Despite what you may have heard, The Honkytonk Man still works for the WWF — and is still The Greatest Intercontinental Champion Of All Time.
Just ask him.
“You don’t have to be on TV every week to work for the company,” said The Honkytonk Man in a joint interview with Slam Wrestling and The Law Internet wrestling show on April 26. He was in Guelph, Ontario, to MC an oil wrestling show at The Manor Motor Motel.
The Honkytonk Man now works media relations for the WWF, which means public appearances on the weekends, and free time to work on his golf game and surf the ‘Net during the week.
He describes his last major on-air role as the “nonsense with managing Billy Gunn,” which was “demoralizing, humiliating.”
Not surprisingly, The Honkytonk Man has a unique perspective on how the WWF has degenerated over the years.
The continual ‘pushing of the envelope’ has changed pro wrestling. The swearing, T & A, and “silly nonsense” has led to Vince McMahon making himself the top contender for the WWF title.
“Where do you go after McMahon?” he asked. “There’s no one left.”
In HTM’s heyday of the late ’80s, pro wrestling was as big, if not bigger, than it is today. But there is a big difference between today’s stars and yesterday’s.
“We worked towards a common cause,” he explained. Because pay was based on a percentage of the house show gate, the locker room was a team — a team that worked more than 300 dates a year.
“We lived and breathed the WWF,” he said.
These days the guys “don’t care.” Guaranteed contracts, which according to HTM, “a lot of guys do not deserve,” have changed the emphasis to ‘Me First’ for the wrestlers. While the company may promote 300 dates a year, the contracts cap how many dates wrestlers are to work.
“How can you be unhappy with 100 shows a year?” he asked.
The Honkytonk Man believes it will change.
“Wrestling will go back to good versus evil,” declared HTM. People will “pay their money to see someone get beat.”
He’s also more than a little ticked off with the whole Jeff Jarrett, Double J character. The WWF is “taking a little bite of me,” remarked HTM.
“I own all the personas, tricks, gimmicks, angles, props, costumes. Anything that goes with The Honkytonk Man belongs to me,” HTM said. “It’s bad taste on their part” to promote Jarrett as a singer/wrestler in a fancy outfit.
While HTM recognizes that Jarrett is a “fine” wrestler, he predicts that “he’s only going to die on the vine” in the WWF.
“There can never be another Honkytonk Man,” he said. “I don’t care what they try to do.”
The Honkytonk Man gimmick was first launched by Wayne Ferris (HTM’s real name) in 1982. He was trained by Herb Welch, who, ironically enough, is the uncle of Tennessee Lee (Robert Fuller), who is Jeff Jarrett’s manager. HTM’s cousin is Jerry Lawler, but the two are not close.
Proper wrestling training is also lacking today, according to HTM. And that’s the reason for all the injuries that have plagued the industry over the past couple of years.
“They’re not trained properly,” said HTM. “You’re still in diapers after two, three years” in wrestling.
He considers his time working for the Harts in Calgary as a key part of his own training.
“If they never went to Calgary, a lot of us don’t believe they’re a wrestler,” HTM stated, fondly remembering the “exciting experience” working the circuit, driving 500 km to a show in -40 degree weather and black ice.
“The stories that come out of there, they’re all true,” the former Stampede North American champ said with a smile on his face.
As for today’s stars, he’s a fan of a few, but has an opinion on everybody.
Rocky Maivia is an “up-and-coming star,” but has no right to call himself The Greatest Intercontinental Champion Of All Time.
He likes Ken Shamrock and Kurrgan and believes that Bill Goldberg is going to be a “big, big star.”
DX, now consisting of Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Chyna, X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws, “mean nothing” because “they’re all friends.” However, HHH and Chyna were among the few that HTM acknowledged as having received proper training, as both learned from Killer Kowalski.
Diamond Dallas Page is a “very nice guy.” A hard worker who’s “taken his share of bumps.” Ric Flair’s “races have been run.”
Brian Pillman was “a trainwreck waiting to happen. He needed help and never got it.”
The Honkytonk Man, who is in his forties, doesn’t see his role changing anytime soon in the WWF.
He’s not interested in returning to action and is not a part of “that Jim Ross clique” that runs the WWF.