Former AWA Tag Team Champion Greg Gagne, who was featured in the ESPN Ric Flair “30 for 30” special, was a recent guest on the Pancakes and Powerslams Show. Gagne discussed the behind-the-scenes process of the special, shared more Ric Flair stories, discussed whether Flair regrets being a family man, difficulties in working with Flair as a booker, and more. The following are the highlights sent to PWTorch.com by @PeterBahi…
•On Who Got in Touch With Him to Appear at Money in the Bank 2017:
I imagine the call came down from their main office, but it was a request from Triple H and Stephanie [McMahon], and I guess they’re the ones who are calling the shots down there so that is where it came from. Vince [McMahon] was very gracious and he came up and thanked me for participating and being there. It was a nice event and a nice thought. Of course, you know every time they do something it helps them, so whatever it does to help them that is what they are going to do, but they’re good people and treated us well.
We had a great time, and spent two long nights with Ric [Flair]. We spent time together since way back in college, all the way from when we started wrestling, we were pretty close friends, and always had some interesting evenings with Ric, that is for sure. It was great to see him. I had a flight at 4:15 a.m. and we got in at 2:15 a.m., so when I came home, my wife said that you and Ric must have had a good time. Yes, we definitely did.
•On His Overall Reaction to Ric Flair’s 30 for 30 Special:
It was a great experience. We did two and a half hours with them, and then they took out what they wanted. They ended up getting the stories that they wanted, which is what I am sure they did with everybody. They got all the stories they could have gotten out of it, but I knew Ric since he was in high school; not real well, but we were in the same conference. I knew the name, and we met. He was a huge wrestling fan back then, and as the story goes, and I repeated it on “30 for 30.” He had gotten in trouble and his parents sent him away and came back we were in college together. He got recruited by a number of schools, he was a projected All-American when he came to Minnesota but he never registered for classes so he didn’t compete much.
There are a lot of great Ric Flair stories from college days. Murray Warmath was our coach, and he knew Ric and I were friends. For some reason, I was supposed to be taking care of him. I get the call one day from Murray saying that Ric didn’t register so he couldn’t play football. He got hooked up in a fraternity. This was when Murray had called me one day – and Murray is from Tennessee so he calls me with this accent; “Where’s Flair?” I said to him that I don’t have a clue where Ric is. He lives in a different area than I do; he’s in a house, I’m in an apartment. He told me that I had to find him. I responded by telling him that I don’t know how I could find him, but I asked if there was a problem? He said that there was a problem because that Flair charged the school a phone bill total of $1,800. These were all long distance phone calls. He asked me to help him find him. I asked where he was calling and Murray said Michigan. Apparently, he met a young Wendy on a recruiting tour, so he was calling back and forth to Michigan to talk to her. We couldn’t find him. I find out that she finally convinced him to come to Michigan. He was there for a month and a half but nobody knew where he was. He ended up coming back and got an ear full from the coach. I don’t know how he ended up settling the $1,800 but it was settled someway.
•On Whether Ric Ever Expressed Concern Over Not Spending Enough Time With His Family:
No. He had no concerns at all about them. What I got a kick out of it is when people say that wrestling made the Nature Boy who he was, but Ric Flair was the Nature Boy before he ever got into wrestling. That was really who he was. When we graduated from Verne’s training camp, Ric was around in the AWA for a while. We had a few matches together, and then he would send everybody out to different areas. Jim Brunzell went to Kansas City for a couple of years, and Ric was sent to North Carolina where Verne had sent Ricky Steamboat. He knew he would get the type of education that he needed because they wrestled every night and competed with each other so he can come back to wrestle for the AWA. He would send everybody out for a year or two and when he thought they were ready he would bring them back to the AWA.
He had his two year stint in Charlotte, which then he ended up getting into that plane accident, which ended up breaking his back. They saw the potential that this guy had, and they didn’t want to let him go. They didn’t want to send him back, so we checked up on him. Nobody ever knew he would wrestle again. He came back and the Crocketts got him going. He had that natural charisma. He caught on quick with the people and they didn’t want to let him go. The only way they could let him go was to get him a position to win the NWA World Championship. Once he got that he was on the road all the time, and we couldn’t get him back over here. He did come back over here once, where he faced Nick Bockwinkel in Winnipeg. We had two champions against each other; it was a phenomenal match. We really wanted him back here, but we just couldn’t get him.
•On the Difficulties of Trying to Get Flair Back in AWA:
Ric became so established down there and he had the opportunity to carry the NWA. Anytime you were the champion and able to carry the AWA and NWA was a strong indication for anything that WWE was coming out with at the time. When you wrestled for the McMahons – I remember having a match with Johnny Rodz – it was the second match on the card in Madison Square Garden. Vince McMahon Sr. was there. We went out and tore the place down; we had the people standing. Vince McMahon Sr. came in and said to us, “Man, that was a heck of a match. What are my guys going to do?’ I said that I guess they better try following it. It was very funny because, I’ll tell you a good example.
There was Pedro Morales, who was a huge star in the WWE. He came in to the AWA and they were going to give him a big push, but he couldn’t get established here. He couldn’t get passed the third match on the card. It was a totally different style. The McMahons wanted big guys, cartoon characters, they didn’t care if they competed or not. In the AWA, that match had to be competitive and we had the top athletes in professional wrestling that came here because they only wrestled 270 days out of the year, not 360. We had time with our families and you gave yourself time to heal. The matches were much more competitive. Coming from New York, they didn’t know how to do that. When Vince needed people from us, like when “Superstar” Billy Graham and went up there, six months he was a main eventer. Bobby Duncam Sr. is another example. It was so different, we could be elevated in the WWE real quick, but when they come here, majority of them never really got into the main event category here because the matches were conducted.
•On the Insecurities of Flair As a Booker:
Flair wanted to be back there. He had opportunities to be back in the WWE and he felt that his roots were in the NWA and WCW. There were people that groomed him and made him who he was in the ring, so he felt some loyalty there. Ric came in and it was Mike Graham, Dusty Rhodes, Bill Dundee and myself booked all the TV’s and all that. They got Ric involved when he came back. It’s hard for guys that are in the main event to get their egos out of it when they are booking. They make it around them, and that was a little difficult with Ric.
I laid down a scenario that I think would have really done well, but he didn’t like it, and he felt that we were trying to move it out, and we weren’t. He didn’t listen to the long-term picture. He went on with the way he wanted to do it and it didn’t work out well, but I told him when we were riding in the car that if he had just let me finish and tell him where we were going with it and how we got there, it would have made sense to you, but you are so sensitive that we are all the same age, that we were trying to move him out, but that wasn’t the case at all.
Once he found out what the plan was he apologized, but that’s the way it was and later on, with [Hulk] Hogan, I helped him get in there. Then they got Kevin Nash and Scott Hall back in there because Eric Bischoff didn’t really know what he was doing, and all of a sudden he is listening to them. I laid out a scenario when they bought the AWA and they already owned the AWA, let’s create the two champions with Hulk Hogan as AWA Champion, and Ric Flair as NWA Champion, and you’ve got something Vince McMahon can’t do, which everybody wants to see is them beat. I laid the whole scenario out with Bischoff and the TV people, and a week later he fired me.
All of a sudden it was WCW and the NWO, which worked good for a year, but they didn’t have the spoke in there that could run that wheel and make it work. I was trained by my father that when you book, you have to book a year out and see down the road with it, but nobody down there knew how to do that. So, when they fired me, nobody knew how to get to that long range that they all thought they did but they didn’t. Most of them ran weekly where we started a year out and went backwards. Bill Watts, when I got there said that here is why I am bringing you in. I give you 24 hours to give me a scenario and so I laid out a whole year in front of him and when I came back they were blown away, and he told me that was what I learned from your dad, which is why I wanted you here, but there was too many conflicts down there with personalities. You had to be careful not to step on their egos; you weren’t, you were just doing what was right for business, and sometimes they don’t, sometimes you miss it, but with Flair’s scenario, when he came back where we had the AWA and NWA we could have taken Vince McMahon out of business.
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