Former WWE Superstar D’Lo Brown was a recent guest on the Jim Cornette Experience podcast where he opened up about his times in Smoky Mountain Wrestling working for Jim Cornette. At the time, Cornette could not afford to pay Brown enough to get by on a wrestler’s salary alone, so Brown helped set up the rings for extra cash.
That’s when Brown encountered a racist he found himself working with on a nightly basis,
“I was happy to be ring crew. I set more rings up in my life than people will ever know and there was a fine gentleman in Knoxville, Tennessee by the name of “By God” Harold Barner and Harold Barner had the horse trailer and he’d ask people to wing it and he had the big dually and I would drive that thing around. Everything was good except for “By God” Harold Barner was a full blown racist and at every count, he would let me know how insignificant I was. He called me every name on the planet and I put up with it because 1. I’m in Smoky Mountain getting experience, 2. This is how I’m making my money, and 3. I can’t let Jim Cornette down because I don’t want to lose my job. My thought was I’m out here on ring crew and he can’t afford to pay me.”
According to Cornette, Barner was relatively unknown and only came into the position due to circumstance.
Cornette offered the following,
“I didn’t know of Harold’s card carrying Klan proclivities during the time that you initially started because you weren’t coming to me and you shouldn’t have and you didn’t want to, ‘Hey Jim, I don’t want to work with this guy.’ You just said, ‘I want the opportunity.’ But, it finally was revealed to me one night after Johnson City. Freedom Hall, we had a show there, and I get back to Morristown….so, I’m home and I get a phone call and it’s you.”
Brown had finally had enough of Barner’s treatment,
“People, for perspective, this is when cell phones – when you had them – were still like a dollar a minute, so you really didn’t use your cell phone that much. We just did a show in Johnson City, Tennessee and Harold could not drive at night because he was damn near blind. Now, for all purposes I lived twenty minutes from Johnson City, Tennessee; but, I had to drive from Johnson City to Knoxville to drop Harold off, which is about 100 miles and then turn around and drive the 100 miles back. That was my normal thing. So, on the drive down…we’re about 10 miles outside of Johnson City and he just goes into this promo of promos how I’m this black son of a bit*h. I’m sitting there and I’m just taking it. I’m doing my 80 mph. I’m just taking it. I’m taking it and pardon my French, I just said, ‘Fu*k it.’ I pulled the damn truck over. I cursed the son of a bi*h out. I opened the door and I just started walking.”
The incident left Brown alone at night on a Tennessee interstate without any transportation,
“I’m a black man in the middle of Tennessee walking down the highway at midnight. Nothing about this is good.”
That’s when Brown called Cornette, who was taken aback by treatment Brown was enduring. Cornette stayed in touch with Brown until after he could secure safe transportation home. After walking for approximately two hours in the darkness, Brown received a ride from fellow wrestler Boo Bradley.
Brown revealed that what motivated him to finally take a stand against the racist was a match he had previously had with The Undertaker, where the Dead Man told him, “Kid, keep going. You’ve got potential there.”
“To have ‘Taker tell you that after working with him, you’re like, ‘Wow, really? I can do this?’ And he’s giving me the rub and literally an hour later I’m being called every ‘n’ word on the planet and I was just like, ‘These two things don’t work well together. Their not synonymous. That’s where I had my full of it. I was done.”
Cornette then took Brown off the ring crew and put him full time on the shows. Brown saw success in Smoky Mountain Wrestling and eventually found himself on WWE’s radar and ultimately followed Cornette to the company. Due to some crafty finagling by Cornette, Brown was able to keep his D’Lo Brown name and inevitably found himself a member of the legendary Nation of Domination stable. While some look at the Nation of Domination, in hindsight, as politically incorrect or ‘unsavory,’ Brown has a differing opinion,
“I did not think The Nation was edgy. It’s a hard barometer because I knew the stuff we were doing down in Tennessee with The Gangsters. What we were doing on the national level was nothing compared to what we had done in Tennessee. I didn’t find it edgy or offensive. You were just out there getting heat and genuine heat where people wanted to fight you, not heat where I call you a fat boy or ugly, but like real heat, so it didn’t bother me. I know it didn’t bother Ron [Simmons] one bit.”
Brown found steady friendships with his Nation of Domination stablemates. Brown roomed with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and credits Ron Simmons with providing him with a wrestling education while driving together.
Brown added, “Man, I’m a lucky son of a bit*h.”
Brown still wrestles today on the independent circuit and does fan meet and greets. He also teaches at The Snake Pit Academy along with Sinn Bodhi and WWE Hall of Famer Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
Brown touched on wrestling today and the importance of learning the business the correct way,
“We’re magicians and David Copperfield didn’t make the Statue of Liberty disappear. He just made you think he did and that’s what we do in the ring. We’re illusionists. We’re not really out there killing each other; but, I look at guys out there today and they’re actually hitting each other. I saw two guys about a month ago. One guy hit a guy so hard with a steel chair he had blood bruises on his back and the chair didn’t make a sound! I’m like, ‘You killed him with that chair,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I thought that was the way to do it.’ I’m like, ‘Give me your chair,’ and in the locker room I swing it. ‘POW!’ I was like, ‘How did that feel?’ He was like, ‘Wow!’ ‘There’s a trick to it, you want to see it?’ Then they were like, ‘Oh my God.’ They were just doing what they see. They were never taught it. They’re just inferring it. It’s like watching a YouTube video on how to put a TV stand together and that’s how they’re doing wrestling. There’s no teaching going anymore and that’s the one thing I want to put back in the business.”
(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)
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