Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
"you've got Dr. Zahorian with 2 tackle boxes
full of steroids, painkillers, speed and
downers? And you're selling your
product to little children. "
31. What response did you get from the McMahons when you left?
A few days after I left, I got a letter from Vince telling me that I was hurting Rick's earning potential. They both tried to put the responsibility for the split on me. But it was Rick's own greed that destroyed the Can-Ams and his own future earning potential. Later on they sued me for breach of contract. They sued me for an amount which would have finished me financially. I rang McMahon. I wanted to make the point that they hadn't treated me with respect. He wasn't there so I spoke to Linda (McMahon's wife and business partner). I told Linda - "You made the decision to pay Rick more money than me. I found out. I left. You say I was a quitter to enhance your product. You replaced me with a better wrestler, Tito. Strike Force didn't get over. You lost! The joke's on you." I asked them to leave me alone. "What do you want to do, wreck me." It was like the mob - they were very big on loyalty but when you wanted out, they went after you. I told Linda "I've got the New York Times' phone number in front of me. How would you like me to ring them and tell them that you've got Dr. Zahorian in your locker room with 2 tackle boxes full of steroids, painkillers, speed and downers? And you're making money out of selling your product to little children." And Linda said "I wouldn't do that if I were you." I said "Are you threatening me?" and she replied "You can take it any way you want."
* * *
32. Who originally came up with the concept “Can-Am Connection?”
Rick came up with the name. He had the jackets made, the blue jacket he sent me in Portland. I had the flags and the trunks made. Rick went down to see Vince and convinced him it was Vince's idea, to put Vince over.
33. How did your first WWF match compare to your previous work in AWA, PNW or IWA?
The first match was against the British Bulldogs in Montreal. They were good workers and there were no problems adjusting. They were very professional workers.
from Pure Dynamite - Autobiography of Tom Billington, The Dynamite
Kid, (page 98)
"We [The British Bulldogs] were always babyfaces in the WWF, which meant you had to be nice to the fans and behave in the ring. But there was one time when we were wrestling Rick Martel and Tom Zenk in Montreal. It was a championship match - the main event-but, because he was French Canadian, Rick had to be the babyface. So, Pat Patterson said to us, 'Bulldogs, you're in for some stick tonight. I want you to wrestle as heels.'
So I said, 'OK Pat, if that's what you want. But don't get mad at me when I come back.'
For the first few minutes of the match, we behaved. I threw Rick out of the ring, by accident, then sat on the middle rope and held it down for him, like a gentleman, so he could climb back in. The people applauded. I threw him out again, sat on the rope, and as he bent down to climb through, I kicked him hard in the chest. Then we started, using every dirty trick we could think of. So, when the match ended with Zenk and Martel somehow getting disqualified, there were 15,000 very angry people in the arena. It was like old times. As we left the ring, they were throwing things and shouting and probably swearing at us, but in French, so I didn't understand a word of it anyway."
34. But it seems that in almost every match, Martel used you as a sort of 'face in peril' who took most of the bumps from the heels and then hot tagged him in for his trademark 'catapult splash' finish. Is this a fair description of how you were used in WWF?
Watch the Can-Am tapes and see if anyone thinks Rick really helped me enhance my potential as a young top star in the WWF. All anyone has to do is look at the tapes and see that I was used to do all the selling while Rick made all the comebacks and did all the finishing moves. Then compare "Can-Am" to "Strike Force" and see if Tito had to sell every match like I did. Do you really think Rick pulled the same stuff about selling and money with Tito as he did with me? I don't think so! After a few months on the road with the WWF a young kid came up to me in Ohio and said "Man, yo' the guy who gets ya' butt kicked and tags in yo' partner and he cleans house. How come?" And I said to Martel, "I think the fans are catching on!" Even Hogan mentioned it. It never evened out over six months. Pillman and I would trade off who would get the heat - but in the Can-Am it was all-Rick. Egomania, I guess.
"a young kid in Ohio said to me "Man, yo' the guy who gets ya' butt kicked ..." I said to
Martel, "I think the fans are catching on!"
|Zenk and Martel vs Orton and Muraco at Wrestlemania
left - Orton prepares to headbutt a prone
"Orton was a great guy, a great technician, a guy that I respected and liked as a person, a guy who accepted me and helped me in the ring, a second generation man who took the time to help me perfect my craft, as well as taking care of me in the ring. And someone I liked to shoot pool with!"
35. Can you tell us something about appearing at Wrestlemania III, working before such an enormous crowd. How generous were Muraco and Orton in putting you over?
They wanted us to start off Wrestlemania III with a hot match. I think we had 5 minutes and 30 seconds with a little cutesy finish. Who pinned them? - Martel of course! Everything was on cue and we did all the spots. A few weeks before Wrestlemania, the WWF hooked up teams that were going to wrestle at the big event to make them comfortable working with each other when the big day came, and also to allow them to work out some high spots for the match. Anyway Orton and I became friends inside and outside the ring because I kept my mouth shut and listened. We also partied on occasion and I think, among most of the boys, I had no heat because I was humble and liked to party with the heels. Orton was a great guy, a great technician, a guy that I respected and liked as a person, a guy who accepted me and helped me in the ring, a second generation man who took the time to help me perfect my craft, as well as taking care of me in the ring. And someone I liked to shoot pool with! Don Muraco - another great guy, funny too, again always took care of my body in the ring.
Zenk's share of the $6.8 million was $10,000 or O.15%
36. Were you satisfied with the money deal from Wrestlemania III ?
No - I wasn't satisfied. I got $10,000. Other guys in bad matches got $20,000. They even paid Mary Hart more. I asked Rick "How much do you get paid". "Uh, the same as you." Then I heard from the other guys what he really got paid. Between us we should have received $100,000. I never had any problem with Vince - he was a good pay-off man - but he still owes me.
||37. What about merchandising
in general at WWF - were you able to make a reasonable deal with them over
They generally develop merchandising after about 6 months - if you're over! I got out before getting legally caught up in merchandising agreements. Rick and I had agreed in Japan that if we weren't earning $5,000 a week after 6 months in WWF, we'd take up Baba's offer in Japan. January to July is, I believe, six months. In July '87, I was still on $2,500. When I found out that Rick was taking a bigger share of the contract and that the merchandising was going to kick in, my buddy (who's an attorney) told me to get out of there, otherwise I was really going to lose. I'd have been held liable for all the costs of lost merchandising if I'd left after that.
38. Was there any other way you were financially tied to WWF?
My girlfriend had found a nice house - an acre, prime real estate at a modest price. WWF was willing to go guarantor on mortgages to tie in their workers financially. But they turned me down three times because Patterson didn't want to get me my house. They wanted me to buy something bigger, around $400,000. Because they wanted to tie me in as a slave to the grind. I've never played the game. At the same time, my girlfriend was getting anxious so I told them if they turned it down again, I'd quit. Three strikes and I'm out. Eventually Martel spoke to Hogan. The Hulkster phoned Vince and I got the house.
39. Can you give us some indication of how seriously 'over' Can-Am Connection were in the US at the time?
It was big time! We were OVER! The TV was so strong. People noticed us everywhere. Sophisticated people wanted autographs for their kids. It took 6 months to get over in the WWF (and about one and a half years in the WCW!). We burned the Rougeaus, we burned Janetty and Shawn Michaels. They got a try out but we got the gig. They (WWF) went with us. We had the look, everything. They would put us on after Hogan to pop the crowd. We were main event and they always had us go on last. They couldn't follow us - only with Orndorff and Hogan. I've never been so over in my life!
40. Can you tell us something about life on the road - who paid for travel, hotels, rental cars and food and out of pocket expenses?
Vince paid for airfares but he booked us onto 6 a.m. early morning flights to save himself money. That meant we arrived into cities too early in the morning to check into hotels to get some rest. At the other end of the day, we were often the last match. By the time we got out of the building - around 11.30p.m. - back to the hotel, bleached the ring gear, there wasn't much time to sleep before you had be up again at 5.00a.m. to check out of the hotel, return the hire-car and book in for the next flight. We had to pay for all hotels, rental cars, food and incidentals. Deduct all that from $2,500 a week and then taxes - I was paying a single guy's taxes - and there's not much left.
41. Is it true that Martel was cheap and booked you into low-rate motels and diners on the road?
Rick was old school. He'd book us into Red Roof Inns and we'd eat at Mac Big Boys. I'd rather stay in a nice place and get a nice meal. Maybe it was true that he'd lost $50,000 in the IWA and needed to save some money.
"Harley Race used to pinch me real hard or,
on the test of strength, he could crush
my fingers to the point of tears ......"
42. Who were the real life good guys that you like to remember and why?
Generally, the heels - Harley Race, Bob Orton. Greg Valentine, Don Muraco, The British Bulldogs, The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart). I can't count Flair among wrestling's ring generals. But Harley Race and Bret Hart were. Real smooth and always took care of you in the ring. Harley Race used to pinch me real hard or, on the test of strength, he could crush my fingers to the point of tears ... I think he was the best ever for a man's man, if you know what I mean!
43. Who were the real-life bad guys in WWF you'd prefer to forget and why?
Vince McMahon, Terry Garvin, Pat Patterson and Louis Dundero ......
"The real life good guys were generally the heels - Harley Race, Bob Orton, Greg Valentine, Don Muraco... "
44. How seriously were you being considered for the WWF tag belts and how long did they plan for you to hold them?
It was coming within a month. I didn't ask because I really couldn't have cared less. It meant working harder - but not on the money I was earning! Normally we had three weeks on and two days off. Jim Neidhart (who held the WWF tag team titles with Bret Hart) told us that when we won the belts, we'd be on the road 90 days straight. I really wasn't interested in becoming tag champ on the money I was getting. For his part, Neidhart told us he just couldn't wait to drop the belts. I think the plan was for us to win the belts and then drop them later to Demolition. Either way there wouldn't have been any more money in it for me.
NEXT WEEK - PART 4
Pat Patterson and Terry Garvin
Garvin and Patterson had been using their stroke in the office to harass me - watching in the shower, crude remarks, and then general harassment, like Terry Garvin's warnings about dress codes. I'd heard rumors about them and the way they'd tried to manipulate guys like Barry O. Trying to hit on them. We were in a Mac Big Boys on the road to Worcester, Massachussets [the night before the split] and I said to Rick "you'd better get your French Connection buddies squared away or you're going to be working alone......"