I had a day off today on the movie shoot so I figured I’d write a random wrestling story that happened to me back in the day. This is a true story and I remember it like it was yesterday…So here goes.
I had been wrestling for just over 2 months when I asked Jerry Jarrett, the owner of USWA, when I could start working full time. I had been wrestling on Friday nights and Saturday mornings at the world Famous Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas. Friday night was the big weekly card, and Saturday morning was the TV taping which aired later that night. During the week I worked at Watkins Motor Lines in Dallas. Watkins was a freight dock and I loaded and unloaded trucks and drove a forklift. Manual labor was my specialty. I was still living in Denton, Texas. My football scholarship was over and I was burnt out on doing research papers and had dropped out of college with 17 hours to graduate with a degree in P.E. My parents were less than thrilled to say the least. I would have been the first of 5 kids to graduate from college. Oh well.
Jerry said Hell, Steve, I think you’re ready now. Two weeks later I had everything I owned packed in my brand spanking new Hyundai Excel base model. Silver in color, a 5 speed manual transmission, AC, and a am/fm CD player. My older brother Scott cosigned the note for me and my monthly payments were $154 bucks a month. That wasn’t a problem working on the freight dock. I had worked my way up to top pay faster than anybody had ever done. $12 bucks an hour was pretty damn good money back in the day. No problem making payments. That would soon change when I got to Nashville, Tennessee where the USWA territory was based. USWA was a weekly territory, meaning you worked the same towns every single week. Except Thursday was a spot show. Let me explain this to you so you know the schedule we were on and what a spot show is. Most of the guys were based out of the Nashville area. I was living in a sh!tbox motel called The Congress Inn off of Dickerson Pike. The people who ran the place let me pay my tab whenever I got some money. They really helped save my ass cause money was pretty bad at the time. But I Always Paid My Tab. So, anyway, Monday was Memphis, TN. Tuesday was Louisville, KY. Wednesday was Evansville, IN. Thursday was a spot show. A spot show is simply a show booked in any random town that is not on the regular schedule. The Thursday spot shows were usually within close proximity to Nashville. We would work the spot show and afterward everyone would meet at a designated parking lot and jump on the Waylon Jennings tour bus that Jerry leased. We would drive all night to make Dallas by around 12 to 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Then all the guys would go workout or sleep until the show that night and then we would all load up on beer to drive to Memphis for live TV. After TV we would get back on the bus and drive back to the parking lot where we had left our cars after the Thursday night spot show. Everyone would go go home, rest up, and we would work the Nashville fairgrounds that Saturday night. Sometimes we had a Sunday spot show, sometimes we didn’t. It was a lot of traveling for not a whole lot of money, speaking for myself. My first stint in USWA yielded $15-20 dollar a night pay. But that’s a whole other story…I’m weaving a long winded tale about pro wrestling and I just wanted to set the table for telling the story about when the booker of the territory cussed me out. The booker’s name was Dirty Dutch Mantel.
I don’t know how long Dutch had been in the business when I came along, but I know it was a long time. And Dutch was always a helluva worker inside the ring and a great promo on the mic. He was a wily veteran who had seen many a greenhorn come and go. As I mentioned, I had only been working a couple months when Jerry sent me to Tennessee to work full time for his promotion. As it turned out I had a brand new car that got good mileage. Dutch and Chris Champion would jump in as my traveling partners. They supplied the gas and I supplied the ride. And I also got to ask a million and one questions about the business inside the ring. Psychology , history of the biz, stories from the road, wrestling etiquette, where to stay, where not to stay, wrestling vocabulary, etc…Basically everything one needed to make it OR not make it in the wrestling business. There damn sure weren’t any guarantees…
We were working a Thursday spot show in Lebanon, TN. I was working a guy in a mask that particular night. Can’t remember his name. He was a guy with time in the business, a veteran, but not an accomplished star. Dutch had given us instructions to give the people 8-10 minutes. Hehe…When you’re a rookie 8-10 minutes sounds like a lifetime…And a few years later you can’t even BEGIN to tell your story with anything less than WHAT YOU NEED…TO TELL THAT STORY…THAT NIGHT…AT THAT BUILDING…WITH THAT OPPONENT…You and your opponent need some paint, a paint brush, you’ve got all the canvas you need…And time is at your disposal. All you need is a finish and a sharp ear to LISTEN to the people. Then start painting…
So back to the match…we stunk out the joint and damn near killed the town off…it was the drizzling sh!ts as Dutch would soon point out when I came back to the dressing room. Course, I thought we had totally gone out and absolutely dazzled the crowd in attendance with a deep layer of psychology, mixed with an abundance of wrestling knowledge and a lifetime supply of grace and athleticism…That’s how stupid you are when you’re green in the business…I was rotten. Plain and simple. And, as Big Bill DeMott would say…Greener than goose sh!t. Now anybody who knows Dutch Mantell, knows he certainly isn’t bashful about giving his opinion on anything…And since he’s the booker…And responsible for the towns he’s booking, mainly because his job depends on it, he’s gotta look after his ass. And on top of that he’s a guy who likes to help young cats who want to make it in the business.
Brother, what in the Hell was that sh!t? I was dumb enough to reply-It was a match…That was the absolute drizzling sh!ts…Really? I asked…Yeah, I was plenty stupid back then. He then proceeds to rip me apart for at least a lifetime it seemed. He called Chris Champion over and demonstrated how I had screwed up half the wrestling holds I had used. This ass chewing session was a 9.9 out of 10. I think he actually invented a few new cuss words to use on me. The Dutchisms were relentless, ruthless, and certainly unparalleled at this point in my life. Then he points at a steel chair…You see that steel chair, right there? Yes… I want you to grab that chair and watch every match on the card. That’s the only way you’re going to learn this sh!t. He turned and walked away. He had just given me some of the best advice anyone had ever given to me in the wrestling business. And his delivery and technique were spot on. I got it. From that point on for the rest of my career I watched damn near every match of every card my whole career. Obviously when I was white hot in the WWE I did not have time to watch as much, but I’ll never forget that night.
Thanks to Jerry Jarrett for the job. Thanks to Dutch for all the advice and help while I was there. And, most of all…Thanks for cussing my ass out, it was the best advice I ever got.