I was reminded of this torture by the recent events concerning Roddy Piper. The pattern is classic. Piper did everything right, became the most important wrestler in the nation, and then got banned. Here was his livelihood, his accomplishments, and vision cruelly snatched away from him. Forced into exile, he ranted against this unthinking punishment. That was stage one.

Then came stage two. At least that had the good fortune to occur outside the sight of fans. Those who saw Piper during his exile, despite his success in the Mid-Atlantic area, saw him lose his spirit. He would prove to the Georgia commissioners time and again that his being banned was illegal. They'd agree. Laughing, they'd tell him they had the power to do the illegal. Their whim was the only justice. It crushed Roddy's spirit like a boat constrictor crushes its victim.

All the world got to see stage three. We witnessed Roddy Piper come to the aid of Gordon Solie. That's what any good little soldier would do. The old Roddy would have handled the situation without turning on his friend, Magnificent Muraco. But Solie, a figure of authority, needed help. So the powerless Piper, stripped of his initiative and free will, responded.

Now, I'm not excusing Muraco's actions. It was beneath the man, but he too was being driven. If one recalls the situation, there was really very little danger to Solie until Piper came to the announcer's defense. Muraco, enraged by being publicly disgraced by his friend, behaved foolishly. Piper's "gallantry" pushed the situation out of control. When Roddy could think for himself, he would have prevented any brawl.

And who do we have to thank for the crushing of Roddy Piper? First, let us give much credit to the NWA commtesioners. Unable to control Piper honestly, they went about driving him mad. It wasn't too hard. Like the scientists, they controlledd the situation and could pull the strings. No man can beat a group of bullies when forced to play by the rules. Piper wasn't the only one to get his strings jerked. The fans, used to behaving like jerks, happily voted to ban Roddy.

What was his crime? They couldn't think of one. But if their heroes couldn't beat him, and they didn't like what he said, what else could they do? Like vultures, they descended upon Roddy and picked him clean. The commissioners agreed to let a fan ballot (that appeared in The Wrestler against my wishes) decide if Piper should be banned. How democratic. Let the rabble decide if a man is entitled to the inalienable right to earn a living. And like vultures, the fans saw Piper defenseless and went to town. They overwhelmingly voted to deprive Piper of rights guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States. I suppose they felt the NWA is a higher power.

This whole affair has been a sleazy and cowardly affront on human dignity and professional sport. Piper may someday regain his will; we can take some hope in the man's remarkable strength. However, he has been ruthlessly beaten, forced to bend to the decree of the masses. A spirit as fine as Piper's is a fragile thing. Instead of protecting this wrestling treasure, the fans allowed themselves to be used to destroy it.

This is one of wrestling's darkest days. The light that was Roddy Piper has been extinguished. In its place is the void that Piper has become. The fans prefer it that way. He is within their control and fans find that preferable to greatness. Piper used to challenge them, threatened them to be better than they were. The fans wouldn't stand for that. It's so much easier to be the pawns of bullies.

When Piper hired Magnificent Muraco to help him in his feud, the situation escalated to tto a level of full-scale war. Muraco would soon prove to play a pivotal role in Piper’s career.

When Muraco began insulting television commentator Gordon Solie on the air, it was Piper who rushed to the aid of his fellow broadcaster. Several skirmishes on television were followed by a series of brutal matches in the squared circle. Roddy Piper and Muraco became sworn enemies; and it was clear that Piper had a lot of thinking to do.

One further incident turned Piper's life around 180 degrees. Piper, having just left an arena; heard the cries of children in a parking lot. He rushed to the scene and saw a maniacal knife- wielding man threatening a group of children. Without any concern for his own well-being, Piper disarmed the man, receiving a chest wound in the process.

Piper's change in attitude over the course of 1982 has been a tremendous inspiration to fans and professional wrestlers alike. It is only fitting that he capture top honors as 1982's Inspirational Wrestler.

Jimmy Snuka's second-place finish is clearly a result of his break with Captain Lou Albano and his renewed alliance with Buddy Rogers. There is no doubt in anyone's mind, except perhaps Albano's, that this is the best thing that has happened to Snuka since arriving in the WWF. The Superfly's newfound independence, according to most of the fans who voted for him, ought to bring him a major title, perhaps even the WWF heavyweight belt itself, in the near future.

Mil Mascaras has long been an inspiration to many wrestling fans, and even though he has yet to finish in the top spot in this category. Mascaras always makes a strong showing in the runner-up category. Throughout his career, Mascaras has refused to stoop to the level of a rule-breaker. Every one of his matches is earmarked by sportsmanship and fair play, and he is acknowledged as one of the sport's premier gentlemen. Though it has often cost him the potential for winning a major championship, Mascaras has never compromised his ethics in the ring.

Jimmy Valiant, the Boogie Woogie Man of the Mid-Atlantic area, received deserved recognition for his outstanding display of courage in the face of Sir Oliver Humperdink's repeated efforts to drive him out of wrestling. First Humperdink threw Ivan Koloff at Valiant for months, and now Handsome Jimmy is contending with the challenges of Jos LeDuc. The fact that Valiant has remained determined in the face of such opposition has provided inspiration to thousands of fans across the country.

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THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 142-2001

'ROWDY' WRESTLER HAS FAMILY, RICHES AND FAME

(Edmonton Sun, Friday, August 6, 1999)

By Shelley Decker

Wrestling giant "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's biggest blows are reserved for the WWF.

These days, wrestling has been transformed into action that should be found under the big top, believes Piper, who’s in our city to play Daniel Boone in an episode of the family TV series Mentors.

"I hate it. I absolutely despise it," said the soft-spoken Canadian, who helped spark unrelenting world attention for wrestling when he and "Mr. Wonderful," Paul Orndorff, climbed into the ring to battle Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in Wrestlemania I in '85.

"I hate the fact they've turned it into a circus. I'm the real deal. My right hip is titanium. This wrist has been broken for going on eiqht, nine years," said Piper, 45, pointing to a large lump that protrudes from his left wrist.

"The only way they can fix it is to fuse it. I came fifth in the world playing the bagpipes when I was about 14, and it would be stiff and I couldn’t bend it," which would make playing impossible, explained the multi-millionaire, who left the World Wrestling Federation a few years ago.

Piper's quick to say he still admires wrestlers, but has no time for promoters or "leeches" who have turned professional wrestling into a sad mix of clowning, choreography and sleaziness that includes wrestlers smoking and boozing. While he has a contract to wrestle six times a year, Piper is looking forward to its end on March 3, 2001 when he can finally retire from the ring.

And he still mourns the loss of his second cousin, Calgary’s Owen Hart, who fell to his death on May 23 while being lowered into a WWF ring. "It’s terrible," he said sadly.

His gentle and warm demeanour is a sharp contrast to the Piper the public knows—a fiery, fierce fighter in a kilt.

But there is little about this man, who describes himself as introverted, that fits the mould of his ring personality.

His complex offering of accomplishments includes wrestling—more than 6,000 matches and 21 championships—a 20-year marriage that has produced six kids, his bagpipe success and screen work (the feature film They Live and TV, including Outer Limits).

The devout Christian, who was born in Saskatoon, has a life most people dream about—family riches and fame.

But his early teen years were hardly a fairy tale. After a childhood filled with regular moves that included stints in Scotland and Australia, he left his Winnipeg home at the tender age of 13 and lived on the street for two years. He hustled quarters and did "whatever I had to do" to survive.

Moving frequently to different cities, he was back in Winnipeg when he got his break. Even though he was just 15 years old, he was asked to fill in for a no-show at a wrestling match where he’d be paid $25.

When elated friends offered to play bagpipes as Piper entered the arena, he decided to don a kilt. He was an instant hit and landed his wrestling gig.

"I was the youngest professional wrestler in the world," recalled the thoughtful man, whose vast experience in the ring includes many wins, losses and, amazingly, three stab wounds suffered when he was either entering or leaving the ring. "I was afraid to stop wrestling because I had a Grade 8 education and I had no other thing I could do so it really made me fight hard."

Much of the credit for who he is today goes to God, his kids and wife, Kitty. "I love her to death. She’s four-foot-11 ½ and 100 lbs, and she’s the only thing in the world I’m afraid of," joked Piper, who lives with his family on a mountainside ranch near Portland, Oregon.

Nowadays, Piper wants to focus on family and acting. Daniel Boone, a person he describes as a childhood hero, exemplifies the type of roles he prefers.

"I want to be associated with clean and I’ll say Disney (like productions)," said Piper, who sported fake sideburns and wore leather garb with fringes for his Boone role. Mentors revolves around a teen computer whiz, Oliver (Chad Krowchuk) who hails historic figures from the past to deal with modern-day problems. In the episode titled The Rescue, Boon--who was a tracker and the father of 10 kids—helps track Oliver and his mother, who are lost in a mine.

"It’s so clean and pure," said Piper of the series. Filming wraps up tomorrow.


PIPER GETS ROWDY OVER RAP

(Portland Tribune, Friday, February 20, 2001)

By Kerry Eggers

Roderick George Toombs is dying to put the sleeper hold on Eminem. You know Toombs as Roddy Piper, and after hearing the lyrics of the foul-mouthed rapper on his 15-year-old daughter's CD, the Rowdy one is steaming.

Portland's rasslin' legend went so far as to contact the head of Eminem's Death Row Records, whom Piper says has agreed to allow him to cut a rap album/video on the Death Row label. With no profanity, Piper promises.

At 46, Piper has never been busier. He will return to the ring after a year's absence on Feb. 24 in Denver, where he says he will take on everyone on the card that night. He is suing TNT for $1.4 million for wrongful termination. He says Random House is publishing his memoirs, titled If You're Gonna Die, Kid, Die in the Ring. He has promised 5 percent of his future earnings to the Cauliflower Alley Club to help out former rasslers in need.

PIPER TO STAGE DENVER COMEBACK

(Nationally syndicated column, February 23, 2001)

By Alex Marvez

Roddy Piper is getting rowdy once again.

Piper is ending a 14-month hiatus and returning to the ring Saturday night for the Central Wrestling Organization in a show at the National Western Complex in Denver.

While it seems odd that one of wrestling’s all-time greatest performers is working for an independent promotion, Piper has his reasons for starting small.

First, Piper wants to prove to World Championship Wrestling that he can still perform after being fired in July 2000 during one of the promotion’s cost-cutting moves. While he won’t be wrestling in an official match, CWO promoter Dan Magnus said Piper will be serving as commissioner and will participate in various capacities throughout the show.

Piper, 46, is suing WCW for age discrimination, claiming he was shorted $1.4 million by not being allowed to fulfill the final 40 appearances on his contract despite having recovered from a torn biceps suffered late in 1999.

WCW declined comment on the lawsuit.

"Why get rid of me?" said Piper, whose real name is Roderick Toombs. "They didn’t mind when I was filling all the arenas. Then when they took me off the roster, things started going down. Why not put me back in the game?"

Piper’s situation prompted him to reflect about an industry without pensions or medical plans for retired performers. That reality hit home this month when Piper attended the annual meeting of the Cauliflower Alley Club, a society for active and retired wrestlers.

There, Piper learned of Johnny Valentine’s financial problems stemming from medical bills.

Valentine was a headliner for 28 years until a plane crash ended his career in 1975. Piper was so touched that he promised to dedicate 5 percent of his future earnings toward paying what Valentine owes.

Piper also wants to lead a fundraising drive among wrestlers for the CAC so a pension program can be built.

"In wrestling, you try to get all you can as fast as you can because it’s a short career in most cases," said Piper, who has an artificial hip stemming from 29 years in the business. "What I would like to see is my peers’ realizing what a stud Johnny Valentine was and that they could be there someday themselves."

Piper, though, realizes he faces a stiff challenge because of the stigma surrounding anything resembling unionization by wrestlers. Pervious plans have failed miserably, largely because of a wrestler’s fear of being blacklisted by promoters.

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura who was a prominent wrestler and announcer in the 1970s and 1980s before entering politics, spoke about the need for unionization in May 1999 after the in-ring death of World Wrestling Federation performer Owen Hart. But that talk ended later that summer when Ventura resumed a working relationship with WWF owner Vince McMahon, who currently employs "The Body" as an XFL announcer.

Piper said he isn’t trying to unionize and hopes the fact that the CAC is an independent body without affiliations with any promotions will persuade wrestlers to contribute.

"I think this is the most sensible way to go about it," said Piper, who plans to continue entertaining independent dates to raise money for CAC and Valentine. "This way, you’re not ruffling anybody’s feathers or asking anybody to take a stand. I’m taking a stand myself."

Piper also is keeping busy by working on an autobiography, which he hopes to release in four months through Random House.

YOU'VE BEEN RUMBLED

(Sunday Mail, circa March 2001)

By Brandan McGinty

A gang of rogue wrestlers have left thousand of pounds of debt after touring Scotland.

Grapplers from the British Wrestling Federation -- whose shows are dubbed WWF Royal Rumble –- left a trail of bouncing cheques after their tribute shows.

The fighters draw crowds by impersonating World Wrestling Federation superstars such as 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, who is played by unknown British fighter Russ Matthews.

Small businesses and hotels were left out of pocket after being duped by the fighters.

One fed-up hotelier stormed into the ring with a police escort during a show to demand his cash back.

Now investigators from the Forum for Private Business have been called in to probe the lookalike wrestlers amid claims that the outfit left thousands of pounds of debt.

Ian McGregor, of the reputable American Wrestling Federation, said: "They are giving all wrestling in this country a bad name.

"I've spoken to people in countless venues who have been ripped off by these people. It makes them wary of anything to do with wrestling."

The BWF's trail of debt started in Rothesay, where a hotelier who put up the fighters stepped into the ring alongside police officers in the middle of a show in the Queen's Hall to demand payment.

Karen Watson, of local firm Print Point, said: "We were completely duped.

Because these people had shows in recognised venues and had been all over the country, we agreed to do some work for them, such as making posters for their events.

"We've been trying to get money back from them ever since. The more digging I do, the more businesses I find with the same problem.

"I can't believe they are still able to put on their shows."

The wrestling troupe moved on to Glasgow, where they bounced a cheque in a toy shop where they had bought pounds 1000 worth of props.

They've also performed at several other Scottish venues. Young fans have been left shocked by the brutal action at the shows, in which wrestlers smash metal chairs and trays into their rivals' faces.

After one battle in Motherwell just over a month ago, wrestler Kid Krazy was forced to retire from the ring with internal bleeding.

BWF shows have been slammed for their poor quality.

The internet website Wrestling Observer said of one show: "The event is titled as WWF Tribute but I would brand it as WWF Insult.

"It's surprising how they've got away with it for so long and continue to get away with it."

But it is their refusal to pay bills which has provoked most anger.

Another businessman who has been ripped off, but asked not to be named, said:

"It has actually been very embarrassing, but there are a few of us in the same boat."

The BWF - also known as WWFGB - cash in on the huge popularity of the real stars of the World Wrestling Federation. Their fighters take on the persona of the American stars and copy their gimmicks.

But when the British copycats wrestle under their own names, they only attract crowds of around 100.

BWF promoter Rufus Foulkes refused to discuss the debts.

When a Sunday Mail reporter refused to disclose the source of our information, he said: "Well, I'm not talking to you, then."

Cardiff WALES: February 28, 2001

(British Wrestling Federation, att. 536) … Drew McDonald and Karl Kramer beat Buh Buh Ray Dudley (Adam Clark) and D-Von Dudley (Martin Ubaha) … Crash Holly (Andy Chambers) and Chris Jericho (Justin Hansford) beat James Mason and Klondyke Kate … Alan Kilby beat Shooting Star … Tiger Steele (Giant Butch Masters) beat Mustafa Saed (original Gangsta) … Virgil (Mike Jones) beat Blondie Barret … Crash Holly and Stone Cold Steve Austin (Russ Matthews) beat Drew McDonald and Karl Kramer (dq) … Steve Austin (Russ Matthews) won Royal Rumble

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THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 143-2001

IN BED WITH THE WWF

(ThePosition.com, August 2000)

By Irving Muchnick

On a Monday night in the mid-1980s following a World Wrestling Federation show at Madison Square Garden in New York City, a teenage member of the ring crew – the guys who set up and tear down the three-roped, four-posted, 12-turnbuckled squared circle – was given a piece of fatherly advice by a veteran WWF performer.

The ring crew kid, whose name was Tom Cole, had been reviewing assignments for the next stop on the WWF circuit with his supervisor, Mel Phillips. When Phillips walked away, the wrestler standing next to Cole nudged him and said, "Watch yourself around Phillips. He's bad news." Prophetic words.

A few years later, Phillips was a central figure in a pedophilia scandal that came within a federal grand jury of sinking the WWF, and Tom Cole was the chief whistleblower. More on that later. In the institutional memory of the pro wrestling public, where the results of last month's pay-per-view event have already vaporized, the events of the early 90s may as well have taken place in Greco-Roman antiquity.

The wrestler who made the remark to Cole had recently retired from the ring due to blood clots in his lung (a condition that can be caused by abuse of muscle-enhancing anabolic steroids though he claimed it was from Agent Orange). His forced retirement turned out to be a big break, however, for he soon found fame as a heel commentator on WWF television. Now he was about to head to Hollywood for an even bigger break: a role alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie "Predator." The ex-wrestler signed his checks "James Janos." Aided by a state law allowing political candidates to use their noms de guerre on the ballot, he later would be elected mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, then governor of Minnesota.

 

He was, is, Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

* * *

You don’t have to be a Reform Party renegade, a French semiotician or a board member of the Parents Television Council to know that sex and wrestling go together like a horse and carriage. In an earlier era they used to call this pseudo-sport "grunting and groaning." The pejorative was despised by my uncle, the late Sam Muchnick. "They do grunt and they do groan," he once conceded to me, "but putting it that way sounds so . . . undignified." Sam was perhaps the industry's most important promoter before WWF hypemeister Vince McMahon crossed new technology with postmodern perversity to create the strangest marketing juggernaut in pop-culture history.

Part of McMahon's particular genius was to cut out the middleman, end any pretense of dignity and give the people exactly what they want: homophobia locked in mortal combat with homoeroticism. But this is not a disquisition on the sexual content of the wrestling product. It is a report on the companion phenomenon of sex *inside* wrestling. The question is whether the backstage manipulations of promoters, bookers, performers and hangers-on mirror the displaced fetishes, dominance games and double (and sometimes single) entendres so boldly evident on the sunny side of the proscenium.

And the answer is: Uh, yeah.

Understand, for starters, that wrestling sex is to real sex what wrestling violence is to real violence. Just as the most effective punch is the pulled variety, the best fuck is the mind kind. Consenting adults trespass this blue line at their own risk. For proof, we offer Kevin Sullivan, a booker, or storyline weaver, for Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling, the WWF's chief rival.

Four years ago Sullivan was casting about for a way to put "heat" on Chris Benoit, a technically virtuosic but relatively colorless Canadian wrestler, when Sullivan hit upon a brilliant idea. It involved Sullivan's wife Nancy Daus, a buxom brunette who appeared on WCW television as a valet known, economically, as "Woman." Sullivan cooked up a subplot (an "angle" in carny patois) whereby Woman left Sullivan for Benoit. Wrestlers tend to take method acting to extremes. In this instance, to give the gimmick credibility, Sullivan ordered his wife and Benoit to hang out together 24/7. When Chris went to the gym, Nancy went with him. When he went to his hotel room, she . . . well, you get the point. Before long, life was imitating art. On February 23, 2000, Nancy celebrated the birth of her baby boy, Daniel Christopher Benoit. It is not known if Sullivan sent a shower gift. Chris Benoit was by now in the WWF.

"Kevin Sullivan," says Wrestling Observer Newsletter publisher Dave Meltzer, "booked his own divorce."

Legendary wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart saw his 14-year marriage to his wife Julie (not a TV character) collapse, in part under the strain of sexual innuendo, on a 1997 WWF tour ably captured in the award-winning documentary "Wrestling With Shadows." In one memorable scene, Hart and his then-nemesis Shawn Michaels are recording a promotional "shoot" for a series of upcoming matches. The two men were said to truly detest each other and their insults, though elliptical to the uninitiated, added up to more than a contrived "work."

At one point Michaels says to Hart, "You've been having a lot of 'sunny' days lately" -- a reference to Hart's rumored affair with wrestling personality Sunny (Tammy Sytch). Hart, who now wrestles for WCW, denies the rumor. It also must be noted that Hart has had more important things on his mind since the 1999 death of his brother, Owen, during a stunt at a WWF pay-per-view show.

Husband-and-wife combos are no less common among wrestlers than in other professions. Unions of recent vintage include Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Elizabeth (they're now divorced). Also Eddie "Hot Stuff" Gilbert, who would die of a drug overdose, married and divorced both Missy Hyatt and Medusa Miceli. The aforementioned Ms. Sytch is now married to wrestler Chris Candido. And there are many, many others.

The thinking person's wrestling fan, therefore, ponders the future of those volatile lovebirds Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Paul Levesque) and Stephanie McMahon. That Stephanie is billed with a hyphenated surname on "Smackdown" is about as meaningful as the championship belt her bogus hubby once held and may one day regain.

Still, how many opportunities does a man get to French-kiss the boss's daughter on national TV? Insiders describe the relationship as legitimately on-again, off-again, or at least serious enough to make Triple H forget his former squeeze, Chyna (Joanie Laurer), whose biceps measure somewhere between Stephanie's and his own. And you thought Vince was kidding when he said he wanted his children to follow him in the family business.

***

Hollywood has the casting couch and wrestling, too, has its ways of separating the wheat from the shaft.

As long ago as the early 80s, dressing-room scuttlebutt ascribed a quickie National Wrestling Alliance title change to a blowjob that a certain promoter was allowed to administer to his short-lived young champion. In the last decade, Barry Orton, a second-generation wrestler who is now out of the business, claimed that his resistance to sexual harassment was the reason he never rose above prelim status. Another disillusioned ex-WWFer, Billy Jack Haynes, used to joke that he had to be careful about bending down for a bar of soap on the shower floor.

Vince McMahon's right-hand man on the talent side is Pat Patterson, a former main eventer. Patterson's boyfriend, a "jobber" (perennial loser) called the Brooklyn Brawler (Steve Lombardi), has precious little else to recommend him, though that's just the start of allegations that Patterson has abused his power. Until recently, WWF wrestlers talking about their moves in interviews would slyly allude to "the Pat Patterson go-behind." In wrestleworld, this passes for sublime wit.

For former ring attendant Tom Cole, it isn't funny and understandably so. When Cole was 15 or 16, he recalls, "Patterson would look at you when he was talking to you. He'd look right at your crotch and he'd lick his lips. He'd put his hand on your ass and squeeze your ass and stuff like that." Cole, now 28 and a married small business owner, was speaking on the record and last year also gave a detailed interview to the newsletter Wrestling Perspective, which can be accessed online at www.wrestlingperspective.com.

Cole got started with the WWF around 1984 at the age of 12, in Yonkers, NY, through Mel Phillips, then a ring announcer and head of the ring crew. Cole says Phillips had a black book with names of kids – mostly from broken homes – from all over the country.

"He used to have a thing where he played with your feet," Cole says. "He would wrestle you for five seconds, then he'd pull your shoes off and start playing with your toes. When I was a young kid, I wasn't thinking too much about it. Now I look at it like, 'Wow, that was a foot fetish. There's something wrong here.'"

In 1990, Cole says, Patterson's assistant Terry Garvin secured him a steady job at the WWF parts warehouse and promised him a tryout as a ring announcer. Garvin subsequently maneuvered Cole to his house, near the WWF's Stamford, Connecticut, base, on an evening when Garvin's wife and two kids were away. Garvin popped a porn tape into the VCR and offered to fellate Cole, who declined and spent the night in a van parked outside. Shortly thereafter, Cole was fired.

Cole first told his story to Phil Mushnick of the New York Post (and now TV Guide), the only mainstream journalist who has given the industry any kind of sustained scrutiny. In 1992, evidence of harassment and abuse of underage ring boys synergized with a federal grand jury investigation of McMahon's role in steroid trafficking among WWF talent. Hopelessly in over his head, Cole settled, on the eve of Phil Donahue and Geraldo Rivera shows devoted to the scandals, for $150,000, back pay and the return of his old job. (Cole says his lawyer, Alan Fuchsberg, pocketed $100,000 of the settlement sum for "about four hours' work.")

At the height of the tabloid blitz, Patterson, Phillips and Garvin (who died last year) all left the company. But within a few weeks, Patterson had quietly returned. Barely more than a year later the WWF fired Cole again because, he contends, he stopped sharing information from his grand jury testimony and refused to cooperate in McMahon's ultimately unsuccessful libel suit against Mushnick and the Post.

Not all of wrestling's legal-sexual problems stem from homosexual conduct. In 1999, the WWF's former women's champion Sable (Rena Mero), a Playboy cover girl, filed a $120 million lawsuit claiming she was verbally assaulted and threatened by WWF personnel who had also tried to coerce her into baring her breasts on a pay-per-view show and participating in a lesbian "angle." The suit was later dropped. Meanwhile, WCW has had several parallel pieces of litigation. The best known of them featured former valet Missy Hyatt and was settled in 1996.

And not every incident of male aggression stops at sex. In 1983, the girlfriend of then-WWF headliner Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka died from a blow to the head in a motel room near Allentown, Pennsylvania. Observers who have studied the case still question the official ruling of accidental death.

* * *

For the feds, naturally, the big enchilada was Vince McMahon. And when they smelled blood, accusers of varying degrees of probity came out of the woodwork faster than The Rock can ooze hiphop attitude. One of them, Murray Hodgson, who was briefly employed by the WWF in a minor TV announcing slot, claimed in a civil lawsuit that Pat Patterson had crudely propositioned him. But at the conclusion of Hodgson's videotaped deposition, his attorney, Ed Nusbaum, withdrew from the case.

"The WWF spent what I would estimate at around $100,000 in its private investigation of Hodgson," Nusbaum says. (Tom Cole believes that during certain periods he was tailed by WWF-hired detectives from the Fairfax Group, now DSFX.) "I was absolutely convinced by the evidence that emerged establishing that Hodgson was a lifelong con man."

Around the same time, the WWF's first female referee, Rita Chatterton, came forward with a tale of having been raped by McMahon in the back seat of his limousine. Chauffeur Jim Stuart corroborated Chatterton's account and filed a lawsuit of his own, alleging that, during his WWF employment, he had been forced into witnessing the commission of crimes. Both Chatterton and Stuart have since disappeared into the fog machine. Stuart's lawyer at the time, Frank Riccio, is not returning calls.

For McMahon's part, he relies heavily in such situations on Jerry McDevitt of the Pittsburgh law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, otherwise distinguished by his representation of President Clinton's naughty ex-political consultant, Dick Morris. Ultimately, the grand jury ignored the sex stuff and handed down indictments on charges that McMahon had brokered illegal steroid transactions for WWF wrestlers through a Pennsylvania doctor.

At a sensational 1994 trial in New York, prosecutors thought they were delivering the goods via the testimony of McMahon's former secretary, Emily Feinberg, the wife of a WWF script writer and a one-time Playboy model, and someone assumed to have spent time doing the nasty with Vince. Feinberg's performance under cross-examination withered, however. Some speculate this had something to do with the fact that, outside the courtroom, she had been pumped for information by one Martin Bergman, who may or may not have been a TV producer, but who definitely was the husband of McMahon's lead defense attorney, Laura Brevetti. (Bergman also is the brother of Lowell Bergman, the 60 Minutes producer who took on the tobacco industry and is portrayed by Al Pacino in The Insider.) In any event, a jury acquitted McMahon on all counts.

Now fast-forward four years. McMahon, heretofore a babyface TV announcer, calculates that he is of more value to his company playing the evil corporate boss in a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin. And so, in one popular magazine interview after another, McMahon becomes the first imminent Wall Street tycoon ever to brag – falsely – that he was convicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute steroids. And the magazine writers buy it, giving Virtual Vince even more of an outlaw image than he deserves.

Book *that*, Kevin Sullivan.

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THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 144-2001

ALI BABA, LOPEZ CAPTURE OLYMPIC FEATURES

(Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1940)

By Al Wolf

Ali Baba and Vincent Lopez made up the daily double at the Olympic torso-twisting party last night.

The pin-domed Turk defeated Tarzan White – and hurt him in the process. Tarzan attempted a flying tackle, but sly Ali was the little man who wasn’t there, and Tarzan flew into the seats. When he finally staggered back into the ring, Ali tried a body slam, but was careless and slammed White on his head. Referee Dick Rutherford immediately halted the action and Baba was the winner in 21m. 43s. A preliminary examination revealed no serious injury.

In the other feature scramble, Rube Wright gave Lopez a slam that broke windows for blocks around for a fall in 18m. 30s. But the double-jointed Mexican switched to fisticuffs and won "handily" in 11m. 56s. with a left hook and in 1m. 56s. with a right cross.

Lee Wykoff, winner of the recent marathon entitled "International Heavyweight Tournament," surprisingly found a challenger when he offered to throw any man in the house within 20 minutes or else fork over a considerable wad of folding money. The ambitious one was toothless Crusher Billings, a fellow rassler who was taking a busman’s holiday. But Wykoff didn’t cringe – he stamped out the threat in 6m. 8s. with a hammer throw and body press.

The traffic was terrific all evening in the front row, what with the rasslers making frequent landings and the patrons hasty departures. They should build bomb shelters at ringside. Other results:

Max Krauser and K.O. Koverly drew (both still out of the ring after the 20 count); Sammy Stein pinned Dr. Fred Meyers in 12m. 27s., southern cross; El Pulpo and Bill Stecher drew; Bobby Coleman threw Arturo Nerjil in 7m. 32s., body press; Don Luis Sebastian pinned King Kong Clayton in 12m. 19s., body press.

WYKOFF PUTS SZABO DOWN IN ‘GRUDGER’

(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, June 6, 1940)

By Al Wolf

Sandor Szabo was the people’s choice in the recent heavyweight rasslin’ roundup, but Senor Szabo was injured en route and Lee Wykoff emerged the champion.

Ever since, Senor Szabo has been casting aspersions on Mr. Wykoff’s talents as a sinew snapper, much to the latter’s disgust. So last night they had it out at the Olympic before a jury of some 6,000 zealots.

Result: Two falls for Wykoff, one for Szabo – and that’s that.

The boys dug deep into the trick sack for a couple of cutie finishers. After Wykoff took the opener with an ordinary body slam in 19m. 19s., Szabo got even with a maneuver which he must have learned watching one of those window flapjack makers. As Wykoff threw him to the mat and clambered aboard, cagey Senor Szabo emulated a pancake turner and went from bottom to top in a split second. The technical name is a reverse body roll and the time was 6m. 32s.

For the clincher, Wykoff responded with a complicated contraption called a pullover, in 5m. 10s.

All the individual bouts appeared tame in comparison to the team presentation, in which Tarzan White and Hardy Kruskamp (heroes) did away with Jules Strongbow and Wee Willie Davis (need we bother to identify them as deep-dyed villains?). It was like four bulls in a China shop. Results of other bouts:

Rube Wright pinned Sonny LaMont in 9m. 15s., body slam; K.O. Koverly pinned Max Krauser in 13m. 3s, body press; Hardboiled Haggerty pinned Vic Christy in 12m. 15s., body press; Sammy Stein drew with Pete Peterson; and Jimmy El Pulpo pinned Don Luis Sebastian in 12m. 16s., jack-knife scissors.

K.O. KOVERLY DISQUALIFIED

(Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1940)

By Al Wolf

Last night’s rassle class at the Olympic quite possibly had the rare good fortune ot see a shooting match, although such things have long been considered as extinct as the dodo bird.

A stranger who gave the name "Del Rosa" plunked down five bucks for a license and examination, borrowed a set of trunks from one of the boys and attempted to win a "C" note by staying 20 minutes with Lee Wykoff, who has been making that offer to the house weekly.

For his "fin," the unknown, a stylish-stout party, got just 2m. 3s. of roughing up from the recent tourney victor before being erased with a body press.

In the main event, which started long after the average bedtime, Pantaleon Manlapig was the victor over K.O. Koverly. After each had won a fall, Mr. Koverly ungracefully clamped the Filipino’s noggin between the twisted ropes, then got outside the ring and pummeled him merrily. But referee Don McDonald counted him out for his absence from the battleground, a technicality that incensed Mr. Koverly – to put it most mildly.

Rube Wright took two out of three from Hans Steinke, who substituteed when Vincent Lopez again played hookey. The team match for once gailed to go over with the 4,500 patrons. In it, Jules Strongbow – sporting an Indian-style haircut – and Tiny Roebuck used Hardy Kruskamp and Tarzan White for battering rams against the corner posts and thereby rendered them hors de combat at an early hour. Other results:

Frederick Von Schacht defeated Tarzan White in 17m. 25s (White injured leg and was unable to continue); Hardboiled Haggerty pinned Vic Hill in 5m. 34s. , body press; Max Krauser pinned Wee Willie Davis in 7m. 11s., airplane spin; Crusher Billings pinned Pete Peterson in 14m. 36s., body press, and Bobby Coleman and El Pulpo drew, 20m.

JUAN JUAREZ WINS OLYMPIC MAT TOURNEY

(Los Angeles Times, May 20, 1941)

Disposing of four opponents in a total of slightly more than 15 minutes, Juan Juarez, Mexican champion, won the one-night elimination wrestling tourney at Olympic Auditorium last night.

Juarez was pretty sensational as he disposed of Tom Zaharias in the opening match in 5m. 48s. with an airplane spin and finished with a flashy 1m. 9s. triumph over another of the Zaharias clan, Chris, in the finals.

In between the Mexican polished off Sonny LaMont in 1m. 42s. with a flying mare and Tiny Roebuck in 6m. 45s. via body press.

Chris reached the finals by downing Luigi Bacigalupi, Pete Mehringer and Flash Hill. Hill advanced into the semifinals when Al Baffert was disqualified while Roebuck won over Giovanni Garibaldi by default.

Other first-round results were as follows: Baffert defeated Smoky Joe Woods, Hill defeated Babe Dusek, Chris Zaharias took Luigi Bacigalupi, Garibaldi topped George Cutler, Sonny LaMont flattened George Schnabel, Roebuck won over Tony Felice and Mehringer floored Abe Kaplan.

STEELE PINS TERROR IN OLYMPIC TIFF

(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, May 29, 1941)

Ray Steele, the National Wrestling Association’s champion, took two out of three falls from the Golden Terror in the main event at Olympic Auditorium last night, clearing the way for a match with Jim Londos for the undisputed world crown June 11.

Terror started fast and won the first anto in 1m. 47s. with a body press but Steele evened matters in 1m. 25s. with a series of body slams and annexed the third trick in 2m. 26s. with a bit of the same medicine.

Scoring his sixth straight victory, Juan Juarez stretched out Dick Lever in 2m. 44s. of the semi-windup with a body press. Tom Zaharias downed Otto Schnabel in 12m. 57s. with a press.

Hans Schnabel downed Al Baffert in 10m. 24s. with a backbreaker; Pete Mehringer pinned Sonny Lamont in 11m. 26s. with an Irish whip and press; Abe Kaplan flattened Giovanni Garibaldi in 7m. 22s. with a press and Dan Barnhart won over Vic Hill via flying tackles in 6m. 31s.

ZBYSZKO WINS FROM INDIAN

(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Thursday, Apr. 27, 1944)

Wladek Zbyszko, the former Polish champion, and Dean Detton, one-time world’s titleholder, won top honors on Wednesday night’s double main event heavyweight wrestling card at the Auditorium and will meet in the top match next week.

Zbyszko won two straight falls with a flying mare over Chief Thunderbird, while Detton spotted George Wilson, Seattle, one fall before taking two in a row and the match.

Bob Kruse and Cliff Thiede went a fast 30 minutes to a draw in the semi-windup, and Larry King took one fall to defeat Homer Hoken in the curtain-raiser.

The largest crowd yet to take in the recently revived heavyweight matches was on hand.

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THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 145-2001

TARZAN WHITE PINS DICK RAINES
 
(Los Angeles Times, Thursday, May 4, 1939)
 
By Cal Wharton
 

Piper is ending a 14-month hiatus and returning to the ring Saturday night for the Central Wrestling Organization in a show at the National Western Complex in Denver.

While it seems odd that one of wrestling’s all-time greatest performers is working for an independent promotion, Piper has his reasons for starting small.

First, Piper wants to prove to World Championship Wrestling that he can still perform after being fired in July 2000 during one of the promotion’s cost-cutting moves. While he won’t be wrestling in an official match, CWO promoter Dan Magnus said Piper will be serving as commissioner and will participate in various capacities throughout the show.

Piper, 46, is suing WCW for age discrimination, claiming he was shorted $1.4 million by not being allowed to fulfill the final 40 appearances on his contract despite having recovered from a torn biceps suffered late in 1999.

WCW declined comment on the lawsuit.

"Why get rid of me?" said Piper, whose real name is Roderick Toombs. "They didn’t mind when I was filling all the arenas. Then when they took me off the roster, things started going down. Why not put me back in the game?"

Piper’s situation prompted him to reflect about an industry without pensions or medical plans for retired performers. That reality hit home this month when Piper attended the annual meeting of the Cauliflower Alley Club, a society for active and retired wrestlers.

There, Piper learned of Johnny Valentine’s financial problems stemming from medical bills.

Valentine was a headliner for 28 years until a plane crash ended his career in 1975. Piper was so touched that he promised to dedicate 5 percent of his future earnings toward paying what Valentine owes.

Piper also wants to lead a fundraising drive among wrestlers for the CAC so a pension program can be built.

"In wrestling, you try to get all you can as fast as you can because it’s a short career in most cases," said Piper, who has an artificial hip stemming from 29 years in the business. "What I would like to see is my peers’ realizing what a stud Johnny Valentine was and that they could be there someday themselves."

Piper, though, realizes he faces a stiff challenge because of the stigma surrounding anything resembling unionization by wrestlers. Pervious plans have failed miserably, largely because of a wrestler’s fear of being blacklisted by promoters.

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura who was a prominent wrestler and announcer in the 1970s and 1980s before entering politics, spoke about the need for unionization in May 1999 after the in-ring death of World Wrestling Federation performer Owen Hart. But that talk ended later that summer when Ventura resumed a working relationship with WWF owner Vince McMahon, who currently employs "The Body" as an XFL announcer.

Piper said he isn’t trying to unionize and hopes the fact that the CAC is an independent body without affiliations with any promotions will persuade wrestlers to contribute.

"I think this is the most sensible way to go about it," said Piper, who plans to continue entertaining independent dates to raise money for CAC and Valentine. "This way, you’re not ruffling anybody’s feathers or asking anybody to take a stand. I’m taking a stand myself."

Piper also is keeping busy by working on an autobiography, which he hopes to release in four months through Random House.

YOU'VE BEEN RUMBLED

(Sunday Mail, circa March 2001)

By Brandan McGinty

A gang of rogue wrestlers have left thousand of pounds of debt after touring Scotland.

Grapplers from the British Wrestling Federation -- whose shows are dubbed WWF Royal Rumble –- left a trail of bouncing cheques after their tribute shows.

The fighters draw crowds by impersonating World Wrestling Federation superstars such as 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, who is played by unknown British fighter Russ Matthews.

Small businesses and hotels were left out of pocket after being duped by the fighters.

One fed-up hotelier stormed into the ring with a police escort during a show to demand his cash back.

Now investigators from the Forum for Private Business have been called in to probe the lookalike wrestlers amid claims that the outfit left thousands of pounds of debt.

Ian McGregor, of the reputable American Wrestling Federation, said: "They are giving all wrestling in this country a bad name.

"I've spoken to people in countless venues who have been ripped off by these people. It makes them wary of anything to do with wrestling."

The BWF's trail of debt started in Rothesay, where a hotelier who put up the fighters stepped into the ring alongside police officers in the middle of a show in the Queen's Hall to demand payment.

Karen Watson, of local firm Print Point, said: "We were completely duped.

Because these people had shows in recognised venues and had been all over the country, we agreed to do some work for them, such as making posters for their events.

"We've been trying to get money back from them ever since. The more digging I do, the more businesses I find with the same problem.

"I can't believe they are still able to put on their shows."

The wrestling troupe moved on to Glasgow, where they bounced a cheque in a toy shop where they had bought pounds 1000 worth of props.

They've also performed at several other Scottish venues. Young fans have been left shocked by the brutal action at the shows, in which wrestlers smash metal chairs and trays into their rivals' faces.

After one battle in Motherwell just over a month ago, wrestler Kid Krazy was forced to retire from the ring with internal bleeding.

BWF shows have been slammed for their poor quality.

The internet website Wrestling Observer said of one show: "The event is titled as WWF Tribute but I would brand it as WWF Insult.

"It's surprising how they've got away with it for so long and continue to get away with it."

But it is their refusal to pay bills which has provoked most anger.

Another businessman who has been ripped off, but asked not to be named, said:

"It has actually been very embarrassing, but there are a few of us in the same boat."

The BWF -- also known as WWFGB -- cash in on the huge popularity of the real stars of the World Wrestling Federation. Their fighters take on the persona of the American stars and copy their gimmicks.

But when the British copycats wrestle under their own names, they only attract crowds of around 100.

BWF promoter Rufus Foulkes refused to discuss the debts.

When a Sunday Mail reporter refused to disclose the source of our information, he said: "Well, I'm not talking to you, then."

Cardiff WALES: February 28, 2001

(British Wrestling Federation, att. 536) … Drew McDonald and Karl Kramer beat Buh Buh Ray Dudley (Adam Clark) and D-Von Dudley (Martin Ubaha) … Crash Holly (Andy Chambers) and Chris Jericho (Justin Hansford) beat James Mason and Klondyke Kate … Alan Kilby beat Shooting Star … Tiger Steele (Giant Butch Masters) beat Mustafa Saed (original Gangsta) … Virgil (Mike Jones) beat Blondie Barret … Crash Holly and Stone Cold Steve Austin (Russ Matthews) beat Drew McDonald and Karl Kramer (dq) … Steve Austin (Russ Matthews) won Royal Rumble

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For the sake of record books that record historic matters of the mat, Tarzan White, the boy who used to butt out the opposition for dear Old Alabama, butted Dick Raines out of the state championship picture in the main event last night at the Olympic.
 
White captured the first pinning after 16 minutes, when he sent a barrage of flying tackles in Raines’ direction. Raines failed to weather the attack and crumpled on his back.
 
Raines, however, figured that there was something fishy going on in the second canto and so decided to end matters by putting White out of commission with a Boston crab in 6m. 6s.
 
Raines brought about his own downfall. Four times he lifted Tarzan high and tossed him on the canvas. The fifth time Tarzan grabbed the ropes. Raines pulled, but nothing would give. He pulled again and this time Tarzan let loose. Challenger Raines fell backward with Tarzan on top of him. It all happened in 4m. 35s.
 
The evening’s windup featuring Sandor Szabo and Hans Schnabel, who went 23m. 11s. before the Hungarian Adonis, another claimant of the California championship, won out with a backward body slam.
 
A couple of blonds who might be mistaken for nice home girls if they could only cook added a touch of the feminine to an otherwise masculine show. The characters, Clara Mortensen, self-styled women’s wrestling champion, and Ruby Delgado, challenger, pulled hair, kicked and clawed for 6m. 55s. before Miss Mortensen applied a body slam and body press to win the bout.
 
Other casualties included Don McIntyre, who bowed to the Black Panther in 8m. 30s.; Fritz Schnabel was the victim of Edward Payson’s body press in 5m. 42s.; Otto Schnabel fell before Paul Boesch, who used a rolling leg split to win in 14m. 54s.; Jim Austeri defeated Bob Gregory in 10m. 27s. with an airplane spin.

WRESTLERS TO SQUARE OFF AT THE ORLEANS

(Las Vegas View, March 3, 1999)

By Kirk Kern

When "Buffalo" Jim Barrier staged the first graduation/exhibition for Buffalo Jim's Wrestling School, more than 2,200 people showed up.

"At that point, I figured we'd better get an arena and put on a big show," Barrier said.

Barrier chose the arena at The Orleans for the first Buffalo Wrestling Federation card, scheduled for March 20.

"It's a nice venue, a neighborhood venue," Barrier said. "It's for the people of Vegas and I liked that. They were able to accommodate me and work with me. I really hope to work something out with them to be a permanent fixture there. I'm not much for change; I'd like to stick in one place awhile."

Barrier said the card will include a feature match between the first BWF heavyweight champion, Rush, against veteran pro wrestler The Tonga Kid. The six-match card is also scheduled to feature Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and tag-team competitors Public Enemy and The Head Shrinkers. Nick Bockwinkel will serve as guest announcer.

"We're just gonna go out and see what we can do with it," Barrier said. "We can show it can be done."

One person who hopes for success is Rush, otherwise known as Gary Mills.

Mills, 28, became the first BWF heavyweight champion by winning a 10-man elimination tournament during the school's "graduation." The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Mills says his nickname is short for Adrenaline Rush, because that describes his style in the ring. It will be Mills' first one-on-one match.

"You have to see me to appreciate me," he said. "I have the utmost confidence. The Tonga Kid is one of those guys from the old school, so he's pretty experienced."

Right now, Rush is a good guy, or "baby face." That could change, however.

"It's good for now," he said. "If the people don't like it, I can change. That's even better."

If he changes, Mills could end up like "Superstar" Mike Lane, a veteran wrestler also scheduled to compete in the first card. Lane is what's known as a heel, the wrestler fans love to hate. He has been in the business 14 years and has competed around the United States and Europe.

"I'm 236-pounds, 5-foot-11 of twisted steel and sex appeal," he said. "I'm every man's regret and every women's pet. I'm the human heartthrob himself."

Lane is scheduled to wrestle a recent graduate of Barrier school known as Big Dollars.

"He calls himself Big Dollars, but I call him Small Change," Lane said. "He's 383 pounds. This will be his debut, but it could also be his end. I'm going to cash him in."
Barrier hopes to cash in as well on a sports/entertainment show that has surged in popularity the last few years. The World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling shows on Monday nights are part of the reason Monday Night Football finished with its lowest ratings in its 28-year history.

Nielson Media Research recorded Monday Night Football was viewed by 13.8 million households, an 8 percent decline from the average in 1997.
"A lot of people might say it's fake, but I've seen a couple of dozen guys come and go at the school already," Mills said. "They can't hang, and you never see them again.

"They pay a few hundred dollars to get the snot beat out of them. But the fact is, you enjoy it for the entertainment. As long as you get some emotion out of it, you're entertained."

Tickets for the March 20 show are available at TicketMaster locations and at the box office of The Orleans and Gold Coast hotel-casinos. Prices are $12, $18 and $24. The show begins at 7 p.m.
 
PRO WRESTLING SERIOUS BUSINESS FOR CHARLIE SMITH

(The Walton Tribune, Monroe GA, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2001)

By Chris Bridges

Today’s wrestling fan knows about The Rock, Goldberg, Triple H, The Undertaker and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

While Charlie Smith knows about these pro wrestling superstars, he also knows about former world champions Dory Funk Jr., Terry Funk, Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski and literally hundreds of other wrestlers. Beginning in the 1950s, Smith, a Loganville resident, entered the grunt and groan business and became known himself, not as a wrestler, but as a referee.

"My brother was the one who got me started going to the matches in 1948," Smith, now 70, said. "He was a big fan and went every Friday night."

It didn’t take long for Smith to become a fan as well as he soon was inquiring about securing a job as an usher so he could attend the matches free. Smith was successful in obtaining an usher’s job and did that for about a year.

In fact, Smith actually wrestled himself in the "semi-pro" ranks to raise money for the Boys Club. However, weighing only 125 pounds, Smith decided being a referee might be a better calling.

In 1954, Smith went to work for the Georgia branch of the National Wrestling Alliance, a division of ABC Booking Corporation based in Atlanta. His bosses were Ray Gunkel, Paul Jones and Don McIntyre, all familiar names to longtime pro grappling fans.

On a Friday night several decades ago, Smith got the opportunity to referee when he traveled to Eastman to fill in for a sick referee. He also set up and took down the ring that night, taking home a grand total of $25 for his efforts. The two wrestlers in the ring with Smith for his first refereeing venture that night were Bill Dromo and El Lobo.

However, from those humble beginnings, a career was born.

"When I went back to Atlanta the bosses said they had heard good reports about the job I had done," Smith said. "I was able to referee once or twice a week. I didn’t get in the clique right away. I was able to work some on Fridays in the Atlanta City Auditorium and other smaller cities throughout Georgia."

Recalling his start in the business, Smith finds it amazing that the chief of the ring crew today makes approximately $50,000.

Back then Smith was making a living in pro wrestling on $100 a week because he also worked in the main office in Atlanta helping sell tickets and distribute paychecks. Smith also eventually began putting together a weekly wrestling program.

Recalling his years in the business, Smith said he worked with and became friends with virtually everyone associated with pro wrestling. He said Dory Funk Jr. was the greatest world champion he ever saw. Funk wrestled in more one-hour matches than anyone else Smith could remember.

Smith himself was no stranger to long bouts as he once went 2 ½ hours in the ring.

"I was not as tired as I thought I might be after that match," Smith said.

While Smith primarily worked the Georgia circuit, he also refereed matches in Japan and the Bahamas as well as across the United States. Many times he would be called in as a "special referee" in Florida, Alabama and Tennessee.

Eventually, Smith earned $100 per show, but he also recalls a time when he worked for Vince McMahon (owner of the World Wrestling Federation) and earned $500. During his time working for McMahon, Smith worked with such stars as Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan.

While the majority of his memories in the mat sport are good ones, Smith also recalls the time he suffered ligament damage in his knee while refereeing a match in Savannah, causing him to miss three weeks of action. He also saw his share of riots among fans and even had a fan cut him with a knife. Smith was even burned while working a match with The Sheik, who earned a reputation for doing anything duringa match. He also saw several wrestlers through the years stabbed by fans who disapproved of the match result.

While Smith is not involved in the wrestling game on a daily basis anymore, he still occasionally climbs in the ring. He was the referee for a "Legends Match" between "Bullet" Bob Armstrong and former WWF champion Iron Sheik in Conyers two years ago and more recently refereed a match in Cordele between Ted Oates and Dutch Mantell that lasted an hour.

Today, Smith enjoys watching wrestling on television with his grandkids, who also have grown into fans.

Smith recalls the exact date he moved to the Loganville area (April 6, 1960) with his wife, who once jokingly told him she married him to obtain free wrestling tickets.

"I may not live in the biggest or fanciest house, but I enjoyed what I did," Smith said. "That counts for something."

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THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 146-2001

STATE OFFICIAL FIGHTS SLURS ON WRESTLING

(Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1939)

By Chester G. Hanson

SACRAMENTO, May 10 – Another member of the State Athletic Commission who has seen no violation of the wrestling rules was uncovered today by the Assembly special committee investigating boxing and wrestling in California.

The see-no-evil man was George Payne, chairman of the commission. He is a newspaper publisher of San Jose, has been on the commission since 1935, and has been chairman for two or three years. In that time he has attended anywhere from 25 to 50 wrestling bouts, he said.

In reply to questions from Assemblyman Chester Gannon, chairman of the committee, Payne said he had seen no infractions of the rules as set up in Section 5 of the commission’s book of rules.

"You never saw wrestlers strike each other?" Gannon asked. No, Payne said he had not. He had seen passes made but no connections. No, he had never seen a wrestler gouge or scratch an opponent, or interfere with or rough up a referee. He had heard of a referee’s shirt being torn. Asked what he had done about it, Payne said, "We attempted to take care of it."

If Gannon were to say he saw such things on nearly every match he attended here in Sacramento, well that was what Gannon saw and Payne wasn’t vouching for what Gannon saw.

Now, as to the administration of funds under the jurisdiction of the commission, particularly with reference to seeing that the Veterans’ Home at Youngville got as much as possible, Payne thought the commission had done the job in an economical and efficient manner.

Gannon said that the opion of a number of the veterans’ organizations interested in the project was to the contrary.

The committee was handicapped in its questioning of Payne today because Assemblyman Norris Poulson, who had prepared financial data on the subject and was ready to question Payne, was taken ill last night and was in a local hospital today.

But Payne had some figures when Gannon asked him how come that 54 per cent of the intake from boxing and wrestling goes to support the commission. He said that in 1936-37 the intake was a little more than $247,000, the expenses were about $116,000 and Yountville got $131,000.

He thought the San Francisco office of the ommission was necessary as well as the office in Los Angeles.

Junketing trips by the commission? Payne said the commission met in Los Angeles at the time of the Louis-Roper fight because the commission had important business there at that time in connection with the fight. Certainly it was at state expense. Certainly two members of the ommission and the secretary went to New York at the time of the Carnera-Baer fight but it was for an interstate meeting of athletic commissioners and lots of good came out of it and that was before Payne was a member.

But the information gained could have been secured at the cost of a postage stamp instead of the $800 it cost the athletic fund, Gannon opined.

Payne will be back next week when it is expected Poulson will be on his feet again.

E.A. Feddersen, a onetime Oakland promoter, was on the stand for some time telling of his experiences in getting a license.

William L. Wilson, department commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, spoke for his organization as well as for the Spanish War Veterans, the Jewish War Veterans and the Order of the Purple Heart.

He said the veterans were interested in seeing that Yountville got as much as possible from the proceeds of wrestling and boxing, but they felt the commission was not doing an efficient job of administration. Too extravagant. Junketing could be cut down, personnel could be reduced, perhaps the San Francisco office closed and the money saved be turned over to the veterans’ home. The Legislature was to some extent responsible, perhaps.

Feddersen testified that frequent deductions were made from receipts of his club and turned over to Chaplain Leslie C. Kelley, former member of the commission, as church donations.

He said the instances he mentioned occurred around 1935 when he was associated with Ed Lynch, San Francisco promoter.

Feddersen also testified his experiences included requests to "kick through" for gubernatorial campaigns, and make "payoffs" to avoid competition.

The witness informed the committee he protested the $25 payments to Kelley but was told by Lynch it was for "the good of the business."

Feddersen maintained he once hid behind a curtain in Dreamland Auditorium in San Francisco and observed Lynch had Kelley something he assumed was $25 obtained from the box office.

Feddersen said he took the matter to Kelley and that the clergyman denied he received payments from Lynch but added he believed it possible Lynch had found a way to make anonymous contributions to his church. The pastor, the witnesses testified, said, "We get many anonymous contributions."

First political contribution, Feddersen continued, was made in 1934 to aid the gubernatorial candidacy of John R. Quinn. A $100 contribution was made by him, Feddersen said. He testified he also turned over $450 for a campaign of former Governor Merriam, upon the representation of former Commissioner Claire V. Goodwin that it would be "a good thing to do."

Although he contributed to the Merriam campaign, Feddersen said, at the insistence of Goodwin, the latter was not reappointed after Merriam was re-elected. Edward Geary was named to succeed him.

Northern California promoters organized, hearing they were in danger of losing their licenses. A meeting was arranged to protest to Governor Merriam.

The witness said while waiting in the governor’s reception office he talked with Mark Lee Megladdery, the governor’s secretary, and told him about the contribution. Megladdery, he testified, said there was no record of it.

The check, the witness declared, was made out with the name of the payee blank. Later, he said, when the check was return from the bank it had the name of Jerd Sullivan stamped into the blank space.

After the meeting, details of which were not disclosed by the witness, he said he again talked with Megladdery in the presence of George Payne, commission member, and Megladdery told him he thought everything would come out all right.

Some time later the witness said commission member Dr. Harry Martin remarked to him "so you’ve turned rat."

Near the end of 1934, the witness declared, when Jack Ganson entered the wrestling picture, Feddersen and Lynch lost their Dreamland license to the Dreamland Corp, with Ganson as promoter.

REFEREE FACES TWO OPPONENTS

(The Oregonian, Portland OR, March 12, 1944)

George Kitzmiller and Jack Lipscomb, whose main-event clash last week ended in a verdict for Lipscomb when Kitzmiller stayed out of the ring too long while engaged in an unscheduled fracas with Buck Davidson, tangle again Monday night at the Labor Temple – with Davidson officially in the match this time.

Kitzmiller, enraged at his defeat, immediately challenged his hecklers and both accepted. So promoter Don Owen arranged a no-time-limit match, with the burly, 220-pound Kitzmiller out to throw both opponents, one at a time.

Lipscomb is expected to be the No. 1 foe, with Davidson following should the erstwhile arbiter get over his first test.

Jack Kiser, back from the east with a bagful of new mat tricks, tackles veteran Bulldog Jackson in the 45-minute semi-windup. Billy McEuin and Tex Porter, both on the "meanie" side, clash in the curtain-raiser at 8:30 p.m.

Tex Hager has been named by the athletic commission to referee the card.

KITZMILLER GETS EVEN MAT BREAK

(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Tuesday, Mar. 14, 1944)

Husky George Kitzmiller managed to dump Jack Lipscomb in his "double main event" at the Labor Temple mat matches Monday night, but lacked the zip to make it a clean sweep in one of the hottest cards seen in several weeks.

As soon as Lipscomb was eliminated, Buck Davidson, bow-legged ex-cowpuncher, leaped into the ring and after a 20-minute struggle managed to pin Kitzmiller with a crab hold. The latter had agreed to take on both men, one at a time, and put up a stiff argument.

Jack Kiser dumped Bulldog Jackson in a slam-bang semi-windup, and Billy McEuin and Toothless Tex Porter drew, with one fall each, in the opener.

BULL CURRY PINS DANNO O’MAHONEY IN MAT FEATURE

(Hartford Courant, March 11, 1948)

By Max Liberman

Displaying some of his unorthodox methods that have pushed him to the front of local wrestling heights, Hartford’s Bull Curry defeated the former kingpin of the mat game, Danno O’Mahoney, in best two out of three falls of the feature attraction last night at the Auditorium.

It was a real Curry style shindig. Although he was the first to be tossed out of the ring, he soon repaid O’Mahoney by heaving him into the aisle. When O’Mahoney climbed back, Curry mauled and slugged his much heavier foe, needing but a top body press to take the first fall. The time was 14:15.

O’Mahoney had that "wild Irish look" as he came back for the second stanza and he decoyed the Bull into the traps with a series of his famed "Irish Whips" and that was all for the Bull as O’Mahoney pinned him in the short time of 6:45 with a body press.

In a wild ending, Curry let loose with everything, including some of the furniture picked up while out in the front-row seats. He softened O’Mahoney with elbow smashes and finished him off with a body press in the short time of 12:40.

Wilbur Nead, who has been going like a house afire this season, continued his streak of wins by defeating George (Red) O’Malley in the semifinal in two straight falls, the first in 18:20 with a shoulder press and the second in 13:15 with a flying dropkick and body press. O’Malley, a local favorite, was a bit off his usual style as it was the first defeat handed him here this season.

Les Ryan subdued Tommy Bradley in the opener in 25:30 when Bradley gave up as Ryan was putting pressure on a crab hold.

An estimated crowd of more than 600 contributed $700.25.

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THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 147-2001

‘TORCH’ TALKS WITH JIM ROSS IN MULTIPLE PARTS

(ED. NOTE -- In 1992, shortly after Jim Herd was replaced by Kip Frey as WCW V.P., Jim Ross talked to Pro Wrestling Torch editor Wade Keller about what it would take to make WCW competitive with the WWF. Originally published in Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter #171.)

Wade Keller: After four weeks, are you happy with the new WCW Saturday Night program?

Jim Ross: I'm pretty happy with the way it's progressed so far. It's got a lot of room for improvement. I think in the first few episodes it's shown some bright spots that we hope to build on in the future.

Keller: What would you cite as the bright spots and on the contrary, what needs to be improved?

Ross: I think if you can have a good, quality, two-out-of-three falls match, that's a positive. The opportunity to interview one of the wrestlers in an environment where they're not restricted by a one-minute time frame for basically a monologue. I think that's a positive aspect interview.

Keller: I thought that came through today with the Nikita Koloff interview, which I thought was strong, especially given the history that was referred to. It paid some respect to the fan who's been watching WCW for a couple years.

Ross: Sure. I'm glad it was good. So I think the two-out-of-three fall matches and the interviews are probably two of the bright spots. And you never know, the guest co-host situation can be a real good situation, too. It's going to be feast or famine. Some people are going to have the aptitude for it and some people aren't. We'll just hopefully lessen the opportunity for failure. We've got a lot of people wanting to be on it.

Keller: Who are some of those people?

Ross: A lot of names are coming up. A guy that works for MTV who does the Headbanger's Ball. Other people too that they're talking to right now.

Keller: Mainly people outside of the wrestling business?

Ross: That's our goal is to have people on there from outside the wrestling business. Sometimes you're going to get somebody who really follows what's going on and other times we're going to have people who aren't aware of the feuds and may not be as insightful.

Keller: How about other areas where there's room for improvement?

Ross: I think the one thing we can do is more out of ring features, at least one fresh one every week. I think that would be real positive for the show if we could do that.

Keller: I know he's your boss, but as frank as you feel you can be, so far what's your impression of the positive aspects Kip Frey has been able to bring to WCW since Jim Herd's departure in January?

Ross: Probably the main thing that he's brought is a positive attitude to all phases of our division. He's an easy guy to communicate with and he's very intelligent and he'll be the first to admit that he doesn't know a great deal about the wrestling business, but he's learning. He does have an excellent background in television production because of his degree in film from U.S.C. He's helped us a lot in production. I think the production guys are happier now than they've been. I think when people are happy and in a positive environment, they do their best work. I think our production guys are taking a lot more pride in their product. I think we've seen that in the graphics on the WorldWide show and the music they're adding. So the guys in production are really working hard and Kip has been a real shot in the arm, especially. But his attitude and the way he handles people is probably his best attribute.

Keller: Do you sense that not just people in the office but the wrestlers and personnel on the road have also sensed that change and gained optimism?

Ross: I think the wrestlers have found him to be a very accommodating manager in someone that will give them time to come in and communicate with them. From what I can see, and I'm not on the road that much, the guys seem to be real happy with Kip Frey.

Keller: What might be Kip Frey's weaknesses right now, possibly a long-term area where he will need to rely on someone else or he'll have to work really hard where someone else may not have to struggle?

Ross: The most obvious thing he has a deficiency in is the actual in-ring product of wrestling, why some things are done and why some things aren't done. Obviously that will be the area he'll need the most improvement in. At the same time, that will be the area he improves the most in. He's a very intelligent man. He watches a lot of tapes. He's very aware of what people say about our product. He's very critical when he watches it. In that regard, I think he's going to learn really quickly because he's watching a lot of products.

Keller: Looking at the next few months of WCW, what would you like to see the priority for WCW to improve upon? Where should the most attention be dedicated?

Ross: I don't know. That's kind of hard to say. There are several areas that the company overall needs to concentrate on. One thing is obviously upgrading the syndicated network and trying to fill the voids in the markets we don't have TV in. That's a very crucial area that we have a productive year from Turner Program Services, that they get aggressive in pitching our product and clearing stations. There area lot of real good markets we don't even have an hour of television in.

Keller: What are some of those prime markets that come to mind?

Ross: There's a lot of markets that need to be cleared and there's another set of markets that need to be upgraded. I can assure you, or I think anyway, that wrestling would do well in Tulsa and there's no WCW program in Tulsa right now. Oklahoma City's television needs to be upgraded. I think it's on at 9:00. Obviously New York needs an upgraded timeslot. Right now we're airing on the only timeslot that's available to us. I know talks are going on and maybe there'll be something better in New York in the future. That's the key thing. We've got to get our syndicated network improved - not everywhere, we've got some good clearances and some good times. It's not in total shambles, it's just there's some key markets that need to be cleared. Then that allows you to book house shows and route intelligently and economically. It opens a lot of doors when you have a good, solid syndicated base.

Keller: You probably have some insight into this from your syndicated network experience in the UWF. When you say you need to upgrade your program or get into a market, what does it take? Is it just Kip Frey calling somebody or what actually goes into that?

Ross: Turner Program Services calls stations on a regular basis because they offer a great deal of product in syndication. National Geographic Specials and many movie packages from our library, of course wrestling, Captain Planet. We're the highest rated syndicated program that they clear. And they have increased their incentives to reprioritize wrestling. So I think Kip has done a tremendous job along with Rob Garner (WCW Vice President in Charge of Television and Sales) in working with Turner Program Services and I think Turner Program Services has a lot more confidence in what we're doing. They see new graphics on World Wide. They see the commitment to Jesse Ventura. They see a good May sweep planning. They know that the World Wide show is the number one priority in our company as far television is concerned. I think they like that commitment and I think they like dealing with Kip and Rob. They are in the process of working more closely and more diligently with our product and I think we'll see some positive results by the end of the year.

Keller: What do you think the impact of the signing of Ventura had on WCW as a whole?

Ross: It's been a very positive impact. We got a story in USA Today about his signing and his debut. He's very much in demand from radio stations and other forms of media for interviews. He brings a lot of credibility. His extensive exposure on NBC's Saturday Night's Main Events has been invaluable for him along with his Schwartzenegger movies. He's got great name ability, he's very talented. It was a very loud shot fired that WCW is trying to make a commitment to make our product better and this is one step we're going to take to prove that to the fans, and that is by hiring the best man available and I don't think there's too much argument that he's the best color man in this business.

Keller: Looking at all the aspects that have gone on over the last few months with Kip Frey, do you think today more than any other day since the UWF acquisition took place, WCW is in a position to "turn things around" or become the group or one of the two groups as opposed to the CBA of wrestling as maybe the perception has been?

Ross: Absolutely. Without a doubt. We are in the best position to get our house in order and deliver a more consistent and improved product on a nightly basis than we've ever been in. We've got a lot of real good people involved in our company and a lot of people have stepped in and become a lot more cooperative company-wide. A lot of those guys knew Kip and those that didn't found he was a very pleasant guy to deal with. So we're getting a lot more support company-wide for wrestling than we've got in a long time. So the feeling is we've got a long, long way to go and we still have a lot of areas to correct, but we're taking a lot of positive steps in a lot of areas and right now we're doing some good things. It's not going to happen overnight - I know a lot of people have heard that before. I've been here since the beginning of this situation and I came from a very productive wrestling territory where I was used to seeing a lot of people in the buildings and things of that nature, so I'm anxious to see it happen, too, and I think we've got a good shot at it.

Keller: Looking at nearly 18 months ago when Dusty Rhodes came from the WWF and returned to the booking position in WCW, you were one of the people who spoke optimistically about him, that he had "changed" and learned from Titan, and has a good plan. Since then, has Dusty lived up to your expectations as the guy to carry the promotion. Part two is if Dusty Rhodes didn't fulfill you're personal expectations and his, do you think Kip Frey will provide Dusty with an environment where that will now be possible?

Ross: First of all, I think Dusty has done a lot of positive things. Dusty's done some real unique things, some concepts. I think Battle Bowl at Starrcade is a neat one. He created the War Games. That's my favorite, personally. I like the intensity and the times and advantages and disadvantages. It has a lot of unique points to it that help make a wrestling match what it is with a lot of drama. He's done a lot of positive things, but he's in a real thankless job. I mean, the role of a booker in any company is the one focus, it's the heartbeat of the company. The booker's creativity and his ideas are the catalyst for what we put on TV and in the arenas. So the booking position is ultimate important, but it's also a thankless position because, it's kind of like somebody writing a screenplay and some of us are going to like it and some of us aren't. Some of us are going to like some of the characters in the screenplay and some of us aren't. But with the workload we have and the demands on the booker, then he's probably doing as good a job as he can do because quite frankly with the hours of television that we have to produce a week that we have to coordinate and create, it's amazing because it's just so totally different. Our company produces more television than anyone else, so it's real tough.

I think he's done a good job. A lot of people may or may not agree with that point, but the issue is, I know how hard the guy works, I know how dedicated to the business he is, and I know that he wants to be successful. All of his decisions aren't going to be the right ones, but they darn sure aren't going to all be the wrong ones. I just believe a lot of people have been a little bit hard on him. I don't agree with everything he does, either. And he's given me the opportunity to voice my opinions when he and I meet at our planning meetings, so I can't ask for anything more than for somebody to let me express my idea. I have that option. Sometimes he uses the ideas, sometimes he doesn't, but the point is I'm given the opportunity to express my views. Just because he doesn't take it doesn't mean I'm going to be upset about it. That's rather childish if they didn't use every idea I had, to be mad, that's just not the way it is. I don't want to get in that mindset.

Keller: Obviously the press may not be the appropriate place to do this, but if you felt comfortable talking about it, what are some of the ideas you have that you would like Dusty to adopt?

Ross: I really wouldn't want to get into that because when we meet we meet privately and we communicate privately. I respect him for allowing me that opportunity, and I really feel I would violate his trust if I said some of the things we talked about. They're not always about finishes, they're about a lot of different things we all have opinions on. Sometimes our opinions are wrong. I wouldn't want his job. Like I said, no matter who the booker is, they're always going to be criticized. The easiest part of being an insider-type fan, the easiest part to do, and frankly the most fun, is to book. It's easy to say, I'd like to see this match or this angle, and sometimes I've read some real neat things before. Some people have some real creative ideas. Some things aren't always as they seem and it's a lot harder to accomplish things than just writing it down. I get a kick out of reading it. I think it's great that somebody cares enough about what we do to spend time writing about it, but often times it's a great idea, but it may not be feasible because of the players you've got and other circumstances, as they say, that are beyond our control.

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THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 148-2001

MAT MEN ARE CONFIDENT
 
(The Oregonian, Portland OR, Tuesday, July 7, 1925)
 
Both principals in the wrestling match for the light heavyweight championship of the world, an event of tomorrow night at the Heilig theater, finished training yesterday and said they were in well-nigh perfect condition for the a fast and bruising mat tangle.
 
Though Sailor Jack Wood, the challenger, declared in unequivocal terms that he will tear the title out of the hands of Ted Thye, the champion merely smiled at such a possibility.
 
Thye is well aware that Wood may be much better than his previous appearance here would indicate, and while he expects the bout to stretch over a long two hours, is quite confident his famous wristlock will prevail in the long run.
 
The Texas gob has been perfecting a defense for that same wristlock, not only in hard daily practice, but in every bout in which he has been a contestant on a local stage.
 
"Thye will find me an elusive person to clamp that terrible hold of his on," said Wood, "and he will have to be a good deal stronger than I think he is if he keeps a hold like that even if he does get it long enough to put my shoulders to the mat.
 
"I wrestled Clarence Eklund, the great middle west wrestler, who also relies mainly on the punishing wristlock, and I stayed on the mat one hour and a half without being thrown by him. If Eklund couldn’t make the hold work, I don’t believe Thye will have a chance to."
 
Wood has lost two decisions here to Billy Edwards, but has improved greatly since then, according to reports, and has beaten Joe Reynolds at Monroe, Farmer Vance at Astoria, Abe Caplan at Newberg and Frank Pilling and Cowboy Ray here in the past few weeks. These wrestlers, of course, do not class with Thye, but they are all heavy, rough and tough, and gave Wood excellent practice for his championship match with Thye.
 
TED THYE PINS SAILOR WOOD

(The Oregonian, Portland OR, July 9, 1925)

Ted Thye defeated Sailor Jack Wood in two straight falls in their wrestling match at the Heilig theater last night. The Portland man handled his opponent pretty much as he pleased and, despite the fact that Wood tried everything in the wrestling book, including a few rough-house tactics, he didn’t appear to have a chance at any stage of the match.

Wood boasted before the match that he did not fear Thye’s wristlock and that he had a successful block for the hold, but he overlooked the fact that the Multnomah Club instructor knows a few holds besides his famous wrist grip. At that Thye was able to secure several wristlocks but Wood broke them all, not by any clever wrestling tactics, but by sheer brute strength.

When Thye pinned Wood for the first fall it was with an arm scissors which proved just as effective and painful as the wristlocks. The fall came at the end of 45 minutes 47 seconds. Wood’s shoulders were not plastered to the canvas but after struggling against the grip for several seconds he acknowledged defeat by pounding the mat.

After the usual 10-minute intermission and an extra five-minute rest which Wood asked for, it was announced that the ex-gob from Texas had suffered an injury to his shoulder as a result of struggling against the arm scissors hold but that against the advice of his doctor he was going to continue the match.

They clashed for the second fall with Wood putting up a game exhibition for a man who was supposed to have all but lost an arm in the first period. He roughed Thye around the ring for five minutes, but just as George Adams, timekeeper, called the first five-minute period Thye took Wood to the mat with a wristlock which he switched to a hammerlock and pinned the Texas grappler to the floor for the second and deciding fall.

Louis Pergandas won a one-fall victory over Frank Miller in the special event. The fall came at the end of 19 minutes 45 seconds.

(ED NOTE – Following is the second installment of the Wade Keller-Jim Ross April, 1992 Q & A that originally was published in Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter #172.)

CHALLENGES A WCW BOOKER FACES EVERY WEEK

Wade Keller: Has or will Kip Frey as Executive Vice President enable Dusty Rhodes to do his job better than under Jim Herd?

Jim Ross: I think Dusty Rhodes will have his greatest opportunity to be successful with Kip Frey here. Kip is a very positive influence on Dusty. Kip is very detail-oriented. He likes meetings, he likes things done in a systematic and orderly fashion. That's good for all of us because we have so many details to attend to that we need every bit of checks and balances that we can. And we're starting to meet more and we're starting to communicate better with Kip there. We have a better-organized department than any other time since I've been on the payroll.

Keller: What is a typical five-day week for Dusty Rhodes in his position as booker? I don't think sports fans have a real grasp of what a five-day week is like for a general manager of a baseball team, so what insight can you give to the day-to-day operations of a WCW booker?

Ross: There's always deadlines. There's always commitments you have to do. Every week that goes by means that you need to have another week of booking on the other end. With us trying to do a better job on our syndicated TVs and promoting the local event, that information has got to be done six or eight weeks ahead of time. So for every week that goes by, you need to add another week onto the other end. So he's constantly doing booking. He's constantly, because of injuries and other things that happen because wrestlers can't appear, having to make amendments to the cards and make sure transportation arrangements are made. We have to do seven pay-per-views and often times those have to be booked 60 to 90 days in advance for them to do all their merchandising through Turner Home Entertainment. So he's constantly trying to create scenarios to meet different deadlines. He's like a newspaper editor who's got a story that needs to be written and it's got to be turned in -- like, now.

There's always something that he's challenged with to get something done. It's a never-ending deal. Then there's constantly the counseling, heart-to-heart talks and social visits with the talent. Talking to other talent that might be inquiring about coming to work here. Then we do all of this TV. He has to format all the television, including the Saturday Night show, WorldWide show, and the Pro show. I format the Power Hour and the Main Event and the Canadian Power Hour, but they are approved by him. He approves them once I put them on paper. Then obviously if he cares to make a change in case I've forgotten it or something that shouldn't be there, then we make the changes and I go with it. So even though I format those shows, he still reviews them and approves them. So you can see there's a Clash to do, a pay-per-view to do, another week's booking to do, or his TV shows to do. That's not to mention talking with the talent. That's why sometimes you hear people say Dusty's a hard guy to get ahold of and he really is because he's normally in his office with his door shut trying to do his work. That's why Magnum is there and Magnum takes most of the calls from the guys unless it's necessary for Dusty to get involved. He doesn't have any free time and he doesn't work a half a day. He works hard.

The issue is, when you're doing that much creative work, not every song you write is going to be a hit, and every essay you write is not going to be remembered, but every booker I've ever worked with is in the same situation. Every angle didn't hit. And the ones which didn't hit, well you're considered real stupid. "You know, that was dumb! Why do you do that?" The same angle may have worked somewhere else great, but for whatever reason it didn't get executed.

Keller: That brings up another question. There are two complaints that seem most prevalent against Dusty Rhodes. First, not enough clean finishes - and that might have a lot to do with the wrestlers, but if they're on payroll, they should do what the boss says - and second, the rehashing of old ideas. Is using old ideas and reformatting them necessary or is a booker being paid to come up with newer stuff, especially with the demographics WCW draws, which seems to include longer-term fans than in the WWF where it's a lot of kids?

Ross: I think the booker is paid to come up with thing that works, whether it be new, novel, never-seen-before angles, or a remake of a classic, so to speak. Again, it's all real subjective. You could use a zillion analogies. It's like a piece of art. You see something someone's going to pay a million dollars for and you think, "My god, what is it? What is this thing I'm looking at?" The thing about it is the booker is paid to create scenarios that captivate the interest of the fans that will make them want to buy a ticket to the live events and also tune in to our television programs. Whether he accomplishes that with, as I said, brand new stuff or a remake, it really doesn't matter. Obviously we'd all like to come out with every angle an original, but that's rather difficult to do given we're dealing with the same set of props, a ring, wrestlers - wrestlers aren't props, but you know what I'm saying. But there's no space-age thing that wasn't around 20 years ago. Everything's stayed basically the same.

Keller: Except for something like the War Games concept.

Ross: Right, the gimmick type matches. So it's real hard to come up with brand new stuff. If you asked any booker, he'd probably tell you, 'Yeah, if I could have my way, I'd come up with creative, brand new stuff for every angle,' but unfortunately you're still dealing with a heel, you're still dealing with a babyface as a rule, and you're still going to compete in the same environment, so the storyline is what we're talking about here. And if you keep factoring them down, you still come down with good vs. evil. How you present good vs. evil is what the booker's trying to do. And again, that's what you and I and anyone else as a fan is more critical of. It's always been that way. I remember when I first got in the wrestling business, I was 19 and I would ride around with some veterans and I was refereeing and I remember them talking about how stupid the booker was. The boys do it, so it's always been a common trait. Again, the easiest part of our business is to create imaginary scenarios.

Keller: What about clean finishes?

Ross: I'm a proponent of more clean finishes than we have been using, but again that's a decision that I'm not really involved in whatsoever. If it was an idealistic situation and I had my way, I would say yeah, I'd like to have more clean finishes than we have. But you had a good point earlier when you said a lot of those finishes depend on the talent. And that has to be taken into consideration. More often than not, if you have two highly talented wrestlers, you can accomplish what you need to accomplish by giving the fans a winner and a loser. But that's just a personal quirk, I guess.

Keller: Looking at Dusty Rhodes in comparison to an Ole Anderson or Ric Flair or the booking committees, what are some of the strengths you believe Rhodes has over those past bookers?

Ross: Probably Dusty has the most vision as far as being able to visualize a major event in his mind and a concept and being able to pull it off.

Keller: Does Dusty still get excited about his job or has he done this so long that it's almost strictly business, going through the motions, so to speak?

Ross: Oh no, he's still got great enthusiasm. He's a heck of a salesman. He gets people excited at production meetings and like I said, some of his major event concepts have been terrific. Quite honestly, he started doing some things with Crockett and I remember Bill (Watts) and I had meetings with them and we got a lot of ideas from Dusty on how to do big events in our territory. We did some real good stuff at one point in time in the SuperDome, you know with 20, 25, almost 30,000 people in there when it wasn't really fashionable, and it didn't get national press because it was back in the days of the national territories. Yeah, he's been real innovative there. One of his strongest traits that I would say overshadows others I've worked with is his ability to create a Starrcade or Great American Bash or SuperBrawl or WrestleWar, that kind of thing. And quite honestly, it's imperative that we have someone who has those traits because we do seven pay-per-views and four Clashes. You've got to have that. And the area that we are really working hard on is between those televised events and the house shows. He's does some real neat things in that situation as far as the big events are concerned.

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THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 149-2001

CYCLONE THOMPSON WINS CHAMPIONSHIP BELT

(Spokane Spokesman-Review, June 17, 1925)

It took Cyclone Thompson just 36 minutes to conquer Iron Chamberlain, Worley, Idaho, deputy sheriff, and become the favored claimant of the Oscar Levitch championship belt last night in the main event of the wrestling card staged by the Disabled American Veterans of the World War.

The small attendance was the only drawback of an otherwise highly successful night. About 350 persons witnessed the show and of that number at least 200 were "deadheads." Had not all of the wrestlers donated their services, even paying their own expenses, the vets would have lost money. As it was they cleared about $2, it was said by Bob Yandell, who had charge of the card for the war victims.

Chris Gesek, former A.A.U. welterweight champion, and Dan Karll of Salt Lake City put up a great battle, Gesek winning by taking the second fall with an arm scissors in four minutes and the third by an arm lock in nine minutes. Karll took the first fall with a toe hold and body scissors in 21 minutes.

Professor S. Takahashi, 150-pound ju-jitsu expert, had an easy time with George Hall, 185 pounds. The wily oriental tossed the big fellow around almost as he would a bag of feathers. The match was ju-jitsu style and Hall deserved a lot of praise for staying with the Jap 16 minutes, Takahashi taking the fall with an arm twist. Hall says – and his match proved it – that he knows very little about ju-jitsu. The hold by which Takahashi threw him paralyzed the big fellow’s arm and for more than an hour after the match, Hall was barely able to lift a limb.

Cyclone Thompson demonstrated again that he is a remarkable wrestler. Chamberlain, with a bag of clever tricks, tried them all on Thompson, and many times the Spokane wrestler was in a bad way. Thompson always managed to wriggle from the holds just as it looked like he was going to give up. Chamberlain is part Indian, and the grit and aggressiveness which is credited to the red man certainly came to the front last night.

The first fall went 22 minutes, every second of which was crowded with plenty of action. A double wristlock by Thompson finally gave him the first victory, Chamberlain being forced to give up.

The second canto did not last so long. Thompson conquered by a double hammerlock in 14 minutes. Not a one of the matches was marred by the least sign of dirty tactics. All of the participants did their parts in the clean manner that it will take to put wrestling on its feet in Spokane.

Chris Gesek, conqueror of Karll, challenged the winner of the Chamberlain-Thompson affair.

The fans were entertained first by some little preliminary stunts that went over well. One of the vets put on a Swedish monologue that was a wow. Roy Rogers, headliner at the Pantages, got off a lot of witty stuff that brought applause. He also explained the rules governing the disposal of the diamond-studded belt donated by Mr. Levitch. The jeweler was introduced and given a great ovation when he held the dazzling trophy before the audience.

Commander A.M. Grohe of the vets was introduced by Joe Adams, that dean of announcers, and told of the vets’ plan to have another wrestling show on June 30. Just where it will be staged or who the principals will be has not been decided upon.

The Levitch belt, it was announced by Adams, will be on display in the jeweler’s window for the remainder of the week.

(ED. NOTE – The following is the third installment of the Wade Keller-Jim Ross Q & A that originally was published in Torch newsletter #173.)

WHO OUGHT TO BE THE NEXT WCW BOOKER?

Wade Keller: Let's say six months from now, two years from now, or whenever, Dusty Rhodes retires, moves on, accepts a contract somewhere else for more money, is fired, whatever, but his position is vacated. Who's out there? Either within the company or outside the company, name five candidates who could possibly fill the WCW booking slot.

Jim Ross: I don't think I could give you five, to be quite honest with you. There are people that I think have a lot of potential, but there aren't many. It's a really demanding job. You've got to create four first run TV shows a week, 52 weeks a year; that's 208 hours of weekly TV you've got to create. Plus you've got to do seven pay-per-views and four live two-and-a-half hour prime time specials. So you've got to have a television mind, plus you've got to come up with the right situations in the arena that's going to stimulate the ticket buyer to come out, so you need arena background. It's a real, real tough combination to find somebody -- one person -- to do all of those things. It may take somewhere down the road a redefining of the term "booker" and making things more departmentalized where there's a booker, a head of his department. Then there are members of the department who work with the booker in their specific areas of responsibility. It's kind of like we're doing right now because my area is to format the "Power Hour" and the "Main Event". Everything is in the same time frame. I know what's airing on other shows. So everything is compatible as far as the time-line in concerned. Then I do it and present it to the booker who signs off on it.

But I don't know who's out there. I think Terry Allen in our company has a great deal of potential because he's got a very, very fertile mind and he loves the wrestling business. That's a real key thing. He's got so much character and determination. Just to be physically able to walk as he is after what he's gone through, it's a miracle. But he never quit and had a great desire to succeed. Those same traits we see every day in the office. He's one of these kind of guys who wants to keep learning, learning different aspects of the business. He's a great ally for Dusty. I think he's come up with some really good scenarios. I think the guys like dealing with him because Magnum is an honest guy. He's real up front. So I think he's got the traits it takes to be a booker some day.

I think that Jim Cornette probably is in the process right now of refining a lot of his booking skills, which is terrific. Hopefully he will be successful there.

Keller: In the case of Cornette, what are his strong and weak points in booking in your view?

Ross: Well, his strong points obviously are his creativity. One of his strong points obviously also is as an on-camera personality he's tremendous. He's a great manager. I had the pleasure of working with him when we were both basically just getting started working for (Bill) Watts in the Mid-South. I respect him immensely. He's doing something right now he really wants to do and I'm happy for him. I hope that what he's doing is basically educating himself on the art of being a booker and running a territory. That's got to be exciting as hell for him. I knows he's probably doing right now what he's always wanted to do since he got established in the business. To say that I wouldn't love to have him in WCW would be a lie because I'd love to work with him in any capacity, be it on Saturday Night or whatever. But right now the guy's really happy and that's a real important aspect of our lives that needs to be considered. He'll always have a place here if he ever decided he wanted to come here. But I wish there was something we could do here in WCW to help him. I'd love to have him on our Saturday show as a guest co-host and he could talk about Smoky Mountain Wrestling. I'm sure they'd be willing to work with him any way that they could. We've got lots of talent that's not been working a lot that he might be able to utilize, so there could be a cooperative effort made to work out some things with him. But he's got a bad taste in his mouth from his experiences with WCW and I can't say I blame him in the least. It's just going to take time. Right now he's probably doing the best thing for him. Mentally, he's got peace of mind and it's probably the best thing for him, so I'm happy for him.

Keller: How about any weaknesses Cornette would have at this point?

Ross: Probably the only weaknesses that Corney would have right now would be the actual practical experience of being a booker and being responsible for the TV show and the talent being there and who's gonna work with who and the production of the house shows. Those are the only weaknesses I can think of. And that's something he can't help. He's getting that experience right now. The only other thing that some people might ask is how the other wrestlers will respect a guy who's not a wrestler. The thing about it is anyone who's been around him knows he's got one of the greatest minds in the business He's come up with finishes for a lot matches his guys weren't even involved in. Some of the best in the business have confided in Corney on matches, so I don't think that should be a factor at all.

Keller: And he actually has been in the ring teaming with Stan Lane on the independent circuit taking bumps and dishing out punishment, albeit often with the tennis racket instead of his fist.

Ross: When you've got eight-zillion hours of video tape at home and you spend probably 12 to 14 hours of each waking day watching them when you can, you're going to be a student of the game. He is a really talented guy.

Keller: Combine that with the fact that some of the best directors in Hollywood were never actors and some of the best general managers of football teams were never football players.

Ross: Exactly. In my career I've offended people because of my outspokenness on situations regarding a match or a program or an angle or whatever. I've probably said things - no, I'm sure I've said things I shouldn't have said and I've offended people. It's not like I offend everyone I come in contact with, but I offend some people I really didn't intend to offend, but I was just expressing my opinion on an issue in my industry that I felt I had some knowledge of. It was only my opinion; it's not carved in stone any place. It's just the way I felt. But it was honestly the way I felt about things.

Keller: Just so there's no confusion here, I want to establish that my opinion is always correct.

Ross: There you go. Well, mine isn't. I can tell you. That's the fun part about this business and that's what always keeps it exciting is that it's always changing. Some things that you think don't have a prayer get hot and some things that you think are going to be the greatest thing ever turn out to be nothin'.

Keller: How about Bill Watts. Would the booking position Rhodes currently holds need to be restructured if Watts were to take over that position?

Ross: Well, I don't think that will ever happen because he's pleased to be doing Omnitrition in Tulsa. He'll be the first to admit to ya' that the job of booker with the demands and requirements that WCW places on the booker make it virtually impossible for one man to do it all. The workload is just overwhelming. So Bill would say, I think - I'm certainly not speaking for him - that he couldn't do the job by himself. He'd do the job like he did in the past, like a lot of bookers do, they surround themselves with who they perceive to be creative, competent people. Bill, in his era, did tremendous episodic TV. He had great vision and created stars that are still wrestling today that got their start in that area. I think he would tell ya' that we're doing too much television and it's awfully, awfully hard to have good quality TV having to do that many first-run hours a week.

Keller: Is one of his strengths being getting wrestlers to follow instructions as opposed to attempting to run the show themselves or dictating what they will or will not do?

Ross: Well, he had a very unique way of communicating with guys. I don't recall anybody ever not wanting to do something with him. Bill was very persuasive, but he normally made sense. Another thing, too, is what's challenging now is we didn't have the guaranteed money contracts to the extent they have now. We did the last couple years, but they were minimal, six, eight, ten guys. But the attitudes have changed immensely from that day until now, so I don't know how he would react because he was awfully demanding. A lot of these guys who think they're stars, I don't know how they'd react to that kind of leadership.

Keller: How about Eddie Gilbert, who himself said he thought he was next in line for the job?

Ross: I think he sort of has the same background, some of the same traits that Jim Cornette would have. Both got in the business very young in the same basic area and learned a very sound style of wrestling in that area. He's had lots of experience in the ring, so that helps him. He probably just needs the opportunity to see what he could do. I'm sure he'd do a fine job. The thing is, I just don't know if there's one person that's available that's grooming themselves.

But Eddie's got lots of talent. He's had lots of challenges in his life and hopefully they'll all work toward making him a stronger person and some day, some time, it'll lead to him getting to show the world what he can do. He's a real creative guy. He's got lots of good ideas. He could probably do some excellent television. The other aspect would be, well, how would he handle talent, some of the guys who have been in the business longer or who are making more money than he is. Those are just common questions you'd ask of anybody because of his youth. Those questions would only be answered by him and the guys in question. I certainly wouldn't have a problem working with him. I'm assuming it's a situation where he'll need to be given the opportunity somewhere down the road. It might not be a bad idea for him to try to get a position with somebody where he could work with a booker somewhere down the road. It's like a coach with a good record at high school, so he goes on to coach a junior college. Then he has great credentials and maybe it's time to go to a four year school. Sometimes it works, and you go on to the NFL. Sometimes it doesn't work and you go back to junior college. You just never know until you're in the heat of battle.

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THE NEW WAWLI (Wrestling As We Liked It) PAPERS No. 150-2001

(ED. NOTE -- This it the fourth installment that originally was published in Torch newsletter #177 where Jim Ross, questioned by Dave Keller, talks about the WWF scandals (dubbed "TitanGate") at the time, plus his thoughts on Chris Benoit, Jim Herd, and the light-heavyweight division. Ross, at the time, was in charge of overseeing the syndication, marketing and advertising, television production, and arena booking divisions of WCW.)

ROSS FEELS BADLY ABOUT THE O-CALLED ‘TITANGATE’

Keller: What is your impression of the TitanGate situation?

Ross: I have probably read less than a lot of people about all of these allegations that have been made against the WWF. I feel badly that things of this nature happen to anybody in this business because it probably in some indirect, trickle down theory, affects all of us to a certain extent. A lot of people, because they are so dominant and so strong in the industry that they are wrestling to an average person. Unfortunately, you get a lot of generalizations. "If it's going on in the WWF, then it must be going on everywhere else. " First of all, a lot of the allegations being made haven't been proven. I didn't witness any of them, so I don't know if they're true or not true. But the allegations themselves certainly don't do anybody in our industry any favors. I hope they get settled and we can move on to more positive things where it's a real good competitive atmosphere between them and us and the fans are going to be the ones to cast the deciding votes in that situation.

Keller: Hypothetically, let's say something happens and the WWF goes out of business? Would that necessarily be good or bad for wrestling?

Ross: Well, that's a real hypothetical because that's not going to happen, I don't think. But it would be bad for wrestling. The more places that the wrestlers can work and have an opportunity to earn a living, the better it is for the talent. The more places a guy like me can get a job if I lose my job here, the better off I am to be able to provide for my family and myself. It would be devastating for the business, I think. I hope it never happens and I don't think it ever will. But, if the ideal situation could be created, we would have the territories back again and be developing talent and be moving talent from territory to territory. It would be so much better and easier to manage and the TV would be so much easier to do and the focus would be so much easier to have. But unfortunately that's a dream a lot of people in the business agree with but they also agree it's never going to happen again.

Keller: However, if regional promotions were to return, how would you take advantage of national cable television, something which was not really in existence at the peak of the territory days?

Ross: I think you use the cable to help build stars. If the NWA or WCW had territories, TBS could be used to highlight those stars within the territories that would be willing to cooperate with it. It would be a star-maker at that point.

Keller: What are your thoughts on steroids and the importance of doing everything possible to reduce or eliminate its illegal usage?

Ross: Wrestlers should be encouraged and counciled and everything possible should be done to the point of termination to discourage their use. We all know why, because they're illegal and unhealthy. I think the WCW and Kip Frey approached it the right way with the steroid policy. They're trying to get the guys information and encouragement and support and incentives. The spirit of the policy is positively written, no pun intended. It's a right way of approaching it, I felt like. I hope our guys respect what's there and respect management's desires and come off of them. It's not necessary. I think it's been a deterrent in this business. I think it restricts intensity over long periods of time, thus matches have shorter durations. Guys seem to be more prone to injury, even though they heal up maybe quicker, and even though the guys say being on the gas allows them to withstand the bumps and bruises better. But I can see the mood swings and attitudes of guys that are on it all the time. Some days they're in a good mood and other days they're just some kind of animal, growling and making gutteral sounds. It's not a pretty sight. So I believe that it's going to be a positive thing for everybody for them to be completely eliminated from the business. It is possible, but whether it's likely or not is in question.

Keller: When Jim Herd was replaced by Kip Frey, did you celebrate?

Ross: No. In fact, I felt bad for him because I knew how much he wanted the thing to succeed and I know he got really emotionally involved in the business. Unfortunately, he didn't have a background in the wrestling aspect of the business to help him make better judgements and better decisions. I certainly didn't rejoice. He was a guy who was very complex and one who I had some of my greatest arguments since I've been in the business. One of the big misconceptions that has been made is that Herd and I were best buddies, drinking buddies. From the time he left, it had been over a year since we had been out for dinner or a beer after work. He just was unbearable to be around and was very, very negative and very, very volatile. So I chose not to be around him. Unfortunately, there were some people that will generalize and have the misconception that he and I were fraternity brothers and we had a secret handshake and we hung out at happy hour every day. I respect the guy for his work ethic. He's one of those guys who may go out and have a few pops at night, but he will be at the office on time every day, work long hours, but that's it. He allowed himself to get emotionally caught up in his job. Where if you're prepared to do your job, it's a wonderful trait because it makes you successful when you have your background and you really get emotionally into it. You really want to do this job.

But he was misguided. I'm not saying as an individual he was misguided. He just did not have the knowledge and he made a lot of bad mistakes, like losing Ric Flair was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. And it should never have happened. But it was a total lack of communication and trust. Both of those emotions should not have factored in. It's unfortunate it was a real emotional deal and the wrong decision was reached in my opinion. Everybody in our department could have a different opinion. This is just my opinion.

Keller: Some people have rationalized that it's a good thing he left because it forced WCW to groom some younger talent for a top role. For example, possibly Rick Rude would never have been given the opportunity to be in the position he's in now without the loss of Ric Flair. Is that a valid argument?

Ross: No it isn't. First of all, Rick Rude's growth is not going to be retarded by anybody. Right now, he's as good as anybody in this business. He's a hell of a heel. So it doesn't make any difference who's in this company, Rick Rude is not going to be held back. He's too big of a talent. But the thing about it is, you never want to lose a performer with the versatility and the skills a Ric Flair possesses. You will find a role for them until they can't physically perform to their own qualifications. He will be his own worst critic. He will quit wrestling before he probably should because of something in his mind he doesn't like anymore. He's very meticulous in his craft and simply phenomenal. To not keep him, well that would be like the Texas Rangers not signing Nolan Ryan. You keep Nolan Ryan until his arm goes. Nolan Ryan will tell you when he can't throw his fast ball anymore and he wants out. So that was a big mistake. Probably of all the things that have been cussed and discussed in this Herd regime, that was probably his biggest, most glaring error.

Keller: What did Jim Herd bring to WCW that Kip Frey didn't bring?

Ross: I can't really think of anything. Maybe in the beginning, a lot of guys trusted him because he was a little older. Maybe that was an advantage because of his maturity. They looked at him different than Kip, who is in his early 30s.

Keller: Kip can only wait 30 years to gain that advantage.

Ross: You know how it is when you talk to somebody in a management position and they have white hair and they've been a professional 30 or 40 years. It's that experience factor. Herd, when he wanted to be, was a very engaging guy outside the office environment. Hell, he used to be a bartender. So he had a great gift of gab, so to speak. As far as business and the organization, and more importantly the attitude, there's nothing Herd had over Kip.

Keller: What is your reaction to the light heavyweight division?

Ross: I've been a big proponent of it. I think it should be around. It gives the guys who aren't monsters a chance to get involved in something that's believable and something that the fans will enjoy seeing and buy tickets to see. The guys we're using now in that division, they're diverse. They're really a unique mix. Overall, the division was established so guys who aren't huge could be put into something believable and meaningful. I like some of the things we've done. I would have liked to see us introduce it with more fanfare and more pre-planning. I think, because of Liger, the division is slowly getting more respect from people. I hope Scotty Flamingo is going to be able to accept the challenge and be a valuable asset in that division. Pillman's got to get over his injuries. Johnny B. Badd's trying to get better and he works hard. We're going to see how he progresses, but he's got some potential. I've always liked Brad Armstrong. I'd like to see him more involved. I think Liger is breathtaking. Chris Benoit is a tremendous wrestler. I really and truly like the division because of some of the available talent that's out there in that division, be it a Japanese or Mexican star. There's a lot of things we can do with that division. Obviously we got the cream of the crop when we got Liger, but obviously there are some who are just a notch below him that are great to watch.

Keller: Tony Schiavone said on a broadcast that it's a good thing a light heavyweight division was created so wrestlers like Brian Pillman and Brad Armstrong have a chance to hold a title. Is that the right way to build the division, giving the impression at times that it is a minor league title for those who were not big enough to make it in the major division? Or is that realistic and the proper way to build it?

Ross: I really didn't hear the comment, but I imagine he meant, and it's a realistic statement, that Pillman's got a more realistic chance to be the light heavyweight champion than the heavyweight champion. I think it was directed toward the size factor. If Vader ever gets the world title, for example, and he weights 450, are people going to buy a ticket to see Brad Armstrong challenge Vader for the title when Armstrong's a stout 220. Now that they have a division where there's not a size disadvantage every single night, they have the chance to compete on a level playing field for a specific title.

Keller: You've been criticized over the past year or so for various things, such as overexposure, overhyping certain wrestlers or certain matches, or being overenthusiastic. How do you respond to that? Are you good at accepting and evaluating criticism?

Ross: Criticisms I get are often accurate. I agree with a lot of them. I agree that at one time I was definitely overexposed on TV and it wasn't by choice. If I had been being paid by the program, I'd be pleased financially. It was a need situation and I was assigned to do the programs. Probably I get caught up in things, wanting to sell things and wanting something to be successful. I certainly have been guilty in the past of overselling something or trying to sell too much product as opposed to selling the match. I really enjoy the pay-per-views, because as a rule you can sit down and call the wrestling match without a memo stuck in your face to plug the hotline and then the magazine and then how to get a souvenir catalog. But those are divisions of our company, but I've been guilty of all those things. I generally take it pretty well in stride. Sometimes people make judgements based on misinformation that gets frustrating, but it doesn't make me mad or anything. I've gotten accused of shilling for the hotline because I get extra money for it. Under my current contract I get paid a salary and that salary pays me for whatever they ask me to do. So the hotline I do on Saturdays, and I have fun doing it, but I don't get paid extra. I make a good living and I'm happy doing what I do because I'm a wrestling fan that got to become a wrestling announcer. What the heck, it doesn't take me that long to do it. I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said I didn't want to get paid extra for it, but that's not the terms I agreed to. But the next contract I have, maybe something will change in that regard.

Keller: How much of an effect do you think the quality of one particular episode of a show has to do with the ratings of that episode? Are the quality of the previous week's episode more important?

Ross: There are so many factors to weigh more than just those two. I'll give you some examples. No show will be successful unless it is well lit and has good audio because we are all spoiled because of being a television viewer, it doesn't matter if you're watching a sporting event, movie, game show, or sit-com, you want to be able to see and hear the characters or the announcers. So, in other words, if someone had great shows, but the audio was low and lighting was sub-standard, you would soon grow impatient watching it and when they did have a little valley, you'd be more likely to leave because the show wasn't that pleasing to watch aesthetically anyway. So you have to have great television values and that's what Titan's been the forerunner at. They make a tremendous looking television product. It is technically just a piece of art. I mean, the vividness of the cameras, the lighting, the audio, and the edit. They are just tremendous within the whole television industry, not just wrestling, but TV in general. So you gotta have a technically sound show.

The second thing you need to do is I'm a big proponent of episodic television. That's how I was personally trained in the business. McMahon has been successful without doing episodic TV per se. He's been very successful at it, as a matter of fact. So, consequently, I don't know if the episodic way is the best. I do know that weekly, one hour programs like Dallas, Falcon Crest, and this type thing always bring the storyline along week to week and I think that's important in wrestling.

I think people are just as turned on by a clearly defined storyline that goes week to week with the primary characters as they do with them trying to come up with a marquee main event every week. I don't have a problem with marquee main events, but quite frankly there's only so many marquee players, so even though it's a main event match in position, it's not a main event match in perception. So I think the storylines should be made more important in our programs. And we've done a lot to improve our look, so hopefully some of the things I've heard casually discussed that sound real entertaining and thought provoking will come true. They may work and they may not. I think it's a key element you need in weekly television, especially in syndication. It's hard to do it on the Saturday show because of the format. The folks are more apt to be a regular feature if you give them some hooks, some questions to be answered, leaving them without full knowledge to expect next week. We don't always do a good enough job of promoting "next week."

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