Tully Blanchard Interview
Tully Blanchard was a second generation professional wrestler who won numerous Championships during his career in the ring. However Blanchard will be best remembered as a member of the Four Horsemen alongside, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson and JJ Dillon. The San Antonio, Texas grappler tasted tag team success on a number of occasions with Arn Anderson in NWA, WCW and in the WWF.
The 58-year-old was this year inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame along with the other members of the original Four Horsemen.
We caught up with Tully to talk about being inducted into the Hall of Fame, being a member of the Four Horsemen and what it was like limousine ridin and jet flyin with Ric Flair plus the current state of tag team wrestling.
Ole, Tully, JJ, Arn and Ric
You were inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame this year along with the other members of the Four Horsemen, what was that whole weekend experience like with the Hall of Fame ceremony and WrestleMania?
The word that comes to mind is unbelievable. WrestleMania now is so different compared to the WrestleMania that I wrestled on, WrestleMania V when Arn and I wrestled Rick Martel and Tito Santana.
The size of the event from the fan axxess for three days, the Hall of Fame induction and then WrestleMania itself at the football stadium in Miami, it is an event now rather than just a wrestling show.
The Hall of Fame induction with the Four Horsemen came as a bit of a surprise to me because I have been out of wrestling for 22 years, and you don’t normally get inducted that long after your career. I do know that the Horsemen had a great impact on the wrestling business or we wouldn’t be talking about it in the year 2012, it was a great honour for me and a big thrill to have my children at the ceremony.
Your dad was a wrestler and promoter, was wrestling always what you were going to end up doing?
When entering the wrestling business I thought I was going to be involved in the promotion side of things rather than being the actual talent. My dad and I actually produced a wrestling show which was the first ever wrestling show on the USA Network.
My journey to the ring was a long one, I started selling concessions at 10-years-old, then I started sweeping the arena’s, then I graduated to selling tickets, next I was putting up the ring, then I became a referee, so there wasn’t anything in the business that I didn’t know how to do.
You played Football at University with Tito Santana and Ted DiBiase what was that like?
Football payed for my college education, I did not operate under the illusion that the NFL was looking for a 5’11 wishbone quarter-back at the time, because that’s not what the NFL was about.
Ted played at West Texas before going on to make an early start to his wrestling career. Tito and I played together and then he went on to play a year of Canadian Football and then came back and when we finished in 1976 Tito and I moved to Florida together to start wrestling.
When you first began your wrestling career you got to wrestle with your dad, what was that experience like?
He and I wrestled one time together and it was certainly different, it was in Greenville, South Carolina in a tag team match. I don’t remember who we wrestled, I don’t remember the match but I do have a picture of he and I walking out to the ring together and just the fact of doing it made it a very memorable experience and one of the fond things that I have remembered over the years.
Tully and Joe Blanchard
When you became Television Champion, you had many great feuds with the likes of Ricky Steamboat and Dusty Rhodes, holding the title for 353 days in your first reign. What was that like?
I got to wrestle some really neat people and entertain people a lot. I beat Mark Youngblood for the Television title in 1984 and then had a match against Ricky Steamboat at Starrcade that year, which was a good match but I think the four matches leading up to that may have been great matches just because of the time. Before Starrcade we had matches that lasted 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes and 50 minutes, then at Starrcade itself we wrestled for 12 minutes. You have to put Ricky in the top five performers of all time in the wrestling business.
Dusty Rhodes was one of the top five attractions in the business of all time and as he said at the Hall of Fame ceremony, we beat him up every night for four years.
How did it all begin for the Four Horsemen? You were television champion at the time.
The group just kind of started to be honest with you. The Anderson’s, Arn and Ole were the cousins of Ric Flair, I was wrestling Dusty at the time and they wanted to make an eight-man tag match, so they paired me with those three just because they didn’t want to have the single matches again.
Arn called us the Four Horsemen in the interview before the match, and it just clicked. The thing that I have said for years is, it was not a promotional group, there wasn’t a room full of writers coming up with the idea, it was just scheduling a match with the intent of trying to draw a full house with something a bit different.
The charisma of the four of us together and having all of the championship belts just worked. They kept sticking us in these eight-man tag matches for about a month, and the more they did it the more we kept going out there doing interviews together and that led to people knowing us collectively as the Four Horsemen. Then once the fans focused on us it became easy with the promotional machine in full swing.
What have you made of other reincarnations of the Four Horsemen stable?
Just because you are called Four Horsemen it doesn’t make you the Four Horsemen (the championship Four Horsemen). The power and the impact the Four Horsemen had was shown when Arn and I left for the WWE and the stable deceased.
They tried to resurrect it by throwing every person, every collection of anybody they could to try and get the same thing they had and none of them were successful. The greatest form of flattery is imitation, but saying that the Four Horsemen dominated for two decades is not a true statement, we dominated for four years and then everything else was trying to resurrect it and they didn’t have the same chemistry as Arn, Ole, Ric and myself.
Michael Hayes with Tully…
Ric Flair would often refer to the limousine ridin’ and jet flyin’, what were those days with the Nature Boy like?
It was probably as Flair said on the intro for the Hall of Fame when he said it was the greatest time of his life, and it was for all of us, it was fun.
The Four Horsemen were of course a great stable and held numerous tag titles, whilst you held numerous tag titles during your career. What have you made of the lack of tag team wrestling in both WWE and TNA today?
They have lost the art of tag team wrestling. Tag team could be the most exciting thing in the world because you have four guys there, and if they are doing it correctly the tool to make the audience scream are vast. However if it isn’t done properly and the psychology isn’t there then it is like two singles matches and it can be very dull for the crowd.
When it is dull, it doesn’t generate ratings, it doesn’t generate excitement and it would appear that if you can’t generate immediate response they move on to something else.
What was it like working in the WWF with Bobby Heenan and winning the WWF tag titles with Arn Anderson?
That was a pretty neat experience. We ended up being on Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC four times in 1989, which is where we won the tag titles, only Hulk Hogan was on that show more times than us.
There is only one reason why we went on after Hulk Hogans time slot and that is because the ratings stayed up. We got into that position and that was great for us, it was very exciting to be the first tag team in the history of professional wrestling to be first NWA, WCW, then WWF champions.
The Brain Busters
You departed the WWE in 1989 after failing a drugs test for cocaine, what was it like on the road those days, Scott Hall mentioned in an ESPN documentary he took cocaine – do you consider yourself lucky after seeing so many wrestlers die at such young ages?
The incident was miniscule in comparison to some of the things I had done in nights and days past, the amount of cocaine in that incident was very minute but it was enough to fail the drugs test. I remember it was on November 2nd, I got a phone call from Vince McMahon telling me I had to go home because the drug policy was suspension for six weeks without pay.
Arn and I were actually leaving WWF on Thanksgiving Day after Survivor Series, so 22 days later I was going to be done with WWF and an employee of WCW. However 11 days later on November 13th Ric Fair called me at 1am and he informed me that WCW had found out about the drugs test.
At the time WCW did not have a drugs policy but they pulled the contracts from under Arn and me, which were supposed to be 3/4 of a million dollars for each of us to reform the Four Horsemen. It was a very power hungry thing that they did by not honoring their agreement with Arn who had a family, and my mistake cost him $150,000. He agreed to take less money and I had to ask him to forgive me, because it is one thing if your actions only affect you but when your actions affect somebody else it is much more widespread.
When Ric and I got off the phone at 1am, I just laid there trying to figure out how I was going to fix this and how I was going to get out of it. At 3am the only thing I said is “Jesus take over my life” and with those five words something happened to me, I had never been to church, I was not raised in a church going family and when I said those words this supernatural power came and God came into my heart, it was calmness and peace that I had never felt before and this November 13th will be 23 years.
You then became a Road Agent / Producer for WWE but left after confrontation with JBL, what is the story behind that?
I was being interviewed for the position of Road Agent / Producer and I flew up to talk to them and went to the TV show tapings on the Monday in Chicago and the Tuesday in St. Louis but I never accepted the job and we never talked about finances.
When new opportunities are placed before you, you have to go towards them to see if it’s where God will have you go. It was very evident that part of my life should have been closed when JBL on the Tuesday night in St. Louis went on a tantrum and talked to me about things that I didn’t remember, he had told me I was rude to him and mistreated him.
I told him, “it could have been possible I mistreated you, and I ask you to forgive me”, he didn’t respond one way or the other after that. Although at the Hall of Fame induction he did stop me in the lobby of the hotel and asked me to forgive him which showed he was a better man than I thought he probably was. We had time to chat a little bit, he was inducting Ron Simmons, he did a great job and started the show off very well.