Greg “the Hammer” Valentine is one of several Pro Wrestling stars appearing this Saturday March 2nd at the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel for the Big Event Fan Convention in East Elmhurst, New York. Valentine is a certified legend who was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 for his stand out time in the ring with WWE, WCW, and his 40 championship titles including the WWE Intercontinental Championship. He has long been revered as legit tough guy in the world of ‘sports entertainment’ and sat down with Pro Wrestling Examiner this week to discuss his lengthy career in the ring, his many accomplishments, his thoughts on today’s wrestling stars, his appearance this weekend at the Big Event and much more.
What is like to meet the fans at an event like the Big Event? You seem like a laid back kind of guy who would settle into a position like this, meeting and greeting with the fans. Do you like being called a ‘legend’?
Valentine: Sure why not! (Laughs) Yeah, I enjoy that. I have been around the business for 40 plus years and wrestled almost that long. It’s mainly now independent shows, being out and about, meeting the fans and stuff like that.
All of the years, I was sequestered with the WWF, They hid us back there in the dressing room.. You never really got to meet anybody. Now it’s a whole new experience for me, meeting all of those fans. It seems like everytime I go to one of these events, it will be a city I have been to several times in the same year like New York City, there is always new people to meet. I guess it’s ‘cause there is so many darn wrestling fans in New York City.
You have had a fantastic career with so many different accomplisments and memorable matches. If you reading this interview you can watch Valentine in a memorable bout, defend the WWE Intercontinental Championship at Madison Garden in 1985 against Ricky ‘the Dragon’ Steamboat in the video posted with this interview. You have have had so many great moments like this and your WWE Hall of Fame induction, of them which ones would you single out as your best?
Valentine: You would have to go back to my days with the NWA, for my Dog Collar Match with Roddy Piper. That match is still like hotcakes on DVD. It’s a timeless match, one that can never be duplicated, now they got ‘hardcore’ matches or whatever they call them but that was the first real hardcore match. And it was’nt with tables and chairs, it was just a real beating that we both took.
Then you probably have to put my tag matches with me and Ric Flair as World Tag Team Champions against Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. Wahoo McDaniel the matches, I had with him.
Moving along to WWF, the matches I had with Cheif Jay Strongbow and with Bob Backland the champion back then, and Tito Santana. They say your only as good as your opponent, and he was a fantastic opponent for me.Going on and on, 2004 being inducted in the Hall of Fame of course.
You mentioned some great names there, you many anger some people but who was your greatest opponent? Who is the opponent for you that clicked the most, and helped give you your best performances?
Valentine: I wrestled so many, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, so many different guys. I made sure I did not have a bad match no matter who my opponent was. The guy that really jived with me, was Tito Santana. You just have that perfect chemistry with a guy. Even before I took his belt, broke his leg, Figure Four Leg Lock and all that stuff, I wrestled him a year and half before we even went into that angle and probably a year and half after that. He will tell ya the same thing.
With the wrestler you have been able to face, is there a dynamic of toughness in Pro Wrestling that people don’t understand? This is me as a fan knowing you were on the road more than 200 days a year. You lived a very stressful life while still giving a physical performance. How did you stay on top of your game during that period of time?
Valentine: Well I started when I was 19 years old, back in those days, we wrestled almost every day. So I am going to say it was more than 200 times a year.Then when i got to the Carolinas (NWA), we would wrestled twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday. They would fly us, we would do an afternoon show and they would fly us to an evening show. Likewise on Sunday. Then when I got to the WWF, they would do the same thing. We would do one in Detroit in the afternoon, and then Boston in the night. It was like, when would it ever stop?
Valentine: Ya know, I got in such great shape and guess because of my dad (Greg’s father was famous wrestler Johnny Valentine), and the training that I went under, that’s the same way I am. You just keep going. The money was good, plus you don’t even think about it being a job when you really love it.
And far as pain tolerance and that sort of that thing , I had a pain tolerance. I was built like a fire hydrant, short and you could’nt hurt me. Andre the Giant one time tossed me over the top rope one time and I landed way out in what was the fifth row, on the cement , and chairs. I got up and dust myself off, I felt like I was invincible. I only actually got hurt a couple years ago, when i tore my quad. That was the first injury really had after all this pounding we are talking about.
It was craziness. I was not the only tough guy doing it.
Your father had a great career. Do you think your love for Pro Wrestling and your drive to be successful came from him?
Valentine: Well I went on the road with him for four months and just studied him, emulated him. I think the toughness was inherited. I am half as tough as he was, that’s the way I put myself. Back then he didn’nt even fly anywhere, he would have to drive 300 or 400 miles, then wrestle, and then 300 or 400 miles. It was not just the wrestling part, it was the traveling. He was my hero and I felt I could use him as gage or a yardstick, to be just like him. I had a reason for that madness, ya know?
Do you still watch Pro Wrestling like WWE and enjoy it?
Valentine: I don’t watch much of it, because I would like to be in there doing it. I would like to show some of these guys to slow it down, and do it right. I don’t like it like I used to. There are certain guys, I do like. Of course, everybody likes John Cena. He has that ‘old school’ mentality and Randy Orton, I am a good friend of his father. Randy is a phenomenal wrestler. I don’t know about CM Punk, he does some outlandish things in the ring but I like bigger guys. I like the Rock, big fan of the Rock, Dwayne Johnson. I used to wrestle his dad all the time.
I can not forget Big Show. I was around the big Show when he first got into the business, him and his wife would hang out in my backyard in Florida. He’s old school all the way too. So when I know all those guys are going to be in the ring, I will watch the show. I don’t watch all the guys I don’t know.
The WWE Hall of Fame is special this year as it is every year, but this year it’s being held at Madison Square Garden. The class of inductees some true greats like Mick Foley, Bob Backlund, Bruno Sammartino and Trish Stratus. As a fellow Hall of Famer, what do you think of this year’s inductees? Do you like seeing other guys you came up get that same honor? Tell us about your Hall of Fame experience in 2004.
Valentine: Ya know what in 2004, Wrestlemania XX was being held at Madison Square Garden. (WWE) had the induction at the New York Hilton Hotel, which was not far from the Garden, the night before and then on Sunday during Wresltmania they brought us on stage. It was quite a crew, Jesse Venture, Don Morrocco, Bobby Heenan, John Stud’s son was there because he past away, Sgt. Slaughter was there. Tito, can’t forget Tito was in there too! That was, is a great, great honor.
They have been trying to get this deal done with Bruno Sammartino for a long, long time. They finally got it done. Bruno should have been in years ago, but I think it will be better this way.
And Bob Backlund, who I had all of those hour long matches with, it’s going to be fun to see him get inducted. He certainly deserves it. Mick Foley for all the crazy stuff he did, like falling off the top of that cage. He’s the Evel Knievel of Wrestling. Trish, she’s just one of the best girl wrestlers ever.
I heard a rumor that Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts may go in. He was a phenomenal wrestler, a second generation wrestler like myself.His mind and that gimmick with the snake, everybody knows that name. I don’t know if this is his year, but I would certainly like to see it happen.
So in closing, what’s your legacy or one defining characteristic that you would want fans to hold onto when they look your career and what you have accomplished?
Valentine: Just remember how tough I was, and remember that I truly, truly love this business. I would do nothing to ever hurt it this business. I was a consummate pro, and so was my father. I am proud of my legacy I will leave behind, because I am still out there doing stuff. The one thing I am working really hard on right now is my autobiography, which will cover all the struggles from the 70’s and 80’s that the fans probably don’t even know about yet. Let’s just leave it at that.
Greg ‘the Hammer’ Valentine will be appearing for autographs and photos along wth other great wrestling stars and legends including Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler, Jeff Jarret, Kelly Kelly, Jimmy Snuka, Kharma, Mickie James, Savio Vega, Tony Atlas, Luke Gallows and ‘the Nature Boy’ Ric Flair at the Big Event Fan Convention at the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel in East Elmhurst, NewYork this Saturday, March 2nd starting at 10am. You can purchases tickets to the Big Event at this link: www.sportsfanpromotions.com/the-big-event/