Every so often, we here at The Wrestling Wrap really look forward to an interview. Weíve done over 1000 online interviews in the past decade weíve been around, and to be honest, you get a little jaded. So many of the interviews donít live up to their potential, our expectations, or the fansí. However, at times, thatís not the case. And the following interview is one of those times, because itís an interview thatís honest. Itís about the man behind the character. A man, who five years ago, seemed destined for superstardom, but now, is all but forgotten by the masses.
This man is one of Rogerís favorite wrestlers, and one of mine as well.
We are proud to bring you the story of a great performer, his rise to greatness,
and the story of how he fell from grace. Without further ado, we bring you the
Terry Williams interview.
- Karl Jones, The Wrestling Wrap
September 17, 2003
KJ: Welcome to the 1006th online interview on The Wrestling Wrap. Brought to you by Windows Media Player, this audio file is available for download to all paid members, or a transcript can be found for free on our website. This is Karl Jones, and Iím here with my co-host Roger Ostrander, and we are both excited to bring to you ECW and WCW alumni, Terry Williams!
RO: Welcome, Terry, and happy birthday! How old are you, today?
TW: Thanks Roger and Iím 34. Itís a pleasure to be here, Iím a big fan, been listening to your guys show for years now.
KJ: The pleasure is ours, Terry. We know todayís your birthday, and we understand youíve a big party to go to, so we wonít beat around the bush. Why donít we start with how you got into wrestling?
TW: Well, gosh, thatís easy. My Dad got me and my brother watching, when we were just tykes, living in Key West. My Dad was retired Navy, so we ended up down there when he got out. Of course, this was the mid 70ís, and in Key West, you had to have cable to get any television stations. We did, and one of the stations we got was TBS out of Atlanta, which carried Georgia Championship Wrestling.
RO: Ah, yes, the glory days of the National Wrestling Alliance. Who was your favorite back then?
TW: Dusty Rhodes, without a doubt. My brother was into The Masked Superstar, who I got to meet years later as Demolition member Ax. Anyhow, so that was my first exposure to wrestling, which I watched religiously. In í79, my parents moved us up to central Florida, where we got exposed to Championship Wrestling of Florida, another NWA affiliate. When I was in junior high, I saw my first live wrestling show at Spruce Creek high school, a CWF show. I think it was then that I knew I wanted to be a wrestler.
KJ: Yeah, but a lot of kids make the same decision, but never follow through with it. Some end up hosting web interview shows, for that matter. What made you different?
TW: Well, that was a longer process. The first, and probably the biggest, was taking karate the summer before high school. I was almost six foot tall, and I couldnít break 100 pounds. I had the metabolism of a nuclear reactor, back then. So I started studying Isshin-Ryu karate. My sensei, Chester Holubecki, was the first person to mold me into the man who would become a pro wrestler. The second man was Coach Parisi, who I met in 10th grade, at DeLand Senior High. He was my P.E. coach, and by then, Iíd gained about 40 pounds of muscle. Between karate and weightlifting, I was 150 by the end of my tenth grade year, and coach Parisi, who was also the wrestling coach, had gotten me to tryout for the team. The third biggest influence on my life was another martial arts person, one our sensei had brought in to lecture our class. Her name is Jovieve, and sheís probably one of the best martial artists out there today.
KJ: What did your family think of all this?
TW: Well, Iíd never been that athletic a kid; I tried the Little League baseball thing, but my vision was too poor for me to be any good at that. The baseballs were too small and moved too fast for a clumsy kid like me. In junior high, I played a year of soccer and did okay, but it just wasnít that big a deal to me. So, when I finally found something I was interested in, they were actually supportive. Especially my Dad, he and I had never had too much in common; I was always the bookworm, he was more into sports, so my brother and he were closer than I was with him, until I got into wrestling.
RO: What sort of wrestler were you in high school?
TW: Oh, I was good enough to get a scholarship to Penn State. I made it to the state finals twice, my junior and senior years of high school, and the second time, in í88, I made it to the finals in my weight class, only to lose. But, our big gun, Michael Stokes, took the state championship in the heavyweight division, which is the one that gets all the attention.
RO: Now heís the one who went on to the Olympic Team, and has spoken quite poorly of pro wrestling, yes?
TW: Yeah, thatís Mike. Ya know, everyoneís entitled to their own opinions, but some people have too many issues. We used to be tight, and I donít bear him any ill, but things changed between us after that. But, once we graduated, and I got accepted to Penn State, we werenít in touch all the time anyhow.
KJ: So tell us about Penn State.
TW: Well, I went there straight out of high school, graduated in í92. Wrestled on the team four years, we went to the NCAA championship all four years. My best year was í92, when I made it to the finals in my weight class (a strapping 220 lbs), only to lose to Kurt Angle.
KJ: Wow, talk about a dream match in the making!
RO: No doubt! All things being equal, whoíd win between you and Kurt in the squared circle?
TW: (chuckling) Well, I think Kurtíd have a rougher time of it nowadays. In a pro ring, heíd have to watch out for my martial arts moves. Heís definitely the superior amateur wrestler, but heís never fought a shoot fight in his life. But, if it were in the WWE, Iím sure McMahonís Olympic Hero would be booked to win.
RO: So what happened after graduation?
TW: Well, my film/video degree didnít get me any jobs, other than a cameraman at a local TV station, so I started entering some shoot fighting tournaments, which was just beginning to take off then. I got married to Candace Abernathy, a girl Iíd been dating through college, and we got a place on Long Island, where she was from. Her parents had money out the ass, they lived over in the Hamptons, and so money wasnít a big issue. I traveled the shoot fighting circuit for a year or so, and this was back in the days before Ultimate Fighting and Pride and all those took off, so weíre talking small Tough Man type competitions here in the states, and organized tournaments over in Japan. This went on until I got approached by a guy who knew Stu Hart personally. A few phone calls later, and I was heading out to Alberta, Canada for a four month wrestling camp.
KJ: We ask every student of The Dungeon this, and we get the same answer, but here we go anyways.
RO: Is it true what they say about The Dungeon?
TW: (chuckles) Let me guess. No, there wasnít any ring. Just a concrete floor and wooden walls. No mat, either. And, yes, Stu was as tough as they say, even in his 60ís. All the stories of The Dungeon are true. Stu was a shoot fighter from the 50ís and 60ís, as well as a pro wrestler, so he could teach you to fight for real, as well as how to fake it and make it seem more real than anyone else. While I was there, I made good friends with Chris Benoit, who got me my first wrestling gig in ECW.
RO: Well, I guess that was a mixed blessing for the marriage?
TW: Yeah, wrestling out of Philly, I could commute to the ECW Arena for the shows, which meant I didnít have to travel too often. Candy liked that, though she wasnít exactly thrilled with my career. She came to one show at the Arena, a particularly bloody brawl where Raven and I took on the Dudley Boyz, and after seeing me take repeated chair shots to the face, then being driven through a table was more than she cared to watch. Thank god she wasnít there for the match with Mikey Whipwreck.
RO: Ah, yes, the infamous match from Cyberslam í98? Care to talk about it?
TW: Thatís the one. (Sighs) Yeah, well, it was really one of the most embarrassing moments of my career. You gotta understand, I had no idea that I had a problem with fireÖ at least, not that bad a problem. Iíve always been the sort to get nervous using a match. I always like using those lighters with the long stem, for candles and shit, ya know? So, when I got set up to do the job after taking a fireball to the face, nothing special, just a little flash paperÖ well, I didnít think itíd be that bad. (Pause) Boy, was I wrong. When James Mitchell, the Sinister Minister as he was called, threw that fireball at me, I saw my whole life go by. I could feel the heatÖ. Next thing I know, Iím waking up, and my trunks are soiled. (Wry laughter) I think Iím the only wrestler in the profession to have the dubious distinction of being on a recorded event with a shit stain on his ass.
RO: (laughter) Oh, man, thatís gotta be embarrassing.
KJ: To this day, though ECW is nothing more than a library of tapes for Vince McMahon to market, fans still talk about the feuds ďHard SellĒ Terry Williams had with Taz, Bam Bam Bigelow and RVD. Where Taz and RVD, and many other ECW alumni are still stars, youíre struggling to keep afloat. Do you have any thoughts on that?
TW: Well, Iíd be lying if I said I was thrilled about it. Itís part of the politics of the biz, though. Screw up in the wrong way, and unless you marry the bosses daughter or kiss the right ass, and youíre done. I stayed with ECW longer than many guys did, because I believed in Paul Heyman. But, Paulís with the WWE now has been for almost 3 years, and has he called once? No.
RO: How long did you stay at ECW?
TW: Long enough to turn down an offer from the McMahons. I stayed until mid 1999, when WCW came to me with a contract offer for $250,000 a year for three years. I sat down with Paul, and he told me to go. So, after one last match, where RVD kicked my ass all over that old bingo hall they called the ECW Arena, I was Atlanta bound.
RO: What did the wife think of that?
TW: (snorts) Oh, which went over like a lead balloon. But, like I said before, her parents had money Ė lots of it Ė so we got a condo down there to live in. But the thing that really killed the marriage was that I was hardly ever in Atlanta. 5 days a week of travel was more than Candy was willing to put up with. She left me in early 2000, and we were divorced, pretty amicably, in November that year. This was fine by me, as the relationship had really withered after the marriage. It was a case of not having any direction in my life, and getting married was a purpose, for a short while. Of course, by this time, I was getting a heavy push in WCW, first as a member of early 2000 incarnation of the New World Order, and then as part of the New Blood storyline.
KJ: Lots of insider talk about drug use in WCW during the last couple years, and some name droppers like to drop yours. Would you care to address that?
TW: (sighs) Well, that wasnít a high point of my career, Iíll tell you that. After five years in the business, Iíd started racking up some nagging injuries, and pain killers were the answer for that. But, I also picked up a taste for some harder drugs, including coke. After Candy left me, I threw myself into the biz full time, partying my ass off after the shows, staying up to 3 or 4 in the morning, getting up by 7 to make the plane or get on the road to the next show. So, coke kept me going.
RO: Terry, I know this is hard for you to talk about, but we did briefly touch on this before we startedÖ Iíd like to bring up the match with Oíhaire and Jindrak.
TW: (long pause) Well, a little background on the story. In mid 2000, as part of the New Blood storyline, they paired up Christopher Daniels and me. Chris still wrestles under the moniker ďThe Fallen AngelĒ, doing the sinister priest routine, which works great for him. They came up with the name of ďThe Dark ChurchĒ for the two of us, and gave me the nickname ďThe HereticĒ. Now, I was raised Roman Catholic, and though Iím a fairly lapsed Catholic, I knew my Mom would have a fit over thisÖ but I went with it, b/c they promised us a big push by the end of the year. So Chris and I started touring together, working on moves. We cut some great promos together; Chris has a great TV presence, and does the shtick well. We came up with some great in ring work together, and had some hot matches with the team of Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman. Well, end of 2000 rolled around, and my divorce was final. It hit me harder than I expected, much less wanted it to. So, I was partying extra hard, and the boys in WCW, well, they can say what they want, but a lot of them did some pretty heavy partying and drugging. So, at the World War 3 pay-per-view, The Dark Church got a title shot against Sean Oíhaire and Mark Jindrakís WCW World Tag Team titles. We were supposed to win the belts, and keep them for quite some time. Weíd generated some serious heat with the fans, between our evil gimmick and the way we beat Rey and Kidman time and again. WCW was looking for us to be the heel champions that the fans came to see, hoping weíd lose the belts each time. Well, the match was on, and I was high on coke. And not just a little bit. There was no way for us to back out of the match, and Chris wanted me to step down and let someone else step in, but I wanted this too bad. So I told him I was in control of myself, and capable to do the job. Sadly, he believed me, and we went to the ring. The big finish for the match was to be our new finisher, where Iíd drop our opponent from the top rope in a brain buster type move, slamming him down on his neck, and then Chris would hit his patented moonsault for the pin. Well, Jindrak was the one picked to job, so I got him up on the top rope, and as I lifted him up and dropped back, I thought I had him set right, but I was wrong. He landed on his neck wrong, and stopped movingÖ. (trails off to silence)
KJ: Thatís got to be hard, Terry.
TW: (choking up slightly) Yeah, itís hardÖ hard for Mark, who still has next to no mobility below his neck. They say he has partial motion in one hand now, but thatís it. Thereís a man in a wheelchair, with one of those mouth controls, and itís because I was a damn fool. Anyhow, I thought he was dead, right then and there. I broke kayfabe, and we never even finished the match. I didnít wrestle again for WCW, they put me on suspension. They settled out of court with Mark, and part of that deal was that Iíd never wrestle in a WCW ring again. And, a few months later, in March í01, when the McMahons bought WCW, they honored that judgment.
RO: Youíve gone through drug rehab since then, right?
TW: Yeah, definitely. Itís been a hard ride, but Iíve gotten it beat this time. But itís hard not being able to wrestle for the big boys, for the big crowds. For the past several years, Iíve had to wrestle for smaller promotions. Even the Japanese companies donít want much to do with me.
KJ: How does your family treat you?
TW: Well, being that my brotherís a US Marshal, you can imagine that something illegal like drug use didnít go over well with them. Weíre on better terms now, but my brother wouldnít talk to me for over a year. So, itís a slow process, but heís been really supportive, since we started talking again.
KJ: So whatís life for you now?
TW: Well, thanks to Chris speaking up for me, Iíve got a job with Major League Wrestling. From 2 to 5 shows a month with them, and Iím using my old ECW ďHard SellĒ gimmick again. They wanted Chris and me to do the Dark Church again, but we both refused that one. After what happened to Mark, I wouldnít feel right doing that gimmick again. Chris and I are going to have a major feud coming up pretty soon, which weíre both excited about. Thereís some backstage heat with some of the other guys, but I canít worry about it. I made my mistake, and itís my burden. If they canít accept that, Iím not going to lose any sleep over it. We do shows mostly in the New York area, so Iíve moved back to Long Island, again. Every couple months they zip down to Florida for a week or two of shows, and then back home. When I donít have to travel for a show, Iíve got a job as a bouncer at a club called The Ironworks.
RO: Well, howís that going?
TW: Itís a lot of fun, really. About a third of the crowd recognizes me, so they donít give me too much crap. Itís a pretty hardcore place, not some glitzy place. Youíve got lots of real toughs, as well as your usual wannabes. But most of them respect you if you let them know youíre for real. There are plenty of fights, of course, but most times nobody gets too hurt.
KJ: Whatís your personal life like?
TW: Not much to speak of right now. Iíve got some good, long term friends on Long Island, my good friends Erik and Lisa. Other than their circle of friends, and the people I work with, thereís not a whole lot I socialize with. In fact, if I may, Iíd like to give a couple shout outsÖ. Erik and Lisa, love you guys. To the Ironworks crowd Ė Sammi, thatís my girl, sheís one of the regulars, love ya. To the working horses there, Mike and Connor, I got your backs. To my landlady, Mrs. Sorrenson, you da bomb. And to my man, Wesley, you always hook me up good. But, I donít have a real advanced social life. Right now, my priority is getting in touch with my baby girl.
RO: You never mentioned having a daughter beforeÖ
TW: Yeah, turns out Candy was pregnant when we got divorced, and she never told me about it. I had to hear it through the grapevineÖ sheís not exactly thrilled that Iím back in town, and her parents arenít helping any either. So Iím not sure how this is going to pan out.
KJ: Well, Terry, itís been great having you. We thank you for coming in on your birthday, and wish you the best in the future.
TW: My pleasure, guys, itís been fun.
Note from Roger: Terry wasnít allowed to wrestle in a MLW show in New
Jersey when he failed a random drug test two weeks after this interview. We at
The Wrestling Wrap wish the best to him, and hope he finds the help he needs.
[Author's Note: This story was originally written as a character background for a MAGE: THE ASCENSION roleplaying campaign. The basic idea was that we make up characters based on ourselves, but with any "possible" twists we might've taken in our lives. We'd start out as unawakened mages, but through the game become Magi. That game, which was to be run by Gwen Morse, never took off, but I really enjoyed this background - and it obviously has nothing of the mystical in it. I am actually considering using this as the basis for a full-fledged novel, a fictional wrestling bio/dark story. As of today, July 22nd, 2007, it is one of several stories I am considering for NaNoWriMo 2007.]
last updated: 7/22/07