George Wren interviews Bobby Blaze



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Turnbuckle Madness

-with-

Bobby Blaze

By: George Wren

GW: How did you get your start in the wrestling business?

BB: I obviously started out as a fan. I used to try to go to every local show that I could get into to set up the ring, go get the guys coffee, or anything they may have needed. As I got older, I knew that one day I wanted to try my hand at being a wrestler. I had a local guy show me a few holds and actually worked on a couple of shows in KY, TN, and VA. I then went down to Tampa, FL and started training at the Malenko's Training facility.

GW: When were you born?

BB: June, 25, 1963

GW: Where were you born?

BB: Ashland, KY

GW: Where are you currently residing at the present time?

BB: Ashland, KY

GW: Who trained you?

BB: Professor Boris Malenko and his sons, Joe and Dean. After much conditioning and grappling to refine my wrestling skills, Dean really took an interest in me and helped more and more as I progressed.

GW: What was your training like?

BB: At first, as mentioned, I did tons of conditioning exercises. Malenko was a master at getting you in ring shape if you were willing to pay the price. I paid that price by going to his ring four times per week and actually wrestling. I also did Hindu squats, push-ups, neck bridges, and stretches every day. After the conditioning, I'd get in the ring and just learn hold after hold, how to chain wrestle, and then as I advanced we added the flying. But the foundation was built on mat wrestling.

GW: Who has been some of your toughest opponents?

BB: Chad Collyer and the Great Sasuke in Japan. Robbie Brookeside and Joe Kimble in England. But in the US, Chris Candido and I pushed ourselves hard every night. I always enjoyed wrestling JT Lightning. I had tough matches against Dan Severn, as that was always a tough tough match. The one guy that I seemed to always wrestle in SMW, no matter what program I was involved in, was with Killer Mark Kyle. He and I always had tough matches.

GW: Which promotions that you have worked for stick out the most?

BB Smoky Mountain Wrestling as that's where I caught my first big break in the US. Michanoku Pro-Wrestling in Japan, as I did 7 tours with that company. Championship Pro Wrestling, was an indy federation that I worked for often when I wasn't under contract somewhere. Clevland All-Pro Wrestling always stands out in my mind because they ran really good independent shows. My favorite would have to be SMW by far.

GW: What titles have you held that stick out the most?

BB: The SMW Heavyweight Title was a huge deal when I beat Lawler. I also held the US JR. Heavyweight Title. The belt for that title had lots of history and the belt itself was magnificent. Having the TV Title in SMW was always fun to have because you obviously got more and more television time. I also held the CPW Heavyweight Title and the CAPW Title on numerous occasions. One of the earliest titles I held was as one-half of the Canadian Tag-Team Titles in the very first teritory I worked in full-time, that was for the old Grand Prix Wrestling.

GW: You worked for Smokey Mountain Wrestling (SMW) pretty much it's whole run. What did you like most working for SMW?

BB: The territory was hot, the moral in the locker room was great, everyone that were regulars worked their tail off every night. When I say the territory was hot, I mean that the fans just absolutely loved the SMW product. I think the slogan said it all: “Wrestling the way you remember it, Wrestling the way you like it!” I loved the “old school” style. That style fit my style perfect.

GW: What would you describe as far as the style and direction SMW was going?

BB: The style in SMW was “old school” wrestling. It had a bit of flair and southern style mixed in with just good, good wrestling. On any given night you could see great mat action combined with good solid workmanship from some of the best craftsmen in the business.

GW: You had a run with the SMW Heavyweight Championship beating Jerry Lawler for the championship on February 26, 1995 at Bloody Sunday in Knoxville, Tennessee. What was your reaction when Cornette said you was go over in the match and taking the championship?

BB: I couldn't believe what I was hearing when Cornette called. I had been away from SMW for about three months per an agreement between Jim and myself. I did a few house shows and was getting lots of work on the indy circuit. I had just finished a radio interview for some upcoming shows when the call came to me. We spoke for about 20 minutes as to what he had planned and told me to think about it and get back to him when I finished that weeks bookings up. The next time we spoke, we did about an hours worth of ideas and that's when he said that we would run with the plan. I had to wait for another three weeks before Sunday Bloody Sunday. Needless to say that the wait was well worth it.

GW: What do you feel like was the fall of SMW?

BB: One of the biggest reasons in my opinion was due to cost of our television production. I don't think it's fair to place the blame on any one person or any one reason. I do think that if Cornette would have let Sandy Scott and Brian Hilderbrand, pka, Mark Curtis run shows it may have lasted a little longer. By this time Cornette was working pretty much full-time in with the WWF. The SMW territory was his dream and he was in charge, so when he decided to fold the company, that was his decision. I do know that we were all owed money prior to the shut down, but I will say to my knowledge everyone on the roster that was owed money eventually got paid. I know when I spoke to Cornette, it took a couple of months to straighten things out, but I was paid. I find honor in that fact. Also, from my first try-out match until my last match and final payout, Jim Cornette was always straight up with me and for that I have tons of respect for him.

GW: How did it come about you working for World Championship Wrestling (WCW)?

BB: I had been talking to WCW for about two years prior to me getting a try-out match there. I had met with Paul Orndoff at a couple of shows that we were booked together on. I also had spoken to Kevin Sullivan several times about coming in to work for them as well. On each of these talks WCW wasn't giving contracts, but were paying nightly. I wanted to get somewhere that offered a contract. At the time, I was offered $200 per night, but I was already making that 3-4 times per week plus I had my gimmick sales, was close to home on most nights, and had a contract in Japan for Michanoku. Finally after a tour of Japan, Terry Taylor called and offered me a try-out match. I had spoken to Terry several times prior to a tour of Japan and upon arrival back in the US, Terry contacted me once more saying that they (WCW) were now offering contracts. Terry was instrumental in getting me a try-out, a contract, and always had me placed in good matches while he was there.

GW: Was you under contract or was you paid by the night?

BB: I was under contract for three years with WCW.

GW: With you being around during the dying days of World Championship Wrestling (WCW)... What are some of the changes that could have been made? BB: There's to many to name. I think the main thing was that there was just to many chiefs and not enough Indians. There just wasn't one person that you answered to. The guys that didn't want to work, didn't. If they didn't like their matches or the line-up, they would just walk in and change it. And, and I think this is important, at the end of our broadcast, the fans never knew won or lost. The matches at the top had no finish because everyone wanted to go over, and no one would agree to put the other over, so it was a stand off or a broadway. While on the WWE programs there was a clear winner every night in the top matches. At the time you're speaking of, a fan could watch a WWE show and there were clear cut winners and losers as the show went off the air. You could see The Rock, Mankind, or Stone Cold Steve Austin get beat for 3-4 weeks leading up to their pay-per-view and then they would have their blow off match where they would win back their title or would win the match to set up further programs with the next guy in line. WCW didn't have that. The pay-per-view was not much better than a Nitro broadcast and the fans still didn't have a clear cut winner.

GW: Do you watch today's product?

BB: I do not. I chose not to, and I am a wrestling fan. As of now the programs have the word wrestling in them, but there's not much wrestling in the actual program. I hate the term “sports entertainment.” All sports are entertainment. They are big businesses first and entertainment second. If I watch a match I want to be entertained through seeing a wrestling match.

GW: What has been some of the biggest highlights in your career?

BB: Wrestling in Japan on seven different tours, beating Jerry Lawler for the SMW title, But I also had three title matches for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. Two were against Dan Severn. The other was against Chris Candido right before he signed his deal with the WWE. Both of these were huge matches to be a part of during my career, getting a victory on TBS, The Super Station on a Saturday night broadcast, and just the fact that for ten years I was wrestling full-time and making a living doing something that I loved so much. I worked for over 15 years on the road, and with 10 of that being full-time, looking back, that was the highlight, my career was my highlight.

GW: Do you have any regrets in your career?

BB: Not really. Looking back, I could have went to work for WWE on a couple different occasions, but in each instance, it wasn't what I wanted for my career at that particular time. So that's not a regret. The only thing I would have done different is “saved more money, “ and took better care of my body.

GW: Are you still working independent shows or are you pretty much semi-retired?

BB: The business will always be in my blood. I haven't worked a match for over three years. I have however worked as a commissioner for a couple of local shows and still referee a “special match” for guys that still run shows that I worked for when I was on the road. I also help young guys that want to get into the business, or may need to “tighten up” their work, or that are looking to advance their career through learning to work better matches. I'll never walk away completely, but I do consider myself “retired” from the ring.

GW: Who has influenced you the most in your career?

BB: For my training, I have to say that the Malenkos influenced me early on. I took my style from working out with and training with guys from all over the world. Dean Malenko was a big influence. I tried to emulate a little from several different guys. My favorite was Terry Funk and I used some of his wrestling style. When I was at Malenkos, we used to watch Terry Gordy in Japan, and I liked that style and used some of the bigger moves based on a strong style. I also had the pleasure of watching the 1989 tag-team match of the year between The Malenkos vs The British Bulldogs from Japan, and again these type of matches influenced me in my attitude and how I wanted my matches to go.

GW: Have you been seriously injured in your career?

BB: Yes, I have had twelve concussions, four in one year, and that's a shoot, so I know that can't be good for my long-term health. I've had one neck surgery due to all the bumps through the years and was just told I'd probably be having to have my neck fused in the next year. Chipped teeth, pulled and torn MCL in both knees, which are shot, and far to many little injuries through the years. It's a tough business made up with tough men, I knew what I was getting into when I got into it. I have no regrets in regards to my injuries. Most of my injuries were just a result of hard working styles and years and years of being on the road. There wasn't just some big injury that got to me and I will say, my opponents, for the most part, took care of me, but again, when you have big men colliding and being physical with each other, someone will enviably have an injury.

GW: You had the privilege working with several. Give me your thoughts on the following:

-Jim Cornette one of the all-time best minds in the wrestling business.

-Buddy Landell very talented. When Buddy was on, Buddy could work with the best of them. Buddy could also throw a really good “punch.”

-Rock N Roll Express great guys. Ring legends. One of the best tag-teams of all time for drawing box office. Had a gimmick and knew how to work it.

-Dirty White Boy (Tony Anthony) used what he had to work with and could work. Had a good style that was well suited for regional wrestling. I always enjoyed working with him.

GW: You also have worked over in Japan, England, Mexico, and Canada... How are the fans different from the fans in the United States?

BB: in Japan, it's all about honor. The matches there were viewed as athletic complitions, and the fans are well educated to wrestling. They appreciate a good solid work rate from the matches. England was a blast. They had fans there that liked everything from mat action, high flying, and the hard core style. They are a lot like the fans in the US, as they like a little bit of everything on their shows. Mexico loves their wrestling. They too appreciate good in ring talent. They are fans that enjoy the matches that are a mix between the solid or strong style to the lighter lucha style. Canada, wow, when I worked there, it was the early 90's and they could go to the bar and see a good fight, so they wanted stiff, solid, almost and all-out shoot or fight to make them happy. Good fans. I worked on the East Coast for two years in the Maritime area there and those people got their monies worth and then some. They loved their wrestling.

GW: Wrestling is still a big thing over in Mexico as promtions like AAA steadily packs out their venues. Why do you think it's still so big over in places like Mexico where their house shows are packed but over here in the United States it's very hard for even the WWE or TNA to pack their shows out?

BB: TV. No other reason then that. In Mexico and Japan, you get their television show one time per week, maybe twice on a replay during the late hours. If you give your business away, you have nothing left to sell. You can turn on TV here and there's wrestling on there 5-6 times per week, every week. Why go down to the arena and purchase a ticket, that's over priced, when you can sit in your home and watch it every night? A pay-per-view every month, by two different companies, really? People will go see the shows irregardless, but they won't sell out the big arenas like they do in Japan and Mexico as long as it airs for free each week on TV.

GW: You are currently working on autobiography. Tell the readers a little bit about it, the title, when it will be ready, and how the readers can purchase a copy of it when it's published?

BB: Yes, I am currently writing my autobiography and it's going really good. There's going to be between 13-15 chapters with 2-3 stories in each chapter. It's all about life on the road. There's chapters about each country I wrestled in and a little about what it's like to travel around the world and never purchasing an airline ticket. Memorable matches that I've had throughout the world. My personal list of some the best wrestlers in the world that only hard core wrestling fans will have heard of. There's ribs, pranks, drinking, and more fun from the road. There's pages dedicated to guys that have passed on far to young. It talks about when there were wrestling territories. It should be available early in the fall of 2013. The book will be available on-line, through mail order, and I will be making personal appearances at book signings and on shows throughout the US. Once again, Bobby Blaze will be setting the world of wrestling on fire!

Here's a few exerts: 1)“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a professional wrestler. To me, a pro wrestler on television was not only one of the coolest cats around, he could also be one of the meanest dudes as well. He looked good physically, could talk that smack, and back it up by snapping some ones vertebra to back it up. Now that's one bad combination.”

2)The match proceeded as planed and when it was time for me to hit the ring on a sneaky tag, my midget partner held the other little guy expecting me to give him a swift kick to the gut. As the referee was with the giant and couldn’t see the action I threw my right leg up for a stiff kick right when the baby face midget moved and I squarely kicked the living shit out of the midget. As he flies backwards into The Giants arms as planned and then Robert threw him into my arms, hey at least I caught him. Down I go with my midget on me, then the other midget on him, and the Giant on all of us for the three count.

3) This book is more about working-wrestling in territories versus being involved with the WWF/WWE or WCW of which I worked for both at one time or another. I did a few “jobs” for the old WWF back in 1991 and 1992 on their Super Stars of wrestling program. I also had a lucrative contract deal with Turner Sports/WCW from 1997-2000. But, I started my wrestling career working on small independent shows and then worked in what used to be known as territories. Professional wrestling territories are dead. I know this first hand because I was one of the fortunate wrestlers that actually had the privilege to wrestle when there were a few small areas around the country to wrestle.

4)"Countries that I have wrestled in: US, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, England, and Japan. Wow, that's a lot of frequent flyer miles, trains rides, bus tours, and rides along many roads world wide! You won't believe what happens out on the road. From seedy hotel rooms to the Ritz Carlton!"

GW: What are thoughts on the fans?

BB: Fans are the reason we do what we do. Thank God for professional wrestling fans. If it wasn't for the fans, no one in the business would have a job. Professional wrestling fans are the greatest sports fans in the world.

GW: Are there any closing words?

BB: I just would like to thank all the fans that have been so supportive throughout the years. And I would like to thank you for this interview. “Buy my book, I need the damn money!”

GW: Bobby I want to thank you for your time and wish you all the best in all your future goals.

BB: Thank you. It has been my pleasure.

Upcoming Interviews:

*"3-G" Eric Wayne (5/13)

*VH1's Matt Riviera (5/20)

*Mad Man Pondo (5/27)

*Allan Funk (a.k.a. Kwee-Wee/Chi Chi) (6/3)

*Reno Riggins (6/10)

*Mark Starr (6/17)... This will be my last and final interview with The Wrestling Observer as there will be no more interviews not even in the future. I want to thank everyone that took part in all the interviews the last few weeks, I also want to thank Dave and Bryan for allowing me to work along side of The Wrestling Observer to do these interviews the last few weeks, and for all that sent me messages stating how much they enjoyed the interview feature on The Wrestling Observer as it is very much appreciated. Be sure not to miss the last several interviews as they all were great as well.

Photo Credit: Bobby Blaze Collection

George Wren is a professional photographer for New Wave, Toxxic, and Wrestling World Publications. He has also done correspondents for The Wrestling Observer in the past. He is currently doing interviews on a weekly basis with the superstars of the mat.

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