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Interview with Eddy Mansfield

Controversy and Professional Wrestling has always seemed to be married to each other; whether it is in a storyline, a locker room or a court room, it appears to be an inescapable fact that the industry will be forever laced with it, regardless of the era.

In the mid 1980’s, Wrestling was poised to enter its first boom period since the 50’s. The then named Connecticut based World Wrestling Federation was beginning its push to conquer the United States by signing top talent from other regional territories and running shows across country. Under the ownership of Vince McMahon Jr., the WWF was also expanding its television into markets that under the previous unspoken rules of wrestling promoters were not be crossed. Prior to McMahon, each promoter had their region and running a show outside of that area was frowned upon. This was not the only thing that was changing in the world of professional wrestling.

FB Eddy Mansfield PhotographUnder Vince McMahon, the World Wrestling Federation embraced a more character driven persona. The quality of matches took a secondary slot to over the top characters. Their biggest star, Hulk Hogan, became famous initially for his performance as “Thunderlips” in the film, Rocky III. Although, Hogan was never considered to be a great (or even good) worker in the ring, fans didn’t care. Built as a superhero for the ages, fans flocked to see Hulk Hogan and bought into his ability to overcome all obstacles. Match after match would see Hogan take the finishing move from his opponent, only to “Hulk Up” and show no effect of the punishment he took in the ring. It was a formula that made new WWF fans happy, but traditional wrestling fans balked at the spectacle they were seeing.

Up until this point, professional wrestlers practiced the art of “kayfabe” which basically meant protecting the business at all costs. This meant “good guys” and “bad guys” only being seen in public with others of the same ilk and when questioned of the “realism” of their sport, they would always respond with the same; everything that was seen in the squared circle was legitimate. This would change on national television in 1985.

20/20 was one of the highest rated news magazine shows of all time. The ABC program decided to do an ‘expose’ on Professional Wrestling with the hope of cashing on the phenomenon and tearing back the proverbial wizard’s curtain on the industry. The show became known for two distinct events; the first being “Dr. D” David Schultz’s open handed slap to John Stossel when the latter said that he thought “wrestling was fake”. The other was when former professional wrestler, Eddy Mansfield appeared on the program and showed some of the tricks of the trade and peeled back the curtain in a way that shocked the world, the fans and his peers.

Eddy Mansfield has starred in regional promotions across the United States under the moniker of the “Continental Lover”. He won multiple singles and tag team championships and performed in the main event on many cards. However by 1985, he found himself out of the business, blackballed by the WWF’s chief rival, the National Wrestling Alliance and unable to make a living at the industry he loved. He would appear on the 20/20 show with John Stossel and what was shown was Mansfield showing the audience how to “blade” (cutting oneself in the ring) how to take a body slam and essentially said that the sporting results was pre-determined on national television.

It made arguably made Eddy Mansfield the most controversial man in Professional Wrestling history. No name wrestler of any kind had ever done what Mansfield did, let alone a top rated show for the world to see. To wrestling fans, he exposed what they subconsciously (or overtly) knew and to his fellow wrestlers he broke the long tradition of “kayfabe”. If Eddy Mansfield was not blackballed before, he certainly was now.

What was seen on 20/20 was not the entire story, nor should this be considered the moment that defines Eddy Mansfield. The goal of Mansfield was not to destroy to the business but to help it; though that did not come across initially on the ABC broadcast. Hours of footage was shot, though like many taped programs 20/20 used only a few minutes to tell the story they wanted.

Many ironies from the 20/20 broadcast emerged. The first was that the wrestling fans who watched the broadcast still watched wrestling. In fact, the boom period the industry was entering accelerated and ratings for wrestling increased. Six years later WWF owner Vince McMahon coined the term “Sports Entertainment” to avoid paying State Athletic Commission fees. The news barely made headlines and wrestling fans that were in on the secret couldn’t have cared less.

As for Mansfield himself, at the time the piece aired, he already had wrestling in his rear-view mirror and looked towards a career in television production. Today he is the owner of Mansfield Entertainment; an Orlando based Production Company that has produced a plethora of award winning television programs.

Thanks to our mutual friend, Chavo Guerrero Sr., I had the opportunity to talk with Eddy, and we spoke about his career, the 20/20 piece and what he is doing now. It was one of the most candid and enjoyable interviews I have ever conducted, and an absolute pleasure to have been a part of.

 

 

I know that you broke into wrestling at age nineteen. Was there a main influence you had growing up? Specifically, when you were a teenage wrestling fan, was there anybody you pointed to said that is who I want to be?

“I guess if there was one person it would be Terry Funk. Actually, I can’t say that there was one guy that I wanted to be like in the business. The guy who broke me in was Leon Ogle in Georgia. He was part of the Georgia promotion out of Atlanta. He was a referee and he wrestled also and he promoted towns. I was kind of like a self taught guy. When I came out of playing pro baseball and my arm went out. Within six months I went into pro wrestling and I got a shooter to teach me the amateur style to protect myself in the ring. I went to learn the moves and then Leon broke me in, and said “Hey man, you’re a natural!” Right after that, I moved to the Gulf Coast which was Dothan and Pensacola and I became the youngest ever Gulf Coast Heavyweight Champion, and believe it or not I was a baby face then! Now, a baby face Eddy Mansfield lasted about six months. (laughs) I really wasn’t a baby face type of guy.

I came into the business and got a real good push right at the beginning. I was Rookie of the Year in the NWA and I was Rookie of the Year in my second year. David Schultz used to laugh about that. First it was the Pensacola territory and left there to become Rookie of the Year in Knoxville. It was really funny, and I wondered how many years I would be a rookie! When you’re a young kid and you’re blessed with a little bit of talent they kind of heap things on you.”

So from Knoxville, when did you get to the Olympic (Los Angeles)?

“I was living with Ron Fuller and we shared a three bedroom condo in Pensacola. We got a call at the house from Leo Garibaldi from Los Angeles. This was in 1978. I had to board a plane from Pensacola to Los Angeles. Now I had never been there before and I was just a young kid. When you first get to L.A. the first thing you notice is the massive traffic, seven lanes on each side, it was overwhelming. I got off on this exit and went to a gas station and asked the attendant where the Olympic Auditorium was. He told me that I got off on the right exit and all I had to do was go right down the street. I got there and walked up to the ticket booth and there was a girl there by the name of Cricket. I said “Hey, I’m Eddy Mansfield and I’m here to see Leo Garibaldi” and boom, they sent me up to see Leo and Mike LeBell. My first night at the Olympic Auditorium I wrestled Mil Mascaras in the main event. Can you imagine that?”

Continenal Lover LA CAThat’s incredible to have that happen so soon!

“Mil Mascaras used to draw big there, same as Chavo (Guerrero). What I was doing was taking Moondog Mayne’s spot (who had died suddenly) and he would have been wrestling Mascaras had he not been killed. That’s the way I started in Los Angeles; on top! L.A. was really good to me; we had a lot of good talent there. Chavo Guerrero and Roddy Piper were still there when I arrived. With you being a Canadian, you can really be proud of him as a human being and a superstar in the wrestling business. He is one hell of a good guy.

Anyway, Roddy was getting ready to leave and one time we were riding to the Olympic Auditorium one night from Santa Monica and he said me, “Eddy, I’m leaving and I want to pass the torch to you.” In other words he made sure that I had his spot. I have always been very grateful and appreciative for what he did for me to this day.”

Eddy, were other wrestlers in Los Angeles jealous of the push you were receiving, basically coming in on a top spot?

“Yeah, but it’s a competitive business! They certainly were.”

Were there any specific incidents that happened where you were disrespected?

“Well, sometimes they would try to give you some business in the ring. When I came to Los Angeles my partner was ‘Dr. D’ David Schultz and we were used to controversy. I had a number of times in L.A. where they would try to test you, but you would have to step up. You give them a couple of shots here and there to stand your ground and I am sure that Chavo would tell you the same thing.”

He certainly has! It almost sounds like he and Roddy tried to take of you in L.A. in some way. Although you were broken in old school, you did not have that mentality as you became experienced to keep people down. It sounds like you were taking care of each other in a way.

“We looked at it that every opportunity we had that we needed to give 100 percent. An old timer once told me it doesn’t matter what the finish is; it’s what you do from the time the bell rings and the three count that will make you a star or not. It’s not about wins and losses; it’s how you perform in the ring and on the microphone. That’s what makes or breaks you. I had that mentality, Chavo had that mentality and Roddy had that mentality. Many of the great workers in this business had that mentality.

When I first came in Chavo was working a program with Piper, and I started working with Pedro Morales which was the first program that I worked in Los Angeles. I worked with Pedro until Chavo finished his deal with Roddy. We (Chavo) had a good run and then I started breaking in different guys. They had me manage and wrestle at the same time. I was involved in four or five matches every night.”

You really did take Piper’s spot, because Chavo had told me that they worked Roddy like a dog!

“(Laughs) Yes, the second Piper dog! They worked me to death. One time, I was in every match, it was like the Eddy Mansfield hour! I had managing Professor Ito, the Twin Devils, Bad Bad Leroy Brown and then myself. That was four matches right there; and there were only six matches on the card.”

Did they put you in a hood too to work other matches?

“No, the only time I wore a hood was in Portland one time after I did the Hair VS Hair match in San Antonio. I wore it because my hair was growing back in and nobody knew me. They knew me as the “Continental Lover”, but that was with the blonde hair.”

How did you come up with the nickname “Continental Lover”?

“I was with a girl, who called me that. It just hit with me, so I started calling myself that; The Continental Lover; a rich woman’s lover and a poor girl’s dream. 230 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. That was my line.

I loved L.A. I loved working with Chavo Guerrero, but yes I was worked to death. If the slave trade was in style it was there. At one time I had the Russian Flu and I lost about thirty pounds because they wouldn’t give me a day off and I’ll never forget Leroy Brown who was just a great guy. We were coming back from Ventura one night and he had been taken me every morning to Dr. Schwartz, who was the commission doctor for Los Angeles to get a shot for it. Finally, one morning we stopped at a Safeway store he got me a blanket and wrapped me up and even turned on the heater in the car. If I hadn’t been sick, the temperature would have been fine, but I was freezing. I looked over at him and he was pouring sweat. It was nice of him to do that. Dr. Schwartz called the office and told them that they needed to at least give me a day off. When Chavo was talking about Piper (working like a dog), he could easily describe Eddy Mansfield. They got every dollar out of us.”

Where did you go from L.A.?

“I will admit this. A lot of guys think everything is perfect. Hell, I’m still not perfect! Bottom line is I made a cardinal mistake; I listened to Ron Fuller. He came to Los Angeles to see me and he told me that he was having trouble in Knoxville with Bob Roop, Ronnie Garvin and Bob Orton Jr., who he said was trying to steal his territory. He made me an offer of guaranteed money of me and Schultz to come in as a tag team to help him save his territory.

What I did is I went to Mike LeBell and said ‘can I take sixty days off’. Now, at this point I am on every match except for maybe the opener, and I really needed a break. He said ‘Absolutely not!’ He told me exactly ‘You’re not allowed to leave.’ That is exactly what he told me. I said ‘What do you mean I’m not allowed to leave? You don’t own me! If I can’t leave for sixty days, I’ll just give you my notice right now.’ That didn’t sit well with Mike LeBell. LeBell was a great guy, but not a great guy. When things went his way, he was good; but when they didn’t, he wasn’t. I’ll never forget when I was moving; I had an apartment that I rented from Joe Gold, from Gold’s Gym. It was on Muscle Beach in Santa Monica. The vans had arrived to move my furniture and Leo Garibaldi had come and said to me ‘Look, if you leave, I’m going to get fired!’ I said, ‘Leo, I’m as honest as can be. Number one, I’m worn out physically and number two, I need to help out a friend of mine for sixty days and I’ll be back. You could just do an angle to hurt me and I can come back.’ But, they wouldn’t stand for it. Leo than said they will pay for my rent and pay for everything. You know, and then I said, ‘You’ll pay for that now, but you didn’t want to offer me that before?’ I was thinking if I am that important, why wasn’t that offered to me before?

Actually, I should have stayed, I really should have stayed. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I ever did my wrestling career. I went to Knoxville and we (Schultz) went there to help them out. Fuller will screw your ass real good and not give you any Vaseline! It’s like Chavo will tell you, and his father would tell you, don’t work for the Fullers; and I’m not the first guy to say that. But, Ron Fuller helped me out when I was younger, and his brother, Robert….he was a piece of work.

I left Knoxville and went right into Atlanta, Georgia for TBS. They teamed me up with Austin Idol and we were starting to work some programs and that is where I met Wahoo McDaniel who just got the book in San Antonio, Texas in Southwest Championship Wrestling”

That was for Joe Blanchard, right?

“Exactly. I remember I was cutting promos in Georgia and Wahoo comes up to me and calls me over. He said ‘Let me tell you something. You remind me of Ray Stevens, Ric Flair, and Dusty Rhodes all in one guy.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Wahoo, I really don’t know how to take that. Is that a compliment or an insult?’ All three of those guys were real characters. He told me he meant in a good way and I appreciated the compliment and then we worked out a deal for me to go to San Antonio. I’ll never forget it, I plugged it on Atlanta TV where Wahoo and I would be in the main event in Del Rio, Texas, and when I flew from Atlanta to Texas, I saw that the house was slammed!

I looked around and I saw Tully Blanchard and I could see that he wasn’t really happy, because he didn’t draw that well. He didn’t draw as well in San Antonio as he thinks he did. He’s the one who really killed the territory. Anyway, Wahoo and I drew that house, and I went to stay with him for a few days. The first time I ever went into San Antonio it was at the Hemisphere Arena which only had 800 people in the crowd, and the day I left there we were drawing 22,000. Anybody who was around Southwest Championship Wrestling can tell you that it was Scott Casey and I who held that record in San Antonio which held for eleven years until Shawn Michaels headlined the Alamo Dome for the Royal Rumble.”

And that was the Hair VS Hair match?

“Yes. I even made the cover of the San Antonio Express. San Antonio was really good to me. Joe Blanchard was a really good guy. I can’t say anything bad except that he paid his son (Tully) main event money regardless of whether he was on the card or not.”

That sounds typical of promoters in regards to nepotism.

“Oh yeah, they love to screw the guys. I drew them a $70,000 house, and they screwed me on my payoff. The problem was that Southwest Championship Wrestling and what killed that territory was Tully Blanchard putting the coke up his nose. When I was there, we had a lot of great talent, and I was blessed to work with a lot of great people. Sometimes you just find someone that you gel with. I did with Chavo in Los Angeles, and I did with Scott Casey in Texas. I would always tell Wahoo when he was booking, that we need to make sure that Casey goes out and does autograph signings and get him out there with the public. When I would do my promos, I would call him a nanny goat rider and how I’ve never seen any cowboys since I arrived in Texas. I would say to the crowd that ‘You’re all a bunch of goat ropers’.”

(Laughs) That must have worked pretty well.

“Oh Yeah, I had more death threats than anyone in the world! Scott was so over in San Antonio; he looked like the Marlboro Man.”

It’s funny to hear you talk about Casey like that. Most people, me included only remember him in the WWF where he was basically jobbed out.

“They (The WWF) did him wrong. He was better than that. But it’s funny when I was in L.A.; our TV was strong in New York. They started carrying us in the WWF edition of the wrestling news and an article about me ‘The Continental Lover’s Rise to Superstardom’ was one of the first that they carried. The Hollywood wrestling office was kind of dipping into both the NWA and the WWF. LeBell kind of worked with what went best for him, and with the second largest market he could do that. He (LeBell) knew the NWA sucked. The NWA stood for ‘No Wrestlers Allowed’. They (the NWA) would really steal your money. They were a bunch of thugs and thieves. They would steal your money; bottom line. No ifs and or buts about it. Now, the WWF with Vince McMahon Sr., when Vince Jr. was still an announcer, was known for his good payoffs. He took care of the guys and was a good person to work for. All I needed to fulfill my career was a run in New York. The only reason I didn’t get it was because an ex girlfriend of mine, that I got rid of in Los Angeles years ago was seeing one of the stars up there. If I can say anything to young guys out there, stay single when you are young! Anyway, I already had that woman, I didn’t want her anymore.

Anyway, from San Antonio, I also worked for Fritz (in Dallas), shots out of Atlanta, and runs with the Sheik at the Cobo in Detroit. They put the World Junior Heavyweight Title on me in Dallas. I was flying around a lot and I was one of the first guys ever to appear on TBS and the USA network. I was on TBS at 6:05 and then on SCW on USA. I was very fortunate in my career until I met up with Ole Anderson. Once I met up with Ole Anderson, which was when my career went to sugar to shit.”

Continental Lover SWCWSo at this point Ole was booking Atlanta?

“Yeah, he was actually killing Atlanta.”

He was a part owner at this time, right?

“Yeah, he had a piece of the action. He not only had a piece of the action, but he was the booker and put himself on top. He would put guys like me and Austin Idol, Kevin Sullivan and Mark Lewin and guys like that underneath him on the card. That old cocksucker (Ole) stacked the card. That’s why he had guys like me right underneath him that would do all the work. Do you remember ‘Hot Stuff’ Eddie Gilbert?”

Absolutely.

“Me and Gilbert were working in a town in Georgia, and of course Ole put himself in the main event, and I was underneath him. Anyway, I get there and Ole comes to me and I don’t need anybody telling me how to work. He says ‘Whatever you do, just work the arm.’ I said, ‘No problem.’ Now, i worked the friggin’ arm alright! I told Eddie Gilbert, ‘We’re going to work the arm, brother. I’m going to work it on tables, on chairs, on ring posts. I’m not going to work anything else but the arm.’ And that’s just what I did; pillar to post all the way around. I beat him that night. Now even though Ole wanted to keep me down, he also wanted a piece of my action because I could draw money. That was one thing I was good at. I could get over; I could get a lot of heat.”

And this where the conflict really escalated between you and Ole? Where he essentially asked for a piece of you?

“He put it to me that it was Jim Barnett and him (Ole) wanted to book me across the country and get twenty percent of what I got. Now I’m thinking that I was already going across the country. This was also when Wahoo went Ole and said ‘Leave this guy alone, he’s mine.’ That was when I was drawing all that money in San Antonio.  

I remember I would be with Wahoo (in San Antonio) and every Tuesday, Tully would call asking when he was going to get the belt back. It was really funny; we would sit there and laugh. When I got over, Wahoo was going to give me the belt; I was going to be the Southwest Wrestling Heavyweight Champion. I told him that I did not want the belt. Wahoo asked me why and said to me ‘You’re over.’ I said, ‘Yeah I’m over, but I don’t need the belt. Give the belt to the promoter’s son. He’s a heel, right? Bottom line, he is going to his best to hold me back. Give him the belt, I don’t need it to draw money’ and I proved it. I drew more money than anybody there.

Wahoo gave him the belt, and that way it took his mind off of focusing on me. I gave Wahoo the idea of teaming him up with Gino Hernandez.”

Oh, that was your idea?

“That was my idea.”

From what I recall that team did pretty well.

“Well, it helps when you’re the promoter’s son. Gino is also Paul Boesch’s illegitimate son. So it works out really good for another guy who is a heel. With those guys tied up together, they could only take one match, which leaves a top spot open for another heel. You know what I mean? You have to think like a businessman. It’s called the wrestling business. I had to think how I could put myself in the top spot while they would keep putting themselves in the main event. They weren’t drawing all the money; it was me and Casey drawing all the money. Being Wahoo’s guy, I knew what Wahoo was fighting against as a booker. They really screwed Wahoo; Blanchard did towards the end. And he (Wahoo) was the reason he was drawing all the money.

It was Terry Funk’s idea for me to do the Hair VS Hair Match with Scott Casey. Now, here is what I set up too; if I was supposed to win a match, I would lose it. We would always throw curveballs, me and Casey. If Casey was supposed to win, I would. It was like two bulls coming together, two young guys who the people really wanted to see, and with all the curveballs we threw, the people really didn’t know what would happen. We had all kinds of gimmicks, scissor matches for example. Actually, before Casey got into the business he used to be a barber. He could grab my hair, snip it and boom! He would throw it up in the air, make it look like he got a whole bunch of it and the people would go crazy! It was just one of those things with Casey; it just worked.

Now, Casey was tough to work with. I would be getting a lot of heat and all of the sudden he would jump up out of nowhere to do his comeback, and I would have to ground him and say ‘Where you going man?’ He’d go ‘I don’t know!’ I’d say ‘Yeah, I can tell!’ (Laughs) But with a lot of those guys, they would try to hold on to their spot and keep the young guys down; it was the Ole Anderson syndrome.

“With San Antonio I want to say something else. Shawn Michaels who is from San Antonio copied Eddy Mansfield down to the ‘T’. Shawn Michaels used to buy tickets to see Eddy Mansfield, and the bottom line was in his book, what he said about Eddy Mansfield that he bought tickets to see me in the Hair VS Hair match. I want to correct him and that whoever researched his book is the shits. Bottom line is that he said I did a manure match where I dumped manure on somebody in the middle of a wrestling ring. Number one, that was Bobby Jaggers, and Shawn needs to correct the wrestling nation that I had nothing to do with the manure match, that was Bobby Jaggers, who just died. Jaggers followed me and tried to replace me, and he couldn’t replace me. But when you see Shawn Michaels, you see that Shawn Michaels talks like me, he works like me; basically he was Eddy Mansfield. The gimmick works. I have a lot of respect for Shawn, but just get your facts right. I never wanted to be like Ric Flair. I don’t give a shit about Ric Flair. He used to ride with me, but my style was my own style and I always wanted to make it that way. When you saw me, my matches changed, when you saw Ric Flair it was the same match over and over. We used to kid Ric in the back and wonder when he was going to do the ‘over and out bump.’ You could always call a Ric Flair match.”

It sounds like for every Terry Funk and Wahoo McDaniel who would see younger guys as a way to grow the business there was ten Ole Andersons.

“Yes, and that was really bad. The NWA was really bad about that. That’s why I wanted to get out of the NWA as quick as I could. I loved Texas and I still love Texas to this day. I have had a couple of big money guys who have asked me to come in and put together a territory there, and we would already have national syndication on two big cable networks, because of my production background. I’m one of the rare guys in the world that could actually teach a guy how to wrestle, teach a guy how to talk, build characters, write scripts, do all the nine yards plus produce it and direct it. I could also hire the qualified guys underneath me. I bring all of this to the table, and I just have to make up my mind if I really want to do that or not.”

If I could go back to the Ole Anderson scenario, just so that I can wrap my head around it, when you rejected Ole’s offer, he went to other NWA promoters to have you blackballed?

“It was a teach him a lesson kind of deal. What they did, now I heard this from (A Georgia Promoter) Fred Ward’s daughter who told me that Ole thought I got too powerful, too quick, and he he’s going to show you that you would do what he said you would do. When it all went down, I got a call from a good friend of mine, Roy Shire, who used to promote the Cow Palace in Northern California, and he said here’s what is going on, and so did Ed Farhat and the Funks. These were guys who liked me. They told me what was going on.

What’s really funny is that even the guys that I wasn’t working for were sticking up for me. All these marks, all these people who write things about Eddy Mansfield, they don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. They will say how come he (Ole) didn’t fire him? It’s cause he couldn’t make any money if he fired me! It was all about the cash. When I didn’t give him the cash, he fixed so that I couldn’t work at all. The NWA was such a band of thieves and they were held together by Sam Mushnick in St. Louis that if weren’t for those guys would be like piranhas.”

So Mushnick can then tell Detroit and other promotions that they couldn’t book you?    

“No, it wasn’t like that. But Mushnick would back in to whoever it was. They would have a figurehead like Bob Geigel, who was from the Kansas City territory. I have said this, when I was in Kansas City, that if I had made more money I would have stayed longer. But, the Kansas City territory was horrible. It was a bunch of old guys like Pat O’Connor and ‘Bulldog’ Bob Brown; guys who were just old and should have been out of the business a long time ago. Bob Geigel was a figurehead and I think when they really put the fix on me was when I got a call from Fritz (Von Erich) who became the President of the NWA. He said to me, ‘You need to cut this shit out’. I said, ‘I can tell you one thing Fritz, you have such a concern for me, but I don’t see you booking me anywhere! I was good enough before for you to book me, and you used to book me all the time.’ He didn’t have too much to say about that. I told Fritz Von Erich that he needed to sweep around his own back door, before he started sweeping around mine.

That’s one of the guys (Fritz) that I really don’t have respect for in the business. Fritz is one and the other is Ole Anderson. I knew Fritz’s son David son really well; he passed away in Japan. David told me all about the way his father treated his boys. The truth did come out the way Fritz treated all his kids because of the pressure. It’s sad. It’s a sad scenario that a father would do that to his kids. That’s why Kerry Von Erich lost his foot, because he had to get Kerry back into the ring so desperately instead of letting his foot heal and forcing him to come into the ring too early. Because of it, he had to cut his foot off. Shortly after that, Kerry killed himself. When you look at the Von Erich family, it is sad, and it’s all from Fritz, because his boys were really good guys. Fritz was a tyrant and that was the NWA thought back then. If they would do that to their sons, what would they do with you?”

It seems so ferocious.

“It’s horrible. When he treats his sons like that, what does that mean he will do to you? If you’re a wrestling fan and you have any damn brains about it, you need to look at that damn wrestling story because it goes a lot deeper. As a television producer I can sit back and look at that story and go ‘My God, Fritz Von Erich was a psychopath!’ If it was one kid, but we are talking about five out of six of them.”

And you are not the first person to say that.

“Every one of those Von Erich boys could not be wrestlers, the little one (Chris Von Erich) just didn’t have the size. He (Fritz) had Kerry on steroids in Junior High. Kerry was a great wrestler, and I am glad that Kevin is still with us. Kevin’s got two good boys that I hope turn out to be stars in professional wrestling. I wish them the best, because Kevin’s a great guy. I hope his mother is in good health. She went through a lot of stuff with Fritz. Kerry’s daughter, Lacey is really a sweet person, and now she has a baby and it’s just good to see that. It’s just a shame that Kerry couldn’t be around to see that. When you look back on things, and I was talking to Chavo about it, about how proud I am of Chavito (Chavo Guerrero Jr.). I had the pleasure of sitting with him not long ago and I was telling Chavo how proud I was, as I knew Chavito when he was very young. He grew up there (at the Olympic). When you talk about wrestling at the Olympic Auditorium you talk about Chavo, and you also have to talk about ‘Red Shoes’ Dugan. He was one of the greatest officials, and just one of the greatest human beings. Another great guy there was Jimmy Lennon who was our ring announcer in Los Angeles. Those two guys treated us like royalty.”

Lennon just got into the Boxing Hall of Fame.

“He deserves it. I can still hear him sometimes announcing my name. My last night in Los Angeles, ‘Red Shoes” Dugan and Jimmy Lennon took me to a ‘Star Bar’ where all of the stars were hanging out. Being part of the Lennon family, Jimmy was a celebrity all of his life. They took me out and we had a couple of beers together and they were two old timers who were just the best. It was an honour for me to spend a few hours with them, and I got to spend weeks and months with those guys. It was a real blessing for me.”

So when the Stossel piece came out on 20/20, did you approach him, or did he approach you?

“What happened was that I was moving to New York and I was thinking that this damn wrestling business needs to change a little bit and that it needed to be slanted more in favour of the boys for medical benefits and hospitalization insurance and benefits in general. I knew a union wouldn’t work; Jesse Ventura tried to do that (in the WWF) and Hulk Hogan ratted him out. So, that got killed and that would have been great for the guys. Now I don’t know that a union will ever happen, but I had an idea.

Since we were on television every week, why don’t you let us join AFTRA or the Screen Actors Guild and let us pay our own money (dues)? Promoters don’t like responsibility when it comes to wrestlers. You are just a piece of meat, and not even an employee. I don’t know how they get away with that stuff but anyway that’s how it is. Now if we could join AFTRA or SAG where we could have paid our own dues, you know paid in our pension or welfare or whatever it was that we needed to pay, as guys got older we would have something to fall back on. As a wrestler, your insurance payments are so frigging high because of the business that you are in. It’s like stuntman insurance. If you are a stuntman in Hollywood, your insurance is higher because of your calling in life; you take bumps every day. That’s like wrestling. So it was my idea for that to come across in the 20/20 piece, but it turned the way they wanted it to do. They interviewed Vince McMahon, and I never had a problem with Vince. They interviewed David Schultz who is a friend of mine to this day. Last February, I was with David and his wife and my wife for dinner when he was here in Orlando. David is one of my dearest friends and always will be. They (20/20) did things that I had asked them not to do with the piece. Every person that they showed was my friends and they got that from Ole Anderson. I had nothing, and still have nothing against Vince McMahon.

But the piece that I did took wrestling from backdoor to the Mecca that it is today because it put it in a spotlight. That was the highest rated show they had until Bernie Goetz, the man who killed the people on the subway. It took professional wrestling and really made it legit. The following year after I did the 20/20 piece, it was highest revenue gross year (at that point) in the history of the wrestling business.

I do want to say this though if I could. After the 20/20 piece, a lot of people who do not know me have done their best; and I am referring to a lot of other promoters too, to have erased my name from the wrestling business. I held over twenty titles, and a lot of them to this day are not even listed in Wikipedia. When you start looking for them, you can’t find them. They wanted me to disappear. That’s what is really strange to me; I helped them, I didn’t hurt them.

Bottom line, why did the NWA go out of business? When The Briscoes sold their share of Georgia Championship Wrestling to Vince McMahon, and Vince started his plan to go national, the NWA should have held their ground. They had their television in each area…”

I believe they did try to put together a type of super show with the AWA in 1985, though that did not last.

“They did not last because they were all piranhas!   Verne Gagne was good at running his own area, and he didn’t need the NWA. All the NWA had to do was recreate stars. It is what you do over and over, just like they did before. They had television, they had everything! But they cut and ran! After I did 20/20, you can imagine all the stuff that was burned up in a shredder, when I was talking about the promoters and what they did. But the NWA should still be in existence today like it used to be in the days of territories, but they ate themselves up. They all were so tough to hold a guy down, but when Vince McMahon came around and paid the guys more money, well, they didn’t want to pay anybody to counter that. They wanted to keep all the money, so when Vince started to buy all the stars, and David (Schultz) was one of the first that he signed; that was the first time that David made any real money. Vince was paying him real well. Of course, Stossel went and fucked that up.

When you look at Vince, how come the NWA didn’t step up and recreate stars? If you got television, you can make a star. They always gave this lame excuse that everybody wanted to see Vince’s stars. Bullshit! Everybody right now is dying to see somebody else! That is except for TNA, which is nothing more than recycled horseshit. When you look at their production value it is hard to watch. Now, I like a lot of the guys in TNA; a lot of their talent is very good. But I equate TNA like going to a strip club. If you and me are going to a gentleman’s club, right?”….

When you come to Toronto, I have a few in mind for you!

“(Laughs) We will do that! Anyway, you expect to see some hot babes, and instead you see sixty-five year old strippers. Now, why in the world would you want to watch that? Wheelchair wrestling does not sell. You have to pass the torch. You can’t ride on what you used to be doing.”

Just to clarify, at this point when the 20/20 piece aired, you were out of wrestling?

“Yeah, I’m out.”

I know that you went into television production later in your life, but what were you doing professionally at this stage in your life?

“Well, I had a job training people in New York and then I left that and I was training to enter television. I was taking classes at NYU, and was getting ready to go into the television business. I started working on commercials to get my feet wet, and then boom, I was there; the same I way I got into professional wrestling, both feet first.”

Now you’re production company has done very well, and you are based in Orlando, correct?

“Yeah, but I have an office in New York and Orlando. But, I just closed the one in New York, because I’m going to go back out west. I’m probably going to keep an office here, and keep one out west.”

Can you tell me about some of the projects that your company has done?   

“Oh God! I’ve done over 2,000 hours of television! From Football to Baseball to a series where I was nominated for a Peabody Award which was called ‘Kids N’ Motorsports’ hosted by Johnny Andretti. We did ‘Sizzlin’ Hot Country’ which had every major Country Music star on it. We did IWF Wrestling and I was the first wrestling guy to have a studio deal. When you see wrestling coming from Universal Studios, I was the first guy ever to do that. I did a deal in 1991 for the International Wrestling Federation which I owned to be based out of a major studio. When I got ready to close that down because the wrestling business was so bad, WCW made a beeline for that. They went to Disney and after they got kicked out they went to Universal when I left and they became exclusive at Universal. After that, we did ‘Crime Scene’ and ‘Settle the Score’. I did production, a syndicated radio show called ‘The Only Sports Show That Counts’ that I also co-hosted and ran nationwide. My company syndicated ‘Michael Jackson’s Legacy’. My company does a variety of things and not just in production but in syndication. It’s like a full service television company.”

How many employees do you have?

“At any given time, about twenty one.”

Are there any upcoming projects that you would like to talk about?

“No. (laughs) I never talk about them until they are done! It is a competitive business and I don’t want to be trumped!”

Do you have time for word association?

“Sure.”

Arn Anderson

“He was gifted. He was a hard worker. He got a real lucky break. He was a guy from Tennessee that Ole took a liking too and he worked hard. I don’t really know Arn, so I can’t say that much about him, but as far as is his in ring work goes, he’s great.”

Manny Fernandez

“Overrated son of a bitch.”

Adrian Adonis

“I knew Keith Franks in Los Angeles. Keith was a hoot, when I was with him, he wasn’t Adrian Adonis then. Later on, we were working for the ‘Bear Man’ up in Canada. That’s where he died.’

I’m sorry, who’s the ‘Bear Man’?

“Dave McKigney. He was known as the ‘Wildman’. He used to have his territory in Eastern Canada in the summer and every big guy worked for Dave. He paid really well, and I used to have big feuds with Ricky Johnson up there. Ricky was Rocky Johnson’s uncle. McKigney used to wrestle as the ‘Wildman’ but we knew him as the ‘Bear Man’ because he had bears.”

He had a pet bear?

“Yeah, a wrestling bear. One day, it got loose, got in the house and killed his wife.”

Really! That’s crazy!

“Yeah, he had those big bear cages and everything. I think that bear wound up in the zoo. Sadly, Adrian and one of the Kelly twins died up there in a van that rolled over into an embankment into a creek. I think they were in Nova Scotia.”

To avoid a moose I think.

“Probably should have hit the damn moose. They might have been better off. I hated to see that. I knew the Kelly twins, they were good boys.”

Any memories of the Hangman, Neil Guay?

“A very cool guy. Another Canadian. I am reminded of another story, though with Stan Stasiak, another cool guy. He came over to my place in Santa Monica and we went down to meet Phil Esposito and John Davidson, who were with the New York Rangers. They were down to play the Kings. Now, Stan Stasiak, he used smoke the refer all the time, and I’m looking over at him and I say ‘Stan, do you know what you remind me of?’ He says, ‘I don’t know what?’, and I say ‘Chester the Molester’, you know from the old Penthouse magazines? That’s exactly what he looked like! Just a great move with the Heart Punch; what a great guy!

Another name for you, Tommy Rich.

“Oh boy. There’s not much really I can say that’s good about him. I’ll say this about Tommy Rich; he was Jim Barnett’s boy, and Barnet wanted him to have the NWA World Title so bad, that he gave Harley Race an extra $15,000 to drop the strap to Tommy Rich. He only held the title for a week. The worst thing to ever happen to Tommy Rich was to give him the World Championship, because after lost the World Title, Harley Race killed Tommy Rich in Georgia, and he never was the same after that. Sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for.

This does lead me back to a story about Barnett. After everything went down with Ole, he called me up and told me that he wanted to tell me something. Now, I always liked Jim Barnett, believe it or not, so I was going to listen to what he had to say, and I knew it was Ole all the time. They used Barnett as a front guy too, and actually helped Vince McMahon get Wrestlemania off the ground. He put the deal together where Crockett bought Vince out, and Vince used that money to finance Wrestlemania; so Jim Barnett was influential in all that stuff. Jim Barnett was no dummy.

Anyway, he called me on the phone, and said ‘Eddy, my boy! Whatever you do, always remember this; I had nothing to do with what Ole Anderson did to you. It was all Ole.’ I said, ‘I know, Jim, you were always scared of Ole.’ Now why Jim Barnett was scared of Ole, I have no idea, but Barnett was really the brains behind all these guys. Even though he was a gay guy in the wrestling business, and that didn’t go over too well back then, you know what I mean?”

I am not sure how much you have encountered this one, Jerry Lawler.

“I was with Jerry years ago, actually when I produced the XWF in 2002 which was out of Universal Studios. That was Hulk Hogan’s return, I produced and directed that. I put all the stories together, me and Kevin Sullivan. That was another thing I produced, when you asked me to name some of the shows I have done, I can’t remember them all!

You don’t do very many wrestling conventions. How would wrestling fans get your autograph if they are looking to add it to their collection?

“I still get a lot of requests. I am so grateful for the thousands of requests that I still get for autographed pictures. It is really humbling and mind blowing. What I am doing now is I have a personalized 8 x 10 photograph for twenty dollars which includes shipping and handling. The fans can do it by PayPal. They can send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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