February 1, 2013
@GaryMehaffy on Twitter
An Interview with Tom Prichard
I spoke to ‘Dr.’ Tom Prichard about his career, how he got the nickname “Dr.” while he was staying with Sherri Martel, his thoughts on the Bodydonnas tag team and which new stars could make it to the top of the WWE if they’re given a proper chance.
What got you interested in wrestling?
I’ve always been a wrestling fan. I started when I was 4 years old watching wrestling. I grew up in Texas and started working for the local Houston wrestling promoter when I was in high school. My heroes have always been wrestlers, so it was always what I wanted to do – it was a natural progression.
How easy, or difficult, was it to get into the business at that time?
Well it was pretty difficult because I wasn’t a real big guy. Back then it was kind of a closed business and I had to push and keep pushing and not give up, because everybody told me I couldn’t do it. It was a lot more of a closed society – there wasn’t a wrestling school or developmental system on every corner – so you had to…….I was in matches every Friday night and eventually people saw me and I was always around and I made it apparent that I wanted to get into the business. The promoter eventually gave me a shot, gave me a chance it was one of those things where you took your beatings and took whatever you got paid and had fun with it. It’s something that people either loved or gave it up, because it was long roads, long trips, short pay – but it was fun if you loved it, and I loved it!
Where did the ‘Dr.’ of Dr. Tom Prichard originate?
Actually, I was in Birmingham, Alabama – not Birmingham, England or Belfast, Ireland (laughs) – and, to back up, I actually broke my leg about a year earlier in Louisville, Kentucky and I stayed with Sherri Martel and a roommate. Her roommate was a nurse and she brought me some doctor’s scrubs to wear because they were easy to pull over the cast and they’re very comfortable. What happened was Brad Armstrong called me when I was off convalescing and asked if I’d like to come to the Pensacola, Florida area. I was there for a while and I was just languishing in mediocrity and Robert Fuller was the booker. Robert had this great angle with him and Jimmy Golden tagging against tommy and Johnny Rich and they brought in this guy to be their doctor, and they called him Dr. Love. They put him on TV and the very next week when the show aired the FBI called Robert looking for this guy. Rob told them this was just a guy who came by, we had people stopping by all the time and we don’t know how to get hold of him. Needless to say, we had to scrap that angle. I was riding with Robert and Jimmy that week, after TV, and I was wearing the doctor’s scrubs. Robert looked down and said “Man, you can be our doctor!” That’s how I became the “Dr.” because the original Dr. Love was wanted by the FBI. )laughs) They put me in there and said I went to medical school, but the only thing stopping me from being a doctor was I spent too much time at the pharmacy! (laughs) That’s where it came from and it stuck with me.
You are probably most remembered by a lot of fans for your work in the Heavenly Bodies. Some people won’t realise that you started with Stan Lane. How did that partnership come about?
That was a Jim Cornette deal. I was in Memphis working for the Jarrett’s’ promotion, wrestling Jeff Jarrett, Lawler, Dundee and those guys. That promotion wasn’t really known for great payoffs, or doing real well, but it was a place to work. Jim Cornette opened up Smoky Mountain Wrestling and called and asked if I’d like to come in and team with Stan. He wanted, originally, Bobby Eaton, but Bobby was under a great contract with WCW at the time, and it was hard for Bobby to get away. I came in and teamed with Stan, and Smoky Mountain was doing ok, but financially, again, it wasn’t really that good for a guy…….Stan was brought in from Charlotte, North Carolina to Knoxville, Tennessee so he was losing money on the deal. He wasn’t really keen on that, so that’s why eventually Stand said “Hey, look, I can’t do this.” I had no-one in my back pocket, and no-one in mind, and neither did Jimmy. It was Kevin Sullivan, pretty much who came up with Jimmy Del Ray, who I knew vaguely but didn’t know really well. In passing I’d seen him a few times and that’s how that came about. He took Stan’s place when Stan said “I can’t take it anymore.”
You were in the unique position of wrestling the Rock N Roll in not only SMW, but also on WCW and WWF PPV’s. I remember watching the one at Survivor Series in 1993. Do you think WWF could have promoted you better as a team at that time?
They probably could have but I don’t think they wanted to push us. At that time my brother was also in the office. I wasn’t that active in self-promotion, I was just happy to be anywhere I was at that time in my life. I was pretty much…….I understood the business, but I hated the political part of it and I hated the self-promotion part. I thought “If they want me to be there, I’ll be there” but that’s not really the way it works all the time. You have to put yourself out there and you have to have some ambition – which I thought I did, but I really didn’t looking back on it now I can see how much I chose to really just show up. I didn’t make much of an effort because I didn’t want to put any pressure on Bruce, but I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself. I thought if we were that good, and anybody noticed it, we would get the shot. That’s not always the way it works but that’s my way of thinking back then. Yea, they could have promoted us better. I don’t think they wanted to and I don’t think I endeared myself to people because I pretty much kept to myself. I was doing other things – when the guys were in the bars I would go to my room and have a party in my room!
Shortly after that you left WWF, but when you returned it was as partner to the late Chris Candido’s partner in the Bodydonnas. A lot of fans were shocked as you had cut your hair short and dyed it blond. Did you have to be talked into it or were you happy to do that?
“They” – I’m not even going to mention the person who said it. I’d told the powers that be – and there was some stuff going with Jimmy and we were pretty much done anyway – “If there’s anything I can do, I’ll do it, to get a job.” They said “Great!” Ten minutes later they called me back and said “Will you cut your hair, dye it blond and be Candido’s cousin?” I said “Absolutely not!” and they said “Great. Talk to you later.” So I thought “Wait a minute…..sure I would”, so I did and up until the night we did it I thought I was still going to be able to talk my way out of it, but I didn’t. It was a horrible gimmick and a horrible idea. It was meant to fail. There’s no other way to look at it. Looking back – with a clearer head than I had back then – you could see the sabotage, you could see the……I don’t want to say sabotage, that sounds too conspiratorial, but at the same time there was nobody who was on our side. I remember there was a guy coming around talking to EVERYONE about their gimmicks that night – except Chris and I. we were the only ones that didn’t get talked to about T-shirts, action figures, anything. Candido was hot about it and I said “Look, man, we should just be happy to have a job.” And then they took Sunny away from us and gave us Cloudy, the transvestite. Chris told Vince “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard” and I was just happy to have a job. Looking back on it, I should have said “That’s stupid, why don’t we try something else?” but I didn’t. It was a horrible gimmick, I hated it but I let them talk me into it. It was just a job – as bad as that sounds, it’s true.
Were you aware of Tammy’s issues even at that point?
I’ll say this. We were ALL dealing with issues back then. We all had some issues. (laughs) I rode with Chris and Tammy just one time during that whole time, and I couldn’t take it. I started riding by myself. It was during that time where everybody was doing their own thing thinking that nobody else knew. It was so obvious, how could you not know! (laughs) But you were so involved in what you were doing that you couldn’t tell the other guy was doing his doing. Well, you knew, but you couldn’t talk about it. We were all dealing with issues, and we all had issues, and some guys paid for it with their lives and some got out of it alive. I’m one that got out alive.
Were you happy to transition into training prospective WWF wrestlers or did you want to stay as a full time in ring performer?
I was happy to transition, because it wasn’t as fun as it used to be. At that time, in 1996, I was 36 and my neck was killing me and I was not really feeling good physically or mentally, so it meant I could off the road a little bit and stay in Stamford – but it was a mad house as well! I was training guys and then I started doing voiceovers for Metal and I did some voiceovers for international Superstars with Ray Rougeau. Then I got on the writing team by just showing up at a meeting with Michael Hayes and started going back on the road and training people. I enjoyed doing that because my body was not……. I wasn’t really into the bumping, and the crew at that time was…..you’re always going to have your cliques, I knew that, but I wasn’t a very cliquish guy. I was like “Let me do my thing, do what I’m supposed to do and leave me alone.” If you’re not in with somebody, and you don’t have somebody’s ear, and you don’t have somebody backing you then you’re pretty well screwed. But at that time, I was the only guy training. Dory Funk came in for a little bit, but that only lasted a while, then we went to Memphis and Cincinnati and Louisville. I enjoyed the training part of it and I always will.
You’ve been involved in several of the different training sites, with the most recent being in Florida. IS it fair to say that the set up in Florida is a lot better than the other places?
Well, to an extent yes, but at the same time I’m a big proponent of OVW. I think Rip Rogers and Danny Davis are two of the greatest trainers I’ve seen. I think Jim Cornette, especially at that time, was very passionate. Jimmy is very passionate anyway, and not everybody understands Jim Cornette, and you don’t have to to appreciate…….he’s not always right but he’s not always wrong. OVW had its niche but it had one ring, and I agreed with that. John Laurinaitis wanted four or five rings, and I said the noise would be too much and nobody’s going to be learning because they’re going to be watching what’s happening in the other rings. Well yes, no, right, wrong or indifferent, Florida had four rings at the one time – now they have three because they had to build a trainer’s room and storage, so we had to eliminate one of the rings. We made it work. I think FCW is still a great facility, a great setup, but I thought OVW probably had the better attitude and mind set, from what I knew at that time.
What led to your release in May of last year?
Well, here’s a trip. (laughs) Here’s something you don’t wanna do – you don’t want to tell your boss, the new boss that just came in who knows nothing about the business – which is a good thing, because then the other boss can tell you everything he wants you to know about the business – you don’t call him an asshole, or tell him that he came across like an asshole to the talent, and that’s what I did. I think that was the start of my downfall! I have a habit when people come in and I see folly and I see patronising and I see total bullshit, I have a tendency to call you on your bullshit. So, if you come in and tell me you’re a born again Christian but then you don’t change your ways and you stay the same, what’s changed? And you come in and undermine me, and I know you’re doing it, and I call you on it – well, it’s not a good idea, especially when you’re friends with the guy in charge – and that’s what I did. I don’t know if that’s it or not, but that’s pretty much what…..(laughs)
Who among the current crop of WWE development talent, that you were involved with, do you see as having the potential to rise to the top?
Well, obviously The Shield, but – but – if they don’t kill them off! I watched Raw (January 21st edition) this morning on TiVo and they laid the Rock out, but WWE has a tendency at times to kill off a good thing. All three of those guys are really, really talented. Roman Reigns is a diamond in the rough – he is going to be a real force to be reckoned with. Ambrose (laughs) he has his attitude down, and so does Rollins, and that’s the problem. These guys can be confident but they have to know how to play the game – and it is a game! Damien Sandow, who’s already had a shot there, is going to be great. Big E. Langston, the guy who’s standing with Ziggler, is going to be great. To me, the main thing and the most important thing is attitude. Which is kind of funny, because people say I had a bad attitude – I don’t think I had a bad attitude, I think I had a passionate attitude. So, when I called the boss an asshole and told him first of all “I’m going to preface this by saying I’m going to take a risk here but I thought you came across like an asshole, kind of like the other guy that was just here.” He didn’t agree and I said “Ok, we can agree to disagree!” (laughs) But I shouldn’t have ever said that – we’re back tracking here, let’s go back to talent! Leo Kruger is another guy, Bo Dallas, Husky Harris who is now Bray Wyatt. Some of the guys – I have really kept up with NXT or FCW just because I’ve been busy working on my own thing. There’s a lot of talent in developmental, but I also believe this – if you don’t give those guys the feeling that they can trust you and believe in you then you’re not going to get the best out of those guys. So, when you beat them down, or berate them, or treat them like animals, that’s not very productive in my viewpoint. I don’t know who’s come out of there under the new regime that wasn’t there when I was there. Take that for what it’s worth! I don’t tout ‘Tomocracy’ or any of that crap either, I just tout the fact that talent knew they had something and that if they needed something talked about and they had something going on that they had someone they could come to and they knew would help them. Now, I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m not there, I can’t speak on it. I just know that squatting on the top rope while people are hitting the ropes makes no sense whatsoever and you’re inviting injury. I’ve heard there’s over 25 people injured – that’s the most ever – that’s a quarter of your roster injured. How smart is that? That’s all I’ll say. I’m not saying it’s not smart, I’m just saying how smart is that? How smart is it for your trainer to say “Hey guys, don’t tell anybody you’re hurt. You better work through it.” I’d agree working through if you’re hurt but if you’re injured, you’re injured. You have to work smart and you have to know how to do it, but again that’s just my opinion.
You have recently become lead trainer in a wrestling school. Tell us about that.
We’re training guys – in fact that’s where I’m heading now. We’re going to do promos and some other drills tonight. We have fifteen guys in the wrestling school – Next Level Wrestling – and we’re going to have a show on March, 29th, at the amphitheatre at the World’s Fair Park, Knoxville, Tennessee. Jimmy Hart will be in for that. We’re talking to other names right now, but I talked to Jimmy this week, and he’s on. That’s going good, going well. We’re going to see how it ends up. It’s going to be in three month increments. We’ll do three months, have a show, do another three, have a show, and go from there. We’re working on a production company doing a reality show based around this – I’m doing a Skype tomorrow – and it’s going on the third week. I think it’s going according to plan.
Your brother, Bruce, is obviously high up in TNA. Has there been any talk of you joining him there and helping to develop some of their guys, whether it be in OVW, with Danny and Rip, or elsewhere?
Well, I’ll tell you this. The thing about the wrestling business – and this is what I learned early on – is everybody will deny, deny, deny and all of a sudden you’ll find them somewhere. So, all I can tell you is you don’t know where I’m going to wind up. That’s all I can say.
My next question was going to be “What does the future hold for Dr. Tom Prichard?”
(laughs) Well, it’s funny – I’ve been running like a madman lately, but the thing is I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow let alone next week. I can assume that I’ll have class tomorrow, I can assume all these things – I’ve gotten so many opportunities that have come across my plate and it’s funny because you think when you lose your job “Oh no, what am I going to do now?” but then all of a sudden different people will call, or another idea or opportunity comes across, and I really don’t know. I love the wrestling business – I have a passion for the wrestling business. I’m not so much into the politics, but I understand politics is part of life. I’m trying to learn – even at this age – I’m trying to learn who I can and can’t be honest with, and who I can and can’t speak freely with. It seems like most people, in an executive position, don’t like to be told they’re wrong, even when they are. And when they find out they’re wrong, they don’t want to be told they’re wrong because then they have to admit to it. When you look at the facts….let me ask you. Just throwing this out there. Why, just why, would it be that you have to bring back the Rock – who is from the Attitude era – to draw ratings? Why can’t anybody else do it today? John Cena is talented as hell. John has been around ten years, and you need new blood – this business has always been built on new blood. Sheamus is great. I really think Sheamus is a talent. He’s tremendous, he’s been World Champion, he’s in a top spot. But why does it take a guy from the Attitude era to come in and move the needle? Why? Is it because no-one know how to produce talent? Or is it because no-one will let talent produce themselves and go out and be who they are? Why do you need 26 writers? This is a rhetorical question – you need 26 writers when you have over 8, 9, 10 hours of fresh TV a week. You need somebody to run it, you can’t just have two or three guys. But why are they bringing all these guys who were over back then? Rock moves the needle. People get mad when he comes in and says he takes somebody’s spot. No, he doesn’t take anybody’s spot, he takes HIS spot. He draws ratings, he sells out arenas. There’s an opportunity but it has to be the right guy, or the right girl, or the right combination. An Austin, or a Rock or HHH or Shawn Michaels. There has not been – and there never will be – another Undertaker. You need those type of individuals to come in and take over and so far they haven’t found it. So they go back to a bona fide movie star, action hero a la the Rock. Or a bona fide movie star, action hero Stone Cold. Or a bona fide badass, legitimate star, the Undertaker. Shawn Michaels is pretty much – I don’t know Shawn well – but he’d rather hunt than go back on Raw. He’s got his money, he’s made his fame and fortune, he understands his heart. It is really hard day in, day out, to deal with the mood swings and everything going on in that business. Let’s think about it. We’re coming up on WM 29. That’s 29 years where kids these days who are 18 or 20, all they know is WWF/WWE. That’s all they know. They don’t know there was wrestling before Hulk Hogan, wrestling before Brock Lesnar, wrestling before John Cena. All they know is what they see on TV. Most of those guys gone, but you still need somebody of the same magnitude to draw guys in, I guess what I’m saying is, nobody knows what the future holds for any of us, so we’re still looking for that next star – and the next star is the old star.
Do you have any closing words for your fans?
I didn’t know I had any! I had a great time, a great career – well, I had a great career for me. I got everything I deserved – good and bad – I really did. If I’d put a lot more effort into it who knows what would have come out of it. The greatest accomplishment I ever did was just breaking into the business, because people told me I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. the one thing I can tell anybody, if they listen, is there are three kinds of people in this world: One says “I’ll try” and if they don’t make they’ll say “Well, at least I tried! The second one says “I’ll give it my best shot” and if they don’t make it they say “Well, I gave it my best shot!” The third kind of person stops and says “Whatever it takes, I’m going to make it. It doesn’t matter what I have to do. Whatever it takes, I’m going to accomplish that goal!” That’s what I’ve lived by all these years – no matter what happens, no matter what I have to do, I just readjusted my goals and I’m going to be happy, number one, and number two, I’ve got to satisfy myself and no-one else. Well, my family of course! I’m not going to worry about WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor or anywhere else. If they want me, they know where I’m at. If they don’t, there are no hard feelings. I’ve done what I’ve don’t and I’m very happy. If anybody else liked it, if they were a fan, I fell very grateful. I’m very humbled to think that anyone would think anything of me to call me all the way from Ireland to talk to me. It’s a wonderful thing. I’m very appreciative. I’m happy with the way my life turned out – well, maybe not everything! - but I’m pretty much happy, man. I’ve nothing to be mad or unhappy about. It was a great time, WWE is a great company. They’re star makers, but right now they’re in a rebuilding stage. Watch WWE because they are not down but a long shot. They will make stars, but they just have to understand they don’t do it by themselves – it needs teamwork.