January 25, 2012
Kevin Sullivan renewing friendships and rivalries at WrestleReunion
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
WrestleReunion, which takes place in Los Angles this weekend, has built its reputation on offering an incredible experience for its fans. The organizers have developed a reputation in the industry of treating the legends they invite to their conventions with respect. The event has become as much about the wrestlers as the fans, with many reuniting after several years. In the case of Kevin Sullivan, best known as "The Taskmaster" in WCW in the 1990s it is a chance to see old friends and long-time fans that will bring him to the LAX Hilton.
"It will be very interesting and uplifting and a positive experience. Time passes so quickly when you get to our age. We will have some laughs about some of our different experiences and have some great stories to tell. It will be interesting to see what has transpired over the last 15 years with different guys' lives. Have they stayed in the wrestling business or moved on to something different?" Sullivan told SLAM! Wrestling over the phone from his home in Washington state.
The list of VIP and vendor guests features many of those that Sullivan has worked with in the past including Mick Foley, Abdullah the Butcher, Jimmy Hart, and Sullivan's former Dungeon of Doom associate Ed Leslie, known as The Butcher and The Zodiac when working with Sullivan in WCW and as Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake in WWF. For many fans the opportunity to revisit the 1980s Varsity Club gimmick with Sullivan and Rick Steiner in a unique photo op is one of the attractions of the weekend.
"Rick is a terrific talent. He was one of the smartest guys I ever saw, I don't think he gets enough credit for how good of a performer he was. The only drawback he had as a heel was he had such a great personality it was hard to hate him. When Mike Rotundo, Dr. Death [Steve Williams], me and Rick (as The Varsity Club) would be out people would boo and hate us, but Rick would come in and he would be kicking a guy down the people would be cheering for him. He was smart enough to understand they were cheering but he didn't want to take away from the babyface, it was an awkward situation," Sullivan explained.
"Anti-heroes were just coming in and babyfaces would panic if they started to cheer a heel, so Rick would do something like shoot them in, go for a dropkick, tell the guy to hold onto the ropes and he would land on his ass and really sell it and people would pop for the babyface. As a babyface he was exactly what you wanted, a kick-ass, take-names babyface. People would say it was hard to get heat on him because he was built like a Tyrannosaurus Rex but he knew how to sell for his body type and character just enough. He would call some of the things for the heel because he had been such a great heel. He was a pleasure to work with."
Sullivan will be in action as well, participating in a "Legends Battle Royal." In 2011 the bout came down to Rowdy Roddy Piper and Terry Funk brawling around ringside. With a list that includes Beefcake, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Rock Riddle, Carlos Colon, and Raven among others this year it could be anyone's match.
"I definitely think I will win because I am the youngest in that group and the one who makes it to the ring without having a heart attack should be the declared the winner so I have a good chance of winning! Truthfully though I am in there with legends," he said before sharing some thoughts and memories of some of his opponents.
"Carlos Colon, besides being a great performer, owned a terrific territory. I worked there quite a bit, at one time I was working about five different territories at the same time: Florida, Southwest, the Gulf Coast, and Tennessee, and for Carlos. I have always admired the way he ran his business and his talent as a performer. Raven is a bit of a protege, he may not admit it but he was a protege to me. I always thought he was one of the greatest interviews in the business and he never got his due and never got a chance to be a booker. He is a very smart guy and he should have been a booker somewhere, someplace. Because of his ideas and philosophy whether it was back in the day of territories or now in WWE or TNA I actually think he could turn a company around. I haven't seen Rock Riddle since about 1971 when he came to Tennessee with that gimmick. I remember watching him on The Gong Show and he had quite the character, it will be great to see him."
"It will be great to see him. I have known Eddie Leslie since before he was in the wrestling business when we trained at the same gym. He lives in Boston, I still go there every year for the Boston Red Sox opening day. He has always been accused of riding [Hulk] Hogan's coattails and that may be true to some extent, but he did so because he was a loyal and true friend," said Sullivan. "He looked incredible, and still does, but when he was with Vince he didn't need to ride on Hogan's coattails. His body looked as good as anybody in the business, he may not have been in the top tier of heels because they had so many great heels, but he was very good. Ed drew money with Hulk a couple of times, he looked the part and has kept himself in shape and looks great. I am excited to see Eddie."
For fans, it is a chance to connect with the legends of their youth, and an era when wrestling was less cartoon and left a lasting impact. Some of those attending this weekend will have their own stories to tell the wrestlers. Such was the case for Sullivan at a similar convention a few years ago.
"It is a great mixture of the guys and the fans. You get to see people and say, 'Thank you very much.' Sometimes athletes forget that those people that paid to see us are the reason we made money and have the lifestyle we have. I am very grateful to see these people and hear their stories. They will bring up something I forgot about or is completely entertaining.
"At one convention I had a guy come up to me and he was a very nice guy, I signed some photos. He said, 'One of the best matches I ever saw was when Wahoo McDaniel kicked your ass in Miami Beach. He chopped the hell out of you and you were staggering around the ring. If you hadn't pulled out the golden spike and hit him he would have beaten you. I thought that was a pretty lowlife thing to do. He really should have won that match.' I said, 'Oh, that's right on page 757, under my name it shows that I beat Wahoo in Miami Beach with an illegal move.' It just blew me away that he still thought to that day 20 years later that Wahoo should have beat me. It is funny to me that some people's views on wrestling, even with what has happened to it and how it was different then than it is now. I don't think any fan from this generation will say that to a wrestler 20 years from now."
Jason Clevett will be attending his third consecutive WrestleReunion this weekend. Look for coverage of everything before he passes out from exhaustion here on SLAM! Wrestling.