Jim, Jimmy, Good Ol' J.R.… whatever you choose to call him, there's one thing we can all agree on: this WWE® Hall of Famer knows the WWE® like no one else! Journey with J.R. as he gives you an inside look at the people and events that make sports-entertainment so thrilling. He'll have something new to share as each of our 2012 WWE® Legends figures are released, so be sure to check back!
May 10, 2012
The first time I met New Jersey native Chris Pallies, aka King Kong Bundy, was when I was working for Cowboy Bill Watts’ Mid South Wrestling in the mid 80’s. Bundy came to the territory as a super-sized villain who tipped the scales, reportedly at over 400 pounds, which in those days was a headline grabber.
Watts and I were sitting in his office brainstorming about ideas to better help market and promote the company’s newest main event bad guy who was about to make his debut on our TV show. We needed ideas and I had one that was somewhat unorthodox, but I somewhat reluctantly pitched it to the stout, traditionalist Watts nonetheless.
“Bundy is a monster. He’s 400-plus pounds of nasty meanness and says he is unstoppable. He’s so confident in his abilities that he refuses to beat opponents with a traditional three-count and instead demands that all his opposition be counted down with a FIVE-COUNT,” I pitched the Big Cowboy.
Nothing ventured is nothing gained, I always thought, and Bill had said to me once upon a time that there were no “bad ideas” in the sports-entertainment business, just some that worked better than others.
Watts loved the five-count idea, and so when Bundy debuted, so did the five-count on all his victims. Of course, the five-count was parlayed into controversy at times. Bundy could claim victory over a top opponent with a traditional three-count if need be, even though Bundy was using the five-count as if it were a new rule.
The five-count stuck with King Kong Bundy’s wrestling persona for years.
Several things stick in my mind about King Kong Bundy. First, he was highly intelligent and knew his in-ring limitations and what he could or couldn’t do. Bundy, or “King Kong Tonnage,” as Ernie Ladd used to call him, never ventured out of his established skill-set inside the ring. It was with Bundy where I would first broadcast that he “was deliberate” and not slow, and that he made other competitors wrestle “at Bundy’s pace.”
Bundy was also a funny and entertaining guy behind the scenes. He was very perceptive and quick with one-liners, as has been evidenced in the stand-up comedy Bundy has done in recent years. Even thought Bundy often times had a manager speak for him (i.e., the great Gary Hart, who handled Bundy in Dallas versus the Von Erich family), Bundy was never at a loss for words.
Looking back on King Kong Bundy’s career, one can see many significant milestones. For example, he had Fritz Von Erich’s “retirement match” in Dallas in 1982.
Bundy had a memorable run against Andre the Giant and, after delivering multiple big splashes on Andre on WWE syndicated TV, many fans thought that King Kong Bundy was the man to finally demolish the seemingly untouchable “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Andre respected Bundy and the two had excellent, big-man chemistry.
Bundy was a major part of WrestleMania 2 in 1986 when the WWE’s signature event was still in its formative stages. WWE needed a bigger-than-life villain for resident hero Hulk Hogan, and King Kong Bundy was cast in that all-important role. Heroes are only as great as their opponents, and King Kong Bundy was an amazing opponent for some of the greatest fan-favorites of all time.
Bundy once appeared on an episode of the hit sitcom “Married With Children” as a Bundy family member in what was then a significant crossover for a wrestler onto a major network TV show. It was awesome seeing a man who I personally knew appear on one of my favorite TV shows back in the day.
The man who shares my late Mom’s birthday of November 7 will always be known as one of the most viable, successful villains in WWE and in wrestling history. He headlined several pivotal, business-changing events during his illustrious career. King Kong Bundy’s career achievements will ensure his place in sports-entertainment history, and many of Bundy’s super heavyweight move sets are still utilized today by men of size inside the squared circle.
King Kong Bundy was a giant of a man who will always be remembered as one of the greatest super heavyweight wrestlers of all time with an unforgettable persona.
TM & © 2012 WWE. All Rights Reserved.
Diamond Dallas Page™
March 26, 2012
I have to admit that when I first met Diamond Dallas Page in Atlanta while we were both working for WCW, that I never thought DDP would become a major superstar wrestler.
Man, was I wrong.
The man born Page Falkinburg, Jr., in New Jersey, was the greatest overachiever that I have ever seen in the competitive and challenging world of sports-entertainment.
No one that I can think of EVER started seriously wrestling at the age of 35 and ended up being one of the most recognized performers of an entire generation.
When I first met DDP, as I recall, he was managing the Fabulous Freebirds, the Michael Hayes/Jimmy Garvin version, and was a great talker. However, standing 6' 5", most promoters were leery of putting such a tall manager with wrestlers that were shorter. Page was also a walking, talking sponge for wrestling knowledge.
I remember watching Page on AWA Wrestling that aired on ESPN and felt that he had a superb gift of gab and could seemingly talk for hours on end. Later in life, I found that assumption to be true, but I digress. Seriously, what can one realistically do with a 6' 5" wrestling manager? DDP was between a rock and a hard spot.
Would Page give up his dream of being a wrestling star and go back to managing nightclubs in Florida, or would he somehow persevere against all odds?
Page is one to set goals and to do everything physically and mentally possible to achieve them. One trait of Page’s that always impressed me was his work ethic and the studious manner in which he approached the genre. No one did more tape study or immersed themselves in the business more than DDP.
I would be hard-pressed to name anyone in the business who worked harder to make it as a main-event star, especially when so many insiders/experts said that DDP would never make it.
Overcoming dyslexia is challenging enough, which Page did as a young man, but mastering the art of sports-entertainment in one’s mid 30’s is virtually impossible.
Diamond Dallas Page did the impossible.
While many of us thought that Page’s career in sports-entertainment might be as a broadcaster or as someone who worked behind the scenes, I will readily admit that I was one of those who never thought DDP would become a wrestling star.
Obviously, I underestimated the drive of the former high school hoops star whose first wrestling claim to fame was driving his pink Cadillac to the ring at WrestleMania VI while transporting Rhythm & Blues, Greg Valentine and Honky Tonk Man.
From my perspective, DDP was validated totally as a wrestling star in 1997 with his in-ring rivalry with the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage. “Macho Man” was known through the genre as a perfectionist and as a very demanding individual when it came to who he performed with inside the squared circle. Savage essentially “blessed” Page in their series of bouts that was as compelling as virtually any in that era of the Monday Night Wars. Getting validation from Savage wasn’t easy and had to be earned, so when Diamond Dallas Page gained the respect of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, the entire business took notice.
Page becoming a legit sports-entertainment star at the age of 35-plus is akin to a basketball player making the NBA All-Star team after being a 35-year-old rookie.
During the competitive WWE vs. WCW years, the Monday Night Wars, Diamond Dallas Page was a key player who was, along with Sting and Goldberg, the biggest homegrown WCW star, and not a WWE alumni.
DDP, a multiple-time WCW Champion, worked diligently to rise to main-event status after starting his in-ring journey in his mid 30’s through pure will and passion for the business that he loved. Diamond Dallas Page is a shining example of what an individual can do if failure becomes a non-option.
Diamond Dallas Page has earned his place among the genre’s elite and contributed mightily during the greatest boom period in the history of the sports-entertainment business.
TM & © 2012 WWE. All Rights Reserved.
Andre the Giant™
January 24, 2012
It’s likely that the first time any of us saw Andre the Giant we’ll never forget that moment in time.
I know that I won’t.
Andre was booked for a week in the mid-1970s to perform on Cowboy Bill Watts’ Mid South Wrestling circuit. I had never met Andre in person and had only seen photos of the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
As a young referee, I walked into Watts’ office around lunch time on Monday to drive Andre and Watts to meet members of the Tulsa media, where Andre would do interviews to support his match that night in the Tulsa Convention Center.
By doing these interviews in the afternoon, Andre would make the local, early evening newscast, which would stimulate last-minute, or “walk up,” ticket sales. This was essentially a daily task in every Mid South city when Andre passed through, which was usually no more than twice a year.
Even as a young man growing up on an eastern Oklahoma farm, I had seen few farm animals that were as physically imposing as Andre the Giant. His hands and fingers were especially enormous. One could actually pass a silver dollar through his diamond ring.
Watts rented a van to haul Andre around in, as the Giant did not fit comfortably in any normal vehicle. Andre traveled by van to most cities, always driven by another, and he usually was accompanied by other wrestlers who knew what fun could be had by traveling with the Giant.
Except, however, when Watts would take Andre to the various Mid South markets via Watts own, self-piloted plane. As I recall, Watts’ plane at that time would normally seat 6 people, but when Andre was a passenger, only Watts, Andre and perhaps one other individual could fly safely.
When I was the third member of the traveling party, it was my job, along with being a referee, to make sure that Andre had plenty to eat and drink. The food generally consisted of somewhere between 50-100 pieces of fried chicken, because in the 70s, fast food was scarce except for chicken joints. When in Southern Louisiana, Andre loved for me to pick up catfish, crawfish, gumbo or anything that might resemble French/Creole cooking.
Ordering for a small family equated to a nice snack for Andre the Giant.
Being Andre’s Mid South Wrestling concierge presented occasional food issues, as his mood and appetite for what he ate could change, and usually did change daily.
Some establishments thought that my “to go” food orders were for a group of people. I never told anyone any differently. I did not want them to know that I was taking food to Andre the Giant, as to prevent them from trying to get a free peek at the Giant. Promoter/wrestler Watts always said if fans wanted to see Andre, let them buy a ticket.
Imagine how it would have been for Andre in today’s world of cell phone cameras, etc.
Perhaps that’s where the true story of Andre the Giant kicks in. Andre knew that he had an illness known as acromegaly, where the body produces too much human growth hormone. At that time, there was no cure for this affliction. Andre knew that fate had dealt him a terminal hand that would end his life at a young age.
The greatest sports-entertainment attraction who ever lived walked around on a daily basis knowing that he had been given a death sentence, so Andre lived each day to its fullest and as if it were his last.
Many fans remember the 500-plus pound, aging version of the Giant who was in horrific pain from a litany of injuries, specifically a debilitating back condition. This version of Andre the Giant was essentially immobile and was a shell of his younger self.
Looking back at video clips of a young Andre and having the privilege to referee some of his bouts in the 1970s, I can tell you, without exaggeration, that a near-400 pound Andre was an amazingly agile athlete who could drop kick and move like a much smaller man. Andre was programmed to rarely leave his feet, so many fans never saw just how amazing Andre the Giant actually was.
There will never be another Andre the Giant, in my opinion. He was “guaranteed money” for so many wrestling territories. His mere presence on a wrestling card virtually guaranteed that the promoter and wrestler’s night in any given territory was going to be a success.
Little did most know that Andre the Giant, the greatest attraction ever in the game, lived the last several years of his life in constant pain, but continued to perform because of the love of the business and his fans.
Andre the Giant is, fittingly, the biggest and, arguably, the most memorable piece of the unique puzzle that comprises the amazing genre that is sports-entertainment.
TM & © 2012 WWE. All Rights Reserved.