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Shooting From The Hip: The Rick Martel RF Shoot Interview

March 21, 2007 | Posted by Scott Rutherford
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Shooting From The Hip: The Rick Martel RF Shoot Interview  

While never a much talked about figure when the heyday of 80’s wrestling is discussed, Rick Martel was a long serving student of the game debuting in 1973 going around the world to learn his craft before finding success in the then-WWWF, winning the AWA World Titles in Verne Gagne’s attempt at finding a marketable babyface and then back to the WWF for a successful tag team run with Tito Santana and the heat getting “Model” gimmick that saw out the last years of his career.

Here’s the RF Rick Martel Shoot Interview in review….

* Always a fan growing up. His older brother Michael was a wrestler in the Indy promotions. He smartened Rick up to the sport early letting him know all the insider terms. Got Rick his first match during a summer tour while Martel was on holiday from school as a 17 year old. Rick liked it so much that when he went back to school later that year his heart wasn’t in it. He left to go full time shortly after.

* Credits his brother as being his mentor in those early years and was deeply effected by his death in 1978 during a tour of Puerto Rico. Says they had a great time wrestling together and Rick would constantly tease him about being in better shape to which Michael would light him up in the ring as pay back.

* Cites Jack Brisco as an early idol.

* Started traveling overseas early working for a year in Australia and New Zealand.

* Credits that time for showing him how to build storylines up to big shows for the huge blow-off.

* Loved working with Curtis Iaukea and learned about psychology from him claiming he was a master at it.

* They get into his time in Las Vegas and how he was befriended by Mr. Fuji and was seemingly spared Fuji’s penchant for ribbing. Probably at the instruction of Fuji’s wife.

* Tells one Fuji rib about a worker who would always take and never give back. So one day he cooked him a big meal and after he finished it told him it was actually dog he was eating and removed the platter lid to reveal the dead dogs head.

* Credits his ability to work all over the world in his formative years to building up a unique offence.

* Moves onto working in Portland with Roddy Piper, Buddy Rose and the Sheepherders.

* Loved his time there and developed a close bond with Piper relaying how on the why to a house show they crashed Martel’s car, hitched a ride on an 18 wheeler to make it to the building on time and still got in trouble for showing late.

* Calls Don Owens “an honest man” and speaks highly of the Portland promoter.

* Loved working with Buddy Rose and their chemistry in the ring. Liked how they would crate new moves on the fly during a match.

* They get into his first stint in the WWWF and his teaming with Tony Garea. Calls Garea the guy that stepped into the mentor void left by his brothers death. Liked how their different styles meshed in the ring.

* Said Vince Sr. was his favourite promoter to work for. Said he was a man of his word.

* Was using the Boston Crab as a finisher almost from the get go. Although at times he would use the Aero Plane Spin.

* Says that the Wild Samoans were perfectly named. Couldn’t believe guys so big were that agile and quick and that their stiff looking offence was as light as a feather.

* Claims the party scene was more about drinking than anything else. Says it really wasn’t any different between the late 70’s and the late 80’s when all the money was about.

* Talks about Bob Backlund and how he was the same nice guy when he was breaking into the business as he was as WWF champ. Claims he was one of the strongest guys he ever wrestled but Backlund never flaunted it. Relates a story about OWNING a trucker in a night club to the point the trucker started calling Bob, sir.

* Gets into working against a heel Hulk Hogan and how Hogan housed him when he first got to the AWA. Has nothing but good things to say about Hulk Hogan claiming he’s still the same nice guy now as he was then. *cough*

* Was close to Andre The Giant thanks to their French heritage. Often used to ride with the Giant on the road and talks about what a shame that the pain he was in during the last years of his life turned him from the amiable and fun person he first met to the one worn down by constant pain.

* Tells a couple Andre stories. One was about asking a couple of ladies in Atlanta if they wanted to see if he was giant all over. The other was Andre flipping out at some guy and throwing the dudes car!

* Got along with Vince Jr. right from the start since they shared a love of body building.

* Goes into a story about riding with Garea, George “The Animal” Steele and another worker and picking up a hitchhiker and Steele going into character freaking the guy out.

* Left the WWWF for the AWA because of the better money and the easier work schedule.

* He left on good terms but Vince Sr. was disappointed because he had booked Martel on a Japanese tour at Andre’s request. Tells about a conversation with Vince Jr. saying Verne was offering the World Title and that a tour of Japan just didn’t match up. Was told he would be welcome back.

* Didn’t like the heavily kayfabed atmosphere of the AWA and the often skittish and erratic demands of Verne. Missed the family vibe of the WWWF.

* During a break from defending the AWA Title he did a summer stint with Dino Bravo in Montreal. Was one of the few guys that had a positive experience there since Bravo was booker and #1 babyface and would put himself hard over everyone. Enjoyed his time there so much when he got the chance he bought into the territory and worked their after dropping the AWA Title

* Saw the writing on the wall about the WWF expansion and secretly met with Vince about coming in as part of a tag team he wanted to try called The Can-Am Connection. Bravo was pissed about it but Martel called it payback for getting stiffed by Bravo years before.

* They get into Dino’s death and Martel says after Bravo’s money dried up from wrestling the fact his uncle was the local head of the Mafia was too much of a lure to ignore and ended up selling bootleg cigarettes and doing very well. So well the drug cartels wanted in on it and after a sale goes bad, Dino takes the hit as a square up.

* They go back to Verne and him losing touch. Tells a funny story about Verne trying to shoot on Hulk and Hogan just getting Verne in a front face lock and not letting go. Says
Verne lost all the respect of the boys with the incident and was a huge factor in Hulk leaving.

* Loved working with Nick Bockwinkle saying you had to go full tilt with him because he wouldn’t accepts anything less.

* Talks about the AWA vs NWA title matches with Ric Flair. Liked doing that match in Japan because they got the crowd to act like Americans rather than the respectful audience they usually are.

* Talks some about working with Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody. Said you really had to prove to them that you could take care of your end of the match or they would eat you alive. Liked Hansen a lot and when it came time to drop the AWA Title he would only do it for him.

* Starts more stories about Verne Gagne losing it and how when the AWA went national with their ESPN deal Verne was in no shape to be running the company. Would micro-manage to the point where he was so intent on the small details he was starting to miss all the big ones.

* Talks about the insane politicking when the NWA and AWA started cross promoting.

* Talks about meeting Shawn Michaels in his early days. Got to know him more in the WWF when Shawn went single. Claims Shawn asked to ride with him so he could pick his brain about how to work heel and how to build up his character.

* Says the change to Shawn the politician was pretty swift telling how he took the WMX Ladder Match so long over their time allowed that they had to cancel the 8-Man tag match to fit the rest of the card in. Says he got huge heat with the boys over that.

* Finally left the AWA because he just wasn’t having fun with Verne in charge even though working the AWA schedule was great. When the chance to run his own territory came up he decided to move on.

* Had already met Tom Zenk prior to their WWF stint. Talked him out of signing an AWA contract and got him work in Portland before bringing him in to Montreal and forming the early version of the Can-An Connection. Brought him into the WWF when he did.

* Partially blames himself for the seeds of their eventual split. Tells a story from the 70’s about questioning a payoff from Bob Barnett after talking with the boys and promptly got fired for the one and only time in his career. Vowed never to talk about payoffs with other wrestlers again. Zenk took this to mean Martel was earning more money and became resentful. Martel claims Vince paid every team equal pay when together.
The final straw was Zenk objecting to a dress code being introduced and after a dressing down from Rick, ended up no showing TV. Martel convinces Vince he could talk sense into him and get him back but Tom was resolute and quite the WWF soon after. Vince didn’t hold it against Martel even though he was big on the Connection and disappointed about the potential money lost.

* Talks about Strike Force and how teaming was Tito Santana was as good as teaming with Zenk was bad. Calls Tito a total professional when it came to the business.

* Doesn’t think Vince has changed much over the years and when he compared Verne and Vince he claims Verne was a hothead and made things harder for the talent while Vince would always stay cool and never cause issues. Says as a promoter he has to make tough choices but doesn’t think it should be held against him.

* Was surprised Bret Hart managed to break out into being a singles star. Says The Hart Foundation didn’t want to drop the tag titles to Strike Force and always found things strained with them (IMO it’s probably the Canadian territory posturing kicking in)

* Talks about turning heel and how Vince and Pat Patterson though it was impossible to do that with him. Rick was personally sick of working as a face and actually walked out and Vince called him up saying lets talk. That’s where the WM5 heel turn started.

* Credits Vince with the idea for “The Model” gimmick and original hated it. Remembers talking to his wife and her telling him it could be worse, he could be called a rooster. OH SNAP! Rick Martel’s wife >>>Terry Taylor.

* Started seeing the potential of the gimmick and started bringing the ideas about how to dress and the perfume. LOVED his time working as a heel and says Vince wanted to go all the way with him but backed down when Martel started losing interest in the business.

* Talks about the WM, blindfold match with Jake Roberts. Credits Robert’s for making it work. Does the usually line about Jake being a master of psychology and working in the ring.

* Thought WM3 was a huge moment for wrestling. As a fan he marked out for Andre passing the torch to Hulk in that manner. Liked working in front of that many people.

* He then starts talking about getting into real estate and losing interest in the business. Left for 18 months when it became full time. Came back to get more capital to finance his expansion. Says his late 90’s return to the ring was to make up for using the business that made him. It was his way of giving back.

* Cites a match with Booker T as the beginning of the end. Says Booker needed to learn that the craft of wrestling was making the crowd think it was real, not the guy he was wrestling. Talks about Haku/Meng as a complete monster who could kill you in a flash but would barely touch you in the ring with his big kicks and punches.

* Says Paul Heyman tried to get him into ECW but he just didn’t think it was his thing even thought Paul said he could hand choose his opponents and matches.

* Hasn’t been approached by TNA to work there.

* Speaks highly of Eric Bischoff thanks to him giving Martel a go in WCW. Said he approached Vince about him being part of a team called The Super Models with Don Callis but backed out when Vince changed there agreement.

* Liked working with Perry Saturn and in WCW generally but considered the whole atmosphere too clique-ish with all the old-time NWA guys working with the newer WWF transplants.

* Says he will never work again thanks to having two artificial hips but wouldn’t change a thing about his life. Says wrestling gave him everything he has. Also talks about having a successful real estate business and only needs to spend one day a week making sure everything is fine and the rest with his family.

* Think the internet is good for wrestling saying the more information out there the better.

* Has never been approached about a Hall of Fame position.

* Claims that the business goes on seven year cycles when asked about the decline in recent years.

* Thanks his fans for giving a good life and career.

The 411: Often described as talented but bland, Martel turned out to be the perfect guy to do a shoot interview because he has no axes to grind and just loves talking about the sport he loves. Sure you might miss some of the shit someone like Honky Tonk Man shovels but it’s hard not to pass a guy that was there for the birth of Hulkamania and the leading edge of the expansion. While several things were not talked about (Demolition, the obvious Hart Foundation issue that was brought up, Hogan politics, his back injury etc) there is some great stuff on here. While probably not for newer fans or casual ones the like, for old school fans this is great stuff. Recommended.
Final Score:  7.5   [ Good ]  legend

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Scott Rutherford

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