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Episode 78 - Front Row Section D (#1)
I’m happy to welcome to the Superpodcast John Hitchcock, who was recently on Jeff Bowdren’s great podcast 'Breaking Kayfabe with Jeff Bowdren,' and I thought it was one of the funniest and one of the best wrestling podcast episodes I’ve ever heard and I said I need John on the Superpodcast immediately, and he’s on the line right now. John, thank you for being here today.
John: Well, gentlemen, I’m here and I’m in good spirits, so fire away; let’s get this show on the road.
You know, I was thinking: you told so many stories, and I know there are more and we’ll tell some today, about sitting at that Front Row Section D spot and, just, torturing Babyfaces. I mean, that’s really the only word you could think of for that.
John: Well, you’d like to stir up the mix, you know? You’d like to stir it up-
John: The thing is, back then, you know: 2/3rds of the audience were total believers and as more and more we made our presence known by finally getting on the front row, and then one night, I came up with the idea and said “Look, we’re all gonna wear coats and ties and sunglasses, ‘cause we’re gonna cheer for the bad guys,” you know? We wanna look like – we wanna style and profile, you know what I mean?
John: We didn’t realize, as time went on, that we kinda became the backdrop of Crockett, all during 1984-1985 into ’91: our group was always there. It became really identifiable because of the suits, but also because of the posters that we would make.
A lot of Smart fans began to know these stories because of appearances in newsletters, you know – the Pro Wrestling Torch had a pretty strong Front Row Section D element for a very long time – so Front Row Section D became a legendary thing.
John: Well, you know – it’s funny, because I think the guy at ECW that was wearing the hat – the straw hat – was copying me, which is, you know; which is cool. I don’t know what that guy’s name is, but there’s no doubt he was definitely trying to emulate, and one time, (inaudible) Johnson and Big Eddie and I went to Smoky Mountain reunion thing, and Brian Hildebrand was a great guy; really funny. God bless him. Anyway, we were walking across this parking lot with him, and these two guys from ECW showed up that were fans, and they were bothering Hildebrand. So, of course - what did Hildebrand do? He goes “Do you know who these guys are?” and they were like “Uhhh, no,” and I was looking at Brian like “Come on, man. Leave me alone,” and he goes “Naw – this is Front Row Section D, man. ‘We’ve Herd Enough’.” Those guys went “Oh my god! You’re the Father!” and then they started bowing to us, and I was like “We gotta get the hell outta here, man. We gotta go and get outta here,” and those guys followed us. We had to duck out and get away from it. So, you know. It’s nice that people noticed, but the signs suddenly became lightning rods because people started looking for ‘em, and when WCW took over and the thing started to crash – I swear, you’d think I’m crazy, but I’d get phone calls from guys and they would say “Are you going tonight?” and I was like “Oh, hell yeah. It’s wrestling – we gotta go.” He goes “Well, we were tryin’ to decide if we were gonna go or not, because there’s only, like, 3,000 or 4,000 people there. The deal was: if you were gonna be there and you guys made signs, we were gonna go, because you’re worth goin’ because the wrestling sucks,” and I was like “God, that’s really weird,” you know what I mean? To me, wrestling was it, and it always will be it. It’s just something that I’ve always – I don’t know. Ever since I was a little kid, I was magnetized to it; I was pulled to it. I love it like nothing else, except maybe Carolina Basketball and Comic Books, so it became, like, the thing. People went crazy – I mean, especially during that time period when we first started doing it, and we got down to the front row. People went crazy. I mean, there were people – did I ever tell you the story that one day, I decided, just for the hell of it, to dress like Bubba Rogers? I don’t know why, but I said “This is easy; I already got a suit.” This lady walked up to me during Intermission and she said “Bubba! Big Bubba!” and I went – I looked at her and I went – (deep voice) “Yes?” and she looked at me and said “Would you bless my baby?” (laughing) and I went – I stood up, and I put my hand on her kid’s head and I went (deep voice) “’Yer blessed,” and she went “Oh, thank you! Thank you!” and she ran away, and I’m thinkin’ “That’s the dumbest shit!” That’s the dumbest shit ever, you know? But, it was – people- you know. The funny thing about the front row too is that once we got that front row section and we had that established with a certain group of guys, then, Smart fans and Heel fans would start to get seats in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th row. So, it became almost like a weird fan block of Heel fans and Smart fans that would sit there, so we were kinda protected, you know? The reason why we did the front row anyway is because we needed security because people wanted to kill us. People wanted to just beat the shit out of us. You think I’m kidding, but that’s the way the heat was back then; it was crazy.
How often did security want to kill you? Doug Dellinger must have hated you.
John: You know, it’s a love/hate thing with that guy. I knew at one time he was a cop, but he kinda just stayed- we never did anything were we, like, jumped the rail; you know what I mean?
John: We never did anything, but if the signs were, you know-
But you certainly upset the Booker. (laughing)
John: Well, yeah. If the signs – one time, we decided we were gonna go all out, and I made signs in big letters that spelled out “DUSTY SUCKS,” and it was gonna be huge. This was a TV thing, and you’re gonna not believe this shit, but I swear to god: I’m carrying these signs in, and just as I get up there, there’s David Crockett, Doug Dellinger, and, like, 3 or 4 Greensboro’s finest; the cops. David Crockett goes “There he is! There he is!” and these cops descended on me. David Crockett runs up and goes “You’re not bringing those signs in tonight. You’re not bringing those in.” I go “Come on, David. It stirs up the show, it’s fun,” and he goes “No. You’re not bringing those god damn signs in. You’re not gonna fuck up our show, so you leave – you throw ‘em somewhere, but you can’t bring ‘em in.” I’m looking at cops, like, you know: they have guns, you know what I mean? I’m kind of a pacifist type guy and I’m like “What?!” and he’s like “Yeah – you can’t bring ‘em in!” That’s the first time we EVER got stopped at the Border, you know? I had to hide ‘em out underneath a Pine tree, and never got to use ‘em. One of the guys wanted to go – when David Crockett was callin-, when he was there with Schiavone and Dr. Tom Miller, and – what was the time keeper’s name? He was there forever; he was part of the Riot Squad back in the 40’s and 50’s… - Wally. Wally Dusek. One of the guys had an idea of suddenly, in the middle of a Dusty match, to suddenly yell out “Look at Dusty,” and then headbutt the front row and juice, and go “Look at Dusty! Look at Dusty!” but I said “I don’t think we need to do that. He does that for a livin’ and we’re not getting paid. I don’t think that’s a really good idea.” I’d like to say that was, uh, Bruce Mitchell’s idea, but it was my idea and I suddenly realized that – made a huge mistake. So, ahem, anyway…so it got, just, crazy. (laughing) This shows you ingenuity – I would go to Sears and buy a bed sheet, and I’d tear it in half and then I’d draw the banner – what we wanted to push, what our agenda was as far as cheering for the Heels – and I’d fold it up and stick it in the back of my pants and then walk in. There were people still waiting, going “There he is; he doesn’t have anything.” We pulled the banner out when we needed to – boom. Right across the front. “Yay!” Here comes Doug Dellinger. “You gotta take that down.” “Hmmm…OK. Great; fine. OK.” At least we made our point, you know, so that was cool. But – I think the story that set the whole thing off on a whole different level was the Horsemen/Romper Room night.
Right, and I think that’s one of the things – I’m glad you brought this up – because everyone knows the story. No one’s ever been able to find the exact interview that him, Tully, Ole, and Ric are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; no one’s ever found it. We know it’s from that interview that the name was created and that the name was assigned to these guys, but it’s really one night in Greensboro with you as the ring leader that really christened them ‘The Horsemen’.
John: Well, you know, I contend – and everybody says I’m wrong – that that was the Georgia interview, and now, everybody’s saying it may be a local interview. But, if it was local, we saw it, you know what I mean, in Greensboro, NC. We just thought that was hysterical; that they were like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. We’re like “We gotta do something with that. That’s perfect!” So, you know, all this time, Ric Flair – and even Greg Valentine, a little bit before that – they’d call Ricky and Robert “Romper Room.” So, anyway: we decided – I had this idea that what we were gonna do was we were gonna spell out “Horsemen.” It was a simple thing, but it took forever. Back then, you had those markers with the little nibs on it – you didn’t have those big-ass markers. Thank god for Obin Johnson: he found the markers with the wide nib on ‘em. Shit – I could do it in 10 minutes. This took a WEEK. Customers would come into my store – this is when I worked downtown at Acme Comics – and customers would come into the store and I’d say “Hey man, you got half an hour? You got 15 minutes?” and the guy’d go “Yeah,” and I’d hand him a marker and he’d be filling in the ‘H’. So we spelled out HORSEMEN across the front, but stuck in my mind was the fact that Ric Flair had called them ‘Romper Room’ because they were into the little girls in the t-shirts, and the Horsemen were into the big girls with the sweaters, if you get my drift.
Yes, I get your drift. (laughing)
John: So anyway, it was also the first time that we ever merged with another group. There was a group that – I mentioned on Bowdren’s podcast – there was a group of guys that used to wear Russian shirts with Krusher, Ivan, and Nikita on the back. It was Billy & Jimmy Pritchett, and a great friend of mine – I was best man at his wedding – Bud Grande. We, it turned out, that Bud’s brother Dan - Diamond Dan – was coming into my store, and we hit it off. So, we decided we were gonna get tickets together, and for the first time, we’re gonna have a group. I mean, like, a substantial 10 people sitting in the same aisle. This wasn’t front row: this was in the Orange seats, and the Orange seats are the first risers where the ring is. So, they’re great seats; they’re perfect seats. I met these 3 guys, and they were wearing tape – white surgical tape – over their noses, and I went “Oh my god!” because, you know, they just ran that angle where they beat up Ricky Morton and broke his nose; remember that?
John: So, I’m like “Oh my god, that’s perfect!” So, he had (laughing) – give it to those guys – a roll of tape with him. So, we all put tape on our noses and sat there in our Orange seats. Now, I didn’t have to act like I was a Russian – like I did in the past; I was just gonna be a smart-ass fan. We carried the posters and I told ‘em “We’re gonna turn this place upside down when we do this shit,” ‘cause nobody’s ever done it before! Nobody’s ever hit it that hard as far as being a Smart fan, and like I told you, when I was a kid, I was a Heel fan before I was anywhere near a Smart fan. Even today, they don’t think I’m very smart – but, anyway: we go up and we sit down, and immediately, people start buzzin’ about it because they see that tape. This one lady, she was probably 35, she walked up to us out of nowhere, and we were all in our 20’s, right? She was an older person, and she walked up and she got right over to us and she goes “I have one question for ya.” I said “Sure. Yes, ma’am – what is it?” She goes “Are you wearing that tape to support Ricky Morton, or are you wearing that tape to make fun of Ricky Morton?” and we looked at ‘em, and I said “You mean Hoot and Punky? You gotta be kiddin’ me, baby! We’re here for The Horsemen! We’re here for Flair, and Arn, and Tully, and Ole. We’re here for the REAL men!” Then, we looked at her, and that lady was so mad, she stormed off and she told other people that we were, like, the devil. So, people started comin’ by and yelling at us. I mean, just yelling, you know? It was Obin, and Eddie, and Steve Stamford and a couple other guys, and this new group. We kept stirring it up and having fun and all that stuff, and then, they had an Intermission. During the Intermission, we realized that we had a lot of heat. I mean, I’m telling you brother: we were being surrounded by fans who wanted to beat our ass. I’m sitting there, and what do you do when people start yelling at you? You just cut promos on ‘em, right?
(laughing) Well I don’t know if that-
John: You cut promos on ‘em! ‘Cause, you watch the stuff, so you’re going “Hey, baby! If that’s a Hope Chest, you better keep hopin’! You’ll never be Horsemen material with something like that! If those are Pancakes, you might flip ‘em!” you know? We start talking shit, and one great thing was - there’s only two people that are louder than me: one of ‘em’s Billy Pritchett, and another’s a guy named Mark Simpson. Mark Simpson is known around Greensboro and North Carolina as the Loudest Man in America. He can yell forever and his voice never gives out. So, we’re sitting there, and whenever I’d run out of gas – and as you know – whenever I’d run out of gas, and Bud and Billy and Obin would just start talkin’ more shit, and we’d start cuttin’ on these people and driving ‘em crazy, because we’re basically tellin’ ‘em (laughing) the stuff that the Horsemen, that Flair and them, have been talking for years. It’s getting them more and more agitated, it’s getting them more and more angry, and then, suddenly, we get hit with a drink and I just yell out “Y’all are a bunch of cowards. If you’re gonna do it, you gotta-“ One thing you learn real quick, OK? When you’re in character, by god, you STAY in character. You do NOT suddenly turn Babyface in front of a mob; you gotta stay in character. You got to! You know? You got to. They may not like us, but, eventually, they’ll learn to respect us. Anyway – so, they had an Intermission, and Dan Grande: there was a rain out. The Greensboro Bats – AA/AAA Baseball Team – was sitting up with him in the top, and he was watchin’ this thing, because it’s becoming a fiasco. Matter of fact, it’s the only time in the history of the Greensboro Coliseum - that I remember – that they had 2 Intermissions, and the reason why is: there was so much heat that the wrestlers were walking out from underneath the dressing room to find out what the fuck was happenin’, because we were surrounded – and you think I’m bullshittin’ – we were surrounded by 4-5-600 people all wanting a piece of us, and they’re yellin’ and screamin’ and they’re goin’ nuts, and I’m sitting there and then suddenly: a buddy of mine, Karen Coulson, who always got passes to sit in the press box - and he’s like, bein’ generous, 7,000 pounds – he runs down and he goes “If you need any help, just signal, and I’ll come and help – we’ll fire our way out of here.” I went “Get the hell out of here, you jerk! Man, you know who Ric Flair is? You’re talkin’ about THE MAN, the myth, the legend! Come on! You’re talking about the great Ric. I want my son-“ – I don’t have a kid – “I want my son to grow up like Ric Flair!” and he looks at me, and there’s fear in his eyes. I’m like “Get the hell out of here! I can handle a bunch of idiots! These people are all morons. They need to see the light; they need to know about the great Horsemen. They need to know Arn – how great Arn Anderson is. I mean, ‘Toot, Toot,’ brother; blow your own horn.” We’re talking all this shit, and Dan comes down. I thought Dan – Dan has, you know, lives in the real world, kinda thing? So, Dan walks down and goes “John, you need to take a break and take a look and see what the hell’s goin’ on,” and I went “Aw, come on man! These buncha morons, these rednecks,” and then Obin and Eddie start talkin’ shit, and I stood up and I look. Swear to god, we were surround by at least 5 or 600 people. They were in the aisles in front of us, aisles on the side of us, and lined up behind us, and they were yelling and screaming and wanting to kill us!
Were you in your suits that night?
John: No; no. We were civilian garb. So we’re sitting there, and I suddenly realize “You know what? This is gonna get nasty.” Now, the main event was Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard vs. The Rock and Roll Express for the World Tag Team Titles. Now: Flair was World Champ, Tully was U.S. Champ, and Rock and Roll were the World Tag Champs, right? I suddenly realize Tully and Arn ain’t winnin’ the Tag Belts – they’re gonna do the job and Ricky and Robert are gonna win, and then these people are gonna descend on us and try to kill us because we were talkin’ so much shit; it’s incredible. This one lady walked up to me, and she said “During Intermission, I wrote a poem to pray for your soul, and I’d like to read it to ya.” I’m not bullshittin’! Lady sat there and read this poem, and I looked at her, and I went “Thanks. That brings a lot enlightenment to me. Please go back to your cheap seats – I don’t wanna talk to your ass anymore.” It was, it was incredible! I mean, people were yelling. One lady walked up, and she said “You said I’m not Ric Flair material?!” and one of the guys said something like “Are those Mosquito bites, baby?” as far as her tits are concerned. She said “Are these big enough for ya?!” and she pulls her sweater up and shows us her tits! Of course (laughing), of course, I look at her and I’m like “You need to lose another 30 or 40 pounds before you start hangin’ out with Ole and Arn, you know what I’m sayin’? Flip those Pancakes,” you know what I mean? She stormed off, she told more people: it’s on. They’re surrounding us. They want to fuckin’ kill us. I realize we’re treading on some VERY thin ice here, because we have turned all the hatred for the Heels on us, and here comes the main event, and here comes Tully and here comes Flair, and here comes J.J., and they come walkin’ out. They get into the ring, and then I go “Now,” and we flip the signs and we spell out “Horsemen” with an exclamation point. J.J. sees it first, jumps up, grabs Tully, and goes “Look at that,” and Tully goes “Oh, man. That’s great!” Then, he runs over and grabs Flair, and Flair is, like, turns around and sees it and he goes “That’s awesome! That’s awesome!” and he points to us. Now, they were just celebrating the moment, right? But, they were putting more heat on us, brother. They were pointing us out even more. ‘Course, you couldn’t miss it – it was big poster-sized boards in black spelling out ‘Horsemen’. Then, we flipped it, and it said ‘Romper Room.’ When that happened, J.J. was on the floor: he jumps up into the ring and goes “Oh my god, that’s great!” and he grabs Tully and he goes “You gotta see this shit,” and he points. He sees the ‘Romper Room’ ‘cause just as we flipped ‘Romper Room’, they started playin’, you know “Rock and Roll is king…” and Ricky and Robert are kinda comin’ out. Tully sits on the second turnbuckle, grabs his stomach, and points and is laughing his ass off. I’m like “It’s worth it if we made those guys happy.” As much as they’d given us, as much as we love it, this is the best. J.J. grabs Flair and spins him around, and Flair does the Flair Strut, you know. “Wooo!” and he gets on the second turnbuckle, points at it, and goes “You are the man! You guys are the man!” We go “Holy shit! Ric Flair just said hello to us! This is the fuckin’ greatest shit!” We flip the signs over and we put ‘em down, and so then Ricky and Robert run into the ring and the crowd’s goin’ crazy. I mean, this is – unfortunately, it wasn’t a Pay Per View. It was a House Show, with probably 12 to 14,000 people in attendance, OK? That’s how they packed ‘em in during the Crockett days – everybody went.
As soon as Ricky and Robert hit the ring, Tully, Flair, and J.J. point to us and we hold up ‘Horsemen’ and Ricky and Robert are looking at it like “What the fuck is that?” Then, I swear to god, it was like, J.J. – they spin their finger, and we flip it to Romper Room and we got the tape on our nose. Ricky and Robert went “What the fuck?” You’d see it – their shoulders slumped a little bit like “What the hell is this?” and then we started to chant “Broken Nose, Broken Nose, Broken Nose.” They started throwing popcorn at us, they started throwing drinks at us – it was just insane. We’re sitting there, and then I looked at all the guys and I said “This has been great, but we need to plan the escape route, because Ricky and Robert are not gonna lose the World Tag Belts because Flair and Tully can’t defend ‘em. They can’t defend everything, right?” ‘Course, knowing Tully and Flair, they probably could have. Anyway – so they start the match, and it’s the classic: Ricky and Robert are not selling – kinda shocking – and Flair and Tully are selling all over the place, and the heat’s rising, and we put the posters down real quick, because it’s like “Uh-oh. This shit’s on.” We flipped them over once or twice, and that was it. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Tully grabs a chair, wedges it in the second and third turnbuckle, and Flair grabs Ricky Morton – who’s got the hot little partial hockey-mask kinda thing on his face – and he grabs Ricky Morton by the hair and the back of his trunks, runs him face first into the chair, and then pins him clean. Man, the only time I’d ever been as happy as that was when I was, like, 10 and I got a bicycle at Christmas. We EXPLODED. “Hell yeah! We got all of the belts now, baby! Horsemen rule, baby! We got ALL the belts! We are-“ We’re yelling this at everybody: “We are YOUR champions! We are YOUR champions!” I’m tellin’ ya, and what was great was we’re going “This is the best!” and we’re yelling and screaming and jumping up and down. “We told you people! We told you!” They hate that shit. “We are your champions!” and “We told you!” and then, my favorite line is: “All we’re tryin’ to do is help you! We’re tryin’ to help you to see the light, brother! To see the light that Ric Flair’s a great man; Tully Blanchard’s a great, great, human being.”
Suddenly, Dr. Tom Miller gets into the ring and goes “Ladies and Gentleman, the winner of the match: Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard; this was NOT a match for the World Tag Team Title. This was a Non-Title Match.” They changed the stips of the match because they wanted us to live and get out of there alive. You think I’m kiddin’? I’m not kiddin’. They changed the stips, ‘cause, as I said: it doesn’t make sense for them to have all the belts. All those people that surrounded us – hundreds of people – they all just dissipated. They all just disappeared. They all – and we’re yellin’ “Where’re all those Rock and Roll fans at?!” and we’re like “God. This is the greatest. This is going somewhere,” that Captain Kirk would say “No man has gone before.” So we leave - we carried the signs out. We found out later that if we left signs, people would find them on the floor, and they’d take them to other shows and hold them up and try to get attention, so we always had to take our signs with us. It was kind of a, you know, badge of honor to steal one of our signs, I guess. So, anyway – this is one of the great nights, and obviously, we pulled the tape off our noses as we walked through the crowd and got the fuck out of there. Anyway: so J.J. Dillon and Tully Blanchard have mentioned these that night. I ran into J.J. at one of the Charlotte Reunion shows, and he’s walking around. I said “Look, I hate to bother you, but you’re walking around here, so obviously you want somebody to bother you,” and he starts laughing. I said “Do you remember that night?” and he says “There’s a lot of things I don’t remember, but I’ll never forget that as long as I’ll live.” He said “You guys were brave, man.” Nobody’d ever done that. There’d never been Heel fans that have stood up in unison and cheered like that before. He said “That’s like, the birth of the hardcore fans. That’s the first time it happened,” and then, he said – I think it was Tully that did an interview locally on a radio station – and Tully said “That night, when they were in the dressing room, David Crockett-“ No, not David Crockett. Jim Crockett; not Big Jim Crockett but, you know. The younger one. He went down in the locker room and he goes “What the hell’s this Horsemen stuff? Where the hell’d that come from? What’s that shit? What is that?” because he didn’t know. They went “Arn called us the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on an interview and those guys grabbed it and ran with it, you know? They called us the Horsemen,” and Jim Crockett said “Well, I’ll tell you one thing. It sure looks like that’s getting over. So, from now on, you four guys are the Horsemen – we’re gonna run with this. We’re gonna push this, because this is hot. Did you see that crowd? They wanted to kill those guys. This is great!” That is a true story. Now, am I claiming that I created The Four Horsemen? No. I’m just sayin’ that our group pushed it a notch to get attention to it, which, you know, we didn’t take any bumps; any of that stuff. But, that’s what happened, and that’s what caused The Horsemen to suddenly be referring to themselves as The Horsemen, and it’s just that one big night, because nobody had ever seen anything like it. It was a fiasco as far as the way the fans acted; they wanted to kill us. So, that’s how it happened. Now, I’ve been criticized by this, I’ve been haunted by this – there are podcasts that say I’m a liar, that it never happened, that I’m making it up, and the girl that I was seeing at that time – Angie – was a liar, and people have gone crazy about this. Bottom line is: ask J.J. or ask Tully; they’ll remember. Flair might remember, but I’m tellin’ ya: that was when it all happened and that’s when it all broke down, and that’s when the Horsemen suddenly became the Horsemen – was that night. OK; I stand for applause. Thank you.
Episode 79 - Front Row Section D (#2)
I’m happy to have back on the Superpodcast John Hitchcock, and we have another great story coming from him, and I wanna mention that if you enjoyed John’s segment last week on the show, and you’ve enjoyed hearing him on Breaking Kayfabe with Jeff Bowdren, consider buying his book ‘Front Row Section D’. It’s available on Amazon, of course, use our Amazon link: tinyurl.com/superpodamazon to get it – ‘Front Row Section D’ – but the man himself is on the line: John, welcome back to the show.
John: Hey, it’s great to be here. Thanks a lot; I appreciate it.
You know, we’ve talked about your tormenting of Ricky Morton in the past on both Jeff Bowdren’s show, and of course, on the Superpodcast, but Ricky Morton seemed pretty happy and nice on TV – Magnum T.A. seemed like he could be a bit moody, and Dusty seemed like he could maybe have a problem every now and then. So, when it comes to those two guys, what was it like for them when they came to Greensboro?
John: How many hours you wanna talk about Dusty Rhodes and Magnum? But, you know, the funny thing is: Magnum and I are friends, and Ricky Morton and I are now friends, but after Bowdren’s podcast, I’m convinced that Ricky Morton is gonna hit me, you know, because I told the whole story. But, as time goes on, you begin to appreciate things, and was there ever a guy who was a better seller than Ricky Morton? You know what I mean? I mean, he – we always used to say “Nobody takes a beatin’ like Ricky Morton.” He sells his ass off. I mean, he is a pro’s pro – he puts everybody over. I mean, I have nothing but admiration for that guy as far as talent. Now, Magnum – Magnum began to irritate me as a fan, because as you well know, they were pushing Magnum to the moon in Crockett. Hey – he’s a big guy, he’s a good lookin’ guy, he’s got a great body. I could see that you’d push him to bring the girls in and they pushed him to bring the girls in. But, there were two things that made me turn on (laughing) Magnum. One of ‘em was: they did a program booklet, you know, one of the Crockett program booklets and in the middle was a centerfold of Magnum holdin’ a towel coming out of the shower. I said, “Look – that’s a threaten to every man’s manhood. We cannot cheer for this guy, because there’s just something about that that’s just a little bit too, uh, (coughing) littletoogay.” Anyway – the thing that bothered me the most was that they kept pushing him and pushing him, and Dusty decided he was gonna be the next guy, but his matches lasted 30 seconds, you know? Come off the ropes, hit somebody Belly-to-Belly, 1-2-3. So, you know, you’re paying your money, right? You’re paying 6 bucks, 8 bucks, 10 bucks, whatever it was back then. Tt wasn’t much more than that to sit on the front row. You want to see a guy wrestle; you want to see a guy have a match; you wanna see a guy tell a story. You’re not gonna tell a story with 2 seconds, or 3 seconds, or 10 seconds of Belly-To-Belly and that’s it. The fans popped for it – fans loved it – but we hated it. There’s nothing worse than somebody- we started to think of him in terms of being kind of, you know, him being lazy. Now, is he a talented guy? Hell yeah; he’s talented. If you ever see that stuff on YouTube with him and Wrestling II and the slow heel turn of Wrestling II-
Oh, in Mid-South. Great stuff.
John: That shit’s magic. I mean, that’s so great. Well, anyway – we decided. We had a small group and we were sitting on the other side, and this was before we finally got entrenched in Section D - we were on the other side of the ring – and I made a sign that said ‘Fagnum P.U.’ Simple sign. It’s not politically correct anymore to use that terminology-
No, no, no. ‘Fagnum P.U.’? (laughing)
John: It was Fagnum; Fagnum P.U. Magnum comes out and, you know, we’re holdin’ the sign up and we’re booing the shit outta him, and everybody else is cheering him like crazy. He’s hot – he is pissed off – and then, lo and behold: who comes out to wrestle him but Harley Race. Now, Harley Race and Johnny Valentine had to been the two toughest men who ever walked the planet, you know what I mean? I mean, they’re tough guys. I always thought Flair was a tough guy, because, you know – anyone who wrestled as long as Flair did, it’s a miracle he didn’t get hurt. But, the legend was always Johnny Valentine and the great Harley Race, and Harley Race comes walkin’ down. Harley Race sees the sign, and he kinda chuckles, and we start chanting “Harley! Harley! Harley! Harley!” We only got about 5 or 6 guys, but, you know, as you can tell, I talk pretty loud. Well, they start the match, and it’s a regular kinda give-and-take thing for a couple of minutes, and then, it kinda gets weird and you go “This is different,” and Harley starts whipping Magnum’s ass; I mean, beating the shit out of him. We’re like “This is good. This is REALLY good.” We didn’t expect this – we expected what we’ve been seeing on TV: 10-15 seconds, Belly-To-Belly. We’re like “Harley Race ain’t gonna do no damn Belly-To-Belly like that. He’s got principles; he’s got pride; he’s a legend.” You think I’m bullshittin’, but he grabbed Magnum; threw him through the ropes. By the time Magnum hit the floor, Harley Race had already jumped out of the ring and was waiting on him – picked him up, full-slammed him right in front of us, spit on him, and then said “Read that sign, BOY!” Swear to god, and I stand up and put the sign over him, like “How’s it goin’ Fagnum? You suck! P.U.” and Tommy Young is goin’ “What the hell is goin’ on?” This isn’t planned – this is no book, you know? This shit’s on. So, they say it’s a Disqualification or something. So, Harley starts to walk out, and we’re chanting his name: “Harley! Harley! You’re the man!” Then, I said “You know what? I’m gonna go after Magnum.” I went “Hey Magnum. I thought you were a big deal in this town. Weren’t they pushing you for the strap? Aren’t you, like, the man? Aren’t you Dusty’s boy?” I said “Jesus Christ, you just had an old man kick your fuckin’ ass in Greensboro? In Greensboro?! I thought this was your place! This was your place! This is big time. You let that old man kick your ass? Jesus, man.” Magnum takes the bait, climbs in the ring, grabs the house mic, and he goes – I swear to god, he goes – “Race: you don’t do that to me in Greensboro. Get your ass back out here, and we’ll settle it once and for all.” We look at each other like “You gotta be shitting me, right? We just got finished seeing Magnum beat the fuck out of him, and here it goes!” You know the spot where the Heel would step through the ropes - the good guy would step through the ropes – the middle rope, and then the heel would attack ‘em? You know?
John: Before he got through the ropes?
John: That’s what Magnum did to Harley. Harley was getting through the middle of the ropes, and Magnum attacked him and started throwing punches on his ass. I don’t think this was worked, you know what I’m saying? It was kind of but – he’s hittin’ him. Harley throws a shoulder into Magnum, kinda staggers him back a little bit. Harley gets in the ring – the guy was quick, you know? – he reached up, hits Magnum in the damn head with a punch, grabs him, and throws him over the top rope like a fuckin’ Frisbee; not grabbing the top rope and doing the flip. He’s spinning sideways. I’m not shitting you – I’ve never seen anything like it, and he crashes and burns right on the concrete. There was no pads then. Once again, by the time he was there, he hit the floor – Harley was on top of him. Harley grabbed him, hit him in the face with a punch, slammed his ass, spit on him, and said “If you want some more, get in the ring.” Now, I’m one step away from beating off, you know what I mean? (laughing) It’s like “Holy shit! This is the greatest shit ever!” So, we’re all cheering, you know? “Harley! Harley!” and Magnum gets up, and he looks like a train wreck. I mean, he got thumped, and we’re goin’ “Hey – why don’t you ask him to get back into the ring! Come on! Why don’t you get some more of that?” and Magnum’s hot as shit. OK – flash: next day. At that time, I was a manager at a 7-11; proud of it. I was working, and I get this call from another guy – I think his name was David – he called me. He was a manager at another 7-11, and he called me and he said – he was the manager of a 7-11 over on Market Street in Greensboro – and he goes “Let me ask you a question man: did you go to the matches last night?” I went “Oh, yeah, man. It was incredible!” He said “Magnum was there, wasn’t he?” I said “Oh, yeah, man – you won’t believe what happened. He went nuts; we stirred it up. It was great.” He goes “Well, let me tell you a story.” He said “I’m working 3rd shift last night. Suddenly, Magnum pulls up in a red convertible with a hot blonde, and he comes walking into the 7-11 to get a 6 pack of Tall Boys, right? As he walks in, I say “Hey,” and he says “Hey,” and the girl’s with him – and she’s blonde screamin’ – and he walks up to the counter,” and he said “I just suddenly went “How were the matches tonight?” and Magnum goes “Hmmm..OK,” whatever.” He goes “You know, I got a couple of friends that go and they like to make signs on the front row and really stick it you guys!” Magnum looks at the guy and goes nuts, and just says “If you know that guy who made those signs, you tell him one day, I’m gonna kick his fuckin’ ass! That guy’s an asshole!” and totally pops, and he grabs his beers and he throws them on the fucking counter – one of ‘em explodes – and he goes “Babe, let’s get out of here!” The girl’s going “Maggy, Maggy, I want a beer!” and he goes “We’re going somewhere else – get in the car! We’re outta here!” I’m like “Damn…”
She called him ‘Maggy’?
John: So, the inside story on this – the night before, the Masked Superstar was tagging. He had a year and a half run in Japan with Dick Murdoch, and they were Japanese World Tag Team Champions, right? Had a very, very, popular run; made a lot of money. Eadie – Bill Eadie, the Masked Superstar: one of the great legends and forgotten – almost forgotten – by some people, but nobody was as good as that guy. He was just as good as anybody; Race even said that Bill’s legit. “I’ve never said anything bad about Bill. He’s the greatest.” Anyway – he got a phone call from Dusty, and Dusty told him he had a spot for him: “It’s really hot,” he “has to come right now,” and he goes “I’m in Japan, you know.” He goes “Yeah, you gotta come, you gotta come, you gotta come.” So, he gets on a plane, goes 18 hours to Charlotte, gets off the plane, goes in the dressing room, got his Superstar gear on, and nobody talks to him – nobody. Tommy Young walks up and he goes “Hey! Who’re you wrestling tonight?” and he goes “I don’t know,” and Tommy goes “Well, I heard it’s Magnum,” and Eadie said – I swear to god, he said – “I didn’t know who Magnum was. I’d been in Japan all that time. I don’t know who the hell the guy was.”
Yeah, I don’t think he’d ever really been around him, at that point.
John: Yeah; he wouldn’t have known! Tommy Young goes “I’m really kinda surprised you’re gonna do this,” and he goes “What?” He said “Magnum wins his matches in like, you know, 20 seconds. Belly-To-Belly; boom. That’s it; it’s over.” Eadie goes “Well, I’m not gonna do that,” and he goes “Well, you need to talk to Dusty…” So, Dusty comes over and Dusty walks up and goes “What’s the problem?” and he goes “Well, I heard you got me wrestling this guy Magnum – I don’t know who the hell he is.” He goes “Well, we’re gonna push Magnum to be the next world champion,” blah blah blah, “He’s gotta have big, big, wins. I just want you to go out there, you know, 2 or 3 minutes, Belly-To-Belly, nothing to it. We’ll run with your program after that.” Eadie goes “You mean to tell me you fly me all the way in from fuckin’ Japan, after a big run like that, and I’m comin’ out here and doin’ a job to somebody? I’m not gonna do it. I’m not. Going. To do. It.” And he goes “C’mon, it’ll be a favor – come on brother,” and he says “I’m not gonna do it. I’ll do a count out; I’ll do a DQ; I’ll do any of that kinda smoz stuff,” but he said “Naw, I ain’t doing a job to anybody in 3 minutes. I got a career, I got a reputation; I’m not doing it.” Magnum walks by and goes “What’s the problem?” and Dusty goes “We’re having a problem with the finish,” and he goes “Let me talk to him.” So, Magnum talks to Masked Superstar, and Superstar goes “Look, bottom line is: I don’t think you could beat me in 3 minutes. I’ve built up a career as the Masked Superstar and I’m not gonna be jobbin’. That’s just the way it is.” Magnum says – and I quote – “Let’s settle it in the ring.” I’d rather go up against Godzilla than Bill Eadie in a real deal. The story goes; I got this from a friend of mine, his name’s Dave Ruth. He was a referee – local referee here – in all the independents. He was at that show and got that part of the story – the match lasted 2 to 3 minutes. Masked Superstar beat Magnum, just like that. Just killed him, and then he walked through the curtain in the back room, and he yelled out “Hey Fat Boy – I just kicked your boy Magnum’s ass, and if you’re not happy with that, drag your fat ass to the ring and I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass too.” Needless to say, Bill Eadie told me “Soon, I was on my way to New York to wrestle for Vince.” Turns out, the next night was in Greensboro with Harley, and they brought him in and told him he was gonna lose in 3 minutes, and Magnum said “Let’s settle it in the ring.” So, there you go. People gonna say “Oh, you’re lying.” I swear to god – it’s true. It was like; it was just on. It was like “You think you’re that good?” and, you know: this happens to a lot of guys. They believe – a good example’s Bill Goldberg for example, right? Believed everyone’s doing the job to him with the Spear and the Jackhammer; never believed that anybody could stand up against him – you know what I mean? He never took into account that there were guys out there that could obviously have beaten him. They could have used amateur wrestling, taken him to the mat; whatever. But, a lot of guys, and let’s face it: they believe their pub. After a while, they believe their publicity, they believe their push, and they really don’t live in the real world sometimes. Boy – god bless Magnum, but, you know: what he went through with the car wreck and everything. I had a long talk with him once – my buddy Wayne Brower and I sat down and talked to him, and he wanted to talk to us, and we started talkin’. He was, just, the nicest guy, and god bless him and I hope he continues to do well in this business and his family, but, I’m tellin’ ya: the night I saw it, it was unbelievable. There’s a little snippet of that on YouTube, but it doesn’t have – the camera cut off when the shit got serious, you know what I mean? Which, is a shame. You’d never seen anything like it – I’ve never seen anything like it before, or since. He just killed the guy.
And you held up a sign over his head that said ‘Fagnum P.U.’
John: ‘Fagnum P.U.’, yes. I was very classy and very civic minded. I was all for rights of everyone, and, um, of creed and color…
Well, that’s Magnum – that’s how you tortured Magnum. Dusty- (laughing)
John: The Dusty Rhodes stuff got to be, got to be just too much, because Dusty Rhodes would get in the ring and we’d start razzin’ his ass, and he’d look at us and spit at us and grab his crotch, you know? “Fuck you,” and then one day, I said – he was gonna wrestle Flair; imagine that. Ric Flair having to carry fat-ass Dusty Rhodes, and I made a sign, and it was a Dusty Rhodes sign where Dusty – it was the head of Dusty Rhodes on a Michelin Man. We put “Dusty Fan Club” and we held it up; on the front row. Dusty saw the shit; was hot. Hot. Flair was kinda – whenever you see a wrestler put his hand over his mouth, you know what he’s doing: he’s talkin’ to somebody or he’s hiding the fact that he’s laughing.
John: So, they have a match, and then suddenly, you see Dusty – we’re right there – so Dusty goes to the floor, and they go onto the floor and they start fighting, and what they’re trying to do is Dusty tells Flair “We’re gonna fight down there and I’m gonna grab that sign and I’m gonna tear that shit up.” So, they’re on there, and I swear to god, they get about 4 feet away, and then Flair won’t let him get there. Flair blocks Dusty so he can’t get to the sign, which, basically, infuriates Rhodes more. So, Rhodes turns around and hocks a loogie at us, and it hits the lady beside us; over to the side. It looked like a slug is crawling on her fuckin’ arm – it was nasty. Flair’s laughing, and Dusty is whooping the shit out of him: he’s laying the punches on him. “Mother fucker, I gotta get there and tear that sign up!” No…you’re not…Nature Boy doesn’t want to do it! Nature Boy’s not gonna, and, you know what? There’s nothing you can do about it. ‘Course, if Dusty put his weight behind him, he might have been able to push him to Thomasville; who knows. I got one more story about Dusty Rhodes, which is really funny: we used to go on tour, and the guys – sometimes – we’d fly down to Florida a couple times, went to Baltimore, went to New York – the Meadowlands shows – and we’d go around and check everything out. We’d usually bring a sign that says “Front Row Section D On Tour” and they’d pop up every once in a while at some of the shows. So, anyway, we go down to a Florida show. Dusty isn’t working anymore, but he’s working for TBS and for WCW. Anyway – so, rarely would I ever go into a bar, because we had a certain amount of heat with certain people, and Dusty was number one. I was sitting at the bar and I’m having my Diet Pepsi – because I don’t drink – and in comes walking Schiavone. Tony knows me – Tony got his first break here in Greensboro on the radio, and I’d run into him many times at the shows, and he used to be our ring announcer for a while and he knew about it. He knew about us and how we liked to stir it up; get everything going. So, Schiavone walks over and we start talking about the show and the show was a good show, blah, blah, blah. I saw Pillman at the bar and I went up to Pillman and I said “Hey, Brian. I just have one question: what did you ever do with that cardboarded up Squeegee I gave you back in Greensboro?” and Pillman is drinking a beer, and Pillman grabs me around the neck, hugs me, and goes “I carry that cardboard Squeegee with me in my gear bag, and if Sid ever wants any, I’m gonna beat his ass with a cardboard Squeegee. He’s a big pussy.”
Well, hold on: now you gotta tell that story, because a lot of the listeners-
John: That’s another time; that’s another time. So we’re sitting in the bar, and who comes walking in but the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and Dustin – Dustin Rhodes, who, in my world, he’s not Dustin Rhodes, he’s Dustin Murdoch, and every time I saw him, I called him Murdoch, because it’s kind of obvious – he doesn’t look like Dusty. He looks like Dick Murdoch. So, I would always say “Why don’t you just fess up? Your dad and Dick Murdoch, you know – they were the Outlaws – and sometimes Dusty would be on the road and Dick would be at home…come on. Fess up that that’s your father: your real father is Dick Murdoch.” So, whenever I saw him: “Hey Murdoch! What’s goin’ on?” He goes “Greensboro, you’re so full of shit; leave me alone.” So anyway, they come into the bar, and Dustin comes over to me and starts talkin’ shit! We’re having a good time talking, Schiavone’s talking, and then Dusty walks around the other side of the bar and he’s sitting down, and he’s looking at me. He’s looking at his beer, and he takes a sip and he sees me. Now, this is – you know – this has been quite a long time since we were holdin’ up signs for him, and suddenly looks at me, and the only way to describe it was: he looked like Oliver Hardy. He looked at me and he had this big smile creeped across his face. He looked at me and smiled, and he nodded his head, and then he took another sip of his beer and he got around the bar and he went over to Dustin and very suddenly grabbed him by his shirt, pulled him forward, and said “You realize that’s that asshole from Greensboro? You don’t talk to him. He made those damn signs,” and Dustin goes “Uh, OK. OK,” and he goes back over to the other side of the bar with his dad. Then, he grabbed Schiavone “Do you realize who this is? This is the sign guy from Greensboro – fuck that guy.” So, he walks away, and I look at Schiavone and he gives me the hand signal like “No, no, no. We ain’t talkin’” “OK.” So Dusty goes back around, sits down. He’s right across from me, no more than maybe 10 feet or 15 feet or something, and he looks at me and smiles, nods his head, and “Fuck. You.” And I started laughing. I was like “You win! You win! What the fuck!” So he drinks his beer, and then him and Dustin leave the bar, and I go up to Schiavone and I went “He told you not to talk to me, didn’t he?” and Schiavone goes “You know, that’s the damndest thing. He STILL hates your guts from Greensboro. He STILL hates those signs – he never forget that shit. He hates your guts.” He said “Yeah, he told me not to talk to you. He told me to stay away from you because you were that asshole from Greensboro.” So, that was one of my favorite Dusty Rhodes moments, but that was the last time I ever saw the guy in person.
Did you ever talk with the other fans that got known? I mean, you guys were first, and then, like, the Atlanta Boys kinda became well-known for torturing people, for torturing WCW employees-
John: Atlanta Boys were a carbon copy, and Prazak and Hudson are nothin’ but egg suckin’ dogs, and they don’t have any guts because they never got on the front row – they’d sit in the back! Now, you’re gonna tell me “Why you’re sayin’ this?” Reason is: I went down once to Cobb County Civic Center and I sat with those guys, and they sat in the back and tried to chum around with luminaries like Diamond Dallas Page, who, the only way I’d watch a Diamond Dallas Page match is if he set himself on fire and ran around in a circle for 10 minutes. Boy, what an OVERRATED guy that guy is. But, the Atlanta Boys – they would stir it up, but they wouldn’t sit on the front row and stir it up. You had to stir it up on the front – you had to be on the front lines, you know? So, I consider those guys to be kind of, like – we were the Marines, they were the M.A.S.H. unit behind the lines, OK? So, that’s what I think of those guys. They’re nothin’ but trouble, I tell you! Of course, they are really good friends of mine, but I had to give them some shit, so there you go.
I have so much respect for, I can’t even tell ya: Dave Meltzer is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of wrestling and the news, and the amazing thing about Meltzer – to me – is that he never had an axe to grind. I never saw him go out of his way if anyone was rude to him, you couldn’t tell if you read the Observer, you know what I mean? He’s a real reporter, and he deserves all the credit, and all the respect he deserves. I may not be Wade Keller’s best friend or anything, but he does a good job, and has been there forever. Same with Bruce; I mean, Bruce Mitchell. I got Bruce’s first ticket on the front row back in late ’85/’86, and he does a tremendous job. We went down to Florida a couple of times, and the first time we ran into the Florida guys: Bowdren, and Flaherty – the legendary Dave Flaherty – and a few of the other guys. What’s the guys’ name; Ron Lemieux – we called him Pepe le Pew – and we got to meet those guys, and that was just, like, bond. As soon as you met ‘em, you started talkin’ to ‘em, and, you know how it is: if you meet somebody that loves wrestling as much as you do, it doesn’t take long for you to get along and just immediately start talkin’ to ‘em. I’ve always, always liked the Georgia guys, but I liked the Florida guys too. Florida was a big deal for me, because when I was a kid, my family got cable, in, like, 1970, and I could watch Florida. I got to see Boris Malenko, and I got to see The Texas Outlaws at the end of that, and Dick Murdoch in his prime-
I knew you guys had cable television early in the Greensboro area – I didn’t realize you had Florida wrestling.
John: Yeah, we had Florida. It was a 2 hour block – they would show last week’s show and then this week’s show in a 2 hour block on our local cable station. Got to see the angle where Beautiful Bruce – who was Buggsy McGraw wearing a mask – turned on Malenko and beat him bloodied in the middle of the ring, and Gordon Solie yelled out, at the top of his lungs: “The Human Robot has gone berserk,” which will live in infamy. I thought that was SO great – “The Human Robot has gone berserk.” I couldn’t have been 13 but that was grilled into my head. The thing about Florida - there was a mass period of time where Florida was the best wrestling in the country, and Eddie Graham: there’s no doubt he was a genius. Everybody that was a good booker learned from him, right? Everybody. Got to see, you know, Buddy Colt and Jack Brisco and Jerry Brisco, but especially Jack and Dory and Terry – the Funks. I mean, I got to see all that stuff, and was totally mesmerized by it; it was so great. Then, they took it off TV and put Georgia on in it’s place, which, wasn’t quite the quality.
What year would they have done that?
John: It must have been around…I don’t know, I’d guess ‘75/’76 they went to Georgia. Georgia was great because they had Ole Anderson and Gene Anderson; Thunderbolt Patterson. You had Wrestling II; Rich; the great Buzz Sawyer, who was one of the most athletically gifted guys I ever saw – the guy was incredible. I mean, that’s the first time I ever saw Bruiser Brody, so we were pretty lucky, because we could watch Florida, we could watch WWWF out of Washington, D.C., we could watch World Class – even watch California Championship Wrestling, which was so bad-
The WORST. The worst. Ever.
John: It was so bad, it was great.
It was the worst, ever! (laughing)
John: I loved that shit, because, didn’t they have it, like, in a ballroom or something and sometimes the wrestlers would hit the ropes and people would throw drinks and cups at ‘em and they didn’t even sell it? They just kept bouncing. The great Ripper Savage – I mean, how could you go wrong with Ripper Savage?
Oh, you could go wrong in a lot of ways (laughing) with Ripper Savage.
John: The guy who said “You gonna have to buck dance for Whitey”? I’m like “God damn, what the hell did he just say to that black guy?!” I remember, I think it was the Rock’s father – Rocky Johnson – he said that to Rocky Johnson! I’m like “Did you guys just hear that?!” Anyway. The magic of television.
The magic of television.
John: But, you know – I watched everything, and then they showed the Crockett stuff again at 11 o’clock, so I would watch it again to see if there was anything else, so. It was, like, all day. It was just the greatest.