Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Gateway Interview - "Precious" Paul Ellering

"Precious" Paul Ellering
One of the most dynamic tag teams in the history of professional wrestling was the Legion of Doom, the Road Warriors. Animal and Hawk, along with their cerebral manager “Precious” Paul Ellering, wreaked havoc in a number of wrestling promotions and territories from the early 1980’s until Hawk’s untimely death in 2003. But one of the greatest runs for the Road Warriors was in Jim Crockett Promotions and the National Wrestling Alliance during stretches from 1984 until 1990. It is principally for their excellence during that latter time frame that the Road Warriors and Paul Ellering are being inducted into the Hall of Heroes “Class of 2016” as part of the Fanfest in Charlotte, North Carolina on August 4-7, 2016. The Mid-Atlantic Gateway caught up with Paul Ellering recently, and “oh what a rush” it was to chat with this wrestling legend!

David Chappell: Paul, thank you for taking the time to speak with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway today. My website partner, Dick Bourne, told me that he hoped you weren’t reading your Wall Street Journal when I called, and that I wouldn’t be interrupting your reading time with what used to be your favorite newspaper! With smart phones and other electronic substitutes, I don’t even know if there’s a Wall Street Journal paper out there anymore.

Paul Ellering: Believe it or not, I still get the Wall Street Journal! Basically, it's so obsolete because of, like you say, the cell phone. Recently I've been back at NXT, and they said, "Yeah, nothing out of the '80s or '90s. No Wall Street Journals, no sunglasses, no nothing."

Chappell: I don’t doubt it at all; the world has really changed. Skipping ahead a little bit, since you brought up NXT!  I follow the current product at WWE, and actually I went up to the Battleground event in Washington recently. But for whatever reason, I haven't gotten into NXT much, just because I guess there are only so many hours in the day. I'd heard great things about NXT, but I actually watched, probably for the first time, one of their entire special events, NXT TakeOver: The End of the Beginning, and I had no idea you were going to be there. When you came out with the Authors of Pain, I became an instant NXT fan!

Ellering: Well, they've got a great product. They have a great facility, with the performance center, and my gosh, they've got an abundance of talent.

Chappell: Absolutely, for sure.

Ellering: NXT itself has gotten to a point where they're self funding their whole deal. They don't do a lot of shows, but the ones they do, they do really good. There is one coming up in Brooklyn next month, and that was sold out in 4 hours!

Chappell: NXT has a kind of old school feel to it for me!

Ellering: Well, going back to the '70s and '80s, we always did TV in basically small venues. Now, with Raw and Smackdown, they do them in big arenas and stuff, but with NXT, it's like old school TV. It's not huge, and it fills up, and the crowd's really into it. In that respect, it's a throwback.

Chappell: I agree. Paul, you have been previously inducted into several prestigious Halls of Fame, but the 2016 Hall of Heroes in Charlotte is principally recognizing you and the Road Warriors for your accomplishments during your Crockett/NWA run in the mid and late 1980’s. I'm curious how the stint with the NWA compares to all the other successes you and the Warriors had in other parts of the country and world.

The Legion of Doom, The Road Warriors Hawk and Animal with "Precious" Paul Ellering
Ellering: Well, one has to look at the history of things, and that was a tremendously exciting period for wrestling because of the wrestling wars and the companies that wanted to sign talent up, and it was really good for the boys, and people in wrestling. Everybody was competing. It was the WWF at that time against Crockett and Turner, so it was really exciting in that respect, because everybody'd go check the ratings and see who was doing good and who wasn't, and of course, we were part of it.

Chappell: A huge part of it!

Ellering: We came along in the first revolution of wrestling, which was the beginning of the '80s, when cable TV started to spread across the country. Then people, there were so many, many territories across the United States, could finally compare their local products to a national product. Then along came the Road Warriors, and wrestling changed from the old school wrestling to the new era at that time.

Chappell: That's right, you all were really front and center during that switch over period.

Ellering: Oh yeah, we were just huge, and it was non stop action, and very visual. The guys were super strong, and then along came the paint and the haircuts and the entrance music, and it was really exciting in that respect.

Chappell: At that time, nobody had seen anything like the Road Warriors. I remember when you all came briefly into the Mid-Atlantic area in the summer of 1984. Of course everybody had heard about the Warriors and had seen you all in the Apter magazines, but when you all appeared on our local TV program it was quite an awakening. You all really were at the forefront of that change. Change is good a lot of times, and I think in this case, it really was.

Ellering: Yeah, and then at that time, I think we worked up until '84 or '85 for TBS there, Turner. Well, actually, Ole was the booker at that time.

Chappell: Yes…

Ellering: Then we basically went independent, because we had our deal with Japan. Japan always came first, and then we did a deal with Verne, up in the AWA, so we could move back home, and then we also kept working for Crockett. Basically, we worked for everybody, but we called our own shots. I saw it, at the time, because I saw how they promoted Andre as just an attraction, where you bring him in and he's in for a month, and then he's gone.

Chappell: Interesting…

Ellering: The guys were over, so strong, I thought to myself, "Boy, we can do the same thing.” We can just be an attraction, not even stay in a territory, and just hot shot the whole country, the whole world, for that matter, and just hot shot it. Go in, go out, and they see us, and then the fans are always left with, "We want to see more." You always had another place to come in, and it worked really good because we didn't get over exposed, and so it was very exciting that we had that many territories that we could work with.

Chappell: What a great set-up for you all! You were of course managing the Road Warriors on TV, but you actually did a lot behind the scenes to set them up to be these touring free agents, so to speak.

Ellering: I am, to this day, the last shooting manager, because I was a manager. I set up the travel. I set up how we were going to get paid, and we'd just sit down with the calendar, a month ahead, and I'd just say, "Okay, what days don't we want to work, because if you leave it open, I'm going to fill it up."

Chappell: It wasn't just the TV role for you as a manager, you did it all!

Ellering: Oh, yeah! It was fun, though. It was fun. We got to be really close, and were a special family unto ourselves.

Chappell: It’s interesting that the Road Warriors were close behind the scenes, in addition to their obvious on-screen camaraderie. With that being said, you must be excited to be reunited with Animal at Fanfest in Charlotte.

Ellering: Well, it's always great to see him. I saw him a couple months ago. We did a show, well, it was in Dallas I believe. It's always good to see him, see how his family's doing, because all their kids and my kids, we all grew up together and they're family. There's always a special place in my heart for Animal, and him for me, too, I'm sure.

Chappell: Is it a bit bittersweet that when you and Animal get together now, Hawk’s not here to complete the team? I’m sure fond memories of that big man must come flooding back to you.

Ellering: Well, always, because any time you sit around, some memory of Hawk just comes up. Somebody will come up and say, "Remember this? Remember that?" We just go into the memory banks and enjoy those moments.

Chappell: Hawk was a memorable guy, there's no doubt about it. In a lot of respects!

Ellering: Yeah, they only made one Hawk!

Chappell: That's right. They broke the mold, without a question.

Ellering: Yep!

www.nwalegends.comChappell: You and the Warriors are being inducted into the 2016 class of the Hall of Heroes with several people that were important in making that mid 1980s Crockett/NWA time frame so special. One is the late great Dusty Rhodes, of course, who is being inducted by his close friend Magnum TA. What are your thoughts on those two legends?

Ellering: Well, I really miss Dusty. He was just, he was just one of a kind, and it'll be really good to see Magnum. I haven't seen him since the '80s.

Chappell: Wow, really?

Ellering: Yeah. I think it's really a tremendous satisfaction as far as me and the fans, that Magnum gets to talk about Dusty, because they were very close.

Chappell: Very much so.

Ellering: Well, they all were at that time. Yeah, so I think it's tremendous.

Chappell: Another super talent that you and the Road Warriors worked closely with in the Crockett years was the “Perfect 10,” Baby Doll. She is part of the 2016 Hall of Heroes class as well. What are your memories of Baby Doll?

Ellering: Yeah, at that time, women didn't have such a dominating role, and she paved the way for a lot of what's taking place right now, and she deserves credit for being there on the frontier.

Chappell: I absolutely agree; I think she was a real trailblazer.

Ellering: Yep!

Chappell: Then the other fellow that's going to be up there on the Hall of Heroes stage with you, who was also going strong in that mid to late ‘80s Crockett era, is the fabulous Jimmy Valiant!

Ellering: Oh, Handsome Jimmy! I knew Handsome from Memphis. I went to Memphis, and Lawler broke his leg, and then they crowned me the King of Memphis. Handsome Jimmy and I, we wrestled each other for almost a whole year.

Chappell: Oh really? I didn't realize that.

Ellering: Oh yeah!

Chappell: Wow…

Ellering: I know Handsome Jimmy very well. He's one of a kind, too, just a sweetheart of a guy.

Chappell: He was Handsome in Memphis, and then he came over to the Carolinas, and he became the Boogie Woogie Man from New York City!

Ellering: Yeah…one of a kind. Just smooth as silk.

Chappell: Tell the fans something about Precious Paul Ellering that your fans might be surprised to hear.

Ellering: (pauses) Well, I don't know, just maybe how close we were, like a family. Wrestling, back then, was still a family, and it is, the community of wrestling is a family. There's many different levels, but how close Animal and Hawk and our immediate families were, and how close we were, because we spent so much time together. We spent more time together than we did with our real families. There's just a lot of love.

Chappell: That's awesome.  I think a lot of people will enjoy hearing that, because it’s one thing  to see that on camera, obviously, you projected a closeness in that respect. But that's not necessarily always the case outside of public view. It's nice to hear that was the case with you all.

Ellering: It's not that way in all sports. You got two guys, and they're both battling out for MVP, and they talk nice to each other on camera and hate each other in the dressing room.

Chappell: Exactly…

Ellering: That was never the case with us.

Chappell: You really maintained that family.

Ellering: Always, closeness creates its own issues, and you got the little things, but we worked through all that stuff.  And we just became closer and stronger as a unit, and we had a tremendous run. We thank the fans and the promotion at that time, and it's a tremendous business to be in.

Chappell: Oh yes. I think a family, of course, any family will have its ups and downs occasionally, that's part of being a family, but I think that the folks out there will really enjoy hearing that the Road Warriors truly were a family in and out of the ring.

Ellering: Yeah, we really were.

Chappell: I think one of the really neat things about the 2016 Fanfest in Charlotte is that there will be another Ellering appearing, your daughter Rachael Ellering, who is one heck of a wrestler. You must be one proud Dad!

Ellering: Well, yes, I’m very proud of my daughter. She has worked many years for this. She actually went to college and majored in Communications at a very prestigious university and graduated in the top of her class. She's covered all of her bases, and now she's paying her dues, and working her way up the ladder of success. I'm sure she will go as far as she wants to go, because she is very determined, and she is a tremendous athlete in her own right. Played all sports and…

Chappell: I was going to say, a Power lifting champion, right?

Ellering: Yeah, she lifted in the World’s in South Africa, and placed 3rd, which is really an accomplishment. She will be a tremendous asset for wrestling, and I'll help her in any way that I can, of course. That's about it. She'll be right there, I think.

Chappell: No doubt about it! In addition to being inducted into the Hall of Heroes on Friday night August 5th, you will also be doing a photo opportunity with Animal on Saturday afternoon August 6th. What a treat for Road Warrior fans! And Rachael will also be participating in a photo opportunity with you on Saturday afternoon, and wrestling Tessa Blanchard on Saturday night.

Paul, anything else you’d like to tell your fans that are coming, or are thinking about coming, to Fanfest?

Ellering: Oh, anytime you can get around that many legends, I think it's a tremendous opportunity and we're all not getting any younger, so…

Chappell: That's for sure, speaking for myself!

Ellering: Yeah, and I'm just glad that the good Lord has been good to me, and let me be viable to where I am today, and I thank the WWE for bringing me back, and just making me relevant. Otherwise I'm basically retired, so that's nice.

Chappell: You’re certainly more than relevant, Paul! Are you into social media, and can your fans contact you through those means?

Ellering: WWE just set me up with Twitter. I never had Twitter.

Chappell: Oh, really?

Ellering: Yeah, so I'm really a dinosaur, but my daughter, like I said, she was a Communications major; she knows all that stuff, so she helps me a little bit with that.

Chappell: That’s great! Everybody can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulElleringWWE through his WWE Twitter account.

Ellering: Yep, WWE, they're really into social programming, because their program is up 24 hours a day, so it just keeps moving it, just keeps moving, as the day goes on, people tweet them, and they post it, or you got your own account and you can post it in there. They're really connected. The average fan today is very connected to wrestling. They know a lot more than I know, that's for sure.

Chappell: I don’t know about that, but I do know it’s been an honor talking to you today! I think I’m safe in speaking for all your fans, that we’re all excited to see you in Charlotte for Fanfest in the next few days. And I get the vibe that you’re about as excited about Fanfest as the fans are!

Ellering: Yeah, I really am. Meeting the fans, and then getting to see some of the guys that I don't see except for things like this.

Chappell: Catch you soon, Paul!

Ellering: Yep, we'll see you in about a week!