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Ronnie Garvin Shoot Interview
Posted by Brandon Truitt on Apr 12, 2004, 19:00
No intro this week, as it's been a long day and I'll be glad for it to end.
As always, you can feel free to Drop me an e-mail, read the archives, buy me stuff, or buy yourself stuff at Highspots.com.
Ron Garvin Shoot Interview (1/31/04)
How did he start in pro wrestling? He was living in Montreal as a teenager and would wrestle as an amateur at the same building where the Montreal territory had their matches. He ended up making the transition from amateur to pro wrestling when he was seventeen. Pat Patterson, Terry Garvin, and others started in that territory as well. You learned in the ring instead of in school back then.
Boston- That was his first territory once he went pro full-time. The pay wasn’t great but it was a good learning experience. The reason he got paid so little was that he was Canadian and would have to leave the US if he lost his work permit due to an argument over his pay.
Oklahoma- He went there next because promoter Leroy McGuirk had gotten a hold of his work visa. Garvin mainly worked out of Little Rock, Arkansas at the time. This was about 1962. He was living off of about $55 a week in Boston because he was getting short-changed but got paid $90 his first night in Arkansas and about $350 for the whole week. He was there about four months then was sent to another territory to get experience, which happened to be Texas. Bill Watts was just starting out at that time and was working in the territory.
Texas- This pre-dates Fritz Von Erich’s World Class and Paul Boesch’s Houston office, as he was working for someone named Siegel. Other wrestlers in the territory included Danny McShane. He was there for another four months then went to Louisiana.
Louisiana- He was based out of Lafayette,LA, at the time under the Fields Brothers. He went to Mobile, Alabama, a few months after that. Mobile was also owned by the Fields Brothers but was run as a separate territory. After Mobile, he went to Florida. He also spent some time in Toronto during this period.
Florida- Eddie Graham was running the territory by then, as it was about 1966. He was just there during the winter to be away from the cold. He went to Charlotte next
Terry Garvin and Pat Patterson- Terry was a big ribber. Pat was on the west coast by that time. He and Terry didn’t team up until about 1965, then they stopped tagging in about 1969 before teaming up again a few times in the 70s before calling it quits as a team in 1974 in Georgia.
Hands of Stone- Gordon Solie started that for him while he was in Georgia. Solie also nicknamed him the One Man Gang for a while.
Georgia- The first time he was there was in 1974, when he and Terry came in from working for Nick Gulas in east Tennessee. The reason they went to Georgia was that Jerry Jarrett was brought in as a promoter down there and insisted they come in.
Where did he like to work? He loved the southeast, especially Mid-Atlantic, because of the weather and the people. He just came down south to work and immediately loved it.
When did he start teaming up with Ole Anderson? He teamed up with him in Florida before teaming again in Georgia. He gets along with Ole and says he’s a unique guy, but always got along with him.
The war between Ann Gunkel and Jim Barnett- That was a big promotional war going on in Atlanta at the time. He and Terry wrestled for Barnett and a lot of other people wrestled for Gunkel.
(He doesn’t go into this, but the story behind everything is that Gunkel’s husband owned Georgia and died of a heart attack after a match with Ox Baker. After that, Gunkel’s share of the territory disappeared because the territory “dissolved” then reformed without her. She ended up taking most of the talent in the territory, except for Bullet Bob Armstrong and a few others, then ran her own Georgia territory. The NWA got PISSED over this and sent in the big guns to regain the territory, starting a bitter war between the two Georgia offices. The NWA side won after a protracted battle, which left big players in the battle such as Jim Barnett, Bill Watts, and the Brisco Brothers with significant shares in the territory and set the stage for Vince McMahon's buyout of Georgia in the mid-1980s.)
Carolina- He was there for about six weeks in the 60s on his way down south to work in Pensacola. He came back to the territory some years later, around when Martin Luther King was shot. He liked Jim Crockett Sr. and feels that if he’d lived another 15 years, his whole career would have been different. Part of why he likes Jim Sr. more than Jim Crockett Jr. was that Jim Jr. got “flim-flammed” by his bookers, which is what ruined his business. Some of what bookers would do to make themselves look good would be to book a 30-man card with themselves on top in a time when the average card only had about 12 wrestlers then give themselves credit for drawing the big house.
Did he have a big falling-out with the Crocketts in 1976? Yes, and it was over him wrestling Greg Gagne in Georgia. Gagne offered him a position in the AWA wrestling him, which would have meant big money because Greg Gagne was never on the bottom of a card in his daddy’s territory. He ended up getting heat with promoters within the NWA because of it and gave at least four weeks notice. He told them that he’d only do house shows for that time. After a few weeks of that, he was asked to put Angelo Mosca over on TV and he agreed to it because Mosca was a good guy. He found out afterwards that Mosca was leaving for the AWA and was starting there a week ahead of him. The Crocketts sent the tape of the match to the AWA to promote the incoming Mosca and they aired it without watching it, not realizing that Garvin was Mosca's designated jobber. After that, Garvin told the Crocketts to go screw themselves and went to Knoxville, Tennessee, instead of the AWA. The AWA insisted it wouldn’t hurt him but Garvin decided not to come in after all.
Knoxville- Someone tried to get him blackballed from the territory, which some people suspect might have been Crockett booker George Scott.
Don Owen- Great guy and a very honest promoter. Once he wrestled for him in a nearly empty arena and figured he’d be lucky to make $100 but Owen still paid him $2000. This was in 1987 when Garvin was the NWA champion, and the reason the arena was empty was because the Portland Wrestling TV show advertising his appearance hadn’t aired, so no one knew that he was going to be defending the title there.
Working for the Poffo family’s promotion in Kentucky- It was an experience all right. It was an “outlaw territory” competing with Memphis. This was in the late 70s or early 80s.
Randy Savage- He’d never met anyone like that before. He was like a raving maniac and he’s wondering whether it was a work or not.
Going back to Georgia- He left the Poffo promotion and went to Georgia when Ole Anderson took over the territory. After some time there, the Crocketts wanted him to come back because time had healed all wounds.
Did he ever get offers to go to Japan? Yes, he went there for the first time in the late 60s. He wrestled for the one big promotion at that time, as this was before All Japan and New Japan had broken off. He liked working with the young wrestlers there because they worked very stiff to impress all the Americans in order to get an offer to work in the US.
Crockett buying Georgia- He went to Canada for several months of that year (1985) working with the Rougeaus.
Miss Atlanta Lively- That angle was a trip, as he got a friend of his to take him to a mall north of Atlanta, where a makeup lady at a department store tried all kinds of different makeup on him while people gawked at him. People knew it was him because he had the bleach-blonde flattop. He then went shopping with his face like that in order to get a dress, which saw him go to the Big Womens’ department to get a dress that fit him. In order to get shoes that fit, he had to go to a specialty womens’ store to get high heels. There was also at least one point where he was wearing a bra and a girdle in the store while everyone just watched. After all of that, he and his female friend got all dressed up and went out on the town with him in his dress. They would be out kissing and people thought they were lesbians, which he thought was funny as Hell.
Did he see the territory changing? He saw it changing but not the business getting any better, as Crockett had to sell out the territory a few years later. He felt that Crockett wasn’t expanding in the right way.
Did he get any offers from the WWF at that time? No, and he never thought that he’d want to go there at that time.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts- He had a lot of great matches with him. Nice guy and very talented.
The first Crockett Cup tournament- He teamed with Magnum TA and went to the finals against the Road Warriors. He didn’t think the whole thing was a good idea and felt that Crockett didn’t either, and that it was Dusty Rhodes who wanted to do it because he wanted to compete with Vince McMahon. They had the talent to do it but didn’t have the money or business and booking acumen to pull it off.
The business today- He sees Vince McMahon as being well ahead of his time. He feels that Vince doesn’t care about wrestling but cares more about entertainment. He says you could put a Jack Brisco vs. Dory Funk Jr. classic from the 60s on today and the fans would crap all over it, but that’s because the fans are educated to hardcore crap. He feels that it is a GOOD thing that wrestling changed, though, as people today would be bored with it if it hadn’t changed.
Tully Blanchard- Those were good years of his career, but everything in his career was good including the 1970s when he was teaming with Terry Garvin, who would insist on having a pink mat on the ring “and come out looking like a douchebag” with all those curls.
Did Crockett make a mistake by running the Great American Bash tour running all the stadiums instead of indoor shows? Yes, because the weather discouraged a lot of people from coming to the shows.
Did they use too much blood in those days? Yes, it was out of hand with everyone trying to outdo each other. He feels that they should have considered limiting blood to hardway only instead of blading, as guys wouldn’t have wanted to bleed every night if it meant getting the shit knocked out of them instead of slicing some skin.
The Midnight Express- They’re good guys. They made a lot of money. It didn’t matter if he was working with Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey or Eaton and Stan Lane.
Barry Windham- Very nice guy. He remembers him back when he was just Blackjack Mulligan’s kid.
The angle with him, Jimmy Garvin, and Ric Flair- That was a lot of fun, with him in drag knocking out Flair. He didn’t mind doing angles like that because you still ended up wrestling at the end of the day.
How did he find out he was getting the NWA title? He doesn’t say, but says he was happy to get it because it meant more money to him. He doesn’t know why the title change was done in Detroit instead of in the Carolinas, but has an idea that it was booker Dusty Rhodes’ idea to promote an image of them working big cities all around the country. That’s probably why he lost the belt back to Flair in Starrcade 1987 in Chicago. Greensboro and other towns died off after that because they were insulted that the company was ignoring them in favor of other areas.
Good ribbers- Terry Garvin used to rib people a lot, and not just wrestlers. Once time when they were travelling together, they saw a station wagon full of nuns and got an idea. They drove up the road a ways, pulled off to a sideroad, Ronnie pulled off all his clothes and got into the trunk, then Terry got back on the road and pulled in front of the nuns. Once Terry did that, Ronnie opened up the trunk and stood there naked in front of them. “Today, you’d probably go to jail for that”, but they were about 20 years old each back then and had to entertain themselves on the road.
Not being booked as the main event while he was the champ- He got paid main event money anyway, so it didn’t matter to him. He thinks that it was Dusty’s ego that did it, as Dusty would be booked in the main event instead.
What’s the deal with Dusty? Ronnie beat all of the Four Horsemen, won the title, then never even got a rematch after he lost the belt. He started thinking about moving on after that. He sat back and started watching things after that, at which point Dusty came up to him and pitched him the idea of turning heel on him at Great American Bash 1988. He figured that it wasn’t going to work because he was over big as a face in Baltimore, bigger than Dusty. He went to the ring and knocked Dusty out, at which point half the crowd booed and half the crowd cheered. He knew that Dusty was going to beat him, Al Perez, and Gary Hart at the same time in the upcoming angle, so he left the company right after that as a bit of a “fuck you” to Dusty. After he left, Dusty went on TV and explained that the reason he’d left was that Dusty had beaten him up in a bar fight, which Ronnie laughs at because he felt that Dusty could come up with a better excuse than that
Ric Flair- Good guy but he’s probably his own worst enemy. He and a lot of the other guys blew a lot of their money while they were on the road instead of saving it for when they were at hime.
The downfall of Jim Crockett Promotions- Crockett was mesmerized by Dusty and, on the surface, things looked to be going good.
Vince McMahon- He loved working for him because he didn’t bullshit him. Successful people get sued all the time but, if they get a chance, people who sue you will come back, as Sable has proven recently. He creates people like that, it goes to their head, then they think they’re stars. If they don’t keep things in perspective, they might end up back where they were before Vince made them a star.
His run as a referee- That was a year after he got there and it was his idea, as it got him involved and helped him get a pay per view check. He didn’t really fit in there otherwise, so he just did whatever he could do. When he quit, he had decided two months beforehand so that he could be done in time for hunting season.
Puerto Rico- He was a champion there and had known Carlos Colon for years. They paid all his expenses plus a decent wage on top of that because no one else would go down there at the time, as it was a year or two after Bruiser Brody was stabbed to death by Invader (Jose Gonzales) in the shower before a show. He had known Brody for years but attributes the stabbing to personal issues between Gonzales and Brody, as Brody was a bully and Gonzales had just lost two of his daughters shortly before he killed Brody. The fans were the real problem down there, as they were nuts. When he beat Carlos Colon by knocking him out for the title, the fans were in shock for two minutes before they realized what was going on and started throwing stuff at him. At least once, the referee was knocked out by someone throwing a 2x4 at their heads. “When something happens, get the Hell out of the ring right away. Don’t let them realize what’s going on because they’ll form a plan.”
Wrestling today- Everyone plans out stuff ahead of time because they don’t know how to call it in the ring. The thing that makes him laugh his ass off is when someone blows a spot then they go back and try it again.
Does he wrestle anymore? No, because he looks like crap and he won’t heal very well if he breaks something. He has enough pride that he doesn’t want to be out there if he can’t look decent at it. It’s embarrassing to watch wrestling sometimes, especially if you’ve got a one-legged guy wrestling now. He doesn’t know Zach Gowan but figures he’s talented because of the way he moves in the ring, yet feels that it’s embarrassing to promote him on TV because no other sport would have a one-legged guy like that competing.
Anything he wants to say to his fans? He thanks them very much for supporting him because they allowed him to make a living through wrestling. It wasn’t the money as much as the fact that he got to enjoy his work.
Ronnie Garvin vs. Ric Flair in a Steel Cage match- JIP. This is the Detroit match where Garvin beats Flair with a sunset flip from the top rope for the NWA title. After he gets the pin, Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, Sting, Barry Windham, and the Rock and Roll Express, amongst others, come to the ring to celebrate with him.
Ronnie Garvin vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts with “Precious” Paul Ellering- This is a “WCW Classics” match from the Georgia days. Jake wins when Ellering holds Garvin’s leg down during the pin, much like the finish to the Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude match at Wrestlemania 5.
Ronnie Garvin vs. Randy Savage in a cage match- This is before Garvin was bleaching his hair blonde. This is from Japanese TV, as the match is subtitled in Kanji, although I’m not sure where the match actually took place. Savage wins with a piledriver.
Ronnie Garvin vs. Tully Blanchard with JJ Dillon- This is for Garvin’s NWA title and not Blanchard’s TV title. Garvin gets Tully down and out but JJ Dillon and Lex Luger interfere for the DQ before Flair starts whipping Garvin’s ass. The Road Warriors eventually make the save.
Thoughts- This shoot was a lot of fun because Garvin’s open about his career and some of the people he dislikes, as well as being open about why he dislikes them. (Mainly Dusty for abusing his power) He also knows that wrestling has changed but accepts it as the evolution of the business rather than the average veteran’s refrain of “Back in my day, we WRESTLED!” Because of that, I’ll go with a rating of Highly Recommended, but get it from a bootlegger instead of RF Video.