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Greg Valentine still feels young
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun


Greg "The Hammer" Valentine in Brantford's Civic Centre. Photo by Terry Dart


As he stepped off the plane into the frigid Calgary air to meet Stu Hart, John Wisniski Jr. had already vowed to himself that he would be a pro wrestler.

And Wisniski, the son of Johnny Valentine, didnít want to be just any wrestler. He wanted to be a good one.

"I had the yearning to be like my dad," said Wisniski, who became Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. A star. A legend. A Hall of Famer.

Nearly 40 years later, Valentine is still stepping into the ring. He says he feels young. He says he still has something to give.

The fans arenít complaining. They get a chance to see The Hammer, the guy who feuded with some of wrestlingís biggest stars ... Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Wahoo McDaniel, Ric Flair, Tito Santana, Junkyard Dog, Ricky Steamboat and Pedro Morales to name a few.

Valentine will be in the Ottawa-area twice this month: June 23 at the Brockville Youth Arena (7:30 p.m.) and June 24 at Smiths Falls Memorial Arena (7:30). Both shows are presented by Great North Wrestling (check out greatnorthwrestling.com for more show details).

While Valentine was once hated and spit on, fans welcome him with open arms these days.

"I haven't changed my look. I still have all of my hair ... and it's still blond," says Valentine. "Everybody is my friend now. Back in the day, sometimes I had to fight to get to my rental car. There were some tough times ... like after I broke Tito Santana's leg or Ric Flair's nose ... a lot of that stuff was real. Sometimes they love to hate you so much, they start to love you.

"I don't feel 60. I forget that I am that old. I'm fighting the age thing.

"God, I still love (wrestling). That thrill is still there. Some guys have come along that are bigger and stronger. But Iíve stayed in this business for 39 years."

It was a struggle at times for Valentine in Calgary. The pay wasnít much and there was so much to do to get better.

"Stu picked me up at the airport. I had a pretty good set of arms, but I didn't know how to wrestle. Stu knew my dad (Johnny Valentine). He would stretch me out a bit, but he didn't put me through as hard as somebody he didn't know. Maybe I was the teacher's pet.

"I made $50 a week back in 1970, maybe that got up to $150 a week. I lived in a hotel and had to eat, so there was never enough money left."

His first match was against Angelo Mosca. The kid lost in five minutes to the veteran.

"I was nervous. I knew how tough he was and if he wanted to, he could have flattened me in 30 seconds," said Valentine.

Valentine moved to Detroit, to learn under The Sheik.

He was teamed with Don Fargo -- as The Fargo Brothers. It was from the older, experienced Fargo that Valentine started learning so much of the psychology that goes with wrestling.

Valentine made a name for himself, including a 1983 dog-collar match against Rowdy Roddy Piper at Starrcade, a closed-circuit TV event that would set the stage for the Wrestlemania phenomenon.

He would make it big in the WWF, but eventually decided to part ways with the company.

When I left WWF (in 1992), it was because I had always been a serious wrestler and (Vince McMahon) was going through the stages of building an edgy promotion.

"The tables, ladders and chairs thing. I don't do that kind of thing."

Valentine was brought back into the fold in 2004 when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

There was plenty of blood and sweat and a few tears over the years as Valentine worked hard to get to the top.

"In my own mind, I thought I had talent," said Valentine. "My dad always told me I was a natural. I still had to push myself. And then after you get to the top, it's a tough fight to stay there."

A job well done, even if it is in front of smaller crowds these days.

RAW TICKETS ON SALE

Tickets for the Sept. 12 live RAW TV show in Ottawa go on sale June 23, at 10 a.m., at capitaltickets.ca.

RELATED LINKS

  • Greg "The Hammer" Valentine story archive
  • Greg "The Hammer" Valentine & Johnny Valentine Photo Gallery
  • Greg "The Hammer" Valentine Career Record
    Visit the SLAM! Wrestling store!


  • Order Greg "The Hammer" Valentine merchandise
    Tim Baines is the Sports Editor for the Ottawa Sun and can be emailed at Tim.baines@sunmedia.ca.