained the new belt. From there the challenger Brisco walked from the dressing room door to a chorus of cheers and made his way to the ring.

A few moments passed and then from the darkness, the champion Harley Race briskly walked to the ring wearing the classic NWA belt about to be traded in for a newer model. Boyd handed the microphone to Mr. Muchnick who then made the proclamation that this new championship belt will usher in a new era no matter who walks out of the ring with it tonight. The sea of photographers captured the moment for posterity.

The fans and wrestlers wanted to see what the new design looked like and when the presentation took place prior to the match, Sam explained the history of the belt he was about to retire and take possesion of and mentioned some of the great champions of the past that wore it. Everyone watching knew history was being made.

Main events were 2-out-of-3 falls back then and Harley won the first fall with the same move he used to beat Dory; a suplex. The second fall saw Brisco use the figure four leg lock to even things up. (When was the last time anybody actually gave up or won using the figure four or delivering a suplex?) The entire building was shaking during the third fall as the crowd was with every near fall. Finally it was Brisco catching Race with another simple, but effective move; the Thesz press!

The crowd erupted and the photographers flooded the ring. Harley got up, went over and shook Jack’s hand and then left the ring so Jack Brisco could soak up his moment.

A world title change back then was a big thing. I saved my ticket stub, program, clippings, commemorative 8×10, a special ’16 page Official Commemorative Edition of Crowning of a Champion” and put it away. I witnessed a hell of a match by two of the greatest in any era. I wanted to be just like them. I never made it to that level but years later, I wrestled in the same ring, same building and dressed in the same dressing room where the world championship changed hands. You can get jaded over the years but I can honestly say I still have reverence and respect for Harley Race, Jack Brisco and all the guys from that time and era that trail blazed the way for guys like me and countless others who love this business and wanted nothing more than to be just a small piece of it.

I’ve met the people I idolized as a kid. Even today, when I see Harley I get a lump in my throat and go back to being 13. He’s a legend among legends and a mans man. No pretenses. He went on to be champion seven more times when the NWA meant something. He made everyone he worked with look like a champion.

I only met and talked with Jack a handful of times. I know his brother Gerry better. I wouldn’t want to fight either of them (Harley included). The night Jack won the title was special because it was so uncommon and unique to “switch the title” back then. Controversy has been around this business forever. Somehow everything finds a way to work it out.

I know people were skeptical when Harley first got the title but he convinced everyone that he was the right guy more times than not. Jack might have had to wait a couple months for his shot but he got it. He went all over the world and cemented his legacy in this business.I consider myself fortunate to have been able to see history made when Jack Brisco became world champion July 20, 1973.

I’m sure a lot of other stuff happened that day. But to me, that takes a back seat. Today, almost 40 years later the belt that was first handed to Harley Race before the match and ended up with Jack Brisco at the end is still be used as a template. I don’t know if that’s good, bad or indifferent. I do know that the NWA isn’t what it once was, but nothing is.

I’ve added some pictures and clippings from Jack VS. Harley in honor of this special day. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading.