This was filmed in 2005
The interview was conducted by Rob Feinstein
It runs at two hours long
The video starts with Koko, dressed in a pinstriped white suit coat wearing a cross, asked if he was a fan of wrestling growing up. He said he was about 16 or 17 growing up in Tennessee when he saw a group of guys working out and wanted to get into that so they made his parents sign a waiver that they would not be responsible for any injuries that may occur then he began to work out in this building, which also had wrestling on Thursday nights. He talks about the local guys like Jackie Fargo and Herb Welch that he used to idolize.
He broke into the business after the guys he worked out with noticed him as he was improving. Koko credits Plowboy Frazier (Uncle Elmer) with getting him started as he booked him in a small town in Arkansas. Frazier told Jerry Lawler about him and after watching him wrestle, Lawler asked Koko if he could make the Memphis TV taping the next morning.
When asked about the hardest part of training, Koko said it took two weeks to get used to the mat as he was having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning before drifting off topic about he was training to become an auto mechanic and how he switched careers to wrestling as he was adapting well to the business.
Koko talks about how hot the Memphis territory was at that time. He said that his first opponent on TV was against Jos LeDuc. Koko said that he was a good “bump man” and knew how to bump for the power guys. LeDuc put him over after the match, as did the promoters and guys backstage as Koko said that put a smile on his face as he never had all of this admiration before.
About Nick Gulas, Koko calls him one of the most lovable promoters to work with but if you did not know him he could rub you the wrong way. He also said Gulas was odd with payouts and how he would tell you its not how much you make but rather how much you save. Koko talks about how he loved the territory as you were home every night.
On the “Sweet Brown Sugar” name, Koko said that he was a special guest referee in a match and helped the heel beat Lawler. Koko then said that the fans called him “Sweet Brown Shit” after that.
He said that the veterans in the locker room at that time never gave him a hard time on purpose.
Feinstein asks Koko about Lawler. He says that when you went to Memphis, you have to go in with the mindset that he is the king. He then talks about guys bitching about not getting the main event spot over Lawler as Koko said he earned the right for that spot as he built up that territory.
Koko credits Jerry Jarrett for helping him on his interviews by making Jarrett cut a promo against guys in his backyard. Jarrett would also told him to play off of Martin Luther King’s “I Had a Dream” speech but that his dream was to be a professional wrestler and then speak about that. He said there were no scripts back then either.
When asked, Koko said that he did not feel that his earlier gimmicks or stuff was racist. He then talks about how you cannot go into a wrestling promotion and tell what you are and are not willing to do as that reflects a bad attitude and as a result, you will be sitting on the sidelines.
He puts over Jimmy Valiant as a talent and a person. Koko says that Valiant was a big fan of his as well. Koko said that he teamed with Bobby Eaton once when his opponent no-showed so Bill Dundee, the booker at the time, decided to pair them up together. He said that they had a great match and even did an “Ebony and Ivory” gimmick briefly that got over.
Koko says that Steve Keirn started out as a really good guy then tells a story about his gimmick as Stagger Lee, which is what he used when he lost a “Loser Leave Town” match. At that time, Keirn was given the Fabulous Ones gimmick, who wore suits. Koko said that Lawler gave him the Lee gimmick and told him to shake all of the fan’s hands. After a show in the locker room, Koko was backstage with the Fabulous Ones, Ricky Morton, and Bill Dundee. He said that everyone but him knew what was going on as Keirn wanted to speak to him. Koko said they went to the showers as Koko leaned on the rail as Keirn asked who gave him permission to dance and shake the hands of the fans. Koko said that Lawler gave it to him, assuring Keirn that he would not steal his idea. Keirn then said okay but as eh went ot walk away, he turned around and sucker-punched Koko, who thought they were friends as they used to ride together. Koko got up and landed a few shots then he got pulled away as Koko says that Keirn was the one who should have gotten pulled away as he started the whole thing. Koko then said he ran down Keirn, saying that the territory did everything they could have to get him over as Koko says this was his first big break and he was not about to lose it over this. He then talks about how Eddie Marlin told him it was enough after he thought about going back after Keirn, prompting Koko to tell him that if he was the one who started the fight, he would get fired. Koko said that he has ever spoken to Keirn since and says he longer holds a grudge against him as he (Koko) has turned his life around now.
He then skips ahead and talks about another locker room fight that he had with Paul Roma in the WWF. Koko said that Roma had a chip on his shoulder at the time then called Koko “Buckwheat” one night then Koko confronted him. Roma said he called him that because that is who he is as Koko said he fought with him but after that happened, they got along and are friends now. (For the record, Roma had a completely different recollection about what happened in his shoot interview that I reviewed).
Feinstein asks him about some other workers in Memphis. He said Robert Gibson was a great guy and Koko live with him and his girlfriend as he puts over the girlfriend’s cooking. He calls Norvell Austin a good wrestler but was older at the time. Koko says that the PYT’s gimmick helped him out at that time. He puts over Eddie Gilbert, saying he was born to be a wrestler, then says he thinks the world of the whole Gilbert family. He says that Tommy Rich was a great guy as well then tells a story of how Rich wrote him a check to get new tires for his car when he was short on money. Koko says he never forgot that.
When asked about Bill Dundee as a booker, Koko says that he is just “alright” but needed someone to work off of before talking about how a booker needs to also work with someone who is not actively wrestling at the time for it to work.
He then went to Texas to work for Fritz Von Erich after a brief stay in Leroy McGuirk’s territory in Oklahoma. Koko said that he and Norvell were the first black tag team in Texas. He said they replaced the Freebirds as the heel team then tells a story of how Andre the Giant got the Freebirds fired in the WWF as they constantly came in drunk.
Koko said that he never saw the drug problems with the guys in World Class but that the ones who did use would come into the locker room about ten minutes before their match, usually already dressed.
After World Class, Koko went back to Memphis and worked a series of gimmick matches, including the first scaffold match. Koko said he volunteered to face Dundee because no one else wanted to and he was young and hungry. He then talks about how spending five years in Memphis taught him how to wrestle and how angles work.
He then talks about how the “Koko” name was given to him by his high school football coach due to what Koko says is his smooth, silky skin. He denies that there was any racism with this name. When he needed a name to wrestle, Plowboy Frazier asked him so he suggested Koko then in Mid South, Jim Ross added the “B. Ware” part and it took off from there.
Koko said that Bill Watts did not want guys who couldnt take care of themselves in the ring and if you couldnt stretch him or make it look real, he would fire you. On whether or not Watts was racist, Koko said he didnt see that as he pushed JYD, Butch Reed, Ernie Ladd, along with himself. Koko said that Watts knew talent.
He was then asked if he was upset about losing in the First Round of the UWF Unification Tournament as Koko said no as this is an entertainment business and not a shoot and if it was, he would not be in this business along with a majority of the other guys he was working with.
Howard Finkel was the one who contacted Koko about joining the WWF. Finkel told him to pick a date that would not interfere with his schedule for Watts so he could fly up for a meeting with Vince. Koko said he told Watts about the meeting and how he respected him but that he wanted to see what the WWF could offer, as he had a family to provide for and wanted to give them the best.
When he first met Vince, Koko said he was overwhelmed as New York City was huge and he had no idea where he was going then realized that on the same flight was Kamala, who was also flying to meet with Vince and jokes how they initially kayfabed each other as to why they were there then came clean with each other. Koko said that he felt comfortable when Vince spoke with him during their meeting. When it ended, Vince told Koko to go home and think about the offer but not before asking if there was something he would like to add to his gimmick. Koko then took a picture out of his pocket of him at a pet store in Baton Rouge that had a macaw in the background as Koko said that he wanted the bird with him, adding that he also had the bird tights made. Vince said that it was not a bad idea but made sure that he was okay traveling with the bird as Koko said it would not be a problem. So, Vince bought the bird and had Koko pay him back as he was working for him. Koko then said that his wife, who had a background in dancing, came up with the bird dance as it was easy enough for everyone from young and old to do in the crowd. Koko said that for someone his size (5’7), the gimmick got him over as much as possible in the WWF.
On the drug scene in the WWF at that time, Koko said that it was not a big problem until the incident in which Iron Sheik and Jim Duggan got caught with drugs together. He claimed that guys only did some things to “get by” but not more than that.
Koko said that he helped Hulk Hogan out while he was in Memphis as he trained him there, along with Brutus Beefcake, then did not see him again until entering the WWF and said how Hogan never forgot about that.
He puts over Greg Valentine, saying he always had good matches together. Koko said that the Honky Tonk Man broke in with him and that they used to train all day and night together and how they remain good friends today. He said that Randy Savage was nice to him and booked him for the IWC promotion. When asked about how Savage treated Elizabeth, Koko said he was protective and cannot blame him as if his wife was in the business, he would be the same way as some guys in wrestling do not respect the women. He also said Savage would fight you in an instant and tells a story of how Honky was doing a wiggle at Elizabeth during matches as Savage was pissed and confronted him backstage.
When asked about WrestleMania III, Koko said whenever someone asks him about his career he always thinks back to that show as it feels so good to have 93,000 cheer you on and it is the culmination of all your hard work in the business. He said he was so thankful to make this show has he said he was just a country boy that made it to this huge show.
Koko said that everybody cracks due to the travel at some point as he talks about struggling with the language barrier during International travel. He then says that everyone (not just wrestlers) should stay out of the country for one week to experience that.
He gets asked about several of the guys he worked with. Koko loved working with Jake Roberts and recalls one fan called the Humane Society after Jake cut a promo about Damien eating Frankie and they actually came into the building and told them to keep Damien away from the bird. Koko said that the Dynamite Kid was a funny guy as he laughs recalling a time when he hid Outback Jack’s knife. He also said that they shaved the head of one of the midget’s at a bar when they were passed out, saying it was sad. Koko talks about another rib when Steve Keirn took a dump into Jerry Lawler’s crown the night Lawler made his debut as payback from when he was in Memphis.
When asked about the Dynamite Kid/Jacques Rougeau incident, Koko said that he was not there but said he knew something would happen. Koko said that Jacques was a nice guy but that if he landed a punch, you were in trouble. He tells a story of when Jacques went to Terry Taylor’s house once, apparently after Taylor did something with his girlfriend, and dropped him when he opened the door.
Koko said Curt Hennig was a good friend and an outstanding talent. He says that his death hurt everyone. He calls Rick Martel a “classy guy” and was very family oriented and would try to learn how to speak French with him. He did not get the chance to work with Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels much but credits Shawn for finding god. On the Ultimate Warrior, Koko said he had a lot of animosity inside of him as the company made him wait for a longtime until he got a chance as when he first entered the company he would barely get booked. Koko said that Chief Jay Strongbow went to Vince and said they should use this guy before someone else snatched him up. Koko said he was a good gimmick guy.
On the Undertaker, Koko said that he was not doing anything under his real name then credits Vince for giving him the gimmick as that can go on and on forever because you can cool him off for six months then bring him back. Koko said he can do some nice moves but not much else other than that.
He was not disappointed that he only got a dark match at WrestleMania VII because he never got his hopes up and appreciated things as it happened.
Koko was not shocked when Lawler joined the WWF because despite the animosity, Lawler was talented and Vince recognized talent.
When asked about how he formed the High Energy Team, Koko said that something happened with Jim Neidhart and if left Owen without a partner so Bobby Heenan was the one who suggested Koko as his replacement. Koko said that Owen was a great guy then says the whole Hart Family are great people. He said he had great matches with the Headshrinkers but hated the top rope splashes they took from them as they always knocked the wind out of them, even joking that if you had to “take a crap” when you were laying down for the move, you would shit your pants. He loved working with the Nasty Boys and the Beverly Brothers.
Feinstein backtracks and asks Koko about the “Wrestling Album.” He said that they shot the video during a cold morning in San Francisco. He was happy to be the lead singer of the album then briefly mentions how he is the lead vocalist in his church choir today.
Koko now talks about how he got fired. They were overseas at a bar when Shawn Micheals and Jim Troy, one of Vince’s executives, got in each others faces and started to spit at each other as they were both tanked. Koko said he went over to break it up then Troy started to egg Koko on about being a “phony tough guy” and how Vince pays him a lot of money to take care of “fake tough guys” as he pushed both Koko and Shawn out of the way. Koko then asked Troy why he tried to fight him and got slapped. Koko said he immediately snapped and beat on Troy like “Ali beat on Frazier.” He then said that Troy got up and ran out the door afterwards and when Koko looked at his own hand, it was sliced open from a beer bottle as he puts that same hand in front of the camera to show the scar from that incident as he said a doctor came to the hotel to sew it up. After that, Koko told Marty Jannetty about what happened. Marty was pissed so he ran down to the front desk, demanding the clerk give him Troy’s room number. Mrty then decided to hop over the desk because he was taking too long and decked the poor clerk, demanding the keys. Jannetty and Koko went into the room as Jannetty kicked down the door and destroyed the room as Troy was not there. They headed back down to the lobby when they saw Troy getting out of a taxi as Koko told Troy it was not over yet and hit him again. Koko said that the lobby of the hotel connected to a diner and Koko left Troy hanging over a table. The next day, Pat Patterson came over to him ask what happened. Koko said that he saw Troy’s wife, who couldnt believe what happened then said he was Troy’s face and that he had two black eyes that he described as being “blacker than he is” before telling Patterson about the incident. Terry Garvin then told Koko before a show in Paris that Vince wanted him to go home. Vince then called up Koko pissed off about how he beat up his executive then after hearing the story, Vince got pissed that one of his executives tried to beat up a wrestler and how he cant have this in his company. Vince put over the severity of the beating he gave to Troy and said he had to get rid of both but he got rehired shortly thereafter. Koko then says that Vince holds that against him today but that he holds nothing against Vince or the WWF and would give anything for a chance to wave his hand to the crowd at Madison Square Garden today.
He said that WCW offered him a deal to be “under their roof” but that there was no money involved so he declined the offer.
When asked, Koko said that he had no problem going back to a smaller territory in Memphis after the WWF because he was not “too good to come down” from a bigger place on the National scene. He said that Brian Christopher has a whole lot to learn and was not ready for the WWF when he started as he started “doing things” when he got into the spotlight and said he paid his dues for a while before making it to the WWF and knew how to maintain himself when he got there. He said that Reggie B. Fine was a funny guy but does not know how to wrestle and is a gimmick man.
He still watches the WWE today and likes when guys he worked with make special appearances. He says that he does not sit around crying about not getting invited to the shows or the Hall of Fame as the whole business is a work. Koko said why get upset when you are told to lay down for someone and does not take it as serious as others do because it is all entertainment.
His favorite matches were against Jerry Lawler in Memphis because he learned a lot in the ring with him.
When asked, Koko said he was surprised when the Jarrett’s never reached out to him about working for NWA-TNA. Koko said he doesnt expect a long run with the company but thought he could help them out for a short run as he does own the Koko B. Ware gimmick. He says they are great guys, regardless.
Koko said he is older now and would not work full-time for Vince today as a result if he was asked.
On the high-flyers in wrestling today, Koko said that he has seen moves that he thought humans were unable to do and takes their hats off to those guys but separates those guys from the wrestlers who use psychology and how they will not draw main event money working that style as you need to sell and tell a story.
Today, Koko says that he has his own painting business as he wrestles occasionally. He also said that he had to wake up in the real world eventually and learned this trade. The camera then zooms in on his face as he says wrestling took himself, a country boy, around the world four times and has no regrets as he got to see the world.
In closing, Koko thanks the fans as he gets really emotional as he thanks everyone and how he does not hold grudges any longer because of his belief in god and says he will go around and apologized to anyone that he has mistreated before thanking the interviewers for allowing him to tell his story. He then thanks Vince McMahon for his opportunity to make his name in this business as he is now recognized around the world as he starts to tear up a bit as he looks up and thanks everyone.
Final Thoughts: I thought this was a good interview. Koko came across as a good guy and seemed very thankful for the opportunities he got in life due to wrestling. Koko was not bitter at all regarding his time in the business or his position on the card in the WWF. He did skirt over any mentions of drugs and was vague on his own usage (One of Roma’s claim in his shoot was that Koko was fucked up on drugs during their fight) but regardless, the interview was solid.
His story on how he got fired was pretty crazy and definitely worth a listen. Koko also seems to be at peace with himself as he mentioned himself being involved with the church. At the end when he broke down, it seemed like he did so due to a combination of being upset about his past behaviors and just being thankful to get to share his love for professional wrestling. At the end of the interview, I became a fan of Koko as a person.
Overall, I recommend this interview as it had a mix of crazy stories and genuine heartfelt moments from a wrestler thankful for all the chances he received in that business. I thought Koko came across as being sincere as well.
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