Kayfabe Commentaries: WCW Timeline 1988: JJ Dillon
Written by: Brian Bayless
This was released in March of 2013
The interview was conducted by Sean Oliver
It runs at two hours and one minute long
Ole Anderson returns to the ring after a six-month long absence to team with the newly turned babyface Lex Luger. JJ talks about 1988 being a pivotal year and the pinnacle of his career as leader of the Four Horsemen. At this point, JJ said that Ole’s son was a senior as an amateur wrestler and wanted to spend time with him so they put that into the storyline where he split from the Horsemen. JJ also thought that having Ole and Lex team together would be a good idea as Lex was still new to the business. When asked if Ole liked being a face, JJ said he didn’t tell if he was upset about that.
On January 4th, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams was arrested at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport for attempting to export cocaine. JJ laughs about that briefly before going into the list of what was in his possession as we see that scroll across the screen. Williams was released on $25,000 bail. On whether or not he received punishment for this by the company, JJ just talks about nothing in particular here.
Terry Taylor’s last televised match before leaving for World Class aired on January 10th. Oliver asks if there was heat between Taylor and management, as was reported. JJ didn’t recall any particular incident and talks about Taylor being a great guy and his friend but sometimes just didn’t think before he spoke and did that a lot and it gave him a bad perception.
Up next is on January 23rd when Sting defeated Ric Flair via DQ. Originally, Michael Hayes was supposed to wrestle Flair but he missed the show and reportedly got fired as a result. JJ talks about guys setting a bad example by missing a show without a good reason. This leads to JJ talking about how all of the guys from the UWF coming over to WCW and how the expanded roster meant some guys were not getting enough time to shine.
Now, JJ is asked about the Bunkhouse Stampede PPV that aired on January 24th. The WWF countered this show with the Royal Rumble free on the USA Network. JJ talks about how they wanted to expand everywhere and had a National TV show and wanted to be perceived as that so they ran the show in Long Island, NY and only drew 6,000 fans. JJ is asked about the rumor of the live event starting earlier than the advertised time as he has no recollection of that but its something that should never happen.
Oliver asks about the rumor that the Rock ‘n Roll Express were fired by Dusty Rhodes the afternoon of this show due to Ricky Morton refusing to have his head shaved. JJ does not know about that but if someone wanted to shave Morton’s head without a long-term plan then it would not make any sense at all. JJ once again talks about how there were too many talented people on the roster to be kept happy as their were a limited amount of spots. JJ is asked if Dusty they had a problem with them because they were jobbing a lot at this time and JJ once again reiterates how it was impossible to keep all of the talent happy at this time.
On January 26th, Sting crashes “Ric Flair Appreciation Day,” kickstarting the feud between the two. JJ talks about how its creatively challenging to come up with situations that get to the same place and by having Flair having a party at one side of the building and Sting at the other side fed up during an interview made for a great confrontation. When asked who put Sting in this spot and recognized his ability, JJ didn’t think it was one particular person but did state Dusty saw the “it” factor in him. JJ talks about how he had the look but that wrestling did not come natural to him as one time, after hitting JJ with a Stinger Splash, Sting just stood there as JJ told him to beat his chest and he did and the fans went nuts. JJ said the fans do not see that but those in the business saw someone who could draw money but needed a lot of help. On whether or not Sting got better in terms of being a more comfortable as a performer, JJ said to be honest the answer is probably “no.” JJ said Sting drew some money and had great matches but was in there with Flair a lot of the time. JJ also said Sting moved to California with the hopes of getting into movies and was not fully invested in the business. JJ notes how Andre the Giant did movies and TV show appearances but also made the towns, something Sting did not want to do.
Next, JJ is asked about the Varsity Club. He talks up Kevin Sullivan as a player but mentioned about how most felt there were a lot of limitations with the demon character so this was a chance to put him with legitimate athletes. Oliver wants to know why Sullivan was still the devil with collegiate athletes but JJ said it made it unique and it ended up working.
JJ talks about the angle of Baby Doll’s mystery envelope and why it was scrapped. JJ said sometimes you paint yourself into a corner when you plant a seed and go down the list until you run out of ideas and realize there is nowhere to go. When asked, JJ said nobody ever knew or probably even thought it all through.
Oliver asks JJ if the weights used during the Powers of Pain and Road Warriors segment were legitimate. JJ claimed that they were and said the men had the strength to lift that much. JJ said that the he believes the injury suffered by Animal was legitimate in that segment. When asked which of the four could bench press the most, JJ ponders for a bit and puts over their individual strengths before joking that he was never near the gym himself. He thinks it would have been between the Animal and the Barbarian.
On February 20th, Eddie Gilbert wrestled his last match in WCW before leaving for Memphis. JJ talks about how there was probably more opportunity to make money and headline there. JJ talks about Dusty listening to people besides using his own vision.
JJ is asked about Ric Flair not taking time off after his wife gave birth to his son Reid. JJ chalks that up as guys feeling they owed it to the business to work the shows and a stigma of you not being dedicated would be given to you if you went home. JJ believes that has changed over time but back then the business was not forgiving about that. He adds that Flair felt like he owed it to the fans that bought tickets to appear at the shows. JJ talks about how he missed many birthdays and anniversaries as part of the business then talks about you not working meant you were not getting paid and that contracts just “tied your services up” to that company. JJ said when you were hurt, those around you helped to make it through the match as people never wanted to miss time to injury as again, you did not get paid by sitting out with an injury.
The Fantastics made their debut on March 12th, defeating the Midnight Express for the U.S. Tag Team Titles. When asked if they made the impact they were supposed to, JJ said “probably not” as they were too similar to the Rock ‘n Roll Express.
JJ is now asked about WCW being blocked when attempting to book a show at the Cow Palace in May due to a 60 day no-compete clause that the WWF instituted at the venues they were running. Oliver asks JJ how you thwart this as JJ said there was nothing to do so you’d have to work around dates they were working and take a shot.
Al Perez made his debut on March 19th, with Gary Hart returning as his manager. JJ said Hart was one of the greatest managers and underrated overall. JJ also added that Hart never got his chance to shine in the WWF. Regarding Perez, JJ didn’t recall if he added an attitude problem then talks about others with a good look and had in-ring skills but the “it” factor just was not there. JJ adds that the public are the ultimate judge of that and Perez never got over with them. JJ also brings up guys that did not have the look or in-ring skills that drew a ton of money because they had that “it” factor.
On the Midnight Rider angle, JJ said the angle worked in Florida prior to this and made for fun television in the sense that everyone knew who he was (Dusty Rhodes) but the announcers and referees would not confirm or recognize them. However, sometimes things have success and run its course and when re-created in a different time and place with other people, it just doesn’t have the same impact.
WCW ran “Clash of the Champions” for free on TBS the same time as the WWF’s “WrestleMania IV” PPV. JJ talks about how there is a lot of heat within the TV industry with a show running for free opposite of a PPV, who are losing money as a result.
When asked about the rumored takeover of World Class Wrestling by the Crocketts, which would have had Kerry & Kevin Von Erich appear at the Clash of the Champions show, JJ first talks about the Crockett Family. After that, he talks about how buying the UWF was not a good move but they wanted to expand.
JJ talks about Lex Luger & Barry Windham defeating Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson for the Tag Titles. JJ uses this to talk about how the version of the Four Horsemen with Windham was the best in-ring version of the stable.
NWA “Main Event” makes it debut on TBS April 3rd. The concept was that the show would only have three matches but that they were “main-event” caliber bouts. JJ is asked if there was any trepidation over giving matches like this away for free instead of saving them for house shows and PPV. He said that was always a “delicate balance” as the philosophy back in the territory days was an infomercial for your product so you had to walk the line of giving them enough to want to watch and buy a ticket to the show and to not give away too much on TV that they will not buy a ticket, or even worse, put out a boring product on TV that does not want to make anyone buy a ticket to the shows.
On April 20th, Barry Windham turned on his partner Lex Luger, allowing Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson to win the Tag Team Titles. Windham then aligned with the Four Horsemen, becoming the fourth member. When asked how Barry felt about being part of the group, JJ thought he enjoyed it and compares it to being a great baseball that was told he was traded to the Yankees, meaning that he would deal with added pressure and spotlight of being part of a successful group. JJ said Barry had the talent to justify his spot. JJ did not recall if Barry’s black glove was an homage to his father (Blackjack Mulligan) but notes that the two were very close.
On May 11th, Kevin Sullivan kidnapped Precious. JJ said Dusty took risks and went to new places and Crockett ran with that.
At the May 22nd show at the Omni in Atlanta there were rumors Ted Turner’s executives were in the building as they were potential buyers for the company. JJ talks about Turner trying to become partners with Vince McMahon when the WWF was shown on TBS in 84-85. JJ thinks that Turner wanted to own a major wrestling promotion and they already had a lot of programming on his station and it went together. JJ notes how Turner called Vince to state that he was now in the wrestling business himself.
The Great American Bash tour began and it was a lot more scaled back than previous years as it was no longer held in outdoor stadiums. JJ believes the combination of country music and wrestling became too expensive to run and the company learned their lesson. He also notes that the buzz was not as big as the two years prior. Oliver notes how there was only one title defense, the night of the PPV, and a lot of gimmick matches were added to the show. JJ said they still drew well and did not have the big overhead as the prior two years.
At the Great American Bash PPV, Lex Luger had champion Ric Flair in the Torture Rack but the referee called the match off, at the orders of the state athletic commission, due to the fact Luger was bleeding. JJ claims this was legit rule of the state commission so Luger bladed and they used that as the finish of the match. JJ notes how Luger was dreadfully fearful of blading and actually had to cut Luger for that match. JJ talks about blading thousands of times in his career and said he does not have the horrific scarring that others have. Oliver asks JJ if there are better blades to use than others. JJ said everyone had their own they liked to use.
The Crockett Family opened up an office in Dallas, TX. Oliver asks why move when they were scaling back. JJ said that Watts had an office when they bought them out and this fit into the plan of Jim Crockett to move out of Charlotte. JJ talks about buying a home there and he leased it out but before he moved, Tully Blanchard called him after heading to the WWF and told JJ his name was being mentioned as Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson were basically running things themselves and needed the help.
JJ is asked about the Russian Assasins, with Jack Victory brought in. JJ does not remember why Victory was there and felt that they might have turned Ivan Koloff face because he was respected by the fans at that point.
On turning Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express face, JJ said it was not a good idea and that babyface managers do not work. He puts over how much he loved watching Cornette.
When asked how he found out about Tully & Arn leaving for the WWF, JJ said that they had been talking to others for a while and did not tell himself because he was part of the office. JJ also said he would have left too for a chance to be managed by Bobby Heenan and they had their families to take care of as well.
On October 29th, the Road Warriors won their first NWA Tag Team Titles after defeating the Midnight Express. Oliver asks JJ if the Warriors not winning the belts until now is because they never needed them as JJ said once they won, it became a problem to come up with a way to take them away.
On November 1st, the last show under the “Jim Crockett Promotions” banner ran at the Savannah Civic Center in Savannah, GA. JJ said they knew before the deal was finalized with Turner. He talks about it all sounded like a “no-brainer” as Turner could expand them worldwide. The official deal was signed on November 2nd as Turner reportedly paid $9 million for the company. JJ talks about at first, Turner told them they would not touch the core product but what happened is that a lot of “closet wrestling fans” in management came up with ideas that would garner higher ratings. JJ said they had no experience in wrestling and could not balance what you gave away on TV and what you saved for other shows. One guy suggested they put Sting vs. Flair on TV and get high ratings, with Oliver questions what would you do for next week as JJ talks about how these management guys only thought week-to-week and not months down the road.
On November 24th, the Road Warriors attacked Dusty Rhodes with their shoulder spikes, causing bleeding on Dusty’s face. This drew 300 complaint calls to Turner Broadcasting. JJ said they wanted to replace Dusty to begin with when Turner took over and this was another reason to make him a scapegoat.
On December 1st, JJ wrestled in his last match as he teamed with Barry Windham to face Bam Bam Bigelow and Eddie Gilbert.
Oliver then wraps up the interview and how this was a huge year for JJ as it wrapped up his tenure with the Horsemen.
Final Thoughts: This was informative at times but overall, I was not a fan of this interview. JJ came off as a “protecting the business” type here. He frequently talked about not remembering things when it came to any sort of “gossip” question yet the guy is known as someone with a very good memory. I did not believe a few of his stories here.
As far as the structure of the interview, I felt that they could have spent a lot more time on the purchase of JCP by Turner. They almost treated that as an afterthought. And JJ platyed it off like he did not have much knowledge about the purchase.
Overall, I really do not recommend this shoot unless you are a huge fan of this era. If you wanted to learn about 1988 WCW, I don’t believe there is much you will get from this interview.