The Honky Tonk Man is best known for hilding the WWE Intercontinental Championship for a record 64 weeks. In a recent interview with Andy Malnoske of Wrestling Inc., he discussed losing the title to The Ultimate Warrior in the inaugural SummerSlam in 1988.
By 1988, The Honky Tonk Man was one of the biggest heels in the wrestling business. He said at that point he had made himself a pariah to audiences, so they were wishing for anyone to beat him and take his title.
"It's like, every kid out there that was eight years old when I said, 'I'm walking down the streets, I'm the greatest of all time, I'm looking for a fight, nobody can beat me,'" Honky explained. "Every eight-year-old kid out there that's 38 now would say, 'Boy if he comes down my street I can kick his rear-end, I'll kick this guy's butt.' So then when I go out and they wanted anybody to beat me, they didn't care who it was, they wouldn't have cared if it was the milk man that beat me, they just wanted somebody to beat me, just get the belt off this guy."
The Honky Tonk Man was originally supposed to face Brutus Beefcake, but he had was pulled out of the match due to a storyline injury. So Honky got on the mic and made an open challenge, which The Ultimate Warrior responded to. The Ultimate Warrior pinned him in just 31 seconds, sending the crowd into a frenzy. But Honky remembers how deflated they were when they realized who was the new champion.
"So when I did lose, there was such an explosion in the building if you go back and listen," Honky said. "Then I lose to The Ultimate Warrior and then the people are like, 'Yes! Yes, he lost!' And then the second breath is, 'But not to that guy! We wanted him beat, but not to that guy.' So you can't win."
Honky said he knew his run at the top of the card was over, so he wanted to go out on his own terms. He said he had complete control over how he would lose the Intercontinental title.
"My time was up and I knew it. The one time I had creative control over everything, was that match," he said. "I put it all together, it was my idea, they let me do it that way. It was good for him, it was good for the company and people still hated me anyway."
Honky also discussed how he became a top heel in the WWE. He said it was through learning from the great wrestlers that came before him. He would take certain aspects of various heels and apply them to his character and that helped him get on the audience's bad side.
"Being the bad guy with my mannerisms and the way I would do stuff, I studied the good 'bad guys' in the business back then," he said. "I would watch and see Harley Race, how he would have a match with Jack Briscoe, or I would watch Terry Funk have a match with someone and see what they did and how they did it and how they made people mad. And then I would listen to interviews, those key words that guys would say... Those things make people mad. So I was able to capture the audience that way."
You can watch the full interview in the video above.