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" The Gravel Pit "
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine shoot interview
Posted by Brandon Truitt on Oct 7, 2002, 19:00
This past week was a LOT like the week before, except Jeff Hardy hasn't taken that 6-foot hanky out of his pocket and waved it like a white flag yet. Smackdown was really good, RAW sucked and set up a bunch of stuff no one wants to see (Spin The Wheel Make The Deal anyone? Will Steph's sweater midgets play the role of Cheatum on Monday?)
You know what's looking good about No Mercy? It will be the same night as the midpoint of new season of The Sopranos, meaning I'll have something MUCH better to watch that won't cost me $35. On the plus side, Meltzer's said there are rumors of a Brock-Edge main event to Survivor Series which, while not a technical masterpiece, would be at LEAST something new with two young guys who are working hard. However, the fact that everyone BUT certain Internet Wrestling Community members and a few select "locker room leaders" will get excited about it means it WON'T happen, and we'll probably get Brock vs. Mark Henry instead.
On another note, I got Backlash 2002 on DVD this week and I'm realizing exactly HOW much the WWE has screwed up since Wrestlemania.
One thing hit me right off the bat on that PPV... the opening match is Tajiri-Kidman for the Cruiser belt. It's a 4 star match that insiders claim "made Billy Kidman's bones" as far as management was concerned. Where are they now? Kidman's in Velocity Hell while Tajiri's been jobbing to Bob Holly and Mark Henry. And their depushes aren't even for GOOD reasons... it's all because Kidman pissed off management by shooting down a program with his fiancee Torrie Wilson in his case, while Tajiri just gotten destroyed through a combination of bad booking and Jamie Noble taking his spot (Apparently, the cruiser division is too small to have TWO semi-pushed heels).
Decisions made over stupid bullshit like this is why the fed was in such trouble between Wrestlemania and Summerslam, then from Summerslam up until the past two weeks of Smackdown.
Among the other stupid shit that's gone on lately has been the UnAmericans getting depushed because Christian and Test refused to get haircuts and Jeff Hardy being put in 10-minute matches with the Big Slow because he was late / apathetic / supposedly under the influence of SOMETHING while in a main event TV match. The UnAmericans were alive and well before they made their exodus from Smackdown to RAW... at which point they were squashed because someone went on an ego trip and they're just now being put out of their misery, while Jeff Hardy is in a set of matches no one wants to see ONCE... let alone on consecutive episodes of RAW.
I'm not going to go into the USUAL theories of why stuff like this happens, but I figure that a switchover to a NEW set of main-event talent couldn't hurt. The most current set of main eventers (Austin, Rock, Taker, and HHH) has been involved in EVERY PPV main event since 1998. If you add Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash in there, that streak goes back all the way to Royal Rumble 1995.
I figure that the next big group of main eventers, if things change NOW, will be RVD, Edge, Brock Lesnar, and Kurt Angle... with Booker T, Rey Mysterio, Eddy Guerrero, Chris Jericho, and Chris Benoit on the edge of being true main eventers. It would be fresh matches as well as having a lower chance of crappy matches than with the current set of main eventers. While a few of the combinations of the above wrestlers are a bit played, they are nowhere NEAR as played as Taker-Austin, Rock-HHH, or Austin-Rock are.
That would be FAR better than the ME scene has been in months, Rock-Brock aside. The last GREAT main event before that was Rock-Jericho at Royal Rumble, about 6 months prior to Summerslam.
As usual, if you have any comments / praise / suggestions / free merchandise for me, drop me a message at this address.
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine Shoot Interview (taped in 2000 by The Wrestling Universe)
Greg Valentine is a true veteran of the business, as he's spent about 10 years in the WWF, a few years in Mid-Atlantic including a major spot on the original Starrcade card, about 2 years in WCW during the early 90's, and has been on the independant scene ever since. He's been the Intercontinental Champion, the US champion in Mid-Atlantic, and held various tag titles over the years.
How did he get into the business? His father, Johnny Valentine, sent him to Calgary to learn under Stu Hart in the Winter of 1970. He trained there 6-8 months. Johnny didn't really have a hand in his training, as his influence was mainly verbal rather than physical.
He's worked for Stampede (Stu Hart), Detroit (The Sheik), Amarillo (Terry Funk and Dory Funk Jr.), Los Angeles, Oregon (Don Owen), Oklahoma (Bill Watts), Georgia (Jim Barnett), Florida (Eddie Graham), Mid-Atlantic (Jim Crockett), the WWF, and split times between WCW, independants, and overseas (mainly Japan) after that. He split time between the WWF and Mid-Atlantic until about 1984.
His first match was against Angelo "King Kong" Mosca and he was nervous going in because he'd only had about 3 months of training. There was some pressure on him to surpass Johnny, but he wasn't even thinking of that at the time. He talks about how hard it is for a son to follow in their father's footsteps. He always put Johnny on a pedistal, so he says he'd be happy to be half as good as him.
George Scott- He was in Florida in the mid-70s when George Scott kept trying to bring him up to Mid-Atlantic after Johnny's famous plane crash that caused his retirement. They eventually flew him up to Greensboro for a one-shot, then he started there in 1976 and claims that the Carolinas were drawing better than New York then. He talks about how Ric Flair, who was also in the plane crash, was one of the guys who helped fill the void left behind by Johnny, along with Blackjack Mulligan. Flair had been groomed to be Johnny's replacement even before the crash, so he got to come into his own after recovering from the broken back he'd received in the crash.
His first Mid-Atlantic feud was against an old-timer named Johnny Weaver. He just came in and dropped an elbow from the top rope that put Weaver out of wrestling. Eventually, he and Flair started teaming together as they took the tag belts off the Andersons (Ole Anderson and Gene Anderson in that incarnation). Talks about how the average match was about 60 minutes in Mid-Atlantic and a 20-minute match was considered short.
Ric Flair- He didn't have any problems with him and they got along well. Their team broke up after they lost the belts (he thinks it was Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood) and Flair started going after the NWA title. Around that time, George Scott was negotiating with Vince McMahon Sr. to bring him into the then WWWF. When he came back from the WWWF, he and Flair feuded over the US title. He broke Flair's nose legitimately in an angle with the Andersons.
Bob Backlund- Greg's first match in the WWWF was a Madison Square Garden match against Backlund for the WWWF title. It ended up being an hour broadway, which he claims wasn't easy because Backlund was a bit hard to work with. He then discusses the angle where Backlund's belt was held up after one of their matches.
His views on champions- Jack Brisco was the best shooter AND wrestler of the champions he faced. Backlund was a great shooter but not a great wrestler. He claims if he'd been champion that he'd be one of the best wrestling champions ever.
Working a program with Hulk Hogan- They did a few champion-vs-champion matches but never did an angle. He talks about how his feud against Tito Santana was drawing as much as Hogan when the WWF were doing split crews, but that Hogan was getting all the publicity.
Feuding with Wahoo McDaniel over the US title- He loved working with him and has a lot of respect for him. He claims that their matches were rather stiff.
The feud with Rowdy Roddy Piper- Piper got whacked in the head with the title belt and it made Piper's bad ear worse, so they started focusing on it. They'd go about 45 minutes every night. They had a good dog-collar match at Starrcade 83, but the finish didn't stand up to the match. That's the most famous match of his career, as people come up to him today and talk about it. The dog-collar stipulation was Piper's idea, and it was brought up in the storyline by Piper cutting a cake that was given to him and finding a dog-collar in it. The match was non-title so that they could extend the program.
Dick Slater- He dropped the belt to him in 1984 because he was heading to the WWF. He'd been playing the WWF and Mid-Atlantic against each other and keeping a nice spot in both, but eventually he chose to stay in the WWF because the money was good, the trips were shorter, it was New York instead of hillbilly towns (I'm sure Cameron, NC is probably an example of these), and he knew that Vince Jr. had a plan to expand that would probably work.
His opinion about Dusty Rhodes' comments about guys like him he, Steamboat, Piper, and others "betraying him" when they bolted to the WWF- He thinks Dusty should have paid them better because they'd probably stayed then. "If I'd know what an asshole Vince McMahon would turn out to be, maybe I'd have stayed in the Carolinas." He talks about how Vince Sr. was a gentleman and how George Scott was a big reason why they all came in during 1984.
Dusty Rhodes vs. George Scott as bookers- Dusty's got a good booking mind but Scott's better. For one thing, a matchmaker shouldn't be one of the wrestlers because they tend to put themselves over everyone.
His first program with the WWF in 1984- He worked with everybody, but Tito Santana was they guy he'd worked with most. Paul Orndorff was supposed to get his spot but the office didn't trust him. Tito had a bad leg going into their match, so he just went in there, won, and made sure to work on the leg to give Tito an excuse to have surgery. (Tito, like Chris Benoit and Triple H after him, had parts of his surgery shown on the air. However, Tito did a promo while in POST OP when he was still high on painkillers from the surgery, which is pretty damn hardcore, although parts of it were unintentionally funny.) This feud was one of the highlights of his career because Tito knew how to work and Greg preferred to work singles matches instead of tag matches. They did a lot of hour-long matches and made a lot of money.
The Baltimore cage match- He lost the belt back to Tito in that match but he was very proud of it. They did a typical cage finish which was fairly new at the time... Tito going over the top while he went through the door, but Tito smashed the door on Greg's head before dropping down for the win. Since they were going to a new Intercontinental title at the time, he got to take the current belt and destroy it against the cage, then keep the pieces. While it's not included here, that match is pretty damn sweet and should be watched if you can find it. I think that the only commercially available uncut version of the match is on Coliseum Video's Inside The Steel Cage tape.
Teaming with Brutus Beefcake in The Dream Team- They'd tagged a few times before he lost the IC belt, then they beat US Express (Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo) for the belts a month after he lost the IC title. He wasn't sure about Beefcake going in, but he ended up coming along fine.
Working with Brutus Beefcake and Johnny Valiant- Johnny's a great guy and he had a lot of fond memories of working with the British Bulldogs. He takes time to explain that he and Beefcake won the belts very quickly because Barry Windham ended up quitting, leaving them no one to work with. So they took the British Bulldogs (Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith) out of the preliminary matches and started making them into contenders by putting them over in a non-title match. (Windham had rightly guessed in his interview that Valentine was pissed at him for not working a long program before dropping the tag belts.)
Working a New Japan tour where he teamed with Bret Hart and Dynamite Kid against guys like Tiger Mask- He was there between runs with Mid-Atlantic and the WWF. Talks about how hard it is to work in Japan because everyone's real serious, but both he and Bret were very serious. Dynamite was a phenominal worker and would do ANYTHING to pop the fans, although it's why he's crippled today.
Did he think Tiger Mask (Satoro Sayama) would revolutionize the sport? He talks about how the Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid feud was revolutionary in Japan but didn't really catch on in the US. He figured Tiger Mask would be crippled in a year, but ended up being wrong.
Clashes of style? He didn't have problems working with any style, although he can't stand hardcore wrestling. He doesn't mind a real wrestling match doing it occasionally was bad, but that doing it every match cheapened it considerably. "I think it's lack of talent" and that it's a way to get someone who isn't very good over with the crowd.
British Bulldogs- He didn't want to drop the belts to them at Wrestlemania 2, but the finish was good. He bitches about how they were supposed to get the belts back, but Vince screwed them over. He also bitches about how they only had one rematch, on Saturday Night's Main Event, because he and Beefcake never made it to their second rematch due to flight troubles. He says that Vince fined them each $5000 and had a hard-on for them afterwards.
Breaking up with Beefcake at Wrestlemania 3- That was Vince screwing with them, as he wanted Beefcake face for some unknown reason and put Dino Bravo in Beefcake's spot because he was in tight with Pat Patterson. He didn't like working with Bravo although he liked him as a person. The office wanted to push them and give them the belts, but he vetoed it because he thought that they didn't work well together in the ring. He also talks about how they were originally supposed to be the guys who dognapped Mathilda the Bulldog from the British Bulldogs, and that he breifly quit over it and Vince brought him back. He says that Vince only kept him around to keep WCW from having him, and that he got a lot of heat with the office over vetoing their plans, so he was pretty much screwed from about 1987 through his release in late 1990.
Ronnie Garvin- They talked Vince into doing their program in 1989. They had a lot of fun with it, as he'd been floundering for about a year at that point until Garvin came in from WCW and asked to work with him. Talks about how they had a match which got Garvin suspended from the WWF, and then Garvin came back as a referee and later a ring announcer to harass him until they blew it off in a submission match at Royal Rumble 1990.
The submission match- He thinks it was a great match, but that it was slow to start because of the story they were trying to tell. He says that this one built properly because the match slowly built up steam to a great ending, as opposed to the Starrcade dog-collar match which had a subpar ending to a great match.
Wrestlemania 4- It was rebooked several times, and Steamboat left shortly after he pinned him in the tournament. He doesn't know for sure why Steamboat left, because the match ended in a way that gave them an angle to work with (He rolled through a top-rope maneuver by Steamboat to get the win after being squashed for most of the match). He figures it had something to do with George Scott leaving at the time, as Steamboat was one of his guys. (Steamboat claims he left because the office wasn't selling any of his merchandise at the show (a sign they weren't taking him seriously) and that they blew the chance at a second Savage-Steamboat classic just because he pissed off Vince in mid-1987 and Vince was punishing him as a result.)
He talks about how Hogan saw Steamboat as a threat, so that was also a contributing factor. The interviewer talks about how Steamboat has said that the good workers were put at the beginning of the card and the rest of the guys had to live up to them. Greg affirms this and claims top guys who couldn't work, like Hogan, tended to work in the middle of the card and put the best workers on last, while the "top" guys still got main event money for a midcard match. The Von Erichs used to do this in World Class when the Midnight Express were there in 1985, which is why they and Jim Cornette jumped ship to Mid-Atlantic within months of showing up in World Class.
Teaming with the Honkytonk Man- Vince was trying to get the Road Warriors, but used them as a stopgap solution if he couldn't sign them. He hated the gimmick because he had to start dressing like Honkytonk Man and dye his hair black, but it started getting over. Around that time, Vince signed the Road Warriors and had no use for them. His way of firing them was to put Honkytonk Man in the announcing booth and to send him to Japan every few months on the WWF payroll.
Working with the Hart Foundation- He liked working with them, but was upset that they got the rug pulled out from under them by Vince around that time. They worked a program with the Bushwhackers before that, but he doesn't know why. He talks about how the 'whackers were over as a comedy team but weren't taken seriously, so it didn't help them as a team.
Working the combination WWF-All Japan-New Japan card- He doesn't even remember wrestling that night, although the interviewer claims Greg wrestled The Great Kabuki and thought it was the same night Hogan faced Stan Hansen. He said that AJ got pissed because the WWF sent everyone BUT Hogan for subsequent, which is why their partnership dissolved. Hammer shows some interesting math skills here, as he claims that while they got about 80,000 at the combination show, it was nothing compared to the 110,000(!) they got at Wrestlemania 3 and the 80,000-90,000 they got at The Big Event.
Sidenote- Greg should be estimating the buyrates for the WWF because he's about 25,000 over the announced attendance totals for the two WWF shows, and probably closer to 40,000 off from the ACTUAL numbers at Wrestlemania 3 according to Dave Meltzer. Using someone with his math skills will FINALLY produce figures that show Triple H and Undertaker as strong draws... although he'll get turfed shortly thereafter when he ALSO proves that guys who are quietly buried like RVD and Booker T are bigger draws than Steve Austin.
Working with Super World Sports in Japan for the WWF- They were working over there for Tenryu and things never really got off the ground when compared to what New Japan and All Japan were drawing. He was tagging with Haku at the time and was thankful to be working WITH him rather than AGAINST him. Haku was a great guy to work with in Japan because he knew the language. He said that Vince screwed up here because they were the only two guys he'd ever sent over, which meant that the SWS crowds never took the WWF partnership seriously.
Turning face around Rumble 91- Vince never really did anything with it except jobbing him out to Earthquake (John Tenta, aka The Shark, Avalanche, Golga, etc.). That was his last Wrestlemania and he quit within a few months, partly because he thought he was going to be working with Dino Bravo instead. He apologizes to Earthquake, but claims he, as a serious wrestler who worked such long matches, didn't like going out by "laying down for some fat asshole in 8 minutes." He also did a 7-minute job for IRS (Rotundo) at Summerslam that year, which was a surprise because he wasn't supposed to be on the card at first (He was thrown in there to job at the last minute). He feels he could have easily done 40 minutes with IRS, but that they ended up doing better promos leading up to the match than what they did in the ring because of the brevity of it.
Curt Hennig- Good... very good. He thinks that he was one of the greater IC title holders.
Bret Hart- Didn't see him going to the top of the card because his interviews are bland, he has no personality, and he was a bit mechanical in the ring. He was shocked he got as far as he did because he lacked charisma. He wasn't surprised he beat Hennig at Summerslam 91 for the IC belt, though.
Randy Savage- Very lucky man and a very hard worker. He had a good gimmick. He doesn't respect him because he isn't a very good person. Limited talent but good gimmick.
Hulk Hogan- Phenomenon of the 80's and 90's, which you can't take away from him. He got his push because of his look though... He's a good family man. Doesn't put him in Savage's category. Limited in-ring talent but all his other stuff covered it up.
Honkytonk Man- Complete clown, very lucky. No wrestling ability, but great interviews and a lot of sports entertainment ability.
Vince McMahon- His father was a great guy but that Vince isn't half as good as Vince Sr. He feels that if you had a heart attack, Vince Sr. would lean down and help you while Vince would just step over you and keep going.
Shawn Michaels- Didn't expect him to go as far as he did. Says Shawn always told him he wanted to become a single and was surprised that it worked out for him, especially since he's such a small guy.
Steroids in the locker room- Probably could have been worse than that. Won't name names but people would go into bathroom stalls and shooting up 2-3 times a week and throwing the needles on the floor. It was still legal then, though.
WCW- He ended up there in 1992, wrestling in a tag team with Terry Taylor against Ron Simmons and Big Josh (Matt Borne, aka Doink the Clown). It was a good six months, but that Bill Watts screwed him over by firing Taylor and pairing him off with Dick Slater instead.
Working with Taylor against the Freebirds- They were hard to work with, because they were about as bad as the Valiants in the ring. Didn't like having to work a Best of Three Falls match against the Freebirds because it was "like pulling teeth" due to their lack of ability.
Working against Brian Pillman, Marcus "Buff" Bagwell, etc.- EVERYONE was fun to work with but the Freebirds, even Ron Simmons and Big Josh.
Did his reputation work against him? He says his reputation for stiffness works against him when he works against a guy for the first time, but that it's not a problem once they've worked together.
He says that he was supposed to get a singles push, but that they didn't go through with it and, instead, tried to get him to put over Sting. Since there was nothing in it for him, he quit. He wanted to know in advance if he'd beat one of Sting's friends or what, but they just made vague promises of something in the future. He figures Watts was trying to get rid of him and set up the situation to get the result he wanted.
Working in Japan- The AWF could have been a good thing, as Tito Santana, Sgt. Slaughter, Tommy Rich, erc. were all involved. He said they tried to go too big too quick, which killed it off. He said that dumbass mistakes like paying $10,000 a week for 12:30 Sunday night / Monday morning on CBS 2 in New York City hurt them.
Him on the indy circuit- He gets a lot for a former star, but not as much as some. He gets a guarantee each night instead of getting a percentage of the draw.
Going back to the WWF- He did two PPVs for Vince in 1994, but that it fell apart quickly. He started working for WCW in 96-97, though.
His take on steroid use in the business- He thought of himself as a wrestler and NOT a bodybuilder, which is part of why he didn't like a lot of the big steroid guys even though he used them every once in a while. He (rightly) feels that Vince was more interested in the size of a guy's biceps than his wrestling ability (look at Ted Arcidi in 1986 for an example of THAT...).
Did Superstar Billy Graham's deteriorated condition in 1987 have an effect on the locker room? People started seeing the dangers, but didn't necessarily quit. It scared the shit out of them, though. He said that some guys haven't shown symptoms yet but that it'll show up eventually.
Does he think what Big Poppa Pump (Scott Steiner) is doing is worse than what Graham did, abuse-wise? He doesn't know Steiner's history but knows he sure as hell didn't do that naturally. He doesn't know what Steiner's on or how much he uses though.
Did he ever work Central States- He worked there briefly in 1973 and didn't have memorable matches there. Doesn't remember too much about the territory and calls it a "suck-ass place". (Tully Blanchard agrees...)
Harley Race's treatment in the WWF- He was a hard worker and a great guy, but didn't like the King gimmick because it was Vince's way of poking fun at him.
When did he hit his stride in the business? Around 1983, as he'd been in the business for about 13 years.
His favorite match- It's hard to say what it is, but the dog-collar one with Piper is the one he gets the most questions about. The cage match with Tito Santana and his series with Wahoo McDaniel, along with many of The Dream Team's matches with the Bulldogs and his hour broadways with Bob Backlund.
What company had the best roster that he was a part of? The WWF in 1985, despite being on the loaded Mid-Atlantic roster in 1983. However, the WWF gets the edge because the WWF brought in most of the talent from that territory then.
His favorite opponents- Tito Santana, Wahoo McDaniel, Ronnie Garvin, Ricky Steamboat, the British Bulldogs, etc.
Working with US Express in 1985- They worked a program in which Brutus took Johnny Valiant's cigar and stuck it in Windham's eye.
Favorite managers in the business- Captain Lou Albano and the Grand Wizard were great, as were Jimmy Hart and Johnny Valiant.
Was the Grand Wizard the forebearer to Jimmy Hart? He sees the connection, mainly that they were smaller than the guy they represented and they didn't hog the microphone when doing interviews with their guy.
Does he regret not being managed by Bobby Heenan? No, but it would have been nice.
His favorite programs- The one with Tito Santana in 1985 and the Flair, Wahoo, and Piper programs in Mid-Atlantic. The Tito feud is his definate favorite of them.
Favorite angles- Probably breaking Ric Flair's nose in Mid-Atlantic.
Favorite territory- The WWF from 1985-1990.
Why did he stay after McMahon started screwing with him in the late 80's / early 90's? He didn't want to leave because he was too comfortable there, although it ended up being a mistake. The problems didn't come until the very end of his run there.
Favorite arenas to work in- Joe Louis Arena in Detroit because of its shape, the Kiel Audotorium in St. Louis, the Boston Garden, and the in Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston.
What about The Omni? It wasn't one of his favorites because his biggest match in that arena was a match in which Tito Santana busted his head open and he had to get stitched up.
The Omni was never a WCW exclusive arena? No... in fact, The Omni was WCW's worst-drawing arena. They could go to Baltimore and sell out but they couldn't draw in their own backyard. They still kept running it, half-empty, all the time.
Does he like the indy circuit? It's nice, and occasionally they'll do a show that pulls in a few thousand people. He also works overseas and they can pull in almost 10,000 people. He says that it's easy to say busy because his name has some prestige in the business.
The best payday for a single match- Wrestlemania 1 against the Junkyard Dog. He was supposed to work with Tito, but they decided to milk that angle a bit more instead of blowing it off at Wrestlemania. He didn't like the match with JYD, but the payoff was great.
Anything he wants to say to his fans? "Sorry I was such a bastard all those years, but I do it all for the money."
At the end of this tape is a promo for USA Pro Wrestling and a shitty match, both from late 2000. Neither is particularly worth watching.
Valentine is a bit of a contradiction... He's pretty honest on most levels but likes to pump himself up A LOT at times. It's not in the Dusty Rhodes or Shawn Michaels range, but it can be a bit annoying. As for the interview, there are a few nuggets of information here and there, but some of them are found in better interviews elsewhere. Honkytonk Man's, for one, is a better source of a lot of the other WWF stuff from that time, including the more background on stuff like Rythym And Blues (the tag team with him and Honky). I don't feel like recommending against this video, but it's not particularly great... so I'll have to go for a rating of Very Slightly Recommended.