Wrestling legend Honky Tonk Man is best known for being the longest-reigning Intercontinental champion in WWE history, but he has far more to talk about than just that reign.
With one of the liveliest attitudes in wrestling, HTM is still one of the best personalities around and he was gracious enough to sit down with the boys of Ring Rust Radio for an exclusive interview.
Honky Tonk Man has been in the industry for more than 35 years—a career that has seen the veteran spend time in the WWE, WCW and every independent federation around—the wrestling veteran knows all the tricks of the trade.
Luckily for the fans, he was willing to share some of his most memorable stories and lessons. Considering the Hall of Fame is approaching, Honky Tonk Man wasn't shy about discussing his chances of being inducted this year or complications in the past with WWE.
When they had the Hall of Fame ceremony here in Phoenix, they contacted me about that, and they contacted me way too late about it. It was like two weeks before, and they said, ‘We’d like to do this thing and induct you into the Hall of Fame and we think it would be a great honor for you.’ I said I thought it would too and I really appreciated the offer, but I had signed a contract to do these Wizard World Conventions and I was set to go to Toronto. I had to fulfill that obligation, so I turned them down.
Obviously, when you say no that makes them very upset with you, so I don’t know if that particular invitation will ever come around again. If it does; it does. If it doesn’t; it doesn’t. It’s one of those things I have no control over.
While the Honky Tonk Man doesn’t know if he’ll ever be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame or not, it is very obvious that he should be. As one of the biggest stars in the WWE during the Golden Era, HTM has earned the right to be enshrined.
Vince McMahon shouldn’t keep out a bona fide legend like Honky Tonk Man over some petty grudge; then again, that’s why Macho Man Randy Savage isn’t in the Hall of Fame either.
One of the reasons that the WWE Universe remembers HTM so fondly is because of the amazing Elvis-impersonator gimmick he had and the chaos he used to cause as a bad guy. While he was able to pull off that character, many superstars today wouldn't be so lucky.
When asked about how hard it would be to pull off a gimmick nowadays as compared to how hard it was during the Golden Era of wrestling, the Honky Tonk Man had no problem giving credit to those working today:
I would say that it’s much harder to do now because they do not give you the ability to develop your character. Hacksaw Jim Duggan and myself, we did a short Q&A seminar type thing at a comic-con in Albuquerque this past weekend and got the same question. We both agreed that its more difficult now because you don’t have the input. You don’t have the opportunity to say, ‘This is the character I would like to portray and this is the one I think I can do, and this is the one I’ve been working on for the last five years and I know how to make it work.’…It’s more of a theatrical play now, or some type of movie set.
It’s clear that the wrestling business has changed over the years, and while some fans will complain about the way the WWE and TNA book nowadays, these companies were forced to change with the times.
That means the characters that the talent are scripted to play had to change as well.
After moving on to Honky Tonk Man’s illustrious career and the opponents he liked to face the most, the in-ring veteran didn’t pull any punches when talking about who he wanted to wrestle more than anyone else:
…[Vince McMahon] said, ‘I could see me and Hulk Hogan teaming together and then I could see you, down the line if we want to switch this and make it into a bad character, going against Hogan.’ So I was thinking I would get to have all these matches with Hogan. You asked who did I like wrestling the most, well, that’s one answer; Hulk Hogan. Believe me, brother, when you’re getting that legged dropped on you and you’re making $10,000 to take that leg drop everyday for nine shows a week, that’s 90 grand. Believe me. I loved that leg drop.
That candid look at wrestling offers the fans a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes workings of the business and the mindset of a wrestler in that era. HTM was one of the biggest stars in the WWE, but he was just trying to collect his paycheck like the fans.
Maybe his blue-collar work ethic is what made fans like Honky Tonk Man so much despite his heel persona. Either that, or it was the awesome jumpsuits, the slick-backed hair and the way he smashed guitars over people's heads that sold the fans.
No matter what the reason behind the crowds' support of the gimmick, HTM always got a reaction from the people and will go down as one of the greatest superstars of all time.
After a long career, the Honky Tonk Man is still rockin’ and rollin’ and entertaining the fans every chance he can get.
Listen to the full interview here.
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