The SmarK Rant for the RF Video Bill Watts Shoot Interview
(Since we were discussing these today anyway. The interview was done 2000ish and the review was 2003 or so.)
– As always, if you want to buy these shoot interviews, check out www.rfvideo.com for their catalogue.
– Background for those who came in after 1995: Bill Watts is one of my all-time favorite wrestling promoters who unforunately became obselete in the late-80s and never really came to grips with it. Picture if you will Jim Ross running a promotion by himself and being 300 pounds and pissed off all the time to back up his will, and that’s Bill Watts. I think there’s still a lot to be learned from Watts and his methods of running things backstage, but his promoting ideas went the way of the dinosaur around the same time Cornette’s did, which I think is kind of a shame for those of us who can still appreciate the in-ring, physical style of match that Watts always brought to the table with his shows. Watts ran Mid-South and later the UWF until he went out of business in 1986 and got bought out by Jim Crockett, and then had an (in)famous run as Executive VP of WCW in 1992. And away we go…
– We start with footage from the UWF, as a huge brawl between Eddie Gilbert’s heels and Watts’ faces erupts.
– Bill went to the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship, but got killed by the rigorous weight demands that required him to be down around 220 or 215. The university forbade lifting weights because they didn’t understand it (this was the 50s, remember) so after Watts got into a car accident and took time off, he played around with weightlifting and suddenly turned into a 315 pound monster. He signed with the Houston Oilers, but knocked out the coach and needed a new avenue for his aggression as a result.
– His first exposure to wrestling came upon seeing his friend Wahoo McDaniels’ paycheque for one night of working. Bill had never been a fan because all the guys coming through Oklahoma were old and fat, but he gave it a try for the money. I have to wonder if there’s some sort of scam going on with wrestling promoters circulating fake paycheques for show, since every story from the old-timers seems to begin with “I couldn’t believe how much money [x] was making!” and proceeds to “That cheap bastard stiffed me out of all my money and I was living out of a cardboard box for 2 years.”
– He trained under a variety of guys.
– Talks about working with Jim Barnett early in his career. Barnett used to go off for weeks at a time chasing after Rock Hudson. Watts notes that he knew that “Rock Hudson was a fag a long time ago” as a result.
– No one would use him, so he worked as a ref until the fat and slow heels needed new blood to revive the territories and brought him in. He soon started outdrawing everyone because of his charisma, and the same people who wanted new blood got jealous and shipped him out again.
– He got into “a bit of trouble” (never specified) and had to leave the country for a while (which I’d call more than a “bit” of trouble). He ended up hiding out in Vancouver and doing shows there, drawing good money with guys like Don Leo Jonathan. The JFK assassination proved to be a bit of an inconvenience for him, as the territory shut down for a while as a result.
– Back to the US, as Texas needed a big white guy to do a job for Texas champion “Sailor” Art Thomas. It was a 2/3 falls match, but Thomas kept forgetting his spots, so Watts improvised a mat-based match and made Thomas look like a complete fool in the process, until the ref finally told him to take the title and get it over with. That was his first title.
– Got into a fight with the promoter over shitty treatment and left.
– Moved on to another Texas promotion, where they asked him to do a job in two straight falls to “Cowboy” Bob Ellis, but he told them to go fuck themselves and then swerved them by doing the job as a favor to his friend Ellis. They were ecstatic about the match and wanted a rematch for big money, but he told them to go fuck themselves again and went to train with the Vikings instead. They wouldn’t let them wrestler, however, so it was back to wrestling again.
– Vince Sr. & Toots Mondt heard about Watts and wanted him for WWWF TV, so they rescued him from Hogshit, Texas where he was doing spot shows in barns with no bathrooms and brought him to Washington. Killer Kowalski turned him into a star and he formed a friendship with Bruno, but felt he wasn’t going to break through to the superstar level and he left soon after.
– Onto San Francisco, where he hooked up with Roy Shires and learned the art of promoting, plus he learned more about working from Stevens & Patterson. Tons of money for all was made.
– He quit the business early in the 70s and tried a network marketing company, just to make sure he could have a career outside of wrestling. It was still calling him, though, so he went to the AWA a year later. Thought Verne was an asshole but appreciated his ability to see the big picture, in contrast to Shires who was all about the details and nothing else.
– Having cut his teeth on the promoting aspect, he moved back to Oklahoma and told his old promoter Leroy McGuirk what was what, and the upshot was that he was buying him out in a partnership with Verne Gagne & Fritz Von Erich. It was a “death area” that took forever to rebuild, but they did it eventually. Watts got sick of McGuirk’s bullshit and drinking and finally moved to Florida as Eddie Graham’s backstage enforcer. He made tons of money and moved up to booker, despite getting stabbed in the back by Dusty Rhodes at every turn. Finally engineered Rhodes’ face turn in the mid-70s so he could at least make money of him.
– Florida ended up getting so big that he had 8 or 9 main-event level matches on every show and needed to split up the crews a bit in order to spread the wealth.
– Back to Oklahoma, where he used the profits from Florida to buy out McGuirk once and for all, kicking out Gagne & Fritz and taking the entire Mid-South region over for himself, thus creating Mid-South Wrestling.
– Onto the talent therein, as he wanted to bring the young Terry Gordy as a singles star, but Gordy had a co-dependant relationship with Michael Hayes and wouldn’t leave him behind. Watts thought Hayes was an awesome talker but wasn’t worth shit in the ring, so he found Buddy Roberts and made Hayes into a manager. The rest is history.
– Talks about finding JYD in Calgary. Thought he was a terrible worker but had an awesome charisma. Watts always regretted not helping him with his demons, and regretted their bad parting because he never got a chance to tell him how much JYD meant to him all those years.
– Didn’t really realize at the time that Mid-South was making history by the day. Tried to go national before the WWF but couldn’t get a backer. The TV did ungodly numbers at the time, up to 60 shares in some areas.
– He freely admits that he likes tough guys over whiny bastards who can work. At least the tough guys will admit to their faults and listen to your suggestions. He relates a story about telling Steve Williams & Paul Orndorff to do a 60-minute draw and they spent hours complaining about how they couldn’t do it, and eventually got so pissed off at Watts’ stubborn refusal to back down that they simply went out and did the match out of spite. Motivation is motivation, Watts basically says.
– Started running the Superdome and drew insane amounts of money, upwards of $100,000. That’s like Wrestlemania money for a regional promotion. Watts notes for those accusing him of racism that he doesn’t see black or white, only green.
– Onto the Midnight Express story, as his territory was sluggish and he called up Jerry Lawler and asked for his opinion on what was missing. Lawler & Jarrett came over to Mid-South, watched some of the TV, and noted that there were no “blowjobs”. Watts through they meant literally, but indeed they were referring to pretty boy teams to draw in the Backstreet Boy demographic. So Watts went to Memphis and noticed they had too much talent in certain areas, and Jarrett begged him to do something with Jim Cornette, Bobby Eaton, Dennis Condrey and the Rock N Roll Express. So he traded them for Rick Rude & Hacksaw Higgins and took Bill Dundee to book the matches, and made millions.
– They got a green Terry Allen and repackaged him into Magnum TA and made some cash off that. The Fantastics came in as an attempt to follow the RNR, but you can’t follow Morton.
– Talked about Jim Duggan’s sometimes over-enthusiasm for the business, as he once did a hardway blood spot off the post where he cracked his own skull open. His wife called Watts noting that Jim had swelling around the cut, and Bill told her that it was blood poisoning and she might want to get him to a hospital.
– When he was taking Mid-South national, the advertisers thought it sounded too regional, so it became the UWF. They only lost because the oil market died, because otherwise they ready and willing to run with Vince & Crockett. He was losing $50,000 a week at the point when he was forced to sell.
– He salvaged Sting from the Blade Runners and “that piece of shit” Jim Hellwig. No argument there.
– “Cowboy” Bill Watts v. Sting. This is from UWF TV, when Sting was a Gilbert flunky and greener than moldy cheese. Watts quickly powerslams him for the pin at 1:38. As a result of the win, he gets 5 minutes with Eddie Gilbert, but after busting him open and whipping him with his belt, the Freebirds run in and absolutely kick the everloving shit out of him, including a 3-minute Asiatic Spike by Terry Gordy that leaves Watts out cold and spitting up blood. These days, the big angle is an announcer being forced to kiss the owner’s ass. Times, they change.
– Back to the interview, as he does some word assocation. Eddie Gilbert was talented, but lacked the vital ability to shut up at the right time.
– Missy Hyatt: Useless, but she was fucking half the locker room so they had to keep her around.
– Bill Irwin: Loved his brother, liked Bill but never found a niche for him.
– The Von Erichs: Fritz never accepted that his kids were drug addicts and it killed the family.
– Jim Ross: Met him when he was reffing early in his career, and JR loved the business so much that Watts eventually tracked him down again and turned him into a commentator, because he understood who Watts needed to get over and how.
– Favorite angles: Too many to remember, but the usuals are mentioned (Duggan v. Dibiase, the JYD blindness angle, and the Russian Flag angle).
– Clip of the Russians and Eddie Gilbert jumping Watts and covering him with the Russian flag. This was pretty huge, drawing tons of money at the time when Cold War fervor was going full steam ahead. The next week, Watts cuts a scathing anti-Communist promo talking about how the US always follows the rules while Russia gets ahead by breaking them. Of course, in the long run it all proved to be moot, but political analysis was never Bill’s strong point.
– Talks about taking the music video idea from Jerry Jarrett.
– Never had trouble with the graphic violence on his shows, with respect to what advertisers thought. Talks about the general lack of finishes on his shows and how it pissed off the fanbase. His response is basically “too bad, they kept watching so it must have worked.”
– Goes off for a second onto the Syracuse incident and how he would have fired Shawn, Bulldog and the Kid for getting beat up by 9 non-wrestlers. Gotta protect the business at all times.
– Talks about the generally cyclical nature of the business and following through on angles.
– Best bookers for him were Ernie Ladd & Bill Dundee, but he thinks there’s a one-year burnout limit on bookers, especially under him.
– Vince stole a bunch of his talent with no notice, whereas Vince’s dad would steal his talent but give him a month or so to job them out first, plus lend him Andre the Giant for a week or two. Thinks Vince Jr. has problems delegating and needs to build up a farm system so he can send away stale talent and then bring them back later.
– Bill knew he was going out of business, because everyone in the southern US was going broke. Vince didn’t want to buy him out, even after Bill threatened an anti-trust lawsuit to try to force his hand. So Bill did the next best thing, calling Crockett and lying about an offer from Vince, and the deal was thus done. Crockett and Dusty immediately fucked everything up, of course. Crockett offered him a job, but he declined and found Jesus instead.
– Bill thinks that Crockett completely missed the boat on the interpromotional angle, because his ego couldn’t accept that another outside group might actually compete with his home-grown talent, even though he owned both groups and controlled all the outcomes himself. Gee, doesn’t this sound awfully familiar?
– Talks about starting with Turner in 1992, and what an idiot Bill Shaw was. They wanted him to keep the losses under or at least around 8 million dollars, so he dropped the losses to 400 thousand and they still tried to get rid of him.
– Biggest problem: Idiotic contracts seemingly written up by agents and then rubber-stamped by WCW.
– Wanted drug testing, but the executives refused to stand behind them. Tried to improve the workrate, but TBS wanted to cancel wrestling and put movies on instead.
– Talks about Scott Steiner’s frequent roid rages and drug problems. He wanted to turn him heel to at least cash in on his crazy ego problems (this was 1992, remember) but Rick didn’t want to break up the team. He notes that it took WCW another 7 years to realize that they were better off with him as a heel. He thinks Rick is a great guy who got under the bad influence of his brother.
– Gave it a go with Ron Simmons, but he couldn’t make it to the next level, and he was testing positive for drugs, so Bill had to give it up. He stresses again that black athletes dominate every other sport, and it’s unrealistic that blacks don’t play a bigger part in wrestling.
– His thoughts on Jake Roberts: “Gutless piece of shit.” He would look him in the eye and rip his nuts off, but he’s unlikely to find anything there. Ouch! Oh, and he’s also a liar.
– Talks about emphasizing house shows in order to keep the fans guessing.
– Thinks his backstage rep was exaggerated by people with agendas against him. He always respected the workers where it was earned.
– He liked Paul Heyman, but he was an eternal fuckup and just couldn’t work with him on a professional level. Bill thinks Heyman probably has a different view of things these days, now that he’s the owner of ECW. Tried to fire him at one point, but noted because his dad’s a lawyer it’s probably still tied up in court to this day.
– Onto Erik Watts. Bill thinks Erik had the ability and fully deserved his push. He notes all this bullshit didn’t crop up with Dustin Rhodes, but he’s actually wrong, because it DID. It took years for people to forgive Dustin, and only then because Dustin was a hell of a worker from 94-96. Bill bitches about “the sheets” and how they’d tell him to make changes and then bitch when he made them in order to maintain controversy and sell sheets. Bill thinks that Erik would be smart to get out of the business because he’s going to be forever tainted by the shit he went through from the sheets.
– Bill loves Mick Foley and thinks he’s a crazy son of a bitch who always wants to give and give to the business, and he’ll always push those guys over others who take and take. Guys like Kevin Nash (who Bill constantly calls “Vinnie Vegas”), who were going to quit early on before Bill talked them into giving it another try, and then developed a “melon-head” and thought they were hot shit. Bill also thought that DDP was a worthless slug when he started, but gives him full points for turning into a decent worker by sheer force of stubbornness.
– Denies physically intimidating anyone backstage, and doesn’t even know who Chris Candido is. Besides, he notes, he’s 60 years old, who’s he gonna whup?
– Hated all the bullshit booking committees and meetings in WCW. Wanted to fire Dusty, but eventually decided they could work together.
– Quickly onto the WWF and what a crybaby Shawn Michaels is. Shawn came charging into the dressing room when Watts first started and they had this conversation:
“You asshole, you fined me two weeks into my career!”
“Did I ever fine you again?”
“Well, I guess it worked.”
– He liked guys like Nash as long as they did things his way. He thinks Sid is useless, but he always went out and tried harder than anyone and he’d always push him because of that. He’s pissed that guys like Nash and Orndorff, who at one point begged for their jobs with Watts, later buried his son as bookers in retaliation for their petty grudges against him. He thinks that’s cowardly, and he notes that while he may be 60, he’ll still look you in the eye and fight you, so “bring your lunch”. I love that line for some reason.
– Bill Shaw stabbed him in the back for petty political bullshit reasons. Bill thinks he was going after Bob Dhue’s job, but in the end Bischoff cleared out everyone anyway so it ended up not mattering.
– Bill thinks that more support from TBS would have turned things around, like it did in 96-97. Bill wanted to run head-to-head with Vince, an idea that Bischoff later stole and talked Turner into trying.
– Did 3 months of booking for Vince, but it didn’t work for various reasons. Wasn’t personal, though.
– Doesn’t follow the business anymore, but still knows everything that’s wrong with it because it never changes. Sting came up to him and said that the business was different, but Bill replied “Yeah, back in my day we had to draw in order to make money.” Doesn’t want to get back into it, because the sex and violence is against his beliefs. He’s at peace.
– If they brought him back in anywhere, he’d need total autonomy. You need to build up new people with loyalty to the company. Notes that he gained a new respect for Luger in 1995, because he already knew that he was a lazy slug, but wasn’t aware he was also a liar until he double-crossed Vince.
– On Bischoff: Successful creature of the corporate world, but no respect for him at all otherwise. He wanted to fire him in 1992, but the bullshit involved in getting the contract nullified was too much trouble.
– Doesn’t care where the business is in 10 years.
– Plugs his current ventures in pharmaceuticals.
– He stresses that everything is just own damn opinion.
– He bitches a bit more about drugs and steroids in general, and how big uncoordinated lugs like Nash ruin the business without smaller guys for contrast.
– Thinks the old farts should just give it up once they can’t perform anymore.
– The tape ends with a classic match section featuring him against Terry Funk and Jack Brisco, plus the UWF TV show featuring all three titles changing hands on the same show. I won’t bother reviewing them here because the TV stuff isn’t any good in terms of actual in-ring product and the old-school stuff is a bit out of my milieu as a reviewer.
The Bottom Line:
Well, if you’re curious about the territorial days and you want to hear a totally no-bullshit, non-political agenda type of shoot interview, this is it. Bill tells you EXACTLY what he thinks about everyone and everything, and even if his views might be distorted by time or his own perception, he’s sure not gonna lie about things to make himself look better. If you don’t really know who he is already, this isn’t really the tape for you, though.