If you are looking for the finest book ever written on professional wrestling, an autobiography that holds nothing back and comes from one of the greatest minds ever to step foot inside the squared circle, then ‘Playboy’ Gary Hart’s book My Life In Wrestling…With A Little Help From My Friends might be the one for you. The book clocks in at just over 400 pages using small text and hosts a wealth of knowledge of the inner workings of pro wrestling, from the booking of matches to the pairing of wrestlers, to assigning managers to talent, to running a territory and much, much more.
The only obstacle preventing you from reading Gary Hart’s book is the steep price tag that comes along with it as it is currently out of print. Most online retailers have it going for no less than $400 (£265), making it quite difficult to get your hands on. From time to time, Gary Hart’s book shows up on eBay, but users are lucky to snatch it up for anything less than $100. Despite many efforts, the book has yet to be republished, but fear not, Pro Wrestling Stories is here to give you a glimpse inside Gary Hart’s book that many in and outside of the business revere as the most in-depth book you will ever read on professional wrestling.
“Gary Hart takes you behind the scenes of pro wrestling during his time in the business from the 1960’s through the mid-1990’s, then has a final chapter giving his opinion on the state of pro wrestling today. You learn so much about what it takes to book and produce a wrestling show, how to manage your talent, and more importantly, you learn how a man can enter a business filled with locker room politicians and backstabbers and never compromise his morals or who he is as a character. Gary Hart’s humanity is what makes this such a great read, he never goes out of his way to bury anyone, and the few people he does have harsh words for he states his case clearly for why he believes his opinion on them to be justified. Vince McMahon should require every member of his current writing team, along with all of his agents, producers, and wrestlers to read this book.”
While Hart may no longer be with us, having died following a heart attack in 2008, but his words live on. Over the next few installments, I will be posting my favorite excerpts from Gary Hart’s book. We start off our first installment in our series of ‘Playboy’ Gary Hart’s Book with a bang!
Usually humble and incredibly complimentary towards the people who played a role in his life in wrestling, Hart did not hold back when it applied to Jerry Jarrett. Jerry is the father of Jeff Jarrett and former operator of Mid-Southern Wrestling, the Continental Wrestling Association, the United States Wrestling Association, World Class Championship Wrestling and, most recently, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
Read on to learn what Gary Hart’s book had to say about Jerry Jarrett. Brace yourself, he holds nothing back!
“Jim Barnett was in control of Georgia Championship Wrestling, and he asked me to come in and help him and his booker, Bill Watts, rebuild the territory. If Jim needed me, I was there.
When I arrived in Atlanta in November of 1973, Bill Watts was the booker, and when he saw me, exclaimed, “Man! That was a long three months!”
I had to laugh, because I had left a few years ago to go to Australia, and was supposed to return in three months to Oklahoma. It was now years later, and we were finally picking up where we left off – but this time in Georgia!
That was also the first time I was ever on color television. There had been color network shows since the 1960’s, but at that time not all television was in color, and all the wrestling promotions I had worked for had been in black and white. Color television had a big impact on professional wrestling because it gave an opportunity to guys who could never have gotten over in black and white to get over in color. With color, a mediocre, mid-card guy could get himself decked out in multi-colored outfits and really get noticed. Once color television became the norm, a wrestler’s look became a big part in getting over. With black and white television – it was all about their work. Color television changed wrestling immensely, but it was such a subtle thing that most people didn’t even realize it at the time.
One evening after a house show in Columbus, Jim Barnett and I were standing outside with Bill Watts and Fred Ward, the local promoter. As we were all talking, this really big fat girl walked by, and, Bill chuckled, “Look at that fat pig!”
Fred Ward looked like he wanted to kill Bill, and announced, “That’s my daughter!”
Talk about your awkward moments.
Gary Hart’s Book Reveals How he First Met Wrestling Booker Jerry Jarrett
Not surprisingly, the following week, Bill was suddenly “let go” and shipped off to Florida, where he was going to be the booker. About two weeks later, I was at the television station in Atlanta on a Saturday morning, when in walked the new booker for Georgia Championship Wrestling: Jerry Jarrett.
Jim Barnett brought Jerry in as the new booker simply because he was trying to make nice with Lester Welch, who owned a piece of Georgia, and Jerry is long-rumored to be the bastard son of Roy Welch – who is Lester’s brother. That’s kind of an open secret in the wrestling world, and it was told to me by Roy Welch’s longtime business partner – Nick Gulas. I really liked Nick, and always found him to be a charming guy. People say all sorts of horrible things about him and claim he was a “terrible payoff man,” but he was a tower of integrity compared to that hillbilly partner he associated with. When I met Nick, he told me all sorts of salacious gossip about the Welch family, and I became totally intrigued by them.
The Welch’s, the Fuller’s, the Golden’s, the Jarrett’s, and the Field’s are the big wrestling families in Tennessee – and they’re all intertwined with each other in a mind-boggling Hatfield and McCoy-like fashion. Roy Welch got involved in the wrestling business with his brothers, Jack, Herb, and Lester, and eventually attained a position where he ran Tennessee wrestling. Their sister Bonnie married a referee named Virgil “Speedy” Hatfield, and their sons wrestled under the names of Lee, Don, and Bobby Fields. Roy’s son Buddy Fuller – who failed in Australia with him – had two wrestling sons named Ron and Robert Fuller. Roy’s daughter Ruby married a man named Bill Golden, and they had a son who wrestled as Jimmy Golden. If you recall, Jimmy was the one who had the bad acid trip in Australia. Now, if the rumors about Jerry Jarrett are true, then that would make Buddy Fuller and Jerry brothers, and Jerry’s son Jeff Jarrett and Buddy’s sons, Ron and Robert Fuller, and Ruby’s son, Jimmy Golden – cousins. Confusing, isn’t it? You need a scorecard just to keep track of them all. Not only that, but it sounds like a bunch of inbred hillbillies, if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying they’re like the backwoods people in “Deliverance”…but they’re awfully close.
I know it sounds like I’m picking on them – but there is a reason that I feel this way about them, and I want you to see the big picture so you can understand my mindset. These are people that I did a really big favor to in Australia, and they never – at any time – said “thank you.” Then, when things fell apart for them down under, they had the audacity to complain that “nobody” helped them – completely ignoring the fact that Brute Bernard and I put their talent over every night at great expense to our reputations. My whole career was on a handshake and my word. When I did someone a big favor – I was never expecting a tremendous payoff, but a simple “thank you” would have been nice. I got nothing from those hillbillies except for grief.
Nick Gulas told me that my experience with Roy Welch and Buddy Fuller in Australia wasn’t personal because each and every one of the members of their “clan” in Tennessee had very low opinions of wrestlers. Apparently, they seemed to think wrestlers were there for them to abuse and treat like dirt. Nick told me stories about how they would make the Tennessee talent come to their farm and clean their stables, wash their cars, and cut their grass. Plus, if a local wrestler’s wife could cook really well, she was expected to prepare a large dinner and bring it over for the whole extended Welch family to enjoy! Ever notice how all of those hillbillies always congregated together? Ever hear anyone say anything good about any of them? Birds of a feather…
Here’s just one example of how they treated their wrestlers in Tennessee: An angle was worked with one of their wrestlers – Bill Dundee – where they shaved his head, and then the following month, they shaved his wife’s head! Here’s a guy who lives in a Tennessee community and has children in school, and the office wants to shave his wife’s head on TV? Think about that.
“These are not refined people. They have no sense of morals, no decency, no integrity, and I have no respect for any of them. They looked down on wrestlers, but at the same time, the wrestlers in Tennessee allowed it.”
Anyhow, Jerry Jarrett was the new booker in Georgia, and all I knew was that anytime his name came up, it was done in a derogatory fashion. In all my years, I have never heard anyone say anything nice about that man. The first thing Jerry told me was that he wasn’t happy with The Samoans [Reno Tuufuli and Tio Taylor], and that he wanted me to get rid of them.”
“Get rid of them? I just brought them in with me from Texas!”
“I don’t care,” he shot back. “Either you get rid of them or I will.”
“Hey – I don’t work for you,” I advised him. “You may be the booker, but I was hired by Jim Barnett. Anything you have to say to me, tell him and he’ll come to me.”
Gary Hart’s Book on “No Respect for Jerry Jarrett”
“I had no respect for Jerry Jarrett or his “knowledge” of wrestling and wasn’t about to let him tell me who I could or couldn’t manage. Besides, I had just done one hell of a favor for his hillbilly kin in Australia, and the least he could do was show me just an ounce of gratitude.
Instead, Jerry had the gall to tell me to stop hanging out with The Missouri Mauler and Brute Bernard – because “they work for the opposition.” That really annoyed me, because out of everyone on Jim Barnett’s roster in Australia, the only two guys that cooperated with the incoming Tennessee crew were Brute Bernard and I. That shows you the hypocritical mentality of those hillbilly ingrates. When Brute was my partner in Australia and we were getting those hillbillies over, Brute was the greatest guy in the world – but now, because he was working for Ann Gunkel – he was evil, and I was expected to disassociate myself from him. I advised Jerry that I had been friends with Brute and The Mauler for a while, and just because they were working for Ann Gunkel’s group wasn’t going to change that. He demanded that I disassociate myself from them, and I steadfastly refused.
At that point, Jerry Jarrett went on this campaign against me, painting me as a “spy.” He insisted to anyone who would listen that I “secretly worked for Ann Gunkel,” and was only working for Jim Barnett “to spy on Georgia Championship Wrestling.” Fortunately, Jim Barnett knew me and was confident that I would never be involved with anything like that. Jim never even pulled me aside or questioned me about it, because he knew I was totally loyal to him. Jerry continued his crusade, though, and at one point accused me of giving “secrets” to the opposition! Believe me when I tell you there were no “secrets” Jerry Jarrett had that anybody would want. What would Ann Gunkel’s group have stolen, anyways – a shave-a-woman’s-head-match?
Gary Hart’s Book Tells All on Giving His Word and Standing Up for the Samoans
One night, I was in the Auditorium in downtown Atlanta, when Bobby Shane approached me. Bobby and I were roommates in Michigan together, and we were longtime friends. Apparently, Jerry thought that sending Bobby to talk with me would change my attitude. Bobby tried talking to me about my resistance in letting The Samoans go, but I cut him off and said, “I respect you and we’re friends, but I will not get rid of The Samoans. I just won’t do it.”
Bobby was really trying to bring me around, and offered, “What if Jerry puts you with ‘Cowboy’ Bobby Duncum?”
I knew Bobby Duncum from Texas. Bobby went to West Texas State with the Funks, was part of the Texas gang, and I had no problems with managing him. I told Bobby, “That would be fine, but I won’t get rid of The Samoans. If Jerry wants me to manage Bobby, as well, I’ll do it, but I gave The Samoans my word, and that means something to me.”
Sometime later, I was standing in the hallway before a show, when Jerry Jarrett walked by. Without even looking at me, he barked, “I want to see you in the bathroom.”
I walked in, and Jerry started telling me that he was the boss, that I was going to fire The Samoans, and that I was going to stop hanging out with The Missouri Mauler and Brute Bernard. While he was lecturing me, he had a chain that he was swinging around his fingers, trying to intimidate me. He then added that if I didn’t do what he wanted, I would have to answer to him. The second he said that I flipped. I grabbed him by the neck and began choking him. I pushed him into a stall, shoved him against the wall, and started bitch-slapping him across his face. I was in a rage as I told him,
“The only reason you exist is because your mother talked Roy Welch into slipping her the sausage one night, and that’s how you popped out – you dirty, lowlife bastard!”
I was getting ready to shove his head into the toilet when Jim Barnett broke through the door, screaming at the top of his lungs, “Gary! You are a devil! Get out of my arena!”
As I looked at Jerry Jarrett lying over the toilet, I warned him, “You got a pass this time, but if I ever see you again, you won’t be so lucky.”
Now, what I did was no big macho thing on my part. I was 250 pounds, 6’4”, and a street kid from Chicago, while Jerry Jarrett was a little weasely guy, who maybe weighed 160 pounds, and was nothing more than a bastard from Tennessee. It was no contest. It’s just that I didn’t like the way he was demanding that I break my word to my guys – because that was something I never did. I’m not proud that I smacked Jerry Jarrett around – but I had to do it, because he needed someone to tell him who he was and where he came from.
The next night, I was booked in Griffin, and the main event was Robert Fuller and Bob Armstrong against The Samoans. We had our match, and when we got back to the dressing room, everyone else on the card had left because we were on last. The building was set up where the dressing room was on one side of the building, and the shower facilities were on the other. Tio asked Rob if he and Bob wanted to take their shower first, and when Rob told them to go ahead, The Samoans got up and left. As I was putting my suit in my bag, Robert came over and menacingly said, “I don’t like the way you treated Jerry Jarrett last night.”
Remember – if the rumors are true – Jerry Jarrett would not only be Robert Fuller’s booker, but also his bastardized uncle. I told Robert that I simply treated Jerry the way he had tried to treat me. A few words were said back and forth, and then Robert sneered, “How would you like it if I kicked your ass while your boys are out of the room?”
I always carried a razor in my pocket, so I pulled it out and said, “Try it and I’ll cut your eyeballs out of your head.”
Robert turned grey and stammered, “I was just kidding!” “Well I’m not,” I said. “Now get out of this room.”
Both Robert and Bob left, The Samoans returned, and I went home.
The following day, Jim Barnett called me, yelling, “Have you lost your mind completely?? What is the matter with you?”
I tried explaining why I did what I had done, but it was of no use. Jim had no choice but to let me go. Immediately, a rumor went around that I was going to work for Ann Gunkel, but that was never even a consideration.”
SOURCE: ‘Playboy’ Gary Hart’s book, ‘My Life In Wrestling…With A Little Help From My Friends’
Related: Check out the other parts in the PWS Series on Gary Hart’s Book: