While ribs in wrestling are still prevalent today, they are not as frequent as they were back in the day. Wrestlers could get away with pretty much anything and everything before promotions became national and also became publicly traded.
Rocky Johnson had his heyday back in that era and he talked about why his generation's ribs were so much crazier when he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast.
"Well, you could get away with it. They would nail your shoes to the floor, put honey in your shoes, sow your pants legs together, change the lock on your locker. Then it got too far out and that's when Vince Sr. put a stop to it," revealed Johnson.
"I've had them put itching powder in my trunks where I had to leave the ring and hit the shower right away and they thought it was a big joke. But Vince Sr made them cut the ribs out."
Johnson's uncle was once a carnival wrestler and in Johnson's new autobiography he talked about teaching others how to speak the carny language.
"The people already knew. We call them marks, nowadays they call them smart-marks. We just learned to talk it and I just put it in the book and called it The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," said Johnson. "I didn't pull any punches and a lot of things didn't put in the book I should have, but I didn't want to get too deep."
When Johnson was learning how to wrestle back in the 1960s, his teachers often kept the secrets of the business from him. It isn't like that today for new wrestlers and Johnson was asked about that difference.
"I'm fine with what they're doing but, in my day, it was a lot different. I think they allow too much showmanship today than in our day," stated Johnson. "In my day they didn't smarten me up, I went to Calgary and Stu Hart's Dungeon. I got stretched and he broke a blood vessel in my eye. I kept going back and he respected that. We learned and we were professional wrestlers.
"Nowadays you can take a kid 160 pounds and pay $200 a month and go to a wrestling school and now you're a professional wrestler."
He added that he wasn't smartened up immediately because they wanted him to respect the business. An example of respecting the business is Stu Hart stretching out football players because they thought wrestling was fake.
"They made you respect the business and I think today, there's no respect in it. They draw fantastic and draw millions of people, but how long is it gonna last," asked Johnson.
Johnson wrestled all over the world including in Japan. But he says the way that American wrestlers were treated in Japan was much better than the way Japanese wrestlers were treated in America.
"The Japanese never got any respect when they came over here. But if you went over there you were treated like gold. They would take us out every night to a steakhouse and buy us a beer. They treated us great and when we left, they would give us a bonus and a set of pearls for your wife or girlfriend. But when the Japanese came over here, it was a whole different story," said Johnson.
When asked why there was such a bias from Americans in their treatment of the Japanese, Johnson speculated that maybe World War II played a part in it.
"People go back I guess to the war, I don't know. But you gotta walk on your toes and go frontwards, not on your heels and go backwards," said Johnson. "I worked with guys in Japan that were champions and they came over here for six months or a year and they treated them like garbage."
Johnson mentions in his autobiography that he wasn't a huge fan of lucha libre wrestling and he explained why.
"I had my own mind made up in that I was going to do my own thing. I wasn't going to copy from this guy or that guy," Johnson said implying that many lucha libre wrestlers steal from each other.
"Their style is all flying. Nobody sold nothing. I was partners with Mil Mascaras and we were champions for about a year. We got over good because we had two different styles. The people respected his style when he was in the ring and when I came in they respected mine."
Rocky Johnson's autobiography "Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story" will be available for purchase on-line and in stores on October 15, 2019. You can pre-order the book via Amazon by clicking here. Rocky's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it Rocky discusses writing his upcoming autobiography "Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story", his final memories of Peter Maivia, encountering racism early in his pro wrestling career, ways black wrestlers used to be stereotyped, crazy ribs he's pulled, AEW, training his son The Rock and more.