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Honky Tonk Man free & proud
By CHRIS KITCHING - Winnipeg Sun




Wayne Farris has no intentions of turning in his guitar and putting an end to his shaking, rattling and rolling.

Even if it means he books his own gigs and wrestles in front of dozens of people in nightclubs and community halls in small towns.

"I tell people that when the phone stops ringing and they stop asking for me I guess I'm finished. Or when the hair and sideburns are gone," said Farris, better known as the Honky Tonk Man.

He was a World Wrestling Federation star who regularly wrestled in front of tens of thousands of fans more than a decade ago.

Farris is doing a tour of southern Manitoba this week, with stops in Winnipeg, Beausejour, Gimli and La Broquerie.

Saturday's IWM event at Doubles Fun Club, at 20 Alpine St. in the Travelodge hotel, is an adults-only show that begins at 8 p.m. The Honky Tonk Man is facing "Beautiful" Bobby Jay.

Now in his early 50s, Farris hasn't slowed down since he left the WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment) and joined the independent circuit. He worked 80 shows in six countries last year.

"Independents are more enjoyable because I can do what I want to do, be as creative as I want to be and mix and mingle with the fans as much as I want to," he said recently from his home in Phoenix, Ariz.

Last year, he turned down a WWE legends contract because it would strip him of that freedom.

"I don't want to give up the rights to the name and character I created just for a paycheque, which could turn out to be just one paycheque," Farris said in his recognizable Southern drawl.

With the WWF, Farris gained notoriety for smashing wooden guitars over his opponents' heads and branding himself "the greatest intercontinental champion of all time."

Carrying the title for a record-setting 15 months in 1987-88 was the highlight of his career, he said.

A SMASHING GOOD TIME IN WINNIPEG

One of the Honky Tonk Man's last visits to Winnipeg with the World Wrestling Federation was a smashing good time for everybody but his tag team partner.

The guitars came out -- like they did in many of his matches -- when he and Greg (The Hammer) Valentine faced the Bushwhackers during an event at Winnipeg Arena. The good guys usually had the instruments smashed over their heads but on that night one of the villains received a stiff guitar shot.

"Valentine's head was sticking out of the guitar and his eyes were crossed," said WWE representative Bob (Doc) Holliday, a Winnipeg Sun scribe whose job it was to find "cheap" guitars at a local music shop. "When he fell back into the ropes he was out. They didn't score the guitars (to weaken them beforehand)."

Holliday and Wayne Farris, the man behind the Honky Tonk Man persona, erupted in laughter when they recounted the story. "Someone saw stars. I was in charge of the guitars so if Valentine got whacked it was probably because I let it happen," Farris said.

"He needed that to wake him up. When we were a tag team we were called Rhythm & Blues, but the joke in the back was I was Rhythm and he was Snooze," he said.

MORE ON THE HONKYTONK MAN

  • July 1998: Fan Q&A
  • April 1998: The Honkytonk Man bares all