Bill Watts Interview Transcript

Cowboy Bill Watts Shoot InterviewThe following interview features WWE Hall of Fame wrestler/booker “Cowboy” Bill Watts. Bill Watts joined the show for an extensive interview covering his career, the sale of UWF and the lack of an invasion angle, booking for Vince McMahon, Jim Ross’s relationship with Vince, and more. The interview was taped March 18, 2006 and broadcast on Pro Wrestling Radio.

A classic Bill Watts promo from Georgia Championship Wrestling is played.

Eric Gargiulo: Mr. Watts, welcome to the show.

Bill Watts: Eric, thank you. Listening to that sound bite [at the beginning of the show], I’ve had forgotten about the deal in Columbus, Ohio, and what a fun thing. I think the one really fun thing for me is when I revisit these different programs in the publicity aspect of the new book, you guys are so much more up to date on everything than I am and I can recall some fabulous memories and I appreciate and I thank you for them.

Eric: My pleasure and I absolutely love when I have legends like yourself on and I get to go into my archives and dig up the old clips and I just like to hear your reactions to yourselves from the twenty to thirty years ago.

Bill: I’m ready for you to send me a copy of that one; that was a kick, I’ve forgotten that interview. The interviews were such a part of it. I learned that in a process, I think that when I really came to life was when- I used to go Hawaii a lot, going to Japan or when Roy Shire, when he was out there, they formed a partnership for the big shows for the HIC, but I’ll never forget Ed Francis and Lord [James] Blears had an hour and a half of wrestling, and in an hour and a half of wrestling they only had two matches. All the rest were interviews and talking and I was blown away, but it kind of planted that seed later that I realized people wanted to know the celebrities, they wanted the people that they related to, and you could only do so much in the ring, but they wanted to know what your personality was, what you thought, and how you reacted and so that really gave me an insight, later in my promotion it became very important.

Eric: That’s tremendous and when we talk about your promotion we talk about Mid-South and the UWF, for the younger fans listening to the show, and nowadays, over the last couple of years, there seems to be a big, big swing, especially in the WWE, on scripted promos. What are your thoughts on scripted promos?

Bill: Well, you know everything in the WWE is scripted. It was such a disappointment, the three months I was with Vince [McMahon], I’ll never forget, there was a problem that happened, we won’t go into it, where everybody was late and we were having a television shoot, and I had two top stars and they were going to have like a ten minute match, and they didn’t have enough time to get ready for it cause they only had an hour before show time. An hour for a ten minute match! I was fractured. I remember this one time, there was such bad weather that planes had quit flying, I was stuck in Littlerock on the way to Jackson, Mississippi, I called the promoter George Gulkin, my partner, and I said I can’t make it. He said you got to make it, this is sold out. And this is before we knew what a market Jackson was. He said it’s sold out. He said it’s wall to wall, you got to get here, can you get here. So I chartered a (laughs) single engine [plane] to go through this tornado. This guy was an excellent pilot, and I was a pilot, so we picked our way around it and we got to the airport, it was 11 o’ clock at night, the police were waiting, police escort to the arena, I was wrestling the Spoiler with Gary Hart as the manager. [We] went into the ring and had a 40 minute match. I mean, I ran right in, changed clothes, we were in separate dressing rooms, changed clothes, got in the ring, and everything was just exciting. The people were going crazy. They had waited till 11:30 and it was packed. I thought to myself what would these two guys do if they had to really earn their money and didn’t have…how long would it take to talk about a 40 minute match? And I’m not mocking the sport; that’s what it’s become and the guys will respond to whatever the challenge, I’m not putting them down either. I’m not like a bitter old timer saying it’s not as good as it was, I’m just saying that it’s a different concept and I’ve always believed that athletes could do whatever you needed them to do if you pushed them beyond their comfort zone, but if you want to make it a certain, they’re going to take the easiest route.

Eric: As a matter of fact, the only reason I’m bringing this up now, I had it saved for later in the interview, because it’s appropriate for what you’re talking about, if you could tell the story, because I’ve heard it told in interviews by yourself and by Paul Orndorff. There was a story, and I know there’s a clean version you’ll have to give me for the radio, a story about Ted Dibiase and Paul Orndorff being reluctant to go to a broadway.

Bill: Yeah, you got to realize, I didn’t design many broadways in my promotion or in my career. They had to have a special significance, because I thought it was used as a way out of not having anymore creativity. There was a perfect situation between Paul and Teddy, and we were ready to turn one of them heel, I can’t remember which one, and this was their last match in Jackson, Mississippi, together as babyfaces, and they knew one of them was going to be a heel, so they were wanting to jump the gun, but they couldn’t, even though we had already shot the television [tapings], I think the day before, but it hadn’t gone yet. Then when I came up for the idea of broadway, you’d think I had taken away their last meal from them. And Orndorff, especially, was a fiery guy, he and I used to disagree on so many things, but I had a great respect for what he could do in the ring, which again proves, you’re not dating them, you don’t have to live with them. As long as the guy gave me 100% in the ring, I could sometimes put up with these other idiosyncrasies and Orndorff and I have a great respect and, I think, a great appreciation for each other, now. He called me years later and told me how much he learned from me and of course when I went to WCW, I hired him back to do some work there for us, which he was excellent in doing. To make a long story short, they were just crushed. So they came to me and said man, boss, we can’t do this hour. An hour broadway as babyfaces? That’s so hard to do. Can one of us go ahead and [turn heel]? I said no. They kept on wandering around, they kept on coming back to me, so finally I knew it was time to challenge them, so I said, listen guys, I understand if you guys just don’t have quite what it takes, and I’ll lighten the word up over the air, you’re cripples and can’t go further so if you can’t make it, you still have got to go within five minutes into the hour and here’s a finish to get you out of this and we’ll do this finish, but you can’t make it, because you aren’t the men I thought you were. Boy, they went out there. They went the hour in a babyface match, and had the audience standing and completely with them, completely mastered the situation. There were two new guys that came out of that ring; there were two guys that grew that night and realized that they could do what they thought was impossible to do, that they could meet the challenge and go further, and that’s the difference, sometime they are the defining moments. I remember when Dusty Rhodes truly became the American Dream in Tampa, Florida, in the interview he did about being the son of a plumber. I mean, I’m sitting there watching, and goose pimples break out on my arm and he finally achieved where we were taking him. So those are defining moments for people when they grew into that person. See, we didn’t give somebody a gimmick or a name and hope he made it; they had to grow into it to become what they were. They truly developed and became what they were. They had to carry the load.

Eric: That’s a great story. It’s so appropriate to what we’re talking about. From what I understand, you’re a big fan of the mixed martial arts and Ultimate Fighting. Am I correct?

Bill: Yeah, I’m enjoying that, sure. I had a concept that I thought about doing, I didn’t have the octagon concept, but it was definitely going to be a shoot type of wrestling, and I had designed it and even figured out how to franchise cities, and then I said, that’s too expensive and I didn’t have the money or the wherewithal at the time and I didn’t know if anybody would buy it at the time. So it’s exciting to see something of this genre, and, yes, I do enjoy it.

Eric: I’ve had guys from both sports on. I had Ken Shamrock on here and I asked Ken if he thinks that the Ultimate Fighting Championship can kind of compete with WWE and he said he didn’t think so. Do you think that mixed martial arts can compete with pro wrestling?

Bill: I don’t think it’s the same. No. First of all, it’s being presented as a legitimate sport and, certainly, WWE isn’t. WWE is a cartoon-character strip come to life and it’s so far removed. You know, you may have some crossover, in fact, the fans, certainly I think fans today are looking for any kind of entertainment or release or any type of idol worship they can find, or what you want to call it, but I think they are two different genres. I think maybe your guys that came out of a legitimate background in sports might be attracted to the UFC. Even the guys in wrestling, I bet you, that love that type of thing, are big fans of the UFC, but I don’t see it being a conflict. One is total entertainment and total farce and totally scripted, we know, and the other is pretty much, seems like, from what I’ve seen so far, I never say never because I watched some stuff in Japan that was presented as being a shoot and I watched things happen and I say oh, bologna, that was a work.

Eric: What has kept you away from the wrestling business for the last dozen years or so?

Bill: Well, it’s been a process and the process happened to me and starting happening in ’84, when God started calling me back to Himself and started challenging me. It was very painful, very hard, because I was sitting on top of the world, and when He wants to get your attention, He’s going to get your attention. He started getting mine, and I was too arrogant, too proud to bend to His will and He had to break me. In the process, I realized that I wanted a way out of a way of life that I couldn’t be in both. There’s a saying that I like to take out of the Old Testament in the Bible, when you examine the light of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. Lot was a world border, in other words, he wanted the righteousness of God in one hand, but he wanted to keep his cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. So many of us are world borders and pretty soon it becomes relativism, instead of what’s right and what’s wrong, and that’s what’s impacting our culture now, that everything is decided by relativism instead of what’s right and what’s wrong and actually, the seculars don’t want any form of moral or ethical conduct except by the government, they want whatever you feel right to be right, and that’s just not true, whether you believe in God or not, God’s laws are absolute. You can’t break them, but you can break yourself on them. I was learning all of this the hard way. I wanted my cake and eat it, too. For me, I couldn’t. I’m not condemning anyone that is struggling with this or not struggling with this, that’s between them and God. When I got out of the business, I was like a dinosaur. What can I do with the rest of my life? I’ve been productive and always made money, but I could always go back into this business and make tremendous money. It seemed like every time I went back, I had all the technique and the knowledge and the ability to do what I needed to do to be successful, but I wasn’t happy in it. And every time I would go back, all the things that were part of my life, they would come back on me, so the anger, and the lust, and all these different things, and it was just a different way. I’m not saying that I am holier than thou, I am not, I’m the garbage pail of flesh, but it’s different, that I am saved by Christ, and by being saved, I strive to be more like Him and reflect the love, see, I’m drawn to His love, not out of fear. The fear gained my respect, but it’s the love of Christ, and how He loved me enough to die for me on the cross that’s changing my life and continues to change my life. I’ll be in this process until the day I die. I love to talk about what happened; I’m not ashamed of it, you can’t hide it. Was it a good role model? Well, compared to today’s stuff, yes it was, but it still wasn’t. It was a dysfunctional business, and all the families that were in it were dysfunctional, including my own. I used to think I was a good father, until I looked back and realized it’s not what you tell your kids what they learn, it’s what they see and do. So if I’m saying, son, don’t drink and drive, and he said, dad, you got a beer and you’re doing a 100 miles an hour, and I say, I can handle it, by gosh, we drink every night going up and down the highway, all the cops know us, what a message that I’m sending to my kid. It’s a message of relativism, that it’s okay for me to do it, but not them.

Eric: Did you find writing the book to be a real therapeutic thing for you?

Bill: Realize Eric, I never wanted to write this book?

Eric: How did that come about?

Bill: People came about and were always asking me to write. To me, I thought to write a book about myself and wrestling, it’s just another method for me to do self-aggrandizement. In other words, I don’t know if anyone writing a book about himself in wrestling isn’t putting himself over. I didn’t want to do that, and most of the stories, I would have liked to have told, would have someone in it they’d hurt. Finally, Scott Williams came to me, turns out, Scott’s a Christian, and he came to this project. I said, Scott, if I can write this book about wrestling with a higher purpose, a purpose where I give something back, a purpose where I reveal that every choice we make in life has a consequence, and if I can show these snapshots of my life, and try to explain, how I made these choices and their consequences…We got a problem in the human race. We have a terminal disease that’s mortality. The current death rate is 100%. We don’t like to think about death, especially our own, yet worldwide, 3 people die every second, 180 every minute, and 11,000 an hour. That brings up a huge question, where are we going to spend eternity? And if you think that’s all there is to life, and you are just going to burn up and go to oblivion, then live your life. There was guy named Pascal, who was 17th century mathematician, and he said, let me paraphrase it, I would rather live my life as if there is a god, and then die and find out there isn’t, than to live my life as if there isn’t a god, and then die and found out there is. We need to battle our culture for our children and their children and for the fact that we can present that there is absolute truth and you don’t need everything based on relativism, or cultural impact, or society. There’s right and wrong. If I could write this book, showing the snapshot of my life, and open my heart up and reveal myself, than I was for it. That’s what we did and, yeah, it was hard, reliving it was fun. It was kind of like when JYD (Junkyard Dog) died, and Buddy Landel asked me to write a eulogy for him that he wanted to read at JYD’s funeral. When I sat down and wrote that, I realized that I had never told JYD how much I loved him and cared for him. He and I broke up when he went to WWF, at the time. The way he left was such a double-cross with our relationship that it hurt deeply and then he got hooked on the various substance abuses and later told me when I was in Atlanta, that he made all that money and taken it up his nose or whatever you want to say. Here he was, hooked on crack. Bless his heart; this kid was a great kid. Choices and consequences. So I tried to use him again by telling him how to get back in shape, but he just couldn’t get back in shape, so I couldn’t use him. When he died, what I missed, I never told him how much I loved him, how important he was, and how my life was blessed by that period of time that he was in my life. That changed me, too. I started to tell people that have come into my life. Since I believe in a sovereign lord, I believe there are no random events, I don’t believe anything happens by accident, I think everything’s for a purpose. Do I think I understand the purpose? No, but I have to be opened to it and I realize people are brought into my life for a time or a season and there’s a meaning for that, so I want to tell those that I have cared for, how deeply I’ve cared for them and how blessed my life has been with their participation in my life. That sort of changed my life and I was able to let go of a lot of anger and a lot of harbored grievance. I’m a great file builder. I was one of these guys that had to build a file in my mind so I had to reason to appeal to my logic to how I treated you. Isn’t it funny, when you live by Christ rule and Christ model, you don’t have to build any files because you treat people the way they’re supposed to be treated.

Eric: That’s interesting, I would never have thought of it that way.

Bill: So, it’s been a wonderful, ongoing process. Hard at times. Isn’t it amazing, by the definition of God, if God is God, than He is sovereign. Look up the definition of sovereign, it means in total control and then we argue with ourselves whether or not to submit to him. That’s only a dumb wrestler, whose been dropped on his head too many times, to have to stop and think that if the man upstairs could snuff you at any minute, and you have a problem putting him over?

A BILL WATTS PROMO ABOUT THE FREEBIRDS IS PLAYED.

Eric: What do you think about listening to that promo?

Bill: The one thing about it, everything I’ve done in life, I’ve done with passion. Another thing, I realized a long time ago that you had to believe and feel what you said and what you did, so whether you were a villain or a babyface, to me you had to have a lot of truth in your approach and in your interview. That’s what always made the interview so easy for me, whatever I said, it’s how I felt it.

Eric: Do you think that’s why a lot of true athletes, who you recruited, specifically like Doc and Duggan, do you think that’s why they were such good promos because as athletes they already had that passion already inbred in them?

Bill: Someone was asking me on a show the other day to name the one’s that I thought were underrated, and it’s so hard to do. Each story to me is a personal story, but the bottom line is that I can remember people that I thought were horrible, excuse me, I shouldn’t say that. They were not really great quote workers in the ring, but by the force of their personality, by their promos, they just literally demanded your respect because they projected their internal person as to who they were. For one that quickly comes to mind is Mad Dog Vachon. Mad Dog Maurice Vachon was so tough as a human being that he demanded, and you could feel that demand in him as far as when he presented himself and what he was going to do to his opponent, there was no doubt in your mind how tough he was. Mad Dog Vachon was a tough, tough human being. Mad Dog Vachon was a tough human being. I’ve seen him in a couple of the tough street situations, he just overcame things and I was just blown away and impressed by him. I’m glad to say that I got to know him, and I had nothing but the greatest respect for him, and yet, in the ring, I never knew what he was going to do. Sometimes (laughing) you would have a fairly ordinary match and sometimes you wouldn’t. Even his brother Paul and he, they were notorious how they would be screaming and cussing each other out in French during a tag-team match. Paul was so level and easy going that some people would say Paul was not near as tough or intense as Mad Dog, I have to disagree. That whole family was tough. Paul was just a different personality.

Eric: …Pretty much anyone that is a hardcore wrestling fan has seen UWF, still to this day, my personal favorite, as the owner of the company, why do you think it failed? Why do you think you had to end up selling to Jim Crockett?

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Bill: First of all, I wanted to get out of it anyway, but the impact that decided it wasn’t competition, the impact that decided it was the oil situation. I’ll never forget the Sheik in Detroit, one time when his business was really down, and he was complaining because the car industry was in such a spin cycle. Our down turn, he was blaming it on the car industry and I thought what does that have to do with wrestling? Well, when the oil industry had its crunch- what you’ve got to realize is when a state’s economy is set up to where a 20 dollar barrel of oil is break even, and oil drops to twelve bucks a barrel, that the state’s economy goes broke, everything around it was broke, so when that happened in the oil states, all entertainment ceased to come. When you had country, western, rock-and-roll, and every form of entertainment cancelled and no longer coming to the state because they couldn’t draw any money, it was a crisis. You had banks go broke, airlines gone broke. So my syndicate, his bank owned some of the big, big hotels in Houston and Dallas. Now, I’m not talking about Motel 8, I’m talking about big hotels. He went broke. The guy ended up owning me 80 grand and I needed that money to operate, because as we were expanding out, we needed our base income in order to feed the thing. We ran Oklahoma City and Tulsa every two weeks. We were averaging $100,000 a show, which, I don’t know if that’s big by today’s standards, but back in the late 80’s, that was a huge show in a town about 600 people. We were doing 40 to 60 thousand in Tulsa every second week. When the oil crunch hit and really took hold, we dropped to 14,000 dollars a show in Oklahoma City and for some strange reason, Tulsa continued to do like 18 to 20 thousand, but it dropped by almost a half. All of a sudden, you are looking at all your things that you used to analyze your business and none of them make any sense, so you’re blaming it on your partners, you’re blaming it on this, you’re blaming it on that, but the bottom line is, there was no way to read why your business was no longer functioning, so you blamed it on yourself, and this, that, and the other. In reality, it was this giant mega-trend that hit, that annihilated the entertainment business in the states, and I mean completely and for some time. I’ll never forget the time we found out initially, we had a guy that was the advanced publicity guy who was from our office, who used to go to the major cities like New Orleans, before the Superdome, and would do a last minute blitz on the media. He called me to tell me that he had gone through every single yellow page ad in the New Orleans telephone book and that all the escort services were no longer in business, because I guess he was looking for a certain type of escort to thrill him that evening. Every single one of them was out of business and he couldn’t hire a lady of the night. So I thought, what are you telling me this for? What it was, when I got down and met him, we went and searched in the French Quarter, not because I was looking for a woman, I was trying to validate what he said and we found there wasn’t a single [one]. What that meant was that there were no entertainment dollars, it dried up. We did for that show, what our advance was. Our total gate was what our advance did. We had probably the best card we had and Crockett was our partner in this one to bring in some bigger talent. And Crockett’s looking at me like, you did a lousy job of promoting and I’m offended by that and all these different things. Because we had no way of understanding we were caught in this mega-trend, that totally changed our business as far as this period of time. It was a very devastating period of time, of course, at the same time, I wanted to get out of the business anyway, it just seemed like it was a good idea to continue along with that. It wasn’t due to the competition. Every time Vince brought the WWE- he was the first one who told me that when I went for those three months to work for him- is that every time he came to my area, he got his fanny handed to him. We took him apart and completely kicked his little rear with our promotion. Jim Ross was very intuitive of that. He had a great knack for that. So Vince wasn’t hurting us at all. Where he was hurting us was the predatory practice which, of course, is always quote denied, where he was stealing our talent. If there’s anybody that ever, of course we don’t see anymore, where there’s not much government intervention, and that’s kind of a shame, because corporations are getting bigger, bigger, and bigger, and it’ll leave more and more people squeezed as the corporation gets stronger and stronger and the people have less rights, but you don’t hear anymore federal anti-trust suits. Those are predatory practices, when you come in. And if there was anybody whoever had a predatory practice against them, to me it was Verne Gagne. Here’s a guy that comes in and hires all his top talent out from under him, including his commentators. Now, here’s Verne appearing on his show. It’s time to let go of it, it’s too late to undo it. But the bottom line is that was what really happened and Verne was one area that he targeted to really put out of business, more so than he did me. Vince didn’t put me out of business, but that’s what happened.

Eric: When I had Dusty on the show, I asked him why he never did a huge invasion angle with the UWF.

Bill: (Laughing) I wonder why Dusty would act like he didn’t understand what you were saying.

Eric: His answer was ‘well, it was logistics. They were here, we were there.”

Bill: Bologna. Bless his heart and bless Crockett’s heart. I just didn’t know that Crockett was that stupid. Here was something that was tailor made. One thing I learned through the deal with Gunkel, competition breeds awareness. You can have competition and it would be better for both. I had even told Crockett and I said, you are in a perfect position here to have your own in house competition that would create huge interest in your product by bringing my deal against the NWA deal. He seemed to embrace that, but you got to realize, and I don’t know how much charity I need to lay here, Crockett didn’t know how to book. He never booked. He couldn’t book. He was at the mercy of his booker, and Dusty is a brilliant person, but if you look at Florida, it went broke under Dusty and every place he touched went broke because as good as he was at drawing gross gates, he had no consciousness of a bottom line, whether it could be laid at his feet because nobody had ever taught him or whatever, he had no consciousness of a bottom line, so nothing was bottom line oriented. It was just what he dreamed of today. There was not ever a lot of continuity, so he couldn’t have followed something like that anyway, honest to goodness, without strong leadership because that’s not where he was geared emotionally. He was a tremendous, tremendous talent in the right situation, but he was never geared to be running an operation like that, in my opinion. Crockett couldn’t make the tough management decisions necessary to rein it in, so instead caved in and- I mean, why do you need a six passenger jet in the wrestling business? So Crockett had me on [as] consultant, which was a smart way of paying me off, turned out to bite me in the rear, and I used to say, well, you’re paying me, so let me send you some things that I see are going to happen to you, that you’re really going in the wrong direction in, you don’t have to listen to them and he wouldn’t even do that. He totally ignored me. He stonewalled me. That’s what somebody does, generally speaking, when they’re going down the tube. They start stonewalling anything else. In other words, how many sports teams you see, it’s us against the world? No, it’s not you against the world; it’s what you choose to do, because you’re going to stonewall the world, because you don’t have the answers. The only time it’s them against the world, when they’re not doing well. And when they’re going down the tube, it makes it really convenient to say it’s us against the world. It is not us against the world- that is some coach’s demented philosophy to rally his troops and hopefully hold them to where they (laughs) don’t pay attention to what’s going on in life.

Eric: I was just watching an interview with Bill Dundee, he was talking about when he booked for you, he said that he booked a program with him and a midget and he said that you were against the program from the beginning, but eventually it got to the point where you had a meeting with the boys and you said, boys, we’re being outdrawn by a bunch of midgets. Is that true?

Bill: If Dundee said it, I wouldn’t say it wasn’t, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember which program it was. Dundee was a midget! (Laughs) In so many ways, yet he had a brilliant mind, so a challenge for me was because Dundee wanted to get in the ring so bad was to keep him out of the ring. If he hadn’t been my booker, he would’ve tried to get Andre the Giant to do a job for him. But Dundee was a brilliant guy and a great guy. I find him as a man of personal integrity and I love the time that I spent with him and I tried a lot of things with him and I’d say 90% of them worked. I’ve got nothing but the highest regard for Dundee. I will always tease him and have fun with him. The truth of the matter is, Dundee was not a big guy so he had that small man’s concept of many things, and it just wouldn’t have fit. I couldn’t have had him go out there and beat Dr. Death; he’d end up getting stuff in a basket if he wasn’t my booker.

CLASSIC BILL WATTS PROMO ABOUT TED DIBIASE VS. RIC FLAIR FOR WORLD TITLE

Eric: I liked in that promo, you didn’t have to yell and scream, but I could still sense the emotion coming out of you.

Bill: It was an emotional play of life. I’d like to take a lot of credit for our promotion at the time, we tried always to come back and still have high moral and ethical value and realize we were in a dysfunctional business and we were certainly deceived by our own thoughts in trying to justify without even thinking about. I’m looking back now with that hindsight, but still we had a higher responsibility; we realized we were dealing with an audience that was designed to address children. So we always tried to keep in mind that our audience was a family audience. When people ask me today about the business today and what are my thoughts on it- I asked somebody one question, this person happened to be a Christian asking me about it, I said stop and please tell me 10 things it does that are pro-God. That’s too hard, 8 things, 1 thing. Let me make it even secular, tell me one thing that your child can watch pro wrestling today and see that you would want them to learn morally or ethically. Would it be how they treat authority? Would it be how they treat women, as the opposite sex? Would it be how they ridicule God? Would it be how they represent a people that are obviously, and I don’t know, I don’t watch their program, but I know who’s on it, that are obviously taking steroids? Tell me one thing. It’s like Stone Cold Steve Austin. How about when you finally come home someday, and you are trying to discipline your kid and he shoots you a double finger?

Eric tells a story about how he was at a WWE house show eight years back and saw a parents with kids wearing Austin middle finger t-shirts.

Bill: When your child then, some point you’re trying to discipline him, and that’s his answer to you is that double finger, well my dear father or mother, or whoever it is, you reap what you sew. We can’t tell our children, don’t do as I do, do as I say. Children learn by what they see, not by, necessarily, what they hear when it comes to about setting a moral and ethical value. So again we tried to always have, and I’m sitting here with hindsight, because our shows were pretty tough, too, but we always had that standard, just like that thing that as you heard me say, if it got too much because of what happened, we were going to put our own slide up. Realize, psychologically, that slide was a great effect, but it also said, we are not going to expose families to some of these things if we feel they are beyond the taste or how a family should be. We are going to respect that. To me, if the promotion allows everything to happen and doesn’t stop or stand for anything than the promotion is corrupt. So we tried to maintain a balance and it was really brought home to me in a lesson I learned from Eddie Graham in Florida. I was down there and I was the booker. I was also working and had a top slot to work in, because anyone who was a decent booker that wrestled was going to push himself because first of all he knew himself better than anyone else. He said, look, Bill, for long term effectiveness, you need to make your own angle, maybe not the key angle, but keep it healthy, I know you have that drive and you certainly earned that right because every place you’ve ever been you’ve been on top, but you have to learn how to develop other talent and develop their angle. A lot of times, I figured out I could get over by talking. So I got myself established on television, but then I’d come and interrupt Gordon Solie, who was the host of our show. It got to be more and more and pretty soon, I’m denigrating him, I’m kind of putting him down on his own show. Because I was his boss, in a way, he had to go for it, and I don’t know if he told Eddie, or he complained to Eddie, that Bill is coming in and interrupting me so much, but anyway, Eddie called me. Eddie was always so smooth to you. He called you first and it was always like a social call, and he was going to lead around to where he was going. He was such a master at it. I used to think, come on, Eddie, you’re not passing the time of day. That’s how he talked, and he was so good at it and I’m so appreciative and I learned so much. Finally, he said, you know, Bill, I was just wondering, what if you went on the Johnny Carson show. It’s the hottest show in America today. And what if you insulted Johnny Carson and ridiculed him and kept interrupting him. How long do you think you’d be on the show? I said, not long, he’d take you right off the show, he’d call a commercial break and you’d be gone. He said, do you think you would ever be invited back? I said, no, no way. He said, Gordon Solie, everyone knows that he is an employee of this company, and you’re the booker, and you own part of the offices, I brought you in as that position. He said, so you have a lot sway over what’s going on, so Gordon, in a way, is working for you and with you. So when you walk out there, he’s still our voice of Florida Championship Wrestling. When you denigrate him on the show, you kill any credibility he has, and if you kill off the credibility that he has, than you are killing the credibility of the promotion. What a lesson. You never saw anybody on any of my shows, ever be able to personally denigrate the announcer. Also, conversely, you never saw any announcer that could make himself bigger than the wrestlers, because it was the wrestlers that were putting a fanny every seventeen inches, not the commentator.

Eric: …what are your thoughts on the way Jim Ross has been treated by the WWE?

Bill: First of all, I’m not close enough to know, because I don’t watch it. I don’t watch wrestling anymore; I haven’t watched it for a long time. Jim is someone I have a great deal of affection for, because Jim earned his position with me. I hired Jim out of college, and then when I left he was working for Leroy, he put up the ring, he refereed, he did it all. I found out he had a great background in radio and sales, so when he came back with me, he earned his way. He earned his way because he always had ideas. Jim Ross loves this business. But nothing was given to him. You earned your way in our business at that time. You didn’t walk in and were given something. So, Jim earned it all. He became my commentator, he became my syndicate, and he became my right hand man. I’ll say this, Jim has continued, and I don’t know how long he has been under contract with Vince, I think something like 10 years, and he has been completely loyal to Vince. He has been totally loyal to Vince. I think from just what I heard that he is very hurt by how little value that seemed to have. He thought that he earned a certain loyalty and a certain position with Vince and that was not carried forward and Vince thought that he could demean or crush Jim at any moment, which, well, everyone says it’s a work, well, it is, but gosh darn it, Jim’s that kind of guy, that if he’s given me that much of his time- Let me tell you something, when a guy that was a main eventer, and leaving me, I’d still want to be sure that he knew how he was going to leave, because I understood that he could say no. Certainly, I already exercised that if I were leaving your area, you better come talk to me about how you wanted me to leave, don’t assume that’s it’s because it was your area that I was going to fold up and let you do anything that you wanted to do to me on the leaving, you better make sure. First of all, I understood that there was no one able to make me do anything that was established a long time ago. Jim, I think, feels after all this loyalty, which he certainly had earned and has proven time and time again- Jim’s always been loyal to anyone he’s ever worked for, and he thought that possibly it deserved a little more consideration. Again, that’s me on the outside looking in. I have no idea to the inner imaginations of Vince’s company or anything else, because I don’t look at it. But when you’re in a corrupt hen house, what do you expect?

Listen to the Bill Watts Pro Wrestling Radio interview in its entirety.

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