Honky Tonk Man Talks Not Dropping The Title To Savage, Heat With Bischoff, Turning Down HOF & More
Of course, if you have a championship belt, you don't go home and spend time with your wife and children. You have to be on the road and [Vince] said, 'This guy wants to go and do this and I got to have the belt in a town.' I said, 'Listen, if you give me that belt, I don't want a day off.' And I ran with that belt for 64 weeks.
WrestlingINC: Winning titles was a way bigger deal back then. What was your reaction when they ultimately decided to go with you for the title?
Honky Tonk Man: I knew I was going to get over and draw people, sell tickets. Title or no title. No matter where I was on the card. I knew that because I had perfected my persona. The Honky Tonk thing. I knew that if it didn't work there, it was going to work somewhere else. Of course, WCW -- which was Turner and the Crocketts in Atlanta at the time -- I knew there was a spot there no matter what. With it being such a Southern-style thing, the Elvis knock-off character, I knew it would work. If they didn't want to use me properly in WWE, then I would just move on.
That's what I was planning on doing but then I got the opportunity to get the Intercontinental championship and I ran with it. I'm not tooting my own horn, but I thought I did a pretty good job with it.
WrestlingINC: Back then, you would headline a lot of the house shows with the Intercontinental title, which I don't remember happening before that point.
Honky Tonk Man: Yeah. With the Intercontinental title, I became (someone with) main event status right under Hulk Hogan.
WrestlingINC: You had some really memorable feuds during that time. Who were some of your favorite opponents during that period?
Honky Tonk Man: I liked being with Jake (Roberts) whenever Jake was around and I liked being with Steamboat. Like I said; he left the company, stayed gone for 20 years and all of a sudden, he came back with a shirt and tie on and was a supervisor. [Laughs.] Oh. Now you're a big shot.
But, yeah. I had really, really good matches with Randy Savage and they were very memorable and really good stuff. Good stuff with Jimmy Snuka. When they put me with Snuka, I had pretty much been degraded down the card because they were going in a different direction with the (Ultimate) Warrior and planning to put him in a position to take over Hogan's spot.
WrestlingINC: There was talk that you were going to originally drop the title to Savage at The Main Event, but that you didn't feel that you should drop the title yet. Was that accurate?
Honky Tonk Man: It wasn't really about dropping the title. I was talking to my friend, "Rock N' Roll" Buck Zumhofe from the old AWA days, who I was on tour with all this past week up in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. It wasn't the fact of losing the belt or anything of that nature.
I had a deal with WWE and Vince, a handshake deal. There were no contracts back then. 'I'll do anything you want if you give me an opportunity. If I do good, pay me. If I don't do good, I'll pack my bags and move down the highway.' All I said was, 'Treat me good on TV. Take care of me on television.' Back in the old days, us old guys always believed that if they destroy you on television, you're pretty much destroyed.
So, when they mentioned the destruction of the Honky Tonk Man on television and going with 'Macho Man' -- you know, in reality, if 'Macho Man' was still around today and with us at a roundtable. It did his career better than mine because he became world champion as opposed to being the Intercontinental champion again. For that reason, Ted DiBiase -- who still has a little animosity towards me though not a lot -- Ted never got to be world champion because Ted was going to be world champion.