I recently interviewed former WWF and WCW Superstar Dan Spivey, who was also known as Waylon Mercy in the 90s. Below is part one of the interview. Make sure to check back next week for the second and final part of the interview, where Spivey talks about his WWF run as Waylon Mercy and problems with the Kliq, advice he gave Bray Wyatt, teaming with Sid Vicious and The Undertaker in WCW, The Road Warriors taking liberties with Taker, his problems with Billy Jack Haynes and Bryan Clark and the lawsuit against WWE and more. Also, you can follow Dan Spivey on Facebook by clicking here.
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Is it true that Dusty Rhodes discovered you?
"Yes. I was in a bar, and I used to go to the same one they would go to after matches in the territories. He knew Scott Hall and wanted to put us together, and I thought it was a good idea. We came up with American Starship, that was all Dusty's idea."
Did you know Scott Hall before he teamed you guys together?
"No I didn't."
How soon did you start training before you made your debut?
"Oh gosh. We met Dusty there in Tampa, and shortly after we worked a few times, Dusty lost the book. Dusty went to Charlotte to book for Jim Crockett promotions, so we followed him up there. When we get there, there was no ring set up there. Scott and I would have to wait until the ring was set up for tapings, which was usually a Tuesday or something in the Carolinas. We would work out 45 minutes or an hour until we couldn't stand. Me and Scott about starved to death. Luckily Harley Race came to town to work in Charlotte and we did an appearance or something. He had a territory in Kansas City, so he brought us there. When we got there, Harley was in Japan working. Bob Geigel was Harley's partner at the time, and never heard of us coming in. We got that straightened out, and Scott and I worked Kansas City for about $200 a week. It was a tough beginning, it really was. I was there about six months, and called Dusty. I hated Kansas City. I wasn't making any money. Dusty brought me back to Charlotte, and I worked there for a while."
Did you have any qualms about the business after that start?
"No, I was still hopeful. I knew that I had the talent and athletic ability. I just really loved the business, always did. I tried to be a pro wrestler long before Dusty found me, it just didn't work out. Shortly after college, it just didn't work out. I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a wrestler. I was 34 years old when I broke into the business, which is quite old. I looked a lot younger, so I told everybody I was 28."
Even in the 1990s, you looked a lot younger. When WWF contacted you to replace Barry Windham, what were your feelings on that? It seems like it was a big break.
"It really was, and I owe that to Ricky Steamboat. I was in Charlotte, and Ricky would take me anywhere we could find a ring and work out with me. What a tremendous guy he is. He was the first guy I ever suplexed, and he took a liking to me. When I came back from Kansas City, I stayed in contact with Ricky. He had a gym that I worked out at, and we kept in contact. He was up in WWE and was friends with the booker George Scott. He talked George into bringing me in after Barry left because of the similarities. I had maybe been in the business a year and a half. Working with a guy like Mike Rotunda, I just followed his lead. I did whatever he told me to do, and I was successful. "
You also had the singles run. When you started wearing the yellow trunks and boots, was that the company's idea?
"No, that was my stupid idea. Looking back on it, I should have dyed my hair black. It cost me a lot of money. Hulk Hogan was making a lot of money, and in the back of my mind I was hoping for some sort of lookalike angle. Vince called me and said 'Dan, it's not your fault, you're 6'6 with blonde hair and look like Hulk Hogan.' If I'd have been smart, I'd have dyed it black."
You had the backstage fight with Adrian Adonis. You had a great post on Facebook about it, which we'll have our readers check out. What was the reaction from the boys after that happened?
"They were surprised. When word got back to the boys in NWA or WCW, they were surprised, in disbelief. People thought I was the nice guy or the babyface, but they had no idea where I came from. I I was a bookie, collected money, I roughed people up. I've been through all kinds of stuff. When Dusty asked me to be a professional wrestler, I probably would have died on the streets. It gave me a chance to get back in the gym after being involved in sports and playing football for most of my life. Wrestling really saved my life."
Did you ever get any heat from the office over the fight?
"Yeah, well, not really. I had to call Vince. He said 'Dan, that's my talent,' and I said 'well he's not very talented,' and he told me not to be a smartass. So I didn't beat up the talent anymore."
Back then, the schedule was even more brutal than it is now. What was the typical week like, or even the typical month?
"I remember one time 93 days without coming home. It's pretty rough, but we were making good money. I remember we'd do a shot on Saturday afternoons, get on a plane for a couple of hours, and do a show that night. Two on Saturday, two on Sunday. It was pretty rough. Paydays were good, and I didn't want to be left off those deals. If you were, you were missing out on a lot of money. "
They didn't organize the shows as closely together on the map back then, so you were all over the place, right?
"We had an A team, a B team, and a C team. Hopefully you're on the card with Hogan, because that's the one that made big money.
Did people ask to be on Hogan cards, or was that strictly what the office decided?
"It's what the office decided. I can't remember, but I wish I was on more Hogan cards, because they were always sold out."
How much more would you make on a Hogan show as opposed to a B or a C show?
"I would say at least three times more than being on the C team. If you were on the C team and made more than $3,000 a week, it was terrible. Some people back in the territories you would make $3,000 a month and it was great."
What ultimately made you decide to leave?
"I got fired. That's when Vince told me I looked too much like Hogan. I was out of work, and it was the first time I'd really been let go from anything. Terry Funk called me and asked me if I wanted to work in Japan and I said hell yeah. Terry Funk took care of me."
You worked with Andre in Japan, right?
"Yeah, we tagged a lot. Never against him, but with him. I worked his last match in Japan before he died, I think."
What was that like? We've always heard that if he liked you, it was great, but if he didn't, it was rough.
"(Laughs), yeah, you didn't want to piss the giant off, man. Andre liked me, so I only ever saw the good end of him."
How did you see your work in Japan? Did you see yourself improve?
"In Japan, I turned the corner on my work. The style is really good. The first time I was in Japan, they booked me for four straight tours. I'd come home for a week, then go back. That was almost unheard of. I was very happy about that. I had tax problems and had owed the government a bunch of money. Working out in Japan helped me out financially. I turned my corner on how to work, there were a lot of great caliber wrestlers over there and it worked well for me."
How long did it take to adjust to the culture in Japan? Did it take a while to assimilate?
"It was pretty easy. I really liked the culture and the respect of traditions. It was easy. I don't know if you've ever been, but they have pictures of everything at the restaurants outside, so you just go outside and point at what you want. That was pretty easy. If you're in Tokyo or Osaka, there were a lot of people that spoke English, so it wasn't bad."
What was it like teaming with John Laurinaitis over there?
"Want me to tell you the truth? It was tough. I'd been over there and was experienced with how the Japanese guys had worked. Johnny came over and he didn't do very well when he first started. We tagged against Taylor and his partner, and he'd tag in and do one little thing and I'd come back in. We did that two nights in a row and Giant Baba had a talk with us through a translator. He told Johnny to take a $500 cut or go home, and if he wanted to stay, he had to work with young boys. Johnny took the cut, and it worked out well for him. Johnny was such a kiss ass to Baba, and he would just laugh about it. It secured him a job for quite a while. Now he's a pretty good kiss ass in New York, too."
Make sure to check back next week for the second and final part of the interview, where Spivey talks about his WWF run as Waylon Mercy and problems with the Kliq, advice he gave Bray Wyatt, teaming with Sid Vicious and The Undertaker in WCW, The Road Warriors taking liberties with Taker, his problems with Billy Jack Haynes and Bryan Clark and the lawsuit against WWE and more. Also, you can follow Dan Spivey on Facebook by clicking here.