I recently interviewed former WCW Superstar Marcus "Buff" Bagwell. Bagwell will be wrestling and filling all of his booking commitments before retiring in May of 2018 after 28 years in the industry.
Below is the full interview in its entirety:
Right off the bat, you've announced that you are going to retire next year, correct?
"Yeah. I think so. It's not necessarily - I think it's a combination of my injuries, I'm not able to train like I used to. Let's be honest, if your name is 'Buff' Bagwell you better look like 'Buff' Bagwell. If you are going to claim that schtick, you better live it for a lot of years, and I did, for a lot of years, but man, it gets tough. When you get older you get older and I'm 47 now, just really trying to make it happening, and I'm losing it so it bothers me that I don't look like 'Buff' Bagwell, and I'm trying to show these fans a 20 year old memory, and I'm looking good enough to pull it off but it's getting close. It really is, it's getting close.
"Everybody says that I look great for a 47 year old, but for 'Buff' Bagwell standards and what I gave the people, I was such in shape at that time it's such a difference. I think it matters a little bit, but I've received nothing but positive responses from everybody for my age, and how I look and been taking care of myself obviously. I dodged a bunch of crazy bullets, but hip and shoulder wise I don't think I can pull it off another year without embarrassing myself, without having to hold a rope to clothesline a guy and it bothers me, it's just not good."
You're only 47. You're a young man, but you've been wrestling for over 27 years. It's kind of crazy to think of when you started where wrestling was, where it had been to where it is now; it's kind of a huge rollercoaster.
"The thing about it is, I was in the front seat riding it. It was one of the most unbelievable visual things you will see in your life. We went from Center Stage, with Chip Bernam, who was Head of Marketing. He grabbed me, the young, pretty boy and said for me to come with him. He used to give tickets away for free shows. There was Macho Man [Randy Savage], Nasty Boys, Sting, Lex Luger. We had a bunch of really good crowds, but nobody knew what WCW was, so when they finally got the Disney deal and people started noticing us. After Disney, then the nWo, there we went and there was no stopping it."
To go where WCW went, and how much it caught on fire, seeing nWo shirts everywhere, and out of business just a few years later... what was that period like?
"I mean, you just said it and said it out loud. Think about it, how does that happen, right? So, you think; you build your house, buy your car, you go to a good job, but nobody saw one small thing that was huge and it was basically Ted Turner merged with AOL Time Warner, and when they did, Ted always had the most stock with TBS, he had 11%. It may not sound like a lot to me and you, but when you're holding that kind of money, and that type of stock, dealing with millions and millions of dollars, but for whatever reason, when the deal got done, AOL's numbers had bumped him to where he was second, he was not the one with say. Those who were ahead of him said that they didn't want wrestling. We were like, 'what? Are you joking?' We were beating the NBA Championship. The NBA Championship was doing a 1 [rating] and we were doing a 3, and we got fired. They just didn't want us, they did not want wrestling in the tag, so they were done."
WCW ratings were higher than what WWE is doing right now a lot of weeks. It was a big fall from where you were. What do you think contributed to that? Storylines? Constant changes in management?
"I think everything you said. The changes, the background of one week it was [Vince] Russo, one week it was [Eric] Bischoff, you never knew who was running the shows. So I think some of it was that, but I think we just killed it. We did 3 hour Nitros, I can't watch wrestling for 3 hours. Nobody can watch wrestling for 3 hours, then you had WCW Thunder on Thursdays. It was just too much for the fans, just too much.
"We're making Monday Night Nitro and making millions. Everyone is happy and Eric Bischoff comes up with the Thunder idea, and we were like, Eric, don't do that. That's too much TV, it's too much. He said that it would be a side show so we wouldn't work it, it'd be like another group, kind of like what Raw and SmackDown is now. There'd be an A and a B show. That was his plan was, but he put Thunder out there the first week and it didn't do well, so suddenly you had Bill Goldberg, Scott Steiner, all these guys get on Thunder, so it just added more work for us. I think it was just too much TV. That is the honest truth. I think we watered it down. I have a picture where we have the black and white nWo on, and the other side red and black and I couldn't tell you why. I can tell you kind of, but the ones who were wearing the red were figured in. There was so much turmoil backstage. It was supposed to be Wolfpack, about 5-6 guys to get rid of the nWo, and become the next move, to keep an Elite Wolfpack group."
You were with WCW until the end, but you weren't on the final WCW Nitro. Were you in the arena for that?
"I actually was believe it or not, on the final Nitro, but I never watched it. 100% I was on it, I did an interview with Luger. It's not good on the very last night you're not on the crowd. I'm trying to leave and go home and realize that my career is over. Half my way driving home my Dad calls and asked if I was going to be on TV, I said no. He said, well, they [WWE] just mentioned 5 names and you were one of the 5. I said, what? He said, believe it or not, I'm not just saying this as your Dad, because I went back and listened to it as well, but it's probably the 2nd, maybe the 3rd biggest pop of the names mentioned; then to be fired 2 weeks later, how do you explain that? I still don't know what happened. No matter what thought you come up with, drugs, whatever you want to come up with, hey Mark, quit it, or we're going to fire you. No warnings, still don't know what happened. They said that we were going to chill out for about 3 months and then bring you back afterwards, but of course that wasn't true. I shook their hands and thanked them and then went on my way."
So, before you went to WWF, was it a case like with DDP, where he took a buyout from his contract so he lost money?
"I did the same thing... He got the idea from me because we share the same attorney. What we did was, we could have sat at home and made an extra $60,000 to $80,000, but the reason why you saw Booker T, Buff Bagwell and DDP, it wasn't by choice, but because our contracts were up. We had to make a decision, so we had to jump ship. I called Brad Small, my attorney and said, 'hey dude, I have an idea.' I said, 'let's [save] Vince [McMahon] the money. Let's show that we are on board.' I saved Vince $60,000 where I could have just stayed at home, but keep in mind, he hasn't hired me yet either. I wanted to show that I was on the team, save him $60,000, sign a new contract, which, you know, even with contracts it's a big difference from my WCW contract, it was huge. The first ones through the walls was really tough for us.
"Booker T survived. I got flack from saying he was one of the best black wrestlers, but he really is one of the best black wrestlers. He's just got that height, body, he's got the talk. Junkyard Dog was a gimmick, and I was a big fan of Junkyard Dog, especially from back in the day especially. [Booker] can move like a cat. He's one of the best of all-time. He survived, but as you've noticed, everyone else had gone out in flames. I think Dallas got beat by a drop kick by Bob Holly. I was like, my gosh man."
It's kind of sad watching those old WCW Nitro shows where the crowd was so hot.
"I watched one match last night, not sure how, but I did, and really dove into it. There was three black guys who are called New Day, they're good guys, I don't know them, but right off the bat I don't get it. They're three guys but are a tag team, which I don't get. I have never been around a tag team with three guys; there was a manager who wore a suit and tie and looked different from you, who wore a suit with two guys, not three. They wrestled some guys who I never even heard of, and the two guys [The Usos] who I never even heard of had one heck of a match. I can't tell you who the two guys were because I never even heard of them, but they beat them. It was one heck of a match."
Speaking of WWE Network, what is your status with the lawsuit?
"I would love to go on about it but I got in trouble for saying something about it last week. It was only minor, so I have to say no comment for the moment."
Kind of going back to your WWF career... I know you have been asked about the Booker T match a lot so I'm not going to ask it, but do you think that if someone else was chosen to face Booker T that night that things would have still ended up where it was because of how mismanaged the angle was?
"Every time I get asked this question, because like you said, I've been asked it about a million times. My answer is always this: Why do the invasion of two billion dollar companies in Tacoma, Washington when in seven days you are going to be in the Georgia Dome and you put Buff Bagwell and Booker T in it in Takoma, Washington and we got booed out of the building. I'm telling you, my heart and my soul tells me they knew in Tacoma that WCW wasn't going to be around, and this happened to fall on, which happened to be a bad match. Whatever it was, let me know what I was doing wrong so I can fix it, but they never told me what I did wrong, so that is what stings me."
When I look back at WWE owning WCW and ECW, and really what we got out of it was some cool DVD's and that's about it.
"It was too much fun to get only that much out of it. It was so wonderful. I'm at a nightclub, and I'd be on TV. If you asked a guy what his dream would be, he would say that I want to be sitting at a bar, and I want to be on TV at the same time. I mean, that would be one of his dreams, and that was happening to me. I would say, are you kidding me? That is unbelievable. The manager of the bar would fill me with these other girls at the gentleman's club, where by the time my group came in, there wouldn't be any of the girls left for my guys. The memory I just told you was a wonderful memory which I would never forget. I have no regrets."
That was one of the things I was going to ask you. You're retiring this coming year. Looking back in your career, what would you say was your highest high and lowest low on TV?
"The highest high was definitely the nWo, that is when everything picked up, which is when it all picked up. That was definitely the highest of the highs.
"The lowest of the lows was something you can't help, and something you live by, which is timing. It was when Vince bought the company and my contract completely fell into a situation that nobody wants to walk in the door of competition and shake their hands, that is what we had to do. I was young enough. I was only 30 so I was thinking that I was going to see my buddies. I'm smiling and seeing Steve Austin, saying hi to everyone. Suddenly everyone's arms are crossed, nobody is smiling, and I'm thinking, 'oh boy, this is big time.' Being first, I learned pretty quick that being first was not where you wanted to be. I learned that Booker T leaving too soon gave him heat. He missed Austin with the table. DDP did something wrong to somebody, and then somehow I got fired. I thought, wait a minute, I had a mediocre match in front of a crowd that I never even wrestled before in 11 years, and next week we're going to the Georgia Dome, let's like act like it's not going to happen, but it is. Why can't you wait 7 days in Georgia in front of 80,000 screaming fans with Booker T and Buff Bagwell signs? It really made no sense.
"That is why... me and Booker were talking about it, like, what do you say? He and I were just trying to keep our jobs. Our contracts just happened to fall in bad spots, which put us in these negotiations, figuring out contract strategies again, so it was a lot, to get fired. I just kept thinking why they went through all that trouble with my contract only to fire me after two weeks? I really believe with all my heart that he was going to do it anyway, because how do you get rid of me so quickly after Booker and I have had around 1,000+ matches over the years, it was just ridiculous. We'll never really know the answer."
Thank you so much for speaking with us.
"Thank you so much. I will say this; [email protected] is how you book me for this last year. I will still be signing and wrestling for this year. As far as getting in the ring, it's just, if I can keep it together with my body, which it doesn't look like I will be able to, but I'm not going away, it's always going to be a big part of my life, but just not wrestling. Facebook is: Marcus Bagwell, Instagram is Marcus Buff Bagwell, so check me out on there."