Monday, December 19, 2016

The Gateway Interview: Jim Brunzell (Part 5)

Interview by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 

(Catch up on the introduction and what you missed in Part 1Part 2  |  Part 3  |  Part 4)

Jim Brunzell: Before I forget, David, we’ve been talking about George’s booking in the Mid-Atlantic. Every Monday, all the talent used to go in and meet with George and they would give George ideas about what they thought would be good to work into the next program, what would draw, et cetera, et cetera. And I never went to one of these meetings…

David Chappell: Really?

Brunzell: He called me one time and said, ‘Why don’t you come to these meetings?’ And I said, ‘George, I’m not a booker.’ I just didn’t believe in going in and doing that, and I guess this shows how naive I was…

Chappell: You’ve talked about George Scott a lot, did you perceive the booking being different or better in other places you worked?

Brunzell: In Minneapolis in the AWA and in the Central States, and s#@t, in Central States nobody, I mean Geigel and O’Connor were going to keep themselves on top, and book the rest of us to fill the card. You know, the AWA was managed so well and then when you got in the Mid-Atlantic and the NWA, I mean, you could see the writing on the wall in terms of what they wanted to do. But it was just no comparison.

Chappell: But you did enjoy your Mid-Atlantic stint?

Brunzell: I enjoyed Mid-Atlantic. Like I’ve told you before, when I left Charlotte I was in the best shape of my life. Honest to God, we wrestled every night and long matches. It was a great time. It went by like a flash, the amount of time I was there. The weather was great, and I just wish we would have had a little more time to enjoy the family. But that’s just the way it was; that’s the way George conditioned it.

Chappell: Have you kept up with any Mid-Atlantic guys over the years?

Brunzell: I have no idea whatever happened to Jim Crockett. I heard he moved to Dallas, but I don’t know what happened to him…

Chappell: He’s pretty much disassociated himself from wrestling…

Brunzell: I know George passed away. I see Steamboat; I saw Ricky at the Cauliflower Alley Club in Vegas in April which was fun. (laughing) And I see Ric occasionally; he’s going to be 68 shortly! He’s still involved and it’s funny, David, because as a former University of Minnesota athlete, I work with the M Club during the football games. And we have an M Club room to reminisce with guys…it’s been 45 years since I’ve played football there.

Chappell: How time flies!

Brunzell: But it’s funny, because up on the screen they have a video that they put out and they use Ric two or three times doing his ‘WOOO!’ It’s incredible; it’s great!

Chappell: That’s been done down here at sporting events as well, particularly in the Carolinas. The ‘WOOO’ has definitely made its mark!

Brunzell: Yeah!

Chappell: We’ve talked about the Iron Sheik a bit already, but when he took the Mid-Atlantic title off of you in May of 1980 that was the beginning of the end for you in the Mid-Atlantic area. Tell us how your run with Crockett ended. I still can’t believe that “Gentleman” Jim Brunzell got fired! (Note: Jim mentioned this briefly in Part 1 of the interview.)

Brunzell: Well, I’ll tell you exactly how I got fired. George had booked Khosrow and I in a second shot, we had an earlier shot, and Cosgrove said his back was hurt. So, in Franklin, North Carolina, George wanted us to do an hour…

Chappell: Of course!

Brunzell: (laughs) And Khosrow says, ‘My back is hurt Jim.’ So it wound up that I had him get disqualified. So, George calls me up and he said, ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘Khosrow told me his back hurt, so we did a disqualification.’

Then George calls Khosrow up and Khosrow said, ‘No, I never said that.’

Chappell: Geez…

Brunzell: I said, ‘George, Jesus Christ, you think I would do this without some reason?’ And he said, ‘Well, Jim, you disobeyed my booking; I gotta fire you.’ So I said, ‘You gotta do what you gotta do.’

Chappell: Wow…

Brunzell: So he fired me, but he let me work another four or five weeks. And I called Verne, and told him I ended up getting fired in Charlotte and asked him if there was an opportunity to come back. And he said, ‘Oh, that’d be perfect, but you can’t come back for this amount of time.’

Chappell: What did you do in the interim?

Brunzell: So meanwhile, I worked for Jim Barnett in Atlanta…I don’t know how long. But that was really a circus there, honest to God!

Chappell: (laughs)

Brunzell: (laughs) You know, they had two or three different bookers…it was pretty depressing

[Editor’s note: Jim Brunzell does a great Jim Barnett impression here!] Jim Barnett says, ‘Now Jimsey, now what do you want to do?’ And I said, ‘Jim, I just want to go home.’ So I went home. And you know what he told me? He said, ‘This will be the biggest mistake of your wrestling career.’ And I said, ‘Well, I hope you’re wrong.’

Chappell: Did you then restart with the AWA?

Brunzell: [The AWA] wasn’t quite ready for me, so they booked Nick Bockwinkel and I in Japan as partners, upholding the AWA. So, we went over there for four weeks, then we came back and Greg and I teamed up again.  When Jim Barnett told me leaving Atlanta would be the biggest mistake of my life, that next year in ’81 I made $80,000 which was the biggest salary I had made up until that time!

Chappell: I think you did just fine for yourself, Jim!

Brunzell: (laughs) Yeah, I made the biggest mistake of my life, and five years later Jim Barnett is working in New York and I see him there a couple of times!

It’s funny, this world in pro wrestling is so small…you run into people all the time. And you try to be a good person and treat everybody in the way you’d like to be treated professionally. I was very fortunate during my career that I had a lot of just great friendships. Guys really helped me and I benefited from them and it was a great experience.

Chappell: By the time you saw Jim Barnett again, this time in New York, the business was really changing.

Brunzell: I hated to go to work for New York, because I knew things were changing. It never was the same, and it still isn’t, you know?

Chappell: I agree.

Brunzell: I look back on all the talent that I was so fortunate to learn from in the areas that I went. Like in the AWA, the Central States and in the Mid-Atlantic…and I can honestly say that I didn’t learn too much in New York because it was so contrary to what I’d been taught.

Chappell: In so many ways! we start to wind down Jim, your book which you’ve mentioned a few times is fantastic. Please tell everybody a little bit about it specifically.

Brunzell: The book is titled ‘MatLands,’ and I self published it through a company called ‘’ If you go there you can punch in MatLands by Jim Brunzell and it will give you a ten page preview telling you what the book is about. It’s done real well, and it was really fun to do the book even though it was a hard process. I had never written a book before, and I had no idea what I was doing! My wife had given me a Dictaphone that I could record into, and people in our social group used to tell me that I told great stories, and I should write a book! So I did the book…

Chappell: It’s great history, but very entertaining as well.

Brunzell: It’s worked out real good. A good buddy of mine, Hillbilly Jim Morris, just recently did a book that he sent me. It’s so funny, because a number of the guys are writing books now. Bob Backlund’s got a book, and I think One Man Gang’s got a book. You think of all the guys that have worked for so many years, and it’s great they’re putting togther something of their path, and where their path led in the world of pro wrestling.

Chappell: Without a doubt.

Brunzell; You know, it’s fun to look back. Matter of fact, Brian Blair and I are going to go to Germany next year for three days. You still have a worldwide market. People can see you all over, and they can see the old tapes.

Chappell: How are you doing health-wise these days, Jim? Unfortunately a good many of your wrestling brothers are having some tough times in that regard.

Brunzell: I feel very fortunate that I didn’t really have any real serious injuries during my career. Although, I’ve had a shoulder replacement, a hip replacement and a knee replacement as a result of that career. But I think anybody that was in the wrestling business over 15-20 years is gonna need some spare parts!

Chappell: I know in a number of your Mid-Atlantic interviews you talked about a big part of your success revolved around your ability to stay healthy, so it’s good to hear that you practiced what you preached!

Brunzell: For sure; I was very fortunate.

Stay tuned for PART SIX where we wrap things up with Jim Brunzell and he talks about many of his fellow wrestlers in the Mid-Atlantic area.