The Speech Cowboy Bill Watts Wanted To Give at The WWE HOF

Bill Behrens

www.CowboyBillWatts.com 

Hall of Fame
All I can say is…

IT WAS AN AWESOME WEEKEND!

I’ll remember April 3rd, 4th, and 5th…for the rest of my life…

THE WWE HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY Saturday…

AND WRESTLEMANIA 25 Sunday …in Houston, Tx….

 

I am so glad I was chosen and got to see all of this…the honor and privilege of being in this particular class celebrating the ’silver anniversary Wrestlemania 25′…

and with the featured inductee being Stone Cold Steve Austin… another young professional I was fortunate to have worked with for a brief time in helping form his career…

who became the top superstar of the WWE…in attendance and merchandise sales… broke all records!

The other inductees:

Ricky the Dragon Steamboat…

The Von Erich family…Kevin Von Erich accepting…

Terry and Dory Funk…

Ko-ko Beware…the ‘birdman’…

Howard Finkel…

Here is a link of the Gallery of Photos on the WWE Homepage…

http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania/2009wwehalloffamephotos/wwehalloffamerings/

 

I’ll write more later… and I realize some of you were disappointed about the very brief ‘air time’ designated to ‘yours truly’… on USA Network… and even on the Wrestlemania PPV…

 

but that is ‘just how it goes’… the ‘cutting room floor’ often gets footage ‘they’ decide is just not what they want to include in the live broadcast…or the ‘movie’…

 

but it did NOT take away from the total event…and the WWE certainly treated us like royalty…

and we got to deliver a 5 minute ‘induction’ speech to the live audience at the Hall of Fame ceremony Saturday…

and then be introduced on the Wrestlemania ppv on Sunday… the Hall of Fame ring is beautiful…as is the plaque…

Now here I’ve posted the entire induction speech I wrote… though I only got to give a 5 minute version…

And Jim Ross (JR) did an awesome job of introducing me…

 

 

Hall of Fame Induction Speech

April 4th, 2009 – Houston, TX.

 

Thanks Jim! Did either of us ever dream of ‘our journey’ in this life…and this business… when we met years ago…

 

I am so damn proud of you! You worked hard…and certainly love this business wholeheartedly…and have gotten your position in it…the old fashioned way…BY EARNING IT!

 

Wow…this is awesome…fantastic…thrilling for me…I’ll be 70 this May 5th…and to get this honor and experience is the best ‘birthday present’ I could imagine…

 

And so my children and grand children can see this…to have something to remember of me in this sport and this moment…is huge in my heart…

 

Most men ‘especially jocks’ want to have sons…as did I…but then…when a man has ‘his daughter’ she steals his heart…just as mine has done…my daughter Ene…who is here tonight with one of my grandsons, Zane… and one of my sons…Erik is here with his son…Noah…Biff, Micah and Joel could not be here…but I love them…and know they are watching…

 

So…my deepest thanks to the WWE…

 

And yet thinking of this…and what I could say…trying to reduce a 25 plus year career to 5 minutes…when those who know me realize I can’t even say hello in 5 minutes…that is a challenge…

But here goes… so as we used to say at WCW…”Let’s Hook ‘em up!”

 

First and foremost…I’d like to make this about those ‘who touched my life and my career’…some for just a moment…and some for a much longer time… and also in that…to certainly honor the wonderful fans of this…our sport…who made it all possible… and also give tribute to Vince…who is now the ‘custodian of our history’… and this Hall of Fame is one way to help preserve it…and to recognize those chosen…

 

October 1962 began my ‘pro-wrestling career’…I still remember my first match… against Dale Lewis in Portsmouth, Ohio… Dale was a 2-time NCAA Hvywt wrestling champion from Oklahoma University…a competitor in college and also became a very dear friend…my second match vs. Joe Blanchard in Anderson, IN… and my third match against a big star…the Mormon giant…Don Leo Jonathan in Indianapolis, IN…and Don was the most awesome ‘natural’ physical specimen and big-man athlete I’d ever seen…at about 6′ 8″ and over 300 lbs. could do ‘nip-ups’ and even tight-rope walk the top ring rope…and years later…I even ‘hid out’ at his house on Malibu Beach until I could ‘leave for Canada for awhile to let a little incident cool down’…

 

(And a couple of years later…Vince’s dad and Jules Strongbow scared me to death in NY telling me ‘the guy had died I beat up’ and ‘I was wanted in Calif’…which was ‘of course’ not true…and besides ‘that guy deserved the ass-kicking he got!’ …In wrestling ‘even the bosses sometimes played great ribs’…and this one truly ‘got me’)…

 

But … growing up in Oklahoma…my father from England…my mother part German and Chickasaw… and I am very proud of my Chickasaw Indian heritage… I played football and wrestled at Putnam City HS…then got to play football and wrestle at Oklahoma University… under the great football coach…Bud Wilkinson…and wrestling coaches Port Robertson and Tommy Evans…on the same team as my dearest friend Stan Abel…who later became coach there…and introduced me to Dr. Death Steve Williams…a 4 time All-American in wrestling…who I started in pro-wrestling… BOOMER SOONER!

 

And there…rubbed shoulders with those who would also influence my career in pro-wrestling…the late, great Dale Lewis… the late, great Wahoo McDaniels (not only a college football star. but both a pro-football and wrestling star)…and of course Danny Hodge…the greatest wrestler ‘pound-for-pound’ I’ve ever seen (3-time NCAA Champion…twice Outstanding Wrestler…never even scored upon his senior year plus pinned every opponent at Nationals…also a two-time Olympian and Golden Gloves boxing champion won in MSG)…and the longest holder of the NWA World’s Jr. Hvywt Title…and I would hope will certainly be in this very HOF at some point… and the Danny Hodge Trophy is even awarded annually by NCAA Wrestling to the ‘Heisman of amateur wrestling athlete each year’…

 

In High School I also met my friend Jack Brisco…from Blackwell, OK…who became an All-American at OSU… who always wanted me to go into pro-wrestling and who truly touched my career in pro-wrestling as he introduced me to the late…great Eddie Graham…a very key and close mentor and dear friend… and then of course also met my friend and Jack’s brother…Gerald Brisco…

 

But it was Wahoo who finally ‘lit the fire’ for me to go into pro-wrestling…and got me introduced to it through the Indianapolis booking office owned then by Jim Barnett… and while ‘breaking in’…I also played pro-football for the Indianapolis Warriors…and in one of those games is where I first ‘came into contact’…in a ‘violent way’…with the great George ‘the Animal’ Steele…but did NOT meet him personally until I was in Philly to introduce Ernie Ladd to this very same HOF…

 

But still remember those too who helped me ‘break-into the business’… Mark Starr and Dale Lewis worked with me daily… Sandy Scott and Karl von Brauner took me under their wing…and Art and Stan Nelson made sure I had my first match…and Bill Miller and Karl Gotch influenced and supported me too…it was also there I first met Don Jardine…who later became the Spoiler…managed by Gary Hart…and later drew lots of money with…

 

And that too ‘was the way you learned then’…in the long car trips… being talked to by those ‘veterans’ who imparted their knowledge…and yes…their critique of your progress…

 

I was NEVER considered ‘a great worker’…and did NOT even in my own mind think I was… but I had an innate ability to ‘get myself over’…

 

But that too is kind of ‘one-sided’…because to ‘get over’ some one had to ‘put you over’…so…my hat is off to all those guys who I wrestled and ‘got over’…those guys too…like all the fans…without them… none of us could become a star…

 

And so…I worked Indianapolis for a very short while…then came home to Oklahoma and worked for Leroy McGuirk… a former NCAA champion at OSU…and Junior Hvywt Champion until he lost his second eye…and became blind…and then became a ‘promoter’…and there also met Pat Barret the great Irish star…and Hiro Matsuda a fabulous Japanese athlete and wonderful friend…

 

and in that short part of my career…I even worked out of Houston for Morris Siegel…and met the late Paul Boesch…and my first match here was against Sailor Art Thomas…who I defeated for the Texas State Championship…my first title… and here too in the great state of Texas…in Dallas…I wrestled for the first time of several matches…Lou Thesz for the NWA World’s Title…and during this time also met the colorful father of Dory and Terry Funk…Dory Funk senior…and worked a ‘mark out of the crowd’ angle against Ted Dibiase’s father…the late Iron Mike Dibiase…of course Ted Dibiase is one of my favorites too… but also met Pepper Gomez…and Cyclone Negro…

 

But my biggest break came…when I met already ‘old-timer star’ Wild Red Berry in Joplin, MO…and he made a guest appearance there…and I was his tag-team partner and my ring name was Big Bill Watts…and somehow ‘we got a ’schmozz going’ on the 6 o’clock news Sports show…which was live TV…and got into it with our opponents that night…and in the ‘excitement’…Red…who thought I looked like Dick Hutton…a former multi-time college wrestling champion…and also NWA Hvywt Champion…and so…in the excitement…he said on live TV…that’s right…me and my partner “BIG DICK WATTS” will be there tonight to take care of these punks…

 

And so…that night as we entered the ring…and then…I would jump over the top rope getting into the ring…and as I did… a pretty young lady at ringside said…”Well good luck tonight ‘Big Dick’“…and I hooked my toe and fell right on my face…

 

But Red went back to Vince’s dad… and to Toots Mondt…and told them about a young wrestler in Oklahoma who would become a star… so that team…Vince Sr…Toots…Willie Gilzenberg…Phil Zacko…and Arnold Skaaland…became my next career path mentors …each in their own way…

 

I got a call…while wrestling at a 4-H barn arena in Wichita Falls Texas…(which then did NOT even have a phone…so the Sheriff’s office came to get me saying I had an emergency call)…and it was Vince McMahon and Toots Mondt…and they told me Red Berry had recommended me to them…and I was to be in Washington DC one week from today…the next Thursday…and just like that…my career took a dramatic change…I was introduced to the Big Time…and eventually Madison Square Garden!

 

There…they said since I was ‘from Oklahoma’ I would become Cowboy Bill Watts… and they started the publicity campaign…and grooming me…

 

There in a 20 minute time-limit draw against the late …great star…Killer Kowalski in Washington DC…and because Killer was such a great star…me having a very exciting match with him… really caught Vince’s and Toots’s attention…so they ‘booked me everywhere against him’…and he mentored me in so many ways… and that cemented my being groomed even more…and of course Gorilla Monsoon was a big heel star then…and we became good friends too…

 

I also met Bruno Sammartino…who I consider to be one of the very greatest of all times… a man of character and honor…and we became fast friends…and even tag partners when that occasion arose… and he was also the World’s Strongest Man at that time in the Bench Press …and working out with him…my own bench press then went to 585…and we did NOT even know what a steroid was…

 

There I met some great fans too…in NY…Frankie Amato and Georgiann Makropoulos…clear back in the ’60’s’ and they are still great fans… so many wonderful fans…that this sport meant so much too…just like my best friend Dr. Bruce Van Horn’s dad Archie…in Oklahoma City…Diane Divine, Dr. Mike Lano…and myriads of others…

 

Then back working for Vince’s dad….another ’significant career moment’ came during a live TV show in Pittsburgh…when Chief White Owl was wrestling Frank Martinez on TV with Bill Cardille calling it…Chuck Moyer directing it… and White Owl’s leg got broken…

 

I was in the shower when someone came running into the dressing room…to say White Owl is hurt…so I put on my jeans… and still wet…ran out there…and White Owl was in pain laying on the floor…and I saw the TV time was almost over…but still live…so jumped into the ring…and challenged Frank Martinez…a man I had grown to respect in NY…and he jumped me…and as the TV closed off the air…I made a huge comeback and beat Frank…and the crowd went crazy…and I became a star in Pittsburgh… so Frank…here is to you…

 

it was working for Vince’s dad where I met Pedro Morales… and Pedro later became a huge star…and Victor Rivera who became a star…but there too met Johnny Rodz who ‘put me over’ as he did so many… and even little known Frank Hickey…another true character…and Buddy Rogers who was retired there…and of course Fred Blassie who became my friend too…and Johnny Valentine…Greg’s dad…and of course too that is when I first met ‘young Vince McMahon’…

 

And then on Washington DC TV…which was the major TV for the east coast wrestling…the angle…of me ‘double-crossing Bruno’ lit a huge fire to the box offices for a year…and we sold out MSG 3 or 4 times…with our first match…and the NY Fire Marshall’s office forgetting to send someone to the Gardens…Vince packed it with standing room only…and we set an attendance record in that old MSG…

 

After that wrestling the great star Bobo Brazil in Washington DC…in the intensity of ‘all that heat’…right during the racial tensions too in that city…I thought I would NOT make it out of that ring alive…

 

In fact… another major event happened the Saturday Evening Post… a ‘conventional main-stream magazine of influence’ was doing a feature story on wrestling…something they had never done…and through Vince…had chosen me with feature writer Myron Cope writing it…and traveling with me for a week…entitled “The Rich Full Life of a Bad Guy”…and he was there that night too…

 

And it was there I met Ernie Ladd…the football great…(we were rookies in the original AFL the same year – he was with San Diego and I was with Houston – and he went on to star in the league…and I didn’t…but I did NOT meet him personally until then)…and Ernie later would impact my career and my life in such a huge way as we ‘became brothers in our connection with each other’…and also later in our faith…and when he died…I cried for 4 days…because Ernie taught me so much ‘about being black’…and the struggle blacks had…and how racism affected them…

 

And years later in my company…Mid-South Sports…and the UWF…together…Ernie and I built some wonderful black stars…and he infused in me even deeper my hatred of racism – which I consider is something built by ignorance and fostered by ignorant people…and promoted by fear…and by NOT KNOWING the person…but labeling them – anyone — by the color of their skin is an abomination…

 

and later…I not only ‘broke the color line’ in Louisiana who would NOT allow a black wrestler to wrestle a white wrestler with Tom Jones wrestling a white wrestler in Monroe, LA. in the early ’70’s’…

 

years later I was able to guide Ron Simmons to become the first black World’s Champion of a major wrestling promotion at WCW… and of course too…guide the early career of the Junk Yard Dog…who became my biggest star in Mid-South Wrestling…and I got to work with Thunderbolt Patterson… Rockie Johnson…Tony Atlas…Ray Candy…Koko-Beware…Bad Leroy Brown…Tiger Conway Sr. and Tiger Conway Jr. …and many other great black wrestlers…

 

So…that is how my career began…and then…I got the ‘privilege of working for many different booking offices’ as was the way of that era…and fortunately…I also as they say in our business…”GOT OVER” in each ‘territory’ I worked…and became a main event box office attraction…

 

as I worked for Roy Shires…and there in northern California met Ray Stevens and Pat Patterson…who I thought at that time were the greatest tag team in the biz…and there headlined the Cow Palace…and also the HIC in Honolulu promoted by Ed Francis with Lord Blears… and there too working for Shires I teamed with Jim Hady who taught me so much…and then Joe Scarpa…who became Jay Strongbow…and another important mentor…also there met Dominic Dinucci…and Red Bastein…in Hawaii I met Nick Bockwinkle and Curtis Iakea…

 

And working for Rod Fenton in Vancouver…I met Gene Kiniski… another wrestling superstar…and good friend…and Waldo von Erich…one of the very best…and Dick Garza…

 

Then in Minneapolis…working for Verne Gagne…a true great in our business… and his son… Greg Gagne a dear friend too… met Harley Race and Larry Hennig…another super team… and also worked with Dr. X who was the great Destroyer…Dick Beyers…another fabulous teacher and performer… and also met the Vachon’s… Paul… and Mad Dog… and of course The Crusher…one of the most talented stars…and there too met the young Rick Flair beginning his illustrious career… rode many trips with Rene Goulet …

 

Then…in 1970 got my chance…my start in ‘the business side’… became Leroy McGuirk’s partner in his company…with Verne Gagne…and Fritz von Erik…and then our TV was taped in Oklahoma City with Danny Williams the colorful commentator… he is 81 now…and those who remember still remember his closing words each show: ‘and watch out for flying chairs’…

 

eventually I bought them all out… Mid-South Sports was born…and became one of the most successful promotions in the US…with our biggest venue The SuperDome in New Orleans 4 times a year…

 

and yes…I ran it like a business…and had written policies with fines attached for breaking the rules… gee…personal responsibility and also accountability… and even fined young Sean Michaels his first week…but never again…because he ‘got it’…and I have loved how his talent blossomed even to now…

 

Still it takes a team…and even then…had extremely important people on my team…of course Jim Ross eventually became my ‘right hand’…and closest advisor… Grizzly Smith and Jack Curtis… all were an integral part of my team …and Bill Dundee a fabulous ‘booker’ as was Ernie Ladd…and yes…Boyd Pearce our TV commentator…a fabulous team…

 

and way back then too…during that era…met the entire Fritz von Erik family…Doris…a fantastic woman and mother…and the boys…truly fabulous kids… and so too…witnessed the tragedy of the deaths of David… Mike… Chris…and Kerry…with the only surviving son Kevin…(since the oldest brother had died in a fatal accident years earlier)… but too at Mid-South helped launch the careers of Hacksaw Jim Duggan…Rick Steiner… The Fabulous Freebirds by putting Buddy Roberts with them… Butch Reed…Paul Orndorff …Scandor Akbar…and Kimala…who I got from Jerry Jarrett as well as The Rock n Roll Express…and Jim Cornett and the Midnight Express…whom we formed at Mid-South…and so many more…Young Sting worked for me then…and with me at WCW…

 

And too… during this era from the late ’70’s’… ’substance abuse’ raised its ugly head…and continues to ravage this ‘wrestling family’… as so many affected in a way that this issue has to be considered in their seemingly premature deaths… many…including my own family has been touched by this horrible malady… and somehow…being such ‘exceptional athletes’… we feel like we ‘are supermen’…and so…’we can handle it’…the alcohol…the steroids…the drugs…the pain killers the ‘muscle relaxers’… but a drug does NOT respect any person…and a drug is a drug…and can reduce even the strongest to total weakness…dependence and even death…

 

And last but not least…was Eddie Graham…and his mentoring me…and I told him on several occasions…that from him I got ‘my PhD in wrestling’…as I then became a part owner in Georgia Championship Wrestling…and a percentage sharer of Florida Championship Wrestling in the ‘73-74′ years… and helped form (one of the absolute best) Dusty Rhodes’ career into the ‘true American Dream’…with Gary Hart and Pak Song Nam…and Hart’s Army…and Buddy Colt…also met a young Bob Backlund …and of course Mike Graham… who I still consider my friend…the privilege of working with ‘dean’ of wrestling commentators… Gordon Solie… also Don Curtis another great…there too I met young ‘Randy Savage’… and later his brother Lanny Poffo…

 

and these second and third generation wrestlers who grew up in the business…for the most part have acquitted themselves with adding to the legacy… just as Randy Orton…whose father Bob Orton Jr. worked with and for me… and now too the legacy continues with the McMahon family…

 

Final thoughts… since we are in Texas…I also became Paul Boesch’s partner here in Houston…and would also want to remember a long time great tag partner of mine too…Bobby Duncum…and of course Stan Hanson…the late Frank Goodish…Gino Hernandez…Killer Karl Kox…Jose Lothario…my good friend Chavo Guerreo and of course Hector Guerreo… yes… though influenced by many…I did it ‘MY WAY’… until I sold Mid-South in 1987…

 

and later too while at WCW…there met young Stone Cold Steve Austin was ‘breaking through to stardom’…

 

and saving for last one of my favorites…Dick Murdock…who also made such a huge contribution to my career as a promoter…and to my life… and I just loved to watch Dick Murdock interact with Andre the Giant every time he came to work for us in Mid-South…as Dick would try to match Andre drink for drink… and found ‘like every man’… that just wasn’t going to happen…as Andre was a ‘true giant’…with a gentle heart and wonderful sense of humor too… also lets remember that Texan country singer Willie Nelson’s song: To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before…and who’ve gone in and out my door…certainly too…that is part of the lore and legend of our business…and ‘being on the road’…

 

and too…some how ‘bridging from that to this’……I would like to publicly honor my wife of those years… Ene…for enduring some 23 years of marriage to me before she just finally ran out of steam and staying power with me…justifiable so…we know ‘marriage is tough’…but to be married to a wrestler… tests it so much more dramatically…my hats off to those women and those marriages that survived…and my public apology to her for me breaking her trust! And to my children! Sometimes you just have to ‘tell it like it is’…and bare your heart…and say how sorry you are.

 

In closing… this is the ‘highlight’ of my career…one more time to ’stand in the spotlight’…on center-stage…with my peers…with so many fans both here and on TV…the ‘real HOF’ers…who without them…NONE OF US could be here…the fans make this sport… and once again…I’d like to thank each of YOU…and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night at Wrestlemania…my first to attend!

 

And after that…the next ‘the biggest event’ for me…will be when I get called home to Heaven…and finally get to see MY HERO…my Lord and Savior…Jesus Christ…face-to-face…and bask in His perfect and unconditional love and light…and praise and worship Him for redeeming me by dying for me on Calvary’s cross…and I’ll also get to see all the saints in Heaven’s rest…and spend eternity with Him and with them…and I hope each and everyone of you are there too…what an eternal celebration that will be!!

 

Thank you! Thank you! Now from me…to you… ‘watch out for flying chairs’…

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