SLAM! Sports SLAM! Wrestling
   August 27, 2014



News & Rumours
Bios
Obits
Canadian Hall of Fame
WrestleMania 30
WrestleMania 30 photos
Video
Movie Database
Minority Mat Report
Columnists
Features
Results Archive
PPV Reviews
SLAM! Wrestling store
On Facebook
On Twitter
Send Feedback




Photo Galleries

SummerSlam


Kevin Steen


Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fan Fest


Raw in Miami


Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame inductions


WWE Battleground


ROH in Detroit







SCOREBOARD
PHOTO GALLERY
VIDEO GALLERY
COMMENT





The strange tale of the obscure Hammerhead Jones
By DAVE HILLHOUSE -- SLAM! Wrestling


Ted Vernon in Niagara-on-the-lake with his wife Robin, who is holding their son Teddy Jr. (Ted also insisted on my son being in the photo)

Starring: Ted Vernon, Fred Ottman, Anthony Albarino, R.S. King
Written by: Ted Vernon and Manny Diez
Directed by: Robert Michael Ingria

The SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database is no stranger to the obscure. Oddballs and hidden gems found way off the beaten path are as much a part of wrestling as sunset flips, and so it is with wrestling movies. One movie in particular that has come to our attention is not merely obscure, but was so difficult to even find the basic information for it that it deserves special mention: Hammerhead Jones.

Google the title and you're just as likely to find information on Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest (thanks to Davy Jones and the Hammerhead Shark Guy).

The creative force behind Hammerhead Jones is Ted Vernon, who plays the titular character while also holding a Executive Producer credit and sharing story credit with Manny Diez. Vernon is a jack-of-all-trades living in Florida, whose long-time passion of selling classic cars has persisted through his career stops in the ring, both wrestling and boxing, and his work in the film business. Vernon was more than pleased to look back on the production of his film and help SLAM! Wrestling put together a proper piece.

It just so happened, in fact, that Vernon was bringing his family to Niagara Falls, Ontario, for a summer vacation a while back, so a meeting with the one and only Hammerhead Jones was set up. Vernon was understandably excited about an interest being shown in a film nearly twenty years old.

To start things off, Vernon provided SLAM! Wrestling with a copy of the film and explained why, due to the agreement he made with the distributor, it was originally impossible for us to find.

"The problem is that I sold it worldwide and I didnít take the deal they offered me on domestic," he laments. "That was my mistake. I thought I had a better show than what they offered. I had hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in the show, and they offered me only a fraction of that."

Add to that the fact that what Vernon was offered was only going to be paid incrementally over a number of years and Vernon felt he had no choice but to hold out on the domestic North American market. So, did he still make his money back?

"No," laughs Vernon, his tone indicating that he didn't even come close. "But I learned a lot. You lose but you learn. I had fun with it. I learned a lot about wrestling, and Iíd always been a fan."

From this perspective as a fan, Vernon set out to tell the story of Ted "Hammerhead" Jones, a bred-in-the-bone babyface who takes time for good deeds (like teaching a kid how to deal with bullying) while refusing to sell out to the nefarious new owner of the ACPW -- the American Council of Professional Wrestling.

The new owner, Numbers, is insisting that the way of the future is a "deathmatch." It seems that the promoter wants to bulk up his revenue and decides that feeding the bloodlust of wrestling fans is the way to do it. Just as 1975ís broadcasting satire Network was prescient in regards to the oncoming of "Shock TV," itís hard to ignore the fact that Hammerhead Jones was on to something.

Not that Vernon is going to pretend for a second that his movie was intended to be a landmark film showing us the ugly underbelly of the ring.

"It ainít War and Peace," he exclaims, laughter in his voice. Vernon will go so far as to say that, having had a hand in writing the movie himself, he just wanted to imbue the story with his own ideals. "Itís basically how I view life," he says. "Donít let anything beat you -- anything!"

That mindset certainly helped Vernon as he endured the trial that all newcomers must face when entering a wrestling fraternity: he was worked hard by the wrestlers on the set. Even though he had some experience as a boxer (he sums up his career as a pugilist this way: "I was a good fighter; no, I take that back. I could knock people out!"), Vernon had to delay production, if even slightly, to give himself time to recuperate after the in-ring training sessions.

He acknowledges that he wouldnít have expected anything less from workers who, at the time, were charged with protecting the image of the tough wrestler who wouldnít be soft on anybody. One exception, though, was the man whom Vernon calls "the gentle giant": Fred Ottman. The big man, mainly known as Tugboat/Typhoon from his time in the WWF, was a careful and considerate partner in the ring, a far cry from his role as a mysterious menace brought in at the end of the movie to destroy Hammerhead Jones in the ring.

Ottman, who has kept in touch with Vernon after all these years, shares in Vernonís feelings of the film: a combination of fondness and pride, while admitting it had its weaknesses. "I look back on some of the stuff and I laugh," Ottman recalls with SLAM! Wrestling. "You think about things that could have been done better, but itís become a cult thing."

Ottman was just starting out, wrestling in his first territory for Joe Blanchard in Southwest Championship Wrestling, when a mutual acquaintance to both himself and Vernon, Rusty Brooks (who also has a role in Hammerhead Jones), helped cast Ottman in the biggest, meanest role in the movie.

It wasnít Ottmanís first time in front of a camera, though. "Before I got into wrestling, I had done some commercials and had some experience in that field," he reveals. "I did a national commercial with Coca-Cola, and later I worked on Hulkís TV series (Thunder in Paradise)."

Ottman credits being given the role in Hammerhead Jones, along with his burgeoning wrestling career, with bringing him out of his shell, describing himself as a "shy kid" growing up. He could see that Vernon was a driven and committed businessman, though both of them had obstacles to overcome when putting together their climactic match.

"We talked back and forth and put the match together, but I was actually really green in the business," Ottman explains. "Tedís only about 5"7', maybe, so they had apple boxes that heíd walk on to make him looks taller. But he was big on wrestling and he went through wrestling school. He wanted to do his wrestling movie."

So maybe itís no surprise that, as independent wrestling promotions often bill their owners as the top star, because itís their dream, so Ted Vernon is the unquestionable hero of Hammerhead Jones. Numbers, you see, only has one thing stopping him from turning his federation, once a proud company run by his father, into an extreme land of lethal matches. You guessed it: Hammerhead Jones. Though most of the workers feel they have no choice but to wrestle the way Numbers wants them to bring money to their families, Jones is the one man who stands up for his fellow wrestlers.

Again, it sounds like pretty heady stuff, but take it from Vernon himself -- itís not meant to be a serious movie. It is a product of its time: when good guys were really good (Hammerhead donates most of his time and money to a local church, for goodness sakes!) and bad guys were really bad (Numbers is never seen long without a cigar filling the screen with smoke), and there is no doubt who should come out on top. In that way, itís a refreshing time capsule of wrestling in the '80s.

Vernon has continued to work in the film business as an executive producer on John Carpenterís Village of the Damned and most recently worked on a project where, he proudly exclaims, "I play a killer, and Iíve killed Dave "Gangrel" Heath and Billy Fives ... I am having a great time!"

Thatís the trick with Vernon and Hammerhead Jones: donít get too caught up in the morality of the story, just keep your eyes on the prize and have fun.

RELATED LINKS

  • Ted Vernonís website
  • Scott Foy (aka The Foywonder) tribute to Hammerhead Jones
  • SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database

    Dave Hillhouse worked on this piece for three years.