We open this first edition of the 21st Century with the first installment of a three part interview with wrestling legendand seven-time NWA World Champion, Harley Race. I have to confess that I have no idea where this came from. I got it from the WAWLI Papers (thanks to J. Michael Kenyon!) who said they got it from "somewhere on the World Wide Web".
RichInKC: Thanks for taking time to talk with us in the Diamond Mine. You've been a part of the sport of professional wrestling for decades. When did you get your first start in professional wrestling?
Harley Race: I started in 1959 in St. Joe, Missouri with Gus Karras.
RichInKC: How old were you when you stepped into the ring for the first time?
Harley Race: 15
RichInKC: 15? Wow. What federations have you worked in? You have pretty much had a career that has spanned the globe.
Harley Race: Well, I've wrestled in about every country, except Red China and Russia, and I have been in all the major federations and a few of the minors ones. I've been around for awhile.
RichInKC: What would your say your favorite time was in the sport of wrestling? Is there any time, country, or federation that you particularly enjoyed?
Harley Race: My favorite period in my career was, of course, the times when I was World's Heavyweight Champion. It's kind of hard to differentiate from which one of those was the best. I suppose the first one would probably be the best. My favorite country, as far as wrestling, would have to be Japan. I have been there sixty five times. My favorite country as far as sightseeing and observing what is going on in a country is New Zealand.
RichInKC: What makes New Zealand stand out to you?
Harley Race: It's just a gorgeous, gorgeous country. It's like being in Maine or somewhere around here (Kansas City) back around fifty years ago.
RichInKC: You told me a story about your seventh title reign in Japan, and an honor you were awarded, could you share that story with us?
Harley Race: Yes. When a samurai swordsman won his seventh battle in the mythical days of Japan, he was declared a god. When I won the World's Title for the seventh time, I was declared God of Wrestling in three of the major newspapers throughout Japan.
RichInKC: Apparently, the Japanese media covers wrestling in a lot more detail than a lot of our American media.
Harley Race: Everything that happens in Japan wrestling-wise is covered like a major event. If you had a professional football team in your city, it would be covered exactly the same.
RichInKC: You have not been active in the sport for a little while. What have you been doing to keep yourself busy?
Harley Race: Right now, I do a little bounty hunting. I do a little process serving, just some things to keep me up and moving around instead of sitting here and getting all stiff.
RichInKC: I understand you have a video tape series coming out.
Harley Race: Yes I do. As a matter of fact, the video about myself will be coming out this week. I will be debuting the week of April 12th at a national card signing in the Antioch Mall in Kansas City. There's three of them out so far, but the one about me just came out.
RichInKC: What are the other tapes that you have out?
Harley Race: One is "Helloooo Wrestling Fans" with our announcer, myself, Bob Giegel, Bulldog Bob Brown, Mike George and Bill Kirkson.
RichInKC: You showed me some of the first tape in the series, and I was quite impressed with it. How can people find out more about this video tape series?
Harley Race: They can contact Evergreen Video at (816) 374-5828.
Their address is:
P.O. Box 2304
Lee's Summit, Missouri 64063-7304
RichInKC: You had some classic, if not epic, feuds in your career. Are there any particular opponents that stand out in your memory?
Harley Race: That little accolade would have to go to the Funk Brothers. Back in the 60s I was wrestling Terry Funk in a chain match and lost fifteen percent of the vision in my left eye. My first two title reigns was when I took the Heavyweight titles from the only brother team who ever held it: Dory and Terry Funk.
RichInKC: I know that Terry is still active in the sport. Have you had the opportunity to see any of his matches on television?
Harley Race: I watched him a few weeks ago. He doesn't look like the same Terry Funk, but it's him. He's alive and well.
RichInKC: Have you considered getting back into the business and teaching that Funk brother a lesson?
Harley Race: No. I had a car accident in the beginning of '95. I don't know if people are aware of it or not. After three surgeries, I ended up with an artificial hip.
RichInKC: Would you consider returning in a management capacity?
Harley Race: Well that's a probability.
To be continued...
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Nitro (live from Greenville, South Carolina) returned to its former two-hour format this week which means that it only shares one hour with RAW. There is some hope that the shorter length will force them to tighten up their programming - we shall see...
Monday's big story was Rob Porter (speaking for Bill Busch) announcing the identity of the new Commissioner for World Championship Wrestling. There was plenty of speculation about who it would be among the announcers who came up with Verne Gagne, Lou Thesz, Bob Geigel and Bruno Sammartino, and the nWo who suggested it would be Tom Zenk. Surprisingly (especially if you saw the sillouette they published on the WCW web site or listened to Tony's hints) it was Terry Funk!! His arrival was timed for the top of the 9:00 hour, of course. Funk came out surrounded by some really big security troups and promised to play with the nWo's heads for the rest of the evening. He said that he loves "real perfessional wrestling..." and referred to the nWo as "a bunch of fat hogs following along behind the slop wagon..." then introduced his "Enforcer" Arn Anderson! The immediate reaction of the crowd was, "We Want Flair!" AA made a classic Horsemen style speech, using the crowd's emotion to fire himself up. Bret Hart's reaction was to offer to bring Funk into the nWo. Funk came back with stips for Hart's title match at Souled Out
Much of the reduced program was taken up by the finals of the lethal lottery tournament to crown new Tag Team Champs.
We got Leia Meow doing jumping jacks on a trampoline (shades of the Man Show!) as Mike Rotundo came in to team with Buzzkill against the Harris Twins in the first quarter final of the evening. Kevin Sullivan explained that Rick Steiner (who replaced the ailing Scott Hall with nary a word said about it) was missing because he egged a professor's house. A few minutes into the match, Standards & Practices (Lenny & Lodi) came out to throw a coat over Leia (booooo!) causing Sullivan and Rotundo to abandon Buzzkill to the wolves. The Harris Boys advance.
Sid (with his neck in a brace) attacked Bret Hart as he walked in through the back of the building...and the rest of the nWo watched on a monitor. After a break we came back to find them beating up on the EMT's that attempted to treat Hart's wounds. They continue to play their heel role to the hilt. I'm so glad...
PG13 insulted a fellow with generous size ears before their match for the quarter finals - which turned out to be a handicap match against Diamond Dallas Page for some reason (I don't remember that DDP is even in the tournament). DDP won anyway and then PG13's real oppponents came out - Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner simply took the pin on their pre-laid out foes. nWo advance.
David Flair/Crowbar (w/Daphne) faced Lash LeRoux/Midnight for their quarter final match. Lash took the early moments and pretty much made mince meat out of their opponents while Stevie Ray bad mouthed Midnight at ringside then proceeded to interfere in the match until his brother came out to read him the riot act. Meanwhile, LeRoux was still kicking butt until Tony Marinero's Boyz (including a reluctant Disco Inferno) came in a gave the win to the Flair/Storm team. Somebody suggested to me in a letter this week that Daphne is actually Mona with died hair - unfortunately they never gave me a close enough look at her Monday for me to tell for sure, but I don't think it's her. Daphne looks too skinny to me - she doesn't have Mona's generous curves.
Lex Luger continues to run down his lame Sting impersonation. Somebody puleeease just shoot him!! Pleease!!! Monday night they gave him Tank (no talent) Abbot. Served him right, I suppose. Lucky for Lex, Liz maced the guy before the match could get started. This gave Jerry Flynn a chance to exact some revenge against the former UFC athlete.
When Buff Bagwell came out to talk to Chris Kanyon, you know this couldn't take place without DDP getting involved. But surprisingly he didn't. Buff crowned Kanyon with his own champagne bottle and was left once again to face his tournament opponents (Smiley/Aysa) on his own. Smiley tried (unsuccessfully) to wrestle in a Greenville Growl mascot costume. But even with that handicap they were almost too much for Buff...but not quite. Buff and Kanyon advanced. The Revolution ran in afterward to attack Aysa (who is now on the outs), followed by Duggan, who was punked then the Filthy Animals, who cleared the ring.
In their second round matches the Harris Boyz faced Nash and Steiner (who started the match sitting at the announce table). Nash faced the twins alone then retreated to grab a bat. As he distracted the referee, the Varsity Club ran down and took out the twins with chair shots. nWo advanced a second time.
In the final quarter final match - it looked like Buff would face Flair/Crowbar alone (again) after Bam Bam Bigalow threw Kanyon off the platform, but Vampiro came out and took Kanyon's place - and then AA and Funk showed up to have a conversation with Flair, leaving Crowbar on his own for a good portion of the match. Vampiro decided to try and get between the Commissioner and Flair so Funk punched his lights out! Buff then put the blockbuster on him as he returned to the ring and gave Flair an easy pin. Flair/Crowbar advanced. The nWo then appeared on the platform with Daphne but Flair didn't seem to notice...or maybe he did. As we returned from a break, Flair and Crowbar were searching for her in the back.
In the US Title match, Sid seemed like a shoo-in - after all the idea here was to powerbomb your opponent to win the contest. Sid even gets in a chokeslam early on, and then got the powerbomb...but the referee was down and didn't see it. The nWo then ran in and punked Sid with their ball bats. EMT's arrived at the ring only to get the same treatment as Sid.
In the main event, after Nash dominated the competition all by himself, Funk and Anderson (the latter in referee stripes) were true to their word and caused a screwjob ending that gave Flair/Crowbar the Tag Titles. Flair immediately laid Arn out with his crowbar, the nWo punked Funk, then abducted AA and threw him into their car trunk and drove away! A pretty confusing evening indeed.
Serving up yet another typical Helmsley/McMahon Era program of gimmick matches and screwjobs, RAW was live from the American Airlines arena in Miami, Florida - the Rock's home town. Naturally, the Great One opened the show, resplendent in a faux leopard skin sports coat, and made a statement about Mick Foley. He's not happy with Foley's firing, to say the least. He challenged HHH to a match tonight but the challengee begged off, saying he has bigger fish to fry (like a WWF Title match). He countered with a three-on-one handicap match against the Outlaws and X-Pac with the stip that the Rock would be fired if he lost! He then sent his thugs out to punk Maivia right then and there.
The Posse seem to have wedded themselves to the Dudleys these days - five really ugly guys - I think maybe they deserve each other. The Posse decided to attack Rakishi during the Dudleys' match with Too Cool, which brought the Acolytes in to chase them off, leaving the Dudleys to face the wrath of the big islander.
HHH continued his crusade to end Kurt Angle's winning streak by throwing him up against Kane. At the same time he warned Steve Blackman to not interfere at the pain of being fired - except that he worded it thus, "...if you hit Kane with that kendo stick, you're fired." So naturally Blackman came down and used the cane on...Kurt Angle! That got Kane DQ'd, making Angle the winner. HHH was foiled again.
Stephanie decided to bring the two claiments to the Intercontinental Title to the ring to confront the two referees who disagreed about the outcome of the match last week. After playing this scene out for a while she declared that both Chyna and Chris Jericho are the IC Champ, and if either of them loses - they both lose. Bob Holly was immediately granted a Title match against Chyna. During the match, Jericho joined the broadcast, complaining loudly about his situation. JR almost used the competition's term by referring to the Helmsley's as "the powers that..." but caught himself before he completed the phrase. Chyna won the match as Jericho walked off with the belt.
In his World Title match, HHH won the title using low blow followed by the pedegree while X-Pac distracted the referee. Thus he is set up to face Cactus Jack at the Royal Rumble - bet on it...
A supposed handicap match with Test and two partners vs. Prince Albert/Boss Man turned out to be a handicap match the other way when Test's partners were revealed to be the two old ladies. That match was mercifully short and stupid. Another silly match saw the Acolytes face the Posse with one arm each tied behind their backs. The Dudleys arrived yatta, yatta, yatta.
Before he even got into the cage, Al Snow used a pre-bent chair on his opponent then shoved Terri inside before using his own own chain and lock to seal the door. He dominated the proceedings but it was Jeff who won by climbing out of the cage, leaving Terri behind. Fortunately for her, Matt climbed in with a chair and dealt with the deranged Snow.
The seemingly doomed Rocky Maivia, after a hellacious one-sided beating, was saved by another surprise appearance by Mick Foley who blasted all the DX members with a chair. Maivia then recovered enough to put the Rock Bottom on Billy and save his job.
Was it just me or was that one of the lamest RAWs on record..??
Thunder continued the story started at the end of Nitro as Arn Anderson was manhandled into the arena by the nWo and then tortured backstage during the program. Commissioner Funk came down and demanded AA's release after disposing of Juventud Guerrera and Psychosis (who were attempting to take over the broadcast position). Jeff Jarrett delivered the nWo response, which was, in so many words, "bite me!" He managed to slip in his old WWF tag line while he was at it.
Later, Jarrett put up his US Title in a Hardcore style match against Norman Smiley who screamed throughout the contest, then lost after a guitar shot.
I am losing the thread of the Revolution/Filthy Animals feud - they need to sort this situation out while somebody still cares. Same with the Harlem Heat business. Why is Booker always the good guy to his brother's heel character?
I finally got a good look at Daphne Thursday and am prepared to answer the question about whether she and Mona are one in the same...uh...I'm not sure...she still looks too skinny to me and yet... At least David Flair's character was allowed to be decent enough to not be happy about what was happening to his Godfather and then strove to do something about it. He joined Funk in the quest to free the Enforcer and they conducted a prisoner exchange for Jeff Jarrett, who was kidnapped at "crowbar point" in the ring.
It's good to see Chavo Guerrero, Jr. being eased back into the wrestling ring. Too bad they had to match him up with those clowns PG13 against Evan Karagias' vocal group and then have him lose to them. Talk about burying the talent... Afterward the trio did there ersatz Backstreet Boys thing. Where is Terry Funk when you need him??
Tank Abbot proved that besides having no talent in the ring, he also has no talent on the mic. He was brought out to do commentary during Jerry Flynn's match against the Wall and literally stumbled through it. I wonder if this guy can even read..?
The Tag Title match pitting Kidman and Konnan against current title holders David Flair and Crowbar should have been a no brainer, despite Devon Storms acknowledged gifts, but they managed to credibly hold their own right up to the moment that AA limped in to hit Konnan with his Godson's crowbar.
The main event was a hardcore re-match of Terry Funk's "retirement" contest of a few years ago against Bret Hart in Texas (I have a tape of that brawl and it was a barnburner although not faught under Hardcore rules). Mick Foley says in his book that the secret to Funk's realistic looking punches is that he actually hits you as hard as he can! You could see that happening Thursday night on Thunder. After initially taking a beating, Funk came roaring back and gave Hart a Hardcore lesson for a couple minutes before losing ground again. Funk was making his comeback when the nWo hit the ring only to followed out by David Flair in a referee's shirt who didn't even make it to the ring. The whole thing dissolved in an nWo punk job.
Over on SmackDown what can I say...more of the same.
I hear that Vince is coming back some time prior to the Royal Rumble. It can't be soon enough for my money. Admittedly, I don't like the guy's ethics or business practices...but he certainly lights up a program.
One of my Mailroom correspondents this week complained that WWF programming has gone way downhill since the advent of the McMahon-Helmsley Era, and blamed Stephanie for the fall. Another countered that Stephanie was fine and the real culprit is HHH - even suggesting that Steph is carrying him. I'm not sure I know what is going on but I will say that the WWF was almost winning me over with their campaign to make Helmsley into a monster heel, despite my unwillingness to believe he was really up to being a main eventer. Since the "McMahon-Helmsley Error" came into being it appears to me that HHH has lost all of that carefully crafted momentum. Now he has the WWF Title again but it is only too obvious that the reason for it is to set him up to be knocked off by the returning Mick Foley. So once again, Helmsley will use a real main event wrestler as a crutch at the top yet another PPV card. I keep trying to figure out what this guy has on Vince McMahon.
The latest turn in the Chyna/Jericho saga saw the co-holders of the Intercontinental Title teamed up against the Hollys. The Millenium Bug had reason to regret his instruction to Chyna to stand on the apron and look pretty as she turned her back on him when he needed to make a tag. Moments later she clotheslined him on the outside then rolled him back in to be pinned while she walks off with the belt.
By the way - that's Dennis Knight doing the bad Mankind impression. Toward the end of the program, he ran into the realMankind outside the arena and paid dearly for his shenanigans.
Again on this program, the happy couple continued to throw their supposed friends the NAO and X-Pac into lopsided gimmick matches - isn't this charade getting a bit thin? X-Pac got clobbered by the Big Show (yet again...) to start the show. Then Billy was forced to take on both of the Acolytes (who weren't even required to tag in and out!) as his punishment. Road Dogg got Kane, much to his chagrin.
Speaking of Jesse James, he was also Stephanie's victim when he was deliberately suckered in to disturbing psycho-bitch Tori in the bathroom. Stephanie's excuse..."I forgot..." The Dogg was convinced that the match came about because Stephanie ratted him out to the big Red Machine. Not quite, but she certainly set him up for a fall. In the match (one of the better ones of the night, actually), poor James didn't even get the chance to give his usual intro rant before his opponent met him on the ramp and tore into him. In the end, X-Pac suckered Kane out of the ring to turn things around for his friend for a while...but it wasn't enough. Kane won after a Tombstone.
The Rock was to be the pawn in HHH's crusade to end the winning streak of Kurt Angle. After giving the "only real athlete in the WWF" a proper dressing down as only the Rock can, then seemed well on his way to fulfilling HHH's desire...until Steve Blackman came down with his kendo stick. Maivia got the cane away from "the Lethal Snorefest" and then got DQ'd for using it on his opponent. He came back to deliver a People's Elbow after the loss.
Jeff Hardey joined Edge and Christian in a six man match against Al Snow and the Dudleys. Snow is striving mightily to fill Mankind's shoes as "the deranged one" and is doing an admirable job of it. In this match, he kept jumping in without the benefit of a tag, which did litle for his partners' continuity. The good guys defeated them easily after which Snow attacked his companions with Head then walked off talking to himself.
Test got the Boss Man in a regular old match for a change on Thursday. Is the Boss Man ever going to have to defend his Hardcore Title again? I can't remember the last time he had to put it on the line. Of course the Boss man's henchman Prince Albert saw fit to interfere, effectively making this yet another handicap match. In this case, however, it worked against the bad guys as PA accidently booted his partner in the face and gave Test the pin.
The Sweater Vest Posse were handed Kaientai for what was supposed to be an easy win. Fat chance... What ever happened to the "scientific wrestlers vs. brawlers" angle that Kaientai were supposed to be featured in? It seems to have vanished like an oriental wind... Rodney then used his version of the Blockbuster to take out Pete Gas and set himself up to be pinned.
The main event featured HHH defending the WWF Title in a "lottery match" - his opponent to be named in a drawing. Jerry Lawler had the temerity to declare this to be "unique" and "innovative". I guess they really don't watch the competition... The opponent..? Andre the Giant? No, that one was a joke. Moolah? No, HHH wouldn't accept that one. Finally the nod went to Rakishi, which took the Champion by surprise. I notice that Stephanie stands well to the side when her husband sprays his mouthful of water to walk through on his way down the ramp. During the match (which was far better then the title contest on RAW) she definitely had some anxious moments as it see-sawed from start to finish. The other members of DX observed this on the monitor and seemed to really be enjoying themselves. No doubt they will pay for that. In the end, Steph fed HHH a chair and then the title belt to try and put a stop to the match. The belt did the trick, as the referee saw it and DQ'd HHH.
Last night's ECW on TNN treated us to a replay of the closing moments of the barnburner of a World Title match from last week when Mike Awesome regained the Championship, followed by Little Spike Dudley and Company's shenanigans. The female "fan" looked like she was legit hurt, blood spouting from her mouth...but you never know. All of this sets up Dudley's Title match coming up on Sunday at the Guilty as Charged PPV.
One interesting feature this week was a video recap of the entire history of the ECW World Title from Shane Douglas' elevation of the ECW Title to World Championship status to Mike Awesome's latest win from Masato Tanaka to Little Spike Dudley's challenge this weekend.
The middle portion of the program was wasted on a six-man contest that was more battle royal then tag match. Road Kill and Danny Doring were th only two guys I recognized. Nova was one of them I think...and the Duck Brothers? The most interesting moment was a short cat fight between Electra and Jazz.
The main event featured Tommy Dreamer in a hometown "Stairway to Hell" ladder bout against arch rival Justin Credible which almost didn't get started because Credible decided to walk out as the match was about to begin. Undaunted, the Innovator of Violence followed him up to the entryway and then brawled with him all over the arena. The idea in this match was to use the ladder to retreive a kendo stick suspended over the ring then use it on your opponent. Dreamer is the undisputed king of this type of match but, of course, hasn't been 100% physically for some time. Nonetheless, Dreamer managed to get the cane but before he could use it, Jason got involved which brought Francine is, then Lance Storm, then Dawn Marie, then Raven - who cleared the ring so that the two girls could get into a cat fight. In the end Justin Credible put a Tombstone Piledriver on Dreamer and took the fall.
What to do about Ric Flair?
A lot of people were surprised (not the least this reporter) when Terry Funk showed up as the WCW Commissioner the other night. As I mentioned above, WCW had teased this event as the return of Ric Flair to the TV screen on their web site. They posted a "Who will be the Commissioner?" photo with a sillouette which left no doubt who he would be.
Speculation on the Net now is that Flair was originally envisioned as the guy, but that he himself decided he didn't want the job (I use that term figuratively and literally since part of the scenerio included "jobbing" to Kevin Nash at the next PPV) and asked for his release from WCW so he can go to the WWF and work a swan song program with the Rock.
A lot of people are now decrying WCW's actions in refusing to release Flair - as if they really expect the #2 promotions to hand their competition such a ratings booster. There is no doubt in my mind that a Flair/Maivia feud in the WWF would draw the attention of the fans like nothing in recent memory, if only because both are such beloved figures in the business.
And that's why its not going to happen, and honestly, as much as I'd like to see it, I really can't blame WCW for making such a decision. After all the sniping and personal attacks which have gone back and forth between the two companies, why in the world would either of them want to help the other at their own expense? It defies logic.
For my own part, being asked to comment on this controversey puts me in an uncomfortable position because I have long advocated the retirement from the ring of the Nature Boy. As much as I love Flair, and would want the best for him in the twilight of his career, I have a problem getting enthusiastic about any scenerio that has him tarnishing his former greatness by continuing to try and perform in the ring. I have to say that I haven't seen Flair wrestle even close to his previous ability in the last five years. It is literally painfull to watch him at times.
Also, keep in mind that Flair has already previously agreed to a contract which, beginning in February, stipulates that his role be reduced from wrestling to being a company spokesman with a commiserate reduction in salary from $750,000 t0 $500,000 per year (still not a bad chunk of change, as my friend Charlie Harvell put it in a recent letter). Apparently Flair has now decided to abrogate that agreement, which frankly, leaves him without a leg to stand on.
I'm afraid I have to go along with WCW on this one. If he thinks he is going to just leave WCW and go to the competition, Flair is making a mistake.
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