Being a biographer means collecting a lot of stories, many of which never make their way into a book. In the case of Meredith Renwick, who worked with Dewey Robertson on his autobiography, Bang Your Head!, there are oodles of tales from Dewey’s friends and co-workers.
Following Robertson’s death Thursday, August 16, 2007, in Hamilton, after a lengthy battle with cancer over many years, Renwick opened up her treasure trove of stories to the SLAM! Wrestling readers.
THE EARLY YEARS
* Dewey’s mother, Ethel Robertson Vanderveken: “He told me he was body-building and all that, because he thought he was too thin. That seemed to be all right, and then when he started saying — he just came home and said he was starting to wrestle. I didn’t like it but there was nothing I could do about it. That was his choice, and of course he went to the States to wrestle. He was there ten years, and I didn’t like that. I hardly heard from him at all.”
* Dean Walker, an old friend: “My biggest recollection of Dewey in those days was that he was King of the Hill. Not an arrogant King of the Hill, but one of those guys who appeared to have everything. He was bouncing at a local club in Burlington, or Hamilton in those days, he and another fellow by the name of John Bell were bouncers, and it seemed like they never had a lot of trouble at that place. Nobody would take on either one of them, they were both pretty big boys. But he was pretty much in control of his life, very much so. And I think probably at the same time he was doing a little bit of wrestling, just for fun more than anything else.”
* Johnny Evans would later become Reginald Love of the Love Brothers. He broke in about the same time as Dewey Robertson. He spoke on Dewey being Whipper Billy Watson’s protégé: “He had great promise, there was everything there. Good body, good looks, he had everything. Trained by one of the top guys, and he’d work out at a gym in Hamilton, and I would be there the odd time. But he was living up near the Whipper or beside the Whipper, wherever the hell it was. He had the best guy in the business to be with. When you’re in with the Whip, he was the top guy. A legend in his own time, and everything was there for [Dewey]”
* “Bullwhip” Danny Johnson, who followed in his father Bull Johnson’s footsteps into pro wrestling, shared some recollections of Dewey in 2001. Johnson died in 2003. His dad helped train Dewey Robertson. Bullwhip remembered Dewey as a “good-looking young kid that was going to make a lot of money. Good body and a lot of potential. A good talker. In the right place, he could make a lot of money. … I was only a kid, but I remember going out and doing all the postering. I remember Dewey’s picture, Dewey’s name on the card. He was an upcoming star.”
Dewey owned two gyms in Burlington from 1973 to 1978.
* Kevin Hobbs was a fan who Dewey took under his wing. “The Athletic Club was the first gym. He closed that and moved a few blocks away and renamed it Dewey’s Gym. But he didn’t do anything for the wrestlers there. It was just basically a workout place, no ring … He put on wrestling shows roughly every second Friday at the Athletic Club. He even did a bodybuilding exhibition one time.”
* Referee Wayne Cashman (Wayne Cassibo), who died in 2001, learned to ref at the Athletic Club. Regular shows were held at the small facility. “He had a tough ring to work in too. It was just like working on the concrete floor,” Cashman said. “There was no give in it hardly at all. There was none because the cross members of the ring were roof struts, from putting metal roofs on. And that’s what the ring was made of.”
* Ricky Johnson is the brother of Rocky Johnson, and therefore the uncle of The Rock. He followed his big brother into the wrestling business, and wrestled Dewey many, many times. He went to the matches at Dewey’s Burlington gym: “I went to them, I never wrestled there. But I was there a lot. I used to go to his house all the time, actually. He had a ring out in his backyard. It’s a shame Dewey’s not in the business now, in some capacity, because he’s got a lot to offer. ”
* Ethel Robertson Vanderveken: “He did have Whipper Watson, that really helped him. And then he had a gym in Burlington, and if he’d stayed at that, he would have done wonderfully, even today. He had the first one around [here], almost.”
THE BABYFACE YEARS
* Ricky Johnson on Dewey: “How helpful he was, that’s what I remember the most. How helpful he was because I was green, very nervous, and a lot of the guys — Dewey was pretty well established then, so a lot of the guys back then, some of the older guys didn’t want to help some of the younger guys, but Dewey always took time out to explain things and calm guys down, especially young nervous guys like I was back then. Ric Flair did the same thing, actually. Him and Ric were very good at that. He’d lead me through matches and tell me not to be nervous, and he was like a big brother to me, I guess.”
* Jim Freedman, author of Drawing Heat: “You could get a lot of mileage out of how Dewey’s own career really goes along with the history of wrestling. I think one of the angles I would take is Dewey as a Canadian. That’s what I remember about him.”
* Dale “Buddy” Roberts had the unique perspective of working against Dewey when Dale was a member of the Hollywood Blondes, and later when he was a Fabulous Freebird and Dewey was the Link. The babyface Dewey stands out for him. “To my surprise, him and Dennis Stamp teamed up and they were a great technical team. They weren’t just muscleheads, they had wrestling knowledge. My partner Jerry Brown, I was with the Hollywood Blondes before, and we were basically a wrestling team too and we gave the fans a real good hour-and-a-half match, which is very rare now. This was an our-and-a-half nonstop. That’s basically when I first met Dewey Robertson and to me, [he was] one of the best babyfaces in the business.”
* Jason Robertson, Dewey’s son, said that he really started to understand what his dad did for a living when he was about seven years old, and they were living in Burlington. “I thought it was pretty cool at the time. Going to watch my father wrestle was cool. I hated watching him lose when I was that age, not understanding the business. … When he had big matches or lost a belt, against one of the big main-eventers that were in town, and he’d be going to Toronto to Maple Leaf Gardens, and if he lost the next day they’d make fun of me. ‘Your dad lost,’ that kind of stuff.”
* Roddy Piper, who knew Dewey when they both were in the Mid-Atlantic territory in the late ’70s/early ’80s: “He’s a very kind, kind man…I would call him a frat brother or what I would consider someone I would stick up for. I rode with him, while I was in different territories. We would make many towns together, so he was a brother of the road. ”
THE MISSING LINK
* Gene Lewis was the man behind The Mongol, the character that Dewey used as the basis for The Missing Link. He also worked as Cousin Luke in the WWF, among other names during his long career. “I came into World Class just in and out, I wasn’t one of the main characters. At the time [World Class booker] Kenny [Mantell] was establishing his program with the Missing Link and with the special video he did, which in my mind is one of the best videos I’ve ever seen. You can take a character and build a video around him, but the Link’s character fit with Dewey’s personality, the truck and everything else, and how Dewey wrestled in the ring. As the Missing Link he wasn’t Dewey Robertson anymore, he was the Link, which was a character he had to live 24 hours a day and it was big. People were really hot to see it. I don’t know all the reasons why it didn’t go further. Apparently Kenny had built Dewey to the point that he was one of the hottest characters on TV.”
* Ricky Johnson: “You know it’s funny, ’cause he went from this clean-cut all-Canadian guy into this guy who painted his face and cut his hair funny and he just changed. I guess that’s the best way to describe him [as an all-Canadian guy], because that’s what he was. Not that the Missing Link wasn’t a great gimmick for him, it’s the baggage that went along with being the Missing Link that was the problem for him.”
* “Killer” Tim Brooks: “Dewey was just a good, clean-cut, all-American/all-Canadian, just a clean-cut good young babyface. Then I met him in Texas and he was the Link, a real involved gimmick and he was fantastic being the Link.”
* Barry Darsow, who first met him in Mid-South on the road. “We made a lot of trips together. … When he came to the territory, I ended up wrestling him. The first time I wrestled him was in Houston, Texas. He had a body that was unbelievable. At that time, I had just gotten done powerlifting and I was a pretty big guy too, but I wasn’t ripped like he was. We just ended up talking, becoming friends, and going to the gym together.
“I’ve never seen a guy that was a machine like that before … He could be up all night long. He could wrestle twice in a day, he could do it all, go to the gym, and just be unbelievable, non-stop.”
* Mid-South / UWF promoter Bill Watts: “Dewey, to me, as Dewey Robertson was a high-class guy I was really proud of, to be working with our group, but it just didn’t convert into money. And I can remember trying with him pretty hard because I was so impressed with him, but it just wasn’t there as far as box office. But then as the Missing Link, it added some ingredient and I think he actually became that alter ego.”
* Jason Robertson, Dewey’s youngest son, wrestled as Jason Sterling. He was there for all the ups and downs, and makes special mention of his mother. “Gail — it was all about Mom, she took care of all of us, did our laundry, drove us all the time. She may not have gotten back what she wanted, but she enjoyed the lifestyle, the nightlife, the nice people we met. She was our backbone, Dad’s backbone, that’s one of the reason Dad quit WWF, he needed her there.”
* Percy Pringle III managed Dewey in Florida and Texas, and would later become Paul Bearer, manager to The Undertaker. He also wrote the foreword to Bang Your Head!: “I certainly learned a lot from Dewey. He was a veteran and I respected him tremendously. I couldn’t put into words what I learned from him. I probably wouldn’t still be in the business, without Dewey as one of my mentors. I thank God for the talent I was blessed with, and my character always seemed to fit in well with characters such as Dewey’s.”
* Dale “Buddy” Roberts on meeting the Link for the first time: “Here I am in the dressing room, and I’m one of the Freebirds now. And I’m sitting in the dressing room and I look across, and I see this guy looking at me and it looked to me like it was the Missing Link.
And I didn’t even think of Dewey. I’m looking at him, and he’s looking at me, and I’m getting weirded out. I was going ‘I know this person, but where’s the connection?’ And he then did one of the things he always does as the Missing Link, he put his hand on the back of his head and grabbed his ponytail — I thought I did something wrong, it scared me! This guy was big.
“And finally, I got up and walked over to him and I put my face to his face, I didn’t know if I should dare look at his eyes. Then he laughed and hugged me, and said ‘Buddy, it’s Dewey Robertson.’ Two different people, totally. So I was totally shocked to find out it was Dewey Robertson. But I should have known because I could see the body was in just as good shape, if not better than he was five years before. Dewey Robertson and the Missing Link were … is the same person, unbelievably. But what’s impressive about Dewey is how he could transform himself from one of the best-looking top wrestling babyfaces in the business to a total different person.”
AFTER THE FAME
When Dewey returned to Canada broke and strung out at the end of the 1980s, he would wrestle occasionally but never got it out of his blood. His last match is believed to have been in May 2007, as The Missing Link. He was 68 years old at the time.
* Ethel Robertson Vanderveken: “I can’t really see where he’s going to wrestle again. He looks at the past all the time — why? Why can’t he get on with the future and let the past go? He was always in the limelight, and he still likes to be in the limelight. And the girls flocked around him, and he thought that was wonderful. I think he had a terrible life there that I don’t know all about. I’m sure he did. I’m sure his wife knew. Well, I think he ran around with a lot of girls, which I wouldn’t like, would you? I don’t know whether all the wrestlers are like that. Well, of course, it’s sports. I guess it’s hard when you’ve been in the limelight.”
* Rusty Davis, a childhood friend: “I kind of thought sometimes there were three different characters that I could see over the years. I know there were two, for sure, but not being a specialist in this … there was Byron, which is how we knew him. Dewey came along a little later, the name. But I saw Byron growing up as a young man, [raising a] family and one of the top salesmen in Canada for Office Specialty.
“And as wrestling came in, he became known as Dewey, and outgoing, loud, kind of a showman, Very outgoing, you knew he was in the room, that’s for sure.
“And then later on in life, when he came back, he was known as The Missing Link, and I didn’t even recognize him when he came to my door. Because he was a slow-thinking, very dangerous-looking individual to me, he wasn’t the Dewey I’d known. Obviously it had been from the drugs and alcohol, I would think. I’m not too sure whether it was an act or if it was from that, the drugs and alcohol.
“You never know who you were really talking to, when he did come back, of the three fellows. Sometimes I thought I was talking to Byron, he’d make sense. And then Dewey would be talking about something, and the Missing Link character would come back That’s just my opinion, anyway.”
DEWEY ROBERTSON & FAMILY STORIES
- Dec. 2, 2007: Stranglehold show in memory of Dewey Robertson fun and bizarre
- Aug. 16, 2007: Cancer claims Dewey “Missing Link” Robertson
- Aug. 11, 2007: Guest column: Author reflects on Dewey Robertson’s many struggles
- Sep. 13, 2006: Missing Link book delves deep
- Feb. 11, 2004: Sterling jumps into Link with past
- Jan. 16, 2004: The Missing Link talks in new DVD