Monday, December 12, 2016

The Gateway Interview: Jim Brunzell (Part 4)

Interview by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 

(Catch up on the introduction and what you missed in Part 1Part 2  |  Part 3)
Jim Brunzell's book is available at

Brunzell: A couple of these stories I tell in my book…[George Scott] brought in Buddy Rogers…

Chappell: Oh yeah, I was definitely going to ask you about the original Nature Boy!

Brunzell: (laughs) And Buddy Rogers was going to come in and help George. You know, with the booking. Buddy Rogers had notoriously for YEARS, every territory he’d come into, he’d steal all the heat from all the heels and he’d be the number one guy. Well, Buddy had to be close to 50 years old then…

Chappell: You’d think, at least…

Brunzell: Yeah, and he comes in…and I didn’t trust him at all, because I’d heard so much about him. (laughs) I remember he ended up stealing all the heat from everybody, and he was managing Jimmy Snuka. So, it was Jimmy Snuka, Buddy Rogers against Ricky Steamboat and I. I remember Buddy Rogers putting Band-Aids over his ears…

Chappell: That’s right, I remember he used the bad ear gimmick to feed the crowd reactions at the house shows.

Brunzell: He’d come on the interviews and say, ‘I just can’t stand the noise when people boo me!’

Chappell: (laughs)

Brunzell: So in the match he’s got these doggone Band-Aids on his ears, and it worked out that Steamer gave me a tag and I’m making a comeback on him and I get him in the corner, and I ripped one of the Band-Aids off his ear and he goes crazy and the fans go nuts! Then I ripped the other one off, and the fans go crazier!

Chappell: (laughs)

Brunzell: He also had a big Band-Aid on his chest, and I thought, ‘Oh s#@t, I’ll just rip that one off too!’

Chappell: (laughs)

Brunzell: (laughs) What had happened is that he had burned himself, in one of the very first sun tanning beds that they had then…

Chappell: Okay, now we know how Rogers always had such a good tan!

Brunzell: And he was blistered! So when I pulled that Band-Aid off he screeched like an owl!

Chappell: (laughing)

Brunzell: (laughs) And as I biel tossed him out of the corner he said to me, “I bet if you had five more seconds you’d take my boot off!’ That’s what he said to me, and we never worked again! (laughing)

Chappell: (laughing) That’s hilarious!

Brunzell: You know, he was a character…Oh God!

Chappell: For sure, and speaking of characters, you had an extended program in the Mid-Atlantic area with the strongman Ken Patera over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title which you won from him on September 14, 1979 in my wrestling hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Please tell us a little about Patera and the Mid-Atlantic belt.

Brunzell: Right, you know Kenny was a good heel and he was so powerful, and a great athlete. He was sort of a natural heel, because that was basically what his personality was too. And I remember George sort of let us flounder around underneath a little bit. Kenny and I had worked this deal, and we had a no disqualification match in Richmond for the championship. And I remember the finish was so unique!

Chappell: Oh yes!

Brunzell: I was making a comeback and he’d stopped me and thrown me outside and he kept knocking me off and running my head into the post and then the turnbuckle and the mat and everything, and then what happened was that the referee was pushing him back, and as he pushed him back Kenny comes whipping around and I had grabbed the top rope and slung myself and jumped and actually hit him with a head-to-head shoulder block tackle and covered him one-two-three. And it got over like a son of a gun!

Chappell: That’s an understatement, Jim!

Brunzell: First of all, it was a great match and the finish just came out of the clear blue sky. You know, because I was still down there selling and Kenny had kicked out and he got up and threw me out of the ring and then they give me the belt and he jumps off and the people go crazy!

Chappell: A magical Richmond Coliseum moment!

Brunzell: You know, we had a good run with that and you know it was fun. Oh God, Richmond was a great wrestling town! Richmond was one of the best big towns that we hit in the Mid-Atlantic. I mean, you know, Raleigh was okay and Norfolk was okay and Charlotte was good, but I tell you Richmond had a beautiful civic center there and it was round and the people were with it…they had great crowds in there!

Chappell: The Richmond Coliseum was the place to be on Friday nights!

Brunzell: I had some really good matches there. Matter of fact, I remember I had a match there with the Iron Sheik, and after the match he grabbed something and started choking me and he choked me so damn hard that I was almost knocked out! And then he threw me out of the ring and I was sort of half conscious, and when I went out of the ring I slammed my head on the concrete and I had 23 stitches in the side of my eyebrow!

Chappell: Whoa!

Brunzell: I’ll never forget that…that was from Richmond! The Iron Sheik, Khosrow, was such a character. In my book I talk about Khosrow and the Mid-Atlantic Title. He had wound up beating me on TV using that loaded boot!

Chappell: I remember that well! It’s interesting that three Mid-Atlantic opponents we have talked about, were in that 1972 training class with Verne!

Brunzell: Yeah, and it’s funny too I remember this match we had in Norfolk. I had beat Khosrow on TV by putting the sleeper on him…

Chappell: Yeah, I think you said Johnny Weaver had helped you perfect the sleeper.

Brunzell: And he was down in the ring…ding, ding, ding. I take off his loaded boot! And I think it was Rich Landrum doing the promos…and I go say to Rich, ‘I’m going to wrestle the Iron Sheik in Norfolk, I’ve got his boot and there’s no way he’s gonna be able to keep the Mid-Atlantic Title.’ So that coming week we had a double shot, an early shot in Norfolk and then we had that night in Charlotte. Sandy Scott is the agent running the town, and Khosrow and I are on last. Sandy comes up to me and says the finish is an hour draw! I said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Sandy, I’ve got the gimmick boot. If I can’t beat Khosrow with the gimmick boot in 60 minutes what the hell does that say about me?’

Chappell: Yeah…

Brunzell: And Sandy says, ‘Well, that’s what George wants.’ I was furious. It was funny, I got home that night and I saw him in Charlotte and I took him aside and I said, ‘George, you might as well have buried me in the middle of the ring in Norfolk, because I’ll never draw another dime there.’ And he just didn’t get it, you know. He was so lucky that the Mid-Atlantic drew so well and had such great talent. Again, I’ll say I like George but his booking was horrible; his finishes were horrible.

Chappell: George did a lot of fantastic angles in the Mid-Atlantic area over the years, but I concede the loaded boot angle wasn’t his best! And he was near the end of his run as Crockett’s booker when you came on the scene. One thing that puzzled me about your booking in Mid-Atlantic was your quick run with the legendary Ray Stevens at the end of 1979. You two had a history in the AWA, traded the Mid-Atlantic Title between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then barely wrestled again after that! Even at that time as a fan, I was thinking, ‘What gives?’

Brunzell: Well, I thought the same thing David. And you know, Ray was one of the greatest of ALL talents.

Chappell: No question.

Brunzell: He was just incredible, and he and Nick Bockwinkel were AWA Tag Team Champions. He was HUGE out in San Francisco in the middle 60s to the early 70s. And Ray was the type of guy, you know, you could go in the ring with him and have a hell of a match, and he might not have slept for two days!

Chappell: (laughs)

Brunzell: He was incredible! And there were very few guys like him. I’ll say Ric was very much like Ray Stevens. Bobby Heenan was exactly the same; these guys were all naturals.

Chappell: I have heard Ric say that he emulated Ray in a lot of things he did.

Brunzell: Unbelievable talent!

Chappell: You worked with so many true legends like Ray Stevens over the course of your career. Were there any legends that you never worked with that you wish you had?

Brunzell: I was so fortunate that I had the opportunity in my early time at the AWA to work with all these great guys. And I did go to Kansas City and I saw Jack Brisco and I saw Terry Funk. And then when I went to Charlotte I worked with Terry Funk in a couple of shots. And when I went to Atlanta I worked with Dory Funk, Jr. But I never did get to work with Jack Brisco, who I REALLY admired! I thought he was one of the great champions.

Chappell: Absolutely.

Brunzell: Just an INCREDIBLE presence in the ring.

To Be Continued in Part 5!

Bonus Video: 
Jim Brunzell and Blackjack Mulligan vs. Tank Patton and Gene Lewis