Don Muraco Shoot Interview Page 2

He liked Florida because the schedule was so easy.  All cities were about 200 miles apart, and the promoters even started using planes.  On his first trip to Georgia, he was still a babyface, and booked as Andre the Giant’s tag partner.  It was there that they came up with the high spot finish where the heel would toss Muraco over the ropes, Andre would catch him, and press slam him back onto the heel for the cross body block finish!  They went around the horn doing that with Ole Anderson and Dusty.  He remembers Andre as great guy.

He briefly worked in Texas for Fritz Von Erich, and had a lousy time.  Fritz was easy-going, but Muraco had just gone through a divorce and wasn’t being used much.  Back to Georgia, Rob asks Don about Ole.  He was a good booker, but a miserable guy.  Muraco then returned to Minneapolis to help train The Iron Sheik, Greg Gagne & Jim Brunzelle, Ric Flair, and Ken Patera.  Flair loved the wrestling business, and all the stories of him being Dusty’s lackey are true.  When asked if Tommy Rich deserved to be NWA Champ, Muraco said it was a political call, but that Tommy always worked hard.  Muraco says that he was programmed for the belt, but got drunk one night and ticked Dusty off. 

How Muraco developed His Promos and Turned Heel

He learned a lot about cutting promos by watching Curtis and Collins in Hawaii.  He always thought that Dusty and Larry Hennig cut great promos, and that guys would help each other.  He learned a lot of the psychological aspects from Ray Stevens.  In the WWF, Muraco and Piper would always try to outdo each other. 

He went to San Francisco to learn how to work heel.  Roy Shire was a nasty person, but a great teacher, and Muraco wanted to learn from the best.  He returned to Florida, working for Eddie Graham, who he says was a great booker and could really relate to people.  Eddie would give the book to veterans like Johnny Valentine and Buddy Rogers and watch them hang themselves so he could come back save the day. 

In Florida, Muraco was the masked villain, “Magnificent M.”  He was getting a nice push, going over Graham with the Asian spike.  Steve Kiern exposed M as Don Muraco in a pseudo shoot promo, although the crowd knew it anyway by recognizing the scar on his shoulder.  When he was unmasked, his head was clean shaven, and the crowd was completely silenced.  He started a heel stable with Curtis, Killer Kahn, and Scott Irwin.  Remembering he pinned Dusty, he jokes that that was the only time he beat Dusty.  Eventually, Dusty ended up beating all the heels in the stable.

Dusty was a great talent, and was driven to become a mainstream celebrity.  He was one of the first that wanted to do the Johnny Carson Tonight Show and television appearances, twenty years a head of his time.  He worked hard and really wanted to portray the “American Dream.” 

Going to New York to Work with Vince McMahon, Sr. and Jr.

Sr. was a great man, always laid back, and was content just to stay backstage and play with his quarters.  He didn’t have to show his power because he commanded so much respect. After TV tapings, Sr. would treat everyone to a great dinner, and Lou Albano would get drunk and obnoxious.  Albano was fired after every Allentown, only to be rehired the following week! 

Muraco was thrilled to work Madison Square Garden, even when he wasn’t main event.  He was handled differently than other monster heels because he stuck around after his WWF title programs.  Most heels, like Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody, would spend 8 weeks squashing guys on TV, get their 3 shots at the Champ at MSG, and be gone.  The main event heels would leave the territories after a few months, collecting about $200 grand in the process.

Vince Jr. was shooting promos back then, and probably did some producing.  Muraco was amazed that Jr. could run about 1-200 promos just out of his ear piece.  Patterson was working around the office as well.

Pedro Morales was always criticized for looking slow or methodical, but had a great fire and knew when to make the big comeback in their matches.  Muraco did take some stiff punches to the stomach, though.  The locker room was a lot of fun too, as he’d hang with Mosca, Fuji, and Saito.

He got along with Bob Backlund well.  Bob was respectful and had those family values.   He really wanted to represent the company as credible champ with the amateur background and the Cadillac he drove.  Their broadway matches were fun, but wouldn’t work today.  “You just can’t go through four tables every five minutes.”  He remembers doing an hour long match in Washington in the afternoon, and doing a completely different broadway that night at the Spectrum.

Muraco admits there was animosity in the locker room when Backlund dropped the belt to the Iron Sheik.  Bob might not have been as charismatic as others, but always gave his all.  Any criticisms of him were a result of opponents not making enough money with him.  Muraco made plenty of money with him.  They actually worked together in Japan a few years ago.

Vince Jr. was completely different than his father because he wanted to change the business.  Muraco insists that the expansion was a product of all the promoters fighting over who would run Columbus, OH.  Vince then started hanging out with television producers and merchandise executives.  

Cutting promos and memories of Rocky Johnson…

Cutting promos with food began in Florida, and the Briscos hated it.  Muraco jokes that Jerry would probably love it now.  He loved performing his “sermon” over Rocky Johnson, and responding when Rocky called him, “brother.”  The challenge was to keep current.  In those days, he listened to Bob Seiger, Jackson Browne, and AC/DC, and tried to mirror society.  If the teenagers buy it, everyone else will follow suit.  He reinforces that the 70s were a great learning experience.

The Rocky Johnson feud was just another way of extending the anticipated Snuka angle a few more months.  He liked Rocky, but whenever he’d screw up, Muraco would set up a huge back body drop because Johnson hated taking bumps!  He remembers “The Rock” as a baby, and he used to baby-sit Don’s daughter. 

The famous feud with Jimmy Snuka…

It was a great thrill in his career.  He gets depressed when he thinks about the money that they could draw with that angle today.  Jimmy was having trouble with the office, so the plan was for Muraco to go over in the cage match, but to keep Snuka as a hot babyface.

Muraco envisioned the finish in his mind: Muraco takes a few bumps and gets bumped out of the cage by fluke, Snuka drags him back in and performs his leap from the top of the cage.  Jimmy’s knee hit Muraco’s thigh pretty hard, but Muraco refused to be carried out into the locker room.

Snuka was just way too hot to bury.  They had different specialty matches leading up to the cage blow off, so it was a real challenge keeping the belt on Muraco.  Back then, a heel could just barely scrape by and get major heat, unlike today when the heel has to go over huge.

The feud almost didn’t happen, because the “Nancy Valentino accident” (Nancy was Snuka’s girlfriend) happened right after they shot the spitting angle on television.  Muraco’s version of the events:

Muraco had spent the night prior in the hospital with Eddie Gilbert, who had just been in a nasty car accident.  When Muraco returned to the hotel, he saw several gentlemen in suits trying to talk to Snuka.  He asked the investigators if he could help, and they insisted that they follow him back to the hospital, because Nancy ended up in the room next to Eddie.  Muraco refused because he was tired and hungry, and just wanted to retire to his room and drink his beer.

The investigators then said that they were homicide detectives and NOT cops, so Muraco was free to chug away en route to the hospital.  After Vince had smoothed everything over, Muraco spent the day with Jimmy.  Jimmy said that they were driving and stopped on the side of the road to relieve themselves, and Nancy slipped and hit her head on some gravel.  Authorities really couldn’t contradict the story, so the investigation ended. 

Vince starts a new era of professional wrestling…

When Piper came in with Paul Orndorff, David Schultz, and Bob Orton, there really wasn’t competition for the top heel spot because there was enough work to go around.  Piper was only going to have “Piper’s Pit” because he wasn’t of the “New York stature.”  Pressure to use steroids was mostly internal because New York has always been known for the big monsters like Brody and Hansen.

When Hogan returned, everybody knew that it was the beginning of a new era.  Vince was working the talent pretty hard, so Muraco took time off to clear his head in Hawaii.  He didn’t work at the first Wrestlemania because he was set to have a small program afterwards with Hogan at the Garden.  Their first show was only 75% full, but they built to a sellout at the cage match blow off.

Around this time, George Scott brought in Ricky Steamboat, so Muraco was used to get him over.  The wrestlers didn’t have heat with Mr. T and if they did, too bad.  Muraco had no problem taking a Mr. T punch in Boston, especially when he got a $2000 bonus. 

Muraco remembers Fuji Vice fondly.  The more he murdered the lines, and the worse he was, the more the office loved it.  Moolah was always his girlfriend, and Fuji would rib him constantly.  He remembers when these twin beauties were rubbing him down with oil and Fuji would be behind them pouring gallons of oil onto Muraco. 

Working for the WWF in 1985…

Steamboat was easy to work with.  He says Ricky was very considerate worker.  He always wanted to draw money, and they did some great business during their program.  Was Steamboat the best worker?  Maybe, but Muraco admires Koloff, Stevens, Larry Hennig, Curtis, Murdoch, Slater, and the Funks.

Muraco says that Piper hasn’t changed.  He remembers a match where Piper mounted him onto the mat and was unloading with punches.  Muraco said that it was enough and Piper replied, “stop me!” and Muraco asked, “how?”  When asked about the locker room atmosphere, Muraco said there wasn’t a lot of backstabbing but probably personality conflicts.

Tito Santana was a great worker.  Muraco felt bad that the cameraman ran out of tape and missed the last half of the match where Muraco dropped the IC belt to Tito. 

Entering the Wrestlemania era…

His Mania II match with Orndorff didn’t really accomplish anything because it was too short.  If he had to describe Wrestlemania III in one word, it would be “insane.”

How did Vince Jr. change as the WWF expanded?  “He got more maniacal,” he jokes.  Muraco doesn’t really think that Vince’s mentality comes from greed, but rather ego.  He never takes vacations and he constantly tries to outdo other forms of entertainment.  Muraco is shocked when he sees Vince and Shane take the bumps they have taken recently.

Junkyard Dog was a fun guy, but a bit paranoid at times.  If he didn’t want to cooperate in the ring, he couldn’t be moved.  Muraco compares him to Abdullah in that he’s easy to work with, but you have to work to his style.  Eventually, the work became monotonous and boring, because he was working with the same guy every night for months. 

Last WWF run as “The Rock”…

Muraco didn’t want to go babyface because he had so much fun as a heel.  He thinks that Patterson dubbed him “The Rock” as a rib.  When Superstar Graham became his manager, Graham was mellow compared to his 1982-83 WWF run.  Muraco remembers Superstar locking himself in a hotel bathroom after consuming copious amounts of drugs.  Graham was really fragile in 1987 and couldn’t take bumps anymore.  Muraco enjoyed working with Butch Reed, but feels that he just wasn’t effective as a babyface.

After a falling out with agent Nick Bockwinkle, Vince and Don mutually agreed to part ways.  Muraco’s body was going out on him anyway (he pulled his groin in a match with Greg Valentine), and the steroids had affected his mobility.  He never considered going to the NWA, but eventually came to ECW when Todd Gordon and Eddie Gilbert were running things.  “Eastern” Championship Wrestling had not gone extreme yet.  There he worked with Snuka and Santana, and they all helped get it off the ground.  Muraco saw it as just another indy that would not catch on, but he was happy to see it exist as a third market behind the WWF and WCW (this is 2000).  

What he’s doing now, thoughts on today, and wrap-up…

Don’t expect to see him make a comeback, although he did work a show in Hawaii in 2000, so he can say he wrestled at age 50.  He’s happy being a long shoreman in Hawaii, catching rays and waves in the process.  As far as the current product is concerned, he doesn’t see guys making a career out of wrestling because of the physicality involved today.  It’s a “can you top this” philosophy that cannot survive long term.

While he recognizes Cactus as a hardcore legend of the modern era, Muraco remembers Lonnie Mayne as hardcore.  Lonnie was taking crazy bumps in the 1970s.  Today’s product is exciting, but it cannot last.  He’s amazed to see that Flair is still working in the business.  Who would Muraco work with?  “Any top guy,” of course.  He’s surprised at the openness of the business, and has one regret: he didn’t save enough money.  His greatest moment was headlining MSG.  After his Texas Death match with Backlund, he walked to the hotel alone, with a crowd of fans following him. 

Now, let’s play word association:

Vince Jr.- Driven, maniacal, ego, innovator, and creator.

Hogan- rich!  Never the best worker, but will be considered the best of his time.  Great promo guy and working with him was always a great payday

Snuka- “The Man.”  Muraco owes a lot of his career to him.

Stan Hansen- Great guy, would beat the hell out of you, but never hurt you.  Good worker.

Putski- Not popular with the boys, and Muraco had to work to Putski’s style.

Greg Valentine- Hard worker, but always wrestled in his dad’s shadow.

Jake Roberts- Great worker, and his problems are well documented.

Andre- Great guy, but being a giant got to “Boss.”

Savage- Nice guy, but used to lock Liz in the locker room to keep the boys away.  Randy was cheap at first, but when Muraco left, he would run up outrageous bar bills.

Samoans- Made a big impression in New York; “rugged pair.”

Corporal Kirschner- “Corporal Punishment.”

Orndorff- Great worker, always well conditioned.  Paul was a gentleman and hard worker.

Bob Orton, Jr.- Natural worker like the Funks and Murdoch. 

In closing, Muraco states that he’s lived a great life, met a bunch of characters, and traveled all over the world.  It was a great ride. 

Classic footage: following the interviews is RF’s version of DVD extras, including classic footage from Florida with Muraco working with Jack Brisco and Manny Fernandez, promos from Georgia and New York, and the infamous 1983 cage match with Jimmy Snuka.           

Overall, a great interview because Muraco is so easy-going.  He’s not bitter like so many others of his time, which makes for an informative, enjoyable shoot. 

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