Former WWE Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man recently spoke with Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com about working with WWF in the 1980s, how he won the Intercontinental title, his feuds with Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior, problems with the business today, scripted promos, his problems with Eric Bischoff and much more.
Here is part two of the interview, click here for part one where Honky Tonk Man discussed his problems with Eric Bischoff, not dropping the title to Randy Savage, going to WCW and more.
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WrestlingINC: When you went back to WWF in 1997, it had to have been drastically different than you remembered it from the late-'80's-early-'90's. What were your thoughts on where the company was at that time?
Honky Tonk Man: When I went back and did the Billy Gunn thing -- and I love Billy to death. He understands the business now but back then, he wasn't really sure what was going on. It's nothing against Billy and he knows this (but) he had been there and they were looking for the next, greatest Intercontinental champion. They should have brought in a new, fresh guy.
It just did not work. It was terrible. It was terrible for him. He didn't like it. I didn't like it. It just did not work. He and I could make it work now but we could not make it work then. It dragged on for three or four months, which was way too long.
The company had not changed that much at that point other than the fact that they were going towards the DX generation. Pushing the envelope to the sex attitude. Mae Young having a hand with Mark Henry. Vince having a rectal exam. Pulling all kinds of stuff, you know.
It was a sick area. It was a sick part of our business that still exists with some independent promoters. High school principals and civil organizations still remember that. When [we] as independents try to get wrestling shows, people go, "No. No, we don't want that. We don't want all this sex and naked women." Now they're a PG company, but that's what people remember. So, it hurt us out here with what we do with not being able to get as many wrestling shows as we should have or could have because of what they did.
Now, if you want to know how business changed... When I went back and did Cyber Sunday with Santino Marella, it was all scripted. Everything was written down on paper. You got to study it like in Hollywood. It's, like, "Man. Come on. I don't need to study this stuff. I know what I need to do."
You had to go out and rehearse it and say it that way. They start rehearsing and like two or three in the afternoon until five or six o'clock at night. Even coming through the curtain and coming down is all rehearsed. It's, like, "Man, give me a break! I know how to walk down the damn aisle."
WrestlingINC: Other than the scripted part, was it a fun thing or did the scripting thing kind of turn it completely off?
Honky Tonk Man: It was fun in a way, but the scripted thing kind of turned me off. What I was really hoping for and what I really thought they should have done -- you know, it's not my call. But, because [Santino's] a great talent and a fantastic guy, they should have let this thing run with him and I. This was in October. Let it run until WrestleMania and I say, "If you can beat me at WrestleMania, I will drop down and say you are the greatest of all time."
That would have catapulted him into whatever they wanted to do with the Intercontinental championship belt but make it mean something again. But, they didn't do it and they passed on that. Then, a week later, they went to England and I think [William] Regal beat him in a minute.
None of the championship belts mean anything. When you have to bring The Rock back and give him $10-20 million for WrestleMania, it just means that you have nobody on your roster that's worth a s--t. Excuse my French or English or whatever, but that's just how it is.
WrestlingINC: You were asked to induct Koko B. Ware into the Hall of Fame. What were your thoughts on that?
Honky Tonk Man: I enjoyed it. I thought it was a great thing for Koko. Koko and I had trained together and the call just came out of the blue. Normally, someone that inducts someone has already been inducted themselves. But, I didn't mind it. I enjoyed being there. It wasn't even about the pay day or anything like that because I got screwed on the rent-a-car and several other things I never got my money for. Going there and doing that for Koko was fine with me.
We started together and trained for a year together. Even today, if they put he and I in a match together, we'd have the same match. It might not be as fast as it was back then, but we could have the same match that we had 30 years ago in training camp. I enjoyed being there and doing that for him. I didn't care about being around the rest of the people. I didn't work for the company, so I didn't give a s--t.
WrestlingINC: Didn't it seem odd that you weren't being inducted yet or you hadn't been inducted yet?
Honky Tonk Man: Well, they called me the next year. I was living here in Phoenix and they wanted to do it in Phoenix but I was already booked doing the Wizard World Comic Book Convention. I had a contract with those guys. I had a Toronto date the same weekend.
WrestlingINC: Did you get any heat for having to turn that appearance down?
Honky Tonk Man: I'm sure. But, hey. It is what it is. Every now and again, I speak with my friend, Jimmy Hart. Jimmy is back with the company. I say, "You know, Jimmy. They have their show to run and I have mine." What they do is totally different from what I do. I'm out here doing my thing, booking my own stuff. They do their thing. The only thing is that their checks don't bounce and it's a steady paycheck. That's the only difference. Other than that, I don't wait on that '203' area code to pop up on my phone. [Laughs.]
WrestlingINC: You've seen it all. Having been everywhere; what do you think WWE could learn today from your experiences and what you've seen? What could make their product better?
Honky Tonk Man: I'm not going to give them any free information. [Laughs.] That's a great question and I'm sure a lot of guys would love to answer it. Obviously, they think they're smarter than we are. Well, the first thing they can learn is; why are you bringing all your old stars back if you don't have anybody on your card that's worth a s--t? [Laughs.]
WrestlingINC: You said you're booking your own appearances right now. What are your thoughts on the independent scene today.
Honky Tonk Man: It's a whole different animal. For me, it's like starting all over again. It's like starting back in the barnyards and the county fairs and the V.F.W. Halls and things of that nature. For independent promoters out there: Look, you're not Vince McMahon. You're never going to be Vince McMahon. Don't try to run your show like Vince McMahon. Sometimes your lights don't work. Most of the time, your smoke machine doesn't work. Your curtains fall down. [Laughs.] Your microphone doesn't work. Just have your show, put on your five or six matches and go home. [Laughs.]
Don't be there for six hours. 'Yeah, the show starts at seven. But it really starts at 7:30 and it's not over until midnight.' I mean, come on. Let's get this s--t over with and be done with it.
WrestlingINC: Are you having fun on the independent scene right now?
Honky Tonk Man: Yeah, other than sitting around the locker room for ten hours. [Laughs.]
WrestlingINC: [Laughs.] So, what do you have coming up?
Honky Tonk Man: Well, I'm booked solid pretty much all through the summer. I mean, that's it. I just take it one day at a time. I had a booking in February for the 'death tour' in Northern Manitoba that I canceled. I wanted to do it, but then I had some family problems and all sorts of stuff was happening here at the house.
Every Canadian guy -- Edge, Christian, (Chris) Jericho -- has been on that 'death tour', they call it. You go up North across the ice lakes and everything. It was a 20-day tour and I really couldn't be away from home that long. So, that's the one time that I did cancel on Tony Condello. He's a great promoter that's been around the game for 35 years. He trained Roddy Piper and Piper's been on that 'death tour'. Everyone from Canada's been on it.
I thought since it was towards the end of my career, 'Yeah, Tony. I'll do it.' Then, as it got closer and closer, I was putting together all my winter clothes and living here in Phoenix, you don't really have winter clothes. [Laughs.] So, it just was not going to work for me. [Laughs.]
WrestlingINC: Do you mind doing a little main association?
Honky Tonk Man: OK. Who are we going to start with? Eric Bischoff?
WrestlingINC: Sure. Let's start with Eric.
Honky Tonk Man: Are we PG-rated or X-rated or what?
WrestlingINC: [Laughs.] I'll censor any language on the site.
Honky Tonk Man: Gosh. OK. Eric Bischoff has done very well for himself [considering] he started his career running and getting coffee for the boys in Verne Gagne's office.
WrestlingINC: What about Dynamite Kid?
Honky Tonk Man: Tommy and I got along great in Calgary. Towards the end in WWF, things went different with him in different situations. I regret everything that's happened to him but he's made some statements. Even Davey Boy Smith -- God bless him, a great kid -- his ex-wife, Diana Hart, wrote in her book that if Dynamite Kid was saying something, he was probably telling a lie.
Other than that, I wish him well. I'm sorry about all his health issues.
WrestlingINC: What about Kevin Nash?
Honky Tonk Man: I finally got to sit down with Kevin Nash last year at a thing we were doing at in San Jose, California. Kevin's a really great guy. He's really smart about the way he does business and I wish I had been business as smart as him.
You know, he's a big guy. He's 7' tall. He's a good talker. He's a good businessman. If they needed someone behind the scenes in WWE, he would probably be a great guy to be there. I mean, he's had a bad rep because of a lot of things. It's been physical issues that have held him back from being one of these high-flying guys. Doing all these things. But, he knew that he was 7' tall, 300 pounds and he doesn't have to go out there and do all that nonsense. He understood that. To me, that's very important when a person understood what you can do and what you can't do. Then, being able to make it work for yourself.
But, he's a great guy. As far as Scott Hall, I've met Scott several years ago when he was trying to get in WWE and doing tryout matches. It's too bad. I hope he gets his life together and everything because he's a good guy.
WrestlingINC: Randy Savage?
Honky Tonk Man: Oh, gosh. What can you say about Randy. [impersonating Savage] 'Ooooh, yeah! Ooooh, Honky Tonk Man. You're in the danger zone. Yeah!" [Laughs.] We had some of the best times. We were never close, personal friends at all. Randy never let you be a close, personal friend. I don't know that Randy ever had a close, personal friend other than his family. Which is fine with me. But we did very well and we had a good chemistry in the ring together. He was a great performer.
WrestlingINC: Hulk Hogan?
Honky Tonk Man: Oh, gosh. 'Oh, yeah, brother! You know, brother. You know, brother, brother, brother. I got a sex tape out, brother. Brother, brother, brother.' [Laughs.] I don't know. The old Hulkster, he's like the wind; whatever direction's blowing, that's where he's going. [Laughs.]
What can you say? I know people want to hear me say bad things about people, but Hulk Hogan was the Muhammad Ali, the Tiger Woods of our era. Tiger Woods changed the way people looked at golf. Muhammad Ali changed the way people looked at boxing. Hulk Hogan changed the way people looked at wrestling. For that reason, he has had an impact on my life, my families life. Anyone in the wrestling business should bow down and say, 'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.'
Of course, Vince McMahon, too. It took both of them and it took the vision of Vince McMahon. Even though -- people ask me everyday, 'How is Vince McMahon in real life?' I say, 'Just like he is on television.' [Laughs.] He is that character. Say what you want, but he has changed the business and made it [into] a real, legitimate, multi-billion dollar, world-wide company. As opposed to country fairs, rodeo arenas and things of that nature.
WrestlingINC: Right. That was actually the final name I was going to ask you about.
Honky Tonk Man: You don't get to be in that position unless you're a ruthless, businessman. (George) Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees, he just passed away. Steinbrenner ruled with an iron fist. Vince is the Steinbrenner of wrestling.
Anybody can say what they want. Stephanie (McMahon) and Triple H -- sure, they're behind the scenes. They might be able to pursued Vince this way or that way. I promise you that there's not one thing that happens that Vince McMahon does not no about. He runs that company.
WrestlingINC: Well, thanks a lot. Do you have anything you'd like to plug. Or anything you'd like to say?
Honky Tonk Man: I mean, I'm out here rockin' and rollin', baby. As Jimmy Hart says, 'The beat goes on.'
WrestlingINC: [Laughs.] Well, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Definitely, we wish you the best of luck and we really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.
Honky Tonk Man: I'm just so fortunate to still be doing what I do. I love what I do. To be able to come out and entertain the fans where ever I go. That's what it's all about. That's all I care about now. Entertain the fans, have fun, make sure they have fun and get their money's worth out of me and that's it.
Click here for part one of the interview where Honky Tonk Man discussed his problems with Eric Bischoff, not dropping the title to Randy Savage, going to WCW and more.