Highspots Presents: Crockett Diaries with Jim Cornette

This was released on November 30th, 2015

It runs at two hours and seven minutes long

 

Cornette starts by talking about Jim Crockett Sr. and how he was highly respected. He talks about how he helped bring minor league baseball and the Harlem Globetrotters to Charlotte. Cornette then puts over how Jim Crockett Sr. was wealthy but never showed it off and drove an older, beat up car because he did not want the wrestling fans that paid their money to see him pull up in a limousine as he wanted to show them he was just like them. Crockett Sr. also treated the talent well and when he passed away in 1973, his sons took over.

 

He now talks about tag team wrestling and how the first team was the Dusek Brothers in the 1930’s, who were based out of Nebraska, and while many territories stake claim as to who invented tag team wrestling, Crockett Sr. really focused on it in the 1950’s and 60’s with teams such as the Kentuckians, Bolos, Scott Brothers, etc. Crockett Sr. even used six-man tags, usually if the heel team had a manager than wrestled as they would find another babyface to pair with the babyface team. The Tag Team focus changed when George Scott came in as booker once Crockett Sr. passed away as he wanted to elevate singles wrestlers.

 

He talks about some of these teams. The Kentuckians (Grizzly Smith & Luke Brown) were huge hillbillies and much bigger than the others in the promotion and they usually wrestled against the Bolos (Jody Hamilton & Tom Renesto) who were known as the Assassins elsewhere but before them they had a knockoff Assassin team in the Carolinas so they changed their name. The Kentuckians were the face team and very popular. Cornette said that guys never wanted to leave the territory because the travel was easy and you could sleep at home every night.

 

Cornette talks about Johnny Walker and how he retired and came back a year later as a bigger star under the mask as Mr. Wrestling II.

 

On the Anderson Brothers, Cornette said they epitomized tag team wrestling as could work and very over. Cornette said the Carolina Territory was based on ring work instead of blood and violence and if you could not hang with or look tough enough to face the Anderson Brothers, the fans would not buy you as a main-event talent.

 

He talks about how Francis Crockett’s husband, John Ringley, took over for Crockett Sr. when he passed away. David Crockett was training to be a wrestler, using the name David Finley as Finley was his middle name, so Crockett told everyone to treat his son David like every other wrestler as David got the piss beat out of him in the ring as his career was short-lived. Jim Crockett Jr. was unhappy about Ringley taking over but after a year, Ringley was caught cheating on his wife and he left then Crockett Jr. took over.

 

When asked about Crockett Jr. filling in and how he brought in George Scott as booker, Cornette said that he had to fill in for his dad, who was a larger-than-life personality, and to get respect from the other wrestlers. Cornette talks about Scott, who he did not like personally in WCW back in 1989, put him over for talking with the top talent and asking them who they worked with in different places and have success with here. Cornette believes that is how they found out about Ric Flair as someone worked with him in the AWA and put in a good word and brought into the territory.

 

On Johnny Valentine, Cornette said he never met him but heard how he made sure the people believed in him and wanted his opponents to hit him as hard as he did while telling stories of Wahoo McDaniel, who has hit people so hard with his chops that their chest would bleed and how Valentine would yell for him to hit harder. Cornette said these matches are what helped make the singles feuds draw in the Carolinas. They created the United States Title as it helped make the singles matches more important.

 

He talks about how much talent they had in the late 70’s and how the fans got spoiled because you could not keep that up forever. Cornette then said while Charlotte was the base of the territory, Greensboro was the heart as he talks about how they ran an “A” show then a “G” show for Greensboro.

 

When asked about Roddy Piper, Cornette said he came over from Los Angeles, which was dying at that point, and how he came in as a smart-ass young kid who fans wanted to see get his ass kicked. Cornette also said that Piper was smaller than everyone but everyone recognized his talent as Cornette also puts Piper over for being the first in wrestling to use pop culture references. He tells a story of Piper in Cincinnati, a rough crowd as Cornette said he was in the 6th row that night, as one fan came from the third row and decked Piper, who proceeded to beat the shit out of the fan until the cops dragged the fan away.

 

On Ric Flair, Cornette said they paired him up with Rip Hawk to help him out on promos but once Flair talked they realized he never needed help. Flair then got into the plane crash but when he came back he was slimmer and had longer hair and became the Nature Boy character most fans are familiar with then tells a story of how Dennis Condrey told Cornette Flair and Greg Valentine earned about $150,000 a year for three straight and would rent limousines for tax write off purposes as Cornette says knowing what he does today, Flair likely did not do it for taxes but just to live that lifestyle.

 

He talks about Dusty Rhodes creating the Starrcade concept and how that started the big show concept and led to other big shows. Cornette put over Dusty for putting over himself and a big show while stating he was terrible at managing a budget. He is then asked about the “Dusty Finish” and while Cornette thought he was a genius most of the time as a booker but his drawback was a lack of restraint. He put him over for pairing up talent that could draw together and create great feuds but kept going back to the well and fans were smartened up to the same finishes. Cornette said that Dusty did not even invent that finish but he used it so often everyone knew about it as folks all across cable and with newsletters, people knew about them. He tells a story of how the Midnight Express were going to face the Fantastics and use the same finish as the Road Warriors did in the same town last month. Dusty told Cornette since they were different teams, no one would notice but it turns out most of the fans did and that started ti burn them all out. He also said while Dusty could draw a $60,000 house, he’d spend $50,000 to do so.

 

He tells a story of how Ronnie Garvin was dressed in drag as Miss Atlanta Lively for the first time at TV and  across the room the Barbarian asked who was the new girl and thought she looked as Cornette said they all told him to take a closer look. Cornette then put over how Dusty got over the Miss Atlanta Lively gimmick and they ended up getting a nice payoff at Starrcade in their match.

 

On the scaffold match against the Road Warriors at Starrcade 1986, Cornette said they got to injure the Road Warriors because they were going to tour Japan as Cornette put over how much the Road Warriors respected Eaton & Condrey. After that, the Warriors were sending in videos of Cornette being afraid of heights as Dusty was banking on the fans wanting to see the Midnights and Cornette get tossed off of the scaffold. However, in Japan, Hawk broke his leg and had a cast underneath his boot but still worked the match as they knew the match would not be classic but the heat was insane. Three days before the show, Dusty told them what was going to happen as he told them the Warriors needed to win but did not want to kill of the Midnights so Dusty told Cornette the Warriors would chase him up the scaffold and trap him as he would hang off of the scaffold and drop into Big Bubba Rogers’ arms, who would catch him like a “cheerleader.” The day of the show, they saw the scaffold and it was 24 feet tall, much higher than the standard 14 feet. Cornette then told Bubba to just break his fall as he was afraid he’d kill someone from that height. Cornette then said he had pain in his knee during Bubba’s match against Garvin and that Animal helped him out to grab the rungs and even said when he yelled “let go of me” it was him telling Animal he grabbed them. Cornette said he fell but Bubba lost him in the lights. Cornette said he kept yelling to Bubba, who told him the bump looked great. He then told Bubba he was “shooting” about being hurt and to get him to the back but Bubba couldn’t hear him and thought he said he was “shitting” until Cornette finally got through to him. Cornette said he got to the back and borrowed a knee sleeve from Sam Houston and drove to the hotel and the next morning, his leg was incredibly swollen.

 

Cornette then talks about the 1986 “Great American Bash” tour and how it was going to be two weeks long. Some of the stadiums did well but others did not and the problem was the guys did not get paid as much as they thought.

 

On what the Four Horsemen meant to Crockett Promotions, Cornette said they were integral for a few years to the companies success as a lot of the faces were either really green or missing some personality and the Four Horsemen helped those causes as they were great in the ring and had the personality. Cornette said the Horsemen even got heel fans at the studio who would come in wearing suits. He thought the Horsemen group with Windham was the best in the ring but at that point the business was already dropping.

 

He talks about the War Games concept and how he helped that morph into the Hell in a Cell concept. Cornette said War Games was “cool enough but not too hokey” as it did not have too many gimmicks like towers or sliding doors.

 

When asked about Magnum TA’s accident, Cornette said he saw it all over TV when he got up in the morning and how it made front-page news in the paper and the switchboard at the hospital had to be shut down due to fans camping in front of the hospital and trying to call. Cornette said that Magnum was going to be the champion soon and they all hoped he could recover as Cornette wonders how much better he could have gotten if it never happened. Cornette said it put over how much of a connection there was in the Carolinas between the fans and the wrestlers.

 

Still on Magnum TA and how it lead to Nikita Koloff turning face, Cornette said this was not the first time an enemy of a wrestler turned as he brings up how the most popular babyface in East Tennessee, Whitey Caldwell, was killed in a car accident in 1972 and his 14-year foe, Ron Wright, came out the day after and said he was wrestling in memory of Caldwell.

 

Cornette talked about how the thought behind having Starrcade in Chicago in 1987 was due to Crockett buying out Mid-South and Kansas and they needed a bigger city than Greensboro, NC and how the people in Greensboro never forgave Crockett Promotions for doing this. He then talks about how WWF sabotaging their PPV and how they ran the Bunkhouse Stampede at the Nassau Coliseum and how it was a bad atmosphere and ill-conceived as that started the tipping point as business was slipping.

 

Before the 1988 “Great American Bash” tours, there was already talk of Crockett selling to TBS as nine months prior business was down but they ended up selling out a lot of dates on that tour. He talks about the Midnights working 50 matches in 40 days and how David Crockett went to Jim Crockett to try and hold off the sale but it was too late.

 

Cornette then tells a story of how Jim Crockett found out he was $2 million in debt. Crockett had been advised to compete with Vince McMahon is with National sponsors and advertisers. Crockett was going to have a Wrestling Network and sell that premise to major markets. He talks about the gulf cities were killed by the oil crisis and Watts worked out a deal to sell to Crockett, which would include all the TV deals in their markets like New Orleans and Houston. The price was going to be $4 million and Crockett would have those markets with Florida and others. However, Crockett did not have the business structure to support all of this and could not make the money selling to advertisers and to put a stop to house shows to film shows for all the TV stations they had and it ended up failing.

 

Still on the UWF, Cornette said they had talent unlike Florida and Kansas City but the guys were not made comparable to the Crockett guys as he does not know if Dusty did that on purpose or not because sometimes things just happen.

 

He said the first live TV special on TBS was the first Clash of the Champions and how it did a great rating. He talks about Ric Flair calling his match in the ring with Sting and how he carried him to the point Sting became a star.

 

Cornette talks about the downfall of Crockett Promotions and how you cannot stay hot forever. He said there were a variety of issues taking places as they were buying up other territories and trying to chase Vince, thinking the ad revenue from syndicated TV would help them drive. They had an accountant named Dave Johnson, who was so far behind everything and never told anyone. Crockett then said that one day, Sandy Scott walked into Jim Crockett walk into Johnson’s office and after five minutes, Crockett’s face was white because he just found out he was $2 million in debt when he wanted to buy something, while business was down. Cornette said Crockett trying to chase Vince and grow too fast was the main reason for the downfall, not Dusty Rhodes, who did contribute a little with his booking at this point. Cornette then said while he does like how Vince presents wrestling he at least has people in his office on the business side that know what they are doing.

 

On the contracts being offered, Cornette said you would get a minimum guarantee and if you did not reach that goal off of your house show payments, you would get the difference in a balloon payment at the end of the year.

 

He then closes by saying his time in Crockett Promotions was his favorite in wrestling.

 

 

Final Thoughts: Overall, I thought this was a great interview. Cornette is at his best when discussing wrestling history and the era when he was in his prime. He was awesome here, actually. I learned a lot about the history of Crockett Promotions and how it ultimately failed at the end.

My only gripe was that it was difficult to hear the interviewer. It seemed like he was in the background reading off questions at times. Anyway, Cornette went into detail with a lot of his answers and would often repeat the question himself so we and probably he could clarify what it actually was.

Overall, any fan of Crockett promotions or someone wanting to learn more about this should check it out. It breezes by and I thoroughly enjoyed this.

 

You can get the DVD of this interview for $14.99 or download a digital copy for $9.99. And for those who subscribe to the Highspots Network, you can view this on that service.