“My early influences were The Funks, Harley Race, Wahoo McDaniel, Johnny Valentine, Jose Lothario, all the guys that went through west and east Texas in the 1960’s and 1970’s. There was a couple of guys that I would tell others to watch would be Boris Malenko, Dean’s dad. Everyone was an individual and pretty much true to themselves too were who they were. Johnny Valentine had this magnetism walking out of the ring without any music all he had to do was just look out into the crowd and get a reaction. That talent and that charisma that went along with him was hard to teach in fact, I don’t think you could teach it. I think you have to be born with it. The same with Johnny Valentine was certainly one that guys today could watch. Boris Malenko too he had little quirks and things in the ring that no one else did and made him stand out.”
When you were first getting into the wrestling business, you were trained by The Iron Sheik. Tell us about this experience.
“What happened was I was working in the wrestling office and when I was a kid during the summer and there was this football player wanted to try wrestling and every Friday before the matches, Gary Hart, he was the booker at the time and would bring one of the boys in with him from Dallas and talk with Paul that Friday afternoon around his matches. One Friday afternoon Gary brought The Iron Sheik who was wrestling as Mohamed Farooq back then and the football player came in and I always brought workout gear with me anyway in my trunk. Paul told me if I wanted to call him and head over to the Coliseum with Cosgrow. We went after the first two weeks the football player said to hell with it and I stuck around for about two months. I worked out with him a little bit. I got to go down to the ring in the Coliseum a little bit before the show. I hung around and got beat up and got stretched.
Once again everything was different back then. It was a different business and a different way to break in back then and it was a different way to jump into the business back then. It was a different atmosphere back then and culture in the business and the country. It was something I was glad I went through because you had to break in back then in the 1970’s or 1980’s you had to know someone who knew someone that would let you in. It was a pretty closed off business back then. For me, I learned that way because it was still such a cool business. It was really intriguing even back then.”
During the early part of your career, you had the chance to work alongside the late, Chris Adams. Describe how working together allowed you both to grow early in your careers.
“Chris was definitely a talented guy. He was be a really good guy and he could be a really intense guy. So we were both pretty young. He was probably about two years older than me. I was 20 and he was 22, I suppose. Just being at that state in your career and that young and he just came over from England and I came from Texas to California. We both hadn’t experienced a whole lot of life yet. I think we grew in the sense that we were two young guys in L.A having a pretty good time. That’s my experiences with Chris.”
During your time in the WWE, you played different roles and characters. One of them was as one half of the tag team ‘The BodyDonnas’ alongside Chris Candido, as Zip. How would you describe the experience, the good, the bad and the ugly?
“It was terrible, it was a really bad time. It wasn’t a great time for me professionally or personally in my life. At that time it was a gig and it was still in wrestling. It was terrible. I hated every minute of it. I liked working with Chris but the rest of the gig was just really bad. It was my fault it happened like that. But that’s what happened. We can’t go back and change it and it was not the best time of my life or my career.
You had to make the best of a situation or otherwise I would have had no job and no gig and that’s not where I was at yet. I had just come off a run and still had long hair and had to put it under a shield and a crew cut was just really awkward. It was uncomfortable for a lot of reasons. It just wasn’t a good time. That’s what the BodyDonnas were for. It just wasn’t a good place to be.”
Between your tandem with Stan Lane and then again with the late Jimmy Del Rey as part of ‘The Heavenly Bodies’, what were the differences and similarities of working with both of them as part of a team under the same name? Were there similar expectations from both incarnations?
“Stan and Jimmy were both great workers. Stan was a little more laid back and Jimmy would have to let everyone we were in the room if we went somewhere. We all had our different personalities certainly. Both were cool guys to work with and to team with. Jimmy was a little louder and fun loving and Stan would like to have fun but I would like to mellow out and kick back and not cause a whole lot of attention and that’s not exactly the best place to be when you’re with Jimmy. But it was a good time. I had fun with both guys.”
A great amount has been documented about your tag team career, but little as a singles. Was there a conscience effort to work as a team or did you have a preference of working as part of a tandem? Is there any reason why that might be? And what was the motivation for pursuing a singles career later on in your career?
“The thing is with tag teams it’s usually when you have two guys who a promotion usually doesn’t have any plans to do anything with and they’re on your crew. So a classic example of a great tag team that was made was Road Dogg and Billy Gunn, were just out there not really doing anything per say but creative decided to put them together as a team and it just meshed. By themselves they might not have been successful. That’s kind of how tag teams all along the business tend to be.
The Rock n Roll Express were put together accidentally and the Fab’s it was something that tends to play out. I don’t think I looked actively for a team as though it was a career move or anything, it wasn’t like that at all. It was just one of those things that were happening at the time and you make the best of it or kind of do what you do.”
Describe your relationships with Jim Cornette, Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon and the differences of working with each of them.
“They are all the same in sense that they had that passion and that drive for the business. I think Paul and Jim are very similar in their beliefs and they might be at the opposite spectrum at times. They both had a passion about them. I think that everybody says this and it’s true that the closest guy to Lorne Michaels on TV he just reminds you of Vince. That guy in control of everything that guy that has to know everything. I think that’s why he’s been so successful because he knows about everything going on and that’s why he will not be beat in sports entertainment by anybody.
Paul is a mad genius too and some of the last promos he’s done for Brock and the build up to Wrestlemania 31 was just so great and that was all Paul Heyman. I have a ton of respect for Paul. I have a ton of respect for Jim Cornette too. Jim knows he gets passionate. He knows he gets carried away at times but that’s what makes him Jim. It’s what makes Cornette, Cornette. Not everyone is going to love him and he’s okay with that.”
I recently spoke with Big Ryck, formerly Ezekiel Jackson, and he stated that you taught him how to build stamina in a match. Would you say that’s something you can see a wrestler has during their sessions or does it take time to develop?
The only reason for ‘The Hour Broadway’ would probably be for the stamina. It was also to teach you how to work various holds and moving in the hold for a variety of time because you may have to go 15 minutes. I doubt very seriously the chances now a days of going an hour are between slim and none. But if you can go an hour and understand and make that time exciting with everything you do, with every move and every step everything that you do. If you go back and watch some of the iron matches of Shawn/Bret it’s teaching you what to do next. It’s not just about just sitting in one hold and if you get in that hold how are you going to do a spot and go back to the same body part. You have to be able to know how to tell a story. If you can do that in one hour, okay. Then think of what you can do in 15 minutes? Or in 10 minutes? Then you are going to go down to the other side of the spectrum and you have 2 minutes to get your point across. So that was the idea behind ‘The Hour Broadway’. It wasn’t only stamina but it’s also telling a story. You have an hour to tell a story. How do you do that? You can’t go out of the ring you have got to tell the story. So that’s the purpose of ‘The Hour Broadway’. It was about taking everything you know or everything you learned and when do you do what at the right time?
Every time is the right time. Sixty minutes and there is no bad time and there is no down time. They are watching you so there is no such move as a rest hold these days. That’s what guys have to understand and a lot of guys get it. Our guys get it. Randy Orton is one of the best I’ve ever seen to work a rear chin lock. A rear chin lock is sorely over used but it’s how you use a hold and apply what you are doing. It’s what makes you different then the next guy. How you apply and sell what you are doing and how you sell what’s been done to you. With an hour, you have an hour to lay it out and tell a story get people involved, get the emotions, compel them to watch and tell them there is no other option but that they have to watch this and get involved and see if they really do. So therefore, ‘The Hour Broadway’.
If you could identify other qualities, what else do you hope to have wrestlers develop throughout their training with you?
“When you look at someone there are times you can say this guy doesn’t look like your average bear or dog or cat you’d see walk out of your house. You have to go to the zoo to see the exotic animal or go places where exotic animals are. Well the WWE has always had exotic animals and you want to see what’s different why are they going to connect, why would they connect why would people care? We look for that and do you always find it? No, not at first and maybe not ever but certainly you are looking for something that reaches out and grabs you. You know how you can just look out at somebody or you’ve ever walked into a room or down the street and there is this different looking bizarre human being. That you have to look at them and see what it is that they are doing and you’re drawn to them and there are people like that and then again there are people that are not like that. There are people with talent in other ways and you can never really say Daniel Bryan is going to main event Wrestlemania 30 because you don’t know.”
What are your thoughts on the cross over between Smokey Mountain and the WWF in the mid-90’s? What could have been done differently to ensure that it lasted longer?
“Nothing. It was pretty much a done deal when cable TV came in and when Vince was taking over it was done. There was nothing if you wrestled in the territories or wrestled in the smaller towns like in Tennessee or Kentucky it’s not big time pro wrestling/sports entertainment. Whether anyone likes it or not, Vince is what people consider professional wrestling. Vince would rather consider it sports entertainment. So Smokey Mountain and territories like this that were not going to survive because why go see cats and dogs that you could look at next door when the circus is coming to town. We want to see bigger, badder, louder, better, shinier, flashier, better pyro instead of going to the flea market. The comparison is that there is no comparison.
Once again it’s like anything else in life you have to especially in a performance field like that you have to connect with not just the fans but you have to connect with everybody backstage too and you got make other people want you to be there. Not sure if that was necessarily the reason or the why. I do know that when we went in we got hired and then we got sent back down. There are a lot of elements you have to consider and it’s not an easy gig. I give all the respect in the world to those guys and girls that are working down in NXT right now because they are busting their ass and doing a great job. That is kind of the way it was back in the late and 1980’s and early 1990’s it was just that we didn’t have a developmental system. Smokey Mountain was going to be the guys that weren’t going to get the push and it wasn’t going to be in existence very much longer. So to make a long answer even longer when the Rock n Roll Express went in for a cup of coffee, I don’t know who it could have worked with at that time.”
Having family closely associated with the business, has this been beneficial or detrimental?
“I don’t know if it was beneficial or detrimental. What I do know is that it was up to me to guide my life and my career and I’m not sure if was something I should have done either. Bruce (his brother) did his gig and I did my gig and I never tried to cross the two or let that be any issue. That’s at least what I attempted to do. Therefore, I was just happy to be there and you can’t be just happy to be there especially to be a success in that company (WWE).
That company thrives on those that go or it and sticking their necks out and taking that extra chance and that’s what you have to do. It’s good to see that happen too because it teaches them that it ain’t easy and its maybe a simple pass but not an easy one to get to whether you have family in it or not. It’s all up to you in the end. You would think that because their dad’s the promoter (Von Erich’s and the Hart’s) that they had it really great which was just the opposite of what happens a lot of times and anyone whose promoter’s kid that might have got a break but for the most part in those days the guys like the Fuller’s and the Von Erich’s, Hart family were not only competitive but they lived through some hard times and they dealt with it as a family and they dealt with it in the business so it could either bond you closer together or tear you pretty far apart. They don’t have it so easy all the time.”
Who would you say fans should keep an eye out for that they may not necessarily be familiar with that you’ve trained recently?
“I wish there was someone that I could name off the bat that I could think of that would be fair to single anybody out but I will say because here is the deal man, I tweeted out some stuff about Kevin Owens and I didn’t see it. I watched some of his ROH stuff but I just don’t understand the connection, but he will has a perfect opportunity to connect with people on Sunday (May 31st) and I really do hope he does it’s not that I don’t I like when people come in and prove everybody wrong. I’m not the only one saying this and I’m not the only one questioning what people see in in Kevin Owens. I just don’t know what people see in Kevin Owens. But I’ve heard that Austin loves him, Rock loves him, and Hunter loves him and Cena must love him to want to work with him on Sunday. I’m just looking to see what he does and he’s the guy that I don’t get right now but I hope that after Sunday (May 31st) I get then. I really do because I like the NXT program and I watch the shows and they have a really cool set up and Full Sail (University) is great. So I’ve got some camps and I’ve got some great guys over the last three years but I’m not going to say if they should be in NXT that are even compare them. It was funny that on twitter I had people say, (regarding thoughts on Kevin Owens) ‘no wonder you’re not in the developmental league anymore and no wonder you don’t have those camps. Well, I’m sure that’s part of it but I still don’t see it in Kevin Steen. I just don’t want him to blow out his knee again and anything like that because it is a question.”
Please note: Dr. Tom’s thoughts about Kevin Owens had changed after watching him compete at Elimination Chamber against John Cena.
Was there anything you would like to promote, share or encourage?
“I do have a list of appearances that are too many to notice but you can see on drtomprichard.com
. There are just too many mention. I do have some camps coming up this summer that I would like to tell people so you can come see and check it out. Like I said any camps or appearances at drtomprichard.com
and on twitter @drtomprichard