(originally conducted 2004)
Describe your past working relationship with the WCW and both tours of duty with the WWF
That’s a pretty loaded question. Describe what it is like being a wrestler, commentator, then being a writer and a producer. I was with WCW 3 times and the WWF 3 times. 2 times with WCW as a wrestler, 2 time with the WCW as an office guy and 1 time with the WWF as an office guy. As a wrestler, both times I was more of a mid-card guy in both companies that was used to make other guys look good. I was fine with that. I didn’t mind not being a quarterback where I got all the glory. I enjoyed making the other guys look good, and I had fun doing that. I knew I wasn’t going to get rich and I was okay with it.
Then when I went to the WWF, the one thing I was never really prepared for was the politics. In WCW, it was more or less like a family situation. In the WWF the office finally gave me an opportunity after nine months of calling Pat Patterson at noon on Friday. Every friday at noon I would call Pat and say “I’m ready, I’m ready to contribute, I’ll do anything you ask, I want an opportunity I am not looking for a job.” He finally said, “if you promise never to call me again, we will bring you to TV”.
My first TV appearance was in Ottawa in 1989 and I said “Thank you, thank you, thank you”. So I went out there and thought everyone would be as glad to see me as I would be to see them. Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith, a lot of the guys that were like the locker room leaders as far as ribbing, didn’t appreciate me just coming in and acting like one of the boys. I didn’t know you had to earn that. I figured when the office welcomes you the boys did too. That wasn’t the case. So that was a tough lesson. I never had a lesson on how to work and I never had a lesson in politics. So everything I learned was ultimately the school of hard knocks. Those are the best lessons, because you never forget.
As an office guy it was the same way, but by doing my job and doing what was best for my company, that was always the best thing to do. I didn’t know that in the corporate world the first thing you did was to think about the best way to cover your own ass. Then do what was good for the company. I was never really good at that.
Terry you have worked so hard to attain the popularity that you have. What is it about wrestling that has always appealed to you to continue to compete? Why?
I love the business, period. I love the wrestling business. I don’t love the politics. I don’t love the back stabbing. I don’t love the guys that lie to each other. I don’t love the promoters that lie. I don’t love the stealing. That’s the real world, though. That happens in every line of work. The actual time when two guys can get out there in the ring and can absolutely command and control a crowd’s emotion for however long they are allowed, is absolutely magic. Until someone is out there doing it they have no idea what I am talking about. When they do it they will understand completely, and know why guys go out there with broken legs and broken necks, and fractured ankles and all that other stuff and sacrifice everything for those fifteen minutes.
Has that changed your perception of wrestling at all?
Yeah. In the 1960s, the (Green Bay) Packers, those guys made $100,000 a year and they won the world title. There are guys that were crippled being pushed around in wheelchairs that were on the Green Bay Packer world championship teams. They wouldn’t change a thing. They didn’t play for the money, they played for the love of the game. I don’t have enough to retire. There a lot of my friends that can’t retire, but they can’t do anything else. They did it for the love of the game, and I am one of those guys. I don’t begrudge anybody making a living. Everything I did I did by choice. Wrestling is not what it was, it is almost like it lost its innocence. It lost its innocence. To me, Big business, marketing it, and making it this big multi-million dollar corporation, took away what it was. This intimate relationship between the audience and the guys in the ring. To make it into this mass marketed machine almost ruined what was its very nature.
How could you best describe the Terry Taylor persona?
It depends on what my role is and what the promoter wants. If I am supposed to make people mad, I do everything in my power to make people mad. If my job is to make people like me than I will do everything in my power to make them like me, and I had 23 years of experience from which to draw in order to do that. I know every trick there is to know, and I use every one of them to get the response I need them to get. I don’t do like a lot of guys, that are supposed to draw umms. I don’t try to make them laugh or try to make them like me or do any of that stuff. If I am supposed to go out there make them mad, pal, that’s all I do. If I am supposed to make the people feel sympathetic towards me or get behind me, I do everything I can to get that because that’s my job. You can’t have it both ways. It’s like being half-pregnant. You have a bad guy that is trying to make the people cheer him, and a good guy that is acting like a bad guy, you get all cluttered up and you need to get where it needs to go. It gets confusing and the people don’t get value for their dollar.
Were you ever comfortable with the “Red Rooster” character?
Not really. I didn’t understand, for 9 years I worked for Bill Watts and the NWA and I thought I was a good guy, baby face good guy, most of the time. I just had a real turn against Chris Adams and I had a good personal issue, people were with it. I had just gotten some strong negative reaction from the fans and then going out to Texas I wrestled as a heel and I got a good reaction there, but the territory was dead. It had a great run with the Freebirds and the Von Erichs and all that, but the territory had to be rebuilt and that takes time. I needed money, I had just gotten married and had a kid and bought a house and all that and I needed a job, and that’s when I called Pat. When I went to the WWF I was naïve, I just didn’t know. It’s hard to believe that a 28 or 29 year old man was naïve, but I was. This business is unlike any other. I learned a lot of lessons and a lot of them were very painful.
Have your life experiences shaped whether or not you will play a certain character in the ring?
I don’t say no to anything unless it will embarrass my family. I don’t think I have ever said no to anything. I mean look at what’s stupid in the wrestling business. If Mr. McMahon said, “I want you to got out there and kiss my ass”. I would say, “Ok, I don’t care”. It’s a game, guys are out there bumping into each other and all that other stuff. If a guy says “Kiss my ass”, and the people are talking about it, fine. What’s the big deal? I have had guys bleed all over me before, I would rather kiss someone’s ass than to have some guy bleed on me. It is not the way things are anymore.
Who or what first influenced you to follow wrestling as a career? Could you describe the experience?
In Florida when I was a kid, my parents and I were visiting some friends in Sarasota. I was walking by the ring and I heard this voice going, “Umm, gottum” or something like that. I was thinking, what the hell was that? So I go around the corner and I saw these two guys pounding the crap out of each other, and it was Championship Wrestling from Florida with Gordon Solie. I was fascinated. I was like, what is this? And I watched it and it was awesome. Immediately, I was completely captivated by it. This is unbelievable and I loved it, and from then on I watched it every week. My brother and I used to watch it and thought it was the coolest thing in the world. We used to go to the beach and slam each other and all that crap in the waves. Somebody potatoed the other, hit them really hard, and then the waves go out, and it was like, sorry about that man. Slamming in that hard mud, that hurt. That’s when wrestling was real, when the waves went out.
What is different about Terry Taylor now, that was not evident years ago?
The naivete. I am not naive anymore. I have been beaten and screwed and worn out and torn and abused every way you could possibly be in this business, and I am sure I could be swerved in more ways. (I’ve been) treated poorly. All the naive things when you come into something. I mean, I came in thinking I am going to be a pro wrestler, and everybody is going to cheer me, and (I would) travel around and make lots of money and everybody is going to love me, and it’s going to be a great life. I didn’t know anything about traveling 350 days a year, and not being there when my kid takes his first step, and the day after my son’s born I leave my wife in the hospital, stuff like that. There are a lot of things you don’t understand going into show biz, but now I do.
In the ring you combined superb technical wrestling along with speed and finesse. In your honest opinion, do you think wrestlers today are lacking in their actual “in ring” ability? Does this affect the quality of their matches?
I think wrestling now is like Hollywood. There are no great actors in Hollywood anymore. All the great movies now have computer generated heels and monsters, and they have bigger and better explosions. Very few actors can play with their performances. That is why people are jumping off scaffolds and ladders. Diving off stuff, and girls are taking their clothes off. It is either the storyline is lacking, or the ability in the ring is not there to take people on the emotional rollercoaster. What I think is that, now the talent started listening to the audience. If the people start going “boring”, you don’t start jumping up and doing more and more. This isn’t audience participation, the audience doesn’t start telling the actors in a movie or a play what to do. Only in wrestling do the young guys say, “The people are going boring let’s do something”. Screw that! If anybody says boring to me I lay down. You want boring I give you boring. Pretty soon, people going around saying boring, a guy is going to say if you don’t shut up, I am going to beat your ass.. They do shut up. They get with it. The young guys get a little nervous and are not used to people shouting boring or booing them. There are no old ring generals teaching these young guys what to do. The Arn Andersons and the Ric Flairs and Dick Murdochs, guys like that are gone.
Do you think the lack of movement by these athletes in a major promotion allows them to be strong-armed?
Absolutely. Let’s be honest, how do you negotiate if there is only one person bidding. Their are 28 teams in the National Football League, or 29, and the guy is a free agent and you have all 29 people vying for that person’s talent, let the bidding begin. If you have one person bidding and that’s it, who will that person bid against?
Do you think working independent shows has helped fans to recognize Terry Taylor and expose your character?
They may, but let’s be honest, I am not the Terry Taylor I was. Let’s face it, I have been out of the ring 7 years and I am not going to be who I was when I was 30 when I am 46 years old. I have been out of it for 7 years, and wrestling 3 times a month is not going to make me who I was. I still can go and I still feel good, but it is like anything else, I used to be pissed off when I would be working for (Bill) Watts and we would be working 11 weeks in a row. I would have a day off and it would screw my timing up. That one day off in 11 weeks would ruin everything. I would be rusty because I would have that one day where it would throw everything off kilter. Get 7 years off and see what happens.
So it is just recently that you have gotten back into the ring?
Yeah. Eric Bischoff fired me from WCW in ’96, said I was too old.
What do you think of the state of professional wrestling as a whole (i.e, content, language. etc)? Where do you see professional wrestling headed?
Everything goes in cycles. I mean, the wrestling business goes in cycles, everything goes up, it goes down. You know you get new stars, the older stars pass the torch, the same as always. Like the Undertaker helping out this Maven kid. So does it elevate Maven? Does it bring the Undertaker down? We’ll see. The same thing it always is, new blood in, old blood out. You have to develop new characters all the time. The business will always be the same, it is just going to be different, like a river flowing. It is always there, it is always just moving. There will be new names, new characters. The last five years have been the most profitable of all-time. When I was in the WWF, people were saying that was the best of all time, it would never get better, and that was 84’-85’-86’-87’, here we are 15 years later and people are saying it’s the best.
Is that attributed to societal differences or simply the type of content that is being pushed?
What was different? It is the same thing, good versus evil. It’s just that it gets edgier, because let’s be honest, 12 year olds when I was growing up, I got in trouble for chewing gum, now they get in trouble for bringing guns. All of society now is just more knowledgeable, more educated, and smarter and aware. You bring weak stuff to a fan now they are not going to watch it. It has to be edgy, it has to be hip, or they are not going to watch. If they’re disgusted by it, you’re going to turn them off to it forever. It doesn’t have to be distasteful, it just has to be something that doesn’t insult them. Fans are smart and are very discriminating. It doesn’t have to be all blood and guts, you can make them laugh too. Entertain them! Give them everything, the girls, the laughing, the ha-ha, you know, Rock and Sock connection. There is a lot of stuff that can be fun. It just takes creativity and somebody that has the vision that can make the stories and get everybody involved, and get people to care about the characters.
Any impressions of the entire Crash T.V format that was pushed out there?
It was great. It turned the wrestling business around. Vince Russo revolutionized the wrestling business. He is the one that brought the WWF back from the Goon and Freddy Lee Floyd and all that stuff, with all that revolutionary stuff, the vignettes and all that. He is the one that turned the WWF around, he is the reason they beat WCW after 94 weeks, whatever it was. He is the reason they kept beating them. Of course he was edited by Vince McMahon, but still. It is a lot easier to edit something than it is to create it.
What are your feelings about hardcore wrestling? Is it stale and what does it need to maintain the audience’s interest?
Bruiser Brody was a legit hardcore guy. He was really tough, he didn’t need a bunch of chairs and gimmicks. He used them because he was nasty. Guys use them now because they don’t know what else to do. Brody was incredible. I knew him. He is the kind of guy that would kick your teeth in for real. If you had a chair and you weren’t ready to have it stuffed up your own rear end, you better not bring it in. I mean he was that kind of guy.
The guys now do hardcore because they can’t do anything else. Hardcore to me is boring. I mean, what is exciting about hardcore? What hasn’t been done? How many guys can go through tables, and they get up and they go through another table. How many guys can get hit with a chair, get up and get hit with another chair? Well chairs really hurt. I mean you’re really hitting a guy with a chair, his brain is getting scrambled and then he gets up and gets hit with another one, because no one cares anymore because the bar has been raised. So here Mick Foley is getting his brain scrambled with his hands handcuffed behind his back. (He got hit) 11 times. His kids are watching it and he doesn’t even know who he is for like a month, or two months, or maybe a year, I don’t know. And for what? People who say ‘Wrestling is phony, that wasn’t real, it didn’t hurt.” He will never be the same. So it is not that it didn’t take talent, guts, whatever it did. What can 11 chair shots do that one doesn’t? It is not always better.
The fall of WCW is something I am aware you are close to. How would you describe your working relationship with Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff and the rest of the roster of WCW?
Fine. We all did what we needed to do to get along. Or otherwise, we weren’t going to have a job. We knew that the company was in trouble, and we knew that we were like the last hope. Whether it was us running it or someone else, we knew that WCW was in trouble if we didn’t hunker down and get together. So we slowed it down, or tried to at least. But we were not successful. It’s pretty sad, when you see something you love has cancer and you watch it die, and there is nothing you can do. You try and try and you try, and think you can help it heal and can see hope. You think something’s going to be good and it doesn’t happen. It dies anyway.
Have you ever considered working in tag competition more often or simply as a singles wrestler? Why?
It doesn’t matter. I appreciate you watching, but Cyrus and me are the Border City Wrestling tag team champions. I like being a single wrestler, but it doesn’t really matter, I like tagging too. If I have to tag with a partner I like and somebody that likes me, and we have good chemistry, that’s fine. If I have a partner I can’t stand and he can’t stand me, that happens too.