WWE Hall of Famer J.J. Dillon recalls Vince McMahon's reaction to the Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair feud, shares memories of working behind the scenes in WWE, WCW, and TNA
Inside The Ropes Radio with J.J. Dillon
Show airs Thursday nights at 10:00 p.m.
Available at Facebook.com/theinsidenetwork.
Going into the WWE Hall of Fame: It has to be right up there near the top. I always said, I had a storied book career. It was my dream to be a professional wrestler. Recognition, as a member of the Hall of Fame is something you don’t even dare to dream about it.
How was he paired with Tully and becoming made part of the Horsemen: I had followed Tully’s career for many years. I ended up in the Mid Atlantic Area and Tully was managed by the Baby Doll and I always wanted to manage a great athlete like Tully and it came to be, at the time Tully was the TV Champion, Flair was the World Champ and Ole/Arn were the tag champs. One day we were doing promotion for a town and we were told, ‘Hey you guys have all the titles you should go out and do an interview’ so I went out because I was managing Tully at the time. So it wasn’t something that was pre planned or had been booked creatively and Arn said ‘You look at us and never have people reeked so much havoc, you’d have to go back in history to the four horsemen of the apocalypse’ and held up four fingers, I then went from being not only Tully’s manager but becoming the leader of the group in a great run that would last for years.
On the Four Horsemen: It was very spontaneous. What helped was when we came together everyone was already established and because we were successful, there was no petty jealousy. We all enjoyed being around each other. Flair wrestled hard, played hard and we enjoyed tremendous success.
Going to the WWF in 1989 and them being more entertainment than traditional: As I look back, I don’t remember it being a difficult time. I was always a business man. I arrived there prior to WrestleMania V. Here was a company that was doing phenomenally well and I’m here with them. There’s a lot of traditionalists who don’t agree with where Vince took his company, my roots are with the NWA with smaller venues, a lot more emotion but at WrestleMania 28, we came to the stadium about a half way through the show they brought us out, and you look up and see 78,000 people and to get the response from those fans. It’s like the night before at the Hall of Fame, I got goosebumps that night just like when I wrestled in Madison Square Garden.
On Concerns Ric Flair wouldn’t attend the Hall of Fame: When we got the call that we’d be going in we all called each other to congratulate one another. I called Ric and he said “Before you ask me what you’re gonna ask, Hell Yeah I’m gonna be there and I plan on being up on stage with you. There was him being with TNA which makes it all so special. Firstly that it’s his second induction along with the fact he was under contract to another promotion. I worried it might be a Saturday afternoon problem and if he hadn’t been there it would’ve taken some of the lustre off the event. As it turned out, they reached an agreement by the Wednesday. The face Dusty came out to induct us, the video package and some of the things Steve Austin said about me in the video who’s a mega star in the business, it was just perfect.
Thoughts on the way Flair was used in the WWF in 1991: It’s like when Flair and Hogan finally met. People thought it would be a lot hotter match than it ended up being at the time. I was working in creative. They had a match in Tampa, where Hulk lived at the time. You think if there’s one place that’ll blow up the attendance in terms of the advance that’d be it but it was disappointing and I remember Vince’s comment was “I think maybe this match was put together five years too late” I think that said it all. I don’t think it was him not showcasing Ric well, had it been five years earlier it would have done much better.
Memories of time in WWF Creative: Vince was always given credit when something was successful and always shifted blame when something didn’t work. The Gobbledy Gooker was one that I think Vince liked the idea, but was a disaster of Guerrero coming out of an egg. I remember Gene Okerlund’s face who was trying to conduct an interview with this guy in a chicken suit after coming out of an egg. Some things you feel confident will be successful can fall flat on their face. The beauty of it is, the ultimate decision is the wrestling fans. You try to feel the pulse of the wrestling fan.
Memories of his time in WCW: Really difficult for me, I was always a team player and these are the people that are paying me so I’m going to do what they tell me to do. The nWo enjoyed success there for a while but here were Nash and Hall who were used to getting these massive merchandise cheques which they were no longer getting so they went to Bischoff and they manipulated Eric Bischoff into giving them guaranteed contracts. It just spiralled out of control. There was no-one in higher management who looked over Bischoff’s shoulders to see if he was doing a good job or not. I kind of liken it to being on the titanic and sitting up there in the bridge and suddenly seeing a blip on the screen and seeing a huge iceberg and trying to get everyone’s attention to tell them we’re facing a disaster and nobody’s listening. They thought it was a vessel that couldn’t sink and I think a lot of people thought that.
Thoughts on TNA: To have a successful promotion you have to have balance between successful veterans and your young upcoming guys. It’s a challenge for them and when you look at WWE it’s a challenge for them too. You have Undertaker, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold who had tremendous careers who are going up in years. That puts a huge pressure on a John Cena or a Randy Orton or CM Punk. A lot of it is how they’re showcased.I look at Vince and you cant argue with success.
You look at TNA, I always say you have once chance to make a first impression, and you know over ten years ago when they first launched, they had an opportunity to establish a separate brand, an alternative to the then WWF, and their attractions who had worked for Vince, instead of talking about this great new promotion they described their time in the WWF and how someone had held them back and they presented themselves as a second rate promotion. Once you’ve done that, fans will always look at WWE as the place people want to be and not in TNA. It’s really hard to take it to that next level. Some are amazed that they’re still in business ten plus years later.
Thoughts on Dusty Rhodes: Dusty takes a lot of unfair criticism. As a match maker and you know the Dusty Finish was known and that finish seemed to happen a lot. He was a great athlete. He was a great mind in the business. Doesn’t get the credit he’s due. I’m very close to him and his family. When I wrote my auto biography and I was at a festival in Charlotte, someone with a mic said, “JJ said things about Dusty so I’m gonna stand in between the two so there isn’t any fireworks” and I thought what is this person talking about. I thought what could Dusty think I ever said negatively about him.
I almost wished I’d gone over that day and hugged him. I’ve said in countless interviews my success is largely due to working with Dusty and the opportunities he gave to me. After WrestleMania 28, they had a huge private party. There was a big celebration. I was there and there was a big crowd of people. I saw Dusty four tables down. I just felt a need to go down and tapped him on the shoulder *JJ Gets Emotional* I just let him know how I really felt about him and that I hadn’t said anything about him. It was like the weight of the world was off me. He said he was very proud of me and we had worked together so well. It was a fitting way to end that weekend.
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