Dedicated to Gordon Solie
January 29, 1929 - July 27, 2000
You can get more of the latest news and rumors by listening to this week's Solie's Wrestling Radio report.
By Myron Cope
When asked if their bouts are fixed, wrestlers respond not with an answer but with another question: "Want to get in the ring with me and find out if I'm a fake?" Certainly there is no doubt that their business is punishing. Punches are pulled, but a good many, usually those thrown to the belly or high on the opponent's back, land reasonably hard. Broken bones are common to the trade, for not even the most agile wrestler can break his falls night after night.
Despite all skeptics, the advent of television in 1947 multiplied fans at least a thousand fold, and created such outrageous caricatures as wrestlers in long blond hair, Indian headdresses, and fur capes. This mixture of showmanship and violence packed arenas as tightly in New York City as in Wichita Falls, Tex.
At the business end of the wrestling cornucopia stands a lanky, pink faced man of 58 named Vince McMahon, president of Capitol Wrestling Corp., and booking agent for his stable of 40 odd wrestlers, including Cowboy Bill. From his headquarters in a cheaply furnished four room hotel suite in Washington, McMahon controls the eastern "wheel", the most prosperous of a handful of regional circuits across the country. He personally promotes shows in the Coliseum as well as weekly televised matches at studios in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington; additionally, he services 80 clubs in 14 states and occasionally exports his boys to ports as distant as Tokyo.
McMahon deals strictly in "super heavyweights," explaining, "I believe the fan gets a bigger kick out of seeing a 300-pounder hit the canvas or go flying out of the ring." When building the cast for an evenings entertainment, however, he calls on other promoters, each of whom may have his own specialty. There is, for instance, an office in Columbia, S.C., that supplies lady wrestlers and one in Detroit that ships midgets on order. While I was talking to McMahon, his assistant, the former "Jewish Champion," Hereby Freeman covered a phone with his hands and asked, "You want to use two girls here on the third?"
"Yeh, OK," McMahon said. "Ill use two girls and a girl referee."
"He’ll take three," Freeman told South Carolina. "No, he don’t need two more."
"Wait, Herbie. Ill use five and make a tag-team match out of it."
"He’ll take the whole five," said Freeman.
However impersonal, McMahon is a cautious man who has nurtured his gold mine by methods that are in sharp contrast to those of, say, major-league baseball. He does not, for instance, give his big events on TV. Before the cameras, his big-name wrestlers grapple only with lesser performers. Most important, McMahon realizes that the bush leagues, the small-town clubs, are the lifeblood of his business.
"It’s our job to keep the promoters alive," he says. Toward that end, he usually leaves the local promoter with 40 to 50 percent of the receipts, paying the wrestlers himself. No matter how small the town, its promoter is shipped the best McMahon has to offer. Thus Cowboy Bill Watts, only 24 hours after earning $1,000 in Washington, would receive $50 in Harrisburg, Pa.
Harrisburg’s Zembo Temple was a far cry from Washington's Coliseum. Cherry trees lined the walk leading into a terrazzo floor lobby. Cowboy Bill changed clothes in a room appointed with bamboo chaise lounges and reminisced on his beginnings. His father is an Oklahoma City steel salesman, a good Presbyterian who years ago gave up his pre dinner highball lest it have a pernicious effect on his growing children. All the same, Bill impetuously married at 17, was divorced at 19 after fathering a son. Though given an athletic scholarship, he did not graduate from Oklahoma University. He is remembered there as a third-string football tackle and a fairly promising wrestling prospect who, mostly because of disciplinary probation, never saw varsity action. Cowboy Bill left Oklahoma, he says, because of "A love of wine, women and fights."
After a brief trial with the Houston Oilers football club, he obtained an introduction to an Indianapolis wrestling promoter, who put him to work. Wrestling for as little as $25, Big Bill Watts, as he then called himself, drifted to his native Southwest, where he quickly became a popular attraction. Wild Red Berry, he of the Spinoza-Kant leanings, spotted him and tipped off Vince McMahon, who fetched him east and renamed him Cowboy Bill. Now McMahons top villain, the Cowboy has earned as much as $4,000 in a single night. "Everything I do gets a crowd reaction," he said. "If I blow my nose, they howl, because I project. I make ‘em feel my loathing for them."
He climbed into the Harrisburg ring opposite his opponent, the "Irish champion" Don McClarity, who was busy signing autographs. One fan, a comely girl, approached the Cowboys corner for an autograph, but he tore up the paper she handed him, enraging the crowd. Scarcely had the bout begun when a sallow, side burned young man, seated at ringside with his girlfriend, arose and challenged the Cowboy to a fistfight. The Cowboy stepped onto the apron of the ring, directly over the young man, and beckoned to him.
Screaming murderously, the young man elected to enter the ring at a point where two portly, smiling policemen conveniently intercepted him and ushered him back to his chair. "He wanted to be stopped," said the Cowboy later, after he had pinned the Irish champion. "A lot of them do that. If he had gotten into the ring, though, Id have torn his eye out. Never give a mark an even break, because they’ll never give you one. I've got eight stitches on my back where a guy slashed me with a filed down iron comb."
Occasionally wrestlers will warm up for their match by offering to take on any man in the house; the spectator who comes forward officially becomes a mark. As a rule, he is a college wrestler or a practitioner of judo or karate and is certain he will expose the professional as a fraud. He is disappointed, painfully. He is intent upon displaying the special skills he has learned, whereas the pro instantly calls upon every cruel blow imaginable.
"Karate and judo are a lot of overrated bunk," said the Cowboy. "So what if a guy can break a board in half? That board isn't hitting back."
Solie's wishes to thank J. Michael Kenyon of the WAWLI Papers for unearthing this article. Watch for part 4 in the next issue...
I was watching Monday Night Raw last week, and Hulk Hogan (Hollywood moniker is optional) was on his way to the ring for a rant. I, therefore, began looking for some thin metal shards to jab into my eyes and under my fingernails.
The last time I saw Hogan, he was in the Russo-era WCW, and cutting a promo against the New Blood. I clearly remember watching that, and the promo brought out an urge to ram my head against the nearest ceramic tile. Hogan has done that for me for several years.
Maybe it comes from my knowledge that the man's ego is larger than most Third World nation states. Maybe it was because his in-ring skills had deteriorated to the point that he made The Rock look like a technical genius. Maybe, maybe...but I had grown up from the mid teen mark of Yellow and Red Hulk Hogan, to a semi-bitter, Hollywood basher.
He couldn't cut a promo, the nWo was getting stale (and it was ALL his fault, in my opinion), and he could hardly move. His famed muscles were beginning to sag, and I was all over the opinion that Mr. Bollea should just retire. And, why not? I bet many readers of this column would have agreed with me.....Hogan was stalled out after his initial rebirth after his heel turn, and when he tried to bring back the old Yellow and Red, he was basically laughed off the stage. Remember his 'Retirement Match' with Kevin Nash? Then, his 'realism' turn, and "FTNB"; that was better, but his ego was still making it hard for me to take him. HE wouldn't do the job, and that made me mad, as WCW slid down the steep incline towards destruction.
Then, Russo screwed him on a national PPV, and I just about rejoiced. Finally, I said, someone stuck it to Hogan! Someone with a bigger ego than him gave it to him....and embarrassed him. All right! So, Hogan moved under the turbulent surface of pro wrestling....there would be spottings, and reports of sightings, and I generally expected him to retire from the sport. I reasoned that if Hogan couldn't be the ultimate, first place, most worshipped and admired wrestler in the fed he worked in, he would rather sit at home, and watch films of his past glory.
So, after reading the previous several paragraphs, you should get the notion that I was willing to lick out the inside of the tailpipe of my mini van, as opposed to listening to a Hogan promo. But, since my wife was at work, the Plymouth was unavailable, so I sat in the rocking chair and curled up into the fetal position.
And, for the next 17 minutes, I was very, very impressed.
He came out, and fired off a pretty good, moderate promo. Obviously, it was a heel promo, but he got an overwhelming reception, and then, worked well with the Rock, who came out to be the face spoiler to his bashing of the fans. Then, the nWo beat down, which I had seen before (oh, about 1000 times), and the rapid ascent into hyperbole. However, Hogan was very good...until he began repeating that "I'm gonna lay the smack-down on his crippled ass.." line. Even though I think he was trying to get us (the watchers on TV) to hear his comment, he was sliding precipitously close to "Hulkamania-speak" for me, and I slid down into a defensive position while he spoke.
So, then they ran a very WCW-like segment involving the wrecking of the ambulance, and their escape. The rescue of the Rock was also very reminiscent of the WCW, and my brother (HUGE WCW and nWo mark) was quite pleased. But, you know what impressed me? Hogan did a pretty respectable, modern, in-ring promo, and didn't cause me to scream, and run around in circles until I dropped.
So, the jury has come back to the jury room, and I will back off on my harsh judgment of Hulk Hogan. I would like to see him in the ring, and I would like to see how his wrestling skills have remained since his lengthy lay-off. There will be so much charisma, and so little wrestling talent, in the ring at WM18, it might be impossible to watch for the purists...but, I'd try. After all, it is historic that these two titans lock up. The American Hero against the Great One. The 80's against the late 90's. The man who brought wrestling out of the doldrums of the late 70's to the man who exemplifies it's turnaround of the mid 90's. At Wrestlemania, nonetheless. Hmmmm...
Might be interesting. However, MY patience won't last if Hogan pulls his tricks again.
Since you are already at Solie's, make sure you take advantage of all the info here, and come over to bodyslam.cc when you are done, for columns, news, and rumors.
See you next week, for another Connection.
by Earl Oliver
SmackDown was taped Tuesday at the MetroCentre in Rockford, Illinois and opened with a statement by Vince McMahon, saying that the nWo should be "punished" for their actions on Monday. Vince's proposed "punishment" - oh...how about some community service work and a public apology...
Next we go to the ring, where Kurt Angle is whining and complaining about his hard life - saying that he needs to take it out on someone tonight. So he's going to occupy the ring until someone answers his open challenge for a match. So, Kane came out... Kurt attacked his opponent coming into the ring and dominated him Then Kane made a brief comeback before he was suplexed out of his boots. Angle left the ring for a moment and then came back with a chair. This caused an immediate DQ, but the fight went on out to the floor where Kane took the upper hand until Angle hit a low blow, then Olympic slammed his opponent onto the announce table, then followed up with a German suplex onto the already collapsed table. He went for the ring bell, and was blocked by the timekeeper (who looked suspiciously like pro-wrestler Matt Batten). Kurt suplexed him onto the concrete then grabbed his chair and went to work on Kane's ankle with it.
Backstage, Ric Flair commented to Arn Anderson on what just went down, then was interrupted by the Undertaker, who wanted an answer to his challenge from Monday. Flair still said "No". UT reiterated his promise to do something to make Flair change his mind. Before he left, he looked at Arn and said, "I guess when it comes to Horsemen, you were the one with all the guts..."
The next segment was an extended review of the nWo's actions thus far, including their spectacular run in with the Rock on Monday night. Funny how they just happened to have a camera mounted in the truck - and on the ambulance... This was followed by a shot of Hogan, Hall and Nash walking in a hallway - then we went to commercial.
After the break, the three of them came to the ring and delivered a statement of apology prepared by Vince McMahon's attorneys. Hogan read the final section, then promised the Rock that he wouldn't be sorry for what he will do to the Rock at WrestleMania. Then all hell broke loose! Steve Austin drove his pickup truck right to the ring then attacked the three of them with a tire iron!! Hogan and Nash escaped serious harm but Austin caught Hall on the ramp and worried his ankle pretty good. He then tried to back his truck over him, but Hogan and Nash snatched their partner and hauled him away just in time.
After the break, the nWo came out to their limo and found that its tires were flat and the word "What?" was spray painted on the side. Hall was limping and being supported by the other two - Hogan was holding his ribs. Austin came barreling out in his truck and the chase was on again.
Edge faced off with his brother, Christian in the next match. Edge won it after a short but brutal battle. Afterward, Christian reclined on the mat and and made a whinny statement about not being able to win a match anymore. Then he quit! Meanwhile, Hogan and Nash ran into an office to hide out, then realized that Hall wasn't with them.
After the break we found out that Austin had Hall taped to an office chair in a beer storage locker!
Next up - the Hardeys and Rob Van Dam vs. the Dudleys and Lance Storm in a tag team battle. Boy, did this one smack of old rivalries or what? In one telling moment, Stacy entered the ring and hit Matt - this brought Lita in to confront her, but Bubba was right behind her and spun her around. Matt got 3D'd but then Jeff hit a swanton on Bubba before he could get the pin. After a moment of confusion, Lita hit the Frankensteiner on Storm, then RVD hit a frog splash on him and took the pin.
Backstage, Stephanie tried to intimidate Flair but was then confronted and insulted by her soon-to-be ex-husband. In another part of the building, Steve Austin offered to take Scott Hall for a ride. After the break, Nash and Hogan found where Hall had been held captive, then went looking some more.
Billy & Chuck challenged Spike and Tazz for the Tag Team Titles...and won.
Austin wheeled Hall into a maintenance bay to wait for Hogan and Nash to show up.
During a backstage interview with the new Tag Champs, the APA walked up and told them to get some pictures with the belts...while they can. Back at the maintenance bay, Hogan and Nash found Hall and were immediately attacked by Austin with the tire iron. He then locked the two of them in the enclosure and rolled Hall away!
Stephanie came out to the ring to announce that Triple H would win the World Title over her dead body. This brought Chris Jericho out to tell her that he never meant any of those mean (but true) things he used to say about her. He told her that she is a genius and that HHH was nothing without her. She agreed. She then proposed that they become business partners with the destruction of Triple H being their chief service. The Millennium Bug agreed then joined Steph and the announce team at ringside for the next match.
That was Triple H vs. The Undertaker, of course. HHH came to the ring, headed straight to the announce table and spit water all over the Champ. Stephanie tried to slap Hunter but he grabbed her and set up a Pedigree. Jericho recovered and prevented it. They continued to battle it out right up until the Undertaker rode down to the ring on his bike. The "match" itself was anticlimactic - HHH landed one blow upside UT's head as he tried to enter the ring. The dead man turned tail and rode away.
After the last break, Stone Cold came back to the ring in his truck, with Scott Hall unconscious in the back. he dragged Hall into the ring and started hitting him with beer cans! He grabbed a mic and mocked Hall with a "Hey, yo!" or two. Then he took him and his buddies to task for spoiling his Title shot at the PPV. He beat some more on the helpless Hall then offered him a beer. He tried to get Hall to toast beer cans with him - then hit him with a Stunner. The final insult was spray painting "3:16" on his back just before the show went off the air.
Raw came to us live from the Dunkin Donuts Center (hey, I don't make these things up...) in Providence, Rhode Island and opened with the nWo coming to the ring with a covered wheelbarrow. Hogan declared that he expected the Rock to show up tonight and that he plans to go eye-to-eye with him. Then Scott Hall took the mic and decried his treatment at the hands of Steve Austin on SmackDown! He challenged Austin to a one-on-one match at WrestleMania. In the meantime, he offered an "amnesty" - the two of them would call a truce until the PPV. We didn;t find out what was in the wheelbarrow, by the way.
The first match was a Tag Team Title contest - the Hardeys challenging Billy & Chuck. After Lita hit her "Lita-canranna" on Billy, it looked like the Hardeys were going to take it with a Twist of Fate" and a Swanton - but Chuck ran in and out a boot upside Jeff's head. Billy came to and pinned him.
Out back, Chris Jericho and Stephanie arrived in a huge limo. In another part of the building, Mike Cole interviewed Steve Austin, who accepted Scott Hall's challenge...but not his conditions...
Next up, an Intercontinental Title contender three-way match pitting Rob Van Dam, Lance Storm and the Big Show. Toward the end of this one, Storm was dumped to the outside, while in the ring, Van Dam hit a Van Daminator on the Big Show and pinned him.
Backstage, Booker T was studying Japanese for a Japanese shampoo commercial when Test came in to banter...badly. In the next match, Booker took on Rikishi. The big man dominated the action for several minutes, then Booker downed him with one well placed kick to the face. meanwhile, the APA have been invited back to the bar they destroyed last year.
After the break, Jericho and Stephanie came to the ring to toot their collective horn. Jericho showed the footage of him putting Triple H into the Walls of Jericho on the announce table right after Hunter had torn his quadriceps last year. They were in the middle of questioning the Game's manhood when the subject himself showed up and and went right to the ring with a smirk on his face. He neatly turned Stephanie's slur around, then she had the temerity to ask him what he meant. He made a reference to the relative sizes of their genitalia (in a most genteel manner, of course...) The he challenged Jericho to a non-title match tonight. This brought Kurt Angle to the platform...for some reason. Actually, he did have a reason to be there - he announced that Mr. McMahon has signed a World Title match for tonight - Angle to challenge Jericho. Stephanie and Jericho were stunned...then Jericho was attacked by HHH.
Mighty Molly challenged Jazz for the Womens' Title in the next match. She didn't win. After the match, Jazz slapped an STF on her then left her laying in the ring.
After the break, as Molly was being helped out, the Undertaker showed up. He passed by the retreating officials then suddenly assaulted Arn Anderson. Obviously, he is trying to goad Ric Flair. UT beat AAA bloody, stopping once to taunt Flair on the mic. Today is Ric Flair's birthday, by the way. Every time Arn got back to his feet, UT returned to the ring and knocked him back down.
Kurt Angle went after Jericho with a vengeance at the beginning of his World Title challenge, but the Champ soon turned the tables and gave back as good as he had received. Later, Angle made a come back and managed to slap the ankle lock on Jericho - but the latter escaped to the ropes. Moments later, he turned the tables once more and got the Walls of Jericho. Angle made it to the ropes. Jericho then went and grabbed his belts, and the ring bell to use as weapons. Angle surprised the Champ, however, hitting him with his own belt then grabbed the ankle lock again. jericho got to the ropes again then hit an insiguri. Angle fell out to the floor only to find Kane waiting for him! Kane military pressed Angle and threw him back in the ring, where Jericho pinned him. Kane entered the ring afterward and attacked Angle again. Out on the floor, he tried to hit the Olympic hero with a couple of chairs then chased him away through the crowd.
Backstage, Flair arrived, heard what happened to Arn, then sped off in his limo - presumably to the hospital.
In the Rock's dressing room, Hulk Hogan faced the Rock...'s cardboard standup, and destroyed him. Meanwhile, the APA have arrived at the bar, which apparently turned into Vince McMahon's idea of a gay bar - complete with burly cross-dressers. As Bradshaw is trying to worm out of an invitation to dance, Billy & Chuck ran in and punked both of them. In the backstage area, the nWo wished Mr. Perfect luck in his match against Steve Austin tonight.
That match was next and started right at the top of the 11 o'clock hour. Hennig was giving Austin a pretty good wrestling lesson until Austin took a page from AAA's playbook and delivered a great spine buster. After some more back and forth action, Austin delivered a Stunner and got the pin. As he was celebrating his win, Scott Hall came down with his wheelbarrow, which was full of concrete blocks. The two of them got into it out on the floor, then Hogan and Nash showed up. Austin was punked and then Hall broke one of the blocks over his left knee!! That was all we needed to end the show. Austin writhing in pain in the ring as the nWo stalked away.
Not a bad ending to a rather lackluster program...
At least that's the way I see it...
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