by admin ·
We just heard that Bison Smith passed away. Bison was an internationally acclaimed professional wrestler, and we had the opportunity to interview him in the past. For your reference, here is a reprint of his interview. We hope you enjoy it. Bison seemed like a good guy and we enjoyed working with him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Bison was 38, and he passed away of a major heart attack.
Bison Smith Interview
Question: Is there anything you would like to say to our fans?
BISON: First off, I would like to thank the fans of wrestling. Thank you for your loyal support through these difficult times in the professional wrestling business. This interview is going to focus mainly on the Japanese, Puerto Rican and a little on the United States wrestling Business. If you are a WWE or TNA fan you may not know who I am but just read the interview to get a different aspect of the wrestling business. I guarantee it will be a good read.
Question: How did you become a fan of wrestling?
BISON: I started my athletic career in Fresno, California. In 4th grade I started to play football and amateur wrestle. Doing those sports I supplemented the two with weight training. I started lifting weights regularly when I was 13
I worked out at Gold’s Gym. I loved lifting weights more than I did playing football or amateur wrestling. Some kids played video games some rode dirt bikes but I loved to hang out at Gold’s Gym.
I noticed a group of guys would come into the gym once a month. These guys were monsters to me. They would lift heavy weights, they looked like movie stars and they were huge. I was really in awe of them and I told myself, “I wanted to be like them one day.”
I asked around the gym wanting to know who those people were. Some didn’t know but one guy told me they were pro wrestlers. So I went to a local grocery store headed to the media section and looked through some wrestling magazines. I saw the same guy’s at Gold’s Gym that were in those magazines. They were WWF wrestlers.
My family had just got cable television and on the USA network there was a show called Tuesday Night Titan’s. I watched it every week along with the other WWF programming. I also watched World Class and AWA on ESPN.
This is right before the WrestleMania’s and the Rock and Wrestling connection started on MTV. When I saw Roddy Piper break that platinum record glass frame over Lou Albano’s head, let me tell you, I was hooked on wrestling.
Every time the WWF came to town I went to the shows. Before the shows I would wait around Gold’s Gym all day just to see the wrestlers work out. I remember one time Ken Patera and I talked in the locker room. He went to BYU with my high school football coach. He was really nice to me and we had a good conversation about power lifting. That was Patera’s specialty and at the time I was into it also.
After High school I accepted a scholarship to play football at the University of Colorado. I kind of lost interest in watching pro wrestling until one day this monster came into the University of Colorado’s weight room. Again, I was in awe of this guy and I wanted to know who he was.
They told me his name was Leon White and he played for Colorado back in the 1970′s. Then they told me he was a pro wrestler working in Japan under the name Big Van Vader. This was right before he got signed by WCW. Vader would rarely come to the gym and work out but when he did I tried talking to him and he was always pissed off and unapproachable.
I started to watch WCW because of Vader. He was a real heel monster and I loved watching him destroy people. When he would show up at the gym I would again try to talk wrestling with him and again he would treat me like an asshole.
After I graduated college I was done with football. People ask me why I didn’t try to pursue the NFL. The truth is I was a stupid young kid that felt burned out on football and at the ripe old age of 22, I retired. I will always consider that a huge mistake I made in my life. I will always regret not giving it a shot.
Question: How did you become a Pro Wrestler
BISON: When I was at the University of Colorado the football players were treated like Gods. It was first class. Best hotels, being fed the best food, playing in front of 70,000 people at Folsom Field in Colorado or in Nebraska and Oklahoma. We went to a bowl game every year. Staying 2 weeks in Florida for the Block Buster Bowl against Alabama. Staying in Phoenix, Arizona to play Syracuse in the Fiesta Bowl. We stayed in Hawaii two weeks for the Aloha Bowl my senior year.
Then after my eligibility was done they told me, “You can’t do this anymore,” you feel like you have been dumped in the middle of nowhere. I was a civilian for the first time in my life.
What next? Get a 9 to 5 job? I was a 290 lbs. 6’3 gorilla. How was I going to convert from an athlete to a regular person? I couldn’t, I stuck out, and I wasn’t normal looking. Me in a suit and tie?…… please.
I approached my old strength and conditioning coach Doc Kries about him talking to Vader about possibly getting me into the wrestling business. His response was not good. It seemed that there were two football players before me that Vader helped get into the business. These two idiots made Vader look bad. I guess they were sent to the Power Plant, WCW’s training school, were given special treatment because of Vader and they totally blew it by being jackass’s. So Doc Kries told me Vader is not interested in getting ex-football players into the business.
I was crushed. I kept staying on Vader about it. I begged him to give me a shot. Vader just didn’t like me for some reason. So I decided and said to myself, “Screw him, I am going to do this the hard way.”
Back then the Internet was in its infancy. The business was so tightly sealed no one would know where to go to be a wrestler. Back then you had to know someone. Well, the someone I knew didn’t give me the time of day so I was in the dark on how to get into the wrestling business.
It was probably 3 years after my football career and I was working at a furniture store in Denver moving sofas for a living. What a depressing time in my life. I was a fat, beer drinking warehouse worker with zero direction. This was the time the WCW WWF wars were heating up. I can honestly say that is when the business was at its best.
Every Monday night was wrestling night. I was so hooked on wrestling then. I was so determined to become a wrestler but I didn’t know how to get into the business, it was so frustrating.
I remember one time WCW was in town for a Nitro tapping. I couldn’t go because I had to move sofas but on my lunch break I drove to the Denver Coliseum to try to talk to anyone who knew how I could get into the business.
I approached this roadie or some crew guy that was smoking a cigarette next to one of the WCW semi trucks. He told me to call the head quarters at 1 CNN center. So I called, talked to some lady, she asks, “Do you have any experience as a pro wrestler?” Stupidly, I said, “NO.” She replied, “I am sorry sir we can’t help you.”
One of my co-workers at the furniture store got a new computer and had the Internet hooked up. I thought the Internet was the coolest thing then but today it is killing wrestling, but that’s a whole other story. So, I got the bright idea to put,” pro wrestling schools,” into the search engine. The first one that popped up was All Pro Wrestling in Hayward, California. I told myself ,”Pack your bags your going to wrestling school.”
Question: Tell us about your training.
BISON: To be honest, God was on my side when he directed me to APW. At APW I was trained the right way. At APW I was trained in an, “old fashioned style.” The old fashion style is paying your dues. Learning how to wrestle slowly and laying a strong fundamental foundation before you have your first match.
I didn’t start my training learning a power bomb or a choke slam the first day. I did cardio drills the first two weeks. At first, it pissed me off that I wasn’t in the ring learning wrestling. But when I did finally make it to the ring, I didn’t like it.
In wrestling you have to learn how to fall right to protect yourself, this is called, “bumping.” For 5 months all we did was bump. It hurt, it was really painful. My whole body ached. It was way tougher than playing football. I really didn’t think I was going to make it. The class I started my training with consisted of 48 boys. After 9 months it was down to 3 men including myself. Pro wrestling is very brutal to a person’s body and how I made it was without a doubt the toughest thing I have ever done.
Question: Tell us about the first couple years of your wrestling career.
BISON: My first match was in 1998 against a guy named James Watkins. It was a good match but you could tell I was not comfortable being in front of people and I just wrestled awkward. I was very bland. The fans didn’t like me. I couldn’t talk on a microphone. Truthfully, I sucked my first 2 years of wrestling. I am sure there are people today who still think I suck but back then I really sucked. I had no concept of how to be a wrestler.
After about two years the promoter at APW decided to put me in a hood, a mask, and make me this, “Old School Heel,” type wrestler called Super Destroyer 2000. Once I put that mask on it changed me. I was more relaxed in the ring. I started having good matches. I was moving forward. The gimmick was getting over with the fans and it felt good that I was being accepted as a credible wrestler.
Question: What was your biggest highlight the first couple of years in wrestling?
BISON: I had an opportunity to work for a Hollywood promotion called the Urban Wrestling Alliance. I say Hollywood because it was filmed in Hollywood and was backed by Hollywood money.
The whole concept would be based around an,” Urban,” theme. African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, Mexicans and Samoans were the good guys. Well, the bad guys would have to be White. So I was hired to come in and play a Texas redneck.
They had 8 pilot episodes to film. I was in Los Angeles for 3 weeks. I was making $200 a day and at that time it was gold to me. Some of the wrestlers that were a part of it were Orlando Jordan and Sonny Siaki.
It was such a great experience. I got to feel Hollywood and it was cool. Catering trucks at our shoots. I went to acting classes. I got to wrestle in the Grand Olympic Auditorium.
The pilots were sent to test markets on the UPN network like Dallas, Miami, New York, Chicago and a few other cities. They were running late at night going against some other ethnic shows. The pilots got good ratings but none of the networks picked up the show.
Looking back I can see why it failed. First of all it was too Hollywood oriented. They were hiring actors to be wrestlers. They were training actors in
3 weeks how to be wrestlers. That’s impossible.
The people doing the booking were Hollywood scriptwriters. That will never work even though it still is happening today in other promotions. I remember one time an acting agent was directing story lines. People calling the shots had no clue how to run a wrestling promotion. I was still very green at that time of my career but I was getting paid to be a wrestler and I was back to that life style I had when I played football at Colorado, so I was happy.
When it failed, again, I was crushed. WCW had just been bought out by WWF and jobs in the industry got scarce. It was 2000, I wasn’t getting any younger and I was seriously thinking about quitting, in fact, I was going to quit. I told everyone I was finished and I had an opportunity at a great promotion at my 9 to 5 job to be an executive at a major retail store.
People understood where I was coming from and they wished me well but the man who trained me thought I was a fool to quit.
I will never forget Mike Modest and I were standing in the parking lot at APW. He was desperately trying to talk me into staying in the business. I told him I had had enough. Modest told me to stay around for just one month because
he and some others were trying to get a Japanese wrestling promotion to come to APW and scout some talent. So I stuck around.
That next month 3 Japanese men representing a Japanese wrestling promotion and a television crew and reporters from Japan came to APW to watch some matches. I had a match with Tony Jones. It was a good match and Tony made me look good but I also made him look good.
After the matches I thought they would say, “Thanks for your time we will keep in touch.” No, what they did was, they pulled 3 of us one at a time into the office of APW. I was the last to get called in. I sat down and remember looking at the 3 Japanese men and thinking, ” what do they want from me?”
One of the Japanese men spoke dead on perfect English. The other two were silent and had these deadpan scary intimidating faces just staring at me with those cold looking eyes. We had a conversation and the Japanese man that spoke perfect English said, “Congratulations, you’re going to Japan to work for Pro Wrestling Noah .” I thought to myself, “for who?”