Road Stories and Ribs From a Former WCW Corporate Employee

Wrestling fans love hearing wild road stories and crazy ribs from back in the day. And as a former WCW and Turner corporate employee, the road was home to so many of us.

In my roles as Director of Corporate Research at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (TBS) and Director of Marketing Services for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the ’90s, I grew close with multiple wrestlers and was involved in many infamous and unusual moments behind the scenes and on the road. Incredibly, I somehow lived through it all!

Ted Turner, me, and Hulk Hogan (someone I've had my fair share of experiences with over the years!)
Ted Turner, me, and Hulk Hogan (someone I’ve had my fair share of experiences with over the years!)

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Road Stories and Ribs: An Insider’s Perspective of the Cartoon World of WCW

Through the following stories, I will be sharing an insider’s perspective of the wrestling business and the individuals involved. Some of these stories aren’t pretty, but it was the way it was!

In a bid to preserve and not forget any of my experiences, I have been sharing my recollections in installments here on Pro Wrestling Stories as they come to mind and in no particular chronological order. Let’s dive in!

1. In Search of Hulk Hogan

Hulk Hogan had just signed with WCW, and I was given his home and cell number to arrange a meeting to discuss merchandising opportunities before his announced signing.

By the way, Hogan received 60% of the gross merchandise sales bearing his likeness and name.

I placed a call and spoke with his (then) wife Linda, who informed me that The Hulkster would be away until the next day.

The next day, I was scheduled to work a fan fest in the Boston, Massachusetts area, but I told my then-teenaged son to take Hogan’s call and give him the number where I could be reached.

So Sunday afternoon, I was working this event doing a fan signing and autograph session with Terry Funk.

I looked at my watch. It was 1 pm, then 2 pm, next 3 pm, now 4 pm, and finally 5 pm, and still no call from Hulk Hogan.

I managed to break away from Funk for a few minutes and grab a phone to call my home in Atlanta. My son answered, and I asked him if he had heard from Hulk.

My son informed me that Hogan did call, but he was in such awe speaking to him that he forgot to tell him to call me in Boston.

He simply said I wasn’t home.

I had to wait another four days until I could track down Hulk Hogan to schedule our meeting.

Hulk’s name was licensed to him by Marvel Comics. WWE always paid the licensing fee to Marvel to use this name.

Marvel made a lot of money off of Hulk Hogan over the years.
Marvel made a lot of money off of Hulk Hogan over the years.

When Hogan joined WCW, Marvel Comics at first decided that they wanted a fee in excess of $10,000 to relicense the name.

However, a few weeks later, Marvel decided that they DID NOT want to relicense the name for use by the wrestler. This caused negotiations with Terry Bollea to come to a virtual halt.

WCW finally threw up their hands as Marvel was unwilling to budge.

Ultimately, Terry Bollea informed WCW that he would directly enter into negotiations with Marvel Comics to use the Hulk Hogan name.

In the end, Bollea paid whatever fee was required to Marvel to remain Hulk Hogan.

You can learn more about the fascinating story of Hulk Hogan, Marvel, and the fight for his name in the following article on our site: Marvel Comics: The Money They Made off Hulk Hogan.

2. Drink Barrel Polka

During our infamous tours of Germany, WCW played in the city of Halle on two separate occasions.

On our second tour, during one of those God-awful long bus rides which ran at least six hours between cities, the boys came to another fateful decision.

They needed adult beverages. Not just one or two. But more than enough to kill the pain of another miserably long bus ride immediately following the evening’s event in Halle.

The guys started grumbling about the lack of drink around 11 am, and by 10:30 pm, when the evening’s event was over, a massive call for brews had arisen from both the heel bus and babyface bus.

That evening I was scheduled to ride on the heel bus.

I constantly alternated buses between venues so the wrestlers wouldn’t think I was playing favorites with one group over the other.

So the event ends, and we all break for the buses like a bat out of hell. I couldn’t get on those buses fast enough.

Suddenly, The Nasty Boys are demanding that we pull in at the first convenience stop on the highway.

Both drivers pulled over, and the entire entourage rolled into the closest highway convenience store and emptied every one of the drink-laden coolers!

Can you imagine the sight of 15-20 professional wrestlers suddenly dropping into this store and filling up their arms with every bottle of brew they could carry?

Well, if that wasn’t a most unusual sight, how about all of the guys proceeding to the cash register at one time and plopping down their evening libation to pay for their haul?

Of course, not one wrestler managed to bring their wallet into the store when it came time to pay. Wrestlers are notorious for not paying anything if they can somehow get away with it.

So I had to pay front the astronomical cost in Deutschmarks (not yet Euros at that time) to cover the bill.

Fortunately, as I was in charge of collecting cash for all the arena’s merchandise sales, I had the financial resources at hand.

I then spent the rest of the tour trying to collect all of my money back from each wrestler on both buses.

I was repaid by everyone, EXCEPT The Nasty Boys, if I remember correctly.

By the way, Knobbs still owes me $10 USD, which I lent him in Hamburg.

3. Upsetting Rick Rude

While on a tour of Germany, I would be the last person out of each arena just before boarding the tour bus; I carried the evening’s cash receipts from the sale of event merchandise.

Some evenings I boarded the bus with the equivalent of $10,000-25,000 in my possession.

The procedure for the tour dictated that each morning in a new German city, I would go to the bank with Doug Dillinger, a then Atlanta Cop and Director of WCW Security, for the tour.

First, we’d make a cash deposit to the CNN German Corporate Bank Account. The funds were then wire transferred to Atlanta’s Turner Broadcasting System corporate bank account.

This procedure worked like a charm until we walked into a bank in Frankfurt with my shoe box full of cash one day.

The bank was already on alert for potential illegally deposited funds. They didn’t want to hear anything about a tour of professional wrestlers and nothing about depositing to the CNN account for a wire transfer to the USA.

They called the local police, and Dillinger and I had to spend over two hours convincing them that all this cash wasn’t illegally acquired and not to arrest us.

Fortunately, Frankfurt was the last city on the tour, BUT that wasn’t the end of the excitement.

We did a show that evening, and the following day we were due to depart for the airport at about 9 am for a flight back to Atlanta.

So everyone is on board the bus and ready to depart when the hotel manager comes racing out and refuses to let us leave.

It turns out that Rick Rude made a long-distance call back to the states to a girlfriend, and he owed more than $500 USD for the call.

Of course, Rude refused to pay, claiming “he didn’t talk that long and that he had fallen asleep during the call, so he shouldn’t have to pay because he didn’t talk all of the time.”

Another lame wrestler excuse.

So the haggling went on for about 30 minutes, and we weren’t going anywhere until I paid the money.

Meanwhile, I was sweating because we were about to miss our flight.

Nobody except me was carrying any significant amount of cash, so I finally paid the hotel manager for Rude’s telephone call and made our way to the airport.

Upon returning to the States, WCW reimbursed me for my out-of-pocket and subtracted the $500 from Rick’s next paycheck.

Rude wasn’t a happy camper.

4. Ron Simmons: A Whole Lottie of Money

Ex-WCW World Champion Ron Simmons was notorious for mismanaging his finances back in the day.

Ron Simmons gets hoisted up in celebration after winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on August 2, 1992.
Ron Simmons gets hoisted up in celebration after winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on August 2, 1992.

He would come into the WCW office every few weeks to collect his paycheck, and somehow, all of his money would miraculously disappear before he reached home. So on paydays, it was a regular event for Simmons’ wife Lottie to call the office to make sure that WCW had paid Ron Simmons his contractual salary.

God only knows what he told her when he didn’t arrive home with the dough.

After several months of this ongoing situation, Lottie finally got fed up with Ron’s b.s. So she started coming into the WCW office to collect Simmons’ pay.

It became an actual game to see whether she got to the office to collect the check before Ron or if the champ would make it to the office before Lottie.

And so it became commonplace for WCW staff members to have a regular payday bet of $5 each on whether Lottie or Ron would get to the building first to collect the moolah.

My money was on Lottie each time, and more often than not, I won.

5. Legal Trouble Over the Likeness of Razor Ramon

I had left WCW for the brighter lights of working at Blockbuster Entertainment in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida when one day I got a phone call from Jerry McDevitt, WWE’s lead attorney.

He wanted to know if I would cooperate with them and possibly testify on the then-WWF’s behalf in a deposition and potential court appearance over the likeness and usage of the character Razor Ramon.

Battle of the likeness of Razor Ramon. Scott Hall (left) and Rick Bognar (right), who reprised the role after Hall departed from the WWF in 1996.
Battle of the likeness of Razor Ramon. Scott Hall (left) and Rick Bognar (right), who reprised the role after Hall departed from the WWF in 1996. [Photo: Whatculture.com]
Scott Hall had left WWF for WCW, and Vince McMahon was noodling around for a copyright/trademark infringement suit against WCW.

I agreed to an in-person meeting with the WWF attorney.

Jerry McDevitt ultimately sent a lady attorney down for a luncheon meeting with me at a local Ft. Lauderdale hotel. The entire 3-hour conversation related to using the likeness and graphics and intellectual property rights of the WWF and their character Razor Ramon.

A few weeks post-meeting, I received a typewritten document containing my statement(s) in the mail, which I then signed and returned to the WWF attorneys. I heard nothing more about this situation after that point in time.

6. The Late, Great Jim Barnett and His Hypnotic Water Fountain

Working for WCW meant that I had to interact with many unusual personalities and their quirks, wrestlers, and office personnel alike.

My favorite office personality was the late promoter James E. Barnett, whom everyone called Jim.

Wrestling promoter Jim Barnett at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney Showground, March 7, 1973.
Wrestling promoter Jim Barnett at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney Showground, March 7, 1973. [Photo: Mervyn George Bishop/Fairfax Media]
Jim Barnett knew the business inside and out, having been a promoter or owner of promotions within the USA and Australia.

 

In addition, Jim worked as a paid employee or consultant for Vince McMahon, Jim Crockett Promotions, and WCW.

Lots can be said and have been told about Jim. I loved hearing his stories, everything he had done, and what he had accomplished in his lifetime.

Those were great chats and lunchtime events. But I must say the man was a character.

Jim’s office was located two doors away from mine.

In between us was Rob Garner, former VP of Syndication at WCW. The day I started working there, I was taken to meet Mr. Barnett.

As I walked into his office, the first thing I noticed was not Jim Barnett.

Instead, the fact that he had an actual working/flowing water fountain in front of his desk blew my mind and distracted me from his outstretched hand.

This relatively large, fake marble water fountain with an unclad male cherub statue from which water flowed into the fountain’s base was right before my eyes.

I kept looking to see the water source and how the thing operated.

It was a self-contained unit with no actual water line installed.

But I couldn’t take my eyes off the water fountain to pay attention to Barnett’s words.

I couldn’t begin to tell you what Jim said to me that day.

And comically, it was that way every time forward when I was sent to his office. That fountain was hypnotic.

I was so darn fixated on his stupid water fountain that much of his words of wisdom are now lost to time.

7. Klondike Bill (and Gordon)

One of my more unusual acquaintances within WCW was Klondike Bill (William Soloweyko).

Forever thankful for my friendship with Klondike Bill, his friend Gordon, and the stories they would share on the road.
Forever thankful for my friendship with Klondike Bill, his friend Gordon, and the stories they would share on the road. [Photo: TheReaderWiki.com]
Klondike was a former Canadian professional wrestler in the 1960s and ’70s. Long past his prime, and after having fallen upon hard times as many do in the business, he was ultimately hired by Jim Crockett Promotions to set up and tear down guard rails and the wrestling rings.

 

He and his working buddy, Gordon, traveled to and from wrestling events and city to city without any recognition whatsoever.

However, before events in different Atlanta area locations, I would be sure to venture into the evening’s arena and spend 30 minutes to an hour chatting with Klondike and Gordon about the good old days of professional wrestling.

I can’t begin to tell you how much history and knowledge of the wrestling business I gained from my time with these two gentlemen.

Long after I left WCW, I learned that Klondike had passed away from a neuromuscular disorder in 2000, and Gordon also had died.

These two friends were kind enough to share their wrestling life experiences.

It’s something that I cannot ever thank them enough for.

8. Sherri Martel WAS Darn Scary

During my time in WCW, it was well-known that the company would still hire you, even with a failed pee test, if they wanted you. Such was the case with the late Sherri Martel.

The "scary" and "sensational" Sherri Martel.
The “scary” and “sensational” Sherri Martel.

One day I walked into the WCW mailroom to retrieve my post, and there on the fax machine, out in the open for the entire world to see, were the results of Sherri’s recent company-mandated pre-hire toxicology test.

I couldn’t help but notice that there were enough medicines in her system to hang out a CVS or Walgreens sign over the front door of her home. It was unfortunate to see.

The very next day, Sherri Martel was observed wandering the halls of the company office, laughing out loud like a banshee.

So naturally, immediate reactions were, “She isn’t going to be around these parts for very long.”

She lasted about one year, much to my surprise.

As things rolled around, WCW was in the process of getting another paid show to work in Germany, where Sherri would come on tour with the guys.

The Hamburg-based German tour promoter (who also did concerts) was a man named Hermjo Klein. His parents couldn’t decide whether to call him Herman or Joseph, so they settled on Hermjo.

This was to be Hermjo’s second bought show tour, but it almost didn’t happen as he missed several deadlines for making final payments to WCW. So we didn’t know if we were going or not until the day before the tour began.

Hermjo worked in concert with a man named Dieter Krap. Yes, that was the correct spelling of his name.

When I first met the man, he introduced himself as ‘My name is Dieter Krap, like in s***.”

Dieter was the producer of WCW on German TV. We would send weekly PAL VHS tapes to Dieter, who would edit the video into a hodgepodge hot mess called “The Best of WCW.”

What a misnomer.

Hermjo Klein had a British assistant, a gentleman named Barry. Barry did the leg work for Hermjo and traveled with us from arena to arena.

Somewhere between our arrival in Germany and the second night’s show, Barry took a shine to Sherri Martel.

Sherri would go out of her way to look her very best for Barry. She’d wear God’s most hideous dresses and pour cheap perfume all over her body to impress him.

Barry and Sherri would sneak off to some secluded area of the evening’s arena in between matches, only to become visible again before the tour buses loaded and pulled out for the next city. Wink. Wink.

Following the last show of our ten or so city tour, there was a small farewell party hosted in Hermjo Klein’s office.

A few of us were present. Don Sandefur (the WCW Tour Director), Doug Dillinger, Sherri Martel, Dieter Krap, Hermjo Klein, Barry Whats-His-Name, and myself.

Bubbly was flowing, and recorded music was playing in the background. Sherri gravitated toward Barry, and they started to dance.

Soon it was like the two of them were in a Camel Clutch.

Barry was holding onto Sherri for dear life, and they were simultaneously slow dancing and in a lip lock.

Meanwhile, Sherri was crying. Then, finally, there was enough water to generate a cyclone.

Giant humongous gobs of tears mixed with her extra thick layer of mascara and foundation as they were running down her face.

Nobody said a word. All eyes were fixed on the surreal spectacle

Sherri’s wet mascara started to run down and all over Barry’s white shirt.

He was utterly oblivious.

Those two dancing lovebirds were a remarkable final memory of that tour.

Sometime after the German stint, Sherri was terminated from WCW.

Enough said.

9. A Moment with El Gigante / Giant Gonzalez on an Elevator

Jorge González was an Argentine basketball player. He was massively huge, billed at feet tall (though a legit 7’6″ or 7’7″), and weighed like you would imagine someone of his stature to weigh.

He was a big boy.

Former WWF and WCW star Jorge González (AKA El Gigante in WCW and Giant Gonzalez in the WWF).
Former WWF and WCW star Jorge González (AKA El Gigante in WCW and Giant Gonzalez in the WWF).

Running WCW just before I started working there, Jim Herd got a glimpse of this guy and decided he could be a wrestler.

In Jim’s opinion, he would be a real money draw.

On the day he showed up at our building to sign his contract, I just happened to get on the elevator with Gonzales and his handler.

We were the only three people on it.

Five other Turner Broadcasting Employees refused to get onto the lift after catching a glimpse of the massive Jorge.

The elevator started its upward journey, and I mistakenly turned around to get a better view of the future El Gigante. This guy was humongous.

I am 5 feet 10 inches tall, and the top of my head ONLY reached the guy’s belt buckle. I then make a fateful decision to say hello and shake his hand.

I can tell you that some colossal bear claw grabbed hold of my right hand and violently shook my arm up and down for what seemed to be an eternity.

Of course, it was probably more like only 15 seconds, but, at the time, I thought it would never stop.

Finally, the future El Gigante and his man got off the elevator on the 7th floor, and I was still on board the darn thing looking down to make sure I still had a hand.

I forgot to get off the elevator, and I returned to the first floor to catch another upward-bound carriage.

It was a shame that the guy couldn’t wrestle. He might have made WCW (and the WWF) a lot of money.

10. An Sickening Situation with The Nasty Boys

My first international tour with the boys departed Atlanta and plopped our group in Zurich, Switzerland.

The overseas flight was reasonably calm.

I say reasonably because I spent hours observing The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags) trying to prank their fellow wrestlers as we traveled across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Nasty Boys had their fair share of incidents on the road while in WCW.
The Nasty Boys had their fair share of incidents on the road while in WCW.

To be specific, the Nastys spent most of the flight trying to shave off the eyebrows of their WCW comrades as they were sleeping.

As time has long passed, I don’t specifically remember who spent the majority of our tour trying to re-grow their eyebrows but trust me, at least three wrestlers felt the wrath of The Nasty Boys.

Immediately upon arriving at the hotel, there was a mass exodus from the tour bus into the lobby bar. Drinks were free-flowing, and about three hours passed before I could eventually work my way to my room.

I can’t begin to tell you how tired I was. So not surprisingly, I crashed onto my bed for what I hoped would be a long and well-deserved nap.

But instead, a few hours passed when a telephone call rudely awakened me.

Our referee Nick Patrick Hamilton (rest his soul), informed me that I “needed to get downstairs as fast as possible.”

“Oh, s***,” I thought … here we go again!

The door was wide open. Nick Patrick and The Nasty Boys were standing inside the room, and there was a young woman in the buff passed out cold on the bed.

She was drinking with another wrestler when The Nastys dropped an H-Bomb (Halcion tablet) into her drink.

In any event, Nick and I were trying to come to grips with the situation while The Nasty Boys were debating amongst themselves whether or not they should have their way with the visibly unconscious woman.

It sickened us. There was NO WAY that Nick and I would let a potential criminal situation transpire.

So we got The Nasty Boys out of the room and locked the door. I then contacted hotel security, and I was able to get someone from security posted on the front door with the explicit instructions NOT to let anyone, I mean anyone, into that room.

I returned to my room for my well-needed nap.

I awakened and immediately headed for the supposedly secure room about four hours later. But unfortunately, I arrived at the door, and there was no security guard present whatsoever.

I freaked out, knocked, and a  wrestler opened the door.

I looked around, and no girl was to be found anywhere.

She had thankfully suddenly woken up, got dressed, and left the room under her own power, never to be seen nor heard from again.

It was yet another possible tour disaster averted.

11. A Proposition From Vince McMahon

After leaving WCW for greener pastures and putting pro wrestling behind me, I took a job as Director of Marketing and Research at Blockbuster Entertainment in the Ft. Lauderdale Corpus headquarters.

One day I got a call at home from Vince McMahon. The then-WWF was going to do a pay-per-view from West Palm Beach, and Vince asked me to drive up to meet him. He claimed he had a proposition for me.

So, Vince asked me to meet him around 2 pm at the arena.

The day was a Sunday, and I was excited as I wanted to see the show.

It was going to be The Rock’s first-ever pay-per-view event. The heck with Vince McMahon. I wanted to see The Rock in action.

But my now ex-wife was unhappy. She wanted me to have nothing to do with wrestling anymore.

Like a good husband, I ignored her and made the drive from Ft. Lauderdale to West Palm Beach in record time.

I was stoked to again be hanging out backstage with my wrestling buddies.

So I got to the arena to find that Vince was running late. He hadn’t made it to the building yet. So I plopped my butt down on some rolled-up ring mats and watched some of the guys in the ring as they walked through their upcoming matches.

The next thing I knew, Gorilla Monsoon sat down next to me and started jaw-boning.

I grew up in the Washington, DC area and always watched Capitol Wrestling (WWWF in the DC area) on WTTG-TV channel 5 with Ray Morgan as host.

In any event, Gorilla Monsoon was a headliner in those days (as well as a part-owner of the promotion). Whenever Monsoon was announced in the ring, he was always billed as coming from Outer Mongolia, and he spoke no English.

And occasionally, I would tell my parents I was heading for the library but instead drove to Downton DC to the Uline Ice Arena to catch a live event. Nothing could replace those twenty rows of folding chairs and electric fans blowing air across large ice blocks. It was primitive arena air conditioning.

So here I was, stretched out on a dirty ring mat, conversing with my childhood hero.

It was somewhat warm in the area as the air conditioning wasn’t working so well in the building at 4 pm before the 7 pm pay-per-view.

Monsoon whipped out a giant handkerchief to wipe the sweat off his brow. I looked over at him and said, “The heat in West Palm Beach sure beats the weather in Outer Mongolia, don’t you think?”

I still remember his giant roar of laughter to this very day.

That was the start of my long-time personal friendship with Gorilla Monsoon.

So it goes, so it goes.

And it was always colorful and crazy in the world of professional wrestling!

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Richard Steinberg is a retired Corporate Advertising, Marketing, and Research Executive with credentials covering all facets of television, professional sports (including MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, roller derby, and professional wrestling), and consumer package goods. His resume includes time spent in senior-level positions with a prominent New York advertising agency, the CBS television network, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., and Coca-Cola USA. One of his most unique engagements was as Director of Marketing Services for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Following his time at WCW, Steinberg turned down the opportunity to become VP of Marketing for WWE (then WWF). Even Linda McMahon fixing him a chicken sandwich in her and Vince’s home kitchen wasn’t enough to make him go another "two out of three falls" in pro wrestling!