Highspots Shoot Interview with Ernie Ladd

This was filmed in 2005

The interview was conducted by Michael Bochicchio (Owner of Highspots.com)

It runs for one hour and forty-six minutes long

Ladd starts off the interview by thanking Bochicchio for the opportunity to speak about his career before he talks about growing up poor in Texas. He first lived in a garage apartment then they moved to the projects before leaving to the country in Orange, TX.

He talked about playing football in high school and says his coach, Willie Ray Smith (Father of Bubba Smith) was the greatest coach that he ever played for, calling him a great motivator and for getting young people to develop character and to find their identity. He also loved his time in high school as he names off a bunch of classmates that he liked. Even though Orange was segregated, he still loved living there as there were great people of all races there as well as bad people of all races.

Onto college, he went to Grambling University as he was a fan of Tank Younger, who was a running back. Ladd loved playing for Eddie Robinson and puts over a few of his teammates. The interviewer asks him about not being able to play against the bigger schools due to segregation as Ladd said that they would have beaten the hell out of those teams as they had all of the speed and notes that most of the cornerbacks in the NFL came from the SWAC Conference that Grambling was a part of at that time. He talks about a lot of people he played with that had lengthy careers in the pros from his team. Ladd was very passionate about this part of the interviewer.

The Bears drafted Ladd in the 4th round of the 1961 NFL Draft but he ended up on the Chargers, who drafted him in the 15th round of the AFL Draft. Ladd talks about how Otto Graham, an NFL Hall of Famer, refused to start him and other black players when he was coaching in the college All-Star.

He had a contract issue with the Chargers as they were paying him about $30,000 as he found out that rookies on other teams were getting bonuses bigger than that. He felt bad leaving his teammates but said that he got inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame, which he said was better late than never.

In 1969, he became a wrestler full-time as he could make more money doing that. Ladd then said that he broke in when the Destroyer challenged to do a real man’s sport with Ladd laughing as he thought wrestling was just phony then they broke him in after rubbing his face into the mat. Ladd said that he started to enjoy it as he was breaking into the business.

He puts over Paul Boesch, Vince McMahon, The Sheik, Sam Mushnick, and Frank Tunney for giving him a chance to make money in wrestling. Ladd then puts over Pedro Martinez for telling him how to get paid in wrestling and develop his talent.

Ladd puts over Dominic DeNucci as the person who he had the best matches with and puts him over for his ring work and interview skills. He talks about their interviews as Ladd said he would call him a “spaghetti eater” as an insult.

On his style and interviews, Ladd said that he stole from guys like Terry Funk and Joe Namath for his interviews and style.

He talks about the money he made and said that about 12 years straight he made over $100,000 a year, which was a lot more than most athletes could say at that time. Ladd also said that some promoters would tell him not to tell others what he was getting paid.

Ladd tells a story of getting into an argument with Vince McMahon Sr. once, who left him off of the card because they could not come to an agreement over pay.

When asked, Ladd said that Sam Mushnick, Paul Boesch, and Bill Watts were the best at payouts. He said that he would work twice as hard for those guys.

Ladd then talks about how he would wrestle some shows that didnt draw and would get pissed when he heard guys saying how they would only perform to the level of the attendance as he stated that he would work twice as hard so they could get a bigger draw the next time. Ladd said that strategy worked and he became a bigger draw.

He then talks about how someone had the idea to make him a heel in the South and how that ended up smashing all sorts of attendance records. He said that Pedro Martinez told him he had to be a heel not just to the white fans but the black fans and when that happened, Ladd said that he was called all sorts of things but the crowds were rapidly increasing.

Ladd said that Boris Malenko told him early in his career to watch the matches as you do not learn anything from sitting in the locker room and playing cards. He said that Malenko would take him out and told him to study the wrestlers and his upcoming opponents to know how they worked. At first, Ladd said he did not like Malenko telling him this but learned quickly that it was extremely beneficial to him as a wrestler then puts over Malenko for helping him become a great psychologist as a wrestler and use that to become a box office talent.

On the subject of racism, Ladd tells a story about how he was at a black hotel in Houston. He said that he was light-skinned and would tan to get darker as he felt it helped him as a box office draw. Well, two black girls walked by and chewed him out for doing that as they were offended.

He talks about being involved in a riot while wrestling against Ox Baker in Cleveland. Baker was the heel and got hit in the head with a piece of steel and the fans really want to kill him. Ladd said how riots kill the town as you do not want to go back their as no one wants to get hurt.

Ladd talks about Paul Orndorff and how he was more focused on the girls at the time and says that Magnum TA would have made a ton of money had he stayed in Mid South. Ladd puts over Mid South for being a great territory for teaching.

He then kills a rumor that he was actually taller than Andre the Giant and was told to appear shorter than him. Ladd then shows us that two of his fingers were the size of Andre’s and then said how he could put his foot in Andre’s shoe and it would move around from side to side because it was so big.

Next, he talks about Dusty Rhodes, who he said stole his “black charisma” from Thunderbolt Patterson. He then said that he had charisma and could speak and was loved by both black and white fans. Ladd said that when he turned on Rhodes they threw a ton of money.

Ladd talks about the Sheik and calls him a great talent who was creative but could not change with the times and also did not let people grow in his territory as he would not let anyone get bigger than him.

He talks about wrestling in the Los Angeles Territory and worked against guys like Ruben Juarez and Chavo Guerrero. Ladd said he made a lot of money in that territory.

Ladd said he goes way back Ole Anderson and liked him. He is asked about a confrontation he had with him as Ladd said that happens from time to time then you move on and says in the end Ole is a great guy but sometimes you cannot let a man get away with a certain situation and you have to take charge, which is what Ole did. Ladd put over Ole as a person more than anyone else I have heard.

On Johnny Valentine, Ladd puts him over as one of the best of all time. Ladd said he was a master of his craft and could make the crowd want to kill him halfway through the match because of how good he could work the crowd.

When asked about Bobo Brazil, he said that at that time, every territory had one black guy who was the star of the territory then tells a story of a match in which he teamed with Bobo Brazil against Jerry & Luke Graham that tore down the house. Ladd said that Brazil and him became good friends but that he had to protect his turf in that territory because he stayed there most of the time where as Ladd was constantly traveling around.

Ladd talks about his marriage, which has lasted since he was at Grambling University, and on how he was able to keep it that long while always traveling. He first said that he married a woman who loved him, and he loved her as well. He then puts her over for having the patience and tolerance for his traveling then said she knew this could provide for her and their four children. Ladd said he has been married for 44 years.

On Wahoo McDaniel, Ladd said that when they were playing football, Wahoo went around saying that he blocked a field goal over Ladd, who said that he knocked him on his ass. Ladd then puts him over for being a great competitor and said that he could have been an International star but he could not see the big picture and more of a territorial person.

About Chief Jay Strongbow, Ladd said that it is easy to have a feud with him as he was very colorful and if you were smart you could use that to draw a lot of money. He said one time he attacked him on TV and stuck his feathers in the back of his pants to tremendous heel heat and they sold out the house nightly after that.

He talks about being a friend of the Bush family and how he was known George H W Bush for 40 years. He puts over the family then says that they did a lot for the black community but never gloated over that or did it for attention but because it was the right thing to do. Ladd says that he has a great appreciation for that. Ladd says that he is a Republican and feels that party does more for black people than any other party but gets a lot of flak about that from the black community. Ladd said that Clinton but more people of color in office than any other President but he did not make more people of color millionaires. Ladd said the Republican Party makes more cash available for you if you do have a good idea. He said that black people have had jobs dating back to slavery and does not need more of them before saying that black leaders do not tell the truth to their community as a Republican, Richard Nixon, created Affirmative Action but that does not get reported back to them.

Ladd now talks about being a Christian and how he is “saved.” He said that one night in Georgia he was waiting in the lobby of a hotel as his room was being cleaned. He then said a “white boy” came to his table to ask if he was saved. At first a few people thought the guy was a homosexual but Ladd said the guy was half of his size and would break him in half if he tried anything. Anyway, the two prayed after reading the bible. The guy tried to leave but Ladd made him call his wife, who was shocked that he was saved as Ladd said he would drink and play cards all night at the time but never cheated or was abusive towards his her.

He then talks about having cancer and how he was diagnosed with just 3-6 months left to live but that was over a year and a half ago. Ladd then talks about how the lord has helped him heal then proceeds to pull out the bible and reads a few of his favorite verses.

The interview closes with Ladd addressing the young people to get their priorities straight and to put the lord first and your family second. He then says how he has a great family and loved the same woman for over 45 years and has great supports with them and within his church.

Final Thoughts: Good interview. Ladd was open and talked about not just wrestling but also his life and football. Ladd seems like a very nice man, I have never heard anyone talk bad about him either. I also agree with Ladd as he constantly stressed about needing to be a box office draw to succeed as a wrestler. Even though today’s WWE is more about the brand, the box office draws are the ones that make people go to the shows.

A lot of the stuff in this interview was before my time, especially when it came to the NFL. Regardless, Ladd made things interesting and he has a voice that makes it easy for you to keep interested in what he says.

Ladd was very proud of his career and life and seemingly has no regrets. Even if you do not agree with his political or religious beliefs, after watching this interview it is almost impossible to come away disliking him. Ladd was also in the midst of cancer during this interview as you can see that it took a lot out of him.

Overall, I recommend this interview as you get to hear a good story from one of the true legends of professional wrestling.

You can purchase the DVD of this interview at Highspots for $15 or you can download a digital copy for $9.99 by clicking on the links below.