Legendary World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Famer and manager of The Four Horsemen, JJ Dillon, appeared Sept. 9 in Suffolk.
Part one of my phone interview with him was published in the Sept. 14 issue of the Flagship. This is part two.
Yiorgo (Y): In the early 1970s, the first time you worked for Jim Crockett Promotions, you actually wrestled David Crockett, one of the sons of Big Jim Crockett, the owner of the promotion. What was it like to wrestle the owner’s son?
JJ Dillon (JJ): David wanted to wrestle, and they kept it under wraps, so he wrestled as David Finley, which is his middle name. They kept it from his mother as long as they could. I was a good opponent for him, because we could go out there and have a good wrestling match without risk of getting hurt. We wrestled each other about a dozen times. We were in the middle of the card. They knew I would take good care of David and not get hurt, and he was living his dream.
Y: Dusty Rhodes was so instrumental in your life. Can you talk a little bit about the man known as the American Dream?
JJ: I learned so much from Dusty. Dusty was the big idea guy, and I worked on filling in the details. We spent so much time together. I know the whole family and watched the kids grow up into the fine human beings they are today, and I am so proud of all their contributions to our business. Once I became a wrestler, I worked in Florida with Eddie Graham and Dusty. I will never forget their kindness. I had the opportunity to go up to the Canadian Maritimes and buy into a promotion, with no money but with my knowledge and my expertise and what I could bring to the table. Eddie and Dusty, with their blessings, gave me access to their library of tapes, so I can use them to build up the territory with TV. Because of various circumstances, eventually I called Dusty to see if I could return to Florida and he said, “Pack your bags we are going to the Carolinas for Jim Crockett Promotions.” I said, “Do I need to call Mr. Crockett?” Dusty said, “No just show up.” I did, the Four Horsemen took off and as they say, the rest is history.
Y: Speaking of the Four Horsemen, can you pick your top three of the Four Horsemen variations or combinations?
JJ: Well I can name two. The phenomenon that was the Four Horsemen lasted for 13 years, but I was involved three–four years before I left. My favorite group would be the original group that included Ole Anderson, because if that first formation of the Horsemen had not come together, then maybe none of the others that followed would have happened. As far as my favorite group of what we were able to do in the ring, it would be the group with Barry Wyndham. To me, Berry was one of the true greats in the business and should have had an extended run as a world champion. He had it all.
Y: You were very fortunate to work for Vince Sr. in the then-WWWF as a referee. What are some of your memories of this great man?
JJ: Vince Sr. was a great man and respected both by the boys and the other promoters in different federations. I remember he would come to the Philly Arena once a month and always wore a suit and tie. He was a chain smoker and sadly he got lung cancer that took his life. He also had five or six coins, fifty-cent pieces, on him at all times, and he had this nervous habit of putting a coin in his fingers and flipping it from the front to the back over and over. He was so kind to me. At that time I am a junior in college, and I was referring for the then-WWWF. He knew me by name calling me Jimmy. You see, I was a fan of wrestling, unlike most of the other referees who were appointed by the athletic commission of each state and were afraid to take bumps or do whatever was needed for a hot finish. Mr. McMahon Sr. and the wrestlers knew they could count on me. And the guys would take care of me, because Philly was a rough town. When there was a hot finish, they would put me in front of them and say, “When we say go, you go straight to the locker room don’t look back,” because the fans back then would throw a lot of things at the wrestlers. Even when I was not assigned, I would show up anyway. Vince Sr. would always make sure that the payoff guy, either Angelo Savoldi or Arnold Skaaland, would give me a $20 and say, “Vince really appreciates you coming in just in case we needed anything.”
My dream was always to at least one time wrestle at Madison Square Garden. Years later, when I was working for Eddie Graham in Florida, Eddie found out about my dream to wrestle at the Garden. He picked up the phone, called Vince Sr., and Vince Sr. told him he remembered me so well and was so happy for me and would be happy to do it for Jimmy, that’s what Vince Sr. would call me. Two weeks later, I wrestled in Madison Square Garden. I’m the luckiest guy alive. Mr. McMahon Sr. died several months later from lung cancer.
Y: You have wrestled more than 3,200 matches in your career. What would you consider a wow moment?
JJ: As a wrestler/manager, I had a career that lasted 20 years with 3,200 some matches, and I wrestled the who’s who of the wrestling world back then. I actually would pinch myself as a referee when I would watch these guys on TV as a fan and now I’m the third man in the ring. Later on, I wrestled them as well. Wrestlers like Eddie Graham, the original Sheik, Giant Baba from Japan and El Santo from Mexico, who in his day, was bigger then Hulk Hogan in Mexico. There are too many wow moments to pick from, but because I only wrestled one time at the Garden, that would have to be my No. 1 wow moment.
Watch for the upcoming part three of this interview in the Flagship, which will cover JJ’s Podcast, Ric Flair and more.
Yiorgo is a Hampton Roads arts, entertainment and sports writer. A stage, TV and movie actor, he is also an educator, motivational speaker, writer, storyteller and columnist.