Goforth’s Video Gazette: Straight Shooting with 2 Cold Scorpio

OF SHOOT INTERVIEWS AND HISTORY
In which our Intrepid Reviewer expends a great deal of Effort explaining why this won’t read like a Scott Keith review of a shoot interview

In my life, I have several different identities, different cloaks that I wear depending on the environment. The cloak most of you probably know the best is internet wrestling pundit, a little on the wordy and pretentious side (or, if you like my work, a little on the articulate and trenchant side). I’ve got a whole closet full of cloaks, but I try to wear my historian cloak pretty regularly. As I’ve mentioned countless times, I’m a historian of the US South (or a historian-in-training if you prefer–I’m well on my way to getting my PhD, but there’s still a dissertation to write between me and the title “doctor”).

The more impatient amongst ye might be wondering what any of this has to do with 2 Cold Scorpio (or 2CS, the shorthand I’ll be using in this review). Well here’s the thing about cloaks–you can wear more than one at a time. I obviously got the wrestling columnist cloak out of the old metaphorical closet when I sat down to write this review; but I also got out the historian’s cloak. For you see, I think of this review as the opportunity to speak a little about the nature of history and the historian’s task.

Some people, particularly conservatives, tend to view history as a fairly straightforward thing. Just tell us the facts–don’t interpret. But if folks like our dimwitted second lady would sit down and think about it, all history is by its very nature subjective. Lynn Cheney would have people like me teach people like you about good old American values, through historical events like the Revolutionary War. But here’s the thing–there are probably an infinite number of ways to interpret the Revolutionary War. It’s one of the defining events (maybe the defining event) in our national mythos. But how did the British see it? How about African slaves, who might have had more to gain from siding with the redcoats? What about Native Americans? And to take it a step farther, what facts are the most important for us to report? Do we focus on the political side? Should our attention center on George Washington? How about the bloody guerilla warfare in my home, South Carolina? If we spend more time dissecting one element at the expense of another, do we truly do a good job teaching about the Revolutionary War? Is it fair to emphasize the point of view of Anglo-Americans, when they comprise a minority in today’s population?

These are the sorts of issues we face as historians, and you can be sure that the same issues apply the history of professional wrestling. Those of us interested in this history are lucky, as we are currently in the midst of a bona fide deluge of material related to this history–mostly in the form of memoirs. There are basically two types of memoirs available to us right now, reflecting a rough sort of division in status among wrestlers. The most successful, important, and beloved figures from the history of pro wrestling write books (or have them ghost written). The less successful, less important, and less beloved figures record shoot interviews. Both are (potentially) invaluable windows into the history of our beloved pseudo-sport.

However, if we are to take them as historical documents, then we must make the effort to determine just how credible they are. Memoirs recorded years after the events discussed in them pose three particular problems. First of all, people’s memories grow dim and hazy. You occasionally run across a person with a near-photographic memory, but that’s a rare bit of luck. Even so, a person with a terrific memory might suffer from a second, potentially more serious problem. The memoirist might have an axe (or a whole clutch of axes) to grind. He or she might go out of the way to make certain people look good or bad. This is especially true when we’re talking about aging-but-not-yet-retired pro wrestlers (e.g., 2 Cold Scorpio). These folks are coming to the end of careers, and face an uncertain future. Those who have not yet burned all bridges might be interested in securing jobs as road agents, writers, or any other number of positions. The third possible bias is the memoirist’s desire to preserve his or her place in history. No one wants to feel unimportant or inconsequential. Likewise, no one wants to be reviled by history. People writing memoirs usually try to present themselves in the best light possible, and in the center of events.

That brings us to 2 Cold Scorpio. He’s not a crucial figure in the history of professional wrestling. Many of you might remember him fondly, but I doubt that many of you would consider him an all-time favorite. He’s had moderate success over his career, but was never more than a mid-carder in any promotion. So nobody was going to offer him a book contract. Yet, having said that, 2CS is extremely well-traveled. He’s hit almost every possible stop on his career–ECW, WCW, WWF, Japan (NOAH, AJPW, and NJPW), and Mexico (EMLL). He was witness to a great many interesting things, and a participant in more than a few. He’s rubbed shoulders with many of your all-time favorites–Flair, Steamboat, Road Warrior Hawk, Tazz, and Vader all figure prominently in this interview (so does Sid Vicious, but I’m assuming he’s probably not on too many internet fans’ list of favorite wrestlers).

Scorpio’s clearly got his share of axes to grind. And he’s still young enough that a final run in the WWE is not totally out of the question (even if it’s rather unlikely, to say the least). So we should approach this interview with those biases in mind. However, after watching this video, I can tell you that 2CS is not a master politician. He steps on several sets of toes. He speaks ill of the dead. He admits to several personal demons (one might say that he even glories in them–but more on that later). And, thankfully, he has a great memory, it would seem. In short, we would be foolish to dismiss this as a fundamentally useless source, innately flawed by bias. But does that make this a valuable account of the history of pro wrestling?

TECHNICAL NOTES AND STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
In which young(-ish) Goforth provides information intended to help The Reader decide if this Item is worthy of purchase

One more note before we get into the content summary section of our review. I suspect most of your are reading this to get a summary of the dirt 2CS dishes. I’ll provide you with some of it, but not all of it. This is a review, not a transcript. If it sounds interesting, then you should consider buying it. But before you go out and plunk down some money, there are a few questions that need be answered.

Is it entertaining?
Yeah, I think so. 2CS is a good speaker. He’s animated, vivid, and candid. He’s also pretty funny. But this is, at its heart, about three hours’ worth of footage of what amounts to a single talking head (I will refrain from making any David Byrne joke here). I didn’t mind so much because I was furiously taking notes. But those of you with short attention spans might want to bear this in mind that you’ll be watching three hours of Scorpio talking, shot with only one camera. The only visual variety comes from zooms in and out, and the occasional editing out of part of the interview. This could have worked just as well as a CD.

Is the technical quality of the DVD good?
Looked fine on my girlfriend’s low-end DVD player (it was either that or the Playstation 2). However, the sound quality is surprisingly bad. I played it through a decent stereo system (but not in surround sound or Dolby 5.1), and the audio was very fuzzy and hissy. It sounds like they had the mike turned up waaaay too loud. In the end I didn’t find it too distracting, but again I was taking notes the whole time. Just a word of warning.

What all is on the DVD?
Just the interview–no matches or anything like that.

How much does it cost?
It’s on sale as of this writing for $20 on VHS or DVD at rohwrestling.com. No idea what the regular price is.

How is the presentation?
This whole product kind of made ROH (who produced this as part of their new “Straight Shooting” line of shoot DVDs) look pretty amateurish. There’s no menus to speak of–the DVD goes straight into the interview. Of course, this isn’t too bad, since the only feature on the whole DVD is the interview. Still, I would have liked a table of contents dividing the interview by subject.

How professional was this?
Not very. A phone call interrupts the proceedings at one point. And the interviewer (presumably Doug Gentry or Gabe Sapolsky) isn’t exactly Bill Moyers here. The ROH website claims, “We aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions in the Straight Shootin’ Series. Interviews will feature well researched questions with a skilled interviewer adept at asking the right follow up questions.” Most of what I saw here was pretty run of the mill interview questions. What do you think of (other wrestler)? Tell us about (famous incident). Did you think you should have been pushed harder? We learn a fair amount from these questions (some of them, anyway), but I credit 2CS more than the interviewer. Scorpio seems like a pretty smart guy to me. I would have liked to see the interviewer throw some weightier questions at him–asking for his philosophy on the business, the impact of racism, that sort of thing. We get hints of that, but not much else.

THE REVIEW PROPER
An Account of the divers Subjects expounded upon in the DVD in question

So I’m not going to cover every detail here. Iâ??m also not going to cover this in the exact order of the interview. Instead I’ll arrange this topically. First topic!

Racism

Scorpio sees it everywhere, but he doesnâ??t blame all of his problems on racism. In fact, Bill Watts, a “weird country redneck” with a rep for racist beliefs pushed him harder than any other booker.

Not the case with Flair, though; 2CS suspects that the Nature Boy was racist. He cites Flair’s concern over his daughter’s Black boyfriend and Flair’s North Carolina heritage (but didn’t Flair grow up in Minnesota?). He seems a little uncertain of how this prejudice might have played into his own firing–Scorpio is a little vague here. Scorpio might have told Flair he’d “f*ck his wife, f*ck his daughter.” Or maybe not. During a stop in St. Thomas, 2CS walked around the beach wearing a g-string–a sight apparently witnessed by Flair’s wife. Scorp thinks this might have influenced Flair to kick him out of WCW (more on that below). But he admits that he doesnâ??t know for sure, and in retrospect he thinks he should have spoken to Flair about it.

On the other hand, 2CS never saw race alone as a reason to bond with other wrestlers. He traveled with Farooq and the Godfather in the WWF, but he never did any favors for anyone because he was Black. Case in point: Mr. Hughes, who expected 2CS to take it easy on him in ECW because they were both Black. Hughes, by the way, is one of the folks who Scorpio has a vendetta against, claiming that he’ll “knock him out” the next time they meet.

Scorpio claims fear of Black men was pretty common in wrestling. Most prominent in this regard, however, was Buff Bagwell (who teamed with 2CS back when he was just plain old Marcus Alexander Bagwell). Scorp thought they should go hang out in the predominately Black neighborhoods of the cities WCW toured, to build up momentum for the team. Bagwell, though, was afraid of these neighborhoods.

Scorpio thinks that racism has held him back in a more general way as well–if he had blue eyes and blond hair, “I’d be making a million bucks an hour now.”

Drugs

Scorpio’s struggles with drugs are pretty well-known, I think (I certainly knew about them before watching this). He’s not afraid to mention these struggles, which resulted in his dismissal from both WCW and WWF.

The end of his run in WCW (1992-1994, but really only a little over a year long) began in St. Thomas, where he Brian Knobbs, Brian Pillman, and Buddy Lee Parker (aka “Sarge”) were all doing coke. (Scorpio takes this time to offer advice to any future wrestlers: Never be the only Black man in a room full of white guys snorting coke. And avoid Pillman and Parker, who are stooges. Well it shouldn’t be too hard to avoid Pillman in this day and ageâ?á¦.) Scorpio says that Flair didn’t mind pot, but cocaine was beyond the pale. So this (and the g-string thing too, maybe) convinced Flair to have 2CS take a drug test upon returning to US soil. As one might expect, Scorpio tested positive for marijuana. So he went into treatment. (And here we get more advice: Don’t smoke weed while driving to your rehab session.) He tested positive again, and was told that a third positive would lead to his termination. But here’s where it gets screwy, as far as 2CS can tell; the test was delayed. When he finally was administered the test, he wasn’t expecting it and he tested positive. This leads Scorpio to believe that Flair was behind the weird delay in the test–he was trying to ensure that 2CS would test positive. Which he did, and so he was fired.

But far be it for one negative experience with cocaine to sour Scorpio on the stuff. During most of his WWF run (1996-1999), 2CS was smoking crack. This accelerated during the last half of his stay there; Scorpio blames it for his middling performance in The Brawl for It All. (Interesting note there: 2CS hears that TBFIA was intended to get Steve Williams over. Well, that’s not news, but Scorpio’s heard that Williams was actually paid the winner’s purse in advance, and told that the tournament was a work. One of his more dubious claimsâ?á¦.) When the drugs and his deteriorating marriage got to be too much, Scorpio asked for some time off. But he didn’t say why–and in retrospect, he probably should have done so, given Vince McMahon’s good record on helping guys get through addiction. In the end, Scorpio blew off his commitments to the WWF and didn’t stay in touch with Jim Ross. So, for the second time in his career, he was fired for drug abuse.

Scorpio got by with using drugs in ECW (1994-1996, then again in 1999)–but then again, so did everybody (and Scorpio’s pretty clear here–everybody used drugs in ECW). The drug use backstage was open–too open, perhaps, because 2CS repeatedly calls the situation “f*cked up.” Scorp is surprised that the company kept running at all–let alone got as big as it did. He knew things were out of control when the drug dealing became intertwined in getting paid. Guys were working for drugs, getting nothing out of their pay. (I would have liked a bit more detail here, but the interviewer seemed loath to stray from the questions at hand.) Scorpio was glad to see Heyman finally crack down (no pun intended), as things could have been even worse if he’d let the drug scene continue.

As for 2CS himself, he’s now off the cocaine and encourages any wrestler watching the interview to contact him if they’re looking to kick and need help. But he’s never giving up the weed.

Vader
Scorpio’s best friend in wrestling, Vader got 2CS his breaks into New Japan, EMLL, WCW, WWF, and All Japan. They were the first GHC tag champs in NOAH. Scorpio loves the guy, and misses him now that he’s left NOAH.

Jobbing
2CS has a pretty good attitude about jobbing. He claims that Shane Douglas owes him some jobs, and that, all things considered, he might have liked to have won a couple of his matches with Sabu. But he was happy to job for Louie Spicoli on his way out of ECW, and he had no problem losing to Kevin Nash in WWF (since Nash had laid down for him in WCW).

Scissors
The centerpiece of the interview (at least for me) is Scorpio’s account of the Arn-Sid stabbing incident. Brief background for novices: on tour in England in 1993, Sid Vicious and Arn Anderson got into a fight. A fight with scissors. Safety scissors. Sid was blamed for starting the fight and was subsequently fired. Ever since then, “scissors” have been a punch line to jokes at Sid’s expense (most famously in April 2000, during the big Bischoff/Russo reset on Nitro).

So. Scorp says “it was a f*cked up day” to begin with. There was lots of traveling in Europe, lots of pill popping and boozing on the bus. Tension was building on the ride to the hotel–all the guys with the big egos (Flair, Pillman, Steamboat, and of course Sid and Arn) were on the same bus (meanwhile, 2CS was on the “mellow” bus with Vader and Sting). Sid and Arn were talking shit on the bus, and continued this once they got to the hotel.

Now everyone else is tired–they want to eat and go to bed to rest up for the next day of the tour. But Arn and Sid won’t let up. Sid says Flair ain’t shit; Arn says Sid will never be a star like Flair (funny how Arn was doing Flair’s fighting for him, huh?). Sid threw a bottle of beer at Arn, which missed and exploded on the wall behind him. So Doug Dillinger (who 2CS claims was not the son of Satan, but a mere “rent-a-cop”) tried to break things up. Arn responded by launching a beer missile of his own. This prompted Dillinger to send everyone to their rooms. (God, is that really the way things worked? Was Dillinger head of security or a babysitter? Or is that the same thing in wrestling?)

Everyone went to bed but Maxx Payne and Scorpio, who were trying to convert a Coke can into a pipe so they could smoke some hashish. (I thought that was the funniest part of the interview.) 2CS hears some thuds, and goes to investigate (thinking maybe it was Vader for some reason). But Vader’s asleep–Scorp can hear him snoring through the door. So he keeps going around the corner.

There he found Sid, who had Arn by the head and was stabbing him in the neck with the scissors. Scorpio pauses to ask a pertinent rhetorical question: “How the hell do you get in a knife fight, street fight, whatever you wanna call it, and have blood six feet, seven feet up the goddamned walls on both sides?” But 2CS decides he’s too small to try to get in between two “Brahma bulls” like Arn and Sid, so he unsuccessfully calls for help. Meanwhile, Sid has kicked Arn in the nose, turning it up 360 degrees (yuck). This is too much for Scorpio, so he grabs Sid and pulls him away (having decided that Arn was too beat up to be much of a threat to anyone). Sid runs off.

Arn is in bad shape, blood squirting out all over his body. 2CS continues to call for help, but no one comes. Time for another editorial comment from Scorp: “Ric Flair and Steamboat both. Y’all got to be some of the best wrestlers that I’ve probably ever seen in my whole entire life, but probably some of the most chickenshit motherf*ckers that I know.” 2CS thinks they heard everything, but made a tactical decision to remain sequestered in their rooms (and after hearing the gory details, who can blame them?). Finally, as he got Arn into his room, Flair and Steamboat finally emerge.

Meanwhile Sid is trying to get back into the hotel, but the door locked behind him. So he breaks the glass door open. (Jesus, really now, wouldn’t you be afraid to come out of your room?) Fortunately Vader has apparently rose from his slumber and is in the lobby in his underwear (yuck), trying to call his wife. He sees a bloody, raving Sid, and tackles him.

Ambulances finally arrive, and Scorpio (despite not really being friends with either one) rides along to the hospital. He helps fill out the paperwork to get them admitted. Another editorial comment: “All I wanted to do is go to the damn hotel and shit man, smoke me some damn hash, take my ass to sleep, get ready for the next bus ride!” But Sid and Arn were both very thankful, Arn in particular calling him and promising to pay him back somehow. 2CS says he’s been trying to call Arn latelyâ?á¦.

Hawk

The other major incident covered here is Scorpio’s fight with Road Warrior Hawk. 2CS claims that he hates to speak ill of the dead, then proceeds to do just that (and there’s also some negativity directed toward Pillman as well, for that matter). The two were in North Korea for the huge Peace Festival shows (150,000 and 190,000 in attendance over two days–by far the largest attendance in the history of wrestling), along with many other Japanese and American wrestlers.

Part of this whole deal was a mandatory tour to different important cultural and historical sites (temples apparently comprising a big part of this itinerary). The wrestlers had a choice between driving in luxury cars or riding on a bus. Scorp chose the bus; Flair and Hawk drove in a Mercedes. This lasts for a few days until Hawk decided to hit the bus. While he was getting on, Flair was doing his usual primping (hair, Rolex, etc) outside the hotel. Hawk apparently took this as evidence of their blossoming friendship, and wondered aloud if the Nature Boy was looking for him. Scorpio, helpful as always, replied, “Fuck that pussy, man, let him ride by himself.” Hawk’s clever rejoinder: “Fuck you, nigger.”

You can imagine where that led. Hawk walked back toward 2CS, took a swing at him, and whiffed. Scorpion was on him “like white on rice,” and got in some good shots. The Japanese pulled him off, and possibly held him down (2CS is a little unclear on this). Scorpion finally shrugged them off. Hawk, suffering from hepatitis B, was a bloody mess. 2CS saw this as a good opportunity to bite his hand. Somehow the two are separated, and shit talking ensues. Hawk mentions his Hell’s Angels credentials. Scorpio responds, “Man, you ain’t been in the Hell’s Angels, cause they donâ??t take punks like that.”

But 2CS, realizing that North Korea was not the place to be engaging in this sort of behavior, especially while on a sort of “peace tour,” decides to apologize to everyone on the bus (like one of the “young boys” of Japan). Hawk, however, won’t accept his apology. They ride to their destination, a temple; once there, 2CS unsuccessfully tries to apologize to Hawk again. They agree to fight in Tokyo, and Hawk sucker punches him (Scorpio claims it didnâ??t hurt).

Back at the hotel, 2CS asks Black Cat (former luchadore and his trainer at the NJPW dojo) which knee is Hawk’s bad one. Scorpio admits that he fights dirty–during the fight he had tried to rip out Hawk’s eye out of its socket (though he claims this was only because Hawk was always making these sorts of threats). So the two end up meeting in the hall, and get seated together at both lunch and dinner. Scorpio decides to pocket some stainless steel chopsticks, which he planned on fashioning into a shiv.

Fortunately this never happened–three or four days before returning to Tokyo, Hawk made peace with Scorpio. Then he said he wanted to smoke some weed with 2CS, who declined this invitation (he must have been pissed to decline this invitation).

Tazz

Out of all the stories 2CS shares, his account of Taz’ broken neck might be the darkest. In an ECW tag match, Scorpio and partner Dean Malenko were out to teach Taz (only one “z” at this time) a lesson. I guess they succeeded, as Taz suffered a broken neck. Scorpio actually sees this as a mixed experience for Taz. He was suffering from a Napoleonic complex (and those around him were suffering from it too, for that matter), an increasingly unbearable presence backstage. So Malenko and 2CS sought to take him down a notch; Scorpio thinks they succeeded in persuading Taz that he wasn’t as tough as he thought. There’s no real regret or attempt at an apology here.

(Just a note from me here: I tried researching this incident, but couldn’t find much out there. I’d heard about Taz’ broken neck, but didn’t know these details. If anyone can provide anything deeper, then please add in a comment below.)

Craft

2CS has a very positive attitude here. He says he’s constantly learning, trying to add new things to his matches. He considers his style to be a mix of Japanese and Lucha Libre, with a veneer of psychology learned at the feet of Flair and Steamboat (who were very helpful in giving advice after matches between 2CS and Benoit–wonder what Shane Douglas would have to say to that?). At one time his skills intimidated other high flyers (Pillman is singled out), but he can’t compete with the current state of the art. Nonetheless, he’s now trying to pass down what he learned to a new generation of high flyers and cruisers in NOAH.

Heyman

Possibly the most offensive line of the entire shoot interview is this comment regarding Heyman: “Like any other Jew–he just got greedy.” Consider the other comments Scorpio made about prejudice in wrestling and draw your own conclusions.

Sex

Some of his greatest regrets in the course of his career are the missed opportunities to get with various women associated with professional wrestling. He never slept with either of the “Funkettes” (who accompanied him during his WWF run as “Flash Funk”–a gimmick he liked, by the by). And he never slept with Missy Hyatt–though there’s some considerable degree of relief mixed in with the regret in this case.

THE INTERVIEW AS A HISTORICAL DOCUMENT
An Analysis of the how effectively this shoot interview informs us of the History of the divers times, places, and things mentioned within it

Scorpio is clearly very open about his struggles with drugs and his conflicts with other wrestlers. One might wonder if he’s a bit too open. Consider the position of 2CS in the history of wrestling. If we go on quality of matches, historical significance, and degree of power, then he’s just another guy who had some talent but never really made the most of it. Now add in the stories about drugs and eye gouging–suddenly 2CS is not just a wrestler, but a character. Professional wrestling is not the sort of business where poor character qualities really come back to haunt you (Scott Hall being the supreme object lesson). So you could make a pretty good argument that Scorpio is basically adding to his legend, his place in wrestling history, by emphasizing the tawdry details of his career. This is not to say that these incidents never happened; I don’t doubt that Scorpio did many terrible things. But so did many other wrestlers who might be a bit more reticent to tarnish their status as golden legends. 2CS seems pretty realistic about his quality as a wrestler (his analysis: “I’m all right”), so maybe he’s just more open about these sorts of things because he figures this is the best way to make people remember him. There have to be dozens of his contemporaries with more sordid pasts who simply haven’t recorded shoot interviews like this one yet. Maybe ROH will give them the opportunity to do so.

2CS does, however, seem to be holding his tongue regarding his status in Japan. He gives the requisite anti-AJPW comments (Mrs. Baba is a “two-faced bitch”), but there’s not a lot about the dirty details of wrestling in Japan. He hints at this when he obliquely refers to the need for gaijin to watch each other’s back in the locker room, but that’s as far as he’s willing to go. His complete failure to address racism in Japan is especially noteworthy, given his clear interest in racism in American wrestling. But the most telling omission is his discussion of Vader’s departure from NOAH. 2CS is clearly very attached to Vader–and rightly so, since Vader has opened so many doors for Scorp over the years. But he’s obviously very hesitant to discuss the falling out between Vader and NOAH.

Overall, this is a pretty interesting interview. Scorpio has a good memory, which is always a major plus for a memoirist. He details several incidents of clear interest to the average wrestling fan, and has opinions ready to go on several others. Some of the folks he addresses that I haven’t really covered here include Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, Sting, Dreamer, Raven, Ron Simmons, RVD, and HBK–but then again, the reason I didn’t cover them is because what he says isn’t so interesting. Benoit is a great wrestler! Tommy Dreamer kissed Paul Heyman’s ass! RVD smokes a lot of pot! These statements are all true, but who cares? It’s stuff we already know.

So, given all this, I can only recommend this for fans of 2CS, big time ECW fans, those interested in the scissors fight, or those with a surplus of time and money. He simply didn’t spend enough time in WCW to have much of interest to offer; and he seemed to have been too messed up during his WWF to have played a very important role in what was going on backstage there. And he’s really reticent regarding Japan, probably because he wants to keep his job with NOAH. There’s relatively more info on ECW, but nothing earth shattering.

If we think of this shoot interview as a historical source, then we’d have to consider it a fairly minor resource. There’s just not enough insight here to make it very useful toward learning about the reality of professional wrestling. Maybe a better interviewer would have pressed him for more details (example: 2CS contradicts himself on the subject of locker rooms, at one point saying they’re all the same and at another saying that ECW’s was very different; the interviewer should have pressed him on this). Maybe we’ve just seen the limit of what 2CS has to say. Either way, this is a relatively minor contribution in the growing field of wrestling memoirs.