This interview is quite lengthy, so I have broken it up into four installments
David Skolnick: What was Backlund like back then? Hard to work with?
Greg Valentine: Yes, but I was in good shape. We did one of the first hour-long matches in New York. That was our first meeting. They held the belt up a couple of different times. After that, I went back to the Carolinas and got the U.S. belt back. I worked a series of matches with Piper. The ear match. I bashed his bead in and he's never been the same since. He still can't act (Laughs).
David Skolnick: Was he good in the ring or strictly a brawler?
Greg Valentine: Piper actually was a very good boxer. He won Golden Gloves. I used to out wrestle him, but he'd box the shit out of me. He was a tough boy. He was a tough boy. We all ultimately all left the Carolinas.
David Skolnick: Bring me back to that time. McMahon Jr. took over from his father and was bringing the WWF national. Did he tell you what his plans were and asked you to come along?
Greg Valentine: When I got there, I wanted to get away from the Carolinas. I knew what was about to take place up in New York because the Grand Wizard would always call me up when he was still alive. He was really my manager. He cared about me. He always said, "Greg, you've got to get up here. McMahon's getting ready to go." I had a good position. I was U.S. champion in Charlotte before they combined with Atlanta. If I would have stayed there I probably would have done almost just as well but you never know. I sought New York. I went for it. Sure enough, I went in, Vince's father passed away and Vince took over everything. I had a meeting with him and he told me I could stay there forever and he was taking this over and that over. I wanted to know why he was doing that because I thought Florida belonged to Eddie Graham and Texas belonged to Fritz Von Erich and Paul Boesch. I didn't understand. He goes, "Well, put it this way, my company's going to be nationwide. It's got to be nationwide. That's the only way it's going to go and I'm not stomping on anybody's feet. But that's the position of my company. It's going to be a nationwide company." With free enterprise, that made sense.
David Skolnick: Did you laugh at it and say, "Yeah, right?"
Greg Valentine: I knew he could do it. He had the product to go with it. I knew he had the money to push. I knew he had the strength moneywise and also I knew he could reach out and get us on TV in all these different places. He just blanketed the WWF everywhere. It was seen everywhere from Seattle to Portland, Maine, from New York to L.A. Wrestling was dead in California until the WWF started playing its tape there. I remember going out there and wrestling Tito Santana before I ever did the angle with his leg or took the belt from him in 1984. They opened up the Olympic Auditorium, I worked with Tito. The place was sold-out and we were selling out the place like every three weeks. California was on fire. The WWF just kept on going. Hulk Hogan and that whole era came through, Randy Savage. I was mixed right in there until I left in '92.
David Skolnick: Tell me about McMahon Sr. and Jr.
Greg Valentine: Senior was the first promoter, big, big-time promoter to give me my big break. I'll forever be grateful for that. As far as Vince McMahon Jr., I made a lot of money with him. I really have nothing to complain about except when you spend so much time with a company. I spent 13 years with that company, you tend to relate to that the rest of your life so to speak. I miss all the stuff I've been through and all the places I'm going to go because I've got some good stuff coming up. I'll always remember the WWF and I'll always miss it because it was the real height of my career. It was the height of the business too, '84, '85, '86. That era there were never bigger or better ratings. People who know me don't know who Diesel or Razor Ramon are because wrestling was at its highest ratings then. Because of that and the name I made for myself with Vince's help, with his TV, I pioneered the WWF right along with him. I made a big name for myself. Fortunately, I was able to keep my name. I didn't have to be somebody else. I could possibly have a good position with WCW coming up. I already have a position with AWF, which is going back on the air. I still work my deals overseas. It's looking better as far as me doing more things on television coming up.
David Skolnick: Tell me about the Grand Wizard, your former manager.
Greg Valentine: He was my first real rnanager. He passed away. The office decided in 1979 to have the Grand Wizard manage Greg Valentine. From that point on until he died, we were always buddies. I mean real friends. Friends with his wife and family. He treated a lot of his wrestlers like that, but some more than others. We were good buddies. He remembered Johnny Valentine so he took good care of me. I had a lot of that because dad had a lot of friends. A lot of enemies too. But more people liked him and whole lot of people respected him. He was the king of the ribs. Guys still do the ribs, but (Laughs) Johnny Valentine started it. I never did do that much. My mind never worked like that. Obviously, two different people. But I was more the quiet type.
David Skolnick: You worked with Pedro Morales for a while.
Greg Valentine: That was a great feud. I enjoyed working with Pedro.
David Skolnick: Stiff?
Greg Valentine: Yeah, but that's the way I liked it because I could hit him real hard. He wouldn't cry like a baby. I was beaten tough by Wahoo McDaniel. I learned the solid way of wrestling down in the Carolinas. I took it to New York and it just stayed with me. And Strongbow, I enjoyed working with him except if I'd chop, he'd cry. Lots of guys still cry, when I chop them.
David Skolnick: Like who?
Greg Valentine: Oh, Luger. Even the Giant cried. He goes, "Oh, my God, how could that small guy hit me that hard?"
WP: I interviewed Ron Garvin last year and he's as stiff as they come. You know first-hand.
Greg Valentine: I really loved wrestling Ronnie Garvin.
David Skolnick: He told me he chopped Luger once and Luger left the ring, went to Crockett and said he'd never work with Garvin again.
Greg Valentine: Yeah, Ronnie's a real man and so am I. We enjoyed beating the shit out of each other. A guy like Lex Luger, he'll take a couple of chops and go back to the dressing room and cry. That's the difference between us. Lex Luger's out there because the women like to look at him, I guess. It's certainly not his wrestling ability.
David Skolnick: Getting back to McMahon's national expansion. What were your thoughts leading into the first Wrestlemania? That was a make-or-break point for the company.
Greg Valentine: I believe that first one, they broke even and they were happy to do that. I didn't realize what was happening. I mean I was there and I saw what was happening. But God. when you think about it right now you think, "That was it. That's when I really peaked right there." After the show was over, I realized the impact. The name, everything, Wrestlemania, which was really happening right then. They threw that all together. It was great. I worked with Junkyard Dog and beat him with my foot on the ropes and Tito came in and stooged me off. They chased me out of the ring, but I was still champion. Santana was great and still is great. The Junkyard Dog was a very strong wrestler. Of course, he didn't have the agility Tito did and wasn't the classic worker Tito was. But I've got a lot of good things to say about him too. Jimmy Hart was my manager. I told him the other night I was his first champion in the big leagues. He remembers that.
David Skolnick: Did the boys think Hogan was the right guy to carry the company on his shoulders?
Greg Valentine: I was all for him. I thought he was a good franchise player. He really was. The rest of us were right in there, but he was the main dog. It had to be somebody. Of course, the main dog could have been me, but it was him. It could have been an awful lot of other people besides him. It just happened to be him because Vince Sr. was the first one to fall in love with him. He was nearly seven feet tall with blonde hair. That's what they always wanted. The timing was right.
To be continued...
The program opens with a recap of the World Title Tournament thus far. The final four are Sting, Jeff Jarrett, Bret Hart, and Chris Benoit. I'm picking Bret Hart, personally, but feel that the very dark horse candidate is Benoit. Keep in mind that the last World Title match that Hart had in Canada was the infamous night that Vince McMahon screwed him out of the WWF Title.
Mayhem is on the air live from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Jeff Jarrett vs. Chris Benoit - World Title Tournament Semi-Final match - Tony suggests that the reason for this match as the opener is that the "Powers that Be" want to give their boy Jarrett the whole program to rest up for his final match at the end. Benoit starts out strong until he misses a baseball slide. Fisticuffs ensue out on the floor then they roll back inside where Jarrett cements his advantage with a powerslam. He gets a two-count. Benoit surprises Jarrett with a roll-up but can't get the pin. Jarrett answers with a sleeper. Benoit sinks to the mat then struggles back to his feet. He escapes with an elbow jab but a back elbow puts him down. He is on his feet again and grabs a sleeper of his own. Jarrett gets a jawbreaker to escape and both are down. They come to their feet slowly and start swinging at each other again. Benoit gets a series of three German suplexes. Here comes Creative Control. They lurk about ringside waiting for their chance to interfere on Jarrett's behalf. Meanwhile Benoit gets a high cross body and a two-count then reverses a backslide and almost gets the pin again. Benoit climbs to the top and hits the swan dive headbutt, but the Harris Twins interfere - one goes after Benoit while the other takes the referee out. Dustin Rhodes runs in but is waylaid - Jarrett has his guitar ready but Benoit surprises him and gets the pin. Benoit advances - but after the match he is punked by his opponent and his cronies.
Mike Tenay interviews the Disco Inferno concerning his match against Evan Karragous. As he starts his rant, Jarrett and the Twins appear in a bad mood - they decides to take out their ire on Disco.
Evan Karagias (w/Medusa) vs. Disco Inferno (w/Tony Marinero) - Cruiserweight Title/$10,000 Challenge match - Disco can barely make it to the ring. In fact, Evan meets him on the ramp and the fight starts right there. Marinero continues to the ringside area and joins the broadcast team. He whines about Disco owing him $25,000 and threatens the wrestler's life. In the ring, Disco is reeling from the opening bell but as the match goes on he regains his composure and asserts himself. His superior mat skills give him the advantage. At ringside, Marinero is fixating on Medusa. Karragous is knocked to the floor and Medusa goes to help him up. Back in the ring Disco is still in control. He gets a DDT and a two-count. Disco starts to lose ground and Marinero loses interest in the match - he goes over to show Medusa his Rolex. Karragous notices and goes to get between them. Disco goes after Karragous with a chair but hits Marinero by mistake. He is freaked out and distracted and easily pinned. Karragous is the new Cruiserweight Champ.
In the back, Vince Russo dresses Jeff Jarrett down and gives him an ultimatum.
Screamin' Norman Smiley vs. Brian Knobbs (w/Jimmy Hart) - Hardcore Title match - Knobbs fills the ring with plunder before his opponent makes his entrance dressed in a Toronto Maple Leafs hocky outfit, including goalie mask. There is a brand new Hardcore Title belt for this occasion. Knobbs goes to work on Smiley's head with a trashcan and a broom handle immediately and Smiley starts screaming. Hart tosses another trash can into the ring but Smiley intercepts it and gets Knobbs with it. Now he grabs his hockey stick, puts the trash can over Knobbs' upper body and pummels him with it. Knobbs gets free and uses the can on Smiley again then starts tearing off Norman's padding. Hart is in the ring and lending a hand - hardcore rules means anything goes, no DQ. The fight goes out to the aisle and toward the entryway. Back into the backstage area and various handy objects come into play, mostly at the hands of Knobbs. They fight through the canteen area, using food as weapons then right into the freight elevator. Jimmy Hart gets involved again at this point, poised at the elevator door. He takes a swing as the door opens...and clobbers Knobbs. Smiley takes the pin and the title.
A recap of the Filthy Animals/Revolution feud.
Mike Tenay interviews the latter They intend to win. Mean Gene talks to the Animals - them too... In another part of the building, Disco is apologizing to Tony Marinaro, who says he's going to bring in "the boys", and Jeff Jarrett is stalking around with a 2X4.
Filthy Animals vs. the Revolution - 6 Person Elimination Tag Team match - Malenko/Saturn/Aysha vs. Eddie G/Kidman/Torrie (w/Konnan/Rey-Rey) - Shane Douglas joins the broadcast team. Guerrero and Malenko start the match which goes to the floor so that Malenko and Kidman can get involved. A fan at ringside hits Malenko and is hustled away. In the ring, Aysha and Torrie are facing off and Torrie is giving a good account of herself until she hurts her ankle. Kidman comes in to help and gets pinned! Konnan and Misterio pick this moment to leave. Aysha faces Guerrero and gets a vertical suplex on him! Saturn tags in and faces Malenko. Moments later he pins the Ice Man leaving it 2 on 2...except that Torrie is in bad shape and drops to the floor. Guerrero wrestles Aysha to the mat then gets the frog splash on her. She is eliminated. Now it is essentially one on one - Saturn vs. Guerrero. Guerrero is a house afire and all over his opponent. Saturn appears to be injured in his ribs after a furious exchange but he gets a DVD - Guerrero kicks out. Guerrro reels toward Torrie but then remembers that she is hurt and turns back to the match. Saturn downs him and gets the rings of Saturn - Guerrero taps out and Torrie is left to face Saturn alone. She is terrified but hits a low blow and almost pins her man! Saturn comes back with a low blow of his own and takes the pin. In the back, Jarrett and the Twins are beating up on Buff Bagwell - whose match is up next, of course.
Curt Hennig vs. Buff Bagwell - Loser Leave Town match - we get a recap of Hennig's travails over the last few weeks. Bagwell's music plays for a long time and then Jarrett and the Twins show up. They are going after Hennig when Bagwell finally appears and chases them off. He and Hennig get into it and go to the floor almost immediately. Nick Patrick tries in vain to get them back inside. Back in the ring finally, Hennig is in control at first but then Bagwell turns the tables and the match goes into see-saw mode with Hennig still mostly in the driver's seat. Hennig seems to be the crowd favorite in this one. He grabs a headlock/sleeper and Bagwell sinks to a sitting position. He seems about to go out but then revives and fights back to his feet. He escapes but a knee lift puts him down. Hennig goes back to the headlock. He releases it and gets a scoop slam followed by an elbow drop. He pauses to accost the crowd - not very smart considering his precarious position. Hennig bulls Bagwell into the corner and chops him down. Bagwell recovers and gets to the opposite corner, hits the blockbuster and Hennig is pinned. Hennig must hang it up. The crowd gives him a resounding ovation.
Mike Tenay talks to Sting who insists he never lost the World Title. You know, that's right actually...
Sting vs. Bret Hart - World Title Tournament Semi-Final match - the Scorpion vs. the Sharpshooter - here's a match that fans have waited for a very long time. They engage in a stare down before getting down to business. Bret wins the first exchange with a headbutt that puts Sting on his can. The fight goes to the floor and is taking place right in front of the broadcast table for a moment. Hart takes the initiative and rolls Sting back inside, but Sting turns the tables once in the ring. He is a little more methodical then usual - and well he should be against such an opponent. The crowd is booing him as he stands on Hart's throat against the ropes. He drops an elbow and gets a two count just barely. Sting drops an elbow on Hart's midsection then the fight goes to the floor again where Sting goes for a Stinger splash but hits the broadcast table as Hart steps aside. Back in the ring, Hart is in control as Sting drags the referee between them. The ref goes down and here comes Lex Luger with Liz and a ball bat. He nails Sting, which enrages Hart. He attacks Luger and applies a Sharpshooter on him. The referee recovers and DQ's Sting for outside interference. Hart is beside himself and demands that the match be restarted - and the referee complies! It is all Bret Hart as the match continues but Sting is not out of it yet. He turns the tables and applies the Scorpion. Hart reverses the move by grabbing the trailing leg (as he was supposed to the last time he had a World Title bout in Canada) and applies his Sharpshooter. Sting taps out. Bret Hart will face Benoit for the title. Afterwards Sting calls Hart back and shakes his hand.
Mean Gene is with Benoit. Benoit says he's waited for this match for 14 years and considers it an honor to face Hart in Toronto for the title.
Tenay talks to Luger - who is faking a neck injury this time - he is wearing a cervical collar and begging off of his match with Meng tonight. He is offering to provide a refund to the ticket holders out of his own pocket...right...
Vampiro (w/Jerry Only) vs. Berlyn (w/the Wall) - Chain match - the two competitors will be chained by the neck to each other. Dr. Death shows up with "Oklahoma" to the Sooner's fight song. Oklahoma, we have learned is Ed Ferrara, who also played this part on RAW last year. In the ring, Vampiro seems to have a little better grasp on this style of match - so Berlyn attacks JO onthe floor. Vamp has to rescue him while Oklahoma informs us that Berlyn was a tight end for the University of Frankfort! He keeps yelling, "Vampiro! Vampiro! Vampiro!" pronouncing it to rhyme with "pyro". In the ring, Berlyn takes off his collar and starts swinging the chain at Vamp. The Wall abruptly walks away and disappears. Meanwhile, Vampiro has regained the advantage while Oklahoma tells us he is the "best play-by-play man in the history of the business". Vamp wraps the chain around Berlyn's neck and chokes him out until he taps. Steve Williams enters the ring and decimates everyone in sight as Oklahoma cheers him on.
Scott Hall is interviewed by Tenay in the back. The latter points out that Hall is both the US and the TV Champion (apparently the injured Rick Steiner has given the TV title up - I'm not sure how that makes Hall the TV Champ). Meanwhile, Kimberly shows up for her match with David Flair.
The Total Package (w/Elizabeth) vs. Meng - Meng is all over his supposedly hurt opponent who is still in a neck brace. Tony points out that Meng can't grab his Tongan Death Grip through that brace. And that is a fact as Meng goes for it early and can't apply it. His surprise gives Luger the chance to turn the tables. But Meng is such a monster that it is hard to faze him and impossible to keep him down. A kick to the face gives Meng his first two count. Liz tries to spray Meng with mace but gets her man instead. She runs off. Now Luger is really in trouble. Meng tears off the collar and gets the goozle for the win.
Scott Hall vs. Booker T - US/TV Title match - Hall comes to the ring and makes an open challenge for both belts. Booker T answers the call. Hall takes the early advantage after distracting Booker with his toothpick in the face. Tony tells us that TPTB stripped Steiner and gave the belt to Hall...okay... In the ring, Hall is maintaining his advantage but then runs into a back elbow and drops to the floor. Booker waits him out in the ring. Hall comes back inside, goes for a chokeslam and gets it. Booker kicks out of the pin attempt. Moments later he is shoved over the top to the floor. Hall follows him out and runs him into the stairs then rolls him back into the ring. He grabs a sleeper on Booker, who goes down to one knee. Here comes Jarrett and the Twins. Booker gets loose and uses his talented feet to put Hall down. The thugs drag the referee out then attack Booker, giving Hall the chance to apply the Outsider's edge for the pin. Suddenly the lights go out. When they come back on, Midnight is in the ring and scattering the "Powers'" troups.
Luger is in the back looking for Liz.
Kimberly vs. David Flair - Flair menaces Kimberly with his crowbar but she seems unimpressed. This "match" barely gets underway when Kanyon runs in to attack Flair. Then Diamond Dallas Page appears and comes to the ring as well - he Diamond Cuts Flair which brings Arn Anderson to the ring to try and prevent any further violence against his best friend's son. The former Triad members back off. Flair recovers and attacks Arn with his crowbar from behind! EMT's come out to assist the fallen former Horseman.
Goldberg vs. Sid Vacuous - "I Quit" match - we get an extended recap of the Sid/Goldberg feud thus far. The two monsters get into a slug out to start then Goldberg slams his opponent but Sid pops right back up. The fight goes to the floor. This is no holds barred, of course. And Goldberg's signature moves aren't really of much use here except to help wear his opponent down. Sid grabs an arm bar and tries to get Goldberg to submit. When that doesn't work for him he chokeslams him then goes for it a second time and succeeds. He yells, "Ask him!" but Goldberg is far from done. He comes back with a headlock/armlock combo and Sid appears to be in real trouble. Goldberg switches to a cobra clutch and Sid passes out. The referee calls for the bell and declares Goldberg the winner. Sid never actually gave up.
Mean Gene questions Lex Luger who is coming down preety hard on Liz. He plans to get even with her and says she better watch her back tomorow night at Nitro.
Bret Hart vs. Chris Benoit - World Title Tourmament Finals - Canadian vs. Canadian in Canada - who could have predicted that..? The last time, and only time, we saw these guys together in the ring was that great 30 minute battle dedicated to Owen Hart a while back in Kansas City. The only way that Hart won't be the World Champ tonight is if he is screwed by TPTB... The two shake hands then come out fighting. Hart takes the early initiative and works over his opponent's arm and elbow. Benoit counters with a side headlock but Hart throws him off. Hart goes for a sunset flip then tries to turn it into a Sharpshooter but Benoit fights away from it and slaps on a Crippler Crossface. But they are in the ropes and he has to release the hold. Hart turns the tables again and goes into his classic assault style with fists off the second rope. Benoit is knocked to the floor. Dean Malanko shows up with a Canadian flag and attacks Benoit. He is hustled away by security and the match continues. Hart gets a piledriver on Benoit, but he gets a foot on the rope and saves himself from the pin. Hart is in control and starting to play dirty. He steps on Benoit's throat. Benoit gets angry and turns things around. He has a series of pin attempts then Hart reverses the field once again but Benoit comes back with a tombstone piledriver. Benoit goes to the top and hits his diving headbutt. But he is hurt and can't capitalize fast enough. Here comes the Outsiders followed closely by Goldberg. Hart has to halt the match to fight these idiots out of the ring. The referee is knocked down and a melee ensues. Goldberg leaves the ring to take on the Outsiders while the Title match restarts in the ring with a new referee. Benoit gets a Dragon Screw legwhip and starts working on Hart's injured leg. Security is separating the brawlers in the back. In the ring, Benoit is concentrating on Bret's bad wheel. Hart is in trouble as Benoit puts the boots to his leg. Hart regains his feet and strikes out to the midsection. He gets a backbreaker but can't follow up. They struggle to the top corner where Bret gets a superplex. He fails to get the pin as they are tangled up in the ropes. He gets a Russian leg sweep and another two-count. He is working toward the Sharpshooter. Benoit falls out of the ring and Bret decides to wait him out in the ring. Back in the ring Benoit gets a German suplex then tries for the Crossface again but Bret slips away and then reverses to a Sharpshooter. Benoit taps out and Bret is the new Champion of the World.
Members of the Hart family, including his estranged wife, join him in the ring to congratulate the new Champ.
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
This page is a personal tribute and is in no way connected to any of the wrestling promotions mentioned on it. It is dedicated to the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie.
Copyright 1999 - Jump City Productions