RF Video Shoot Interview with Bill Watts

The interview takes place in Watts’ home. It was filmed in 1999.

Rob Feinstein conducted the interviewer.

It runs for one-hour and fifty-four minutes long.

The interview starts with Watts talking about how he got a scholarship to Oklahoma for football. He then talks about how he got into a severe accident and how he took him several months before he could start training again.

He talks about how a majority of colleges forbid weight training, because they did not understand how to use them properly, and after several months on a weight-lifting regime, he went from  240 lbs to 315 lbs. However, the team felt he was too big as at that time the were looking for smaller guys and he didnt fit.

Watts went pro to the Indianapolis Warriors. but ended up knocking out one of his coaches and left to start in pro wrestling as Wahoo McDaniel helped get him into the business.

He said he was never a fan of wrestling growing up as most of them were horrible and unathletic. He said that Danny Hodge was there and great but wondered why he bothered with “fake” wrestling.

Watts said that he was trained by several wrestlers. He said his first promotion was run by Bob Estes and it was horrible and only used for ten matches. He said that Jim Barnett was involved but chasing around Rock Hudson then says he knew that Hudson was a “fag” before everybody else due to that reason.

Watts then said that he became a referee, as he hurt his hand in a street fight, for Leroy McGuirk’s promotion. From there, he started to wrestle then got into trouble in Los Angeles and had to leave the country so he snuck up to Canada. There, he met Gene Kiniski and wrestled but was upset over his payoff and left, stating that the promotion was part of the NWA and word got out about him so he left and went back to work for McGuirk.

He then talks about wrestling in Houston and jobbed for Sailor Art Thomas, who he said was the nicest guy in the world but really “dumb” and forget the spots. One day, he took Thomas down but he did not know how to mat wrestle and as a result, he got to win the match and the title. He didnt last long as the promoter’s ugly daughter wanted to date him but he declined then he slapped around the promoter after a show and left.

Watts goes into a story about how he told the office that he was not going to lose a 2-out-of-3 falls match in two straight falls. He said the office was scared of him due to his temper but he told his opponent, Cowboy Bob Ellis, that he was going to put him over but just did not want the office to know. Watts puts over Ellis for being nice to him when he was starting out. He talks about how he tossed the ref to the floor and “scared the shit” out of him.

Verne Gagne got him a tryout with the Minnesota Vikings but he did not sign as they would not allow him to wrestle in the off-season.

During a match in Missouri, the police took Watts away and said that he had a phone call. It was from Vince McMahon Sr. and Toots Mondt, who wanted him in the WWWF. He said that his first match against Killer Kowalski made him a star. He then tagged with Bruno and set box office records. He did leave the territory shortly after that, as he believed that you leave when you are on top.

Watts then worked for Ray Shire in San Francisco. He calls him a genius but said that he was unable to delegate. He teamed with Chief Jay Strongbow then became a champion. He also said he was born as the trips were short. Shortly after that, he went to Japan then quit the business and worked for a networking company. He always believed in furthering his education and wanted a job outside of the business.

He then returned to the business and worked for Verne Gagne. He said that Leroy called him crying and drunk about returning and Watts said only if could be partner. Initially, he was offered 5% and said fuck you to them but he said they were desperate and he ended up getting 19% and Watts left the AWA.

Watts said he learned a lot and that they built up the territory and brought in guys like the Spoiler and Gary Hart and started to make some money but McGuirk was always drunk and whining so he went to Eddie Graham, who told him to go to Georgia and gave him stock as there was a promotional war as the owner of Georgia had a heart attack and died and there was a lot of double-crossing going on between his partners.

In 1974, Watts went up to Florida and booked the territory. He said they had a ton of talent. Watts said that he fired Dusty Rhodes after two weeks, stating he was pulling his usual bullshit and going behind his back to Eddie Graham. Then Dusty begged and Watts said he could as long as he stopped his bullshit. At that point, he came up with the “American Dream” idea for him.

At this point, Watts said the promotion had so many main-event talents that he struggled to put together a card. He even said that scalpers were selling tickets to the show. Watts said that Graham told him never to all of his eggs in one basket. Graham told Watts that he was a high school dropout and asked Watts why he was there, since he was a college graduate. Watts said he was there for a PhD.

He talks about the problems he had with McGurik, who sued him for embezzlement. Watts said McGuirk was so dumb because he never had his name on the money and Watts threatened to sue them for slander so they came up with a deal where Watts got Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Mid-South territory first started around this time in 1978. He talks about creating the Fabulous Freebirds when he wanted Terry Gordy as part of the roster but thought Hayes was shit in the ring but could talk and had a lot of drive. Buck Robley, who was in teh office, wanted to send Hayes to Florida for some ohter talent but Watts said no and that Hayes would be a mouthpiece and they could get someone to team with Gordy and found Buddy Roberts.

Watts now talks about the Junkyard Dog. He saw him in Canada when he wrestled as Sylvester Ritter and knew he was very charismatic but awful in the ring. He then talks about Ernie Ladd and how he was great man who taught him about “black.” Watts says white people do not understand “black” as they can observe it but Ladd was determined to not let JYD fail. He then talks about how they had a bad parting when he went to the WWF but that his drug problems got the best of him. Watts said that Buddy Landell asked him to write a eulogy for him when he passed and he cried.

He then talks about guys in his life that were special like Eddie Graham and Ole Anderson, who Watts claimed that he fought with a lot then told the Road Warriors to cut their hair and paint their faces, which is how they became starts.

When asked about the goals for Mid-South when he started, Watts said that he just wanted to stay afloat at the beginning but wanted to go national. He said that the Northeast had all of the population to draw from and as a result, could bore the shit out of the crowd and still draw people. Watts said that he had to make an exciting show. He also wanted respect for the business and if the wrestler made bad debts or checks with him, he took it out of his money. Watts said that he liked athletes and tough guys, because they are not like whining pussies. He talks about Paul Orndorff, who was a friend of Mike Graham, and how he trained him and stretched him out. Watts said Orndorff was tough and would fight back against him and he respected that. Watts then tells a story of how Orndorff and Ted DiBiase were told to do an hour broadway, despite being faces. They though it would kill their careers so Watts told them not to act like pussies and that he would give them a finish and swore at them some more and as a result, they got mad and tore the house down with a fabulous match. Watts said Orndorff called him years later when he was in the WWF and how Watts taught him a lot more than he knew.

He talks about splitting up Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody, telling them they could be bigger stars as singles wrestlers. He liked Brody but said his word was no good and he would hold up promoters all of the time, which was probably how he got killed in Puerto Rico.

Watts is asked about his first time he drew $100,000 in Louisiana. He flew in Ray Candy at the request of Ernie Ladd and he ended up drawing, despite others telling him that would not be the case. After the show, Watts was sitting backstage with Ladd, Grizzly Smith, and Leroy McGuirk. They were talking about the show and Smith asked McGuirk what he thought. They expected him to be happy at the packed house they drew but McGuirk said that he thought there was too many “niggers” on the card and in the audience, with Ladd right there. Smith then told McGuirk that money was green.

After that, he talks about how he is pissed at that reporter in Pittsburgh (Mark Madden) who brought up an article in which he praised a business owner who refused to serve African-Americans, because he stood up for his beliefs, to Hank Aaron, who was working in for Turner at the time. The article was older but Watts said that he was always a fan of the black athlete and put them in prominent positions, not for their color but becaused they deserved the push. Feinstein says he will discuss this later on in the interview.

He now tells the story of how Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express came to Mid-South. He brought in Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett to come to a TV and see what he was doing wrong. After the show, they asked Watts where are the “blow jobs.” Watts did not understand what they meant then they told him he had the toughest athletes and a hardcore fanbase but needed to draw some young girls, which in turn drew the young guys. He then went to Memphis and they asked Watts to take Jim Cornette. He also said that he wanted the Fabulous Ones but they said no so he got to take the Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton & Dennis Condrey) and then also took Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson, as they were doing nothing with them either. In return, Memphis took Rick Rude from Watts along with a few other rookies.

Watts said that they made the videos for the Midnight Express and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and that took off. He also took Bill Dundee over as a booker but didnt let him wrestle because he was short with a huge ego. He puts over his mind for the business. Watts said that they drew the teeny boppers and puts over Ricky and Eaton for being great. They also created Magnum TA around this time too.

He talks about various guys. He said that Ted DiBiase couldnt draw a ton of money but could work any type of match. He said Duggan could draw and had a lot of heart but was not the greatest worker. He said one day he hit is head against the post and had blood poisoning and still didnt want to miss a show.

Watts then tells a story of how if his guy got into a fight in public, he would get fired if he lost. He did not give the name but said he looked at the star’s hands and saw he did not throw a punch and told him that he was catching, not pitching, and Watts fired him on the spot.

When Mid-South became UWF around 1986, they started to lose money due to the “oil crunch” and started to lose $50,000 a week.

He talks about how Sting had something about him but said the Ultimate Warrior was a piece of shit. When they walked out, he told Grizzly Smith to go get Sting back because he had potential. Watts then wrestled him and afterwards, Sting said he was scared he was going to get beat up in the match because he walked out but Watts told him he wanted him back because he saw potential. Watts still respects Sting to this day.

Now, Watts is asked about several other guys. He said that Eddie Gilbert was talented and was going to bring him into WCW but Eddie kept running his mouth. Watts said he needed someone to lead him because he could not overcome his self-destruction. About Missy Hyatt, he said that the only thing she added was problems and did not add anything. He liked Scott Irwin because he would give you everything he had. Watts said that Bill Irwin did too but never found his niche. In regards to the Von Erich’s, he said that Fritz could never come to the realization that his children were drug addicts. Watts said that a friend of Fritz told him that his kids were addicts and that Fritz didnt speak to them for a few years as a result. He then said how Fritz called him about the problem and that he told them to confront them but you have to love them too. He then told him how he couldnt give them everything and tells stories of the kids coming in fucked up all of the time and he told Fritz he no longer wanted to do business with him as a result then talks about how the business tolerated this behavior at the time.

Watts talks about Jim Ross. He said that he was first a referee then left to work in the electronic business. He talked to him again and Ross wanted to be a commentator. Watts said that he was the commentator because he wanted to tell the audience what to feel and did not want the commentator to put himself over the wrestlers. He said Ross could do anything, including the syndication deals.

In regards to his favorite angles, he said the Best Dressed Man between DiBiase and Duggan and the Cornette diaper angle.

He then says that Jerry Jarrett started to use the music videos before him. He said he had a good mind but was very insecure. Watts also said that in an interview, Jarrett claimed that Watts stole the Midnight and Rock ‘n’ Roll Express from him, then later called Watts to apologize as it was false.

When asked about all of the things they did on his TV shows, Watts said that he always thought the fan should get more than their money’s worth out of the TV and house shows.

He tells a story of how when he was briefly in the WWF, he convinced Vince to do a title change at the MSG House show but the star (Shawn Michaels) got put into the hospital, along with two other guys. Watts said that he would have fired all of them because they lost to nine guys while being all fucked up on drugs. He said in his territory, a whole town couldnt beat three of their guys. He said that Vince lost control and that the inmates are running the asylum today and that is the problem.

Watts said his strength as a booker was to carry out an angle. He thinks you need to keep some continuity because the fans want to see what happens next and not wonder why something was dropped out of the blue. He thought a booking committee was a good way to run as it challenges you.

He said that Dutch Mantell did a bad job booking and calls him a thief. He thought that Ernie Ladd and Bill Dundee were the best he had. Watts thought a booker would last for a year then hit the wall so he would bring someone else in and change things up. He said that it was a tough thing to do to get rid of people.

Now, he is asked about Vince raiding his talent in 1986. Watts said that Vince did things different than his father and in hindsight, thinks he would have done things differently. Watts said he likes Vince but that he does not know how to delegate and wants to do everything himself. Watts also said he got along with him for the three months he was there.

Watts discusses selling his company to Crockett. He was going to file an anti-trust suit against Vince but that would have taken a few years but he was losing $50,000 a week and couldnt wait so Ross called Crockett and he ended up selling. When asked, Watts said that he never would have worked with Crockett and Dusty because their egos were too big and at that time, he wanted out of the business.

In 1984, he became involved with religion and realized that he was promoting violence and sex and that was against his beliefs. He then said when you do not drug test and promote guys using drugs, you also promote drug use.

Watts also thought that NWA dropped the ball on an inter-promotional war. He said that creating your own competition is great from business, which is what he learned from the “Georgia War.” Watts said Dusty’s ego could not handle it all and talks about if you own both companies, why worry about their guys looking stronger as they owned both sides.

From the time he sold to 1992, he got into business and it failed then needed something exciting in his life and WCW came up but said Turner office did not give him control and everyone had a different agenda. Watts also realized that he was going back into the violence and sex that he was trying to get away from.

He turned the company around from an $8 million dollar loss and says that WCW was a complete clusterfuck. He also said Turner’s lawyers were incompetent and offered insanely high contracts to the wrestlers. Watts said there were ways to get out of the contracts and thought they should be held accountable for their work.

He is asked about several other guys. Watts likes Rick Steiner but said that Scott Steiner is a problem. Watts said Scott is a star in his own mind and hurt people but wanted to turn him heel as he made a horrible face. He put the belt on Ron Simmons because all other sports had dominate black athletes and wrestling did not have that, which told people that wrestling is fake. He liked Simmons. Watts then says that Jake Roberts was an aptly-named piece of shit who was constantly on drugs. He also called him a coward.

In regards to changing titles at house shows, Watts said that those fans pay and you do not want them coming to a show knowing exactly what is going to happen.

On his reputation of being tough to deal with, Watts said that he speaks his mind and that he was trying to make the business and that anyone with  brain could figure that out. He makes the athlete accountable for their actions and says that he cannot fine their airlines or rent-a-car company.

Watts calls Paul Heyman one of the most talented guys but in WCW, he needed him to fit into his parameters at the time and thinks that now he has a different perspective from owning ECW. He credits Paul for surviving and appealing to people.

Now, he is asked about his son, Erik Watts, and the criticism over the push his son received. Watts calls that “stupid shit” and said that Erik had the ability and says it was becase he was there and then goes off on the dirt sheets, saying that if you did things that did not please them, they went against you. He then says his son paid a price for being his son in this business and tells him to get out but that Erik loves it and sees the business great, like anyone else who grew up in it.

He loves Cactus Jack and said he rode with him on purpose to see what was in his mind. He was amazed and said that he has a great mind and appreciates how he gives his all for the business, unlike Kevin Nash, who thinks he is greatest manipulator. Watts said he missed on Dallas Page and he busted his ass andmade it because he wanted it so badly. Watts then says that he can admit his mistakes, unlike others.

On the subject of intimidating wrestlers in the locker room, he said that he was 55 when he was in WCW so who was he going to intimidate? Watts said he might have grabbed someone aside and showed them how to sell or throw a punch after a match but that was all.

He puts over the talents of Shawn Michaels. He then said that Sid Vicious gave 100% effort as did Kevin Nash, who he calls Vinnie Vegas, but then stopped once he got a big ego. Watts said that he gave Orndorff a job in WCW when he was broke.

Watts left WCW as he couldnt handle all of the guys who were crying behind his back to Bill Shaw. He says they would rather do that than work hard. At that point, he realized that he didnt need to deal with this anymore. He said he quit and was not fired.

He is asked about his article with Wade Keller about agreeing with Lester Maddox, the business owner who did not want to serve black people. Watts said it was taken out of context. He said that he agrees in free enterprise and does not want legislature to tell us how to act and at least Maddox was upfront about his beliefs. He calls Madden a chickenshit who hides behind a paper and can file lawsuit so you can no longer “slap the shit” out of somebody.

Watts goes off on Turner Broadcasting for treating wrestling like a “bastard child.” He wanted them to show Ron Simmons in the stands during a baseball game and they refused.

He talks about how Vince is one guy who can single-handedly kicked Turner’s ass, despite all of their resources.

He went to the WWF and parted under good terms with Vince but realize that he no longer wanted part of the business. He said that he never had a disagreement over who was the boss and just wanted to ease some of his problems. He did want Shawn to get the belt off of Bret at MSG. Watts says that he wanted to make the creative department stand on his own and did not like how Vince would come in the next day and tear down the ideas. He claims to have never told off Vince and that they approached him to enter the company.

Watts goes on to say how Vince surrounds himself with talented people, like Jim Ross, and also says they both run companies the same way, just that Vince is more diplomatic.

He said that he doesnt follow the business today but knows that it hasnt changed, stating you can get back up to speed quickly. Watts says he has a gift to see someone and bring out their talents in a way that makes sense.

Today, he is at peace with himself and does not see himself getting back into wrestling.

Personally, Watts does not see the Steve Austin character as being good for children. He talks about faith and says that he is a horrible example of a person that follows Jesus Christ because everything he has done was based on him being aggressive. At one point in his life, Watts said he prided himself on being an asshole but does not anymore.

If WCW was going to change, they would need to give someone who knows what they are doing total control. He likes Kevin Sullivan but he was never a good booker and says that it shows when you have a lot of people booking who do not know what they are doing and the company blames the business as a whole as a result. He says that WCW still has a lot of talent.

He never thought much of Bischoff and says he must be good in the corporate world.

Watts now works in the pharmaceutical world and loves what he does and says that he sold a product to George Steele which really helped him deal with Chron’s disease. He talks about this for a bit.

He closes by saying these are his personal opinions and if he said something that offended someone, if the shoes fits, wear it.

Final Thoughts: This was alright I guess. It really slowed down the last half-hour though and I lost a lot of interest. Watts, if you like him or not, is a straight-shooter. That is always a good thing for a shoot interview. He also does not want a job in wrestling so he wont kiss ass to get one.

He did have a great mind for the business and he would probably make for a good consultant if he wanted to get back in to wrestling.

The best parts were when he discussed Mid-South and add that to the fact that Watts was a great storyteller. I thought Feinstein did a bad job with questions though. It could have been a lot more in-depth than it was. Watts had a long career spanning many different places as a booker and wrestler.

On the subject of racism, Bill did seem to want to get out the fact that he was not racist. Then again, there have been some African-Americans wrestlers who have said Watts told them he was racist so who knows.

I recommend this if you are a fan of Watts or want to learn a bit more about him. It is not a bad interview at all but I found it disappointing as it could have been better