Smoky Mountain Wrestling Fan Week ’93 Q and A with Jim Cornette

We open with Cornette in mid-stream talking about K.C. O’Conner sending him a ton of gimmick ideas, including adding more members to the Cornette Clan.

The fans and Jim start to riff on Herb Abrams’ UWF, make fun of the fact that no one is watching WCW TV and then move on to Jim Herd.

Cornette is apparently taking part in the WCW hotline in order to make some extra cash for SMW. Jim says his first check from it was so small he plans on not cashing it in, just to mess with WCW’s bookkeeping.

Dennis Coraluzzo and other indy promoters are keeping up the honor system of wrestling. If they book you and you no show the show, you just won’t have a job anymore. If you screw over enough promoters, you’ll be blackballed by your own doing.

Guys have agents now, and merchandising can make a small group of wrestlers a lot of money – however a lot more guys were making good livings in the business in the past.

The NWA is trying to reform, and Corny hints that SMW will be joining the new alliance soon.

St.Louis/Central States shows from the 80’s are made fun of. Corny mocks Bob Geigel being in charge of the NWA in the 80’s, and move on to what a dump the Kiel Auditorium was.

Bill Watts was a straight shooter in WCW when he was serving as vice-president. His gruff demeanor and leadership was what WCW needed to right their ship, but the other suits bristled at Watts’ behavior.

Corny was brought into WCW to do a SMW invasion angle, but Bill Watts lost power just as things got going and Eric Bischoff didn’t want Cornette bashing WCW on WCW TV to get the angle over and edited off some of his comments. Jim tore into Bischoff over wrecking the promo and the SMW/WCW experiment ended soon after.

The WWF ended up calling him and offering him and the Heavenly Bodies a part-time spot on the roster. They made no money promises, but teased that SMW could book some WWF talent to pop houses from time to time.

Yokozuna being put with Cornette came up very early in their meetings and Jim suddenly realized what they really wanted him for. As of this taping, Corny does not have a WWF contract.

The Nightstalker (Adam Bomb) is the only SMW talent the WWF has signed to their own roster. Jim was fine with this because he knew a guy who looked like Nightstalker did was going to be heading to bigger pastures sooner than later. Bomb got some much needed grooming in SMW, so it worked out for both parties.

There were no scripts or directions given to him while cutting promos for WWF TV. Jim knows what they don’t want done (swearing, mentioning WCW, etc) so it’s not like he’ll blow his chance.

Jerry Lawler is a heel on WWF TV and a face on Memphis TV. Corny thinks this is bad for the fans to see and will hurt business in Memphis.

Ted Turner is totally hands off when it comes to WCW. Jim figures no one is telling him how much money WCW is losing because no one wants to be fired for imploding the business so badly.

WCW spent hundreds of thousands of dollars producing the PPV “mini-movies” that led to zero increase in PPV buys. SMW taped the Armstrongs running through the woods to train for a match against Cornette’s men and it drew a house for the cost of a VHS tape.

Cactus Jack is destroying his body trying to get over, and WCW is screwing up his booking left and right. This is coming on the heels of Jack being “concussed” and getting amnesia to (allegedly) build up his angle with Vader.

WCW and WWF need steroid testing – SMW needs cholesterol testing.

Hulk Hogan and the glitzy WWF can’t draw well in SMW’s territory because these fans like blood and brawling. Once you get over here, you can be over for life.

Corny talks about how high spots are good for easy pops, but psychology like hair pulls and other realistic heel tactics get heat without wrecking your body.

Promos today are generic and fail to get the fans to emotionally invest in the programs. The babyfaces need to say what the viewer wishes they could say to the heels, and the heels have to worry about getting heat, not being funny or whatever.

Scripting promos will only lead to stilted interviews. You can’t script a Macho Man or Bobby Heenan.

Jerry Lawler is the best promo man in wrestling history. Even in the WWF today, he’s clearly a step above the rest of the roster.

Bob Caudle is a direct play by play caller. If somebody gets kicked, he’ll call it. Jim Ross might start shouting about head injuries doing the same call. Jesse Ventura would probably try to make a joke and then get himself over.

Tammy Sytch (Sunny) is a beautiful rookie with great facials and seems to be a natural for this business. Fans come up to Corny and tell him they’d like to choke her, so she’s doing great.

Missy Hyatt was great at first, much like Sunny is now, but she’s become a self-parody in WCW.

Baby Doll was a moose of a woman and she should have worked against more men during her run.

Corny covers how he came to acquire so much rare footage. He’s currently trying to acquire Nick Gulas’ TV tapes. They will cost 95 dollars for each hour that is converted from 2 inch film and into modern VHS tapes.

Florida wrestling has tapes dating all the way back to the 1950’s.

Corny likes the FMW death matches because he’s kind of a “sick fuck” for gore.

Jim enjoys watching the Americans working in Japan on tapes from the 80’s with the Funks and others, but he feels the Japanese vs. Japanese matches turn into no selling contests.

Luchas might have a chance of getting good reactions on American cards, but they couldn’t be main eventers with that style. The promos would also hold them back.

Tony Anthony was working a racist gimmick in the late 80’s. He was contacted by the KKK and they offered to “take care of his opponent” if he wanted them to.

Giant Baba is a living legend in Japan, so the fans don’t mind the fact that he can’t work anymore to any acceptable manner.

SMW is touring in areas where the fans have no access to cable and some houses still have outhouses. Inbreeding is a real thing in these parts.

Fans were so starved for entertainment in the late 80’s in Bumfuck, Virginia that outlaw wrestling shows were drawing $20,000 a show. The fans saw so many wrestlers no show and so many screw jobs that they became burnt out and the NWA couldn’t even draw a 1,000 fans to the same places.

Jim does most of the behind the scenes stuff at SMW himself because he is anal and wants things done a certain way.

Corny works on papers and booking sheets in the middle of the night. In order to keep his secretary from going insane, he paid for a small office for her to work out of at a bank.   She works normal hours.

The SMW workers all have guaranteed paydays. They get to sleep in their own beds most nights, so that’s a nice plus.

Jim loved riding on airplanes in first class while dressed in his normal slobby apparel. He’d see guys in expensive suits looking at him, but Jim knew he was making 3 times as much as those guys were.

Corny pokes fun at the rumors that SMW workers are going to jump to ECW. The guys fighting in the crowd is an old southern staple, so ECW isn’t innovating much there.

In Mid-South, the Midnight Express brawled into the crowd with Magnum TA and Mr. Wrestling II one night in Houston. It almost caused a mini-riot and the rematch popped a bigger gate. They were not going to try that in most Mid-South towns because the fans would have stabbed them.

SMW have a lot of fans that still believe things are real, so Jim is concerned with some of his heels trying that sort of thing.

JCP killed off some big time towns that SMW now tries to run. Towns that were drawing $100,000 a show in 1985 are now barely making renting the local high school or armory worth it.

Cornette hopes to spread into the Carolinas and create a larger loop because the economy is rough and they can’t expect to draw in the same places weekly.

WCW is running a lot of Alabama towns, so SMW is avoiding that state.

The WWF is getting smaller ratings than SMW in some towns.

Ticketmaster charges for each day that the box office is selling your tickets, so Jim usually waits until the show is almost happening to sell tickets. Walk up attendance is usually 66% of your gate anyway.

The WWF is pulling back on what towns they run, and WCW is losing money, so there is a probability that “territories” may spring up to fill the gaps across the country. Once wrestling gets hot again, things will pick up as well.

SMW is not looking to get on PPV. Jerry Jarrett warned Jim that between the promotional costs and the four-month wait time to get paid by PPV providers, it’s a lot of hassle.

Corny has no hobbies outside of wrestling. He smashes things with bats and hammers to relieve stress.

Mid-South fans attacked the Midnight Express all the time. Bobby Eaton would take Jim’s racquet to fight their way through the crowds, but Eaton gave this up after a while because he was afraid he’d hit a fan too hard and kill them.

Dennis Condrey was jumped at a 7/11 by an irate fan.

Lafayette fans chased the heels home in their cars.

The Tulsa police stopped agreeing to work the wrestling cards after too many riotous fans became a problem. The sheriff’s office took over. Four of their officers tried to get Jim to the locker room after the Express fought JYD and Bill Watts. The fans ended up picking all the cops off and chased Corny to the back where Watts’ car was pelted with bottles and trash as they ran by it.

Jimmy Garvin was so scared of the crazy Mid-South fans that he refused to break the rules.

‘The Last Stampede” with Watts/JYD against the Midnight Express was the highlight of Jim’s managerial career. They drew huge money with little help on the undercard.

WCCW didn’t care how long Corny’s promos went, so he’d sometimes go upwards of seven minutes.

The Southern Boys were suppose to bring in Bob Armstrong to feud with Eaton, Corny and Stan Lane in WCW. The blow off was to be El Gigante replacing Bob at Starrcade and getting revenge on the heel trio.

Southeastern, Memphis, Detroit, Georgia, Crockett, and the WWA were all the wrestling shows Corny was able to watch thanks to having a large antennae as well as having relatives a ways away he could go visit.

The townsfolk are a little scared of Mama Cornette as she is known to meet strange vehicles with a shotgun in her hand.

Thunderbolt Patterson, Dr. Death, Sonny King are the worst promos Jim’s seen.

“I don’t like to be in crowds unless they are there to see me”

Having children would be too hectic for Jim, who lacks patience.

Heels and babyfaces are banned from being in public together in SMW.

Jim starts pining for Sprite and Kevin Sullivan comes in to take over the room.

Sullivan speaks of how growing up in Boston everyone called each other racist names, and it was okay then.

Wrestling should not be viewed on the same level as some Hollywood epic.

Kevin took over booking for Florida in the mid-80’s. His first task was booking an angle with the Road Warriors and Blackjack Mulligan that had to draw $120,000 for the week or the company would go under. Sullivan ran an extreme angle and the promotion drew nearly $150,000. Then the heat came down and the bosses yelled at Sullivan for doing what was asked of him.

Sullivan was struck with Rheumatic fever and was bedridden for a year as a kid. Sullivan finally had enough and he got up and started walking. He got himself in good shape and it ended up saving his life as the effects of the fever went away.

They then call everyone to dinner and we end things at the 3 hour mark.

Final thoughts: I have to say I am surprised Corny had largely given up on wrasslin’ this early into the 90’s. My rose colored nostalgia glasses think a lot of the stuff he bashed was entertaining.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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