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Solie's Tuesday Morning Report: Special Edition!

Solie's Exclusive!
An Interview with Bob Blackburn: Part 2

Conducted by Jeremy Hartley
Transcribed by Earl Oliver


Volume 3, Issue 284 - February 25, 1998

The Hartley Interviews Preview

An Interview with Bob Blackburn

Part 2

This is a Special Preview of a series of interviews conducted by Jeremy Hartley for the TWC Online Radio Program. I wanted to run this one first because the subject is a former wrestler and current business manager of Arn Anderson and Ted Dibiasi. As such, Bob Blackburn is also publishing Arn's memoir, "Arn Anderson 4 Ever: A Look Behind the Curtain" which, I am hoping, I can help to publicize by giving Mr. Blackburn this exposure. The interview was conducted in late January and can currently be accessed on the TWC Online web site, a link to which you will find at the end of this segment. I have transcribed the interview personally from the original RealAudio broadcast. It is an edited transcript, meaning that I omitted non-essential exclamations and such, but it very much reflects the substance of the interview.

Jeremy: There's a couple of questions..first of all - what made you want to get into the business?

Bob Blackburn: Well, it was a kid's dream...

Jeremy: Well certainly

Bob Blackburn: I had the chance to do it...and if anybody would tell you they had the chance to do it and didn't...well they're a liar because there is nothing else like it and that's that. You get to combine athletics and acting, you get to have a relationship with the fans and when the red light's on you're in somebody's living room. I think today maybe they've kind of forgotten that. The reality is you have an opportunity to be recognized, the opportunity to be famous if you will and when you're 6'4" and 280 lbs., as I was...sounds like a big guy, but in reality I was average. I would be a small guy in today's environment - even though you got Rey Misterio and all these Luchedores jumping around to make me look huge. So I got involved because I was a fan as a kid, growing up in Boston with the WWWF. I was a fan of Chief Jay Strongbow, I was a fan of Rene Goulet - I used to love to watch Tony Garrea and Rick Martel then. Martel must have been a baby then because I've seen him recently and he looks better then I do and he's a little older.

Jeremy: (laughs)

Bob Blackburn: I went to college for a year before I joined the Marine Corps and I did a little radio show on the campus station, me and this other kid we used to do impressions of wrestlers...I used to be able to do a pretty good Dusty Rhodes and one of the other guys did a pretty good Grand Wizard. We had this little gig and when I chance down in Charlotte - I had boxed in the Marine Corps - I had an opportunity to fight professionally but I chose not to do that and one of the promoters heard that I was an athlete and wondered if I was interested in wrestling. Gene Ligon and I were working together in one of the gyms, he was a wrestler you know, and I said to him "Hey, what about me?" So he took me over to Gene Anderson and Nelson Royal who proceeded to beat the hell out of me...

Jeremy: (laughs)

Bob Blackburn: ...I was one of the few that survived that all day event, lucky for me they liked me so they made arrangements for me to muck stalls and shovel horse doodie, feed the horses you know, doing whatever I could do to earn my keep. And he took me on, as a mentor of sorts, and was very good to me and his family was very good to me...

Jeremy: What was it like at that point to be breaking into the business, what kind of things did you have to do as far as the training...I mean with today's situation where athletes from other sports are appearing in main event matches...something seems to have been lost.

Bob Blackburn: In those days, or in days prior to that, a football player, a radio personality, whatever, and I'm going to quote my friend Arn Anderson here "We'd beat their ass and kick them out the door..." 'cause that's the truth. You'd beat people who wouldn't be caught dead in the in the dressing room and would have the audacity to think they could wrestle...when I went into training, a big part of that was put into your stamina. Being able to go out there and wrestle for 30 - 45 minutes. You know, I wrestled in the same town every week so when you go to Dothan, Alabama every Saturday night and they want to see a fist fight, and they saw you fight there last week...you better be able to fight different this week...

Jeremy: ...right

Bob Blackburn: And that's something that's missing. You don't really have the chance to have that kind of relationship with the people, and another factor is that today's business is a business of television, not so much wrestling. Therefore the focus is on different things, and because the focus is on different things you don't really get that opportunity to showcase a person's skills because in a three hour television program their probably going to throw 40 different people out there for you to look at. Their believing a lot of the statistics about peoples' attention spans and so you notice that most of the matches aren't very long. You know, the art of tag team wrestling is gone...

Jeremy: Yeah well now we're getting to the place where some promotions want to kill it altogether!

Bob Blackburn: And they probably will because those are the people who make the business turn - but the reality is that there is nothing that can follow carefully crafted tag team wrestling. It obvious that most of today's wrestlers just don't understand what is involved in being able to go out and do that so I guess the bottom line is that I was taught a different business and to respect those people who had come before me...to honor, ah, you know...for me to walk into the dressing room and do any more then sit in a corner and put on my boots...now guys come into the business and they've had "two cups a coffee and a donut" and they're telling the promoter what to do. Or they're looking at the older wrestlers, who've been around and who built this business and they're looking at the guy like "You're a dinosaur..."

Jeremy: right...

Bob Blackburn: ...with no idea, these are guys who are getting paid today to show up and breath...whereas the guys who built this business, you know...Flair, Hogan, Dibiasi, the Andersons, Steamboat...these people had to draw money - they had to get people to buy a ticket every night, 320 nights a year. Today you turn on the TV and you can watch...whatever it is...I think totaled up its about 17 hours of wrestling and never have to buy a ticket. It's just not the same...

Jeremy: Okay, so what made you want to get out of this...and I'm leading up to...your and agent and a publisher for Arn Anderson and Ted Dibiasi.

Bob Blackburn: Why I wanted to get out? The situation with my wife to be at the time...she didn't feel that me staying in the Wrestling business was not the way to build a family, and at that time I agreed with her. These days I basically do question that but I don't really regret it. The other reason was that this was a subjective business and also at the time it was a business in turmoil. In the late eighties it was riding the end of the boom...and there were fewer and fewer places to work for experience. When things started to go hog wild on cable TV - they wanted people who could draw money - at that time they were doing big TV but they were also still doing house shows and the business was okay...and it became a timing issue...where I probably got in at the wrong time, then I got out at the wrong time. But all that said I also couldn't get myself to the point that...you know, regardless of your talent, regardless of how well you handle the stick, regardless of what your abilities were, it takes 5-6-7 years to really make a name for yourself...and I was starting to do that in the three and a half to four years I actually wrestled before anybody really knew who I was. I realized that if I stayed much longer then a lot of the opportunities for me to do other things would have passed me by. I finished up in the Memphis territory - on Saturday we used to wake up in the morning in Nashville, drive 250 miles to Memphis for a 10:00 AM live TV shot for like $50 I think. Then go back to Nashville and play there that night...that was Saturday night...we drove back to the other side of Memphis to Jonesborough, Arkansas - wrestle Sunday in Jonesborough - stay in the Admiral Benbow Inn in Memphis - wrestle Monday in Memphis - back to Nashville Monday night, another 250 miles. Then you went Tuesdays at Louisville, Kentucky - back to Nashville, Wednesday in Kenesaw, Kentucky - back to Nashville, Thursday was some show some where in the middle of East Tennessee - Friday was a similar type of situation then you start it all over again. When you're making those kinds of road trips, you know, you start asking yourself some questions. I always said that if the road started getting to the point where it was more aggravating then it needed to be, you know I had a choice. Anytime I heard a wrestler or a manager or anybody complain, they would say "Hey you can go work at McDonalds..."

Jeremy: And just get out of the business...

Bob Blackburn: ...right, and that's what I did. I got out.

Jeremy: You brought up a good point when you talked about territories and how it took several years to make a name for yourself. Now the guys you're working with, Arn Anderson and Ted Dibiasi. They did big things even before they hit the big two. Dibiasi had a career in the Mid-South area...

Bob Blackburn: And he was probably the best villain in the game. And Arn was in Pensicola for eighteen months as the Super Olympian with Jerry Stubbs who was Mr. Olympia - they pulled his mask off and Arn Anderson was found to be underneath there. Then he went from there up to Charlotte and that history is in the book...

Jeremy: (laughs) yeah...so that actually leads me to something we've touched upon a couple of times here - you are now the agent/publisher...

Bob Blackburn: Yeah, well in Arn's case thetas true.

Jeremy: Okay...

Bob Blackburn: Ted has a booking agent by the name of Joe Allessi(sp?) out in Texas so for Ted I'm basically working on a marketing deal for him. We sort of package him and try to generate some other opportunities for him. Obviously Arn is my personal flagship. The nice thing is when you have someone who was one of the biggest names in the game in the WWF and someone who was one of the biggest names in the game in the NWA/WCW - lets just say that I have the only two guys who are capable of writing a book and have... We had three of four offers from traditional publishing companies, and all of them offered us a variety of things - but when you get down to it, you only publish a book with a traditional publishing company when you have a book that will be sold at Barnes & Noble. We felt that we were dealing with a niche market, and a very controlled marketplace. Between the Internet and the traditional wrestling media...you know, Pro-Wrestling Illustrated...from a business standpoint we could control the distribution of the book. So we opened our own publishing company under the auspices of our financial management and marketing company which is called the Dreamcatchers Group out in Ardmore, PA.

Jeremy: So I would be interested in hearing how you went from being a Pro-Wrestler to getting into the agency and publishing...

Bob Blackburn: The nine years in between was with the financial management firm I built - my partner Jim Woodcock and I - we have a traditional financial management firm, if you will, we've always handled some of the wrestlers and we've handled some of the hockey players, some of the retired football players...this and that, and then there's, you know. "Johnny Lunchbucket' anybody who believed in us and we believed in them we would represent - we helped them with their financial planning and all that. The book and the marketing stuff really grew from Arn and I talking prior to his surgery and he said "What are we going to do..? I'm not going to be able to wrestle anymore.." he said, "...why don't you find me something to do, before I end up working at McDonalds..." So I looked at it and studied it and then I had some personal situations and didn't really act on it. The August came and he did this interview and it was the number one rated segment in all of wrestling television. What happened was real simple, I said "You know, you never answered anybody in regards to that nWo incident - you were never accessible during your career - lets tell it in a book". And he said, "Who'd read it?" I said I had a feeling a lot of people would read it. Arn is very shy to a point, really humble and didn't fully understand how much the fans really did respect him. Then when his email box started filling up, as you know...

Jeremy: Right, I had a couple of correspondences with him, he was the one who referred me to you - he seemed shocked when I told him that way back when I started amateur wrestling I always liked to compare myself to the way Arn was on television, being so gritty and so forth was something that helped to propel me to do something for six years that I really enjoyed doing...

Bob Blackburn: Yes, he's that way...he had no idea. I think everybody has an idea that when you grew up in the "black hatted dressing room" - the fans were obviously involved but you never got any real positive reinforcement. You just thought that everybody thought you were a gigantic tub of doodoo. We've been very fortunate with him and very fortunate that he always was a fantastic businessman and also just a tremendous talent. All that said, God knows, it has exceeded all our expectations, you know, in the response we have been getting. I mean we've done no publicity, we've just finished an article with Scoops Central - they were very courteous in helping us with the book as far as promoting it. But the reality is that we've done no advertising yet we've got this tremendous response...its all really humbling...

Jeremy: You know for me...I stumbled across your web page - in fact I think it was somebody at Scoops who told me about it. I thought this is great because I have Ted's book and I've read it a couple of times and I enjoyed it...

Bob Blackburn: We're going to put that on tape and have Teddy read it...one of the studios down south has talked to us about doing it. The other thing is that once you send me your book I'll see that it gets inscribed for you...

Jeremy: Okay, sure...

Bob Blackburn: ...because I'll be seeing him in another week or so. Teddy's book is a great book, but it did not focus on the wrestling as much as Arn's will. Part of the plan with Ted's book is to come out with a little "add-on" that'll do a little more talking about the wrestling - we're very comfortable with the way that's going. Arn's book is about wrestling, its about Arn's life in wrestling and it's kind of "a day in the life..." - where we really kind of investigate some of the relationships, some of the stories about what the road has to offer. We're very excited about it.

Jeremy: Just to touch upon the Dibiasi book for a second, I like reading wrestling autobiographies as much as the next fellow...

Bob Blackburn: And there aren't many out there...

Jeremy: ...with the exception of the Thesz book...

Bob Blackburn: That's a great book and quite frankly one of the best histories of how our business was and really probably should have remained. Unfortunately for Lou wrote it a time when people don't remember as finely as others...

Jeremy: Right, and that's why we're having this Internet show here so I can sort of bring out a few of these thing...

Bob Blackburn: It was a heck of a book though...

Jeremy: Oh it was fabulous, and in fact I had an interview with him the people can click on and listen to and hopefully order the darn thing (laughs)

Bob Blackburn: It was a good book but unfortunately the market wasn't there for it...

Jeremy: But talking about Ted Dibiasi's book - I enjoyed it because the type of character he portrayed in the late eighties too just about last year, the whole Million Dollar Man thing... the timing seemed good to focus a little bit on the wrestling but more on the man - there were a lot of misunderstanding about the kind of person that Dibiasi was...

Bob Blackburn: Yeah, the character, I mean in my opinion that character was Vince McMahon in the sense that if Vince were a wrestler - then that would have been Vince. I think that Vince McMahon is probably one of the smartest people in the industry. I remember Vince McMahon when his dad was still alive and he was an usher in the Cape Cod Coliseum - this was before Vince was Vince. To watch what he has done for the business, there's not a soul in this industry who ever made a buck who shouldn't thank Vince McMahon. They might be upset that maybe their paycheck was shorter then they might have thought it should have been - the reality is that Vince McMahon created Hulk Hogan and Hogan just happened to have a great personality that went with it...but Vince McMahon was the Million Dollar Man, there's no doubt about that.

Jeremy: You know I'm only 22 and I don't like to admit that when I talk to people because people say "Well how can he know anything or appreciate or respect wrestling history..?" But I do and I wasn't able to see a lot of the old territorial promotions...

Bob Blackburn: That puts you at 10 or 12 when I was in the business...a lot of that was dying when I was there...when I went to work there were probably four or five territories, the year before I went to work there were thirty...

Jeremy: Well I'm happy to say that a lot of these old territorial things are being put on home video where I was able to actually chronicle Ted's career and be able to watch basically the emergence of Ted Dibiasi from being this babyface to being probably the best heel in the industry...

Bob Blackburn: I would agree, and that's the beauty of video...if you can find that stuff. You know, I am looking for...there's a gentleman I just learned about, his name is Robert Champion I believe and he had chronicled all of Arn's interviews...I would want to find those because I would like to give them to Arn...as a retirement gift, There somebody else I've learned about who has some kind of a Horsemen Web Ring - his name is Oliver... (Editors Note: actually that is somebody else with the Web Ring)

Jeremy: Yes, Earl Oliver...

Bob Blackburn: I understand that he has quite a video library...

Jeremy: yes he does...

Bob Blackburn: ...of the wrestling and of Arn Anderson and the Horsemen. Again these are things that I would love to have...

Jeremy: yeah...

Bob Blackburn: Especially because we're just getting ready to send the final stuff to the printer, I'd like to include some of this stuff and also credit some of these people publicly, I would hope that that might be of interest to them. So if you can help me facilitate that...

Jeremy: Sure...

Bob Blackburn: I would appreciate that, and anything that anybody has out there on Arn and on Ted - what I'm looking to do is just get a copy and then give them their original back. You know wrestlers don't tape every match, although I will tell you that some of them do...

Jeremy: (laughs)

Bob Blackburn: ...but at least these two guys didn't - I think it would be a nice tribute to give them for their families and their kids, you know, to see what Daddy used to do...(Note: I did, in fact, subsequently send a six hour tape of Horsemen and Arn Anderson video to Bob, who gave it to Arn)

Jeremy: Well, you heard it here on this show...people across the Internet. We're going to have all sorts of links, if it's all right with you, so people can get in touch with you and let you know if they've got some things. I'd be more then happy to talk to some of the people that I can talk to - to try to get some things rolling here...

Bob Blackburn: That would be great. These guys are very proud but these were not really guys who were, you know, braggadocios. They don't have tape on every interview they did because they were too busy going from one town to the next. And if they were at home they sure weren't watching it on television because I guess at that time they would be hugging their kids...anyway.

Jeremy: And they seem to both be, both Arn and Ted, to be very family oriented...

Bob Blackburn: Extremely family oriented. Arn has two sons - Jarred is twelve and Brock is going to be a year old in another couple of weeks, and Teddy has his gang - his oldest is in college now. So, you know, they keep your hands full...

Jeremy: And to say it once again...to have a lasting record of what their fathers did in the ring, I think would be a great tribute to them...

Bob Blackburn: With the Internet it certainly gives us an opportunity to do that. If anybody wants to get a hold of Ted Dibiasi you can send email to mdmtd@juno.com, that's his personal email - for his fans. We try to go through them...one of the reasons we went to juno is that you can' send attachments - otherwise they'd be getting all kinds of things...

Jeremy: Okay, so we'll give that out and I'm sure that folks on line will also appreciate that...

Bob Blackburn: Its important that the wrestling fans understand that all this yippy-yuppy stuff about smarts and whatever...you know its okay to be a wrestling fan and be proud of that but none of the wrestlers and none of the people that are connected to the business are not impressed to have you write to an Arn Anderson and use a given name because somebody printed what his real name might be, for you take that liberty to say "Hi - whatever his name might be - you know and it's not Arn - I guess that's the part of this that's quite frustrating for many of the guys. Of course their are those wrestlers who are Internet savvy and they are just as much to blame in the sense that you make yourself too available, people get to know you, then they take advantage and then what happens is the wrestler loses credibility. A wrestling fan has a lot more credibility with me by not trying to tell me how much he knows about my business. You know, don't tell me that you can speak my language, that you're "smart-mark" that wrestling isn't real because when you got one 300 pound guy jumping on top of another 300 pound guy there isn't anything much more real then that!

Jeremy: And I think that both Arn Anderson and Ted Dibiasi, whose careers were cut short could certainly testify to that.

Bob Blackburn: This vertebrae in Arn's neck that aren't there anymore - that's real. You know, 300 nights a year on the road - that's real. 300 nights away from your family - that's real. What can I say..?

Jeremy: I think that's a great way to sum it up. I was talking to Al Issacs, the last interview I did, and we just kind of touched upon it. There was a situation that took place, an event that World Championship Wrestling put on - a Pay-per-listen event...

Bob Blackburn: Which didn't do very well...

Jeremy: Didn't do very well, but I listened to it and there was one thing that turned my stomach about it the more I listened to it and that was the broadcasters on the event were using so much of the language...and all they were, one guy was a "newspaper" guy...

Bob Blackburn: Who was that..?

Jeremy: Mark Maddon, and some other guy who just called himself "Deliboy" - Lord knows who that guy is...they kept on talking about "shoots" and "works" and they used those terms every sentence, you know, what a disrespect of the business... And You know, I love the Internet as much as anybody, I run an Internet company, but these guys are human, they have feelings...people need to respect these guys - they're working hard to entertain you and I thinks that's what Bob is touching on right here.

Bob Blackburn: Please respect the fact that the Dory Funk Jr's of the world and the Nelson Royals and the Gene Andersons and the Lou Thesz' that built this business. You know, respect the fact that these guys spend 300 nights a year on the road and they don't appreciate it when fans don't have respect for what they do to feed their families.

Jeremy: Right. So just as a kind of closure to this interview could you give a little plug, tell people how they can order the book and the T-shirt and that kind of thing from the Dreamcatchers.

Bob Blackburn: Arn Anderson's book is called "Arn Anderson 4 ever: Behind the Curtain" and the book can be ordered on the Scoop Central site at http://www.scoopcentral.com and first they'll find a real nifty article - Arn did an interview on SuperBowl Sunday - all the information about the book is right there. As a publisher we're doing a very limited special edition - that's going to be the first 1000 books will be numbered 1 to 1000, they'll be a hardback version, the books will be personalized by Arn. So if Jeremy, for instance, wants a copy of the book he can order it and tell Arn what he wants inscribed in the book, you know, "Horsemen 4Ever" or "Your Horsemen material" whatever, you get a T-shirt from the publisher and also an autographed picture from Arn. The way we do that is that when you send in your order with a check or a Postal Money Order - that's $30 - $25 for the book, $5 for shipping and handling, the publisher will send you out a letter telling you what your book number is - about three weeks from receiving that letter you should get your picture in the mail which will have all your...essentially what the inscription will be to confirm that that's the way you want it, the T-shirt will go out three weeks beyond that and then you will get your hard cover edition of the book. That may take a little longer because we're waiting for special artwork - the extra few weeks I have to wait for this artwork will be worth it. Then the general edition of the book will be out and that general edition will be $15 - if you want it inscribed it will be $25 and there won't be the T-shirt or the other stuff. That's just for those first 1000 people who believe in Arn and want a piece of history. We want to do that. I'm struggling right now with whether I want to keep a few of them for charity or for whatever down the road because I think its going to be a very popular book. And if anyone is interested in Teddy's book they can reach me at dfmltd@erols.com and I will be able to facilitate that for them. Any body who had already purchased Ted's book and would like him to inscribe it if they get a hold of me I'll tell them how they can do that, where to send the book and their fee. We wanted to do that originally but with that publisher we weren't able to control that.

Bob Blackburn: Anyway, I hope there are a lot of Arn Anderson fans out there. If you really want to know what it was like to be a Horseman, if you want to read what it was like to be a "Brainbuster", what it was like to be a struggling kid coming out of Rome, Georgia when your grandmother raised you and when you locked up the home it was only worth about $8500 - Arn was a kid who didn't know his dad, he came from very humble beginnings and really made something of himself. And if your not a wrestling fans its just as exciting a book because its about a struggle for life and the kind of thing that we all go through and how he overcame that to become arguably one of the best there ever was.

This was the first of several interviews of wrestling personalities which will be featured here in the coming months. Some of the other subjects include: Lou Thesz, Bob Ryder, Les Thatcher, Scott Teal, Buddy Landel and myself.

Jeremy Hartley is a good friend of Solie's an occasional contributor to Solie's Newsletter. His RealAudio Interviews (including this one) can be heard in the The Wrestling Channel Radio Network section of the TWC Online web site.

"Arn Anderson 4 Ever: A Look Behind the Curtain" is available for order through Scoops Central. The first 1000 copies of the book will be sold as collectors items, each one personally inscribed to the purchaser by Arn Anderson.


I hope you enjoyed the interview above. As I mentioned it is the first of a series that will be running throughout the Spring and Summer and maybe even into next year (if Jeremy keeps getting these great subjects. The next one in the series will be with the incomparable Lou Thesz.

I will be back on Thursday night with my Thunder report. Until then...

At least that's the way I see it...

Earl Oliver
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter


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