TOM ZENK SHOOT INTERVIEW Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
"You'd better get your French Connection buddies squared away or you're going to be working alone."
45. What was the most memorable of your matches in the WWF?
Wrestlemania III. For the 93,000 record crowd.
Part of the record crowd at Wrestlemania III Pontiac Silverdome, Michigan, March 29, 1987
46. What was the best time you had in the WWF - in or out of the ring?
Hooking up with one of the W.W.Federettes in San Diego. "Lynette the Federette" from Ohio. And the WWF women in general - TV was so strong it attracted top class women. You felt like a rock star. Of course, Vince treated the women better - booked them into free hotel rooms. We stayed in the San Diego Travelodge across the road from the Sports Arena.
47. How much opportunity did you get for singles wrestling in WWF.
Not much. But I did get a chance to work with Greg Valentine, Harley Race and Bob Orton.
48. How long had you been dissatisfied with the working arrangements with Martel and WWF before you decided to split?
Since about April '86. After Wrestlemania III, I was booked for three weeks off - a big lay off. But Rick wanted us to go on a loop of Quebec instead. He had a part-interest in the tour with Stan Marshall. I didn't want to go and as it turned out I lost money on the tour. So instead of $10,000 for Wrestlemania plus three week holiday, I ended up with less than $10,000 for the entire month's work - my total payout from Wrestlemania III !!! I was mad with Rick. The only good thing to come out of that was teaming up with Harley Race on the tour. He and I became good friends and he'd bleed his heart to me about life in general - sometimes very sad but I always enjoyed listening to him!
49. Can you recall the combination of factors that led to the actual split?
Money. Money talked.
50. Had you made previous efforts to discuss money issues or have the problem addressed by Martel or WWF management? Or did you just make an on-the-spot decision that enough was enough?
I tried to discuss the stuation with Rick but he could never look me in the eye long enough to discuss it.
51. Did you ever get a chance to put your case to McMahon?
No, no. When I said "I want to talk to Vince" Rick would say "Wait until we get the belts - we'll have more leverage then." When I said it'd be better to get things sorted out right away, Rick said "No. Two-on-one wouldn't be a good idea." I said "Two wrestlers against Vince McMahon is hardly ganging up on him" but he simply didn't want me talking to Vince. And it was tough getting to see McMahon, getting past his stooges.
"He acted real huffy - and when we arrived at the hotel, he threw the car keys at me. I went to my room to think things over."
52. I understand you were in Boston on the day of the split. Was there a big match coming up?
No it wasn't a big match - it was a TV interview with Gene Okerlund at 10 a.m. the next morning. I think we were in Worcester, Massachussets. A number of things were coming to the boil. There was the money and Rick's refusal to meet with McMahon to renegotiate. The money sucked. I told Rick the money sucked. That was the third time I'd tried to get our deal renegotiated. But by then I knew he had his own deal. Japan wanted us - so he must have had something better. You don't want to go back to Japan and work for $5,000 a week!! - then you MUST have a better deal. Then Garvin and Patterson had been using their stroke in the office to harass me - cock-watching in the showers, crude remarks, and then petty harassments if you snubbed them - like Terry Garvin had started warning me about supposed dress code violations. 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 and I said to Rick "you'd better get your French Connection buddies squared away or you're going to be working alone." I used to tell Rick that his friends were his friends. I didn't want to know them. After that he gave me the cold shoulder in the car the whole way to Worcester. He acted real huffy - and when we arrived at the hotel, he threw the car keys at me. I went to my room to think things over.
||Allegations of sexual harassment within WWF
have generally been directed against the same WWF staffers. The alleged
harassment takes the form of demands for sexual favors in exchange for
career advancement. Wrestlers who refuse these advances have complained
of on-going harassment, including the allocation of embarassing ring personas
and costumes (WWF's traditional punishment for "non-team players"), bad
angles and significant de-pushes.
Later a female referee Rita Chatterson claimed that she was riding with Vince Mc Mahon in his limousine when he demanded sex. Chatterson refused and claimed that, subsequently, she was denied work by WWF. (In those days, WWF referees were day players who got paid by the show. No shows meant no money.) The case was, apparently, dismissed for lack of evidence [Ed.]
53. What happened next?
I called the airlines from my motel room and booked the first flight to Minneapolis. Then I called my girlfriend and asked her to pick me up from the airport. I left Rick a note with the car-keys saying - "Thanks for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. Without you it wouldn't have been possible. But things didn't work out the way you said. You'll do better on your own." July 10 is my mother's birthday. I was back in Minneapolis in time to celebrate my mother's birthday.
54. As you headed back to Minneapolis, were you resolute in your decision or were you still open to changing your mind and having another shot at it ?
No. "Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me." I hated to do it but I figured I owed it to Rick [i.e., to teach him a lesson - ed.]
55. And what were your feelings towards Martel at that time?
I was disappointed after all we'd been through. I'd helped him out by moving from PNW (Portland) to IWA (Montreal) after the Rougeau's left. I thought "when does he equal out?" Any great team equals out. But with Martel it just NEVER equalled out.
||56. According to Martel, he
visited you in Minneapolis three days later. Can you describe the meeting,
where it took place and what was discussed?
I was fixing up the new home I'd bought a few weeks earlier. He came with 'Blackjack' Lanza. I was working in my garage, refinishing the kitchen cabinets. Rick was honest - he said I can understand what you're doing. And he gave away how much he was earning. I didn't discuss in detail the real reason for what I'd done. I was so mad. I told him "I'm done." He told me we were going to win the belts and work a program with Demolition ....but the hot heel team draws the money - that's the tradition - so we wouldn't have held the belts for long. Jack Lanza came in. Jack Lanza was one of the guys in AWA who had encouraged me to go to Portland (in 1985) and I owe Jack an apology. I hurt his feelings. Only he was in the line of fire and I told him "Get out of here. You're just a stroke for the office." Rick had tears in his eyes. It was sad to see but he'd been so unnecessarily greedy. He asked me to go back for one final match - they planned to 'finish my career' with a pile-driver from the Islanders. He told me "Haku will pile-drive you, break your neck and then we'll say you're out of the business." I said "No Rick. It's finished. OVER."
"If Rick was such a great talent how could I have influenced his earning potential so badly?"
57. Did Martel or McMahon offer any improvement in your contract conditions to encourage you to stay?
No. Rick didn't mention more money. Jack Lanza didn't mention money at all. After they left the garage and got to the Chevy Blazer that Lanza drove, Rick turned to me and said "I hope you can't sleep at night......" I went back to the refinishing my kitchen doors, there was plenty to do. I never have regretted to this day leaving the WWF.
58. After the meeting with Martel, when did you next hear from WWF? What was the legal fallout from WWF and how was it resolved?
After they'd read the kayfabe sheets. I felt I was never going back to wrestling. But when WWF heard I was going to work in Japan, they hit me with a law suit - November 1987 - saying I'd damaged them financially for all the TV they'd invested in me. I contested that their TV had done nothing to enhance my marketability in Japan since their program had been scrapped in Japan as fake after only a week on-air. I told them "You can sue me in Japan. No court in Japan will find for you." They wanted to sue me for breach of contract and garnished 10% of all my Japan earnings. Real class act that Vinny McMoney. I strung them along for over 2 years to keep WWF paying a heavy retainer to their lawyer. Finally their attorney told me "Believe it or not Mr. Zenk, I have more important cases than this. Just settle this with them." Eventually we settled for $827 - WWF later told me "We had to have something to show that you didn't get off scott-free with our contract."
59. Have you ever heard from Martel again?
Never. I'm only talking about this now because Rick is out of the business. I do often wonder why, after all these years he still harbors resentment against me and feels sorry for himself - except that he feels guilty about it!! I often wonder what's behind all the articles he's been quoted in, time and time again, trashing me - after all these years? Even when he rang Hulk asking for a contract at WCW, he was still looking for sympathy, still singing the blues about how I wrecked his earning potential. I thought "If he was such a great talent, how come I affected his earning potential so badly?"
What kills Rick is that the whole thing - his greed and lies - eventually bit him back. Truth is, Rick has nobody to blame but himself. What goes around, comes around!!
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