Because of the length of the interview I will keep my intro short, for those who don't know James Beard he is a very famous ref from the "Glory Days of Wrestling." He worked in World Class, Memphis, AJPW, NJPW, & many other places. I throuly enjoyed this interview because I learned a lot and I look forward to maybe working with James in the future. Because of the length Part 2 of the interview will be posted later this week, but enjoy Part 1:
For the readers who may not know who you are why not give a little background of who you are & how you got into the Wrestling business? When you were growing up were you a wrestling fan or no and if not where you aware of it?
JB: I was a fan from the time I was very, very young. I tell the story in my book about watching wrestling on an old grainy black and white TV and my folks taking me to the matches a few times when I was a kid, including my first trip to the Sportatorium, a place I ended up spending a great deal of time in. I got into the business through getting to know some of the wrestlers who would come to places I was playing with my band back in the 80's. I gradually was brought into the business and it was sort of a hobby for a short time, with music being my main source of income. But, I eventually became so busy in wrestling that I had little time for anything else. Like a lot of guys who had no connection to the business before getting involved, it was a process of becoming someone they trusted. At first, it was like testing the waters, then once I was a little more familiar with things, the opportunities grew and it wasn't long before I was in the business full time.
Back in the territory days you really don’t hear about international working agreements but it seemed like World Class was able to get a lot of people from overseas, could you maybe explain why that was possible? You know people like Kabuki, Brody, Killer Khan, and others.
JB: World Class had some direct connections with Japan in particular because of Fritz Von Erich's presence and notoriety in that country. He was a huge star in Japan and came to build a very good relationship with a lot of the powers that be there. Also, the Amarillo promotion and the Funks in particular, have had a long standing relationship with the Japanese companies, So Texas was a place those companies would often send guys to become more familiar with the American style and to gain experience before being brought back to Japan. If you look at the big Japanese names, in particular from the 70's and 80's, you will see in their history that a lot of them spent some of their formative years competing in Texas. There was a very cooperative relationship in those days and the Japanese companies were always looking for foreign talent to include in their tours. Texas was one of the main places they looked to for talent exchange and occasionally, a Japanese wrestler, like Kabuki or Killer Khan, would be brought over here with the intent to put them in a particular situation. Like most areas of the country, there was always a need or desire to have an international look and the Japanese wrestlers were often the most capable of those to provide that. If you are ever in Japan for any length of time, it becomes pretty obvious there is an infatuation with Texas and the Texas image over there. It continues to this day. So, the relationships between Japanese promotions and Texas promotions was a very natural one and one that both benefited from.
What was your take on Kerry Von Erich winning the World Title from Ric Flair only to lose it back 2 weeks later? Do you think it was a bad move or a good move if so why?
JB: On one hand, the NWA title going to Kerry was the right thing to do and an honorable thing in showing respect to the Von Erich's and the Texas promotion. But, the truth is, a short and limited run with that title was not viewed by all as the best thing for Kerry at the time. I know Gary Hart was not particularly fond of the idea and I understand his thinking. While I give a nod to Ric Flair and the NWA board for allowing that to happen, I have mixed feelings as to the way it was carried out. I know there is some thought that Kerry was not capable of handling the duties required of a longer term NWA Champion. But, having him drop it so soon after winning and not having the chance to make it look like something more than just a nod to the family because of David's death was unfortunate in my view.
Could you explain the differences between working in CWA, GWF, & World Class? Also how big of a difference was working with Jerry Jarrett, Giant Baba, Fritz Von Erich, & Antonio Inoki? Where any of them similar in any way or where they all very different?
JB: All promotions have different philosophies. Sometimes they might vary from those philosophies a bit depending on who might be booking or in charge of the creative side of things at any given time, but generally, a territory or promotion will have an image and style that is unique to them and they will stick to that for the most part. Working in Texas, you had 4 major promotions and all 4 had differences,, but the one thing they all had in common was a belief in a very hard hitting, believable format. There was always a premium on being technically and psychologically sound as well. Most of the heads of the major promotions or territories, whether here or Japan, generally set the stage for a philosophy, but they typically put others in charge of the booking and handling the wrestlers.
Guys like Fritz, Baba or Inoki were all very strong personalities who overshadowed their promotions for the most part until they saw fit to allow some others to shine a bit. Jerry Jarrett was a different kind of promoter in that, while he was demanding, he was more the businessman type and kept a hand on that end of things. But, all of them were smart enough to allow for different creative visions and if you look back on their times as heads of their companies, you will see a number of influences who served them well, but buffered them from the talent. The Memphis style was often more extreme and chaotic with more outlandish characters than most territories, but Jerry was very consistent in his philosophy that personal issues were what were successful and he stuck to that, even when the action in his promotion became pretty wild at times. Fritz insisted on being believable first and foremost and he liked hard nosed, straight forward competition.
Gary Hart influenced a lot of the direction of World Class when he was there and Gary was a stickler for detail and logic. As much as he was not a fan of Jerry Jarrett, he also liked to create personal issues and promoted that as his style. Baba was very influenced by the American style and his promotion reflected much of that as well as the fact he liked to keep a number of foreign wrestlers as regulars on his crew. Inoki promoted a more technical style and the foreign wrestlers he generally utilized were of that ilk. He liked to think of himself as a "fighter" and he liked the image of his company to be in line with that.