Highlights from JJ Dillon’s Book: Part 2 (Horsemen Edition)

We are back to JJ Dillon’s book from 2005 “Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls” and at the height of the author’s career: his time managing the Four Horsemen.

The other boys used to make light of the fact that it was a good thing that Flair never wanted to touch cocaine, because with his nose being as big as it is, there wouldn’t have been any left for anyone else.

Believe it or not, I had never noticed that Flair had a big nose until I started hearing these jokes made about him. Flair was a legendary partier, but he would not do cocaine and he would not smoke cigarettes because that would kill his whole “60 minutes every night” thing. He would do chewing tobacco and an unlimited supply of Seabreezes (vodka w/cranberry and grapefruit juice) and something like Miller Lite.

On January 10, 1987, the NWA and the WWF both ran in Philadelphia on the same night. 

Most people know about the Crockett-McMahon war playing out over PPV, but there was a huge battle for arenas as well. I never knew that JCP played the Boston Garden in 1987 and 1988, though one reason why that happened was that Dusty Rhodes wanted to work in the same building as his favorite NBA team the Boston Celtics. I’m not sure how this could have worked since I was not aware of any JCP TV in the Boston area until my cable system picked up TBS in 1989.

JCP did go to the New York City area but with little success because they could not get Madison Square Garden. The Bunkhouse Stampede PPV was held at the Nassau Coliseum and was a total trainwreck, which I covered here. JCP also did very well in Chicago for a time in 1987, running several sold out cards at the UIC Pavilion. However in the words of Paper Lace, Starrcade was the night Chicago died for the promotion. Not putting the belts on the hometown Road Warriors made fans feel burned. The attendence would drop by more than half for their April 1988 visit to  the UIC Pavilion, headlined by Sting vs. Flair in a Clash 1 rematch.

There were two competitive battlegrounds: Philadelphia and Baltimore which is where the traditional territories would sort of overlap.

For a time, Philadelphia would see both companies fill buildings (WWF in the larger Spectrum, JCP in the Civic Center) including a night in October 1986 with BOTH companies running at the same time and Nikita Koloff turning babyface to join Dusty with Magnum TA out from his car accident. “Tell Hulk Hogan that Dusty’s in town!” Rhodes declared on the house mic at the show.

Baltimore is where JCP had an edge over the WWF and was generally much stronger for them. Despite the screwjob finish at the 1988 Great American Bash in the Luger-Flair match(two quotes down has more on that), Baltimore was always hot for NWA/WCW and less so for WWF. In fact, WCW had exclusive rights to the Baltimore Arena (now Royal Farms Arena) for a period of time, effectively keeping the WWF out of Charm City.

If I had to pick one version of the Horsemen as my favorite, I’d pick the original quartet, for that reason.

This was an interesting thing for Dillon to say because most people would choose the 1988 crew of Flair/Arn/Tully/Windham with Dillon as manager. Some of that might be because almost nobody likes Ole Anderson from the original Horsemen because he is such a prick in real life and he doesn’t get along with anyone. Dillon likes him though, which makes him a bit of an outlier. The case for the original group is based more on longevity; they had a run from November 1985 until January 1987. The 1988 group with Windham only ran from Barry’s heel turn that aired April 23 and ended with Arn and Tully’s departure on September 10. That’s only 4 1/2 months, though they held all the titles during that time frame.

At the time, the Maryland commission had issued a ruling that there was to be no blood, and even sent a representative to the show that night.  He said, “If I see blood in a match tonight, I’ll immediately stop the match.”

In his infinite wisdom, booker Dusty Rhodes was going to use this as a screwy way to give Flair the win and at the same time attempt to put heat on the Maryland state athletic commission. Luger had a small cut and got Flair in the Torture Rack, bell rings, everyone thinks he won the title. But the match was stopped because of the blood so Flair retained. Instead of being mad at the state commission, fans were mad at the promotion.

They recovered though the next year and ran the fantastic 1989 Great American Bash PPV in Baltimore. And yes, there was plenty of blood so something changed with the commission in a year’s time. I bet it was green and had pictures of either dead Presidents or Benjamin Franklin on them.

Logic with the television people at Turner was, “Oh, we found the perfect person to run the company! We have one of our own — a television guy — who knows wrestling.”

This was how Jim Herd was hired to run WCW in late 1988. Herd was an executive at Pizza Hut but had worked at the TV station in St. Louis that aired Wrestling at the Chase so they assumed he had an understanding of wrestling. Despite this, Herd is the one who green lit such ideas as The Ding Dongs, a tag team with bells on their tights and who would ring a bell during their matches. He also fired Ric Flair immediately before a PPV while he was champion.

WCW never got the balance right between TV guy and Wrestling guy. I’d say the closest they came was the pre-nWo Eric Bischoff of late 1995 and early 1996.

If a wrestler did a pre-taped interview, somebody would snap a photo with a Polaroid camera, so they could make a continuity check.

Dillon left WCW in early 1989 because of the uncertainty after the Turner buyout and the chance to have a steady office job with the WWF. He would take some of the workload off Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson, dealing with smaller nuts and bolts issues of the operation and assisting with booking. Dillon was amazed at the quality control of the operation, though as I pointed out, they screwed up on The Main Event by having Hogan wear different championship belts in his pre-match promo and when he walked to the ring.

One day, Vince told me that shortly before he died, his father started to see the other side of wrestlers — the negative side that wrestling management had to deal with every day.  Vince Sr.  said to his son, “Wrestlers are like seagulls.  All they do is eat, sh —, and squawk all day.” Hence, the title of this book.

I thought this book had a very interesting title and couldn’t wait to find out where it came from, so there it is.

He had been wrestling as “Mean” Mark Calloway and we discussed the possibility of using him as a Viking, complete with a helmet with horns. 

I suppose that’s better than having him come out of the giant egg. The Viking gimmick would be revived for John Nord, and evolved into the Berzerker. In the video below, The Viking is announced as being from Iceland which might be the only wrestler ever billed as such.

Kevin Dunn was, and still is, the Executive Producer.  He builds the show and puts it together.  You won’t find anyone who could do a better job.

And 11 years later, he STILL is. And I bet I could find someone because the WWE of today is crying out for somebody fresh to produce these shows.

For instance, speaking was not a strong point for Rick Martel, so we decided to find his strong point and capitalize on that.    “Rick Martel is a polished worker, but how can we give him substance?”    “He looks like a male model.”

Martel was a better talker than you might think, he just had a French-Canadian accent which is a no no in Kevin Dunn’s world. Before Martel was The Model, they paired him with Slick for a short period where he was just a meaner version of his old character.

I will NOT take the blame for the Gobbley Gooker.  That was ALL Vince McMahon, so he can take the responsibility for that one. 

Alright then. Vince McMahon is well-known for having a screwed up sense of humor.

I don’t think he spent money frivolously, introducing a character that he knew was going to fail, or doing it to humiliate someone, or to poke fun at someone else’s expense.  From my time spent with Vince, I don’t think those factors ever entered the equation.

I am calling bullshit on this one. Vince is the guy who spent years poking at Dusty Rhodes with “Virgil” and the polka dots, which Dusty just ignored. He named a guy The Red Rooster, for gawd’s sakes. Later on, he would do an angle where Jim Ross would have to kiss his ass in his hometown.

Dusty never acknowledged that Vince might be having fun at his expense, either.  Dusty always looked at the gimmick as something only HE could pull off.

Dusty took the polka dots as a personal challenge, and he got them over to an extent. He didn’t exactly set the C-show attendence numbers ablaze but he did alright. I always note that late in his run (like at the 1990 Survivor Series) he stopped wearing the polka dots.

Vince booked Dusty against Virgil in a series of matches that would put it to rest.  Night after night, Dusty put Virgil over in the middle of the ring, and Vince did it in a way that humiliated Dusty—having Dusty get pinned in a very short amount of time 38 seconds (Columbus, 12/7), 45 seconds (San Antonio, 12/8), 35 seconds (Montreal, 12/15), 35 seconds (Springfield, Mass.  12/26), 30 seconds (Cincinnati, 12/29), and 45 seconds (Toledo, 12/30).  Vince jobbed him out in the most humiliating way possible.

Battle of the Virgils! I suppose that Dusty had gone to Vince and told him that he wanted to go back to WCW so that he could be the booker there. That left no incentive for McMahon to NOT job him out like that. His in-ring career was just about over anyway because the athleticism was pretty much gone.

The Hogan-Slaughter feud was a big event during the time when Meltzer and I were talking, and it was an example of Vince McMahon’s personal lack of good taste.

Dillon didn’t much care for the exploitation of the Iraq War and it was a cause celebre for Meltzer, who at the time was writing the Observer and for the National, a short-lived daily sports newspaper. The WWF had appointed Dillon as the sole person authorized to talk to Dave Meltzer, in order to clear up any misconceptions before they would appear in print.

I was told about one occasion when Vince and the boys stayed out pretty late.  Before the night ended, several of the boys were demonstrating their signature moves on Vince in the bar.  One of the Road Warriors jumped off the top of the bar itself and clotheslined Vince.  Pat Patterson rescued Vince and assisted him out to his limo before Vince was seriously injured.

Oh my God how I wish there was video of this.

On February 17, 1992, they had a match in the Sun Dome in Tampa.  The house drew 10,000 fans and $32,000, but Vince thought such a main event matchup should have sold out the Sun Dome.    When that number came in, even though they were just 1,500 people shy of a sellout, Vince said, “Cancel all the other dates.  That match is five years too late.”

The timeline on this is a bit off. It was on the February 15 episode of Superstars where the main events for WrestleMania 8 would be Hogan-Sid and Savage-Flair. McMahon wasn’t seeing money in Hogan vs. Flair, probably because he burned it out on house shows around the horn doing countout finishes.

I think the reason why it worked so well in WCW in 1994 was due to several factors: the novelty of Hogan in a new place, the fact that time had passed from the 1991-92 matches, and people who were the grizzled fans of WCW who wanted to see Flair beat Hogan (which wasn’t gonna happen, but still). It was a classic example of Vince McMahon blowing a layup, but it had nothing to do with not having a match at WrestleMania 8.

Coming up next time: Dillon leaves the WWF to go back to WCW, dealing with Vince Russo, he lays blame for the demise of WCW, and where he was in life at the time of publication in 2005.

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