(Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, March 23, 2001)

By Amy Rabideau Silvers

Jack Wilson was the kind of guy people loved to hate, at least when he was in the ring.

Wilson worked under many names over the years - names such as Kurt Von Brauner, Hans Von Schupp, the Masked Marvel, Mystery Man and, in Japan, Mr. Zero - from 1954 to about 1981.

"I didn't wrestle him, but he was a good wrestler," said Reggie Lisowski, the man best known as "The Crusher."

"He wrestled the top guys who were around then," he said. "He was a big guy, and he could handle himself."

Wilson, formerly of Milwaukee's south side, died of natural causes March 13 in Phoenix, where he had lived since 1990. He was 82.

"I remember Jack. He always gave a pretty good account of himself," said Verne Gagne, a former wrestler and promoter, now of Eden Prairie, Minn. "He was kind of a rough wrestler, one of the bad guys."

"When my dad was wrestling, there wasn't the big money there is now," said Kathy Latawiec, one of his daughters. "But he loved it. And when he retired from wrestling, he refereed many bouts down at the Arena and other places."

Despite cultivating the bad-boy image, including the German-sounding personae, the truth was very different. Wilson was an Irish Catholic who learned German from his mother-in-law.

He served on the practice squad for the Green Bay Packers, then signed a contract in 1943 to play with the team. Before that happened, though, Wilson ended up serving in World War II. His war service included helping to liberate Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp in Germany. He used his German-speaking skills to help those held prisoner and dislocated by the war, and later served with the U.S. Army Reserve, family members said.

Wilson didn't take up wrestling until 1954. He got his first pair of wrestling boots and encouragement from Johnny Heims at the Eagles Club. His first wrestling match was at the Chicago Amphitheater against Hans Schmidt, who pinned him in something just over a minute.

As the story goes, Schmidt told Wilson he'd be a good wrestler. Wilson started working the circuit. In this area, the venues included the South Side Armory, Federation Hall and picnics in places like Johnson Creek.

"I was a wrestler, too, first in Puerto Rico," said his friend, Cesar Pabon, now 73 and living in New Berlin. "I wrestled him a couple times."

Who won?

Pabon laughed.

"Well, he was good, and he was bigger than me," he said. "Also he was quarter master at the VFW post at 29th and Lincoln. We became friends and started working together and traveling different places. . . . He was a beautiful person. He was like a brother to me."

Wilson also wrestled in Japan - his opponents were sumo wrestlers - with a near cult-following as the masked "Mr. Zero." The character inspired comic books there, and fans would even stake out his hotel, trying to take pictures of him, his daughters said.

Wilson also worked somewhat more mundane jobs, including as a home delivery manager for the Milwaukee Sentinel and as a highway department worker with Milwaukee County.

In one bit of irony, Wilson didn't retire from wrestling until 1981, when he was injured on the job with the county. As he was exiting a truck, he fell into a ditch below, tearing his rotator cuff.

The wrestling world made for an interesting childhood, both ringside and at home, said his daughters. He would practice more gentle versions of the wrestling holds on their mother or them.

"He used to play the bad guys," Latawiec said. "When they would boo my father, I hated that."

"And he was the sweetest man," said daughter Sharyn Wilson. "He'd do anything for anybody."

That included putting up visiting wrestlers at their home, right next to the freeway and the Holt Ave. ramp. Sometimes the guests included such wrestling stars as "Vic the Bruiser," a bear named after human wrestler "Dick the Bruiser."

"My dad always wrestled Vic when he was in town," Latawiec said.

One day it was hot. Vic was staying over, staked out in the backyard, and his human friends started using the hose to give him a good bath.

"It literally stopped traffic on the freeway," Sharyn Wilson said. "They were watching the bear being hosed in the backyard."

In addition to his three daughters, all of Milwaukee, Wilson is survived by his wife, Norma Jean of Phoenix, and two sons, John of Ocala, Fla., and Michael of Mukwonago. He also is survived by stepchildren, grandchildren and other relatives.

Visitation will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday, with the VFW ritual at 6 p.m., at Prasser-Kleczka Funeral Home, 3275 S. Howell Ave. A funeral service set for 10 a.m. Monday at St. Helen's Catholic Church, 3307 S. 10th St.

(EDITOR’S NOTE -- One thing not mentioned in the article was that when Wilson made his first appearances as a wrestler in Milwaukee, some veterans’ groups were very upset.  Crusher Lisowski’s recollection may have been in error. Experts on the subject believe he may have wrestled Wilson in a tag match or two in the late 1950s.)


Apr. 25, 1919, Worley ID, Iron Chamberlain beat Soldier Koch 2-1

Apr. 28, 1919, Los Angeles, Young Gotch beat Hans Christensen, 2-0, winner gets Walter Miller, middleweight champ

Mar. 27, 1924 – Portland OR –Ted Thye vs. Gust Schneidau

Dec. 1, 1933 Chicago (Doc Krone, promoter) -- Jack Smith beat Cowboy Ackley, Karol Zbyszko beat Wolf, Rudy Hoffman drew George Mack

Thurs., Dec. 7, 1933 – Prudential Hall – Lou Talaber vs. Al Williams, John Meyers vs. Pete Holtz, Jack Londos and Fred Kohler featured

Dec. 8, 1933 Arcadia Gardens, Chicago (4444 Broadway) – Jack Smith beat Joe Wolf Zack Malkov beat John Yorkovich, Rudy Hoffman beat George Mack dq, Joe Rogacki beat Jack Zevavitch, Ole Olsen drew Vic Soldat

Dec. 13, 1933 Chicago Coliseum – Jim Londos vs. Ray Steele, Gino Garibaldi v. Pat O’Shocker, Jim McMillen? Hans Kampfer vs. Dutch Hefner

Dec. 19, 1933 Arcadia Gardens – Gus Sonnenberg vs. Jack Smith, Buckets Goldenberg vs. Joe Wolf, Zack Malkov vs. Gus Clem, Ole Oleson vs. George Mack, Thomas Stockholm vs. Lurik

Fri Feb. 16, 1940 – Ocean Park – SANDOR SZABO beat Bloody Buddy O’Brien, Chief Little Wolf beat Hard Boiled Haggerty, Vic Christy-Rube Wright beat Jules Strongbow-Rudy LaDitzi

Feb. 19, 1940 Hollywood – Danny McShain beat Bob Gregory for NWA LH belt, Otis Clingman beat Tony Morelli, Sugai Matsuda beat Black Dragon, Al Ferona beat Duke Pettigrove, Frankie Hale beat Zim Zimovich

Feb. 21, 1940 Los Angeles Olympic – George Koverly vs. HBH, Vincent Lopez vs. Rube Wright, Max Krauser vs. Jules Strongbow, , Tarzan White vs. George Zaharias, Woody Strode vs. Hank Metheny, Housepainter Hogan-Dark Angel vs. Young Stecher-Bobby Coleman

Feb. 22, 1940 – Eastside Arena – Vincent Lopez vs. Nick Lutze

Feb. 26, 1940 Hollywood – LeRoy McGuirk beat Danny McShain in world jr heavy defense, Karl Gray beat Jimmy Lott, Matty Matsuda beat Taro Ito at jiu jitsu, Ben Sherman beat Sam Kohen, John Nemonic drew Frankie Hale

Feb. 28, 1940 – Los Angeles – Sandor Szabo beat Dean Detton, Rube Wright beat Vincent Lopez, George Koverly beat HBH, Woody Strode beat Hank Metheny, Milt Pollock beat Tony Felice, Bob Coleman beat Dark Angel, Max Krauser beat Jules Strongbow

Feb. 29, 1040 – Eastside Arena – Vincent Lopez vs. Nick Lutze

Mar. 4, 1940 – Bob Gregory beat Karl Gray, Yukon Jake Jackson beat Don Sugai Matsuda, Ben Sherman beat Al Ferona, Johnny Demchuk beat Steve Strelich, Charlie Carr drew Duke Pettigrove

Mar. 6, 1940 – Los Angeles – Sandor Szabo beat Dean Detton dec one hour no falls, Vincent Lopez beat Rube Wright, Lee Wyckoff beat Sammy Stein, Woody Strode beat Leo Kirilenko, Max Krauser beat Vic Christy, Bobby Coleman drew Young Stecher, Jules Strongbow-George Koverly beat Nick Lutze-Ed Payson

Mar. 7, 1940 – Eastside Arena – George Koverly beat Buddy O’Brien

Mar. 7, 1940 Washington DC – Jim Londos vs. Joe Cox, Lou Plummer vs. Tommy O’Toole, Ralph Garibaldi vs. Abe Coleman, Alan Eustace vs. Frank Judson, Cliff Olsen vs. Jack Russell

Mar. 8, 1940 – Huntington Park Stadium – LeRoy McGuirk vs. Black Dragon, Jimmy Lott vs. Karl Gray

Mar. 11, 1940 – Hollywood – LeRoy McGuirk vs. Bob Gregory, Yukon Jake-Duke Pettigrove vs. Otis Clingman-Ben Sherman, John Demchuk vs. Miguel Duran, Frankie Hale vs. Edgar Gideon, Sam Kohen vs. Paul Matty

Mar. 14, 1940 – Washington – Lou Plummer beat Golden Terror (referee Casey Berger), Tommy O’Toole vs. Don Evans, Rudy Dusek vs. Ralph Garibaldi, Jimmy Coffield vs. Jack Lutz, Joe Maynard vs. Hymie Olson (A – 1,000)

Mar. 18, 1940 – Arturo Godoy referee John Swenski vs. Ernie Piluso at Hollywood

Vancouver wrestling Promoter Sam Nolan, Tues nites, 1945…Seaman’s Club

Mar. 21, 1940 – Washington – Golden Terror vs. Lou Plummer, Tommy O’Toole vs. Emil Dusek, Cliff Olson vs. Abie Kaplan, Jim Coffield vs. Don Evans A – 1,200

Mar. 28, 1940 – Washington – Joe Cox beat Golden Terror, Warren Bockwinkel beat Don Evans, Cliff Olson beat Jeza Taki (sub for Lutz), Jim Austeri beat Abie Stein, Tommy O’Toole beat Jack Russell

Apr. 4, 1940 – Washington – Jim Londos vs. Joe Cox

Jan. 2—Chuck LeBeau drew George Bunka, Gil Pearson beat Scotty Jackson, Johnny Lancheck beat George Kotsolanko, Alex Boytzin referee

1945 Hoquiam, Wash.

Nov. 10 Seelie Samara beat Mickey Gavas, Dick Raines beat Hal Rumberg, Frank Stojack drew Earl Malone

Nov. 17 Tor Johnson beat Dick Raines, Mickey Gavas beat Cliff Olson dq, Frank Stojack beat Earl Malone

Nov. 24 Frank Stojack beat Earl Malone, Tor Johnson beat Mickey Gavas-Dick Raines hdcp dq, Glen Stone drew Singh

Dec. 1 Ray Steele beat Johnny Walker, Frank Stojack beat Glen Stone, Dude Chick beat Sockeye McDonald (sub Basanta Singh)

Dec. 8 Jim Londos beat Johnny Walker, Frank Stojack drew Dude Chick, Bob Kruse beat Glen Stone

Dec. 15 Dick Raines beat Jack McDonald, Hal Rumberg beat Samara, Glen Stone beat Dude Chick

Dec. 22 Mickey Gavas-Dick Raines beat Hal Rumberg-Johnny Walker, Frank Stojack beat Chief Thunderbird dq, Gordon Williams beat Jack Fischer

1946 Hoquiam

Jan. 5 Frank Stojack drew Johnny Walker, Chief Thunderbird beat Dick Raines, Gordon Williams beat Gene Bergeson

Jan. 12 Leo Mortensen vs. Gordon Williams, Clara Mortensen vs. Rose Evans, Frank Stojack vs. Johnny Walker

Jan. 19 Johnny Walker beat Glen Stone, Frank Stojack beat Mickey Gavas dq, Hal Rumberg beat Chas. Hart

Jan. 26 Jack Claybourne beat Frank Stojack? Other way around? Mickey Gold beat Hal Rumberg, Joe Campbell beat Glen Stone

Feb. 2 Jack Claybourne beat Earl Malone dq, Mickey Gavas beat Joe Campbell, Johnny Walker beat Flash Gordon

Feb. 6, Lebanon ORE Mickey Gold, Earl Malone there, snowed out

Feb. 7 (snow) Glen Stone vs. Earl Malone, Frank Stojack vs. Jack Claybourne, Mickey Gold vs. Mickey Gavas

Feb. 14 Ted Cox beat Hal Rumberg, Dick Raines beat Chief Thunderbird, Jerry Meeker beat Johnny Walker

Feb. 28 Frank Stojack beat Babe Small, Chief Thunderbird beat Mickey Gavas, Yaqui Joe beat Earl Malone


Jan. 10, Moses Lake, Joe Corbett vs. Black Mask 200, Mickey Tyler vs. Fred Mitchell, middles, Red Dalton vs. Dobbins, Jim Diamond beat Chet Moose Face

Jan. 11, Wallace ID, Al Mills vs. Frank Hickey, Wm Muehle promoter, along with D.D. McHenry Spokane, Memorial Gym, Earl Malone vs. Larry Tillman (sub for Cliff Thiede), Earl McCready vs. Stan Mayslack (Pat McGill broke leg in Idaho Falls)

Jan. 12, Spokane, Hat Freeman promoter, Ben Morgan beat Frank Hickey, Stu Hart beat Jerry Meeker, Johnny Marrs beat Larry Tillman


Jan. 15, SF Winterland,. Gorgeous George beat Ivan Kameroff, Lee Henning beat Howard Cantonwine, Kay Bell drew Juan Humberto, Art Nelson beat Danny Plechas dq

Jan. 22, SF – Leo Nomellini beat Gorgeous George cnc, Nelson beat Cantonwine, Kay Bell beat John Sepeda, Hardy Kruskamp drew Rey Urbano (gross $9600)


Spokane Feb. 25 Doug Donnan vs. Bill Sledge, 161st Infantry Armory

Spokane, Thursday, Mar. 4—Mel Dove drew Chico Bonales, Gino Nicolini beat Doug Donnan, Billy Hickson beat Bill Sledge

Spokane Mar 11 – Gino Nicolini beat Tommy Martindale, Frank Stojack beat Jack Kiser, Walter Kameroff beat Bill Sledge, Mel Dove drew Doug Donnan


Jan. 14, Ocean Park -- Lord Littlebrook vs. Fuzzy Cupid, Irish Terror vs. Sammy Berg, Dutch Hefner vs. Skippy Jackson

Nov. 2, Los Angeles (A – 1,800) -- Rocky Valentine beat Gene Dubuque, Great Togo beat Great Tonina, Gene LaBelle beat Skippy Jackson, Vic Christy drew Nick Bockwinkel, Dutch Hefner beat Al Warshawski, Tom Renesto drew Joe Blanchard

Nov. 5, Eastside Arena, Los Angeles -- Tonina-Tom Renesto beat Gene Dubuque-Hard Boiled Haggerty, Sammy Berg beat Sockeye McDonald, George Dusette beat Jerry Christy


Jan. 3 SF, Bill Melby beat Cangelo Cistoldi, Ron Etchison beat Joe Nocelli, Ben Sharpe beat Jack Eberhart, Joe Benicassa beat Carl Cooper, Togo beat Steve Stanlee, Ray Stern beat Mike Sharpe, Juan Humberto beat Vincent Lopez

Jan. 10 SF Tosh Togo-Great Togo beat Ray Stern-Ron Etchison, Bill Melby beat Abe Zvonkin, John Swenski drew Al Mills, Juan Humberto drew Steve Stanlee, Leo Nomellini-Bill Melby beat John Swenski-Ron Etchison dq

Jan. 24, 1956 – SF – Leo Nomellini beat Tosh Togo, Mike Sharpe-drew Enrique Torres, Joe Blanchard beat Abe Zvonkin, Ray Stern drew John Swenski, Juan Humberto drew Vincent Lopez

Jan. 31, 1956 SF – Leo Nomellini-Enrique Torres vs. Tosh Togo-Great Togo, Bud Curtis vs. Joe Blanchard, Ron Etchison vs. Al Warsaw, Little Beaver vs. Ivan the Terrible

Nov. 10, 1956 Valley Garden Arena -- Lord Blears-Lord Carlton vs. Sandor Kovacs-Sandor Szabo, Nick Bockwinkel vs. Nickey, Jungle Boy vs. Jerry Christy

Nov. 12, 1956 Hollywood -- Sandor Kovacs beat Lord Blears dec, Sky Low Low beat Cowboy Bradley, Rito Romero beat Martino Angelo, Jungle Boy beat Doug Dawkins, Tito Infante beat Otto Bowman

Nov. 21, Washington DC Capitol Arena-- Rocca-Starr vs. Skull Murphy-Karl Von Hess, Lou Thesz vs. Donn Lewin, Steve Stanlee vs. Luis Martinez, Danny McShain vs. Mark Lewin, Roy Shire vs. Sandor Kovacs

Nov. 28, Washington DC, Capital Arena, Roy Shire drew Don Eagle nc, Chris Tolos-John Tolos beat Ed Castillo-Luis Martinez, Chief Big Heart drew Marvin Mercer, Great Scott beat Gene Dubuque, Arnold Skaaland beat Bobby Wallace (A – 1,824)


Friday, Feb. 15, Marietta GA Larry Bell Auditorium

Don Lewin-Mark Lewin vs. Guy LaRose-Red McIntyre,

Feb. 15, Jonesboro

Jerry Graham-Mr. X vs. Chief Big Heart-Pierre LaSalle

Feb. 22, Marietta

Red McIntyre vs. Mark Lewin, Don Lewin vs. Pierre LaSalle

Forest Park High, Jerry Graham vs. Chief Big Heart, Guy LaRose vs. Mr. X

Mar. 1, Marietta

Don Lewin-Mark Lewin vs. Don McIntyre-Red McIntyre

July 2 Spokane Lou Thesz beat Doug Donovan, Interstate Fair Grounds, 2,500 attendance, 2 falls to 1, Frank Stojack no contest Nick Kozak, Red Donovan beat Moe Smith, Martin Di Francisco beat Bolo Shiroma at judo, Tex Hager promoter


Jan. 6, 1959 Seattle

Don Kindred vs. The Avenger, Karl Von Himmler-Prof Shiroma vs. Bill Fletcher-Farmer Powell, Leon Kirilenko vs. Jerry Kozak, Bill Wight vs. Cal Roberts

Jan. 13, 1959 Seattle

Don Kindred vs. Buddy Knox, Leon Kirilenko, Bill Fletcher, Cal Roberts, George Strickland, Logger Jackson, Farmer Powell in battle royal

Dec. 17, Washington DC, Jerry Graham-Johnnyt Valentine vs. Ricki Starr-Amazing Zuma, Bruno Sammartino vs. Abe Jacobs, Tony Martinelli vs. Arnold Skaaland, Red Bastien vs. Tony Altomare, Luis Martinez vs. Chet Wallick


Apr. 2, Portland OR Memorial Coliseum

Tony Borne beat Prince Kuhio

Apr. 6, Portland OR

Billy White Wolf beat Prince Kuhio dq (referee Shag Thomas), Bill Savage beat Mr. Moto dq, Fritz Von Goering beat Dick Garza, Herb Freeman (Schiff) beat Kurt Von Poppenheim dq, Haru Sasaki vs. Tito Kopa, Rocky Columbo beat Dean Higuchi

Apr. 7, San Francisco Cow Palace

Pepper Gomez vs. Karl Von Shober, Ray Stevens vs. Wilbur Snyder, Leo Nomellini-Bill Melby vs. Kinji Shibuya-Mitsu Arakawa, Edouard Carpentier vs. Duke Hoffman, Red Bastien vs. Don Manoukian, Emil Dupre vs. The Sheik, Luis Martinez vs. Karl Von Brock

Apr. 12, Washington DC Capital Arena

Johnny Valentine beat Pampero Firpo, Buddy Rogers-Great Scott beat Greg Jarque-Arnold Skaaland, Antonino Rocca beat Tom Bradley, Marquis de Paree beat Angelo Savoldi, Argentina Apollo beat Red Grupe, Mark Lewin beat Miguel Torres


Thurs, Jan. 10 Spokane – Shag Thomas beat Soldat Gorky, Pat Patterson drew George Drake, Ivan Kameroff beat Bing Kai Lee (Armory)


Dec. 16, Washington DC National Arena

Bill Miller drew Waldo Von Erich, Angelo Savoldi vs. Baron Scicluna, Hector Serrano vs. Tarzan Tyler, Tony Newberry vs. Johnny Valentine, Chief Big Heart vs. Gene Kelly, Pedro Rodriguez vs. Arnold Skaaland, Humberto Mercado vs. Pete Sanchez

Dec. 23, Washington DC

Johnny Valentine vs. WaldoVon Erich


Dec. 22, Washington DC National Arena

Arman Hussian beat Luke Graham

Dec. 26, Washington Coliseum

Jesus Ortega beat Bobo Brazil cor, Arnold Skaaland beat Tony Nero, Arman Hussain beat Smasher Sloane, Bruno Sammartino beat Tank Morgan


Jan. 19, Everett WA – Dutch Savage beat Rene Goulet, Eric Froelich beat Don Jardine, Thunderbolt Peters drew Jim Starr, Thunderbolt Peters won battle royal


March 4, Vancouver BC

Assassins beat Gene Kiniski-Don Leo Jonathan, Lou Thesz beat Abdullah the Butcher dq, Bobo Brazil vs. El Mongol, Sky Hi Jones vs. Karl Steiger, Trotsky the Bear vs. Bad Boy Shields, Tiny Orford vs. Eric Froelich, Gaylord George vs. Bruce Kirk, Rocky Johnson vs. Don McClarty

Feb. 1, 1969 Portland OR

Shag Thomas-Luther Lindsey beat Kurt Von Steiger-Kqarl Von Steiger dq, Tony Borne drew luigi Macera, Haru Sasaki beat Johnny War Eagle, Lonnie Mayne beat Bruce Kirk

Feb. 8, 1969 Portland OR

Lonnie Mayne beat Stan Stasiak, Shag Thomas-Luther Lindsey beat Kurt Von Steiger-Kqarl Von Steiger dq, Eric Froelich drew luigi Macera, Tony Borne beat Johnny War Eagle, Bruce Kirk beat Haru Sasaki dq

Feb. 6, 1971 Portland OR

Tony Borne-Haru Sasaki beat Kurt Von Steiger-Karl Von Steiger dq, Savage beat Kalani, Bobby Nichols beat Moose Morowski dq, Avenger beat Geronimo

Feb. 13, 1971 Portland OR

Stan Stasiak beat Savage cnc, Tony Borne drew Moose Morowski, Carlos Belafonte beat Geronimo, Bobby Nichols drew Haru Sasaki, Kurt Von Steiger-Karl Von Steiger beat Avenger-Kalani

Feb. 5, 1972 Portland OR Johnny Boyd-Norman Charles III beat Bill Savage-Shag Thomas, Sabu drew Tito Montez, Bull Ramos beat Beauregarde, Rocky Montero beat Akbar the Arab

Feb. 12, 1972 Portland OR

Bill Savage drew Bull Ramos dcor (referee Shag Thomas), Tony Borne drew Beauregarde, Sabu beat Rick Renaldo, Johnny Boyd beat Tito Montez, Rocky Montero beat Norman Charles



(New York Post, Friday, March 16, 2001)

By Phil Mushnick

Sometimes, the hype does the reality justice. Wednesday night, HBO's "On the Record" with Bob Costas made for an extraordinary hour - on and off the air.

Although Vince McMahon and Bobby Knight were Costas' interview subjects, comedian Robert Klein, as a bit player, stole the show.

While McMahon, staying in character, jumped ugly at Costas' first mention of the WWF's "coarse" content - there were moments when McMahon leaned toward Costas in a menacing fashion - Costas unknowingly had an off-camera tag-team partner in Klein.

Klein, according to a witness, was in the "green room" with McMahon's longtime WWF mouthpiece and top XFL executive, Basil DeVito.

When DeVito saw on a monitor that McMahon, on air, was being shown a tape of a recent WWF show in which he verbally degraded a female performer before demanding that she remove her clothing, DeVito complained that the footage was being shown out of context (as if McMahon ever needed a context to present such acts).

Klein then told DeVito that there couldn't possibly be any legitimate context, and the two began to argue.

When Klein appeared in the show's brief closing segment, he took a shot at McMahon.

"I like that humiliation of the woman," he said sarcastically. "Then he criticized you [for bringing it up]. He did it, didn't he?"

Klein also noted that Knight, off-camera, was still seated on the set. He acknowledged Knight, saying, "Coach . . . That is the correct way to address him, right? I wasn't gonna say, 'Hey, Knight!'"

Only by following Vince McMahon could Bobby Knight have come across as Mother Teresa. Then again, by the time he finished with McMahon - more than halfway through the hour - Costas may have been spent. He was certainly fighting the clock.

Costas did ask Knight to respond to a petition among the Texas Tech faculty to prevent Knight from being hired. Knight's weak response was that the Texas Tech faculty doesn't know anything about him. But the dialogue was at all times civil.

On the other hand, McMahon, in the role of Vince McMahon, angrily, and nearly violently, kept accusing Costas of interrupting him. Yet, Costas clearly was trying to interrupt McMahon's usual filibustering, to keep him, as Costas tried to explain, "on point."

Ironically, this was reminiscent of Knight's ESPN interview last September with Jeremy Schaap. Knight repeatedly accused Schaap of interrupting him, although Schaap was trying to interdict Knight's rambling and irrelevant answers.

While more familiar with McMahon's ways and means than most who interview him, Costas was still susceptible to McMahon's practiced nonsense. At one point, McMahon congratulated himself for being honest enough to declare that pro wrestling is fake, that the matches are staged entertainment.

If McMahon banked on Costas, like so many other interviewers, not knowing the real story behind that proclamation, he was right. McMahon's admission to the obvious, several years ago, was a matter of self-survival and self-enrichment.

In declaring the WWF a nonsport, McMahon was able to prevent his wrestlers from being drug-tested by state athletic commissions while simultaneously avoiding the payment of sanctioning fees to those commissions.

But all in all, this was an exceptional hour of TV, amusing, disturbing, revealing and significant.

A POSTSCRIPT to the above: Mike Francesa, on FAN yesterday, claimed that McMahon "ate Costas alive." Really? Dave Meltzer, who authors a weekly pro-wrestling newsletter, told us that even pro-McMahon yahoos checked in en masse to acknowledge that McMahon, with minimal help from Costas, made a loutish fool of himself.

As one example of Costas' purported failing, Francesa firmly supported McMahon's absurd defense that Costas didn't provide the complete storyline of McMahon's verbal and sexual abuse angle, which HBO highlighted through its chosen WWF footage. Had Costas done his homework, said Francesa, parroting McMahon, he would've known that the woman eventually gets even with McMahon.

As if that's a defense for McMahon's revolting presentation! As if McMahon's ultimate goal is to provide lessons in morality! Did Francesa actually fall for McMahon's act?

Not only was McMahon's storyline irrelevant, especially given his target audience - boys and young men - but if Francesa had done his homework, he'd have known that this particular storyline, over several WWF shows, had been as vile as the WWF clip that HBO aired. What HBO chose to show, if context was even remotely relevant, was very much in context.

But Francesa's megalomania is often threat-driven, and he has been irrationally, gratuitously and predictably critical of perceived threats to his imaginary kingdom, including Costas. And Francesa showed his hand Wednesday, after noting that McMahon and Knight would appear that night with Costas. Francesa strongly hinted then that he was predisposed to look unkindly on Costas' performance.


(IGNwrestling.com, Thursday, March 15, 2001)

By Ian Ross

Vince McMahon appeared on Bob Costas’ sports talk show on HBO last night, Wednesday March 14th. The interview begin with lots of questions about the XFL, the quality of play, the ratings, and mistakes that had been made during the first season.

The interview inevitably turned to wrestling, with the usual questions about whether wrestling contributes to the downfall of society, to the "incivility" in society, to quote Costas. They also talked about degradation of women, safety of wrestlers, you name it, they talked about it. The interview got rather heated on a number of occasions, as Vince became irritated with what he felt was Bob interrupting him every time he tried to answer the questions. It got particularly ugly when the Lionel Tate case was brought up.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a basic rundown of what was said during the interview.

Costas begins by asking Vince about the XFL ratings, down 75% from opening weekend and whether or not Vince could guarantee a second year for the XFL. Vince replies that he can’t guarantee that he’ll be living and breathing after he leaves this studio, but he feels pretty sure about the continuation of the XFL in one form or another. Vince would like to think that it will stay on network TV, NBC, UPN etc. Vince says that starting a league isn’t easy and that they’ve made some mistakes along the way. Vince describes the first season of XFL as "brand building." Bob thinks that Saturday night prime time slots just can’t be sacrificed week after week without some ratings improvement.

Bob asks Vince what the biggest mistakes in year one of the XFL have been. Vince said that the caliber of play wasn’t up to snuff during the early weeks, but now the quality of the play has gone way up. Vince talks about the lack of a preseason and the fact that the teams are all new, there was no cohesion or chemistry between the players when it started up. Vince talks about recent high scoring games and some of the XFL innovations, which he says the NFL are planning to steal, including some of the audio features, mics and cameras in the huddle. Vince talks about how the NFL has been building their brand for 75 years. While the XFL is building their brand, it simply cannot be done in one year.

Costas presents an analogy on the XFL that he feels describes the situation. "It’s not wrestling-like enough for that crowd and it isn’t good enough football for the football crowd." Vince says that that isn’t an unfair anology, football fans like football and wrestling fans like wrestling. Vince says that football fans appreciate the live XFL experience and the cameras and mics in the huddle etc. Vince thinks it is the media that has treated the XFL unfairly. Just take a second look at the XFL now and judge it fairly based on the caliber of play it features now.

Bob suggests that many people see the XFL as low-rent football. Vince takes offense and asks what is low-rent about the games and Costas retracts a little and talks about the pre-game show. To quote Mr. Costas, "the pre-game show, especially week one, was one of the most mindless things I’ve ever seen." Vince says that the XFL doesn’t even have a pre-game show and the thing Costas is talking about it something that NBC did locally in those markets, that WWFE had nothing to do with.

Vince believes that the ratings will build back up as the season comes to a close. He also has to convince the media to cover the XFL for the event that it is. Vince calls Bob an "elitist." Costas says that no-one dismisses the coaches and players, but there is an association with the XFL to the WWF which is both a positive and a negative for the league. Bob says that many people tuned in to watch the XFL to see what Vince and his crew came up with. On the other hand, he says that many other people are "put off" by the WWF-esque qualities of the league.

Vince asks who is "put off" and why. Vince says the XFL is brutally honest about what they do with the cheerleaders, putting them on camera and allowing fans to "get to know them." Bob asks if the ratings come down some more, if Vince would make the XFL more salacious (i.e. use more "cheerleader locker room" type of tactics). He says no, they just did that. Bob asks about fixing games, if he knew the ratings would go up by fixing them, would he? Vince said that was a ridiculous question. "It’s either football or it’s not." If it was entertainment, Vince would label it as such. How could you possibly script a football game?

Bob asks if maybe there is too much football on TV, with the NFL, college ball, XFL, World League, and even the CFL. If they can’t do any cutting edge stuff, what’s the point? Vince says that the XFL is the best football outside of the NFL. Bob asks about announcers, if WWF announcers are right for the job. Vince says that they are not. Recently Jerry Lawler quit the XFL and Jim Ross was demoted back down to "B team." Bob begins to ask another question, about people who might wish Vince ill.. Vince finds this funny and sarcastically asks why anyone would wish him ill. Funny moment. Bob says that some announcers have avoided the XFL because it might look bad on their resume. If Vince wants the right announcers, what is his talent pool. Vince says that the talent is out there, they just have to find it.

Bob asks if the XFL turns out to be a grand failure, what effect will that have on Vince? He says that he is a fighter and he is convinced that this will be a success in time, you just cannot build a brand in one year. Bob asks about the WWF-XFL connection, whether the XFL’s failure would affect the WWF in a negative way. Vince says that he isn’t afraid to fail as long as he wins in the long run. He says that he will not fail with the XFL. Vince makes sure that Bob understands the difference between the character he plays on TV in the WWF, and the Vince McMahon who founded the XFL and is making the rounds in order to try make it a success at the moment. Vince talks about his 18-34 male demographic, saying that the XFL was #2 in that category last week.

Bob then shows some footage of Vince McMahon and Trish on Raw a couple of weeks ago, when he had her bark like a dog and strip down to her underwear. Vince claims that he would never do anything in bad taste, it’s all about the storylines, the WWF is a soap opera. Vince says that they found the most salacious, out of character piece of footage from the WWF and edited it, that was not a fair example of most WWF content.

Bob thinks that the piece was fairly typical of the WWF. Vince warns Bob not to make him raise his voice. "If you want to play that way, boy, I can play." Vince says that Bob and Phil Mushnick do not watch the WWF so they don’t know what they are talking about. "You wanna let me finish here for a second pal? Then shut your mouth and let me answer the question." Vince drops an "f-bomb" and tells Bob that the WWF is a soap opera. Compare the WWF to daytime soaps, The Sopranos, Sex and the City… Bob says that wrestling is directed towards young males and it’s on basic cable, not on a pay service like HBO. Vince doesn’t see the difference there. Vince asks that if people just like the WWF, then just change the channel, that’s it, how easy is that?

Vince says that wrestling brings the family together to watch TV, saying that Smackdown is one of the most viewed programs (entertainment, not sport) for family viewing. Bob admits that he was a wrestling fan for most of his life, but is turned off by the vulgarity and sexual content of today’s wrestling. Vince says that if people wanted to see that kind of wrestling anymore, that’s what the WWF would be doing. However, as things progress (Bob suggests regress), they have to keep up with what their audience wants.

Bob asks if WWF entertainment contributes to the "incivility and coarseness" that is out there in society today. Vince says maybe so, Bob asks if he regrets that. Vince says the WWF might be part of the problem, but who is to say that Sopranos, Sex and the City, etc. aren’t just as much a part of that problem.

Bob brings up Lionel Tate, the young boy who killed a young girl by using wrestling moves on her. Vince says that Bob should know his facts, that he’s very disappointed in him. Vince answers the question by saying that Bob doesn’t know what he is talking about. If he had done the slightest bit of research, the jury thought that the "practicing wrestling" defense was a complete hoax. Bob and Vince get into another little argument about letting each other finish, then Vince says that the jury ruled that wrestling had nothing to do with the incident. The judge said the same way, the wrestling theory was a complete hoax. The term "absurd notion" was used several times in this segment. "Go read the facts, Bob."

Bob asks about violence in wrestling, does it contribute in some way to a lack of civility and maybe even perhaps in violence in society. Vince says there are no guns, knives, murder or rape on WWF television, while you see those things all over the place on other TV shows. Vince doesn’t think WWF contributes to violence in society. Bob asks about degradation of women in the WWF. Vince mentions the edited piece that Bob aired earlier, "that was a real class move on your part, thank you for that." Bob says that Vince is a strange person to be talking about class. Vince replies "what? I don’t have class?" and Bob says that he just finds it strange to hear a lecture on class coming from Vince McMahon. Vince says that, speaking within the storylines, the women in the WWF are very strong. In the stories, Vince wasn’t making Trish do that, she did it of her own volition. If you keep watching, Vince will get his comeuppance for his salacious behavior with Trish.

Bob finally asks about safety of wrestlers and brings up Owen Hart. Vince says that they will never attempt any aerial stunt like they did with Owen ever again. Bob says that we have to go and Vince sarcastically says that "that’s too bad, this is such a delightful show."



(Aired March 15, 2001, HBO)

By Tony Batalla

Bob Costas introduced Vince McMahon as "the long time WWF boss and now King Pin of the new XFL." That introduction segued into clips of McMahon's XFL opening day speech and highlights of things like: the "human coin toss," "He Hate Me," the XFL Cheerleaders-Vince McMahon-Bruno cry for ratings, and one rare actual on field action shot all intermixed with cuts of Jesse Ventura on commentary.

Bob opened right up by saying that the XFL's ratings have decreased 75% since Week 1 and now are hovering at the lowest levels in the history of Network TV, and with that in mind, can McMahon "guarantee" that there will be a Year 2 for XFL football. Vince, of course, couldn't guarantee that he would leave the studio breathing. But he did say that he was pretty sure the XFL will continue in "one way or another." But when questioned if it will continue on NBC, Vince replied that he'd like to say yes, but people have to understand that starting a league is not the easiest thing to do and you make mistakes along the way. But Vince called the XFL "brand building" saying "its all about building a brand" and NBC has given him all indications that they understand that.

Costas shot back that its one thing to try to build a brand on cable, but surely the space on NBC is important and can't be sacrificed week after week if some improvement isn't shown. Vince said nothing can be "sacrificed" but there needs to be a long range approach. Vince admitted disappointment, naturally, but said the XFL had made some mistakes early on. Still he surprisingly put the majority if the early brunt on the "caliber of the play," citing that it was not as good in the beginning compared to as it is now. Bob wanted to now how, in the span of a month, it could increase that much. Vince replied with the obvious being that the XFL didn't have a pre season, and basically that the first 4 weeks have been the pre-season. Vince then said that Bob and the media in general need to give himself and the XFL a little bit of slack here.

Vince went back to the fact that caliber of play now is great, utilizing wide open offenses. But he quickly trailed off to the "production innovations which quite frankly, the network execs that cover the NFL are already talking about stealing." Vince also mentioned that the XFL is averaging 27,000 per game which he said should rival anything that the "Old AFL" did when they first started. Vince back tracked a bit and said realistically that the NFL has been at it for 75 years and its not fair to jump all over the XFL and say "When are you guys gonna die?" Or "Have you died yet?" because you can't do that necessary "brand building" in one year.

Costas used this analysis: "Its not WWF enough for that crowd, but its not good enough football for sports fans. Neither fish nor fowl, people took a look, then split." Vince said that's not unfair, but then veered off saying XFL research shows that most fans don't mind the rule changes and "bringing the game closer to the fan." Vince then used the old tried and true saving grace: "The in-stadium experience is off the chart."

Then Vince went back to how the media asking the XFL to "please go away" is just unfair. Vince then asked everyone to take another look at it and judge it on its own merit.

Bob brought up how Vince McMahon originally brought to the table his own power, and celebrity, but not prestige. Meanwhile, NBC risked not just dollars, but they risked their prestige. Bob wanted to know if Vince thinks NBC is feeling the heat on that front. McMahon said of course Ebersol is feeling the heat, because the media makes certain that he does. But Vince called Dick a "stand up guy."

Now Vince got a little defensive and got into "Cocky-Mode" demanding to know how he has hurt NBC's prestige. Was it with him individually of his brand of WWF Entertainment. "Is that it?" He asked.

Bob shot back by saying the general perception is that the XFL is a "low rent form of football." Then he called the Week 1 pre-game show one of the most "mindless things he's ever seen." Vince said he has no pre game show which is one of the problems. Bob said a pre-game show aired regionally the first week. Vince kind of slowed down, lowered his tone and said that it was a "local thing that the NBC O and O's put together in which we had nothing to do with." Bob said it left the impression that it was a low rent deal, adding that people may say that not only do they not like the XFL, but they're offended by it as well.

Vince said if that's the case, they have to do what they have to do. Vince added that his stand point is that he's an entrepreneur, what makes his company and this country go round and round. "I take risk... Calculated risk." Then Vince boasted that in the very beginning of the XFL, he had no partners and planned to do it all alone. Vince again said its a viable business plan and that the ratings can be built back, and of course, he's going to have promotions and "things of that nature" to get those ratings back.

Vince then looked straight at Costas and said the XFL needs to get the media to cover it for the event that it is, not "the perception that you, as an elitist in my point of view, or others would have be... It ain't low rent football. Its kids out there playing their hearts out. If you watched it..." Vince said trailing off.

Costas jumped back and said no one dismisses the guys trying to make a living, but there is an association, meaning with Vince, that in the minds of some is a plus but at the same time automatically turns others off. Vince asked specifically who is it that gets put off? Not quite getting it, he added that nothing in the XFL has been THAT salacious. Bob asked if the ratings don't turn around will Vince be tempted to make it more salacious. Vince shook his head and said no. Vince then went back to the clips of the cheerleaders ratings ploy, saying that it was a spoof and a blatant attempt to increase ratings, but they were winking at their audience all along and the audience understood what they were doing. Vince said that he believes its the football itself that will bring the ratings back.

At this point Bob asked what has to be considered the "mandatory Vince McMahon question" saying "if it could guarantee ratings success, would you ever fix the outcomes of the games?" Vince in turn got defensive and basically went over how impossible it would be to fix a football game. "You still have to catch the ball..." He said.

Bob went over all the different avenues there are to get football already in one form or another and wanted to know what exactly is the incentive to watch XFL? Vince said because its the second best football around. Vince then went over the mistakes they've made including production and announcing. Bob asked if "WWF announcers are the right announcers for football?" and Vince quickly shot back "No."

Bob asked if Vince will be able to get top flight announcers because Bob "knows within the business ... and this is from people who do not necessarily wish you ill..." Vince again getting defensive but laughing it off, said why would anyone want to wish him ill, basically bringing the statement upon himself as Bob tried to avoid it. Bob, getting back to his point, said that a lot of top rate announcers are reluctant to get involved with the XFL because they feel that it carries a stigma. Vince said he'll just have to create talent then.

Bob asked point blank, "If (the XFL) turns out to be a grand scale failure, what impact will that have on you?"

Vince: "Well... I get knocked on my keester, I dust myself off and get back up." Now getting not only defensive but aggressive, Vince spit out: "And what do ya mean 'what impact will it have on me?'" staring at Bob for a long second before continuing. "I'm going to do the very best I can. I'm a fighter, okay." Then leaning up in his chair and grinning, "I enjoy fighting by the way. So, I like the fight and I have tremendous confidence that this is going to be a big success." Then Vince again emphasized that it cannot happen in one year. "Vince McMahon, in conjunction with NBC, cannot build a brand in one year. You can't do that."

Bob turned it up a notch by asking Vince if he is so intertwined in both the WWF and the XFL, is it possible that a failure in the XFL could carry over into the WWF and "reduce the juice" McMahon has there? Vince calmly replied that this is America and you have the opportunity to fail. He added that he's not afraid to fail now, as long as he wins in the long run.

But Vince again could not shy away from the larger subject at hand and said that he isn't sure exactly what he did in the entertainment world to piss off people in the sports world. He added, using the standard television defense, that if they are being offended they just need to change the channel. Vince, just to make it clear, said that he is a different person in real life than he is on WWF TV.

Bob began to talk and Vince, at this point, did his first trademark "Let me finish" line with Costas.

Vince continued by saying he feels the media owes it to the public to give the XFL another look. Vince said the demographics for the XFL are important and there is something to build on.

But now, for the inevitable. Bob revved up some footage "from the past week" of what the WWF telecasts every week on TNN. Although before it aired, Bob added that Phil Mushnick wrote that he should do this very thing, but Bob mentioned that he had planned to long before Phil decided to write about it.

So HBO, in all of their grandness, went right for footage of Trish telling Vince "You have no idea how far I will degrade myself ... for the right cause. I would do anything for you Mr. McMahon..." Then HBO cut away to footage from the week before of Vince telling Trish (both wearing completely different outfits now) to get on all fours and bark like a dog. It went on, making sure to get in Paul Heyman's "I'm gonna get to see bush line" before being sure to finish with Vince telling Trish to take her bra off, then showing Trish begin to do so, before ending the package at that moment.

Upon returning, Bob wanted to make it known that Trish did not indeed remove her bra.

Then Bob immediately said: "What's the possible justification for what we just saw?" as if he just rolled footage of something as horrific as the Holocaust.

Vince calmly said that everything in the WWF is a soap opera. He mentioned that HBO took Vince out of the XFL and presented the most salacious, out of character, edited, portrayal of him right up there for everyone to see.

Bob said that it doesn't happen every second, but it happens often enough to be fairly typical. With a quick glance to a card in his right hand he added "crotch grabbing, people grabbing their crotch and yelling 'suck it'... 11 and 12 year old kids emulating that behavior..."

Vince at this point got defensive, but justifiably so, and said that he can play that way too. He said that Costas is in a situation where he doesn't know what he's talking about, because he doesn't watch, no different that of Phil Mushnick.

Bob: "These things don't happen?"

Vince again, this time noticeably upset, and again moving forward in his chair: "You gonna let me finish?"

Bob began to say something but Vince cut him off: "Shut your mouth!" now pointing at Costas. "I'll be happy to answer the question." Vince made a solid point by telling Bob that the WWF hasn't done crotch grabbing and the "suck it chant" in over a year. He freely admitted that at one point, it was part of the show.

Vince then attempted to put the heat on Costas by asking him what show precedes "On The Record"?

Bob replied blankly, "The Sopranos."

Vince: "Amen... Now how many times do you hear the 'fuck' word in 'The Sopranos? ... It's a soap opera right? Well, that's what we do... It's a soap opera, Bob, come on... Prior to 'Sopranos' what? 'Sex in the City.' How many orgasms were there, Bob?"

Bob tried to keep the heat on McMahon by saying that the WWF is targeted towards youngsters, which Vince called "a very broad demographic."

Bob stated that there is a big difference between basic cable and HBO, which is a pay service. Vince childishly said "I don't think so." Bob then replied, in one of those too good to be true lines, that people have actually said to him "I'd like to watch your show, but we don't have HBO in our home because we don't want our kids channel surfing past it, seeing stuff that isn't appropriate for them."

Vince: "Well its real simple. While you're channel surfing, go 'Click,'" he said, making a clicking motion with his right hand. "How easy is that?"

Bob said nobodies being forced to watch it, settling Vince back in his chair as if he had won a battle. Now Vince asked Bob why he's on his high seat, getting on McMahon's back. Vince then shifted and said that "research will show" that the most family watched program (meaning two or more people in one house at a time) is "WWF Smackdown!"

Then Vince said for the record, the word "ass" is bleeped on the first hour of Smackdown. So, he said, believe it or not, there are some standards.

Bob said just because there is an audience for something, doesn't justify it. Vince asked Bob is he knows how many people enjoy the WWF on a world wide basis that, "aren't elitists like you?"

Bob tried to earn himself an ounce of credibility, his efforts going in vane, by saying that "Vince personally knows" that Bob was a fan of wrestling, enjoying the tongue-in-cheek type of soap opera that it was, and still be, without the vulgarity, without the mean spiritedness, without the "bitches and hoes..."

Vince said he loves freedom of expression but at the same time said Bob can't tell him what his audience wants to see. Then Vince, in a defining moment said that if his audience wanted to see the kind of wrestling Bob was referring to then that's what he would have out there. Vince said things progress, to which Bob said "or de-gress" and Vince went on calmly that "if it 'doesn't ring your chimes', then don't watch ... The name of the game is fun."

Bob, reaching, went for the most general assumption possible, and asked Vince if he believes that the WWF programming has added to the "overall incivility and coarseness" that exists in society now. Vince said seriously "maybe so." Bob asked if Vince regrets that at all to which Vince said he's not sure what The Sopranos does. Or what Sex in the City does. Or what any daytime soap opera does. "We may be a part of that ... but certainly no more a part of a problem than anything else."

Costas switched up again, moving to another inevitable subject: The Lionel Tate murder case. Bob stated that the younger girl was killed by using wrestling moves. Now, Vince knew Bob was in another corner and said smugly, "You're supposed to come here and know your stuff... You should really know your facts..."

Bob began to say something and Vince again said "Would you let me finish?" and moved right up to about six inches, nose to nose with Costas. The hostility was evident although at this point, both men were hiding smiles behind the tension.

Vince answered Bob's question by saying simply that, Bob didn't know what he was talking about.

Bob: "Is the child not on trial?"

Vince: "Oh no. The child's been convicted. He's a murderer." Now, almost knowingly beaten, Costas crossed his legs and sat back as Vince continued. "If you would have done the slightest bit of research you would have known that this absurd notion was a dismissed as a hoax."

Vince didn't allow Costas any room and said "Would you let me finish?" three more times. But before Vince started again, he took a long sip of his coffee. Getting back he said the "wrestling defense" was dismissed from the start and the judge called it a hoax. Vince added that a six year old girl died because of the brutality involved from a twelve year old and the "wrestling theory" was absolutely absurd. Vince finished by telling Bob not to take it from him, but to do what he should have done in the first place and go read the facts.

Bob went back to the one thing he could be safe with and asked if wrestling in any way contributes to a lack of civility or even violence in society. Vince said he doesn't think it contributes to violence and his definition of civility would probably be a different from Bob's. Vince said that the WWF doesn't use guns or knives and there is never a portrayal of murder or rape, so in that sense, they don't contribute to that sort of violence in society.

Bob: "What about degradation and objectification of women?"

Vince: "If you stay with our storylines long enough, unlike you taking one little segment, okay, to just absolutely smear me with this one thing..." Then Vince thanked Bob for the class shown in doing that.

But before Vince could finish, Bob said that its interesting to see "Vince McMahon" lecturing someone about class.

Vince: "I don't have class?"

Bob: "I'm saying you're a strange one to be giving that lecture."

Vince: "You know what? This is the Bob Costas interrupt program, am I right?" Bob said few would agree with that characterization but Vince told Bob to go back and check the tape later on to find out.

Getting back, Vince said that you need to stay with the storyline. "The degradation, as you called it, of Trish, which was of her own volition, okay... This is a soap opera. If you stay tuned long enough, boy, I'm likely to get mine as far as the Vince McMahon character is involved." Vince said that the women involved in the WWF from Chyna all the way down are very strong women and generally get what they want and then some in the end. "But you got to stick with it, Bob."

Bob went home with the safety of wrestlers issue, naturally citing the Owen Hart wrongful death suit. At this point, Bob was noticeably shaken, obviously aware that the audience was aware that he was talking about a subject for which he had little information of his own to go on. He stumbled around with the words "wrestler" and "maneuver" very awkwardly. Vince just smiled at Bob as he struggled through it, but when it was necessary Vince did the obligatory, serious "we would never attempt the type of stunt that killed Owen again" but added that the WWF does contain some of the greatest athletes in the world and they push the risk factor very far on their own.

With that, Vince McMahon's half hour segment was up.



(Associated Press, Saturday, March 23, 2001)

By Justin Bachman

ATLANTA - The World Wrestling Federation is buying the ailing World Championship Wrestling business from AOL Time Warner Inc., ending an intense rivalry that has inflamed professional wrestling fans for nearly 20 years.

WCW, a division of Turner Broadcasting System Inc., had been planning to stop production after Monday night, but the deal announced Friday gives it new life. Stamford, Conn.-based WWF, whose Monday show is the top-rated program on cable, said it will produce new WCW programming on The National Network.

"This is a smart business decision and a good investment for us," said Linda McMahon, chief executive of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., which also owns the XFL in a partnership with NBC. "We're grabbing it because it is simply that kind of opportunity."

Fans of the two rivals have debated for years about which company's wrestlers were tougher, and WWF said it would start "cross-brand story lines" soon.

That means Goldberg, a wild-eyed, bald, goatee-wearing WCW star, could be matched against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, a wild-eyed, bald, goatee-wearing wrestler for the WWF.

In a conference call with reporters, McMahon declined to say which WCW performers would be offered work at WWF.

Neither company would discuss terms of the deal, although people familiar with the WCW's business said the prime asset WWF is acquiring is an extensive film library dating from the 1970s, merchandise, and some production and exercise equipment.


(Syndicated column, Sunday, March 25, 2001)

By Dr. Mike Lano

And Then There Was One. RIP WCW!

Despite a rich history at Turner, WCW is down for the count. The decision
to cancel WCW from the company's TBS and TNT network schedules was made by

new broadcasting's chief and WB founder, Jamie Kellner. Tomorrow's 'Night of Champions' marks the end of an era and is the last WCW show on Time-Warner-AOL television. WCW champion Scott Steiner has a pinched nerve and his title vs title match may be abbreviated, but not the emotional returns of Goldberg, Sting, and DDP. WCW began cautiously billing it last Monday as their "season finale" rather than the more accurate "series finale," to probably keep the door open for any last-minute buyer.

Last Tuesday, Fusient Media officially terminated its efforts to purchase
WCW since the primary purchase-incentive was having WCW programming continue
on TNT and TBS. Turner spokesman Jim Weiss said "WCW's spot on TNT & TBS will
be replaced by movies, more original programming and sitcom reruns. It was a nice ride, but it's time for the ride to be over."

Wednesday's staff-meeting at WCW's Smyrna, GA Power Plant with all 150 employees will address closure of WCW-branded events. The Plant had been the most publicized wrestler training facility with network coverage on GMA and Dateline. Hayward's All Pro Wrestling Boot Camp is still one of the nation’s best, if you think you have what it takes to become a pro-wrestler. Like BTW, APW puts on shows statewide and four of their graduates are major superstars: Spike Dudley, Grimes, Crash and Mike Modest. Had WCW continued, Modest would have figured significantly in their revitalization. He
reminds many locals of San Francisco's own Ray Stevens , who was also one of the greatest international competitors of his day.

If after 6 months trying with various potential buyers, Eric Bischoff can find eleventh-hour backers to simply purchase the WCW name and logo, he might have something to shop to FX or ESPN2. And once again, WWF is a contender to possibly absorb WCW's name and some wrestlers for a mock "interpromotional feud" during their own programming on Viacom. Symbolically, WWF would "triumph" over WCW talent in the end. With few options remaining, WCW wrestlers may have to accept any offered deals. WWF spokesman Gary Davis verified Wednesday, "We renewed discussions with them about possibly acquiring WCW." With all the distractions and two more ECW stars debuting, Monday's cable ratings saw RAW drop to 4.6 for the third week of "LawlerGate," while NITRO held steady at 2.1. And despite more exciting games, XFL ratings set another record plunge last weekend.

* * *
World Championship Wrestling morphed a decade ago from the National
Wrestling Alliance, which arguably had roots going back to the actual historic
N.W.A. Ted Turner purchased the troubled Charlotte NWA from Jim Crockett in
1987, and vowed to always have it continue on his networks. He counted Ric
Flair and announcing great Gordon Solie as friends and wrestling as the
foundation for his 70's WTBS Superstation's cable success. After recently selling
his assets to Time Warner, the scrutinization of previously-hidden WCW annual losses unfolded. And with the AOL merger, WCW publicly become an embarrassment financially with over $60,000,000 losses last year. To Bischoff's credit, he made WCW a mid-90's player by aggressively signing away top WWF talent during a down period. WCW had it's first (few) profitable years beating WWF with a successful new cruiserweight division and the star-ladden NWO gimmick, borrowed from New Japan. Competition proved healthiest in the end for WWF, which overtook WCW after being forced to rebuild itself.

* * *
This doctor’s WCW autopsy reveals additional cause of death due to sports agent overinvolvement, huge guaranteed contracts paying whether now-less-motivated wrestlers performed or not, talent misuse, continued gross overspending, crossover failures, and mounting lawsuits. My prognosis says there may be no Phoenix Bird rising from WCW's ashes for awhile, so cherish those memories of 5-star Flair vs. Harley Race matches.

(ED. NOTE -- San Francisco dentist Michael Lano has been a published pro-wrestling photojournalist since 1966 and has a syndicated TV and radio show and various books out.)


(Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tuesday, March 20, 2001)

By Scott Leith

World Championship Wrestling is down but not necessarily out.

Turner Broadcasting is dumping WCW from the company's TBS and TNT network schedules, marking a final fall for professional wrestling on Turner, which has aired events in one form or another since the 1970s.

The change doesn't come as a major surprise, given that Smyrna-based WCW has continued to trail the higher-rated, raunchier World Wrestling Federation. But it is likely to affect a pending deal to sell WCW to a New York company.

WCW will go off the air for what is being called a "hiatus" after next week's TNT broadcast of "WCW Monday Nitro." It is unknown when and where WCW shows might reappear. Movies will run in wrestling time slots for now.

The decision was made by Turner Broadcasting's new chairman and chief executive, Jamie Kellner, and Turner entertainment chief Brad Siegel. Kellner, founder of the WB network, recently agreed to join Turner.

Turner spokesman Jim Weiss said wrestling doesn't fit the company's goal of shifting the appeal of TBS and TNT. TBS is aiming for middle-class men, while TNT is showcasing original series and made-for-TV movies.

"Professional wrestling, in its current incarnation, just is not consistent with the high-end, upscale networks that we've created," Weiss said.

In January, Turner reached a deal to sell the money-losing WCW to Fusient Media Ventures of New York. Fusient still might buy WCW but under different terms. Another bidder also could win WCW.

Fusient officials could not be reached for comment. WCW already is featured prominently on the company's Web site.

WCW employees in Smyrna are awaiting word about what will happen next. Spokesman Alan Sharp said a staff meeting is scheduled for March 28, two days after WCW's last scheduled event in Panama City, Fla.

Sharp said WCW has 150 staffers, including workers in finance, marketing and public relations. WCW also has 80 people it puts in the talent category: wrestlers, announcers, "Nitro girls" and so on.

WCW personalities include stalwarts such as "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, along with younger stars like "Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner. One of the WCW's biggest draws, former University of Georgia football player Bill Goldberg, has been out with an injury.

The cancellation of wrestling marks the end of an era for Turner, which was built partly on the success of wrestling broadcasts.


(Hollywood Reporter, Sunday, March 18, 2001)

By Steven J. Stark

NEW YORK -- TBS Inc. has body-slammed World Championship Wrestling, and it's not getting off the mat.

The network is removing "WCW Monday Nitro" and "WCW Thunder" from Turner Network Television and TBS Superstation, respectively, because "it is not consistent with the upscale brands we've built with TNT and TBS," a spokesman said late Friday.

"Therefore, we made a decision not to carry wrestling in its current format any longer."

The TBS Inc. spokesman also said a previously announced sale of WCW is proceeding. In January, Turner said it had agreed to sell WCW to integrated media company Fusient Media Ventures but that it would retain a minority interest and long-term programming rights (HR 1/12). The companies did not disclose financial details of the deal at the time, but analysts expected that Fusient was paying a "nominal price" for a business that was losing $80 million a year.

Sources familiar with the deal between TBS Inc. and Fusient say the decision to drop wrestling entirely has changed the dynamics of the deal but that the two companies could renegotiate it.

The TBS Inc. spokesman would say only that WCW definitely will be sold one way or another.

"We announced that WCW will be sold, and it is going to be sold," the spokesman said. "Deals are deals when they are completed and done, and we have had backup plans. WCW will be sold as announced. Who the lucky winner is, we'll see."

A spokesman for Fusient Media declined comment Friday.

Sources at USA Network, which lost the World Wrestling Federation franchise to Viacom, said it's "highly unlikely" that USA would be interested in acquiring WCW. Sources also said that WCW, which used to perform well in the ratings, has fallen recently.

USA Cable senior vp research Ray Giacopelli said "WCW Monday Nitro" consistently trounced the WWF on USA Network by 50% in early 1997. "WCW Monday Nitro" has been seen lately in about 1.7 million households, down from more than 2 million in 1997, Giacopelli said. Numbers were unavailable for "WCW Thunder."

"Then, as both shows poured on the promotional heat, both programs (WCW and WWF) saw their ratings rise simultaneously, and they were pretty much neck and neck," Giacopelli said. "Slowly but surely, WWF on USA overtook all competitors handily."

The TBS Inc. spokesman said the company is not worried about filling the slots vacated by wrestling.

"We've got the strongest arsenal of contemporary motion pictures to put in," he said. "We're not concerned about that."

The move to drop wrestling is an about-face for TBS Inc. and might be a result of the new AOL Time Warner corporate structure in which WB Network founder and CEO Jamie Kellner was appointed chairman and CEO of TBS Inc. this month (HR 3/13). In his new role, Kellner oversees an expanded group of AOL Time Warner cable networks and the WB Network.

When the sale of WCW to Fusient was announced in January, Bradley Siegel, president of general entertainment networks at TBS Inc., said that as the company continued to grow, it would be able to keep the programming side of WCW on its networks because the franchise had performed well over the years.

Siegel also said TBS Inc. never considered closing down WCW if a sale failed to go through and that the company was not abandoning wrestling just because it was selling WCW to Fusient.

"It was better to operate (WCW) outside the confines of Turner and Time Warner," Siegel said at the time. "It's the next phase that's a very smart one. We are very much in this business, just choosing to operate it differently."



(MSNBC web site)

By Les Carpenter

Vince is gone today. But Vince is never far away. Vince is on the walls. Vince is on the desktops. Vince is everywhere, his head chiseled, buffed and blown-dry for show. It is as if the head can see all and Vince is watching over everything in the corridors of his new world empire.

His people scurry through the hallways, doing the business of Vince’s world, mumbling the mantra of Vince’s wrestling empire, "raw" and "war." It has made him wealthy. It has made him wise. It has made him bigger than life.

All because he has learned that he can make teen-age boys drop $30 for the privilege of grabbing their crotches, extending their middle fingers and serenading wrestling heroes with chants so toxic they could boil turpentine. This knowledge gives him power.

Enough power to put "The Rock" in People, Hulk Hogan on prime time and Jesse "The Body" Ventura in the governor’s mansion in Minnesota.

And now Vince McMahon is going to change your football.

If you don’t like it … well he could care less.

Because he’s betting your kids are going to love it.

Smashmouth! That’s what this is. Smashmouth! Shove it down the other man’s throat. That’s what Vince McMahon wants. He tells you so through your television, peppering his words with an inflated wrestler’s growl. Football should be savage. Football should be bloody.

"For Vince, he wants football to be the way it used to be," says former Seahawks vice president Mike Keller, who is one of the men in charge of Vince’s new football league.
And the XFL is all of that, rough and hard and hewn. But the Xtreme Football League will come packaged with all the vitriol and glitter of a typical WWF showcase. Cameras everywhere — on the field, in the helmets and in the locker rooms. You will hear it, all of it, the screams, the cries of pain and the swearing. Or at least the awkward gaps of silence after the censors run everything through a seven-second delay.

You can’t get this from the football you watch now. Which is why he thinks he can make a fortune off the recordings of non-Roget’s list of synonyms for shucks and darn and phooey which will never spill through the television speakers.

"Because this is a WWF production, he wants to get the disenfranchised 12- to 15-year-olds who watch the WWF now, to watch this and say, ‘that’s my kind of football,’ " Keller said. " ‘That’s what I want to follow.’ "

The players are mostly unknowns with the biggest names being mediocre NFL players like Tommy Maddox, Rashaan Salaam and David Diaz-Infante. The best salaries are about $50,000 a year and the quality of play might be below-average at best.

But Vince’s people say the XFL will work because it’s Vince’s invention and Vince has the flair for a show. The NFL wont be able to match this one. Players are going to be fitted for microphones, as will the coaches. And when something happens - a big pass, an interception, a fumble that loses the game - we are going to hear their reactions, right as it happens.

Celebrations will not only be tolerated, they’ll be encouraged. The sack dances and end zone frolics frowned upon by the NFL are a requirement to play in Vince’s league.
And just in case the chance to play professional football isn’t enough of an incentive, Vince plans on dangling a second inducement: The players on the winning team take home an extra $2,500.

This is his genius. He knows that everything in the end comes right down to money. "I want a microphone on the coach who’s going for a tie with $2,500 on every man," says Billy Hicks, the XFL’s vice president of administration. In Vince’s league he will.
More importantly, Vince knows how to make it happen. "He does have a track record of success and an understanding of marketing a product," says Dean Bonham, a Denver-based sports marketing consultant.

"He is unquestionably the credibility and the glue that holds the XFL together."

Three hundred fifty million dollars will do that. This is what his wrestling circuit was expected to bring in last year. The little New England wrestling league he bought for $1 million two decades ago from his father has turned into the biggest trash sport extravaganza the country has ever seen.

The WWF has become so popular, its Monday night "Raw is War" brings in 5 million viewers a week, making it the highest-rated show on cable TV. Which is why Vince had barely announced his intent to start the league when NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol was already ringing in on the phone in Vince’s limousine saying "don’t do anything until we talk." It is also why Ebersol agreed to be equal partners with McMahon in the XFL even before a single coach had been hired, a player signed and the coarse nicknames of the New York-New Jersey Hitmen and the Orlando (Roid) Rage had been announced.

So at a time when America needs another football league about as much as it needs a monster truck hall of fame, Vince is trying to turn your rapt attention to his XFL. He will do this because once the hype machine finishes grinding out the spin for his new league, you won’t be able to avoid its reach.

"I was never a follower of the WWF before," says Michelle DiFilippantonio, the XFL’s vice president for integrated marketing who left the NBA to come to Vince’s league. "But now that I’m here, I have tremendous respect for what they’ve built. Their ability to reach the young mind runs deep. I used to laugh at wrestling too, but when you start reading Sports Business Daily and there’s something in there every day about how the numbers the WWF was getting were even more than what we had at the NBA, that tells you a lot. They know what they’re doing around here."

Yes, Vince’s league is a threat. And because he has NBC and because he has a hammerlock on the most elusive but potentially the most lucrative demographic in the country — 12-24 year-old males — people are paying attention. "If NBC wasn’t part of the package and this was on TNT, nobody would care," says Jamey Crimmins, a New Jersey-based marketing consultant for several high-profile NFL players.

Clearly, the football establishment is rattled. Aging executives, lost in the civil world of Lombardi and Staubach, seem to be scrambling to find a response. ABC redesigned its entire Monday Night Football program, hiring Dennis Miller as a commentator and sticking a microphone on one player to throw together a montage of audio clips at halftime. This seems a small step for Vince, who countered Miller by hiring Ventura to be the voice of his football league. Sensing it is up against a foe it does not truly understand, the NFL seems to have a healthy amount of apprehension.

"Is it real or is it scripted?" NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue wondered aloud at the owners meetings earlier this year.

Vince’s people roll their eyes.

"The football will be real," Keller says almost mockingly. "The guys in this league will be NFL players. That’s the biggest myth that’s been perpetuated is that you have to be in the NFL to be a great player. Many of these guys are great players too. They didn’t get the chance."

It is a real league all right, just dressed up to look like the X-Games. But the teams have real coaches, like former Seahawks defensive coordinator Rusty Tillman (the head coach of the Hitmen) and real players. The rosters have been filled with fringe veterans who couldn’t stay in the NFL and players fresh from college who were cut in training camp. They’re just going to play with a multi-colored football.

Vince’s hope is to make his own stars, by running them through the WWF’s publicity machine. Their life tales will be told, but they will be real, not be the made-up story lines that play out on the wrestling shows.

"It will be interesting to see what the response is to the way we are doing this," Keller says. "We’re not changing football, we’re changing the way football is being presented."

In the meeting room a voice roared:

"I hate the fair catch!" Vince bellowed. "Is there any way you can get rid of the fair catch?"

This was Keller’s interview with his prospective new boss and Vince wanted to talk strategy. Actually, Vince wanted to talk about the things he hates about the NFL, a league he thinks has run its course. "Suits in ivory towers," that’s what Vince calls the NFL people when he is walking around the office.

To McMahon, the NFL has become a frightened league with restrictive rules discouraging toughness. He thinks its administrators worry too much about the height of a player’s socks than putting out an entertaining product. In today’s NFL, McMahon believes, players have become too coddled. So Keller designed a league without fair catches. In fact, he designed a league in which the fourth down becomes almost as significant as the other three. Punt returners won’t be able to call for fair catches, but on the other hand, the lead tacklers won’t be released down the field as soon as they are in other forms of football. This will encourage more attempts at returning kicks.

Also, punts longer than 25 yards are live balls. This means the punt returner is going to be required to field the punt no matter what. It could be mayhem.

"We want to get the kicking out of that fourth down," Keller says. "That fourth down is going to be an interesting down"

Everything’s going to be interesting. Keller has tweaked the rules just slightly to allow for more aggressive hitting. He’s also eliminating kicking the extra point after touchdowns, opting for a regular play from scrimmage just like the two-point conversion.

But will it work? Or will it just be one silly, bawdy show wrapped around some ugly football?

Many in the sports business say Vince will succeed with the XFL just because he’s Vince and this is his league and he’s managed to get it on NBC on Saturday nights. Those facts alone, they say, insure success.

Others are not so sure.

Bonham says it will have about a five-year run and then eventually die away.
"Their premise is that there is a void in the market that the NFL is not filling," he said. "I think that is false. Don’t get me wrong, the NFL is going to watch what the XFL does and use it as a breeding ground and testing ground.

"If I was a strategist in the NFL offices, I’d be jumping up and down and clapping my hands. Vince McMahon is going to spend tens of million dollars to test this for everyone else and then they can come along and take all the best ideas without having to go through the trouble of testing them themselves."

Still, the real test may be to see just how low the viewers will want to go.

The WWF has sold itself on crudeness. The shows are wildly successful, selling out arenas and stadiums with a mix of teen-agers and adults alike.

This is professional sports, however. And even in this Allen Iverson world, a planet in which NFL players seem to be led away in handcuffs on a monthly basis, the public seems to demand at least a hint of credibility from its athletes.

Can Vince survive in the mainstream sports world with a PG 13 product?

"This is why Vince McMahon is so successful," says Crimmins, whose Assante Sports and Entertainment company represents at least one XFL player, the former Heisman Trophy winner, Rashan Salaam. "Do I like the way it’s being marketed? No. Do I want my 10-year-old son watching an announcer ask the quarterback if he’s "making it" with one of the cheerleaders? No, of course not. But do I give the league a shot? Yeah I do."
When asked how she comes to grips with working for a sport that is tied so closely to the profane world of the WWF, DiFilippantonio grows quiet. "I’ve resolved it in my mind that it entertains people," she finally says. "At the end of the day it’s entertainment. That’s what people do."

Yes, entertainment. But the question remains how far will the XFL go in trying to duplicate the WWF? The league’s own officials don’t even know that answer. Their plan is to push the walls of regular football as far as they can and see how it goes.

Bonham figures the end result will be an empty league, played in half-filled stadiums when the novelty of hearing players swear into a microphone wears off. And once the XFL loses its novelty, he says, it will just be another set of football games played by players who aren’t good enough to be in the NFL.

Just another trash sport on weekend TV.

Is this what the great Vince, revered by all in the WWF building, is doomed to produce?

"I think the perfect description (for him) would be the Wizard of Oz," Bonham says. "Let’s remember at the end of the story that the Wizard turned out to be more apparition than real. At the end of the XFL story I’m not sure Vince McMahon and the XFL will be real."



(Hendersonville, N.C., Times-News, March 28, 2001)

By Leigh Kelley and Bill Moss

Benny Loyd McCrary, the Hendersonville farm boy who along with his late brother, Billy, became internationally known as the world's heaviest twins, died Monday at Pardee Hospital of heart failure.

He was 54.

Benny, who was a minute-and-a-half older than Billy and outweighed him by 30 pounds at their world-record peak, won fame for his size but was most admired by those close to him for the size of his heart.

"Throughout the obstacles he had to face in his life because of his size, he was kindhearted and he always cared about other people," McCrary's widow, Tammie, said in an interview at her mother-in-law's home on Kanuga Road on Tuesday.

The couple met when the McCrary brothers, then 18, were staying at a hotel where she worked.

"They were signing autographs and I had come to get their autographs and I nearly hit his car," she said. "He was a little mad, but we started hanging out together."

The couple later married and Tammie accompanied her husband on several of his many wrestling trips, when she was not in the ring herself, she said.

"That was one of the things we had in common, because I had wanted to become a wrestler and he said if I wanted to come along, he would teach me," she said.

Born Dec. 7, 1946, Benny and Billy were actually premature and slightly small.

"We didn't start gaining weight until we was about 4 years old," Benny said in a 1998 interview for an Inside Wrestling magazine feature on the legends of wrestling. "We had German measles and that messed up our pituitary tract. They took us to Baptist Hospital and Duke.

"They put us on a 1,000-calorie-per-day diet and we still gained weight. That's why our parents bought the farm. They said 'maybe they'll burn the calories up working on the farm.' That didn't help either. They didn't have the technology in the '40s that they do today."

The boys weighed 200 pounds by age 10 and 600 pounds by age 16. They dropped out of East Henderson High School and headed to Texas, where they got jobs branding cattle.

Their careers took off after they were discovered by the Guinness Book of Records, which still lists them as the heaviest twins, with Benny at 814 pounds and Billy at 784. The most familiar picture of the twins is probably the one of them on motorcycles. They rode from coast to coast as a promotion for Honda, covering 100 miles a day for 30 days.

Their fame in the 1970s landed them appearances on "The Tonight Show" and with such interviewers as David Frost, Merv Griffin, Ed Sullivan and Phil Donahue.

"Benny and Billy, as they told Merv Griffin on a program, were making good about a bad situation," said their uncle, Harold McKinnish, a retired Baptist minister.

"That was their attitude about life. It wasn't comfortable for them. Life was unpleasant in a lot of areas, but they learned to deal with it."

They traveled across America and around the world as tag team wrestlers known as the McGuire Twins, having changed their name because Japanese announcers had trouble pronouncing McCrary.

Billy died July 14, 1979, 13 days after a motorcycle accident in Niagra Falls that resulted in a blood clot.

Benny tried to carry on by himself, occasionally teaming up with other wrestlers, including Andre the Giant.

"He tried, but he just couldn't do it, because he said the magic was gone," said Tammie. "He was really affected by that."

Back home in Hendersonville, McCrary opened a pawn shop at Busy Bend in Hendersonville and worked as an auctioneer.

The couple left the Hendersonville area three years ago and moved to Walkertown, near Winston-Salem, where McCrary got a job with the Christian Golfers Ministry at the Pine Knolls Golf Course.

He was on the board of directors of the Christian Golfers Ministry and would hand out Bible tracts and golf tees with the GOLFER logo (God Offers Love, Forgiveness and Eternal Redemption.)

Evangelism through golf combined Benny's love of the Lord and the sport.

"He was absolutely nuts about golf," said Alan Brown, a friend who worked with Benny in the pawn shop.

"He didn't hit the ball very far but he hit it dead straight. He was deadly with any kind of chipping iron or putter."

His short game was so respected, Brown said, that in captain's choice charity tournaments, teams would argue over who would get Benny.

After the cartilage in his knee wore out, Benny could no longer walk. For a time, he still played golf, using a cart to ride from shot to shot. But when he could no longer do that, he became confined mostly to a chair or his bed.

He was admitted to Pardee Hospital for an enlarged and weakened heart, said Dr. James Caserio, an internist who was Benny's regular doctor for many years.

Benny once had a championship wrestling belt made for his doctor, calling him Jumping Jimmy Caserio after an old-time wrestler.

Caserio said pain medicine kept Benny reasonably comfortable in the last days, when nothing could be done for his heart. He slipped in and out of consciousness.

"Benny was tired, like he'd worked hard all day and was looking forward to getting home to the place of rest," said his uncle, the Rev. McKinnish. "He said don't pray I get better, pray I get to go home."

Tammie said what she will remember most about her husband is his zest for life, the way he handled his shortcomings with dignity and the fun-loving person he was.

"He made an impression on people because he could get on any level you were on - he could talk to the president or a farmer, it didn't matter," she said. "People loved him."

McKinnish gave credit to Tammie.

"No wife could have been more supportive than this little girl has been," he said. "She's been a trouper, giving support to him and his mother."

McCrary is survived by his mother, Virginia McKinnish McCrary, and a grandmother, Mary McCrary, who is 101.

A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Crab Creek Baptist Church cemetery with the Revs. Guy W. Smith and McKinnish officiating.

Benny will be buried next to his brother under the tombstone engraved with pictures of two motorcycles, and an inscription about Billy being "a big man with a big heart" who became "a legend as big as the mountains around him."

"They did exceptionally well for a couple of farm boys from Hendersonville," said Brown, Benny's friend from his pawn shop days.

"They got to see the world and to be world known, and that's exceptional for everyone."

BENNY LOYD McCRARY (1946-2001)

(Hendersonville Times-News, March 28, 2001)

Benny Loyd McCrary, 54, of Hendersonville died Monday, March 26, 2001, at Pardee Hospital following an extended illness.

The Henderson County native was a son of Virginia McKinnish McCrary of Hendersonville and the late Frank McCrary. He was preceded in death by his twin brother, Billy Leon McCrary, who died in 1979.

The McCrary twins were known throughout the United States and abroad. They had traveled around the world seven times as professional wrestlers. They were undefeated Tag Champions for 14 years. Benny and Billy were title holders in the Guinness Book of Records for being the world's heaviest twins. They were goodwill ambassadors for Guinness World Book of Records and Ripley's Believe It or Not Museums. After Billy's death in 1979, Benny became an auctioneer and pawnbroker with his own business. He enjoyed golfing for exercise and for an opportunity to witness for the Lord. He was on the board of directors and a lifetime member of the Christians Golfers Ministry, handing out tracts and tees with the logo GOLFER, meaning "God offers love, forgiveness and eternal redemption." Benny and his wife, Tammie, were members of the Crab Creek Baptist Church.

Surviving in addition to his mother are his wife, Tammie E. Alley McCrary, and several aunts and uncles.

A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Crab Creek Baptist Church cemetery with the Revs. Guy W. Smith and Harold McKinnish officiating. Having been a professional wrestler, Benny will be honored by a final 10-count bell ring at the end of the service by lifelong friend Larry Hardin. Memorials may be made to the Crab Creek Baptist Church Gym Project Building Fund, Route 3, Box 229, Hendersonville, N.C., 28739.

Jackson Funeral Service is in charge of arrangements.


(Compiled by Greg Oliver, editor, SLAM! Wrestling, http://www.canoe.ca/SlamWrestling/home.html)

They called themselves the McGuire twins because announcers in foreign countries had difficulty pronouncing McCrary . . . In an interview with Scott Teal's Whatever Happened to ...? publication a while back Benny McGuire talked about a cross-country promotion. "We worked out a deal with Honda Motorcycle Company and rode mini-bikes from New York to L.A. Three thousand miles. We rode a hundred miles a day and it took us thirty days. I also had a deal worked out with Holiday Inn where we'd stay at night, and we'd ride into town and give autographs at a dealership for a couple hours"…During the trip, they stopped in El Paso, at the wrestling matches. Gory Guerrero invited them to become wrestlers and later trained the twins… their mat careers began in Mexico, often in bullrings. They later worked for Dory Funk Sr. in Amarillo, Leroy McGuirk in Tulsa, and Nick Gulas in Nashville…Originally the McCrary twins, they switched to McGuire because the Japanese announcers had trouble pronouncing "McCrary"…Benny credited Gulas with the idea: "He said, 'The McGuire Sisters done good. Let's see how the McGuire Twins do.' That stuck with us."


(Pittsburgh, Kans., Headlight-Sun, July 24, 1973)

Ralph (Wild Red) Berry, who climbed the hard way from a modest start in life to become an international figure in the wrestling world, is dead at the age of 66. In reaching the pinnacle of his profession, Berry became friends to many from all walks of life including the entertainment greats, many of whom were guests at his home in Pittsburg at one time or another. Last year, Berry was voted to the Wrestling Hall of Fame at Tulsa.

Death came to Berry about 12:30 p.m. Saturday (July 21). He was stricken at his home, 314 E. Eighth. He was pronounced dead at Mt. Carmel Medical Center.

Berry was a light-heavyweight, who did most of his wrestling as a heavyweight.

He perhaps was the most colorful holder of the light heavyweight championship of the world - and held it more times than anyone else.

It was in 1937 that Berry first won the title. Then he lost and regained the title three times, a record in itself.

Berry had played golf during the morning Saturday at the Elks Country Club. Upon returning home, he did some work in his yard and then went to swing on the front porch to rest when he was stricken.

He was a strong advocate of physical fitness and clean living. He never drank anything stronger that milk. He exercised regularly even after his retirement a few years ago.

Success never went to his head. He never forgot the town where he got his start in life. He always was a strong booster for Pittsburg. His colorful appearances in the squared arena put Pittsburg on the tongues of the many who follow the sports - and he made sure it stayed there.

Berry became known across the land as the former mayor of Pittsburg, stemming from service on the Pittsburg City Commission. It was the result of a slip of the tongue when Berry was introducing a Pittsburg resident to a television audience. The Pittsburg man was visiting out in California and he intended to say that Berry was a former member of the Pittsburg City Commission, but "former mayor" slipped out.

No one minded. Berry had served on occasion as acting mayor during the term he was a member of the City Commission and the late Joe Gutteridge, then mayor, was out of town.

Every opportunity that he got, Berry reminded the sports world and those turning out for his many personal appearances that he was a Pittsburg, Kan., product. He was proud to be a Pittsburg resident and he maintained his home here through the years he was touring this country and other countries on his wrestling schedules and personal appearances.

It was in 1933 that Ralph Berry, the wrestler, became "Wild Red" Berry. It was a result of a publicity stunt in Kansas City which backfired. The moniker stuck even after he became the cultural giant of wrestling.

Berry turned to philosophy in 1946 after a mat match ended in a broken arm for him. He began studying the Bible, Shakespeare, poetry, sayings and comments until he could quote them verbatim. He frequently spoke to religious groups, including ministerial gatherings, performing impressively.

When he returned to the squared arena after his arm healed and lengthy therapy had been completed, Berry became the philosopher of the wrestling world much to the delight of wrestling and TV audiences.

A gesture he used to indicate intelligence and culture which he portrayed was a knowing pose with finger pointed to head, usually with a pair of glasses in the other hand and a book of Shakespeare's works clamped under his arm.

This joined Berry's nickname, "Wild Red" in becoming a well known part of the colorful and popular character he portrayed before his fans.

Berry's friends among the entertainment world included Jack Dempsey, Ed "Strangler" Lewis, Milton Berle, Lawrence Welk, Gene Autry, Gorgeous George, Leroy McGuirk and Jule Strongbow, among many others.

Lewis was the strong man of wrestling and long heavy weight champion.

George was junior heavyweight champion.

McGuirk was light heavyweight champion.

Strongbow was among the heavys. He was heavyweight champion.

Berry even tried his hand at acting. He played in the motion picture, "My Wife's Best Friend," shot 20 years ago. Starring in the film were MacDonald Carey and Ann Baxter. Berry played the role of a guard at a health retreat.

He often talked before groups of parents and young folks. Always he emphasized the importance of physical culture to keep a person physically fit mentally alert. "Clean living" and hard work he emphasized as necessary for success in life, both the spiritual and physical aspects.

Some months ago straining of his voice in speaking to groups without an amplifier brought on a throat condition and a "gravel voice" ending his public appearances as a speaker upon advise of physicians.

The condition worried Berry greatly because he liked to be with people and to talk before groups, especially groups of young folks.

For a couple of years, Berry worked with the Sheriff's office of Crawford County in the capacity of a coordinator and advisor for young folks.

It was in 1947 that he was elected Pittsburg park commissioner. During his two years in office, Berry regularly conducted physical fitness programs at Lincoln Park for children of the community.

This philosophy followed Berry throughout his life.

Berry was born November 20, 1906 at Conway Springs, Kans. As a small boy, he moved with his family to West Liberty, a mining camp about two miles south of Chicopee. He attended elementary school at Liberty school.

He quit school at the age of 12 to work in the coal mines to support his fatherless family. At the age of 16, he started with the Kansas City Southern shops as an apprentice coach builder and blacksmith.

But the sports world was a magnet which increasingly drew his interest.

He worked out an agreement with the YMCA which would permit him to train there and work out his fees by doing odd jobs. Once he said he "must have painted the 'Y' 20 times to pay out his fees."

Berry would work at the K.C.S. shops during the day and wrestle at night. At the end of his work day, he usually stopped at the 'Y' to work out and then he would walk from there to his home south of Chicopee.

When he was 17, Berry won the Tri-State Amateur Boxing Tournament - and received his first cauliflower ear. After 18 professional fights, he copped the middleweight championship of Kansas, broke both hands and retired from the fight game.

But he turned his talents to wrestling. For his first match, he walked eight miles through the snow to wrestle in a preliminary bout on which Strangler Lewis was the main eventer. For this he received 50 cents, he often recalled.

He fought up from this meager beginning to become one of America's best known television sports figures.

As Berry was getting his start in the fight world, he was married on May 28, 1934 to Miss Lil Pilkento of Pittsburg. She survives.

After wrestling across the nation, many times in New York's fabulous Madison Square Garden, wrestling in Australia during two tours in the "down under" continent, Canada and Puerto Rico, Berry for all practical purposes hung up his wrestling shorts and turned to managing wrestlers. In this capacity, he guided Australians, Germans and at least one Japanese among others.

Then a few years ago, Berry decided too many years had passed and he turned homeward for retirement in Pittsburg. But he refused to remain idle. He turned to working with young folks and speaking engagements until his voice failed him.

Even then, he continued his exercise programs, golfing and just meeting his old friends. Berry's memberships included the First Christian Church, Twentieth Century Sunday School class, the Pittsburg Masonic Blue Lodge, the Scottish Rite Masons of Fort Scott, Mirza Shrine, Mirza Patrol, Mirza Shrine Club and the Elks Lodge.

Survivors in addition to the widow:

One son, Maj. James L. Berry of the U.S. Army military police, Augusta, Ga.; a sister, Mrs. Ada Mapes of Scammon; a brother, Carl Berry, 810 N. Joplin; two granddaughters, Jamie, nine and Diana Joy, three, and a grandson, Alden, 12 of Augusta.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. The body is at the Brenner Mortuary.


(Pittsburg, Kans., Headlight-Sun, July 24, 1973)

Funeral services for Ralph (Wild Red) Berry, 66, who died Saturday, will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday (July 24) in the First Christian Church with the Rev. Clarence Tucker officiating. Burial will be in Mt. Olive Cemetery with Masonic gravesite rites.

The family will receive friends from 7 to 8:30 p.m. today in the Brenner Chapel. The casket will be taken to the church at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.



(Pittsburgh, Kans., Headlight-Sun, July 24, 1973)

By Earl Morey

Red Berry is dead. But the memories will linger on.

I've been a sports writer for more than 25 years and during that time have met a goodly number of outstanding athletic figures.

But none will compare to the friendly, rugged, sincere, likable Wild Red Berry.

The guy once tried to teach me to wrestle. He failed, probably one of the few failures of his life. I didn't have the balance. But I did have his friendship, and that I will cherish.

Red, during his young years, worked at the Kansas City Southern shops and wrestled during his off time. He wrestled when it was a tough business. Low pay, long hours, and tough.

Once, after finishing my stint with the Navy during World War II, I asked Red why he didn't give up the business. After all, he had done it all. The famous, and the not-so-well known knew him and loved him.

His answer..."I fought during the long struggles, and I'll fight until I can't fight anymore. This is the first time the real money has been there."

And fought he did.

Red's life was his family and his friends. And a great family he has. And there isn't enough paper to list his friends... real friends, people who thought of him as I did, and many probably even more so.

To really know Red was to travel with him, to visit the attic in his Pittsburg home and to read his articles. Red was a self-made man. He didn't finish high school, but he once astounded a convention of Nebraska doctors when he made the featured speech, using words even some of those learned men had to check. Red studied every chance he had. And he learned.

I cherish, in my personal library that includes books autographed by Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and many others, the small book once written by Red about words and sentences. It's signed, after a long statement, and it's the one I favor the most.

Remember when Red promoted the wrestling bouts with Gorgeous George. They fought throughout the Southwest, including Pittsburg, Joplin, cities in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Red normally was the villain except when he was in Pittsburg. He loved Pittsburg and he wasn't about to do anything that would bring it harm.

After all, Red once was the mayor of Pittsburg, if only for a day.

Red exercised every day. He didn't drink, smoke or do anything to take away from the God given health that was awarded to him by Higher Powers. Even when he played golf, before he took his right-handed swing, he would swing the club left-handed: Keep the balance, he would say.

Red didn't like to drive, but he had a wonderful wife who took care of that chore for him.

Red fought a tough battle these past few years. He had trouble speaking. And he was a talker.

Just a few short days ago, Red dropped by the Headlight-Sun to show me the instructions he had to follow in order to talk and to be understood. They were tough rules, but Red was used to tough rules.

Today, he's dead.

But who can forget the time he was thrown out of the ring in Texas and broke his back? And who can forget the time in California when Red was the villain and a woman ringsider smacked him over the head with a Coke bottle? And the time (this is from him, since I wasn't around at the time) when he tried his hand at boxing? "A tough way to make a living," the Wild Man said.

Wild? No, not Ralph "Red" Berry. He leaves behind this memory. He was the type of man I am damn happy to have known and to have had for a friend, the type of man Pittsburg should be proud of. And I know Pittsburg will be.



(ED. NOTE – Former world champion Lou Thesz joined SLAM! Wrestling on Tuesday, February 27, 2001, to talk about his storied career, his thoughts on the current wrestling business, and about the newly-released trade paperback of his autobiography, Hooker.

Jay Jones: Who's the best wrestler today?

Lou Thesz: That's the toughest question of all. It's a tough call. There's a young man in the WWF, Kurt Angle. He's a very good representative of what wrestling should be, not 'rasslin. He's a sophisticated wrestler, and I met him in New York, and we spent several hours together. He's a very, very nice young man. He's really concerned about wrestling, not himself.

John Pollock: What inspired you to write "Hooker"? What current wrestling books have you read/enjoyed?

Lou Thesz: It was a labour of love for me. I wanted to tell the world what it was like to go up and down the road doing wrestling. During the Depression it was really hard. I devoted my young years to that. When TV came along, I had a lot of visibility. As for writing, I ran into Kit Bauman, in Fort Worth Texas, and we talked, developed a relationship. He wanted to do a book, and finally I agreed. We did about 500 hours of tapes.

Randy McElligott: What is your view on the way wrestling schools are teaching up and coming pros? Any different than when you were starting out?

Lou Thesz: What they are teaching is choreographed tumbling. It's certainly entertainment, most people know that by now. In my opinion, if you are going to make a living wrestling, you should know how to do it. Some of them today are really great athletes, but few of them have sophisticated wrestling knowledge.

Bijan: What are your feelings on Wrestlers carrying on past their prime?

Lou Thesz: I wrestled when I was 74. I was over the hill, of course. Ego is a crazy thing. A fellow I trained, Chono, we just went out there and did it. He's a very good wrestler. I weighed about 225, he was 29. He won the match. When you get to a point, and you are over-booking yourself, and you can't compete, it's time to get out.

Tommy: What's was your worst run-in with a fan?

Lou Thesz: In England, I defeated one of their champs in London. One person at ringside grabbed my leg, he was resentful of my win. I parked one right on his kisser. He spent a little time on the floor before they brought him around.

Tommy: How would you rate Buddy Rogers as a wrestler and performer?

Lou Thesz: Not a wrestler. A great show person. As far as real wrestling, forget it.

Jeremy: Who was the most accomplished wrestler that you ever faced?

Lou Thesz: Ray Steele, Everest Marshall, Ed 'Strangler' Lewis. Most of today's fans wouldn't remember. They devoted their lives to it. George Tragos, he was my coach in St. Louis. Some wonderful, magnaminous people who would only help youngsters if they wanted to.

Mike Rubin: Lou, what do you think about the dysfunctions that have permeated the business, such as drugs back stage, real life fights, sex scandals. Did any of this exist in the old days?

Lou Thesz: Not to the degree that it does today, with the porno stuff. Some of the guys did some drinking. Drugs were not on the scene at all, we weren't even aware of them. The guys doing the drinking weren't on the top, that's for sure. We had a few sex scandals. Some of the girls, waiting to say hello to the athletes, they were available to whomever wanted them. That was always around. We used to call them arena rats, though that isn't very nice. They were just hanging around as party girls.

Barry Gradwell: Who would have won in a shoot, you or Ed "Stranger" Lewis?

Lou Thesz: Ohh, I'd have to say Lewis. He was the daddy of the all. he was the boss. I would have to bow to him.

Tommy: Who's the worst promoter you ever worked for?

Lou Thesz: Ohh, God. (laughs) There were several. One that had some visibility: Nick Gulas out of Nashville, Tennessee. Ed Strangler Lewis tutored me to cultivate the friendship of the athletic commissioners so that you could get the actual houses and money drawn. It's unbelievable how much money I got back that way.

Moderator: Thanks again to Lou Thesz for taking part in this chat. You can order Lou Thesz's book "Hooker" on-line at his web site -- www.twc-online.com/thesz



(Local Ireland, http://www.local.ie/general/news/features/daniel/crusher_casey.shtml)

By Daniel Hegarty

Long before wrestling became a multi-million pound sporting drama, Steve 'Crusher' Casey from Sneem, county Kerry reigned supreme as world champion. The 6' 4", 17 stones Casey was born one of seven sons to Mike Casey - a renowned bare-knuckle boxer - and Bridget Mountain, a champion oarswoman, in 1908.

In 1935, after winning just about every rowing title in Ireland, Steve and his brother Paddy tried their luck at wrestling, and joined the British amateur team. It wasn't long before they began to dominate this sport too, and found it hard to get anyone to wrestle them.

Gerald Egan was a wrestling manager in those days and said, "nobody in England would take them on and pretty soon most of the European wrestlers felt the same way. The brothers were simply unstoppable and I advised them to move to America as quickly as possible to capitalise on their success."

Steve made his way to America in 1936 to further his untarnished wrestling career and quickly became a contender for the world championship title after defeating many of the sport's top names. Charlie Stack, Louis Thezs, Bronco Narquisi all fell foul of Casey's power and skill on his way to the title, which he captured in 1938.

Some of his famous quotes include:

"I never met a man I was afraid of in or out of the ring," he told the Boston Herald. "No man has ever harassed me. But if you think I'm good, you should meet my six brothers."

"T'was never from eating too much we got it [physical strength]. Whether it came from my father, my mother or God himself, we were blessed by nature."

He remained undefeated until his retirement in 1947; the only minor blemish during the nine years was a victory that was reversed in September, 1938 in a match against Everett Marshall. Marshall had thrown Casey through the ropes and was disqualified. The directors changed the decision after Marshall's manager, Billy Sandow, convinced them "the action was not deliberate."

In 1940 he took up boxing and defeated the US champion Tiger Warrentown. Soon after, he challenged Joe Louis for the world title but Louis declined the offer.

This text is taken from the programme of a wrestling event which took place back in 1944:


(Fresno Bee, Sunday, January 23, 1944)

"Steve (Crusher) Casey, 215, recognised as world's wrestling champion on the east coast, made an impressive debut in Fresno last night, "cooling off" Ivan (The Terrible) Rasputin, burly Russian, in straight falls in the main event of the weekly mat card in Ryan's Auditorium. Rasputin weighed 235.

Casey, a well-built, muscular grappler from Ireland, shook off Rasputin and his rough tactics and took the first fall after considerable hard grappling in 19 minutes, 54 seconds. Casey kicked Rasputin out of the ring and did not stop at that, but jumped out of the ring on his opponent. When they were brought back into the enclosure, Casey quickly flopped him with a surfboard-hold in which leverage from a double leghold proved too effective for the Russian to break.

There also was considerable hard wrestling in the second fall with Casey taking quite a bit of punishment but surviving at the crucial time and finally throwing Rasputin with a series of Irish whips in 22 minutes and 56 seconds.

Frank Manfredo of Fresno was the chief referee with Count Rossi serving as a voluntary aide, much to the dissatisfaction of many customers and also Casey."

The song 'Steve Casey of Sneem' is well known in his hometown of Sneem, and is still recited by those who have fond memories of a man who became more successful than anyone would have first thought.

Steve Casey died in 1987 after suffering from cancer, leaving behind a wife, two sons, a daughter and a legacy that would be hard to live up to.



In the 1950s and 1960s, Nick the Wrestler played chess daily and nightly at the Chess and Checker Club in New York City, also known as The Flea House. Nick was known regularly to play chess there for five or six days straight without sleep. Few knew his real name, which was Kola Kwariani .

In the 1956 Stanley Kubrick film, "The Killing," Nick played a hired killer named Maurice Oboukhoff. In the movie, he started a fight in a bar as a diversionary tactic.

The movie shows Sterling Hayden going to the Chess and Checker Club of New York to hire Nick for this purpose.

Nick is said to have been the world champion at Graeco-Roman style wrestling. He had cauliflower ears, caused by being squeezed in the head too much. His face was covered with warts and bumps. In the 1960s, he became the manager of Antonino Rocca. Rocca died in 1977.

Nick died in 1980. He met his end in a sad way.

The Flea House went out of business in the late 1970s. It was said that Cal Morris, who had bought out John Fursa, spent his time playing bridge and neglected the business. The premises was taken over by a company which spent $100,000 renovating. They installed pool tables and video games. A lot of tough Puerto Rican kids frequented the place. There were even prostitutes doing business there. There were reports of shootings and killings.

Chess players, oblivious to the dramatic changes taking place in a location which had been a chess club for 30 years, continued to come. Therefore, the management set up some nice chess boards in the front, which presumably had the dual purpose of being a front for any illegal activities. The chess players continued to play chess.

Nick came in the downstairs entrance one evening when about five black youths were leaving. They bumped into each other. Words were exchanged. Nick never took any gruff from anybody and soon he was engaged in a fight with all five black kids at once.

Nick probably could still have handled any one or two of them, but five were too many. Nick was beaten. The ambulance was called. Nick was taken to the hospital, and died shortly thereafter at age 77.

The Flea House is now the Disney Store, on West 42nd Street, next to the Amsterdam Theater.


(ED. NOTE – On Saturday, March 17, Jim Valley on KGUY AM Radio in Portland, Ore., conducted his weekly "Total Chaos" program on pro wrestling. A brief recap of some of the highlights follows.)

It was a once-in-a-lifetime show on St. Patrick's Day:

-Ric Flair called into the show like he promised last week.

-Jim Valley had a surprise: His close friend Roddy Piper was in the studio.

-Both Flair and Piper immediately started laughing and joking around with each other.

-Flair says he's learned not to let announcements about WCW get to him because things always change. But said an unstable environment is difficult to work in.

-Piper said the closing of WCW was a sad day for his frat brothers (fellow wrestlers). And he wasn't sure what effect it has on his lawsuit against WCW.

-Piper said wrestlers shouldn't fight - the battle is between promoters not "frat brothers." He said, "Let the talent do what they do and get the politics out".

-Flair said many people think that wrestling changed recently but the politics in wrestling really happened in the 80s with the WWF expansion. But the upside is that a wrestler now can get a check every two weeks. And "the only real thing we {wrestlers} have is those contracts."

-Piper asked, "If you got Mickey Mantle in the rafters, wouldn't you put him up to bat just to save the company?"

-Flair he and Piper have been able to survive because they've changed with the times.

-When Jim asked why they don't start their own promotion, Flair said, "I don't think that right now I'm really mentally up to the battle." Both he and Piper have dedicated their lives to wrestling and while they still want to be a part of wrestling, they still want to spend time with their kids.

-Piper cracked on Flair's nose by wondering what would happen if Rikishi tried to give him the stinkface.

-Piper asked why Flair couldn't have give Roddy one of Flair's 14 world titles. Flair said he'd trade his room full of belts for Piper's stable of 22 horses.

-Piper told a story about he and Flair playing basketball barefoot in Puerto Rico against Jack and Jerry Brisco.

-Piper or Flair told a great story about the other one going into an airplane bathroom, putting on only their wrestling gear and then serving drinks to the rest of the plane. Lets just say that the other person was very shocked to hear the other one tell the story. (out of respect we won't divulge who did what!)


(Sunday Mirror, March 18, 2001)

Penniless and injured champ in warning to heroes of WWF AS the Dynamite Kid he was a hero to millions of wrestling fans...and he earned millions of dollars. He owned a fleet of luxury cars and home was a 20-acre ranch. His battles against WWF stars like Hulk Hogan were legendary.

But today the Kid - real name Tom Billington - lives a remarkably different life. Confined to a wheelchair and living in a bedsit in Wigan, he relies upon disability handouts to survive.

Now Tom, 42, wants to warn current champions just how quickly it can all go wrong. He said: "WWF superstars like The Rock are getting millions of pounds but they don't realise how quickly it can be taken away from you." Tom has been left penniless after seeing his fortune dwindle away to nothing in the last four years due to a combination of bad luck and bad judgment.

He is unable to walk after suffering a back injury in the ring, and spiralling medical bills - along with two bitter divorces - have left him destitute and alone. He said:

"My life as a wrestler in the World Wrestling Federation was like being in paradise. I had all I ever wanted - and everywhere I went people treated me like a king."

Apart from his ranch in Calgary, Canada, he owned another ranch and eight plush apartments. His fleet of 15 cars included a customised Cadillac He said:

"American promoters labelled me the best high-flying wrestler in the world and I was in constant demand.

"But after only four years since retiring I have got nothing left. And I'm stuck in this wheelchair for the rest of my life."

Tom grew up in Golborne, Lancs, with mother Edna and coal miner father Billy who encouraged his son to take up a career in the ring. His big break came when a scout spotted him wrestling in Wigan in 1979 and invited him to compete at a tournament in Canada.

Three years later Tom entered the glamorous world of the WWF. With cousin Davey Boy Smith he formed a fearsome tag team called The British Bulldogs, who became world champions in 1985. But just two years later, tragedy struck.

"We were wrestling in front of thousands of fans when I attempted a big leap-frog move," he said. "All of a sudden pain shot through my back and I crumpled to the ground. I was rushed to hospital and I had an operation to repair a damaged vertebrae in my lower back."

With injuries piling up Tom left the WWF and returned to England following a bitter divorce from first wife Michelle in 1993. His two daughters Bronwyn, 16, and Armaris, nine, and son Merrick, 13, still live with Michelle. Tom continued to rake in a fortune as The Dynamite Kid on tours to the Far East.

But disaster struck again back home in 1997. Unable to get out of bed one morning, Tom was rushed to hospital in Wigan. Doctors told him he would never walk again. He says:

"In America I fought alongside Hulk Hogan in front of 93,000 screaming fans at Wrestlemania. But once I was in a wheelchair there was nothing left for me to do."

And after divorcing his second wife Doris this week the former WWF champion lives alone and destitute.

"I spent thousands of pounds on medical bills. Wrestlers do not have a pension and you risk your life every time you step through the ropes."

(ED. NOTE – Tom Billington’s autobiography, "Pure Dynamite," priced at 12 pounds, 50 pence, is published by SW Publishing of Lancaster, England.)


(IGNWrestling.com, August 29, 2000)

By Chris Saba

Pure Dynamite (the autobiography of Tom "Dynamite Kid" Billington) has been heavily criticized by the media for being too harsh and blunt towards the wrestling business and several people in it. Billington absolutely does not pull any punches when going through his life and storied career as the Dynamite Kid. He seems to like very few of the people he illustrates in the book. Even his friends aren't exempt from being portrayed in a less than flattering light in certain situations. Some critics were turned off by that approach. I'm not one of them.

Billington leaves very few details out. He goes through his early days as a "shooter" in London, his time in Calgary (that Hart family is one wacky bunch), legendary matches in Japan with the original Tiger Mask, his arrival in the WWF with Davey Boy Smith, why he left, his final days in the ring, and everything in between. Even his stint in Portland is included.

Dynamite's wild journey kept me glued to the words...so much so that I read the entire 204 pages in one sleepless night. He is honest enough to highlight both the good times and downfalls that came with living life in the "fast lane" -- a lane filled with rampant drug and steroid abuse. Nothing is sugar coated. The price he pays later on is well documented. Unlike most authors writing about their experiences with illegal substances, Billington doesn't fall into the trap of seeking pity from the readers. His strong stance makes it abundantly clear that he expects nothing of the sort. It was his life and he chose to live it a certain way; win, lose, or draw.

Dynamite Kid's autobiography was recently the subject of controversy from Bret Hart himself (even though "The Hitman" is hardly a focal point in the story). Bret took exception to a section of the book that mentions the night Billington did cocaine with Junkyard Dog and Bret Hart in a Miami, Florida hotel.

"I can still remember the first time I tried (cocaine). We were in the hotel right next to the airport in Miami, Florida, me, my brother-in-law Bret Hart, and The Junkyard Dog. Junkyard said, 'Hey, man, try this.' And he got a pipe and a block of coke and gave it to me...That was it: we spent all night smoking crack."

From the way it's worded, it's hard to tell if Billington meant to imply that Bret Hart was smoking with them or just in the room. Either way, the former WWF and WCW World Champion did not take too kindly to that particular story. Luckily, there are more pleasant stories about Bret in other parts of the book. One of my favorites in particular has to do with the ladder matches between Dynamite and Bret in Calgary (I would give anything to see one of those).

Kid's relationship with Davey Boy Smith is a strange union to say the least. The way it's written is probably the book's one weakness. He never denies the chemistry the two "British Bulldogs" had as a tag team, but he seems to go out of his way to paint his partner in a negative light throughout. While things may have soured in the end, it couldn't have been all that bad initially if they were together for a whole decade. It would've been nice if Dynamite had written more about how he felt at the time instead of the way he looks at it now. That way, the eventual "falling out" scene would have meant much more to readers not familiar with the Smith/Kid tandem. If they were never great friends to begin with, why should anyone care when they're suddenly not?

Despite the hardships that Billington had to endure, his story never stops being fun to read. Most of the wrestling personalities are even wilder and zanier outside of the ring than in it (including Dynamite himself, who plays many devilish pranks and gets into trouble time and time again). His portraits of the Hart Family and Harley Race are especially hysterical. Abdullah The Butcher, The Rougeau Brothers, Vince McMahon, the infamous Outback Jack, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage are only a few of the many others mentioned. Everyone he brings up adds something worthwhile to the overall picture.No one is mentioned just for the sake of being mentioned. Because of that, there are no dull moments to be found.

Mick Foley's "Have A Nice Day" is probably the standard by which all other wrestling autobiographies are judged. Pure Dynamite easily matches those standards. Tom Billington's life is one that every true blue wrestling fan simply has to read about.




(ED. NOTE – Harley Race participated in a SLAM! Wrestling chat on Tuesday, March 13, 2001. A few selected highlights follow, with the rather lengthy question-and-answer session transcribed in its entirety at the above SLAM! Site.)

Alan Omelia: What originally got you interested in pro wrestling.

Harley Race: It came up live on TV in St. Louis, Missouri in 1957. I saw it with my parents and said that was I was going to do -- they chuckled and a year later that was what I was doing. At first I met Gus Karras, and I was trained by Bobby Graham and Ray Gordon.

John Pollock: Which stars in your World League Wrestling promotion have the most potential?

Harley Race: All That Matt Murphy and Superstar Steve.

Lex_Reda: How did you like the "King" Harley Race gimmick in the WWF? I believe that was the only time in your career you ever had a gimmick.

Harley Race: Yep, and I hated it. I was always my own man, and I didn't care for the glitz. I was just Harley Race. Of course, I was the King though.

JM: What are your memories of the Starrcade '83 match against Ric Flair?

Harley Race: Gene Kiniski's clumsiness.

Dan: What do you think of Vince McMahon? If you could use one word to describe him what would it be?

Harley Race: Help.

Lex_Reda: Why did you participate in the Secret's of Pro Wrestling show on NBC?

Harley Race: I was brought out there with the understanding that we were doing something to help wrestling not to hurt it. After getting there, of course I wanted to get my money that I was guaranteed to get out there. Even if you take a look at what I actually did in the show, I did very little as far as hurting wrestling is concerned. I think today what Vince, The Rock and some of them say about wrestling has done a lot to expose wrestling more than anything in my life. I'm not proud of my participation in it.

Abe: What do you think the future holds for WCW? Do you see them getting their act together with new owners? Or simply folding? What are your opinions of their current product?

Harley Race: Well the product had started to improve a little bit, and they were getting away from the vulgarity and stuff like that a little bit. I guess it just depends now on who bought it, in fact if it's even been sold. You hear so many things on it, you wonder which one to believe.

Herb: I always heard the Original Sheik was legitimately crazy. Can you share any stories about him?

Harley Race: The Original Sheik, let me tell a quick story about him. I started my career driving Happy Humphrey who weighed 785 pounds. I met the Sheik in Cleveland, Ohio with Humphrey. I got married in Cleveland, Ohio. I wrestled the Sheik on TV in Cleveland. My wife thought it was the worst thing that she ever witnessed. Left Cleveland and came home. My wife was killed in an automobile accident. I was 17 at the time. The Sheik, who hadn't known me until that date, found out about this and for a year thereafter, once a month, I had a check from The Sheik. After I made it back into wrestling and back to work, the man would never take one nickel of it back. So in my opinion, the Original Sheik was as nice as a person as I ever met.

Rich Ricketts: What was your worst in ring injury?

Harley Race: Oh, it would either be breaking my ankle or tearing my pinky finger off my left hand, tearing it virtually off.

Christopher: Are you a big ribber? And if you are, what was your best rib?

Harley Race: I was never a big ribber, but I was real big on retaliating to ribs. In Minneapolis in the middle '60s, The Alaskan was there. Alaskan used to use an atomiser all the time in the ring. He grabbed it to spray his throat and Johnny Valentine had filled it with lighter fluid as he had several years before. Now all this was a joke. Alaskan went down on the floor, moaning and groaning. He went back to the dressing room and came back with a pistol in his hand. Exactly what had happened years ago, but Valentine had actually done it. This time, he shot him with blanks and Valentine ended up in the shower dying. Everyone in the room thought he shot him because they'd all heard the stories before. At that point I didn't know if it was real or not. But I did have a real gun in my bag with real bullets, and I pulled it out. The Alaskan said that he couldn't afford to have any witnesses and turned around to shoot everybody. He pointed the gun towards me, and I pointed mine with live ammo -- and he knew it. So the joke got reversed on him and he told Valentine to get up and stop playing dead because he was about to get shot. That's basically how it ended, or I wouldn't be here talking to you guys.

Scott Hudson: What do you think of hardcore matches?

Harley Race: A joke.

Tiiu_in_Angus: Hello Harley. You must have worked with Ric Flair a thousand times. Did you ever get tired of working with Flair?

Harley Race: You never get tired of excellence. He and I had some classic, classic matches.

Abe: If you could do it all over again, would you? What would you do different?

Harley Race: I'd probably save a little more money, take a few less bumps. But other than that, not one iota I would change.


(ED. NOTE – An announcement of David Webber’s death was made at a Chaotic Wrestling show in Lawrence, Mass., on March 17, where it was said that Dave Vicious – his ring name – had been found in his driveway, dead of an apparent heart attack. He was a headliner for Eastern Wrestling Alliance in Maine and Green Mountain Wrestling. His web site continues at www.deliciousdavevicious.com)


EAST HARPSWELL — David C. Webber, 32, of Munroe Lane, Topsham, and formerly of Pinkham Point Road, East Harpswell, died March 16, 2001, at his home.

He was born in Brunswick, a son of Richard A. and Linda L. Farmer Webber, attended Harpswell schools and graduated from Mt. Ararat High School in 1986.

He worked for his family's business, Webber and Sons Lobster Co. in East Harpswell, as a lobsterman for many years.

He was a physical fitness trainer and professional wrestler known as Delicious Dave Vicious.

Mr. Webber enjoyed spending time with his family and friends and his two Rottweilers, Thor and Luger. His interests included riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and going to the gym. He had a special interest in helping young people, and was a talented pencil sketch artist.

He was engaged to Chanda L. Johnson of Bailey Island.

Surviving are his parents of East Harpswell; his paternal grandmother, Althea B. Webber of East Harpswell; his maternal grandmother, Mrs. Albert (Mary) Marquis of Brunswick; and two brothers, Alan R. Webber and Richard A. Webber II, both of East Harpswell.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at First Parish Church, Maine Street, Brunswick, with the Rev. William C. Imes officiating. Arrangements are by Brackett Funeral Home, Brunswick.


EAST HARPSWELL — David C. Webber, 32 of Munroe Lane, Topsham, formerly of Pinkham Point Road, East Harpswell, died Friday, March 16, 2001, in Topsham.

He was born in Brunswick on July 5, 1968, the son of Richard A. and Linda L. Farmer Webber.

He attended Harpswell schools and graduated from Mt. Ararat High School class of 1986.

He was employed as a lobsterman for his family business, Webber and Sons Lobster Company in East Harpswell, for many years.

He was a professional wrestler known as "Delicious Dave Viscious."

He enjoyed spending time with his family and friends and his two Rottweilers, Thor and Luger, and riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He enjoyed going to the gym and was a physical fitness trainer. His special interest was in helping young people.

Besides his parents of East Harpswell, survivors include his paternal grandmother, Althea B. Webber of East Harpswell; his maternal grandmother, Mrs. Albert (Mary) Marquis of Brunswick; two brothers, Alan R. Webber and Richard A. "Rick" Webber II, both of East Harpswell; his fiancee, Chanda L. Johnson of Bailey Island; a niece, Devin Webber of Bowdoinham; a godson, Patrick Robinson of Cape Cod, Mass.; and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Wednesday at First Parish Church, Maine Street, Brunswick with the Rev. William C. Imes officiating.

Memorial donations may be made to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Bath/Brunswick, 85 Maine St., Brunswick, ME 04011; or the Rottweiler Rescue and Referral, P.O. Box 917, Westford, MA 01886. Arrangements by Brackett Funeral Home, 29 Federal St., Brunswick.



"Just wanted to thanks all the EWA wrestlers and fans for all the support they have shown in this tragedy. My brother wanted nothing more than to see the EWA and its wrestlers go to the top. He was really looking forward to stepping between the ropes again for you guys. Just wanted to say I wish I had taken better care of him so we all wouldn't have to feel this loss.He was more then my brother. He was my dad, best friend, and my personal super hero. He was someone who always took the time for kids and a damn good example for anyone. I'll miss you man and never forget. I'll see you soon."

—Rick Webber, Dave's brother

"I am his Aunt Charlene, I spoke at his memorial service briefly. It was so hard to find the right words to say about him. I didn't get to see a lot of David since living in Florida for 17 years, however I did see him each time I would visit home. David always had that beautiful smile and a warm big hug for me. When my son James died, David tried to lighten the mood for my younger children by wrestling with them (he tore their clothes off in doing so). I knew what he was trying to do, it did help. When he saw how I was suffering, he would just wrap one of those big arms around me an pull me close to him. David will be missed by all of us. But as long as we remember him and keep his memory alive, he will always be with us. My heart goes out for my sister and her family. There is nothing worse than to lose a child. Life goes on but it will never be the same for her or her family again. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. And do stay in touch with them because it truly helps to know there are people like you out there. I love you David..."

—Aunt Charlene

"Of the guys I've wrestled in my short, near 2 years in this business, Dave was the first who has passed. It really hit close to home. After going out there night in and night out, taking a beating and getting up the next day, you begin to feel invincible, then something like this happens. He was twice the man I'll ever be, both physically and personally, and hearing about this certainly makes me cherish my own life that much more. It's scary to think about someone in his physical condition could go down for the final count. He was good man and a good worker. He will be missed by us all. I would like to extend my condolences to the friends and family of Dave. We'll miss you big man."

—Kevin (Damian Houston) Mailhot

"Dave was the one wrestler, the only wrestler, I completely trusted to not hurt me, but still convince the fans I was crippled. There was a stretch in 1999 when he got into it with me physically several times. While he didn't like to tell me what was going to happen, he always assured me that I wouldn't be hurt, and I didn't. I'll watch tapes of him mauling me and wonder how I didn't get hurt. As a young person just breaking into wrestling back in 1998, Dave didn't do what most veterans did and ignore me or openly hate me. When I made mistakes, he came and explained to me why he thought I was making one. He was instrumental in helping me change my thinking of wrestling from that of a fan to that of somebody inside the business. I attribute much of my success to his influence early on. When he told us he was quitting wrestling in December, I thought it would just be a break for him to recharge his batteries and he'd be back. How I wish that were true now. My thoughts are with those who were much closer to Dave than I was. This has hit me like a ton of bricks and I can imagine what it's doing to them."

—Joshua (Iron Chef) Shea

"I did not know Dave as well as most people, but I still thought of him as my friend. I always made a point to talk with him at the shows, see how he was doing, what he had been up to, and he would do the same with me. At the recent shows, it wasn't the same, because I had not talked with Dave before them. Now, I don't think any EWA show will be the same without him. Dave was a gentle giant. He seemed larger than life in the ring. Dave was bigger than almost every guy in the locker room and the fans all over New England loved him. But few knew him outside the ring. Dave was a gentle giant. He was very soft spoken and had a huge heart. Even when I started to go to the shows as a fan, I always talked with Dave when I had the chance. Unlike most of the other superstars, Dave always made a point to talk with me at all the shows. I always told him, that one-day I would step in the ring with him, and he would always tell me he hoped that I would. Well, I got that opportunity, in Portland, Maine. It wasn't as a wrestler, but as a referee. I told him, about what I had said earlier, and he told me he still remembered and was looking forward to being in the ring with me. I am glad I got the opportunity to work with him and get to know him as a person. Things happen in mysterious ways. No one will ever be able to explain why this tragedy happened, but there is an old quote, Only the Good Die Young. Dave Vicious was a good man and will be sorely missed. God speed my friend, I will see you again."

—Josh (Referee Tom Wilson) LaPrell

"Dave Vicious was one of the finest people that I have ever met. I have known him for 11 years. I met him the day of his first match in 1990. He was scared out of his mind. I think as time went on, the guys looking across the ring from him were the ones who were really scared. He was a huge, intimidating man in the eyes of many, but to those of us who knew him well he had a big heart and a great personality. He never said a bad word about anyone. He was a true pro and he will be sadly missed. This is a tragic loss and my prayers go out to his family in their time of grieving."

—Steve Ramsey

"I first saw Dave at a WWA show I promoted in my area. The man was a very imposing figure and we didn't know each other from Adam. When I came to the EWA I saw him again and refreshed his memory on where we last saw each other. Over the course of time we got to know each other from the articles I wrote and tapes I sold. The best time for me was at the Cumberland County Civic Center, we were there as part of a collectables convention. I was wearing an old school wrestling shirt and got quite the discussion going on it, Dave decided that he knew me well enough to the point he started ribbing me like everyone else does. After that, Dave and I had little ribs we'd do to each other and it enhanced a friendship. He was a man who was very honest in his comments, would tell you how he felt, and told me how appreciative he was for what I've written about him and how I wrote it, as well as always asking advice on what tape would be best,etc. In the position I am in, and most guys in the new england area in this business, we get to see alot of people, some make it to the big show so to speak, some move on to better deals, it's the best of where you get to see both worlds. Dave was one who had all the tools but never got the proper break he deserved. One of the things I looked forward to was seeing and hearing Dave's ribs when he saw me wearing whatever wrestling shirt I decided to wear that day. While I have met both name stars as well as current stars in bigger federations, not many have had the heart and honesty that Dave had. This is a void that will not be able to be filled, I appreciate and liked the fact I was able to call him a friend and he will be very missed by me."

—Bill Walkowitz, EWA crew

"I had the privilege of calling Dave Webber my friend for 11 years. As many people have stated, he was a huge man, with an even bigger heart. Dave had a great blend of up front honesty and kindness, qualities few men tend to have. He was without a doubt one of the best big men in all of the Independents, and was highly respected. The funniest thing about Dave was how afraid young wrestlers were of him, and they honestly had no reason to be. I had the honor of having a 3-4 month feud with Dave in the EWA, from which I would like to share a short story. We were booked to work together for the first time in many years, at Dartmouth College in N.H., on January 14th, 2000. I was very excited as Dave was a very good baby face, who got huge heat. I was really looking forward to working with a friend who had both a ton of talent and experience. I unfortunately had been diagnosed with walking pneumonia earlier in the week, and showed up at Dartmouth College very much under the weather. When I first saw Dave that night, he informed me that he had a serious flu as well. After laughing about this situation on how two guys feeling under the weather would be able to work the main event, Dave turned to me and said, "We have been doing this for 10 years, we have both had to work in worse conditions." The fact was he was right. While it wasn't our best match we ever had, we carried the match just fine. After the match while we both sat there wheezing and coughing, Dave decided to compliment me. That is Dave in a nutshell to me. He was a very optimistic guy, who always tried to make people feel better about themselves, that night in New Hampshire, he made me feel like I wasn't even sick. I will miss Dave, and my prayers and condolences go out to his family."

—Scott (Alexander Worthington III) King

"My name is Roadhouse Lou. I had the pleasure of working with Dave for the last few years primarily in my capacity of Ring Announcer for the EWA and as co-host of the EWA television show. I also did some other indy shows as ring announcer where Dave appeared.Dave was one of the most professional people I have ever worked with in the wrestling industry. But what I will treasure most about Dave was the magical way he could interact with young children who came to see him perform. His demeanor around his youthful fans was an absolute joy to watch, providing them with special moments that they will remember for years to come. As you struggle through your loss, I hope you can find some solace in the joys that you have been blessed with through your relationship with Dave, and take some comfort in knowing that Dave's spirit will continue to live on in the hearts and souls of those of us who shared some precious time with him."

—Roadhouse Lou, EWA ring announcer


(CNN "TalkBack Live," March 20, 2001)

(Host Bobbie) BATTISTA: Let me take a phone call. Mick Foley is on the line with us from the World Wrestling Federation. Mick, you're upset about this wrestling defense.

MICK FOLEY: Yeah, I actually am. I've actually written a book -- it will be about in a few months -- that deals quite a bit with this. And my -- and my contention is that Mr. Lewis (Tate’s attorney), like the lady before me just said, was offered a more than fair plea bargain, and people want to blame the state of Florida. I mean, the rule is very clear. He chose not to take that.

And I don't know, maybe Mr. Lewis, when he said that she didn't show any bruising, had a different copy of the autopsy report than I did. But the copy of the autopsy that I read said skull fracture, rib fracture, laceration of the kidney and over 30 bruises.

You're talking about a guy 12 years old who's 170 pounds who changed his story four different times. And wrestling defense didn't even come up for the first 30 days. And Mr. Lewis looking at me through the TV knows this is true.

I mean, how many chances does a kid get to change his story when you're dealing with a little girl's life?

I think, you know, from the things I've read about you, Mr. Lewis, I'm just wondering why don't you take full responsibility instead of the state of Florida, because clearly to me you're on the Parents Television Council's videotape saying the finger of blame was pointing at the WWF.

BATTISTA: Let me have Mr. Lewis respond.

FOLEY: I'm pointing my finger of blame at you, because I think you're an incompetent attorney.

BATTISTA: Let me have -- go ahead, Mr. Lewis.

LEWIS: Well, the world Wrestling Federation has saw fit to sue me for libel slander in New York, and they did that even before the trial began.

I very much understand what their agenda is, and quite frankly, I did what I thought was the right thing, and it was the truth. And if the WWF has trouble with that, maybe they ought to look at the other cases where kids have been killed and seriously hurt when other children have been mimicking wrestling moves upon them. This is not the only case in which this happened around the country.



(Charleston Post and Courier, Sunday, Mar. 18, 2001)

By Mike Moneyham

Diamond Dallas Page has come a long way since his days at Coastal Carolina.
Page, a three-time world heavyweight champion who goes after a fourth title tonight when he meets Scott Steiner in the main event of WCW's Greed pay-per-view in Jacksonville, Fla., spent a couple of months at the Conway school on a basketball scholarship during the late '70s before packing his bags and heading back to the Jersey shore. Page admits, however, he was attracted more by the Grand Strand's party atmosphere than by any academic or athletic challenges.

"I was also not a guy who was really smart with money back then," says Page. "I was a kid. I wasted a lot of money the first couple of weeks I was there. We were living in these one-room efficiency apartments. It was two guys, and these were the rooming conditions. The town back then just folded up and went away (after the summer months). It's not like it is today. I said, 'Where the hell did the people go?'"

Page, who grew up in Point Pleasant, N.J., and played football and basketball in high school, had been an honorable mention All-American basketball player at Stockton State in New Jersey when he decided to travel south and accept a scholarship at Coastal. His short stay, though, was marred by problems.

Page says he and some baseball players at Coastal, hoping to win a thousand bucks, participated in an endurance test on a water slide, but were forced to quit after seven hours. Page contracted strep throat and a 104-degree fever, was bedridden for a week while his wisdom teeth came in, and his weight dropped from 207
to 187.

"It was just brutal for me coming back from that ... I couldn't get my way back," says Page. "I was depressed as hell."

Page and some teammates were playing basketball when he says he decided he "had to get out of here." He went to a local wrestling show featuring Ricky Steamboat, and he was hooked.

"I said to myself, 'This is something I've really wanted to do my entire life. I'm quitting school and becoming a wrestler.'"

Page calls his time at Coastal "a learning experience" and said it was just another obstacle in a long list of hurdles that he had to overcome.

"I was a kid," explains Page. "I'm a big proponent of school and education now, but back then I wasn't. Basically I was dyslexic. I couldn't read. Try going to college and not being able to read. Never mind just getting through grammar school and high school. It was really tough. I did a lot of memorization. I wrote a lot of notes. You can fake your way through anything, but reading out aloud was very scary. I was like a total illiterate."

Page, though, overcame his dyslexia and now sponsors his own charity, "Bang It Out For Books," which helps fight illiteracy and promotes the benefits of reading with Scholastic America.

His own autobiography, "Positively Page," was published last year.

"But I don't think they'll ever recruit another guy from Jersey," Page jokes about his short stint at Coastal.

Page, who took a job in the club business back in New Jersey after leaving college, made an hour-and-a-half drive with a friend each week to a wrestling school in Jersey City. He admits he learned little more than the basics, and had to give it up after injuring his knee while wrestling in Canada. An opportunity came up to run a bar, and Page took it.

"That's something I always wanted to do. The booze, the broads and the party kept me from going back (to wrestling) for a long time."

Page, whose real name is Page Falkinburg, spent 10 years in the bar business before giving professional wrestling another try at the age of 32. He managed and did commentary for a couple of years before actually stepping into the ring. The odds were against him from the beginning, Page says, but once again he used adversity as a motivational tool.

"I had only wrestled a year and I was 35 years old. Everybody told me it couldn't be done."

And when the 6-5, 250-pound Page suffered an injury and old-school traditionalist Cowboy Bill Watts took over WCW in 1992, it looked like struggling curtain-jerker Diamond Dallas Page was all but history.

"He's hurt now, so I have a reason to fire him." Watts said, according to Page. "They let me go. My wife at the time was telling me that I had to get a real job.

"(She said) Don't let the door hit you on the (behind) on your way out."

That was all it took for Page to shift into high gear.

"The one thing I've learned, too, is that you've got to get disturbed before you'll really say ... I'm doing this.

"And I'll give you a perfect example: Rosa Parks. Think about this little black woman in Mississippi, of all places, and she says, 'I'm not going to the back of the bus.' She had to be so disturbed, but when you get like that, you get so focused that nothing will derail you. You just refuse to let anyone else tell you it's not going to happen because you're going to make it happen. She changed the world. It's little things that become really big things, but you've got to get disturbed."

Page is a major proponent of motivational skills, and to him this was just another hurdle to overcome.

"I was so disturbed from way back of not doing this earlier that I became so focused," says Page.

"I had always seen my window as like five years. I'm in my ninth year as a wrestler. I'm going to be 45 in April. I'm literally in the best shape of my life. I'm into yoga. I'm into juicing.

"I don't know how many professional athletes organically juice, oxidizing their blood, but I'm literally in the best shape of my life."

Page, who made his ring debut on Nov. 18, 1991, won the Rookie of the Year award in 1992 and three years later was voted as the Most Improved Wrestler.

Page's match tonight with the volatile Scott Steiner has an interesting history. Steiner was the major reason DDP's wife, Kimberly, left WCW last year. Steiner reportedly made some unflattering lock-room comments about Kimberly, a dark-eyed, statuesque brunette who has a masters degree in advertising from Northwestern and an undergraduate degree from Auburn, and is the founder of The Nitro Girls.

Page and Steiner, whose out-of-ring feud had been simmering for months, came to blows behind the curtain minutes after the WCW world champion cut an unscripted promo ripping Page several months ago. Page, who had refused to work house shows against Steiner because of the comments Steiner had made about his wife, suffered bruises and scrapes on his face as a result of the short scuffle with Steiner, who witnesses claim tried to take DDP's eye out.

It took several wrestlers to pry Steiner off of Page, who was upset at Steiner for making comments about him on the air.

Page, however, claims he has since mended fences with Steiner.

"Everything is cool with me and him. It's better than it's ever been.

"We get along great. We really are in the best place we've been ever. We're buds. To me, you have to be to do this business properly. We work together. Scotty's our figurehead right now. Even if Goldberg were back, Scotty would still be the top guy. I don't get jealous or whatever. I'm happy for everyone's success. Everything is cool."

(ED. NOTE -- Mike Mooneyham can be reached by phone at (843) 937-5517. For more wrestling news, check out www.mikemooneyham.com. or www.wrestlinggospel.com. For wrestling updates during the week, call The Post and Courier Info Line at 937-6000, ext. 3090.)


(www.wrestlingobserver.com, March 17, 2001)

By Alex Marvez

It just doesn’t seem quite right to see Joe "Animal" Laurinaitis performing in World Championship Wrestling without Mike "Hawk" Hegstrand by his side. But with Hegstrand recovering from a life-threatening heart ailment, the Road Warriors are grounded. In the following interview, Laurinaitis discusses wrestling without Hegstrand, the Roadies’ last stint in the World Wrestling Federation and thoughts on his brother, John (a k a Johnny Ace), working in WCW’s front office. Note: This interview was conducted before word of WCW’s imminent shutdown.

Q: How good does it feel to be back working for a major promotion again?

Laurinaitis: "It feels real good to be back in the mainstream. A gimmick like mine comes along once in a lifetime, so you can afford to take off some time but still come back and be a top star. When I sat at home, it wasn’t by choice. I was under contract with the WWF and I got paid for sitting at home. One of the deals with Vince (McMahon), we didn’t like the way our storyline was going. Plus, it had to do with some independent contractor employee status … Vince did not want to pay any back taxes on us, so he paid us to go away. That expired about a year ago. Between then, I kept myself busy working overseas like in Japan and Australia.

Q: How different is it being a singles performer without Hawk?

Laurinaitis: "It’s a different feeling. "Actually, it’s kind of a rewarding feeling to be honest with you. You never know in this business. Hawk and I started together in 1983, but I don’t know what his status is going to be or whether he will be able to come back in the future. But I have not had any problems so far making the switch."

Q: How is Hawk doing health-wise and how scary was that heart attack incident?

Laurinaitis: "Actually, he didn’t have a heart attack. Over there (in Australia), he had a bronchial infection. I don’t know how he got it. He went out and did his usual partying like he always does. The bronchial infection attacked his organs. Instead of attacking his lungs, it attacked his heart. The good thing was there was a good commission doctor in Australia in Melbourne. He wouldn’t let him go to the ring. He (The doctor) said, ‘If you go to the ring tonight, you’re going to have a stroke and die. You’ve got to go to the hospital.’ He went.
"I’ve seen my partner go through a lot, but I think if you saw the look on his face that night, it was an eye-opening experience for him and anybody that has that kind of lifestyle. I think this has given him a new outlook on life. For eight months, he’s had to do steady aerobic workouts with no weight lifting. His ventricle wall is stretched out so much it’s half the thickness it should be. With all the aerobic exercise, you have to retrain the heart like a muscle. He should be able to get back to 99 percent or 100 percent. Right now, he’s at 90 percent."

Q: Does he want to wrestle again?

Laurinaitis: "I don’t know what his plans are. He’s got to get clearance to come back and work … This always has been a health-conscious and physique-conscious business. With today’s bodies, if he’s going to come back, he’s got to look half way like Hawk used to. If he does that, I can see the Road Warrior thing start to flourish again. I don’t know where that stands. But for right now, I’m happy to be in the Magnificent Seven in the position I’m in."

Q: How do you look back on your last stint in the WWF? It seems like the WWF put you guys through a lot of crap.

Laurinaitis: "Vince was a total piece of (expletive) the last time we were up there. You’ve got to understand there are a lot of broken promises with Vince. It’s like that for everybody that works for him. He says he’ll do this and do that and it never happens. Once you screw somebody for so long and break promises, guys get negative attitudes. That’s where we got a negative attitude. Having Hawk falling off the TitanTron (in a "suicide attempt") was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I said, ‘Let’s get out of here. This is ridiculous. We’re not a dog and pony show. Our gimmick is too strong. Let’s get out of here before they kill it.’"

Q: I understand, too, that you guys were working on a childrens television product at the time you left the WWF and that was another reason for the split.

Laurinaitis: "It’s called the Fifth Force. It’s a children’s fitness show and we’re talking with a network out of Houston. It was a side issue. Vince said he was going to take a look at it to entice us to go back at the time."

Q: It’s hard to believe you have been wrestling for almost two decades. Have you had a chance to reflect upon the impact of what the Road Warriors did for sport?

Laurinaitis: "You can see it now when you see the young guys in the business. When you go to a town like Baltimore, the impact is still there … When you get to attraction status, people want to believe in you. They want to know what you’re about and believe in you. The cruelest thing is to not give fans what they want. That’s what Vince did with us. People wanted us to be good guys and champions and he screwed it up.
"We basically changed tag-team wrestling forever. The era of the beer-bellied drinking guy who said, ‘Give me $50 and I’ll be happy," ended … I’m proud to have had that kind of impact on the business. One thing you can say about us is that there were many imitations but no duplications. Fans could see who the real Animal and real Hawk are."

Q: Did you ever think there would be a day when you would be working for your brother?

Laurinaitis: "I helped him break in about 15 years ago. We did a six-man match in Japan that was the introduction to both guys in the business, Johnny and Mark (Editor’s note: Mark Laurinaitis wrestled as The Terminator in the late 1980s). Johnny’s career took off. He asked my opinion whether he should stay working with (Shohei) Baba (in All Japan Pro Wrestling). I said, ‘If he likes the tall blond kid, stay there forever.’ It worked out good for him. It’s a unique situation right now. I’m fortunate he’s here, because otherwise I wouldn’t be here. But what I would never do is take the job just because he’s my brother if the gimmick was not over. That’s the main point."

Q: How do you think Johnny became a booking talent?

Laurinaitis: "Being (in Japan). If you look at guys like Steve Williams and the Steiners and Hawk and I and even (Hulk) Hogan, we all basically wrestled a Japanese style. Whether we were babyfaces or heels, we never changed our style. Some of the lighter guys involved in the business now do such strange things off the top rope and all that. For one, their probably not going to last five years in the business. Two, if they don’t go 100 miles per hour, they look like they’re in slow-motion. One thing that would help the business is if we slowed it down so guys don’t hurt themselves."

Q: What would you say Johnny’s biggest strength is?

Laurinaitis: "His strength is not that much different than what mine would be if I was in that same position. He’s been surrounded by top guys his whole career. Guys like (Jumbo) Tsuruta, Stan Hansen, Terry Gordy. He (Johnny) knows what is needed to get over and draw money. Anybody can put an idea on paper and say it will work, but on film it’s a totally different process. If the company trusts him and lets him do things his way, he’ll do a great job."

Q: How much longer do you see yourself in the business?

Laurinaitis: "Sooner or later, your time in the business comes to an end. The greatest thing for me would be, because we did so much for tag-team wrestling, would be being able to retire as champions and hand the belts over to the new boys, like what Michael Jordan did in basketball. I would like to go into the office someday to help John out and help the company. Between Hawk and I, our mission always was to handle this as a business. Hawk was always the wild guy with the reputation, but our thought process was the same. John is extremely professional.

"As long as my body can physically handle it, I’ll keep doing this. I started early in the business. A lot of guys, for instance Lex Luger and Sting, are older than I am. I just happened to be one guy who got lucky and caught a break at an early age. I’ll know when it’s the right time to say bye. I won’t wear out my welcome, that’s for sure."

(ED. NOTE -- Alex Marvez's weekly pro wrestling column can be found in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Denver Rocky Mountain News and a host of other papers that subscribe to the Scripps-Howard News Service.)