Interview with "Jumpin" Jim Brunzell

Interview with "Jumpin" Jim Brunzell
16 Jul
2015
Not in Hall of Fame
It was about two years ago that I had the pleasure of interviewing, Brian Blair, known mostly to wrestling fans as one half of the 1980’s World Wrestling Federation tag team, The Killer Bees.  It seemed only fitting that I made an attempt to talk to his tag team partner, “Jumpin” Jim Brunzell.

Like Brian, Jim Brunzell accomplished far more in professional wrestling than just what people saw in the late 80’s under Vince McMahon’s juggernaut of a promotion.  A former football player for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Brunzell would star in the American Wrestling Association for years as both a tag team wrestler and solo competitor and was known for his scientific mat wrestling skills and likable personality.  

The likability that he always showcased in the wrestling ring and in backstage interviews was no façade as I found “Jumpin” Jim to be one of the nicest men I have ever spoken too, but also one of the more candid.  I spoke to Jim about his time in the AWA, the Mid-Atlantic territory where he was their Heavyweight Champion and of course the strange booking he suffered in the WWF, where he and Brian are regarded as one of the best tag teams to never hold the Tag Team Championship.

Jim also spoke to me about his current feelings toward the product, which is not something he watches on a regular basis anymore.  What impressed me the most about my conversation with Brunzell is how self-aware he was in regards to how is opinions on professional wrestling reflect an “old-timer” point of view.  

I really enjoyed my conversation with Jim and our post interview conversation where we spoke about hockey, Winnipeg and just life in general.




Jim, thank you so much for your time!  Are you familiar with WWE’s Tough Enough?

“No.”

It is a reality show that the WWE is doing to find new talent.  You were in probably the ultimate “tough enough” group there ever was in Verne Gagne’s camp.  That was in 1972 right?

“Yes it was, right.”

I think almost from that group had a very good career.  

“Yeah, I think the only one from that group that didn’t was Bob Bruggers who was a great football player at the University of Minnesota and was also a great basketball player.  He went on to play professional football for two different teams.  He wound up in a plane crash in South Carolina and never wrestled again.  He broke his back and though he couldn’t wrestle, he could finally walk again.

There was Khosrow, The Iron Shnook, or the Iron Sheik.  Kenny Patera, Ric Flair, myself and Greg (Gagne) all had great careers.  We were very fortunate.  Verne Gagne was rather hard to work for but he instilled in us so much at his camp.  He really didn’t smarten us up to the business.  He made it real rough and I think that it helped us.  I think it gave us all an edge.  Going through what we did for two and half months for six days a week for six hours a day.

Billy Robinson, who was the British Empire Champion was with us every day and it got to the point where we could do 1,000 free squats a day, run a couple miles and do all the calisthenics.  We were in great shape, but we didn’t know how to work! (Laughs)

How did you get into that camp?  I read somewhere that you were friends with Greg Gagne long before.  

“Actually, Greg and I were walk-ons as freshmen on the University of Minnesota football team.  He was a Quarterback from Mound High School who walked on without a scholarship and I did the same as a Wide Receiver from White Bear Lake.  He and I became good friends and actually clicked and we did very well as freshmen on our football team.  

In my sophomore year, they moved Greg from Quarterback to Safety and he wanted to play Quarterback.  After his sophomore year he transferred to (the University of) Wyoming.  I continued to play at Minnesota and after I was done at the University of Minnesota I was offered to go to the tryout camp at the Washington Redskins in 1971.

I got out there and it was only for two or three days and they didn’t ask me to come back, so I went back to school, I had a few credits left, and Kenny Patera had just competed in the Summer Olympics in Munich and Greg had called me and said, ‘Hey, my dad is going to have a wrestling camp.’ and he wanted to know if I wanted to try.   I said, ‘Greg, the only wrestling I did were intramurals in high school’, and he said we’d start from the very beginning.  

I thought here is an opportunity for me to do something athletic.  When I was seventeen and eighteen years old if anyone told me that I would have a twenty-five year career in professional wrestling I would think they are crazy.  It just happened that I was athletic enough to catch Verne’s eye and I was persistent enough to compete in Verne’s camp and I thought what the heck?  It’s not Pro Football, but it’s the next best thing.  

I remember my first match.  It was funny because it was December 27, 1972 and it was up at Moorhead, Minnesota at the armoury and I wrestled another Verne Gagne protégé named Dennis Stamp.  He was an amateur wrestler who was broken in by Verne who wrestled in Oklahoma and Texas and what have you, and he never really made it too big.  I worked with him up in Morehead and we went to a fifteen minute draw and I was exhausted.  I came in (in the back) and I was really sophomoric and I kicked this dog gone garbage can and who was there standing right in the hallway was Dusty Rhodes!  

Dusty looked at me and said ‘Jimmy, just relax.  This was your first match.’  I looked at him and felt like a fool.  I had such competitiveness at whatever sport I partook in as an amateur and all of the sudden I felt like I was underwater.  It’s just like any other job; you have about a two or three year learning curve.  Unless you’re a Ric Flair who is a natural, who comes to it like a duck to water.

You know it took me about two or three years to really get it, and Verne had me in the AWA for a little bit and then he sent me down to Kansas City in ’73 and I worked for Bob Geigel and Pat O’Connor and I worked a lot!  I worked six and seven days a week.  Most of the time I worked twice a night.  I worked the opening match and would come back in a tag match.  

That was the first time I met the Funks and the Briscos, Harley Race, so it really enabled me to see the different styles of pro wrestling and I picked what I thought would advance me and my physical talents to hone my skills.  Also I had a great partner down there by the name of Mike George and we hit it off.  We were 22 years old and we did very well for the small little territory of the Central States Territory that wrestling was.

I was there for ten months and Verne said to me that it was time to go home and just before I was to come back they told me that they had an opportunity for me to go to Japan.  

So in 1974, I went to Japan on a tour and I didn’t know anybody on it and I was over there for five weeks, and really didn’t know what the hell I was doing.  You know you’re in the ring with these Japanese guys who want to kill you and you’re fighting for your life every night!  It was quite an experience for me and I was over there with the Brute from Florida, Tony Marino and I was with Tex McKenzie, Argentina Apollo and Eddie Farhat, The Sheik.  Sailor Art White from Montreal was there.  It was one hell of a crew!

Honest to God it was one hell of an awakening!  The third night I am over there I am in a cage match!  I had Sailor Art White as my partner, and we got through the match and it was a real experience for me and I got back and its funny that after five weeks in Japan where after you are fighting for your life every night that you go back to Hawaii.  I was just settling in, thinking I have four days to just relax.

The first day I am there (in Hawaii), and I just checked in and Wally Karbo calls Ed Francis who gets a hold of me and I had to go home the next day to make TV in Minneapolis and I was just pissed off.  They were setting Greg and I up as the High Flyers, but I was in Honolulu for only twelve hours!  I flew the red eye, got to Minneapolis and made TV and the High Flyers was born.”  

Can I ask you a couple of questions about Greg?

“Sure!”

Going back to something that you mentioned before how you were never smartened up during the (Verne Gagne’s) camp.  Was Greg smart to the business at that time, or did Verne protect it from him too?

“Oh sure!  He still keeps it from me! (Laughs)”

I always thought that Greg was an underrated wrestler who got a lot of flak from fans thinking he got a push because he was Verne’s son.  In the ring, he had great timing, but he didn’t look like a star because he did not have the physique that so many of you had.  Backstage, were their political ramifications for you being his friend/partner?

“Well, here’s the deal.  Greg was a brilliant worker in the ring.  He had great timing, did great interviews and the only drawback like you say was that physically he just wasn’t big enough.  He only weighed about 200 pounds but our team worked good because we had great talent in there that flew for us but we never had the opportunity to go elsewhere.

We went to Atlanta for two weeks in 1976 or 1977 to work with Dick Slater and Bob Orton Jr. and the Briscos.  We had some great matches down there.  

You know when you are the son of a legendary promoter who was probably disliked by a lot of wrestlers and promoters throughout the country it can’t be easy.   Verne didn’t compromise.  He was a dictator.  All the guys who came to the AWA more or less realized that this was the way it was going to be.  You’re going to be here and you’re going to make money working fourteen days a month.

Greg never really had a chance to see what it was to wrestle anywhere else.  Let me tell you, that Greg had a chip on his shoulder and he would fight anybody!  He fought Ken Patera at camp one time and I thought he was crazy! First of all Greg slapped Ken right in the jaw and Ken went back a couple steps and Ken went down but came up and kicked him in the face.  

Greg was tough as nails.  When you are the son of a promoter it is very hard to make it in the wrestling business if you don’t venture out.  I think Mike Graham felt the same thing in Florida.”

I think that is definitely true.  I know that with the Von Erichs, they would eventually venture out.  I think that David Von Erich had quite a run as a heel in Florida early in his career.  

“He probably did.  The only Von Erich I knew was Kerry who came into the WWF when I was there.  He was also a great physical specimen and I was also with him in Japan.  He could work too.  

There was something lacking there mentally that sort of stunted him from really achieving greatness.  It was a shame because Kerry was really a nice guy.  I don’t know if he was that spoiled or what his upbringing was.  I remember in Japan and all of these Japanese guys wanted his autograph and he would sign his autograph and put ‘Fuck You’ on it.  I’d say ‘Kerry, what are you doing?’ and he would just laugh saying he was just joking.  I said these fans aren’t going to think it’s a joke when they realize what FU means!  He was very naïve.  Physically he was so big but mentally he was like a little boy.”

Legacy wise you are known mostly for your two tag teams with Greg and Brian Blair, but you had a lengthy run as the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion.  I think you traded the belt with some people who were with you in Verne’s camp, Ken Patera and Khosrow.  You won the belt from Ray Stevens right?

“Yes, I won it from Ray Stevens then Ken Patera got it from me and then I got it back and then Khosrow stole it from me, and then I never got it back.  I have a story about that will be in my upcoming book, Matlands: True Stories from the Wrestling Road.  I tell a story in their about Khosrow and I in Mid-Atlantic.  He had wrestled me on TV and at that time he had that loaded boot.  

He had beaten me in a match with the boot on TV and we had another where I beat him clean with a sleeper hold.  I took his boot off and I ran over to the interviewer, I think it was Rich Landrum and the next week we had a double shot, Norfolk, Virginia in the afternoon and Khosrow and I were in the main event.  I took that boot and said I was going to win back the title because I was going to wear that boot and that there was no way that he could beat me without his boot.  

We had a good crowd there and Sandy Scott who was working there with his brother George who was the booker there comes to me fifteen minutes before the card was to start and asked me if got the finish.  I said no.  

‘George wants you to do an hour broadway’

I looked at him and said ‘What?’

‘George wants you to do an hour broadway.’

I said ‘Sandy, what the hell?  I got the loaded boot and I can’t beat Khosrow in an hour?’

I was steaming.  You might as well have dug a hole and buried me in the middle of the ring in Norfolk, Virginia and hold a funeral for ‘Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell.  Anytime a babyface has a gimmick of a heel and can’t win it’s horrible.  It’s a horrible, horrible finish.  Even though I liked George Scott, I thought he was a horrible booker.  He ran out of ideas and he worked the dog shit out of us in North Carolina, seven days a week and twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday.  

That night after Norfolk I had to wrestle Khosrow again with his loaded boot and we went forty-five minutes and I got disqualified.  If you’re really a wrestling fan and are hip to what’s going on in an area you could really see that George Scott had no future plans for me.  It was shortly after that I refused to do an hour broadway with Khosrow again and he fired me.”

So that is how you departed that territory.

“Yeah, he fired me.  I went to Atlanta for six weeks in 1980 I believe and Jim Barnett was the promoter.  He invited me over to his apartment and he had a Rolls Royce and he brings Gerry Brisco and me there.  He said to me:

‘Jimsy, what do you want to do?’

I said I have aspirations of being the World Champion because the World Champion makes the most money.  He said he realized that and asked again what I wanted to do.  I said I think I want to go home (Minnesota) and go back to the AWA.  He said to me that it would be the worst decision I would ever make.  Well, I went back to Minneapolis and that year in 1981 it was the best year I ever had.  I made 80,000 bucks and it was a great reuniting of the High Flyers and we were good for another four years.”

The AWA was a very hot territory then.

“I’ll tell you, I was very lucky.  There was such great talent when I was in the AWA.  When I was there was Dick Murdoch, Dusty Rhodes, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Wahoo McDaniel, Baron Von Raschke, Nick Bockwinkel, Bobby Heenan who I consider the greatest, Larry Hennig, Don Muraco, Rene Goulet.  It was incredible.  We had big towns and a few small towns that Verne booked during the week and we never worked more than seventeen (or) eighteen days in a month.  Shit, when I moved to New York (WWF) I worked twenty-seven days a month for three years.

He (Vince McMahon) killed us.  He killed everybody when he took over.  He had three towns running a night and we criss-crossed the whole country I don’t know how many times.  It was bizarre.”

You came to my hometown of Toronto quite a bit.  I became a wrestling fan in the mid-80’s and by then Toronto was in the WWF umbrella and was the only wrestling on television.  I saw you at Exhibition Stadium opening up the card against the Funk Brothers.

“Oh yeah!  There were about 70,000 people there.  As matter of fact, they had a picture of my dropkick against Dory Funk in the Toronto Sun.  It was the best dropkick picture that I ever saw, and I saw thousands of them.  Hulk Hogan was against Paul Orndorff that night and it was my picture that was on the cover of the paper.”  

Nobody has done that dropkick better than you have.  The dropkick was your finisher but did you ever feel that because so many wrestlers used in their matches but not as finishers that it watered down yours?

“Not really.  It is because in my era compared to now and compared to the last twenty-five years I see so much in the ring that really doesn’t mean anything.  It’s just one thing after another, and sure there is a lot of athleticism but the timing and the meaning of what they are doing isn’t where it should be.

I watched the WWE a couple of different times (recently).  Actually I brought my grandkids to a RAW show in Minneapolis last December and I was very thankful to the WWE for giving us good tickets.  The backstage staff was great.  My grandkids took pictures with Hulk (Hogan) and Ryback and they just had a great time.  But when I watched, and the trouble with the whole wrestling scene right now, and this is just my own opinion is that everything is so precisely setup and choreographed that it takes away from the contest in the ring.  It doesn’t look real.  You watch these constantly the wrestlers do these moves and nothing means anything.  They have four or five different false finishes, they go outside of the ring, go into the table, and then get disqualified.  

I know what Vince is trying to do.  He’s created totally a different concept of what the wrestling fan appreciates.  He’s created his own new wrestling style and changed the perception of what people will accept.  There are a few good workers.  I always thought that in my era that Bob Orton Jr. was one of the best, Jake Roberts was incredible and Ricky Steamboat was good and Randy Savage was good.

Now, Bob Orton’s kid, Randy is very good.  You know I see a guy like Roman Reigns who is a great physical specimen, very handsome, but he doesn’t have the timing.  He doesn’t have enough experience.  You can see these guys who don’t have it, but are getting pushed and sure they are going to make some money but as an old timer and you think ‘holy smokes’, but more power to them!”  

When the WWF first signed you in 1985 did you know that they were going to pair with you Brian right away?

“No.  I thought I was going to be a single, and I was hoping I was going to be a single.  I wanted to go there, show what I could do and do my best.  I’ll never forget the first time I did an interview the first day in Poughkeepsie.  I think it was June 15th or June 20th or something.  I flew into LaGuardia and then I get on a plane with Hillbilly Jim Morris, the first guy I met in the WWE.  He had just come off of a dislocated knee and he was out for six months.

I get there, I meet Vince and do an interview and then Vince turns around and says, ‘Oh, my God, another Bob Backlund!’  That’s what he said.  I always cut a babyface promo and he wanted to have so many characters and that wasn’t Jim Brunzell.  I stayed the same and knew the way I felt I wanted to present myself to the fans.  I knew right away that wasn’t going to be good enough and Vince and I were not going to get along! (Laughs)”

So who brokered your deal?  It wasn’t Vince?

“Actually, George Scott did.  Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan) told me that if I wanted to leave the AWA there would be a spot for me.  At that time, Vince was trying to get everybody he could because he wanted to decimate everybody he could, and he (eventually) did a great job of it.  When I got there, I thought I will just do the best that I can and all of the sudden they came up with an idea of having Brian and I together and then the idea of the Killer Bees and then eventually the idea with the masks.  I thought that (the masks) was great!  I thought if they went with Mask Confusion, we would have something, but Jeez, they didn’t do anything with it.  They could have milked that and we would have made some money with it with any of the teams whether it be Valentine & Beefcake, the Harts or anybody.  I’ll never forget one time they had an eight-man tag and it was in Lake Placid, New York and it was Brian and I and Koko B. Ware and George “The Animal” Steele.  At the end of the match all four of us had our masks on.”

(Laughs)

“I thought that’s the end of the Killer Bees!  It was Vince’s way of saying that we (the Killer Bees) were here for some laughs.  That’s what it was.”

The funny thing was in regards to your tag team with Brian, I always felt that you were given so many stop and start pushes and you were positioned so many times to win the titles.  I remember right before the Hart Foundation won the Tag Team titles, you defeated them on Saturday Night’s Main Event where it was billed as a number one contender’s match.  

“Right.”

So if the Harts beat the Bulldogs, and you have a high profile win over them, it stands to reason that you would receive multiple title opportunities.  Now you did get title shots, but they never pulled that trigger to make you that number one face team.  Dynamite Kid rushed back from injury, the Can-Am Connection coming in, and later as Strike Force were certainly factors, but I always wondered why they never gave you that opportunity.  

Obviously, I am not in the business, but as I look back the way that you were booked.  Shortly after the Hart Foundation won the Tag Team Titles, you won the Frank Tunney Memorial Tournament that I saw in Toronto.  

“I’ll tell you what the deal was.  Vince just didn’t like us! (laughs) Right at the very beginning there was a litigation that I had with Vince.  What happened was before I left the AWA Greg Gagne signed my name on a doll contract.  I want to say it was with LJN and they manufactured a tag team doll set of the High Flyers.  It was right when Brian and I were starting together.  

I can’t remember if it was Toys R Us and I went in there and there was a High Flyers tag team action figures.  I thought ‘Shit, I never agreed to this!’  I found out that Greg signed my name before I left because he said he wouldn’t produce them without my name on it so he signed my name and I found out I was supposed to be given $12,000 as an up front charge.

What happened was the WWF said that Jim Brunzell works for us so we get the money.  So Vince takes this money from me so I said, ‘Hey, this was before I joined so I should be entitled to that money.’  Sure enough, my lawyer stepped in and I got the money from the WWF and I think that pissed off Vince right off the bat.”

From everything I ever read about Vince he is a very competitive man.  I don’t know so much that it was the $12,000 but that he lost.

“Well yeah.  I tell you this, and I don’t know if Brian mentioned it but we signed a couple of different contracts with Vince and a couple of them were worded in favor of us in terms of royalties and I always figured that if you signed a contract you’re going to do your best to honor that contract which we did and I expected the WWF at that time to do the same.  

What happened is that we had signed this contract for “x” amount percentage of the gross and we found out that Vince was paying way less of that percentage.  He was paying on the net.  When Brian and I finally got fired and left we sued Vince and he was pissed off.  This was around the time when he was investigated for steroid distribution and he was really mad.  He prolonged this litigation for three or four years and we had this contingency plan with this lawyer in Chicago and what happened?  This lawyer from Connecticut named Myra Gebard who was solicited to represent Brian and I, now this was three and a half years after the litigation started, right before we were supposed to go to court the lawyer settled out of court.  

To this day, Vince McMahon has never forgiven me.  He has been cordial to me a couple of times.  I saw him at Curt Hennig’s funeral and a couple of different places but I know he hates my guts.  (laughs)  That’s okay.”

One of the things I did talk to Brian about was that one of your big wins was at the inaugural Survivor Series where you and the Young Stallions (Paul Roma and Jim Powers) were the winners.  There was never any follow up to the win.

“No.”

“Looking back, I have to wonder why they gave you the win at all.  Every other match at that pay-per-view saw follow up booking.  Andre wins so that they can set up Hogan/Andre 2, the Honky Tonk Man takes off to build Randy Savage as a top contender for the Intercontinental Title and those two matches saw them keep Bam Bam Bigelow, Rocky Steamboat and Jake Roberts strong.  Even the women’s match saw the Jumping Bomb Angels win to set up a program with the Glamour Girls.  They put the four of you over and do nothing with it.  They even had a babyface tag team champion, and no real plan to turn either one of your teams.  

“Actually, Brian and I were supposed to win on our own.  Paul Roma and Jim Powers were supposed to come in second.  At the last minute they changed it, which was just another kick in the teeth to us.  Vince would always say you guys are going to this and you guys are going to do that and he had promised us the (tag team) belts three different times.  

I think the very first time that we wore the masks we were in Buffalo, New York and I remember at the Aud and it was hotter than a bitch.  There was no air conditioning in that place and we wrestled the Harts and we used the masks and we beat them 1-2-3.  The people went absolutely crazy.  Heels use that (tactic) all the time but the Bees used it and the belts go back to the Harts.  I said to Brian, ‘Holy Christ, there are going to fuck us’ and that’s what they did for the next year and a half.”

I never understood a lot of the booking in regards to the two of you.  I remember Wrestlemania III when you were going against Sheik and Volkoff and you lost by disqualification to “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan’s interference.  

“That premise was such a stupid finish.  We’re against Nikolai and Khosrow and we’re supposed to be happy that he (Duggan) got us disqualified.  Him jumping in the ring with the 2x4 gets us disqualified and I thought ‘What in the world is going on?’  

The whole premise of Vince’s promotion was to saturate the television market and he figured I’m going to entertain the people in whatever town with the superstars of pro wrestling.  The continuity of the matches don’t mean a damn thing.  That’s exactly what he did.  I remember in different towns one time Hulk would be in there and have a great match and there was no continuity or build up to the next card.  I couldn’t understand what they were doing.  I was so geared for what wrestling had been and I was thirteen years into my career.  You build different programs, you milk them for all they’re worth and then at the very end you have a blowoff whether it be a cage match or whatever and then you go your separate way.  Vince never did that.  He never had any continuity.”

This isn’t related to what you just said, but whose idea were the tennis shoes?

“That was both of our ideas; those Nike dunks with the black and yellow.  Listen to this!  We had written to Nike and told them that we were an up and coming tag team in the WWF and we would like to wear your black and yellow dunks.  You know what they said to us?”

What?

“They said that pro wrestling was below their standards.  They did not want to have anything to do with us.”

That sounds like a missed marketing opportunity right there.

“Oh God!  Now, Vince would have loved it.  Three or four years later, Nike would have loved to have done that!  You know though, they were a little hard to wear in the ring as they just didn’t give you that comfort that boots did.  They more or less sort of gripped more than you wanted to on the canvas.”

Nobody else was wearing that at the time!  Nowadays you see many different wrestlers wear different kinds of footwear.

“I know.  It was a great idea.  We tried to market it the best way we could but no matter what we tried Vince poo-pooed it.  I remember in 1982 I wrote a song called Matlands, which was a take off on Brice Springsteen’s “Badlands”.  It was about wrestling.  I had made this picture disc, and I don’t know I spent about $5,000 on it and it was really nice.  It was a great cover.  It was a 78 RPM and the song was good!  I had some popular musicians from the Twin Cities work on it.  I remember giving this to Vince and this was when he was starting to do the Rock and Wrestling thing and he had Cyndi Lauper and Meat Loaf and I thought ‘Gosh, he’ll love this!’  

I gave him this record and I heard he put it in the back of a limousine and he left it in there, where it was 90 degrees and it curled up like a clam shell. (Laughs)”

Yeah, but you did get to be in the Land of 1,000 Dances Video!”

“Oh but what a joke that was!  I mean we were standing around mouthing the words to that song.  I can’t remember how many hours we were standing in this studio in New York doing this in this recording studio.  As matter of fact, Bruce Springsteen was downstairs doing parts of “Born in the U.S.A.” at the same time we were doing this thing.”

(Laughs) I am trying to picture that!  

“Actually, Hulk saw Bruce in the stairwell.  It was quite the deal.  Vince had so many guys there and it was a real collection of characters.”

I can’t even imagine!  Going from the 1987 Survivor Series to the 1988 version, Brian was initially placed on another team from you and then he left.  Did the WWF separate you before he left the promotion, or how did that all come about?

“Well, here’s what happened.   Around that time, they fired a mess of us.  They wanted Brian and I to do a job for Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson and Brian refused and left and then quit.  I still needed the money and I told Pat Patterson that ‘How can you fire me without two weeks notice?’  He told me to just hang on and little did I know that they would put me with Lanny Poffo against Tully and Arn and they were insistent that I do the job.  Vince said ‘Beat Brunzell.’   That was the first time that I thought at least well, we had a pretty good match.

In the interim, Vince had fired me two or three times and hired me back when people would get hurt and then what he would do was use me to work on TV to get good matches with the heels.  

It just killed me because I thought I deserved a lot better fate than doing jobs on TV.  I didn’t mind doing them on house shows but I thought I had a good enough career where I didn’t need to put someone over on TV on a regular basis.  That really pissed me off.  What a son of a bitch!  There was a time in there where I seriously contemplated letting Vince have it.  

He did this to a lot of different guys.  He didn’t realize that even though he controlled them in terms of their livelihood, a lot of guys had pride in what they did.”

If I remember right, this was when you moved from wearing black and yellow to tie die.  Was that to shed the Killer Bee gimmick or just to try something different?

“Yeah I thought I would try something different.  I think I had four or five those easter egg type outfits.  I thought there was no sense in being a single Killer Bee, so I thought I would let people remember them as a tag team.”

I remember you also worked for the UWF briefly.

“Yes”

I know they had that one Pay Per View, though I don’t think it did particularly well but it did unite you and Brian where you brought out the Mask Confusion gimmick.  

“Yeah, we were down at the MGM.  I can’t remember the name of that guy who ran it.”

Herb Abrams?

Yeah, he was a crazy bastard.  We worked a couple of shows with him and he spent a lot of money and he tried to combat Vince.  He had some good guys down there.  He tried.  Thank God our cheques didn’t bounce!  I can’t even remember who we worked with on that show.”

I want to say it was a set of twins.  I have to apologize for this though.  That was back when my dad had an illegal satellite hook-up and I watched that one at no cost.  

“(Laughs) That’s ok.”

If it’s okay with you I would like to do a word association.  When I name someone, just say the first thing that comes to mind.

“Sure.”

The Blackjacks.

“Old School.”

Adrian Adonis.

“Great timing”

Jesse Ventura.

“Unathletic.”

He was a great talker though.

“He believed everything he said!  That’s how come he became Governor, but he couldn’t work a lick!  He was scared to death that he was going to get hurt!  

Really?

“Oh God, yes!”

Did that make him unsafe to work with?

“No, I never ever considered him someone who could hurt me.”  

Rick Martel.

“Great Worker.”

Tito Santana.

“The best Hispanic star ever.”

Demolition.

“They worked hard.”

You had some pretty good matches with them also.

“I see Bill and Barry often.  You know when you have a team that came in and looked like the Road Warriors it’s pretty hard to gain steam.  They were the second coming of the Road Warriors.  I think it took away from their ability, and honestly, they were better workers than the Road Warriors!

You know I like Mike and Joe, and God bless Mike who died way too young and when I think of those guys…I mean how easy is it for you to say ‘I’m going to beat the shit out of you’ on TV and then go in the ring and do it every night?  There’s not a lot of work involved in that.  They had the easiest damn job in wrestling!”

I will give you a few more.  Sgt. Slaughter. 

“Great guy.”

Pat Patterson.

“A real character.”

Don Muraco.

“Brilliant worker.”

Roddy Piper.

“A real tough guy.”

I will finish off with the Ultimate Warrior.

“Very lucky.”

Oh, I have to ask you one more thing.  I saw you on an interview on Fight Network and I have to ask you if you ever age?

“Well, I tell you I do age.  I have had a number of surgeries; total knee, total shoulder and partial hip and I have had some scrapings.  Other than that my doctor has always said and I am a firm believer in supplements.  I have taken thousands of dollars worth of supplements throughout my life.  My doctor said I have the most expensive urine in White Bear Lake.  

I still workout.  I worked out tonight.  I can’t lift much, but I still do a lot of cardio.”

Jim, thank you so much for your time!  

A preview of Jim’s book can be found here:  http://www.blurb.com/b/6298514-matlands

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