-Mickey Von Hess gets stabbed in the shower of the Montreal Forum. Whoever does it, leaves the knife in his side. René Martin finds him with the knife in his side, or if René was the killer, he comes back and pulls the knife out. When he pulls out the knife, Mickey bleeds to death. I'm guessing the knife was holding the wound together or something.
-Yeah, at least that's what the police told us later. The night of the stabbing, Darryl said pretty much the same thing. He was trying to get his hands on René for not leaving the knife in the wound.
-Was anyone ever charged in Mickey's death?
-Nope. There was some talk in the local rags of charging René but that got overturned rather quickly. They - the police - decided that while pulling the knife was stupid that it was also understandable. René wasn't a doctor or anything.
-Now, you said that you saw René pull out the knife.
-No, I was in the locker room right by the showers. After Mickey beat me, I gave a promo in the ring about how no one cheats the Rattler. I went to the back and I was getting a consolation blow-job from a rat in the back when René started screaming, “Au secours, au secours,” Come help, come help. I pushed the rat off, pulled up my pants and ran for the showers. I found Mickey thrashing around, blood going everywhere and René trying to hold him down. There was a bloody switch-blade knife in the corner of the shower. I helped René hold him down until Le Monstre hit the showers, with a bunch of other guys. Le Monstre held Mickey down and held the wound shut and yelled at me to go get the ring doctor.
The worst part of that night was that I ended up wrestling still covered in Mickey’s blood. When they sent me out to fight René later that night to make the point of what happened to Mickey, Junior wouldn’t let me wipe any of the blood off. To this day, I wonder how much of that blood still sticks to me...
-Um Yeah. You were the first one to get to the showers?
-After René yeah.
-All right. So we only have René Martin's word for it as to what happened?
-Yeah, although, like I said the police did say that the wound was consistent with René's story that Mickey had been stabbed, that the knife had been left in the wound and that someone had pulled the knife out later. Not hours later, but a good ten to fifteen minutes later. Now the fact that René pulled the knife out doesn't exclude him as the guy who put the knife in in the first place.
-Right. Now do you know who did knife Mickey?
-I never saw who did it.
-That's not the same thing as not knowing who did it. Why are you here now, today? Something happened to bring all of this up.
-Yeah. Cage happened. Cage looking me up in that bum-fuck town in New Mexico. Cage coming to save me and damn me all at the same time...
-Cage confessed to killing Mickey?
-Hell No. And when he first looked me up, I thought it had nothing to do with Mickey. It was only yesterday that he told me... Look can I just tell this my way and you'll figure out what and why I'm talking about, ok?
-OK, I've followed along so far, I might as well see it through to the end.
-Well, I was surprised to see Darryl in New Mexico for a lot of reasons. First of all, Darryl had no reason to be there. Darryl cashed out smart and he cashed out good. I mean he was never as successful as I was, but the years that he was successful were boom years and the book helped him out a lot, going bestseller and all.
-King of the Cage?
-Yeah. But in Montreal I took his spot. I became famous partly as Mickey's avenger and when I went to St-Louis, I took over the heel slot that he had filled previously, while Darryl was busy touring in the desert...
Chapter Twenty-Four: “King Cage In the Desert”
-King Cage in the desert. Now, when I say that he wasn't literally in the desert but he was far away from the spotlight. In those days in the late Seventies, early Eighties, you could make a living out of hitting all the non-NWA territories, but only just barely. A bit like today really, a lot of travelling, a lot of dealing with shmucks who have eyes bigger than brains and mouths bigger than their wallets. A lot of making just enough to make it to the next town. In his book, Darryl talks about putting money aside by being the cheapest bastard possible, saying that a show or an appearance was a failure if he didn't make at least ten bucks to put aside for the future. Schlepping T-Shirts and Autographed photos around from one show to another and making a little bit from that as well.
When the NWA disintegrated that helped a little as a few bigger towns suddenly became a little less fussy about who and how they booked, but at the same time Texas and Minnesota hit the crapper and those were two territories that gave Darryl a little bit better payday and a little bit of a longer run. That left California and Japan and Mexico... and New York. Now, while Darryl went to Japan it was always a bit of a hardship for him, because ever since Mickey crashed, Darryl is deathly afraid of airplanes. Plus he's a big fucking guy and the air-lines don't exactly have the right seat size for him. And that trip to Japan is a grueling fucking trip for someone who's the right size, right? I mean I have a hard time and I'm a good hundred pounds lighter than Darryl. Mexico, you can sell out a whole arena and the payday isn't necessarily as good as a half-full smaller arena here in the States or Canada. That left New York.
Darryl had never toured with New York. Now, partly that was because Darryl was an NWA loyalist through and through. Darryl never turned his back on the NWA, they turned their backs on him after Montreal which was a damn foolish thing to do. But that whole board of directors was a bunch of bureaucratic ass-holes. The kinds of guys who would bust your balls because you hadn't filled out some paperwork in triplicate while at the same time the building was on fire. Bunch of guys too busy arguing how big the iceberg was while the Titanic is sinking under their feet.
So, New York was an NWA territory off and on, but only in theory. Basically, New York had a really good TV contract which put them on TV every Saturday morning from Washington DC, up to Maine and all along the coast. And they had the Gardens which was the best location for wrestling other than maybe the Forum in Montreal and maybe later on the Checker. So, New York's attitude to the NWA was that when they were in a rut or they needed some talent, they would play ball with the NWA, pay their annual dues, book the NWA champion that sort of thing. But from New York's point of view, their champion was always at least equal to the NWA champion. To NWA loyalists like Von Hess, New York were tourists and users, taking what they needed from the NWA when they needed it and never giving anything back unless they had no fucking choice. Now maybe the NWA board was willing to put up with that, but a real NWA man like Von Hess, like Darryl, no damn way were they putting up with that.
The other reason that Darryl had never gone to New York was that New York had this weird fascination with cartoony gimmicks. Now, Old Man Clancy had the same fascination, but he was smart enough to try and base these gimmicks in some kind of reality. Now, I might have gone around hissing at people, but I was also the guy who would just beat the shit out of you given half the chance and I would ambush people at the drop of the hat. So, I might have been a cartoony character, but I was a dangerous fucking cartoony character, right. But when Darryl talked to New York about coming they always wanted him to come to New York and they would always give him these weird ideas like how he was going to wrestle in this outfit made out of polka dots or how he was going to be a character who believed he came from Africa or he was going to use a giant bone to hit people over the head with. Every time they come up with foolishness like this, Darryl says, “No Thanks” and takes less money from somewhere else.
Thing is, as St-Louis gets bigger, it starts swallowing up all of the smaller territories, or like I explained earlier, Old Man Clancy finesses them out of their contracts with all the good venues. So the paydays in the smaller towns starts drying up and Darryl finds himself forced to bite the bullet and sign on with New York. And naturally, even though there is nothing wrong with Darryl's gimmick, they decide to cartoon him up. Which is how Darryl finds himself as the Hardcore Farmer, wrestling with a pail of hog slops and doing promos in the mud with his pet pig. And like all big guys in New York in that period, he gets brought in to face Stormy.
Despite the stupid fucking gimmick and despite doing everything in their fucking power to fuck up, Darryl gets over with the crowd as an evil farmer. He even makes some money as they sell a plush version of the pig who gets called Clancy as a total slap at the Clancy clan. Now, in those days, there was a bit of pattern for opponents of Stormy. Big guy comes in and looks like a threat, attacks and beats the shit out of a few of Stormy's friends, Stormy gets upset, big guy ambushes Stormy and “injures” him so that Stormy can take some time off, maybe make one of his shitty films. Stormy comes back from his injury, faces off with the bad guy in a big show and beats him. The same thing here only Darryl has decided to hell with the consequences if he has to play an evil farmer he is going to go damn the torpedoes and play him as insane as hell. Stormy is getting a little bored with the format as well, so he lets Darryl beat him around a lot more than usual. And Stormy ends up putting Stormy on the shelf after attacking him with one of those hand rakes that you use in a garden. Like they take the fork away from him and Darryl goes out and gets a bigger fork.
The other odd thing about this feud is that Stormy never won. He was supposed to, but the day of the big show, he pitches this big fit over his contract so just to establish who gets to do the pushing, at the last minute they tell Darryl he's going over no matter what. ‘Cause even if Stormy wanted to, there's no way in hell he could actually beat Darryl, between the fact that Darryl is about fifty pounds heavier and Darryl with his amateur background could tie Stormy in knots if he decided to shoot with him. So Stormy loses and moves on to a feud with the pretty boy who is the champion, and Darryl settles into the mid-card as a sort of dangerous joke.
The only other guy who never lost to Stormy is this guy called the Mastodon, who is this big ass Football Player who can brawl like nobody's business, so the brain trusts in New York put him in this stupid fucking costume and make him into some kind of animal. Which is why he runs for St-Louis as soon as he can and in the process robs Stormy of his chance at getting the job back. Once Stormy's contract ends, he leaves for St-Louis as well, pissed at the New York management and determined to prove that he can be a star anywhere. Leaving Darryl wrestling in mud and shit.
And that's what he was when I got there, a dangerous joke, relegated to these stupid fucking matches in mud and shit. Now, I went to New York for the money and like I said earlier they totally fucked up my tour with them deciding to do the ego thing and have me job out to all of their guys in an attempt to show that they were better than St-Louis. Like I said, genius fucking idea. Now, the one thing I was a little worried about with New York was running into Darryl again. I figured that he would have some hard feelings about me basically making my career out of Mickey's death, but Darryl was then always was the biggest gentlemen in wrestling, the guy with the biggest heart. So, not only is he not pissed with me but he welcomes me to New York with open arms and he helps me with stretching exercises and roots and plants and shit that will help me with my knee and back.
All the time, he's also trying to help me get off the booze and the pills and he's trying to warn me about what's going on in New York, how I was making a joke out of myself by putting on shit matches and New York was making a joke out of me by having me job to guys who should never have been able to job to me. Well, the first part of his warning never got through, but the second part did eventually when New York told me that after I lost one last match, I was going to start wearing soft pink and lisping as they wanted me to go totally gay. That's when I snapped and shot on the tall fuck in the leather pants that they were grooming as their next champion. Then I walked to the back and when fucking Toots the third came in screaming at me in the shower I broke his nose with a left and blacked his eye with a right, and then I walked out into the desert myself.
But as I was walking into the desert, Darryl was walking out of the desert and the mud and the shit and all the humiliations that he had suffered wrestling for New York over the years that he had worked for them. See, one of the odd things is that Old Man Clancy never did watch the competition. From his point of view, he was the innovator. Every one else was just trying to keep up with him. Probably not true but the only guys even trying to keep up with him was the Japs and the Spics.
The guys in New York weren't even close. I mean I remember when Toots had the brain wave to announce that from now on his fed was only going to feature “The True Heavyweights” of the sport and that you couldn't wrestle for him unless you were at least six feet tall and weighed two sixty or more. That was pretty much a dig at Old Man Clancy for putting the title on this Calgary kid called the Unicorn who was five foot eight at best, but was also the best damn wrestler that you had ever seen. This would have been after I left, ninety-five or thereabouts. Anyway, New York actually made a run at St-Louis in the ratings started programming against the Bud Wrestling Hour. The Old Man took the loss in the ratings in stride and then pulled off the gloves. Talked Budweiser into making it a two hour show and then gave everyone over six feet and two-sixty, the week off. Flew in the best guys under that height and weight from all over the world, Britain, Germany, Canada, but especially Mexico and Japan. Had this huge tournament... and slaughtered New York in the ratings.
-The Rory Invitational?
-Yeah. Anyway, like I said, Old Man Clancy didn't spend much time watching New York. But he did want to see me go nuts so he got a tape of that show and sat down to watch it. He told me once before he died that he never had more fun than watching someone he hated, me, fucking destroying the promotion of someone else that he didn't respect enough to hate. But the thing that caught his eye was watching Darryl wrestling in slop, so out of the blue Darryl gets a call from Old Man Clancy. Time to come home to St-Louis, time to come out of the desert and the mud and the shit.
When we were walking in, someone said "Good luck topping the Ted Petty!" right in front of us. Ian said he wasn't trying to top it, and I used that moment to remind myself to not EXPECT it to be on that level.