TALES FROM A DIRT ROAD is my second book in a series of three. My first book, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DUTCH was well received and TALES FROM A DIRT ROAD is just a continuation of the first one. It picks up right where the first book left off...right in the middle of one story after otther.
To purchase a copy of TALES FROM A DIRT ROAD...click the photo IN THE UPPER RIGHT HAND CORNER of this blog. You know..where it says order the book here??? TALES FROM A DIRT ROAD is not your typical wrestling book. It's a 338 page book of which every word was written and composed by me. It's a book book that takes in more than just wrestling. Its a book that has story after story of unheard of events and incidents that 99.9% of wrestling fans have never heard before.
The book covers 30 some odd years, 3 continents, 7 countries, WWF, WCW, TNA, Memphis and Florida promotions, Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Vince McMahon, Scott Hall, Iron Sheik, Mr. Wrestling 2, Vince Russo, Abyss, Ron and Don Harris, Dusty Rhodes among others. I also talk about a famous murder case, a suicide, being on a creative staff, going to Mexico, wrestling on small islands in the Caribbean and once meeting the Ku Klux Klan at a wrestling match down south. Order today and if you haven't read my first book, you can also order it too. It's all in the boxes on the right.
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STAY TUNED: HUGE WRESTLING CARD RETURNING TO NASHVILLE
SATURDAY MAY 14TH, 2011
Video of the Day:
Someone sent me the link to the following video of a match taped in the late 80's in a completely sold out baseball stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rice was noted for their HUGE MEGA shows which sold out arenas all over the island and their wide open hard core style. We were doing hard core eons before WWF finally picked up on it. This video is a match of me versus the Wild Man From the Sudan, Abdullah the Butcher where over 18,000 fans gathered to see this card. Abdullah was a HUGE guy...400 lbs. and it was a challenge to wrestle him no matter what the situation was. I actually wrestled Abdullah twice that night. My first and last time we were ever in the same ring together in a singles matchup. Needless to say, that might have been a blessing. As you watch the video...the ringside area was jammed...and ringside seats were a rarity in Puerto Rico but on this night, it was completely full. In years past, a sellout was expected..today...its a rarity unless its WWE. Wow..this business has changed. Enjoy. Here's the link.
My wrestling training facility, the University of Dutch, is now accepting applicants for the spring training session. The facility is housed in a 3.000 square foot training gym located about 20 minutes from downtown Nashville. If you're interested in training to be a pro wrestler, contact us today. Flexible payment plans available. Course runs for one year.
Today...here is a complete chapter from my book...TALES FROM A DIRT ROAD in its entirety. The complete chapter is here with no breaks and no come back tomorrow. Enjoy.
Ernie Ladd versus
The Brisco Brothers
In a ‘REAL STREET’ Fight
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away...well it wasn't that far away, it was Tampa, Fla., mid 70's or so. I hadn't been in the wrestling profession very long and I was still learning.
This whole chapter is a legitimate fight between men that has been noted but never documented. It involved several wrestlers, who I knew and respected. This fight was not about money but it was about respect. It centered around a meeting in a parking lot in Tampa where the Brisco Brothers, Jack and Jerry, held a late night 'word of prayer' session with The Big Cat, Ernie Ladd over an incident that they had taken major offense to. I heard this story directly from Ernie Ladd but as a disclaimer, and in fairness to the Brisco Brothers, I never personally heard their side of the story. But I heard the story directly from Ernie and it was more or less the way I heard it from some of the other wrestlers as well.
Late summer...1977...Tampa, Florida
|Ernie Ladd...at a legit 6'10 inches tall and 360 lbs, |
he wasn't much smaller that Andre.
|Jack Briscoe...former NWA Hywt Champion |
and former NCAA Amateur Wrestling
So what brought all these men together on a late summer night in August 1977 in a parking lot at 2 o’clock in the morning? Well that's why you're reading this. Hell, it you knew what happened..then why would you read on? If you have never heard this story before, it is one of those stories that unless its documented, it most likely will be lost forever.
So here we go. As I said, this is how the story was related to me. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride, it’s a wild one….
When I was working in Florida, the Brisco Brothers had bought into the Florida promotion quietly, and no one knew they had any points in the office - or at least it was kept a secret from the boys. Wrestlers always referred to the other wrestlers as the 'boys'. That was the accepted term. At that time, Jerry was also one of the bookers with the main booker being Johnny Valentine and assisted by Eddie Graham.
As was the custom in those days, bookers were always on the lookout for talent or wrestlers who could put butts in seats. This was years before Vince McMahon would boost the WWF into the mainstream consciousness of every wrestling fan in the world and most promotions, like Florida, were FREE to pick up whomever was on the market looking for work. Everybody was more or less a free agent in those days. In today's wrestling environment, the true free agent doesn't exist except on the independent circuit.
The way it worked years ago was that talent would float in and out of territories with some of them staying six months to a year and then they would be replaced with newer wrestlers when they became stale or their novelty had worn thin. This system worked quite well for a number of years and was healthier for the wrestling business in general than the system that is employed now. When fans stopped buying tickets, that told the promoter it was time to look for new talent. It was a simple concept.
Ernie Ladd was one of those FREE AGENTS. Ernie was probably one of the first free agents in wrestling although we didn't use the term , free agent, in describing them then. A free agent would book himself into a territory for a few months anchoring all the main events for that period and when his run was up, he was off for greener pastures.
One of the most notable FREE AGENTS of all time were guys like Andre the Giant who would come into a promotion, stay one or two weeks and then be gone until a HUGE MEGA show would be promoted and then he'd be brought back to help anchor that show. Or guys like HayStacks Calhoun, or the girls or the 'midgets'. Yes, I said midgets because that is what they were called in those days. Today, with political correctness surrounding us, they would be called "LITTLE PEOPLE" or "LITTLE WRESTLERS".
Abdullah the Butcher would be another FREE AGENT as would Bruiser Brody, Stan Hansen and the like. All of these men didn't want to stay in a promotion long term but made better money by working in stages. But Ernie Ladd was one of those guys that made me marvel at how he made it work.
|Ernie Ladd...at one time the biggest, |
baddest man in pro football.
Ernie had a track record at the box office. He drew money as he was a gifted performer, a great talker, a great worker and he had the ability to get people into seats. Ernie had worked in Los Angeles, Detroit, New York and Atlanta where he worked in front of sellout crowds and in HUGE buildings. Its not like today where some small indy group runs a recreation center that will only seat 200 people. Ernie sold out Madison Square Garden, Detroit's Cobo Arena, LA's Sports Arena. It's hard to get younger fans today to really feel what it was like to be a fan back then. It was a different era. Wrestlers were perceived more along the lines of MMA fighters today..but the difference was…pro wrestlers had real emotion behind them.
So it was a stroke of luck that found both Ernie and I working in Florida at the same time. Ernie had always liked me and I have always loved the Big Cat due to having met him a few years earlier. When we both met up again in Florida, we renewed our friendship and we started traveling together. I also like Ernie because he always did all the driving. He told me that I drove too slow and he was always in a hurry to get to wherever he was going. Ernie drove like a bat out of hell most of the time. Once Ernie got stopped on I-4 as we were headed from Tampa to Orlando by a FLORIDA STATE TROOPER. Ernie was doing 90 in a 70 mph zone. Guess what? The STATE TROOPER was such a huge wrestling fan…that he let Ernie go without even a warning. He walked up to the car…saw Ernie..put his book away and started talking wrestling. That was just one of the perks that came along with being on TV every week and fans knowing who you were. Fans knew Ernie and that trooper was delighted that he had stopped one of his heroes. He let Ernie go but not before he got a couple of autographs and Ernie gave him a couple of photos. The trooper even knew who I was and I was actually just a second or third match talent at the time. So I signed an autograph for him as well.
Ernie was a very interesting man to travel with. Ernie had played college football at an all Black college...Grambling University which was acclaimed nation wide as one of the greatest college football programs in the country. His stories of Grambling University football and especially those of one of the greatest football coaches of all time, Eddie Robinson, held me in awe for mile after mile while we traveled to town after town. I was a football fan and a history fan too. Ernie, I found out, was also very well versed in the history of the Civil War, and listening to him talking about the Civil War was fascinating.
In listening to him, Ernie gave me an education that I had never read from any history book or from any history lesson I had ever taken before. He gave me a history lesson but from a different point of view. Usually, Civil War history is framed by huge battles that pitted Union soldiers against Confederate soldiers such as the Battle of Vicksburg, Gettysburg or Bull Run or Robert E. Lee vs. Ulysses S. Grant, and white men vs. white men. But Ernie's view came from a more personal nature. It came from the Afro-American viewpoint.
Ernie told me things that I had never heard before, such as the term lynching or being sold down the river or Afro-Americans being sold at 'auction' such as cattle. Ernie told me some vicious stories and while there was no way to check the accuracy of what he was telling me, he told me with such conviction that I tended to believe it. He and all his other brothers, sisters and cousins had all heard the same stories from their grandmother or grandfathers as they all gathered around a fireplace on a cold January night and listened in rapt attention to the tales of yore. Ernie told me they were mesmerized for hours with stories about slavery and the existence of black families during and after the Civil War as told in the voice of their grandparents. It was a fascinating time in history but a more fascinating time for me personally, as I was riding down the highway listening to an All Pro AFL player, tell me about a side of history that I never knew existed. He spoke of how the term 'lynching' came into popular use that I had never heard before. The term came from a man named John Lynch who used the practice as a way to keep slaves in line.
Ernie also told me the term 'sold down the river' came into vogue. Being sold down the river was a slave related term. Slaves were bought and sold like cattle…and when the term 'sold down the river' was used, it meant one thing. Slaves were put on Mississippi river boats and shipped 'down the river' to be sold at auction in New Orleans. It's simply amazing that these things happened in our country years ago and most people have no idea of how it used to be. I had never viewed the Civil War in such a brutal way before Ernie Ladd opened my eyes to it. Honestly, it was a view I had never seen written in any high school or college history book that I'd ever read up to that point. Needless to say, traveling with Ernie was like going to college because not only was Ernie a very intelligent man in relating these tidbits of world history, I could drink beer and listen to him on the way back home every night. For a young kid like me to have this experience was truly amazing. I was living a dream and having the time of my life.
Ernie had only been in Florida for a short period when I found out there was some sort of disagreement with management and Ernie that lay right underneath the surface. Ernie never told me the core issues involved or disclosed the nature of the problem, but I assumed it was monetary. Most things in wrestling were then. Even today, it still is.
|I'm not positive of this but I think Ernie Ladd |
was the first wrestler to call himself the King
of Wrestling before Jerry Lawler made it
more famous. This is the Big Cat with the
crown adorning his head.
The issue carried over for a few weeks and as more time passed, Ernie would tell me that the problem wasn't fixed. Finally, after a couple of months, the parties reached an impasse. As a result, it was mutually agreed that Ernie would leave the promotion and lose a match to Rocky Johnson on the way out. Ernie was fine with it, Jerry Brisco was fine with it and for a time, even though the financial situation wasn't solved, at least there remained civility between the parties so that a future relationship could be revisited at a later date.
That's the way the wrestling business always worked in the past. If you left a promotion, you always wanted to leave on good terms so that door remained open in the future. You never wanted to leave under conditions that were less than honorable. If that happened, the departure was referred to as 'burning a bridge.' On a side note, I have left a few wrestling promotions in my time and I left 'burning a bridge.' Later on I amended that statement by saying, 'bridges can burn on both ends.'
Now a lot of you might say, what difference did it make if the match was recorded and shown back on TV because that would explain Ernie's absence? But one needs to understand Ernie and the wrestling mindset at the time. Wins and losses meant more back then. Since Ernie was a FREE AGENT, any match that showed him losing, undercut his drawing power.
Ernie had believed he had a certain deal with the Florida office when he came in to work but in reality, he didn't. The Florida office thought they had a certain deal with Ernie when they booked him into the territory but in reality, they didn't either. So it was either a misunderstanding on both ends or somebody was lying. I think the truth probably lay somewhere in the middle. But when the feelings of mistrust surfaced and the problem not being corrected, the best thing for both sides was to just move on. Ernie had no problem doing the favor for anybody but he didn't want any cameras around recording it. So far, everybody was fine with it.
When Ernie and I used to travel on some of the long trips in Florida, sometimes we would fly private airplane. There was a small entrepreneurial airplane pilot who was a huge wrestling fan and somehow, he had made contact with Ernie offering his services if Ernie needed to fly to some of the Florida towns. Ernie took him up on his offer and since we were traveling companions, he often asked me to accompany him on the long trips such as Jacksonville or Miami.
|This was not the actual plane that we flew on |
but its a very similar looking aircraft. As you can see,
Ernie didn't really have a lot or room on
this aircraft. But it was the best way to
We always landed at a small private airfield about 15 minutes away from the downtown Jacksonville Coliseum and one of Ernie's fans would pick us up and drive up to the building. Everything was fine...I had my match and I had time to take a shower and get ready to watch Ernie's match which was in the semifinal slot.
On Ernie's last night in Florida, the card that night was one of the better cards that I saw presented. The date was Thursday night, Aug. 11, 1977, as I've saved a few programs from that time. Both Brisco Brothers were on the card, and Jack and Jerry were over strong with the fans in Florida. The fans in Florida had been witness to watching the evolution of their adopted wrestling son, Jack, winning the NWA Championship which Eddie Graham used to convince the fans that Florida wrestling groomed champions.
The card was packed. This card probably, at the time, would have qualified as one of the first SuperCards or one of the biggest cards I had been on at the time. I was just glad to be on it. Jack that night was facing SuperStar Billy Graham in the Main Event in a WWWF title match. SuperStar Billy Graham was the equivalent of the modern day WWE champion so the match was being billed as the first time in Florida wrestling history that a former NWA champion and Florida favorite, Jack Brisco, would challenge for the WWWF title.
I had my match that night and of course, I argued with an idiot fan in Jacksonville, Nesbitt, whom I had to settle a score with later on that year. When it came time for Ernie's match, I was late getting out to see it start. As I got in place on the stage to watch the match, I looked up to the second tier where I spied a camera with a red light on which meant that it was taping. I knew that Ernie had asked that no cameras be present during the match. I wondered what Ernie's reaction would be if he saw it. Not long after that, Ernie apparently looked up on the second deck of the Coliseum and saw the BIG RED EYE glaring back at him and not long after that, I witnessed Ernie Ladd walking out of the ring to the dressing room. The referee had no choice but to count Ernie out. Ernie had taken a count and had not done the favor for Rocky as laid out beforehand.
Ernie went into the dressing room, grabbed his bag and told me that we were leaving. I grabbed my bags and out the door we went to our car parked right outside the back entrance to the Jax Coliseum. We hopped back into Ernie's friend's car and out to the air field we had landed on just a few hours earlier. Ernie wasn't talking much and the airstrip was totally deserted. I remember it was a warm summer night and even the pilot commented that it was a beautiful night for flying.
The pilot had gone and purchased wine that Ernie always drank when he would fly, and I was just drinking beer. I didn't want to ask Ernie what had happened that night with Rocky as it was none of my business. But as we took off and got into the air, Ernie started opening up a little about what had happened. As he was talking, he pulled out a joint and fired that stogie up. Hey, people, it was the ’70's...everybody smoked dope. Even the ones who denied doing it. It was the Age of Aquarius and FREE LOVE and Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock, Dr. Timothy Leary and mushrooms. It was actually the time where everything was still possible.
As we shared the joint, Ernie told me the whole story...about them screwing him on his original deal which meant his money, then not negotiating in good faith when he wanted to fix it and then reneging over not taping his match with Rocky. Ernie did most of the talking as I was a fly on the wall. This was Ernie's deal and I was merely a bystander. But I did learn something that night. Ernie had some pretty good weed. And he also had great taste in music. The plane was equipped with an eight-track audio player, which you can't even find anymore, and Ernie loved Aretha Franklin, and as we flew back, drinking and laughing and listening to Aretha, I sat back and listened to Ernie tell some of his favorite football stories.
We landed an hour later...and I thanked Ernie for the time we spent together and for the arrangement with the plane. I didn't know when I would see him again. I told him that I hoped to work somewhere with him again. He said the same. Then it was a handshake and we separated. Yeah..men actually shook hands years ago..instead of the body hug. I don't know when that thing started.
My phone rang early the next morning and it was Eddie Graham's son, Mike calling me. Eddie was the promotions owner and it surprised me that Mike would call me. I had never gotten a call from him before, even though I'd worked with him 100 times and been in the company for 8 8 months or so at the time. His call was unexpected but his reason for calling so early was that he wanted to know what happened last night with Ernie and the Brisco brothers. I told him the story about Ernie leaving the ring in Jacksonville and that nothing had happened between them.
Mike said, "I'm not talking about Jacksonville. I'm talking about last night in Tampa. What happened between Ernie and the Briscoes?" Hell, I don't know what happened I told Mike. Nothing that I knew of, I said.
Mike said, "Something happened between them last night because Ernie dropped them off at an emergency room at around 2:30 in the morning bleeding and left them laying on the sidewalk outside the hospital. So something happened."
I said, "Where did you hear this?" and Mike said, "Everybody knows about it." Apparently, everybody but me, I thought.
I didn't know 'nothing bout nothing' or not until Mike had called me that morning. But I was damn sure was going to find out. I hung up the phone and called the source, Ernie.
He answered 'Yo' and I asked, "Did something happen last night between you and the Brisco brothers last night?"
"News travels fast in this town, don't it." I told him it sure did, and Ernie commenced to telling me the story.
Ernie said that after he got to his place last night, he got a call from Jack and Jerry Brisco at about 1:30 a.m., who were upset over what had happened in Jacksonville and were not at all pleased with the way Ernie had handled the situation. Ernie told them that he was not at all pleased about how the 'office' had broken their word to him...first on the work agreement and then on the 'no camera' request. As Ernie continued, he said that Jack and Jerry had been drinking and they wanted to meet and discuss the issue so they could determine how best to correct the problem that Ernie had created.
Ernie said the he hadn't created the problem, they had.
Out of the blue, one of them asked Ernie if he could meet them at the office in about 15 minutes. Ernie said it would be better if they met the next day. But, according to Ernie's story, Jack and Jerry didn't want to wait until the next day, they wanted to meet THEN. Ernie told them he would meet them there in a half hour.
I asked Ernie, “why did you go down to the office at 2 a.m. to meet with them? Wouldn't it have been better if you guys had waited until today to meet?” Ernie said he agreed to meet them because he said that if he could talk to them, he could get them to see his side of the story and they could work on another exit plan for his departure which sounded kind of screwy to me. If I had put myself in the same position, I would have never shown up to meet with two guys like the Briscos at 2AM especially if I knew them to be a tad upset with me.
Long story made short...when Ernie drove up in the darkened sandy parking lot of the Florida wrestling office at 108 Albany Street, Tampa, he saw Jack and Jerry Brisco standing there waiting for him. The street was almost deserted and the lot was illuminated by one low-powered street light.
As Ernie pulled in and parked, Jack and Jerry met him at his door with beers in hand. Before Ernie could say anything, both brothers started unloading verbally on Ernie and started cutting a promo right in his face. They were saying what he had done in Jacksonville that night was wrong and how it was so unprofessional and low rent how they had both gone out on a limb just to get him to Florida and this is how he repays them? In short, they started chewing his ass out pretty good and since they were drinking, they were loud and very aggressive. It didn't take Ernie long to realize that he might have been better off staying at his apartment and dealing with this issue the next day. But, in Ernie's words, he was 'balls in deep' now.
According to Ernie, he tried to talk them off the ledge but they were getting more aggressive in their tone, and Ernie said he knew where this was leading. He knew the brothers well enough to know that they had hair-trigger tempers and he started feeling that this encounter had all the ear-markings of a physical confrontation. There were two Brisco Brothers, he told me and there was only one Ernie.
Ernie said he knew the Brisco Brothers really weren't interested in working out the situation, they wanted revenge. Revenge for the way that he had stuck it to them in front of everybody in the company. They were angry. Angry white men he said. And I knew where Ernie was going with this...as he then played the race card.
Ernie likened the situation to the slave master and the rebellious slave and that when the slave got out of hand, or 'uppity' as Ernie put it, the slave master would have to put the slave back in his subservient place. Hearing these words from Ernie, I knew what was coming on.
Ernie told the Brisco Brothers, ‘let’s calm down...and smoke a doobie (joint) and talk about it.’ That seemed to slow down Jack and Jerry just a bit but Ernie told me he was buying time. Ernie then stepped to the back of his car to open up his trunk, where the joint was supposedly hidden. But what Ernie brought out of that trunk was not a joint. It was a short tire iron...that is used to loosen wheel nuts on a tire when it needs to be changed. When Ernie had that in his hands, he said the entire dynamic of the scene changed...now, Ernie said, there were two Briscos and two Ernies.
The scene moved quickly then, as Ernie told me. When Jack and Jerry saw that Ernie had been playing them, they surrounded him, with one trying to get behind him and one staying in front of him...and suddenly, Jack tried to leg dive Ernie in one of his amateur wrestling moves. However, as the story goes, Ernie caught him in the head with the tire iron knocking him silly. At exactly that same moment, Jerry came from the back and, as luck would have it, Ernie knocked out Jerry on the back swing as he was preparing to hit Jack on the front swing. It was ‘bam bam’ and both Jack and Jerry Brisco were down and out.
Ernie then told me that both of them were bleeding pretty badly and they were not moving on their own and the scene scared him. He told me he didn't dislike either Jack or Jerry and hadn't wanted the situation to deteriorate but he could see that they needed to get to a hospital. He knew they couldn't drive themselves to the hospital, which was about 10 minutes away, so he knew he had to get them there himself. A problem popped up right away...if he put them in his car, he ran the risk of one or both of them regaining consciousness which could result in retaliation against him as he drove, which wouldn't be good, he surmised. Plus they would bleed all over his seats. So the safest thing for him was to place them in the trunk area of his car and take them to the ER. That's what he did.
It took about five minutes to make the 10-minute drive to the hospital because Ernie was now freaking out. He was freaking out that if he got stopped by the cops, he knew he was going directly to jail. He was speeding down the main intersection of Tampa, Florida and he had not only assaulted two men and placed them in his trunk section, he had basically kidnapped them as well. He again took the entire episode back to the black/white racial thing as he told me, 'I'm a 7-foot tall black man with two bleeding white men in my trunk and the police aren't going to take my side. Especially in Tampa, Florida’.
But Ernie did tell me that Jack and Jerry hadn't reported what had happened to either the hospital staff, who are required by law to report assault cases, or the police. I suppose that Jack and Jerry were operating under the ‘Wrestler Code of Honor’ which was the rule of thumb back in earlier wrestler days. It was an unwritten code but it basically said that 'whatever happened between wrestlers, stayed between wrestlers.' Ernie never heard from the police, Jack and Jerry recovered and the incident was largely unreported and forgotten. It was basically unknown except for those deep inside the wrestling business. There was no such thing as dirt sheets or the Internet in those days so the only circles that the news traveled in was only in insider loops.
I never spoke to Jack or Jerry or even heard any comments that they made regarding the issue so the total accuracy of the account I heard was told to me by one man and he took it to his grave.
But to anybody reading this...if you ever encounter a somewhat enraged Afro-American man who is around 7-feet tall, weighing about 360 pounds standing in front of you with a tire iron in his hand at 2AM in the morning, I would highly suggest that the best way to disarm him would not be a front side single leg dive. That move has been disproven to not work.
Ernie and Jack have both passed on...and gentlemen, my highest respects to each of you. It was a pleasure knowing you.
My book, TALES FROM A DIRT ROAD, is full of stories just like this one. The wrestling business is full of them...and in my book, I document a lot of them. Hope you've enjoyed the story.
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or on twitter... firstname.lastname@example.org Look for my next book, Wrestling Rulebook 101 or alternately entitled, Conversations with Idiots hopefully coming out in time for Christmas 2011. I should have no trouble with material for that one. I'm still debating on what stories should go in and what should stay out.