June 28, 2001
Ox Baker: Wrestler, chef, author
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
|Ox Baker. Photo courtesy Chris Swisher
Ox Baker is a man with a lot of stories from his 28 years in pro wrestling. After being retired for 10 years, he began to notice a pattern in his stories -- many of them were about food.
So, being as unconventional as always, Baker set out to write a cookbook. But not just any cookbook. It had to be a cookbook full of his stories about wrestlers like Sailor Art Thomas, Wilbur Snyder, Dick The Bruiser, Fritz von Erich, Cowboy Bob Ellis and Jos Leduc. His colleagues on the road all of those years.
When asked about the cookbook by SLAM! Wrestling, naturally Baker, 60, launches into a story about when he started back in 1962, working with Bruce Balkis and Bobby Shane. "In those days, eggs were 12 cents a dozen and meat was 15 cents a pound. So they used to chip in some money and instead of going to a restaurant, because we were only making $30 a night, I would cook them a meal," Baker said.
"I went from there to New Zealand, where all the restaurants close up at ten. So we had to order food ahead of time and then cook after the wrestling matches."
The whirlwind story that spans the globe continues. "I had cooked for quite a few of the guys. Then when I was in Australia, Andre [the Giant], I cooked him a meal one time. I told him what great salmon patties [I had]. He came over and said, 'Ox, I'm hungry for salmon patties.' So I made him a 3 1/2 pound salmon patty! The stories I started writing, one after the other. I got up to 20 or 30 and a guy who heard about it, he said, 'Ox, why don't you write 40.' Well, I got up to over 50. Someone had read it and said that's very, very good. What I did, I did a recipe and a story about an old-time wrestler that I wrestled."
Baker got 100 copies self-published and is currently sold-out. He's ordering more, and hopeful of lining up an appearance on Howard Stern or Good Morning America to promo and sell more books.
The self-publishing world has been an eye-opening experience for him. His first edition had a black and white cover, and the next will go colour. He's getting suggestions from many people on how to sell and promote the book. One friend lent him some of the money to get it published. "It's almost like wrestling. You need help with everything. You think you can do it on your own then you get out in the wide world and find that you can't. You always need somebody else's help, someone's expertise," Baker said.
"Once I'm successful, everybody will be beating my door down. Right now that I'm just another clown with a book, because thousands of people write a book. But my book is so unique, because I'm the only one that I can think of that could write these stories because I wrestled each and every one of them."
During his wrestling career, "unique" would be one of those terms that described Baker well. With his shaved head, massive moustache and crazy eyebrows, Baker never met a promo he couldn't cut. His aggressive style fired up the fans as his vicious heart punch brought down opponents.
He shared his 'Big Three Rule of Pro Wrestling.' According to Baker, you have to stand out in one of three categories:
"You have to be the number one talent there is."
"You have to be the very, very best talent there is
"You've got to be extremely different.
"Well, there isn't anybody different than Ox Baker, right? I was never number one, I was never the best, but I was different."
Another important part of being a wrestler is coming up with ideas. Too many wrestlers leave that up to the promoter or booker, rather than doing it themselves, Baker thinks. He's tried to install that into the various wrestlers that he has had a hand in training over the years, like The Undertaker (Mark Callous) and Brian Clarke (Adam Bomb, Wrath).
"If you have the promoter's ears, he's listening to you, you make a ton of money. If you just say, 'What can I do tonight? How do you want me to beat somebody?', they get tired of that real fast," he said. "That's the reason that a lot of people haven't been successful in New York. They're just looking for the promoter and his bookers to give them ideas."
Baker has been pitching his services and his wrestlers to Vince McMahon for years. One of his recent ideas was being Linda McMahon's gigolo in some skits to humiliate Vince and his 'divorce' even more.
"I never went to a promoter and said 'What do you want me to do?' I know how to get Ox Baker over."
The recent WWF cookbook, Can You Take The Heat? -- The WWF Is Cooking!, is dismissed by Baker, much as he says it was dismissed by the WWF shortly after its launch.
"Vince McMahon's [cookbook] was all people that were alive," Baker said, explaining that his was about "The fallen warriors", many of the wrestlers that he's fought in the past. "It was one of their many ideas that they passed over real fast, it didn't make a million dollars over night, so they dropped it almost immediately."
Even at 60, with both knees having been surgically replaced and out of wrestling for 10 years, Ox Baker still talks a good game, and issues a final challenge.
"Why doesn't Vince McMahon give me a chance in the WWF? Is he scared of my cookbook?"