This was filmed in 2006
The interview was conducted by Rob Feinstein and Doug Gentry
Disc One runs for two hours and two minutes long
The interview starts with Larry being asked what he did before wrestling and if he was a fan growing up. He talks about how he first saw wrestling on TV as a 12 year old kid and was hooked after seeing
Bruno Sammartino. He even tells a story during his Freshman year of high school when he told his guidance counselor that he wanted to be a professional wrestler growing up, joking that there was no curriculum for that. Larry said that he did some amateur wrestling.
Larry then tells the story of how he first met Bruno Sammartino. He was at church with his family and when he looked down the pugh, he actually saw Bruno. As the others went to receive communion, Larry sat there and was simply in awe of Bruno, even waiting for him on the steps for an autograph. Bruno gave Larry an autograph, something that he still has to this day, then Larry yelled “good luck against the Beast,” his opponent for that week.
He then tells a story of how he found out where Bruno’s son David went to school through his mother who was a teacher and basically stalked Bruno by following David home and played with him until he saw Bruno, where he struck up a conversation with him. Larry then said that he would speak to Bruno when he saw him in his backyard then years later they began to train together as Bruno took Larry under his wing.
Larry talks about the training as Bruno had a small gym in his basement. Larry said he did the workout Bruno did, which was 1.5 hours just on the chest three times a week. He said there was not much in terms of actual wrestling involved. After two years he could bench 465lbs and Bruno was still doing 505lbs at that time in his 40’s.
At that time he also did some training at Geeto Mongol’s gym. Bill Eadie also started out there with him as Larry said he did not see him until thirty years later because they were never in the same territory together.
He talks about his first match and how he was extremely nervous and wrestled a guy named Buddy who was Canadian. Larry said that Buddy told him to do a “Chinese armbar” which Larry joked was probably a rib on him.
When asked about Vince McMahon Sr., Larry said that he fit into the cliche of the promoter in that era as he dressed in a suit and looked smooth. He also always had someone around him, usually Arnold Skaaland, and would jingle 4 to 5 quarters in his hand.
On working with Mr. Fuji, Larry said that he was great to be with in the ring. He also said that he never hung outwith the guys who ribbed each other then talked about Fuji putting tape on people’s feet and lighting it on fire when they fell asleep. Larry also said that if Fuji did rib you all you could do was laugh as if you returned the favor, he would get you back much worse.
Larry then tells a story of how he was at Mr. Fuji’s house for dinner one night with Professor Tanaka and Fuji and his wife were fighting. Fuji put his wife’s poodle in the freezer (the poodle was alive and did not die, thank god) then after that his wife dumped a bowl of salad on top of his head then Fuji told everyone that it was time to leave. Later on that night, Larry was with “Stretcher” Jack Evans when he heard a “flip-flop” sound followed by screaming outside as he looked out the window and saw a 300lbs woman in a white night gown running and screaming as Professor Tanaka was chasing her from behind wearing flip-flops shooting her in the ass with a BB gun. The next day Fuji’s face was all hacked up after his wife attacked himwith her heel.
He know tells a story about when he worked out in California. He received a letter asking him to be in a movie as the director liked how he moved around for a big guy. Larry saw the guy and read the script that would have him kill people and eat babies in the desert for $1,500 but it lasted for three weeks. Larry said that he made more money wrestling and turned him down. Well, the director he ended up turning down was Wes Craven and the movie was “The Hills Have Eyes.” Larry says he was stupid for turning that down.
On Andre the Giant, Larry said he was fun and a great guy. He tells a story of how they wrestled Chuck O’Connor and Killer Kowalski. They won and typically Andre would lift Larry up afterwards and put him on his shoulder. Larry said he fell on purpose once and pretended he was hurt as Andre became concerned because he never wanted to hurt anyone. When Larry let him know he was ribbing him, Andre got pissed. So, backstage after the match, Larry got out of the shower and was only wearing his underwear when Andre shoved him out of the locker room and locked the door. Larry was in the hallway and eventually Andre and the rest of the guys went to exit so Larry headed back into the locker room but Andre wouldn’t let him back inside. Larry then dropped down and grabbed Andre by the ankles, dropping him to his knees. Larry then goes to crawl inside but Andre grabs him by his underwear and ends up ripping it off completely. Andre starts laughing then the door to the locker room shuts as they are now both locked outside. Larry then said he had to wait outside with just a tiny piece of his underwear left.
Larry tells another story of how he was driving with Tony Garea following Andre the Giant, who was being driven around by a 17 year old kid named “Freddy” who had a huge car that could fit him. Freddy’s car got hit after blowing through a stop sign. The other guy gets out and starts yelling and cursing at Freddy but Andre opens the door and gets out as the guy yells “Jesus Christ!” as he rolled his sleeves back down then went back into the car and locked the doors until the police came.
He said that wrestling the Valiant Brothers were a night off because they always had heat, making it easy to work with. He talks about the difference today where guys dont have heat and have to go out and kill themselves to get the crowd to react. Larry said that his style of wrestling is why he can wrestle today at 54 years ago and did so without putting down the wrestlers of today whatsoever.
Larry then talks about the stars of that era and how the characters were all believable to the fans, comparing it to how when he was later in his career the fans were more smartened up and it took a lot of the emotion out of everything. He then said that he never did a lot in the ring because he got the fans emotionally invested by making them believe that he was a real asshole so they wanted to see him lose.
On how he was paired with Bruno in the WWWF, Larry said that it was Bruno’s idea. He even said that Bruno told him he would break him into the business once he finished college. Larry goes off topic a bit and said that guys would go to Bruno when they were getting low payoffs, who would stick up for them to the promoters. Larry then talks about how business was really down as the WWWF was giving the fans the product the company wanted instead of what the fans wanted so after sitting back and thinking, Larry went to Bruno about his idea to turn on him. Bruno agreed and then it went from there. Larry said it was like “heaven” working with Bruno.
He is asked about Vince Sr. and Jr. at this time as Larry talks about them being great promoters if you can get yourself over but when it comes to creating things they are not very good. At first, they did not go for the turn because Larry wasnt a huge guy like the ones that Bruno faced when he was the champion. Larry said that Vince Jr. wanted Bob Backlund as the champ and said he is still like that today as he doesnt care who the fans want as he will push his guy regardless.
Larry said that Vince Jr. initially thought that his match against Bruno at Shea Stadium would bomb. Larry then said that they were selling out houses leading up to the match as the fans wanted him dead after turning on Bruno.
About jealously in the locker room, Larry said there was not anyone as it was mostly older guys because the business was hard to get into then as they kept people out and they actually felt proud of Larry during that time.
He talks about Hulk Hogan at that time and said that Hogan was worried because he wasn’t really doing much so Larry told him to leave and go somewhere else and that is when Hogan left to film “Rocky 3” then went to the AWA after that. He said that Verne created the babyface Hogan character then Vince Jr. stole it but knew how to promote it a lot better.
Larry talks about the differences in pay between the AWA and WWF in the 1970’s. He said that main event at MSG would get you $6,000 while opening match got you $150. In the AWA, main event at the St. Paul Civic Center got you close to $6,000 while the opening match got your $1,500.
On why he did not end up with the Intercontinental Title, Larry said that the McMahon’s did not like him and did not like Bruno either. He then talked about how the McMahon’s wanted “puppets” but he wasnt going to do that. He said that after the Shea Stadium show it was an end of an era as Vince Jr. got more power and into more surrealistic characters and guys pumped full of steroids.
When asked about Hulk Hogan’s claim that it was him and Andre that drew the house at the Shea Stadium show, Larry said that it was a lie and that Hogan knew better, even referencing how Hogan called Larry his “hero” back when he first started in the WWWF.
Larry said, when asked, that the reason Bob Backlund held the belt that long was because Vince Jr. liked him as he was not drawing money on top. Larry said he does like Backlund and how he is a great wrestler.
On how he left the WWWF, Larry said that they were fucking with him after he stood up for himself as he was originally supposed to beat guys to get a shot at Backlund but when he got to the arena he was told to do the job and Larry said that would cost him a lot of money because back then a loss would shunt you back down the card so he quit.
After quitting he went to work in Georgia Championship Wrestling but he first tells a story of how he worked in Florida and first met Bill Watts, who he calls the “biggest asshole” he has ever met. He was originally going to be booked to look fine and win as he was going back to WWWF as Bruno’s protege and these shows were shown in the WWWF market. However, he found out that he was going to be jobbing in two minutes. Larry said that Eddie Graham hated Bruno after they had some blow-ups and as a result probably hated him too. So, Watts talked to Larry, who went to his office, and said that if this business was a shoot then some people would not be here and got fired, which he didnt care about as he did not want to be there to begin with. Now, Larry is in Georgia and gets in the
locker room and sees Bearcat Wright, who points at him and yells “that’s the guy who told Bill Watts to go fuck himself” and as he does that Jim Barnett and Watts himself are standing behind Wright. Watts was pissed as Larry was in disbelief then Larry joked how Barnett was checking out guys asses before saying how Barnett had him and Watts sit down and talk in his office. Barnett told Larry that they had a place here in Atlanta for him but it was all to try and get Bruno to come down and work there. Barnett then made Watts apologize to Larry as Watts bit his tongue and apologized for firing him in Florida, saying that if he didnt Graham would have done it himself.
He talks about some of the guys in Georgia. Larry got along with Ole Anderson. He said that he “passed” Missy Hyatt onto Jake Roberts as she wanted to move in with him and he did not want that. He also said that Tommy Rich would constantly crash his car and was on his own planet, usually high as a kite.
Larry went to the AWA after Georgia. He talks about how he dated Verne’s daughter first and how at first he thought she was a stuck-up rich girl but as time went he realized she was cool and they snuck around for about a year as he did not want the boys in the locker room giving him shit about dating the boss’s daughter. One night they went to a Moody Blues concert and they realized that just two rows behind them was Greg Gagne and his friends and knew he was busted. The next day, Verne called Larry into his office and as Verne slowly got up Larry yelled out “Dad” as that flustered Verne but Larry said that eventually Verne warmed up and they got along good after that.
Rob asks Larry about Hogan leaving the AWA and how Verne handled that as Larry said he was not there for it but knew that Verne took both Hogan’s and Bobby Heenan’s departure hard. He also said that despite guys not giving proper notice to the booker before leaving, he can understand why the did that for the money.
He said that Nick Bockwinkel was smooth in the ring but that he should have passed the torch at that time to younger guys like Curt Hennig. Larry said that Bruiser Brody was a good guy with him but he was a terrible businessman as he always gave promoters a hard time. Larry said that Curt Hennig was a great kid at the time and always had fun but never did anything to hurt anyone. He talks about Scott Hall and mentioned how he heard Hall put him over in an interview for being an influence in his career. Larry said that Hall had a lot of charisma but thinks he struggled with success. On the Midnight Rockers, Larry said that Marty was the standout early on as he was outgoing and had more charisma but kept on going off of the deep end. He said that Shawn was quiet there but always a good worker. He said that Sgt. Slaughter was easy to work with because he was over. Larry said that Ray Stevens was a fun guy.
Larry said that he was suppose to work a program with Jerry Lawler for the belt but Lawler had already bolted from the promotion with the belt and was threatened with a lawsuit unless he sent the belt back so Lawler did sent it back but not until he smashed it with a hammer and ran it over with his car.
On whether or not Verne fell out of touch with the business, Larry said that it was his beliefs as he was focused on drama and not fireworks and other things as he compares it to people watching poker on TV, with guys barely doing anything, because there is a lot of drama.
About Dale Gagne offering him the AWA Title when he planned to revive the company, Larry said that he does not recall that but said he knew Dale and that he was a local hustler.
Larry now talks about WCW starting and how he didnt like the politics that were going on there so he went back to the AWA, despite knowing the company was on its last legs. Larry said that Verne should have closed the doors at that time. He then said that they were taking with Jim Herd about an invasion angle with the AWA invading WCW as he would put up the AWA belt up against Sting’s NWA title but Jim Barnett convinced Herd that Larry was too old to go up against Sting, the young up-and-comer and that idea was halted then the AWA closed shortly after that. Larry said that Eric Bischoff was sitting there in the office during these conversations as well and that was how he came up with the nWo idea.
After the AWA he went to WCW and teamed with Arn Anderson as the Enforcers. Larry said there was a plan for them to dress as old gangsters and get a push but that also got stopped. He then talks about working against the Steiner Brothers and how Rick was insane and Scott was funny as he tells a story of how in their match, Scott was new and at the time the heels lead the match. Larry saw Scott lean in and grabbed a headlock but Scott was really pissed and started to fight out so Larry went over to tag Arn, who backed off, as Scott continued to amp up as he actually wanted to fight.
About Paul Heyman, Larry said that Heyman used to follow him around as a 12 year old snapping pictures for magazines. Larry then talks about how Heyman was a good manager and got along with him.
Larry said he was not surprised about Steve Austin’s success in the WWF but at the time in WCW he was looking for a character. Larry then talks about how Austin did with a character that no one else before him could do and was able to get away with his language and kick your ass as on TBS they had more restrictions on what you could say where on the USA Network, he could outright say he would kick your ass and use the middle finger then go out and destroy his opponent.
Final Thoughts: Very good interview so far. For those expecting Larry to be bitter and more or less his character in WCW, you are wrong as he was relaxed and telling all sorts of funny stories here. He had a lot to say about the McMahon family, especially Vince Jr. , and its funny how much some of the stuff he said about Vince Jr. rings true today. Even when discussing the difference between wrestling philosophy today from the 70’s and early 80’s he was not at all bitter or dismissive of guys wrestling today, he just spoke calmly and said that he still follows wrestling today too.
Disc Two will be reviewed tomorrow and I will have a more detailed summary and opinion of my thoughts on the interview.
For those interested in watching the interview, you can purchase the interview at RF Video for $20 by clicking on the link below