#WWF54107 – Before They Were WWF Superstars
James Dixon: This is the chance to go behind the scenes and learn the stories of how some WWF superstars got to the dance. It sounds a bit like watching paint dry to me.
Like with all of these mini bios, we start with a snapshot of Kurt’s childhood, complete with comments from his brothers and mother. He was a calm kid who didn’t get into trouble, so his brothers wanted to toughen him up and sadistically forced him and brother Eric to have boxing matches. His dad used to playfully beat on him too, the poor kid. Kurt says he went into his first wrestling match aged 7 full of confidence because of the tough reputation his surname carried, but he got beat. The experience made him stronger and he trained 3 ½ hours a time, which he says he didn’t enjoy but at the same time looked forward to. Talk moves to the unexpected death of his father which served as his inspiration to succeed in wrestling. He went on to beat Sylvester Terkay (yes, the same one) in the NCAA finals, which was the start of his run to Olympic gold. We see some of his insane workouts and training regimes to prepare, such as his 250 hour months (about eight hours a day) where he would do wacky things like sprint up super steep hills with people on his back. As everyone knows it did pay off for Kurt and he took home the gold, which Angle says stirred feelings of relief rather than elation. At least his mother was pleased though, calling it the best feeling of her life, and brother David, wearing a WWF branded shirt, says he was concerned that his mother might die after the win. I bet he doesn’t feel inadequate at all in the shadow of his brother’s success. Angle rounds off a pretty dull segment by claiming that: “The Olympics is what I was meant to do, but the WWF is my calling”. He says he wouldn’t want things to have worked out any other way, and that the WWF has been the time of his life. Yes, yes, I’m sure it has.
Nora ‘Molly Holly’ Greenwood grew up in an idealist feel-good movie town by the sounds of it, building tree forts in the summer and sledging in the winter. I thought people only did those things in movies? She did some sports, as seemingly all WWF stars did, with her power-lifter dad training her. He doesn’t look anything like a power-lifter, he looks like an office worker! Molly was a bit of a tomboy and used to restore cars, which is pretty cool. She is like Megan Fox’s character in Transformers, only not as stunning. Or slutty. She worked at Subway as a “sandwich artist” (which is Subway company speak, but she still refers to herself as such, making her a perfect fit for the buzzword loving WWF) and she got talking to someone from a wrestling school who encouraged her to give it a try. I wish strangers in the street would randomly direct me towards something that turns out to be my calling, just out of the goodness of their hearts. Sorry, but this whole story is just a little bit too cutesy for me to buy. We see some early footage of Molly training, and then her debut on an outdoor show in Florida in front of a dozen people in the rain. It’s pretty cool that they managed to get hold of that. Molly did some indies and received a WCW tryout, which impressed Dean Malenko who invited her to train with him. Randy Savage is brought up and we even see footage of him in WCW to accompany, and Molly tells how he asked her to help train his girlfriends. She did, and ended up on Team Madness, and then on television became one of the many victims of Hulk Hogan’s women beating ways. She ended up in the WWF, and was one of the best female performers they have had in my opinion. Natural, different (see: not slutty), pretty and she could work. She was one of the good ones.
The future JBL talks about growing up in Sweetwater, Texas which is only famous for a Rattlesnake Roundup, which for non-American fans who don’t know, picture “Whacking Day” in the Simpsons. Bradshaw says Sweetwater used to get a lot of heat for the barbaric practice from animal rights groups, but his response is: “How in the hell you can be cruel to a snake I will never know! But we weren’t cruel to ’em… we just caught ’em and killed ’em” That comment is met with UPROARIOUS laughter from the people shooting this. Apparently Bradshaw played football… everyone in the WWF played football at some point. He talks about what he did to make a name for himself, but I couldn’t care less about football so this is all white noise. All I gleamed from it is that he snapped his leg and it stopped him from being in the NFL. We see old footage of him as a youth cutting a Hulk Hogan promo, which is a pretty neat and funny inclusion. Bradshaw brings up his tag partner on the indies, the late Bobby Duncam Jnr, who he lived with and rode with. Like a few others on this tape, he discusses the perils of the independent scene, the lack of money, the injuries, not being able to eat, etc. It was a different world and made guys into men and made them respect the business more and learn their craft better. When he finally got to the WWF, he was kicked out of the locker room by Tony Garea on his first day, but after a match with Savio Vega he was hired. Of course he was hired; he is tall. Bradshaw recalls working with the Undertaker on a live RAW not long after his debut, and he recounts looking around during Taker’s entrance and turning to manager Dutch Mantel and asking “What the hell am I doing here!?”. Dutch told him to just “be aggressive!”, so he was, and Bradshaw gives Taker a lot of credit for getting him through it. We wrap up his segment with him saying how happy he is to be in the WWF and that it was worth the hardship to get there. Are you sensing a theme here yet? Everyone loves their jobs with the WWF and everything they did in their lives prior was with the ultimate goal of getting there. Rinse and repeat.
“Matthew loved being a fish” says Spike’s mother as his parents tell stories about him diving for rocks when he was just two years old. Spike, who is a very good speaker in interviews like this and comes across really well, says “I’ve always been getting beat up, it’s who I am”. I kind of feel bad for the guy. He tells how all of his brothers played hockey, but he turned it down because he wanted to watch wrestling instead, because “Bob Backlund was more important to me than anything else”. Crikey. Even he played football, and says his coach didn’t buy it when he first started out because he was so tiny, but he gave him a try and he turned out to be decent enough, though not great. You ever notice in these stories that the coaches are always good guys and supportive, usually progressive thinkers too? You never hear “my coach was an asshole” do you? Unsurprisingly given his stature, Spike didn’t make it as a footballer and ended up being a teacher, which he didn’t really want to do. In 1993 he saw a commercial for a wrestling school and went for it, determined to live out his dream. “It was brutal” he says, because there were loads of big guys who enjoyed beating him up and throwing him around. He was like a human practice dummy. Spike’s parents didn’t approve of his drastic choice of career change, because they had spent a fortune on him going to college. “He probably won’t need that (for) wrestling” says his mother. Spike worked under the not very creative moniker “Sensational” Matt Hyson, and on his debut he tried a flip plancha from the top, but his opponent was too far away and he sacked it. Big time. He landed squarely on his head and to be honest he is lucky to be alive. The match was actually filmed, and the WWF show the footage. The bump is horrible. Spike was proactive about getting jobs in the big leagues rather than just waiting for opportunities to come his way, and he put together a promo tape and sent it out to prospective promoters. The WWF and WCW rejected him of course, but ECW signed him up. Spike mentions an interviewer once telling him that because of his size he would need to learn crazy flips and aerials in order to make it in the business, but he disagreed because he figured that if you can work then it doesn’t matter. The guy told him he would never make it if that was his attitude, and Spike says he would love to hear what he thinks now. Spike’s is a nice theory, and in an ideal world that is how it would be, but for 99% of guys that just isn’t the case. Size trumps talent in the big leagues, always.
Stacy’s background was beauty pageants, dancing, and being a Ravens cheerleader. None of these things are even remotely interesting. She talks about her boyfriend of seven years in school, who she went to all the school dances with where she got to wear some nice dresses… Jesus this is TEDIOUS. She complains that girls go to prom now with their bellies out. Yes, having being influenced to show skin by the likes of you! One Monday evening she was watching Nitro with her boyfriend (though I can’t quite figure why anyone would have chosen Nitro back then) and saw an advert for a competition to be a Nitro Girl. She applied and ended up winning it, and boy I bet her now ex-boyfriend regrets that fateful night to this day. Stacy was briefly in the Nitro Girls, but she was hotter than them all and had the most incredible legs in wrestling, so WCW for once did something smart and put her in a more featured role as Miss Hancock. And then they asked her to work matches after 5 minutes of training, rather than just let her flourish as a non-wrestling performer. We see her wedding to David Flair on Nitro as Stacy talks about how much “acting” is involved in wrestling, and that it’s like a soap opera. Then she says she always wanted to be in movies and be on television. Well, we knew that one already. This piece was awful.
Billy is not a confident interviewee, speaking too fast and punctuating his comments with nervous laughter, even about unpleasant subjects such as the death of his father. He puts over his folks in a big way, saying how his best friend is his mum. He sounds lonely. He then reveals that he lives with his sister and that they are best friends. Hang on, what about your mom!? Are you surprised to learn that Gunn played football? Good lord. He was also professional rodeo cowboy before wrestling, which we already knew of course. He says it is very similar to wrestling because you are on the road constantly. That and it is full of carnies. He talks about what a rush it is to ride a bull, and compares it to working in front of 20,000 people. He says it was getting old and too much like a job, which he was told is the sign to get out or you will end up getting hurt. It just so happens there was a wrestling show at the rodeo, and he got involved and had fun. He did some indies for a few years but claims here that he and tag partner Bart Gunn got signed “real quick”. Four years is fairly quick in those days, but it was hardly rodeo rink to WWF rings overnight like he implies. Billy says the Smoking Gunns gimmick was inspired by his background, and his rodeo days helped make them feel more natural and legitimate. I can’t say I particular agree. I thought the Gunns were hard work to watch and their gimmick was a cartoonish throwback to a bygone era.
We go to visit Blackpool with an accentless William Regal, which is one of the biggest shitholes I have ever been to in my life, but Regal puts it over big as the “second most visited city in Europe”. He talks about his early days wrestling at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, where carny promoters would offer drunk punters shoots with the wrestlers. The matches were far from predetermined, they were all legitimate. A loss to one of the punters meant game over for the wrestler, because it cost the promoter money. We actually see some footage from Regal’s days working there, which includes the promoter inviting any “perverts and queers” to get involved, with a reward of £10 cash if they could survive. Regal takes us to some of the dumps he has wrestled in and tells a story about kicking a heckler in the head when he tried to get in the ring, which got him popped by the rowdy crowd. We take a turn off into the rough part of town, and Regal takes us on a tour of the dossholes and fighting bars, before telling a story of walking into a pub and getting glassed the second he walked through the door. Yep, that sounds like Blackpool to me. We see footage of Regal against the woeful Giant Haystacks during the post glory days of British wrestling, which handily demonstrates exactly why the razzmatazz of American wrestling quickly overtook it in popularity. Regal gets all emotional about the shitty building he used to wrestle in, and says that while it is an honour to be part of the “biggest show in the world” with the WWF, the Blackpool venue remains the best. Uh huh.
The Hardy Boyz
This is the same footage as from the Hardy’s VHS, but obviously reduced down. Matt hasn’t changed at all since he was about three. They briefly talk about their mum dying young from cancer and their dad (who Jeff says is his hero) raising them alone and disciplining them well (though, look how they turned out…). Matt says they always loved wrestling, and we see their home videos from when they used to wrestle each other as kids with all their cute little characters. We skip them training themselves and see some of their early indy work, then a really bizarre shot of them and two unidentified guys in nWo shirts. The thing is, Matt and Jeff started with the WWF in 1994, and were pretty much there ever since on and off. Parading around in shirts of the opposition’s hottest act was a silly thing to be doing. They talk about how their father wasn’t impressed with the lack of money they were making and wanted them to get a real job, though now they are rich and famous he likes the business, obviously. Bruce Prichard puts them over for their hard work and heart, and talks about them being with the company as semi regulars for years and then finally giving them a contract. We see the contract, which they didn’t even read and just signed. Marks. It is a nice story and a feel good story at that, but the way they both turned out as drug abusers, rehab frequenters and in the case of Matt, a woman beater too, makes this more sad when viewed with the benefit of hindsight.
Holy shit was Lita ugly growing up. All of this is just taken from the Lita tape Lita – It Just Feels Right, as we go over her experiences in Mexico and her love of the culture, though whether or not that includes her stint spent doing erotic dancing to pay for her training is not mentioned. We go to her kitchen at home and see her vast mask collection, with her pointing out the likes of La Parka, Rey Misterio Jr, Psicosis and Aguila -mentioning that he become Essa Rios, which I am pretty sure the WWF didn’t mention when the character debuted- as well as outing Val Venis as having worked under a hood across the border in a pre-porn star life (as Steele). I didn’t realise she was such a super geek, but I kind of like her for more knowing that she is. She then tells the tale that she turned up at an ECW show and got talking to Tommy Dreamer, asking him for a chance to work out with some of the guys and just generally hang around. She ended up talking to Tajiri and Super Crazy, who she knew from Mexico, and worked out in the ring with Tajiri a bit, which got her on the evening’s card. She had a run as Miss Congeniality, but it was hardly a memorable one, truth be told. We briefly meet her dog and get a story about a job she had at a dog pound, before she tells fans who write letters to her to stay focused and make sure everything they do leads to their dreams. She was a pretty good role model actually, until she became a two-timing ho bag and the crowd majorly turned on her.
Edge & Christian
The two lifetime best buddies first met each other at school, with the majority of this piece being a tour of the building while the pair reminisce. We see some of Edge’s artwork that he did when he was younger, and it is actually quite brilliant. He is a hell of an artist. Christian used to play hockey and at one point considered going pro, and in a strange coincidence he once won a trophy that was named after Edge’s late uncle. Edge took the death of that uncle hard because he was like a father figure to him, and he found wrestling to fill the gap in his life, though his mother dismissed aspirations of him becoming a pro, telling him “I’m not sure wrestling will be around then”. Christian on the other hand got hooked while resting up on his couch recovering from a hockey injury. Like every other kid who pays no attention to the “don’t try this at home” warnings, he used to wrestle with his brothers in their living room, and then later with Edge at school, where like the Hardys they had dozens of creative characters. Edge couldn’t afford wrestling training as it cost $3000, but in a bout of fortune the Toronto Sun ran an essay writing competition where the winner would receive free training, and Edge won it. He thus attended Ron Hutchinson’s wrestling school, a school that would later also produce the likes of Beth Phoenix, Trish Stratus, Joe Legend and of course Christian. Christian took an altogether different route, flunking out of his final semester of college but taking his student loan to pay for the training. His dad is amused about it now, but freely admits that he wouldn’t have looked back on it with such humour if he hadn’t ended up making it. It makes you wonder how many alternative stories there are out there of guys and gals who have tried something similar and failed to make the grade. The pair talk about their horrific experiences wrestling in the backass ends of Canada where you could only get to the venues via boat or plane, or by driving over the frozen lakes in the winter. They tell a hellish story about the power going out in -40 weather, and nearly dying as a result. Those guys paid their dues and earned their WWF spot and their story is genuinely nice. Edge ended up as a World Champion and in the WWF Hall of Fame, and Christian had a long tenure in the company, twice actually, and held multiple titles and is generally well respected. Neither guy ever did anything to shame their careers either (other than Edge having a thing for the ladies), and their story of breaking through and living their dream together is a great one, and a good end to a drab tape.
Summary: Whether this tape is good or bad really rather depends on your tastes. If you are into the stories of famous guys and gals before they were known to the world, then this is the tape for you. If on the other hand like me you skip the parts in autobiographies about people’s tedious childhoods, then you won’t like this either. I found it unspeakably boring. Everyone played football or some other sport and then turned to wrestling when they were either too injured or too crap to do it anymore. Everyone loves the WWF and are living their dreams. Well great big whoop-de-do. The odd tiny slice of interesting footage aside, this is a pass.