Legendary wrestling manager and WWE Hall of Famer James J. Dillon recently spoke with BlogTalkRadio.com’s Ring Rust Radio.
In your opinion, what was the best version of the Four Horsemen and what put it over the top in comparison to the other versions?
I’m often asked that question. The history of wrestling is that anytime anything catches on and is successful, promoters by the nature are going to ride it past its peak and ride it until the horse has nothing left and drops. So with that no one should be surprised there was a number of reincarnations of the Four Horsemen even after the glory years. The original group with Ole will always be special to me because everybody that was part of that group was already established. It wasn’t like someone was trying to get a rub from somebody else to elevate somebody else. Everybody who was there was already a champion and had the bragging rights. That was a part of the initial appeal. I always think that if it wasn’t for Ole, maybe a lot of the things that followed never would have happened. Certainly of that group, Flair was the foundation with the limousine driving, jet flying, kiss stealing, son of a gun. If you look at everybody, I was a little bit older but I could have fallen into that grove. Ole was young but just didn’t seem to fit that mold. Ole late in his career is always referred to as a grumpy old man. It made it easy to move Ole out of the picture after our first successful run. Ole drew money everywhere he wrestled, his style never changed, and no matter what side of the ring he was on you go the same act. It helped freshen us up because now we had a personal issue with someone. A part of us was now across the ring from us and that opened up a spot for Luger. He wasn’t experienced at the time and was really green. He came up because of a situation he was in down in Florida with Bruiser Brody and had to leave. I think Eddie Graham and Jimmy Crockett talked and said that he had a great body, we can move him in with these guys, and camouflage the fact that Lex wasn’t experienced. We then moved past that to when Barry Windham shocked the world and jumped sides to join us after that. I really believe that in terms of bell-to-bell action, the group with Barry was probably the greatest in terms of what we could accomplish any given night in the ring. When Tully and Arn left to go to New York to join Bobby the Brain Henan to form the Brain Busters, as far as I was concerned the glory years of the Four Horsemen was over. They were never going to be as big as they were during that extended run. Ole was always special, Barry was the group that was technically the best, and beyond that I really don’t think that much about it.
On the passing of Roddy Piper:
Well, I knew Roddy for over 40 years. I started in the business full time in the Carolinas with Jim Crockett senior. I wasn’t a kid, I was 28 years old when I started full time. I stayed there for over two years and from there I got my first break in the business with the Canadian Maritimes. It ran during the summer months in the hockey arenas when they didn’t have the ice down. I went up there and that’s where I got my first big push. I would work on TV one day a week and one of my TV matches was with a young, inexperienced guy by the name of Roddy Piper. I beat him up on TV and that was the only time in my career that I faced Roddy. It was 1973 and that was the beginning of a relationship that lasted over 40 years. When you look at Roddy he wasn’t physically a monster, so it wasn’t like his size or anything stood out. He was a legitimate tough guy and a Canadian Golden Gloves champion. He also studied Judo and had a black belt in judo. Despite his size, Roddy never backed down from a challenge from anyone. Fear was not a word in his vocabulary. I had a chance to see him many times over the years and be around him, and as over the top as he was he has an innovator. He was in the first WrestleMania, he could go on with Gordon Solie as his co-commentator in Georgia Championship Wrestling and do an excellent job. So when he went on to do Piper’s Pit, and broke the coconut over the head of Jimmy Snuka they still talk about that now a days. Roddy was always off the wall and you never knew what he was going to do. The words icon and legend get thrown around a lot in our business and over used, but we lost two people in less than two months that for me, who spent half a century in and around the wrestling business, the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and Rowdy Roddy Piper exemplify what is really an iconic legend. Both of them are going to be missed very much, I care deeply for both of them, they were friends as well as people I worked with, and I don’t think there will ever be another American Dream or Rowdy Piper. There will never be someone that comes along with that type of iconic talent, achieve what they did in the ring, and have the impact they had on the business.
How would you describe Dusty’s legacy in the wrestling industry and do you think he made a bigger impact in the ring or behind the scenes?
I think he did both. He basically took Crockett promotions to another level. At the time they were a regional company based out of Charlotte and a family owned business. Dusty came in there and I was fortunate enough to join him at the very beginning. Certainly the pinnacle of my career was the run with the Horsemen and part of our success was because of him. People wouldn’t buy tickets to come see the Horsemen come out and stand in a corner. There had to be someone across from them, and there had to be someone on the other side that when the bell rang it was something they wanted to see. Dusty was the catalyst across the ring and was surrounded by the Road Warriors, Magnum Ta before his accident, Ronnie Garvin, Jimmy Bang, and just a whole lot of talent. It was the chemistry with all those people that made it successful and Dusty was the driving force behind it. War Games was his brainchild, the Great American Passion in the outdoor ballparks where we drew crowds in excess of any of the buildings we were going to. He was an innovator and his in ring persona was great. He wasn’t just big in Florida or the Carolinas, he main evented in Madison Square Garden. Everywhere he went he was a main eventer. So when I say that I look at the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and Rowdy Roddy Piper as being iconic legends, that’s a definition that I reserve for very few. We lost two of the greatest in such a short time and it’s sad that they are gone forever.