Greg Valentine Interview Transcript

greg valentine shoot interviewThe following interview features WWE Hall of Fame wrestler, former NWA U.S. champion, and former WWE intercontinental champion Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. The Hammer talks about his career, his feuds with Tito Santana and Roddy Piper, interviews, and more. The interview was taped March 26, 2005 and was broadcast on Pro Wrestling Radio.

A Greg Valentine interview on an upcoming Madison Square Garden match with Tito Santana from 1984 is played.

Eric Gargiulo: How was that for a trip down memory lane?

Greg Valentine: That was fantastic. I loved the old solid type of interviews talking about nothing but wrestling, not talking about who Tito’s wife is, or who his girlfriend is, or I’m going to date his wife, or you know it was just wrestling. And that’s why it was so good back then.

(Eric mentions how simple the promo was about winning the belt and breaking his leg)

Greg: That’s it. Those simplest things, they are always trying to figure out what to do next to get the people to tune in. How about just wrestling, good wrestling you know? That’s what it says on the marquee and I know everyone says, “That’s old fashioned Greg Valentine talking that way, we’ve heard that forever,” But that is the way it was. I remember in 1979 when I first came into New York , Vince McMahon, Senior. The houses were down, Madison Square Garden was not selling out, and everything was in bad shape. I’m not saying I was the sole person that brought it back up, but they brought me and some guys that could wrestle instead of all of the goofy stuff, because they were doing a lot of goofy stuff back then. If the Garden was not selling out Vince McMahon, Sr. was a nervous wreck. And so they started going back to wrestling. Some people say, “Well that’s cause Bob Backlund was the champion,” but they just needed the right kind of guys to work with Bob Backlund. It (business) came right up, you know? Wrestling is wrestling, back there they were doing all kinds of gimmicks and when you are doing all of that kind of stuff you kill the business. The fans just want to see the wrestling. I mean, a little bit of gimmick is ok you know, but?

(Eric comments how crazy it is today.)

Greg: Yeah, it’s a little hard to follow and another thing today, I just want wish that they would leave the belt on a champion you know I don’t even know who the world champion is? I don’t even know who the tag team champions are? Let those people have the belts for a long time, I mean that’s what it is about you know? You get a champion and you let him run with it. I had the Intercontinental belt about a year, and then the tag belt about a year, I should have had it longer but I’m just saying when I had the U.S. belt I would win the belt, I’d lose it, I’d win it back, I’d lose it, that’s the way you did things and you created the storylines that the people could follow, it was around wrestling, all wrestling, 90% wrestling, a little fluff here and there, it’s coming back to that, it has to come back to that, I was part of the (WWE) Hall of Fame last year and that was their main theme, getting back to where it all started. They haven’t got it all together yet but I know they have hired a lot of different people in fact I even have an interview with them at Wrestlemania. I’ve been invited out to that. They’re trying to get, I’m not saying get the old wrestlers in the ring but behind the scenes getting them to help with storylines and stuff, and they’re (WWE) open for suggestions, and it’s good, it’s good because it needs to go back to that.

Eric: How would you have reacted in 79, 80 if someone had scripted your promos?

Greg: Ugh, well they started doing that when NBC had the Saturday Night’s Main Event, they just gave me little lines but I could not imagine what it would be like if you had a couple of paragraphs you had to speak by memory like a script, like in a movie, and you couldn’t ad-lib because wrestling is all ad-lib. I could say, “Yeah this is what you want me to say and how to say it, but I have to say it in my own words,” that’s method acting to you know? It really aggravated me when they had a teleprompter and I had to look into that and say even just a few sentences you know? I hated that because you could tell I was reading it, at least I thought you could tell.

Eric: What did it mean to you to be inducted in 2004 into the WWE Hall of Fame?

Greg: I definitely was flattered by it I did not expect it because I hardly have talked to the WWE at all since I left. I did not leave on bad terms or anything I just was out of a job (laughs). So I went other places and I managed to stay, you know I have never done, honestly, anything else in my life to subsidize, or add some income in, in my career, my thirty-five year career in wrestling. I have never done anything but wrestle. I never drove a cab on the side, I never shined shoes, I never sold cars (laughs), keeping afloat. I am not the wealthiest of all of the wrestlers, obviously Hulk has got lots and lots of money, and Flair does. I was fortunate to make a lot of money but I never got rich from it. I’m still involved in the wrestling business because I want to be, and not really because I have to be. I want to be involved, my career is my whole life and my life is my career. When they (WWE) brought me back into that Hall of Fame it brought back life into my career. I still do a lot of independent wrestling, I go around and give seminars at different wrestling schools like a package, they bring me into wrestle and then I talk the next day, teach the guys, mainly just talk to them. WWE Hall of Fame really helped me in that part of my career. Plus I am getting ready I have a lot of stuff written down to put my book together. It’s just a different phase in my career. What the WWE wants to talk to me about, maybe they want me to help them? Be an agent? Would Greg Valentine be a good agent? I don’t know, I might be, I could be a good sergeant. They want me to be a Sheriff in this upcoming movie I am going to do which I do not even know the name of yet, I have script here. If they want me to be a Sheriff and run down the halls and scream, “OK you guys let’s get it together,” I could definitely do that. I could definitely teach, I could definitely see the quality, I would just like to watch match quality and be the guy that say, “That stunk. You need to change that, it stunk. You hit the guy fifteen thousand times in the head, the first punch should have knocked him out but you hit him fifteen times, c’mon!” (Laughs)

Eric: Such a big part of your game were your facials, do you think that is a lost art?

Greg: You know what these kids they get out there, there some good ones, but their expressions. They forget that their expressions and they can get so much by less meaning more. Everybody has heard that and that is what they have to go back to because you have to slow it down, you have to believe in yourself so much that the people in the front row and up there in the popcorn seats, they believe in you too. That only comes after years, and years of pounding and wrestling, psychology like that, it’s also physical. When I broke in the business almost everyone on top, almost everyone in the main events were forty-five years old plus. The underneath card was all young guys. The reason for that was they (promoters/bookers) figured it takes ten years to become a polished worker, and to pay your dues and know the psychology. I don’t think it takes that long now especially. Kids are smarter, they need the right direction. The torch was never passed the right way. You should have had the old guys there like; myself and Tito passing the torch to who is on top now and than on down the line. I could still go out there and wrestle with any of these young kids and teach them more in a couple of matches down the month or whatever, a couple of months of matches? That is what happened they did not pass the torch the right way they haven’t been. They retired all of us. There are some guys that I understand have passed away, they are not around anymore, there are a lot of guys that do not want to wrestle anymore because they’re hurt, I’m physically able to, I still feel good, I’m in as good as shape as Flair and maybe better.

Eric: Are you surprised at the legendary status the Dog Collar match with Roddy Piper at Starrcade 83 has undertaken and what memories of the match do you have?

Greg: Oh, yeah I was surprised but even when I was in the WWF on top, late eighties early nineties, whatever. People would walk up to me and they would mention that match to me. It was one of the first matches I think that they put out a lot on videotape and it just got around but it was such a unique match I think also the quality of the match because we were really whacking the hell out of each other. People just want to be able to believe in something even if they know that the finish is fixed or whatever. Whatever they think they want to be able to believe in it. They want to watch a good movie a good movie is one that keeps you spellbound, keeps you on the edge of your seat, and you want to believe in it but you know, “Hey that wasn’t really real or was it real?” there is that thin line. I never tipped my hat and said that wrestling was all fake because it’s not. Because I have been in too many damn matches and I have hit guys as hard as I could after they hit me as hard as I could because they were mad at me and I call that pretty real. But we got back to whatever the promoter wanted, usually or we just got out of the ring, got mad and walked away and not do a finish and that’s happened to. Or the finish, I’ve changed the finish because I have gotten mad at a guy, knocked him out and I beat him. So that’s real. That is where the respect of psychology and years, and years of wrestling comes and you can’t do that and train a guy in a school and do that and teach him, “Throw him in there and all of the sudden he is going to be a WWE superstar.” Not now, he needs another five years or at least three on the road, every night working to be able to have that psychology because I can’t, really I could tell the guys and they listen and than they get into the ring and go, “Yeah, that’s what he said. All I have to do is slam the guy and wait for him to get up. I don’t have to jump on him right away,” you know?

Eric: Did you and Roddy have any house show matches with the Dog Collar or was Starracade the first time you two wrestled with it?

Greg: We were used to wrestling each other because I did a, that was the blow-off of a two year feud with Piper, that match. Believe me Piper did not like my style of wrestling. We were good friends and that is the only reason that we made a lot of money together because he didn’t like my style because I hit too hard and I didn’t like his style either but then we meshed together and he improved his style, I improved mine. He never liked to work as stiff as I did is what I am trying to say. A couple of times he knocked me out. I mean he hit me as hard as he could because he used to be a Golden Glove boxer. He was so pissed off at me because I wouldn’t go home one night and it was raining someplace and he says, “Let’s go, let’s go,” and I didn’t want to and I was being belligerent. He hauled off and hit me as hard as he could and I’m standing in the ring and I’m like just dazed. I didn’t go down. He grabs me and he bull dogs me and he runs my head all of the way across the canvas of the ring, I swallowed about three gallons of water, I came up, I was laughing and he was laughing. I said, “Okay go ahead let’s go home.” So I mean that was real, and we apologized and I don’t know if I could beat him up for real, and he doesn’t know if he could beat me. Now Piper I could definitely beat Piper because he’s got two plastic hips and he has not held together as good as I have so I could definitely beat him now for real. Back then I didn’t know because he was a Golden Glove boxer from Canada, that’s where he got his start, he is a tough guy and he doesn’t look it believe me. That’s why he made so much money because of his mouth and then the average guy goes, “I could whip his ass just get me in the ring with him.” That’s how he drew money, he’s a great guy.

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Eric: Did you and Roddy have to get clearance when the two of you subtly acknowledged your history on the first Piper’s Pit you were on or did you two shoot your own angle?

Greg: Piper and myself had so much respect for what we did down there and here we are both being heels, walking out of the same side of the dressing room or whatever, and being on the same side of the group of guys, we are connected but we’re not connected and so we just wanted to kind of like, “Hey forget the past, we’re together on this deal now, money is more important than fighting each other,” that sort of thing. Yeah, we asked if we could do that and they said, “Sure that would be good,” because they did not realize it. They’re in their own little bubble. “WWF, nobody watches anything but WWF or WWE.” They are in their own little bubble there. They didn’t realize what a strong audience that the NWA had and the Atlanta TBS and they showed that match down there on tape so it was a big deal and it was the first Starrcade as well.

Eric: It has been acknowledged elsewhere that Vince McMahon, Jr. made Harley Race an offer to jump with the NWA Championship and no-show Starrcade. If that had happened, how do you think it would it have affected Starrcade and the business at that time?

Greg: You know I don’t know to confirm that story and I won’t say that is definitely what had happened but there’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. If that would have happened the WWF, well they took over everything anyway, it would have been a more sudden death for the NWA, WCW, it was going to fold anyway except for way back in 97’ when. Way back, it was not that long ago but now that I think about it 96’, 97’ when they got Hogan and Nash and those other guys they really had a serious threat going as being at least a number one show, number one company spot, they had that for awhile, so Vince moved in and got them. I think the business needs different leagues, it needs different companies, it needs competition it always has because if you have competition the competition always makes the other one do better right? And that’s my final word on that, I love competition it’s only good business, that’s what America is all about.

Eric: Your dad (Johnny Valentine) was well known for his ribs. Did he ever play ribs on you at home?

Greg: (Laughs) No, that wasn’t allowed but everybody heard about them. He played a few friendly ribs on me but that was it, you know?

Eric: Did any of the veterans go after you as a receipt for a rib played on them by your father?

Greg: You know I don’t know those were hard shoes to fill it was hard following in the shadow of Johnny Valentine, definitely. When he had that plane crash and was crippled, everybody finally felt sorry for my dad so it took the heat off of me too. Most of those guys that he played the ribs on were from a different generation, they were either retired or gone. I did meet Dr. Jerry Graham (laughs) and he had his bottle of whiskey in the L.A. Sports Arena, he was there and he came back to see all of the boys and he just looked at me and said (imitating Graham), “You’ll never be what your father was,” and he’d take another drink and I met some of those guys. Those are guys that my father played ribs on. They respected him so much even though they got the rib pulled on them, except for the guy that shot him with a spear gun. I don’t know who that guy was. He (his dad) urinated on him and you know how people are when they drink, he went outside, got a spear gun, shot my dad in the chest just missed his heart. Those are legendary things. I am going to put them in my book. My dad has a book of ribs but we are having trouble getting that published. Once they publish mine I could most likely pave the way to get his out there too.

Listen to the Greg Valentine interview in its entirety.

WWE Hall of Fame 2004 featuring Greg Valentine

WWE Starrcade: The Essential Collection

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