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Click here for part 2 of the interview
About Eddie's death and Ken finding Eddie's body

Interview conducted by Jess McGrath

McGrath: When did Eddie Gilbert get involved as the booker [in Alabama]? Did he come in and replace Robert [Fuller]?

Wayne: I think so. I wasnít there at the time. I was back working up here [in Memphis]. Actually, what had happened Ö Jimmy Golden had called me. I was still living in Pensacola but I was working up here. They had been trying to get a hold of me. Robert wanted to talk to me. I went to Birmingham, sat down and talked to him and Jimmy. Thatís when I ended up getting that U.S. junior heavyweight belt. The idea was for me to come in once in a while, like once a month, do two TVís, or come in every two weeks and do just TVís, and about once a month do the loop. But I could get to take the belt to whatever territories I could, as long as it wasnít in opposition to them, and try to get something on this junior division. So I ended up with the belt. I came up here, was doing that, was working just wherever, different places, doing that deal. While I was gone, Iíd go in and do TVís, [and that was] the only time Iíd see him. I didnít know what was going on, territory or internally or anything else.

Next thing I heard, Eddie Gilbert was doing the booking. Eddie called me, wanted me to come down. In fact, I take that back. He didnít call me. I was booked in to do TV in Montgomery, and I got there, and Eddie was the new booker. I was like, "Wow! Iím glad you got a hold of his book and knew I was coming in." He didnít change anything, like me coming in, he didnít change any of that. I got there, and Eddie asked me to stay and everything.

McGrath: What do you think of Eddieís run there as a booker?

Wayne: I wish they had left him alone. It would have been a lot longer run. I thought he did a hell of a job, considering what he was up against, with David Woods, I mean. David Woods just does not have a clue about the wrestling business. David Woods did things that just would tear down morale and sh*t and cost himself money. Things like, we had that FNN deal, and syndication like in Louisiana and Biloxi Ö weíd go in there, and he wanted to go in with three or four weeks of TV. Iíd sit in the office with Eddie, because Iíd stay with Eddie Ö like if we were in Birmingham, instead of going back to Pensacola, weíd stay over if we had to be in Florence or something the next day. Eddie had an apartment in Montgomery, so Iíd go to the office with him. Iíd see it before my own eyes what was going on. We tried to tell David, "Look, you canít go into these markets with three or four weeks of TV. You need like twelve weeks of TV." Heíd [say], "We can do it, we can do it." Well, we went in and bombed. I mean, man, there were more people at a one-car funeral. It was bad. Like we went to Biloxi, man, that was a big old empty building. It just bombed. Finally David Woods came in and apologized. "I thought we could do this," dah-dah-dah-dah. I said, "Well, you dumbass, you donít know anything about it, and hereís guys trying to tell you, you canít do it that way." So when the guys go in like that, and you end up in Ö God, whatís the name of that town in Louisiana, it was a long ass trip Ö when you go in like that and youíve made the long trip and youíre being paid on the door, and thereís nobodyís there, you know you arenít going to make anything. That decreases your morale. Not that the guys really worked any less, they still worked hard, but it was just Ö something was missing, in those towns especially. David Woods caused a lot of the problems. He really did. He didnít mean to do it, he just didnít know what the hell he was doing. If he had left Eddie alone, itíd probably still be in business.

McGrath: Was he willing to spend money to get the product going?

Wayne: I really donít know what it was on the money end of it. I never saw any problem with money, but that doesnít mean anything either. Even though I was in on a lot of conversations, money wasnít one of them. Anytime Eddie and I had been together, he was kind of like Ron, he kind of let me do what I wanted. "Hey, letís do this, letís do that." We always rode in the back seat together and talked about the territory. "What about this guy, what about this," you know, stuff like that. So Iíd do those things, and as far as the money, I looked at it as thatís Eddieís job to worry about that deal, not mine. It wasnít my job to any of it, but I had no problem, Iíve never had a problem with throwing out ideas for booking or something or TVís or if this guy sucks, you know. If Iíve got an opinion of somebody, Iím pretty opinionated, Iíll tell you exactly what I think. Iíd rather hurt your feelings rather than lie to you. Thatís kind of the way Eddie and I always were. Thatís how I ended up in Puerto Rico doing the booking, because of Eddie.

But the thing [in Alabama] was David Woods. And Ron West had a lot to do with it, because he didnít like Eddie either. I donít know if he didnít like him or what, Ron wanted to book or whatever, but Ö Ron knows better. I donít know what was going through his mind. He wasnít a help, he was a hindrance. Thatís just bullsh*t. You canít have that.

McGrath: The heel turn on Danny, was that your idea or Eddieís? How did that all come about?

Wayne: Actually it was Eddieís. It come about in the back seat of the car on a trip. (laughs) There were always four of us in a car, and me and Eddie always rode in the back together. He asked me what I thought about it. And actually, I was like, "Yes, please. Iím tired of signing these autographs and sh*t, I donít care about the picture money and sh*t." We just sat and thought about it and laid it out, and Ö the first week of TV, I did the thing, we just started laying the groundwork. We talked about laying a solid base, which is something I wanted to do. I was like, "Letís stretch this thing out and make a good solid base, because you donít build a house without a foundation." We sat and talked about it, and sh*t, Eddie had a great mind for sh*t, man. Between the two of us, man, we came up with all kinds of stuff that we couldnít do. (laughs) For everybody, Iím not talking about just us, but for everybody. I was more than willing to do it. I was looking forward to working with Danny too. Sh*t, I donít anybodyís work in the business better than I do his. I knew it was going to be Ö I knew we could tear the houses down if we wanted to.

McGrath: And it got over big, I imagine.

Wayne: Yeah, it seemed like it did. We were doing real good with it up until Eddie left, and then I tried to maintain some control on it, but it just Ö it wasnít going to happen.

McGrath: The booking after Eddie went to a committee?

Wayne: Not really. Well, yeah, I guess you could call it that, but it didnít last long. It was like Ron West and Bob Armstrong, and I donít know who else may have been in on it. It was mainly Bob. The booking became strictly 100% babyface booking, and youíre not going to draw like that. And the houses reflected it. They wanted to start doing sh*t to get all the babyfaces over. Well, this ainít going to happen. It just fell apart. A lot of it was, you had people sucking up to the wrong people at times. Ron West wanted to act like he was the man, and he wasnít. David Woods was the man, and he didnít have a clue what he was doing. Really, it was kind of a sad thing, and thatís really why I left. I made my decision after TV one night, sitting on the side of the freeway. I was riding with another guy, and I was like Ö actually Bob Armstrong had broken down or something, had a flat or something, right there, still in Montgomery. I stopped to check on him. He was just rude with me, man. Bob had never been rude. I got back in the car. I sat there for a minute, and I thought about it. Well, we went down the road, and I told the guy to pull over and sit on the off-ramp, actually. I sit there for a minute and I said, "F*ck it, man, take me back to Pensacola. This ainít going to happen. I can see where itís going, and it just ainít going to happen." Like I said, it goes to that breaking even, Iíd rather be home. I had a little boy that wasnít about two years old, and I hardly got to see at all. I wanted to go home. I wasnít home long, and I had somebody knocking on the door wanting me to go to work for him in Pensacola. It was Rip Tyler and the WOW.

I felt like I did Bob wrong, because I didnít even give him a notice. I was just gone, I walked, I was done. What it was, I was disgusted with the whole thing. I could just see it wasnít going anywhere. I was disgusted, and there was no reason. Danny and I had a real good thing going there, and there were some other deals going on that were really good, and they got all screwed up. I think I said somewhere on one of the threads [on the Wrestling Classics website] about only a captain should go down with the ship, and I wasnít him. I wasnít going down with it, because I could see no changes coming. Things had already changed to bad. Things were going good, and then it just fizzled on us.

McGrath: I know Eddie had spent a lot of time building up the Road to Birmingham deal, and then that kind of fizzled after he left. Did it all die out because of the change in booking?

Wayne: Iím going to tell you the truth. I was there, and I still donít understand exactly what happened there. I have to lay the blame back on Ron West, because he was the one controlling that kind of deal, that part of it. I donít know what his reasoning was. I just donít understand. To this day, I still donít quite understand why they kept changing the date. You go a month plugging something, and then you change it to two weeks later, then a week before you change it for two weeks after that Ö I mean, you canít do that. It just didnít happen. I think some guys were going to come in, and after Eddie wasnít there, of course they werenít going to come. It really was Eddieís fault that they ended up pretty much making him leave. He told them he had a neck injury, then he went to Kansas City and worked, and they got pissed about it and told him not to come back. I think Eddie did wrong, and I think they did wrong. There should have been some sort of a negotiation there, because Eddie was doing good for the territory. The only problems we were really having in any towns was Birmingham, because one week weíd be in Boutwell, then weíd be out at the Fairgrounds, and the Fairgrounds is in a pretty bad neighborhood, and I donít think anything draws out there. Not that Boutwellís in the greatest part of town, but itís right downtown, thereís parking right there next to it. Itís right there. Big garage, itís more secure, plus wrestling had been there for a hundred years. I think that has a lot to do with it. I think their time slot got changed in Birmingham. The TV thing, thatíll kill you. But the booking just wasnít going to happen, and I think if they had left Eddie alone, I think Ö and I hate to say this, because I like Ron West a lot, but I think if Ron hadnít have come in down there, things would have been better, because he was in David Woodsí ear knocking Eddie hard, left and right, all the time. All he did was prime David Woods for Eddie to slip up, then, "Hey, letís get rid of him." And thatís pretty much what happened. Iím sure thereís more to it than I know, but thatís pretty much what happened. I hated it, man. It was the death of a great territory. Man, it was great, I loved it.

McGrath: One other question about Alabama. When you came in and got the U.S. junior title, I think Larry Hamilton had had it before.

Wayne: Right.

McGrath: Did you actually beat him in a match or was it a phantom deal?

Wayne: It was phantom, but I think in the magazines it said Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I didnít know that for two or three years until somebody showed it to me. I didnít know. [People] used to ask me where I won the belt. "Uhhhhh Ö Birmingham." I didnít know what to say. I never thought about it. Yeah, it was a phantom deal. Actually, thatís how I ended up with the belt. Robert Fuller had it at his house. I was working here, and I got to go home maybe on Saturday nights, spend Sunday in Pensacola, and then come back up here Monday. I left early, stopped in Birmingham, and went by Robertís apartment. We sat and talked all that out, and he handed me the belt. He said, "This is yours. Just donít do it against us." Thatís how I ended up with the belt, he just gave the damn thing to me.

McGrath: What happened to Larry Hamilton?

Wayne: He went back to Florida, I think. He runs his own stuff down there, and he was down in Puerto Rico quite a lot, and he runs the Bahamas.

McGrath: So he had quit the territory at that point?

Wayne: I couldnít tell you, because I wasnít in the territory. I donít know if he had already left, or if he was still Ö I just donít know. I think what had happened was, David Woods wanted to put up everybodyís belts, and they had the tournament thing for new tag champions and new Ö he changed his deal to CWF. He wanted to be a federation like WWF. He was a complete, total, absolute mark. He had Sid go to one of his kidsí birthday parties and stuff with his [Lord Humongous] gimmick on. He had me do an interview Ö the kid had gotten in trouble at school or some bad grades or something, and I had been there with Paul E. at that point, [doing] one of those Danger Zones with him. They had powered the studio down and all that. He got his brother to come back in there, power it up, and run the camera while I did some little five minute thing Ö maybe David was on the camera Ö to take home and show to his kid. You know, "Hey, I really know this guy," and sh*t.

I knew he was a mark the first day I met him. Eddie had told me, "Man, youíve got to meet this guy. Come on, go to the office with me." I was like, "Aw, man, look, I donít want to go down there and hang out all day." I knew he was a mark pretty quick. It was just amazing. I was like, "God, I canít believe this guy owns the company. He couldnít run a TV station, howís he going to run this?" The best thing for him to have done was to put it in Eddieís or somebodyís hands, and left it alone. "You all run this thing, make me some money. In three months, if things arenít coming up, weíll negotiate, and either youíre leaving or somebodyís coming in." You need three months to be fair.

McGrath: One other thing about Alabama. Did you ever work a show in the Cayman Islands?

Wayne: Yeah.

McGrath: How did that come about?

Wayne: Ron has a condo in the Caymans. He knew a guy down there who doesnít look Cayman at all. He was red-headed and just as light as he can be. He doesnít get out in the sun, he blisters real bad. And he was like the local promoter. He got everything set up. I remember when he came to Birmingham and stuff and looked at the ring, and he went back down there and built a ring. They set up a big outdoor deal, man, with their own bleachers, the ring light was on a crane coming behind the deal and stuff. Oh, it was great.

McGrath: Did it draw well?

Wayne: Packed the joint. I think it drew almost a half million dollars. I think it was like 410 or 490 [thousand], something like that. It was a big house. But what are they going to do? They havenít got anything to do on the island.

McGrath: Iíve been there once, and there isnít much to do there except lay on the beach all day.

Wayne: Thatís it. It was a hell of a deal, man. I loved it. I wish we could have stayed longer.

McGrath: I bet you wish there could have been a territory down there, right? (laughing)

Wayne: Oh, man! Sh*t, Iíd have been in on that. I loved it. It was a great trip.

McGrath: Did you like Puerto Rico in the same way, because of nice weather and everything?

Wayne: Oh gosh, yes, man. I lived like a hundred yards off the beach, if that. I loved it, man.

McGrath: When did you first go down to Puerto Rico?

Wayne: I guess it was in í95, February of í95.

McGrath: So the first time was with Eddie?

Wayne: Yeah, it was the first time. I was going to go a time or two before, and I ended up not going. Eddie wanted me to come down there.

McGrath: Did you notice any differences between the American crowds and the Puerto Rican crowds?

Wayne: Lord yes. (both laugh) Actually, it reminded me of the crowds here like twenty-five years ago, thirty years ago even. Thatís why Iím glad they didnít have ringside. That was a blessing. As far as the crowds, the people were into it, they were mean, and if you didnít know your craft, they let you know it. They were used to seeing guys that were good, and if they werenít, man, they wouldnít watch. Those seats would be empty, and then the next match it would be packed. It wasnít because they werenít there yet, it was because they werenít interested. I loved it down there, period. I liked the work, the workrate, the style. Some of the stuff I didnít like [of] some of the other guys. Once I started booking, I put a stop to some of it in the early matches. But yeah, I loved it down there, man. I loved the weather, the beach. There where I lived in Isla Verde, man, sh*t, I couldnít do no wrong in that area. I mean, the police and everybody, the whole thing. Everybody was just super nice to me.

I used to go to the Dennyís up the street to eat every morning, and there was a waiter and a waitress. Theyíd see me coming, and there could be a line, and theyíd say, "Ken, over here." Theyíd have a cup of coffee already sitting there for me, and they knew what I ate. I ate the same sh*t every morning. I had steak and eggs and hash browns. With the hash browns, I got all the sh*t put on, you know, the cheese, the onion and ham, and all that. Theyíd have my order already in, have a cup of coffee sitting there and a glass of water out of the bottle. When theyíd see me coming Ö Iíd drink a glass of milk with my meal, and they would take a glass and put it in the freezer for me so it would be chilled for me. I was treated great. I loved it. Now at the arenas, thatís a whole other story. (laughs) My second night there, I got trapped in Bayamon Stadium. Weíll get to that.

In the next installment, Ken will tell the story of the passing of Eddie Gilbert.

Thanks to Tim Noel and Trent Van Drisse for their help with the above.

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