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" The Gravel Pit "
Stan Hansen Shoot Interview
Posted by Brandon Truitt on Jun 9, 2003, 19:00
Due to the amount of time I'll be working in the near future, I'm going to be reducing the amount of articles that I write each month. I'll still post at least three each month and, if I take the last week each month off, it should ensure that I can keep providing you, the readers, with quality material as long as possible.
Next week's shoot will be with the "Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart. After that, I'm not sure who'll be next. Bill Watts, Jerry "The King" Lawler, Virgil, and Terry Funk are all possibilities over the next few weeks.
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.
Stan Hansen Shoot Interview (8/27/2002)
As a change, the interview starts off with a question about his football background. He went to West Texas State, a school which produced many wrestlers including Barry Windham, Dory Funk Jr., Terry Funk, Tully Blanchard, Ted Dibiase, Tito Santana, and Bruiser Brody. Stan had some tryouts for the NFL which didn’t go through and taught school for a while before getting into the business. He had relatives in Canyon, Texas, and would see the Funks’ TV show, a variety show including wrestling matches, when he went to visit them.
How did he actually get into the business? He knew Terry Funk from playing football at West Texas. Most of his teammates were wrestling fans and they’d all go watch the matches for $1.50. He wasn’t really trained very much but he worked out with the Funk brothers and the original Mr. Wrestling (not Mr. Wrestling II, Tim Woods, who had teamed with Magnum TA in Mid-South). They showed him how to lock up, put on a headlock, and take someone over. After that, they just beat the shit out of him. He’s thankful that he broke into the business in Amarillo where there were a bunch of veterans like Cyclone Negro who showed him the ropes.
Working for Leroy McGuirk in Mid-South- He starts off by talking about how Bruiser Brody, who he teamed with in McGuirk’s territory. The first time he met Brody was when he was touring West Texas State and the football player guiding him around took him to his dorm room to show him where he’d be living. The guide’s half of the room was spotless and neat while the other half of the room was in total disarray and Brody was half-conscious on the bed at 2:00 in the afternoon. Later, when he went to work for World Class, Stan found that Brody was trying to break into the business there. They ended up teaming up in Mid-South under McGuirk.
He went to Japan for the first time after Mid-South. He tore up his knee in Mid-South, went to Texas to heal up and worked a few shots, then flew to Japan. When he got back, he went back to work for World Class. Mongolian Stomper was the top heel at the time and Stan was the #3 heel. Rick Martel was in the territory and just breaking into the business then. They had good matches together. “Rick Martel beat me in six seconds one time.”
Initial impressions of Japan- “It was like a Godzilla movie.” The Japanese style was much more physical and it was a great experience for him since he’d barely left Texas at that point.
Japanese fans- The fans back then were very different, as they were dead silent during matches even when they were into it. They’re more Westernized now, though. Abdullah the Butcher and The Destroyer (Dick Beyer) were the big Gaijin draws on that first tour he took there.
His mentor for wrestling psychology- He thinks he took part of Terry Funk’s style to make his own. He loved seeing the different versions of Terry’s wrestling persona depending what territory he was in. No one ever took him aside and taught him, though.
Sidenote- This versatility lead Terry and Dory Jr. to become the first people to see what cable would do to the business. Terry discovered that cable was going to bring the Los Angeles wrestling show, where he played a very anti-Mexican heel, to his Amarillo territory, where he was a babyface in an area with a sizable Mexican population. They decided to sell their territory soon afterwards because they saw how the influence of an outside territory would affect their business.
Winding up in the WWWF under Vince McMahon Sr.- A guy he knew in Texas who had worked for the WWWF had suggested he work up there. The guy convinced Bruno Sammartino and Vince to bring him in.
Was he surprised how quickly he was groomed for a program with Bruno? Not really because they were always looking for fresh meat for Bruno. He was coming in after Bruno had worked with Ivan Koloff, Ernie Ladd, and Superstar Billy Graham, who were the territory’s three biggest heels at the time. He ended up breaking Bruno’s neck in the match and putting him out. A lot of people have accused him of doing it intentionally but it just happened. He got automatic heat with everyone in the territory by hurting the champion. He then got even more heat from Koloff, Graham, and Ladd because he’d cost them money by putting Bruno out.
Was he shocked Bruno was able to continue? Yes. He knew Bruno was hurt and thinks that Bruno’s muscular build was what saved his life.
Was that the turning point of his career? People in the area think it was and it was certainly one of the but feels that getting the opportunity in New York was the first big turning point.
Vince McMahon Sr.- He never fit in with Vince’s guys like Pedro Morales or the Strongbows because of his shyness and the fact that he was an outsider, coming from the Funks who were NWA loyalists. Brody came in right around that time and they started watching each other’s backs.
Memories of Vince McMahon Jr.- He was the announcer and did the interviews. He kidded around with him a lot. He feels that Vince Jr. was the one guy in the territory he really got along with during that run. He didn’t think Vince had what it took to go national, as he just saw him as daddy’s little boy who was a screwup. He didn’t realize how Vince was absorbing what was going on to learn how the business worked.
Working with Ivan Putski- Ivan stood in for Bruno and it was one of Stan’s more memorable because there was heightened security that night. After the finish, which was the match being stopped due to Ivan bleeding, a bunch of cops formed a triangle around him, got him to bend over, then fit another few cops on top in order to get him out through the riot that followed the finish. By the time he got to the curtain, there were only about five cops left. They threw him in a taxi immediately after the show. He’s thankful that Bruno’s not the type of guy to put the word out that an “accident” should happen to him in retaliation for the broken neck.
The Shea Stadium match with Bruno- He wasn’t the draw that night, Bruno was. The people really loved him and he’d never heard an ovation like the one Bruno got coming to the ring. Bruno whipped his ass in the match and Stan headed to the dugout. When the people realized he wasn’t coming back to the ring, they started to storm the field. Since Stan was blind as a bat without his glasses, he turned to ask the cop what was going on, saw a shocked look on the cop’s face and heard “SPRINT!” They barely got into the dugout before the fans came over the side. He found out later that three people had heart attacks during the match.
Why did he leave to go back to Japan? He felt that most young guys who came into the territory stayed around too long and went from working with guys like Bruno, Putski, and Morales to the dregs. He wanted to be in a position where he could come back and have another run on top as a heel instead of sticking around and making good money but blowing any chance to stay a main event player.
Japan- He went at first for All Japan then, after working for the WWWF, he went to work for New Japan. Tiger Jeet Singh was on that tour and was very over. He loved Singh’s style and wanted to have a character like that.
What was it like to beat Antonio Inoki in 1980? He was given a big opportunity there. He thinks that Vince Sr. had gotten upset at him for working over there so much. He worked for Bill Watts and in Georgia between trips and eventually decided he wanted to work in Japan full time. One of his main loves was that he was given a guaranteed amount because, while some promoters like Vince Sr. paid well, it was always a pain in the ass negotiating for pay. Example- Hansen drew well in the WWWF but, because he was a young guy, he wasn’t given as big a cut of the gate as some other people with a worse position on the card.
Hulk Hogan- He teamed with him back then and thought that he had a great look. He had a lot of respect for him because he paid his dues by not being given an easy time getting into the business, living in a van at one point, etc. He was with Hogan in Connecticut when Hogan got the call that Sylvester Stallone wanted him to be in one of his movies, which turned out to be Rocky III. They both thought it was a big rib at the time but it turned out to be a real deal and sent his career into overdrive.
Ego and the business- He thinks that being on top changes someone because they have to take care of themselves and be careful about who they trust. Part of why Stan loved Japan so much was that he was constantly in All Japan where he only had to worry about having good matches. If Hogan developed an ego, it was probably due to people screwing with him once he made it big.
Riki Choshu- He was a midcard guy in New Japan while he was there. He talks about how you build character in Japan by getting the everloving shit knocked out of you and that’s why guys like Misawa are big stars. Choshu got beat up for a long time and it endeared he fans to him.
Matches with Andre the Giant- “I owe a lot to Andre.” He fought Andre one night and everything just clicked to the point where the fans really got into him. They had a bunch of great matches and he specifically mentions a match they had in a tennis stadium where Stan won by DQ and he slammed Andre. Andre didn’t want to be screwed around with and hated being scrutinized because of his size. He liked being with the other wrestlers and was a legendary drinker.
Georgia- He worked for Ole Anderson there. Ole and Gene Anderson had been a great tag team but were opposite personalities as Ole was outgoing and Gene was quiet. Ole had a lot of good ideas and knew a lot about wrestling. Ole didn’t know much about Stan but LOVED it when Stan went out there and did Japanese style. Stan loved being in Georgia because the pay was good and the trips were very short. “Wildfire” Tommy Rich was there at the time and he saw a lot of potential in him, which is why he convinced Ole to book them against each other and they both got over as a result.
Going back to the WWWF to face Bob Backlund- Between New Japan trips, he was sent back to New York because of the working relationship between the two groups.
Was he surprised New Japan stole Abdullah the Butcher considering the agreement between All Japan and New Japan not to raid talent? Yes. It also surprised him that New Japan’s business manager was badmouthing Abdullah publicly despite the fact they were getting MASSIVE press for Abdullah’s defection from All Japan. He realized he was a commodity and that he had to make sure he took care of himself.
Was there a secret meeting between him and Giant Baba in Texas? There was a meeting to see if Stan was interested, which he was because he was in it for the money and New Japan wasn’t willing to pay as much as All Japan. There were few people he told he was leaving, which were Andre and probably Hogan. He had heard a lot about how Baba was a man of his word so he was willing to take a chance. He got a three year contract with Baba when he jumped but that was the only one he ever needed in the 25 years he’s worked for him.
Stan Hansen vs. Vader- This is the famous All Japan and New Japan co-promoted show in 1990 and is a match where Hansen hit Vader so hard that Vader’s eye popped onto his cheek and had to be shoved back into the socket. This is on the Vader shoot so I’ll cut to the finish, which is a double countout.
What were the events of the day where he finished up the New Japan tag team tournament then jumped to All Japan? He’d given New Japan a lot of opportunities which they didn’t take advantage of so he signed with Baba. He fulfilled his obligations to New Japan and, as a result, he never burned his bridges with New Japan although they weren’t happy about it.
What was going through his mind when he came to the ring that night with Bruiser Brody and “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka? Brody already had a great partner in Snuka, so he wasn’t thinking about teaming with Brody just yet. They faced the Funks that night and the crowd was shocked that he was there.
Did anyone from New Japan try to contact him after he jumped? Not that he remembers, although he ran into Inoki on the plane and shook his hand.
Would he have done anything differently? No.
Why did Baba start booking only clean finishes? He’s not sure why and thinks that it can be a good thing but that it cheapens the referee’s position if he can’t DQ someone or count out a wrestler. It did help the company though.
Were there any thoughts of him wrestling Ric Flair in Japan? Not really as he figures that Jumbo Tsuruta or Tenryu got those positions instead because Japan is for the Japanese.
What was it like teaming with Bruiser Brody against the Funks, Baba, etc.? He and Brody were probably the most dominant tag team in wrestling history, although he figures that some teams like the Road Warriors will dispute that. They were in incredible shape despite weighing 300 pounds and no one could keep up with them. One night, he beat the crap out of Dusty Rhodes so bad that Dusty was just blue from a lack of oxygen and he could have done whatever he wanted to and there was nothing Dusty could have done about it. He says that some of the Japanese had to be convinced to try and keep up with them instead of just laying down some nights.
Why did Brody jump to New Japan in 1985? He thinks it was Brody wanting to get a great position in New Japan. Hansen warned him about the politics involved but Brody went anyway and ended up having a lot of trouble.
Locker rooms in All Japan and New Japan- New Japan ran things more like a Japanese corporation while All Japan ran it in a more Western fashion. He feels that bringing the New Japan style with him to All Japan changed the company significantly and it influenced the company’s young boys like Misawa and Kobashi.
Being paired with Ted Dibiase- After Brody left, he needed a new partner and Dibiase was a good fit in several ways. Dibiase had played football at West Texas, had been broken into the business by the Funks, and had been groomed well by the NWA as a wrestler. He wasn’t surprised he left in 1987 to go to the WWF. Most of the people in Japan who went back to work in the US had things work out like they wanted it to.
Working with the AWA- He was leery about working with Verne Gagne because Hogan had left the AWA after a falling out with Gagne. Everyone was pissed that Hogan had left and they were judging the current champion, Rick Martel, harshly as a result. The company also booked matches in a halfassed fashion as they had no ongoing angles but, instead, would see who was in the building that night before booking matches. Verne did keep his word on his pay though.
Matches with Rick Martel- They went way back, all the way to World Class in 1974. He mentions specifically one of their matches at Cominsky Park in Chicago.
Why did Verne Gagne ask him to drop the title to Nick Bockwinkle? He didn’t know and hadn’t really made as much money as he’d wanted to while as champion. He wanted a big run against a top guy and not a bunch of squashes against undercard guys. He didn’t have anything against Bockwinkle as he’s a great guy but was a little pissed at Verne not promoting him as a champion the way he felt he should.
Brody coming back to All Japan in 1987- He guesses Brody had enough of New Japan and, as a result, lost his spot in the country for a few years until Baba rehired him. Brody would probably still be there if things had worked out. They were also brought into the NWA for a tryout although the Road Warriors got the position instead.
The match with Jumbo Tsruta- It was great when they combined the three titles to make the Triple Crown and it was probably the first time Jumbo had ever beaten him. He compares Jumbo’s style to Dory Funk Jr.’s style. Very tough guy.
Terry Gordy- Great talent. One of the best big wrestlers ever and had a lot of potential. “The nicest guy in the world” but he had a few problems, which everyone has. He talks about his matches teaming with Dan Spivey against Gordy and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, which was the kind of match not done often because most Japanese fans usually want to see some Japanese involved and not Gaijin vs. Gaijin. If not for Terry’s demons, he’d probably be one of the top Gaijin in Japan.
The Japanese office and the Gaijin’s substance abuse- He didn’t see a lot of it although people drank a lot.
All Japan and New Japan co-promoting shows- He didn’t like the Tokyo Dome shows because it’s hard to sell out regular shows if you’re always promoting a big show down the road. His match with Vader was incredible though.
Terry Gordy not wanting to work with Hogan and Stan replacing Gordy in the match- Stan was in Tokyo at the time. He doesn’t know why Gordy pulled out of the match and can’t comment about rumors that Gordy refused to job to Hogan. A few days before the show, Baba came to him and asked him to wrestle Hogan.
Did he ever discuss a return to the WWF? No, although he and Vince Jr. talked the night of the Hogan match. Vince gave him an open offer to return if he ever wanted to, although it never worked out.
Going to WCW- Ole was the booker and Stan felt that things might work out with someone he trusted in control. He went out of his way to be nasty and disgusting while he was there in order to get the fans to hate him. He found it funny that he was getting his character over by beating the crap out of people and getting DQ’ed every night while the TV people were freaking out going “He’s supposed to be going for the championship and he can’t even win a match?!?” Ole got fired around this time.
Working with Lex Luger- He’d heard negative things about Lex but didn’t have any problems with him.
Spitting tobacco on Missy Hyatt- Everyone wanted him to but Missy asked him not to, so he didn’t. He just spit in her direction. He DID spit on Luger, though.
Wrestling Tom Zenk at the Clash of the Champions- Zenk’s a good talent and he had a lot of potential.
Memories of Kawada, Misawa, Kobashi, etc.- He fought them so hard and so long that, when they finally beat him, it got them very over. They’ve since become huge stars on their own. Tenryu leaving with a lot of the All Japan talent put those guys in that position before they should have been there but they did fine once the crowd accepted them. The lesson is that everyone is always replaceable and he gives a lot of examples such as The Rock, who came out of nowhere to become a big star quickly.
Matches with them- Kawada and Kobashi both had unique styles. They both had a lot of fight in them and some great matches came out of it. Those matches were so brutal that you couldn’t do them in the US. He was too old to take all of the head bumps that they did and was always conscious about the neck considering he broke Bruno’s neck with a bodyslam. He’s not surprised at all how beaten up those guys are today because they ran themselves hard and that wrestling 10 years in Japan is like wrestling 20 years in the US. One big difference between the US and Japanese wrestlers is that the US wrestlers tend to change their styles in the first 5 years of their career once they learn their limitations while the Japanese wrestlers just keep on going full on.
Tension between Misawa and Kawada before the NOAH split- He thinks it goes back to high school with them.
Tenryu leaving to start his own company- He was disappointed. He doesn’t want to bash Kawada or Kobashi but he feels Tenryu is the Japanese wrestler whose style meshed best with his own.
Memories of Gary Albright- He was a great guy. He had a good spot and could have been a top Gaijin.
Teaming with Johnny Ace- He didn’t really like it because their styles didn’t mesh. Johnny pulled his weight in the team, though. Dan Spivey, on the other hand, was a good partner. Ron Bass was also good but didn’t have Spivey’s talent.
Teaming with Vader- “Leon is Leon.” He doesn’t think they were a long-term team because they were both so large and, if you’re too big, you don’t have anyone you can wrestle. He feels that Vader would be a good fit with a smaller guy who could do a lot he couldn’t.
How much damage did the Japanese style do to his body? His knees have worn out more than anything. Up until his last few years, he was able to keep himself in decent shape though. He misses the income but not the wrestling.
Stan Hansen and Terry Funk vs. Abdullah the Butcher and Kevin Sullivan- This is an ECW match from 1993. The match goes to a Funk and Hansen win due to a DQ when Eddie Gilbert comes in and hits Funk, the referee, and Hansen with a chair. Abdullah and Sullivan start brawling after the match.
Was he surprised when Misawa, Kobashi and others all left to join NOAH? Yes he was, although he didn’t go with them because his loyalties lie with Giant Baba and Mrs. Baba. He figures they wouldn’t have left had Giant Baba still been alive.
Opinion of Mrs. Baba- One of the reasons the Japanese boys left. Japan is a very patriarchal society and having to work for a woman didn’t sit well with the wrestlers. She was a great wife to Giant Baba and he felt a debt of honor to help her due to his respect for her husband. He feels if it wasn’t for her determination to continue Baba’s legacy, she wouldn’t have run the company after his death.
Will All Japan and NOAH ever work together? Never say never.
What lead to his retirement? He couldn’t physically take it anymore and his legs went numb in the ring. He got through the match, got a CAT scan which showed a cyst in his spine pushing against his spinal cord, got it removed, got his knees replaced, and had his retirement show.
His retirement show at the Tokyo Dome- “It was humbling” with all the outpouring of support from the fans. He never took himself too seriously as a big star in Japan.
Was he disappointed he couldn’t wrestle on the show? He hasn’t missed wrestling since the last time he wrestled Tenryu.
Does he regret wrestling such a physical style? No, because he’s fine outside of his knees right now. He feels that people in the US who have wrestled as long as he has have similar problems.
Does he want to continue travelling to Japan? Yes, and he likes his role as the president of the PWF. He likes having a figurehead position like that because he can’t help or hurt anybody and he just acts as a liaison for the company. His loyalty still lies with All Japan though.
Onita- He remembers him when he was a young boy for All Japan. He was there when Onita blew out his knee and never wrestled again.
Older wrestlers still competing today- Good for them. Terry Funk does it because he loves it. Tenryu can still perform at his age.
His best match- There’s too many to choose from although his matches with Terry Funk and Andre the Giant are up there.
Bill Watts- Smart promoter, good talent, good guy to work with. He could protect you if you needed to, which was a legitimate concern in the South.
Dick Murdoch- One of the greatest talents in wrestling. The best big man ever.
Akayama- One of the few guys who’s got it a little easy. For whatever reason, he didn’t have to go through the asswhuppings that everyone else got. Very talented, though.
Wahoo McDaniel- Tough guy. They beat each other black and blue before.
Road Warriors- Hawk is a good friend of his. He saw opportunity in them when Ole Anderson first brought them into Georgia and helped them get started.
Dusty Rhodes- Another West Texas State guy. He and Brody got kicked out around the same time.
Masa Chono- Don’t really know him. Good talent.
Abdullah the Butcher- “There’s only one Abdullah.” One of the most unique guys in wrestling.
Mil Mascaras- He wasn’t a great talent but was a good self-promoter.
Cactus Jack- They worked together in Japan. He’s glad that he got out when he did because he doesn’t want to come back and end up crippled.
Any regrets? He kind of regrets not wrestling more in the US although it was a choice he made.
Stan Hansen vs. Antonio Inoki- Hansen wins by countout after giving Inoki a Lariat at ringside. LONG match.
Stan Hansen vs. Austin Idol- Hansen wins by countout after whipping the crap out of Idol.
Carlos Colon vs. Stan Hansen- Hansen wins by giving Colon a Lariat.
Rick Martel vs. Stan Hansen- This is the Cominsky Park match Hansen discussed earlier. This goes to a double countout as they brawl into the dugout.
Hansen is a nice and honest guy but he didn’t have too much to say that was really interesting past the New Japan vs. All Japan talent wars, where guys like himself, Abdullah, and Bruiser Brody were stolen from the competition with no notice. The matches included on this tape make up for it.