Welcome to In Your Head! Wrestling podcast, news and community!
Welcome to In Your Head! Wrestling podcast, news and community!
by Neal Jones
A fantastic interview with JJ Dillon. Nearly 90 minutes of his early career, and his thoughts on modern day wrestling. And it just scratches the surface of his legendary carreer.
JJ is welcomed to the show, his new book is mentioned, "Wrestlers are Like Seagulls" which can be purchased at
or at http://www.jjdillon.com
JJ says the explanation for the title is in the book. Not just what it means but where it came from.
JJ starts to talk about being a wrestling fan in the 50's. Seeing wrestling from the Capital Arena at the age of 14. Says seeing the colorful characters caught his attention right away. He watched the 90 minute show every week on TV, and the teasers at the end of every episode. Which would get people to come to the shows. Argentina Rocca vs Karl Von Hess was his first live show, which hooked him for life.
Jack mentions the tease is missing from today's wrestling. JJ says change is all around not just in wrestling but in life. JJ says you cant go back once you have changed. Jack brings up the squash matches from the past, and how it doesnt work anymore since the Monday Night Wars got the fans used to competative matches. JJ says that brings up a dilemna since the talent roster is too thin especially with the split RAW and smackdown crew to do that anymore. JJ says it will only get worse with no new talent to bring in. Jack and JJ talk about switching guys from brand and switiching baby face to heel, and you cant do that too much.
JJ starts into how he became a wrestler. Starts by selling programs for the shows, and getting free tickets for doing so. Asked if you need to know someone to get into the business. JJ says there was a lot of 2nd generation wrestlers. There werent schools, so you had to break in through getting to know a wrestler.
JJ never ahd the problem of being stretched. He claims its because of his attitude. And he always had respect for the business. JJ says most of the guys with a bad atitude would get weeded out before even being stretched. Jack asked if someone came back from being stretched would he gain respect ? JJ says Hulk Hogan was an example of that, Hiro Matsudo broke his leg in training, and Hulk came back.
JJ started as a referee. Says he learned a lot from watching and listening to the greats of wrestling as a ref in the ring, icluding Bruno Sammartino, Killer Kowalski, Gorilla Monsoon and many more.
JJ talks about his dream was to be a wrestler. Credits the original Shiek for getting him from ref to a worker. Tells a great story of meeting the Shiek behind the scenes after reffing a match with im in the ring and how the Shiek brought him into the Ohio territiory in 1968. The commentator was Earnie Roth who became the Grand Wizard later. Host asked if Shiek was hard to deal with. JJ says he learned early on not to go by someone's reputation but instead how they treated him.
Asked when he started working for Vince Sr. JJ reffed for Vincent J McMahon. Talks about how commissioned referees was a very political deal, where they just got guys who were friends with someone to get a pay off. And some werent fans of wrestling. Later on he wrestled for WWWF. Wrestled Pat Patterson once. But not a long run there.
Asked to compare Vince Sr and Vince Jr. Senior was well respected, quiet and refined.Junior is much more outgoing, to his credit he bought the WWWF out it wasnt given to him by his father. Vince K filed bankruptcy twice before going with wrestling. Including the Cape Cod Collisseum.
Talks about life outside of wrestling before going full time, and the various jobs he had.
JJ talks about Bruno's territiory in Pitsburgh. The big stars like Ivan Koloff and Goerge Steel who worked there. JJ worked the territiory for the next year, inculding other territories in the area. including Detorit for the Shiek and Charlotte for Crockett in the winter months. At the age of 28 he wrestled Gene Anderson and JJ says that was the real start of his career.
Jack asks how went from wrestler to manager. JJ talks about the territories he wrestled in over the next several years. Including Canada, Amarillo for the Funks, trips to Japan and Florida for Eddie Graham. Met Mongolian Stomper, who always needed a manager because he didnt talk. Got a call from the Stomper to see if he wanted to be a manager. JJ went to Dallas and that was the start of his manager role. JJ says he never lost his passion for wrestling. JJ says his interviews was his best attribute. He still did some wrestling through out his manager career.
JJ asked if moving from territory to territory helped in guy's promos. JJ says it helped in that and in working. You had to learn to different styles of the different territories. It made guys adaptable to what the fans were expecting to see, and able to turn the fans around. JJ says it is a lost art of wrestling.
Barbedwire asks if JJ realized at the time how lucky JJ was to learn from the big stars, or was it when he reflected back that he understood it. JJ says it was both. Since he was always a fan he was in awe of the stars at the time. And can appreciate more now when he looks back. Mentioned numerous names. Including El Santo.
Jack brings up Vince Jr going national. JJ says the NWA had an agreement not to invade someone else's territory. JJ says the big thing that changed it all was Cable TV. Vince used cable TV to get his product in the local areas across the country, by buying the time and the top stars. JJ says Vince had a plan and went with it. And the territories distrusted eachother and werent able to band together.
JJ mentions an event at the Meadowlands, NJ with Eddie Graham, Crockett, Jarrett, Watts, Gagne. And that each were going to contribute stars. But they couldnt agree on who would go over etc.
Asked if JJ ever thought Crockett's NWA would rival the WWF. JJ says it wasnt a competiative thing like the Monday night wars. Asked if there was more pride taken in NWA. JJ believes a perfomer had pride wherever they worked, and adapted to the style of the area.
JJ talks about the lost art of a manager. The role should be to fill the void of the interviews. For guys who it didnt fit the character such as Abdullah the Butcher. Barbedwire brings up the fact that Paul Heyman managing Brock Lesnar worked, and shows that the role can still be used. Jack mentions that used to be a WWF formula, the managers with rotating workers. JJ says it immediately gave guys credibility since they had established managers who were over.
JJ gets into the formation of the Horseman. Tells the story of how all 5 guys were doing an interview. Ole, Arn, Flair, Tully and JJ, and it was just the right chemistry. Arn in the heat of the interview said the 4 horseman, and it just went from there. Jack compares it to Austin bringing up Austin 3:16 in an interview. JJ talks about how that guys would get over back in the day. They had to do their own promos, their own gimmicks and own costumes. Tells a story of Johnny Valentine. The fact he was a slow build to get over through respect from his stiff style.
Asked how the role of a manager was different for the Horseman since all 4 workers were great promo guys on their own right. JJ tells a great story of watching a 2 year period of the Horseman at their peak on DVD now. JJ says it worked because their was no egos involved between the Horseman. Says Ole was the only one who didnt really fit in.
JJ talks about how so much post production takes away from the realism. The classic angle of the shaky hand held camera when the Horseman beat Dusty in the parking lot is talked about. JJ explains that you need to suspend your disblief so you can get involved in the story line. JJ always had a problem with back stage vignettes, because it begs the question why is a camera there. In the Horseman angle it was explained the camera man was paid to be there. Talked about how a lot of the same concepts were used for early NWO.
JJ talks about how the young wrestlers today look at the older generation as dinosuars. They lost the basics and the fundamental concepts. Even thogh the game has changed they need to know the basic fundamentals of how wrestling works.
Asked if its a problem hiring a writer from a TV show and not a wrestling fan. JJ agrees. Saying wrestling is unlike anything else. And you cant use the formulas from something else for wrestling. Talks in depth about Brad Siegel in WCW.
JJ talks about the finding of Goldberg in the power plant and the quick evolution on TV. All spontaneous things that happened, not something that was planned to work, it just worked. JJ says Siegel never grasped the concept and ran WCW into the ground.
JJ talks about scripting promos, the Vince Russo idea. It takes the individualism out of the performer. JJ talks about how theres a sameness with everyone now. Everyone works the same style, trained in same school, have the same look etc.Wrestling needs something new, a breath of fresh air. JJ says theres no problem in telling a guy the points to get across, but the individual needs to do so in his styler/character.
JJ talks about the newsletters. And how he laughed when they would say a guy never got a push even though he was a great worker. But if you look at Hulk Hogan he was middle of pack as a worker.
JJ ends by reflecting back how his dream came true. From a wrestling fan to working side by side with Vince McMahon, and WCW from the rise through fall. And all the history hes been a part of.
Check back in the next couple months for JJ's return to IYH to talk more in depth about the book and the current state of professional wrestling. So send in your emails for questions and feedback to: