Ron Skoler is a prominent Entertainment Lawyer based out of New York City, and has had a varied career intertwined between his endeavors in music, practicing law, and wrestling. Ron's involvement in wrestling lies with the IWC - International Wrestling Council - and his partnership with AAA, with the zenith of his involvement being a co-promoter on the famed When Worlds Collide PPV in 1994 alongside WCW and AAA.
You can contact Ron for consul and browse his website - with all his various endeavors and accomplishments listed - at www.skolerlaw.com
Episode 17 - Transcript (Part 1)
*Note - All questions asked are from the perspective of TGBL. Questions marked with parenthesis (____) are voiced by Bix.*
While Vince McMahon has dominated live event promotion in professional wrestling since 1984, there was a brief period of time in the early to mid 90’s where there was another promoter who was the most successful live event promoter in the United States, and that man was Ron Skoler. Before I introduce Ron, I want to read a quick quote hear from Konnan in a 1994 Torch Talk with Wade Keller, and this sums it up: “My respects to Ron Skoler, because he had this vision; this idea to bring wrestling to the US on a large scale from Mexico. Knowing that it was on cable, he had a dream, and it worked.” And joining us today – joining me and Bix here on the Superpodcast – is my old friend Ron Skoler. Ron, how are you today?
Ron: I’m good, thank you. That’s a nice introduction - I didn’t know Konnan said that. Hi Brian; Hi Bix.
So, Ron, before we get going with your history with Mexican wrestling and other things, tell me – what are your earliest memories of professional wrestling? When did you start attending professional wrestling, and where did you start attending professional wrestling?
Ron: (laughing) It’s funny – I remember watching it as a kid on TV in New York. It was on Saturday afternoons; it was on – I don’t remember what time it was – late morning early afternoon. It was the WWWF and it was on either before or after The Riflemen reruns, and I remember, you know, watching it. I said “What is this?” it was fascinating, and Bruno Sammartino was the champion and, you know, you had Killer Kowalski, Gorilla Monsoon, Dr. Jerry Graham; you know. Argentina Apollo – all these guys. I remember, you know, watching this stuff – and I must have been like, I don’t know, 10 or 11 – I was watching it with my cousin one time – who was from Massachusetts who was staying with us – and he was a few years older than me and he said “I bet I can predict who wins every match,” and I said “No, no way – what are you talking about?” He said “Okay, this match – this is who’s gonna win, this who is gonna win…” and I’m like “What are you talking about? How could you say that?” I mean, how could you say that Klondike Bill or Prince Nero or any of these guys – I didn’t realize were jobbers. He’s bigger, he’s heavier, he’s stronger, he’s gonna do this – and sure enough, every match my cousin was right. I knew that “Hmmm, that’s weird. He’s really got some ESP going here…” or there’s something else happening. But it was fascinating and I enjoyed watching it, and it was something where you could suspend your disbelief and I remember my father took me to a couple of matches, you know, I got a little bit older. I remember he tried to take me to Madison Square Garden to see Sammartino against Baba but I was too young, and I don’t know if you had to be 14 or whatever it was-
Ron: How old?
Ron: 14. I must have been like 12 or 11 or something – 12 maybe – and they wouldn’t let me in (laughing) because of that; I think it’s ridiculous. I did go to a show at the Island Garden Arena at the time; I saw Sammartino against Baron Scicluna, and I went to a show at Sunnyside Gardens where I saw Antonino Rocca and his partner Johnny Walker – who then became later Mr. Wrestling II, I think – against the Von Hess brothers, and Lenny Montana was there – who was Luca Brasi from The Godfather – just some really kinda great cool memories of that. I look back on those days and, you know, I liked it. I have fond memories.
Obviously when you would later become involved as a promoter in professional wrestling, one of the things you were able to do was use your connections in the music business to really propel the company, and I know you started young in the music business – you started interviewing rock acts when you were a teenager I believe, is that correct?
Ron: Yeah, um, I had kind of an interesting left-of-center childhood and, you know, adolescence, and a friend of mine and I were putting out an underground magazine in Jr. High School, and from there I started writing record reviews for some of the national music publications. Being in New York, there were a lot of rock shows that came by and I would do interviews with people – I exited at the height of my profession at the age of 17 when I interviewed John Lennon and Yoko Ono and then I went to college after that (laughing) and basically stopped the whole journalism thing, but I was fortunate. I got to interview Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, John and Yoko for two days, you know, various rock stars at the time. I met Frank Zappa and met a lot of people and it was really – they were great moments.
So you would go to school and you’d become a lawyer, and -
Ron: In-between then, I went up to Boston – I was going to Emerson College and I formed a rock band, I was writing songs, and I would send these demo tapes to record producers and managers and stuff – anyone I thought that would be interested. I got a call from Mike Appel who was an up-and-coming record producer and manager at the time who had managed Springsteen, and everything I thought about myself he thought was the opposite. Like, I thought that I was a really good lyricist, but had a really terrible voice and was not a good musician. He said “You know, I really like your voice – it’s a really interesting voice, in fact I’d like you to record some songs that I wrote” because Mike used to be a songwriter for David Cassidy and the Partridge Family and stuff-
He was in The Balloon Farm.
Ron: He was in The Balloon Farm, yeah, an underground group – “A Question of Temperature” right? That was their so-called hit? Mike is a good guy – I represent him there, he’s still a friend. He said “Your lyrics don’t make any sense,” and I thought about it and said “I guess maybe it doesn’t” and I wasn’t even on drugs. It was like, stream-of-consciousness stuff. So when I graduated, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Mike gave me a job working for him in his office as an assistant and I learned the business, I worked there for a year, I met his lawyer Jules Kerrs and I decided Entertainment Law - that’s something I can do, and opened several doors and I did that. I never deviated and I made many sacrifices to accomplish that. I took a job in the music industry for exactly half the money that I would have made working for a law firm, you know, doing negligence work that I had no interest in doing. So I actually took – literally – half of what I would have gotten paid, which still wasn’t that much even if I took the other job. My mother and my girlfriend at the time thought I had gone crazy, but, you know, I think you have to do what you like, or as Joseph Campbell says “Follow your bliss.” That’s what I’ve done – I think if you do something that you enjoy and you’re fortunate enough to be able to do that, things will fall into place.
When your name first started popping up in wrestling newsletters in the early 90's, the two – the one act and the one record company that were most often applied to your name was Public Enemy and Lethal Records. Before we go further with the wrestling stuff, tell us a little bit about Public Enemy and Lethal Records.
Ron: Well, what happened was I was working – my job was as an in-house lawyer, business affairs, what-have-you for a company called PTX which was owned by a guy named Ed Chalpin, and Ed had – years before – discovered Jimi Hendrix and worked with various people and made a lot of money from Hendrix through lawsuits (laughing) basically; worked with Jimmy Cliff and a lot of people. I was fortunate enough to get a job working for him – he’s a very difficult person. I remember one time, I left and came back two years later when he asked me and he’d gone through 9 different attorneys in two years; very difficult guy. But, that was okay, because it toughened me up and I always got along pretty well with difficult people, because I guess I was willing to take more pain to get where I wanted to go (laughing) than other people were. I guess it’s really about how much you’re willing to put up with. When I was there, you know, I had an open door and I let people come up and talk to me if they had something that was interesting, and when I came back to PTX for the second stint, I made a deal with Ed and I said “Look, I’ll give you 30 hours a week, I’ll do whatever you need of me, an office, a secretary, and everything above that, let me do my own thing and build a practice” and he said OK and gave me a weekly salary. Weekly meaning W-E-E-K and W-E-A-K at the same time, and one of the groups that came to me was Public Enemy, but it was not really Public Enemy – it was just Chuck D at that time and Hank Shocklee who was his partner and producer at that time. They really wanted to form the company called Rhythm Method and I couldn’t do that without Ed because I was working under his group so I dragged him kicking and screaming into it, and we formed a company, and we launched not just Public Enemy but Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, worked with DJ Red Alert, De La Soul, and even Queen Latifah early on. So, it was just a lot going on and I was really fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, and that’s pretty much what happened. I opened my own office.
Those are the centerpieces of New York Hip Hop in the late 80's.
Ron: Yeah, late 80's early 90's, yeah. Lethal Records was something that came later after the Mexican wrestling – a distributor in Chicago offered me the chance to have my own label, so we put that together for a while and then I changed and moved over to Polygram and then to Warner. We had moderate success with it, you know, nothing big but a couple of things that did OK. Again, that was, like, the wrestling was right in-between that, and Lethal Records came afterwards and Rhythm Method Enterprises, Public Enemy and all that was before that.
So correct me where I’m wrong, but in 1992, you’re listening to John Arezzi’s Pro Wrestling Spotlight and you like what you hear and you get in touch with him?
Ron: We started promoting, I think it was from 93-95.
Right, but I’m talking about before you started promoting.
Ron: Yeah. Right. So how initially what happened was I guess I was listening to the radio and they had this wrestling – I was always kind of fascinated with professional wrestling. I mean, I would get the magazines sometimes and I’d see all these things like these people that I’d never seen in wrestling but these great pictures with these guys bleeding to death on the cover. You know, The Sheik and Bruiser and Crusher and Bull Curry and all these psychos-
Ron: Oh, Bobby Heenan the manager. It was just some cool stuff – I was always fascinated with it and I’d occasionally go to matches at the Garden, you know, when I was in college and stuff like that when I was in New York. I always kind of was interested in it, then I kind of lost track of it for a while and somehow I was listening to the radio and I heard Arezzi’s show. It was fascinating to me because they were really talking about – it was stripping away the veneer of professional wrestling, and they were talking about what was really going on with it and that it’s a work and all of that. I mean, I always kinda knew that, but it was always interesting to me, because it was pretty much a hidden world, yet I liked it and I liked the idea of suspending your disbelief and having an escape and getting involved in that. I respect the talent of the wrestlers and the managers and what they have to go through – it’s a grueling thing. I can understand why they don’t like the expression “fake” because they get hurt quite a bit, probably more than the other professional athletes do. When I was listening to Arezzi’s show, Russo – what was his first name?
Ron: Vince Russo was on with him too and then they had the falling out, and I started listening to him right a week or two before they had the falling out is when I was first listening to them. I think I called them up just to whatever, say hello, what have you, I like the show – when they were off the air. I remember Russo called me back once; didn’t have a great rapport with him but I liked John. Then what happened was, I would be just channel surfing – maybe 6 months later – and I would see Galavision. I would see these Mexican wrestlers and I’m like – can I curse on your show?
Oh yes, feel free.
Ron: OK. I don’t have to though, and I’d say “What is going on??” where I would have said “What the fuck is this?” and these are guys that they were lighter, they were smaller, they were more acrobatic, they wore masks, and it was like a whole new world to me! I really wasn’t interested in the Hulk Hogan era, because to me, Hulk Hogan – I met him once, he’s a nice guy and I respect what he’s accomplished – but that whole era: Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior – those are like cartoon characters to me. It wasn’t something that was a great interest to me. I like Ric Flair, though. I remember watching Galavision and just saying “whoa, this is great” – these acrobatic moves, these crazy death-defying moves like somebody jumping off a high diving board but there’s no water there. I was like “Wow - this is fascinating, this is great, this is exciting.” So, I called John Arezzi – because he was my one contact in the wrestling world at that point – and I said “What is this? Do you know who this is? What is going on? Is anybody promoting this? What’s happening?” and he said yeah, he knew about it – Antonio Peña was the guy and that he could put me in touch with him if he wanted to. He didn’t know him, but he knew how to reach him. So I said “Yeah, I’m interested,” so I called my friend Darryl Brooks. Darryl works with (inaudible) Carol and Darryl – I knew them from the music industry because they were partners with a client of mine: Herbie Love Bug who produced and wrote songs for Salt n’ Pepa and various successful hip-hop artists; Kid n’ Play. A lot of people who were successful at the time. Carol and Darryl were from Washington, D.C., and they were the major promoters there of all the urban events, and they also nationally promoted and they promoted shows for Luther Vandross and Vogue, Prince, Def Comedy Jam; you know. Fresh Fast – all that kind of stuff. They were well respected and they had a lot of juice with the arenas, so I called Darryl and I said “You know, this is something – you’re gonna think I’m crazy, but check this out,” and he was open minded to it and he didn’t know anything about Lucha Libre and Mexican wrestling, so he watched it. He had some mild interest in it, so through Arezzi, we contacted Antonio Peña and he invited us to Mexico to see TripleMania, which was their version I guess of WrestleMania, and it was in the bull ring in Mexico City. It was sold out – they had 48,000 people. So I remember going down there – Darryl Brooks, myself, we had an interpreter; I’m not sure if Arezzi went with us that time or not. I think he didn’t make that trip. Darryl and myself and the interpreter went down there and we met Peña and Konnan. We were there for this amazing event – we brought Jake the Snake Roberts with us because that was to set up an angle, and Jake the Snake ran into the ring during the Konnan vs. Cien Caras match with Mascarita Sagrada also and he ran in, he picked up Mascarita Sagrada – the mini midget – and threw him down and antagonized the crowd. We had to run for our lives – my shoe came off as we were trying to escape (laughing) you know, from where we were sitting, because they thought Jake was sitting near us. Fortunately, Darryl got my shoe back, and that was the beginning of it all.
So that’s April of 1993, and you go down there-
Ron: Peña took us to a restaurant / bar in Mexico City. I remember – it’s kind of weird – because on television, everyone was watching car crashes (laughing). They had something on, I mean, I don’t know where that was from the Indianapolis 500 or Nascar / Daytona, whatever, and they were just watching car crashes, which is pretty sick, but everybody was watching that and I’m like “Oh my god, look at that, look at that,” you know.
(Well, that’s Mexican TV – just very different culturally, I mean. You still have – I think it’s toned down at least as far as the Spanish speaking.)
Ron: Maybe we SHOULD build a wall, come to think of it. (laughing)
(I think it’s been toned down a little as the Spanish speaking TV in the US – you think about, even just with wrestling though in Mexico-)
Ron: It’s always just people sitting around watching auto crashes, like. People getting killed and it’s like, that’s entertainment.
(Well, you know, CMLL aired Oro dying on TV, when Pentagon overdosed and nearly died in the ring, AAA aired that! It’s just the culture.)
Ron: I didn’t know that. Wow. I guess that, you know, TV footage is at a premium.
So Ron, you’re down there in April of ‘93 for TripleMania and Peña takes you guys out – you and Darryl. Who else is with you guys at this restaurant, and how does the conversation start?
Ron: His assistant – a guy named Chucho – was there, might have been some company, I think my ex-wife was there at the time, and Darryl.
None of the workers.
Ron: We talked about it and said we want to start running and Darryl suggested the Sports Arena in Los Angeles and, you know, up until then, they were just doing shows in gyms and places, and before that, of course, was the Olympic Auditorium, but that wasn’t Peña. He was running wrestling in Los Angeles, which was not Lucha Libre, but Gordman and Goliath and stuff like that from Mexico. We really had a vision to take it to the next level and to promote Mexican wrestling in the same arenas – in the same stadiums – that the Clippers played in or the Lakers or where the Knicks or the Rangers would be playing, or where Bruce Springsteen would be playing, or Prince. So that was the vision – to take it as far as it could go. The first show that we did – La Revancha – was at the sports arena, and they had never had a Lucha Libre event there before. We promoted that, put a lot of money into it, lot of advertising – not one word in English, by the way. All the advertising was in Spanish – whether it was radio advertising, TV advertising, print advertising, and I remember that the show was on a Saturday. I remember as of Friday afternoon, I talked to the box office and said “How many tickets did you sell?” and they said “Well we’ve sold 6,000 tickets.” 6,000 tickets and the place held 17,000. I said “Hmmm.” So what do you predict? No – it was 6500 tickets. I said “What do you predict?” and they said “Well if this is like a WWE event – at the time WWF – they said that it would probably do about 8 thousand, 8500 people. I said “Mmmm..” and I’m thinking yeah, that might be enough to break even. Alright – not bad for the first time; we’ll see. Well, the next morning – Saturday morning – I got a call and they said that there were lines all around the stadium, you know, in the morning for people buying tickets! I didn’t realize that for a Mexican event, it’s really a same-day buy, and they kept buying all day long, to the point where we sold out all 17,000 seats, then an extra thousand to go 1000 above capacity so we had 18,000, and then we had 8,000 people turned away! It blew me away; I was incredibly happy. I remember the evening of the show, I go in there and – this may be funny – I’m talking to Manuel Escalante who was the lawyer for AAA, and the parent company. He was educated at UCLA, so he was Mexican but he was very Americanized as well. He was telling me how happy he was and I was very happy and beaming, and then I look over at Darryl Brooks and he looks like, you know, he’s just having a miserable time. He has a miserable expression on his face (laughing). So I go over to him and say “What’s the matter?” “Just leave me alone, just leave me alone please.” What’s the matter with him? So then Gerald Scott, who was Darryl’s number one guy – these are all guys from the R'n'B/Hip Hop business, and Gerald said to me “You don’t understand how a promoter thinks.” I said “What do you mean?” He said “You are happy – you’re looking at this like ‘Wow, isn’t this amazing, isn’t this great? We sold 18,000 seats, we got a quarter of a million dollar house, this is the first time we ran it, isn’t this great?’ and look at all that.” Darryl was looking at it like – “OK, we sold this out, but we just turned away 8 thousand people – I got 8000 motherfuckers with money in their pockets and I ain’t got a second show.”
Yeah, and there was a big traffic jam!
Ron: There can’t be a second show for wrestling like there’s a second show for a boxing match – what, wrestle again? If this was Luther Vandross or something that he was familiar with, and they sold out and add a second show, but you can’t do that with this. I was still very happy about that.
(Now, going back a second – you mentioned Chucho. That was actually Antonio Peña’s partner – and it’s not speaking out of turn because this was something that went public when Chucho passed away a few years ago. That was Peña’s longtime partner.)
Ron: Well; OK.
(Romantic partner, yeah.)
Ron: So Peña was gay – I know.
(No, I’m just explaining for those who are listening – Chucho was his romantic partner.)
Ron: I didn’t know that at the time – that Peña was gay – which is fine. I was not aware of that, and Chucho was much younger than him. I think he introduced him as his nephew.
(They might not have always been a couple; I knew he worked in the office for a long time though.)
Ron: He was a lot younger and look, to each their own. Peña was a beautiful guy – he was a great guy and to me, he was the Walt Disney of Wrestling.
(I mean, when Chucho passed, he was as beloved-)
Ron: What did Chucho die of?
(I don’t recall – it was a few years ago.)
Ron: I didn’t know that; that’s too bad. It seems like people talk about the music business and how people die young, but it’s got nothing on wrestling. When I hear about people who were professional wrestlers or people involved in the wrestling business, you know, there’s such a short lifespan; it’s really tragic.
Yeah – you know, speaking of music, you’re now around Peña, Konnan’s his top star – and I’m sure you’re around Konnan a bunch. Did you ever talk to them about music and did they express what they were into?
Ron: (laughing) Oh of course. Konnan – I like Konnan. He’s a really interesting guy, and he’s got a great vocabulary. He was always interested in music, of course. I remember in New York when he was here one time and he was trying to get the new album by Snoop Dogg, and they didn’t have it yet. He’d go to every – at that time – record stores. Tower Records, Virgin, whatever. He goes “Do you have the new Snoop Doggy Dogg album?” I can’t imitate him like I used to, but he was – he kept asking “Snoop Doggy Dogg” he’d say, and nobody had it. I’m sure he helped drum up a demand. But we talked about music all the time – he liked Prince, he liked Earth, Wind and Fire, and he said Earth, Wind and Fire was I think his favorite group and he said “There’s only one word to describe their music, and that word is elegant.”
(laughing) Maurice White just passed away, yeah. Elegant for Earth, Wind and Fire.
Ron: But at least he made it to an older age, you know, unlike a lot of people that I knew like Art Barr and Eddie Guerrero and Louie Spicolli.
Well, we’ll definitely get to them shortly. Let me ask you this – you’re dealing with Peña regularly, and like I said, Konnan is his top star and is the biggest star in Mexico at that time. La Revancha was a 3-way match between Konnan, Jake Roberts, and Cien Caras and coming months after that TripleMania match which was career vs. career with Cien Caras and Konnan in which Jake cost Konnan the match. Do you start right away having regular communication with Konnan? Is Konnan someone who wants to be very involved in what’s going on in the company?
Ron: Yes, of course! Konnan is – he even said this too, he said “You know I’m a loquacious fellow,” that’s another thing he said. He likes to talk. He would be calling Meltzer all the time, and he’d be calling me and probably Keller, and if he knew you he’d be calling you. He’d be calling everybody and being very much involved, and he was the guy that wanted to be involved in all the politics and everything else. You know, just took an interest in everything. He said to me that the show that we ran in L.A. – the first one, La Revancha – was very historic, he was very happy about it, and he just had a very good take on it; a very interesting take. I enjoyed working with him, you know, we were friendly. We had a falling out at one point but that didn’t last long, and I always respect Konnan; I always liked him. He’s one of the most interesting and entertaining people I’ve ever met.
Yeah! Konnan’s the top star there at that time, and Cien Caras is the top heel. You also have Perro Aguayo and you have a young Rey Mysterio Jr. – what were the relationships you had with any of the other talent, and when you first start watching AAA on Galavision, who are the specific wrestlers that stood out to you?
Ron: Oh that’s a good question. Well, first of all, let me just say that at TripleMania that I went to in Mexico City – the wrestler that stood out to me the most was La Parka. He had a match against Lizmark, and that was a fantastic match. After that match, that really stood out to me. Other than that, I mean, watching it on Galavision and in person, Konnan certainly. Although, Konnan’s style wasn’t really a Lucha Libre style, per-se. He was agile, but he had more of an American style, I think, as opposed to a Rey Mysterio Jr., who was fantastic, or Heavy Metal. The guys who stood out to me would really be the flyers – the guys who would do these death-defying leaps off the top rope; the crazy, suicidal, homicidal moves they’d do. You know, Rey Mysterio Jr., Heavy Metal, let’s see; a lot of them.
You know, Rey Mysterio – when you first see him without his mask, what are you thinking?
Ron: I thought he was a kid! At the time, I mean, he was pretty young. I remember talking to him in the library of the Mondrian Hotel – where we were all staying at the time in Los Angeles – and I didn’t even know who he was at first. Then, I realized it, and he was there with his girlfriend and he was – I mean, I don’t know how old he was in real life, but he looked like 17.
You mentioned Konnan would call the various newsletters – when did you start first getting The Wrestling Observer or The Wrestling Torch or any of the publications that were covering AAA and your promotion the IWC?
Ron: When they started comping me and sending it to me (laughing). I guess when we started promoting right around ’93.
What did you think? I mean, you’re someone from the music industry – you’ve seen many trade publications…
Ron: I thought it was fascinating. I liked the Observer. I could see why it’d become addictive to people to read that because Meltzer was somebody who – I’m sure still is – is totally obsessed with wrestling and immersed in it. I mean, he lives for that. I think that was the main thing in his life, and he was very driven and very devoted. You know, I like reading it. I thought it was very interesting – that being said, he could only print what people told him, basically, or what he saw for himself, and I think that it was very easy in some ways to swerve him, because somebody would call him up and tell him something and if he trusted them, he’d print it, and a lot of times it wasn’t true. Like, for example, they’d be running shows at the Juan de la Barrera gym in Mexico City and it was probably Konnan that was giving him the information “oh, every week, sold out, 10,500 people, 10,500 people.” Well, the Juan de la Barrera gym was at a training facility for the Olympics for swimming, you know, which is really what that is. It couldn’t hold more than 3,000 to 3500 people. So, if he’s saying 10,500 people, I mean, maybe if you multiply it by 3.
But Ron, going back: you’re actively running. The name of your organization is the IWC – how do you come to that?
Ron: Because they wouldn’t let me use IWS – which is the International Wrestling Syndicate –and syndicate you can’t say; it’s like drug cartel or mob. Which is why I wanted to use it! I thought it was kinda cool and funny, and they wouldn’t let me use that, so we came up with IWC, which sounded like World Boxing Council or something like that; kind of innocuous. It wasn’t my first choice.
I mean, there was no thought into just running the shows as AAA – you wanted your own promotional outfit.
Ron: Yeah, because we weren’t AAA. Was it run by Televisa? Yeah – and it was owned by Televisa and Peña didn’t want it that way, either, because that was owned by Televisa and we wanted to have something for ourselves.
Around this time, you-
Ron: The thing that really, you know, Televisa was very uncooperative. They owned the wrestling company, but they really didn’t care about it. They really treated it, you know, like the red-headed step-child, and they couldn’t care less. I remember we had a meeting with the son of the guy who owned the whole thing, and he was interested in talking to Gary Juster because it was Turner Broadcasting, but he couldn’t have cared less about the wrestling. I felt like a potted plant in that room.
Let me ask you this – so you go down in April for TripleMania and by August, you’re already running La Revancha; a record setting house in Los Angeles at the Sports Arena. So, I mean, things happen pretty quickly – things move very fast-
Ron: Very fast, because the next night against my wishes, Carol and Darryl had scheduled a show in San Diego. I said “Why do you wanna do that? Why?” They said, “Well, it’s a routing thing.” – they’re still thinking music industry which is not; wrestling is more like the circus than the music industry. They’re saying “Oh, if we have them here, we’ve got the visas, we’ve got everything, let’s do this,” and we ended up losing money in San Diego. I mean, we still were ahead – we didn’t lose that much that it was a loss for the whole weekend, but it cut into the profits we made the night before! What they didn’t realize is that, you know, San Diego is very different than Los Angeles and it’s very close to Tijuana. It was a really bad idea.
Around this time, you were still – obviously – you’re based out of New York; your office is in Manhattan.
Ron: I went to Los Angeles 5-6 times a year, Mexico city, you know 3-4 times a year, and it was racking up the frequent flyer miles in those days. Now I don’t have to travel like that; I really hate travelling.
In New York, you’re still appearing – somewhat regularly – on John Arezzi’s show, because John was a real booster on the air for the IWC-
Ron: Well he was involved with us. He had a small piece of the company. We cut him in.
Oh – I actually did not know that!
Wow, OK. So he had a vested interest in promoting it on the air in New York. (laughing)
Ron: Yeah, I guess so. For a while – at the end, I don’t know what happened, but we worked something out but he was involved with us at one point.
So – did Peña, what did he think of John Arezzi?
Ron: He liked him! In fact, Peña wanted to create a wrestling character about John Arezzi – he knew John Arezzi starting out wanted to be a wrestler?
Yeah, he wrestled in a handicap match against Dusty Rhodes in ‘78 or ‘79.
Ron: and Peter Maivia.
Yes – that was a tag match.
Ron: He had been there and he’d never wrestled before, and Gorilla Monsoon asked him “Are you a heel or a face?” and he said “Heel” so they put him in the ring against – I don’t know how many matches he actually had – but when he got hit by Peter Maivia it was, he felt he had a concussion, you know, on his head. Either a real concussion or his head hurt, later they come over like “Are you OK?” or whatever. He really came in without any training as far as I knew it, so, you know, he had guts to do that. Either that or taken leave of his senses, but he did actually get into the ring. Vince Jr. was the announcer – I’d love to see a copy of that match. Anyway – not to digress too much-
I’ll send you a copy of the match after we’re done – It’s on YouTube.
Ron: It’s on YouTube? My god. Anyways – so Peña came up with an idea to create a Lucha Libre wrestler named Papucho. Papucho is like – it’s like a slang term, I don’t think it’s an actual word; it means something like “Cutie Pie,” Adorable One. He was going to put Arezzi in a 3-way as a tag team – 6 man tag team matches, primarily. He was going to team him with Latin Lover and somebody else, like two of the best looking guys there, and then Papucho was going to come out dressed like Cupid. That was the idea. It would have been a great idea, and John was considering it, but he felt that it was going to take too much of a toll on him physically, so he wasn’t really – he never really pursued it. That was Peña’s idea – I like John Arezzi, you know; I miss him. He was always nice to me and stuff, and kind of helped me get back into this world; he was my contact. Papucho would have been a real, real, interesting concept – I would have loved to have seen that happen; at least one match.
Episode 18 - Transcript (Part 2)
*Note - All questions asked are from the perspective of TGBL. Questions marked with parenthesis (____) are voiced by Bix.*
So, you know – moving on. La Revancha’s obviously a major, major success, and you continue running shows – I guess quarterly?
Ron: No – we ran the next show about four months later, and we thought “Wow, we really could have sold 26,000 tickets the first time” and it was the hottest match you could imagine. There was so much heat – people are throwing nachos and cheese and stuff and Jake was covered in nacho’s and cheese, and Diamond Dallas Page and security guards – who were like off duty cops – they were afraid of the crowd, and they were like “We’re not gonna get beat up or killed because of you!” and they were like letting them walk back themselves. It was like – I remember DDP said after the match, he said “We had more protection in the AWA than this.” We had security, but the security were like “Uh-uh. I’m not gonna get killed.” So Jake and DDP had to fight their way back to the dressing room (laughing) and they were covered in cheese and nachos and stuff that people were pelting them with. It was a crazy match, and there was so much heat in the building that it was inconceivable to me that the people who were there that night wouldn’t run to buy tickets to the next event. We ran the next event about 4 months later and, you know, we had something like 14,000-15,000 people, which was not bad, but it wasn’t- wait. Actually, I think we had 16,000 people, but it was not sold out and it was disappointing to us because we thought it was going to be just like before – at least 18,000 people, and maybe people turned away and we’ll have to run another show sooner and all that. But, we did not sell out, and it was a loaded card. It was every bit as good as La Revancha was, and we had people that came in from all over the country to see that match, come in and watch it; it was very historic. But, it didn’t sell out. Then, I realized that wrestling – promoting these big events – was like the circus: to do these really big shows, you really do it once or twice a year. You don’t run it every 3 or 4 months, unless you’re running it in smaller venues. Up until La Revancha, there hadn’t been a major Lucha Libre show in L.A. – well, there had never been a show on that level with that many people in that kind of a venue ever before – but the last major show was years before. Other than that, they were running in a gym at a college, and it was no-where near this. So, then they decide – “Well, I’ll spend the money on Mexican rodeo; maybe I’ll go to a concert of Los Tigres del Muerte,” whatever. We’ll go to this, we’ll go to that instead. There’s always things competing for the money, and it’s always a same day buy because they’re so used to getting screwed, you know, when events get cancelled and things like that. So – the bloom was off the rose a little bit. It was still profitable but it wasn’t what I had thought what we could really build on it. I think part of the reason I have to blame is Galavision and Televisa, because no matter what I would try to tell them or beg them, or cajole them, or plead them; whatever I would do – it fell on deaf ears. We couldn’t get any continuity. One week, the wrestling show was on a 2 o’clock. The next week, it’d be on at 4 o’clock. The next week would be 3:30. The next time it would be on because they’d have some special. The next time would be 6’o clock, and there was no continuity; like we were able to build up all the heat from TripleMania – which was shown on television for weeks later and months later in Mexico and therefore in the United States – we didn’t have that continuity for the second show. I wanted to get television. I knew that if we could get TV, we could have done amazing things. I had so many great angles and so many great storylines that never got off the ground that would have been unbelievable –off the charts – that we never got to do. We brought in a tag-team of these two white wrestlers in L.A. that we called La Migra – you know, the immigration police. We could have built that into a big thing if we had television, but we didn’t. That’s really the worst thing – the most frustrating thing – about the whole thing. Could you imagine if WWE didn’t have continuity on television? If you were having a match, you know, between John Cena and Undertaker or whatever, and you’re not able to build that up week after week, week after week, week after week, but you’re still showing matches between Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior? It was pathetic. I thought Peña was wonderful, he was great, and as far as Galavision and Televisa, I have less than no respect for them.
(Two questions stemming from what you just said – the first, this is just a quick thing if the answer is what I think it might be - as far as the local-)
Ron: By the way, one more thing. It’s amazing how the worst people tend to own the best products. You know, whether it’s film studios, record companies, TV networks that own wrestling companies; it’s astonishing. It’s no wonder that Vince McMahon has accomplished what he’s done, because he’s another one who’s really focused, driven, and a genius of what he does, and he’s not controlled by a television network.
(The Los Angeles TV that AAA had – was that controlled by Televisa, or could be-)
Ron: Yeah. It was controlled by Televisa, but they couldn’t care less as far as helping to build up shows either in Mexico or- for example, they’d show matches from Tijuana, or Mexico City, or even our matches from Los Angeles or Oakland; wherever we were running. They’d show the matches but they wouldn’t do anything as far as a storyline – or lead the storyline with the angles that we had – to build up to the next match. We had to buy time on the stations for this “top dollar” and just buy advertising. When we had the Lucha En Haula match – Lucha in a cage – we had to build the cage (laughing) and we had to advertise that, and we had great commercials and stuff but it cost a fortune. They really were not involved – even though Peña was a partner in our promotions – and Triple A got a sizable cut from our shows; Peña was not able to control television, but the people who did control television gave us no assistance at all. It never built from one show to the next on television – we never had that support. The only thing that built was the commercials we’d run.
(The other thing was since you mentioned you realized that more than, say, 4x per year or so that the big shows were kinda – not necessarily untenable, but didn’t do as well as you liked. As far as maybe-)
Ron: The last big show – the second to last big show that we did – was Quando Los Muchos Choca: When Worlds Collide which was the PPV with WCW.
(Right, but as far-)
Ron: That one had a pretty good house. It also wasn’t a sellout, but had a very good house.
(Right. So you mentioned the idea of maybe doing smaller shows to kind of bridge the gap – how much did you explore that as far as maybe running more regularly?)
Ron: Well, I explored it as much as I could, but as you know, a house divided cannot stand. I mean, I talked to the people who owned the Olympic Auditorium – they had me for dinner on a Friday night at their house with this family and everything – and we had a very good conversation, but Darryl was never interested in that, because to run in a 6 or 7 thousand seat venue was just not interesting to them because it wasn’t a big-enough payday.
So, you run La Revancha, you bounce back in November, and you say that although the house was still very good, it was down from what you guys had anticipated-
Ron: What we really needed was a TV show that we controlled, and I was hoping to get something like that through WCW. Bischoff actually mentioned that idea about what he called “doing a down and dirty wrestling program.” It’d feature a lot of our guys, and I thought that was great and that’s really what I wanted, and we could have done a Spanish version and an English version of that show. Unfortunately, that never materialized, but that’s maybe another question.
Well, we’ve a few more things before we get to your relationship with WCW and Eric Bischoff and Gary Juster and everyone else that was involved in that, but one of the more memorable shows you promoted was March of ’94 – March 12 of 1994 – in Los Angeles. That was the one – the main event was Konnan against Jake Roberts in a cage, but the match that I think most people remember was Mascarita Sagrada against Espectrito – 2 out of 3 falls for the IWC Mini’s title; considered maybe the greatest mini’s match of all time. Espectrito just recently passed away – what are your memories about that match and about working with the Mexican minis?
Ron: That was a fantastic match. I think that a lot of the minis – especially Espectrito and Mascarita Sagrada – as far as workers were up there with any of the best wrestlers that you could name, regardless of their size. They were tremendous talents, it was a great match. I was fortunate enough to be there to promote it and to watch it. I got to know Espectrito a little bit – more so than Mascarita – and Espectrito was really a wonderful guy; hung out with him a little bit in Los Angeles and in Mexico city as well. He was just a really nice guy and I’m sorry to learn of his death. I still have the minis belt, actually. That’s one of the few mementos that I retained that I still have here – the IWC Minis Championship.
That’s really, really cool. Do you remember how you went about making the belts? Who you contacted?
Ron: Yeah, I think John Arezzi told me who to contact and it was a guy in Arizona who makes all the belts, and he made some beautiful belts for us. I never got back the IWC Heavyweight Belt that Cien Caras had. I don’t know if he can still make money with that, god bless him, or whoever’s got it by now. I don’t have that one back – I don’t have the Tag Team anything. But, I do have the Women’s one, but I do have the Minis one as a keepsake.
That’s great. Shortly after this, you make a move to run shows in New York at the Paramount and in Chicago at the Rosemont Horizon – both taking place in July of 1994. When did you make the decision to expand out of Los Angeles and do you have any regrets about anything about those shows, or did they go the way you had hoped?
Ron: Well, we expanded outside of Los Angeles from the beginning, when I mentioned the second night when we did the Sunday in San Diego, which I didn’t want to do and didn’t turn out so great. I mean, they were good matches, but as far as box-office, no. Something – I don’t want to digress too much – but this is either a business for you or it’s a hobby. For us, it was a business. I enjoy it, but if you treat it like a hobby, you’re gonna go broke. If you treat it like a business, you know you’re gonna do okay – hopefully. We quit while we were reasonably ahead, and we were one of the only promotions that actually came out of this in the black. So, that being said, we expanded by running shows in Oakland, CA. I’ll never forget that. We ran in San Jose – that was a really good show; Art Barr and Eddie Guerrero were amazing that night. The plan was always to try to take the IWC Triple A promotion to other cities across the country and see if we could build a business. We ran in Chicago – it was a great night; hot crowd. But, again, I think it was a break-even for us there, and then we ran the following night in the Theatre at Madison Square Garden – I don’t know if it was called the Paramount at the time – but it’s the same venue. Again – great show. It was about 90% sold out; unfortunately, the cost of running a show in NY is so great that if we didn’t sell out – given the course of advertising and all that – we lost money. To do that show, we needed to sell out to break even, which, you know, sucks. That was the economics of the situation and we thought it was worth it to try to see if we could establish something in New York. I remember meeting Randy Levine – who was the head of the NY State Athletic Commission – and stuff; it was a great show. Running shows in Chicago and New York, we didn’t go back, because we didn’t feel that we could make money there – not without television. So it just became one-offs, but they were both great shows.
(Do you happen-)
Ron: The big show that we ran, of course, was When Worlds Collide with WCW, in which we kept the house show tour to ourselves, but we had to split the PPV money with WCW.
(Do you happen to recall – doesn’t have to be exact – what kind of range the rent for the Paramount Theatre was? Just to give people an idea of the whole scale of it.)
Ron: I don’t know – first of all, what it was then is not what it would be now; it would probably be even more expensive now. Darryl handled that because he had relationships with all these buildings by being a promoter that worked with them for years. So, I’m sure he got the best deal that he could get – I don’t remember how much we put out, but I do remember that we ended up falling short of breaking even, and we had a 90% full house. It was disappointing from that standpoint, and also, the show in New York – New York is a bit different. Look, let’s face it, Lucha Libre is primarily a Mexican thing. There are, you know, Americans who like Lucha Libre – such as myself, such as you guys, such as many other people – but it’s primarily a Mexican thing. Los Angeles has a big Mexican population, and they support this. Other cities in places that we looked at like Texas, for example, where we didn’t run, they have Mexican populations but they’re more “Americanized.” I’m not trying to racially profile/stereotype people or any of that political correctness bullshit, but they were more into WWE and stuff like that and WCW than what we were doing. So in New York – where we didn’t have as great of a Mexican population as Los Angeles or Chicago for that matter which had the bigger one. That’s our base audience. We tried to expand it a little bit – I remember we honored Pedro Morales, the former WWF champion, to come down. He was of Puerto Rican descent and he came down, we gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award, and I brought Tito Santana in to try to expand the base a little bit. Of course, we had Jake the Snake and Diamond Dallas Page, you know, so it was maybe not as pure a Lucha show as some people wanted – like some of the people from the Torch – but it doesn’t matter. We did what we thought was the best thing, and Paul E. thought it was a brilliant idea – or at least that’s what he told me – to try to bring in people to expand the base. I don’t think it hurt us, I don’t think it helped us, but I will say that the show that we did in New York – I think you were there, right Brian?
I was not, actually.
Ron: Oh, you were not there? It was one of the bloodiest shows on record.
I’m sure the Athletic Commission loved that. (laughing)
Ron: It was a great show – everybody worked hard; you know. The essence of wrestling is to suspend your disbelief, and it’s basically violence.
Well, let me ask you this, Ron: before-
Ron: I just wanted to clarify what I said before about it being a Mexican thing –it’s like you’re in the music business and you’re promoting Reggae. You’d better first hit the West Indian population, you’d better first make it happen in Jamaica and the Jamaican communities before Bob Marley branches out and that’s how they did it, you know? It was the same with us – you need to reach your core audience before you reach additional audiences, which is why all the advertising was in Spanish.
Yeah, and again, you didn’t have your own specialized television show.
Ron: And if we were just going to market this show for white hardcore wrestling fans who read the Observer, they’ll have to run it in a tent somewhere.
(Yeah, and even then-)
Ron: Because we wouldn’t draw more than a few hundred people.
(Even then, Galavision was not on in that much of the NY area back then, too.)
Ron: No, it is. It was! That’s how I found Galavision in New York.
It wasn’t on Long Island.
Ron: It was on every week.
Yeah, it was on in Manhattan, but it was not on Long Island.
Ron: I was living in Queens at the time and it was on!
Oh, OK. I can tell you it wasn’t on by me in Long Beach because I wanted to watch it. I had to resort to trading tapes with Eric Bemben (laughing) to get my AAA fix.
Ron: Eric Bemben?
Yeah, he was an old tape trader back in the day. I’m sure you didn’t deal with him. Let me ask you this, Ron. So the lead-up to When Worlds Collide – your PPV in November – a few things happen. 1) Konnan turns heel and partners up with Los Gringos Locos – who I want to ask you about shortly – and I did want to ask you about a show that I think at the time a lot of people considered a misfire, which was the August 1994 show in Los Angeles. It was the one where the main event was Mascarita Sagrada-
Ron: You mean the one that we did with CMLL?
The one where you had Vampiro in the match-
Ron: That was with CMLL – that was without Peña at that time. That’s when we used CMLL – or EMLL – talent.
Well you still had AAA talent, you just had a few from CMLL, so how did that happen?
Ron: No, it was primarily a CMLL show.
Well, how did that end up happening?
Ron: Negro Casas – how did it happen?
I think you’re thinking of the show that took place after this one. August of 1994, you ran a show with the AAA talent-
Ron: Oh, yes. I think we had 11 or 12,000 people there. Again, what I’m saying is these are low numbers – it was still more than anyone else was drawing at that time (laughing)
Yeah, and in the main event you had Konnan and Jake Roberts – you know, former enemies – against Perro Aguayo and Vampiro. Obviously, Vampiro had never been on AAA TV – he was a major star in Mexico on EMLL TV and there was a lot of behind the scenes heat for many years between him and Konnan – what led you to want to bring Vampiro on the show?
Ron: I got to know Vampiro, I like Vampiro, and I thought it would be a good draw. I didn’t realize the extent of the animosity that existed between the two of them, and it was really more Konnan toward Vampiro than Vampiro toward Konnan, for whatever reason it was. I liked Konnan, I liked Vampiro. At that time, there was some heat between them and I really didn’t understand how much, and Konnan, you know, had asked me not to make that match. I said “You know, it’s a good match, it’s gonna draw people, it’s a great concept, everybody’s really excited about it,” and I said “Let’s suck it up and let’s do this, because it’s gonna be a good house,” I thought. But Konnan was not happy about it, and he was actually angry at me – that’s when we had a falling out for a while for doing that match, believe it or not.
Huh. It would be a one-night thing for Vampiro for the IWC-
Ron: With Vampiro, actually, had to do two jobs that night. He had to be pinned twice by Konnan, you know (laughing) in order to do it, you know, to save face or whatever. Vampiro did that.
Yeah. As we look now towards when Worlds Collide, one of the acts that we had not really talked about, but the hottest act in AAA at that time was Los Gringos Locos – Eddie Guerrero and ‘Love Machine’ Art Barr-
Ron: They were great.
First of all, when did you first see them, and what was it like at the live events when they would go out there? How much heat were they getting?
Ron: OK. The first time I saw them – I don’t remember if I saw them on, I think I saw them on Galavision first, but the first time I really paid attention was at…actually, I don’t think they were a tag team then. I saw Love Machine on television first, and then I went to TripleMania in Mexico City and Love Machine was in a match against someone else – Love Machine was a face at the time, and he just wrestled a great match; off hand I don’t remember who he was wrestling. He was terrific. He came over, we started talking afterwards, and he was a nice guy. Then – and he also took an interest in what we were doing as far as promoting in the states and all of that – he teamed with Eddie Guerrero – who was also a great guy – and they were one of the greatest tag teams that I’ve ever seen. As far as heat at the live event – tremendous. I mean, people really hated them. I remember fans coming up to Peña after the show – I remember in San Jose in particular – and this one guy, Mexican-American guy, was, like, livid about Love Machine – something that he did. He was cursing “Love Matchine! Love Matchine!” and he was cursing. Peña was smiling and nodding his head and everything because he loved that when there would be real heat towards them – whether it was La Revancha or the Hair vs. Mask match, you know, where there was a match they got their head shaved – Love Machine and Eddie Guerrero – and that was also a phenomenal match and they got real heat. I’m sure the crowd was very happy to hear them get their hair cut.
Episode 20 - Transcript (Part 3)
You know, we played audio a couple weeks ago on the show of the Eddie Gilbert Memorial Banquet that Dennis Coralluzzo ran in early 1996, and on that, he mentioned that Eddie had – you had been interested in bringing in Eddie to the IWC. Is that true?
Ron: Eddie Guerrero?
Ron: Eddie Gilbert. Um, I mean, we never did that. I don’t know if it was ever discussed. I mean, it was a time I was interested – see, I didn’t; like, the President of the United States still has to work Congress and work with the Supreme Court, and you’re not elected king, you know. I didn’t have absolute autonomy to do what I wanted to do either, you know. I would do things – I wanted to bring in Chris Candido and Tammy Fytch, you know, to a match, and we had agreed to do that and then Darryl said “No, it’s gonna cost too much to fly them in.” Darryl was the one who was laying out most of the money, so, we ended up cancelling that, which they were not happy about. But, we paid them as though the match had happened anyway, but they were still upset. I don’t know too many promoters that would have paid them even though it was cancelled. But, I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do. I wanted to bring Sabu in at one point, I wanted to – I don’t remember if I wanted to bring in Eddie Gilbert or not. I’d never met Eddie Gilbert – I did bring in a number of people. It sounds kinda weird right now and sick, but I brought in Chris Benoit, for example to do one of the shows in L.A. You know, nobody could have predicted what happened with him, but, you know; he was a good wrestler. We had no problem, and I was always trying to extend – I would read about people like in the Observer, too. I also was a fan to some extent – not a mark, but someone who admired it, and I’d say “Hey, Sabu sounds great. Maybe we could bring him in. Chris Benoit, he’s done some great things in Japan and he looks like someone who could have a good style and mix-and-match with what we’re doing.” I wanted to bring in guys like that, and some of them we did, and some of them, you know, we didn’t. Some of them we made an effort to bring in, and it got shot down, and others we did bring in like Jake the Snake, Diamond Dallas Page, Chris Benoit, Louie Spicolli, and – oh my goodness, a number of other people. So, it was interesting – even Tito Santana, who, you know, was not my favorite wrestler with the WWF, but he was a good wrestler and a nice guy to work with. We were just trying to expand; we brought in a lot of people that some thought would not be compatible, but for the most part, it worked out pretty well.
So in November, you end up doing the When Worlds Collide PPV. When did you first have discussions with WCW about co-promoting, and who initiated it? I know at one point you also had discussions with – I wanna say – Campbell McLaren at Semaphore Entertainment Group – the parent company of the UFC – so when did you decide that PPV was something you wanted to do, and when did the discussions start with each company?
Ron: Well, the Campbell McLaren thing - that went nowhere. That was later. Campbell’s a nice guy, but nothing materialized. I can tell you about WCW – we were getting; this is when our promotion got hot and we were running more shows and getting mentions in so called “sheets.” The observer, the Torch, all of that, and there’s a lot of word of mouth. I got a call from Gary Juster at WCW and he said that his company was interested in perhaps doing a PPV with us – Eric Bischoff, and could we go to Atlanta? It turned out that Darryl Brooks knew a lot of people at Turner Broadcasting, and he actually knew the guy who was in charge of WCW, the actual guy running it on behalf of Turner Broadcasting. So, you know, we went there and we met with them, and they outlined what they wanted to do and I thought it was great to do a PPV. To get something like that behind us, because Turner Broadcasting, WCW, was going to lay out all the money for the PPV. It wasn’t – we were not going to have to risk anything, and we knew that with a PPV, we would have a hot house in Los Angeles, and we negotiated with them that the house show would remain ours and that they would lay out all the money for the PPV and we would not have to share any of the money on the house show, which we thought was a great deal. Where we went wrong is that I should have negotiated with them for guaranteed second PPV – regardless of what happened with the first one. Also, we should have had a higher price for it. They wanted to charge something like $14.95 or something, and I was trying to explain to them that people who want this will pay $24.95 or whatever it is because they really want this. They’re like “no, no, no.” The first time we would do it on a lower price, which turned out to be foolish because we easily could have sold more – just like at the live events, the more expensive seats, the ones that always sold out first. But, anyway, we had meetings with them, and everything seemed to be ok. I liked Gary Juster, I didn’t really like Eric Bischoff, but I think that’s probably par from the course. We got into bed with them, so to speak, and what happened was they were all gung-ho in the beginning, and Bischoff even talked about doing a ‘down and dirty wrestling show’ every week or something, which I thought would have been great, which is exactly what I wanted, but I think they starting getting resistance from people in their company who were like “Why are we doing this? Why are we doing this Mexican wrestling?” a lot of the American wrestlers, including – I heard – Ric Flair were not happy about this and didn’t think it was a good idea. By the time that the PPV was a week or two away, I think they were already sour on the idea. So, we ran the PPV, it was a phenomenal show – very hot crowd, very great show. You know, there was not a bad vibe for the first time, and we broke even on it. For their numbers, they broke even, which is normally encouraging. They didn’t lose money, and I think they probably made a slight profit on it, but it wasn’t a slam-dunk-home-run or anything like that. To say “Wow, we just made half a million dollars profit, we can’t wait to do the next one,” so I think what happened was they were soured on the idea because there were so many people within the company that felt threatened by this, or the establishment, they felt threatened by us where they didn’t like the idea, where they felt it wasn’t the business they should be doing, and Bischoff kinda soured on it before it even happened. You know, when it was a break-even, they just decided “OK, well that’s it, this was fun,” you know. “We’re not really interested in doing any more,” so that’s where it was at. At the time, people criticized us for “Why are you doing this with WCW?” but those people were stupid: there was nobody else offering us anything. It’s not like Vince McMahon said “Hey, come with us.” It was either do a PPV with them or don’t do a PPV, and I wanted to do a PPV.
(So I did want to ask: kinda go through match by match a little some of the wrestlers that were featured on When Worlds Collide. I mean, we talked about the Minis so I don’t think we really need to go into them too much. The second match on the card, it was Fuerza Guerrera, Madonna’s Boyfriend – Louie Spicolli – and Psicosis against Rey Mysterio Jr., Heavy Metal, and Latin Lover. Let’s start with Louie Spicolli as Madonna’s Boyfriend.)
Ron: Let me just – to respond to your initial question on that. The matches had different names, so that was the Battle for Respect. That was, you know, the younger up and coming new-breed wrestlers who wanted to compete and earn respect, and that’s what that match was about. We had the three heels and the three faces against each other, who were all young and up and coming gifted wrestlers. By the way, that was I think the first major exposure given to a number – Rey Mysterio – and I think that launched his career.
(Yeah, you know, he had been on Galavision stuff, of course, but he had not been on anything that had any promotion to English speaking audience-)
Ron: This was the first English language thing that launched them in this country.
(Well let’s start with Rey Mysterio, I guess. Had you seen – because I don’t remember off the top of my head who was on La Revancha – but what did you think when you first saw him?)
Ron: Oh, I thought he was phenomenal. He was great – a little guy who was very acrobatic; fearless. Again, he was like a diver in the Olympics except there’s no water underneath you, and he’d do these amazing spinning moves off the top rope onto the floor outside the ring; these very high risk moves. He was an artist, it was great. I was very impressed.
(Louie Spicolli, he had worked on a lot of Lucha shows in the southwest. Did he – was he someone that got booked through you originally, or did he go through the AAA office?)
Ron: You know, that’s a good question – I’m not sure. He started along the time that we did, I think, as far as getting any kind of real exposure. I don’t remember whether we brought him in, or – no. Actually, I think we did bring him in and Peña took a liking to him and gave him the name Madonna’s Boyfriend (laughing). I remember talking to people at the time saying “Well, who’s going to be on your show?” and I said this and this, and “Madonna’s Boyfriend.” “Oh!” “Madonna’s Boyfriend Louie Spicolli” and they’re like “That’s the new boyfriend? That’s the new boyfriend?” and I’m like whatever. He named him Madonna’s Boyfriend; that was Peña’s idea. Peña had a lot of great concepts, and I remember Louie asking me “Please, can you get me into Mexico? Get me into Mexico, Get me into Mexico,” because we weren’t running many shows. I called Peña and said “Can you book this guy? Let him work in Mexico. He’ll be really good,” and Peña’s like “Yeah, the crowds hate him! They hate him! OK,” and he gave him a contract for good money to wrestle in AAA and Mexico. He was thanking me; he was really happy. I was happy to help him. Then, I got a call at home – it was probably 11 o’clock at night; it was Louie Spicolli calling me. He said “Ron, you gotta get me out of here! You gotta get me out of here! I have an opportunity to go to WWF; it’s what I always wanted. I can’t stand it down here. I’m at this hotel, it’s a real dump, I can’t stand it; I gotta get out of here. This has always been my life-long dream, I don’t want to offend anyone but I really want to get into WWF; I have an opportunity. Could you talk to someone there?” and I remembered that I talked to someone at WWF – I forgot who it was, it wasn’t Vince but it was someone else who was working there – and said “Yeah, we’ve been watching him, we’re looking for young talent and I think we can do something with him” and I said “Great, I won’t stand in his way.” I talked to Peña and Peña agreed to let him out.
(What did you think of Fuerza Guerrerra? Of the guys on that card, he wasn’t flashy-)
Ron: He was a little older. He wasn’t as young as some of the other ones; Fuerza Guerrera was the real deal. He was a tough guy Lucha wrestler.
(Just a great Rudo. Of all those guys on that card, probably the very best just at being a bad guy.)
Ron: He was. He was a great Rudo, and I really didn’t get to know him much; I didn’t know how much English he spoke. He pretty much stayed in character, you know. He was a cool guy, you know, but he pretty much stayed in character. I don’t know whether it was the English language, or whatever, but he was pretty kayfabe.
Ron: Who else?
(I was gonna go to the next match, but: Heavy Metal and Latin Lover. They teamed up a lot and were closely associated for much of their careers. Heavy Metal was a favorite of Peña, and then Lover-)
Ron: So was Latin Lover.
(Well, they both were, and then Lover became a big mainstream star in Mexico, I mean, one of the biggest mainstream stars of any of the wrestlers when he was on Dancing with the Stars and all that. What did you think of those two back then?)
Ron: Again, I didn’t know Latin Lover well. I know that when we ran shows in L.A., you know, the women really liked him (laughing) and I remember there was this woman who was a Paramedic. I think – was it – Latin Lover’s match. I think he was actually carried out on a stretcher, and she was, like “Oh, wow. He’s gorgeous! Oh my god! What I could do with him!” or something like that, you know. When he got up from the stretcher and she saw that it was a work, she was really pissed off, because these were real paramedics and they felt that they were misused or exploited or what-have-you, but welcome to wrestling. As far as Heavy Metal, I knew him a little bit better; a young guy, nice guy. Very pleasant attitude, liked Rock music, you know. A nice person to be around. I can’t tell you anything too memorable, but he was a cool guy.
(Now, the next match was the one that I guess got the most face time – not for you, but for the IWC name – because it was the Mexican team billed as AAA against the IWC team of Benoit, 2 Cold Scorpio and Tito Santana. The one thing – one of the things that’s very memorable about this is that it’s the only match where they really shot an angle on the show. Do you remember anything about that, why that’s the one match where they really forwarded a storyline to that degree with the beginning of La Parka turning Technico?)
Ron: Uh, that was Peña’s idea. You know, he thought that there would be some – that there would have some good dramatic effect, and I agree with him. Peña was a genius, and he was the most creative guy that I saw in wrestling – or one of the most creative people period – and I guess part of that match was to just show that there was some independence between the two promotions, even though we were pretty much joined at the hip. I don’t know if the styles always meshed as far as in that match, but it was a natural storyline. IWC / AAA showing some autonomy, some independence. US vs. Mexico type of thing, and I really wanted to do more like that; just the whole thing with Jake the Snake against Konnan. I had so many ideas that I wanted to use – one of the most frustrating things to me was that we didn’t get to do television, which so many concepts that I’m absolutely positive which would have set the wrestling world on fire. It’s the stuff that would be, like, really pushing the envelope.
(And what did you think of La Parka? Because he’s a guy of once he went to WCW, of the guys that they didn’t really try to push, he got much more over than any of them, because of just how charismatic he was.)
Ron: I thought, like I said, at the TripleMania, he was the wrestler that impressed me the most. He was extremely talented, and for him to convey the emotion that he did while he’s in that costume – with the mask and everything else – he was like a Charlie Chaplin, you know. A silent film actor that conveys all these emotions and everything. I think La Parka was one of the most talented guys. I like La Parka, and he was a nice guy – not someone who was the most fluent in English – but, you know, one of my favorite people. Definitely – I’m glad you mentioned him, because he doesn’t get enough credit; a phenomenal wrestler.
(Blue Panther – speaking of guys who maybe don’t get enough credit – just a brilliant technical wrestler, and honestly, aside from the co-main event, when I look back at this show, my favorite thing on that show was just watching him and Benoit just go to the mat the way they did together.)
Ron: Blue Panther was a great wrestler, and truth be told, Chris Benoit was a great wrestler too.
(The co-main, I mean, you talked about most of the guys on that match already.)
Ron: Just like OJ Simpson was a great football player, you know.
(Watch – that knife they found-)
Ron: They’ll say Chris Benoit did it because the glove would have fit him.
(Where were you in the arena during the matches, to kind of preface what I’m going to ask you?)
Ron: During the match that you referred to?
(Yes. The co-main event – where were you in the arena watching that match?)
Ron: Um, well, unfortunately I didn’t get to watch; I was usually backstage. I watched some of it, you know, I kept hearing about how great it was, but most of the matches I was not really able to watch because I was running around backstage trying to deal with the wrestlers and different people, and my partners; just keep the thing running smoothly. I would catch glimpses of it. There were a couple of matches I was able to watch, but I can’t remember seeing one from beginning to end, except for the final matches. I remember seeing the Konnan/Jake matches.
(With the PPV, were you able to watch the show a day later?)
Ron: Oh yeah! Of course. The night of the show, I was running around like a maniac. I’ll tell you something – one of the things I was not happy about was that there was supposed to be a dark match, which was Al Snow against somebody else; I wasn’t sure who it was. We flew Al Snow in for that and was enthusiastic about that, and at the time he was not that well known, and I wanted him to be in the match because it would have been the biggest match that he did, and Gary Juster – who I like and became a friend of mine – said “No, no, we just heard from the people. There’s not going to be enough time, we have to start on time, we can’t do the match,” and he’s real nervous. I said “Come on, look,” and he’s like “No no no! We can’t we can’t!” and I said “I’m sorry, we can’t.” We paid him, and we gave him, I don’t know, a wrestling doll for his kid or something. He was very disappointed and I was disappointed too – this was just beyond my control.
(I’ll use that to segue to something else, then. That weekend, I’m trying to remember if it was the Saturday or the Monday-)
Ron: You guys really did your homework!
(Thank you. I’m trying to remember if it was the Saturday or the Monday after the show, there was an indy show – and I don’t remember where in Southern California – that was called “When Cities Collide”. Now, I had been told once-)
Ron: It was?
(I’ve been told that you were involved with that show and it was actually set up to get the Americans and some of the other guys an extra booking while they were in town. Was that true or were you not involved with that?)
Ron: (laughing) I didn’t even know anything about it. Where was this show?
(It was like, in Fullerton or somewhere like that in Southern California.)
Ron: No, I didn’t even know about it. If I heard about it, I didn’t know it was called “When Cities Collide” and why would we wanna be involved in a show a day or two later at a small venue right after our big PPV? That would make no sense.
(Hell if I know! (laughing))
Ron: This is one of the rumors like everything else – like 90% of the things that you hear in the wrestling business that are not true.
(How much of a change was that from, like, does that happen much in places like the music business, or is wrestling just a whole ‘nother level?)
Ron: It happens in the music business; it happens in all businesses, really. Yeah, wrestling is another level. It’s another level, where it’s like, you know, making things up is an art form.
(Yeah, and I guess to jump back then to the PPV-)
Ron: Quick – especially people inflating numbers and stuff. I’d always tell the – Wade Keller and Meltzer if they asked me – what the real numbers were. I remember Keller once “Oh my god – the truth! I’ve never got that from a promoter before,” because we actually told him what the house was. You know, because they always hear that it’s inflated, that it’s this, that it’s that, and I’m not promoting at the Juan de la Rivera gym where there’s 10,500 people in a place that holds 3000.
(I liked that they tripled it exactly, that it was a multiple of the actual-)
Ron: Something yeah, pretty close.
(Going back to When Worlds Collide to talk about the main event for a second – Perro Aguayo, again, very different from everyone else on the card. He-)
Ron: I heard that his son just died.
(Yeah, last year. Yeah.)
Ron: Yeah. Well I just found out about it – it’s terrible. ‘Cause I remember Konnan came to me then saying “Hey, Perro Aguayo’s son is going to start wrestling and we’re gonna call him Perroicito Aguayo” or something, and then I find out he’s dead. It’s really awful. Anyway – where were you with this?
(Talking about Perro Sr. but I’ll just mentioned, yeah – he debuted like right after you stop working with Peña, I think. It was something like August ’95, I think. Something like that.)
Ron: Yeah. Perro Aguayo Jr. Yes.
(So as far as Perro Sr., very different figure than anyone else on the card. He was past his physical prime for sure, but he still had the charisma, he could still have his brawling type of match. What did you think or him, and just the relationship that he had with the fans and all that?)
Ron: Yeah, I had tremendous respect for him. He was really pretty much a legend in Mexico. He was, yeah, he might have been a little bit older or a little bit maybe on the downside of his career, but he could still work and he was very popular with the fans. He had a lot of charisma and he was great in the ring, and his head looks like – his forehead – he did look like a road map; all the stuff he had been through. Nah, he was good. Again, I don’t know how much English he spoke – I think not too much – but I didn’t get close with him, but he worked a number of our shows and Peña used him a lot to work. My experiences with him were always good as they were with Cien Caras, by the way.
(Now, one thing that happens during the main event – and I’m sure this happened at other shows to some degree and it’s happened a lot in wrestling, I guess it’s notable because it’s visible on camera – is that there’s a little bit of an incident between a fan and Eddie Guerrero. In general, how much of a concern was fan violence at some of the shows, and did it make you nervous at all, especially that it happened on the PPV on camera or anything like that?)
Ron: No. I mean, it didn’t make me nervous because at the PPV, there was very good security, and for fans to react to that level, you know, it’s unfortunate because that’s what this is all about. I mean, do they go to the movies and start throwing bottles at the screen, you know, if somebody comes on that they don’t like who’s the bad guy, or whatever? Eddie was a phenomenal worker, he could be a face, he could be a heel, he could be whatever and he was a great worker. He was a great guy. I actually liked to see the heat, you know, as long as it didn’t become violent or out of control, because it showed that people were suspending their disbelief and were into it. I mean, wrestling’s an escape, you know? It’s something that it’s supposed to get you immersed in it and for when you’re at the show and you’re watching that match, you wanna get involved in it. For people to love certain guys and hate others and all that is good, because it shows that what you’re doing is working. Now, if there’s a Hatpin Mary or someone like I used to hear about or read about in the old wrestling magazines that would jab the wrestlers and stuff, no; that’s not cool. After the first event we ran in L.A. – La Revancha – we had much better security after that.
The tag-team match – the hair versus mask match – at When Worlds Collide, Octagon and El Hijo del Santo versus Los Gringos Locos Love Machine – it was match of the year in the 1994 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which is the consensus that people look for match of the year, wrestler of the year; their yearly awards. It was not just an exceptional match-
Ron: It was two expensive haircuts for us, because obviously we had to compensate them well (laughing) for the haircuts.
Do you remember how much?
Ron: Uh, do I remember how much? I think they wanted like 20,000 dollars each and we had been negotiating. I think it was 6,000 dollars each on top of what we paid them to work the match.
So the match is exceptional – in many ways, a career making match, and then of course-
Ron: But it grew back, you know?
And then 17 days later, Art Barr passes away-
Ron: Yes, I think it was on Thanksgiving.
Where were you and how were you notified of Art Barr’s passing?
Ron: I was home in New York and I got a call. I don’t remember who called me, but somebody called me and I was just shocked, because I had spoken to him, like, a few days before. He would call me every so often – he had ideas and he was looking to work more in the U.S., and I kept hearing rumors that maybe he’s gonna work for Paul E. and this and that or whatever. He was in touch with me – we always had a good rapport, and then I heard what happened and I understand his young son found him dead on Thanksgiving Day. It’s just horrendous; he was 27 years old. So I mean, I was really shocked.
In many ways, that’s kind of the beginning of the end of your relationship with AAA – not that that was a cause of it-
Ron: No, that wasn’t the cause of it at all.
Right, but Art Barr passes away, followed shortly by the devaluation of the Peso, but what led-
Ron: That’s not why we had our falling- I mean, first of all -
Of course not, of course not. Those were things that had a negative effect on AAA as a company-
Ron: It’s like I said – it’s a business, not a hobby. You have to apply business principals and do what business dictates, and it was never a personal falling out. I always got along well with Peña.
Well, where did the business falling out happen?
Ron: The business falling out happened after, basically, after When Worlds Collide and it wasn’t as successful as we hoped it was, and then Darryl Brooks and myself were putting a lot of time into this. I was still a practicing entertainment lawyer, and Darryl was still a concert promoter, you know, in the music industry. We had other things that – we were putting a lot of time into this, putting a lot of money at risk, and if we’re gonna do this and we know what to do, we need to have more control and we need to have television. We need to have an exclusive, and we need to have some control over what we’re doing. Peña I think was not opposed to that, but it was Televisa who owned them and they couldn’t commit to any exclusivity, which they wouldn’t do even though we were the exclusive promoters at that time. I wanted that in writing, and I also wanted to have some kind of television that – whether it was through Bischoff at WCW or whether it was through Televisa and Galavision – I felt we needed that. When we didn’t have that, we decided to try somewhere else, and we ran a show with Paco Alonzo. But again, it was not a personal falling out – I’ll always have a lot of fond business with Peña and Juan Francisco Cortez, who was at the company and was a nice guy; we became friends. Basically, everybody that I dealt with down there – I liked them. But, from a business standpoint, you have to go with your head rather than your heart.
How did you first make contact with Paco Alonso?
Ron: I think we were in touch with him before that here and there, and when we decided to work with him, I don’t remember. I think I just called him up and he called me back or reached him, and they came to New York. He’s from a very wealthy family and they traveled all over the place and he owned Arena Mexico and other arenas; a very nice man. But, again, on the last show, he dropped the ball. They’re supposed to come to L.A., they didn’t come. I guess he probably didn’t think the advance tickets were gonna go as well and it wasn’t a very successful show; that’s why it was the last show that we ran. But, there was some good wrestling on that show. That was the show we did in Inglewood – that was where the Lakers play. You know, it was interesting – we had guys like Negro Casas and a lot of the top names over there: Silver King, Tejano, and, you know, it was a very good night of matches but they also didn’t have the drawing power. We talked to Paco Alonso too about doing a wrestling show and he had already filmed some matches and stuff that he was going to send us, and then when we saw what he sent us, it was just not usable. The production values and everything; we don’t need to have fancy production or anything like that. But, it’s gotta be a basic show. I mean, even like what a wrestling show used to look like in the eighties or something would have been fine, but it was sub-standard and we couldn’t use it. So, you know, that fell through there. In order to do wrestling on any kind of continuous level, you have to have television, and television has to have storylines, and it has to have angles, and it has to have continuity. We tried to get that with AAA and Televisa, we couldn’t get it. We tried to get that through Eric Bischoff and WCW, it didn’t happen. We tried to get that through Paco Alonso and CMLL/EMLL and it didn’t happen, you know? Everyone tried in their own way but it didn’t happen. I mean, what would WWE be without television?
Yeah. So, I mean, that show you do with CMLL ends up being a money loser, and then that’s it-
Ron: We had opportunities after that to run other shows; Peña was interested in doing other stuff with us. But, Carol and Darryl and myself decided at that point – John Arezzi was not with the company at that point; I think he was bought out before that. We decided “You know what, let’s quit while we’re still somewhat ahead,” you know, and go back to other things. We couldn’t control it, you know? We could not control it. If we couldn’t control it with exclusivity and have some kind of television program that’s on every week at the same time slot where there’s continuity and we could work different storylines into it and build up the shows, then it was crazy, and if it would have continued, we would have lost money.
Ron, one of the things I’ve always noticed whenever I’ve been up in your office is you have gold records on your wall, but then, you always have had in your office a giant picture of Eddie Guerrero and Art Barr signed-
Ron: And Konnan!
Ron: I still have it. They sent it to me – they sent it to me from Tues Ehloes, Los Gringos Locos, and it was from Konnan, Eddie Guerrero and Art Barr. A very fond memento, together with the mini’s belt are two of my favorite things from the wrestling. That, and a couple of masks.
Well, before we wrap things up here, Ron, did you end up continuing in any way to follow Lucha Libre, and although we only like to talk about classic wrestling, I will mention that now there is a contemporary product called Lucha Underground which is on TV, and again-
Ron: It’s on the El Rey Network.
It may be a little too fantastic in their booking ideas for my taste-
Ron: And it’s Mark Burnett who’s producing it, who’s a genius at television: Shark Tank, Survivor, and I think he did American Idol or The Voice. I don’t know if he did AI too, but he’s the number one television producer. I’ve watched that and it’s interesting to see when Konnan was on as manager and Vampiro as an announcer and stuff and some of the new talent. The ring girl is off the charts, I gotta say that.
(laughing) I agree.
Ron: But, you know. I mean, it’s a little too high tech, I guess. I don’t know. I think it’s good, but it kinda misses the mark, but if we had something like that and we would have toned down the production. If we had a one hour a week show, we could have built something that could have been phenomenal and talk about must-see TV, that would have been it.
Ron, in closing, how would you summarize your adventures as a professional wrestling promoter?
Ron: (laughing) Um, I had a great time with it. I would have liked – see, what happens with me is I don’t know if I’m still a workaholic – I work hard. I used to be a workaholic and I would get into other things as hobbies to distract me, but then the hobby would take over and then I’d get into that business like I did with wrestling. It’d start out as a hobby, as an aversion, as an escape from working 6-7 days a week and stuff, and obsessing about my work. So, you know, then this became a business and it was no longer a hobby or diversion and I took it very seriously, and there were things about it I really liked, and there were things I didn’t like, and there was people that I liked very much and people I didn’t like so much. Overall, you know, it was great and I miss it. I would gladly go back into promoting Mexican wrestling or some off-shoot of that or any kind if I thought it made sense from a business standpoint. So if somebody had a concept, you know, that would want to be getting involved with this or I could help them get it off the ground, I would be delighted to do so if it made sense, but it has to make sense from a business standpoint. We all know people who are super-marks – I don’t like the term but I’ll use the term – ‘super fans’ who would do anything just to be in it, and have gone through large amounts of money that they inherited or wherever they got it from and went broke in promoting wrestling. That’s not what I’m about – if I could do something that I enjoy and that brings pleasure to people and we have a good time with it and it makes money – great; all day long let’s do it. But, it has to make sense from a business perspective.