My name is “Dirty” Dutch Mantell and I’ve been in and around this wrestling profession since the Dead Sea was just sick. That’s a long time. On this site, I’m going to relate some old, old stories that some of you may know but the majority of you will not. That’s the purpose of the page. These stories are an accumulation of a lifetime of listening to old Wild West wrestling stories while I either sat in the driver’s seat of an old car loaded down with wrestlers or sitting in dressing rooms all the way from California to Europe including Puerto Rico and India. And as an old-timer once told me, STFU and drive. But quite possibly, most of you might recognize me as Zeb Colter, the Real American from WWE RAW and SmackDown managing Jack Swagger and Cesaro just a few years ago.
This website is designed for you, the fans and consumers of all things professional wrestling. So listen, read and enjoy these stories and tales that I’ve accumulated over my journey. Don’t hold me to actual facts like dates and stuff…I’ve never let facts get in the way of a good story. EDITOR”S NOTE: Margin of error 100%.
If you want to contact me directly, here’s the info. Check out my FaceBook page…
The University of Dutch is now holding virtual wrestling sessions online!!
Don’t take the word of a local wrestling school to tell you anything useful. That’s really not their fault. They don’t know because they’ve never been there. That’s where I come in. I’m offering virtual wrestling sessions in a ONE ON ONE environment via online tutoring. We’ll meet on a VIDEO face to face meeting via SKYPE and I’ll give you my honest assessment on where you are in your training, how to advance your career, how to alter your appearance or anything that I think helps you. Don’t take the word of a local trainer…take the word of a guy who’s put 50 years into this business and helped launch a dozen guys to superstardom. Take the advice of someone who’s booked several territories and been on creative teams from the territorial days to the days of NOW. You can opt in and opt out at anytime. No obligation, no contracts. So don’t just sit and wonder where you’re headed, get the advice that can help you realize the dream. You owe it to yourself to find out what your chances are and how to upgrade your game. Yes, I charge for my advice but it’s a lot cheaper than paying a wrestling school just to teach you how to hit the ropes and give and take an arm drag. Let’s talk this week.
Write to me at my email address and I’ll give you the pricing. This is a service offered by nobody else in this business. Email me today!!!!
AVAILABLE NOW: OFFICIALUNIVERSITY OF DUTCH DIPLOMAS
The University of Dutch has not wavered in it’s mission to educate the world about this crazy business of pro wrestling that we all seem to have an affinity for. Now announcing that OFFICIAL DIPLOMAS are now available to all those who wish to purchase one. The diploma will be an official looking certified document and comes ready to hang in your man cave or your most DOMINANT wall with your name prominently displayed on the document. As part of the UoDutch alumnae, the diploma will be officially signed and documented by The University President, Dirty Dutch Mantell and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the honorable Dr. Zeb Colter. You will always be a UoD graduate FOREVER.
The University of Dutch has not wavered in it’s mission to educate the world about this crazy business of pro wrestling that we all seem to have an affinity for. Now announcing that OFFICIAL DIPLOMAS are now available to all those who wish to purchase one. The diploma will be an official looking certified document and comes ready to hang in your man cave or your most DOMINANT wall with your name prominently displayed on the document. As part of the UoDutch alumnae, the diploma will be officially signed and documented by The University President, Dirty Dutch Mantell and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the honorable Dr. Zeb Colter. You will always be a UoD graduate FOREVER.
These diplomas are for purchase for only $28 including shipping (US only) and can be attained by emailing email@example.com or just remitting the payment to the same email address via PayPal. Please leave the graduate’s name and address. We expect a heavy demand for these one of a kind diplomas. Be the first to display your diploma and next time, someone wants to argue wrestling, just ask them where their degree is? When they say they don’t have one, you can say “I THOUGHT SO”. Then point to your wall of FAME and let them read your diploma. That shuts them up every time. Great for birthdays, Christmas gifts, special PPV occasions or just for the hell of it.
Be the first to be an OFFICIAL GRADUATE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF DUTCH and be awarded a PhD in the FINE ARTS OF WRESTLING. Diplomas come ready to hang with your NAME PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED on the document.
VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Dirty Dutch Mantell vs. Jerry the King Lawler
Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, Tennessee
March 22nd, 1982
Here’s a match above from the legendary Mid-South Coliseum where the Dirty Dutchman took on the infamous Jerry the King Lawler. This is rare footage ladies and gentlemen because I think this is only one of a couple of times the King got bested without being screwed. A right in the middle of the ring 1-2-3 that stunned the fans because they’d never seen it before. After the match, the fans weren’t screaming or yelling, they were thinking damn, the King got pinned right in the middle. This footage from March 22, 1982 which set up a Dutchman/King rematch inside the barbed wire a few weeks later. This was during what we called the Memphis Golden Years before Vince McMahon took over the country. You’re looking at history here folks thanks to YouTube and me. There’s a big story behind all this as there usually is when a promotion hits a hot surge in business. For the historians out there, 1982 was the most successful year in Memphis wrestling history and Memphis sold more tickets that year than Madison Square Garden. Hard to believe but absolutely true.
Up to this point in my career I had never ever been in a match series like this and working with Lawler was like working with a master conductor. Flawless, great timing and believability all in one package. I’d like to thank Jerry for his participation and in making fans believe the series. House that night was something close to 10,000 fans and almost a sellout. The notable greatest announcer in the world I thought called the match like the pro he was, Lance Russell. Lance is no longer with us but I loved that man not because he was a great announcer but because he was a fine human being. Anyway, folks…enjoy this one. I’ll have a few more like this one in upcoming weeks.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Here’s a shot that the official WWE photographer took of the Real Americans right before we stepped outside the GO POSITION in the SuperDome In New Orleans at WrestleMania 30. If you look at the photo, the entire creative team and Vince himself is right past that light. At that position, you’re told when to go and if you have any last minute questions, you should ask them then…or you’re on your own. One thing about the WWE photographers, they’re working all the time. If I had to
state a figure of the number of shots they take in a day’s time, it has to register between 1 and 2 thousand images they shoot just in a one day time period.
As you can tell by the photo, we all look eager to go. And Jack and Cesaro were. Loved that team and WWE really missed the boat on them. But as I used to say in my interviews, WE THE PEOPLE.
Here’s a rare photo of my first run in WWF…years before WWE when I managed Ron and Don Harris when they went as the Blu Brothers. The storyline was that I was their insufferable uncle, Uncle Zeb who drug them out of the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia to bring them to the big lights of the city. Well the only lights they got to look at were the ring lights when they were laying flat on their back in the middle of the ring. The Blu Brothers ended up having a short shelf life…when Ron, the one on the right, suddenly up and quit and the other Brother wasn’t far behind. For the historians out there…that was when I got assigned to Justin Hawk Bradshaw for the remainder of my 2 year contract. But by that time, I was so sick of the conditions there then, that I was about to revolt myself. Just a little story for you. For what it’s worth, this is not a trading card, I don’t know where this came from but FTR, I never got a dime out of this.
Dutch’s Book Special of the Week Sale!!
These books should be required reading for all wrestling fans who truly know what good wrestling consisted of and the pros behind it. Both books are excellent reads and autographed copies are for sale here.
I am presently writing my 3rd book expressly for wrestling fans. I’ve written 2 so far and I’ve always stated that I would write at least 3. It takes all of that to get my stories in. You can see the first 2 below which, by all accounts, were great reads. I even go back from time to time and reread some of my older material.
But if you’d like to purchase these books which come with FREE SHIPPING and will be personally autographed via your instructions:
ONE BOOK FOR $35…BOTH BOOKS FOR $70. Add $5 for shipping and it’s yours for $75. Each book will be personally autographed to whomever you choose. Great birthday gift. Just remit $75 via PayPal to: firstname.lastname@example.org
PLUS…also included in the purchase, we’ll add in a personally autographed 8X10 color photograph FREE of charge. Did you see that word, FREE? I always love it when things are FREE. Please remit $75 payment via PayPal to: email@example.com
If you just want a personalized autographed 8X10 photo, you can now get 1 color 8X10 photo personally autographed for $25. Or 2 for $35 autographed to a friend or whomever you choose. Great Birthday gifts or a great gift to hang on your wall. Orders will be packaged and shipped ASAP. FREE shipping valid only in the continental United States. Sorry folks, I don’t set the postage fees.
ONE AUTOGRAPHED PHOTO………..$25
TWO AUTOGRAPHED PHOTOS………$40.
PayPal to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to attach your shipping address and how you’d like the items signed. Your order will be packaged and shipped ASAP.
Check out the stories on STORYTIME. See you next week!!!
Here’s a story that I’ve never told before. Never. Why I don’t know. I guess because I never had an opportunity to tell it. So kiddies pull up a seat and learn a little wrestling history.
Years ago, around the mid-70’s, I booked myself in Florida whose office headquartered in Tampa. I was like in my 2nd year as a pro and I had only worked Georgia and a little in Tennessee. Before I left, I worried that I wouldn’t fit in because I’d always heard that Florida was a territory that liked a lot of wrestling. Not a lot of what they called back in the day, hullabaloo. In other words, BS wrestling. I knew how to do the serious style but still I wondered how I’d do there. So on the first week, I watched every match on the card. Good matches but I didn’t see anything that set my style apart from what the standard was in Florida. Hard a fought and fast moving. Then I saw that I was perfect for Florida. I learned that I liked Florida and the style fit me more than I even imagined. Trips weren’t that long and the beaches and the pools were available even in January.
Mondays we worked in West Palm Beach, Tuesdays were in Tampa, Wednesday was the toughest day as we did weekly TV at the office in Tampa and then drove 300 miles to Miami. Thursday was Jacksonville, Friday was Tallahassee, Saturdays were short trips like Sarasota or Lakeland and Sunday was Orlando. Business was good and I didn’t mind 7 days a week. The older guys bitched about the schedule because they wanted some days off but the whole time I was in Florida, I don’t think I had any days off.
In the territory at the time were a lot of former amateur wrestlers like Jack and Jerry Brisco, both former Oklahoma State varsity wrestlers and Bob Roop, a former Olympian who had wrestled in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, City. I became pretty good friends with Bob and we made a lot of trips together and since I was still in the learning phase of my career, he taught me a lot. But about pro wrestling, not amateur wrestling.
On one particular trip, the conversation got around to fans who thought they could actually compete against a pro wrestler. As Bob was talking one night, I asked him had any fans actually challenged him to an amateur match. Bob turned his head and tilted an eyebrow and asked, “are you serious”? I said yes and he “kid you need to know a little story”.
This was where I started to learn more and more about this strange phenomenon called pro wrestling and the people I was working with night after night. Bob started out like a college professor asking have you ever heard of a place called the Snake Pit? I replied, “no should I”?
The next night in some town, I casually asked one of the guys what was the Snake Pit and they looked at me like I had 2 heads and said, “Brother you don’t want to go there. Ever”. I asked why and they said they’d heard nightmare stories of marks going there and literally getting the dog **** beat out of them by Bob Roop or Hiro Matsua or Jerry Brisco or any amateur that Eddie Graham had booked. Eddie loved amateur wrestling and loved amateur wrestlers because it gave the appearance of legitimacy to a sport much maligned in the press.
Bob continued by saying well you should because it’s a little place we have here in Tampa where we take overtalkative fans into the ring and stretch them a little and teach them that the our business isn’t the sham they think it is. They were taught the hard way that pro wrestling is brutal and by showing them this way, the overtalkative fans aren’t as talkative and dismissive as before. The Snake Pit was essentially the same studio and the same ring that we shot the weekly TV tapings in but minus the fans. The fan would be invited down under the assumption that if he did good, there might be a position for him on the roster of Florida Championship Wrestling but it would be under amateur rules.
Then I started asking around about the Snake Pit and how brutal it was for the poor souls who somehow had dreams of greatness coming in the door but nightmares of pain going out. I heard nothing but bad things about a place called the Snake Pit.
I was invited down once just to watch but I kindly begged off saying I had a doctor’s appointment or something, anything that I could use as an excuse.
The place was aptly named for what it was intended to do and that was to strike fear in the hearts of any wrestling fan who thought the business was fake and that all the wrestlers were nothing more than overly dramatic stuntmen. I heard that they used to video tape some of the encounters in the Snake Pit but had to stop due to a legal problem they were running into. After seeing this piece of video I’ve attached at the bottom, it’s easy to see why they ran into legal problems. Assault and battery and attempted murder are felonies in most states.
Also I learned that professional wrestlers are as different as any person on the street from the next one but this invention they called “wrestler” is a strange concoction. I learned that from Bob. But again….thanks to YOUTUBE, here’s a link that I hope still works by the time you read it. I don’t know how many tapes they made but here’s probably the only surviving tape of a poor unsuspecting victim who got ravaged at the hands of a man who trained for 20 years to get to a point in life where he was able to do this. WARNING: THIS VIDEO IS SHORT BUT BRUTAL.
Most all wrestlers have a crazy story or two about where they’ve wrestled and under what conditions. It’s the nature of the business we chose. I’ve wrestled a lot of places under a lot of adverse conditions, but the one you’ll read below is one that I’ll never forget. This story takes place in Atlanta, Ga. I’d only been in the wrestling business for a year or so at the most and it was summer time…and it was one of the hottest summers that I can ever remember. Since that time, I’ve been in Puerto Rico and South America and their heat paled in comparison to a good old Georgia summer heat wave that combined heat with humidity…which is my idea of a heat spell. This is my story and it’s 100 percent true.
I was proud of the fact I was working for such a company with a high level of respect within the wrestling business. Back in those days, before the big sports teams became so prevalent, wrestlers were more or less rock stars. Everybody knew who the wrestlers were. Everybody. There’s actually no way to avoid it…because wrestlers were on TV 52 weeks a year. I would go to the grocery store and a fan would ask for an autograph. Or standing in line waiting to buy a ticket for a movie, and a fan would walk up to me to ask for an autograph. From me!!! I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, a young kid fresh out of the USArmy, the 25th Infantry Brigade, who just six months earlier had been rolling in dirt, firing M-16 rifles and .50 caliber machine guns…and now, I was being asked for my autograph. Before, I was just a serial number on a U.S. Government payroll with the first name Wayne Now, I was somebody. Or at least, I thought I was until I found out one day that I was to wrestle at an outside show at 2 p.m. the following Saturday afternoon at a car dealership.
When I was first starting out in the wrestling biz, I was working for the NWA office in Atlanta, which at the time was considered one of the more prestigious companies to work for. There were about 25 or 30 NWA offices around the country and the Georgia franchise was very high on the list of respected offices. I didn’t know it at the time but I was even lucky to be there. The other guys were always marveling at the fact I had even landed a job in that company due to my lack of experience at the time.
WHOA!!! Hey, hold on a second. A car dealership, I thought? I thought I was a big-time wrestler. I should be wrestling in big arenas with screaming fans surrounding me and asking me for my autograph as I actually got pretty good with signing my name. I was still Wayne Cowan in those days and I was a good 2 years away from that promoter in Knoxville who gave me the name Dutch Mantell. But no matter the name, certainly I was above wrestling in a lowly car dealership, wasn’t I?
I thought maybe there had been a slight mistake which I’m sure would be rectified if I merely brought up my concerns to the booker of the company. The booker, at the time, was Tom Renesto, who had been the founding member of the world famous Assassins tag team, who was considered one of the sharpest minds in the business at the time. I approached Tom one night at a show and spoke to him about my concern over working such a low-rent event. Except, I didn’t use the term ‘low rent,’ but I carefully treaded the a thin line between concern and being considered a prima donna.
Tom wore glasses because he was as blind as a bat without them. As I spoke to him in my most diplomatic tone, Tom nodded his head as if to say, “I’m hearing you kid” and without looking me in the face, he began to speak. In a low voice, Tom said very calmly that it would be in my best interests, not only for my career but also my job, if I made the show. To make his point, he said I had two options.
The date for the car dealership appearance rolled around. Being the good soldier I was, I showed up at the dealership the next Saturday around 1 p.m. ready to wrestle along with the other lucky guys that had been chosen. On these type cards, I found out that only the lower wrestlers on the company’s hierarchy list are booked. This was the start of where I began to realize where I really was on the company’s “shit” list.
The first option was pretty clear and straight forward, as he said if I didn’t want to make the show, I could merely ‘buy’ the company and cancel my appearance. His second point was also pretty clear. Tom stated, as clearly as he could, that if I did not make the show, I could go find another place to work preferably the McDonalds across the street. All of this was delivered as dead pan as he could say it. Neither option appealed to me. Since he spelled it out so succinctly, I began to see the benefit of making the show. As he peered over at me, he asked what I wanted to do. I replied that I would make the show and slinked off.
There were three matches scheduled that day…all of them single matches. That was all. That totaled six wrestlers and one referee. The dealership was right in downtown Atlanta on one of Atlanta’s busiest and most famous streets, Peachtree Street. The dealership was one of those car places that advertise all the time on TV situated not far from the Channel 17 WTBS studios where we did our weekly TV show. I drove to the dealership from my apartment south of Atlanta with all my wrestling gear on because I figured most car dealerships didn’t have dressing rooms for wrestlers. Or every time I had ever been in a showroom, I had never seen any signs saying ‘WRESTLER DRESSING ROOM.’
Wrestlers, in those days, all lived in the same general area no matter what territory they were working in. Wrestlers in Tampa, Charlotte, Dallas and Nashville all lived within 10 miles of each other it seemed, and most of the time, the areas were convenient to interstates and airports. The reason wrestlers lived close to the interstates was simple…wrestlers spent a large amount of time driving and if most of them lived in the same area, it was convenient for car pooling and traveling. I really didn’t know why wrestlers lived close to the airport though. We hardly ever flew in those days.
I still remember the name of the apartments that I lived in. It was called Falcon’s Rest. WTF did that mean? I always thought it was a stupid name then and after remembering it, it still is. There weren’t any falcons around to speak of and for the rest part….there was no getting any rest in that place because it bordered one of the major runways at Atlanta’s International Airport. Since Atlanta was well on its way to becoming the busiest airport in the country at the time, planes were always landing and taking off at all hours of the day and night. There was no down time and you had to learn to sleep through all the noise because those huge L10-11’s made a helluva lot of noise. The only thing that could block the sound was a lot of alcohol and even then, it wasn’t guaranteed that it would work. But every night, I made a valiant effort to kill my senses long enough to be deemed unconscious.
Wrestler’s apartments would never be on the cover of “Decorating Today” magazine. I was never one for fashion but the apartment complex I lived in had a theme or a ‘motif’ to their furnished units. I called it Early American Ghetto. My apartment consisted of some beat-up furniture and a bed which had seen its better days. The refrigerator didn’t work properly and the stove was…well it filled in a nice spot between the cabinets. I called my stove, Halftime. My stove worked half the time and half the time, it didn’t. The rent was $150 per month with utilities furnished and even with that, I thought I was being overcharged. But it was HOME. I even got on a first-name basis with some of the cockroaches. Or the ones who didn’t commit suicide.
It was mid-July in Georgia and the summer temperatures in Atlanta that year were hitting 100-plus degrees during the day. In other words, folks, it was friggin’ hot. The 6 p.m. news every day had reports of local hospitals being overrun with heat stroke victims. The humidity was so high and the air was so heavy, it was hard to breathe. It was the type of summer that at midnight, it was still 90 degrees. It made Hell seem like a vacation spot. If you’ve ever lived through a scorching summer down south, you would certainly remember it. I sure have.
When I pulled into the car dealership, I parked my car and got out. I had a great air conditioner in my car but when I opened the door to exit, it was like opening the door to a sauna. F**k, it was HOT!!! The Georgia heat engulfed me. Not only was the sun beating down but the parking lot asphalt held the heat and sent it back upward. It was the kind of heat that when you looked out over the parking lot, you saw heat waves floating in the distance. I grabbed my bag and immediately sought out an air-conditioned room inside the car dealership.
As I waited for my match in the comfort of an air-conditioned office, every now and then, I would walk out to the showroom windows to look at the ring. I could see fans lining up around the ring in the middle of the car lot to watch the matches. There were probably 100 to 150 ordinary looking blue-collar types surrounding the ring. These people were one of two things. Extremely hard-core wrestling fans, who apparently didn’t have anything better to do on a Saturday afternoon than to stand around a wrestling ring and pass out from heat exhaustion, or, the second option, they possessed a death wish. There was clearly a difference between them and I. I had been forced to come here under threat of unemployment by that evil booker person. The fans, however, had voluntarily shown up.
This entire ‘wrestling-on-a-car-lot’ type promotion or concept was completely new to me. I had never heard of it before. At the time, I was not aware of how car dealerships stage events on their lots as a ‘gimmick’ to sell cars. I’ve seen Ferris wheels or FREE hot dogs or a small circuses to attract people but never a wrestling match. Of course, the car dealership presented the matches as a marketing tool to get potential car buyers on the lot in order to sell cars. As I was gazing out on the bunch of fans that showed up, they didn’t look like they could buy a friggin’ pack of cigarettes, let alone a car.
But as I watched them through the showroom window, I couldn’t determine who were the bigger idiots. The wrestlers who had agreed to wrestle in this friggin’ heat, such as me, or the fans who were actually standing out in the middle of an asphalt parking lot in the middle of the day sweating their asses off in 107-degree weather. This was crazy. Surely, the state legislature in Georgia had state laws prohibiting this type of sports activity. If they didn’t, they should have. I kept waiting for the governor to issue a stay of execution but alas, the governor sat on his fat ass in the air-conditioned Governor’s Mansion all day. Bastard.
As a matter of fact, the car dealership was only about 10 blocks from the gold-domed State Capitol Building and the Governor’s Mansion. You could actually see the gold dome of the State Capitol from the dealership where the matches were being held.
I was on first that day, as I usually was on almost every card I appeared on. As I stepped outside, the heat hit me like a brick. It was straight up 2 p.m. on a steaming, hot, humid Georgia day in mid July. As I stepped out from the comfort of the dealership’s air conditioning, I immediately broke out in a sweat. The actual temperature that day hit 107 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun but it would be nothing compared to what I would feel later on.
As I walked toward the ring, the veteran referee walked by me and told me to be careful, it was really HOT out in the ring. I thought to myself…NO SHIT!!! I wondered how long he had to think to come up with that gem of a weather forecast. Bastard.
I walked to the ring without music, believe it or not. Have I mentioned this before? That we actually, back in the day, were able to get into a ring without music? That is hard to believe in today’s wrestling climate but yes, BY GOD we did it. The only thing signaling the next match on a card was the ringing of a bell. In today’s wrestling environment, a wrestler or ‘performer’ going to the ring without music is unheard of but in earlier years, we had it tough. But even without music, I made the 150-foot trek and suffered the indignity of approaching a ring without musical accompaniment.
On my way to the ring, I noticed the crowd was kind of dead. Quiet. Eerily quiet. Now I know that I wasn’t a main eventer but there should have been a little more chatter coming from this bunch. Or it could have been that most of the crowd was overcome with f’n heat stroke and were borderline incoherent at the time.
For the ones who could still talk, I could hear their individual comments as I made my way to ringside. I heard some redneck guy saying to his wife, “God d**n, Helen, it’s f’n hotter than f**k out here. F this. Git the kids and let’s f’n go.” I think he had a cussing problem.
That was a great idea. Let’s all just call this BS off and let’s go home before some of us die. For a split second, I actually wanted to leave with Helen but that was right before I saw that wild looking witch. She hit the scales at a good 250 and the kids looked like they hadn’t missed a meal call in years. No thanks. I would suffer the heat. At least the heat would kill me quickly.
Since there were only three matches scheduled that day, I had been instructed that my match should cover 10 to 12 minutes. As the ring announcer introduced me, there wasn’t a lot of booing or anything. Hell, it was too hot to boo. As I stepped into the corner to await my opponent, I was already pouring sweat. I sweat a lot anyway but this was embarrassing. But sweating is nature’s way of keeping you alive, especially on days like this one. The sweat was pouring and I was cussing. I never heard that big time pro wrestlers would be in the middle of a used car lot in the heat of a desert.
I can’t remember who I was wrestling that day. All I can remember is that he was an old timer who was much older than I was. I was about 22, in shape and could go all day. The old timer I was wrestling was in his late 40s I would say and I wondered about him having a heart attack in this heat. He didn’t want to be here anymore than I did but I learned later that old timers don’t trust young greenhorns. Since I was in great shape, the old timer wanted to show me that it would be in my best interests to take it easy.
As we locked up, the old timer taught me a valuable lesson. The lesson was…’old age and treachery will defeat youth and ability any day.’ The first thing he did was back heel me and take me down into a step-over toe hold which, yes, you guessed it, put me flat on my back on the mat in the middle of a ring covered in a heat absorbing canvas that had been absorbing the sun’s rays for at least 90 minutes.
If I had thought it was hot just walking to the ring in the 107-degree heat, I learned firsthand what HOT was. I had NOT even thought about how hot a ring mat could be. Keep in mind that the ring had been sitting in the sun for probably close to 2 hours by this time with the hot Georgia sun heating it up. It was more than hot. It was scorching. If the air temperature was 107 degrees, the friggin’ mat had to be 130. I now know what bacon feels like being cooked for breakfast. All that was missing were the eggs and some hash browns. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that in my life.
The old timer was just playing around but he wanted me to know that our match would be completely a ‘walk and talk.’ A walk-and-talk match meant exactly that. Walking and talking and not a lot of contact and absolutely no mat contact. He didn’t have to tell me twice. For the rest of the match, the only thing that touched the mat were our boots.
I wish in those days, OSHA, the Occupational and Safety Hazard Agency, had been in existence. The crushing heat and the mat temperature created a hazardous working condition that shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. Today, I doubt it would be tolerated. In those days, wrestling wasn’t even considered a job so therefore it didn’t fall under the State Labor laws, nor do I think it does today either. But where is a government agency when you really need them?
As the match started, I don’t even remember what happened for the next few minutes because all I could think of was the finish. I had long forgotten about the old timer having a heart attack. Screw him, he was on own now. My concern now centered on me having a heart attack.
Since I never won a match in those days, you know, the ‘old paying your dues’ thing, I knew that I would have to lay there, on that monstrously HOT ring mat, for a full three seconds, maybe more, while the wily old veteran pinned me. Think of the hottest beach sand that you’ve ever walked on barefooted and triple it. I’m not kidding. It was brutal.
When it came time for the match to conclude, I told the ref to count fast because three to four seconds on that mat would be an eternity. Thankfully he did. When I heard the thud of the referee’s three count slap the mat, I was gone. Screw this I thought as I literally, and I mean literally, ran back through the car lot to the dealership showroom. As soon as I hit the showroom door, I was in search of any sink that dispensed water. My body was on FIRE. I found a customer bathroom and with my hands, I doused water all over myself making a huge mess in the process. I didn’t give a rat’s ass. I was burning up. In the bathroom, there was a mirror and when I looked into it, I could actually see steam rising off my body.
I made a vow to myself right then and there that I would never work under conditions like that again. Screw that. I was a professional. Never again I said to myself. They could fire me. I would quit. I would stand up to them. I’m not a dog. They wouldn’t even be able to melt me and pour me into another situation like this. I didn’t need this crap I thought.
Two weeks later, we wrestled in Augusta, Ga., and my good friend, Tom the Booker, came up to me again. Nonchalantly, he told me that he had booked me on another car dealership show coming up in two weeks. He waited for my response and when none was forthcoming, he then asked would I have a problem with it?
I looked back at him and remembering his earlier words to me like finding another place to work, and I replied, “No problem boss. Just tell me when, where and what time to be there.” He was a very persuasive person. But to tell the truth, the weather had cooled off quite a bit by then. The temperature was predicted to only hit 95.
Here’s just a short little story that Bam Bam Bigelow told me while we sat backstage in at a small independent show somewhere in Ohio. Please don’t ask me where because quite frankly, I don’t know.
I can’t remember what we were talking about but the conversation drifted to Bam Bam being drug tested while he was in the old WWF. This is how old stories turn into legendary tales.
The time frame was in the early 90’s and Vince McMahon was under all kinds of federal investigations over steroids, pain pills, marijuana, cocaine and the like. As a result, WWF had instituted mandatory drug testing of all contracted talent for usage of the illicit substances. In case you’re wondering, Bam Bam didn’t like this testing policy at all but he told me he tried to work around it.
Drug tests were random and usually, after awhile, the wrestlers could more or less gauge when a test was coming. Sometimes, Bam Bam said that the wrestlers would be tipped off in advance from someone deep inside the office or he said that one time, Vince McMahon told him personally to get his act together because a drug test was coming down and even gave him the date. Usually, drug tests were every 90 days almost like clockwork for the first year or so.
When Bam Bam heard a drug test was imminent, he had to know well in advance so he could stay away from smoking pot. One bad thing about marijuana though is that it can be detected in a drug test up to 30 days after exposure. So if a drug test was every 90 days, Bam Bam made a note to stop smoking 58 days after the test.
With cocaine or pain pills, it’s usually out of the body’s system in 72 to 96 hours but Bam Bam said he didn’t have to worry about those drugs because he only smoked marijuana.
BamBam got the tip that WWF was going to drug test on a small spot show about 100 miles outside New York City on a Saturday night in January.
The show was close to NYC because the next night, WWF was running a huge Sunday night Madison Square Garden show. Bam Bam just thought that the drug test was going to be in NYC but for some reason, it had been moved up a day.
So since Bam Bam knew the drug test would be going on, he said he was a clean as a whistle. He told me that the closest he’d been in contact with any drugs was a handful of Advil he took for aches and pains
BamBam said he went into the bathroom, peed in the cup and handed it to the technician. He knew he was clean and he was happy. Happier than a pig in slop Bam Bam said. Now he could resume his pot smoking because he knew he had 58 days without being tested. Oh yeah, Bam Bam noted. Life is for those who figure out the angles.
Bam Bam thought that he was the smartest rooster in the barnyard because he…had the system all figured out. According to Bam Bam’s assessment of the situation, it didn’t present a problem if you just understood the timing.
As soon as the Saturday night show was over, Bam Bam said he hopped in his car and as soon as he saw the building in his rearview mirror, he fired up a joint he’d been saving for over a month because he was going to enjoy his trip to his home in New Jersey. He was happy and content that he was free to fire up the old joint whenever he wanted for the next 58 days.
The next day, he left his house in the late afternoon for the short 90-minute drive into New York City. On the way, Bam Bam was feeling pretty good and he told me he actually smoked two joints on the New Jersey Turnpike on the way to the Garden. BamBam said that since he didn’t get the luxury of smoking weed at his leisure, he was taking FULL advantage of this little window of opportunity that the WWF had given him. BamBam Bam fully intended to take advantage of this opportunity.
BamBam arrived at the Garden stoned like SnoopDog and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead combined, he said. BamBam said he was happy and weed always made him happy as he walked into the hallway leading to the dressing rooms at the Garden. I could see Bam Bam was enjoying this story and I was too.
Bam Bam said he entered with a smile on his face but his smile changed quickly as he suddenly spied on the wall, a posted MEMO that slapped him back into reality which was a world that Bam Bam was trying to escape. The sign read:
BamBam said he knew he was sunk but he had no choice. He walked into the room and said it was the same guy that had administered the test the night before. BamBam said the guy even commented., “hey didn’t we just see each other last night”? And he laughed. But something tells me that Bam Bam didn’t share in the humor.
BamBam said that not only did he fail the test, he was still ‘high’ when he took it. I said to Bam Bam…”they screwed you?” Bam Bam laughed and said it was more like they f’ed him. Bam Bam was suspended for 30 days without pay and he said that while he was out, he wouldn’t be able to smoke any dope at all because of marijuana’s 30 day window of detection.
Bam Bam looked at me and said, “maybe I didn’t have the system figured like I thought I did”. Then he laughed and said that’s my WWF drug story. True Story…or at least BamBam said it was.
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WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR: If you’ve read PART 1 of the story, you’ll know that Ricky had been accused by his then life Connie of being unfaithful in their marriage, a claim that Ricky flatly denied. He had told Connie on more than one occasion that he had never frolicked outside their bedroom doors and while Connie wanted to believe him, she still had doubts. Along around that time, Connie was thinking about undergoing a religious transformation herself as she wanted to become a Born Again Christian and she wanted young Ricky to join her in turning their lives over to Jesus. Connie was even using Ricky’s old wrestling cohort, Tully Blanchard to help her win Ricky over to God’s side as Tully had just become a Born Again Christian also. So kiddies…gather around the fireplace…old Uncle Dutch is going to tell PART 2 of this story as Ricky and Connie are sitting on their couch awaiting Tully Blanchard’s first appearance on the highly watched The 700 Club as Tully was all prepared to tell the ‘world’ what a sinful life he had led in the wrestling business. That was a claim that Connie knew that Ricky had been drawn into and she wanted to free his ‘soul’ from all the evilness that had surrounded them in the dark and vile world of wrestling.
Find out how this story ends…as I’ve combined the 2nd Part and the 3rd Part of the story as it concludes below. This has been presented as a SAMPLE CHAPTER OF TALES FROM A DIRT ROAD. Enjoy.
As they watched the show together that night, Ricky told me that old Pat Robertson did some preaching and some praying and then it was time for Tully. According to Ricky, Pat Robertson gave Tully Blanchard one of the biggest buildups that he had heard in a long time when he introduced Tully. He started out by naming all the wrestling championships that Tully had won and naming him also as a charter member of the infamous Four Horsemen along with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. At last, Tully made his appearance. The crowd received him wildly. At this time, there was no NFL football team nor NBA franchise in the Carolinas so the wrestlers were the ‘sports’ stars of the day, even more than NASCAR. The interview began. Connie squeezed Ricky’s hand as she wanted Tully’s appearance to make Ricky seriously think about changing his life. Pat Robertson turned the interview over to Tully.
As Tully started talking about his life, Tully blamed the sinful ways of the wrestling profession for making him dance with the Devil. Tully thanked God for helping him. Pat said amen brother. Connie looked at Ricky and said, “That’s the same thing I’ve been telling you honey.” Tully continued by saying it was the evilness of the wrestling profession that made him do drugs and drink liquor and take pills. Tully thanked God for saving him. Pat said amen brother. Connie looked at Ricky again and told him, in her sweetest voice, “See, I’ve been telling you the same thing baby.”
Tully now got carried away with talking about his life of sin and debauchery and said that he could not count the times he had been out on the road on wrestling trips where he was so drugged up in a motel room, that he didn’t even know where he was and again, he gave God credit for showing him the light of salvation. Pat said amen brother. Connie told Ricky…”See Ricky…Tully saw the light.”
Tully continued on by saying he couldn’t count the times that the liquor and beer was flowing all night long with cocaine and pills laying on the table. Tully thanked God for leading him out of the darkness. Pat was really into this now as he was amen’ing everything that Tully said.
Connie was now saying ‘amen’ along with Pat Robertson every time Tully would make a point, according to Ricky. Ricky said he watched Tully’s appearance on the 700 Club and told me he believed Tully was lying like a dog. Ricky told me that he didn’t buy for one second Tully’s ‘alleged’ BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN BULLS**T. According to Ricky, he knew that Tully was nearing the end of his wrestling money days and felt that Tully was just looking for another ‘scam’ to take over the wrestling one that Tully had parlayed into a pretty good income for the last 15 years. Ricky said that he knew Tully well…knew his ways and how he operated and felt that Tully’s newly found CHRISTIAN GIG…was just PRO WRESTLING REVISITED but on a different level. Instead of an arena, Tully now had a church. Instead of ringside seats, Tully now would have pews. Instead of a ring, Tully had a pulpit. But Ricky thought that if this was what it took to get him back in good graces with Connie, then he’d play along with it. Ricky said that Connie was squeezing his hand and touching him in a way that he had not felt from her in months but he had to admit that even though he really didn’t believe Tully, he believed that this could draw him and Connie closer. Ricky admitted to me that up to this point, this whole ‘come to Jesus’ thing was actually working pretty good so far. Finally, Ricky said Tully got stronger and stronger in his testimony. Old Pat Robertson was really buying into it, the studio crowd was eating it up and Connie was hanging on every word. Then Ricky said, Tully said the WRONG THING!!! Tully mentioned something that he should have stayed away from. Tully mentioned the word WOMEN. And not only just women…he used the term ‘loose women’.
OH GAWD….Ricky thought….please don’t start talking about the women. Ricky’s brain was spinning in overdrive trying to send a psychic message to Tully to shut the hell up. In Ricky’s head, if Tully had shut the hell up right then, he would have converted instantly to being the most gung ho Born Again Christian of all time but he felt it all slipping away in an instant. He knew Tully and he knew that Tully liked to talk…a lot. Ricky was fine with the alcohol references, the pills and the drugs and even the cocaine. But please, please Tully, Ricky implored silently in his head, don’t start talking about the women that hung around around the matches. In the past, Connie had seen the ‘loose women’ around the matches literally throw themselves at Ricky as she had seen them do with other wrestlers. She had also seen the divorces that the wrestling lifestyle had wrought upon some of her friends who had been married to wrestlers. The females who hung around ‘wrestlers’ were no different than the ones who hung around the rock stars. The rock stars called their followers, ‘groupies’. The wrestlers, however, weren’t so politically correct. The wrestlers called the females that followed them, ring rats or arena rats. Personally, I never called them that..I always simply referred to them under another title….’little ladies of the matches’.
To tell the truth, wrestlers have always suffered a higher percentage of divorce rates than the average American couple. In the civilian sector, first time marriages that ended up in divorce hung around the 40% mark but with wrestlers, it was double that. Wrestlers didn’t stay married to the same woman for years like a lot of regular marriages. It was a combination of traveling, being away from home for long stretches at a time and the temptations that the wrestling lifestyle presented. Connie also knew that Ricky was human and some of these females who were throwing themselves all over Ricky were beautiful young girls. Even though he insisted he was always ‘semper fi’ to her, she knew Ricky too well to think he was a choirboy. Ricky’s thought processes had suddenly swung 180 degrees back to the right. He had liked Tully up to this point but that Ricky’s opinion of him was rapidly changing with every sentence Tully spoke. Ricky said he glanced over at Connie and said her eyes changed and her mood changed. Ricky said that up to this point, he hadn’t really thought about praying but now, he started praying that Tully would shut the ‘F’ up and downplay the women angle a little bit seeing as how it was a serious bone of contention between Ricky and his wife.
But, according to Ricky, Tully just couldn’t keep his big fat mouth shut as Tully was bound and determined to go there. As Connie’s undivided attention was devoted to the screen, Ricky said he was helpless to do anything but he felt something bad coming on. But surely, Ricky thought, Tully would not be so stupid as to actually tell everything that went on. Could he? Would he? Oh God…Ricky thought…don’t start talking about that. Please, Ricky thought…don’t talk about the women.
Ricky told me that as he watched the screen, time stood still as he not only watched in disbelief but in heard it as well as Tully was making a statement about the evilness of the wrestling profession.
Tully was not speaking in a raised voice as if he were already giving a sermon that he could not count the times that there had been DRUGS, LIQUOR AND
OH MY GOD RICKY THOUGHT…DON’T SAY IT YOU STUPID BASTARD…
But Ricky said he must have thought it too late as the words….
“WILD NAKED WOMEN RUNNING AROUND IN HIS ROOM and not only that…RUNNING BACK AND FORTH ALL OVER THE MOTELS BETWEEN HIS ROOM AND RICKY MORTON’S ROOM…doing drugs, drinking and having sex with those loose immoral women all night long. Tully then added, as to make it OK, it was ALL THE WORK OF THE DEVIL.
OH GOD!!! WTF, Ricky thought!!!
Ricky told me when he heard that, time stopped. He told me and these are Ricky’s words, “I fell flat out off the sofa and just stared at the TV like I had been shot. I looked at Connie and she looked at me and her eyes told me everything I needed to know and I knew right then, it was over.”
Ricky said that in less than 30 seconds, his life went from being great to being an absolute horror.
I’ve heard a ton of stories about wrestlers getting busted with other women in different ways…such as a wife driving 300 miles to another city without her husband knowing and getting the key to her husband’s motel room where she actually opened the door and caught her husband in the act, but I’ve never heard a wrestler or anybody for that matter get busted on LIVE TV. And on a religious show. That was a first. Even Jimmy Swaggart didn’t get busted on LIVE TV.
Ricky said that he tried to tell Connie that Tully was lying but Connie would have none of it. She said that Tully had turned his life around and was a man of God now…and he had to reason to lie. Ricky told me that his marriage was over right at that point.
As for me, this story stunned me. I have know Ricky Morton for well over 25 years…and I’ve never heard this tale either from any of the other wrestlers or from Ricky himself. Usually, news like this would travel quickly around the wrestling circles but not this one for some reason.
There was only one thing I wanted to know from Ricky. Was there any truth to what Tully had said on the 700 Club show or did he just get caught up in the story and inadvertently drop Ricky’s name in the mix?
Ricky just looked at me and just rolled his eyes and said, “Brother please…what do you think?”
I asked Ricky did he ever confront Tully on why his name was even brought up on the 700 Club testimonial, and Ricky said that he didn’t see Tully again until five years later. In retrospect, according to Ricky, that was probably a good thing because Ricky claimed that he had visions of killing Tully if he had run across him for ruining his life. Ricky did say that when he did talk to Tully years later, Tully apologized to him but it was five years too late. Needless to say, Ricky and Connie ended up getting a divorce. Connie took the three kids and went back to Nashville where she was raised and where her family was. Ricky has continued his ways and now is remarried with more kids than he had with Connie and Tully is still preaching I suppose and saving lost souls.
But Ricky said that his marriage had been rocky for some time and if this hadn’t happened when it did, it would have most likely been something else. As Ricky put it, when you take the ‘L’ out of ‘LOVER’….it’s ‘OVER.’ According to Ricky, thanks to Tully Blanchard, that ‘L’ got erased in one interview.
Sometimes I wonder why people do the things they do. Why Tully Blanchard would say something like that amazes me. Even if I was the biggest druggie, drunk, dope addict, liar, cheat, thief in the world, I would never admit it publicly nor would I name anybody else. That’s a private matter. I’m always amazed why a man like Tully Blanchard couldn’t have told the story about his inequities and sinful ways and his discovery with God…without involving others. I’ve written two books and I have yet to say or write one thing that I would not say to a man’s face or had permission to say.
I’ve often had doubts about wrestlers turning to religion but I’ll save that one for the next book. Is this story true? Interesting question. All I can say is Ricky says it is. It’s an interesting theory but one that has a great deal of credibility to it, but that’s another story for another day.
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FOREWORD: This is a story that every married man can relate to especially men that travel such as wrestlers. Wrestlers have lives but most of live them two lives. One on the road…and one at home and those two lives should never meet. Never.
Wrestlers are away from home for extended periods of times and during that time, temptation is right around the corner…almost every night. Some wrestlers could resist it and some couldn’t. Temptation could in various sizes, shapes and forms whether it be drugs, alcohol or the company of a woman. That doesn’t make wrestlers any less human than anybody else but it damn sure could make it tough back on the home front. It s called LIFE Everybody has one.
This is a story as told verbatim to me by my old good friend and running buddy, Ricky Morton and in it, he encapsulates every pro wrestler’s nightmare This chapter is presented free and in chapters due to it’s length.
BUT I SWEAR HONEY, I NEVER CHEATED ON YOU!
This is a true story of why Ricky Morton got a divorce from his first wife Connie. I knew Ricky and Connie almost from the first day that Ricky first started in the wrestling business. A couple of years back, Ricky and I appeared on a show together and like two friends who haven’t seen each other for awhile, we began to talk about old times. I asked about Connie and he looked at me quizzically and said, “Hey man…you didn’t hear about me and Connie?” I said “no, what happened?
For the the next half hour, Ricky filled me in on one of the craziest wrestling stories I’d ever heard. After hearing it, I knew it had to be preserved even if I had to change the names. The story involved the usual culprits…sex, drugs, infidelity, lies and deceit befitting a Quentin Tarantino movie with added scenes from the Cohen Brothers. After hearing Ricky’s tale, I asked Ricky could I share this story on my blog. He looked at me and said, “Dutchman, you can share it wherever you want to, my friend”. So buckle up sports fans…get ready for the WrestleMania of wild stories.
In the mid 80’s, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, the Rock and Roll Express literally owned wrestling on the East Coast while working with the NWA wrestling office based in Charlotte, NC. The talent level in Charlotte at the time read like a virtual Who’s Who in pro wrestling with names such as Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA, the Road Warriors, the Midnight Express, the 4 Horsemen and Jimmy Valiant regularly posting sellouts in every major arena on the East Coast from Philadelphia to Miami. But one of the major reasons business was so hot was because of one young exciting tag team by the name of the R&R Express which was one of the major reasons business was so good.
Along about this time, Tully Blanchard—a card-carrying member of The Four Horsemen—who were the main antagonists of the R&R Express…was undergoing a serious life change himself. Tully, it appeared, had seen the light. He became a BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN and was openly proselytizing to the world that everybody needed to accept Jesus as their personal savior. Also at this time, Connie was even considering undergoing a religious transformation herself and thus had become a regular viewer of the “700 Club” hosted by the Rev. Pat Robertson. The North Carolina/Virginia area had long been the home of what I called, THE GOD BUSINESS, as it headquartered such religious organizations as the PTL Club, which Jim and Tammy Baker had made famous, the 700 Club and Liberty University of Jerry Falwell fame.
I’ve always loved Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson—the Rock and Roll Express—not only as performers but as great guys. Jerry Lawler and I actually came up with their Rock and Roll gimmick one Tuesday afternoon as we drove to Louisville, KY., for a wrestling show. There is no doubting how ridiculously over the Rock and Roll Express were at their height. The Rock and Roll were born in Memphis then traveled south to the Mid South promotion owned by Bill Watts, and then they ended up in the NWA Mid Atlantic promotion in Charlotte. I have no idea why Vince McMahon never used the Rock and Roll Express in the WWF but if he had, Ricky Morton could well be in the same spot as Shawn Michaels is today.
During his time in the NWA, Ricky lived in Charlotte with his wife, Connie, and his three children. As with a lot of marriages in the wrestling business, Connie thought that Ricky may have strayed from his marital vows and maybe had cheated on her several times while he was away on wrestling trips but never with any proof. When Connie had confronted Ricky with her suspicions, Ricky had always denied the accusations and claimed innocence, saying that he loved her and would never, ever, have anything to do with another woman. Connie had her doubts about Ricky’s faithfulness but Ricky swore on a stack of Bibles that he had never, NEVER…had any sexual relations outside their marriage. Connie wanted to believe her husband and even though she had doubts, she accepted that what he was telling her was the TRUTH.
Connie, of course, blamed all her marriage doubts on the wrestling lifestyle. Ricky would leave and be gone for days and she had heard how wrestlers lived out on road. Plus the other wrestler wives reinforced her suspicions. She had heard about the “groupies who hung around the matches and she knew that wrestlers lived a life that didn’t lend itself to normalcy. She wanted her Ricky back…the one before the Rock and Roll Express were born.
As the story unfolded, Connie had been lobbying Ricky to turn his life around. She wanted Ricky to accept God and Jesus just like Tully had done. She believed that Ricky had been living a sinful life and she blamed the wrestling business, and she wanted both of them to change their lives. If Tully Blanchard had become a ‘child of God,’ then she and Ricky both could do the same. In Connie’s mind, it would strengthen their relationship and their marriage.
But Ricky had been resisting her efforts to fully convert him so she looked to Tully for help. She knew that Ricky looked up to Tully and respected and admired him, and if Tully could do it, maybe Ricky would see the light. Connie prayed every night that she could help save herself and Ricky.
As it turned out, around this time, Tully Blanchard was invited to appear on the 700 Club, which was hosted by the Rev. Pat Robertson, as a SPECIAL GUEST. Tully’s appearance on the show was to be a ‘testimonial,’ in where Tully would give a ‘personal account’ of how God had saved him from eternal damnation. The 700 Club had played host to many high-profile celebrities who gave credit to God for turning their lives around and for Tully, this was a big deal. As it turned out later, not only was Tully considering a ‘life change,’ he was also considering a career change and was thinking about dropping out of the WRESTLING BUSINESS completely to enter the GOD BUSINESS. For what it’s worth, The 700 Club to evangelists and religious figures was what WWE RAW is to wrestlers or Comedy Central is to comedians. If any evangelist was going to be taken seriously among the Christian Brotherhood and is going to make any money in the GOD BUSINESS, then an appearance on “The 700 Club” was a mandatory stop. Since wrestlers were such high-profile personalities, The 700 Club loved having wrestlers give their personal life stories. Pat Robertson has played host to wrestlers regularly over the years but Tully was probably the first one. Since that time, he has been followed by Ted Dibiase, Nikita Koloff, Sting, Lex Luger and even Jake the Snake Roberts tried the GOD BUSINESS for a time. Of course, every wrestler that appeared on the show always blamed the ‘sinful wrestling business’ as the Devil himself. Connie felt much the same way.
On the night Tully was scheduled to appear, Connie told Ricky that she felt in her heart that a change was coming over their lives. She said she had been praying for it and wanted to know if Ricky would watch Tully’s appearance on the show with her that night. Ricky told her that he would. The show would be telecast LIVE and she felt that this could be the night that she could, along with Tully and God’s help, save lost little Ricky from the evils that lurked behind every corner. Or turnbuckle.
When the show came on, Ricky sat alongside his lovely wife, Connie, on their sofa as they awaited Tully’s first appearance on the 700 Club with Pat Robertson.
As the show opened, Ricky told me, Connie was talking to him about their relationship and how she felt that this could be a major turning point in their lives. Connie told him that no matter what had happened in the past, all was forgiven and Ricky assured Connie, one more time, that there had been no cheating in their marriage. Connie said she believed him and they kissed and as they sat holding hands, all was right with the world, as Ricky told me.
Ricky then stopped talking and looked at me and said, “Dutchman, everything was all right with the world one minute and the next, my whole world came crashing down on my head.”
What happened? TO BE CONTINUED….on the next installment of the University of Dutch Blog
OK little kiddies. Gather around the old fireplace and let’s tell some old but true stories about the Olden Days of Pro Wrestling. Some stories may be slightly embellished just to keep it interesting but every story is 100% true. Maybe. Enjoy.
The Macho Man Meets a Real Life K9…
Everybody knows Randy “the Macho Man” Savage from his days in the WWF. Not a lot of people know the Macho Man in his earlier years. I’ve written this story before but the story never changes. It is about an incident in Nashville, Tennessee where Randy took on the Nashville Police Department including their prize police dog. Authors disclaimer…this is a true story. I don’t think even Steven King could make this up.
It was late on a Wednesday night in the late 70s when Randy “Macho Man” Savage walked into a Waffle House on the Harding Place exit right off I-24 East in Nashville. Savage and I had just worked the Nashville house show earlier that night in front of a sold-out crowd. Randy was hungry and needed to eat so a Waffle house restaurant suited him just fine. It was right down the street from where he lived, easy in, easy out.
If you’ve never seen or been in a Waffle House, they’re all over the South. On some interstates down south, you might be surprised to learn that you can find not one but two Waffle Houses on the same exit but on different sides. I guess that gives new meaning to the term, ‘ they get you coming and going.’ Waffle Houses are 24 hour never close diner type restaurants which features fast food at a cheap price. When you mention cheap, that’s exactly in The Macho Man’s price range wheel house . But the food damn sure isn’t gourmet. It’s just cheap.
The time was around 12:30 AM when Randy walked into the Waffle House. Usually, people who go to a Waffle House come in, sit down, order their food, get up and leave. Unless they’re drunk and then they pass out. The Waffle House has also been noted as a sobering up place after a long night of drinking. But, for the most part, it’s a pretty laid back environment especially on a weeknight such as Wednesday.
Since the matches had just ended, Savage had come directly from the Arena. The Arena in Nashville was a building that would only seat probably a thousand people but it had been packed that night. Savage was accompanied by Rip Rogers who at the time was going by the name of the Disco Kid. Hey, this was way back in the Donna Summers Boogie Nights era.
Savage and Rip entered the Waffle House and sat down in a booth. When they entered, the place was empty. Unbeknownst to them, at the time, was that it would get real busy in about 15 minutes.
Savage, according to Rip, was not feeling any pain when he walked through the door. What that means is any body’s guess and I’ll allow the reader to define what that means. Let’s just say Randy was feeling good.
Savage and Rip had only been sitting there for a few moments when their waitress came to take their order. While they were giving the waitress their order, in through the door came a skinny little cowboy guy who obviously had an announcement to make. In a nanosecond, he announced in a LOUD voice for everyone to hear that he had just GOTTEN MARRIED!!! He didn’t intend this for Randy personally but only to the Waffle House staff behind the counter. I heard later that the cowboy was a frequent customer and knew all the Waffle House employees.
The waitress was ecstatic as women get more excited about marriage than men and she physically walked away from the table where she had been taking Randy and Rip’s order and gave the cowboy a high five. All of the waitresses and cooks stopped what they were doing and congratulated him and wished him good luck. On the surface, it was a happy feel-good moment for all of them. All of them except…one person, Randy. Randy wasn’t very happy especially when the cowboy’s announcement had interrupted his meal order. Randy took this as a sign of disrespect.
Randy had heard what the cowboy had said when he entered and took note of it. As the conversation about the marriage was starting to die down, the cowboy said that he was really in love with this girl. And Randy, being Randy, just couldn’t leave it alone and out of nowhere, just had to add in his two cents. Savage in that unmistakable gravely voice now made his announcement to no one in particular by saying out loud, “who gives a f**k!!!”
Wow. Talk about a buzz kill. That little ad-lib comment stunned the whole Waffle House staff and especially the cowboy dude. Everybody stopped what they were doing and looked at Savage. Waffle Houses aren’t that big, to begin with, and when Savage said it, the cowboy and Savage were only about 15 feet apart.
Well, the skinny little cowboy apparently didn’t like what Savage had said. He looked at Savage and asked, “What did you say?”
Savage looked back at the cowboy and repeated what he had first said but more slowly this time just to put more emphasis on it.
“Are you fucking deaf” Randy asked in his undisputable smart ass tone? Just for emphasis, Randy repeated his comment...”I…SAID… I…WHO…GIVES…A…F**K,“ Savage slowly replied.
Well, you didn’t need a roadmap to see where this was going. Stevie Wonder could’ve seen this one coming. Why Savage even said anything to the cowboy in the first place is beyond me. But Savage didn’t need a reason. He was Randy Savage and the Macho Man “just didn’t give a f***.” The reason I know that is that he had just pronounced his feelings.
Savage, I learned later, liked confrontation. Savage had put the cowboy on the defensive. Savage not only had disrespected and embarrassed him in front of his friends but Savage had also disrespected his impending marriage and the woman he loved. Down South, that behavior isn’t rewarded. The cowboy now was forced to confront Savage for his lack of Southern etiquette or be forever looked on as a wimpy little bastard too wimpy to confront another man when her honor was at stake. Whether he wanted to or not, now the cowboy dude had to make a stand.
The cowboy walked just a few steps toward where Savage was sitting, looked down at him and asked: “You got a problem?”
Savage then arose from his seat and stood up facing the cowboy who weighed in at a buck fifty maybe. Savage countered with that deep voice of his, “I don’t know. Do we?” in that oh yeah voice of his.
OK, let us slow down for a bit and analyze this. Savage goes to eat after he had just wrestled a 45-minute match with me that night at the Fairgrounds Arena. He’s hungry and tired and wants something to chow down on before he goes to bed. That’s innocent enough I think. So he walks into a Waffle House diner, sits down and within 5 minutes of sitting down, makes a comment to a guy he doesn’t even know nor has he ever seen before in his life about a phantom woman who he’s never seen. And now, both of the men are confronting each other over a silly remark that Randy made just a moment ago. That escalated much too quickly for me. But that was the way it went down and it was about to go down a lot more.
This story I got from Rip himself as he was an eyewitness to the whole thing.
Both men now stood facing each other. They looked like two cats ready to fight. Both of them were staring at each other for a moment and the fight just broke out.
I don’t know who swung first but. according to Savage, it was the other guy. Savage grabbed the cowboy in a headlock, which I didn’t even know he knew how to do, and they both went down on the floor and were punching and kicking and screaming at each other right in front of a huge Wurlitzer jukebox.
Time out. In case some younger folks are reading this, Wurlitzer jukeboxes were, in short, oversized “record” players and yes, I said record players. Jukeboxes were ‘pay as you play’ music machines in which you could drop a quarter in a slot and in return, you could select three songs that you wanted to hear. Nowadays, you don’t see jukeboxes much except in old bars or at antique shops. No, we didn’t have Amazon or Spotify Music in those days. We were in the dark ages.
Anyway, back to my story. As Savage and this cowboy guy wallowed around on the floor in front of the jukebox, the Waffle House people panicked and called the cops because their friend was in a fight with Randy Savage, the wrestler. They knew who Randy was. They thought he was crazy because everybody in Nashville thought he was crazy. Savage was that crazy guy who did those crazy interviews on the Saturday afternoon wrestling show.
Rip thought that Savage was crazy too. What did Rip do when all this was going on? From Rip’s account, he ran out the door to the parking lot.
On the floor, Savage and the cowboy were kicking and punching each other but no real damage was being done. Somehow, the cowboy guy worked his way free from Savage, reached down in his pocket and pulled out a knife. Now, this fight was going a little too far at this point.
Savage saw the knife and panicked because he didn’t have a weapon. Both men looked at each other for a split second then Savage jumped over the counter and grabbed him a knife as well.
Savage jumped back over the counter and both men squared off against each other with both of them doing their best fencing moves at each other. The cops had been called and about this time, one of the waitresses started yelling at the cowboy that the cops were coming. Outside you could hear the sirens screaming that told you the cops weren’t far behind.
The cowboy, when he heard the sirens, had the sense to take off and ran out the door. Savage, however, didn’t feel the same urge. Savage believed that he was the victim of this whole incident and it was the other guy’s fault totally. Savage then looked at his ‘weapon’ that he had picked up behind the counter. It was a butter knife.
The police car screamed into the parking lot and two officers rushed into the Waffle House. By this time, Savage was in full Macho Man mode saying “oh yeahhhhhhhh” and “can you dig it” at no one in particular. I said earlier that Savage was feeling no pain, didn’t I?
Right as the police entered, the entire Waffle House staff all pointed at Savage as the instigator of the whole thing. The cops looked at Randy and knew exactly who he was. Randy had made a serious impact on the TV viewing audience in Nashville in only a short few months. The police now were more wary of Randy than what they usually would be with a regular citizen because he was a wrestler and they even thought he was crazy too.
The cops turned their attention to Randy telling him to turn around, he was under arrest. Savage didn’t see it that way. In Randy’s view…it was he who was the victim, not the aggressor. Randy wanted the other guy arrested because Randy thought the cowboy was at fault. Randy pleaded his case but the cops weren’t buying in. Randy started to get louder and the cops told him again to calm down and turn around.
Randy wasn’t cooperating. In Randy’s mind, the cops were losing valuable time in chasing the cowboy as he was getting away. Again, the cops told Randy to calm down and turn around and again, Randy ignored their command. Now, the cops now had no choice but to physically try to overtake Savage and handcuff him but Randy was having none of it and a struggle ensued. With a police car outside with flashing blue lights on and more sirens in the background, a crowd started gathering outside to see what the problem was.
It was easy to see the action from the street as Waffle Houses have floor to ceiling full pane windows. You can see every inch of the place. Most of the onlookers now saw who the cops were fighting with. They were fighting with the Macho Man.
Keep in mind that all of this was within a 10-minute time frame. The entire incident moved with blinding speed. But it wasn’t over. Not by a long shot.
The police were struggling with Randy as they attempted to put the handcuffs on him but Randy kept turning and fighting back. Randy was yelling at the cops that he was the one who was attacked and they were letting the guilty guy getaway.
The cops were having no success handcuffing the Macho Man so they decided to use Mace on him. This was years before the Taser was even a thought in any body’s mind. Well, that tactic met with failure too. As one cop went to Mace Randy in the face, Randy ducked and the Mace got the other cop right in the eyes. Now it was a one on one situation. One cop and one Macho Man. The remaining cop pulled out his Billie club and tried to subdue Randy with the club. Randy looked down at the cop who had just been maced and grabbed his billy club. The struggle continued as Randy and the cop cought each other with clubs over the club with Randy fighint off the trained cop. The sirens in the background got louder and closer. Randy was holding his own but for how long.
The crowd outside, which was getting bigger and bigger, were getting one helluva show. There was not a bad seat in the parking lot.
So the scorecard at this point read, an out of control wrestler with a Billie club fighting off one cop with a club and another cop out of action due to a misplaced Mace shot and more expected to arrive shortly. The people watching hadn’t seen such a spectacle since Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Rumble in the Jungle.
Finally, more cops screamed into the parking lot and entered the Waffle House. Savage now backed up into the corner and holding them all at bay. The cops are screaming at him to give it up but Savage was not obeying. The Waffle House by this time is deserted with only the cops and Savage inside. The staff took off long ago and Rip vacated the place before they did.
So as the situation turned into a stalemate of sorts, the police Shift Sergeant walked through the door. Ironically, I found out later that the sergeant had actually worked the wrestling matches earlier that night as Head of Security. He actually knew Randy and he said in a calm voice, “Randy drop the club and turn around.”
Savage had no intention of dropping the club. The Shift Sergeant repeated his request using Randy’s name for the second time. Needless to say, Savage didn’t comply. More police cars arrived at the scene.
This was a wild scene.
Finally, the Shift Sergeant ordered his men to back up. In through the door at that very moment entered a 85 pound German Shepherd police dog. The policemen saw this dog, who I learned later was one of the most aggressive dogs the Nashville police department had ever had, and backed out of the way. The handler, who had brought the dog inside the Waffle House, now ordered Savage to surrender or the dog would be set free. Needless to say, Savage did not go peacefully in the good night. Savage did not comply and you’ve heard the old song, WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? The dog got out.
Well, what fight was left in the Macho Man suddenly went south as the police dog came after Savage. Savage didn’t have a chance against this dog but he told me later that he did get one good kick in. Savage admitted later that was a big mistake. Right after the kick which didn’t do anything to slow the dog down, the dog ripped into Savage. Savage arms were gashed from the dog’s teeth but the deepest gash was in Randy’s right buttock. The old saying “I’m going to tear you a new a**hole” suddenly took on a whole different meaning to Savage after that. The dog did a number on Savage before the handler could pull him off.
Savage was finally subdued, handcuffed and arrested and taken to the Davidson County Jail in downtown Nashville. Savage didn’t work for the next two nights due to having to nurse his wounds at the hands (paws) of the police dog. Savage was bailed out about a couple of hours later when his father, Angelo, came down to the jail to get him out.
This all happened without me knowing anything about it. I had actually gone back to my house when I watched a little TV and then off to bed. The next morning I got up and sat down for a lovely breakfast and, totally unaware that anything had happened, I picked up the Nashville Tennessean. On the inside of the front page, the headline read: “WRESTLER ARRESTED AFTER SKIRMISH WITH POLICE DOG”. What??? Wrestler arrested??? Police Dog??? What the hell???
I then quickly read the whole column about what had happened the night before. Of course, the report didn’t fully lay it out like I did above but the gist of the whole incident was there. The opening line of the report was good though. I almost laughed when I read it.
The first line read, “Apparently Randy “Macho Man” Savage didn’t get enough action last night when he took on Dutch Mantell in the Main Event at the Fairgrounds Arena wrestling event. He also ended up fighting a Nashville police dog as well.”
I called Savage around noon that day just to check on his condition. He had to go to the hospital the night before to get checked and stitched up. He was still in Macho Man mode when I talked to him and he told me the details even to the point of kicking the dog. I asked about what happened to the cowboy but he said he got away.
Randy had read the same article in the paper that I had read and he couldn’t just let that go by without a challenge either. Savage actually called the same reporter who had written the report to rebut the story and to get his side out. The reporter was more than happy to have Randy in a rebuttal story.
In the report, Randy said it was a situation that had gotten completely out of hand but he had been the one attacked and that the real culprit had gotten away. Savage played the real babyface here and put over the Nashville police department and especially the dog. I wish I still had the article as it was pretty funny reading it.
Savage didn’t work for a couple of days due to the soreness but I saw him on Saturday night at the Chattanooga show. He showed me where the dog had bitten him. He pulled down his trunks and it looked nasty. It was a bite mark that had to be at least 9 inches long and I saw a few puncture wounds where the stitches were.
Randy went to court a few weeks later on the charge of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer when, in fact, it was battery on a police dog. The law states that a police dog is an officer of the police force so technically, that was a correct charge. Nick Gulas, the promoter, pulled some strings downtown in the police department and donated some money to one of their favorite charities and Randy was charged with a much lesser offense, found guilty and put on probation.
I know Savage and I know how he thinks. He was somewhat a paranoid guy and if someone ever got the upper hand on him, he never forgot it. Never. I always thought that if Randy could, he would find that dog and get even. But now, Randy is gone. But he is not forgotten. I was thinking about Randy just a few days ago…and I think Randy is walking around somewhere in the afterlife still looking for that dog. Rest in peace Macho Man. You damn sure earned it.
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This story goes a long way back. To the mid-70’s to be exact. I had only been wrestling a couple of years when I booked myself in Florida for Championship Wrestling which was one of the leading NWA offices in the country. Back in those days, there were lots of regional promotions around the country. Not one office or promotion controlled the country like WWE does today. I had always heard that the Florida promotion had a unique wrestling style than some of the other places I’d worked. The style in Florida was a more realistic style than some of the other places I’d worked. But to me, it still looked the same as to what I’d been exposed to before.
The FCW promotion was based out of Tampa and Eddie Graham was the owner. We worked our asses off working 7 days a week and sometimes twice a day. Trips were long but bearable but I liked working in Florida. I liked the company, I liked the weather and the people that ran it. Plus I got paid pretty good and for a kid still learning what this wrestling business was all about, I thought it was great. We worked every hole in the road town that they could throw a dart at and hit on a Rand/McNally Florida road map. I don’t think there was a town in Florida that I didn’t work or at least go through. We worked every day, Sundays included and the only times I remember being off was on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and Easter Sunday. All the other holidays were booked and attendance in those days was excellent. In the company at the time was the great Ernie Ladd whom I had met before in Atlanta, Harley Race who was the booker, Eddie Graham who was considered one of the great minds of wrestling and after being around him for a while, I agreed. Pat Patterson who later became one of Vince McMahon’s right hand men was there, Jack and Jerry Briscoe, Bob Roop, Lars Anderson, Killer Karl Kox who I learned so much from, Steve Keirn, Mike Graham, Oliver Humperdink, Dick Murdoch, Dusty Rhodes. Thinking back on that crew now is almost like reciting a Hall of Fame roster list. I learned so much from all of them and it was a pleasure to have worked alongside those guys night after night.
Keep in mind that in the mid-’70s, wrestling fans in Florida, except for the most hardcore fan, didn’t even know there was wrestling outside of Florida. But when you worked a territory like Florida with the TV and the TV coverage they had at the time, every wrestler mentioned above was as over and as well known as a John Cena or Triple H are today…or an Undertaker or a Stone Cold in their heyday. Everybody knew who the wrestlers were. Fans even knew me and I was only a kid still learning the ropes. It didn’t matter whether you were the Main Event or whether you were the 1st match guy, fans knew who you were and knew your story.
The reason they knew your story was because of a man named Gordon Solie who could make two dogs screwing in a driveway seem important. Gordon Solie, at the time, and even up to this day was considered one of the best play by play announcers ever to grace a commentary mike. Gordon was great at what he did and his contribution to the Florida wrestling product can never be overstated. I think I may have stated this fact before but back in those days, fans truly believed that the wrestling game was more or less totally legit. We protected the image of the wrestling profession a hundred times more than it’s protected today. But with that reasoning, professional wrestlers were targets of fans who thought they were just as tough as the wrestlers they saw on TV. Those were the ones that were dangerous. I should know. I ran into a fan just like that one night in Frostproof, Florida.
Frostproof, Florida. What a name for a town I always thought. Where is it? Well, its in the middle of the state about 90- miles east of Tampa and about the same distance south of Orlando. It was a nothing happening town but when we went to wrestle there, the high school gym was packed out with 2,000 screaming fans. I don’t know where they came from because Frost Proof, Florida was a teen tiny town on Hwy. 17 S that was stuck out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a bunch of orange trees and strawberry fields.
Since business, at the time, was red hot, the Frost Proof high school gym was completely sold out. I remember how crazy the crowds were in those days and the Frost Proof crowd was no exception. It’s really fun to wrestle in front of a big enthusiastic crowd. Great show, no problems…another successful day at the office. So after the matches were over…we all hopped back into the car for the two-hour ride back to Tampa where we all lived. Or so I thought.
As per wrestling custom in those days, we stopped at the first 7-11 convenience store that had big beer neon signs in their windows advertising Budweiser or Miller HiLife beer. We didn’t care what the brand was…it could have been beer that was made out of camel peepee..,.I didn’t care. We came up to a 7-11 right on the outskirts of Frost Proof and pulled in. It was late July and the heat that day in Florida had been unbearably hot. You can imagine how hot it had been in that gym we had worked in that night. But as they say in Florida, it’s not the heat, its the “humidity’ to which I never agreed. If it was hot, it was hot GAWD DAMMIT!!
Since it was so hot, I was looking forward to grabbing a few beers. I don’t drink anymore but back in my younger days, I drank like a fish. So as we pulled into the parking lot of the convenience store, I could see it wasn’t crowded with only one beat-up pickup truck with a gun rack in the window parked in front of the store. That meant we could be in, out and down the highway in 5 minutes.
As we parked in front of the store, I saw that there was only a couple of good old country looking redneck types inside the store. One of them was wearing what they call denim overalls and wearing a baseball cap that said ‘John Deere’ on it. How, you ask, can you remember that? Hang on, I’m getting to that.
Since I was in a hurry, I got out of the car first to go into the store which if I had waited 15 seconds, 20 seconds, I may have avoided what transpired a few moments later.
As I approached the door to enter the store, the biggest one of the redneck guys was approaching the door to exit. We met at the exact same time face to face in the doorway. That big ole Deliverance looking redneck guy was blocking my entrance. After a brief awkward pause, I moved to the right to enter…but he moved to the right too. Thinking that was just a mistake on his part, I then moved to the left to enter but he moved to the left too. I looked at him again…and said excuse me and tried to go around him one more time and he blocked me again.
I now got the feeling that I was going to have a little bit of trouble. I could see trouble ahead. I could just feel it. I looked in his eyes and could see that this guy was kinda drunk. I’ve learned a long time ago that being drunk leads to problems. I’ve always been able to sense when things aren’t kosher or exactly right in the world and I could always feel tension when it was in the air. I felt it at this point.
Just so you’ll know a little more about what I was feeling, this guy wasn’t a little guy either. He was about 6’1 and had to weigh in at 280 at least. I was 6′ but I only tipped the scales at the time at a mere 205, maybe. Not only was this guy drunker than Cooter Brown, he looked like he hadn’t taken a bath since the Vietnam War ended and bore a striking resemblance to one of the mountain guys in the movie, Deliverance? Long hair, scruffy beard and overalls.
So as we stood there eyeball to eyeball, he spoke and said, “Yur one of dem rasslers, ain’t ye? I seent ye over at de high skool. Ye don’t look so tuff ta mee. Whur doo ye think ye’re going?” Well, you know it’s going to be a problem when somebody asks you if “yur one of dem dam rasslers, ain’t ye?” Now I was convinced that this guy had actually BEEN in the movie, Deliverance, for REAL!!! Patterns of speech and accents like this guy had can’t be taught, it had to be natural inbreeding. It wouldn’t have surprised me if somebody hadn’t started plucking out a tune on a banjo. But, not to keep the asshole waiting, I replied, “Excuse me, I’m going inside”.
He shot back at me with, “Nah, ye ain’t.”
I said, “Yeah, I am.” He said again, “Nah, ye ain’t.” Now God Dammit…we were getting a little bit redundant here I thought. We had somewhat of a little Mexican standoff going on, minus the Mexican, and I wanted to end this thing before it went any further.
Since it had turned into a personal challenge, I then told him point-blank, “I’m going into the store, excuse me.”
I then tried to go around him one more time and he blocked me again and this time it was the third time which pretty much made his intentions known. He wasn’t going to let me into the store which I took as a personal challenge. At this point, in retrospect, I should have said, screw it and backed away. But, in my way of thinking back in those days, that wasn’t my mindset.
So when he blocked me for the last time, I tried to push my way past this 280 pound fatass and when he pushed back, the fight broke out. Just like that. It took maybe 90 seconds from the time I got out of the car until this Deliverance looking bastard and me were throwing down in front of the good old 7-11 in beautiful Frost Proof, Florida. Now, that’s a great way to spend your evening hours. Fighting rednecks down at the local 7-11 convenience store parking lot. Damn, sounds like f’n fun to me. Maybe we can get a FACEBOOK fan page dedicated to that cause.
As the incident broke down like a 12 gauge shotgun, out rushed Deliverance #2 but to his credit, he didn’t get involved. The two guys I were with didn’t do shit either. I was punching this bastard as hard as I could but all he was doing was shaking his head and moving forward. I landed some hellacious shots on this big bastard but it wasn’t having the desired effects that I wanted it to have. Actually, I hit him so hard one time that I think it hurt me more than it did him. This whole thing had gone south fast and since my punches weren’t doing any damage except to my hand, I decided to shift strategy in the middle of the fight. I then tried to take him off his feet and maybe I could put some boots to him while he was down.
That brilliant shift in strategy ended up a mistake..as I soon learned. As I tried to leverage under him, we both ended up crashing and burning head over heels over an old Tampa Tribune newspaper stand or rack. They don’t have racks like that anymore. Some people may still remember them but you had to put in a quarter and then the door would open and you would remove the morning newspaper.
As we both went over the top of the newspaper rack, I was trying to get this big asshole off me but 280 pounds of drunk ass redneck is hard to move. I finally got to my feet and the fight was continuing but by this time, the big guy was starting to breathe heavily and my punches had a little more sting to them. Funny, but his guy never hit me with one punch because while he was big, he was slow. But if he had ever connected with any of those haymakers he was throwing, he would have knocked me into the next county.
Then off in the distance, I heard sirens approaching and getting louder and getting closer. Now, this guy I was fighting looked kinda stupid but he wasn’t that stupid so we both broke off the fight right as the police car screeched into the parking lot. Apparently, the store employee had called the police and sure enough, up pulled the pride of Frost Proof, Florida, the city policeman with his blue and red lights flashing. The guy looked like Barney Fife as he approached us and I don’t blame him. He was alone and he didn’t know what he was stepping into. As a matter of fact, you could add two more people to that list. Me and the guy I was fighting.
We all were in the dark as to what was happening. All I knew is that a fight had broken out, for whatever reason, I don’t know. Looking at the policeman, he looked scared as this may have been his first call to handle a REAL INCIDENT.
As the policeman rushed up to us, he asked what the hell was going on? I don’t know why I said this but I didn’t roll over on old Bubba and blame him, I just said “Nothing. We were just messing around”. I lied like a bastard and had no idea of why I said that but I knew that if I was arrested, it was going to cost me at least $200 and maybe a nights stay in jail. I also knew that since I didn’t beat the crap out of this guy…I was in jeopardy of getting fired by ol Eddie Graham.
In those days, bookers and owners didn’t give a crap if you fought somebody on the street, all they cared about was if you won the fight. Since the guy I was fighting was still standing, it could be construed as not winning.
The officer then looked at old buttface Bubba and asked him what was going on…and he must have taken the cue from me because he said “nuttin. Wes just playing round.”
I then realized that I may have been fighting a complete and utter idiot. because this son-of-a-bitch can’t even speak basic English!!! After -hearing him butcher the language, I had serious doubts that he had ever taken an English class or for that matter, any class. Bastard.
So there we were …11PM in the parking lot of a 7-11 convenience store in Frost Proof, Florida…a town I had never even passed through in my life…fighting a guy I had only met 3 minutes earlier and a confused, jumpy police officer, with a gun on his hip, standing in front of us with red lights blinking all over the place. How in the f**k did all this happen so quickly, I asked myself?
We stood there like little boys having gotten caught with their hands in the cookie jar…when the police officer, who was as confused as the rest of said, “OK break it up…and get the hell outta here before I arrest the both of you.”
Old Bubba walked over to the that beat up piece of crap truck he was riding in and drove off. I got back into the car I had just gotten out of a few minutes earlier. I never made it into the store, never got the beer I had stopped for and had almost gotten arrested for being stupid. Now I started to understand how quickly things can reach a tipping point and people could get really hurt. Why any of it happened, even today, is beyond me as stupid as that sounds.
As we pulled off from the store, I felt a little pulsing pain from my right ear and I reached up to feel it with my right hand, I felt a warm liquid on my fingers. As I pulled my hand down, I saw blood all over my fingers. I then looked down at my shirt and saw blood drops on my front. One of the guys with me took a look at it and said that my right ear lobe was cut and ripped and probably could take a few stitches. I don’t know how that happened as ole Bubba never really got a punch in on me. Apparently, when we went over the Tampa Tribune newspaper stand, my ear had either caught on the edge of the rack or the protruding brick window sill on the bottom of the plate glass window. We were still about 90 miles from Tampa so I had to wait until I got back to Tampa to dress my wound.
I got home about 1:30AM and by that time, I was half-drunk and with blood all over my shirt. Getting into a fight didn’t prevent me from stopping at the next convenience store for beer. I got back to my apartment in Tampa and off to the ER I went. Two hours and 8 stitches later and 200 dollars less rich, thanks to that asshole in Frost Proof, Florida, I emerged from the University of South Florida ER. I’ve said this a lot of times but being in the wrestling business back when I started, you got challenged and when you were challenged, you had to stand your ground. Not every challenge, of course, ended up in a physical fight but those things happened. I know. One of those had just happened.
The night ended up costing me a couple hundred dollars but I knew that word would get back to Eddie Graham, the owner of the promotion, about the incident. I wasn’t so concerned about the money but I knew it was a matter of time before Eddie got around to asking me about it. Sure enough, that Sunday in the Sports Arena in Orlando, Eddie walked up to me and asked me what happened. I told him the story just like I’ve written it here.
Eddie had a very piercing stare about him and when you were talking to him, he looked you directly in the eye which made it difficult for anyone to judge a reaction. When I finished telling him the story, I halfway expected him to say, well I got to finish you up. But he didn’t. Eddie was one of the sharpest minds in all of pro wrestling at the time and I wanted to stay on his good side but I learned something from Eddie that day. He was fair too. All he said to me was, “Good job kid. Work on your punches.” That’s all he said and never said another word about it.
Starting out in the wrestling business is different than starting out in any other business. Not only is it a physical business but its a political one as well and sometimes you just had to feel your way along. Wrestling isn’t as physical as football or amateur wrestling but in the middle. A stiff move or being too snug during a match could easily be identified as being too rough. Veterans didn’t like that and many of them, when I started, didn’t like rookies to begin with. To tell the truth, I didn’t either when I became a veteran. Rookies can make mistakes that can and will hurt you and when that happened, you didn’t make any money. When I broke in, if you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid. And in wrestling, there was no insurance, no pension plan, no benefits, no unions, no paid vacations, no Human Resources departments and you could get fired on a whim. Where was Bernie Sanders when we really needed him?
The business when I started was so much different than it is today. Problems were real but answers to them were at a premium and early in my career, I ran across a problem that I didn’t know how to handle very early on But thanks to a wise old veteran, I solved it by listening to his very sage advice. This was where I first learned the art of diplomacy and when to apply it.
The territory was the old Atlanta, Georgia franchise of the old NWA network way back in the 70’s. It was owned and operated by a man named Jim Barnette. Mr. Barnette always had a fondness for pro wrestling and was born into a family with money so when he started promoting wrestling events, he started with a sizable bank account.
In today’s “woke” generation, he could have been called privileged. He was a white male with money or a lot more money than the rest of us had. His only detraction from being totally privileged was that he wasn’t totally heterosexual which might have contributed to his fondness for the game. Just an observation just to be clear.
Barnette’s idea succeeded beyond his wildest imaginings. Barnette’s TV network was owned and operated by the Murdoch Family…of which Rupert was the head of. Rupert Murdoch is a name that most cable network fans know as the founder of FOX news here in the US. The meeting with Rupert and Barnette would play out in spectacular fashion years later as I’ll explain below. Fans in Australia were highly supportive of American style pro wrestling and sellouts were common in the big cities like Perth, Brisbane and Sydney. Barnette’s time in Australia was about the time I was breaking in so I never got to see first hand or work Australia. If there was ever one regret that I had, it would be that Barnette left Austrailia before I ever had an opportunity to go there.
After a strong run during the early 70’s, Barnette grew homesick for the States and wanted to return home. He sold his company to an Australian investor and returned back to the states with more money than he left with. He more or less remained on the sidelines for a year or so studying the American wrestling climate and decided to buy into the Georgia Championship Wrestling promotion based in Atlanta. Barnette didn’t just buy things on a whim and had studied the American wrestling landscape for over a year when he finally made his move and he had reasons why he wanted GCW. One was that it was a promotion that was going through a wrestling war and knew the owners wanted out…and the other one, he felt like he was the only one who could make the promotion successful. He was right on both counts. The second reason and the MAIN REASON was that GCW was on a station that he knew was going national on cable.
Cable TV at the time was cutting edge. Barnette knew that a TV Cable Wrestling promotion would put him way ahead of any other competitor in the market. Also, the channel he was going to be on was Channel 17 owned by, in Barnettes’ estimation a visionary in seeing the future, Ted Turner. Turner was the one who envisioned the power of cable TV long before anybody else in the country realized its potential. It didn’t hurt Barnette’s chances that Ted Turner reminded him of Rupert Murdoch who was his support system in Australia.
The fascination with the Georgia promotion and what made it stand out so much from all the rest of the companies in the US was the TV coverage. All of the other promotions in the country were all local promotions with only regional coverage but GWC aired on a SuperStation with coverage all over the country. There were only a few SuperStations, in the entire country at the time…which included, WGN out of Chicago and one maybe in NYC. But there were no SuperStations carrying pro wrestling and wrestling proved very profitable for Turner and his station.
Turner later on stated that pro wrestling was the one staple product that kept his station in the black and without it, his station could have filed bankruptcy. Turner’s fascination with pro wrestling could also explain why TBS ended up buying the old Mid-Atlantic territory in the 90’s.
So back to my story about being a smart guy or a tough guy. Wrestlers back in those days unbeknownst to most of them were traded back and forth most of the time almost like cattle without them even knowing about it. One day at the matches the booker (whoever he was) would sidle up to a guy and just tell him that they were finishing him up but most of the time, he had been traded to another company a couple hundred miles away. That was to keep the talent working and to keep fresh talent moving through. That was how I ended up in Georgia. When I was informed that I was going to Georgia, I was elated. The company was on fire, Barnette had a rep as a good payoff guy and I thought that I had just got lucky.
At the time, a position in the Georgia territory was a highly sought position. Barnette had hired Bill Watts as his booker and Watts was a no nonsense type guy who liked hard nosed wrestling and not a lot of theatrical displays. Business was good and the ratings on the show…which started at 6:05EST/5:05 CST was gaining popularity all across the country. Even though Georgia was national, they had to pay their bills so like every other company in those days, they ran weekly towns within the state of Georgia. Later on, Georgia Championship Wrestling started running mini-tours up in Ohio and Pennsylvania due to the coverage of the SuperStation.
We always did the weekly Georgia Championship Wrestling tapings early on Saturday mornings. The show was taped and aired later on Saturday afternoon. Many fans, in those days, thought the show was LIVE but we taped it around 10AM on Saturday morning and it played back at 6:05PM EST. The 05 start time turned out to be a wise marketing tool because the ending of a show would always spill over into the next hour thus preventing viewers from channel surfing at the top of the hour. I don’t know why more TV programs don’t employ that start/stop time strategy.
The talent in Atlanta during that period was very good with guys like Abdullah the Butcher and Mark Lewin, who Barnette had booked in Australia along with Wrestling 2, Dick Slater, Bob OrtonJr., Tommy “Wildfire’ Rich, Roddy Piper, the Assassin and The Great Mephisto among others. My job in the company was strictly as a mid-card wrestler because I was still learning the business. But with that position came a little bit of follow the leader and you had to take a little bullshit from the top guys. Most everybody in the top tier were cool…but as with everything, there is ALWAYS one jackass amongst them.
Don’t leave now…this is where the story gets good.
As I mentioned a JACKASS above, the photo of him is right beside us right now. I ran smack dab into a situational story and it’s a story that started and ended in one 8 hour period. But I learned more in that 8 hours than I had learned about wrestling up to that point.
Every Saturday morning, our call time for the TV taping at the WTBS Studios on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta was around 8:30 AM. I know, that’s really early to perform especially since we probably didn’t get in from the LIVE event the night before until 2 or 3 AM. But that’s the nature of the business we were in.
I showed up early one Saturday morning and walked into the studio locker room…which wasn’t a locker room at all. What it is really was, was the lobby of the station. We all dressed in a medium size lobby with a desk for a receptionist and a hallway leading down to the other offices. It wasn’t very big and you can imagine 14 to 20 wrestlers all stuck in a small space and all trying to get dressed and go over the show at the same time. It amazed me that the show came off at all. The studio was right around the corner and if you’ve ever watched the old tapes on YouTube from Channel 17…you might be able to fit 100 people into the small, cramped area that Channel 17 called a studio. But it was functional and it worked.
I found out that day that I was scheduled to wrestle Mr. Wrestling #2. I had never worked him before and I had heard rumors that he could be a little bit of a hard ass at times, especially with younger guys. Wrestling 2, whose real name, was Johnny Walker had been a top star in Georgia for a couple of years before I got there. In fact, Mr. Wrestling was such a big star, that he was named as the favorite wrestler of then-President Jimmy Carter’s mother, Lillian. When Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1972, Mr. Wrestling had actually been invited to attend the Presidential Inaugural Festivities in Washington, DC but declined for professional reasons. The reasons were that he would be required to appear without his mask on in which he didn’t agree with. Yep folks you know that little term, KAYFABE??? The wrestling profession used to honor the CODE.
Walker had come up the hard way in the wrestling business and his style was very aggressive in nature and very physical. But I didn’t mind that. I, more or less, wanted it the same way. But I found out that he was also very moody and he took that attitude into the ring at times according to who he was working with.
When we were called together to go over the match, we were told that the match would go about 5 minutes or a typical TV match in those days with the result being that Mr. Wrestling would end up beating me with his patented driving knee lift. Both of us understood what was needed for the match. I asked Johnny was there anything he wanted to do and he just looked at me, with his mask on I might add. Wrestling 2 was such a stickler for KAYFABE, he even kept it on in the dressing room and said we’d work it out in the ring. Wow I thought. So much for preparation.
The taping started and we were on something like 2nd or 3rd that day. As I entered the ring, during a commercial break, I saw Mr. Wrestling come in from the other side of the ring. The ring announcer was the legendary Freddie Miller who coined the phrase….BE THERE!!!…on most of the wrestling commercials that aired on the show. The play by play announcer was also the legendary Gordon Solie who I thought was one of the best announcers of all time and he gave any match an aura of credibility when he called it.
I remembered Wrestling 2 telling me in the back that we’d work it out in the ring but when the match started, I saw immediately that Johnny had one thing on his mind and his idea of working it out was simple. He would give me nothing. And nothing is what he gave me. I understood my purpose in the ring and within the pecking order of the company and that was to make Mr. Wrestling look good and look tough. But I was always taught that even though you were getting pinned, that didn’t mean you were to get squashed. When the finish was given to me, especially with 5 minutes in duration, that would have mandated that I would be on top…at least for awhile. Apparently, Johnny didn’t share the same philosophy as I did.
He took me over in a headlock…beat me up…and when I tried to take over on him, he blocked any and all my attempts and kept his offense moving. Then he beat me up some more. And he wasn’t easy either. Some of those punches were very stiff. I got ZERO offense in on him. If the match had been over in a minute or so, that would have been preferable to what he did and would have been accepted more from a fan’s viewpoint. However, he kept his attack going on for 5 FULL MINUTES which, to a viewer, is not only overkill but boring as hell.
The crowd inside the studio was just dead. I mean, what did they have to get excited about? Here was their hero (not me BTW) beating up a helpless not to mention inept opponent (that would be me) and for a minute there, I thought the crowd started feeling a bit sorry for me. Hell, I knew I was. The studio was so quiet at one point, I could even hear Gordon calling what little action there was to call. At one point, I even heard a horn beeping outside on the street.
Finally, the match ended and the crowd sort of cheered…a little bit. I think they cheered more for the fact that it was over rather than the victory that had been achieved. I knew that Johnny had taken advantage of me but what was I to do? I was low man on the totem pole and I was in no position to call Wrestling 2’s hand on anything. He was the STAR and my job was to keep him a STAR but what he had done is really a no-no in the business unless directly ordered by the booker. He completely destroyed me but more than that, he didn’t really advance himself in the process.
Since I didn’t put up much of an offense…or any offense, he beat a nobody and it took him 5 minutes to do it. If he had beat me within 2 minutes, it would have been much better but he took 5 minutes to do something that he should have been able to do in a relatively short amount of time. Looking back on it, the case could have been made that I was tougher than he was because it took him 5 minutes to put me away.
When I walked back into the dressing room…or I should say, slowly “crept” back into the dressing room…I was embarrassed. Embarrassed by my performance but I was also embarrassed that I had allowed it to happen. But there was no way I could have prevented it short of actually fighting it out with Johnny in the ring. If that had happened, my future in that company would have ended that day because I would have been fired. So I was not only embarrassed, I was impotent to even do anything about it.
Wrestling protocol has always dictated that the winner should always seek out the loser and thank him for the match. I waited while I sat in a chair next to my bag for Johnny to come and thank me for the match but he never came. Finally, I stood up and found him sitting next to his bag around the corner in the hallway. When I approached him, I extended my hand and said, “thanks for the match.” Johnny didn’t even look up at me but extended his hand almost condescendingly as he said gruffly, “Thanks kid.” But he said it without sincerity, not that I expected much, but it made me feel like I was just a piece of garbage. Have I mentioned that Wrestling 2’s social skills were limited to say the least and he was considered a “jackass”?
At the time, there were what we called ‘job boys’ who didn’t work full time in the wrestling business. Their job in wrestling and their only job in wrestling was to get beat on TV. Since I didn’t consider myself a straight up ‘job guy’, that lack of respect didn’t sit well with me. Since I had a full time job with the company, my belief was that I should have been afforded a bit more courtesy than what Johnny had shown me that morning. I never had a problem with Wrestling 2 until that day but it solidified the rumors that I had heard about him. That he was a shot taker but only took shots at those who were beneath him and those who had no political clout of which I qualified for both. I didn’t know how I should have handled the situation but I was glad that it was behind me. Chalk it up to a learning experience.
After the early morning taping…I wasn’t done. Back in those days, we worked sometimes two or three times a day. On this particular Saturday, after the Atlanta tapings, we had to get into our car and drive 110 miles to Columbus, Georgia in order to make another TV show but this time it would be LIVE at 4PM. We just had enough time to hop in the car, grab a bite to eat and drive down HighWay 41 to Columbus. These Saturday taping days were sometimes 20 hour days.
I was riding that day with an old timer, Frankie Caine, who worked under the name of the Great Mephisto. As I drove south out of Atlanta toward Columbus, Frankie and I were talking. He had been in the wrestling business for years and what had happened that day hadn’t escaped his notice. I was hoping that nobody had noticed it but that was just merely wishful thinking. He looked over at me about 30 minutes into the trip and asked me what had happened that morning with Wrestling 2.
I replied that nothing had happened.
Frankie said, ‘well something happened because he gave you nothing’ which was absolutely true. Frankie took a deep breath and started giving me a mini- lecture on how wrestling protocol and politics worked inside the wrestling business. Frankie began by telling me that I needed to confront Wrestling 2 and flat out tell him that I did not appreciate him crushing me on TV.
I didn’t know what to do as I was torn but I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and not say anything just to keep the peace. I’ve always heard that sometimes you had to go along to get along. So I wasn’t going to say anything but I damn sure wanted to. I just had to bite my tongue. As soon as I walked into the little building that served as a wrestling arena in Columbus, I looked at the lineup sheet posted on the wall and saw that I would be working with Wrestling 2 for the SECOND TIME that day and I feared a repeat of what had just happened on Atlanta TV earlier that morning.
Atlanta TV and Columbus TV weren’t booked by the same people. Columbus had an independent promoter who used Atlanta wrestlers for his TV show and all he did was book the wrestlers and give a booking fee to the Atlanta office. Whoever booked the Columbus TV had no idea what had happened in Atlanta that morning so they were clueless.
I didn’t know what to do but old Frankie was watching what was going on and he pulled me aside and gave me some great advice. He knew by experience what Wrestling 2’s plan was. Ol Frankie knew that 2 was going to do a repeat of the morning session. Later on I learned that Frankie, who was becoming one of my best friends at the time, had had a few run-ins with Wrestling 2 in their dealings in the past. Needless to say, no love lost.
As we were called together, for our little pre-match meeting, Wrestling 2 wouldn’t even look at me and I knew that he planned a repeat of our match earlier that morning. When the instructions were over, I asked Wrestling 2 was there anything he wanted to change from earlier that day and he said, for the second time, that we’d work it out in the ring. Well, he more or less told me what to expect which was more than he had done in Atlanta.
Frankie, after the meeting called me over. I didn’t week his advice but he voluntarily gave it to me who he could see was struggling on how to handle the situation. This situation was not only a physical one, it was a political one too.
Frankie looked me right in the yese and said I could be a tough guy…or a smart guy. One option was that if Wrestling 2 tried the same thing with me as he had in Atlanta, I could physically make a stand and fight him….FOR REAL and on LIVE TV. He also said that if that happened…I could get the hell beat out of me or I could beat the hell out of him but in the end, he would still win…because whatever happened, I would end up getting fired and probably blackballed from ever working in wrestling again.
Then he gave me option 2.
The match was scheduled for 6 minutes and on LIVE TV…6 minutes is an eternity. All Frankie said to do was to let Wrestling 2 take a headlock, take me over in a headlock l…and GO TO SLEEP.
The fans were absolutely dead. Funeral homes had more energy. I just laid there. Johnny even as dense and as selfish as he was beginning to realize that he was the one looking like crap, not me.
WTF I thought? GO TO SLEEP? I’D NEVER HEARD THAT TERM IN WRESTLING BEFORE. I asked, quite sheepishly, “what’s that”? He said just call a headlock, let him take you over and then do absolutely nothing until he wants to work. The match started and as expected, everything was exactly as it had been in Atlanta. I called a headlock and 2 took me over and I just laid down. And for the next 30 to 45 seconds..nothing happened. Remember, this was eons before WWE’s slick TV presentation with only the one camera …no editing, no special effects, no nothing and LIVE TV. You got what you got. Finally, 2 made a move to bring me up..and I just laid there.
The fans were dead. Coma patients had more energy. Finally, it dawned on Wrestling 2 that this match was dying the death of a broke tail dog. Finally I said to Johnny while I was still in the headlock these exact words.
I said very quietly “Johnny…I can get up and we can have a match. Or I can lay here and have you pin me right here. So what do you want to do? You want to work…or you want to pin me right here”? The crowd was so dead, I think a couple of the fans at ringside heard me tell him that.
After a long and agonizing not to mention boring match up to this point, even 2 realized that he was looking like crap not doing anything. So he said begrudgingly, OK kid, lets work. When he said that…I came up firing. And lo and behold, the old bastard started selling. And when he came alive, guess what? The crowd came alive. 2 started selling for me like he would have sold for Brisco or Funk. I thought to myself…now really…how hard was just a little selling?
We went on to have a half decent match Or at least a match that made Wrestling 2 struggle just a bit to achieve the win. Believe me, before I took over, you could hear the announcer in the studio and nothing else. Finally, back in the dressing room…2 thanked me for the match…and I thanked him. And I learned something that day.
Use your head and seek advice when you can. Wrestling 2 thought that I was just some underneath job guy…which frankly I was at the time…but I knew enough to know that if he made me to be a tough guy..then he beat a tough guy. If he beat somebody who didn’t put up a fight..then he beat a nobody. But if he beat somebody that gave him a run for his money…if only for a minute then he overcame a hurdle.
I think that Wrestling 2 knew that I had been traveling with Frankie Cain that day and I believe Wrestling 2 thought Frankie had put me up to that little maneuver that I pulled. And he didn’t appreciate it I learned later. I also learned that there had always been heat between the 2 and Frankie going back 15 or so years. But little did I know the heat would play out between them about a month later in Macon, Georgia about a month later.
Frankie was managing a wrestler that Wrestling 2 was working with and something wasn’t right with the finish. I didn’t see what happened but when they returned to the dressing room…Johnny was upset with Frankie about the match and was confronting him in the dressing room. I witnessed this while I was getting dress dressed after my earlier match. Johnny was starting to get loud. Frankie, being the politician he was, suggested they both go off and discuss this amongst themselves without everybody being a witness to it. They both went into a small restroom area close to where I was sitting. After a minute or so inside the little restroom…I heard Johnny raise his voice which was loud enough to hear down a short hallway and then I heard a couple of thumping sounds as though somebody was hitting the walls inside the rest room.
Then it got quiet. Really quiet. I heard nothing. About 20 seconds later…Mephisto emerged, by himself, from the rest room and walked by me without saying a word. I wondered why he came out by himself. 2 was still in the rest room. He didn’t come out for another 2 minutes but when he did, his white mask was torn and there was blood coming from his eye and his nose through the mask. He went straight to his bag, grabbed his keys and left the dressing room area without taking a shower or getting dressed.
It didn’t take a detective to figure out what happened but sometimes Karma bites you in the ass. Karma never forgets an address.
Hitchhiking? What is that some of you may ask? According to the never wrong WikiPedia, (sarcasm intended), here’s the definition.
Hitchhiking (also known as thumbing, hitching, or thumbing a ride) is a means of transportation that is gained by signaling people, usually strangers, for a ride in their automobile or other road vehicles to travel a distance that can be short or long. The latter may require many rides from different people which is usually given as a generosity but some times, a small donation is given but not usually.
Hitchhiking is always less costly than taking public transportation and certainly one’s own vehicle. If one wished to obtain or request a ride or lift, they simply stood by the side of a road with their right thumb extended upward in the direction of which they intended to go. Vehicles passed this person until one of them decides to offer a ride out of generosity and stops to allow the hitchhiker into their vehicle.
Well, that was a rather long definition of hitchhiking but now, you have a sense of what hitchhiking is in case you didn’t before.
I am the only wrestler, to my knowledge, that has ever hitchhiked to a wrestling show. I should be included in The Guinness Book of World Records but of course I’m not probably out of pure jealousy. I’m sure somewhere along the line of the wrestling brotherhood/sisterhood, there’ve been other instances but screw it, it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Years ago, hitchhikers were everywhere. Back in the earlier more simpler days, it was a very common practice. In those days, a lot of hitchhikers were hippies with the long hair and the tie dyed multi-colored shirts on. You would see them on interstates, backroads and city streets. Back in that era, hitchhiking was legal. Later on, it was banned for the most part in most US states primarily for safety reasons. But that was years before the US got so consumer and safety conscious and people started caring about not getting murdered. Bastages.
Back to my story, I was in my first year in the wrestling business working in the old Georgia NWA territory. Every Saturday night, the Atlanta promotion ran a town some 60 miles west of Atlanta headed toward Alabama. The town was called Carrolton, Georgia and it was situated very close to the Alabama state line. The town wasn’t big but they all watched the Atlanta wrestling show on Saturday afternoons on Channel 17, WTBS which at that time was a very small UVH station with only one tower. Later, thanks to Ted Turner it became known as the SuperStation.
Since the town was so small, the arena was usually jam-packed because the only other place with any entertainment value in town on Saturday nights was Joe’s Bar but you ran a chance of getting the dog shit beat out of you by some drunk ass potato farmer. If you took the asskicking factor out of Joe’s place, it wasn’t too bad. But the wrestling matches were a lot more fun. And safer.
Since the matches started at 8:30PM, the call time for the show for the talent (we were just called “rasslers” in those days) was one hour prior to match time which meant I had to be in the dressing room at 7:30PM. Or that was the suggested time.
The drive to Carrollton from Atlanta was approximately 90 minutes. It’s probably a whole lot less now than it was then. Back then, it was all back road 2 lane driving but not a bad road. For me, living in Atlanta, it was an easy drive plus on this particular trip, it was in early fall/late September and the drive was gorgeous. Fall was in the air and the trees were all changing colors. It was a beautiful late afternoon and I was looking forward to a great drive and a great match that night. Or that’s what I thought.
I left Atlanta a little later than normal that day…why?Who knows. Atlanta traffic was already horrendous even back then and the traffic was heavier than usual but I thought I could make it up by driving a little faster than I normally do. I was about 30 minutes into the drive way out in the country when I suddenly heard a flapping sound coming from the back. In those days, I knew very little about cars and less about car maintenance but I did know what the flapping sound meant. It meant a flat tire. Normally, that wouldn’t be such a problem but I remembered that I just had another flat tire a week or so before and the spare tire was now on my car. I knew that there wasn’t another spare tire in my trunk. This didn’t look good.
Up ahead, I saw a sign advertising a little mom and pop convenience store a little distance ahead and I planned on making my emergency stop there to check my tire. Why I had to check it I still don’t know. The tire was flat. Flatter than a pancake. I still had a little bit of time to get to Carrollton and I surmised that I maybe could find a tire store to have the problem fixed. Maybe.
Folks, need I tell you this but even today, when you’re out in the country, you could be just “s**t outta luck” even with RoadSide Assistance available. As I pulled into that old beat up store which Bonnie and Clyde wouldn’t have bothered robbing, I was in nowhere land. I was 40 miles from Atlanta, 40 miles from where I needed to be and 40 miles past the crack of my ass. Excuse the terminology. That’s an old Southern axiom.
As I pulled my car to a stop, I got out. And yes, my fears were realized as I saw my back right tire flatter than 4 o’clock. I walked into the convenience store and asked an old guy who looked like he was a cast member left-over from the movie Deliverance if there was a garage or a tire store nearby. The old bastard just looked at me like I had two heads but what the look purveyed was, NOT NO BUT HELL NO.
I asked if there were taxis around which also generated the old proverbial eye roll from the punchy little guy behind the counter. Have you ever just been talking to someone when you’re overcome with a desire to just slap the taste out of someone’s mouth? I thought it best to just leave.
I guess I should have thought about calling the arena but I never did know the name of the little place.
I had several dilemmas on my hands. Getting to the show was the most pressing one, getting there in time for my match was a bigger one and getting another tire was another one. What would be easier? I knew that it would probably be Sunday before I could get another tire on my car especially since it was a weekend. Things in those days didn’t operate on the 24-hour around the clock schedule as they do today.
First things first I always was told. Who told me this?
FIRST THINGS FIRST!!
Hell, I don’t know but probably it was some snooty 2nd grade teacher who told me that at one time. My first priority was to make the show but without transportation, how could I do that? Keep in mind there were no cell phones in those days. I had all the other wrestler’s numbers but those were all land lines. I thought that maybe one of the other wrestlers would pass by me and I could catch a ride but since I had left Atlanta late as it was, they would all be ahead of me.
That left me with 2 alternatives. To hitchhike into Carrollton OR…ALTERNATIVE NUMBER 2…TO WALK. Wrestlers are notoriously lazy ass bastards to begin with so I immediately discarded alternative number 2. Screw that.
Once I got to Carrollton, I could get one of the other guys to help me get back to my car or to at least get me back to my apartment so I could make arrangements to tend to my car the following day. But back to my original thought, first things first.
Speaking of my apartment, back in those days a dollar went a lot longer than it did later. I had a “fully furnished” apartment, furniture, bedding and dishes supplied along with electricity and water for $150 per month. My apartment was furnished in a way that needed a name. I gave it one. Early American Ghetto. I shouldn’t say that really. I wasn’ that bad if you didn’t mind the gunshots outside at night and the arts. To be honest, I’ve been in jails with better amenities. But it was HOME!!
So, I had to find a way to Carrollton and I knew that I would have to depend on the old Thumb Express. Anyway, I grabbed my bag out of my now stranded car and out on the road I went and assumed the classic hitchhiker pose. Standing on the side of the road like a moron with my thumb out didn’t make me feel like a big time wrestling star as I stood there literally begging for a ride. Did I mention that the road to Carrollton was a back 2 lane road with not a lot of traffic? A car passed me about every couple minutes or so.
I looked at my watch. It was getting close to 7:15 PM and with any luck, I might get there about 8:15PM that is if a car stopped right away. Car after car passed me by with some of them honking their horns as if to say, hey kid, we got a car and we’re not stopping for you. Bastages. One of the guys even yelled out the window, “get a job you idiot” as they passed me. I loved southern hospitality.
Finally…an old beat up pick up truck stopped. Let me reiterate the “old” and “beat up” part. It looked as if it had been taken directly from a real working junkyard. But as long as it had wheels and could roll, I couldn’t be choosy. It was getting a bit dark by this time and I ran up to the truck and the guy said in a very strong southern twang, “where ye headed”? I said Carrollton. He said me too. Hop in.
I got in and thanked him for the ride. The old man was in his mid-60s I suspect with gray hair and a gray beard and looked like he’d been rode hard and put up wet as they say in the Old South. That phrase was to describe horses when they’ve been ridden a long distance and then put up for the night without being dried off and taken care of. I guess. Come to think of it, I’d never seen a horse rode hard and put up wet myself.
The old pickup the old guy had was a old one, rusty with a broken windshield and some tools laying in the floorboard on the passenger side. Plus it reeked of a strong smell of gasoline. The old truck resembled the driver. Both of them looked like they’d seen their better days.
After a mile or so, he asked me what I was headed to Carrollton for? I said I had an event to attend to that night. He said he was going to an event as well. Then he said, “I think I know who ye are”. I said you do?
He said…”you’re one of dem rasslers, ain’t ye”?
I said, “Yes sir. That would be me”. He laughed and said, “I jist knew it. I seent ye on TV before. Ain’t you dat Wayne Cowan feller”? I replied, “got me again. You’re right”.
Yes, way back, way before Dirty Dutch and Zeb Colter became my ring handles, I worked under my real name or at least the way it’s pronounced.
No matter where this guy could’ve gone in the United States…his accent screamed dead center Alabama. I’m from the South and I have an accent too but this was way deeper than I could ever imagine having.
He then said he’d be glad to take me to the matches in Carrollton as that as where he was headed too. To make his point, he said, “well boy, you got lucky tonight because dat’s exactly whurI’s headed. To da matches in Carrollton. I”ll take you right up to da front door”.
As we traveled further, he asked me where I was from. To make conversation, I said Atlanta even though I wasn’t really from there. It’s funny the things you can find out about people in a short amount of time but he damn sure filled me in pretty fast on his history.
The trip was about 45 minutes and I found out the guy’s life story on the way. His name was Preston Jones and why I still remember his name I don’t know. He was from Alabama originally, fought in WW2, came back home, met a Georgia girl, married her and had 4 kids, all boys with 5 grandkids and another on the way. He worked in an cotton mill most of his life and then retired. His wife had passed away a couple years earlier. All his sons had moved away from home and lived in various places so he didn’t see them very often. And he said that I reminded him of his youngest son and that was the reason he had stopped for me in the first place…AND because he said I looked like that “rassler feller”. Yep, telling me their life’s story was one of the things Southern people did. Ole Preston talked to me like he’d known me all his life.
Then quite naturally, the topic came back to pro wrestling. How did I know that was where this conversation was headed? Plus I’ve learned that wrestling fans can talk all day about wrestling and how it used to be. Ol Preston said he had loved pro wrestling since he was a little boy. He even told me he liked wrestling back ‘when it was real and not all this fake stuff’.
WRITER’S THOUGHT: While I was composing this a few days ago, I had a thought of what old Preston would think of today’s wrestling landscape? What would he think of a guy’s dick spot or a female wrestler pulling out her tampon and cramming it down her opponent’s throat? Or a guy with his hands in his pockets moving in slow motion? Wow I guess we’ve really evolved this business as some people have tried to convince me. I didn’t say anything to him then. Nothing to say. And if he asked today…same answer again. Nothing to say.
Then he looked at me and said, “kin I ast jou a question” and implored me to tell him the God earnest truth as opposed to a bald faced lie. I told ole Preston, “I’ll do my best”. He wore those old fashioned gold rimmedglasses and he peered over them as if to make a serious point.
“Lissen…dem damn ole masked boys….dem Assassins…who are dey really?” he asked.
He was talking about Tom Renesto and Jody Hamilton who were probably one of the greatest heel tag teams I’ve ever seen even to this day. I knew if I’d really told him who they were, he wouldn’t have known them from Adam’s house cat because they had never worked under their own faces. So I just loaded him up with the craziest crap I could come up with at the time. Most people would just call it BULLSHIT but I refer to it as “situational information”. I mean, I wasn’t going to pay Ole Preston a penny for this ride so at least it could be entertaining.
I looked at him and said in my most serious tone, “OK look. I’m gonna tell you something but this is just between you and me, OK Preston? You can’t tell nobody. Got it? Nobody”.
I used his name, Preston because people down South do that all the time when they’re saying something serious. He understood what I was saying and he replied, “I understand ye man. I ain’t gonna tell nobody nuttin” in his most serious tone.
I paused for a second for dramatic purposes and I said “they’re both brothers from California. They had to come down south to Georgia to work because they’re wanted by the police in Los Angeles for attempted murder and bank robbery. They used to wrestle out on the West Coast but once they got into trouble, they had to leave. Nobody really knows their real names so as to not tip anybody off. Even the other wrestlers don’t know their names” I told him.
Granted Ol Preston wasn’t a Rhodes Scholar but I could see the gears in his brain debating whether what I’d said could be true. He’d heard BULLSHIT before but I knew what he was thinking. Why would I BULLSHIT him, he thought. But to make sure, Ol Preston looked at me over those gold rimmed glasses and in a very serious tone, said, “you’re not bullshitting me are ye”? Dat’s the truth”?
I said yes I’m telling you the truth and faked outrage that he could even question me. I then added, “And please, don’t tell anybody what I told you. Dammit, I knew I shouldn’t have even told you anything”.
Preston replied apologetically, “No it’s OK man. I ain’t gonna tell nobody. I ain’t gonna tell nary a person. Thank ye for telling me. I’d always wondered who dem boys wuz. It’s safe wit me”.
I replied “really”? He then took an oath that you only hear in court rooms when he pledged his undying allegiance to the truth when he said, “I swear to God, man”!!
I loved that answer. It was safe with him, all right. I laughed a little to myself because I knew that as soon as he got to the building, that’s the first thing he was to tell his buddies. And I can’t blame him really. He had a first class scoop that nobody in his home town or his orbit had and he was going to tell all he knew and probably add a lot to the story. Come to think about it, ol Preston was a prehistoric Dave Meltzer and probably just as truthful when he told the story to his buddies but by this time, the Assassins probably killed 5 people, robbed 3 banks and kidnapped a woman for ransom.
We were nearing Carrollton by this time and old Preston drove right up to the front door and let me out. He saw some of his buddies at the ticket window and he honked his horn and made sure they saw me getting out of the truck. I still remember that night. As I thanked him for the ride, he said ‘now Wayne, eef ye need a ride back to yer kerr, I can help ye out”. I said thank you sir but I think I’ll be fine now. I appreciate the offer. Then I went to work. I looked at my watch. It was 8:10PM. Damn, I couldn’t believe I’d made the show. And on time too.
When ole Preston got inside, I knew he had a lot to tell. That little ole arena in Carrollton looked a lot bigger back then but it would only hold about 300 fans sold out. It was a standing room only crowd that night and hotter than a witch’s tit in the summer. Even in the fall it would hit 90* after dark and back in those days, smoking was allowed inside arenas. Combine the heat and the smoke and it became a safety and hazard issue to everybody. Wrestlers and fans too. Where was OSHA when you really needed them?
I still remember who I wrestled that night, Ted Oates who was the first guy I ever worked an angle with. We had great matches…or if you want to use the STAR SYSTEM…of course, in my mind, we always had 8 STAR matches on a scale of 5. By todays standards, Dave Meltzer the match would’ve only have garnered a 5 rating because it wasn’t held in the Tokyo Dome. The match match finished with me doing the job but what else was new?
As I made my way back to the dressing room, I made a point of singling out Preston in the crowd and even calling him over to tell him something. When he was right up close to me, I leaned into him and said, “don’t tell your buddies what I told you, OK?” He said don’t worry, “I ain’t told dem boys ‘nuttin’. Ain’t der business”.
I can’t remember how I fixed my car tire but I recall not fixing it that night. I think I went back to Atlanta with my buddy Skandor Akbar and had a friend take me back over there the next day to fix the tire.
Usually, that would be the end of this story but it isn’t. I stayed around Georgia for another year before I left for another territory but several months after Mr. Preston gave me the lift, I noticed that he went missing from the matches for awhile. One night when my match was over, I headed out to my car and a decently dressed guy walked up to me and said, “Wayne, can I talk to you for a minute”. He wasn’t dressed like an ordinary wrestling fan so I said sure. What can I do for you?
He asked, “Do you remember a man by the name of Preston Jones? Remember, he gave you a ride one night when you had a flat tire”? I nodded my head and said, “I sure do. How is Mr. Preston doing”?
“That’s why I’m here tonight” he said. Then his voice dropped and he said, “I’m his son and I just wanted to let you know that my dad passed away a couple weeks ago”.
Wow…I thought. I had only talked to him one time and he used to say hello to me when I would return to Carrollton every other week or so but the news shocked me.
This news caught me off-guard and I didn’t know what to say. I asked what had happened. The son said that his dad had missed church services one Sunday morning and his friends went checking on him and found him dead still in his bed.
I replied that I was so sorry and gave my condolences to him and the family for their loss. He thanked me and he said that his dad used to talk about me all the time and about the time he had given me the lift to the matches.
And then he kind of leaned into me and in a low voice said that his dad would like for me to know that “he (Preston) had never repeated the secret about the Assassins and them being wanted by the police in California”. He added at the end that his dad was always very good with secrets.
Then I drove away. But on the way out of the parking lot in Carrollton, I had to laugh a little. Yep, I knew it all along. Never tell anybody down South a secret. It will beat you back to the house.
Sounds like a bullshit story, doesn’t it? It’s not. TRUE STORY. Or is it?