In this, Hall's first in-depth insider interview ever, he marches through his career from his days as a fan growing up all the way through the Razor Ramon gimmick, controversies with the Clique, his jump to WCW, and the Monday Night War and NWO era. In part one of this three-hour-plus exclusive interview, Hall discusses how he broke into wrestling and stories from his early days in the ring. The interview was conducted on Sept. 6, 2006.
Wade Keller: Your Internet biography says you were discovered in a grocery store in late 1984 by Barry Windham. Is that true?
Scott Hall: That's true. I was training with Hiro Matsuda. You know what he used to be, bro? I moved to Tampa. I've never had a real job, bro. I used to tend bar in a strip club. It was the hottest bar in Orlando - the Doll House at the time. I worked three nights a week there and the rest of the time I lifted weights and laid in the sun. I'm 22, 23. I know that the wrestling office is in Tampa. I save up a little money. A couple of my buddies give a hundred backs. I move to Tampa. I don't know a soul. I get an apartment and I join every gym in town. So finally I go to Athlete's Fitness Center. I ran into Kevin Sullivan. One time I did squats with him. I'm hanging around and trying to get in. But see I'm not going to guys, going, "Hey man, how do I get into wrestling? How do I get into wrestling? Because I know they don't want to hear that. So one day in the end, me and Barry are in Publix and we're both looking at steaks. We're picking out steaks. We're standing look at steaks and I say, "Excuse me, you're Barry Windham, right?" He says, "Yeah, how you doin'." Because Barry's cool as f---. I said, "Hey, I'm Scott Hall. How ya' doing, man?" He says, "Hey." I said, "I know the last thing you wanna be is bothered when you're out on your own time, but I'm really trying to break into your business." He said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm working out with Hiro Matsuda." He said, "F--- Hiro Matsuda." He's going to have you doing Hindu Squats around the building. Meet me at the Sportatorium tomorrow, one o'clock. I showed up at noon. Cause I know Barry Windham ain't gonna show up. That's Barry Windham. You know who showed up? Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo. You know what they did, too? They didn't bump me. They bumped each other. They said, "Look, pick him up, slam him like this. Boom boom boom." Then they had me slam them. I didn't get bumps, I gave bumps. Then they had to go to a town and wrestle. Barry was really good to me That's why I was so happy when I had a little bit of stroke with that NWO gimmick to get Barry on the payroll. I did it with (Larry) Zbyszko, too. When I was in the AWA and I was a jobrone, Larry Zbyszko really took care of me one night in Winnipeg. So during commercials when he was a broadcaster during Raw commercial breaks, I used to shoot angles with Zbyszko. I'd toothpick him. I'd just motion at him. (Eric) Bischoff would be standing there. I'd say, look at the man, he's a star, he's money. He got two or three pay-per-views out of it. He wrestled Eric at Starrcade. He did a thing with Dusty where we turned Dusty NWO. Remember when Louie Spicolli was my young boy, man? I mean, when I look back - Kid (Sean Waltman) was just at my house this weekend. We went through all of these old tapes. I have this old tape library that I've never really watched. We went through all of this stuff, man. It was kinda fun. It got a little fire under my rear end.
Keller: I'm glad you watched that old stuff because it'll help when we talk about it as you go along.
Hall: Well, go on, man. Time for you to ask questions.
Keller: I don't have to talk much, but I'll try to lead the way here. Talk about being a fan growing up and what some of the things were about wrestling that did catch your eye in particular. What attracted you to wrestling?
Hall: My dad was a career army soldier, so we lived in Ft. Rucker, Alabama. So my dad took me. I was eight years old on my birthday. My dad took me and my buddies to a wrestling match, and the main event was a hair match. At eight years old, all my friends would say, It's fake, it's fake, but I don't think it is. I remember I ran down to the ring and grabbed a piece of the guys hair and it still had a piece of scalp on it. I still have the folder and the hair and everything. I remember asking my friends, "Would you let somebody shave your hair, man? Would you let somebody do that to you?" Of course, you all know now, yeah, you get the money right, you shave my hair *****, I don't care. But back then, I was eight years old. Next month, I'm going to be 48. So that was a long time ago. Times have changed.
I moved to Florida when I was, like, 17. I got into weight lifting, laying in the sun. I always wanted a job that was cool. I was never a very good student. I was a wrestling fan, so what do you do when you wanna wrestle? I just talked to Kid and he told me there's this one kid, Johnny Storm. Kid told me this the other day. He used to be the hugest Razor fan - a huge Razor mark. He would come to town, so I could send him on errands. Go get me a sandwich and silly stuff like that. I know his parents and everything. Kid told me he's the hottest thing in Europe now. That makes me feel kinda good. Because you know what, we smartened him up. We did not kayfabe this kid at all. We told him this is the way it goes, this is where you are. F--- that, don't do that, act like this, do this, do that. We gave him the edited version of being a star. I think so many old timers when I broke in were so selfish because, you gotta remember, that was before the time of guaranteed money. So everybody was real competitive. You know, when I worked for Vince, it wasn't guaranteed money. I was the first guy that Vince ever offered guaranteed money to. A lot of people don't know that. I was the very first guy, and I turned him down.
Keller: Was that when you gave him notice and he tried to keep you?
Hall: I gave him notice. He wanted me to stay there. He offered me a check for 75 grand; I didn't even look at it. I said, "I'm figuring that's what you owe me for now, and now let's talk.
Keller: We'll get into that in detail as we march through your career, because that was obviously a huge moment in the industry's history. When you were getting into heavy training to be a wrestler, did you gain more respect for it? Did you have some preconceived notions that were shattered?
Hall: Well, I came into it like every other big musclehead comes into it. F---, I'm bigger than you. You have to remember, bro, I broke in in the late-'80s when we still sold out business as being real. Know what I mean? The die-hard fans kinda knew it was fake. You know one thing people always say to me, Wade? It never varies. They go, "How much of that sh-- is fake?" I go, "All of it." They go, "Well, I don't know. What about when that guy hit you with a chair? What about when he hit you with a ladder? Don't you hurt? I go, "Yeah, it hurts, man. It hurts like f---, but you gotta understand, in my concept it's fake because it's in the script; I know it's coming. To me, it's either all fake or it's no fake. How can it be partially real? The director says, "Okay, at this point, you get hit with the chair, you get some juice, you do this and you do that." Sometimes the people go, "Is that sh-- fake? I go, "Have you ever seen it? Have you ever seen a match?"
I always thought in my mind, it's not a question of real or fake. It's question of good or not good. Did you have fun? Did you get your money's worth? I always felt if you got your money's worth, f--- it. Are rock concerts real? Theater is not real. Movies aren't real. Did you get your 12, 15 bucks worth or not. I never was hung up on the real or not real sh--.
Keller: Did you find when you were breaking in that the veterans or the guys training you did instill in you more of an old school attitude than the guys today probably get in terms of "protecting" it?
Hall: Well, you know what happened was, I used to do jobs. Remember Rufus R. Jones? Rufus was in his 60s and he looked every bit of it. His finish was two freight trains and a headbutt. Two tackles and then his jumping headbutt. And he's pinning a guy who is 298, f---in' shredded. Back then, whatever, I'm not going to say nothing about - I can admit to nothing, but I was in pretty good shape. Then I'd have to go to a bar or a club or a restaurant and people would come up to you and go, "Wait a minute, that old f---in' black guy couldn't beat you." I always had to go, "You wanna try me? He's tougher than he looks. You wanna try me?" It's so immature, but that's the way the business was, and that's why I broke in. That's what we did.
Keller: That's what Nick Bockwinkel did in the AWA territory, because I grew up in Minneapolis. Whenever the real-fake issue came up, he'd say, "Try me."
Hall: That's the sweet thing about Verne's hold, because he could choke f---ers out.
Keller: As wrestling evolved, it moved away from that, but there was a time...
Hall: Remember when (Hulk) Hogan choked Richard Beltzer out on TV. He's the comedian and he's on one of those cop shows now. Hulk choked him out with a sleeper on TV, cause the guy asked him to do it. He said to put him in that sleeper hold. Hulk, being f---in' gigantic then. His daughter could do him now. I'm not saying that, but Hogan was huge and powerful. Put him in a sleeper, then what he did was make the mistake of dropping him. And I'm not saying Hulk's culpable of any of this, but the f---in' idiot hit his head and it cost Hulk 250 grand. It probably cost Vince that, or maybe they split it. But what the f---, right? Because, you ask me to put you in a hold, and I do, and now I gotta pay you for it? I don't know, man.
Keller: Do you remember your first match in front of a crowd?
Hall: Although we trained in Florida, Dusty (Rhodes) made me and Dan Spivey a tag team and he sent us to Charlotte. He took the book in Charlotte. So really, we just sat on the shelf there and didn't do sh--. I think we were in some tag. We were too big to lose. Spivey is 6-7 and about 330 and I'm 6-6 and about 298 ripped. We're two green to win and too f---in' big to lose, so we don't work much, maybe once every couple of months. At that point, Jim Crockett Promotions owned the Charlotte Orioles. So we were on the grounds crew out there. We used to sit in the dugout with the ballplayers and then when it rained, we had to pull the tarp out by hand. Sh--, it only rained twice all year, so it wasn't all bad. That was about it. We never worked.
Keller: When you were first in front of a crowd, was that dramatically different than what you imagined it would be like to work in front of a crowd? Were you nervous? Did it come naturally for you to interact with the crowd? Or were you too green to even know better?
Hall: I was green like everybody. I was nervous. At that time, when we did work, we won. I had to work with guys who were more seasoned than me, but they had to put me over, so they weren't bending over backwards to put me over. Today, I have a little bit of an attitude. I consider myself, especially in my NWO years, the most high-paid job guy in the business. One time, Chris Jericho tells this story. One time I was working with Chris in the old spectrum before they built the other building. Remember when Chris was "Lionheart" and he'd lean back in the crowd and the people would all gather around him? He's a babyface. I used to tell him, "Chris, be careful, man. Someone might stab you or something." So we're talking before we go out. They were leading up to a match with me and Lex (Luger) at a pay-per-view with Zbyszko as a special ref because I was shooting an angle with Zbyszko. So they just want me to squash Jericho and just keep hitting him with my finish until Zbyszko comes out and stops it. So I talk to Chris and say, "Come here. Look, man. I've been in this building two-hundred times. How many times have you been here?" He went, "Never." I said, "You're supposed to be the babyface, but I think they're going to like me. Let's do this. I'm going to beat you like a job boy and I'm going to pick you up for my finish. We'll figure some cute way out of it, pin me, and then I'll hit you with my finish again and again. Then Zbyszko will come. I said, "Don't tell anybody. I'll take the heat." So what he did was, I beat him like a job boy. I picked him up for my finish and the corner where he could flip his feet off the turnbuckle, boom boom, he flipped me over and pinned me like that." I jumped up after 1-2-3, bang bang bang. I hit him with my finish a couple of times, Zbyszko hits the ring. We still shoot the angle. When I come back, first Arn Anderson, who was an agent, who gave me the finish in the hallway, he just shakes his head and goes, "You never cease to amaze me!" I said, "Arn, was it good or was it not good?" He said, "It was good. It was good TV." Because what the f---, everybody knows I'm going to squash that jobroni, right? And that's where I told Chris, "Chris, the only way these people are going to pop is if you beat me because every time I f---n' bumped him, they didn't make a sound. But when he pinned me, they exploded. So I'm all about getting their rocks off. It's about is it good TV or bad TV? Like we talked about, is it real or is it fake? Who cares? Is it good or is it bad? I guess I'm a dinosaur?
Keller: How did you end up moving from Charlotte to the AWA? Were there stops in between?
Hall: I went from Charlotte to Kansas City.
Keller: With Spivey a American Starship?
Hall: Yeah, but Spivey hated it, so he went back to Charlotte. Then I met Jack Lanza in St. Louis. Lanza took a look at me and I was wrestling in St. Louis. St. Louis used to be a hot wrestling town and they'd bring talent in from all over. The jobroni guys would drive in from Kansas City, so I was an opening match jobroni guy. I'm in the locker room. Jack Lanza comes up to me and goes, "You ready to make a move, kid?" I looked at him and said, "No, Jack, I ain't ready." He goes, "Everybody sucks when they start." I said, "You know what, if you feel that way, I'm ready." So next thing you know. What happened was, at the same time, I don't know if you know the story about Verne (Gagne) getting the fish hook in his eye. Verne was fish-hooking with his son (Greg Gagne) and Curt Hennig up in Alaska. He caught a fish and took a fish hook right in his eyeball. He was hospitalized, blah blah blah. Jack couldn't get confirmation that I was hired, but they still booked me in some towns. That's when they took me to Winnipeg. You ever hear of the wrestling car game. You're driving down the road. I say Sean Waltman. It' "W" to you. We always played it. Larry Zbyszko was always my killer. There wasn't many Z's. There was Zeus kind of. So they take me to Winnipeg. Jack takes me to Winnipeg. I've only wrestled in front of three or four hundred people. I go to Winnipeg arena and there's 15,000 people there. I always put Zbyszko over because that night, I look across at who I'm working with, and I go, f---, Larry Zbyszko.
Zbyszko goes broadway with me in Winnipeg. I don't know a thing, but I have the look. And Zbyszko's got good heat. This is a long time ago. Zbyszko's red hot. But I'm nobody, but I got the look. So I'm working with Zbyszko. Found out we're going broadway. He steers me through the whole match. The announcer's counting down. Ten, nine... Zbyszko's got me in the corner. He goes, "Grab my by the hair. Not too hard! Look at the people. Not too long! Okay, punch me. Not too hard! Put me in the corner, what's that finish you do?" Lanza gave me the bulldog. So I was using the bulldog. Boom. The one lesson I've never forgotten and always learned from Larry was so crucial and so man people don't know is, he tells me, "Cover me." And the referee is counting. You know how they do a well-done broadway, which is so rare these days, is the referee is counting, "One-two..." and then ding-ding-ding-ding. Zbyszko's laying there flat out. He says to me, "Jump up like you won." Because you know how in most countouts, the guy looks at the official and looks around like, what the f---, what the f---. Zbyszko told me to jump up like I won. I've never seen another broadway go that way. Because he took such good care of me (then), when I had stroke in Atlanta, I paid him back. That's the way it goes, right?
Keller: But when you got to the AWA, you were not pushed as a green guy who is a few years away from being a star. They had lost Hulk Hogan a relatively short time earlier. You were pushed right off the bat. You were compared to Magnum P.I. You were compared to Hulk Hogan.
Hall: Okay, let me interject here. You know who was burying me on that f---in' TV, and I can't figure out why they brought that f---in' asshole in, fly that prick from Hawaii to Vegas. I did not pretend to be Magnum. You know who called me Magnum, was Lord James Blears because he lived in Hawaii because he wanted to name drop. He said, "He looks like Magnum P.I." He put so much heat on me because Magnum T.A. was red-hot in Charlotte, so all this prick did was make me look like I was trying to get rub off of Magnum, who personally, if I was to meet him in an alleyway, I'd beat his - before he got in the accident - I'd beat his f---in' ass. But I couldn't believe it. You have to remember, you're out in that wrestling ring, you got no idea what these pricks are saying. It's not like Vince. Verne was such a f---in' dimwit. He wasn't monitoring what was said. I mean, ohhh. That Lord James Blears did nothing but bury me. You know why? Because he didn't like me. He was some old school wrestling guy. He didn't like me. He was just like Bruno Sammartino. He didn't like the young guys making money.