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Eddie Gilbert

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Click here for part 1 of the interview
About working with Eddie in Alabama

Interview conducted by Jess McGrath

McGrath: During your tenure in Puerto Rico, Eddie Gilbert passed away.

Wayne: Hereís what happened. 1990, actually, I quit for a year, í91. I got divorced and I quit wrestling for a year. I just kind of piddled around here and stuff, really wasnít looking to go on the road, go anywhere or do anything. Eddie had went down there and was doing the booking. This was like in January of í95. Doug kept telling me, "Eddie wants you to come down." I said, "Man, I donít want to go to Puerto Rico." Well, I ended up having a few problems up here with my ex-wife and my girlfriend at the same time. I was going down there for six or eight weeks. I talked to him on a Monday, and I told him I wanted like three weeks to try to get in shape, because this was the end of January, first of February. Here, everything was cold, I hadnít been out doing anything. I knew Iíd get down there in the heat and just wouldnít be able to stand it. Well, they called me back on Wednesday asking if I could be there Friday. I ended up telling him, "OK." Friday, I get there, and we worked a little town called Humacao. That night, we were at a little place called Pizza City where we used to go eat at every night, and he asked me to share the booking. He said, "Help me do the booking. Iíll do half and you do half." I didnít know how many TVís they had, nothing, I hadnít been there before. I told him, "Give me a week to acclimate myself. I donít know any of the boys, Iíve not seen a television format, I havenít even seen the show yet." Thatís when he told me, "Actually, we have four hours down here, two one-and-a-half hour shows and a one hour tape that went to the other side of the island." I said, "Just give me a week."

The next night, we were in Bayamon Stadium. We had a riot, and I got trapped in the dressing room by myself. Thereís more to that story where some guys chickened out and left, man. They wouldnít go do what he was going to do, so I told them, "Iíll do it." I was going to do mine and somebody elseís stuff. The match, it got so bad, man, they tore down the fence and stuff separating the field from the fans. They were throwing pieces of the building. It was concrete, it wasnít rocks. It was concrete chunks where they broke off where the building had been built. They had backs of chairs and stuff. Oh, it was unbelievable. Iím standing at the dugout door, and Iím waiting for my cue to go to the ring. Eddie and Ray Gonzalez had bailed out of the ring, had been going toward the outfield rather than being closer, because they were getting pelted with stuff. Down there, theyíll throw cups at you, but theyíll save their ice and leave the ice in it, so itíll tear you. Itís just like a rock. So Eddie, we had set it up to where we were going to leave through the left field gate. We had a guy sitting there, Karl Moffatt, who was doing the Jason gimmick down there, with the car running, all of our stuff in the car, so we could jump in and go, because we knew we were going to have problems. I never got to my cue. Iím still standing there in the dugout. Eddie goes past the dugout, and he points toward the gate. I step out to look, and man, thereís about two or three hundred people, man, just streaming behind him. The last thing I see is Ray Gonzalez tackle his ass way out in left field. Iím like, "Oh my God!" But by this time, theyíre throwing sh*t at me. So I shut the door, bolt it, Iím going to try to go out the other side. Well, I canít. Long story short, Victor Arroyo comes in. He knocks on the door, and I ainít going to let him in to begin with. So weíre sitting there, I let him in, and they had beer in the dressing room. Iím like, "Well, these people have got to go home eventually, right?" All of a sudden, I hear gun fire, I hear automatic. It scared the sh*t out of me, man. Victorís telling me, "Oh, itís OK, thatís good." I said, "How can that possibly be good?" He said, "No, theyíre coming for you." I said, "Even worse!" He said, "No, no, itís the police." "Oh, I gotcha!" I thought, "How can this be good, man?"

It was a major deal, and they finally get me out. They take me to Eddieís apartment, and this is on Saturday night, and my apartmentís not going to be ready until Monday, so Iím staying with Eddie anyway. Plus heís got all my clothes. Iíve still got my wrestling gear on. Well, I walk in, and heís looking at me with this sh*t-eating grin on his face. He goes, "What do you think?" I said, "I love it, Eddie. I hadnít seen this in years. Thatís the way it was when he and I first broke in." I remember him and his dad having to fight, get on our backs and get us to the dressing room, like in Blytheville, Arkansas, one night, because if not, sh*t, we would have gotten killed. We sat down and talked, and he said, "Have you given any more thought about helping me with the book?" I said, "Yeah, I have, Eddie." We sit down and we were talking, and I knew he had had problems with pills and stuff before. I told him, "Eddie, the first time I see you walking around here a day or two f*cked up on those pills, Iím outta here. I donít want to have to send you home in a box." Those were my exact words. He said, "Hey, it ainít no problem, man. There ainít going to be none of that," and la-de-dah-de-dah. I said, "All right. Just give me until next Saturday. I donít know anything about the territory yet."

So we have our week and everything. We had a great week. Eddie was steady, man, pumping me in my ear about everybody. "This guyís a stooge", "This guyís good", "This guy you can trust". It was a lot of information I got in a week. The Friday night before he passed away, we were in Humacao again. We got back that night, went to the same place to eat, and we were going back to the apartment. My apartment was downstairs, and as he was going in the building, he said goodnight and everything, and he said he was going to knock on my door at a quarter ítil ten. His car was sitting right in front of my car, Iím talking like a step, two steps out. I said, "OK." And I looked at my watch. The reason I remember doing this because I was trying to figure how much sleep Iíd get. It was two oíclock in the morning, straight up. So I went on in and went to bed.

The next morning, at quarter ítil ten, there was nobody knocking. So I wait until ten oíclock. The carís still sitting there. I went up, knocked on the door. Nobody answered. I walked up to the store, got a Coke and pack of cigarettes, come back, knock on the door again. No answer. So I waited a little while. In fact, I waited until the wrestling program came on, watched it, went back upstairs, knocked on the door. Still no answer. So I kind of went on with my day, went to the beach and stuff. Went back up again at four oíclock and knocked on the door. Still no answer. And then finally, about 6:15, maybe 6:30, Karl Moffatt Ö the Jason guy from Canada, was in the apartment next door to me Ö I was coming back from knocking on Eddieís door. I said, "Have you seen Eddie today?" He said, "No. Didnít you all go to the office today?" I said, "No, he never showed." I was hoping that Ö because he knew more people there than I did Ö I was hoping some girl had come by and picked him up or something. But Iím thinking, when I went knocking on the door at 10:15 when I came back from the store, in my heart I think I knew, I already knew, and I didnít want to admit it. I was just hoping anything else, anything but this.

So I was going in to lay something down in the apartment, Karl started going up, I was right behind him. When I got up to the apartment, thereís a bathroom window thatís got bars. Everythingís got bars on it down there, and razor wire and stuff. Well, the bottom of it wasnít bolted. He had taken the window slats Ö like the roll up window with the little slats in them Ö he had taken those out and busted those bars and spread them, and boosted me up. I went through the window. The bathroom light was on, which was the room I was in. I turned, and when I stepped out of the bathroom, I could see Eddie laying on the bed. He was seated, but laid back. One foot was on the floor, another one was about an inch off the floor. The lights were out. I reached to turn on the light, and I knew there was nothing we could do. His feet already turned black from what they call it when the blood pools. Later, as I found out, it was also in the back of his head and his back. I just said something like, "Oh, sh*t, Eddie." Karl was knocking on the door. The guy that had the bear down there was with us. I opened the door and let them in. Pretty quick, the bear guy left. I shut the door and proceeded to search his room. Sh*t, we didnít find nothing. It didnít make any sense to me. I told Karl, "Go down and call the police." So they called the police, and they came up. There was probably half a dozen of them or a dozen came up. They searched the room, and they didnít find anything. They all left except this one policeman named Alvarez. Karl wasnít going to go to the matches that night. We were working in a little town called Trujillo Alto. He wasnít going to go. I said, "Karl, why arenít you going, man? We know Eddieís match is not going to be there. Iím not going, Iíve got to take care of Eddie. What good could you do? Do you know how old he was?" He said, "No." I said, "Do you know when his birthday was?" He said, "No." I said, "Do you know if heís been married?" He said, "No." I said, "Do you know if heís got any kids?" He said, "No." I said, "Then what good are you? Go do your match. Eddie would want you to go have your match. There ainít any sense in missing three matches. We know two arenít going to be there." He left finally. After he was gone, and I was there with Alvarez for quite a while, I asked him to leave the room. I had to say what I had to say to [Eddie].

I went down about 6:30 before all that happened, and I had called my dad, because I wanted to call Doug and tell him what happened, but I knew that they were on their way to Nashville that night. It was like 4:30 here, so I knew they were on the road, I knew I couldnít get a hold of anybody. So I called my dad, trying to get the number to the building or something. He called Randy Hales on his cell phone. Randy said he would take the cell phone into the dressing room, and to call it at 8:30. As it worked out, they finally got Eddie out of the apartments at 10:30 Puerto Rico time, which is exactly 8:30 Nashville time. I thought, "Wow, what luck." I called. Lawler answered the phone. I told him what happened, and he said, "Well, you need to call Tommy [Gilbert]. They donít know whatís happened. They donít know if heís been stabbed, if he drowned, had a car wreck Ö they donít know." He said, "Doug came in, they put him on first, and heís already gone."

I called Tommy, and man, it had to be the hardest thing Iíve ever done in my life, to tell him his son was dead. I think a lot of Tommy and of the whole family. We talked about it and everything, and I told him. And the funny thing was, when I called Lawler, when he picked up, the coronerís Ö it looked like a Hearse, it wasnít like a big coronerís truck thing Ö it was just turning the corner at the end of the street. Thatís how quick I got on the phone and called. We just got to talking about it from there. I talked to him several times. Well, that night, Eddie Grice was there. I donít know if you know Eddie or not, [but] anyway, he was there, and I had just met him that week through Eddie and everything. They finally had put a block on my phone, my calling card. I didnít know this, if you make so many calls within twenty-four hours, they automatically block it. I couldnít charge anything to my home phone, and I couldnít use my calling card thing. I argued with the lady. I said, "Man, I donít have a block like that on my phone." They explained it to me. Well, Eddie used to come over to my house, because Ö everybody I would talk to, theyíd say, "Well, you need to call this guy, you need to call this guy, he wants to talk to you." So I went up to Eddieís, and I was probably there ítil daylight, and I talked to Ö sh*t, David Meltzer, people I donít even know from sheets and magazines. At some point I talked to Terry Funk. I just couldnít believe all the people I was talking to. I was trying to stop the rumors from starting that I knew would happen. I did go through everything. Thatís what I told Eddie the week before. "Taking something for your shoulder or your neck, I understand that, but not when youíre doing it just walking around dum-dum for two days." I didnít find any pain pills. I found some injectable B-12 and some tetracycline. That was it.

The next day, I talked to Tommy again. We decided, or he decided, however it worked out, that I would just handle everything from down there, and theyíd just send me a power of attorney. They would send it to the office. Of course, I had called Carlos and everything. I said, "Look, theyíre sending me power of attorney to the office. Do you mind Ö having somebody go get it and bring it to me? I canít do anything without it for Eddie." Around four oíclock or so, I still havenít gotten the power of attorney. Eddie Grice goes around to a hotel around the corner, makes sure itís OK to use their fax machine. He gets the number, and I call Tommy. Well, in Lexington, the whole townís closed down, and for him to do it again, which heíd already done, he has to go get this guy Ö the only fax machine in town is at the bank. So he has to go get this guy to open the bank and all that. First, he had to go to the lawyer the first time to get the power of attorney to send me. Then he has to get the bank guy again, open it up, and refax it again to this new number. I get my power of attorney at 6:15. Also there was a power of attorney to the funeral home down there that was going to handle that end of it. So already I had two power[s] of attorney in two different places Ö three, counting the one thatís at the office, that I found out Tuesday morning was still laying on the fax machine when I walked in about 11, 11:30.

I got the power of attorney at 6:15. The morgue, or the "forenza" they called it down there, closed at six oíclock and wouldnít open up again until Tuesday morning at seven. Some kind of holiday. Theyíve got like nineteen federal holidays down there or something. Itís unbelievable, they have holidays for everything. So I canít do anything until Tuesday morning. The night before, all of the boys Ö a lot of the boys had come by. They said, "Youíre going to be the new booker, youíre the new booker." I could have cared less at that point. I didnít care. Sunday night, we had a show somewhere, I couldnít even begin to tell you where it was. By the time I got there, I already had about a case of beer in me. I just couldnít tell you where I was. Victor Jovica came in and told me, "We need you to come in the office at ten oíclock Tuesday morning." I said, "All right, whatever." I went through Sunday, Monday, and everything, and just really pretty much stayed liquored up, to be honest about it.

Tuesday morning, I was up at six oíclock in the morning. I called the forenza at seven trying to find out where they were. The guy wouldnít tell me, he kept telling me to get a cab. I said, "Look, man, Iíve got a car. I can get there. Iíve found my way all over the world. I can find Eddie, trust me. Just give me your address, Iíll find it." So anyhow, I got mad and hung up on him. Iím screaming at seven oíclock in the morning on the phone outside the apartments. This man comes down who speaks pretty good English, who Iíd seen at the apartment that week, and he told me basically where the medical center was. The guy said, "I donít know where at the medical center [the forenza] is." Well, we got to the medical center, and man, thereís cars everywhere. We parked, and all we knew to ask people is if they spoke Spanish, and if not, where the forenza was. "Donde es forenza?" They would point. And we did this for about two hours. Of course, we parked on the opposite side of the medical center from where the forenza was. I mean, complete opposite end, because I got to thinking, "Weíll never find the car." I got to the forenza, went in, talked to the medical examiner, showed my power of attorney, identified the body and all that, and I asked him what the cause of death was. Apparently, they had already done an autopsy, and they told me heart attack. I did what I had to do, I left there, and I went to the office. It pissed me off so bad when I walked in and that power of attorney was laying there on that fax machine. I canít remember if it was Jovica or Carlos, picked it up, handed it to me, and said, "Hereís that power of attorney." I said, "I donít need it." I had my briefcase in my hand, I said, "Iíve got one in here already. Eddieís taken care of, man. Heís on his way to the funeral home. Heíll be out of here in the morning, heíll be in Lexington tomorrow at 3:15." "Oh, really?" And it pissed me off. You all couldnít even bring me the power of attorney, you lazy bastards? Two days had gone by, and they didnít bring me sh*t. At that point, I went in and sat down with them, and they told me they wanted me to do the booking, and of course I asked for money and my car and all that type stuff.

The next day was Wednesday, and I noticed that night, and I noticed Thursday and everything, the boys were just Ö the mood was awful. Everybody was down, everybody was dragging in the ring and everything. It was just horrible. I knew Friday, like at three oíclock, was when his funeral was. When we got to whatever town we were in that night, I bought two cases of beer, and I gave Victor Arroyo, I think it was and his son is who it was, I told him, "Take this over to the babyface dressing room, and tell them to all toast Eddie. Eddieís buried, heís at peace now. Eddie would want us to go on." Apparently they did that. I did the same thing in my dressing room. We all toasted Eddie and all that, and then that was it. We all said goodbye to Eddie at that point. I felt we had to do that, and I think Eddie would have wanted me to do that. My girlfriend asked me, "Are you coming home?" I said, "Why? Eddie wanted me to do a job, or else he wouldnít have even asked me to help with the book to begin with. Why would I leave now? Iím not the one thatís dead, itís him. Eddie wouldnít be happy with me if I left." I felt that I had to get the guys to put that behind them Ö thatís what Eddie would have wanted. "Get on with it, guys. Iím not there to help, so get on with it."

That was basically the deal there, and the day after he passed away on Sunday, I went up and got his stuff out of his room, out of his apartment. I went through everything again to make sure I didnít miss [anything], because I didnít want to send his stuff home and miss something, and his folks thinking, "What the hell is this?" Actually, I ended up keeping the stuff for about a month before I sent it back, which I really hate that I did that, but Ö I really canít tell you why it took me so long, other than maybe I didnít want to say goodbye to Eddie. I could blame it on, "Yeah, I was real busy. I just had this big thing dumped in my lap. I donít speak the language. Iíve seen two shows." I didnít go down there in my mind to do any booking. When Eddie said something to me about it, I only had a week to learn about what was going on down there, and now the whole thing was in my lap. Eddie was gone, and yeah, it depressed me and it pissed me off in the same thing. It was a hard, hard thing, it really was. I sent all the stuff back finally. It took about a month, I think, and I felt really bad about it, because really, if youíre the family, itís that time to, you know, start healing, then I send them these reminders. And I thought that sucked on my part. But it happened, thereís nothing I can do to correct it. And I kept trying to get Eddieís money from Jovica and never did get his last weekís pay. The lady at the apartments, man, Monday morning, she, boom, had it to me, his deposits and stuff. I couldnít get the money from Jovica and never did, never did get it. It pisses me off to no extent that they did that. Itís just not right. It was his, his family should have had that money, just because it was his.

Thatís basically what ended up happening there, and I know I stayed up all night making all those phone calls to different people, trying to stop all the rumors, because I know this business. I donít care whatever happens to anybody. If itís not an automobile accident, or even if it is, "Aw, he must have been doped up." "He was drunk." Itís always something. Itís never just, "Hey, the man had a heart attack." Because I donít care what you say, the manís heart stops beating, thatís a heart attack. I found out, talking to Tommy, I guess it was that Sunday, that I was waiting for my power of attorney Ö that he told me, and I didnít know this, that when Eddie had that car wreck up around Poughkeepsie, New York, back about 1980, í81, somewhere like that, that the steering wheel had caught him in the chest, and the top part of his heart was like jello. It wasnít solid. The doctors had told him he could die at any time, whether he wrestled or not. Wrestling didnít have anything to do with it. It was just, he had a bad muscle there, and it just quit. It finally happened. It could have happened, no matter where he was at or what he was doing. And it pisses me off to a lot of extent that everybody, "Oh, he was found in the car with cocaine on his leg," and all that. Nothing like that happened. Hell, he barely drank a beer, and he might take a hit off a joint once in a while. I had went over the thing with Eddie the week before, because we did talk about it more than what I said about sending home. We talked about it a little more than that, because I wanted to drive my point home to him. "Eddie, donít do this." And I had no idea about the heart thing until Tommy told me. I wish they would have just realized Ö but most people donít know that about the heart. Give the man credit. He wouldnít have done something that he Ö I mean, hell, he Ö well, it was just stupid. Everybody was coming up with these different stories, and none of them were there. But, the way the business is, thatís what everybody thinks. I hate it for the family. I hate it for myself. Sure, I would hate it for Eddie, because I thought a lot of Eddie. The business lost a great talent, and a good man, period. Not just the business, but the family and the world.

Thanks to Manuel Gonzalez, Trent Van Drisse, Kirk Sheppard, Adam Lash, Terry Noel, Tim Larson, Gene Restaino, Danny Parris, and Gregory White for their help with the above.

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