Grappling With Honky Tonk Man About WrestleMania, Legends and Losses
I had a chance recently to talk with Honky Tonk Man about his thoughts on pro wrestling, Sunday night's 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania and THQ's new Legends of WrestleMania video game. We also touched on sensitive topics like heated feuds and pro wrestlers dying before their time.
Tom Herrera: You've had some memorable WrestleMania matches of your own, including feuds with Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake. What would you say is your favorite WrestleMania match or moment in history?
Honky Tonk Man: Oh gosh, it would probably have to be the Jake Roberts match with Alice Cooper in his corner and 93,000 people at the Pontiac Silverdome.
TH: OK, what would you say is the worst match you've ever been a part of in your entire career? I'm guessing it would be losing the title in less than a minute at SummerSlam to Ultimate Warrior?
HTM: Yeah, that wasn't one of my most memorable moments if you want to put it that way. But you know, with this Legends of WrestleMania game, from what I see, you can go in and mix and match and set up your own matches and do what you wanna do with this thing, and hopefully the kids will start playing with the Honky Tonk Man and have me beating the Ultimate Warrior.
TH: One of the cool features I thought in the game is the ability to match up legends of the past with superstars of today if you also have the Smackdown vs. Raw game. With both wrestlers in their prime, what match of a past legend versus a current star would you be thrilled to see?
HTM: Oh gosh, I would have to want to see maybe [Hulk] Hogan against [John] Cena, or maybe Hogan going against The Undertaker to take away his long string of victories at the WrestleManias.
TH: Have you gotten a chance to play the game yet and what do you think about the way they captured your likeness in the game?
HTM: It's the neatest thing out there. As far as games go, THQ, they've outdone themselves with this game. I mean, the graphics are fantastic, all the characters look like the real people. And it's so interactive, that's the best part about it.
TH: You were selected to induct Koko B. Ware into the WWE Hall of Fame. Can you tell me about that honor and your thoughts on a wrestler like Koko? Does he still have the macaw [Frankie] on his shoulder?
HTM: Well, the original Frankie I understand was killed in a house fire. Koko's house burned a few years ago, but I'm sure he's gotta have a Frankie Jr. with him. A funny story about Frankie was that Frankie could talk and could understand language, and some of the boys would notoriously go in the locker room and teach Frankie bad language. (shared laughter) So that was a big part of Frankie.
TH: I'd say wrestling has changed a lot since the days I grew up mesmerized by these characters who seemed larger than life. How do you feel about the present state of wrestling? What would you change, if anything, about the way shows are put on today?
HTM: I think I would probably just have more real bad guys. For some reason, nobody wants to be a real bad guy like I was and be hated by all the fans. Wrestling should be good versus evil, and right now I don't think they have enough evil guys.
TH: At WrestleMania 25, we'll see Chris Jericho, who's a bad guy in his own right, take on Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat and Jimmy Snuka in a handicap match. What do you think of those three aging legends? You think they have a shot against Jericho?
HTM: Oh of course they do. Any of them could take on Jericho by themselves if need be. But that's gonna be an interesting match, and why Jericho wants to pick on the legends or pick on the Hall of Fame guys I don't know.
HTM: He should pick on someone his own age.
TH: In another gimmick match we'll see a 25-diva battle royal. Did you ever think 25 years ago we'd get to the point in wrestling where you'd have a diva battle royal?
HTM: Uh, no I never thought that would happen and I hope to be right at ringside looking up at the divas, so to speak.
TH: Some of the legends that are actually depicted in the game like "Ravishing" Rick Rude and Davey Boy Smith have passed away. Out of the wrestlers that have left us, who would you say you miss the most and do you have any thoughts about the trend of wrestlers who have died at an early age?
HTM: There's been so many, and so many were all my friends and guys that I traveled with and had fun with in the locker room, in the hotels, or at the restaurants and bars. I couldn't point out any single one ... because I miss them all, and it's a tragic thing that they're passing away at such a young age. I don't know why ... I don't know if it's the fact that they can't deal with not being in the spotlight anymore or not being on the main stage anymore. What these young fellas have to understand nowadays is that this is show business, it's sports entertainment, and the ride only lasts for a certain amount of time and when the ride's over you've gotta go back to being a normal person.
TH: How does a wrestler know when it's his time to hang up his boots and tights? I mean, you're 56, and from my understanding you're still wrestling for various promotions. How much longer could you see yourself in the ring? What would you like to do with the rest of your career?
HTM: Hey, take it easy now. I'm like a diva, you shouldn't mention my age. (shared laughter) Anyway, I suppose injuries are the thing that makes most guys hang it up early. Mostly, the older legends, they never wanna stop. I tell people I'm not stopping till the phone stops ringing. I'll do a 100 shows a year, and if no one calls me, then I guess I'll stay home.
TH: Have you gotten a chance to see that movie The Wrestler? If you have seen it, did you think it was pretty accurate, or a kind of sensationalized look at what it's like?
HTM: I haven't had a chance to see it. I saw bits and pieces of it from a bootleg internet site, I'm sorry that's what I did (shared laughter), before it came out into the theaters. From what I saw, the bits and pieces, it looked like it was about 90 percent on target. The other 10 percent, of course, was Hollywood made-up nonsense.
TH: Are there any legends that you could continue to watch -- even if they're 60, 65 -- that you could still see them in the ring, doing their thing?
HTM: Oh, I love to watch all the legends. In the game, you can go back into history and relive some specific moments that's in your mind, and that's what this is all about. It's about being a kid again, you know, it's about reliving history.
TH: Where can fans check out more about what the Honky Tonk Man is up to, and what you're doing with your career right now?
HTM: I just opened a new Web site, a fella in England did it for me last week, it's HonkyTonkMan.net. And that kinda tells everyone what's going on with me, but people who know me they know how to find me. I'm out there somewhere every weekend across America and around the world.
TH: On the old site, there were some feuds and harsh words exchanged back and forth. Do you think there will be a similar pull-no-punches attitude with the new site?
HTM: Well, I never throw the first punch. These guys, they always take the shot at me first, and if you back me into a corner, I ain't got no choice but to come out fighting.
TH: I read an interview from years ago about your thoughts on Jeff Jarrett and guys who have taken a similar persona and brought it into the ring. What do you think about the rehashing of ideas or storylines?
HTM: Yeah, it's very similar. If you look back in history, even with the Chris Jericho thing now with the legends, that's rehashed from a Randy Orton storyline they did a few years ago where he was called a "Legend Killer", and he was bringing legends in and destroying them. The thing about it is, I've always had professional courtesy with my fellow wrestlers. If they were wearing a skirt, like Roddy Piper, I didn't wear a skirt. If they were toting a snake like Jake The Snake, I didn't carry a snake. So as far as the Jarrett thing ... if you can't say something good don't say anything at all, so I'm not gonna say anything.
TH: Back to WrestleMania 25, are you looking forward to any specific match at the show?
HTM: I just wanna be part of it. I wanna see each and every one of 'em because it is WrestleMania, it is our Super Bowl of professional wrestling. Each match that's on the card, each one of 'em, it's been a long time in the making, it's taken some of them a year to come together. The whole show itself is gonna be historic.