Al Snow, JJ Dillon Speak Out On ECW PPV, McMahons, More
Credit: Betsy Byrd
Wrestling Weekly featuring hosts Doc Young and Les Thatcher welcomed Al Snow and J.J. Dillon to the show Sunday, June 5. Al Snow discussed his early days as a wrestler, his training duties at Ohio Valley Wrestling, and his upcoming appearance with “Head” in the ECW Pay-Per-View. J.J. Dillon, former wrestler, back office man, and illustrious manager of the Four Horsemen, discussed the release of his new book, Wrestlers are Like Seagulls: From McMahon to McMahon.
But before J.J. Dillon, Les described the recent photo shoot creating stills for an EPWT training manual he’s working on due for release in September. The book, slated to be published by Sports Publishing, will feature wrestling moves and holds modeled by independent wrestlers Matt Stryker and Nigel McGuiness.
J.J. Dillon began the show by reminiscing with Les about the early days in the Carolinas when they were tag team partners and Les was generous in showing J.J. the ropes. His compliment segued into how working with so many wrestlers in those days with so much talent, a young wrestler could just soak up the knowledge. J.J. said, “The depth of talent from that era was phenomenal.” Best known as a heel manager of the Four Horsemen, he said, “The learning experience (from the early days) made me a better manager.”
J.J.’s book, published by Crowbar Press, is according the author, “worth the wait.” Co-written by Scott Teal, Wrestlers are Like Seagulls was the result of meticulous documentation by J.J. over the years. “I kept a series of journals since the 70s,” he said. Many of the stories in the book haven’t been talked about before, including his experience during the last days of WCW and working for Vince McMahon. He said, “It’s all in the book.” Even if the reader isn’t necessarily a wrestling fan, anyone can enjoy it because “it’s a human interest story.” He added that with all pre-orders the book, J.J. will personalize it with an autograph. Additionally, part of the proceeds of the book will go to a cerebral palsy charity because his young son is afflicted with CP.
His impressions of the wrestling business are that there is a need for more than one large fed (WWE). He wishes TNA well because conceptually “the business desperately needs a second promotion.” He believes that having an excusive partnership with one televisions channel is the key to long-term success. Essentially, WWE renegotiating with the station every time the contract ends, penalizes the station for the program’s success. He uses the analogy, “It’s like a barstool.” All the legs have to be in place for success. The “legs” include: good talent to start with, effective management of the talent, creative ideas and use of talent, and a TV outlet. “All four components have to be in place and in harmony” for the promotion to work.
Still, he describes Vince McMahon Jr. as “the greatest promoter in the history of wrestling.” The title of the book alludes to a quote from one McMahon to the other. He believes that it is “poetic justice” that Eric Bischoff is now on Vince’s payroll. “You can’t use the name McMahon and Bischoff in the same breath.” He describes Bischoff as a “fraud” trying to run a promotion using someone else’s money. Vince, on the other hand, was using his own. He said Eric Bischoff was a very insecure person obsessed with putting Vince McMahon out of business. Once Vince Russo came aboard, WCW became like a sinking Titanic, losing money, panicky business decisions were made, until AOL/Time Warner decided to pull the plug.
He says the biggest problem in pro wrestling today is that the business has gotten away from the fundamentals of “man against man.” The wrestling is the main thing and the rest is just enhancement. Although retired, J.J. wouldn’t be opposed to getting involved in the business if the right opportunity presented itself. He doesn’t believe that having love and passion for the business isn’t enough for one person. He left by saying, “I still am a mark.”
Al Snow jumped into how he thinks the upcoming ECW PPV, One Night Stand, will be great. Addressing the cult-like atmosphere that ECW enjoyed, Al said, “ECW was made by the wrestlers and by the fans.” Paul E. Dangerously had a vision and he did his best to not insult the fans’ intelligence but “we were all making that promotion what it was and what it became.” He believes it only seemed cultish because the fans all felt part of the whole show. He hopes that the event will encourage WWE fans to gain interest in ECW, possibly leading to its resurrection.
Currently working as trainer at OVW, a feeder organization to WWE, he also found himself part of the booking committee. A role that he describes as “a job I didn’t expect to have” resulting from the reprimand of Jim Cornette by WWE after he cut a profanity-laced promo about Bubba Dudley resulting in Bubba’s refusal to work for OVW as long as Cornette was there. Les went on to describe Cornette as “one of the most brilliant minds taking a breath in this business today.” Al concurred by saying that Cornette has a lot of responsibility, involved in putting on 300 weeks of consecutive television promotion.
As trainer for OVW, when asked who he thought had “big league” potential, he said, “All of them are just phenomenal.” He likes the fact that the wrestlers are all starting to understand how to work. They are now using emotion to sell the story. Talk turned to the recent death of independent wrestler, Dan “Spider” Quirk. Al said, “The wonder of the art-form is when you step into the ring you can do whatever you want. All I ask is make sure it means everything it can possibly mean.” He cautions against making grandstanding moves to get a “fireworks” reaction instead of making it an intricate part of the storyline.
Al relayed a tale of his introduction to the wrestling business at the age of 18. In 1982, he was searching for wrestling training. In those days there were no wrestling training schools but he heard about a training camp in conducted by Ole and Gene Anderson. He sold his car to pay for the $250 seminar and rode 24-hours on a bus to the Charlotte Coliseum. After running five miles with six other trainees, doing 500 squats, running the steps inside the coliseum, and doing 400 pushups, and jumping jacks while waiting his turn to get “stretched out” in the ring by Ole, he went on to be considerably roughed up. ON all fours, his testicles were squeezed, nose broken, and his eyes gouged, and then was told by Ole that there was no way in hell that he would make it in the business. Les joked, “And some guys get upset when Jim Cornette yells at them!”
Al and Les commiserated about the hazing process that existed in pro wrestling. “Everybody pays their dues in their own way,” said Al, but the hardest thing about the “old days” was the physical and emotional torture new wrestlers went through at the hands of more experienced workers. The mental and emotional stuff was the hardest.
Asked who he saw as the next potential superstar at WWE out of OVW, he said, “They all have so much potential,” but he cited Bobby Lashley as having the tools but needing more experience, Tough Enough competitor Marty Wright as having the needed charisma, Johnny Jeter, and Brent Albright. Still he said, “You can have a guy who has every tool that can’t get a break.” On the other hand, some guys just luck out being in the right place at the right time.
Wrestling Weekly can be heard every Sunday from 6:00-8:00 pm EST at wrestlingweekly.com. Tune in next week, June 12, as Doc and Les welcome the very first AWA Ladies World Champion, Penny Banner.
Also, check out our free backstage interviews from the Mark Curtis Memorial with stars such as Mick Foley, Al Snow, D-Lo Brown, and more.