Friday, November 25, 2011

Bam Bam Bigelow [Wrestling Universe Shoot Interview]

The Good
One in the Wrestling Universe's series that is definitely a standout. Bam Bam Bigelow, who passed away in 2007, conducted this in 2002, so he was on the comeback trail after severe burns (from saving some kids from a fire) put him on the shelf. He seemed like such a friendly guy who had many good stories and a really good memory. Bigelow's tales of breaking in were about what you'd expect, but the parts about Japan (which started early on for him) were fascinating. Here is a guy who traveled over there many times and worked for four of the top companies and he had some thoughtful and honest comments. He had no problem burying Akira Maeda for his unprofessionalism, FMW for its second-rate status or Genichiro Tenryu for subpar booking decisions. At the same time, he put over the talent, the culture, the learning experience and the style. Puroresu fans should enjoy that aspect of this shoot. There was plenty of time talking about his runs in the WWF (2), WCW (3) and ECW (2), which were filled with great successes and some unfortunate situations. Bigelow seems to have everything in a proper perspective that he can address the good and bad of each. I've heard him put over strongly by Sid (as the greatest ring general he ever worked) and buried by Lanny Poffo (as someone that no one would ever pay to see), but I tend to think the majority of his peers liked him and respected his work. From this shoot interview, you can kind of understand why.

The Bad
Although I found Bigelow to be pretty straightforward, he was not as professionally self-effacing as I might have expected. While he never put himself over as strongly as many people do in shoot interviews (certainly not personally as he seemed quite humble and down-to-Earth), I expected him to perhaps reflect upon his unfulfilled potential, drug problems and inconsistent pushes over the years. He admitted to not being a complete package (good body, good interviews, good work), but felt he had the third category for sure. I wouldn't argue that point, but it seems like he might have been a little more reflective as to why someone of his in-ring ability never got the consistent shove that so many expected time and time again. He seems to blame injuries, politics and poor booking more than I care to believe. My other issue is his mellowness. Bam Bam Bigelow seems like an intense individual who would speak his mind and have no problem burying people, but here, he is relatively reserved in his comments on Big Van Vader, Andre the Giant and even the Kliq. He always seemed to temper a negative comment about someone being a "pain in the ass" or whatever by putting over their hard work, status or something. Regardless of those concerns, I felt this was a good look at pro-wrestling from 1985-2001 with some detailed inclusion of Japan and even Mexico.

The Rating: ****1/2

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bill Apter [Highspots Shoot Interview]

The Good
For those who did not grow up with the "Apter Mags," it is hard to put in perspective how influential they really were. I have my own memories of waiting anxiously for the latest to come in and I still have dozens and dozens in storage. These magazines, even though they held up kayfabe, were huge in getting talent national recognition. Bill Apter, while not the first and maybe not even the best, became synonymous with pro-wrestling magazines. While a magazine writer might not have the most interesting tale, Apter is a great storyteller, does great impressions and traveled widely after being a fan as a youngster in the 1960s. His explanations of the changes in the magazine industry, its role in the business and how it impacted his own life and career are really fascinating. It seems funny because there were obviously innumerable people who were pro-wrestling photographers, journalists, sheet writers and such, but none seem to have been as involved as Apter. His tales of encounters with transvestites in Japan with Terry Funk, being puked on by Road Warrior Hawk and being chewed out by Vince McMahon Sr. for putting Mil Mascaras on the cover of magazines were just a few glimpses into the unique life he's lived. Apter has a great sense of humor and does not let himself get pinned down to much with chronology, politics or bad feelings.

The Bad
I feel like Bill Apter is the type that could probably do a dozen interviews and never run out of funny stories or interesting insight into the industry. I've heard him a handful of times and he never seems to tell the same anecdotes. So, I almost feel a little cheated here because it just was not long enough. Seriously though, this is as good of an interview as I'd expect with someone who never worked in the business (per say). There are always going to people who have their taste in shoot interviews and this might not be salacious or angry enough for some. Apter is largely positive about everything and delivers a great light-hearted interview.

The Rating: ****3/4

Monday, November 21, 2011

Iceman King Parsons [RF Shoot Interview]

The Good
"Iceman" King Parsons had a heck of a career and much of his success was as the token black babyface in World Class. I hate to put it that way, but it's true and he even presents it that way. Parsons gets into the racial issues he ran into with someone (by my records it was perhaps Rip Rogers) who buried him to booker Dutch Savage, he talks about Wahoo not wanting to book he an Porkchop Cash as a top tag team and little things like that. He was a good athlete, great entertainer and had something special about him that got over many places and especially in Texas. Parsons seems like a thoughtful guy who kept his nose clean, but was limited as a babyface in WCCW. He was really looking out for himself (as is the nature of the business) and he was able to get to a level that few blacks did and sadly he is not recognized for his accomplishments. This seemed like a solid shoot interview that most any fan who watched (or has later watched) the Iceman could enjoy.

The Bad
Parsons has a unique story and credits his family and those who helped him quite a bit. That humble attitude is not always so common to shoots, which means he might not be as entertaining as other blacks like Brickhouse Brown, New Jack or even his mentor Rocky Johnson . He is pretty honest about drug use (others, not his own as he apparently only drank champagne), racism he experienced and his own limitations. He did not seem bitter, but rather frustrated that he was not as savvy to the business and working while he was in it as he is now (I've heard this numerous times from people like John Tatum, Al Snow, David Sammartino and even Paul Orndorff to an extent). He was a semi-final babyface and had some hot angles, but will never be remembered alongside men like Ernie Ladd, Junkyard Dog or even Butch Reed who were top blacks in multiple places. I had to frame his career in terms of race, but unfortunately that was the norm when he was working.

The Rating: ***3/4